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Jan '15

Trip Report: CanadaLand With The Boys (And A Little Girl)

This week’s adventure involves LOTS of people (well, for me). First through the door are Seth (31) and Maia (the little girl – 5½ years old). They drove up from Corvallis for our little adventure. Before long they set off for the airport to pick up Lunetta and Onyx who flew in from San Francisco.

Dinner for five – rib-eye steaks, saffron rice, salad, couple of bottles of Bonny Doon wine…rice instead of bread as I broke yet another bread machine a couple of weeks ago – probably should say “wore out” rather than “broke”.

And a good dinner it was…finding places for people to sleep was a little more problematic.

  • Maia in the single bed in the office so we could chat into the evening
  • Lunetta and Onyx in my bed
  • Seth and in in a double sleeping bag on the living room floor (until he couldn’t take it anymore and crawled in with the boys)

Up at 5am so we could get out of the house by six to catch our 8AM Victoria Clipper to Victoria, British Columbia.

At least it was a “pretty” early morning:

A pleasant trip north after a take-out breakfast at the Clipper Café (who also does the catering for the boat as well), though I’ll admit to sleeping through most of it – even forgoing my usual mimosa.

Wrangling a child means you are the last people off the boat and near the end of customs/immigration – which went smoothly as I’d warned Seth that he needed at a minimum a letter from Maia’s birth mother authorizing taking her out of the country. Seth made EXTRA sure and brought the custody agreement with him. Good boy.

Walked to the WorldMark Victoria, expecting to stash are luggage because it was noon, and check in is 4PM. To our surprise, our unit was ready – which rarely happens that early, but often does more in the winter than summer. Dumped everything in the room and headed out to Moka for Grilled Ham and Cheese with Potato Soup – seriously, we all got the same thing (limited menu). Thanks Lunetta for treating!

After the early morning, it was nap time for Maia, Onyx and myself – we send the engineers to the store for supplies that we didn’t bring. I’d packed:

  • 4 racks of lamb
  • 2 packages of shrimp (meant to bring the white fish to be breaded with the Panko, except for Maia who would get corn meal)
  • 2 cubes of butter
  • 1 pound of bacon
  • Artichoke Bruschetta
  • Cornichons
  • Corn and Bean Salsa
  • Panko Breading
  • The WorldMark Bag (pre-packed olive oil/balsamic, curry, brown sugar, flour, skewers, birthday candles, McCormicks Steak Seasoning, coffee meat rub, Korean hot sauce, etc.)

But you also need:

  • Salad (and dressing)
  • Bread
  • Eggs
  • Mixers
  • Cheese
  • Gluten Free Crackers (Maia goes bi-polar when she has gluten)
  • Corn Chips
  • Portabellas (to stuff with the Artichoke Bruschetta and top with the Panko Breading)
  • Etc.

Of course when you sent two engineers to the store, you get MANY more things in addition to those on the list. Take the generic category “Mixers”. They came back with:

  • 12-pack of Tonic
  • 12-pack of Diet Ginger Ale (mostly for me)
  • 6 pack of tiny Cokes
  • 100% Cranberry Juice
  • Handful of limes

Why so much? Did I mention what we picked up at Duty Free on the boat?

That would be 4 liters of hard liquor for a party of 9 adults tonight and 4 adults for the second night – and those Canadians like to drink hard at Duty Free prices ($85 for all four). And the guests are showing up with wine to go with dinner. And what a dinner it was:

In the foreground, the racks of lamb, Then the Stuffed Portabellas – which were a HUGE HIT, not just with the Vegetarian and Vegan guests (one each). For Maia it was an “adult night” when she was allowed to stay up until she collapsed.

Good food, good conversation (though not around the dining tables since it seats 6, not 10), good hot tubbing after dessert (thanks RobinHood and CrowDog!)

A late night, but luckily not an early morning – Seth was reading the schedule I sent out a laughed when he got to the first morning there, where it said brunch at noon:

The Boys Go To Victoria 




Seth arrives at UncleMarkies



Lunetta and Onyx arrive at Sea-Tac. Seth picks them up


UA 492 









Out of the house



Check in and grab breakfast at the Clipper Café



Clipper leaves for Victoria



Order Mimosas and Duty Free 



Clipper arrives Victoria



Out of customs/immigration 



Drop bags at condo and roam the city like a pack of dogs


Or grocery shop for the items we didn’t bring 



Check in at the condo — 


Could be early, they will have my number 



Cocktails with RobinHood, CrowDog, Royce, Kyle, + 1



Dinner with same Royce = vegan)



Hot-tub Party 



Sleep in, make brunch, explore 









Hot-tub Party 






Check-out, leave bags at desk 



Check in for Clipper to Seattle



Boat leaves



Order cocktails and Duty Free 



Clipper Arrives Seattle



Pick up car from garage and head home






Late Dinner if we didn’t eat on the boat 



Cocktails with Bliss



Dinner with same Royce = vegan)



Boys Uber to the Airport



Lunetta and Onyx fly home


Yep, guess that makes me anal retentive in my planning – but that’s how it worked out.

The boys and Maia set out to explore the city while I stayed home for some quiet time (much needed after all the excitement). My job was to fill in the gaps in the night’s meal (smoked fish, more cheese, and chocolate) and to grab a little lunch snack for me at the food truck in front of “Finest At Sea” a local fish wholesaler that has a small retail shop in the back:

I got the special – three rockfish cakes with hot dipping sauce. I had one, saved the other two to share with tonight’s pupu platter. After the shopping, NAP TIME!

Tonight’s menu (after the pupu platter):

  • Curried Shrimp Skewers
  • Salad
  • Bread (not for Maia!)
  • 3 bottles of various BC Red Wine

Life is HARD on the road.

And before you knew it, it was time to check out – this is what we put in storage since the boat doesn’t leave until 5PM:

Not like we pack light. The plan for today:

  • Store luggage
  • Head to the Royal BC History Museum and watch an IMAX film (mostly to entertain Maia)
  • Have lunch
  • Go to the boat

Here is a great picture of Seth after the movie (in the gift shop):

Lunch was at Santiagos, which is close to the ferry terminal (though we had to backtrack to grab out luggage). I’ve eaten here often because they always have muscles on the menu, AND they have HUGE drinks by Canadian standards, and cheap ($11) – again, but Canadian standards.

I had the Thai Mussels, Seth and Maia the HUGE nachos, Lunetta and Onyx the Ceviche and the quesadilla. We ended up taking a bunch of the nachos for the boat trip home.

Did I mention the pitcher of Sangria? And my favorite shot of the lunch:

Yes, they supply crayons, which was great for entertaining Maia.

Got to the terminal later than I wanted, but we were already checked in and had our boarding numbers, it was just the line to check in luggage that was a pain. And luggage we had – four checked bags.

But we did get a table for all of us. Here is Seth sating his Solitaire addiction:

Technically that’s 8 seats, but on the inner section so less coveted.

Three hours later and the last people through customs and this is the scene:

Four and a half people and their crap in a Saab. Tight quarters, luckily for only 20 minutes.

Once back to the house, an exhausted Seth and Onyx claim the big bed, Maia in the small one, and the Marks (Lunetta and UncleM) on the floor after staying up for hours beyond the others.

Seth /Maia/Lunetta/Onyx were out of the house before I was up – Seth /Maia headed home and dropping Lunetta/Onyx at the Rental Car Center at Sea-Tac to pick up a car for the overnight.

Work until 4:30 for me, then back to the house to prepare dinner for the boys, Bliss and myself for the final night of the CanadaLand holiday. Tonight’s menu:

  • Little lamb chops (LOTS of them)
  • Salad
  • A Spanish Red

After another late evening – it was time for me to head to a real bed, albeit a tiny one in the office.

I was out of the house for work before the boys were out of bed, feeling a little spent. While fun, it wasn’t one of the more “relaxing” holidays I’ve had recently.


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Feb '13

Just Dinner With The Boys

And I’m Not Cooking!

Another day of conference calls and me sitting outside in the sun working on this lovely book:

The book is Chasing The White Dog by Max Watman. It’s an interesting mix of history, folklore, prosecution – and most interesting to me, how the quality of moonshine plummeted when prohibition kicked in – suddenly is was all about the money to be made. Click on the book and you will to taken to Amazon where you can buy new, used, or Kindle® editions.

Onyx was in charge of tonight’s dinner – chicken Cordon-Blu from scratch with a side of steamed broccoli – here’s do you George W. Bush – French food AND broccoli!

Just the three of us tonight. Too bad I forgot to take a picture of the sculptures that Onyx is working on… maybe tomorrow.

[? ? ?]

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And I’m Not Cooking!

Mar '12

Boys On The Road And In The Air.

No breakfast this morning, seems no one felt like cooking even though we had the time. Oh well. Just made for a little bit of a meltdown later in the morning.

DancingBear took BreticusMaximus and his stuff to his house in Hilo, but then for some reason, brought him back. It would have made for and more comfortable ride to have left him in Hilo. But they are in a relationship and it meant two more hours of being together.

At 11:30 finally got food at the slowest Jack in the Box on the Planet — but at least we finally got some food in our system.

Returned the rental car 2 hours over our 4 days, so that jacked the price up by another $30-40. While we were checking in, the Alaska Boarding Pass machine actually let Lightning upgrade his MILEAGE BASED ticket to First Class for $100. Now THAT’S a good deal.

At the airport with the boys.

Nice ride back to Oakland (where Lightning is staying for a few days), but the plane was running late so is was well after midnight when we arrived at Mark and Onyx’s place. At least we brought them estate coffee and garlic macadamia nuts.

Off to bed, for we need to be out of the house at 8am for our (DB and myself) flight back to Seattle. Loved the First Class ticket, hated the routing.

[? ? ?]

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Oct '11

Hello Canadaland.

It was a VERY early morning after a very late night. It was mid-morning that I realized that I was so asleep in the shower that I forgot to shave. There was lots of napping on the boat ride north.

Interesting what happened at immigration. We were the ones picked for more scrutiny. Not only passports, but drivers’ licenses which I never heard of before. Onyx was annoyed, but Lunetta and I were more like “they need to justify their jobs.” Check-in time isn’t until 4pm, so we had plenty of time to kill.

With the room not ready (they hadn’t even checked out yet), it was stash the bags and go to Barb’s Place for fish and chips (yes, me — that will be my carbs for the month), calamari, shrimp, chowder (the boys). This is there last weekend being open until they return in the spring (just like salmon).

Still no room at 1:30pm so off to the coffee shop we went. VERY comfortable chairs — so comfortable that the boys managed to fall asleep mid-page in their books.

By 3pm we were in the room and trying to decide on dinner. I checked out the mini-mart around the corner (was too tired to think about walking to the big market twelve blocks away) and picked up some soda pop, water and chocolate. Once we decided that we were cooking in, it was off to Finest At Sea, a boutique seafood shop a couple of blocks away for scallops and sable fish (black cod) for the grill and iceberg from the mini-mart for the salad (cook thing I travel with oil and balsamic, though Onyx used lemon juice instead) and stuff for a poo poo platter. Finest At Sea isn’t the cheapest (nor is the mini-mart), but it is definitely the freshest.

And here are the results (yes, another blog food shot):

For the first time ever dining with the boys, we had the TV on because PBS was showing “After The Thin Man” with William Powell and Myrna Loy (and a very young Jimmy Stewart). There were about six of these films mad (late 30’s early 40’s black and white) and the earlier ones are the more boozy ones (before they had a child, just the dog).

Onyx was in bed early, and Lunetta and I headed to the hot tub to lessen our woes (or aches and pains from aging).

[? ? ?]

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Oct '11

More Progress And Guests Arriving

Today the crew at the house is insulating the floor and putting down new plastic in the crawl space.

As for me, it’s borrowing Gnarlene’s truck again to move the last display fixture from the garage to the shop. You can see a glimpse of the new rack in this shot:

Only two more racks to build and we are done.

On the way back to the shop, stopped at Encore and inquired about glass racks (not that we have a dishwasher installed yet) and a single wide glass front fridge for the white wines and champagne. Hopefully next week they will have a ¾ size fridge available, but no used glass racks in the size we need at this point.

Had to leave the shop at a little after three to meet the boys (Mark and Onyx) at the house. They are going up on a little holiday — tomorrow (way too damn early) we leave for Victoria.

Dinner of a chef salad, a couple of pork tenderloins, fresh rosemary challah, and a couple of different versions of the 2007 Bonny Doon le Cigare Volante. Yum

And, of course, stayed up way to late gabbing.


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Jan '11

Veal Picata And More.

Man these boys don’t get up early… they work late, but not early… it’s catching.

Visits to M. Lowe and Company to get the bling cleaned… finally got the mustard acidization off the Brahma Bull ring I have (and found another one), no Western Electric phontes at the thrift stores, but a nice visit with Pat and Bry…. How many years have I known them? More than I want to count.

Today’s project… the Uncle Markie Laptop table… which could be used as a lap board, though I’m not sure the drinks would survive…..

I like the drink holder placements…. Diet Coke for one, Whiskey for the other. And with its items in place….

I like the phrase “Mouse Area 51″…

And then there is the dinner than Onyx made, a lovely veal picatta….. does the good food never end?

Good wine, good friends, what more do you need….

[? ? ?]

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Oct '10

Of Publications And Poker.

Wow, my first “in-print” travel review – OK, it’s a long quote in an article on the WorldMark Victoria.

My portion is the red box on the right hand side which reads…

Year-Round Appeal

Of the 49 WorldMark resorts that owner Mark Souder has visited so far, he says WorldMark Victoria remains his favorite — winter, summer, spring or fall. “I love the Victoria resort in winter — I’ve been going there for the last several years during January when it is on inventory special. And special it is — the two-bedroom penthouse units are the tops as they come with their own private hot tub and barbecue, with stunning views of the Victoria Harbour no matter what floor you are on. The sounds of the seaplanes landing, the Coho and Victoria Clipper horns, the water taxi ballet — I never get tired of it.” With its mild year-round climate, great hiking and cycling, theatrical and music venues, golf, spectacular gardens and attractions for every age, Victoria has all the ingredients for a great vacation in any season. But winter brings an added bonus — it’s less crowded. “You’ve got the place to yourself. In summer, it’s elbow-to-elbow,” says WorldMark Victoria Resort Manager David Martin. Another plus is that some attractions lower their prices during low season.


That’s always a nice was to start the day… finding yourself quoted in a magazine that you are reading with your eggs and toast. If you want to read the whole article, you can find it here: https://www.worldmarktheclub.com/destinations/pdfs/DESToct2010.pdf

Headed to Olympia mid-day for the monthly poker game – which I missed last month because I was somewhere else. Oh—that’s right, it was at Lake Cushman a weekend early, when I was in the Bay Area visiting Mark and Onyx.

Dinner before the game was a peppered beef loin, asparagus, salad, and because it’s Curt’s house, lots of wine (like that’s different than my house!).

Did so so in the game. Converted change into folding money – now there is room in the container for the rest of the change sitting around the house.

And a moment of silence for my dear friend Jamshed, who passed to the other side at 3am this morning.

[228.7 really need to drop those cruise pounds]

Dec '09

Wednesday In Traffic.

And Other Fun Adventures.

Workmen in the morning, so not much lingering in bed. I’ve found that if you use the whole twelve cup package of coffee in WorldMark resorts that you get a decent four cup pot. Should have brought coffee in addition to the two eggs and butter I brought (in addition to the left over garlic bread from last night).

Got out of the resort a little after 11am (sorry, no video tour) after getting a delayed response to an email from last night. Apparently I have two stops in Santa Cruz on the way home.

Stop number one: the Bonny Doon Winery’s Tasting Room and Cellar Door Cafe. I was there for the Tasting Room, not the Wednesday-Sunday Prix Fix $35 meal. Mind you, it took me half an hour to find the place without a map. And I only intended to buy three bottles for the boys — that turned to six when they had extras of an over-sized cigar box that holds six bottles. Oh well, I’m sure I’ll get to drink some of it.

Stop number two: Trader Joe’s parking lot to meet up with a friend for what turned into a hot tub date. I have to recommend the Tea House Spa. Nice to spend time hanging out in hot water… especially for what came next.

Next? Left Santa Cruz at 4:30, expecting traffic. I didn’t expect at 3.25 hour return drive (should be 1.25 hours). Semi overturned on 17… blocking one of the two lanes through the mountains — it’s never good when there are fork lifts on the freeway moving boxes. Followed by a five-car-pile-up on 880 north. So much for cooking tonight.

Actually — tonight’s dinner was pasta out in Emeryville at a chain that had 50% off on all bottles of wine for dinner. I had to go Bing it: Pasta Pomodoro (California and Arizona). Lunetta and I had the Sabon Estates Old Vine Zinfandel (Amador Country, California) and Onyx had a Pinot Grigio with our meals. Not bad for commercial — got to love 50% off on a bottle of wine.

At little work before bed, and tomorrow, in the air again.

[? ? ?]

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And Other Fun Adventures.

Nov '09

All About Black Corduroy.

And Food.

It seems this week has all been about black corduroy pants.

  • Early in the week I was thinking of shopping for some
  • The flight tuesday had a hot guy in the back of the plane wearing some
  • Thursday I went to Ross to look for some for myself
  • And at yesterday’s dinner, Justin was wearing some — at least while they were on.

But enough about corduroy, let’s move onto tonight’s feast:

  • Salad with fresh garden tomotoes, goat cheese and Goddes dressing
  • Asparagus off the grill
  • Last night’s brussel sprouts and onion flash fried
  • BBQ’d country style boneless pork ribs off the grill
  • Link cod picatta (mostly for Alicia, the fish-a-terian)
  • Apple almond torte (made by Alicia)

The attendees:

  • Mark
  • Onyx
  • Alicia
  • Devon
  • Maggy
  • Me

Got my upgrade to First Class for tomorrow’s flight — think I was the last one upgraded from my seat location (1F) and printed out my boarding pass.

Off to bed.

[? ? ?]

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And Food.

Oct '09

Oh Dear, Corrections.

And Even Before Swanda Has Noticed.

Corrections, corrections, corrections. I feel like a scene from Fiddler on the Roof.

So, yesterdays post, here are the corrections:

Even the top 10 list headline was screwed up:

  • So, the 10 Rules To Be A Good Housewife:

That should be:

  • So, the 10 Rules To Be A Good HouseGUEST: – really, we aren’t in the 50’s anymore

And the biggie (other than the other typo I found and will fix):

  • If your borrow their car, wash it, return it full of cash, even it was empty. You just saved $30-50

Let me tell you, if you fill their car up with cash, even pennies, you will be out more than $30-50. That should have been GAS!

Thanks Onyx for catching those problems… before Swanda caught them.

But all this is just a segway into how I spent my day: working, travelling to the city to work, coming home and buying the last of the ingredients for dinner. But let’s start with lunch after a visit to to San Francisco branch…


Great little Japanese place not far from the E&A San Francisco office that does a nice bento box lunch. I got the deluxe and then added a little dry sake — and when I was rung up she offered me a free Sapporo Beer. OK. I was thinking the small glass like the sake — no, it was a full 10-12 oz pour of Draft Sapporo. How do they do that — ship kegs over? Anyway — here is the place: Kamakura Sushi and Sake House.

Then it was back across the bay (easy commute even with the Bay Bridge closed) and a trip to the Berkeley Bowl for the last remnants of tonight’s dinner of Tandori Pork, mixed greens and a lovely rice concoction which I didn’t burn, but could have used another five minutes.


Actually got to bed at a decent time — which is good because I fly out in the morning.

[? ? ?]

Aug '08

Day On The Road And In The Air.

Nothing like a little roll in the hay to send you off into vacation land — with less sleep than I’d like.

This evenings report is from the charming basement piet a whatever (apartment in a city that you don’t consider home) of Mark and Onyx though only Onyx is in attendance as Mark is in Fort McMurray which is not quite as far north as the DC-3 that I want to take. With me so far?

Great Art Party work in the morning — and yes, go buy a ticket — they need to sell tickets — yes, go buy a ticket. Got the catalog posted in PDF form — 20 megs worth uploaded over a slow EVDO cell phone connection, twice.

Eleven in the morning saw my rescue by Lynne for my morning flight to the Bay Area. The gods smiled on me with lunch in the Board Room for Alaska Airlines and an upgrade to First Class from United for the flight down to San Francisco — and more gods smiling because I’ve secured an upgrade for the return flight as well. These days what an upgrade means is that you get the snack mix and a free cocktail or two. And for you fans (or non-fans) of United, there are precisely two minis of Chivas Regal Scotch in the First Class cabin and one in the rear — which means that once again, I drank an entire plane out of Chivas Regal.

Onyx was (as is) a sweetheart for picking me up at the airport. I’m guessing he won’t be so sweet when it comes to my early return on Monday.

If you have been following posts you know that I haven’t actually fessed up to any of my other friends in the Bay Area that I’m actually here. Most of my previous trips I’ve taken over Mark and Onyx’s house and entertained my friends (and Mark and Onyx) with dinner parties — and they have been wonderful, but I do feel like a roll into town like a tornado and roll out just as quick. This trip has no plans and will unfold as Allah wills.

And what is Allah’s will today? Home for cocktails and then off to pick up Mouse (whom I had a crush on years ago when he had long hair) before heading to the North Beach neighborhood of San Francisco for dinner at Pinnochios— an Italian restaurant.

Tips for finding parking in San Francisco — have the guy in the car who doesn’t own a car go hold a table for you. Everyone else pray for parking. And for us, on the next block after Mouse went to get a table totally worked. The fact that we were seated immediately made up for the crowds waiting to get in.

So Onyx had the veal — and Mouse and went for variations on the pasta, clams, and mussels — I should have gotten the pasta as well, but live and learn. We actually got after dinner drinks and a couple of desserts of which I preferred the poached pears smothered in semi-sweet chocolate — and I’m not even a chocolate fan.

Mouse went off to an Industrial Rock concert, Onyx suggested a movie, and I suggested home (away from home) and bed. A fine evening all the way around, but the hay is calling. Tomorrow there is something about Eldergerry Mead in the works.


Aug '08

Over And Out Of Here.

Well — the contract is done with Events and Adventures, except for a couple of hours next week with some niggling details. The final bill is in the mail. The working files CD is in the mail. The thank you notes are in the mail. Yes, Swanda trained me well about those “bread and butter” notes as my mother used to say.

I got a nice thank you email from the owner this morning — with the possibility of more work in January, which would be nice.

Tomorrow it’s off to San Francisco to visit Onyx. Mark is in Fort McMurray, Canada which isn’t as far north as I want to go (Yellowknife and Hay River) but is nearly at the top of Alberta. It will be a quick trip to SF — fly out tomorrow, fly back Monday. The Monday flight is already upgraded to first class, which I might have gotten on the way down but somehow I neglected to request it when I booked. Yes, Me! It’s a nice mid-day flight — and getting picked up at the airport as well!

Here is a picture of Onyx from camp this summer:


I haven’t decided if I’ll actually tell anybody else that I’m coming to SF, or just assume that they will read the blog and email me if they want to see me. I’ll probably go for the lazy option.

Tonight Lynne is coming to dinner to have a little piggy send off meal — and she’s taking me to the airport tomorrow (and picking me up Monday so that gives her Saint status in my book). Add wine and a tomatoe, basil and feta salad, and you have my (and Lynne’s) version of a happy meal.


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Sep '07

On The Road To Markleeville.

Yesterday must have been busy — short blog entry. Time got away from me with dinner for the boys, and Nibilicious and Matt (two of the other gay rafters).

Dinner was a stunning success with Lunetta doing the dishes, me doing the Chicken Florenmarkie, and the most amazing salad by Mr. Onyx.

So — yesterday’s wine haul? Another 57 liters — including 6 liters of Sangria! Thought I had it all worked out, but seems I’m twelve liters short (that would be four boxes). The van is starting to look like a rolling wine store for box wine.


By the numbers:

  • 123 liters of box wine. 14 people, 23 days. Average cost per bottle? $3.74 (thanks to the score on the Carmenet Merlot at a 2-for-1 price)
  • Total wine bill? $613.30
  • My portion of the wine bill (10%)$59.83 — for three weeks of wine drinking!
  • Grocery bills for my dinner/breakfast/lunch combo? $76.49 for an cost per person of $5.46

Markleeville is about a 3.5 hour drive with a stop for gas and more wine. Guess I’d better get packing and stop blogging. Depending on what I get in the way of signal, this could be it for the next two weeks.

Let’s hope I survive to tell about it!

Feb '07

Uncle Markie in the Woods, Day 2.

I seem to be getting into this wonderful routine…. sleeping until 9:00 or 10:00, then going over to Jamshed’s cabin (a faerie who came to a gathering 19 years ago and didn’t leave) for coffee, conversation, and ethernet. My excuse is that I need to check for any last minute cancellations. Thinking that excuse won’t work tomorrow.

Lunch at the usual 12:30 where I hover by the door waiting to be first in line (something about no breakfast since thats 8:00-9:30am) so I can eat and go out to the meadow pools to soak in peace, while the rest of the boys are at lunch.

 Meadow Pools at Breitenbush Hot Springs

Afternoon nap followed by a lovely conversation with MissFire and a little vino, before the cabin starts filling up at 5:00 with eighteen people for pupu platters and cocktails before dinner. Mind you, this is forbidden. So “mum’s” the word.

After dinner is the first night of the Talent/Auction/Fashion Cabaret… of course, lots of people want to be in tomorrows show, so this one had too many auction items to fill time — but we did raise over a $1000, so that’s like sending three faeries to camp. Tomorrow I’ll auction off the leopard print boots that I got on zappos. It seems that they fit a lot of people who can’t normally fit into woman’s off the rack shoes.

Mark and Onyx headed to bed early (like 10:30), so the post-party headed to Cabin A-2 (we are in Cabin A-1) at Mike Leckie’s place. I’ve know Mike for years — used to own property with him and Chris Langdon, who is also in that cabin as well.

Midnight and sleepy time.

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May '18

Trip Report: Couple Of Nights With The Boys

When I find a fare for the low hundreds ($120.40) I book some time with the boys (Mark and Onyx).

Didn’t get out of town until early evening because of a Greek Wine Tasting in the early afternoon. It was in the old Julian’s Pool Hall in South Lake Union – where taking a small car is necessary to get parking:

Basically, that is 6″ behind and 6″ in front. I even get the “short car” discount on the state ferries!

Taking ex-Virgin America metal, where they are only two rows of Premium Seating:

But, because it’s still Virgin metal, there are seat back apps to order as much junk as you want for free in Premium – a step up from Alaska metal (that will be gone by the end of the year):

Yes, that was two doubles. Missed out on the big snack box – thought I’d ordered it, but it didn’t arrive, and was gone when I checked again.

Another amusing thing is seat back entertainment (which includes the food/drink ordering system) which includes a flight map. I just flew over (well, almost) my brother’s house in Coos Bay.

Before I knew it, I was on BART headed to Berkeley:

Did I mention I’m flying REALLY light this trip – yep, one small laptop bag:

Luckily, the boys had some leftovers then I arrived around 11pm… but nothing like dinner the next night, which was a scallop, crab bisque in a lobster broth!

I love staying with the boys (though at this point, they are way over thirty). Here is my dinner shot:

Late afternoon it was back to BART, with a stop at one of my favorite dog stands – in front of the Ashby BART Station:

Then into the lounge:

Sadly, the noodle bar wasn’t open, just burgers, sandwiches, and a lot of booze.


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Jan '18

Trip Report: Hiding Out In Berkeley For A Couple Of Days

After a week of work and crazy travel, I’m taking off a couple of days to visit the boys in Berkeley.

I was pleasantly surprised the morning of my flight to get an upgrade after checking in last night, but before heading out to the airport – means I’ll eat less in the lounge before the flight.

And it was a good breakfast considering it was a 2 hour flight:

The yellow stuff is a sliced egg salad – went on the warm croissant with the lettuce and actually ripe Roma tomatoes.

After my week of flying I set up my computer at Mark and Onyx’s place, and tucked in for a three-hour nap – which I seriously needed.

This trip is all about hiding away in Berkeley for a couple days so I can catch up on the blog, and more importantly work on my taxes.

Well, that, and stocking up the suitcase with Bourbon for the return, and enjoying some FINE meals out of their kitchen.

The first night was bacon-wrapped filets with roasted potatoes and a lovely Peruvian Tannat that I brought with me from Seattle:

The next (and final) night Onyx made these massive meatballs to go with a wee bit of pasta and a lot of peas! The meatballs are a day-long preparation in the crock pot and are the size of a hardball baseball – but much tastier.

I did get my tax preparation done for both the shop and my own business – so mission accomplished. And on the flight down I made Alaska MVP status through 2019.

Lunetta ran me to the BART station hours before my flight so I could hang out in the Cathy Pacific Lounge while they still had their noodle station open:

Sadly, I got their at 10:30am and they started shutting down noodles at 10:45 and the hot food was taken away by 11am – I got a round of noodles and two hot plates:

That said – it is a nice lounge:

After the hot food went away, it was just green and pasta salads – fortunately the left the bar out!

The current downside to flying Alaska out of SFO is that they are spread between two terminals – that aren’t connection behind security. While I have access to most American Lounges, it doesn’t include the one in SFO since there were too many Alaska people using it (and it’s the terminal with the domestic Alaska flights). So, after the food, it’s back to the other side of security, catch the train to Terminal 2, then go back through screening.

At least there is a great bookstore in Terminal Two – Compass Books, which always has a good selection of “remaindered” books:

They also have this great “typewriters through the ages” exhibit as well:

Before I knew it, I was back in my comfy seat with a snack in front of me:

Hours later I was home in time to make myself a little dinner – for tomorrow I’m working the shop.

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Jan '18

Home Report: Home For The Holidays

Yep, it’s already a third of the way through January, and I’m finally documenting my Christmas/New Year fun.

After visiting friends in Forks the first two days of Mark and Onyx’s visit, I returned home to a full holiday feeding schedule. Look at the Beef Wellington that Onyx (and Mark) made for a group dinner at his cousin’s house in West Seattle:

I brought a 3-liter bottle of Bonny Doon Le Cigare Volante Blanc – a replacement for a bottle that died a year ago Thanksgiving. We put a good dent in it!

Talk about a WONDERFUL meal:

Next up on the holiday parade was dinner up north at mutual friends, Seth, and his daughter Maia. As you can tell, it was a mess of wrapping paper:

More dinners with friends but no photographs….but I did get photos of Mark helping me with making some pillow covers at xMess presents:

And, mind you, I’m also working the shop in the holiday season:

Christmas Eve dinner found me working until five, while Onyx and crew worked on a Beef Bourguignon
in my kitchen:

It was a nice hearty meal to go with our Christmas Eve snow…

And it’s not the holidays unless the plumbing goes south, first it was the dishwasher not draining, and then all the connections to the kitchen sink dripping…

As you can tell, this isn’t the first time – the above is with all the racks ripped out. And below with a heater drying everything out:

Having the Ford Escape DOES help in the repairs:

I used basement subflooring turned the wrong way to give the cabinet a waterproof base:

And because of the cold, the outdoor icemaker stopped working….

Between Christmas and New Year’s, more Bay Area friends showed up – and out to lunch we go, to try the new Mexican restaurant on 14th:

Excellent food, but a bit on the pricey side….


And for dinner, Roxy and his boyfriend showed up for shrimp fried rice:

Eating well this holiday season!

Trip Advisor sent me this little video about my 2017 Travel:

And the plumbing issues continue…, now the washer/dryer combo is washing, but not drying – time to rip that apart when I start running out of clean clothes. Oi!


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Dec '17

Trip Report: The Train Home

Thanks to an extra car at the house, I was able to drive myself to the train station in Lamy (LMY), and just lock the keys in the truck. VERY convenient.

Lamy used to have a great restaurant, sadly, closed, since Lamy is in the middle of nowhere.

I always show up early – an hour early. But the train is on time!

And soon, I was onboard:

I’m on the lower level in a roomette for the trip to Los Angeles…

Next stop is Albuquerque – where we had about 45 minutes…and time for me to get a hot dog!

Settled in, it’s just watching the countryside rolling by…..

And then it was time for dinner!

I went for the Land and Sea. That would be a steak and a seafood cake:

I always get my dessert to go, because the meals are so big – but about 9PM I need a snack…

The whipped cream looked better an hour ago…then it’s on to cocktails…

Life is hard on the train – especially if you need a smoke break, which I don’t. But nice to have a cocktail on the platform at Flagstaff.

Off to bed as it’s up at 5AM for breakfast and then back to bed before we pull into LA.

And that’s when it all went to shit. Nothing like an email from Amtrak saying…

Our records indicate that you are scheduled to depart on Amtrak train number 14 from Los Angeles, California at 10:10AM on Thursday December 7 and arriving in Seattle (King St. Station), Washington.

That schedule has been cancelled due to a service disruption. There is no alternate service available. To speak to a customer service representative about travel options such as selecting another date or destination call us at 877-231-9448 at your earliest convenience.

We apologize for any inconvenience and thank you for being a valued Amtrak customer.

I love the phrase, “There is no alternate service available.”

My response was to go the Sleeping Car Lounge on the second floor of the LA train station – where there is a real person, with real powers. And more importantly, answers.

And the answer was – yes, we will get you there. Bus to Bakersfield, San Joaquin to Emeryville, meet the Coast Starlight and actually get into my bedroom.

Here is a map to show you the route:

Up the middle was my route…not the coastal route to the left. I did get to see the Central Valley – the vegetable basket of America.

But it was on a bus…

Which they actually provided water, chips, snack box, and even a 6-inch sandwich from Subway:

Managed to get an hour or two of sleep before we hooked up with the San Joaquin:

If there is a silver lining to this “service disruption”, it’s that I have a 2+ hour layover in Emeryville which means I have time to have dinner with Mark and Onyx at Los Molés restaurant in Emeryville:

It was an unexpected pleasure – I’ll see the boys in a week or so in Seattle, but always nice for a random visit.

Before I knew it, it was back to the station:

And into my bedroom unit. It was late when I boarded, so the Car Attendant had already made up both beds. I usually go for just the upper, but it was nice to have a four-foot-wide bed to roll around in. And yes, he brought me a bucket of ice:

It’s a little crowded with both beds down.

Much more comfortable with the bed up:

Nothing like a sunrise in the Cascades…

Again, it was up at 6:30, eat breakfast, back to bed. Hard to turn down free meals. But I was up for lunch, where I took a chance on the steamed mussels:

I was pleasantly surprised. I would have used coconut milk, ginger, and lemon root, but for being on a train, it was good. Yes, I’m drinking Merlot with the mussels!

Just before Portland is Oregon Falls, site of an old paper mill I visited in my Microsoft days….

Dinner was even better (though a tad early for me – 5:30, because of our arrival time). On the Coast Starlight, you can dine solo in the Parlour Car (though this one was actually a bi-level café car since the Parlour Car was in the shop). I would have gone back for the steak, but the Braised Lamb Shank is the STAR of this route.

Train arrived early – I was home by 8:30.

Time to relax, and start the process of trying to get some of the points back for the bedroom that I didn’t have for 24 hours.

  • Call One – to the number on the “you are screwed” notice. Sorry, you completed the trip, and since it was on points, you need to contact Amtrak Guest Rewards.
  • Call Two – Amtrak Guest Rewards, you need to contact Customer Relations, which is only open Monday-Friday 6am to 9pm Monday to Friday, and no, there isn’t a direct line. Call 1-800-USA-RAIL, punch 0 a couple of times, ask the agent to transfer you.
  • Call Three – wait for Monday to roll around, get through to Guest Relations, file a claim to which they say they will email off. NO direct resolution.

At least they were quick – the next day 7,000 points were back in my account – which I think is a little shy of what I’m deserves for 1/3 of time in a sleeper that cost me 33,776 points. Might need to bitch some more.

That said, the “service disruption” was serious – it was the California wild fires that shut down the coastal route. I actually found a video clip shot from the tracks that the train runs – and the flames are close, and days later, I figured out how to embed the video from USA Today:

That’s it for this adventure – only one more for the year, but I’ll do a yearly travel update before the end of the year.


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Oct '17

Trip Report: Birthday By The Bay

Another weekday, another trip – this one to the Bay Area to visit Mark and Onyx, and celebrate my 61st birthday!

It’s always lots of luggage when I visit – bringing wine to the boys. A lot of stuff for three nights!

Another early morning flight….

And no upgrade to first…

But plenty of room in the overhead!

Onyx was a saint (a hungry saint) and stopped at a small burger stand on the way home.

Pretty good stuff (even if the staff is a little surly).

Got settled in and took a nap before getting rousted for a dinner of take-out Ethiopian which, for some reason, I don’t have a picture of, even though the boys had company over – must have been having too much fun.

Was up late (Mark [the other one] was up until 4am working), so slept late. Hit BevMo in the afternoon for bourbon, rye, and ginger – because at 6pm we are due at Rosenblum Cellars on the Oakland waterfront for the start of my birthday (61) evening:

Devon is a member so the first flight is on the house….

A good time was had!

Even the hipsters who are playing Giant Zynga on the lawn:

We had some little nibbles, but it was off to dinner at Marica, starting with a Beefeater Martini in honor of Pucci:

It was a fine meal…. with free mussels for the birthday party!

Followed by swordfish for several of us:

Meatballs for Devon:

Salad and Calamari for Mark (I thought about those, almost wish I’d ordered them):

A damn fine birthday meal!

Friday was a laid-back day, I took BART into town to hook up with Rache who as on a day trip to the Brazilian embassy for our upcoming trip to Uruguay in November.

Takes about 15 minutes to walk to the station, and 20-30 minutes later, you are in downtown San Francisco. I found Rache in the Ghirardelli chocolate shop having a coffee:

We headed out for an afternoon of drinking, starting at The House of Shields:

Next up is the Pied Piper (which didn’t open until 4pm):

The Pied Piper is the home of this WONDERFUL mural by Maxfield Parish:

Just the three of us having scallops and Brussel sprouts as our dinner.

All the fun came to an end with an early Saturday morning run to the Oakland Airport for my return home. Had enough time for a real breakfast at Chili’s…

Which, as it turns out, sadly I wouldn’t need when I heard my name called:

But really, all I wanted was a place to sleep, not a huge breakfast burrito and a fruit place (though it looked REALLY good).

Next week is Kansas City, and the completion of my quest for Alaska MVP Gold 75K!

[? ? ?]

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Dec '13

RIP Michael

I got some bad news this evening. Another friend lost to depression. Michael’s roommate/ex-boyfriend called me tonight around 10pm with the news that Michael passed on Christmas day. Dylan came home to find him “asleep” in bed. When he went to wake him he discovered he was no longer with us. There will be an autopsy, but it being Christmas day I’m guessing an overdose of pills. Michael had been suffering with depression for the last handful of years – mixed with his alcoholism, it wasn’t a very pretty mix. Several of his close friends, including me, received morose late night calls from Hong Kong over the years.

I choose to remember him smiling and happy. This was from a trip to Hong Kong to visit him and his boyfriend Dylan:

The photo above was taken in March of this year at Steakhouse Lardos. It was on the first of my four trips this year to Hong Kong – the last one, a couple of weeks ago was to Macau since Michael and Dylan had relocated to the Bay Area for Dylan’s job at Google. As in Hong Kong, Michael struggled to get and keep copy editing jobs. His resume included the English language paper in Bangkok, the Everett Herald, and most notably, the Asian Wall Street Journal. With all print media cutting back, seems copy editing is going the way of the…. [fill in the blank].

Over the years I’d visited Michael when he lived in Bangkok, then Everett (Washington), then Hong Kong, vacationed with him in Phuket, gone with him to Hong Kong Disneyland. We had dinner a couple of months ago in the Bay Area with Mark and Onyx…and he wasn’t in the best of shape emotionally sorry to say.

My heart goes out to Dylan. He and Michael have had a rough patch for the last couple of years. It was their hope that the move to the states would make it easier for Michael to get a job so that they could start living apart. Seems the universe had other plans.

Tomorrow I’ll try and track down some pictures over the years.

There but the grace of the universe go I.

Until then.


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