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Tue
17
May '16

Trip Report: Oahu With DancingBear

Such a deal! $423.77 round-trip for BOTH of us Bellingham to Honolulu. And parking in front of the airport is just $12 a day, a mere 100 feet from car to counter.

A beautiful day to fly, especially when you get upgraded to First as a freebie:

And the meal that comes with that seat:

Alas – because of a last minute airplane swap, no DigiPlayer Tablets, just our own laptops which take up a TAD more room – almost pushing out the black cod with bok choy.

The first two nights we are staying at the Royal Kuhio, in a one-bedroom:

Our room is on the third floor over the garage in, oddly enough, room 911. Hard to forget what room you are in with that number.

The view by day:

The view by night:

The room:

And a really cool alarm/clock/outlet/USB port device on the nightstand:

Our first full day (we got in at 9:45pm on flight day), first stop is the Honolulu Salvation Army Thrift Store to hit the rack of Aloha Shirts. Tuesday is Senior Discount Day (25%), though half of what we found was 50% off since it had been on the racks for over a month. $55 for 6 shirts and a sweater – DancingBear made out better with 4 compared to my 3:

Several of those are Tommy Bahama shirts that usually run $70 and up. Here is DancingBear in one of his finds:

Next up is a walk to the Aloha Tower:

While waiting for the Waikiki Trolley (tip – buy your tickets online and save 25% during certain sales) we did a little fish watching:

Luckily the Trolley shows up fairly quickly considering that the Purple Line only runs every 50 minutes:

That’s the last shot you’ll see of me in my Mount Gay Rum Yacht Race hat – it blew off on the Trolley – made more ironic because I bought the hat at the Salvation Army on a previous trip to Honolulu.

And some scenery shots:

We swung back by the condo (very close to the Trolley Terminus) for a quick nap for DancingBear and a quick snack for me – can you say poke?

Clockwise from upper left, edamame, ahi, shrimp, octopus. Yum.

Speaking of food – my dinner:

I got the Polish, mild sauce, star fruit relish, and Hawaiian Guava Mustard on a purple bacon taro sweet bun.

Those metal spikes next to the dog roller are to toast the bun from the inside out.

Our final day in Waikiki we took Uber to the Dollar Rent-A-Car and picked up wheels for our island tour over the next two days – and it turns out we have a mutual friend in Honolulu – Rick – and he works in the governor’s office so we are off for lunch and a tour!

Burger and fries for Rick.

Lobster roll for me.

Chicken Cobb for DancingBear.

It was a great lunch at Café Julia, nestled inside a 1920’s YMCA building. And soon it was off for a personal tour of the Hawaii State Capital.

The Senate Chamber:

The Governor’s Formal Office (for bill signing, ceremonies, etc.):

And a great shot of us all, with a giant mangrove in the background (and me in one of my Sally Ann
Tommy Bahama finds):

After our tour, off we went on a circle tour of the island, starting headed south:

Thanks to Hawaii Activities for the image – and I’ve toured with them on previous trips. Since we were in a car, no commentator other than me! Please notice my back-up hat – my Hello Kitty hat that I bought a couple of months ago in a Maui thrift store.

We are staying at the Marriott Courtyard (founded by the Mormons) right next to the Polynesian Cultural Center (founded and run by the Mormons):

The place is only nine months old, and has some very good design elements like a huge lobby for hanging out with some workstations:

And a dedicated stand up “business center” for printing boarding passes:

But in the end, it’s really only about the room comfort:

I grimaced at the $200+ a night price (and that they charge for parking), but it really was a nice place to stay, and almost one only hotel on the North Shore.

Dinner tonight is takeout from these folks across the street – Kauula Korean BBQ:

Thursday brings more of the driving tour around Oahu:

That would be Sunset Beach – famous for surf contests.

Lunch down the road at The Beach House restaurant at Haleiwa:

DancingBear went for the Black Bean soup and he talked me into the Lobster Cobb Salad.

Seriously good food for a restaurant that’s only been open three weeks!

Stopped at an old sugar mill turned coffee roaster/souvenir place…

…on our way to the Dole Plantation for a Dole Whip and a train ride:

Time to return the car and return to Bellingham – but, I have lounge access in the American Airlines Admiral’s Club at Honolulu which they share with Japan Air Lines (soon to be a codeshare partner with Alaska Airlines):

Big, and they are expanding it. Spam Musubi anyone?

A great view from our workstations…

And because it’s shared with Japan Airlines, fancy bidet toilet seats in the bathrooms:

The Honolulu Airport was originally built in 1962 and still has some remnants:

Yes, that is a non-working mechanical flip-number clock – and some working (though I didn’t check) payphones – another dinosaur technology.

Time to board and take our favorite seats – though on both legs we’ve had to swap seats with other people in row 1 to sit together (note DancingBear’s
Sally Ann find):

Not much in the way of food on the return flight – I guess they expect you to sleep since it’s a red-eye! At least the DigiPlayer Tablets are on board this leg.

Thanks to DancingBear for this flight takeoff photo (and a couple of other photos in this post):

And my arrival photo…

Got to Bellingham around 7:30am, and I’ve decided (after sleeping the entire drive home) that I’m done with red-eye flights. Luckily, June 4th is the last of the BLI-HNL flight.

And a final thanks for DancingBear for driving home while a snored (and driving there as well).

[214.0]

Tue
6
Dec '16

Trip Report: Day Drinking With DancingBear

Got a text from DancingBear a couple of weeks ago… “What are you doing the Wednesday the 30th? Want to do some day drinking?

Turns out he needed one more trip on Alaska to hit MVP status for 2017. Sure! He owned me about the same amount of money for our upcoming trip to Victoria, so I booked us seats using his credit card since at MVP Gold, I get access to better seats.

Off we go! Just me and the backpack…

Breakfast in the Alaska Lounge between C and D concourse:

Even managed to squeeze in a cocktail in the N concourse lounge – they start serving at 6am, and our flight left at 6:40 – barely enough time!

Before the free drink on the plane (once of the perks about being GOLD – drinks and chocolates)…

The seat next to me was ODDLY open – good thing since I’m number 32 on the upgrade list! And got a bit of a view shot, even being in the aisle seat:

It’s just a two-hour flight to Denver, and soon, we are on the train from the airport to Union Station on the new light rail service.

It’s less than 45 minutes from the airport to the city – which is amazing since the airport is in the middle of wheat fields east of the city. But we are there – with Dan and Lisa there to meet us.

Off to lunch at Next Door…

Featuring my first Manhattan of the day, complete with a Luxardo Cherry ($18 a jar at Madrona Wine Merchants). And Dan, his burger, magnetized silverware, and another shot of my Manhattan.

I had the burger as well, nice that it some standard with an arugula salad.

DancingBear had the meatballs over a bed of Polenta.

They asked Dan how he wanted his burger cooked, he said medium, they didn’t ask me, so I got it medium, found it a little dry with WAY TOO MUCH salt and pepper. Lisa’s Caesar also came pre-peppered, with too much, and DB’s meatballs I found bland. Too bad – the last time I ate here is was good. Maybe it was just the fried pickles we had the last time.

After lunch DancingBear and I are off on a random trip to check out the US Mint since there was a Car2Go across the street from the station:

…sad thing is that we actually couldn’t take the tour since I had a backpack and DB a briefcase, and they didn’t have any lockers which seemed odd, but I guess I can see it from a security standpoint – but for the tour you’d have to go through a metal detector, why couldn’t you put lockers beyond the metal detector and just hand-search all left bags. We did get to the gift shop – DB bought a hat (which he’d forgotten, and I found one on the 50% off rack) and some coinage as xmess presents.

Car back to the station, our asses back in seats (FYI, it’s $9 for a day pass – don’t know if that would include busses as well), and off to the Admirals Club Lounge we go – as an Alaska Lounge member (formerly known as The Board Room before the rebranding this fall), I get into all the Admirals Club locations that aren’t the Arrivals Lounges – if I’m on an Alaska or American ticket.

We were in the “quiet room” with cell phones prohibited – we only had THREE people who thought that didn’t apply to them. They really need to make the signage more prominent.

Managed to AGAIN get the seat open next to me on the way home as I was number 22 on the upgrade list. But in the end, DancingBear gets MVP, I get a few more miles, all is good.

[217.4]

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Wed
28
Jun '17

Trip Report: Whistler With DancingBear

After several weeks at home, it was time to hit the road again.

But first, it’s an 8am doctor’s appointment followed by waiting to new pills. The joys of being in a clinical study (no, I’m not dying, just trying to keep others from).

Pills in hand, headed north to hook up with DancingBear, and onto the road. Whistler here we come!

And into the condo I booked almost a year ago…

Threw the bags down and headed to Guest Services in the Village to pick up our season passes for the Peak-2-Peak Gondola. At the end of the day, no line at the counter – woohoo!

Grabbed some fill-in groceries to go with the quantities of food from Costco so we can make Costco roasted chicken pulled off the bone for a chicken Caesar salad – the Caesar also coming as a platter from Costco.

We actually made it to the mountain by noon after a nice “Mother and Child” scramble…

Lots of snow and eye candy on the mountain:

Up the mountain on the Whistler side – across the canyon on the Peak-2-Peak (above), and then down the Blackcomb side on the Solar Coaster, and open lift:

One of the reasons I opted for this first day is that if you are going to see Black Bears, you will most likely see them on the Blackcomb side – and we were lucky to spot one on our first day!

Apparently, “Hey Bear, Hey Bear” doesn’t get them to look up.

Back up the mountain we go!

For a lunch on the Blackcomb side – sadly, Christine’s, my favorite restaurant isn’t open yet for the season, so we are in the burger side of the place – at least they have wine.

Actually got done with lunch in time to grab one of the last busses to the 7th Heaven run… another open chair lift:

Passing over a summer downhill ski run that ends up at the Peak-2-Peak terminus on Blackcomb:

Even snowboarders are using the run:

And they have cocktails at 7,500 feet!

And VIEWS!

Pardon my hand in this photo….

Soon enough we are headed back down…

Apparently, that is my post-cocktail look. STUNNING views – a reason I keep coming back year-after-year.

Back at the Blackcomb main lift area we ran into this really cute Whistling Marmot….

Sadly for us this trip, no Alpine hiking due to the amount of snow still on the trails – maybe next time.

Popped back on the Peak-2-Peak and back to the condo.

Sadly, there are no grills at The WorldMark Cascade Lodge. That said, DancingBear brought his Sous Vide unit to get the steaks to exactly 129 degree (F)….

And then finished in a grill pan (which he also brought), along with sautéed mushrooms, broccoli, and the “forbidden” backed potatoes (at least we split just one of them):

After dinner, we retired to the hot tub before turning in for the evening.

In the morning, another scramble, another ride up the hill and across the top.

Today, we take the Peak-2-Peak BACK across to visit the viewing platform to see how the gondola works:

And back to Blackcomb we go to hit the Upper Village at the base of Blackcomb for lunch. I’d picked up a 15% off coupon (in addition to the fact that everything in Canada is 25% off because of the exchange rate) for Merlins, but it is back down on the open lift, and another encounter with a Black Bear (sorry, no photo).

And lunch came with Old Fashioneds!

And WAY too much food for one sitting – we should really just decide on one entrée and split it:

And I had to have a Manhattan after the Old Fashion…

We decided to call it a day and walked back the condo, stopping at a lovely little park along the way:

Tonight’s dinner was the Chicken Alfredo from Costco, with a lovely dip in the hot tub after…

After an eggs scramble, back to the mountain we go – with a BIG surprise animal spotting in a place I’ve never seen one before; actually, NEVER seem a Brown Grizzly up here:

Pretty close to the lodge and headed to the kid’s inner-tubing area – like Kiddie McNuggets. Easy to spot one a big white snow field on the Whistler side.

Saw that bear on the Peak-2-Peak, and at the other end – a selfie.

We actually got a shot at the end of the Sun Coaster (on the Blackcomb side) of the crew adding a chair to the chairlift.

Next up is the Wizard down to Blackcomb’s Upper Village – where we saw a Black Bear:

Back up the hill for lunch – I got the Kiddie Hot Dog Meal with a little bottle of wine:

Before long, it was time to go down the mountain – with a little stop along the way for some reason, but great for taking a couple of pics….

Once back in the condo – we are in leftover mode for our last night at Whistler. Leftover rib eye, warmed by the Sous Vide, a little potato salad, some Caesar…

Like the white wine chiller – the top of blender…

Our Last Supper at Whistler – bought way too much food, so hopefully the staff will that it home because I’m not throwing it out.

We even ate leftovers our final morning….so we left four eggs as well.

Soon, we were on our way home…one of my favorite bridges even though it’s a toll bridge.

Traffic wasn’t that bad getting back to DancingBear’s place, it was me getting home from his house that took twice as long as usual…

Another week, another journey.

[? ? ?]

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Sat
5
Oct '13

Dinner With DancingBear

Opened the shop this morning. Means I can get home in time to cook dinner for DB.

Good sales day at the shop – big crowds, sold out of a couple of things including this really good olive oil. Might have to by some for myself once it comes back in.

Wonderfully rare sunny day for the commute home with the top down.

That would be me stuck in traffic waiting for the bridge to come back down.

DancingBear showed up at 6pm for a dinner of:

  • Salad
  • Roasted tri-color potatoes
  • Homemade bread (from last night)
  • Pound rib eye steaks
  • Bonny Doon Syrah

Here is a great shot of DB making a rib eye sandwich:

After DB headed back to his husbear who was doing math homework I stopped by to see how the bridge is coming:

Working through the night it seems.

[208.2]

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Thu
5
Mar '15

Trip Report: Victoria, British Columbia

The plan: two nights at the WorldMark Victoria in the handicap access Penthouse with its own hot tub and BBQ with DancingBear.

Revised plan: add a date for myself since its two bedrooms with queen-sized beds in both.

Outcome: FAIL.

I think that I set a new record in travelling with a “high-maintenance” guest. It is surprising that there wasn’t a death on this trip. Oh, let me recount the “I need it this way” ways:

  • No meat other than chicken (which has the highest rate of E.coli of any processed meats)
  • No seafood other than Salmon (and he’d probably be happy with Farmed Salmon filled with food coloring)
  • Two pairs of underwear PER DAY, the morning set and the evening set
  • Which requires AT LEAST showering twice a day
  • And when people pack THREE different things to wipe their bum with in between all those showers….

And then there is the constant “chatter”. God forbid there should be a moment of silence. My nickname for him is “SeaPrincess”, while DancingBear prefers “Magpie”, so he will be Christened Magpie SeaPrincess throughout the land.

Dear Load, the boy is HIGH-maintenance. My evidence:

That would be MY toiletry bag, next so some of his “wipes”.

That would be Magpie SeaPrincess’ toiletry bag, NOT including any of the wipes. And let’s not talk about all the towel exchanges through a two-night stay.

Before the trip when I inquired about luggage (I drive a Miata and so there is only so much space for luggage) his response was 14x18x22 which is carryon size…that was NOT what showed up at the dock.

Lemonade out of lemons? You do what you can do. I felt particularly bad for DancingBear who signed on for a relaxing holiday, and got less than that. He was amazingly helpful at offering tips to get the poor (and unemployed) boy’s life back on track. Way more patience than me, but luckily all the knives in the unit were dull as dirt.

But I digress, the trip:

Arrived in Victoria and got the shuttle to the rental car place, where Magpie when into overdrive flirting with everyone trying to get an upgrade. There was a possible plan for going to the West Coast of Vancouver Island on a day trip so a bigger car would have been nice.

I’m No, No, No, and the agent is coming Down, Down, Down in the price of an upgrade, whispering so the other clerk doesn’t hear (actually guessing that they didn’t have our car class), and when it was $10 CAD ($7.50USD) per day for twice the size I finally bit.

With the ferry arriving at 11:30, and a hold-up in immigration because DancingBear and some other Canadian fugitive have the same name, it’s noon-thirty when we get to the WorldMark Victoria. Not surprising that the room isn’t ready (though it was on the January trip which was a total shock). Off to Santiago’s we go for, as DancingBear would call it, an expensive lunch, even if the drinks were cheap by Canadian standards.

As we are putzing around afterward I check email – apparently calls weren’t coming through but email was – unit is ready!

Check in, get everybody keys, send the boy out to explore, DancingBear hanging in the apartment, me chopping for groceries….

Did I mention the muffins – poppy seed, like the ones from Costco. 15 freaking minutes in the store looking for Poppy Seed muffins (had to settle for Cranberry Orange, which, of course he didn’t eat – though I did and they were damn tasty).

The meal plan, grilled salmon the first night (wild caught, none of that farmed crap) and a roasted chicken the next night.

But, again, I digress from the good parts of the trip. Maybe some photos will help. The waterfront at sunrise:

I hate getting up this early, but it is a really nice view of Mount Rainier (Tahoma) with the Edgewater Hotel to the left.

This would be DancingBear and myself on the boat:

Red Baron anyone…

And where was MagpieSeaPrincess?

Blessedly at the back of the boat taking pictures. An hour in and we were already trying to ditch him.

Welcome to the Inner Harbour of Victoria.

Lunch at Santiago’s….our entrees. DancingBear’s burger:

My ceviche…

MagPieSeaPrincess’ quesadilla:

Company for dinner tonight… though not Royce (who came to dinner my last visit), who I found at the grocery store working his shift:

It was just DancingBear, UncleMarkie, MagpieSeaPrincess and Elliott “The On-line Psychic”.

A good time was had by all, but I have no photographic evidence. Pupu Platter, slab of salmon on the grill, big salad, bread (except for Elliott who has issues with gluten). No pictures of the hot tub party (just as well). Elliott brought the wine, we supplied the hard liquor. It was a fun evening.

There was a concept of taking a drive up the West Coast of Vancouver Island. It soon became clear that DancingBear wasn’t going along on a 4+ hour “journey from hell” (his words), and I wasn’t up much for it as well, so we cast off the boy to make his own adventure, and DancingBear and I went out for lunch and shopping. I needed lunch, DancingBear needed shoes (and lunch).

This is the Finest At Sea food trailer in their parking lot – much easier than putting in a full kitchen, and if it doesn’t work out, you sell the rig. We both had the Halibut and Chips (one-piece for me, two-piece for DancingBear) which was stunningly good. I’d had their rockfish cakes in January and was impressed. Guess it’s time to dust off my TripAdvisor account.

Next stop, shoe shopping (for DB, not me). But before we found a cheap shoe store we found a Target that was going out of business. All the Target Stores in Canada basically filed for bankruptcy. They were even selling off the store fixtures:

DancingBear ended up buying an iPad for his husband at 10% off (when do you ever see Apple Products discounted!) before we found him some shoes at the other end of the mall at 50% off, plus the 20% off discount because the Canadian Dollar is in the toilet compared to the US Dollar.

UncleMarkie with shoe (and cocktail):

Another evening, another meal where I forgot to take pictures. Lemon stuffed roasted chicken, salad, bread… but it seems someone forgot that there was going to be dinner and gorged on Chicken McNuggets. Clueless youth. Home cooked food vs. industrial food.

In my defense, I offer the following photo:

Ah, youth. When your beauty fades, may you have an interesting life, as the fortune cookies says.

The boy was off in the morning – at least he’d learned that until I’ve had my coffee, best to not try and engage me in conversation. Having decided to turn in the rental car at exactly 48 hours rather than 53, we were in a rush to get out of the condo…but someone decided to do a load of laundry with everything he had to wear, because “those clothes are dirty, I can’t be seen in public in “dirty” clothes”. He’d already called the front desk and brow-beat them into a late checkout (for him), DancingBear and I were out at 11:30. God know when he actually got out of the condo, and I’m hoping my stellar reputation with the WorldMark Victoria hasn’t been damaged.

For our part, we loaded the car, I dropped DB at the ferry terminal to check out bags, I gassed up, dropped off the car (and saved $50 CAN by not needing the extra three hours) and had a lovely QUIET walk back to the ferry terminal. I could have had the shuttle drop me, but a quiet walk with no one yammering…was delightful – and it let me pick up the schedule for the IMAX at the Royal Museum since we don’t sail until 4.

The film was something about the Grand Canyon – which I spent 3-weeks rafting through many years ago. My assignment was to show up with 115 liters of wine – and it wasn’t enough. My blog posts HERE, but I’m guessing the picture links are dead.

On my Victoria post for January I have a picture of Seth and this bear (which is in the gift shop of the IMAX theatre):

That killed an hour and then I found a great way to kill more time – DRINK! Did I mention we had lunch and drinks before the movie?

Inside the Empress, there is a lovely lounge (and restaurant) called the Bengal Lounge – VERY East Indian in theme:

Complete with Curry Buffet (lunch and evening $30).

And my drink, a LOVELY Manhattan, complete with Luxardo cherry:

And my new favorite bartender, Len:

From the Empress we decamped to the ferry terminal – we had boarding number in the 100-150 range, so with luggage already checked, it was fine to be at the end of the line. I was shocked we got a table upstairs on the way home (a first for me).

In the end, MagpieSeaPrincess didn’t show up for the boat home, he’d “fallen in LOVE”. Instead we got 50-75 Junior High School Band Camp students, who strangely were quieter than the Magpie.

And in the end, we returned to this:

Customs was a breeze – they held off the (two) band camps until the rest of us had disembarked which is good because that many kids, passports, birth certificates, oy.

In all of this I realize that I haven’t given you any pictures of the view from our condo, which is one of the major reasons I go to Victoria, so I’ll close with these:

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Sat
2
Mar '13

Unexpected Dinner With DancingBear And Crew.

I love those calls – what are you doing for dinner? And could you bring my wine club shipment.

Sell wine, get fed, drink the wine you just brought (actually I went for the Maker’s Mark instead).

I’m even stayed while they played most of a game of Catan, which was full of people saying things like “I got wood and I need sheep.”

Came home and waited up for my coming, not coming, coming but now I have to take a cab houseguest… finally got to bed at 3am and work is at 11am tomorrow.

Probably won’t be pretty tomorrow.

[210.8]

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Fri
3
Nov '17

Trip Report: Vegas Baby!

After last week’s quiet trip to Long Beach (Washington), this week is a little more hectic, since it’s VEGAS, BABY!

Salamander stayed the night at my place since it’s an early flight (because we are all cheap, and this was the cheap flight) with DancingBear showing up at 6am for our Uber to the airport.

Bit of a clusterfuck boarding the plane – that or most of the plane was MVPGold and higher – might be since I saw one of the wine shop customers in line (and on the plane in my favorite seat).

DancingBear and I were across the aisle in the Exit Row (nope, not even an upgrade to Premium for me), which Salamander in the back. We were on three different reservation numbers, and the three of us in one row would just be a bad idea.

Picked up the rental car with me as a second driver, and since we were too early to check in, it was off to lunch at the Black Bear Diner (even though they don’t have a bar) for lunch. And not a small lunch. I got the Rueben (very good):

Salamander, the Hot Turkey Mess (I mean Sandwich):

DancingBear got the Turkey Sandwich with avocado and cranberry:

Stocked up at the liquor store for the week and beyond, then headed to the WorldMark Las Vegas Boulevard to see if our room was ready – it only being 1pm, I was pleasantly surprised when it was available.

Here are lots of pool shots which is where we headed after stocking the fridge:

Salamander didn’t spend much time poolside as he prefers to go to the strip to watch people. Fortunately, he tends to make it back home in time for food, which tonight, DancingBear is making Chicken Marsala from scratch:

We eat well while we are on the road – this is breakfast the next morning:

Sadly, I’d eaten half before I got the camera out. Even our lunch outs are fun…

Tuesday was errand day. DancingBear needed sandals, but ended up with sandals, tennis shoes, and a new jumper. I was shopping for cheap cloth napkins since the unit didn’t come with an, and I forgot to pack mine. Almost bought this:

Tonight, we are having guests for dinner. The Colonels are in town from Kentucky, which is why we are here this particular week – got the table set up for the five of us:

Tonight’s dinner:

Our final day in Vegas, Salamander went back to the strip and DancingBear and I headed to Red Rock Canyon National Conversation Area, not far from Vegas. He even had his National Parks pass with him!

I didn’t get the picture stitched together very well, but you get the point:

This park is just a beautiful drive….

Yes, that’s a Bentley ragtop.

A four-wheel-drive Mercedes Sprinter:

And a Polaris Slingshot:

And you can even get a Nevada plate featuring Red Rock Canyon…

After all the activity, it was lunch time.

Not the best lunch food or service wise, so I’d avoid John Cutter. ONE waitress for the entire inside and outside.

Both DancingBear’s wrap and my ½ Philly Cheese Steak came with a side salad – which we boxed and took home for dinner.

And our sunset from the walkway to our unit:

And said dinner:

Not bad for leftovers!

Another early morning finds us back at the airport – at the lounge partner I didn’t know about before this trip, and what a lounge it is!

Yep, it’s morning, no one is quite awake.

At least I got into Premium for the ride home, DancingBear missed it by one row, and Salamander was almost back by the bathrooms. Maybe I should link are reservations next time to see if I can get up all better seats.

Home to work a five-day shift – a rarity.

[225.0]

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Fri
3
Jun '16

Trip Report: St. Louis

It wasn’t really on my “bucket list” to revisit St. Louis, but when presented with a free shared hotel room and free evening activities all for the price of an airline ticket…got to do it. Thanks DancingBear for making me your “plus 1” at your conference.

Used a MVP Gold Guest Upgrade coupon to get a seat next to DancingBear in First Class on the way out – and a good thing I did it in advance as there were 40 people on the upgrade list when I checked in. Was in couch (albeit 6C) on the way home – being number 18 on an upgrade list of 33.

Free Digi-Player (and lunch) up front. Too bad I’ve already seen all the content I like. Maybe I’ll have to start watching the movies I don’t care about. Damn “First World” problems.

Caught Light Rail to the hotel – the Sheraton Clayton.

Honestly, the rooms could use a bit of a refresh.

I did love the shower!

But this is what I returned to AFTER the maid had done her service call:

Coffee pot to cleaned and returned to its proper place, coffee, cups, and bottled water not replaced. Ice bucket not emptied and returned to its nook. Basically the trash was emptied and the beds made – not even vacuumed. I thought it might be a fluke, but when it happened the second day I went down to the front desk as ask for the day manager. Brought Jeremy back to the room to show him the situation, and mentioned that this was the second day of lackluster maid service. He promised a fix and an hour and a half later I got a call that the room was ready – even saw what I assumed was the housekeeping manager (clipboard gave it away) checking on the room. And though I didn’t ask for it, Jeremy comped one of our nights. Thanks Jeremy – but you also might want to retrain some of your staff.

So the Sheraton Clayton is, you guessed it, in Clayton, which is the county seat for St. Louis County which, oddly, doesn’t contain the city of St. Louis which is an independent city. Being the county set, the hotel was surrounded by courthouses, legal offices, and more shoe repair, jewelry, tailors than you might expect from a small downtown. Also, plenty of good food:

Shrimp Tempura Bento Box at Wasabi (Japanese).

Beef Salad at the Blue Elephant (Thai).

Sliders and a cup of the White Bean Chili at John P. Fields (American).

And let’s not forget this cool wine shop called The Wine Merchant:

A ton of space (including upstairs offices and tasting room), and a wonderful friendly knowledgeable staff. I felt bad for just picking up a bottle of the regular Four Roses – we only seem to get the “small batch” on the west coast.

Met up with DancingBear back at the hotel for the first shared evening event – BASEBALL! But first we have to all meet up at Knight Hall, part of the Olin Business School at Washington University.

The atrium area of Knight Hall is stunning – I love the amphitheater/stairs combination:

We all piled into two motor coaches for the ride to Cardinal Stadium (technically Busch Stadium). Our driver took on the scenic route (passed signs that said no tour busses) which included Millionaire’s Row. Lots of nice brick/stone work left in the city:

This is the Magic Chef Mansion that we will be visiting tomorrow night:

And views of The Arch! DancingBear went up in The Arch the day I arrived in the late afternoon. I never made it, but I was up in it when I was a teenager, low those MANY years ago.

Just before we got to the stadium…

Of course I WOULD have to put DancingBear in front of a shop called The Fudgery.

Technically we weren’t IN the stadium, but across a small street in the ATT Roof Top Deck. We had wrist bands to get us into the park if we wanted – I didn’t, didn’t notice anyone else go either. Why go when there is a free (and GOOD) buffet with four lanes and a dessert lane with a chafing dish full of bread pudding. Since it was also an open bar, for dessert I had them put a splash of Evan Williams on mine. Yes, that would be one of the MANY free Evan Williams and Diet Coke – can’t believe my favorite everyday Bourbon is their Bourbon pour:

But there was lots of cook food, and some questionable Midwestern food:

And the aforementioned “questionable Midwestern food”:

Yes, that would be a Rice Krispies ball mounts on a chocolate-dipped waffle cone.

But it’s really about the view – I mean the ball game. Let’s start with the entrance – a huge mural made up from broken apart Rubik’s Cubes:

And the view from our two-level venue:

What a fun evening! What a fun game. I had be root for the Cubs because of Barb (my cruise travel agent) – and they whipped the Cardinals. 6 runs in the First Inning, Cardinals finally scored 2 in the Ninth Inning, final score 9-2.

The next evening’s adventure was at the Magic Chef Mansion (picture up several screens). But here are some interior and group shots. Headed towards the main house.

I mostly hung out at the bar since it was an “awards ceremony” that was much less interesting than an open bar and a chatty bartendress. Note the black table near the back door of the main house.

Said bartendress:

Speaking of the main house, a shot from the library:

And talk about “man cave”, complete with bowling alley:

Belt-driven machine shop:

Pinball machines:

And, of course, a full bar…

But my favorite shot is from the bathroom that was originally part of the maid’s quarters…talk about uni-sex bathroom:

The owner bought the place in the mid-90s for $450,000, but just putting a slate roof on the stables (the event space) cost her $150,000 – lord knows what the rest of the renovations cost – I’m guessing well north of what she paid for the house.

Our return ride was in a stripper limo – only thing missing was the stripper pole!

Our final afternoon in St. Louis it was time to take the Anheuser-Busch Brewery Tour!

But not before a quick U-Turn when DancingBear spotted a Tasty Cake Outlet Store – not for him, but a work buddy.

When we finally made it to the brewery, there was plenty to do and see:

First stop is the stables – dating from the early 1900s – and home to the world-famous Budweiser Clydesdales.

Nice digs for those ponies (they get several hours of grooming daily) – and now for the brewery tour:

And that phrase, “Beechwood Aging” turns out to be true!

Even the brewery has classy fixtures:

A free mini-beer – choice of Bud or Bud Light (though they’d just blown the Bud keg when it was our turn), and then a full-size beer at the end of the tour – with a wide selection from the InBev catalog (they own Anheuser-Busch these days. I went for the Stella Artois Cidré.

After our tour, and a little lunch for DancingBear, it was off to the airport and more specifically, the Admirals Club Lounge for drinks, soup, snacks – not the level of the Alaska Board Room, but free with my reciprocal membership.

For the return flight – DancingBear was up front in Seat 1F…

And me just behind the curtain in Seat 6C…

Another trip down after a shared Uber from the airport, dropping me off in South Park.

[214.4]

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Sat
3
Feb '18

Mileage Run Report: RDU, RDU, JFK

A quick post before I go off to work for the weekend. This week was another “mileage-run week”, which started off with a bit of a hiccup…

The plane was there…and we were all boarded…and then we were unloaded due to a mechanical problem with the bathroom. So, there was a delay…

And sent to another gate at the end of C Concourse, and then BACK to our original Gate (N1) – to get back on the same plane we got off of, however, with a new lavatory. Yes, they did a toilet swap.

We were over two hours late getting out – good tailwind, so we made up an hour, but it turns out our plane wasn’t doing a simple turn at RDU – it was going in for a heavy maintenance check.

Thankfully they held the plane for the EIGHT people, like me, who were doing mileage runs – and FOUR of us took up the entire Row 1 on the return flight. But we had a brand-new interior – look at the carpet!

Yep, got off the plane, walked over to the gate next door, and was onboard in minutes – guessing they held if for us since none of the eight had luggage.

Got home later than I expected – around 10:30 – fixed a drink, watched a little TV, went to bed because I’m up at the crack of dawn (again) to return to RDU.

But this time I had COMPANY. DancingBear did the Wednesday turn with me, and we were both upgraded!

That’s a picture from the Admiral’s Club at RDU – with another tailwind, we had time to walk to the other end of the terminal for a quick drink and a cup or two of soup. Not we hadn’t eaten on the way out.

Turns out, the plane we came in on, was headed elsewhere other than returning to Seattle:

Looks like IT’S going in for a C Check as well in Greensboro (this is a 10-year or so major event). You won’t find THAT flight number in their database.

Seems like they are doing a bunch of overhauls at their maintenance facilities. http://www.mro-network.com/maintenance-repair-overhaul/alaska-airlines-haeco-americas-spend-100-million-facilities

Flight home was on-time so it was quicker than last night since DancingBear just picked me up and we left the car at the airport.

Final mileage run of the week was a surprise for Rache, but not to DancingBear who was also joining us. Surprise for Rache in that he didn’t know where we were going until we got to the boarding gate for our redeye. Gave me time during the day to actually pick up the new washer/dryer combo I’d ordered weeks ago, and just for shits and giggles picked up a 32-bottle wine cooler for the living room:

Man, it’s nice having a car that can haul shit! With Rache’s help, got the boxes wrestled into the house, and even got the washer/dryer installed!

Yes, it’s all-in-one wash, dry, sadly, it doesn’t fold the clothes. Didn’t get as far with the wine cooler installation:

Returned to the airport around 7PM, and DancingBear got us into the Centurion Lounge, which Rache hadn’t been to – and it really does have better food/drink than the Alaska Lounge:

That would be DancingBear’s Old Fashioned, and my Manhattan (with Luxardo Cherries).

We were separated on the plane – originally, we’d all been in row 8 on the way out (DancingBear in 8A, me in 8C, and Rache in 8D), but Rache and I got upgraded, sadly not so for DancingBear, but it’s a red-eye, so mostly sleep.

As both Rache and DancingBear will tell you, I don’t sleep really well on planes, though on the way back I was so exhausted from the redeye that I did manage to get some. And went to bed as soon as we were home.

Sort of odd to have two free afternoons in a week of mileage runs – but it did give me time to start on the MOUNTAIN of laundry that had piled up in the month that my washing machine had been dead:

Loads take in the three-hour range, but since it’s a combo, you don’t have to move them over! I love the various options and the display that tells you the time it will take with your options:

Though you can really tell it – got the shelf done that sits on the washer/dryer – and even got the new wine cooler installed!

It’s probably time to replace the massive amplifier that feeds the ten speakers spread around my tiny 800 square foot house. But that’s a project for another day.

In case you were keeping track, by the time these miles posts, I’ll be at 35,442 flight miles for the years. After next weeks’ vacation (yes, I’m staying someplace for a bit), I’ll be at Alaska MVP Gold through 2019.

[228.0] YIKES!

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Thu
2
Aug '18

Trip Report: Quick Trip To Hell

Just kidding about hell, but it was Vegas in the summer, and no matter how many people say, “But, it’s a dry heat,” it’s still hot as hell in the summer. More on that later.

This trip was really about just going down to hang out with friends and spend a little time by the pool.

DancingBear went down in the morning (I put the condo in his name), picked up Ric at 3PM, and me, well, I worked all day, locked the door at 5PM and headed to airport for some expensive parking for three days. Didn’t want to miss my flight, AND, I wanted to have dinner in the lounge before my flight:

Got upgraded to First Class (actually, five days before the flight).

Which meant another dinner…

Got to Vegas, hooked up with the boys, and off to the condo we go.

Not a bad room location. Middle building overlooking the Lazy River, upper floor for more privacy. Room location is the whims of how long out you made the reservation and for how many days.

And the view out the front door, of acres of manufactured houses sweating in the heat.

DancingBear and Ric had done all shopping, including for the booze and mixers – Yahoo Boys! Coffee and breakfast ready for me when I got up.

They had friend who were staying on the strip at Aria, but I had no desire to do the strip. I just hung out in the AC with thoughts about going to the pool, but this was the high the first full day we were there:

The boys were having another expensive dinner on the strip, so I ran to the store and grabbed a rotisserie chicken sautéed up with the leftover morning potatoes and a little salad.

Tried going to the pool at 9:30pm, didn’t even bring a towel because it was still almost 100 degrees and I know I’d be dry by the time I got back to the room. And there was so much heat coming out of the concrete, it wasn’t pleasant.

Ric left a day before us, so after we dropped him off, we went to one of DancingBear’s regular stops in Vegas – the Ethel M (as in Mars) Chocolate Factory. He’d offered to take me on previous Vegas visits, but he neglected to mention the Factory Tour part…and the cactus garden.

The factory tour is self-guided, and, of course, it ends in the gift shop.

It was WAY TO HOT to explore the cactus garden – and they even put a couple of gel icepacks in the chocolates that DancingBear bought because of the heat. How hot?

When we got back to the condo, it got even hotter! And with the chance of thunderstorms:

Which meant EVERYONE was out of the pool and off the loungers – an odd scene for the middle of the day, poolside. If you look close, you can see them all under the cabana:

We overbought our groceries…

But, it was still cheaper than one of the meals on the strip…

WAIT – that was the receipt for the booze I’m packing home!

So, our final dinner was a big chef salad with eggs hardboiled, the pupu platter salami sliced, the cheese grated, the chicken shredded, the works:

It was an early breakfast on our final morning as it was an 11am flight with the rental car to return, and then, of course, checking out the Centurion Lounge that DancingBear has access to:

Before long, it was off to the terminal and the wait to board:

We are on Virgin metal going home. DancingBear in Premium, I got upgraded to First, but they have a messaging system which, while cute, is a pain in the ass to use since there isn’t an onscreen keyboard.

Plus, it would kick you out of the video section when you were messaging, so it was multiple menus to get the TV going again – there will be no love lost when Alaska kills these with the new cabin retrofits starting this fall.

Lunch on the way back…

We were back early enough that I was able to bake bread for Wednesday dinner at CourneyMatt – and now I just need 13,143 miles to Alaska MVP Gold 75K

[228.8]

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Sat
1
Sep '18

Trip Report: Kansas City

The trip didn’t come off as planned. I made it, but DancingBear had to cancel at the last minute since his dog Buster just got out of surgery the afternoon of the day before we were slated to leave. Buster went under the knife to remove a cup of pea gravel covered in BBQ hamburger drippings. I’m sure it tasted great going down, but not so much in his tummy:

Not only painful to Buster, but painful for DancingBear:

Ouch – but at least he is home and one the mend…

Meanwhile, I’m headed to Kansas City…and while at the airport, saw one of Alaska’s newest liveries, the SubPop plane…

Which also shows you the smoke from wild fires raging in BC, WA, OR, CA – seems that we are getting smoke from all of them. As seen from above:

One of the sad things about DancingBear having to cancel his part of this trip is that there is no one to swap almonds and walnuts for cashews with in First Class (I like the cashews, the almonds, not so much).

Was served a lunch from Alaska’s new “trendy” menu. For some reason they thought I’d pre-ordered the fruit and cheese plate – silly people:

Got to see an interesting view on the landing in Kansas City – the NASCAR speedway on the Kansas side of the border.

Knew it was there, but hadn’t seen it from the air before.

DancingBear had arranged a rental car, but no DB, no car. I texted my buddy Paul before I left, and he was able to be my chauffeur for the visit – with our first stop at a grocery/liquor store in North Kansas City, where they had Verners, but I didn’t really need a twelve pack (or the Yoohoo next to it):

Got checked in at the 21st C at The Savoy Art Hotel, and after a little juggling, got the two queens changed to a king bed on an upper floor. Love the “Do Not Disturb” door hangers!

Maybe I should have stuck with the two beds…would have made for a bigger room.

Live and learn. Nice, but not sure worth $250 a night (though I got a 21% introductory discount which barely covered the 19% Kansas City Lodging Tax).

After she got off work, we grabbed Gail and headed off to CharBar we went. Nothing like starting the trip with BBQ (and a Manhattan)!

Paul and Gail split a couple of things, starting with the grilled jack fruit burger (vegetarian):

And the Fruits and Roots salad:

 

I went for the Pickled Pig sandwich (deep fried pickles and cole slaw):

 

And though we were all full – we split the peach bread pudding – which was stunning:

 

Gail dropped Paul and I off at The Green Lady Lounge for a little after dinner jazz, but to be honest, from all the food, we made it through a couple of songs and a drink and grabbed Uber’s back home.

It’s one of my favorite spots for jazz in KC – just wish I’d had more energy.

Back at the hotel, I found this wandering in my hallway….

Apparently, penguins are “a thing” at the 21st C hotel chain.

The next day brought BBQ with Wendy in Lawrence at Bigg’s BBQ (the favorite of my friend Nita):

I went “small” with the three pulled pork sliders since we have 7pm reservations at The Savoy Grill:

Paul had some massive sandwich thing:

For Wendy, the burnt ends with cole slaw and fries you get two sides, but if you do it right you can end up with four between two people because the big sandwiches come with one AND endless fries:

Paul dropped me at the hotel so I could get a quick nap (which didn’t happen – worked instead), and Gail showed up at six for wine and cocktails in the room before dinner, which we made, and then headed out to check out the modern art on the first and second floor of the hotel (which is open to the public as well):

Even art in the meeting rooms:

My favorite piece in the “Refuge” exhibit:

Then we were off to The Savoy Grill (after returning our drink glasses to the room):

The view from Booth Number 4: The President’s Booth – and of cocktails:

Me: Martini, Gail: Bee’s Knees, Paul: I’ve totally forgotten!

Next up, the cheese plate:

Check out the “retro” dishware:

For drink round two, I switched from a Gin Martini (in honor of Pucci), to a Manhattan:

Paul got a Chocolate Martini (which he had at The Green Lady Lounge as well), Gail, the Kat’s Kimono:

Then the mains and sides started coming…prime rib for me:

Pasta Primavera for Gail (housemade pasta):

Salmon for Paul:

And sides of green beans almandine and creamed corned (which was pretty much mashed fresh corn):

For dessert, the profiteroles!

To go with my Benedictine and Double Espresso – and no, they didn’t let me light the cigar:

In the morning, I tried the room service (and in the restaurant) Biscuits and Gravy (same price as the restaurant [$14] and only a $3 delivery charge)

I was underwhelmed…A) salad with breakfast? B) the biscuit was more dense than fluffy, which had they split it, the gravy would have worked better.

To wrap up the visit to The Savoy, some random shots of the hotel, restaurant, and bar:

Check out was 11am (which I find annoying, but better than 10am). Paul grabbed me from the hotel, and we were off to lunch at The Nelson-Atkins Gallery:

Spent a little time seeing art….

Next stop, the airport – and fortunately, the gift shop was closed, or I might have been tempted by these two t-shirts for Kathy:

And onto the plane for dinner on the way home…

Complete with a couple of cases of BBQ sauce!

Another week, another trip.

[226.2]

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Wed
10
Feb '16

Trip Report: Annual Victoria Getaway

Well, with all the other travel, and the Coho Ferry (Port Angeles – Victoria) being dry-docked longer, only one trip planned to Victoria this winter.

The trip didn’t start well – my Uber driver was stuck on 1 minute away for 15 minutes, killing any spare time I had to get to the boat – I ended up driving after finding out he a flat (which I didn’t find out for 20 minutes because he wouldn’t answer phone or text) – it, worrying that the car wouldn’t start when I returned from Victoria since the battery is weak and I’d had it on the charger all the previous night. Not the way I like to start a trip – stressed. You all know how I am about getting to airports/ship terminals/etc. in plenty of time.

This helped the stress:

This is Maia’s second trip with the boys to Victoria. Maia belongs to Seth. Maia likes my roller board and wants to help even though she has two bags of her own. Good Maia:

That would be Daddy Seth‘s foot to the right.

Miracle of miracles, our condo is ready – before noon! Usually, check-in time isn’t until 4pm. We have a 2-bedroom Penthouse unit on the second floor (yes, Penthouse doesn’t mean the top floor in this case, just the level of creature comforts – like our own personal hot tub):

And the view is good, even if it is the second (out of eight) floor:

You can sort of see our “pet”, Jonathan, in this shot – here is a better one:

And no – we don’t feed him – that’s against the rules.

Lunch out is at the Blue Heron Bistro, in the same complex as the grocery store. I start with a Caesar – which is a Bloody Mary made with Clamato. The Canadians are crazy about Clamato:

Lots of fun stuff on the specials menu –

I went with the Rabbit & Chorizo Poutine – that is French Fries, then a layer of cheese curds, then a Chorizo Rabbit Gravy over the top – others went for the duck curry:

Nap time for DancingBear and me – while Seth, MoSis (his BF), and Maia went out to explore the city.

But soon, it was time for dinner….and the couple of racks of ribs I brought up from the states.

Did I mention we bought a little duty-free booze? And here is the dinner, ribs on the upper right:

We do eat well on holidays. And we do relax well on holidays as well…

This is how DancingBear and I spent our time in Victoria, in bathrobes, cycling in/out of the hot tub, reading, playing Word With Friends, staring out at the planes landing on the Inner Harbour.

That and cooking:

Yes, Seth is having greens and sauerkraut with his eggs, babel and cream cheese (where is the salmon I brought?)

More relaxing for DB and I on Wednesday, with the rest of the kids out exploring (aka trying to run Maia out of energy) while we worked on dinner which included a vegan (it was supposed to include TWO vegans). Apparently we were having too much fun to get any pictures of the second night’s dinner which was olive tapenade stuffed portabellas for the vegan(s) and chicken cordon blu for the rest of us.

We were a little short on guest this visit at our favorites RobinHood and CrowDog are on the Sunshine Coast mourning the loss of a close friend – guess I should plan for next year in Victoria!

Before you know it the last afternoon is upon us – and a BIG shout out to DancingBear for renting a full-size car to get us around town and occupy us on the last day when checkout is at noon, and the boat is at five.

Final lunch was at Nautical Nellies – Seth’s suggestion and it was a good one.

I wanted light, so I went for the tempura green beans…

Fish Tacos for MoSis:

DancingBear went for the Cheddar and Crab sandwich – which I really should have taken some of:

And before you know it, we are back on the boat headed out of Victoria –

And eating again….

Cheese, crackers, Chicken Caesar wrap, leftover cranberry juice and vodka we packed for the trip…

The car started when I got back to the garage. Because of the discount from The Clipper, parking was $30 for the three days rather than the $61 that was on the ticket. In the end the price was probably cheaper than Uber to/from.

[213.0]

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Thu
22
Dec '16

Trip Report: Quiet Pre-Christmas In Victoria

Just a quiet little mid-week jaunt to Victoria with DancingBear before the rush of xMess starts at the shop.

If it’s a Victoria Clipper trip, that means it’s time for Red Barons (cranberry juice and sparkling wine):

And a breakfast burrito from the Clipper Café in the terminal.

DancingBear had arranged for a car, so after customs/immigration is was a quick call to Budget for a pickup. Car in hand it was off to Costco for meds that are over-the-counter in Canada but are expensive prescriptions in the US, and steaks, and scallops, and a hot dog – before going across the parking lot to grab a wi-fi router for DB and 11×17 paper for me – the joys of 30% off because of the exchange rate.

On a lark we swung by the WorldMark Victoria to see if the room was ready – and even though it was only 1pm with check-in at 4pm. Yet again, we are in a 2-bedroom Penthouse :

Not a bad view from our room.

Woohoo – must be time for a nap!

Swung by the Thrifty (alas, Royce wasn’t working) for the rest of the supplies for dinner – looks pretty good doesn’t it!

Ribeye steaks off the grill topped with sautéed chanterelle mushrooms, seared scallops topped with fried prosciutto, and a loaded baked potato and a little salad. And here is the chef!

We eat well when we are on the road. No company this trip, so it really is a “quiet” trip.

The next day finds us on a road trip north to Duncan – for no particular reason other than shits, giggles, and snow….

OK – not the best picture of me, and the sun highlights the camera, but it was a pretty overlook on the way to our lunch spot – The Dog House:

I had the Ruben (bit surprise):

DancingBear had the turkey wrap:

We booth took ½ of each of ours home – maybe we should just decide on a meal and split it — neither of us eats the amount of food we used to.

Time to head back to Victoria before darkness (and maybe some snow) falls:

This evening just straight up seared scallops, risotto, salad and wine.

We do eat well – even the breakfasts are stunning:

Rare view of both the Victoria Clipper (coming in from Seattle) and the Coho (headed to Port Angeles):

Our final day in Victoria we did something I’d never done in all the times I’ve visited Victoria – Craigdarroch Castle. Considering there is a 25% off coupon at the front desk, odd none of us had done it. Will definitely go back in January with MaryBeth. Pretty, and amazing:

Looking up the staircase to the top floor:

And at the top – this nice carving:

All the rooms are decorated for the holiday – making it even more festive:

Looking back down the staircase:

Then there was the purpose-built billiards room:

Let’s not forget the bathrooms:

All-in-all, a lovely little sightseeing adventure before heading back to turn in the rental car. I must say, with regard to the rental car company (Budget), I haven’t been very impressed with their efficiency in this location over several visits.

Checked in the luggage and headed across the street to Belleville’s for a spot of lunch. I had the seafood chowder,

DancingBear had the BLAT (Bacon, Lettuce, Avocado, Tomato).

The fries where excellent – some of the best I’ve had. Crunchy on the outside soft on the inside. Yum – as was the Margarita Double that was on special, and even the Highball for $5 once it turned to happy hour.

An amazingly relaxed trip – no dinner parties, no stress. Just lovely.

Can’t wait to go back in a couple of weeks.

[219.6]

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Thu
25
Jan '18

Mileage Run Report: JFK, PDX, RDU, RDU

More road warriors end up doing mileage runs at the end of the year to get/keep airline status to get free upgrades to the “land of warm salty nuts”. I prefer to load up my account at the beginning of the year, booking TONS of flight when Alaska puts most of their destinations (except sunny ones) on sale for January/February/early March.

Last years “mileage run city of the year” was Boston, which cost me $235 round-trip and is a lot of flight miles, and frequent flyer miles, as Alaska is the last major airline in the US to award miles based on flight miles, rather than the cost of your ticket. What do I do with all those frequent flyer miles? Occasionally I give them away as Christmas presents, but mostly I use them to fly business class to Europe (coming up in February) and Southeast Asia (coming up in March). This year’s “mileage run city of the year” is Raleigh-Durham at $190.80 round-trip. And, no, I’m not even spending the night to explore the city – although I understand it’s a quite lovely place.

First leg of these runs is from SEA to JFK – where I got upgraded to First:

Since it’s a red-eye, it’s not the nicest inflight service, food wise:

The “meal” is a “Protein Plate”, which reminds me of the phrase that my grandmother’s “home” used “Protein Loaf”.

But, I did manage to get a little sleep on the flight after watching a movie and a little TV.

Early arrival at JFK – with enough layover time to explore the airport, specifically the 60’s icon TWA terminal:

Which, if you look closely to the right – they are building a 500-room hotel (TWA Hotel) opening in 2019. Here are some better daylight pictures of what will become the hotel lobby:

Other sightings at the airport – a line of Nissan NV200 taxicabs:

And a faux Tiki Lounge:

Speaking of lounges – I hoofed it over to the Admiral’s Club the next terminal over:

Where I spotted one of the American Airlines “history” paint jobs – from all the carriers that they gobbled up over the years, this one, AirCal:

But soon enough, it was back onto a plane bound for PDX with much better inflight food. The salad:

Which was followed by your choice of ravioli with pesto (which I had), or the Trident cod over Jasmine rice,

Followed by cheesecake:

Got to PDX early afternoon and headed to the lounge to see if I could get on an earlier flight home to SEA. I had been upgraded to First, but was willing to let it go for the less than an hour flight to get home five hours early. Even had time for a little clam chowder and Treveri Rose Bubbles!

Portland is a great airport (except that the Lounge doesn’t have a full liquor license), including a movie theatre:

And a pop-up wine store:

Made it home in one piece – so that I could work at the wine shop Saturday and Sunday, because, wait for it, because Monday I’m headed to RDC. Got an upgrade at the gate to Seat 1A:

Which means it came with breakfast, which I had them hold for a bit since I’d filled up in the Lounge, and I needed sleep more than food.

It was a quick turnaround at the airport — 40 minutes until boarding – no time to get the lounge which is at the other end of the airport. Before you knew it, there was more food (and drink) being served. This time I went for the Trident Cod after the salad:

Basically, it was a 12-hour flight day, plus a couple of hours on the front to get from my house, and some on the end to Lyft back home…all, so I could do it again in the morning, sadly in coach.

Upside is that I was travelling with DancingBear, who got us into a different lounge at SEA, the American Express Centurion Lounge:

The two of us suffering in coach for five hours:

At least we were in Premium Class with free cocktails and a snack box which didn’t keep either of us from ordering the Tom Douglas Kitchen’s Breakfast Sandwich made with Beecher’s Cheeses. Not bad for $5 – and if was super-hot temperature-wise. Sadly, it was gone before I had a chance to get a picture of it.

We were much happier on the way back in seats 1D and 1F – DancingBear loves a window seat, I love the aisle, so it all works out:

As for our dinners – it’s the same menu on most of the long-haul domestic routes in First – did you want the Pasta (me) or the Fish (DancingBear).

When we arrived back to SEA, we were at the end of the C Terminal, so I took us to the lounge to grab chocolates for the flight crews (my habit to repack them eight to a small zip lock bag). And since we are in the Lounge, why not have a nightcap!

Well, that’s the end of the “just for miles” trips in the last week, for I’m home for 12 hours before heading to the Bay Area in the morning. Fun fact — about 350 miles into the return from RDU, I hit the half-million mark on Alaska Lifetime Flight Miles. Sadly, it doesn’t even get me a thank you card.

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Tue
7
May '13

Princess Here We Come.

Maybe an hour of sleep – sitting up – on the couch – and apparently I missed four flash bang lobbed into the business across the way from my house.

Here is a little snippet about the incident on one of the local news sites:

http://www.kirotv.com/news/news/man-hogtied-held-gunpoint-during-south-seattle-rob/nXjdt/

I’ll check back in a day or so to see if they have any updates to the story.

DancingBear showed up on time at 5:15am – I had to exit my house through the garage and walk down the alley to meet him. They had blocked off the streets in front of my house. Great way to start a trip.

Since I was checking a bag we were both in the MVP Gold line which meant we could get DB on the earlier flight with us, rather than the 9:05 or his original flight was the 11:05 which would be cutting it close for him to make the 3:30pm sailing.

Both of us got through the Pre line (shoes on, laptops left in) – though DB got his “wine” confiscated. He couldn’t find it earlier to give to me and thought he’d forgotten it at home. No – it was in his briefcase. Oops. Good think I brought an extra. I’d planning on having Jill bring that one on.

In LA we met the Princess folks for our$24 transfer to the pier – which turned out to be a good deal since we were early and they took us to the Sheraton for coffee and pastries (we went downstairs for a real breakfast at 15% off) and more importantly they checked us in and would have out keys ready when we hit the dock – no lines. YES! And since CaddyDaddy isn’t going to use his transfer (hard to do when you are dead) we got the Princess folks to take DancingBear in his place. RIP CaddyDaddy – at least someone got some use out your prepaid transfer.

I had the eggs benedict for breakfast – on top of the two English muffins with cream cheese I had in the Board Room. Maybe I should call this post “Carb Day”.

Got on board, got settled, got ice order, fixed myself a drink, did the emergency procedure briefing and then headed to the back of the boat for a little sailaway view:

That would be DancingBear in the background.

Dinner at 7:30 in the nice dining room with DB and Jill – we passed on joining the other dozen of folks at the massive table. I don’t really like meals with over six people, just too crazy. Just not relaxing.

Tonight’s wine:

Not a bad bottle of wine.

At 9 was the LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender) meet and greet was at the Wheel House lounge, deck 7 aft. Probably the most folks I seen at one of these, like twenty. Of course when the group you are travelling with has a dozen or so, doesn’t make it that difficult to reach those numbers.

Stayed up way too late, which meant ordering more carbs from room service. Bad Uncle Markie, Bad.

Will do better tomorrow.

[205.5 – and we’ll see what 3 days of cruising does to that number]

 

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Sat
3
Mar '18

Trip Report: Midweek to Denver

When I planned this trip back in November as one of the final “Cyber Week Sale” flight, I didn’t think it would have a theme, just thought I’d be going to visit Dan and Lisa.

The new theme: Money, Laundering. Please note the comma.

Before we get to the Money portion, let me explain the “laundering” part. Exhibit A:

Exhibit A is an all-in-one ventless washer-dryer that I got in January to replace my first-generation model that lasted 13 years. The new one worked WAY better than the old one, having clothes come out warm rather with a little dampness like the old one. Well, it worked better when it worked – got less than ten loads out of it before it locked the door, gave me an error code, and forced me to call warranty service (GE Appliance Repair). Called on a Saturday morning, and they were out Monday morning (a longer service window than I would have like 8am to noon). Sadly, he needed two possible defective parts…which as it turns out, the control board was on backorder…until April 3rd. This saga played out over about three weeks whilst I was in Hawaii first, then 10 days in Europe.

As of Thursday, we have resolution. They are sending me a brand-new machine, installing it, and taking the dead one away. I think it would have been cheaper for then to air freight in the control board from China. Install date will HOPEFULLY be Thursday/Friday/Saturday of next week before I leave for another 10-day trip. I’m trying to push most of my travel to the beginning of the year when business is lighter.

What all of this means is that I’ve been without clean laundry for weeks now – and why I packed two bags of dirty clothes to visit Dan and Lisa and borrow their washer-dryer.

But back to Denver – Lisa was a doll and picked me (and my laundry) up at the airport, after my ride-to-the-airport scare of forgetting my laptop bag and less time that usual before my light.

On the upside, at least I’d gotten the upgrade to First Class, so there was food on board:

Think sort of a Southwest-style breakfast plate served in my favorite seat (1C). The stress of the airport run led me to order several vodka-cranberry doubles.

Once we got back to their house way north of the airport, those double led to nap time. Like a three-hour nap! The joys of holidaying.

The evening plan was dinner for five, we were joined by another couple around the dining table for “Instant Pot” pork belly, bok choy, and potato salad. Sadly, the only picture I have of dinner is of the bottle of Bonny Doon Le Cigaré Volant from 2008:

It worked quite well with the richness of the pork belly. Green and Black Organic Chocolates from the Alaska Lounge was dessert for several of us. Others had ice cream.

Even with the nap, I was in bed early – and oddly, UP EARLY. This has been happening for the last couple of nights since returning from Europe last week. Gave me time to get some work done in the morning before we headed into town to hook up with DancingBear, who was flying out to Denver on a mileage run combined with lunch with Dan and I, and a tour of the U.S. Mint.

We met up at the train station since there is a direct link to the airport – and grabbed a table (after swinging by the mint to get tickets for the 2PM tour) at Stoic & Genuine – where I’ve eaten before and can best describe as, “top-notch”, and “not-cheap”. With tip, $145 for lunch and drinks for three.

The lunch:

Maker’s Mark Old Fashioned for DancingBear, a Nigroni for me, Haut Toddy (which was actually a Star Wars themed cold drink) for Dan.

Nice, open, airy place with a cute bartender (you’d have to zoom in). And superb food, like my (and Dan’s) fish (cod) and chips…

And DancingBears Diver Scallops on Beat Salad…

Portions were not huge, but excellent quality.

Mint tour wasn’t until two, so we had time to kill at the train station – which is a great place to hang out and watch people:

Got to the mint at the required 1:30pm for our 2pm tour…to find us last in line to go through a very thorough security (cell phones off, no purses, backpacks, knives)…

No pictures allowed inside, so, here is the entrance:

DancingBear hit the gift shop for coinage sets for his collector Mom, and back to the station to drop him off before heading back north to make a liquor store run for me to pack in all that clean laundry.

Dinner my last night was pan-fried steaks with some more of bok choy from last night – not a fancy the pork belly, but just as tasty (and there will be leftover steak to go in the morning scramble).

Sadly, I wasn’t there for the scramble – I had a 9:45AM flight which put us in rush hour traffic to the airport – don’t know why I booked this particular flight (must have been cheap, which it was at $150 r/t), but I’ll know two things for future trips:

  • Arrive and leave mid-day
  • Two nights isn’t really enough

No upgrade on the way back, and a completely full airplane, but I was sitting in a row of partiers, so we all had a great time.

Home and a nap.

[222.2]

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Tue
5
Apr '16

Trip Report: Spring Break Scholarship Reading At Birch Bay

The trip was originally planned as a spring break trip for Bret since I was able to book the 3-bedroom Penthouse at the WorldMark Birch Bay. For last year’s out of town reading we had the 2-bedroom (but they gave us the top floor) next door at the WorldMark Blaine. The Birch Bay unit came with a private hot tub and BBQ, whereas the Blaine unit had both shared hot tub and grills.

You never when you book what the weather is going to be like – we lucked out – Sun, Sun, and more Sun! This might give you an idea of the size of this unit – it’s like twice the size of my house with 3 times the bathrooms:

Being three guys who all weigh over 200# each it shouldn’t surprise you that we brought enough food for the Armageddon:

Speaking of the other three (Bret, DancingBear, Rach):

Is that a happy crew or what? This is Bret at the swim-up window by the kitchen requesting drink service:

And the view from said hot tub (with the tide out):

Everyone (except me) was eager to check out the beach at low tide. Going:

At the beach:

Returning:

And what did I do while they were getting their shoes muddy? Watched The Simpsons, which for some reason was in Spanish:

Before you know it – it was sunset time!

Sundown means dinner time – hunks of dead pig on the grill!

It was a great dinner with the boys!

Yes, three out of four of us are in our WorldMark provided bathrobes. It definitely a couple of days of laying around, reading scholarship applications, books, playing Words With Friends and basically being slug-like:

Another day, another group dinner (well, there was breakfast, too) – but first we must have a PooPoo platter and a couple of dozens oysters that DancingBear picked up when he got lost heading to the Bread Farm in Edison and ended up at Taylor Shellfish on Bellingham Bay. One the upside, we got good oysters AND good bread – and Rach is a professional oyster schucker!

Tonight is steak night – hopefully we will have enough!

That would be four New York Strip Steaks from the Safeway 50% rack, and then the rest of the stuff to go with dinner – bread, salad, sautéed mushrooms:

And yet another beautiful sunset!

In closing, Rach forwarded some of his shots from his afternoon walk around the bay – THANKS RACH!



Sadly, we packed up, wishing for a third night in the three-bedroom Penthouse.

[217.8

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Fri
26
Jul '19

Trip Report: Whistler Second Visit

One of these days I get tired of Whistler in the Summer. Not yet.

Trip number two this summer, mostly in pictures. The trip started with a Sunday night at Birch Bay.

Ribs on the grill, whiskey in the glass. Not a bad way to pass an evening.

Morning finds us on the road again!

Picked up DancingBear’s Summer Pass and grabbed a late afternoon gondola up the mountainside:

And a cocktail and a split sandwich at The Umbrella Bar:

Great scenery! Even with a few clouds.

Our late lunch meant a late steak dinner…

And look what we have for breakfast the next morning!

And up the hill, and across the valley we go:

And onto a bus, and up another hill to have a glass of wine…and watch some glacier skiing.

Here is a little video of the way down….

Lunch in Blackcomb Village (Milestones):

And we saw a bear on the way back up the mountain!

A little more “gondolaing” and down the hill we went to fix our dinner:

Oh, what a difference a day makes…weather wise.

So, we grabbed a little lunch….back at the Umbrella Bar:

Before heading up Whistler Mountain…in the clouds…

Yep – not a warm day for the middle of July.

We found a Farmer’s Market at Blackcomb Village and grabbed some vegies for dinner.

Mick signed up the “The Sasquatch” Zip Line – a little over a hundred Canadian.

And back up the mountain:

Here is the video of his mountain-to-mountain zipline:

While DancingBear was Zipping, I was Zogging – as in Zog’s Dogs.

Sadly, not as good as I remembered. And slow to boot.

Before I realized it, it was time to head back to Seattle.

Another trip to Whistler done.

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Wed
23
Nov '11

Not Exactly A Day Off.

The morning was spent redoing all the bookings for the WorldMark Santa Fe for the second week of December. Why use points when it’s available cheap at the last minute.

And then came the panic.

The call from an unknown cell phone number with an area code I didn’t recognize — turned out it was Jim calling from the shop where we had internet service, but no phone line. Panic. No phone line on the day before Thanksgiving — one of the big wine shopping days of the year. Yikes.

Trip number one to the store: On the phone to Qwest. They confirmed no dial-tone. Escalation to the switching office. Right, no dial tone. Escalation to the programmer. Yes, the phone is programmed correctly, but it doesn’t have a dial tone. I head back home to put up my MajicJack — which is a VOIP (voice over internet protocol) device since we have internet service. Add a stop for ribs at the BBQ place on Cherry where a ½ pound of pork ribs is $7.50 and I swear it weighs in at over a pound. Several more calls from CenturyLink while I was driving home.

Trip number two was interrupted 2/3rds of the way back by…  a call from the shop (Madrona Wine Merchants came up on caller ID). The phone is working. Jim got a call from CenturyLink and the rep said, “Well, it’s working again, and I have no idea why, but we’ve cancelled the service call for Friday.”

Needless to say I installed the MajicJack and trained Jim on it just in case. The thought of not being able to run credit cards for three days was unnerving. Maybe we should get one of those wireless merchant machines.

Done with the panic I went home and tried to relax. Should have had a nap, but it didn’t happen. Instead are started worrying about the Hawaii trip at the end of March to the south end of the Big Island. At the summer gathering I bought 3 nights in a three-bedroom three-bath house a couple of blocks from a clothing-optional black sand beach. The plan is to split the place ($350 for the three nights split three ways, and an extra $150 [again split] for an extra night) with Solus+ from Vancouver and DancingBear who has a boyfriend in Hilo, about 45 minutes away.

I’m feeling poverty stricken so the goal was to use as few as miles as possible while still flying First Class and not missing any days of work (since I’d like to actually take off the Breitenbush weekend in February). I was successful, but boy to I have an odd routing:

  • Sunday, after working until 5pm, fly from Seattle to Oakland, arrive 10:30pm, have a night cap with Mark and Onyx
  • Monday morning at 11am, fly from Oakland to Kona (direct on Alaska Airlines)
  • Friday afternoon fly back to Oakland and have a night cap with Mark and Onyx
  • Saturday morning at 9:30, fly to Seattle with enough time to show up at the 2-4pm tasting.

Whew!

Solus+ is now looking into arriving/leaving Kona the same dates using miles since he is going to the faerie gathering in Thailand at the end of January and is counting his pennies. It was made easier now that he doesn’t need to add a side trip to Maui onto the trip. Now I just have to get DancingBear on board since the dates we picked match when his boyfriend is out of nursing school on spring break. Hopefully that will happen tomorrow night when he meets up with Swanda and I for my Thanksgiving Number Two.

Nothing much to say about dinner other than a stir fry of ginger pork with a side salad. For once I missed rice.

[210.7]

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Fri
22
Mar '19

Trip Report: Nevada National Security Site (NNSS)

Better known as the Atomic Testing Grounds north of Las Vegas.

The tale of this trip starts last June when I’m on the NNSS site trying to get a tour (http://www.nnss.gov/pages/PublicAffairsOutreach/NNSStours.html) which book up about nine months out as they are thirty people, once a month. Upside is that it is free. We finally got accepted in early July 2018 for a March 2019 tour. And, apparently, we all passed our security clearances.

Booked a three-bedroom at the WorldMark Las Vegas Boulevard for the week of the tour…and then it’s the waiting game to get airline tickets, rental car the rest.

Four of us (Myself, Rache, DancingBear, Jonathan) flew in on a variety of flights with Jonathan and I arriving first and picking up a rental car and some groceries….


Yes, I rented a pickup truck – it was supposed to be the HUGE F-150. What I got was a mid-size Nissan Frontier. I should have gotten the Jaguar F8 ragtop from Sixt! And, yes, I re-parked the truck better after the photoshoot.

 Part of the groceries were fixings for breakfast sandwiches for Tuesday, the day of the tour. DancingBear got up early to make them, so we had some food in our stomachs to show up at 7:30am at the National Atomic Testing Museum where the tour began (museum ticket not included in the free tour):


If you look closely, you can see our 85-year-old tour guide Ernie in the front window of the bus – he’s worked in the field for most of his adult life after growing up as a farmer in Nebraska.

Here is the itinerary of the full-day tour…



And with Jonathan on the tour, he marked a copy of map with all the stops the night before the tour:


Notice how close we are to Area 51? I notice the map doesn’t show the airstrip in Area 51 that a jet lands everyday from Vegas for commuters to commute. Also, Area 25 isn’t on the tour as that was the Nuclear Rocket Engine test site.

At the museum (the following day), Rache found this on display – from the Jackass and Western Railroad which was a spur line that moved around the rocket engines:


I bring this up because Rache and I had the opportunity several years ago to ride on the switch engine (I was the engineer!):

If you want to see the whole post on that adventure: CLICK HERE

Thanks, Rache for these web-scrapped photos since we were all required to leave our phone in our cars – to photos, no booze, no, well, lots of things. Here is the poster:

But back to the tour…it’s an hour and a half on a bus before you see this sign.

You get a clue about the terrain, but here is a better shot of the 1350 square miles where we also saw Predator Drones doing “touch and goes”:

Here is the link to the Wikipedia link about the site: CLICK HERE

With the 90-minute bus ride, first stop is a bathroom/snack bar stop, which is good because I’m out of liquid, then we are off to Icecap, which could be reactivated in a year if we decide to no longer ban testing (which, with our current administration, be tomorrow).

Which I really wish I’d had a camera for – it’s a building in 40-foot chunks that san be craned off and shipped to the next test site – well, before they blow a big hole in the ground.

Speaking of big holes in the ground, our next stop was Sedan Crater, which was the most sobering of visits of the day, when 12,000,000 short tons (11,000,000 t) of earth of material were moved in 11 minutes.

Standing on the rim looking down, which was TRULY sobering, they could have ended the tour after this and I would be satisfied – but we had five more hours (starts at 8am, ends at 5pm).

More driving before we arrive at the Apple II houses – structures that they built to see how the “blast” from a bomb would react with structures….this one was fine except all the windows were blown out:

Thank god the next stop was lunch at what was basically a commissary that had a bus-load of people showing up at once. Guessing the cheeseburger would have been better as a one-off rather than done ten at a time.

And there were also train trestles that were bent by the shock waves – which all the photos are heavily copyrighted, but the warping was three feet across twenty feet.

You should also be aware that during all these tests, soldiers were out there watching. It was a coveted assignment – watching something big blow up.

We were shown wooden benches on hillsides still in place (and rotting into the dessert).

All-in-all it was a fact-filled-feast with someone who was there throughout the years.

Personally, I was exhausted by the end of the day – but they did send us a commemorative photo collage of our day around radiation. The big photo is on the rim of Sedan Crater, the inset from in front of the museum:

In a little bit of weird, the world is a small place, we met a friend of our friend Sierra, another Ranger, who was on the tour, along with a bunch of SpaceX/Tesla folk (though not “on business”).

Fun day.

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Want to see the report on the Hanford Nuclear Reactor B tour, click here.

Or the Atomic Museum in Albuquerque, click here.