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Jan '15

Trip Report: A Sacramento Quickie With Jameson

Not THAT kind of quickie – a quick two-night visit.

Scored the ticket for $116.20, CHEAP, and a rental car for $28.40 (plus gas, which you can get right at the airport), hell my parking was $40.38 (with the Senior Discount at Wally Park for those 55+).

A great day to fly…fog causing some planes that don’t have advanced avionics – RNP—were diverting to Boeing Field. Two United flights and one Air Canada flights. One of the reasons that I like to fly Alaska Airlines. Currently only Alaska and Southwest (in the US) have adopted RNP system-wide.

My plane awaits…

And you can see the pea-soup fog in the background….and my seat awaits:

Not my favorite (1C – aisle), but right next door (1A – window).That said, it was a great day to be by the window. Mount Rainier above the fog line:

And then (I believe) Mount Adams:

And mountains I know not the names of:

Thinking Hood, and really don’t know this one:

Let’s not forget my “snack” on the way down (and on the way back as well) of the Curry Chicken Salad – wish they had warmed the pita bread like they did on one trip!

Almost before finishing my “snack” we were on the way down – it’s was a 1 hour 15 minute flight – definitely running early. In Sacramento they were unloading (and loading) from both the front and rear:

Picked up the car and set off on an errand before meeting up with Jameson at his new apartment. The errand was BevMo for a little (lot of) bourbon for the visit and to take home with me.

It’s going to be dinner at the apartment tonight, with Jameson’s girlfriend (who I met on my November trip when it was her birthday). I’d brought lots of frozen (when it was packed) protein with me. Chicken Thigh Stir Fry with rice is tonight’s meal, tomorrow will either be Garlic Rosemary Rack of Lamb (girlfriend doesn’t eat lamb) or Jerked Boneless Pork Chops – depending on party of two or party of three.

Stayed up too late (for Jameson who had to get up early for a work trip to the Bay Area) so didn’t get out of the apartment until noon.

Headed into Folsom for a lunch that wasn’t good for me, but tasty. Fish and Chips at the Fat Bunny Tavern where the “Business Lunch” with a choice of half a dozen items that come with either a glass of house wine (the Cabernet wasn’t bad) or a beer (Scottish add $2.00).

Then I was off on my daily rounds – first stop was the Gekkeikan Saké Factory Tour. Normally this is a self-guided tour, but a group tour had just started so I tagged along and got a much better experience:

Sampled six things at the end, including a “Sparkling Saké” from their Japanese parent company.

Next up was the Folsom Prison Museum, a tiny little museum with on the grounds of Folsom Prison:

And a “lovely” exhibit of “shanks”:

They are hoping to expand with a new facility, The Big House Museum:

And, of course, the view of the prison walls…

I parked near the “Visitor Intake Building” with lots of “rules” for visitors:

The one place that I wanted to visit, but didn’t figure out where is was would be the Folsom Powerhouse Museum. Instead tried to find a Goodwill for some kitchen stuff for Jameson’s new place (failed, turns out it was near the Saké Factory) but did get to Safeway to pick up other supplies for dinner, like a 9×9 Pyrex Baking Pan which you can never have too many off (though that would be just one for Jameson).

No girlfriend for dinner tonight so it was the rack of lamb, and we used some of the Jerk Sauce destined for the port as a “dipping sauce”. Damn tasty.

And we finally got to try out the hot tub – tried last night but we were WELL after 10pm when they lock the gate. Nice was to finish the evening.

Up and out by 8:30 to get the rental car back and check in all the luggage (yes, TWO checked bags, thankfully FREE). It gave me enough time before my 11:30am flight to actually have a little breakfast:

Eggs Benedict at the Esquire Grill at Sacramento International Airport.

Flight was reasonably on-time, back in Seat 1A, and another Curry Chicken Salad (again with cold Pita Bread wedges). Before you knew it I was home and taking a nap.

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Jan '14

Overnight With Jameson.

Left Berkeley in the late afternoon for the Oakland Airport with enough time for some steak fajitas and a couple of Manhattans:

Poor Jameson had his flight cancelled so instead of arriving in Seattle from Reno an hour before me, he arrived an hour later than I did. Blessed be the cell phone for coordinating at the airport.

After my uneventful flight I waited on the departure level at the wine bar that is on the ticketing side of the airport. Really nice tomato/mozzarella salad:

Why, yes, that is another Manhattan.

It was great to see Jameson – even if it is a short visit as he needs to be back at the airport at 10am for his flight to Vietnam for a three week visit:

Somehow I’m expecting to regret staying up until 4 in the morning.

[? ? ?]

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Nov '11

Workin’ The Shop Today.

Dinner With Jameson Tonight.

Got to the shop around 10:30am just in case there was a problem after the power went out last night. Arrive to find:

  1. We have power
  2. The credit card machine “auto-settled” so there was a nice tape waiting for me
  3. The cash register spit up its tape as well.

Got all the bookwork done and the doors open at 11am. Surprisingly Jim showed up in the early afternoon (even with a slight cold) to crank through a bunch of wine cards. For some reason I neglected to get a shot of how the racks are looking with the new vertical cards.

It was a good thing Jim did come is as mid-afternoon we had a “whale” come in talking about a case and a half of Christmas wine, and picking up several bottles of $25-50 a bottle wines to try.

Closed the doors as little after 5 and sprinted home to get ready for dinner with Jameson where we had our own little wine tasting:

The three open bottles were the dregs from the Saturday tasting, plus we opened a Chilean to go with the Italians.

Unfortunately Jameson’s visit is short — tomorrow it back to Olympia and the problem of his pump house for the rental property.

At least we had a good meal of lamb chops and spinach sautèed in bacon and vinegar.


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Dinner With Jameson Tonight.

Apr '11

Jameson, Day Four.

Nice to have company. But nice to have a little down time as well. Jameson was off to lunch with friends from Evergreen at Both Ways Cafe in Columbia City. I’d never heard of it, but it gets good reviews. Might have to check it out, but not on the weekend for bunch.

Dinner tonight are a couple of veal chops, some roasted potatoes, a nice salad with anchovies and home-made croutons and a little red wine.

Jameson’s visit makes me realize how much I enjoy his company and that I need to spend more time with him… like maybe three nights from the 31st of May to June 3rd staying at the WorldMark Tahoe in Stateline, NV, just up the road from Jameson’s place.

Hopefully the massive snows they have had this winter will have melted. Looks like renting a car is going to be necessary, I can deal with that tomorrow. It’s not right in Stateline, but outside of town. Between the shuttle, and then getting to the place, I think it will nicer to have a car. I booked a two-bedroom so Jameson can stay in a little bit of luxury while I visit.

While I was booking, Jameson was packing. Sigh.

All packed and ready for a really early morning run to the airport. Please note the ukulele sticking out of his backpack.


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Apr '11

Jameson, Day Three.

Ah, the joys of being able to sleep in and have coffee delivered bedside.

Spent the morning reading scholarship applications. It never fails to amaze me the number of people who don’t read the list of requirements. Usually it is the portfolio that is strangely missing.

Mark Stephen Souder Scholarship for Information Dissemination

Offered to a new or currently enrolled student attending full time who demonstrates an interest in information dissemination, e.g., writer, Web designer, teacher, musician, activist — anyone helping to influence the way people think about their world, to change the concepts of “nons”—”non-residents, non-Caucasians, non-heterosexuals — to create a more equal, intelligent and compassionate society. Preference will be given to non-resident gay or lesbian students, demonstrating quality and creativity of prior work in the area of information dissemination. Financial need will also be considered.


  • Letter of application addressing your passion for and level of expertise in the dissemination of information. Tell us where you have been with this concept, what you are doing now, and where you want to go in exploring how information is shared.
  • A portfolio of work that expresses your beliefs about information dissemination and demonstrates how you have put those beliefs into action.
  • Two letters of recommendation from individuals, other than relatives, who have personally experienced the power of your work in information dissemination.
  • FAFSA or Renewal Application. _______________________________________________________________________________________________

By 1:30 or so both Curt and I had finished reading all 15 of the applications (stack size 2″), which is down from the 21 applications last year. I would have thought more would be applying, but apparently the economy is so bad that students and prospective students can’t even afford to think about college.

I ran out to Summit Lake to see how the progress was coming, and see Julian who had driven up from Portland to help his brother out. They were down to the last, and hardest, panel on the car port when I got there.

Lunch for me was at the Ranch House BBQ just a couple of minutes from the rental. Pulled pork sandwich with coleslaw and potato salad, washed down with a glass of Petite Syrah that had been open a little too long.

Work was done by 3 and we headed back to the Westside to drop off his truck. My surprise for Jameson was taking him to the musical instrument store from yesterday, and convincing him that he REALLY needed to buy a ukulele. The ones I had priced were from $54.95 to well over $300. Jameson settled on the $99 Portuguese one that came with a bag, pitch pipe, and cord descriptions. To push him over the edge I picked up part of the tab.

We got back to the house a little after 5 just in time for the nightly news and the nightly cocktails.

Dinner was flank steak pinwheels, brussell sprouts, salad and a little red wine.

After dinner it was time for Jameson to start on the scholarships. And the winner is….

[? ? ?]

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Apr '11

Jameson, Day Two.

Up at 8, grudgingly, breakfast at 9, on the road by 9:30am.

Destination Olympia. Work of repairing the carport of his rental for Jameson, work on two chickens for dinner for me. Doesn’t look fun for him with the rain.

On the way back from dropping him off on the Westside to borrow a friends truck, stopped downtown and did a little antiquing, but found myself parked in front of a musical instrument store, with almost a dozen ukuleles hanging in the window, and as it turned out, another half dozen hanging on a rack. Apparently the ukulele craze is bigger now than it was in the 20s and 30s. Went in to price them for Jameson since he likes mine so much, and says it would be easier to travel with than a guitar.

Tried and failed to nap in the afternoon, so decided to make chicken paté from the chicken livers from the two chickens for tonight’s meal. Why the two chickens had 6 livers, 1 gizzard and no hearts, I do not know.

The two chickens were stuffed with a half an orange each (to keep them moist) and sprinkled with a Tuscan seasoning mix, and baked on top of a bed of new potatoes, onions, carrots and celery. Serve with a salad and some steamed asparagus and the boys (Curt, Rich, Brandon) were happy campers.

After dinner tried and failed to get all the scholarship applications read, only managed one.


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Sep '09

Lismore Castle – Jameson – Dublin.

A fairly lazy start to the day — thank goodness for Ambien to keep the thumping of the disco out of my dreams.

Eggs Benedict at the hotel in the morning, then off to tour the castle grounds and art gallery filled with conceptual pieces, beyond contemporary art and sort of an odd match for the castle — guess that would be the personal tastes of the Duke of Devonshire who still lives in the castle.

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At least the windows are double glazed — though I still bet it’s a bitch to heat in the winter.

Next up on the tour is the Midleton Distillery, home to Jameson whiskey (and a couple of others). Jeff took this great picture of me in front of the waiting area bar (Irish Coffee for 6.50 Euro).

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After the tour of the history grounds (the current working distillery is modern and located just behind the old distillery) we went to the tasting room where both Jeff and I got certified as official tasters — and I cleaned up all the leftovers from the other 7 tasters… something like 15 of those tiny little cups. Should I have wanted to purchase shots, there was one shot on the menu that was going for 250 Euro. Ouch!

Lunch afterwards was down the road a bit from the car park — an interesting place called Mojito, which couldn’t quite make up it’s mind what sort of a menu they had — Jeff had the Nachos Grande and I had the Mojito Salad(which was salmon, goat cheese, greens, olives and a yummy dressing). It’s right on Distillery Walk by the distillery.

Three hours back to Dublin, Jeff driving while I slipped in a little nap.

Just a lazy day around the house that evening — a lite meal of sandwiches made from the pork from the other night. Got to keep food moving through the fridge when it’s a half-size model.

Tomorrow is the big 53rd birthday. I don’t feel a day over 52.

[? ? ?]

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May '19

Trip Report: Wedding Ramble, Part Three – Anaheim With No Ears

It sounded like a good idea at the time – a 6:55am departure from San Luis Obispo. In reality, I had to get up at 4:30, check-out, return the rental car with gas in it, and catch an Uber to the train station.

A light rain as I waited for the train – the first run of the morning with direct service to Anaheim (didn’t want to transfer in LA). And this is a very pretty chunk of Amtrak trackage:

I was greeted onboard with coffee, muffins, orange juice which held me over until we hit Los Angeles…a perk of Business Class.

After LA I only had two stops to go, but they managed to get me a snack box and a split of questionable red wine (as photographed in the condo later):

Here is a shot of the Surfliner leaving Anaheim:

Grabbed an Uber to the condo where my room wasn’t ready, so I checked out to common areas:

And the rooftop deck with hot tubs…

Rather than eat the Amtrak snack box, I headed out to see what I could scrounge at the nearby “Garden Walk” which is part of “Downtown Disney”. Being off season, lots of things were labelled “Open Summer 2019”. I ended up at Fire and Ice which is a Mongolian Wok kinda place. I opted for an appetizer and a Manhattan while I waited for my room to be ready:

Nice lunch – and as usual I spent more on the booze than I did on the food.

Random photo from “the mall”:

Might have to use that as a dating site profile photo!

Finished checking in to discover what this Two-Bedroom Presidential at the WorldMark Anaheim was all about….

And even a laundry room…

Yes, it is slightly larger than my small house.

Even numbered units have a view of the nightly fireworks at Disneyland. I can see Space Mountain and the Matterhorn from the deck.

Every night at 9:30, it’s a 10-minute show. Nice perk to watch fireworks with a cocktail in your hand just wearing a robe.

My Tuesday “major activity” was Uberring to Vons for a supply run – company is a coming. Grabbed a rotisserie chicken, mixer, bourbon, salad, a pork loin, potatoes – got company coming Wednesday!

Salad and chicken tonight:

If you zoom in, you can see Space Mountain and The Matterhorn.

I needed a couple of more things from the grocery, and I’d noticed this mini-mart a block or so away:

I LOVE places like this – the immigrant run convenience stores that stock a little of everything. I went for Ranch Dressing, pasta, and some more mixer. I ended up with than, a bandana, a pint Jameson glass (for Jameson), and most oddly, alcoholic sperm filled with a German cream liquor. Three cheers for The Magicland Market:

Which brings us to the lovely Wednesday dinner with friends…honored guest is Dr. David, who I met at Courtney’s Wednesday Night Supper in Seattle.

Also joining us is my buddy, Craig, who has met up with me at a number of WorldMark properties:

I had my phone set to go off at 9:26pm – to remind me of the fireworks. Sadly, on Wednesday, no fireworks. Guessing technical failure. Still, the company was great!

It was a full house Wednesday with Craig in one bedroom and Dr. David on the couch, so no one had to drive. Speaking of driving, they are both SAINTS for making the hour plus trek to come visit me. Craig is headed to San Diego tomorrow (making him already half way there), and Dr. Craig has an appointment half way back home, so it’s working out.

And my final night – guess what happened at 9:30:

Apparently, having company scares off fireworks.

It wasn’t the visit that I’d planned with a couple of friends who would have been there for the entire week – but lemonade out of lemons.

Friday found me at the airport headed home, via the Admirals Club lounge at Orange County Airport:

And soon onto the plane, fortunately in the pointy end:

And a little hot snack on the plane…

The end comes to my longest domestic trip in years.

[? ? ?]

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May '19

Trip Report: Wedding Ramble, Part Two – The Wedding

Back on the train to the reason for this whole ramble, The Wedding. Off I go way too early in the day from the Emeryville Amtrak station (chauffeured by Lunetta).

And they are still serving breakfast!

Followed by a nap (do you see a pattern here?), followed by a late lunch:

With some scenery thrown in. Just FYI – I booked at bedroom:

The last photo is of the train station at San Luis Obispo.

Called Budget to snag a ride to the rental car office and signed out a car that had seen better days (like the driver’s side mirror had tap wrapped around it that had been there awhile and was yellowed). But soon enough I was checked into the Best Western Casa Grande in Arroyo Grande. I splurged on a suite:

Which has a VERY NICE lobby area:

And my suite wasn’t too bad either:

Went to the store for some dinner and drinking supplies….

OK – so, the four on the right came down with me, the two unboxed flasks are for me at the wedding – the six boxed (and filled) flasks are for some of the wedding party.

Spent the morning of the wedding tasting wine in downtown Arroyo Grande…

Visited Timbre first, then down the street to a winery that was closing, Phantom Rivers, where everything was 50% off. Here is the haul:

Great – I thought I was going to make the final leg WITHOUT the box in tow. Oh well.

Jameson and Carolynn (the wedding couple) arranged for shuttles to run from the hotel to the wedding venues. The ceremony was at Carolynn’s parent’s house (where she grew up):

It was good to see Julian (Jameson’s brother who I visit in Japan):

Nice that they were serving Gruett Rose bubbles (from New Mexico) before the service.

Then down to the clubhouse for the reception…

And I was on wine duty to pour the 5-liter bottles of Bonny Doon that I brought down a couple of weeks ago.

And the first dance….

The “after party” ended up in my suite – wish I remember more of it. Woke up to popcorn scattered everywhere!

Needless to say, I slept in really late. Fortunately, I don’t head south until Monday, which left time for an intimate dinner with the wedding couple and two others at Hapy Bistro which is half wine shop, half restaurant, with cigars thrown in…but the food was stunning.

It was an early night for me since I have a VERY early train in the morning, AND I have to get the rental car returned.

Tomorrow, the adventure continues!

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Mar '19

Trip Report: SLO Wine

While Jameson was off at work, I was off at play, sampling some of the local wineries.

Stop number one was Sextant, who has a branch tasting room and deli in the Edna Valley. Having not had breakfast, I needed food before wine:

Was getting grounded after a little food, but did chat a little and try their Verdejo. Sadly, they didn’t have their Tannat open as it’s a Wine Club only wine. This stop was a nice “dip the toe in the water” with regard to Edna Valley prices. The full tasting would have been $20, and sandwich was a little over $10, light on the meat, but did have a nice salad. Wines ranged from $25 for the entry cab, $28 for the Verdejo, and quickly escalating mostly in the $30-60 range. They weren’t on the list of planned visits – but food call, and once you are out of San Luis Obispo, there isn’t really aren’t food option, why most people opt for the charcuterie plates that the wineries seemed to have standardized on. If you want a big lunch, grab it in the city before heading out to the valley, or pack a picnic.

The list of planned wineries started down the road at Kynsi Winery. The advantage of being in the trade (and remembering your business cards) is that other wines start appearing in addition to the standard tasting menu wines, especially if you are doing a tasting during the week it is quieter. Most of the wineries seems to be open seven days a week.

But back to Kynsi, The standard tasting ($15) included five samples, starting with their Pinot Blanc ($24), a Chardonnay ($28), then two of their Pinot Noirs ($36 and $56). The Edna Valley is a cool growing region known for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

The next round were a couple of their Estate cool-climate Syrahs ($34 and $48), followed by my favorites, probably because of the unusual blends. The Hutash is a non-vintage blend (I think ’15 and ’16) of 65% Pinot Noir and 35% Syrah ($28 – this is the one that I purchased) and their 2015 Nocturnum which is 50/50 Pinot Noir/Grenache ($39) which got 93 points and Editor’s Choice from Wine Enthusiast. It was a tough choice to figure out which of two would be best with the lamb and feta burgers for dinner tonight.

Interesting note about the winery – the woman running the tasting counter used to run the tasting room at Bonny Doon when they had a tasting room in Paso Robles. We shared a lot of Randal Graham (owner of Bonny Doon). Showed her the picture of the two 5-liter bottles of Bonny Doon I brought down for next month’s wedding. Nice views of the valley from the outdoor tasting area – and the new tasting bar getting coats of stain. GREAT WOOD!

Next up – I usually only do two wineries a day so that I get to swallow rather than spit – was Claiborne & Churchill. Their tasting fee is $18 for a flight of four (or by a bottle and sit on the patio – which is a common theme for the wineries I visited), and most amusingly, $22 if you have 8 or more people (because they know they won’t sell even a bottle).

We started with their Dry Gewürztraminer ($24), then their Dry Riesling ($22). Next up was an addition to the tasting, the Cuvée Fredericka (named after the owner) Chardonnay ($34), followed by the 2016 Estate Pinot ($32), then another addition to the tasting, the 2017 Straw Bale Red ($28, which I bought) which is 90% Pinot Noir, 5% Grenache, 5% Syrah. Back to the tasting menu with their Wolff Vineyard Syrah ($35) and finishing up with their Portobispo (a port-like wine for $28).

Great conversations with Eileen who was running my tasting, and another couple at the bar about where to go on tomorrow’s tasting run.

Just driving around the valley is a joy…

FYI – the lamb feta burgers were consumed the with the Kynsi Hutash.

The following day started off (after breakfast at Jameson’s place) at an old schoolhouse which is the tasting room for Baileyana Tangent & True Myth. Tasting was $15 for a flight of five.

On the tasting menu was a Chardonnay ($30), a really tasty “El Pico” Pinot (35), followed by a 60/40 Grenache/Syrah blend ($38) and their Estate Syrah ($35). Usually I pass on the dessert wines, but the had a Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc open. In the end, because we were having Crispy Chicken for dinner tonight, I went with their Estate Pinot Noir Rosé ($24).

Next up was the Chamisal Vineyard, just down the road by Edna Valley standards (refer to map below).

We started off with a couple of their Chardonnays ($35 and $50), a plus taste of the Rosé of Pinot ($28, which was what I bought), then a Pinot ($45), onto a Grenache ($45), and then Syrah ($60). I should note that they also slipped in a Stainless Chardonnay (18).

I broke with my usual two wineries a day, and opted for Talley, which, while closer to Arroyo Grande where next month’s wedding is, but I won’t have a car. And it was recommended by multiple people. $15 for the Core Flight, $20 for the Distinctive Flight.

Today’s tasting was “this and that” from both of the tasting flights, mostly from the Distinctive Flight, with a couple of wines from the Core Flight and a Cabernet Franc that was sold for growlers only (I thought the Cab Franc was musty, but never got a confirmation from anyone else). They were all solid wines (maybe with the exception of the Cab Franc). That said, tried the Bishop’s Peak Sauvignon Blanc ($24), two of the Chardonnays (both $34), before moving onto the Estate Pinot ($34), their Rincon Pinot ($68) and Rosemary’s Pinot ($75) before switching to the heavier reds with their Bishop’s Peak Cabernet Sauvignon (85% Cabernet, 4% Petite Verdot, 4% Cabernet Franc, 3% Malbec, $24, and the purchase wine from here) along with the Bishop’s Peak Elevation (Four Rhone varietals, $34).

All in all, it was a wonderful couple of days of tasting – trying to see if I can put together a shop tasting for some of these.

Here is a map of the winery area…

Hopefully, I’ll be visiting Qupé and Timbre down in Arroyo Grande next month, stay tuned!


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Trip Report: SLO (San Luis Obispo) Fun

Last month I tried to visit SLO, and Amtrak failed me by cancelling two days’ worth of trains. My goal was to see Jameson before he and Carolynn get married next month since I know the wedding will be crazy and I’m betting I barely get to see his brother as well.

Alaska does a direct flight from Seattle via Horizon’s E175 aircraft. I love these planes – and even more when I’m up front!

And even in my favorite seat, which is 1A, because it’s both an aisle AND a window.

It was ridiculously bumpy on the way down, enough that the flight attendants were strapped in for 2/3rds of the flight – meaning I got my sandwich, but no cocktails for the entire 2.5 hour flight.

Great airport though…

Jameson had given me directions to the house, and how to find the key, and before long, I finally had that cocktail:

It was a pretty lazy afternoon for me, just hanging out with the assorted pets…

Petting neither since I’m allergic. Outside was better than inside.

Made a run to the store after checking out the fridge—got some steaks and found an amazing post-St. Patrick’s Day price on Jameson’s IPA and Stout edition:

Normally $40.00 a bottle, marked down toe $20, and if you bought three or more, $15. Wow, that’s like pushing $50 after tax in Seattle. And speaking of booze, I brought some down with me for the wedding:

The “small” bottle is a regular 750ml size, the other two are five liters each.

Nice place they live in…

And Jameson made me up a nice bed in the office…

I did steaks the first night (sorry, no food porn), then lamb burgers the next night:

Carolynn (Jameson’s fiancée) is working in the field all this week, which is disappointing because I’d wanted to spend more time with her, but on the upside, she doesn’t like soy, beef, or lamb, so guess what we are having this week.

The final night of my visit, Jameson suggested we get a cocktail after he got off work at the Madonna Inn. WOW. The place was huge, and weird, and…..heavy on the pink:

Even the men’s room is “unique” – look at the size of the urinal!

And a clam shell his and his sink…


All I can say is, WOW, WOW, WOW. Apparently, each of the 110 rooms is decorated differently, from Safari to Caveman to yikes!

Back at the house, the final meal of the visit is a crispy skin chicken (with some leftover asparagus from the steaks):

It was a great couple of nights – I’ll cover all the wineries that I visited in the next post.

Back on the plane the morning, back in First Class, but 4A (still window and aisle), and this time there were drinks!

And pretty views:

Was home early enough that I could have had folks to dinner, but sadly, couldn’t locate any.


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Mar '19

Trip Report: San Luis Obispo Turned Into Vancouver, BC

The plan was to visit Jameson (and fiancée) in San Luis Obispo this week on the Amtrak Coast Starlight. This is what the overnight journey should have looked like:

But I got this note at 6:50am Monday morning for my 9:45am departure:

We wanted to let you know that train #11, the Coast Starlight, from Seattle, Washington – Train Station on Monday, February 25th, has been CANCELLED due to a service disruption. Unfortunately, we don’t have other transportation available.

Well, that’s helpful. Sorry. Shit out of luck.

Made some coffee, swore a little that I was up when I didn’t need to be, and called the Service Interruption line which is smaller time waiting on hold. Got booked on the Tuesday train. One less day in San Luis Obispo, but still worth it….

Until the 10:51am, which said the same as the above, but changing Monday’s date to Tuesday.

It wasn’t until the next day that the reason finally started to show up on the web:


Yep, the train was stuck in the snow and running out of food (and I bet the holding tanks were filling up!)

With California out of the picture, and having already planned to be gone this week, it was “alternatives” time…Victoria? Vancouver? Orcas Island? Turns out Vancouver was the place that had three nights available that wouldn’t cost me an arm and a leg (there was a little budget since I’d be getting the train points back, got refunded for the return plane ticket, didn’t need a rental car). New trip looked like this:

It’s basically a three-hour drive. On a rare sunny day in the winter. Still didn’t take the convertible – WAY too cold.

Over the border, I’d hoped to get a dog at the dog stand just past immigration – but, sadly, they weren’t there. Must be a summer thing. Had to stop at a Kosher Deli instead:

Where I got the Rueben – sadly, not as good as when I was here last…

But I did pick up a couple of things in the Deli section:

This is the WorldMark at The Canadian.

And the view isn’t bad…

And it’s a two-bedroom, two-bath….

With a deck!

Picked up a few things for dinner on the way in…

My buddy Epick is came to dinner tonight – and I gifted him some fabric (he made my kilt):

The dinner was steamed Salt Spring Island mussels in a curry lemongrass coconut broth, strip steaks, and salad. Yum.

Next night’s dinner was with Marzi featuring seared Ahi Tuna steaks, salad, bread.

Not that there isn’t good food in Vancouver…like the JapaDog stand a couple of blocks from the condo….

BUT, if you look closely, all sorts of items are “x’d” out – and the next day it was a handwritten sign with what WAS available, but no explanations. Seems “the trend” has passed and they are barely hanging on. https://www.quora.com/Is-Japadog-overrated-or-worth-trying-out-when-in-Vancouver

Didn’t eat here either, but thought it was an interesting concept:

DID eat at Relish because they offer a discount to WorldMark owners (15% off food).

I had the Marinated Ahi Tacos – because, while the Rueben was on the menu, it was nowhere to be found, and according to the waitress, hasn’t been around for a while.

While they were good, and a $4 Highball is a rarity in Vancouver, the food wasn’t as good as I’d remembered – I’m sensing a Vancouver trend.

The final day found Epick over again for dinner (remains of the coconut sauce with chicken thighs and sugar peas), and a load of laundry (there was an ensuite washer/dryer).

Still life with tennis shoe, followed by a complete drying:

Got out of the condo around 11:30 – a little later than I’d planned, and then there was the burger stop in Mount Vernon:

Meant I was a little later into town than I’d have liked, meaning I got stuck in traffic for 30 minutes. Sigh.

I had fun, but still wish I’d been able to go to California. Now when I go down in April, it going to be a crush of people for the wedding.


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Dec '18

Trip Report: Santa Fe The Long Way

It used to be easy to get to Santa Fe…flight left in the morning, got into ABQ in the afternoon, plenty of time to drive/train to Santa Fe. Not anymore. A couple of months before my trip Alaska sent me a note saying that my flight that was supposed to get in at 1PM would, instead, be getting in at 10PM, and leaving on the return, butt early, in the morning.

Doesn’t work when you are an hour and a half from your final destination by the time you pick up your luggage.

Hello Portland along the way…

Started the trip with the usual trip to the Alaska Lounge

With a stop at Florette to hug Shua. It’s rare that his work schedule and my flight schedules align.

Bulkhead aisle to PDX…

Upgraded to First on the E175 flight from PDX to ABQ, which is 2-1 seating, with me in the 1:

So, aisle and window and the same time – and LOOK at the view!

This is why I call the Pacific Northwest home. And then, lunch was served.

On time into Albuquerque, off to the Rental Car Center, into the rental car, and headed north to Santa Fe, and checked into the WorldMark Santa Fe…Studio Handicapped Unit:

Because of getting in at 4PM, and not to Santa Fe until after 6PM, no hanging with the relatives, just grabbing food from across the street (Chopstix):

Popular, cheap, OK quality… perfect for taking back to the room, and she threw in a couple of wontons since I wasn’t willing to wait 20 minutes for the Bulgogi.

Lunch the next day (who is up for breakfast!) was at one of my favorites, a block away from the condo. Bumble Bee’s for Lamb Tacos. Love their drive through sign:

Dinner with my sis-in-law (might as well be sister at this point), and her husband, Uncle to Jameson and Julian, at Atrisco for their Chile Relleno.

Yes, this trip is about food – it is Santa Fe, after all!

Lunch at LottaBurger…a tradition with both The Colonels and I should mention that I was supposed to see The Colonels on this trip, but management messed up their 3-week reservation at their condo and turned it into a 2-week stay, so they headed back to Kentucky. I also missed them in New Orleans due to weather…I’ll see them in January in West Yellowstone.

Dinner with the family out in Eldorado (about 20 minutes from the condo):

The following afternoon Jen and I met up for lunch at Taco Fundacion – where Bert’s Burgers was for 30 years, but brought it back to the condo since it was only a block away, and they don’t really have warm seating:

I ordered the Roasted Pig, the Lamb, and the Goat (and then went back for dinner and ordered the Fried Oyster, Bison, and a side of chips). Damn good – worth a second trip.

My afternoon was spent on the computer, watching George H.W. Bush’s train ride home…

My final meal in Santa Fe was breakfast at another one of my favorites…The New York Deli:

The Eggs Benedict were $9.95 – a freakin’ bargain.

Got upgraded to my favorite seat on the E175, which is 1A – the combination aisle/window. And since it’s First Class, it comes with dinner:

And more mountain views….

Guess I’ve taken to photographing the wing tip for perspective. It works.

That’s my last flight trip for the year. Got a driving trip to Vancouver and Blaine coming up.


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Feb '17

Trip Report: Sacramento

This week’s pleasure travel is to lovely Sacramento – though technically Folsom where Jameson lives. It feels like, “another day, another flight.”

Suddenly, most of my lunches are now looking like this:

With a view like this….

Until I end up on the plane, luckily with an upgrade…

When the view changes to this:

That would be Mt. Rainer. This would be a double:

And someone in the back is making balloon animals for the crew – I just brought them chocolate.

And we get a little snack on the way down …

That would be build it yourself bruschetta.

Landed, got my bag and then rental car hell began. 45 minutes to get a car, ten people in line, one agent. Word to the wise when booking EZ/Advantage Rent A Car. The delay was long enough that Jameson actually got to the house before me.

At least when Jameson and I get together, we drink well:

And eat well:

Those it pains me to pay retail for wine – at least it was on the 50% off rack.

For some reason I didn’t get a picture of us together so you’ll just have to suffer with Jameson doing his back exercises:

Up in the morning early, off to the airport, returned the car which was painless, got home early afternoon for a quite evening.


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Jan '17

Trip Report: Vancouver & Victoria

Well, the travel season has begun again – starting off with a road trip with my old college roommate, MB.

Left my place at noon headed for CanadaLand…with a couple of stops on the way:

Since we were going into a “crown county”, we thought we’d gets our crowns on early.

First stop is a WorldMark that I hadn’t tried yet – actually a trade with Vacation Internationale or something like that – Rosedale on Robson – warning, I didn’t take this picture:

But it gives you an idea. We were in a one-bedroom unit with a sofa bed in the living room…

Good day and night views…

Not as nice as the WorldMark at the Canadian in the heart of downtown – especially considering valet parking is $30 a night at the Robson on Rosedale. However, it does have a decent restaurant ion the ground floor – Original Joes – were we had cocktails and dinner:

MaryBeth had the Brambleberry, I went for the Royal Buffalo (Buffalo Trace Bourbon and Chambord Liqueur)

My haddock and mixed chips – biggest piece of fish and chips fish I’ve ever seen:

MaryBeth went for the noddle/broth dish – both excellent:

Out at eleven to catch our ferry to Vancouver Island, but first breakfast/brunch at the ferry terminal which has a HUGE food/shopping court. No, I did not have the sugarized apples:

And it was a GORGEOUS day for a ferry ride – and we had a front row seat!

Our room was ready when we got there!

MaryBeth ignored the howling breeze and hopped into the tub. Me, I stayed inside and enjoyed the view:

Before it was cocktail time:

Sort of a “faux” Lemon Drop – Citron Vodka with fresh squeezed “orange lime” juice – we found them at the local Thrifty Grocery. These are organic (hence the code starting with “9” – regular limes are 4306):

Looks like a small orange, but has the juice more like a lemon. And we liked them so we made two more runs to the store over the stay to get more.

As is my usual Victoria journeys, people are invited to dinner – including one of the checkers from the Thrifty:

Our first set of guests managed to drain the bar – resulting in this:

This was AFTER the hot tub, which with a 30mph breeze, was more like a lukewarm tub – with heads bobbing barely above the water line to keep from ice forming.

Wednesday is all about PIG – the restaurant called PIG, and one of the cooks at PIG.

Totally forgot to take pictures of our lunch – I went for the pulled pork sandwich, MaryBeth went for the pulled port poutine (fries, cheese curds, gravy, pulled pork) small portion, which was the size of a small child’s head.

Next up was to stock up on provisions….

Great guy working there who I assume was one of the owners – GREAT customer service.

Two bottles of wine, replacement vodka, replacement whiskey, and we are on our way to the fish market for dinner protein:

Love the fact they tell you what boat and where – this is why I shop with these folks (Finest At Sea) – they are a wholesaler who has a tiny retail store a couple of blocks from the condo on a side street behind their offices, and now, a food trailer out front.

So, they translation to US measures/prices – a pound and a third of troll caught salmon for $22USD which works out to $16.36 a pound (thanks to a 30% difference between the $USD and $CAN).

The dinner company is MaryBeth’s daughter’s boyfriend (who is a cook at PIG) and his mother – how’s THAT for an interesting dinner! And I’m making him cook after I do all the prep work – doesn’t it look GREAT?

And he taught me a tip – give it grill marks on the flesh side, then finish cooking on the skin side – I’d change this to a 45-degree angle – or a 45, and then a 90 for cross hatch.

No hot tub action tonight!

When I hang with friends at WorldMark places – even breakfast is “ensuite”:

That is a coil of sausage done on the grill, Caesars (that would be a Bloody Mary made with Clamato), scrambled eggs.

Today we are off to a CASTLE – and not the one that most tourist go to in Victoria – we are driving to Hatley Castle, not his father’s castle Craigdarroch Castle (FYI, his father died before the Castle was complete). Hatley was Royal Road Military College after the family finished the cycle from rags to riches to rags and lost the place, now it the Royal Road University, mostly on-line but offering career transitions. Thank you, MaryBeth, for stopping a person on campus who must have been in the administration for the great boiled-down mission statement.

It’s “shoulder season” so no tours of the Castle since it is a “living building”, i.e. and Administration Building – but still pretty:


And the lobby…

And my favorite lobby sign from its former life:

Even though there wasn’t a tour – there is a small museum in the basement (along with gift shop, and oddly school supply stop):

Back in town, it was time for an afternoon snack – I’d taken the chicken from the first night, turned it into stock, skimmed the fat after an evening in the fridge, add noodles and frozen veg…and a lovely soup!

Got a lot of use out of that chicken! After we’d had our fill, I packed up four small containers (left over from appetizer plates) for the staff – nothing like a little homemade chicken noodle soup. They are VERY understanding of my life – they even got me chocolates for my birthday in September.

Dinner tonight was a friend of mine who connected over social media and his husband – one of those, “stop by for a cocktail” that turns into dinner. Take the two marinated steaks, cube, skewer, grill, add a couple of salads, and we have dinner!

Another day…another castle! This time it’s dad’s castle — Craigdarroch Castle!

Search on Craigdarroch on my blog to see more pictures of the interior – this time I was specifically looking for this one plaque:

Specifically, for this portion of the plaque:

My “faux” nephews Julian and Jameson, apparently names after Julian Jameson (there is a mention HERE).

Love this radiator in the library….

It was a great tour before getting in line for the Coho Ferry to Port Angeles. But first, LUNCH:

And we did have calamari with those drinks. Honest.

In the line:

On the ferry:

Made the last ferry (Bainbridge) with just enough time to line up and be the last car off the ferry.

Home, MaryBeth headed home, I headed to bed after opening one of the bottles of Duty Free and making a cocktail.


Jan '16

Trip Report:

Pigletté In Vietnam – Fourth Leg: Saïgon to Cần Thơ

One of my biggest worries of this trip was that a delay in arriving into Saïgon would screw the trip to Cần Thơ the following morning as there was only twelve hours between landing and getting picked up for the tour. Alas, no worries, even with the delay at the Visa Desk.

In the morning Sean and I head out for an early breakfast – leaving Pigletté at home since it’s Pork and Rice for breakfast (and iced tea):

Here is the guy cooking our pork on the side of the street at 7:30am in the morning…

And the end product. I think I could get used to this. 34,000 Dồng (Vietnamese Monetary Unit) a person ($1.52 USD):

Our driver was right on time at 8am – and even came down the narrow street to pick us up in front of Sean’s apartment:

He had to back down the alley as there was no room to turn around. But off we go for the 4-hour drive to Cần ThÆ¡. After we got out of the city, there was a bit of tollway that quickly turned into two lanes in each direction separated by a “Jersey Barrier“, with scooters/motorcycles going both ways on the shoulder – all accompanied by various small businesses lining the road, with the occasional break for rice paddies, banana farms and other agricultural stuff.

Part way in we stopped at what I call a “tourist rest stop” that all the tour buses stop at (though we were in a chaffered car) – a “shopping opportunity” as The Colonels would say – and a chance for a freebie for the driver. Sean mentioned that he prefers to stop in “hammock cafes” where you have your tea (or whatever) while lounging in a hammock in the shade.

All said, Pigletté enjoys his Vietnamese Coffee (Robusta-bean brewed coffee with sweetened condensed milk):

And the surroundings are pretty – but it took us a bit to find our driver again…

Before you knew it – and Sean snoozing after his tea — we are approaching the new (as of 2010) bridge over the Mekong River to get to Cần ThÆ¡. The old method was a ferry that added HOURS to the journey. This and another bridge at the Cambodian border makes it possible to drive from Saigon to Phnom Penh, Cambodia in six hours.

First stop when we arrive in Cần Thơ is our lunch stop of the day with a set Vietnamese lunch:

And it was tasty:

Luckily this was all part of the “package” I got from Luxury Travel Co., Ltd. So far, the tour isn’t disappointing. With the lunch we had some Vietnamese Red Wine (Vang Dalat, served chilled and considering it was 90 degrees outside, a good thing) by the glass (50,000 Dồng each — $4.49 USD for both glasses, NOT included in tour price). There is a review of the Van Dalat STONG wine (16% being fortified with Mulberry Wine here), but I don’t think it’s right to compare a fortified wine to a regular table wine from the same producer, but it is an interesting interview.

After lunch (and an ATM stop for Sean – he’s my “bank” this trip so far, not having changed any money at the airport on the way in), we are off to check into the Victoria Cần ThÆ¡ – a Colonial-era hotel (think French occupation of Vietnam). You have to love a check-in process where they say, “take a seat”, turn over your passports, and while they do all the paperwork, you get a shoulder massage:

Again, part of the “package” apparently – and there is a spa on premises if we want a “couples massage”. We have the afternoon free, so we settle into the room to craft a plan…

Even the bathroom is nice…they even put a condom in a little envelope on the top of the toilet…

They even sent up a fruit basket!

We had to call down for ice for the flash of whiskey I brought (flask was included with the liter of Jameson that I bought at Dubai Duty Free):

Internet and nap time rule for the afternoon – at least until happy hour in the bar downstairs…

And a little reading time (unless you want to play billiards):

We could have played Backgammon as well….

Happy hour wasn’t THAT good a deal – 2-for-1 Gin & Tonics at 4-star hotel prices, but we did need the nuts and a little snack before taking the water taxi to Cần ThÆ¡‘s city center…

Our objective was to find some supplies – whiskey and diet for me at retail rather than hotel prices…and explore some of the city center. The water taxi is run by the hotel and they just need 10-15 minutes’ notice on the hotel end, as the boat is moored in the city. Turns out we stumbled into one of the few shops early in our stroll that sold both – but hoping for a better deal, we explored further. Note the Microsoft Storefront in the background…

And a picture from Sean’s collection. GREAT picture of me.

Fresh shrimp anyone?

Or may some Tết (Vietnamese New Year) stuff – we bought some!

But soon it was time to head back to the hotel with our Scotch (Johnny Walker Red – not my first choice, but the best of the lot) and some Coke Light (Diet Coke for those in the US). We have a 6:30pm dinner reservation (also included in the tour price), so time is of the essence…

I thought I’d show you some shots of where we were staying – stunning grounds and facilities. Headed to the resort from the dock…

The river side of the place…

The view from the lobby to the pool…

The lobby (open-air – rooms have AC).

Time for dinner! Listed in the brochure as “candlelight dinner” it was true to description – complete with a custom printed menu for us:

Guess that makes Sean “and party”… love the attention to detail:

And the food was a stunning as the napkin. The “starter” – Eggplant Tartin with Mozzarella and fresh garden salad (please notice the “balled” butter):

Green pea soup (soup de legumes verts)….

Chicken leg stuffed with mushrooms, and mushroom sauce, Duchess Potatoes, and a faggot (bundle of sticks) of green beans….fagot de haricots verts as they say in France.

And dessert…. chocolate cake served with coconut ice cream…

All washed down with a little rosé from Provence (that’s in France you know – and Vietnam was a French Colony for a couple of year). It’s a Saint Roch Les Vignes which is sustainably-farmed 50% Cinsault, 50% Grenache from 225 acres from select domains in the villages of Cuers, Puget-Ville and Pierrefeu with the average age of vines at about 30-years-old.

Love a good rosé in a hot environment! Even if it did cost almost a million Dồng. Fun fact – the Dồng has the second lowest redemption value right behind the Iranian Dinar.

That said, the USD total was $44.45 – like I said – 4-star resort prices. At least I know what the mark-up at the restaurant is – that bottle would be $15 on the shelf at my shop. Considering how little we have been paying for other things on this trip, it was nice to have a nice rosé in hot weather.

The restaurant also has an enclosed, sit-in wine cellar/bar:

We got back to the room to find more attention to detail – a bedtime story scroll, and a couple of star fruit jelly roll snacks….but no new bucket of ice…that will make the third call today, or is it fourth:

Also, please note that the bottled water has a cloth “cozies” around it. Condoms in the bathroom, cloth sleeves on the water bottles – they are serious about “protection”, or is that “glove before you love”.

Off to bed – driver comes at 11:30am for us, and breakfast is served until 10am.

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Pigletté In Vietnam – Fourth Leg: Saïgon to Cần Thơ

Jan '16

Trip Report: Return to Sacramento

Nothing like a $160.10 round-trip flight to get me motivated to travel – add complimentary upgrades to First in both directions and I’m in.

Staying with Jameson (faux-nephew) and his girlfriend Carolynn at their place a couple of blocks from old town Folsom. Got my own cat-free room – yes, the cat is the downside to the trip.

I had planned on hitting some wineries after meeting up with Paul the German CouchSurfer who is attempting to hitchhike from Vancouver, BC to New York City using NO CASH. I hosted him in Seattle last week, and it turned out we were in Sacramento at the same time so hooked up for lunch and dropped him at a freeway entrance as he was headed to Reno. And it turns out all the Placerville Wineries are closed on Tuesdays (some Wednesday to Sunday, most only weekends).

Lunch? Max’s Bar and Grill in Auburn – at the start of the Sierra foothills. For picking it at random (search restaurants, Auburn, CA – look for ones close to the highway) it turned out to be the best Rueben that I’ve had in years. Pair it with a Manhattan, and it was heaven. Paul and the Manhattan:

Said best Rueben in years:

Turns out the freeway entrance I wanted to put Paul on didn’t have any place to pull over so we backtracked an exit to one with a gas station – turns out it was also Downtown Old Auburn with not much traffic. He waited five hours and ended up hitchhiking in the dark. At least he made it to Reno – by 9:30pm.

I got to Jameson’s place before he did – but check out the “economy” rental car from Advantage Rent-A-Car – apparently the economy is very good in California if you get a Kia Sedona LX mommyvan as an economy car:

Cute house. Great food – the first night what started out as a pork loin turned into a Carolina-style pulled pork with a side of creamed yams and a salad – plus a couple of bottles of wine I brought.

Wednesday was the designated “winery” day. Slept in late to make up for the prior days up early, fortified myself with another Rueben at Deb’s Frosty in Diamond Springs, California. Not nearly as good but $7.50 rather than Max’s $15 (plus Manhattan).

And the sign has seen better days. Would be interesting to try other items on the menu, which seems to be half burger stand and half Tex-Mex food.

And now for the winery report:

One of the lesser known, but fascinating California winery regions is Eldorado County, an hour east of Sacramento. Unlike the bustling regions of Napa or Sonoma, these smaller regions offer inexpensive tastings fees (if any at all), and offer up some great wines and stunning scenery.

As you can see from the map, there are no shortage of wineries in Eldorado County, many of which are only open weekends. Most everyplace you stop in will have maps of the area, including special maps for the sub-AVAs of Fairplay and Placerville. It being a Wednesday afternoon, my choices were a little more limited so I hit two that were recommended (and next door to each other) and one (Miraflores) that I just stumbled upon.

While none of the wines from the three wineries I stopped at are available at the shop, this is more informational about off-the-beaten track wine regions.

First up was Windwalker Winery in the Fairplay area of El Dorado County California. They produce 9-10,000 cases of wine a year with 10% being estate fruit. Of that production, 1/3 are white wine varietals, including dry-style Albariño (unusual for California) and a Viognier (both tasty, but I bought the Albariño). If you are a Chardonnay fan, their Chardonnay won the prestigious Golden Bear award at the California State Fair (front and center in front of their other medal placing wines).

As you can see from the chalkboard, they have an extensive and varied production. I even had a chance to chat with Ben, their winemaker:

Some of the more interesting reds they had open were the Alicante Bouschet (another rare California varietal) and their Estate Fruit Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. They also have several desert wines that I passed on. By the end of the tasting I’d had three whites/rosé and nine of the reds – yes, I was swirling, sipping and spitting.

Next up in the day’s adventure was Perry Creek Winery, which is just one long driveway away from Windwalker. Unlike Windwalker, most of their grapes are estate grown.

As with Windwalker, the major portion of their wines are red varietals (Chardonnay and Viognier being the two whites). I worked my way through them, finding the Zinfandels to my favorites – and oddly, the ZinMan Zin (which I bought) tastier than their Reserve Zinfandel. I ended up trying both the whites and half a dozen of the reds.

Last on the list for the day was Miraflores Winery, visually the most stunning of the bunch – no wander they have a full schedule of wine/food pairings, weddings, wine maker dinners.

For tasting they had your choice of six whites or rosé, and fifteen reds of which I sampled. With the exception of their Pinot Grigio and Misíon 1853, all of their wines are estate fruit grown on 50 cultivated acres

I really like their 2014 Barbara Rosé, along with their 2012 Méthode Ancienne – a traditional native yeast, foot-pressed Syrah. They used to invite people in to help with the stomp, but in recent years it’s just handled by the production workers. Other notable on the tasting menu were the 2014 Misíon 1853 – the first varietal planted in California in, you guessed it, 1853. Also deserving mention are their 2011 and 2012 Petit Sirah.

So, when you are travelling around the country, explore the less explored wine regions – when doing the research for this article I found a map for the wineries of Indiana – who knew.

Got back to the house before Jameson and Carolynn – but not enough time for a nap, just enough time to clear up email.

Another damn fine meal, this time with Eldorado County California wines (the Albariño and the ZinMan – taking the Syrah home with me). And while we are talking about the accommodations – said overly-friendly cat:

As usual, Carolynn heads to bed before Jameson and I, and no sleeping in for me in the morning – an 11:30 flight. But again, at least I’m in First.

And the flight comes with lunch – a yellow beat salad with focaccia (and cocktail):

Just another week in the air with Uncle Markie.




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Jan '15

Trip Report: Out Of BBQ Sauce – Off To Kansas City.

While not entirely the reason for the quick trip to Kansas City, it certainly is ONE of the reasons. The other was that it was on an Alaska Flash Sale a month ago and I picked it up for $156.20 – something on the order of half price. Alaska tends to do their Flash Sales every Wednesday from 11-1PM West Coast Time. This might be the one I bought while in Mexico while on a land excursion touring wineries. Thank goodness for T-Mobile and free data roaming in over 120 countries.

Oh, what a difference a week makes in flying. You can’t even see the North Concourse (or the end of the C Concourse) the fog is so soupy.

Luckily all Alaska Airlines planes are equipped with Required Navigation Performance (which I talked about in my last post) which means all the flights out of Sea-Tac on Alaska are on-time:

Got an upgrade on the way out to Seat 1D, across the aisle from my favorite seat on the plane, 1C. Reason? You are the second person to get your cocktail and there is no one in front of you to put their seat down, and since it’s an aisle, it’s easy to make a bathroom run.

A nice little sandwich on the way to Kansas City – along with a Digi-Player, which I wasn’t expecting:

Got into KC, and Gail was there to pick me and all my bags up.

  • Porter case filled with clothes, bourbon and wine.
  • Wine shipper filled with Adams All-Natural Peanut Butter which they can’t get in Kansas City.
  • My backpack with electronics

A lot of junk for a two-night trip.

Paul has a conference tonight so Gail and I head over to the Kansas side of the border to check out RJ’s BBQ as seen on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives (not sure which category it falls into). We just hit the end of Happy Hour so drinks were $3 and appetizers $3.95 – Where can you get a Kettle One martini for $3 or was it $5, either way, when he couldn’t find any olives (or a martini glass, or vermouth), he just brought me a double Ketel on the rocks:

And he did find some olives – the previous shift hadn’t restocked. Onion rings in the background (so-so).

Started with onion rings (so-so, not house-dipped), corn fritters (really good – chunks of corn inside, definitely house-made), and the Bison empanadas (tasty, which a zingy dipping sauce), and then I moved onto a real meal:

Ribs with a side of slaw. They serve their ribs dry, but have several different sauces (3?). That was enough food for the evening (and for lunch the next day). You can find the whole menu HERE. There are other things on the menu I’d like to try, like the Jalapeno Sausage (ground pork butt mixed with diced jalapenos, rolled up in corn husks & smoked. Served with flour tortillas, Dijon mustard & barbecue sauce – 5.95) and the Gumbo of the Day (A Cajun-spiced soup made with rice, okra and our smoked sausage. Ask your server for the variation of the day Cup – 4.45 Bowl – 6.45).

After that meal I took a several hour nap when I got back to the condo – also feeling under the weather with a sort of cold, and then with their cat, waking up at midnight for night-caps with Paul after his conference. Reminded me of when I got off work on Sunday night I came home and went straight to bed, postponing dinner until later.

Slept until noon which is when Gail showed up with the car for me to borrow so I could go off and run some errands and get some culture after polishing off the ribs and slaw:

Stop number one – Gates and Sons sauce factory, across the street from one of their restaurants.

I finally got to meet Tina Starr who I’ve chatted with and emailed over the years. Sweet woman:

Not only did she ship my last case which Nita didn’t have time to pick up – FOR FREE, she gave me all sorts of sample bottles:

18oz. standard-size bottle on the left, a 3.1oz. bottle labeled “Fly With Me” and then the tiny 2oz. size. She gave me 5 of the “Fly With Me” and 24 of the sampler size. Maybe these should go in the wine club shipments!

Next up was Arthur Bryants for another case of sauce – I had Paul ship me one in November, but I’m out at home so when in Rome (or Kansas City, which is number two in the world behind Rome for public fountains) grab it while you can.

Errands done, time for a little culture in the form of the Liberty Memorial – apparently the only World War One museum in the US. It’s kind of funny that the park grounds surrounding the museum were the notorious gay cruising grounds in the 70s and 80s.

While you can’t see it too well, under the glass floored walkway is a field of poppies –not unlike the field of poppies that has been making the news in London.

My one-word comment about the museum: Sobering. Great exhibits including an amazing multimedia rendition of life in the trenches when you feared mud as much as bullets.

I happened to show up on World War Wednesday, each Wednesday all tickets are just $7.00 no matter normal, senior, child. My lucky day, though it’s certainly worth the $14 retail price. Other parts of the museum include being able to go up in the tower (elevator, then 45 steps):

And if you are looking at the first picture of the museum, this is the building to the right of the tower:

After the museum I went off in search of mixers for the bourbon I brought and ended up at Berbiglia, a chain of liquor stores in Kansas City. One of the Berbilia boys actually owns Arthur Bryants (and is seriously cranky, and demands wholesale orders start at 10 cases). Didn’t find what I was looking for, but was seriously tempted to put this in the back of the car. Had I been in Seattle, it would have been gone, gone, gone:

Paul was done with his conference at 7:30 and off to Boling’s Chinese we went – conveniently located about two blocks from the condo. I had the Hui Style Lamb with Spices (had a coating like that of salt/pepper squid) with enough left over for tomorrow and we all shared some tofu fresh rolls (I would have gone for shrimp, but oh well). After getting back to the condo, Paul suggested a night cap at Harry’s Country Club:

One nightcap turned into 4. Various Chocolate Martinis for Paul, various Manhattans for me. Yet another late night. Luckily, Harry’s is only ½ a block from the condo.

Afternoon came early (slept in again trying to kick the cold/allergies), got packed (pulled the bottle dividers out of the wine shipper and slid the two cases of BBQ sauce in their place), and we were out the door for a lunch north of town on the way to the airport. Trezo Mare would be the name of the place. Paul had a lunch combo of the Pasta Alfredo with a side of Grilled asparagus ($11). I love that they can out with the Pasta and said that the asparagus would be coming in a minute, that the first set was on the grill too long – and the Alfredo had these wonderful looking with roasted tomatoes, broccolini, roasted garlic, etc. I had the condo of Fish Tacos (yes, in an Italian Restaurant) which was marinated tilapia, soft shell tacos, spicy aioli, marinated vegetables, Trezo hot sauce with a side of the Italian Slaw. Also good.

Got to the airport in PLENTY of time – it is me, after all. Kanas City suffers from an airport that was being built just as hijackers were starting to lift airplanes at gun point, and was designed for you to be about to park about 50 years from your gate. Here is a great Wikipedia reflecting on TWA’s Flawed Design. Funny that they had a major role in the design and then when times changes they wanted the city to rebuilt it (to which the city said no, and TWA moved its hub to Saint Louis.

No upgrade on the way home – I was number one on the list until about 15 minutes before the flight, then I was suddenly number two. Considering how I felt at the moment, sleeping in seat 6D (bulkhead) is fine for me.

Came home, had a nap (just like Sunday), then got up and cooked dinner.

Home again, home again, at least for a bit. Next week brings company to town.

[228.6] OUCH.

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Oct '14

Trip Report: Santa Fe To Visit Mom

My little “Board Room Ritual”—a Red Baron (also known as a Poinsettia) to start the travel day. That would be sparkling wine and cranberry juice. Kill the liver, cure the kidneys.

My good travel luck is holding – got assigned Seat 1C without even having to log in a move it. Maybe the computer finally knows what seat I like. Uneventful flight. So uneventful that I forgot to take a picture of my lunch which was a warm chicken thigh sandwich that was actually pretty good.

Albuquerque has one of those consolidated rental car centers that I despise and it didn’t help that the customers in front of me were playing twenty questions with the lone rental car agent. Even if I had status with Alamo it wouldn’t have been any quicker with just one agent.

Luckily right next to Alamo was their sister company, National, and that agent did my paperwork and I was out the door in a 4-door Nissan Sentra lickity split.

Here is my little “Leaving Albuquerque” video:

Got to Santa Fe, swung by the office at El Castillo to pick up a parking pass – something I’ll have to do daily as parking is at a premium with the construction of their new Alzheimer unit.

Here are a couple of shots of the building that my mother is in:

Before long, the in-laws start showing up, all in separate cars. Brother-in-law Kennan, sis-in-law Jen, niece Karen. Off to dinner we go, to Rio Chama and boy was the food good.

Starters of oysters – lots of them. Half a dozen for me, a dozen for Mom, and another half dozen split by the Pruett/Girdners (the in-laws).

Then for my main, there wasn’t much of a decision since rarely to you see Elk Tenderloin on the menu – with a little broccolini, on a bed of pancetta roasted new potatoes and quash.

Yum, yum, yum.

Mom was in bed by 8, me by 2…which meant not rolling out of bed in the morning until 10am.

Fed myself some leftovers and headed out on the errand run – working through the “honeydo” list.

  • Staples for pens, paper, and ink for Mom
  • Albertsons for soda and bourbon for both of us

As I was loading the trunk this guy came up to me and asked if he could talk to me about shopping bags. Turns out Santa Fe banned plastic bags in an effort to get people to bring their own. But since they didn’t put a fee on paper bags, needless to say it isn’t reducing waste and it’s costing the grocery stores more. He even took pictures.

Some of the results of my shopping – like mother, like son:

Cocktails at 4 with two other residents of El Castillo whose daughter also went to Evergreen. Martinis for Mom and I, white wine for The McCarthys. Mom loves good gin – and her favorite was the Tanqueray Malacca Gin which hadn’t been produced in a decade before last year when they came out with a limited release in liter bottles. That’s all gone, but she snagged a bottle of Tanqueray’s latest limited release of their Old Tom Gin. Damn tasty, hence the plug here:

Of course it isn’t cheap, but might have to pick up one on my next trip.

Dinner was take-out from Whole Hog BBQ. The food is good, but I’m always surprised that there aren’t many people in their – guessing they do a huge lunch business through:

Thursday was the big day for us, especially when one more item got added to the list. I got an email in the morning from Kristina Hagman asking if I was in Santa Fe, as was she. Turns out she found out about me being in town because I made the front page of the Santa Fe New Mexican – above the fold!

That would be me on the right. Guess there goes my 15 minutes of fame…

Here are the links to the newspaper article and the link to my picture: ARTICLE

So Kristina popped over for a bit, and posed for a “groupie”.

Then Mom and I went out to lunch at SantacaFé. I had the Rueben (with enough left over for dinner) and Mom had the onion rings to start and the Lobster Roll for her main, but didn’t eat much of it after filling up on the onion rings which really were good:

We ate outside which was a little chilly when the breeze kicked up but still nicer than being cooped up inside on a sunny fall day.

Next up was the bank to add me to the checking accounts. It was the final item financially that needed taking care of so that there won’t be anything going through probate. I’m on one, by brother is on another, and my sister-in-law is on the third with all of us being on the brokerage account. No houses, no cars, just some possessions and we aren’t the haggling kind of family.

When 4PM rolled around it was time to head next door to a building-wide cocktail party. Man those old people know how to drink! Lots of wine, and more importantly for me, Jameson’s Irish Whiskey. They next door neighbors last name is Jameson so it was quite appropriate. Helped myself twice before we headed back to Mom’s apartment.

And I wasn’t kidding about enough food leftover to make a nice dinner:

That is the Dill laced hot potato salad that came with the sandwich.

My last day in Santa Fe (Friday) had me up and out so I could have brunch with my buddy Aaron from Las Cruces that had driven 4+ hours to Santa Fe to see me. Luckily his sister lives in Santa Fe and he’s going to stay a couple of nights.

Bunch was at the Swiss Bakery. Yes, those would be mimosas. With Eggs Benedict on the way:

I passed on the potatoes.

Walking back to the car I spotted these two train cars…

A little digging around and I came up with pictures from the interiors…

Seems these are now part of the Santa Fe Southern Railway which runs tourist trains between Santa Fe and Lamy. The last time I was on them they only had an enclosed car and an open car. Funny that the train ran right by my parent’s old house.

And digging further, I seemed to remember something about an outfit that wanted to run a high-speed privately financed train between LA and Las Vegas. Turns out that X-Train are those folks. What two of their cars are doing in Santa Fe is a mystery to me…one worth digging into.

So… X Train Rail Holdings Corporation (Ticker Symbol: XTRN) is an odd little beast of a company offering upscale rail holidays, rail car financing and leaseback, and apparently a roll out plan to have 20+ cars by the end of 2015 judging from this slide I found on their site:

The whole PowerPoint Presentation is here: http://www.vegasxtrain.com/uploads/2/5/7/8/25787513/x_rail_asset_fund.ppt

The slide mentions Mid America Railcar which lists both of the cars that I saw in Santa Fe as being in their fleet…stranger and stranger (the Keystone Grill and the Mohave).

Enough digging and you find that they now own Santa Fe Southern Railroad, but oddly they have suspended service. It will be interesting to see if they do the Holiday Trains as they usually do.

And here is their description of what they do:

About X Train Holdings
The company Las Vegas Railway Express, Inc. DBA X Train Holdings Corp., has developed a robust infrastructure of call center, travel agency, logistics planning management, food & beverage and unique passenger rail cars of the purpose of acquiring or affiliating privately owned passenger rail companies under the X Train Holdings umbrella. Independently owned and operated passenger rail companies can enlist the services of X Train to grow market share, improve operating margins by consolidating costs, and providing access to capital for asset purchase, repair and improvement. X Train is a publicly traded company under the OTCQB: XTRN symbol. It is a fully reporting company and its auditors are BDO and its securities lawyers are Sichenzia Ross of New York. By consolidating either acquired companies and/or affiliated companies, X Train Holdings can create economies of scale for its array of member companies. This is much more difficult for small privately held companies where the principals frequently must guarantee personally capital purchases or loans. X Train Holdings relieves that burden and provides a path to liquidity should owners wish to sell.

And the link to Yahoo Finance with all their press releases, news, etc.: http://finance.yahoo.com/q?uhb=uh3_finance_vert&fr=&type=2button&s=XTRN

But I digress – I really did go down the internet rabbit hole…now where was I…

Time to get back to Albuquerque and catch my plane to Seattle-Taco – or at least that’s what they sign says:

Would a Seattle Taco feature Seahawk meat?

No lounge at Sunport (the name of the airport), but a nice observation area to watch all the New Mexican Air National Guard jets, helicopters and transport planes take off and land.

It’s upstairs and underutilized – guess most people don’t know it is there – and soon enough I’m settled back into Seat 1C.

I’m so happy that my Friday night plans fell through (dinner with Josh and moving a painting). Nice to just chill at home.


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Oct '14

Trip Report: Sacramento

Yes, I know, Sacramento – lots of snippy comments on “The Pit Called Sacramento.” “Why?” they asked. $96 round-trip and I got upgraded to first class in each direction. The cheap fare was the result of a two-hour “flash sale” announced by Alaska on its Twitter Feed. A week or so later it was $128 round-trip to Denver (snagged to see Dan and Lisa), this week it was Omaha and Salt Lake City – I passed on those two.

And then there is Jameson – my “faux nephew”. He has moved from the public sector end of the environmental business to the private side, moving from Lake Tahoe to Folsom (it’s more than just a prison). As for the “faux” part, he’s me dead brother’s widow’s new husband’s nephew – but with his parents often celebrating Christmas Eve at my parents’ house when they lived out in El Dorado, it’s really more like a three family circus.

I booked a nice midday flight, but still means setting the alarm, just not for 5AM. That’s means I’m not as cranky in the Board Room:

And who could be cranky when you are flying on the Disney Cars Alaska plane:

Though I was a little confused by the need for this sign on the jet way…

One I boarded, the most amazing thing happened. Instead of water, they asked if I’d like anything to drink – so of course, Jack and Diet. On the ground! A first on Alaska. Maybe is was because the back half of the plane was only half full (First, of course, was packed). The view from seat 1D:

And there was even a light lunch on the hour and a half flight – a curry chicken salad that was quite tasty:

Picked up my bag and headed to the rental car place where they tried twice to sell me an upgrade. Tip: if they are trying that hard, they don’t have the compact car you rented. I ended up in a mid-size Mazda 3 that they were trying to get an extra $20 a day for…almost new, less than 2,000 miles on it.

Got to the hotel and checked in – Hawthorne Suites by Wyndham – I get 20% off lowest rack rate as a result of my WorldMark ownership (they are managed by Wyndham). Nice room:

Had a little nap, did a liquor and mixer run before Jameson got off work. We hung out for an hour of so catching up before it was off for a sushi dinner at Mukuni in Citrus Heights.

We opted for the Sho Chiku Bai Nigori (unfiltered Saké) and the Two For $45 tasting menu…one from Column A, one from Column B, two from Column C and one from Column D (the dessert column). Not a bad deal, we were both full at the end which is not cheap to so at a sushi restaurant:

And the “shooter” that I thought about, but didn’t get:

And the “cheesecake” dessert which was really quite good – and I’m not a dessert person:

A few more drinks at the hotel and Jameson was off to the house where he rents a room – a situation that he is trying to change. He has an eye on his own apartment, the first living by himself in his life – at 31. Wow.

As for me, it was TV and bed for tomorrow it’s off to Amador County, home of one of California’s premier Zinfandel growing regions.

A hot breakfast comes with the room – lots of starch (make-it-yourself waffles, cereals, toast, rolls, etc.) and a steam table with a protein, potatoes, some egg dish (changes daily). First stop is Renwood. We carry three of their wines…

Very quiet it being a Wednesday, but it is crush season, so there are a few people. Basically I had the tasting room to myself – with Stephen as a guide:

The benefit of owning a wine shop (and bringing your business cards with you) is complimentary tastings and the 20-30% off trade discount. I try not to abuse the privilege and generally buy a bottle – in this case for Jameson’s new girlfriend whose birthday is tonight. She got a bottle of the 2011 Barbera. I didn’t realize how much Barbera they were growing in Amador County. One slight emergency during my visit – Alaska announced a Flash Sale and I had no cell service in the country. Luckily Renwood has public Wi-Fi so I quickly logged in on my phone – only to find that this week’s specials were Omaha and Salt Lake City. I’ll pass.

I’m afraid the hot buffet breakfast didn’t last, so it was off to Villa Toscana who has a nice little restaurant at their winery.

That was my view while eating my pastrami and swiss grilled sandwich:

I’ve had their wines before and I think they are one of the “direct to customer” wineries that make all their money on selling their wine at retail and renting out the grounds for weddings. Which also means no trade discount since they don’t wholesale.

Sated, it was off to Villa Noceto – another of the wineries that I used to visit for the years that the Labor Day Manscouts Gathering was held just outside Plymouth on Bell Road at Rancho Cicada. We used to carry their Sangiovesse, which I bought a split of for my mother (headed there next week).

Didn’t get a picture there, or Terre Rouge/Easton where I sampled some more free wines, and bought a split of their Zin port (only a 20% discount), then it was onto Sobon Winery, which I’d been to before, and we carried their Zinfandel a while back. By this time I’m sort of done with wine tasting – didn’t even sample their ReServe line…until I noticed that they had a Tannat. Tannat is a fairly obscure grape (unless you are in Uruguay). Their Tannat is an 93% Tannat, 7% Zinfandel. Here is their tasting room:

No time for a nap when I got back to the hotel – time enough to have a drink and check email before Jameson showed up have cocktails before the new girlfriend’s dinner party at Hamptons in downtown Folsom. We even had enough time for a little walk around. Cute, old city center.

So apparently there used to be a rail yard in the middle of town.

Now there is a Museum in a rail car, and the old roundhouse, minus house:

And then it was off to dinner at Hamptons – dinner for 8, plus one who showed up, late.

With a flaming table:

Arrived during daylight, but at the end, we were in the dark, lighted by the flaming table:

Once everyone was gone I got a little better picture of the flaming table:

Not bad for being the oldest person there and I passed on going “caving” drunk after dinner – back to the hotel room for me as I’ve got a flight tomorrow.

Couple of more drinks after Jameson dropped me off in his “adult” car – Mink (Audi’s name for dark gray) A-6. Considering I last saw him driving a beat up Nissan pickup truck (which he still owns), definitely a step up.

Up and out in the morning to the airport (apparently my second home, any airport). If I can only get there…. I’ve never seen 40 people in line for a rental car shuttle back to the airport:

No lounge but a great airport, good food options, and charging stations everywhere, light, airy…

But soon enough I’m back in seat 1C…but no cocktail until we are at 10,000 feet:

Boeing Sky Interior, but new in the transition phase, no outlets. No worries, I’m offline.

Best $96 dollar flight I’ve ever taken.


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