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Mon
16
Mar '20

Trip Report: Japanese Vending Machines

One of the wonderful things about Japan is their Vending Machine Culture. Years ago, in Tokyo in the red-light district, I saw pornography in a street side vending machine. Nothing as tawdry this trip. Just everything from cigarettes, to beer, coffee, high balls….

Cigarettes —

Hot dogs and French fries —

Sodas, water, tea —

Just coffee – some of the machines dispense it hot or cold depending on the season

Beer —

And my all-time favorite – in the lounge at the Nagoya Airport…the Highball/Beer dispenser:

So, that’s my silly tour of Japanese Vending Machine culture.

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Sun
15
Mar '20

Trip Report: Osaka

So, took a late afternoon Shinkansen from Hiroshima to Osaka. If you were trying to save money, you could shave $25 off if you were willing to transfer three times and have it take 6 hours rather than 2. We took the semi-fast train (more stops, but direct).

Unlike last night’s hotel, which was near the central station, tonight we are in the Dōtonbori neighborhood because it has better nightlife (according to Julian). We stayed in this neighborhood several years ago in a Capsule Hotel (see post) back in March of 2018 – wow, almost exactly two years ago!

Oddly enough, the entrance to the hotel was to the right (the bar was to the left). It had an oddly, unfinished, feel to it. And I found it even stranger that they handed you the TV remotes when you checked in.

While there ARE two beds – it’s TIGHT. This should really be a one bed room. Julian cut a deal with the front desk for a separate room for himself, as video didn’t work in mine (or his first one – they moved him again).

We’d had a late lunch, so I just had some convenience store food (which is really fresh and cheap). Julian went out for a bit. I was spent from all the walking.

The morning found us up and out early – Julian has an appointment at the US Embassy at 11:45 to get some notarized documents for his upcoming wedding (celebration in November so I’ll be back).

You can see the police bus in front of the embassy – didn’t want to get too close to photograph least they lock me up.

Looks like those people are headed to the embassy! Julian showed up 45 minutes early, got in 30 minutes early, was out before the original appointment time.

Here are some random shots of Osaka.

As a side note – there are 7-11 EVERYWHERE in Japan, and they are more than just a convenience store, you pay bills, pick up packages, etc. They also run a bank.

Time for lunch in the bowels of the Osaka Central Station – there are dozens of restaurants. Fast food near the gates, food mall on the lower level, then sit-down restaurant in the basement.

The food here doesn’t suck – whether it’s food out, or dining in with Julian cooking:

My trip to Japan is ending…longer than I expected, and somehow, not long enough.

I’m already looking forward to my return in November for the wedding.

Headed home tomorrow.

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Sun
15
Mar '20

Trip Report: Hiroshima

With my unexpected extra time in Japan, Julian and I decided to head several hours south to Hiroshima, yes, that Hiroshima. Back on the train go we.

And yes, there are little smoking rooms on the train:

At the train station in Hiroshima, besides displaying cars…

They also had a seating chart of the station bathroom:

And the stations are kind of gorgeous:

Got into Hiroshima in the evening as Julian had to work a little during the day – found us this place with its high-tech check-in system.

Features a free self-trouser press, and most importantly, an “Ice engine” – interesting translation:

If you were wondering what the top item is, VOD is Video On Demand, ART is…

But the room is nice.

It was dumping out – but fortunately out the back door of the hotel was this GREAT restaurant serving Hiroshima specialties (photo is of their front entrance, not the back entrance we came through):

Lively place:

Fortunately with picture menus! One for Julian…

One for me…

And the food was great!

 

 

After dinner it was time to check out their “onsen” (Public Bath).

The tattoo rule is pretty standard in Japan as usually only the Yakuza have them. The baths were great. Julian was impressed with the place I’d picked – and it beat walking around in a downpour outside.

The morning found us sightseeing as best we could do with all the closed museums. The manhole covers almost made up for the closures:

 

Next up was lunch at this cold soba noodle place – that had a line to get in when they opened at 11:30:

Not a big place…

And the neighborhood:

Next on the agenda is The Peace Park – ground zero for the first atomic bomb used on people. The bombed out dome down river is the far end of the park, which covers the entire area flattened by the bomb.

The museum, closed due to the virus outbreak:

This gives you another view of the scale of the park. Keep in mind that this is in the middle of a huge city.

Various memorials as well:

 

And finally, the bombed out dome across the river:

And some close ups:

Time to head back to the station since the Public Gardens we wanted to go to were also closed, but first a stop for another Hiroshima specialty – OYSTERS!

We ordered the set since the individual oysters were extremely expensive:

Came with an appetizer plate:

Three oysters prepared different ways:

Followed by a pasta course.

A couple of high balls later we were ready to head to the train station for our overnight in Osaka:

The Japanese are VERY thorough in explaining things about their public toilets – like where to que up depending on what you are doing:

Back on the train!

I just want to add this screenshot that sums up my day:

That’s it for Hiroshima.

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Fri
13
Mar '20

Trip Report: Couple Of Days In Nagoya

Change is in the wind. Next stop was supposed to be a hotel near Tokyo Disneyland Sea – until they closed the park, then shortly after, India cancelled eVisas for Japanese citizens. Delhi was the destination after Disney. Change is in the wind, roll with it.

My answer? Cancel the Delhi-London section of the trip, get the miles back, cancel the hotels, get the points back. Rebook to fly home from Japan for less points, less money, in a suddenly available Japan Air Lines First Class Suite. Lemons into a cocktail.

Fortunately, Julian is transitioning between two jobs, and has more free time – so in that sense, the timing is GREAT. And I do love hanging out with him and his friends. And there is great inexpensive food in Nagoya…if you are willing to cook it yourself.

Julian lives on the 13th floor of this building:

Tonight, dinner is with Julian and Yosuke, who I’d met on all my previous trips to Nagoya.

Yosuke got “special rice” which comes with its own heater and timer for when it is done.

And we eat well even at home.

And there are home projects to do, like refinishing his kitchen counter…

And hanging a new ceiling fixture – honest, I love this stuff, just like home:

Isn’t that a nice view out his window – mountains in the distance.

Lunch the next day was at a conveyor sushi place near his place:

So, you can grab stuff off the belt…

Or order from the tablet…

We were cheap, we were only ordering the 100 YEN plates (that’s two pieces for USD $.093 – CHEAP) and highballs were only 350 YEN (USD $3.25). In the end, they come and scan the number of plates (and their color)…

And give you a laminated barcode to take to the counter:

Which you scan at the machine and stick in cash or your credit card:

Love this place!

So, Julian is a GREAT cook – and can-do amazing things with standard Japanese appliances…like baking sourdough bread in a fish broiler:

And our dinner with rice…

Like I said, he’s a great cook, even breakfast (with the sourdough toast) is aesthetically pleasing.

Gotta clean out the fridge before we head south for a couple of days…

I’m hugging it because it is a wedding present from Yurika’s grandparents – it has a built-in icemaker. Common in the US, rare in Japan.

Well, that’s it for this chunk of the adventure – it continues tomorrow as we head south.

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2 Responses to “Trip Report: Couple Of Days In Nagoya”

  1. Mary Willis Says:

    Love the conveyor belt dining. Great price and so convenient. You are living in the most interesting way. Will you travel while the corona virus pandemic is happening?

  2. UncleMarkie Says:

    If there are flights running. At this point would only be domestic. I’m not in a high-risk group other than age.

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Wed
11
Mar '20

Trip Report: Gero, Japan – A Mountain Hot Springs Town

Having had a good night’s sleep in Nagoya – thanks to Julian buying a new guest mattress – in the morning we are off to Gero, which is a town several hours away, up in the mountains. WikiPedia link here.

We took the slow (i.e. cheap) train, which took a couple of transfers – but we still look happy:

I still had the English-language papers from yesterday’s flights to read on the way up.

Julian had booked us into the Yukai Resort Gero Saichoraku Bekkan which came with buffet dinner and buffet breakfast…

It’s a bit of a rabbit warren of a place built up a hillside:

And they provide robes (yakata):

I have to add the photo of the door to our unit – using Julian as a yard stick:

We went on a little walkabout, but it was a TAD rainy:

Snack shopping to tide us over:

Since we are in a hot springs town, we explore the onsen (bath) on the roof of one of the building that makes up the warren of this hotel.

Yes, this was outdoors, on the roof, in the rain, and we had it to ourselves – water was hot, hot, hot, to cooler.

And the dinner where they butchered a tuna (with no sushi grace) at the beginning of dinner…

And if that wasn’t enough, you could get a vending machine cheeseburger and fries..

The next day we had breakfast in the buffet room (sorry, no pictures) and glanced out to sunshine in the valley…and by the time we checked out and headed to the train station, it was snowing. I kid you not:

Snow never shows up in photos…but it turned out to be a nice walk to the train station (we took the shuttle up the hill on arrival):

And things for sale in the train station:

The town mascot is the frog…

We opted for the Express Train back to Nagoya – one direct train rather than two transfers which turned out to be a good idea, even in the unassigned cars – look at the view!

And here is a little video of the train in motion…

Got home in about half the time (and less stress), and soon, I was reunited with Julian’s new refrigerator (from my previous visit), that includes a rarity in Japan – an ice maker!

It was a great overnight trip. More tomorrow.

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Tue
10
Mar '20

Trip Report: Seattle to Nagoya

The beginning of a 12-day adventure! All packed and ready to go.

First, a stop at Duty Free – yes, the limit is THREE bottles going into Japan:

Flight is on time…

Riding in style – Japan Airlines Business Class to Tokyo’s Narita Airport with a stop in the lounge first…

The plane is here…

And so is my compartment!

Once in the air, the food starts coming…

I got the Western-style meal with the swordfish; the other choice was beef tenderloin (which also looked good).

Nice view through the tinted windows…

And yes, the Business Class bathroom has a bidet seat:

During the flight there was a menu of dishes you could order if you were still a little hungry:

Udon noodles above, ham and cheese sandwich below…

And the miso black cod was stunning…

I just had carry on with me (that I had to unzip the gusset since there were now three bottles of booze), so was through customs and immigration quickly, then get some cash, then downstairs to grab the Narita Express into Tokyo proper:

Transferred at Shinagawa to the Shinkansen to Nagoya:

And a quick clip of it pulling into the station:

Timewise, 90 minutes to get from the airport to Tokyo, another 90 minutes on the Shinkansen to get to Nagoya – where Julian met me at the station:

Yes, he met me with a highball in a can! No taboos on public drinking in Japan.

Still had my subway card from the last visit so we headed back to his place to grab some dinner in the neighborhood…sadly, forgot to grab a shot of that.

Feels good to be back in Japan. Coming back in November for his wedding, as well. That’s it for today.

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Sat
29
Feb '20

Trip Report: February Mileage Runs

With being knocked out of the travel game for a month, I might finally be on the positive end of flying things I’ve booked. What I cancelled was:

  • Tucson
  • Boston
  • Bogota
  • Rescheduled Boston trip
  • Raleigh

Didn’t get in the air this year until February 5th with a mileage run to Raleigh. Puts me down by about 20,000 flight miles from where I usually am this time of year.

Did manage to get these mileage runs done in February:

  • Raleigh
  • Columbus
  • Pittsburgh
  • Raleigh (with Rache)
  • Raleigh
  • Raleigh

My map for this year was supposed to look like THIS:

Got upgraded to First from Premium on all but two of the Raleigh return flights.

The downside of mileage run after mileage run, even in first class, is that you get tired of the same menu. Going out it was the cheese omelet with one little sausage link:

Or the pulled pork with black beans and scrambled eggs in a boil:

The dinner menu was either the pasta with Bolognese sauce:

Picture To Come If I get upgraded again!
Considering I’d had it a couple of times, no picture is odd.

Or the chicken breast:

First world problems – are they the worst.

But there was pretty scenery to fly back and forth over…

Well, that’s my flying for February. Time to sign off and start packing for my “Around The World In Twelve Days” trip.

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Wed
5
Feb '20

Trip Report: Return To Victoria

The year of cancelled/reworked/cancelled travel continues. Boston off, Boston rebooked, Boston off, hello Victoria! Had the weekend scheduled off, hated to waste it.

DancingBear and I returned to Victoria – this time for five nights!

Lower floor unit, but much better views:

A little more room inside on this unit – much less outside:

And as usual, massive amounts of excellent food came out of DancingBear’s kitchen:

And we even managed to leave the condo for something other than groceries – like John Lennon’s Rolls Royce on display in the Museum lobby (meaning FREE).

And drinks at the Q Lobby

Bar at the Empress…

Not inexpensive, but VERY calming.

Another day we were off to a Brewery and Whiskey Tour at Macaloney’s Caledonian.

And I’ll close the post with a couple of “profile” shots we took of each other…

That’s all folks!

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  1. Mick Westrick Says:

    Another great trip. We’ll have to get together soon and drink some Scotch-style whiskey!

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Wed
15
Jan '20

Trip Report: Victoria

Turns out had been almost exactly three years since my last trip to Victoria – and my favorite desk person was still on staff, now as the supervisor! She thought the last time had been for my birthday. I looked it up, that was three visits ago, but there had been three visits in a 4-month period, so understandable.

Travelling with Dancing Bear for this trip. And he is driving! And he’s fast. We had enough time for lunch at Milestones Tsawwassen Mills before we got on the ferry:

In addition to my Manhattan, I had the fish tacos with half/half side of salad/fries:

DancingBear had the Chicken Caprese Sandwich:

We had a reservation for the ferry, so we were one of the early cars onboard:

We were warm and cozy upstairs…

And with great views!

Yep, it’s a bit grey and foggy – welcome to winter in the Pacific Northwest.

Stopped for groceries on the way to the condo, where Nicola greeted us – I brought some candies for her.

Got settled into our penthouse – here are some random shots:

No pictures of the hot tub (which we used) and the BBQ (which we didn’t use). Dancing Bear did bring his sous vide:

We eat well on the road…Monday night’s dinner – fried chicken:

Lunch the next day was at the Blue Heron – a tad louder (atmosphere-wise) than I remember, but the food and drink was good…

Chicken Club for Dancing Bear:

And Crab Cakes and Salad for me

Running late to get back to the condo to greet Solus – but we left a key at the desk. He came over to pick up a cast iron pan from me and spend the night for dinner and a hot tub. Big garden salad…

And Mushroom Serrano Ham Risotto:

For lunch before his 1pm pick up for a 3pm ferry we were off across the park to Finest At Sea, a wholesale/retail fish monger that also has a food trailer in front.

We all had the Halibut & Chips, though next time might try the Tacos and Chowder.

Even breakfast at the condo is elegant! Potato cakes, sausage, and an over easy egg (and Caesar).

DancingBear discovered a new destination on Vancouver Island – the factory outlet store for Roger’s Chocolate, Victoria’s oldest manufacturer. His mother wanted chocolates, and he’s a fine son – the fact they were 50% off because they didn’t come in the fancy box just made them tastier:

And another fine meal in the evening… a bone-in pork chop roast…

Leftover risotto and veg, same scratch-made gravy – YUM!

But by Friday morning it was time to return home on the 1PM ferry…until it was cancelled due to high winds on the Straight.

We finally got the 4pm boat – and sprang for the quiet lounge with free coffee and snacks.

It was a long drive home in the rain. Originally expected to be home around 5pm – it was more like 9PM.

But, all-in-all, a great trip.

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Sun
29
Dec '19

Work Report: Delayed Opening At The Shop Today

Got to the shop today, only to find that I couldn’t get to the shop. The street was closed in both directions for a “police action”.

When they moved us back, I decided to grab an Irish Coffee at the Madrona Arms and watch the action from inside.

The suspecteventually came out, and was taken away strapped to a gurney for cuts on his arm (he broke out two windows)

An hour and a half late opening…the guy they took away has had police visit every week or so for Domestic Violence charges for the last six months. Drug abuse and mental health issues. Apparently, this whole thing started at 6am. At the end there were snipers on the roof of the new condos from the south of us.

Interesting start for the day!

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Tue
24
Dec '19

Trip Report: Trying A New Airplane Model

Had some extra Delta SkyPesos and wanted to check out the new Airbus A220-100 (formerly the Bombardier C-Series 100). And I had a spare Tuesday in December.

I booked First Class on the way down and Premium for the return.

The A220-100 is smaller than a Boeing 737, with a seating layout of 2-2 in the First-Class section, and 2-3 in Premium and Economy.

I’d forgotten the joys of a pre-departure cocktail…

Once we were up in the air, bring on more drinks, and a decent muffuletta.

The A220 has some interesting interior features – like lavatories you can spread your legs in, like this one in First-Class:

And, in a weird twist, the economy lavatory even has a window in it!

Want to know if Wi-Fi is active? There’s a light for that (and the Wi-Fi worked gate to gate).

Or sitting in the bulkhead in premium where you don’t have a seat-back monitor, there is a tiny one mounted in the ceiling so you can watch the safety video.

In San Francisco, it was off the plane, and then back on…

The Premium Seat was nearly as comfortable, not much room on the tray table for all the drinks and snacks.

I should point out that I had lunch in the lounge before the flight, and then on the way to the lounge on my return to have dinner – I had a chance encounter of the Christmas kind…it made my day.

And to all, a good night.

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Tue
24
Dec '19

Trip Report: Pre-xMess Trip To Santa Fe

It has become an annual tradition to take a trip to Santa Fe in early December to visit my sis-in-law, her husband, and The Colonels who drive in from Kentucky every year between Thanksgiving and xMess. Yes, they drive from Eastern Kentucky to Santa Fe, New Mexico every late fall. You could almost set your clock by it!

Flying on Alaska’s old Virgin American metal to Santa Fe…

You can see the remodel of the North Concourse in the background.

Since it was old VA metal that hasn’t been retrofitted with the Alaska seating plan, there are only 8 First-Class seats (as opposed to 12 or 16). But I was in Premium Seating, which means snacks, cocktails, etc.

And because I’m Alaska MVP 75K, they always give me nice premium chocolate – and this “hippy” crisp quinoa sesame milk chocolate had the surprising taste of a Nestlé Crunch (crisped rice and chocolate), though technically that brand was sold to an Italian candy maker in 2018.

Flight was on time, but I had to stop and take photos of some custom bikes/cars in the lobby of the Albuquerque airport – definitely a product of Chicano Culture!

Pretty amazing stuff on display.

The Colonels were kind enough to pick me up at the airport and take me to my sis-in-law and husbands for a big dinner for all of us – we’ve been become an extended family. And they even stopped by the grocery store in El Dorado so I could stock up with booze and mixers for the trip.

This WAS NOT my shopping cart:

But it was a good picture – apparently the market sells a lot of Jim Beam half gallons during the season.

Great dinner with great company and so much fun there were no pictures – having too much fun with friends and family. Already thinking about next year! Wish I was in town for more than two nights, but its hard to take a weekend off between Thanksgiving and Christmas with the wine shop responsibilities.

Wednesday I was headed home on the train – my Christmas present to myself. Southwest Chief from Lamy, NM to Los Angeles, CA, then onto the Coast Starlight to Seattle. Two nights of rocking and rolling and being fed three times a day.

Got to the station at Lamy to find a very different train station. Amtrak stopped paying to staff the station, so volunteers took over, found someone to open an extension of a brewery, open a sandwich counter and generally transform the historic station:

As usual, the train was late…sight. No lunch on board because of the delay, but when it did come, I got settled in:

What a lovely view from my office.

And then there are the views and the stops….

And, of course the food!

With dessert (with sprinkles) to take back to my room:

And Flagstaff – a stop which I keep trying to get an acquaintance of mine to drop by the station for a hug.

Transferred in LA to the Coast Starlight – another day, another roomette!

And when I rolled into San Louis Obispo (they might want to fix their station sign)…

I got my nephew to meet me at the station for a hug and a quick chat!

More food, more booze, and it’s time for bed:

Woke up to snow…

And eventually Portland…

And after dark, headed into Seattle:

End in of my trip. Off to work in the morning.

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Wed
27
Nov '19

Home Report: Boxing Wine For The Holidaze

Weeks ago I got a notice from my favorite US winery that they were clearing out their cellars – and offering 60% off with flat-rate $20 a case shipping. SIGN ME UP!

My favorite part of this sale was the formats other than 750ml – 375ml splits and 1.5ltr magnums. In the splits, there were enough vintages to make a four-year vertical. Incredibly rare, and even rarer in smaller formats, and at 60% off. Needless to say, I ordered three, 4-year verticals, and two magnums from other years.

The plan was to give the sets to friends who also really like the Bonny Doon Le Cigare Volant – the Flying Cigar, a reference to French appellation rules:

The label has a picture of a cigar with a “beam” of red light shining down on a farmer in his wagon who is about to be beamed up to an alien spacecraft. Literally translated, “Le Cigare Volant” is French for The Flying Cigar. From the US perspective we’ve called UFOs flying saucers, but the French called them flying cigars. This was Bonny Doon’s homage to the Châteauneuf-du-Pape region, while at the same time making fun of silly French people.

Well this story is actually rooted in truth. A few goofy Frenchmen started to see flying cigars after drinking far too much wine. As time went on, more and more of them started to see funny things in the sky. They got scared (and most likely tried to surrender). They felt those flying cigars would be interested in their wine/grapes, and might steal them. Rather than cut back on their wine consumption they complained to their politicians and local governments. The local governments knew those who worried about flying cigars were crazy, they also knew wine was a large part of their culture and the local economy. So they passed ordinances against flying cigars and threatened the immediate impound of any flying cigars caught landing in the vineyards. The law was considered a success as no flying cigars ever landed in or near Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

Source: Irrational Diversions

Time to make some presentation boxes!

And the final product:

You should note that the wood for the display boxes I made was recycled from the tops of wooden wine boxes – and once you drink the bottles you can turn the box upside down and mount it to the wall as a spice/condiment rack, recycling the wood for a third use.

Got them all boxed up for shipment, though one of them I took to Berkeley with me…

Speaking of Bonny Doon – Randall Graham (winemaker/owner of/for Bonny Doon) stopped by the wine shop years ago when he was in town and making sales calls with the distributor:

And as an endcap to the story, when I was in Berkeley, we opened the vertical that I brought down for Mark and Onyx – it went VERY WELL with the seafood bisque for dinner:

It was a damn fine meal accompanied by damn fine wine, with damn fine company!

Sadly, one of the other sets lost a member due to gorilla handling….Dan said the box smelled nice:

Dan said the cornstarch peanuts soaked up most of the liquid – but they even manage to break the wooden box!

A sad day in Denver. Amazing that the Boston package made it in one piece.

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Sun
24
Nov '19

Trip Report: Trying A New Airline

As regular readers of this blog, you know my loyalties to Alaska Airlines very solid. But sometimes you have to try something new, and since I’ve hit Alaska MVP Gold 75K status for the year, I can afford to have a few miles post on another airline. That airline is JetBlue, but I’m not flying them. I’m flying JetSuiteExpress, which has a mileage deal with JetBlue.

Yes, I actually clicked on a FaceBook advertisement – out of curiosity.

What I found is an airline that doesn’t have many routes, but it has one in particular that really benefits me – Seattle to Oakland. Their advantage?

  • They fly from BFI (Boeing Field International), which is an $8 UBER ride from my house
  • They fly 30-seat Embraer 135 aircraft where all the seats have extra knee room in a 1-2 seating configuration (meaning in the 1 portion, you can have both a window and an aisle)
  • Less invasive security (they swapped my checked bag and my laptop backpack) so I was able to board the plane with my phone, keys, water bottle not pulled out
  • Free cocktails and snacks onboard
  • Useless JetBlue miles
  • And the best — $79 each way if booked 4+ weeks out.

The only other scheduled airline that flies out of Boeing Field (just across the river from me, just south of Georgetown) is Kenmore Air (mostly known for their float plane operations to the San Juans and Canada) who fly fixed wing/wheeled small props to Friday Harbor (on San Juan Island) and East Sound (on Orcas Island).

Kenmore Air and JetSuiteExpress share the passenger terminal at BFI, and its lounge:

So, no free drinks on the ground, but all the StarBucks and kibble you can stand. Boarding was swift and hasslefree:

Onboard:

Knee room and an outlet for charging (assuming two-seat side of the aircraft only has one to share):

We the occasional good shot out the window:

Landed right on time, and here we are on the ground:

So far, this has been a seriously relaxing way to travel!

Spent time with some friends in Berkeley, but that’s another post, but two days later, I’m back in the air, this time while it is still light outside. Longer check in on the way back (but still less than 20 minutes including security) because Oakland has flights going to Burbank, Phoenix, Vegas, so the lounge was a little more crowded:

We boarded a couple of minutes late, but by mainline airline times, nothing.

And scenery…on the ground:

And before you know it, back in Seattle (after more cocktails and snacks)…

I realized when I was in the air, that by landing at Boeing Field, I was closer to Matt/Courtney’s Wednesday dinner which I’d figured I wouldn’t make – instead, I showed up with luggage.

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Sat
23
Nov '19

Trip Report: The Pride of Palm Springs – Part Three, The Final Days

After the parade and a nap, it was time to head out to dinner – the choice this evening is Casa Blanca, which has three locations around Palm Springs.

Attractive men at one end of the counter, not so, the other:

They were out of sweet vermouth –so it was a very dirty Martini for me (in a Mexican restaurant):

I had the bacon wrapped chili rellenos – which were fabulous!

The Fish Tacos looked great:

As whatever DancingBear had:

And since we were already in that end of the town – must be time to hit up a gay bar!

Hadn’t been to a gay bar since a memorial service for a friend earlier this year. Two time in one year – after not having stepped into one in a decade. The floors are still sticky, but they no longer wreak of smoke.

Our final meal of the trip found us back at Sherman’s for a late lunch before our early evening upgraded flight home:

I have reservations for next year for a 3-bedroom. Fortunately, it doesn’t include Halloween next year, which will make my business partner happier.

That’s it for now – now just down to two more posts to be caught up!

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Wed
20
Nov '19

Trip Report: The Pride of Palm Springs – Part Two

This post is only about the Pay Pride Parade on the Sunday that we were there, nothing more. But you have to start out with a good breakfast!

And now onto the Parade! The WorldMark Palm Springs is right at the beginning of the parade route, so we got to see them lining up, assembling this/that/other things:

FYI – that is the WorldMark Palm Springs in the background. Talk about CLOSE!

That giant high heel on the RV about retracts via hydraulics to pass under the traffic lights!

The GRINDR Float featuring a giant eggplant (a sex emoji, apparently).

And National Park Rangers! Featuring Craig (one of our flat-mates) who is a former ranger.

 

And if you want to see some videos, here they are:

Well, that’s it. There will be one more PSP post coming along, hopefully soon.

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Mon
18
Nov '19

Trip Report: The Pride of Palm Springs — Part One

So, I have a friend…there are both jokes and snide comments possible with that start, BUT she has tasked me with managing (and paying the maintenance dues) for her 12,000-point WorldMark account so she just doesn’t have to thank about it anymore. It was a sore point between her and her partner.

So far, I’ve used her points to go to Anaheim to see The Mouse (but was too cheap to buy a park ticket), and now to Palm Springs for the combination of Halloween AND Gay Pride. Pride in Palm Springs is always the first full weekend of November…but his year with Halloween on Thursday, it was a two-fer!

Any now, the pictures you’ve been waiting for. Gone for a week, and need to bring wine:

Arrived a couple of hours before actual check-in. Opted for the 2-bedroom unit with twin beds in the second bedroom. Probably should have looked at a property map and chosen a better location since we were at the back of the property. It was quiet, but no balcony overlooking the parade route:

Over the last year, I’ve had several people relocate either part-time for full time to Palm Springs, so lots of people to visit, starting with Jack and Stevee for dinner at PF Changs hosted by DancingBear:

We’d done some shopping so when breakfast rolled around, we had fixin’s, complete with Caesars (which is a Bloody Mary made with Clamato).

For dinner, we invited Mags, the other transplant for dinner:

By the following breakfast, Craig had showed up from LA to join us for the week:

Craig is pondering the move as well, so for lunch it was DB and I at Sherman’s Delicatessen, a tradition in more ways than one:

I started with a Sparkling Greyhound:

Before my grilled Rueben…

And DB bought a Key Lime Pie to go.

Halloween night dinner was at the condo – we had a grill, but no BBQ tongs. Called the front desk and they sent some over:

He is 6’4″ WITHOUT the heels – and works the Front Desk. Welcome to Halloween in Palm Springs! Tonight’s dinner is street tacos with John and Stevee coming to a late dinner:

And what are street tacos without a couple of desserts – including the Key Lime pie from Sherman’s and a cake from the Italian bakery.

Another day, another fabulous breakfast…

There was “pool time” involved…

And hot tub time after the sun went over the mountains. But it’s sort of rude to take pictures in the hot tub after dark.

I’ll wrap up this post because the next one will have a TON of pictures of the Palm Springs Gay Pride Parade (and videos).

Stay tuned.

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Sat
26
Oct '19

Trip Report: SF Quickie

Not sure why I made this reservation – I’ve already made Alaska MVP Gold 75K. But I like San Francisco, and there was room at the WorldMark San Francisco Union Square. Off I go.

Booked this flight out of Everett Paine Field because it was $115 roundtrip – and I got upgraded to First 3-days before each leg.

Figured it would take me 45 minutes or so to get to Seth’s house to leave the car. What happened was:

  • It took 30 minutes
  • And Seth doesn’t live there anymore (good thing I didn’t try and use my keys to use the bathroom)

Grabbed an Uber to the airport and was through security quickly, but only with “expedited”, not TSApre (or Clear). Had to pull the laptop out, oddly not the liquids or shoes. No lounge and I was way early, but it’s a great airport to hang out at. Just watching was is landing and taking off is worth the price of admission.

But I got upgraded into my favorite seat – 1A, the infamous bulkhead, aisle, window seat. Great view out the window for plane spotting:

Air Force 767 refueling tankers down the alley…

And one in process – you can tell by the matte grey tail…

A stored 737MAX..

And more MAXs…

And we are off!

And food and drinks!

And into San Francisco:

Landed, deplaned, got a roundtrip ticket on BART, and was on my way while cryptic message came over the PA about the TransBay tunnel being shut down for a fire – got to Montgomery Station to find BART not letting people onto the platform:

They let us out using the emergency gate (which delayed my return trip because my card hadn’t scanned out). But soon I was humping it through Union Square toward Nob Hill and the condo.

And the room was ready, even though it was before 4pm. This is a 2nd floor streetside handicapped studio:

I went out and got some supplies and settled in – and had Chinese Food sent in from City Chopsticks (chicken corn soup, green union pancakes, Human Orange Beef – as I was in for the night (as you can see from the photos above).

Late morning found me at one of my favorite neighborhood restaurants, Mara Sushi:

Started with a sake oyster shooter – great breakfast!

And then onto a Bento lunch…

And some local shots of the neighborhood…

Before I knew it, I was headed back home…with a stop in the Cathy Pacific Business Lounge at SFO:

With its self-pour bar…

While I had some quarter sandwiches, I was an hour or so too early for the Chinese Buffet and Custom Pho orders. Next time.

Back on the plane in my same seat (1A) for more photos:

And then food…

And lovely photos as I was landing back in Everett:

These views never get old for me – I love living in the Puget Sound! And if you want to see the landing…here is the video.

That’s it for the day.

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Wed
23
Oct '19

Trip Report: Return To Waikiki

After the long trip to Vietnam and travelling with other people, it felt like a good idea to take off on a self-holiday. Time for a little pre-takeoff breakfast!

Got the upgrade after I’d already checked in so it was a window bulkhead seat rather than my preferred aisle, but an upgrade is an upgrade!

And it being a Hawaii flight – a POG Mimosa while we were still on the ground!

Once in the air, the food really started to flow…

Hard to tell, but that was the mushroom stuffed ravioli.

Might as well take advantage of the window seat!

Once landed, grabbed the city bus ($2.75) to Waikiki and walked the couple of blocks to the condo:

Here are daytime and nighttime videos of the condo:

If you don’t want to watch the video, here is a still photo from my balcony:

Even with the snack basket an hour out of Honolulu – I was in need of something more substantial in my stomach so walked over the Cheeseburger Prime (formerly Cheeseburger in Paradise).

Got the sliders which came with fries and a cocktail (West Side Smash) at happy hour prices.

I’ve liked their food in the past, but this time the fries obviously weren’t cooked to order.

Tuesday morning, I took a bride of 20,000 points (should have held out for 30,000) to attend an “update”. There goes an hour and a half – but it replaces most of the points I gave to Conan for the father/daughter trip to London and Paris. I covered their first two nights in London with a place in Hyde Park.

Next up was my usual Tuesday in Waikiki – lunch at Liliha Bakery, which was, as often happens, out of the fried chicken, so it was the grilled ahi sandwich:

My other Tuesday stops were strikeouts –Salvation Army for Aloha shirts, along with Ross which is across the street.

In my evening stroll, noticed that Dean and DeLuca now has an outpost – mostly a café:

And that a new Tiki Bar has opened up down the street – The Lava Tube, better email Joe from Indianapolis!

Wednesday started off with one of my Waikiki traditions – the 55+ IHOP breakfast…

But it’s time to check out some new stuff to do in Waikiki…like fabric from Fabric Mart:

And these are the goodies I picked up with the exception of the napkins, which came from the quilting store on the Beachwalk:

And in this new neighborhood (well, to me), I found both a major Korean Grocery Store (Palama):

And a big Japanese Grocery Store (Don Quijote) complete with outside food court:

Thought “Oriental” wasn’t and acceptable phrase anymore…well, it is here.

Afternoon snack time found me at the restaurant at Tommy Bahama:

In the photo above, you can see one of the two $20 off regular items cards I scored on my last trip for just making a $5 donation called Kids Don’t Go Hungry. It makes the blue crab lump salad below just $2.00 (and the drink was happy hour priced at $10.00

Score!

Afterwards, I made my final ABC store run – and had enough receipts to get another Hello Kitty shopping bag for free:

Dinner was eating up all the leftovers in the fridge – a common practice.

Following day found me poolside for a bit…but sitting in the shade reading:

Didn’t even bother to put on my suit and jump in, even with the hunky long-haired young dad in the pool. And speaking of hunky guys – look what I’m missing this weekend in Honolulu!

Afternoon found me back at Tommy Bahama to use my second $20 Off card. Today it was different cocktail (only $8 – a Classic Margarita) and the Panko Breaded Fish and Chips ($4 after my $20 off):

Forget what the local fish was, denser (and more filling) than Halibut – I would have been just as happy with two pieces.

Feeling bloated from a mid-afternoon lunch is no mood to hit the Waikiki Farmers Market which happens every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday in front of the Wells Fargo Bank. Jen, Kennan and I hit it when we were here a month ago. Thought about getting some food for later, but they didn’t open for half an hour, and I needed a nap. It will be cheese and crackers for dinner tonight!

Walking home I discovered that another of my favorite restaurants has closed. Probably didn’t help that they didn’t have a full liquor license. Last time I was here was with DancingBear and Rick Rodrigues – our mutual friend that dropped dead about a year ago (and was about five years younger than me). Farewell Rick and Agu Ramen.

Final morning in Waikiki I was greeting to this view from my bed.

How magical is that!

Took the bus back to the airport – another whopping $2.75, which beats the $30 Uber. From city bus, through security, and into the lounge in a little over an hour. Not bad.

My return flight takes me through Portland because I wanted a freebie upgrade to First Class from Premium, comes with plenty of food and drink:

Had to get to the other end of the Portland terminal for the last flight of the day…which was supposedly on time except we were on the ground for 40 minutes waiting for last minute passengers. Wish they’d served a cocktail on the ground to first, because we got nothing in the air because of turbulence. The downside of going through Portland.

Some people join gyms, I get my steps being a tourist:

For comparison, Sunday I was at work. Means I walk at least twice as much travelling. And speaking of travelling, with my return back to Seattle I hit Alaska MVP Gold 75K status. Milestone benefits are 4 more Gold Upgrade Certificates, and 50,000 bonus miles. Takes 75,000 miles of flying on Alaska, or 90,000 miles of flying on Alaska and their Partners – that’s PER YEAR.

Back in time to work the weekend. Whew.

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Fri
18
Oct '19

Trip Report: Return From Vietnam

Well, it’s been a fun trip, but now it’s time to head back to the US. Fortunately, Sean lives 10 minutes from the airport – it was a ridiculously cheap Grab fare, and quick. 51,000 Dong – or $2.20 USD – which included the 10,000 Dong airport drop off fee (0.43 USD).

No one in line in front of me – I got there minutes after they opened, and I’m in Business Class. Even customs/immigration was only 10 minutes – much less than Sean warned me about. Next up, the lounge!

And my plane is here!

It’s a 787 so it should be comfy.

Sadly, the Asian airlines don’t believe in Champagne on the ground before takeoff. Fortunately, I had a couple of scotch and sodas in the lounge. And the menu was at hand.

I went for the Japanese Menu for my lunch. And it was pretty!

I even managed to get a little sleep, along with watching Hangover 3 (that’s a movie), along a couple of TV shows.

The next photo I put in for Kathy – she loves a good bidet photo, and our plane had them (at least in Business Class).

Nothing like seeing a sign like this as you are transferring flights!

Good thing I’m getting out of the day I am – lots of flights being cancelled for tomorrow.

Unlike on the way to Vietnam, I actually had a little time in the lounge in Tokyo…with my souvenir from the Saigon airport:

Actually, there are TWO JAL Lounges at Narita – and I’d forgotten the main difference. The small one has hard alcohol, the big one doesn’t. Sadly, I didn’t remember that until I’d walked all the way (and it is closer to the gate.

The next jet is a 767-300, fortunately with an updated Business Class.

I really like the side table. And the privacy. And the food. This time I went for the Western Menu:

And they actually managed to get the steak done to medium rare!

This flight’s movie is Stand By Me, which my buddy Fluffernutter was an extra (in the pie eating barf scene).

Probably got three hours or so of sleep.

Since it’s a 10-hour flight, that means a second meal before landing…back to the Asian Menu:

I must be running out of steam because I don’t have any pictures of the lounge in Vancouver. The picture I do have is of the “haul” from Duty Free. There is a weird quirk in the system when you clear US Immigration/Customs in a foreign country (Canada has a bunch of ports of entry, as does Ireland, even Dubai). You still get to purchase Duty Free – BUT, you are already on US Soil. When I asked how much I could bring in (experiencing this in Calgary as well), the clerk asked, “How much can you carry?” Apparently, six liters is my limit!

That would be two bottles of Maker’s Mark, and four bottles of Canadian Club Rye, with two complimentary mini bottles of Maple Syrup. Thank got Shua is meeting me at the airport – at the gate! He works at Sea-Tac, and gets off a little before my flight gets in.

Here’s to friends. It was a good trip all around. Friends on both ends to meet me.

If you need refreshing on the trip – here is an infographic:

Another trip under the belt. Using Alaska Frequent Flier Miles this trip in Business Class was 125,000 miles + $67.43 in fees. According to the booking rules, I could have stopped off for a week in both Seoul and Tokyo for the same fare (though they are tightening up those rules). I’m using those rules next March to do an around the world for 160,000 miles and (because of British Air excessive fees) $850 in Business and First. People ask how I can stand to fly so much – this is the reward, one set of flights that would cost me as much as I spend on a year of flying (last time I looked I’d spent $7,500 this year on paid flights).

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