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Mar '19

Trip Report: San Luis Obispo Turned Into Vancouver, BC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

This is the WorldMark at The Canadian.

And the view isn’t bad…

And it’s a two-bedroom, two-bath….

With a deck!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Feb '19

Trip Report: Austin For Sun!

After 10 days of mileage runs to Raleigh, including an inadvertent stop in Vegas – it’s time so stay someplace for a couple of nights…and get warmed up.

Because of the weather, my original non-stop flight is now a two hop, through San Jose. Fortunately, I got upgraded on both legs, and the first one came with a turkey burger:

Sadly, I wondered why it was a little dry. It was a Turkey Burger, the Flight Attendant said, “Burger” and I assumed beef. The next leg was the “Protein Platter” since I was full from the two previous flights. Did I mention that I flew from Vegas to Seattle to catch my now connecting flight to Austin?

Because I was on two different tickets, they couldn’t just send me from Vegas to Austin (and they would have had to move me to American).

The flight cancellations (and Vegas) meant I didn’t get into Austin and to the condo until midnight – basically wasting an entire day of my holiday. But the condo was nice:

Made myself a cocktail and went to bed.

Here is the view from the balcony:

The WorldMark Austin is in the middle of the city, two blocks off the 6th Avenue Entertainment District…which means good food!

Those would be the fish tacos and a Manhattan at Ranch 616, one of my favorite spots in Austin. It’s the curved roof over my shoulder…

Next up is a random Austin building – as they say, “Keep Austin Weird.”

After my lunch (and a little shopping, and a nap), it was pool time, even though it was 65 degrees out with a slight wind:

The evening meal was at a place I hadn’t tried before, Sophias, which is an Italian place in the basement on 6th. I’d seen the menu earlier and knew exactly what I wanted – Grilled Octopus! But first, a Barrel-aged Manhattan:

Followed by a Barrel-Aged Negroni!

Had to try it as it was on the Happy Hour menu. Think I’ll be coming back to this place.

More supplies needed – a little trip to Royal Blue Grocery is in order. Larger than a convenience store (with custom sandwich bar), but smaller than a real grocery store:

The morning found me back (from previous trips) to Walton Fancy and Staple (reportedly owned by Sandra Bullock) for my mid-day meal…which, rather than the Rueben, was the Biscuits and Gravy with a Burnt Orange Cocktail (whiskey and orange juice with other things):

Then, more pool time – instead of yesterday’s 65 degrees, it was 75, but the breeze was still there….

And a couple of more photos from the balcony of the unit:

And beautiful sunrise shots….

Followed by take out Nashville-style hot chicken from Tumble 22 where I got a double order, which in one case turned into a three stack:

With this for my final morning “breakfast”:

I had to check out at noon – but I stored the bag, and returned to the roof for an 85-degree day…I got pink:

Made me miss my first day, when I was delayed getting into the city.

Picked up my bags at the desk and headed to the lounge at the airport for my flight home:

It was only a hundred more to book First Class on the way home, and it being a Friday, I knew upgrades would be tough it being an Airbus with less First Class seats, and it meant I could book my favorite, 1C. This is old Virgin America metal.

And it includes inflight entertainment, which will be going away this year as Alaska upgrades the Airbus metal to Alaska seating, but with the new First Class seats:

I had the cod (again, for the 5th or 6th time this week).

I had carryon so I landed, hailed a Lyft, and headed home.

Mileage runs done for the year, at least until the fall.


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Feb '19

Trip Report: Accidental Trip To Las Vegas

For those of you who read yesterdays’ post, sorry for the repeat of graphics, but for the rest of you, this was my Monday/Tuesday flight pattern:

Vegas here I come because they diverted my flight back from Raleigh. Twenty minutes and $25 dollars in cab fare from the strip – basically in the middle of the dessert. Alaska got me a coupon for The South Point Casino (where they still smoke) and two $12.00 food vouchers. South Point has a shuttle, which I could pick up one terminal (and a bus ride) over…only to find that the last bus left half an hour ago. Hence the cab, which I now need to work with Alaska Customer Service to get reimbursed, along with the Hotel room in Seattle that I’d booked because I knew weather would be dicey. More paperwork! I still haven’t filled the paperwork to get reimbursed from American for the suitcase they mangled.

But back to Vegas. To get those coupons, I had to leave security and head to the ticket counter. This is where Elite Status helps. The line for the non-elite counter was a hundred long. I had a couple of couples in front of me.

And the “lovely” South Point

And a line at check-in:

Which was longer than the ticket counter line…most everyone else had coupons as well – was surprised when they didn’t have me put a credit card down like they did for the guy in front of me.

I asked for the nicest, highest room with a king. The clerk said the nicer, higher be had two beds – I’ll Take It! It’s not bad…but, it being Vegas, it doesn’t have an alarm clock in the room.

And yes, I had a couple of minis with me to start my forced stay in Vegas…

The dining coupons coupons weren’t valid for room service, which they wouldn’t have gone very far…

Instead, I headed downstairs into the casino to the seafood restaurant…

Starting off with the Chowder, with they may or may not take my casino book coupon for, but I’ve a hankering for it…

And it turned out that the Manhattan was $5!

I opted for the mussels for dinner as I’d been eating all day – they were a little chewy, but it was the end of their day (and mine), and it came with bed to sop up the broth (which could have used some lemongrass or something):

Used both Alaska coupons – and still owed a bit – but it looked better than the 24-hour “café” across the aisle in the casino.

Pulled another coupon at the Crown Royal Bar to get a free cocktail – which I left a tip for:

And stopped at the gift shop and picked up some more supplies…where they had a system to recycle your Crown Royal bags:

And, no, I didn’t buy Crown Royal:

Nope, didn’t gamble – didn’t see a coupon for free play, but they did have one for Buy 3 Bowling Games, Get 3 Free. I figure my wrist would be gone after one, and it really is more fun to bowl with friends.

Here are a couple of daylight outside shots of The South Point:

Took that shuttle back to the airport on the 8AM run for an 11AM flight. Figured it would take me a while to check in, which it did, because I wanted them to check my bag all the way through to Austin, which they couldn’t. Might have had something to do with my Flight Number, which was in the 9000 range:

Vegas Terminal Three is actually a nice airport…

Luckily, there were no oversized liquids, and I had TSA-Pre, so, off it went with me to The Club at LAS (same folks who run The Club in Cabo San Lucas).

Which had a nice compliment of food, and a full bar:

Not pictured, the scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon.

Not a bad place to kill an hour to two, and they had showers as well.

Flight to Seattle was a little delayed, but it came with food for First, be they hadn’t re-catered either First or Coach for beverages, so I had to drink my Jack (I’d drank then out of Woodford yesterday) with bubbly water. A side point is that I barely made it back up into first class which seemed weird because it was the same plane and the same passengers – why wouldn’t everyone get their old seats?

At the end of the flight, walked off one flight and onto my next adventure, but they’d already started loading so it was too late to gate check my bag…guess it’s coming along with me.

More on that in the next post.

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Feb '19

Trip Report: Winter Mileage Runs

Mileage Run definition courtesy of Wikipedia: “A ‘mileage run’ is an airline trip designed and taken solely to gain maximum frequent-flyer miles, points, or elite status. If a traveler has already achieved some sort of elite status, then that traveler will earn bonus award miles or points on top of his or her actual flight miles or points.”

Most of the people who play “The Game” do their mileage runs at the end of the year when they realize that they are going to come up short of the miles/points they need to get to the next level of their airline/hotel program. I choose to frontload my miles at the beginning of the year when cares are cheaper, and I have more flexibility.

This year’s mileage run city (cheapest in terms of dollars spent versus flight miles earned) was Raleigh/Durham, also last year’s city. 2017 was Boston. I miss my Boston runs where I could have lunch with friends. I booked my flights in late November when they were on sale post-Thanksgiving. Had to rebook of a couple of them when I found lower prices…still more than last year.

So, here is what my mileage runs look like on a map (times 5 in ONE WEEK):

The round trip is 4,708 flight miles. Average cost of the round trips was $257.50. Total miles earned is 23,540, which is more than enough for Alaska MVP Silver:

  • Silver        20,000 flight miles on Alaska (25,000 if you are combining with partner miles)
  • Gold        40,000 flight miles on Alaska (50,000 if you are combining with partner miles)
  • Gold 75K    75,000 flight miles on Alaska (90,000 if you are combining with partner miles)

I hit Silver on February 6th. I’ll hit Gold on February 15th when those miles post. The Points Guy (an online service) values the elite levels at:

  • Silver        $765        I spent $ 1,345.84 total
  • Gold        $2965        I spent $ 2,639.81 total (for both Silver and Gold, which includes one Paid First Class leg)
  • Gold 75K    $6775        Numbers aren’t in yet….cause I ain’t there yet

To me, I think the values that TPG (The Points Guy) assigns to the levels is a little on the conservative side by the time you hit Gold 75K where you can book yourself into Premium Class (the free booze extra legroom section) for free no matter what the price you paid. One the long-haul flights, Premium Class is an extra $69 to $99, and I’ll use $89 as the median since most of mine are longer. I got Premium on 8 of the flights to Silver ($712), and by the time I hit Gold, it will be 15 ($1335). Neither of those counts the times I’ve gotten upgraded to First, which was 12 flights (out of 15 where there was actually First Class seating, 3 were in turbo-props).

The other thing about Gold 75K are the bonus miles.

  • Silver        50% bonus miles
  • Gold        100% bonus miles
  • Gold 75K    125% bonus miles (plus an extra 50,000 when you hit 75K during the year)

This is in addition to MORE miles if you actually PAY for First Class. I’ll know in a week if the “class of service” bonus translates into lifetime flight miles as well as elite qualifying miles.

This post was originally planned for a brief overview, and random pictures of airports and meals. It turned into a math post. Here are the numbers for that weeks’ worth of mileage runs to Raleigh:

So, in a week of flights (10 legs), I earned 52,970 miles. Enough for a roundtrip in First to Florida, or, with a few more, a one-way in Business to Australia.

My mileage runs didn’t end with that week, I started the next week after working part of the weekend (one snow day, thanks Jim for covering).

This is the cautionary tale of mileage runs…sometimes they blow up. My Monday flight of the first week of runs was on the ground for 3.5 hours getting deiced, etc. to get off the ground ($75 future flight certificate from Alaska because of the delay, which was generous since it was really weather related).

The following Monday, with my last mileage run before a couple of nights in Austin as my reward for enduring being in an airplane for 10 hours a day for five days – the second storm rolled into Seattle. Got to Raleigh, but most of the way back from Raleigh, we diverted…to Las Vegas. I was running Flight24 which is a real-time phone app for planes. This is what our flight plan turned into:

Yes, I got an unwanted Vegas vacation out of this…

Yes, I’m going to fight for the flight miles from Vegas to Seattle, and yes, I have to apply for reimbursement for my Seattle hotel I had booked for the night so I could get to Austin in the morning, which they cancelled the direct flight and are now sending me through San Jose (which, sadly, I know the way to). This is what my Monday and Tuesday turned into:


If I was travelling as a family unit, I might have gone ballistic. But it’s just me, who has access to lounges, got upgraded to First on all the legs (though one at the last minute). And I met other travelers, some who were doing the same thing, mileage runs – a couple from Snohomish, he is on oxygen, who were with me on three turns to Raleigh (Tuesday-Wednesday-Thursday):

And a woman I sat next to on my original flight out the first Monday, we were in the back, but in Premium, who ended up next to me in First on the diverted flight the following Monday:

So, here’s to Cheryl, Ken, and Debra.

Expect reports on Vegas and Austin soon.

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Feb '19

Trip Report: Return From Chile

The length of my overseas trips are determined by two factors:

  1. The ability to only take one weekend in a row off from the wine shop
  2. The longest amount of days that I can business class flights on all segments

The upshot is that I’d have liked to leave on the red-eye a day before (or better yet gone through Dallas and saved 16 hours of layover in Miami) and returned a couple of days later. Not to be. When you are using miles to get a business class seat on a partner carrier you take the routing and the days available.

Bit of a clusterfuck getting back to the airport – should have put into Uber than I wanted to go to the Holiday Inn rather than the airport (and get yelled at in Spanish by the Uber driver). Ended up having the hotel book me a car, which, oddly, was cheaper than the Uber would have been. It was a tourist car, not a cab, is my guess.

Bit of a zoo at check-in, fortunately the Business Class lines were shorter:

And beyond customs, there was even an American Admirals Club (which will be handy for Rache since he has access now that he’s an Alaska Lounge member).

In what seems like no time (with free food/drink, time morphs), we had loaded. Today’s plane is a 787-800, but it has the same seating at the 777-200 that I flew down on. Don’t I look happy?

Even happier after takeoff when goodies started appearing…

Followed by dinner…thankfully, served in two courses:

I must say that I was impressed by the Business Class bathroom on this leg:

And soon it was time for bed…

Global Entry was quick, sadly, luggage was not. The problem with South America flights is that it seems that EVERYONE has two LARGE checked bags.

Eventually made it to the lounge – and a shower:

It really doesn’t suck to travel Business Class.

Sadly, I wasn’t hungry, but they even had an Avocado Toast station:

I knew I’d be getting breakfast (again) on the flight to Seattle:

So, that brings to a close my South American adventure.

Next week is all mileage runs.


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Feb '19

Trip Report: Return To Santiago, Chile

Back to Santiago we go…via a different bus company:

Seats were slightly more comfortable, and the same price, 5,000 Pesos…but had to use the bathroom, which had no water, but at least it had a hole to pee in.

Back to the Ibis Esation Centrale, though to a different floor – where we were soon visited by Thomas. Rache taught him is first year of teaching, which I won’t say how long ago that was.

Thomas had already gotten his subway pass, so we headed one stop over to the central train station to check out the restaurants at that stop – and we found several, and settled on El Hoya.

I didn’t realize we were in a place that Anthony Bourdain visited!

We didn’t notice it at the time, but there is a shrine to him mourning his death. You can read more about his visit here:


This is particularly amusing to me because Rache took me to a place he visited in Montevideo when we were there – and we just stumbled across this place!

We stopped for supplies at the grocery in the train station (think we should have stayed in THIS neighborhood) – which I’ll make a comment about, of all things, Diet Ginger Ale. I like it. It’s hard to find Diet Ginger even in the US, so I was amazed to find a couple of different ones in Chile. Shocking.

And speaking of other “odd” things, the street next to the bus station where the hotel is turns into a string of food stalls starting at 10PM or so – for all the incoming buses!

Took this at midnight – needless to say, I was the last one awake of our crew.

Rache and Thomas were up and out early for their walking tour, which at 3 hours, was a bit much for me. I opted to sleep in and go across the street for an Italian Dog for brunch. Couldn’t figure out why it was an Italian dog when it had guacamole on it, until Rache pointed out that it was the colors of the Italian flag:

Once I saw the pictures from the “3-hour tour”, I was a bit envious as it included a HUGE cemetery. Led by a “Where’s Waldo” guide:

Late day flight out (10:45pm departure) so that will be another post – but I’d like to share observations about my time in Chile:

  • Not noted above, Rache had his wallet picked from his FRONT pocket on the morning, very crowded, subway to get to his tour. Multiple people stopped us to say that we should be wearing our packs on our fronts rather than backs. A woman stopped me to show me how I should hold my cell phone to keep it from getting taken. Most of these incidents happened close to our hotel, which was by the very crowded bus station, and in Rache’s case, on a very crowded subway – and then there is the photo Rache accidentally took of the “perp walk”. That said, out of the city we didn’t even think about these things.
  • Santiago reminds me of Rome, without the charm. A hub city best left behind to move into the country.
  • I’m glad I went, I’m eternally grateful for all the work Rache put into the planning of this trip.
  • Of our mutual trips to South America, I’d rate it this way, in order of most/best to least/worse:
    • Cityscapes: Montevideo, Lima, Santa Cruz, Santiago
    • Food: Lima, Montevideo, Santa Cruz, Santiago
    • Lodging: Lima, Montevideo, Santa Cruz, Santiago
    • Safety: Santa Cruz, Montevideo, Lima, Santiago
    • Transportation: Santiago, Montevideo, Santa Cruz, Lima
    • Disparity of incomes (homeless, etc.): Santiago, Lima, Santa Cruz, Montevideo
  • Maybe don’t come in February, the height of their summer

Still glad I came, starting to run out of South America countries to visit that have easy flights using miles. Columbia, Venezuela, Bolivia, Equator, Paraguay are left, and the first two of those are having “political” issues.

Next up, the return home.


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Feb '19

Trip Report: Santa Cruz, Chile

Because I believe in sleeping in, and Rache doesn’t, I decided to grab “breakfast” at the bus station on the way to the bus. Yes, it was McDonalds. It was the Quarter Pounder Meal because I didn’t realize “solo” would get me just the sandwich, and that with the combo, I had my choice of “papas fritas” (fries) or empanadas “little pies”. I bring this up because the meal (which we all know what it costs in the states) was 4040 pesos. The fare for my 3.5-hour bus ride was 5000 pesos. That should tell you how inexpensive long-distance busses are in Chile.

We are off to Santa Cruz, Chile at 12:15pm. Seats recline more than an airplane, but my butt is still too wide for them.

Arrived to Santa Cruz to find cabs, but no drivers. Paging UBER! We are staying at the Hostel Cruz Del Valle:

Again – don’t why, but no photos of the room! Staff speaks no English, so lots of phone translations, but a positive attitude by all.

For dinner tonight, we are checking out a local craft brewery restaurant (the brewery is in the countryside) for dinner – Katarkura Cerciceria Restaurante

With a great menu of food and beer:

And their story:

The food (and beer, and wine) was excellent:

You pick the meat (choice of four — I went for pork), and four sides (sautéed onions, cheese, sauerkraut, mayonnaise), and Rache got his sandwich with a fried egg, green beans, sautéed onions and mayo – and what a presentation!

Loved the FRIES – a note: the Chileans serve Papas Frites with everything. Sadly, the McDonalds did better fries than most I had in Chile – with the exception of these folks, the fries were magnificent!

It was a wonderful meal where Rache had beer, and I went for wine (and killed two thirds of the bottle):

It was a big sandwich – I finished the fries and took half the sandwich home, along with the rest of the wine.

Our main reason for coming to Santa Cruz (other than Rache prefers small towns) is to see a couple of wineries, but our first one isn’t until 3:30 so we have time to explore the neighborhood after breakfast (included with our room, with custom scrambled eggs, meats, cheeses, yogurt, cereals, pastries, coffee, etc.). I was looking for grocery store things, and we aren’t in the center of town, so we set out with our various mapping apps. We did find a convenience store, but it was closed, but stumbled upon a farmer’s market with everything you’d need (except for mixer for my bourbon):

Makes me wish we had a full kitchen in our place!

Here are a couple of random pictures from our walk…

Come the afternoon, we were back on the phone ordering an Uber to visit the MontGras Winery just outside of town:

Which was getting ready for a hundred-person wedding later in that evening:

I was sort of weird to be in a winery, on a weekend, and there were no other tourists around – so we got a private tour:

All the vineyards are drip irrigated because of the heat, this is what the soil looks like. The grapes really have to work hard, which makes them more flavorful:

And the usual bits and bobs of equipment:

And in an unusual move, they let us open one of the tanks after the guide flipped the sign around as to its contents, to taste the wine and identify whether it was red or white, and what varietal (he’d already gone through all the varietals they farmed):

We both went for white, but I was the one that got Sauvignon Blanc since it was more acidic. Rache went for Chardonnay, but it wasn’t full-bodied enough for Chard. Shit, I’m starting to get this!

Now for the tasting…

Complete with nibbles to pair with the various wines:

What a lovely tour – and we carry the MontGras Camenere at the shop.

Instead of going back to the hotel, we went into the main square to have dinner, and stumbled on yet another sort of celebration:

We ended up at Club Union Social for dinner:

The grapes (which are real) are Pais, otherwise known as the Mission grape in the US.

Again, language difficulties, but parts of the menu were in English – and, of course, we started with Pisco Sours:

I ended up ordering the rabbit…

Rache got the tonque:

We both had the wine:

And we found supplies at the big grocery store just off the square:

And yes, we got ice – but it’s in the sink slowly melting (no fridge in the room).

The next day we are off (well, after breakfast and a nap) to the Vina Santa Cruz, which is much further out of the city, requiring a driver.


This is definitely a “destination” winery – we passed a wine museum and an auto museum before getting to the main winery, which comes with its own gondola and history presentation area:

And then the history area:

They even have an observatory!

And display of meteorites…

And the view from the top aren’t bad either….

But it’s time for the tour – which we share with a handful of other people, but not as many as the 20 on the Spanish tour. Here are some of the production facitities:

Including one of their concrete eggs for aging wine:

This is one of the barrel rooms:

Which is set into the stone hillside:

Now it’s time for the tasting….

Followed by a stroll around their little museum…

And finishing in the gift shop:

Our driver was waiting for us (he actually cost more than the tour), and off we were back to the city half an hour away – and back to the square. We asked the driver for his favorite place to eat on the square – and he said Club Union Social– where we ate yesterday! Back we go. More pisco sours, I wanted something lite, so I went for the garlic shrimp…

And back to the store we went for more ice, more mixer, and if I’d wanted albums, I could have gotten those!

What an odd selection – Koko Taylor, Woody Allen soundtracks, Love Music, The Who – thinking I should have picked up the Koko Taylor.

Our dinner was salamis and cheeses we picked up at the store as we have a big day tomorrow, headed back to Santiago.

That’s it for now.


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Feb '19

Trip Report: Santiago, Chile

Welcome to Santiago! Here is the view from our room – we are directly across from the major cross-country bus terminal. We are at the Ibis Estacion Central.

Not sure why I didn’t take shots of our room – which was dormitory like in nature, with two small twin beds. Great location, a little small, a little short on towels, but clean. At least its well-stocked now!

We poked around the neighborhood a bit, and finally settled on the restaurant – the hotel restaurant. Turns out it was the best place around – and in the middle of the afternoon, it was packed. When in Chile, gotta start with Pisco Sours!

We opted for burgers…

Nap time for both of us and then a little wandering around the city… his shot shows damage still around from the earthquake ten years ago.

Dinner found us BACK at the hotel restaurant (Ibis Kitchen) realizing that even though we went further afield, still no sit-down restaurants with table service.

Rache got the rolled roast….

I opted for the chicken breast, which comes with a fried egg on the fries (think I should have gone for the mashed potatoes):

Our next day was filled with getting transportation sorted – like our subway pass and our bus tickets to Santa Cruz, our next destination, and wandering around the city after I grabbed a quick dog across the street at the train station…

And then into the city trying (and failing) to find a funicular up the hill to a big Jesus statue (though not as big as Rios)

There is train service in Chile – it just doesn’t run to many places are at many times.

This is the shot that I took….

Seconds later, Rache took this one….

He accidentally caught a cop doing a perp walk!

Rache looked up restaurants and found a possibility via Uber. Car came quickly, and off we went – and when we arrived, the restaurant looked sketchy – as did the neighborhood. The driver said to not be here after dark, and we agreed, and started walking away from the people towards larger streets, and stumbled upon El Toro, which turned out to be GREAT!

Another good meal that put us to bed early!

Tomorrow morning, we are off to Santa Cruz!

[? ? ?]

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Jan '19

Trip Report: Headed To Chile

Since I know this would be a LONG post, I’ll break this trip up into three or four entries. Actually taking a weekend off from the shop!

Travelling with Rache – who, as is usual when we travel internationally, is going for weeks, while I’m going for the most days that I can find a business class ticket using miles – in this case, out on a Monday redeye, back the following Wednesday in the morning. Leaves me with 6ish days “in country”.

Getting to Santiago, Chile is two redeyes, meaning I have all day in Miami – not ideal, but it was 120,000 miles and something like $56 for a several thousand-dollar ticket.

Inside the US, my “Business Class” award gets me Domestic First Class:

It being a redeye flight, not much in the way of food service:

The Inflight Entertainment system was decent, watched a couple of movies:

Was definitely going for “light” entertainment. And you could always turn the map on….

The serious downside of this routing is that I get into Miami at 6AM and don’t fly out until 10:55PM. I could leave the airport, but I need sleep, and with the government shutdown, how long would it take me to get back through security. The upside of a Business Class ticket on American, was access to their nicer Flagship Lounge, rather than their usual Admirals Club.

I opt to have a custom-made omelet…

And a nap in one of their “recliners”. “Recliner” in the sense that it’s one position, which is reclined:

Got three or four hours of fitful sleep – time to use the shower facilities…a god send:

I’d put a fresh shirt in my carryon, and the “self-pour” bar was open by the time I was all cleaned up:

And lunch is set out….

I basically spent the entire day napping, snacking, drinking, wasting time on the computer while waiting to board my flight to Santiago, Chile, which fortunately, the gate was directly under the club. I’m in the bulkhead first row of Business Class for my ride south.

While there was food on this flight, which I reserved the beef (overcooked as usual) ….

It came all at once since we didn’t take off until 11PM and they assumed most would like to sleep.

Watched two movies on this leg:

And did use the lay-flat feature of my bed to grab three or four hours of sleep:

On arriving in Santiago, Immigration was quick, luggage delivery slow. They’d manage to crack my bag and I was surprised at the efficiency of the process for filing a claim. That will be something I do in the states once I’m home. It’s in enough of a shape to get it home (I hope).

Rache was due to arrive 30 minutes before me via Dallas, but he was delayed and arrived 45 minutes after me, when the lines at Customs were longer…but we finally met up and ordered an Uber to the city!

It was about 1PM when we got to the hotel – and I’ll pick up that in the next post.

[? ? ?]

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Jan '19

Trip Report: Yellowstone In Winter

So, last week I was in the low 80’s, this week I’m lucky if it gets UP to 20. One morning it was 14 below! Fortunately, I don’t live here, but have to fly in.

That’s a lot of stuff for three nights – but it includes New Year’s presents.

Might as well start off the day with a Caesar – that’s a Bloody Mary made with Clamato, a Canadian Favourite.

It’s a Q-400 from Seattle to Bozeman where Steve will be picking me up. He will be my chauffeur for the next four days. We’ll be staying at the WorldMark West Yellowstone, right next to The Colonels!

Yep, that’s a whole lot of snow – which they don’t completely scrap off so that the snow machines rubber tracks don’t get ground off – the whole town of West Yellowstone has groomed snow on the streets.

Nice little unit (2-bedroom). I was seeing if the fisheye lens I brought would work on the new phone…

And the view from the deck:

We did a grocery and liquor run, where the liquor store (turns out to not be the cheap one) is part of a casino…

Spent the evening with The Colonels killing off the Bourbon I brought…good thing Tuesday is a planned “relax from the journey” day with an UncleMarkie Sunday Roast over a bed of potatoes and onions.

Wednesday is the BIG day of the trip – when The Colonels and I do a snow coach tour of the Yellowstone Valley.

The snow coaches come in many varieties…

Lots of winter visitors to Yellowstone, even with it closed down – the concessioners are splitting the cost of grooming the roads. Ours was a bit of a tight fit.

Lots of photo ops:

Yes, that is a coyote in the upper picture. Seen today: Bison, Coyote, Swans, Ducks, and Wolves feasting on a Bison carcass that was too far off to get a phone camera picture.

Left at a little after 8am, got back to the condo about 4:30pm – a LONG DAY in an airport shuttle (which our snow coach was the size of).

Headed home Thursday (after a pizza dinner hosted by The Colonels) – and the snow was coming down:

Left the condo right at the noon checkout, but my flight wasn’t until 7pm so I went to the airport really early. This was at the check-in counter:

Since I was there hours early, I set up my office to do some work on the wine shop taxes…

Not a bad view – there are mountains out there when there aren’t clouds.

Got home around 11PM.

Guess I’d better start repacking for the next trip!

[? ? ?]

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Jan '19

Trip Report: Waikiki With Friends

When you have friends that live in Indianapolis, you don’t get to see them often, so when you get a chance to holiday in the same city, you take it, even if it is six hours in the opposite direction.

The gods must have been smiling on me since I got an upgrade at the last minute – at boarding they scanned my boarding pass and rejected it. They replaced it with a boarding pass for 4D. The downside is no choice of meal, sigh.

Would have preferred the omelet and sausage. Oh well.

Arrived at HNL and grabbed the city bus into town – stopped at Giovani’s for a quick lunch…

Got settled into the condo early, not a bad view!

Mick and Ric arrived around 6 and we had some nibbles and eventually got lazy and called next door to PFChangs for takeout.

The next day (Tuesday) was a busy one. After rising late (me), off to lunch at the Liliha Bakery for a little Fried Chicken – really good Fried Chicken:

We chose this restaurant because it is close to the Salvation Army Thrift store…

Where I found some goodies…

A couple of them are for me, a couple for other people, including Joe, whose 50th Birthday Celebration is part of this adventure.

Speaking of Joe (and Lisa, and Lisa’s Niece Emily), they are all coming to dinner, so we are off to the Food Pantry for supplies – but find this closed bar for a quick picture:

We did manage to swing by (before the meal prep) to the restaurant on top of Tommy Bahama for their 3-5PM Happy Hour, which has really good food options, like the Poki and the Fish Tacos:

The meal restrictions were, not spicy, no pork. We were having so much fun that evening that we didn’t even take picture of the lovely meal Mick made (while I’m a good cook, Mick is an excellent cook!)

Ric left in the morning before I got up – he needed to be back at work in Phoenix, so Mick and I went to the World War Two Museum at Fort Derussey which is a couple of blocks from the condo, and free:

That building in the center background is the Trump Tower (hisssssss).

Wednesday was actually Joe’s birthday, so the Tiki Bar Crawl started at Tommy Bahama’s around 3:30…

And then to Arnolds, which is a dive bar for restaurant workers in the alley behind Tommy Bahama…

This would be Emily…the niece:

Beyond that, we hit three more Tiki Bars… starting with Rumfire, at the Sheraton Waikiki

And then over to The Mai Tai Bar at the Royal Hawaiian (aka The Pink Palace):

And onto the final stop which was Tiki’s Bar and Grill, but with a stop at the Duke statue on the beach

Lots of Tiki glasses at the Tiki’s Bar and Grill!

It was a fun evening…and since we started early, we were home by 10!

The following morning we had to be out of the condo at 10am (which I’m used to WorldMark’s noon checkout), and off to the airport we went. Mick had a later flight, but needed to do a conference call so we hit the lounge – we are on different flights (I’m stopping in Portland).

Got upgraded to First on the HNL-PDX flight (even before I actually flew TO HNL) so I had food on the return as well….

Not sure why there isn’t a picture of the main course…aparently having too much fun (again).

Well, that’s it for this installment.


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Dec '18

Trip Report: NEXUS For Rache

Final trip of the year, if you’d like to see where I’ve been in 2018, here is a link: CLICK HERE.

This is a driving trip – which starts with a long drive through the driving rain to get to Vancouver and the moderately OK Rosedale at Rosemont Suites, which are part of the WorldMark system until the end of the year. With the cost of parking, the limited kitchens, not sorry to see these units go away. Hence, no pictures of the place. Just pictures of food and friends.

We had our mutual friend Solus+ over for a chicken, pilaf, and salad dinner.

We were just in Vancouver for an evening, the main goal being beautiful Blaine, staying on Birch Bay, so Rache can do his Nexus interview. The wait in Blaine is a couple of weeks. The wait at the Seattle office at Boeing Field is at least three months out.

Another downside of Rosedale on Robson is the 10am check-out time, which is standard for Wyndham and Vacation International units. Bloody early by my standards.

On the upside, Rache nibbled on biscotti with his coffee, and I waited for an early lunch at Ominitsky Kosher Deli. Kosher Rueben for me:

Smoked Tongue for Rache, who doesn’t love a hot tongue?

They are also a deli and small market – which a huge selection of cold-case pickles:

Plus, a guide to your wiener:

Not too much of a delay at the border – and it will be even smaller next time now that Rache has his Nexus card!

Got settled into our lovely 2-bedroom Handicapped unit at the WorldMark Blaine, which is right next door to the WorldMark Birch Bay – but a more intimate place with nicer furniture. Again, no pictures, just food.

Our first (of two nights) was steaks and asparagus off the grill (sadly on the roof deck than on our deck, unlike next door), and scratch made Hollandaise, complete with my sister’s handpicked and dried hot peppers which we whirred up in the blender:

And I found this Chilean Malbec in honor of our trip to Santiago, Chile, next month:

While I didn’t get pictures of our unit, I did take some shots of the VERY underused lounge…complete with “Elf on a Shelf” or, in this case, at a table:

Even our morning breakfast was lovely, with the leftover steak and asparagus:

Our final dinner of the trip was bratwursts off the grill and Rache’s mac and cheese:

The final trip of 2018 – and 2019 is filling up at an amazing pace (CLICK HERE for what’s on the books for next year).


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Dec '18

Trip Report: Santa Fe The Long Way

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

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

Hello Portland along the way…

Started the trip with the usual trip to the Alaska Lounge

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

Bulkhead aisle to PDX…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And more mountain views….

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

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


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Dec '18

Trip Report: Waikiki!

Time to head for sunshine…but first, got to bottle the holiday Cinnamon Brandy…by Christmas the liquid will be a dark mahogany color:

And get the wine shop’s
wine club boxing started – and I get to do it in our new space (so I can actually start it on a Sunday while the shop is open):

Some hiccups, but easier than last month.

Off to the airport in the morning…no upgrade (sigh). I hit the lounge, but bought the sandwich onboard since it’s a five-hour flight:

The Granola Bar is a freebie are a perk of Premium Class (along with doubles of Woodford Reserve) is a and the JcoCo Chocolate is a perk of being either an MVP Gold, or MVP Gold 75K.

Since I just had smaller carry on, I opted to take the “cheap” way to get to Waikiki – TheBus, the local city bus, a whopping $2.75 and an hour of my time. You can do the airport shuttle, or 808-EXPRESS for a direct transfer if there a couple of people. Don’t know what the UBER would be, but there is service.

I got into Waikiki in the early afternoon – and they gave me a choice of rooms that were ready:

  • 23rd floor, no lanai (that’s deck in Hawaiian)
  • 7th floor, lanai

Uncle Markie always loves a deck.

Not much of a kitchen (microwave, fridge, toaster, coffee maker, but plates, glasses, dishes, etc).

The closest grocery store is a dozen blocks away, and I’d rather have food now, rather than later. Headed down the street to Cheeseburger Waikiki, which used to be Cheeseburger in Paradise, but are still under the same corporate umbrella.

I started with some weird drink special of whiskey, gin, orange juice….

One was enough, and I ordered something for the starter menu, the Cheeseburger Sliders – still a lot of food. Should have taken one home for breakfast!

Headed back to the condo to just hangout and recover from the trip – nice view:

And plenty warm:

Yes, there are Speedos involved.

Wonderful pillows meant a wonderful night’s sleep – so I could get up in the morning and revisit a place Bliss and I had breakfast on our trip here: IHOP for the 55+ Menu.

Next up was another local bus ($5.75 for the full-day bus pass) to the Salvation Army because it’s Senior Day which is a 15% discount. I usually am able to find nice Aloha Shirts at a great price. I DID find some finds, at .50 each – and one of them a TRUE FIND.

Yep, the middle one is a PanAm glass, the other two, Hawaiian Airlines.

Across the street at Ross Cross Dress For Less…

Oh, I bought a new small carry-on suitcase – I started the trip with a Hawaiian print small duffle with a shoulder strap – I wasn’t even to the Alaska Lounge in Seattle before I realized my mistake. I needed something small enough for the city bus…but with wheels.

On the way home courtesy of my “all-day bus pass” was a stop at Food Pantry for a little pupu stuff for dinner – go Poke!

Here are some more pictures from my deck, but during the daytime…

And some of the Royal Gardens amenities….

The next noon thirty I was off for a Wyndham Timeshare presentation…Wyndham is the parent company of WorldMark, where I usually stay, but they have no places in Waikiki so I traded points with The Colonels for this stay, and my next one – which, as part of the tour, was a two-bedroom deluxe upper floor at the Waikiki Beachwalk – sadly, next door to this:

But here is the Wyndham Waikiki Beachwalk property…

And some nice additions…

And the view….

For the ninety-minute presentation I got a $125 AMEX card, and a tour of the type of unit I’ll have the first week of January when I’m back in Waikiki with DancingBear.

Next stop was at CVS to see if I could transfer a prescription that I had two doses left – and my pharmacy in Seattle, while truly wonderful, is only open Monday-Friday, and I’m on the road M-F this week and next. Since I’d just changed insurance, I wasn’t sure….but they said they’d text me when it was ready.

Across the street was a Tommy Bahama, with a bar on the second floor and a restaurant on the third… a little snack was in order. Turns out their happy hour was 2-5. Woohoo!

With a decent Manhattan ($12.50, not Happy Hour pricing):

A great view:

And KILLER Two For $10 Mahi Fish Tacos!

The “signature” coconut prawns were good, but next the tacos…..

Turns out both the CVS and Tommy Bahama are just across the street (and down an alley) from The In Between (and the porno store upstairs):

Dinner tonight was going to be the Wailea Coffee Shop….which Rache and I ate at on another visit…now closed, along with Hy’s Steakhouse next to the Royal Garden. Lot’s of “old school” restaurants seem to be closing. I ended up at the Korean place across the street sub-street-level. Korean Kang Nam Style BBQ Yakiniku.

I should have just ordered a “Highballu”, because the concept of whiskey and Diet Coke (they served Pepsi) barely made it through translation:

But it was served with Kim Chi! And some interior shots:

I ordered the BiBimBap in a stone pot:

Nice to have some more vegetables in my system.

Waikiki, being a tourist Mecca, you have t-shirt shops with Obama’s picture, saying, “Miss Me Yet?”, and this:


The next day found me poolside:

And then back in yesterday’s neighborhood to check on my prescription (it was ready, but no text), and another stop for Fish Tacos at Tommy Bahama – this time I went for the Happy Hour Cocktail of a Vodka Martini (which my mother claimed, “There is NO such thing as a VODKA martini!”). It nicely came with small olives, but they were stuffed with Blue Cheese – rest in peace Swanda.

Sadly, check out at the Royal Garden is 10AM. Meaning I ate some cubed papaya, and got back on the city bus to the airport – and with no checked luggage, soon I was in the shared AA/JAL Lounge with a Hot Asian Buffet!

And a “pour-it-yourself” bar!

With a nice view of the Japanese Garden that is in the middle of the airport:

And even bidets in the loo!

Before long I was back on the plane, yet again, not upgraded…but free cocktails, and thanks to Jonathan, a ride home from the airport.

Another week, another journey.

[? ? ?]

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Nov '18

Trip Report: Birthday In Barcelona – The Return Home

Yet another night with only a couple of hours of sleep before leaving to the airport. Good thing my body clock is broken…and that there is a lounge in the Barcelona airport that I have access to:

Must have been tired since I didn’t even take a picture of the place!

The ugly truth about “Business Class” intra-Europe just means that the seat next to you will be open – no extra legroom, MAYBE a better meal.

It was a short hop, but not much time in the lounge in Zurich.

Just enough time to grab a cocktail, slam it down, and head to the gate, which is too bad since they were doing made-to-order small plates. Sigh.

Next leg is Zurich to Los Angeles, a nice long flight, in what turned out to be, not as nice a pod as Air Canada Business Class. Yes, it’s a lay flat bed, it’s just cramped.

But there was champagne before takeoff:

And soon enough, booze and food started appearing….the starter:

The main (I went for the Pike):

Cheese course:


Watched a couple of movies:

…before settling in for a couple of hours of sleep before getting rousted for lunch, which I got the pasta dish, even though I’d requested the other, but seeing the other, I was glad I got the wrong meal!

Coming into LAX International, on a Star Alliance Partner, and leaving on Alaska, there is going to be a terminal change – fortunately, I allowed plenty of time to pick up my bag and drag it half way across the airport to end up in the Alaska Lounge chilling my heels for a couple of hours/drinks/bowls of soup/salad.

Final flight meal of the day was in First on the LAX-SEA leg:

Warm turkey and gouda with tomatoes – these are DAMN TASTY, but I was pretty full from the lounge, so I ate half, and wrapped the other half up for tomorrow, and they gave me another whole one because they had extras. That was my work snacks for Saturday and Sunday at work.

Home before midnight, into the shop to open at 11am.


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Nov '18

Trip Report: Birthday In Barcelona – The City

Day one in Barcelona, found RayA making us a late lunch snack…

Simple but wonderful! Afterwards, I headed to bed for a two-hour nap, while RayA had a French lesson, and then went to the gym. It was a nice way to ease into the city.

I was fine just hanging out at his place, no desire to use the provided keys and explore the neighborhood – with an apartment like this, why leave:

And my bedroom, complete with its own small deck…

Not as big as the deck off the living room!

Speaking of the deck, great place to hang out and have a cocktail…or grill some lamb, which was dinner:

And a great bottle of Greek red wine!

It was a VERY late evening of catching up and doing major damage to the bottle of Woodford Reserve I brought.

Even a simple breakfast with RayA is a classy affair….

I could get used to this.

The afternoon found us on a walk through the city. Yes, 5 Guys has invaded Barcelona, only a block or two from RayA’s flat!

But there is also a centuries old market with any kind of foodstuff you need:

This this was walking distance from MY HOUSE.

The final destination was to help a friend of RayA that owns a bar/restaurant (Gilda by Belgious.):

It was time for a deep clean and organization of the bar – brought on by RayA doing a guest stint as bartender a couple of weeks ago:

A deep clean and standardizing all the glassware, tossing out a good third of it.

We celebrated with a FINE bottle of Cava when we were done:

Here are some random tourist shots from our walk to and from:

It’s times like these that I wished I’d booked more time here.

More sightseeing in the evening, in RayA’s vintage Mercedes 230SL ragtop:

We did a circle around the Gaudi Church (Sagrada Família), still in construction after 120 years, and due to be completed in 2026 – and the finally got their construction permit!

Apparently, it’s hard to get a ticket to the interior without reservations months in advance. Maybe next trip.

Hunger called, and off to a tapas place we went.

Food was great, Raya commented that it should have been cheaper if it weren’t so close to the church.

I close with a final shot of the car….

The ride back to his turned exciting when the transmission stopped transmitting power…we limped home in second, only to find once we were in the garage, there was no reverse either. Time to push it into the spot:

As we were pushing – I noticed large amounts of red fluid on the floor – as in ATF (auto transmission fluid). On the bright side, I didn’t see any metallic flecks in it, meaning he just blew a seal (and not a Navy Seal).

My last full day in Barcelona was notably low key – went out for lunch (at 2:30pm) to a new place around the corner that his concierge gave him a coupon for. Desayunos was the name. Still tracking down a link as the restaurant as it seems to have new owners.

The first bottle of wine (included with the price) was undrinkable, like they’d “married” open bottles of the wine and served it a day later.

The second bottle was freshly opened, and much nicer.

Guessing that this wasn’t what they usually provided, but we happily finished it. Food was good and plentiful, but the service was not. They were out of several items on the menu, couldn’t get AMEX (even though they had table tents advertising they took AMEX) to run after it took us forever to get the check.

We stayed for an additional round of cocktails when we noticed this outside:

It was DUMPING rain outside. Even though we were just around the corner from his flat…drinking sounded like a drier idea.

RayA had rum (below), I had a gin and tonic, which the Spaniards serve in a balloon glass.

We headed back to the house, where we both took a little siesta…

It was a quiet evening at home, which was good, because I needed to pack and get out of the house at 5am. Oi.

Think I’ll be back now that I know TWO friends who at least live in the city part time.

[? ? ?]

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Nov '18

Trip Report: Birthday In Barcelona – Getting There

A birthday in Barcelona, though not mine. Thank would be RayA. It was just an excuse to catch up with him as he turns 55. Ah, youth.

Used 120,000 United mile and less than a hundred dollars in fees to get Business Class tickets – with the exception of the Frankfort-Barcelona leg. Here is what the routing looks like:

Some might say that’s a lot of travel for just three nights. It’s doable if you are up front. FYI, it was 14,118 flight miles. And you start in the lounge. I get access to the United lounge when I’m on international itineraries with Star Alliance because of my lifetime Gold Premier status (United Million Miler).

Then to another comfortable seat….1D

This is an Air Canada flight, and look at the amazing Steve, my flight attendant!

He brought me a lovely meal after a round of drinks:

Had just enough time in Toronto (we were running a little late) to grab a bottle of Woodford Reserve from Duty Free and get to my gate for my Frankfurt flight…and the digs are MUCH nicer on this long haul:

Yep, a little more room on this 777-300ER. Sadly though, no Steve, but bubbles before we take off:

Followed by nuts and cocktails:

The salad course:

The main course:

The cheese course:

And finally, dessert:

Watched The Royal Tenenbaums on this flight (I watched Love Is Strange on the way to Toronto) and grabbed a couple of hours of sleep in the lay-flat bed, and awoke to this:

Looks suspiciously like my breakfast on the flight to Toronto, though in true Canadian fashion, added a Caesar (that’s a Bloody Mary made with Clamato), while keeping track of the flight:

Arrived in Frankfurt for a longer layover, and immediately headed to the lounge for a refreshing shower!

And the lounge was CROWDED with early morning fliers. Notice the Air Canada pin Steve gave me?

Arrived in after a leg in coach from Frankfurt to Barcelona, only to arrive at what is called a “Hard Stand”, which means you walk down stairs to the tarmac. Then into the terminal for a long snaking walk through the “shopping mall” to get to the far end of baggage claim to wait 45 minutes for your bags so you can catch the AeroBus which will take you to RayA’s place (next to last stop – 30 minutes).

Basically, 24 hours door (Seattle) to door (Barcelona) with only 2-hours of sleep the night before, and 3-4 hours during the rest of the trip. Time for a nap.

To be continued, my adventure in Barcelona.


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One Response to “Trip Report: Birthday In Barcelona – Getting There”

  1. Roxy Says:

    That photo of the skateboarder and the guys at the lunch table are anything but random… I know you too well. xoxo

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Nov '18

Trip Report: Election Night In Austin – Part Tres

I should note that we were in shorts on day one, and in sweatshirts by our last day.

Let’s pick up with dinner on Thursday at Black’s BBQ – we are certainly getting a lot of use out of Uber this trip!

Complete with wine from Texas Hill Country. Yes, wine by the bottle, but out of plastic 16oz. cups – it is a BBQ place after all:

Our final day in Austin (we had a late flight out) was spent partially at The LBJ Museum

Next up was lunch at the Texas Chili Parlor

In the end, we both ended up getting the Hatch Green Chile Cheeseburger with a potato salad side. Yum.

Our final city stop before heading to the airport was the Blanton Museum of Art, which is free with our Ogden Museum of Southern Art membership cards.

Goodbye Austin (State Capital Building).

And this was our final meal of the trip…on the way home.

It was fun. I’ll be back.

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Nov '18

Trip Report: Election Night In Austin – Part Duo

Rache was up way before I and was out exploring the city.

I made it out the door to lunch, at a place run by Sandra Bullock’s sister that is part deli, part flower shop – Walton’s Fancy & Staple:

I went for the Rueben and a Burnt Orange:

Stopped by Austin Wine Merchants, had a nice chat with Ian, picked up a bottle of Blue Corn by the Texas Distillery, Balcones – whose used 5-gallon barrels I use to age my hooch.

And I thought Madrona Wine Merchants was stocked to the gills!

Rache brought home fried chicken from Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken, and I popped a bottle of Chilean wine (since we will be going there in January).

It being election night, we were definitely eating dinner “in” with the television locked on MSNBC and Rachel Maddow. Especially since we are in Austin, and the Beto/Cruz race is tight:

Sadly, we went to bed without definitive results…

Wednesday found us having lunch at Z Tejas – which, as it turns out is on Alaska Airlines Dining For Miles plan!

Pretty yummy food! House margarita for Rache, the Hard Day for me.

Rache ordered the Table Side Guacamole…

I ordered the chicken-fried rib eye, the healthy alternative!

I didn’t finish my vegetables, or the complementary corn bread, so we took those back the condo. Think a meal of various leftovers.

We took a detour after lunch to the amazing “junk” store, Fortney Home…which soon will be moving to a historic building in a small town an hour away:

When I mentioned “leftovers” for dinner, we do them well. Leftover lunch salad from the other day, and from the chicken bones from election night, I’d made stock, bought some noodles, added the vegetable from lunch…. And voila!

The wine was a South American Bonardo…yep, another oddball grape, courtesy of the wonderful wine shop around the corner.

Think I’ll save Thursday and Friday for part three.


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Nov '18

Trip Report: Election Night In Austin – Part Uno

When we made the plans, it was when we both had time open – not looking at the calendar and noticing that it was going to be election day in Austin, and when we made the reservations, Beto wasn’t the buzz that he was on election night.

Rache showed up the night before, and I had to open the lovely bottle Fico gave me in Tucson last week when he brought mixers to my room on the train:

I think that’s a GREAT picture – almost as good as the one from the lounge in the morning….

Or from the plane….

In a drunken booking moment, I’d blown four Gold Guest Upgrades to get us into First…which was good, because when we got to the airport, there were 42 people on the upgrade list!

It was an afternoon flight, so this was our meal:

Still not a fan of meals served all at once, but it was tasty.

Got checked into the condo after an Uber ride…nice place:


With a CRAZY long deck – 102 feet of deck, with a minimal two chairs and a side table:

Here is a video condo tour….

One of the nice things about the WorldMark Austin is its location to GREAT food close by – like Ranch 616 (as in 616 Nueces, and we are 801 Nueces):

I had two appetizers….the side of Grilled Quail (something like $6 – a STEAL):

The Don Combo, which is a Half Dozen of Crispy Oysters, Half Crispy Calamari, Chipotle Tartar and Green Goddess, and Pico de Gallo salad:

Rache got the Divorced Quail, which is Quail three ways, One Buttermilk Battered and Fried with Ranchero, One Sugar Cured and Grilled with Tomatillo, separated by Herbed Boursin Cheese Mashers and Sautéed Mixed Vegetables

This is the third time I’ve eaten here, and it never disappoints.

That was our Monday getting to Austin….stay tuned for more details!


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One Response to “Trip Report: Election Night In Austin – Part Uno”

  1. Janet Schilling Says:

    Got a bit dizzy in the kitchen portion of the tour! 🙂

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