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Aug '19

Home Report: Blue Angels

Last post I showed pictures of the Blue Angels parked – now see them in the air!

This will give you an idea of the viewing platform (aka Jonathan’s balcony):

Went online and got the live feed from King County Airport which was holding all traffic while the show was going.

Made some chicken salad and cole slaw on Hawaiian buns, brought over some cocktails. A great way to enjoy the VERY RARE Sunday off when I’m actually in Seattle.


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Aug '19

Home Report: TPG (The Points Guy) Event At The Museum Of Flight

Not on the road as much this summer, so fewer posts. This one so close to home that I could have (but didn’t) walk it. The Museum of Flight is about a mile from my house.

Oddly, the parking lot was closed, as was the east entrance – and now I know why.

Yep – the parking lot was filled with Blue Angels who are performing this weekend at SeaFair.

The Points Guy event was, of course, filled with Aviation Geeks. I might have passed on it but your $100 entrance fee was a donation to the Rainbow Railroad, which provides support (and funds) to get LGBTQ folks out of countries where their love is a crime. And the event came with a swag bag:

Free wine (and beer, and soda):

And seriously delicious nibbles from McCormick and Schmick’s catering.

Mostly it was people milling about, eating, drinking…

And the presentation was only 30-45 minutes. Learned a few things. Got to brag to people about my March Around The Globe trip for only 140,000 miles in a combination of business and first.

Most of the museum was closed, though you could wander around the main gallery.

Fun way to spend a Tuesday night. Definitely came home stuffed and buzzed.


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Jul '19

Life Report: Happy 13th Anniversary

Realized that today is the 13th Anniversary of my first blog post.

Wonder what is was? I was starting a trip to China to go on a Viking River Cruise with The Colonels.

Here is the link: https://blog.unclemarkie.com/2006/07/30/seattle/

What a long strange trip it’s been – thank you for coming along.


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2 Responses to “Life Report: Happy 13th Anniversary”

  1. Debora Dye Says:

    13 years…is that all? I’m glad you do this.Pretty joyful! Thank you!

  2. UncleMarkie Says:

    Every year around the anniversary I wonder if anyone actually reads my blog. Thank you for reading all these years!

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Jul '19

Trip Report: Whistler For The Last Time This Summer

Last trip to Whistler – this time with Bliss. Nice to have someone to share the expenses and the driving.

You’ve all seen the pictures of the units I stay in, so this will be a brief post.

Stopped at Duty Free (as always), and since Kevin doesn’t drink much (somebody has to even me out), I grabbed two 1.14ltrs of Jack Daniels. Not my favorite whiskey, but they had a “two-fer” with a Jack Daniels bag (to go with my Jack Daniels hat from a couple of years ago, which is my “Miata Hat”.

It’s a surprisingly well-made bag. Thick canvas that’s lined. To bad there isn’t a pocket or two.

Got to check in a little early – which means dumping stuff and heading to Guest Services to pick up a season pass. Amazingly, they keep using the picture from five years ago for mine:

We caught almost the last lift up for the day…not even time for a cocktail, but Tuesday, we were up the mountain and onto Whistler Express to the top.

It was a GREAT weather day on Whistler…here is a view of the sky bridge:

But if you want a 360-degree tour, click on the video:

And as long as I’m doing videos, here is one going down the Blackcomb Gonola towards the village.

We rewarded ourselves for the big hick earlier with lunch in Blackcomb Village at Milestones – a favorite:

Apparently, I was hungry and ate the food before getting a picture! But they make a GREAT Gin and Tonic (garnished with fresh sage and a skewered ribbon of cucumber.

Wednesday was a little more socked in…

Probably should have worn long pants – but at least I refueled with an Old Fashioned at the Umbrella Bar:

We grabbed lunch in the Rendezvous Lodge (20% off for Season Pass holders) – I went for the Kid’s Fish and Chips – which comes with 3 “sides” (two edamame, one protein bar), Bliss went for the grilled salmon burger on a gluten-free bun. There were twice as many fries before I got the camera out:

See the water bottle on the tray – a new one. Ordered it off of Amazon and bought a sticker up on the mountain for it.

It’s a really good water bottle with two lids (complete seal and pop-top drinking). At the end of the day, there were still ice cubes tinkling around!

Lots of stuff going on in Whistler in the summer – live performances…

Sort of a bogey-wogey band – she’s a great singer, and a decent bugle player – yes, BUGLE – look in her left hand.

The last day on the mountain, Bliss went hiking. I went for more gondola rides and ended up at the Umbrella Bar for an afternoon snack of their Ensalada Caprese, and a Collins…

They really do have GREAT food.

Now that I am at the end of my Whistler trips for the summer, I’ll share the results of the ROI on my Season 360 Experience pass:

That’s the last adventure until the end of August.


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Jul '19

Trip Report: Whistler Second Visit

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

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

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

Morning finds us on the road again!

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

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

Great scenery! Even with a few clouds.

Our late lunch meant a late steak dinner…

And look what we have for breakfast the next morning!

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

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

Here is a little video of the way down….

Lunch in Blackcomb Village (Milestones):

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

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

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

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

Before heading up Whistler Mountain…in the clouds…

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

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

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

And back up the mountain:

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

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

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

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

Another trip to Whistler done.

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Jul '19

Trip Report: Return From The Big Apple

One of the downsides of the Wyndham New York Midtown is the 10am checkout. It’s a serious drag to get packed up, bags put in storage for the afternoon since my flight isn’t until 6:30.

Caught an early lunch with Russ (11:30am, when they opened) at The Grand Central Oyster Bar – close to where Russ works, and just a couple of blocks from the condo. About 11:15 a line started forming…

Nothing like a breakfast Beefeater Martini…

Followed by oysters…

Followed by Lox Eggs Benedict….

Great way to finish a trip to NYC with Russ:

Found this picture of both Russ and Ranger Sierra after the last post, so, randomly, here it is:

Back to the condo for the bags, then back to Grand Central to catch the train to JFK…

Got slightly misdirected getting to the airport, but finally found my way – though I was sweaty when I arrived, and not to the terminal I was leaving from. I wanted to see the new TWA Hotel, the 60’s JFK icon repurposed into a hotel. Downside is that the JetBlue terminal it’s attached to is a long walk from the SkyTrain.

They are still working through the last bits of the Punch List, but it’s a cool space, though underutilized, and a long haul walking (especially with luggage). They should pick up a couple of Checker Aeroporters and runs a shuttle from all the terminals. I couldn’t check my bags until four hours before my flight, so I was plenty tired by the time I hit check-in (which, thankfully, was quick). This should give you an idea why…

As I was in the short line I got a text that my plane was now delayed by at least four hours…though about going back to the TWA Hotel for a cocktail in the restored Connie, but I was done walking any further than the lounge.

Nice office, right? And great plane spotting! A BA 747 in the retro-BOAC livery.

And their usual livery…

And then all the random national airlines like Air Serbia, and Aerolineas Argentinas…

If there is a silver lining about the flight delay, it’s that I looked on-line, and they swapped aircraft. I was supposed to be on old Virgin America metal, now I’m on one of new NEO’s with the updated interior…and the new First Class seats!

And on the flight we have a boat load up high school juniors on our flight:

Not that I care, since with the new interior, there are 16 first class seats as opposed to 8 – and I got one!

And the new interior!

And it came with dinner – which is good because the lounge shut down at 10pm – and they’d pulled the soup and salad at eight.

I was surprised that they had DigiPlayers on board, thought those were being phased out. Ended up watching The Aftermath – set in WWII. Worth watching, though not a light drama.

Didn’t get to bed until 2:45am, but actually managed a couple of hours of sleep on the plane – a rarity.


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Jul '19

Trip Report: Big Apple

New York isn’t someplace that I really want to visit in July due to the heat and no cheap plane tickets.

Flew into Newark (EWR) on United, using a ton (50,000 miles) for my First Class seat. Before the airline switched to “dynamic pricing” of its award seats, it would have been half that. But I had them in the account, so why not (other than it would have gotten me one-way to Europe in Busienss). And I did get my favorite seat…

Nothing like a pre-flight cocktail when you had to get up at 4:30am. And then there was breakfast:

Actually got a couple of hours of sleep on the plane – must be exhaustion since I don’t usually sleep on planes.

And, the plane was running about 45 minutes late. Add being next to the last stop on the airport shuttle, I was almost 5pm by the time I got to the condo – but boys (Gnarlene and Scott) had already been hanging out for an hour in the lobby – pooped from walking.

Nice place The Colonels got us:

Sadly, no balcony, though there is a communal one up on 33 – we are on the 20th Floor. Decent place, decent view:

A big shout out to Scott for the FABULOUS pictures from his iPhone. Compare his to mine – mind you, it was evening when I took mine.

From the 33rd Floor common area which was PACKED with people. Lots of things lit up in the city to celebrate World Pride this weekend, which we will miss.

The first evening we had company… Ranger Sierra, who is now a Park Ranger for Grant’s Tomb.

Heavy appetizers and more whiskey than Sierra is used to. Made good use of the fold-out couch!

Everybody in the condo slept in with all the travelling, and it being Sierra’s day off. Nice to have someone make coffee!

With the UN being just a couple of blocks away, we decided to get tickets for the tour:

I had taken the tour a decade ago, but Sierra hadn’t ever, and it was on his list.

Without an oven in our kitchen (though it does have a four burner stovetop), most of our dinners in were heavy appetizers from the Amish Market just up the street:

Not the cheapest, but they have an amazing amount of stuff packed into that space.

And then Russ (another friend who lives in the city) showed up with a more substantial meal of empanadas and salad.

I met Russ during my Microsoft days – I don’t see him often enough.

We all took in the sunset up on the balcony:

Lovely evening….always nice hanging with friends you haven’t seen for years.

The next day found me at Grant’s Tomb, though Sierra tour was cancelled sadly.


On my NYC adventure I’ve been trying to just do one big thing a day – blame it on the heat, or my laziness. Final day’s “thing” is dinner with Gnarlene and Scott in Chinatown.

Our restaurant choice…Ping:

With its odd payment rules:

Usually it NO American Express because the fees are more expensive.

Just the right around of food – enough to be full, but nothing left to take home. And yes, I was drinking a beer (they don’t serve hard liquor).

And then over to Little Italy:

Back on the subway to Grand Central – thought I show you that even the Metro Cards are celebrating Pride:

A fun four nights in the city that doesn’t sleep.

Tomorrow I’ll post the return home as it is its own adventure.

[? ? ?]

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Jun '19

Trip Report: Whistler — First Trip Of The Summer

Nothing like this on a driving trip:

Had a BUNCH of 10 cent off Safeway Rewards. They only let me use 10 of them.

We left on Sunday after I got off work – fortunately Mags lives close to the shop. Was only able to grab a one-bedroom at Birch Bay – Mags was on the Murphy Bed.

Since we had a grill, we grilled, we ate, we slept.

Morning brought an early “Owner Re-education Camp” at 8:30am – which I shouldn’t do, and won’t, ever again. Here was my “breakfast”:

Got out of the meeting, packed up, and headed north over the border, to have lunch with Solus+ at Two Lions Public House….Burger and cocktail special…$8.50 doubles

And Larry’s Poutine….

We were in Whistler by 3, and our room was even ready. Dumped our shit and headed into the village to get our lift tickets.

And our lovely dinner that evening…

In the morning, up the mountain we go!

And across to Whistler Mountain…

Onto a bus…

And up further and further – on the 7th Heaven Express…

To see Glacier skiing…

And to film a birthday video for one of my vendors from my Microsoft days…

Before heading back down Blackcomb Mountain…

To have lunch in Blackcomb Village at Milestones, which used to have a great Old Fashioned, but now it’s a Peach Bellini…

Here is the list of lifts that are open this visit:

We decided to walk back to Whistler and the condo….

And hang out by the pool since the sun was out…

The next day Larry went up early, but I was rewarded with the first bear sighting (for me) of the season!

It’s early in the season, so they are still at the lower elevations. It was a pretty clear day on the mountains:

And I was rewarded with two more bears in the afternoon!

Days were spent on the mountain during the day and cooking our meals at night. The car didn’t move once for the four nights we were there.

The final day, saw the final bear of the trip (other than me):

This was trip number of either three or four…last one in August is up in the air as it isn’t in Whistler, but Creekside and the lifts are running for sightseeing this year

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Jun '19

Trip Report: Portland For A Food Show

Got back on the train headed to Portland (from my overnight stop in Centralia) at this wonderful 1912 station:

This time I’m travelling in coach, but it was in the transition car with Bistro at the other end, so the seating layout was the same as Business, just no coupon for $3.00 or newspapers. It’s only an hour and a half, so no bit deal considering I get 20% off Bistro items when I use my Amtrak Mastercard. No photo – sorry.

Hello Portland!

And hello to the new WorldMark Portland Waterfront after a short Uber ride:

And some of their common areas:

And our room!

Dinner tonight is a LeChon – specializing in South American dishes. We started with Martinis (how South American!), and then ordered several small plates: pork belly with leek griddle cake, asparagus, and our favorite, the grilled octopus:

The main reason for the trip was a food show by one of my suppliers – two floors of food, snacks and WAY too much cheese. Again, no photos – it was sensory overload of samples to eat, samples to take home and I could only take it for an hour. Had to go back to the condo (via the liquor store) and take a nap. The fact that we were running around the city in 90-degree heat didn’t help.

Evening found us entertaining a mutual old friend for a couple of cocktails and conversation before heading out to Portland Burger for some take-out. It was a good decision since the place was also a music venue and loud as crap.

Had to check out by noon – and our train wasn’t until 3:30, so off to Jakes Crawfish for a decadent lunch courtesy of a $50 certificate (but the bill was another $50 on top of that). Jakes is one of my treats – Martinis, oysters, and salads.

Off to the train station – an access to the lounge for both of us (courtesy of me being in Business Class) was a nice end to our visit. Rache is getting off in Kelso.

I’ll close with some scenery shots from the train home:

I do love a good train trip.


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Jun '19

Trip Report: Train To Centralia

After being home for weeks, I’m finally back on the road – well, the rails. Headed to Portland for a food show, but Centralia is the first stop.

King Street Station in Seattle is as lovely as always:

And there was a cool “company car” parked on a siding…

It belongs to the Department of Transportation’s Federal Railway Administration. Here are the details on the car labeled DOTX 221:

Rail Car DOTX 221 which is part of Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) Automated Track Inspection Program (ATIP). This car, built in 1954 has a long history It is the former CNRR to VIA “CAPE BULE”. Sold into private ownership for many years then to FRA.  Built as a 4 double-bedroom, buffet, lounge.  No rear facing windows. The car has been retrofitted to do autonomous survey work. No longer requires crews on it. 

Got upgraded to Business by using a coupon, so I had a little more room:

And, at least until the end of the year, it followed the sound through Tacoma.

I’d booked a room at McMennimans Olympic Hotel, which has a long history and is as old as the current Centralia train station:

With a beautiful check in area…

But the entrance is next door and up a bunch of stairs:

All the rooms share baths – fortunately they are plentiful.

There is also an on-site restaurant with some of the nicest urinals I’ve seen:

Along with a nice interior…

I started with a flight of McMenamins reds:

It was happy hour so I ordered a couple of things (which I couldn’t finish). The Pulled Pork Sliders (a little dry) and the Cajun Tots (WAY too many):

Followed by a whiskey drink:

And then an early bedroom. No TV (or phone) in the room, but Wi-Fi.

Breakfast the next morning found me there again for the half order of Eggs Benedict:

I’ll pick up the tail tomorrow as my trip continues to Portland.

[? ? ?]

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Jun '19

Trip Planning: Around The World In Twelve Days

It feels a little “odd” to have NOT been travelling for the last month plus. It made my business partner happy as I picked up a much of Friday shifts, allowing him to putter around his garden and do house projects.

That hasn’t stopped me from planning future trips. Summers I generally travel less because there are no “deals” as all the families are travelling because school is out. What it DOES mean is that people aren’t thinking about early November (typically a slow travel time), and February to April.

I looked at going to Frankfurt in early November. It would have enhanced my 2019 travel map by adding Europe. Here is the current planned 2019 travel:

And if I added Frankfurt, it would look like this:

I booked the flights using miles (110,000) for business class, booked the hotel using points (45,000). It would have meant I had three nights in Frankfort. Then I went to bed.

Amazing what sleeping on something will do for you. I woke up with the major thought, “But, I really don’t like Frankfurt, and I’d use up all three days getting someplace else within Europe by rail.”

A week or two went by before I started to explore another trip. This time I decided to do something on my bucket list rather than just something that I could book in Business Class. Hence, the World Tour 2020 was born. It started with trying to book this trip spending a handful of nights in Seoul and a handful of nights in Taipei – neither places I’ve explored (been through Seoul several times, but not beyond the airport):

Alaska let me book the long layover flight, but I couldn’t get it to actually ticket for 120,000 miles roundtrip plus fees. Picked up the phone (which I dislike doing) and called the Partner Desk at Alaska. She tried the itinerary and couldn’t get it to ticket. It kept coming back as 120,000 miles EACH WAY. Alaska Airlines allows stopovers on Award Tickets as long as its in the Partner Airlines hub. I chalked it up as, “try again later.”

While I was on the Alaska website, poked around and found this:

“Korean Air: We are aware of an issue with Korean Air award booking failures affecting both alaskaair.com and our call centers. We are working with Korean Air to investigate and resolve this issue. If your travel plans are flexible, please try again using different dates or partner airlines.”

Turns out they are having problems with Icelandair and have pulled ALL flights from inventory:

“Icelandair: We have temporarily removed the ability to shop for Icelandair award travel due to a high rate of booking failure. We are working with Icelandair to resolve this issue.”

Sad about Icelandair as I’ve flown them before, though their Business Class is more akin to domestic First Class (slightly reclining seats as opposed to lay-flat).

So, if I just tried to book “The World Tour” for March 2020. It comprises two one-way award bookings using two different airlines, both of which allow for stopovers. The first one-way is Seattle to Tokyo (where I’ll be spending four nights), continuing on to New Delhi (three nights). I haven’t been to India since my first international trip in 1976 (yes, I was a mere pup of 20). Japan Airlines Sky Suite (Business) in 787-8’s for each leg.

The return starts in Delhi with a flight to London (three nights) before going onto Seattle. Club World (Business) for the DEL-LHR leg, then First Class for the LHR-SEA leg. I haven’t been in BA’s First for about a decade. Wasn’t impressed the last time – seemed they were hoping everyone would go to sleep so they could sit around and read magazines. The reviews are better these days. Time will tell.

Here is what that map would look like:

Definitely a “bucket list” kinda trip, though the map display looks odd from the top.

Even if I added US flights to it, including HNL, it still looks weird:

But if I add South America, I get a better map:

Sean (who I’m visiting in Saigon in October) wants me to meet up with him in South America next summer when he is on summer break from the school where he teaches. It would make the map easier to comprehend.

All the domestic flying I do, I do to accrue large chunks of miles to use for long international flights in the pointy end of the plane. The cost for this “bucket list” adventure?

140,000 miles plus fees. The JAL fees are really cheap ($51.20). The fees for British are egregious (S806.83). A couple of hundred of the BA fees are because Heathrow charges HUGE fees for Business/First departures. Still, less than $900 in taxes/fees for an “Around the World” ticket isn’t bad. It also means that I’m getting a GREAT value for my miles. Alaska miles are valued by The Points Guy at 1.8 cents each. Depending on how you assign costs to the ticket, I’m getting somewhere between 5.93 cents per mile to 17.78 cents per mile (if you figured them as four one-way flights). Here is the math:

The most amusing number in the spreadsheet is the cost of a First Class ticket on British Airways from Heathrow (London) to Seattle. $13, 586.92. That’s A LOT of money. The number for the combined one-way is a guess as the BA site wouldn’t let me do a multi-city itinerary split between Business and First. But as you can see by the numbers for JAL and BA that the segment price to/from the hub is way more expensive than continuing on through the hub.

Oh, and the bucket list item was “Around The World In At Least Business And Only Take One Weekend Off Work.

This is my last full-week home for a couple of weeks, I head out Monday for Centralia to stay at a McMenamen’s hotel, then down to Portland to check out the new WorldMark Portland. Following week up in Whistler, followed by four nights in NYC at the Wyndham Grand New York.


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May '19

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

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

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

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

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

Here is a shot of the Surfliner leaving Anaheim:

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

And the rooftop deck with hot tubs…

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

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

Random photo from “the mall”:

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

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

And even a laundry room…

Yes, it is slightly larger than my small house.

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

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

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

Salad and chicken tonight:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Apparently, having company scares off fireworks.

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

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

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

And a little hot snack on the plane…

The end comes to my longest domestic trip in years.

[? ? ?]

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May '19

Trip Report: Wedding Ramble, Part Two – The Wedding

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

And they are still serving breakfast!

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

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

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

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

Which has a VERY NICE lobby area:

And my suite wasn’t too bad either:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then down to the clubhouse for the reception…

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

And the first dance….

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

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

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

Tomorrow, the adventure continues!

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Apr '19

Trip Report: Wedding Ramble, Part One – Headed To Berkeley

It’s rare that I take a weekend off that I’m not out of the country. By mutual agreement with my business partner, I limit my weekends off during the year to three, maybe four. This is the very rare domestic trip, and since I have to take the weekend off for the wedding (more on that later), I might as well fill in the days before and after with adventure.

The adventure started over the weekend before my departure with a massive sinus headache and low-grade nausea. A fun way to spend a weekend at work. Fortunately, my Monday travel was by train, in a roomette, where I could hole up…with most of the massive amount of stuff I was lugging, stored below:

And set up my life for the next 24 hours:

And have the car attendant bring me food, in case what I have is contagious:

Got on the train. Napped. Looked at the view of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. This route will be rerouted soon – once positive train control is implemented and tested on the bypass. They ran the route for one partial run before the train derailed, killing several people (click here for details):

Had him bring me lunch. Napped. Stretched my legs in Eugene:

Napped. Had him bring me dinner, the surf and turf with mashed potatoes (option of baked or rice) that would have been $39 if it weren’t included in my train fare:

While looking at the snow in the mountains:

Stepped out in Klamath Falls for some air:

And then when to bed still not feeling well…until it was time to order breakfast at 6:30am…

I had them hold the potatoes, forgot to have them hold the croissant. Think that would have been $12.50 if I were paying.

Saint Lunetta was at the Emeryville Amtrak Station to drag my sorry ass to his place – where I went to bed. For hours. I was definitely a “quiet” guest.

By Wednesday I had started to recover, and actually take some food pictures of the amazing food coming out of their kitchen. The first night was meatballs over gnocchi which I ate half and covered the remaining for my brunch the next day.

Next up was shrimp in a cream sauce over lobster ravioli, with asparagus with hollandaise…I am truly spoiled.

Starting to look better!

And the final meal was a beef stew over fettuccine with roasted brussels sprouts:

Man, these guys treat me great – including service back to the train station on Friday morning (equally as early as my arrival – 8:30am). Including seeing me off.

The story will continue as I go south…stay tuned.

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Apr '19

Trip Report: Chicago – Presidential Reserve Style

Bless The Colonels for their bounty. It will take years for me to pay them back for the wonderful places they are providing this year. Latest example is a One-Bedroom Presidential Reserve unit in the Wyndham Grand Chicago Riverfront.

Got a flight into town during the day – a nice change, AND an upgrade to First, rare on mid-day long-haul flights. I hit the ground running with my transit card in hand from previous visits…

Sadly, my balance was -$2.50, which I’m surprised they didn’t make me recharge on the last trip! Reloaded with $20 so I’m good for another trip or two. I have cards for Seattle, Japan, Santiago, all with Magic Marker telling me which city. I really wish cities would adopt a unified system like Japan does. Maybe next year.

Fifteen-minute walk from the “El” stop. And the room is ready. The place is massive – a hair larger than my HOUSE::

And the place is heavy on esthetics, light on the practicality:

Yes, I DID turn on the water flow that comes from the ceiling (and splashes). The bath is in addition to the shower (which holds four people, at least):

The shower has a “rainforest” head, the three body side scrubbers, and a wand. It felt like I was in a car wash.

And the view wasn’t bad:

At least I wasn’t at the front of the resort, and looking at THIS:

In the materials, they’d said, “kitchenette”, which in this case means a full-size refrigerator, a full-size dishwasher, a full-size microwave, and no burners (or oven). Fortunately, there is a restaurant on the first floor, and menus for takeout in every room. Hoyt’s is the name. I got the Marble-Rye Rueben and fries.

Notice the picture of ice – I have a full-size fancy-ass three-door refrigerator, with an icemaker that doesn’t work. After numerous calls over two days, I have a guy in my apartment past eleven working on it…

To find that he has the wrong replacement part. At least he showed up with two big pitchers of ice. It never did get fixed during my 4-day visit.

I spent my days wandering the neighborhood in search of nothing other than appetizer stuff for Cynthia on Tuesday night, more on that later:

Yes, that is an Amazon Go storefront.

Tuesday lunch was along the walk, at Sweetwater, in the base of some big-ass office building. Oddly, don’t seem to have an exterior shot:

Tuesday night, my sort-of-sister, Cynthia, came to check out the place.

I put on a bit of a spread, there was plenty of wine, Uber time:

Cynthia thoughtfully brought flowers (used the blender top as a vase), chocolate, and an M&M guy to go with the wine (juice container).

A nice way to catch up – we have plans in place for Friday during the day as well.

Tried to hit Buddy Guy’s Legend on Wednesday for lunch – only to find them closed for a special event. Went with my Chicago “must-do” restaurant – Berghoffs. Been there forever:

It was a light meal compared to the dinner I had the next night at Buddy Guy’s Legends for the acoustic dinner set:

Catfish Fingers and Fries –said five fingers, got seven. Not bad for a happy hour price of $8 – as cheap as the drinks.

I paid for that dinner with an unconfutable sleep. Good, but that’s a lot of fried food.

My final day in Chicago, with a ridiculous checkout time of 10am, and a flight not until early evening. Cynthia (bless her heart) drove into town and picked me up for a Frank Lloyd Wright tour of Oak Park, followed by lunch. There are just a FEW FLW houses in the burbs of Chicago:

And we did see a few!

Last stop was the gift shop at the FLW Foundation where I spotted this beauty for a Lego buddy:

Before going to Hemmingway’s Bistro which is a French-style restaurant on Oak Park Avenue. Ernest Hemmingway used to live in the neighborhood. We passed his house.

GREAT choice of places to eat at:

We each got an appetizer and a salad – consensus was, “delicious, but too much food”. Gnocchi with a salmon cream sauce, goat cheese salad for Cynthia, the creamed carrot bisque and Frisée Lyonnaise for me.

Nice way to wrap up a tour.

Swung by Cynthia and Lawrence’s temporary digs on the first floor of their son’s house – Lawrence arrived back in town the night before at 3am reeling of a massive cold. I did not do the honor of photographing him at his worst.

Got dropped off at the Metra station for the short hop back to the airport. A wish choice since it was a Friday afternoon and the freeways were clogged.

Headed to the lounge, and though not particularly hungry (and got upgraded so there will be food on the way home), still had to have a little fresh-made guacamole:

Another trip under the belt. Going home to work the weekend.

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Apr '19

Trip Report: San Diego For A Little Sun

Another adventure starting out at Paine Field – Seattle’s newest airport. This time Seth gave me a ride to the airport since he lives 10 minutes away. And gave me a place to park my car for a couple of days.

Snagged the fare for $131 roundtrip – and since it was double miles, plus my 125% elite bonus – a lot of mile:


Flight 2677 SAN PAE






Flight 2678 PAE SAN





Sadly, Bonus Miles don’t count towards qualifying for MVP 75K next year – I still have another 24,903 flight miles to log this year.

Had a Manhattan before the flight because, by airport standards, they are cheap:

Grounded 737Max Airplanes that were parked nose-to-tail, are now staggered (and more have pile up down by my house as well):

Manage to get upgraded both coming and going to San Diego.

Smooth flight down south, and a quick Uber to The Inn At The Park, one of the WorldMark places I haven’t stayed previously – and it’s nice, and this is a studio accessible unit:

The shades behind the headboards are electric. For privacy they are screened city scenes, when you want full light, you hit the switch. Cleaver way to make use of windows you need to cover:

The late morning found me in search of food within walking distance. The first thing I found was a gay bar which has a reputation for inexpensive, strong drinks…

But just next door was Hash House A Go Go:

And yes, I did order a drink (probably would have been cheaper next door) called The Drunk Clam which is basically a Caesar (which is a Bloody Mary made with Clamato) that is half clam juice:

For my brunch, I ordered their “Original Benedict”, which I was warned was nothing like a “classic” eggs benedict.

That’s griddled mashed potatoes over a split biscuit with two poached eggs, thick bacon, and a red pepper cream sauce. And yes, that plate is a 14″ wide oval. It was a ton of food. I took half of it home for dinner!

Today’s big journey to visit Balboa Park, originally built for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition as temporary structures, but then they have saved over the generations. The place is HUGE, and includes the San Diego Zoo. The BLUE X is where I’m staying. Compare the size of Balboa Park (right side of the map) to the San Diego International Airport (left side of the map).

I didn’t even scratch to surface but wandered around taking photographs of interesting stuff. Basically I dipped my toe in far enough to know that I need to come back and spend some real time here:

Got back to the condo in time for a “wine” and cheese tasting. I say “wine”, because the “wine” was Carlo Rossi jug wine (that had been opened god knows how many days/weeks ago):

That said, the cheese was excellent!

It baffles me that they spent a fortune on cheese (that would end up with the employees after the meet and greet). The view from the roof lounge area was great though:

Before you knew it, it was back to the airport for my flight home…with a stop in the lounge first:

Ubered back to Seths for dinner and to crash on the couch since I didn’t get in until about 6PM, and had a few cocktails, so no driving.

Fun trip, need to go back.

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Apr '19

Trip Report: Trying Out Seattle’s New Airport

Seattle has a new airport! Not terribly close to me, an hour north of downtown, but had to check it out (and they are offering double miles through the end of April, which with my elite bonus, it’s 325%).

It was a quick trip to Portland for a cup of soup in the Lounge, and then back on the plane.

I parked in the lot next to a retired 727 that FedEx donated to Everett Community College for their Aviation:

Paine Field Everett is a built from scratch new passenger terminal with a whopping two gates:

And there is one place open so far, and it’s run by Beecher’s Cheese, so the food is good, and shocking, the drink prices are reasonable – my Manhattan was $10 plus tax, and the bar Bourbon is Evan Williams:

The new airport is a treasure for plane spotters since it shares a field with the Boeing plant that produces the 767, 777, 787 airplanes. These are a couple of former Virgin America A-320neos – hopefully getting the new First Class seats:

These are a line of 737max’s that are grounded that they flew up from the Renton plant to store…just like they are storing more at Boeing Field, though there are also three Air Force refueling tankers parked out there as well – saw about 10 of them scattered around the field:

On the ground they offered us a little sparkling wine (out of a can, I kid you not):

And some great views after we took off:

The return flight had mimosas on the ground…

Unlike the way south when there was lots of turbulence, the Flight Attendant took drink orders while on the ground, and we actually got a quick cocktail (and a snack) once we were in the air!

And later that afternoon, I way back in Everett…

An odd way to spend a day, but the flight was also priced cheap since they just started flights a couple of weeks ago, with United Airlines just starting flights this week.

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Mar '19

Trip Report: SLO Wine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just driving around the valley is a joy…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is a map of the winery area…

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


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Mar '19

Trip Report: SLO (San Luis Obispo) Fun

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

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

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

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

Great airport though…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nice place they live in…

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

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

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

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

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

And a clam shell his and his sink…


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

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

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

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

And pretty views:

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


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Mar '19

Home Report: 737max Storage

Two blocks from my house is the Duwamish River (with kayak launch for those that do those sorts of things in the park, and a boat launch for bigger things), and this is now the view across the river:

If you go up the bridge – this is the view:

From the middle of the bridge:

And the far observation area:

So far, this is what I’m seeing out there:

  • Three Turkish Airlines
  • One 9 Air (Chinese low-cost carrier)
  • Two China United Airlines
  • Three Jet Ay (Indian low-cost carrier)

How do they get these jets next to the river?

You put in a jet crossing traffic light. On one side, there is Boeing Filed (aka King County Municipal Airport), then East Marginal Way (which is two lanes in each direction, turn lanes and bicycle lanes), then the parking lot, then the river.

The current production rate for the 737max is a whopping 52 per month just south of Seattle in Renton. Just like when the 787’s were grounded for battery problems, jets start backing up (though the production of the 787 is only 12 a month). So, every day, there is another 1.75 jets rolling off the line, and you got to put them someplace, and Renton has already filled up as there isn’t much room:

Where as Boing Field has a little more:

The little orange circle is my house! Directly east of that is the arking lot filling up with 737’s.

And there is always the Everett Plant north of Seattle:

And looking south up the Duwamish – and if it were a clear day you’d see Mount Rainier looming over the region.

Thought you’d like that last shot to see one of the reasons I live in this neighborhood.

Wasn’t planning this post – and it pushed one down the list – but people were asking questions about the FaceBook photo I posted so I decided to grab more photos and data.


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One Response to “Home Report: 737max Storage”

  1. Conan Hall Says:

    Nice post, thanx Mark.

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