Polaroid Photo

Uncle Markie out and about.

Refresh for a different picture!


Choose a Topic:

Search Results:

Sep '18

Trip Report: Kansas City

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

Not only painful to Buster, but painful for DancingBear:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And the Fruits and Roots salad:


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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Paul had some massive sandwich thing:

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

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

Even art in the meeting rooms:

My favorite piece in the “Refuge” exhibit:

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

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

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

Next up, the cheese plate:

Check out the “retro” dishware:

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

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

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

Pasta Primavera for Gail (housemade pasta):

Salmon for Paul:

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

For dessert, the profiteroles!

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

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

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

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

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

Spent a little time seeing art….

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

And onto the plane for dinner on the way home…

Complete with a couple of cases of BBQ sauce!

Another week, another trip.


For more blog posts, CLICK HERE.

Comments Off on Trip Report: Kansas City

Oct '17

Trip Report: Post Birthday Kansas City

Without fail, the weeks around my birthday always involve travel. Not that it’s much different from the rest of the year. This week is a couple of nights in Kansas City.

It ain’t first, but it comes with sugar coated Smurfs!

And free booze…

Didn’t get into KC until almost 6pm. Drop my bags and head for BBQ!

Yes, you can get a Manhattan in a BBQ Joint (Q39). We got the onion straws (above), and split a Triple Threat (sausage, pulled pork, pork belly, apple coleslaw, zesty BBQ sauce, toasted bun).

It was the perfect amount of food (for once!) You can’t see from the photos, but you couldn’t swing a rib without hitting a manbun in this place.

Back to the condo for a little work (for Paul) before heading out for the 10:40pm show (yes, me) at the Green Lady Lounge…via Kansas City’s FREE Light Rail (the residents within half a mile of the track pay for it to the tune of $200 a year).

And hot guys doing tricks on the car:

Into the lounge we go!

Chocolate Martini and Manhattan!

Here is a clip from the first night….

It was 1:30AM when we took Uber back to the condo, luckily $6.35 down the same road:

After a late night, it WAS NOT an early morning. Paul rousted me at 11:30 so that we could leave for Lawrence (Kansas) at noon (which turned out to be 12:30) for lunch with Wendy.

We are at Genovese, which is an Italian place. With a full bar!

The food was good, too!

I napped in the car while Paul drove us back to Kansas City for drinks and dinner with Gail – starting at a distillery.

Next up is dinner at the Grand Street– which sounds sidewalk, but is definitely upscale:

And really great food…my pork chop:

Gail’s pasta:

Paul’s salmon:

And the schedule repeats itself after Gail heads back to their country place to take care of the cat they removed from the condo for my visit. I “sort” of feel sorry, but it’s nice to not have to huff pink pills to breath.

Back to the condo so Paul can work a bit, before we hit the jazz club again – this time Ubering since it’s raining.

Different B-3 Organ Trio tonight…

And a shot of the club itself:

And a little clip from tonight:

Another night up until close to 2AM – at least tonight we got the bed made (last night I just slept in my clothes on the couch):

The morning, shall I say afternoon, found us headed to Gates & Sons for BBQ sauce for the shop (I hit Bryants yesterday):

Sadly, my usual contact, Tina Starr, was still on vacation, but still managed to grab my case.

Luckily, my flight is early evening, so we have enough time to pop by the Nelson-Atkins to see a little Thomas Hart Benton. Thanks to Ace at the front desk, I discover works I’ve never seen before that were hidden in the Atkins Auditorium:

And here is some detail:

And then onto the Benson’s in the rest of the gallery, the most famous:

And my personal favorite:

A wing by the condo to finish packing, and a swing by The Savoy Hotel, being renovated by 21st Century Hotels. I grew up having my birthday dinners in The Savoy Grill, and when I used to come to KC on business, I’d stay at a B&B that was renovating the Savoy Hotel room-by-room with a STUNNING breakfast menu from the Grill. They are doing a complete restoration:

Yes, that says 1888.

Got to the airport, had some sliders at the Boulevard Brewing outlet in the airport….

Endured a non-TSAPre line…

And hopped into my overcrowded “Premium” class seat for the return home:

Thank you, Alaska, for the free DigiPlayer when I told them this was my final flight to make MVP Gold 75K!

And the free cocktails help too.


Comments Off on Trip Report: Post Birthday Kansas City

Oct '16

Trip Report: Saskatoon, Headed Home

Gentle Reader: no, I am not still in Saskatoon, I’m just tardy posting my progress. But here it is, however delayed like many of my flights….

We arrived into Saskatoon an hour and a half late – something I’d anticipated when I booked a late afternoon return flight to Seattle via Minneapolis. Personally, I’d have rather slept in.

The first thing that struck me about the Saskatoon ViaRail station was the stark Soviet-era Brutalist architecture. Wikipedia claims that the 1964 station was built in “The International Style“, looks pretty Brutalist to me.

When I mentioned this to Rache – his comment was, “I was just thinking that.”

At least the cab was modern:


Our driver was a laid off millwright reduced to driving cabs to put some food on the table.

Our next problem was getting into the town from the prairie-side station – a 20-minute delay for the world’s longest grain train:

The plan was to go to the 9-Mile Legacy Brewery and find a breakfast place until they opened. More brutalist architecture – but at least we found ourselves in Saskatoon’s hipster neighborhood – I was surprised there was meat on the menu. This would be Drift Sidewalk Cafe. The interesting thing about doing the research for these posts is when you start looking into the history of the neighborhoods you are visiting, in this case, one of Saskatoon’s historically poorest neighborhoods – hence, where artists can afford to live. More information here: http://thewalrus.ca/reviving-riversdale/. It’s actually a well written article about the city, it’s politics, it’s aboriginal legacy issues…but back to the Drift. Decent sized menu, all a little on the “odd” side, often filled crepes:

Look at that sexy ManBun!

I had The Hero (prosciutto, aged cheddar, dill pickles, maple aioli):

Rache had the B-E-A-T Crepe (tomato bacon jam, scrambled eggs, arugula, aged cheddar) with a cup of broccoli soup:

By the time we were done, it was time for the 9 Mile Legacy Brewery – and their friendly crew:

I should point out that at this point, 9-Mile had only been able to serve flights or pints for TWO DAYS. Apparently (according to the locals), Saskatchewan is the Utah of Canada. And I scored another sticker for my bag!

While Rache did his beer thing (so NOT me), I went next door to an Archie McPhee like place called Glitch – and they DO get some of their stuff from Accoutrements, which is the wholesale arm of Archie McPhee. I have a friend who used to work at Archies – and would occasionally model some of their products:

Sadly, these are no longer available, but if you want a tattoo – check out Jeff at Project Tattoo.

After our breakfast, our beers, our novelties it was time for another cab rib – this time to the airport, which was surprisingly NOT Brutalist, including the lines:

And desks to work at – oddly with no power outlets.

With an amazing flight display of real-time what planes are coming and what planes are going:

We are on a Embraer 175 from Saskatoon to Minneapolis:

With 2-1 seating – we took the two bulkheads on the wide side:

No food on the flight – but drinks…

And blankets, with Rache trailed into the bathroom like toilet paper stuck to your shoe….

And sunsets….

In Minneapolis we BREEZED through Immigration and Customs – me with my Global Entry, but Rache wasn’t far behind – they have gone paperless in Minneapolis – scan your passport, answer the questions, it spits out a receipt, take the receipt to the desk, get it stamped, go pick up your luggage.

We were so quick through the border check (and the plane was a little early) that we had time to see if because we were paid First Class whether we could use Delta’s Sky Club – the answer was yes because we were on an INTERNATIONAL Business Class ticket (though on the site they called it First Class). Nice lounge:

And we grabbed some snacks – OK, a little more than a snack:

OK – that is for BOTH of us. The free food in US lounges is getting soooooo much better, and they were pouring Evan Williams Black (my daily bourbon drinker) as the house pour!

Back on the plane, back in the bulkheads for our last leg home to Seattle:

This was a cool addition to the overhead storage bin – a light to tell you when Wi-Fi is available. It was a 737-900 with the Boeing Sky Interior:

Notice that the No Smoking “light” is now just printed on.

More food on this flight – does it NEVER end!

I know that cream sauce is going to give me indigestion… but I hate turning down free (with the price of a First Class ticket) food.

It was a QUICK trip – but one that yielded three posts. Not bad for leaving Seattle on Tuesday morning and returning Thursday night – in time for me to work tomorrow.



Comments Off on Trip Report: Saskatoon, Headed Home

Oct '16

City Report: Lunch At Loretta’s and The Space Needle

In the city for a week – and company is in town! Now where to go – for guests who used to live here. Can’t believe we had dinner Sunday night and I don’t have pictures.

But Tuesday, we headed for a quick lunch we headed to Loretta’s Northwesterner for lunch for me, soup for Gail (which came with my Lunch Special), coffee for Paul:

The soup was a Cream of Broccoli which wasn’t overly thickened had lots of celery, and I had the panko-breaded chicken cutlet burger. Both GREAT!

Wednesday lunch was the Prime Event – Paul said they wanted to have lunch on their last day in town, “somewhere with a water view.”

I made a reservation at the Space Needle Restaurant. Great views (and it turned out to be a sunny day), and while the ride to the observation level is $22, for a $25 minimum lunch spend at the restaurant, you get a free ride up, AND access to the observation deck AND a free digital photo from your meal. This would be ours:

For those of you who don’t know, the Space Needle was built for the 1962 World’s Fair in Seattle, and these days looks like this:

The lower section is an event space.

Did I mention that it rotates? Here are some lunch shots:

And views….North – the horseshoe buildings are the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation buildings with Lake Union to the top.

East towards Bellevue with downtown Seattle to the right (more like Southeast):

South to downtown – cloud cover over Mount Rainier:

Southwest over Puget Sound:

49 minutes to rotate – but first we need drinks!

We DID NOT order the Millionaire Martini at $250! I started with the Seattle Sazerac (Paul and I), and then after dinner the Woodinville Manhattan for me:

We all spent WAY over the $25 – but think of it like a $22 off coupon! Round one for me – Razor Clam Chowder, salads for Paul and Gail:

Round two – Penn Cove Mussels with Chorizo – I was feeling the need for seafood, the Dungeness Crab Melt for Paul, and Gail had the Roasted Cauliflower Flatbread:

Paul got a little Vanilla Ice Cream for dessert, not on the list, but provided (and shared by all) while I had my Manhattan:

What I realized when we went up one floor to the observation deck is that every view had wire, rather than windows:

Finally, it was time to go down to ground level:

Since the $25 minimum includes food AND drinks – literally, you could sit at the table, nurse two cocktails for two hours (the maximum dining time allowed) during lunch hours, and meet the minimum. As Gail said, “well, lunch was less than our insurance deductible for the rental car that we scratched and we were expecting to pay for – but they said it was nothing.”

Fun in the city.


Comments Off on City Report: Lunch At Loretta’s and The Space Needle

Aug '16

City Report: Time Off In The City, From Free To Pricey

So, its summer, which for me is no cheap bargain flights anywhere, so it’s time to explore the city. So over the last couple of weeks I’ve been doing tourist things with friends who are also free during the week.

Let’s work from Free to Pricey – though I visited these places in the reverse order.

Filson Factory Tour (FREE):

Filson is what Eddie Bauer used to be – the rugged outdoor ware company, albeit from the West Coast rather than the East Coast. Eddie Bauer has bounced around from corporate overlord to corporate overload, but Filson is still privately owned. But one thing is the same – they stand behind their product, even if your grandfather bought that jacket, they will repair it.

Here is great overview of Filson from Wikipedia: LINK HERE. Like most things, you start digging into it and although privately held, it’s held by the same folks who have Fossil and Shinola. On the upside, you should see the Filsons/Shinola bike which I don’t see on their site (or Shinolas) that had nice bamboo accents. There is still one in their showroom in Seattle – last time I asked the price I think it was upwards of a grand.

All of Filson’s production is done domestically for most of its flagship line of bags and heavy-weight jackets with a free small exceptions like dry bags (thick rubber bags for rafting, etc.) – belts, bags, all US production in Seattle, but their new line of more casual shirts I believe are outsourced/partnered to Levis (guess I’ll have to look at the “made in” tags on the next visit) but the one I looked at on the site said “imported”.

All that said, it was great to see high-end work being done in the middle of Seattle. Here are some shots. First the showroom:

And then the factory tour – with the “hottie” tour guide:

TONS of staff (ratio 4 staff to 1 customer) on the floor. Unfortunately the one item I wanted was only part of a package of a watch and books. Sigh. FYI – that “package” with the watch runs $1000. I just wanted the orange bandana! Tours are Tuesdays at 10am, Thursdays at 1:30pm– the meet on the THIRD floor, showroom is on the SECOND floor. It almost made me miss the tour!

Next up (in reverse order) is:

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Visitors Center (FREE)

The Foundation is right across the street from EMP – The Experience Music Project, located at Seattle Center. Why not add it onto a visit to Seattle Center, The ChuckHooy Glass Abuse Garden, the Science Center, etc.

During opening hours it’s a self-guided tour – which is esthetically pleasing, but WORD heavy. Show up at 2pm for the guided one-hour tour. It still give you time to explore areas of interest in-depth, but give you a better overview of Uncle Bill’s work (no, I’m not his nephew, I’m just an ex-Microsoft employee).

Here are a couple of shots from the Visitor’s Center:

Because we need a “selfie” in this post – they had a photo booth:

Would have been nice to have some starving children in the background or something (just kidding).

And the final stop in this Seattle Tour is:

Experience Music Project – EMP ($25 but free for “North American Reciprocal Museum Association” Members)

This might be the hidden benefit for my “Pioneer” Tacoma Art Museum (TAM) membership. Last October I got a TAM membership to support the AIDSartAmerica exhibit which they were lead organizer. With the membership I got reciprocal privileges to The North American Museum Association and Museums West. Very amazing for a smaller regional museum – and that level of membership was $125 for a year, with half a dozen guest passes to the museum.

So far, during this year, I’ve gotten six entrances to EMP ($150), 4 entrances to the Ogden Museum of Southern Art in New Orleans ($54 soon to be 5 at $67.50), 1 entrance ($10.50 soon to be 2 at $21.00) to the New Orleans Museum of Art, 4 entrances into The Tacoma Art Museum ($60), 2 entrances into The Neon Museum in Las Vegas ($36), 2 entrances into the Georgia O’Keefe Museum ($24), Palace of Governors ($24), and New Mexico Museum of Art ($24). Round numbers: I’ve gotten $382.50 value out of my $125 – think about that they next time you are in a museum – check out their partners and get something than the other “basic” membership (caveat – some reciprocal memberships restrict benefits within 60 miles of your “home” museum, and some [like the Neon Museum] require BOTH member cards for two people, most do not). It’s nice to be able to give your “Guest of Mark Souder” pass to visitors in town especially for the EMP. Just like my National Parks Pass, I tend to favor smaller museums because they collect a larger chunk of the money.

But I digress (as usual) – we are talking about the Experience Music Project which started as Paul Allen’s dream to build a Jimi Hendricks Museum. The Hendricks family looked at the co-founder of Microsoft and wanted a whole wad of dough to aloe name to be uses – hence “The Experience Music Project” that holds Paul Allen’s’ collection of Jimi Hendricks memorabilia, his Sci-Fi (Paul’s, not Jimmi’s) collection, and rotating exhibits. It is in a Frank Gehry designed building that has the Seattle Monorail running through (but not stopping in) it. Here is the LINK to the background of the museum.

Let’s get to some pictures of the place!

Mr. Whippet and the EMP.

So, the Museum is split into sections – Guitars, Hendrix Nirvana and various other music-themed exhibits, and then there is the Horror, Fantasy, Infinite Worlds sections, plus a couple of areas for special exhibition – currently one on Star Trek (extra $5 upcharge) and the other “The World of Wearable Art (WOW)”. Here is a sampling of photos starting with Fantasy and a couple of costumes from The Wizard of Oz:

Then Science Fiction:

Then into Guitars:

And finally, wearable art:

By the end of the Museum I was feeling a little peckish – luckily there is a Wolfgang Puck Pop Kitchen & Bar – 50% off on food items for members and reciprocal members. Yahoo!

Time for a Manhattan and some parmesan fries.

Next time I go to the opera I might have to come here for an early dinner!

So there you have some free and not-so-free (unless you want to borrow my pass).

Safe travels everyone.


Comments Off on City Report: Time Off In The City, From Free To Pricey

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.




Comments Off on Trip Report: Return to Sacramento

Nov '15

Trip Report: Kansas City

Falling in the category of “no justice in this world” would be a recent fortune cookie fortune:

Guess it’s time to go to Kansas City to pick up some BBQ for the store, hang with some friends, listen to jazz.

With me running late (for me) and my flight leaving from the North Satellite at Sea-Tac, I got to check out the new Alaska Airlines Board Room location:

Small – but it will do until 2017 when the whole terminal is renovated and they add gates and move the club to the roof.

It was great to be leaving this:

But it’s pretty above the clouds:

And in seat 1A, free entertainment:

No photo of lunch, but it was the turkey ensalade capresse warm sandwich of other trips. And more funny bits of reading material:

Lots of that arranged for Kansas City!

Dinner with Paul and Gail the first night around the part of town the old Subs Pub was located at Café Trio. Interesting drink menu:

I started with the Fig Manhattan before moving onto the Rosemary and Maple Whiskey Sour – Gail went with the White Icicle:

And for my dessert, something with a little Foie Gras:

It was pretty, but the little roll things needed to be room temperature, not chilled.

Gail headed back to Greenwood (their “summer residence”) where they have taken the cat to make my visit easier and Paul and I headed to The Green Lady, a 7-day-a-week jazz bar – and it was amazing. Not often to you see a trio composed of vibes, Hammond B-3, drums:

And here is a little of the music:

And, of course, a couple of more Manhattans:

The nice thing about staying with Paul is that we BOTH sleep in super late – so that breakfast was actually LUNCH at Arthur Bryant’s. Paul had the pulled pork/beef combo sandwich:

I went for the “Pig On A Bun”:

After lunch, bought two cases of Arthur Bryant’s Original BBQ Sauce for the shop, then we swung by Gates to pick up a case of their original sauce – and the trunk shows it:

Tonight’s gathering is at Harry’s Country Club where the gang plans to meet.

Oddly enough I didn’t get ANY pictures of all eight of us gathered in a little mini-reunion. Paul and Gail from Kansas City, Phil, Diane, Byron, Vicki, and Retta from Lawrence – I was amazed that the Lawrence folks would drive over for a mid-week dinner.

I DID get pictures of my lunch the next day back at Harrys – the pastrami sandwich lunch special with potato salad:

No cocktails for me at lunch, just iced tea – but if I wanted whiskey – man do they have a selection!

Before you know it, it’s time to load up for the airport, and my return trip – just A LITTLE luggage:

Yep – it was easier to use a cart to get it all down stairs.

No upgrade for the way home – I was number 11 on a list of 27 – on a THURSDAY! At least I got one of the 4 empty seats between me and a MVP Gold 75K flier in the window:

And with the complimentary cocktail when I don’t get upgraded:

Whippet picked me up at the airport (handy with all that luggage!) so I took him to an old-school Seattle institution, The Thirteen Coins. Must be a theme…. Pastrami for lunch, Ruben for dinner. Actually, we both had the Rueben, mine with a Manhattan side:

A quick,but fun, trip back home.


Comments Off on Trip Report: Kansas City

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.

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

Nov '14

Activity Report: My Week At Home

This was a stay at home week for me, between last week’s trip to Santa Fe and next week’s cruise to Mexico. Did I lay around and eat all the Halloween candy? Nope, it was project week.

Project Number One: Vermouth Rack For The Shop

Madrona Wine Merchants is less than 500-square-feet, yet we have over 650 different brands that we stock, and we’d like to stock more, so we need to get creative with our shelving. In this case I had to build a shelf unit to go over a small rack of white wines that has a water pipe running through it.

The finished project, with a little bourbon and ginger spilled on it:

And installed in the shop:

Project Number Two: Behind The Counter Storage Rack

If you ever have looked behind the counter at Madrona Wine Merchants, it’s a jumble of stuff randomly packed in. My quest is that before the Holiday Rush that we get a little more organized so we can find things quickly. Hence, this odd organizer that I built to extend the cash wrap to the post where the vermouth is now hanging. The drawers are made from wood salvaged from the tops of wooden wine boxes that we occasionally get in:

And installed at the shop:

Project Number Three: Install Back Board For 1A2 Analog Phone System & KSU (Key Service Unit)

I’m upgrading my “Mad Men” style analog phone system so that all four phones will have lights and the ability to mechanically put calls on hold. This, of course, means actually putting in more infrastructure than just the KSU that I currently have which is only wired up for one phone – this one:

And here is what the infrastructure looks like:

And I still have to pull all the wires under the house before the “punch-down” can begin.

And then there is the social side of a week home…

Sunday night dinner with Bliss, Monday night dinner with Wonderful, Josh, and Jill:

Tuesday night dinner with former neighbor Emily, current neighbor Paula (who was air rescued out of the woods a couple of weeks ago after getting lost hiking with her two dogs), and Jonathan after installing the new 42″ flat screen that I picked up for $299 ($333 with tax and shipping) that fits in the same footprint as my 32″, but is half the weight.

We (Jonathan and I) also relocated the swing arm mount so that not only can I watch from the couch, but it swings so I can watch from the bedroom, and as of the relocation, I can now watch from the kitchen as well:

Thursday and Friday morning filled with helping Jonathan move from his storage locker into an apartment. Upside is that it’s right next to the Two Bells Tavern, known for its burgers (which I order two for take-out):

With a Manhattan while I waited (and their house bourbon is Evan Williams Black!)

It was amazing to me that someone who was homeless two months ago could have so much stuff in storage. Thursday afternoon he filled the 14-foot UHaul to the top, and Friday’s load was another quarter of the same UHaul – all headed into a studio apartment:

Now imagine that space filled to the top – and here is what the apartment looks like now:

Kitchen above, living room below…

And doesn’t even show the three closets and the mechanics rolling tool chest in the hallway. Whew!

It being Halloween that means its shop duty time. It takes three of us to handle the crowds. Here are the stats from 5-7PM…

  • Out of our 130 wine and champagne glasses – we had 10 clean ones at the end of the day
  • Over 200 pieces of candy handed out
  • Four bottles of tasting wine emptied

Maybe it was my outfit…

Busy week – looking forward to relaxing next week.


Comments Off on Activity Report: My Week At Home

Aug '14

Visitors Report: The Colonels Come To Town.

What a lovely couple of days with The Colonels in town on their epic journey from Kentucky to Alaska (and back):


Now THAT is an epic trip. And as full disclaimer, I’ve raided their trip blog for some of the photos (and the map above).

I’d arranged for The Colonels to stay at the WorldMark Seattle at The Camlin for their three day stay:

The Camlin

The unit I got via the “waitlist” was a Courtyard Studio Plus – which means stairs to all the units. Luckily, they got a unit with only one set of stairs, AND had the bell-staff schlep all the bags and boxes into the room.

They arrived at 5PM from Eastern Washington, and I got stuck in traffic so I didn’t make it until 5:30. As the room was a little warm (no AC, but a fan), we had snacks and drinks in the courtyard. Had I thought about it I would have brought steaks and salad since there was a BBQ unit right across from their room.


We were at the table to the left (WorldMark photo).

After a couple of drinks – and a tour of the property (the museum in the basement and the Cloud Room on the top floor) we were off to Dragon Fish Asian Café which is walkable for all of us. Here is a picture from The Colonels blog:


The Lady Colonel took this photo as they were passing in front of Dragon Fish Asian Café on their way to dinner on Friday (that story to come later). His blog comment had to do with the ladies in blue dresses dragging huge crosses down the street:

Now, I know I’m an old white guy, rather conservative, and from a small town, but there were lots of folks in Seattle that just left me shaking my head. We didn’t get to photograph many of them, but the following photograph of two women in long blue dresses, each woman carrying a cross, might give you a sense of what I’m speaking of.

Our dinner at Dragon Fish was wonderful – I’d worried that the menu might be a little adventurous for The Colonels, but it turns out they like everything we had and shared – and then back the next day for lunch – that’s a testament to the quality of the food (or the close proximity to The Camlin). Here is what we had (as best I can remember):

    garlic, ginger, cabbage, sweet hot soy sauce
    curry spice, ketchup
    pickled cucumbers, sesame seeds
    tempura onions, sweet miso sauce
    smoked salmon, macadamia nuts, blueberry wasabi sauce
  • CHICKEN YAKISOBA (wheat noodles) 8
    vegetables, yakisoba sauce, sesame seeds, pickled ginger
    quick fried. peanuts, hichimi, lemongrass vodka sauce

Hung out at The Camlin with The Colonels for a bit after dinner, and headed home for tomorrow we are doing The Museum of Flight, then a tour of Madrona Wine Merchants, then dinner at my place.

Here are a couple of photos from our adventure at The Museum of Flight. But first a stop at The Taco Truck:


It was pronounced good – and a good thing I talked The Senior Colonel into only one burrito – those things are HUGE. Beef for The Senior Colonel, Spicy Pork for me (we both had burritos, a rare treat for me), and Lady Colonel has three tacos, one each beef, pork, and spicy pork.


Not a bad selfie with the three of us. First stop was the new building that I haven’t seen which is on the “air park” side of the museum, over the new bridge over East Marginal Way that I haven’t been over. The new building houses the mock-up of a space shuttle that we got from Houston – alas, no retired shuttle, just the full-size mockup. This will give you an idea of size:


And then to go crawl around some planes:


In front of a retired 707-based Air Force One – think ancient technology. And The Colonels inside a retired Concorde – like one I flew on several years ago.


The aisle is only 12″ wide, and seats more like 16″, and if you are over 6 feet tall you didn’t want a window seat since you’d have to bend your head for the entire flight. Here is photo from Pigletté Takes The Concorde for pictures from that trip:


piglette-1piglette-1That would be with the appetizer of caviar, smoked salmon and a lovely 1986 Pol Roger Cuvée Churchill Champagne.



Or doing Mach 2 (which is 1380 miles per hour) at 51,000 feet….while feasting on lobster rings with cucumbers accompanied by a 1994 Château Petit Village Pomerol. Damn tasty – don’t remember what the main course of wine was:


But enough of my old travels, let’s move back to the present – a final shot of The Senior Colonel in the grand hall of The Museum of Flight:


All tuckered out we headed back to my house to hang out in the semi-air conditioning (the bedroom, with a fan to push it into the living room). We chatted while I worked on dinner, figuring that a 6PM start would be better for The Colonels. The menu was:

  • Fresh home-made bread
  • Salad
  • Rib-eye steaks off the grill


The plan for The Colonels the next day was to visit The Living Computer Museum, partly funded and supplied by Paul Allen of Microsoft fame. But alas, trying to track down medical information kept them in their room until it was time for dinner with Swanda – and quite a spread it was:

Seafair Weekend 008

And the group shot with The Colonels camera, somehow minus The Caveman:


It was a fun dinner with The Lady Colonel bonding with The Caveman, Swanda’s partner. I left before The Colonels did which might be a record.

The following morning The Colonels were on the road to Kamloops, British Columbia. Guess it’s time for me to plan another trip to Kentucky, but not until they get back home.

For The Colonels blog of this trip, you can visit: http://froghollowfollies.blogspot.com/ once they are back from their trip (it’s private for the moment).


Comments Off on Visitors Report: The Colonels Come To Town.

Jul '14

Trip Report: Dublin.

After arriving in Dublin – well, at least at Jeff and Mindi’s place though no Jeff (aka Mork) – made pleasantries and went to bed for a 5-hour nap, which by the way is exactly what you are not supposed to do to help with your jetlag….I have other tricks up my sleeve for that. Awake at 5 while Mindi is on her daily work call – time for a little Knob Creek and seltzer:

Yes, weird ice “cubes” more like ice stalactites. The gin is waiting for Mindi’s G&T after her call.

Mindi works at home so I’ll be able to see lots of her this trip – and more importantly (for continued invitations) be able to cook our meals in.

Since I’ve visited before I know where all the closest markets are and they have a “veg” delivery service all we really need is some protein and some wine. Got the protein for tonight and tomorrow around the corner at the Halal market (no pork!). But before that we need to restock the wine rack – and no, not with this which made me CRINGE:

The first evening’s meal was marinated chicken bits in a semi-spicy curry sauce with a bunch of the “one their last day” vegetables…

And the incomparable Mindi waiting for me in the dining nook:

An evening of drinking was enough to get me to sleep through the evening until 10ish the next morning – we were both running a little slow.

Today’s outing is a new hairdo for Mindi – her monthly appointment. While that’s going on I wander the streets, pick up supplies like booze and diet soda and stumble into a gay bar – the big purple thing – called The George. No time to really go in, and I can only imagine a gay bar at 2pm in the afternoon – though it would have given me a place to sit. As I learned from the website later, at 2pm they would have been just opening so it would have been me and the bartender most likely:

And a couple of doors down, another place I should have tried but didn’t. Pitt Bro’s BBQ which apparently uses American-built smokers. I seem to have read something in an advert (as the Brits say) about these folks – even before stumbling across them:

My motto is that if you see everything on your trip you have no excuse to come back. Guess I need to ask Mindi when she is getting her hair done again. That would make the afternoon:

After Mindi’s hair was finished – she had a little shopping to do…at the Celtic Whiskey Shop – and this is only ONE wall – the even had a hallway filled with small bottling’s in minis – too tempting.

Here is the one that Mindi picked up for Jeff’s birthday – only EU125 ($168 at today’s exchange)

The salesman had ME at Madeira Cask aged. One of 377 bottles made just for this shop.

Tonight’s dinner is a lemon pesto roast chicken on a bed of root vegetables:

While that is going I worked on a little ratatouille for tomorrow night’s dinner – to be tossed with greens in an oil and balsamic dressing:

Got to use those vegetables before they expire.

Can you see why I get invited back? Especially since after the meal it was pulling off all the remaining chicken to make chicken salad out of for tomorrow’s lunch – and stock for the freezer:

Well, stock for cooking and chicken vegetable base – just add noodles.

Another late evening of staying up way past midnight shooting the shit – didn’t get out of bed until noon today, so breakfast was definitely brunch but without the Bloody Maries or bubbles. More like cheesy scrambled eggs with oven re-roasted root vegetables:

Got an email mid-day from the Groom (Pucci) saying that Aisling was going to be out tonight on the traditional Irish “Hen’s Night” and that he was free….off to the Halal butcher go I as we’d just had another batch of “veg” delivered (even though I wasn’t through with last weeks). Tonight’s meal in honor of the groom is an American BBQ dinner with a Mediterranean Flare: Grilled lamb chops (yes, these ex-pat Dubliners have a charcoal Weber), served with a zucchini-based tzatzkiki sauce, and the ratatouille and garden greens with olive oil and balsamic. Didn’t get a pretty picture of it before, but here is the during:

And in the background you see a bottle of 1994 Mondovi Cabernet Sauvignon… that didn’t survive the move from the states too well – the cork was shot. I had to strain it through a paper towel. It really was about TEN years beyond its prime… luckily we had another bottle handy.

Oddly not corked, just no fruit left – it wasn’t their Reserve which might have still been drinkable. This one was slated to drink between 2002 and 2008… 6 year ago. It was well after midnight when we stuffed the groom into a cab, not exactly knowing the address he was headed for but he knew the area and the street. Luckily he DID make it home in one piece.

And just to get us off the food track for a minute or two – the house where I’m staying:

And the back yard with the Weber:

Before you know it – the last supper has arrived. Walked a little further afield today to get pork for dinner and supplies for the trip – tonight’s meal are pork cutlets in chili-garlic sauce, cucumbers in yogurt, and the standard salad we’ve come to love:

After dinner it was off to the neighbor’s – Paul and Mary who remembered me from my last visit… a VERY LATE NIGHT of chatting and playing with the dog – Paul didn’t get in from the airport until after midnight and Mini and I didn’t leave until around 3am – and then talked back at the house for another hour:

Even with the late night, I still had time for a final meal – Heavos Rancheros that I’d prepped the night before so the eggs could soak into the corn tortillas…

Too bad I’m leaving for the train station at the same time that Mork, I mean Jeff his headed home from the airport. Guess we’ll have to just have drinks when they are in Seattle in August.

Before I knew it I was on the train to Bray to catch a cab to the wedding venue – more on that in the next post.

See what I look like with not enough sleep. At least we all ate well in Dublin.


Comments Off on Trip Report: Dublin.

Jun '14

Trip Report: The Southwest Chief From Chicago To Los Angeles.

Another Amtrak Lounge, another comfortable chair to nap in.

Compared to the New Orleans location, this place is HUGE:

The reception desk to the right, carry-on luggage check room to the right – I just kept my small computer bag handy:

And several rooms worth of seating….

And unlimited soda…

And our own exit directly (though not close) to the tracks:

Around 10 I headed out to explore – found a CVS Pharmacy that sells Evan Williams, took some neighborhood shots:

The last shot is of old waiting hall – the new ones are located under sky scrapper next door complete with “food court” that actually had good food (well, they had a McDonalds as well, but this was my 10am snack:

Yep, a Chicago Style Brat from this place:

And when I went back out to score additional Evan Williams in case I need to share, also picked up one of the best pulled pork sandwiches (extra slaw instead of the fries) that I’ve ever had. Loved the egg-bun:

From these folks:

The wonderfully empty Metropolitan Lounge wasn’t so empty when I returned. When you have this many trains going out around the same time in the afternoon…

You end up with a scene like this:

And the other two rooms looked like this as well – not an open seat in the house.

Luckily it was a 2:15pm load time for our 3pm train, The Southwest Chief – but that was pushed back because there were three delayed trains that needed to get out of the room ahead of us. Controlled chaos was what is was… on the upside, I got to see a gaggle of Boy Scouts headed to the Philmont Scout Camp in Cimmaron (NM) boarding the train:

Philmont Scout Ranch, the Boy Scouts of America’s premier High Adventureâ„¢ base, challenges Scouts and Venturers with more than 214 square miles of rugged northern New Mexico wilderness. Backpacking treks, horseback cavalcades, and training and service programs offer young people many ways to experience this legendary country. Or so their website says – I understand that 2 weeks there is $1500 when you figure in transportation to get there. LINK TO FEES

To make matter more humorous, in Galesburg, IL another gaggle of Scouts got on in matching fluorescent t-shirts. And if you really want a chuckle – imagine the lounge car filled with testosterone laden teens mixed with a handful of Old Order Amish woman headed to San Diego. The basic jist of the Old Order Amish is according to Wikipedia: “The Old Order Amish is the concept many outsiders have when they think of ‘Amish'” right down to “rumsprina” a “rite of passage” for adolescents where often leave the community for a taste of the outside world before being baptized.

I would have gotten a picture but I didn’t want to be an ass.

The first meal on the train was dinner – hence the Pulled Pork sandwich at 1:30pm or so.

What’s for dinner you might ask – I had the steak again, to see the difference between routes. Tonight’s steak was much juicier that last nights, but I like the corn better than the green beans as the vegetable – presentation was hand-down better on the Southwest Chief.

The only goal remaining for tonight is to grab a couple of “Platform Memories” shots in both Kansas City (MO, not KS) and Lawrence (KS). First stop is Kansas City where Paul will be meeting me:

Though I would have like to get more of the train in there.

But onto Lawrence (KS) where I had to work with the conductor since only one car in coach was opening – and it was a QUICK two minute stop, enough for this shot of Byron, Phil and myself (right to left):

Turns out Conan was headed back from the movies and just saw the tail-lights of the Southwest Chief as they hit a crossing. Another 10 nights early and I could have waved.

Unfortunately I don’t think Flagstaff (AZ) is going to work out because Kyle work evenings. Hopefully I’ll get one or two from The Coast Starlight.

Just for the record, I’m in Car 0331 (second sleeper forward of the Dining Car) in Room(ette) 4 facing West and North. I’ve lucked out as this is one of the few Superliner II cars that still has a functioning ice drawer under the coffee urn:

Most of these have been abandoned after the health department raised hell for the scoop being in the drawer – use of the drawer now comes with rules from the car attendant – scoop must remain in paper bucket next to the coffee urn when not in use. The rest of the sleepers (including those on the City of New Orleans) that I’ve been on have had Styrofoam coolers to fetch your ice from.

And here is a little oddity that I noticed on the Southwest Chief schedules note:

So is “69” a reference to Arizonans? I thought Arizona was so conservative that sex wasn’t allowed.

Decided on the top bunk with both mattresses – tight but comfy though the morning came too soon and I didn’t hear the breakfast hours last night, so a bit of a panic, and then because of all the Boy Scouts, a half an hour wait to get a table. Damn do-gooders.

Got talked into the Omelet – not bad. Asparagus, onions, tomatoes, cheese was the filling. Yes, on the Southwest Chief they have menus items listed.

Headed back to the room(ette) after breakfast and basically napped until noon when I went downstairs for a shower – which did wonders for my mood.

Lunch was the Angus Cheeseburger with Bacon, always a winner – though I skipped the Kettle Chips.

The afternoon found me not reading but draining my tablet battery playing this mind-sucking Tri Peaks Solitaire which I got hooked on with my phone – and man can the game suck the juice out of the phone (and the tablet). By Albuquerque I finally put it down, but I did take breaks in Lamy (and Albuquerque) to step off and get pictures – it’s so weird to be at these two stations and not have any friends or family.

In Lamy it would have been my sister-in-law Jen, but she is interviewing job candidates today and the bro-in-law and niece are out of town – and mom is a El Castillo in downtown Santa Fe, so that’s out. There is a great “Platform Memory” – and probably what started this project – of my parents and I at the Lamy Station a couple of years before my father died.

Here is a link to the post that photo was in: LINK

And here is the station today:

The stop after Lamy (which is the stop for Santa Fe (NM)) is Albuquerque (NM) where in the past I’ve hooked up the Jen’s (sis-in-law) friend Michele to shoot the shit on the 45-minute layover – but alas, she has a doctor’s appointment at the same time, so, yet again, another link to a previous post of my last meet-up: LINK

And here is the station today:

Guess this means that I’ll have to include a photo of the Flagstaff station where I was hoping to meet Kyle:

Speaking of Flagstaff, we were delayed an hour because of a medical emergency. What’s that phrase? “It’s all good until the ambulance shows up.” One three ladies travelling together to Las Vegas had a couple of strokes – but to get her off the train as she was on the “hefty” side, they had to get her conscious since they couldn’t get a backboard up the narrow coach car stairs. They say it shouldn’t make us too late as there is padding in the schedule between Riverside and Los Angeles.

A later dinner seating tonight, 7:45pm, it was that or like 5:45pm which would have left me hungry at nine – no more 7pm seats but the time they got to my sleeper. They actually have reservations going til 9pm which is definitely too late for me.

Dinner tonight? Yes, another steak – luckily they were out of desert by the time they got to our table. Luckily I had some chocolate left over from the Snack Basket on the flight to New Orleans.

And a humor shot — the Jim Croce song: “If I Could Save Time In A Bottle,” mine would be more like “If I Could Measure Time In A Bottle.”:

Early to bed since if I want breakfast I need to be in the Dining Car at 5am as they stop serving at 5:45am, or San Bernardino whichever is later…as it turns out we are still an hour behind so I wouldn’t have had to rush that much.

As we pulled into Fullerton I saw the Amish ladies transferring to the Pacific Surfliner:

Ended up getting in 25 minutes late – time to hook up with Craig, but first, the Metropolitan Lounge.

And I close with my post with my favorite picture of the day – Arizona in the afternoon:

To be continued…

[? ? ?]

Comments Off on Trip Report: The Southwest Chief From Chicago To Los Angeles.

Apr '14

Trip Report: Travel By Train In The US

I love to train by train – as you readers might know especially from my Turkey-Bulgaria-Romania trip last week.

This week I stumbled across this image of the new Denver Amtrak/MultiModal station:

All I can say is “holly fuck”. That is one gorgeous train station. Suddenly I’m trying to figure out bookings to see it in person. I’d like to go when the main station is completed as well. I love the fact that the station mimics the Denver airport with its sweeping canopies.

The upper levels of the refurbished station will have 118 hotel rooms – which I want to try, along with two upper end restaurants and a morning/afternoon place for take-out for train passengers.

I’m thinking of an August trip since everything opens mid-July.

But that got me thinking….since there are no cheap flights during the summer, maybe I could redeem some Chase Ink Points on a little train folly. Here is what I’ve come up with:

After work on Sunday the 15th of June I’ll catch the red-eye to New Orleans. At 1:45pm (I get in at like 6am) I hop on the City of New Orleans (Train 58) for the 20 hour trip to Chicago where hopefully I’ll have lunch with Cynthia and Lawrence since there is a 5 hour layover. Then it’s on to the Southwest Chief (Train 4) headed for Los Angeles, another 43 hours, then I have a couple of hours to kill in Los Angeles before I pick up the Coast Starlight (Train 14) to Seattle, another 35 hours.

The rack rate when I priced it out for the sleeper the whole way, $1808.90 – my cost? Free. I moved 20,000 Chase Ink points to my Amtrak Guest Rewards account and poof, free ticket with meals for those 5 days. 20,000 points is the amount for a two-zone roomette ticket on any legal routing. The other way would have been to that the Empire Builder (Train 7) from Chicago to Seattle. The flight to New Orleans was $240 (though I could have used miles).

My plan is to (once I have the last miles I need) do a Seattle to Denver run in August to check out the station that started the ball rolling.

Another hope is that I can get some more “platform moments” pictures with friends along the way – Kyle in Flagstaff, Craig in Los Angeles, Cynthia and Lawrence in Chicago, Paul and Gail in Kansas City, sis-in-law in Lamy (though it’s a work day for her). I’d like to make one of those photo books out of the pictures.

“Travel By Train” says it all.

Denver’s Union Station before the renovation with their “Travel By Train” sign.

Or in the case of Portland’s Amtrak station, “Go By Train”.


Comments Off on Trip Report: Travel By Train In The US

Dec '13

LA Bound.

Didn’t I Just Come From There?

Minor issue with the cab driver this morning for my 8am Time Call… he called at 7:45… lost. At least I knew the cab was coming.

Got to the train station an hour early as is my usual…and the station is looking good – you can now even get up to the second floor viewing gallery (previously hidden by a hideous fake ceiling):

And I spotted a place that would make a great “Metropolitan Lounge” on the second floor that LOOKS like there is still some construction going on. It would be FABULOUS to have a Metropolitan Lounge with an open air view of the main waiting hall. I’d posted that I hope they’d “pimp out” the paint to highlight the details, but the semi-gloss white is starting to warm to me:

It is great to see the station come back to life – the other train station in town (Union Station) is basically the lobby for one of Paul Allen’s office buildings (co-founder of Microsoft, my former employers.

Onboard the Coast Starlight Train Number 11, Room Number 8 – I settle in a half an hour before departure with a couple of splits of California Bubbles and get the “office” set up:

In honor of my mother I mixed the bubbles with a wee bit of cranberry juice to make a Red Baron. I really liked the suction window mount for the tablet until the seal gave hold and it tumbled to the ground, dragging the cell phone with it. Maybe tomorrow I work on seeing if it mounts (and stays) on the tray table.

This is what awaited Dwight when he boarded the train in Olympia (he is headed to his Moms for the holidays):

His xMess (thanks for the phrase CharmPop) present and a Santa Hat (which he refuses to wear for “father-son” pictures, or at all. Sigh.

Here is a great shot of Dwight and I at dinner:

And then again at the Klamath Falls smoke stop – yes, Dwight still has that habit, though at 2 packs a WEEK it could be worse:

Not the best selfie but at least you can see the snow in the background.

Dwight brought supplies for Black Russians (Vodka and Kahlua), and I packed Bourbon and Diet Verners and a couple of bottles of wine to have with dinner:

Did I mention that I brought real glassware on the trip? Thanks Swanda for the Vancouver Olympics booze glasses.

Burger for lunch, steak for dinner (with the Southard Syrah).

Let’s just hope the train stays on time.


Comments Off on LA Bound.

Didn’t I Just Come From There?

Dec '13

Train Day Three.

Managed to get to breakfast around 7:30 this morning. The Retired Ship Captain that I was seated with last night was just arriving as I was finishing my spinach/mushroom/cheese frittata with pork sausage on the side. I ignored the potatoes, but did have a glass of cranberry juice. I explained that I wasn’t very chatty in the morning… and that maybe we could (and did) share a table later.

After last night I was now out of mixers for the bourbon that I brought along… so with lunch I got a complimentary Diet Pepsi (one per meal) as did I with dinner – along with grabbing a couple of small cans from the Metropolitan Lounge when we stopped in Portland for an hour. This means I will have avoided buying any of their bar soda pop at $2.50 a pop.

A little different scenery today as we are now in the mountains – yesterday morning was all sun and beaches, today is all overcast and snow:

Here is my car attendant Brian:

He was the nice main that made sure I never ran out of ice.

Speaking of Portland, here is a quick shot of the station. If you see the red cone, that is the entrance to the Metropolitan Lunge which is only for sleeping car passengers (others are in Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, New York) – the source of free Diet Pepsi:

The train you see is the cancelled Empire Builder run for today (and until Sunday apparently). Seems North Plains storms have severely affected service between St. Paul and Spokane. Full Story Here

And those long-time readers may have seen my posts about Amtrak’s Braised Lamb Shanks… well, here they are in the flesh – so tender that the Capt. Ret. only needed to use his fork to finish them off:

Got into Seattle almost an hour early – or at least it felt that way – bodes well for next week’s Coast Starlight Trip to Los Angeles with Dwight – he’s headed to see his mom – me, I’m just tagging along to LA, spending the night, then flying home.

Looking forward to my own bed tonight.

[? ? ?] Always worried what tomorrow’s number will be after a week on the road, especially with three days of three square meals a day.

Comments Off on Train Day Three.

Aug '13

A Full Day In “The Paris Of The Midwest”.

I ordered WAY too much food for breakfast:

From left to right:

  • smoked salmon with caviar and toast points
  • broiled lamb chops and oysters Rockefeller
  • lobster bisque

Talk about being full.

After breakfast it was off to pick up Obrad in the suburbs after a quick stop at WalMart for a package of black socks.

From the suburbs it was back to the Savoy Hotel to get Obrad checked in (even though it was like, noon). I had a couple of things to do before heading to Paul and Gails to drop off wine and pick up Paul for errands and BBQ. Here is Obrad with the wine in from of the Savoy:

I love the stained glass in their front windows.

First stop was up north – a bookstore for Obrad and a sporting goods store for me – then off to Arthur Bryants for some BBQ:

Then shopping for dinner – fresh salmon which I should have brought from Seattle at the price they were charging, but I don’t do farm raised. And since we were broiling the salmon with the door ajar – here is a trick to warm your bread at the same time:

And the final assembled dinner:

A fun dinner for seven: Paul, Gail, Clayt, Deanna, Wendy, Obrad and your truly.

Good food, good company, good wine, good conversation.

[? ? ?]

Comments Off on A Full Day In “The Paris Of The Midwest”.

Aug '13

Dinner Party Two Of Three.

Spent the day running around town getting some hardware for next week’s Weenie Wagon run – spring clips for holding up fabric, a flag pole holder and plastic pipe for the hot dog flag, chili for the steam table (and peanut butter for Paul and Gail for the Kansas City run on Monday).

Then it was home to start prepping for dinner with Jill (and Murphy The Wonderdog).

Once Jill arrived it was time to transfer the Tito’s Vodka she brought into two wine bottles for her cruise next week, and transfer a little into a glass with a marinated carrot as a swizzle stick.

A simple dinner of pan-fried pork chops and a big salad. Murphy was VERY happy to get the bones at the end of the meal and promptly chewed them into bits and swallowed in seconds.

Good boy.


Comments Off on Dinner Party Two Of Three.

Sep '12

A Visit To A BBQ Shrine.

Aw yes, but which shrine?

Why that would be Arthur Bryants of course:

Paul had the beef sandwich (he usually gets the combo beef/pork) with fries; I had the rib tip special, no fries:

After lunch is was back to the condo for a bit of work, then off to the airport for my 4:20 flight – with a stop in Briarcliff for a quick cocktail, too bad this place was closed during the mid-afternoon., but how’s that for one giant wine bottle:

At least I think it’s a wine bottle, could be a booze bottle.

At the airport, checked by case of BBQ Sauce (personal, not for the shop) and settled in for a flight that was running twenty minutes late. I did have time to discover that there is now a bar/restaurant in the secured area of the airport, up on the second floor where I had this cocktail:

Royals Manhattan (as in the Kansas City Royals as in baseball):

Crown Royal Canadian Whiskey, agave nectar, fresh lemon and orange juice, shaken and served with a float of sweet vermouth and garnished with an orange twist.

Well, my sweet vermouth was blended in and there wasn’t an orange twist – and it really tasted more like an Old Fashioned than a Manhattan.

Uneventful flight home, was at the apartment at 8 or so to drop off half an order of rib tips (my leftovers) for Swanda and a bottle of sauce to drown them in. Stayed chatting about his weekend visit from his new BF and then it was home for me.

[204 but on an antique analog scale so I’m dubious]

Comments Off on A Visit To A BBQ Shrine.

Sep '12

Kansas City Here I Come.

You wouldn’t think at 10:40 flight would require getting up at 5:30 (after going to bed at 2am), but once you add driving to the apartment, light rail to the airport, getting there early… it all adds up.

Plenty of time at the airport for breakfast. Still didn’t get upgraded, I missed it by 1 person – which is odd because I have already been upgraded for the return flight and when I landed they were selling upgrades for the return leg to Seattle (the plane lands, dumps people, gets serviced, adds people, returns to Seattle).

Out for drinks before dinner at a speakeasy located under the Reiger Hotel Grill and Exhange restaurant. The speakeasy is called Manifesto.

I started out with the Smokin’ Choke which is applewood smoked Four Roses Bourbon, Cynar, Maple Syrup and Peychaud’s Bitters, then followed up with the KC Streetcar which is Olver Overholt Rye, Lemon, Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao, smoked bitts and Boulevard Wheat Ale. Both were outstanding, but at $11 each, a little pricey.

The plaque reads: “Al Capone Pissed Here”

At 7:30 we headed upstairs to the restaurant where I was having a devil of a time deciding between the rabbit and the goat for my main course. The goat finally won out but it was a close call, decided ultimately by our server.

After that it was home and to bed for Paul and Gail, whereas I stayed up a little later.


Comments Off on Kansas City Here I Come.

May '12

Monday, Monday.

Lots of time working on making a PDF form that you can fill out, and then click and submit. All day, three versions, none working yet. Frustrating.

This is before and after a wine tasting downtown – wines from the Loire Valley in France. Mostly whites, with a few bland reds. 77 wines later at the Palace Ballroom (a Tom Douglas venue). It didn’t hurt that there were three different “terrines” there to feast on: rabbit/pistachio, duck, and country. Great for a low-carb diet.

And with the rain today, we have today’s picture of the combination of water and blooms on the Empress Tree:

I’ve been thinking of chopping down the big one as a new smaller one is coming up two feet further from the Arbutus/Madrona by the walk, allowing it to grow away from the walk, and towards the sun. The Madrona does not transplant well, so the fact that one self-seeded itself in my front yard is a lucky break – funny that there was an old Madrona in front of the church on Lopez as well.

And, of course, the star of the photo is the out-of-control rosemary tree at the front left.

Steak and salad for dinner, what’s new.


Comments Off on Monday, Monday.