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Last Post: Trip Report: Birthday Ramble – SFO-SEA
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Last Modified: September 29, 2014 @ 1:42 pm (GMT -7)
 
Mon
29
Sep '14

Trip Report: Birthday Ramble – SFO-SEA

Welcome to the Port of San Francisco’s NEW cruise terminal – it opened last Thursday (and today is Saturday):

Other than a long line customs/immigration was easy – and finding the Princess Airport Transfer bus as well. I was a tad concerned because I never got a printed voucher for the bus, but they didn’t ask for one, so who knows/who cares.

I’m excited to check out the new lounge Alaska is contracting with in the International Terminal where they relocated while their old terminal is being renovated… the lounge belongs to Cathy Pacific and I’m guessing the quality is going to be well above that of a standard Alaska Board Room which is above the standards for Delta’s Sky Club and American’s Admiral’s Lounges.

They did not disappoint:

Seems I was the second one in the lounge for the day as Cathay’s Hong Kong flight doesn’t leave until 1:45PM – so the lounge was VERY empty:

They offered a full pour-it-yourself bar, lots of snacks, and between 11 and 1 a selection of custom cooked noodle dishes:

Like a said, a notch up from the Alaska Board Room – unfortunately I forgot to take a picture of the “hot dish” table.

The meal in First Class on the way home was interesting – a kale and bacon dish which didn’t sound appetizing, but turns out it was:

Of course, that wasn’t enough to fill me up for the rest of the evening, so for dinner it was a pork, green pepper, and onion stir-fry since I was out of lettuce and needed some sort of vegetable…

And with that, we end the “Birthday Ramble“.

Night all.

[226.4]

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Sat
27
Sep '14

Trip Report: Birthday Ramble – YVR-YYJ-SFO

Oh gentle readers – the morning started with a bit of a disappointment….no Princess Black Elite boarding card waiting for me a check-in.

What good is chasing privileges if the computer systems can’t keep up?

After waiting a half-an-hour or so we started boarding – and it seems that everyone else was headed for the aft portion of the ship and even though I was in the fourth row of chairs I was the first one to security on the boat, eschewing the photographer only to be confronted with a ding rather than a beef (or was it the other way around).

Off to the side I stand while they call it in…new card comes down from passenger service and low-and-behold, it is black as coal.

And this time, this is MY view – opting for the balcony cabin on my Vancouver-Victoria-San Francisco cruise. For those who care about these things, since I’m a single, it’s double the fare so it’s $558.00 plus $96.02 in taxes, fees, port charges. For this:

Dropped my bags and scampered down to the Bordeaux Dining Room (6th Floor, Center) for lunch:

A light lunch – no fries. And as the guy on the last boat said, “Sometimes you just want something simple rather than something fancy.” Even if you are eating it in a fancy restaurant.

When I got back to the room, it was time to send some shirts to be washed and pressed – a Black Elite benefit (which they said due to the volume, don’t expect until 72 hours, not good for same-day service):

Then the safety drill – seats this time, in the Princess Theatre and with that out of the way it’s time to call room service and swap out this:

For this:

And this:

For this:

Yep, took the mixed selection and my Serbian Room Service boy (well, technically he’s 21 and has only been out of Serbia for 45 days) and switched it for all VSOP and Diet – the only whiskey they had was Dewar’s Scotch and the CourvoisierVSOP was the same price – go figure.

That taken are of it’s off to the LGBT meet-up (or is that hook-up) which they have POORLY planned for the Grill Bar, one level up on the open deck from where the “Sail-Away” party is booming. When will these people learn…Wheelhouse Bar! And try not to make it during the Elite Cocktail party for Elites, Platinums, Suite passengers with free nibbles and reduced priced drinks — tonight was fresh guacamole, chips, and $5.00 el Major Margaritas – which were WAY too sweet until I cut it half with ginger ale, but I digress.

Let’s see, where was I – right, LGBT get together. Our poor (but cute) host had a cute little home-made flag the size of a sheet of paper (don’t they give these people a props budget?) sitting forlornly at the table when I finally noticed him. Well, that’s two of us. I sent him over to the bar side of the partial deck having spotted what I thought were a couple of bears drinking – and I grabbed two guys that I’d been on other short cruises with (also from Seattle) and by the time it was happening we’d collected a good dozen people including the host’s bi-sexual sister who was on the cruise too.

Our Princess “Host” is in the blue shirt (and starched white shorts) at the end of the table, his sister is standing to his left. If you can’t find him, here is a close-up:

Wait, here are better pictures of the group, including half of a Sydney, Australia couple sailing all the way to Fort Lauderdale through the Panama Canal…

Dale would be to the right of Stephen (isn’t that a lovely name…wait, it’s my middle name, and even with the correct spelling!) our host. And that would be a Manhattan in a tacky plastic glass. Stephens comment to a couple who had been together for 22 years… “I’m 22, so I guess I would have been in the womb.” You go girl.

Some random shots from around the ship….

And this one I especially like…it’s like a “ghost ship“:

Eight of the gay boys got to dinner the first night in the Bordeaux Dining Room – what a handsome group:

And many of stayed up wayyyyy too late….gambling….not me, but one of the boys put $300 in a penny slot machine – the Aussie was the smartest of the lot, playing poker, where you actually have a chance to beat the house.

Woke up in Victoria to gloom and doom and drizzle…luckily I’d ordered coffee and an eggy-muffin thing the night before:

If you look closely you can see the top of the WorldMark Victoria just to the right of the tallest structure in the picture below – my original plan was to walk over and say hello to Nicola who works the front desk – but the drizzle got the better of me.

Another day, another LGBT gathering – this time in the Wheelhouse at pretty much the correct time, 5:30 (so I could go snag Rob Roys at $5.00 [plus 15%] from the Elite party which also had steak tartare and cheeses). But before I did that I swing by the Explorer Lounge for a couple of $3.99 (plus 15%) Bloody Marys in commemorative glasses (hence, needing to get two of them), drink one, split the other one into two glasses (for breakfast) and pop it in the fridge, and then pop by and get a picture of Stephen calling the trivia contest…

The steak tartare…and I know Melba Toast (what it was supposed to come with), and that isn’t Melba, it’s just toast points.

And the aforementioned Roy Roys – or what was left of them…

That was before I went for two more… and some pictures of the boys at the cocktail party and at dinner for ten which followed:

I’ve actually been on other cruises with the two on the right, one from SF and the other from DC – a long-distance couple.

These two are actually on their honeymoon, while these two have a fascination with Bang Bang, one of the servers upstairs:

With the drinks from the LGBT cocktail party and the wine with dinner, we were probably annoying all those around us, luckily we didn’t sit down until 8:30PM:

And let’s not forget the tin-foil swan for a little take-home dessert…

So another night goes – out too late hanging around the casino, and yes, I’m $30 lighter – luckily all my cash short of the $50 bill secreted away. But I did see part of the “Down on the Bayou” show…didn’t realize there were that many white people in the Bayou, but I’ll go any place that has an accordion player as part of the band.

Got back to the room to find my shirts are back from the laundry:

So much for my request to have them folded and boxed – I guess you get what you pay for, in this case, nothing since it’s one of the perks.

As for my last full day at sea, Bloody Marys await the coffee and muffin thing:

Though they were delivered at 9AM, I went back to bed until 11. Uncle needs his beauty rest. And the weather outside is frightful (or at least dreary).

The ship was rocking and pitching most of the night so the extra hours in the morning calm helped.

Spent the day doing this and that. Missed a sit-down lunch in the dining room and had to settle for the slop line (oh, I mean the buffet). Did my duty-free booze shopping (liter of Jim Beam for $17.99 minus 10% for being Elite Black), and bought a couple of watches at $10 each ($9 after discount) since I’ve been wearing my dual time-zone watch for the last couple of months since all my other watches have dead batteries.

Not that I’ll be wearing both at the same time.

Headed to the wine tasting (also a freebie for the Elites, $9.50 [plus, I'm sure, the 15%] for non-elites) – I headed back to the room when I encountered this line:

Not worth in considering the boring wines they were sampling. Finishing the last pages of my book and taking a nap was a much better use of my time.

Tonight’s LGBT Hoe Down had about 10 people show up at the Wheel House Lounge on Deck 7 (directly, and conveniently directly below my stateroom 5 levels). I’ll try to not bore you with too many photos since it seems to be the same people every night…

And then some silliness at the dinner table – I brought my birthday balloons to dinner:

Speaking of dinner, some of the highlights….

Snails in butter!

Both pretty and tasty.

Another late night…woke up at 3AM still in my clothes and still unpacked. Nothing like packing at 3AM.

Uneventful morning – up at 7:30AM, out the cabin door by the mandatory 8AM exit time…even though my disembarkation isn’t until 9:30. But a lovely sunrise over the Bay Bridge…

And the view from my breakfast table on the Lido Deck…

Now it’s just the waiting game to get off the boat and onto the bus for the airport – a final “footie” for you.

[? ? ?] I hate to think what the number will be after a week of cruise boats and dinners.

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Thu
25
Sep '14

Trip Report: Birthday Ramble – YVR

Got to the condo around 10AM – and check-in as at 4PM.Been there, done that. Left my name and number at the desk, went down the hall to the lounge, gathered a couple of pillows and took a 3-hour nap.

The nap done, it was off to find some lunch…and a coupon from WorldMark to make it cheaper. The choice? Relish, a European Gastropub just around the corner. The deal? 15% off food.

Got there to find the house wine, a Naked Shiraz on offer for $4 a glass, VERY cheap by Canadian standards and not a bad glass pour. I paired it with the Duck Confit tacos ($11) for a wonderful little lunch:

That put me back at the WorldMark around 2PM – room still not ready, so it’s off to the IGA Marketplace with a 10% off coupon to get the rest of the stuff we need for dinner.

Tonight’s dinner guests are Solus+ and Helene. The dinner menu is:

  • Fish that Helene is bringing
  • Sourdough bread
  • Caesar salad
  • Red and White wine
  • Croatian cookies for dessert

But before that can happen, I have to get checked in, which turns out to be around 2:30 – after declining to have them fix a broken light in the kitchen. I think I can suffer.

And oh how I suffer at The Canadian

Helene arrived around 5, Solus+ around six…alas, none of the dinner picture turned out…might have been the wine…

A late night, and a late morning of sleeping in…did a 3-egg fish scramble with cheese for my breakfast this morning, before settling into getting caught up on the blog… and by 3 it was time for another run to Relish for their oyster happy hour from 3-6PM with oysters at a “buck-a-shuck” – paired nicely with a Beefeater slightly dirty martini in honor of Pucci:

I ended up having a dozen of those “buck-a-shucks”.

Back to the IGA for a little more fish – Helene brought more than enough, but not quite enough for two meals – more salad and a little more for the pupu platter that BamBam always devours….

Croatian chocolate cookies on the left, sliced up heirloom sweet peppers that were on sale at the IGA for .99 a pound.

The boys (Hummingbird and BamBam) got there a little after 6, and with no word from Epick since I emailed him yesterday, finally a text response that he wasn’t coming….would have been nice to know, might not have bought more fish.

But a good dinner it was:

With leftovers for the boys to take home.

Their big news is that they finally, after seven years, have settled with the insurance company over their house fire. The money is in the bank, and they’ve found a place that they want to put an offer on in the city, in a neighborhood that I really like (as does Helene), so I’m wishing them the best of luck.

Another relaxing morning capped with another 3-egg omelet (no fish this time – sent it home with the boys for the cats). Checked out a little after 10:30AM, waited a few minutes trying to flag down a cab and finally just decided to save the $10+ and walk back down the hill to the cruise terminal – at least it wasn’t raining!

This is one of my favorite oddities on Hornby – it’s actually the bottom floor of what is now the Vancouver Art Gallery, but obviously in the past it was a police station…

Showing up at 11am seems to be the thing to do…unless you are on the Holland America boat that isn’t boarding until 1PM since they had a little norovirus outbreak. The downside of the Vancouver Cruise Terminal is that everyone, no matter how many boats are in dock, are all shoved through the same security line….meaning to Elite Line. At least past security – where they always notice my bottle of wine and direct me to the registration table – which I’ve started ignoring since no one seems to notice – there were dedicated lines for Preferred Passengers.

And a waiting area with coffee and pastries — too bad my Cruise Card is still showing Platinum (Silver) rather than Elite (Black) …I hate to start my cruise by bitching someone out, but I want my free mini-bar setup and I’ve got shirts that need laundered and starched.

[? ? ?]

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Wed
24
Sep '14

Trip Report: Birthday Ramble 2014 – SEA-YVR

I didn’t put in a time call for a cab – something I usually do, especially if I have an early flight. With a cruise where I have until 3PM to get my ass on the boat, I could wait a few minutes for a cab.

Assuming I could get them to pick up the phone. Yellow Cab … “please stay on the line for the next available agent”….5 minutes later, Orange Cab, “please stay on the line for the next available agent”… 5 minutes later. Uber. Car is ten minutes away. I’d never used Uber before but I had it on my phone with a $30 credit towards the first ride. If you aren’t already signed up for Uber – use promo code 7eo06 and get your own $30 credit (and I get a free ride too!).

Honestly is was closer to fifteen minutes, but only because the computer said I was 2 blocks further up Rose Street – but the driver has your number so it was soon fixed. When you can’t even get a taxi company to ANSWER THE PHONE no wonder Uber, Lyft and all the other services are eating cabs lunch and dinner. Cost for my ride in a private car with a former Metro Access driver?

FARE BREAKDOWN

Base Fare                     1.35

Distance                     12.98

Time                         4.90

Subtotal                    $19.23

Safe Rides Fee (?)                 $1.00

City of Seattle accessibility and admin fee     $0.20

Free trip up to $30 from James             -$20.43

CHARGED

Personal •••• 2459                 $0.00

 

Yes, I left money on the table, but the ease of setting this up was AMAZING. And I got to the terminal in time to have lunch in the dining room (rather than the buffet) which was off limits to most other travelers if they were preferred early boarders or showed up after 12:30. Many of my Princess SeaMen (a group of gay frequent cruisers on Princess) were turned away. Of course they got there later because they’d been on the cruise the day before, on the same route, and caught a shuttle back from Vancouver to catch this one.

Boarding was the SMOOTHEST that I’ve ever had…maybe showing up a little after 11AM is a good plan. Preferred Lines for security and check-in, and almost instant boarding of the Golden Princess. I’m on this cruise to get my Elite Status on Princess. Since I’m going solo, I actually get 2 cruise credits for this trip – meaning my 14th and 15th cruise by their bookkeeping (not counting the 3 that I added that weren’t in their records). Dancing Bear (DB) completed his 14th and 15th on yesterday’s cruise so we’ll have to see how quick they are at getting status levels updated. This is, of course, a concern to me because my 16th cruise where more benefits kick in is this coming Wednesday after a couple of days in Vancouver.

Since it is just an overnight cruise, I opted for an interior cabin ($173.00 total — $118 for the cruise, $55 for taxes/fees/port expenses) rather than my usual balcony cabin – DB got upgraded from inside to balcony on his, lucky bugger.

Good food at lunch, though with my 10AM breakfast I was less than hungry which didn’t stop me from the Shrimp Salad (so awesome, no photo, got eaten too quickly) and the beef tenderloin followed by a sherry trifle:

I’m not sure I’d really call a Jello-based dessert a “trifle“. Others at the table had the Salmon and the Burger:

Even the appetizers were tasty and beautiful:

Speaking of DB, met up with him after lunch….

And a tour of his cabin…nice view:

I even grabbed some little desserty things from the International Café in the atrium:

And a cocktail for myself from the minis I’d brought on board in the toiletries….DB is on the all drinks included for $49 (+15%) a day plan. They wouldn’t make a dime if Swanda were on this boat, but he does tip well.

At 3:30 was the mandatory lifeboat drill – and a twist is that you no longer have to bring your life vest if you’ve done the drill before – gone is the sea of orange vest wearing people. As for me, I brought a cocktail instead of the life jacket – and plopped on the floor rather than stood:

Sail away at 5, LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, BiSexual, Transgender) Meet-up at 5:30 in the Wheelhouse Lounge. It used to be called the “Friends of Dorothy“, think Wizard of Oz, sort of like the “Friends of Bill W.” for the folks in recovery. I miss the name, but the younger generation is sort of clueless about the FOD term.

A crowd of 20+ showed up. Men, Women, mostly around my age, mostly white. A couple of out-layers, older black gentleman, youngest Eastern European boy (Anthony).

After hanging out for a couple of hours, the consensus with crowd that I’d been on other cruises with was that it was time for a swim in the Lotus Spa pool (with adjoining wet and dry saunas), followed by an 8:30 dinner. With free drink coupons and refilling from the room which now had a full bottle of Maker’s Mark in it from duty-free (a perk of being on a one-day cruise is you get your liquor the minute you purchase it), luckily there are no pictures from dinner – where I added a bottle of wine to the meal since I have a $50 room credit I need to use up and Mick picked up the cost of the Maker’s (for which I still owe him). Shared the wine with one of the others at our 9 person table. And a noisy table it was.

Lovely sunset off the railing….

One of the joys of cruising….

Up until 2AM,and need to be out of the cabin at 8AM, then breakfast on the Lido Deck, and then taking a nap until my 9:30 disembarkation time….

Customs was a snap…hand them the form…and then the hell of two 5,000 person boats being in dock at the same time. This was the cab line:

That’s about ten switchbacks – I gave up after five minutes and decided to walk the 12-15 blocks to the WorldMark at The Canadian – even in the drizzle I got there in 20 minutes at which point I would have only been a third of the way thru the cab line.

Next up, two days in Vancouver, BC.

[? ? ?]

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Tue
23
Sep '14

Trip Report: Big Easy Quickie, Part Two.

Today’s mission: The New Orleans Museum of Art, which I’d read was free on Wednesdays… as it turns out free for RESIDENTS on Wednesdays. Oh well — $10 towards the arts and culture scene.

NOMA is at City Park which is at the end of one of the Canal Street Street Car lines (the other goes to the Cemeteries).

Reminds me vaguely of the Nelson-Atkins Gallery in Kansas City with the big columns out front.

Not a huge collection and a couple of wings were closed for upcoming exhibitions, but here are three of my favorites:

To which, when I sent it to my buddy Solus+ he said: “Is that a PENIS?” Answer: “YES, I believe it is.” Of course, being a priest he might find this piece less than….

And then there is the creepy Dutch Boy that looks slightly (well, not slightly) menacing. Man, did it get a bunch of comments on FaceBook:

  • I’ve seen that painting there! :-)
  • It’s like some satanic boy on a donut box….
  • Would you recommend the NOMA? Thinking about going.
  • Not a huge collection, but a MASSIVE sculpture garden (which I didn’t see but have the brochure for). Lovely café that is an outpost of Ralph Brennan.
  • It looks like a selfie!
  • Dutchboy paints used this painting for marketing.
  • Slightly!?
  • Somewhere in Maine Stephen King is missing a piece of cover art.

Now for something tame… from my love of furniture.

Great lunch at Café NOMA which is a Brennan outpost. I had the BBQ Chicken Sliders:

Yep, a glass of red wine and the New York Times and Wall Street Journal – got my news fix.

From the St. Charles Street Car line.

A view down Canal Street towards the Mississippi. The rain from my first night in town has turned into just a muggy overcast.

Maybe a new profile picture?

That was the end of day one…dinner was pork chops simmered in BBQ sauce. Last night was a pan-fried rib eye steak, both meals came with salad – yes, I’m condo cooking in New Orleans, the land of great food (where the portions are HUGE as are the calories).

Full Day Number Two: the goal is the Mexican Consulate’s Art Gallery to see an exhibition of Five Generations of Mexican Art – focusing on printmaking. Damn fine show! As I said to the gallery director as well. Hard to find. The address on Convention Boulevard finds you across from the Convention Center at a Hertz car rental. It’s a slightly run down building which if you walk around the east side you find the Mexican Consulate on the ground floor, and if you walk around the west side you find the gallery, which you have buzz someone to unlock the door – guessing they aren’t listed in any of the “art gallery guides”. I just stumbled across them on the interweb (as Mags would say).

Also on my agenda – though just added when I noticed it on a directional sign at transferring from the Canal Street Street Car to the Waterfront Street Car was the Museum of Southern Food and Beverage which looked to be close to the Mexican Consulate. When I couldn’t find any other signs for it, tapped it into the phone to find out some sad news:

SoFAB will re-open to the public on Monday, September 29, 2014 following a Ribbon Cutting Ceremony.

Exploring their site on-line led to this interesting entry:

The Southern Food and Beverage Museum and the Museum of the American Cocktail are located  at 1504 Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard, New Orleans, LA 70113. Street parking is available, or you can take the St. Charles Streetcar line to Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and walk three blocks to Oretha C. Haley Boulevard.

Who knew? Guess I have another reason to come back to New Orleans….

Walking back to the street car almost stepped in this:

Not sure how it met it’s end, but doesn’t look pleasant.

And now a couple of random “tourist” shots – the cruise terminal on the Mississippi next to the Riverwalk Outlet Mall

Harrah’s Casino – now on-land rather than a boat:

Another restaurant with a cool neon sign:

Headed back to the Avenue Plaza to whip up a little dinner…

And before bedtime headed out to pick up more of the cheap “bourbon” since it wasn’t that bad…

Before settling into bed…

For tomorrow it’s check-out at noon and meander to the airport for my 5:55PM flight.

 

The Road Home….

 

It’s wonderful to have a late afternoon flight (though that means getting in rather late as well) – no need to worry about setting alarms, having enough time to make breakfast, etc. It takes about two hours using the cheap public transit to get to the airport – but I’ve got plenty of time, and the check-in desk at Alaska doesn’t open until 3PM anyway.

There isn’t a Board Room at the New Orleans Airport, but there is a Delta Sky Club that I have privileges in, albeit in a different terminal which means going back through security to catch my flight. And when I get there, the place is PACKED – there were more people in the Sky Club than were in the concourse – apparently due to a couple of delayed flights.

But the food was good and the drinks were strong.

That would be the Chicken Salad with walnuts and cranberries, marinated olives, and a Jack and Diet – not shown, the Italian Wedding Soup with meatballs (also good).

Alas—no gate upgrade to First Class for my trip home. And there was a tall muscly guy in the middle seat…spent most of the flight leaning towards the aisle. Looks like my “upgrade luck” finally ran out.

[? ? ?]

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Sat
20
Sep '14

Trip Report: Big Easy Quickie, Part One.

What can I say… $258 round-trip to New Orleans and I’m out of here.

Here are a couple of selfies from the Board Room… in the “cone of silence” chair, which I found a little claustrophobic…

And a much more normal chair…

Even got upgraded on the way down on the Salmon Thirty Salmon II

I’m starting to get used to flying up front…

Even if I do have to have a window seat… but my office is set up once we hit 10,000 feet:

OK, the window is good for some things…

Then came the salad course…with beads! Not sure where I can sweeze the DigiPlayer onto the tray table:

Followed by the main course…

As for the DigiPlayer – guess I have to wait until dessert:

Smooth flight, lots of cocktails, wine, more cocktails…feeling no pain when I land a Louis B. Armstrong International Airport. Grabbed my checked back and headed off to grab the $2.00 bus to the city (the Jefferson County E2 Line):

Yep, it’s raining, and still manages to be humid.

E2 to Loyola, walk half a dozen blocks and catch the St. Charles Street Car Line ($1.25 – $1.50 with a transfer, which I didn’t need). Amazing that I remember how to do this from previous trips – cheap way to get from the airport to the condo, as long as you have an hour and a half. Looking a little tired at this point….

I’ve stayed at the Avenue Plaza many times – maybe that’s what makes the transit so easy. And it’s right on the St. Charles Street Car Line, which is even better.

Full discloser, I took this photo on the way BACK to the airport, as I also took this one the last day, showing off my FABULOUS view:

But the rest of the place is nice:

Nice shower, nice kitchenette – guess I should go two doors down to William’s Market, which is just past one of my favorite places (if you can stand the cigarette smoke) which is Igors Bar, Restaurant, Library and Laundromat:

Sorry that William’s Market and Deli is so plain as to not really warrant a photo, but the food is GREAT – this was the smoked sausage sandwich I had for lunch one of the days:

I was a little confused when she asked if I wanted the sandwich “dressed” – with tomato, lettuce, etc., as opposed to “naked”.

I picked up a dozen eggs and a couple of other things – I’d picked up a 12-pack of Diet Coke Caffeine Free at CVS on the transfer between the E2 and the St. Charles.

All set for the morning…and I have my itinerary all planned.

[224.6]

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Sat
20
Sep '14

Trip Report: Cabo Destruction Pictures.

Before I get started on this week’s adventure, I thought I’d do a quick additional update on Roxy and I’s Cabo San Lucas trip and the devastation that followed. Here is Terminal One, that I flew out of…

I was in that terminal on Friday afternoon, the lounge is on the second floor, to the left of this picture.

Roxy was in Terminal Two on Saturday, which now looks like this:

By Tuesday, all was a mess.

The travel gods shined brightly on us this last trip. Guess I’ll hold off scheduling Linda, Peter, and Clair’s trip next spring.

[224.6]

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Tue
16
Sep '14

Trip Report: Cabo Postscript.

When Roxy flew into Cabo San Lucas International Airport….

His plane took a more westerly approach to dodge Hurricane Norbert so he could land on Saturday afternoon. Friday afternoon and Saturday morning the airport was buffeted by winds…. Here the wikipedi description of Norbert:

The NHC began monitoring a large area of disturbed weather in association with a trough of low pressure near the south-central coast of Mexico on August 31.[111] Amid a favorable atmospheric environment, the disturbance steadily organized and was acquired sufficient organization to be declared Tropical Storm Norbert at 15:00 UTC on September 2.[112] The cyclone moved generally northwestward following formation, steered on the southwestern side of a mid-level ridge over northern Mexico.[113] With a symmetric central dense overcast and curved bands wrapping into the center, Norbert was upgraded to a Category 1 hurricane at 03:00 UTC on September 4.[114] Initially steady state, the cyclone began a period of rapid deepening early on September 5, becoming a Category 2 hurricane at 00:00 UTC and a Category 3 hurricane at 06:00 UTC.[115][116] After attaining peak winds of 120 mph (195 km/h), the effects of cooler ocean temperatures began to weaken the system. Norbert weakened below major hurricane intensity at 21:00 UTC on September 6 and below hurricane intensity at 15:00 UTC on September 7.[117][118] After lacking deep, organized convection for over 12 hours, Norbert was declared post-tropical cyclone at 09:00 UTC on September 8.[119]

By the time I arrived on Monday, Norbert was a distant thought, a little beach swell, but no flooding.

For our week in Cabo, the weather was mid-80′s with some humidity, so basically I hung out here:

For FIVE DAYS… just bring me food and booze – OK, it wasn’t that bad, but close. My feet never touched the sand or any beach/pool water.

I left on Friday morning (well, from the resort, afternoon from the airport), but wen Roxy left on Saturday, the waves from the next storm were already lapping at the beaches….

Thanks Roxy for the FaceBook shot that I stole for this post.

Apparently Roxy and I both got out in time… because Hurricane Odile was a duzzy”:

On September 7, the NHC began monitoring disorganized convection in association with a trough several hundred miles south of the Mexico coastline.[120] The disturbance gradually organized within an environment of moderate northeasterly wind shear, and it acquired sufficient organization to be declared a tropical depression at 0900 UTC on September 10.[121] Six hours later, it was upgraded to Tropical Storm Odile.[122] Over the coming days, only slow intensification occurred as upper-level winds remained unfavorable; by early on September 13, however, the satellite presentation began to change quickly, with the center fully embedded within a central dense overcast. In conjunction with satellite intensity estimates, the cyclone was upgraded to a Category 1 hurricane at 09:00 UTC.[123] Odile then began a period of rapid deepening, becoming a Category 2 hurricane at 00:00 UTC,[124] a Category 3 hurricane at 06:00 UTC,[125] and a Category 4 hurricane at 09:00 UTC on September 14.[126] After reaching peak winds of 135 mph (215 km/h), the start of an eyewall replacement cycle caused the system to weaken to a Category 3 hurricane.[127]

Thanks again Wikipedia.

Reports mentioned Cabo Villas where we were staying – distressed honeymooning couple, flooded Hiltons, etc.

Here is the report from the honeymoon couple….http://abcnews.go.com/us/hurricane-turns-cabo-honeymoon-nightmare-family/story?id=25513418

This would be up e beach (north) from where Roxy and I were staying…..but a short stroll….

Dodged two storms – reminds me of a trip with Jillar where we cancelled and moved our holiday to Sonoma.

And it feels weird to be making this post t 35,000 feet over the Denver Airport (according to the Captain)

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Mon
15
Sep '14

Trip Report: Cabo Back To Seattle.

My final day in Cabo, or shall I say my final morning….for the afternoon will be at the airport.

But first I had to get some breakfast into me… and Roxy:

Nothing says morning like Strawberry Daiquiris!

Eggs Benedict for me (against my diet), and a avocado shrimp omelet for Roxy.

Now to just get to the airport…the shuttle doesn’t run with the exception of Saturday…so it’s $65USD for a cab to the airport. Packed and headed to the cab stand, and notice that you CAN schedule a shuttle (which I didn’t) at 11:15am (it was 11 when I got there) so I hang out…and find another couple who had booked a shuttle. Technically the shuttle is $17 a person, but I hopped on theirs which picked up two more people, and in the end it was $30 – cheaper than the solo cab, but more than a scheduled shuttle.

Quick time through security…the joys of being hours early. And on the other side I was greeted with a pleasant surprise – a lounge that I had a card to get into for free (well, the first two visits per year).

Here is the main area of Terminal One at the Cabo San Lucas airport:

And the VIP Lounge which comes as a benefit of my Chase Ink card….

Good food (which I shouldn’t have eaten with lunch on the plane coming up), good Wi-Fi, good drinks – 440 Pesos for those without privileges ($40USD).

Several hours later, I’m the first on the tarmac for my first leg, SJD-SFO:

Nice shot of my Airbus320 if I don’t say so….onto San Francisco and immigration, And then back through security before the next lounge…. The new one at SFO, which as it turns out is a temporary one, with a multiple story one coming in the next year or so…not bad for a “temp” lounge:

An hour or so, and it’s time to load up again….

Oops, wrong plane, long era….

But the remodeled United Terminal 3, Concourse E, Gates 60-69 is stunning:

And Klein’s Deli is GREAT! Not this trip, but earlier trips….

Look at all the seating with outlets and chairs. Even the sunsets are good.

It was around 11PM by the time that I got home…tired and ready for my own bed.

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Sun
14
Sep '14

Trip Report: Cabo San Lucas With Roxy

This post will mostly be pictures, since I didn’t really do anything other than lay around on the outdoor couch. A place that is so comfortable (after 3PM when it’s in the shade) that I’m going to post the picture again:

Now all I need is a houseboy…alas, Roxy isn’t that type of boy.

Speaking of Roxy, he was out playing when I arrived at the resort so I was all by myself for the “owner/new owner/upgrade” reception at Baja Brewing on the roof of the building next door to ours in the complex.

Alas, I didn’t win any of the prizes….so it was back to the condo with its wonderful view:

And the condo isn’t too bad either…

Sorry, forgot to take pictures of the bathroom which had a walk-in shower for four people, including a nice bench.

Roxy finally arrived, with a boy in tow (a theme that was to develop during the week)…

I shouldn’t say boy as Carlos is 28 (Roxy will turn 31 on Friday, the day I leave). We ordered room service for dinner my first night.

Tuesday at noon it was off for the “owner update” for $60USD in restaurant vouchers. Had I known Roxy was going to tag along (for the free lunch and drinks) I would have had him listed on the presentation and we would have scored $160USD. Add this to the $100 in restaurant credit I got for paying my dues early, and that should make a dent in our food expenses (and whiskey expenses were trimmed at Duty Free).

We got a buffet lunch (value $18USD according to them) with a decent Margarita at the restaurant while we went over the preliminaries, then it was on to the real “sales pitch” and several more margaritas….

I’ve never seen someone put salt on the rim of a Styrofoam cup – but they were like 16 oz. Margaritas… I got through another 1.5 and took the rest back to the room after they finally realized they weren’t getting any money out of me…when you only paid $1USD plus a $100USD transfer fee (THANKS COLONELS!) they’d have to set the bar REALLY low to get me to pony up. That and I’m pondering if I want to keep it at all, preferring the WorldMark Cabo San Lucas for its full kitchens and closeness to the Mega Mart just up the road (and walkability to old Cabo – San José del Cabos).

Not that the scenery by the pool is lacking at Cabo Villas:

I can only imagine what a zoo this place is at Spring Break (when Linda, Peter and daughter Claire are coming next spring)…

With all the restaurant credits at Baja Brewing, we took many meals on the rooftop, including this lunch one of the days.

Enjoying a couple of Bourbon and Gingers on the roof while waiting for our food.

Champagne corn chowder with bits of catch-of-the-day, and Roxy’s grilled catch-of-the-day salad:

Ack! The view is so boring!

If you wanted water-based activities, there are certainly lots to choose from:

Jet ski rentals, glass bottom boats, parasailing, dinner cruises:

Including one on a “pirate” boat:

Though I’m a little unsure about the name of the boat…yes, that would be the Buccaneer Queen:

Though, my former Tall Ship Captain buddy, Bebbe-Center, recommends you check out the “Sunderland” which moored at the marina in the center of town but sank in 2013, was refloated but not allowed out of the harbor for dry dock repairs so it was broken apart to be used for educational exhibits…sigh.

Or, you can just experience the sunset:

A truly lazy week laying around until you are hungry, go to one of the restaurants on the property, use the 10-15% off card, or order in (and transfer it from the Styrofoam to real plates), then go back to relaxing.

Finished up all the New Yorkers that I brought, killed another paperback (that wasn’t even worth coming home with – Night Watch, by Alistar Maclean), leaving the hardback for the trip home.

Whilst I was lounging about, Roxy was working the local scene like a pirate plundering booty…of 9 meet-ups arranged, 8 showed up and he ended up plundering booty from 7 out of the 8, and one came back for an additional plundering, another for three. Made me tired just watching the effort involved. But I guess when you return to college in a week after a seven year absence you need to all your oats in the ground before fall. One more metaphor and even I might puke.

My last night (Roxy stays another night) he didn’t get home until 2:30AM – good thing I’m not his mother (or father).

That said, we both had a great time doing the things we love. Maybe I should sell the timeshare to Roxy and go back to staying at the WorldMark – just a thought.

Back in the air tomorrow. Now to figure out how to get to the airport.

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2 Comments »

2 Responses to “Trip Report: Cabo San Lucas With Roxy”

  1. The Senior Colonel Says:

    Did you get out before the big blow? No pun intended.

  2. UncleMarkie Says:

    Yep — see latest post…

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Wed
10
Sep '14

Trip Report: Do You Know The Way To San Jose (del Cabo)?

Apparently “the way” starts WAY EARLY. The things I do for a free (actually $91.98 in taxes/fees) ticket to Cabo San Lucas.

Up at 3AM, out the door, forgetting the two breakfast burritos that I’d made last night and bemoaning the fact that my favorite parking garage no longer gives Alaska Airlines Miles for each day you stay.

At 3:30AM, only the center checkpoint at Sea-Tac is staffed…an I almost panicked until I noticed that there was a TSApre line open – I was no mood to take off my shoes, dig out my liquids and pull out my laptop. This should give you an idea of my mood:

The United Club doesn’t open until 4:30 and we were to start boarding at 4:45 for our 5:20 departure. No coffee, no snack, no newspapers. Sigh. I get free lounge access on any itinerary that includes international flights, a lot of good it does me this morning. There was one bright spot – I was the only person to get a gate upgrade to seat 4F in First Class. This is a happy Uncle Markie:

Guess I didn’t need to buy that ham and Swiss sandwich at Starbucks. United Airlines are the only folks I know of that will upgrade you even if you are flying on a Frequent Flier Mileage Redemption Ticket for Premier members according to their level and are paid. I’m guessing the started that as compensation for all the other benefits they took away when they changed their program this year.

One of the goals of this trip is to try out a new tablet backpack – the never-ending quest for the perfect bag…

If it doesn’t work out, it’s getting returned on my return.

I really do enjoy sitting up front – not enough to pay for it, but still – it gives me an excuse to have a cocktail at 5:15 in the morning:

Vodka/Cranberry squeeze of lime – it’s a little too early to be drinking whiskey, and Bloody Mary mix gives me heartburn. One advantage of United Airlines over Alaska Airlines is that United serves the first round while you are on the ground.

And maybe it’s a good thing I got that Starbuck’s sandwich as this was “breakfast” in United First:

Luckily I have a three hour layover in San Francisco…and the opportunity to try out one of the newest United Clubs – which to get to is a labyrinth of corridors, but the end result is pleasing:

This is the only United Club I’ve been in that actually has a toaster for the bagels! Though, on the downside I miss the Garden Vegetable Cream Cheese of Alaska’s Board Room.

Hung for an hour or so, then it was off to Duty Free to get supplies for the timeshare….might be enough to hold us for the week since Roxy apparently picked up a bottle of Jim Beam as well:

Pretty amazing that Mexico allows three liters per person on the way in.

A little time at the Club Room (two whiskey/diets) before heading to the gate for my flight from San Francisco to Cabo San Lucas, which I knew I’d been upgraded to seat 2B. Apparently there aren’t many Premier’s on this flight according to the number of empty Economy Plus seats….no wonder I got upgraded on this flight 72 hours in advance:

All those blue seats are empty Economy Plus seats.

And as you can tell after we were all loaded, LOTS of empty seats. But then again, September and October are the hottest months in Cabo San Lucas.

Luckily the lunch is much more filling:

That would be the Chicken Salad – my seatmate (2A) had the prosciutto and mozzarella salad which looked bad – and turns out it was cold as well. Speaking of seatmates – if there are any German speaking motorcycle enthusiasts, he runs a tour agency – usa-biker-tour.com. Tours on Harley’s to all of North America great road trips – Key West, the American West, Baja, etc. He was headed to Cabo San Lucas to check out a new hotel in Concepción, on west coast of the Baja Peninsula.

I didn’t check luggage so I was the first through immigration and customs, which just means waiting outside for the shuttle for all the people with luggage. Since they wouldn’t let me back in the terminal to use the facilities, I had to use the ones for the taxi/limo drivers…with some amusing graffiti….

Translations welcome.

Being in central Cabo I was the last of the stops…but it was all worth it with the view from the room after I poured myself a cocktail:

I don’t think I’ll be moving for the next five days. Wish me luck getting return trip upgrades.

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Sat
6
Sep '14

Stay At Home Report: Dinner With Friends! Repeatedly.

Seems I have a week at home – time to invite friends to dinner (after a lovely Labor Day End Of Summer Party at Drew and Renee’s place in North Seattle.

Tuesday: Dinner with the business partner, partner’s partner, customers, customers who are vendors (www.locuswines.com) as well – good food, good company.

Menu:

  • Fresh pretzel-style rolls
  • Salad
  • Green Beans (thanks Jim)
  • Sautéed Jim-gathered mushrooms and onions
  • Leg of Lamb
  • Bed of roasted root vegetables (Yellow Fins, Yams, Walla Walla Onions, Rosemary)

And especially for Shama, I baked some chocolate chip short bread cookies…

A good time was had by all, with more to come.

And then there was Wednesday which was supposed to include the Gay Volleyball player in town for a tournament, who then realized his first match was at the exact time of dinner – the rest of us had fun:

Of course to get there I had to hit the Safeway 30-50% off rack:

Which resulted in this and this:

And the bill….

Apparently I saved $130. And it took me 15 minutes to check out with all the double scanning… and the checkout line – took my 15 minutes with all the double scanning for the discount…and annoyed people behind me – never seen that many people abandon a check-out line:

Lots of spices which ran up the bill. But many of those are things to use in the Botanical Brandy blend.

Thursday night is just Jonathan and me…for a hash made of the lamb and root vegetables from Tuesday’s dinner.

Speaking of the Botanical Blend – lots of things being blended in the kitchen:

Lots of recycling….many dead cases of wine… I pity the recycle guy.

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Sun
31
Aug '14

Trip Report: Victoria With Hoosiers.

Met up with the kids in the check-in line at the Victoria Clipper – actually not in the line, at the counter…I was running a few minutes late getting there. Turns out we were some of the first people on the boat so we had our choice of tables. I prefer the ones in the back closer to the Duty Free counter.

Joe and Lisa on one side:

Me on the other side of the table with fixin’s for a Red Baron (also known as a Poinsettia):

Three hours later we are queued up for Customs and Immigration in Victoria:

Lisa had signed us up for the City/Butchart Gardens Tour through The Clipper which is basically a driving tour of the city on the way into and out of town on the way to The Gardens. Here is Chinatown:

And then the world-famous Butchart Gardens:

We tried to have our pre-tour lunch in The Dining Room but the soonest they could seat us was 2:30 – it was noon, AND the bus was due to return to the city. The Blue Poppy was where we ended up. Cafeteria line, but sit down, and with wine. I had the pulled pork sandwich and a glass of Cabernet. Lisa and Joe had sandwiches and shared a Salmon/Clam Chowder which looked like it had too many potatoes for my taste.

Back in the city we were the last hotel drop off as we are at the far end of inner bay. We only had to wait a few minutes for our room to be ready:

We were a little far for my tablet to get a good connection in the living room so I set up shop in the guest bathroom:

And even that took some work to get a connection – the redirect on their site after log-in wasn’t working so I had to call technical support and to have the phone close enough to the computer to work through stuff with tech support I had to string both the unit’s telephones together using the data jack on one to feed the other:

The things I do for a computer connection, at least with my status it’s free.

But the view is great – even for being on the first floor:

That would be the Coho Ferry heading back to Port Angeles – it’s the other ferry connection direct to Victoria’s Inner Harbor.

Joe went off to do the grocery store shopping while Lisa and I went around the corner to the mini-mart for the heavy items like Diet Coke, Tonic, Ginger Ale and ice since the clean out the ice bucket between guests which is a pain when you really want a cocktail ASAP.

I’d brought up Flank Steak for the first night large enough for leftovers with the eggs in the morning, and T-Bone Steaks for the second night. Protein is about double the price in Canada as in the US so it made more since to clean out some of the 50% off cow I had in my freezer. And dinner was good:

And breakfast was good thanks to Joe’s cooking:

For our full-day in Victoria, Joe and Lisa headed off on the water taxi to check out Chinatown and Antique Row:

It being Thursday I stayed behind to get the wine shop’s website updated. We met up for lunch at Barb’s Fish and Chips at Fisherman’s Terminal – my guilty pleasure when I’m up there. The one-piece for me, the two-piece for Joe, and Lisa had the Salmon and Chips.

Little did we know that Labor Day Weekend was an antique boat gathering called Classic Boat Festival. That might explain us not getting a Penthouse Suite with the hot-tub.


Quite a schedule of events – that we will miss since we have an 11:35 boat back to Seattle. At least we got to see them arriving in the harbor”

The afternoon for the kids was poolside. I joined them for an hour before heading of on the water taxi to the marina downtown to check out all the boats:

The ride into town was amusing with this group of partiers… apparently for $15 you purchase a wrist band from the water taxi folks and it gets you four ferry rides between various waterfront bars, and if you have at least four people in your group you get a free appetizer to share at each bar. Sounds like a smashing deal to me (Pickle Pub Crawl):

And here is a really great selfie on that same trip – so good I used it for my FaceBook profile picture:

Several people have commented that it makes me look like a young Pappa Hemingway. But the point of the trip was to see the stunningly gorgeous wooden sail and power boats:

Even the dinghies are pimped out…

And maybe one of the stunningly gorgeous captains…

And the wicker chairs in his cabin that he hates but can’t get them out of the cabin without cutting them in half…apparently they were loaded in before the roof was put on:

Sorry for the glare…gives it an odd “impressionist” feeling. And speaking of pretty boys, these buskers were also talented:

Time to head back to the condo for drinks and dinner…

Our condo from the water…we are one unit back from the front on the 1st floor:

And the dinner that I mentioned:

Up earlier on the final day to catch the ferry home…

Very crowded it being the Friday of Labor Day Weekend:

Not a free seat on the entire vessel – and for the final photo of this post, some crisps we shared with our tablemates:

Home a little after three and turned in for a power nap for tomorrow is a work day.

What a fun couple of days.

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Sat
30
Aug '14

Trip Report: Rainier With Roxy.

I was feeling the need for one more road trip with Roxy – and actually pulled it off. He wanted to go hiking on Rainier with our Park Ranger buddy Sierra. An overnight hike isn’t my cup of tea – but at least I got him up there. Sierra will run him back down the hill to Enumclaw afterwards and he can catch the bus home.

On the road again…

The entrance to Rainier National Park

The Visitor’s Center at Sunrise in Rainier National Park

And our buddy Ranger Sierra

I didn’t know that having a personal invitation from a Ranger would get you in the park free – there’s a $15 savings!

Ranger Sierra actually lives in the building to the left of the visitor’s center photo:

Yep, his bedroom window looks out on Mount Rainier. And here is the common room. Glad to see the Rangers drink beer:

Ranger Sierra was leading the 3PM walk – he switched from the 1PM so we could do it, not realizing I had to leave at 3. As it turned out later, I made phenomenal time getting back to Seattle and probably could have made the walk and still make my 7:30 appointment with a house appraiser. Here he is in a park poster:

Since I was going to miss it, Roxy and I set out on one of the easy trails…yes, I’m hiking AGAIN.

Here are some of the better shots from our outing:

And finally the one that was taken by a German Tourist of the three of us, just before I left to head back to Seattle:

What a fun way to spend the day.

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Thu
28
Aug '14

Visitor Report: Two Different Worlds Visiting.

Visitors from Ireland, visitors from Tokyo – it was a busy time at Uncle Markie’s Home For Wayward Tourists. The first to arrive were Jeff and Mindi – though Jeff only for drinks from 10PM-1AM with Mindi’s brother as she got sick on the flight from Dublin. Sorry, no pictures of the drunken festivities – though it did wreak havoc with y packing for the Denver trip which was in the middle of all these visits, and hence why Jeff came over late at night – because it was the only night that we’d be in town the same day, and he didn’t want a repeat of when I was in Ireland last month I was headed south to the wedding as he was cabbing in from the airport.

The day after I got back from Denver, Tokyo Dave showed up – at least I got pictures of that! Dinner Saturday night was at Swanda’s place. Here are MY pictures:

And here is Swanda’s picture of the event – clearly we know who is the better blogger:

That is TRULY a GREAT photograph of the two of us.

Sunday night’s dinner I did a little better when Mindi (ex-pat from Ireland), Anne (ex-workmate), and Tokyo Dave (ex-pat from Tokyo) joined me for a flank steak dinner:

Tokyo Dave was staying at my place, and after he’d decamped for the airport on Monday I found a t-shirt and underwear left behind, and then got a message that he was missing his work iPhone5 as well. Apparently enough sleep wasn’t part of anyone’s holiday plan – both Mindy and Anne arrived for dinner a wee bit hungover from the previous night. Ah, the life of travelers. I’ll have to try that sometime myself.

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Wed
27
Aug '14

Trip Report: Amtraking From Seattle To Denver Via Sacramento (Part Three)

Too bad I didn’t get the picture of the woman on the platform in Denver doing the ALS Ice Water Challenge – I did, however, donate my ice to the project. I had ice still in my bucket, and I’m in Denver, my destination – better to soak someone than being poured down the drain. Personally I like the picture from the movie Carrie that I posted on FaceBook with the comment “Ice Bucket Failure – Got Blood Instead”.

Because of a thunderstorm that rolled in at the same time as the train (coincidence?) our table was a little late as they moved patio people inside… but soon we were eating at the lovely Stoic & Genuine:

Drinks in hand, waiting for oysters….

Oysters killed, killing the tuna tartar….

Then the heirloom tomato salad – and in the background the watermelon salad.

After dinner we walked through the rehabbed station….

There is even a hotel in the station – the front desk looked good, but no idea the rates. That would be the Crawford Hotel.

It was a long night…luckily both Dan and Lisa aren’t working for my “big day” in Denver…Dan and I ran to HomoDepot (and didn’t give in to the hot dog guy there) to check out parts to fix my suitcase (again) and then off to shop for cheap liquor for me to drag home….but soon it was dinner time:

Chicken off the grill (that’s what is in the big bowl, lots of legs off the grill) while Dan dealt with issues on one of my web servers… and before you knew it, we were both beat…

When you are beat, you are beat.

Before I knew it, it was time to head back to Seattle. Thanks Lisa for running me to the airport!

Got my booze laden bag checked (2×1.75, 1x.75) and headed to the Admirals Club (American) which Alaska has privileges with. First priority is to start posting some blog reports… second thing is to get some food before my trip. Yes, there are cookies and snaky things, but unlike the Alaska Board Room, you have to pay for real food – I got the roast beef sandwich on a Pretzel Roll and I swapped out the chips for extra pickles ($9.95 plus tax) – I didn’t realize I was going to get a bucket of pickles:

Loved the horseradish sauce.

Got a post done and then it was onto the Alaska flight home…sigh, no upgrade., but new seats with power outlets. Not an open seat in the plane and in case you were interested, I was number seven on the upgrade list. Damn Friday afternoon flights.

I was in seat 6D – so these are in the back of the first class seats – the regular seat outlets look like this:

I love the fact that the outlets take ALL international plugs…and have USB, the true international standard.

And thank goodness for the Whiskey and Diet smuggled onto the plane…

It isn’t pretty, but it worked.

Had my free drink on the plane (MVPGold Status Benefit), read a little, napped a little and caught a cab home.

Too short a visit – but I needed that train ride (and the time with Dan and Lisa).

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Sun
24
Aug '14

Trip Report: Amtraking From Seattle To Denver Via Sacramento (Part Two)

Even with the delays we got into town a few minutes early – I would have preferred several hours late so I could have had the free breakfast on the train. Basically I have a 5 hour layover in Sacramento.

Not terribly impressed with the station – which is under serious renovation:

It took a 12-block walk to find breakfast – some of it pretty:

Some not – lots of vacant storefronts. Nothing to eat in the station, though there was a Starbucks at the end of the block (like everywhere). I ended up at Cafe Bernardo at 15th and R. The train station is at 4th and I. That sounds like more than 12 blocks. I had their version of the eggs benedict – sourdough toast, sliced ham, poached egg, hollandaise. Odd but OK.

The train, she is a comin’

And yet another train without ice – but my car attendant got be a bucket from the dining car. Nice man:

Off to The Mile City we go, with stops in Truckee:

And then on to this countries ugliest Amtrak station, Reno, Nevada. This is trackside where they just buried the platform two stories down in a pit:

Which is sad since the front of the station is nice (and there is even a “gentleman’s club” across the street):

Heading further east we got to see some “wild mustangs” grazing, and even a couple of Union Pacific’s Company Cars – the railcars that executives use for travel on their network:

I’ve travelled in private rail cars from San Diego to Los Angeles with LARail.com – seriously a fun way to travel. Must be time to party!

Creative uses for an empty ice bucket…and onto Winnemucca, Lossamucca, Drawamucca.

Then Elko, Nevada…

Train station or bus stop – you figure it out. Soon it was time for bed…

Up at 7AM for breakfast – handy to be 3 doors down from the dining car as I was back in bed by 8AM to sleep until 10:30 or so. Before I knew it I was in Grand Junction, Colorado where Dan’s mother lives:

Their station is under renovation as well. Generally Amtrak doesn’t cover any of the costs of station renovation. The railroads generally sell the stations to the city for $1 as they did with King Street Station in Seattle, and then the city picks up the bill for renovation and modernization with tourist dollars.

Then it was onto Glenwood Springs where we had a little time to get out and wander:

And then the train came to a stop, a long stop, for track repair work – upwards of two hours – at least the view was pretty:

Frasier, Winter Park…headed to the Moffat Tunnel:

And on the other side of the mountains we are greeted with this lovely rainbow – which even made me move from the comfort of my roomette to the lounge:

Or maybe it was the allure of a Colorado University (Boulder) student named Edmund (who was also back in the sleepers, though unfortunately not mine):

Time to pack up the circus since the next stop is Denver:

Out of whiskey I had to hit the lounge car – who were out of everything other than two Rums and a handful of Gin and Vodka – good thing Denver is a provisioning stop! I took the last two rums – not what I wanted, but with the train running behind I’d settle.

At this point we were running two and a half hours behind – threatening my 8:30PM reservation at Stoic & Genuine, a new fancy restaurant in Denver’s recently renovated Union Station. Because of the delay I snagged a 5PM reservation for dinner and had the Flat Iron Steak (again).

And finally we arrive into Denver, backing the train in:

They did a stunning job on the renovation of this train station. Dan was waiting for me on the platform with Lisa holding our table at the restaurant – only a little past our 8:30 reservation.

Stayed tuned for Part Three – Time With Friends

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Fri
22
Aug '14

Trip Report: Amtraking From Seattle To Denver Via Sacramento (Part One)

Dear Amtrak,

This is how to NOT start a relaxing three-day train trip from Seattle to Denver. While we boarded and left on time, that’s where the good news stops. My butt in my roomette until tomorrow morning at 6am is now my butt in my roomette to Portland, then I have to pack everything up – get on a stinky bus – ride to Eugene and then unpack everything again. I understand bridge work, but didn’t you know that when I booked my ticket only a couple of months ago? I would have travelled earlier in the month or later – I’m not that picky. There goes my after lunch nap. There goes hanging out in the Metropolitan Lounge in Portland reading the paper and uploading documents via their high-speed connection. By the time we hit Eugene, Oregon, that is the end of any cell phone coverage, which means no Wi-Fi in our next train which I hope will have a Parlour Car, not that is will do me much good at that point. Gone is my welcome tiny bottle of bubbles, gone is my amenity kit. Gone are the choice of apple, cranberry or orange juice in the sleepers – we are down to Orange which is too acidic for my throat. When the airlines tried this in 2008 in the downturn, they lost their business class customers – as a sleeping class passenger I’m paying a huge premium over coach. Get with the program and ignore penny-pinching Congressmen and bring back real service.

Let’s also add that due to mechanical issues this train which only goes to Portland, has no Parlour Car. No Parlour Car means no work because the Parlour Car is the only one with Wi-Fi, no Parlour Car means to Parlour Car
lunch menu which means being squeezed four to a booth the Dining Car. No Parlour Car means children running amuck (literally up and down the aisle of the sleeper car) when they could be in the lower level of the Parlour Car watching Toy Story 18. Where is the car attendant to counsel the parents about appropriate train behavior?

And can you explain why, after leaving on time, having to wait for 20 minutes north of Kent, Washington for a freight train? I can understand that when Amtrak is off schedule (i.e. running late) that we are at the mercy of freight, but we were on schedule.

It Portland the circus really began. NO instructions for what people were to do to board the couch to Eugene. At least the sleeping car passengers didn’t have to re-check-in again… but again, NO INSTRUCTIONS about where to go, what line to stand in, the works. The poor folks in coach didn’t even get their Seattle assigned seats back – they were doled out in order of where you were in line. All it would have taken was a conductor’s announcement after the Vancouver, Washington stop: “Sleeping Car passengers, please proceed to Gate 8 by baggage claim to get your bus transfer slip. Coach Passengers please line up at Gate 5 to get your bus transfer and new seat assignments”. Now WHY they had to get new seat assignments is beyond me (or my pay grade).

That confusion led to the last bus delaying the train by 40 minutes out of Eugene, which meant a “First-Come, First-Served” dinner process – at least they held off the calling Coach passengers until most of the Sleepers were served. I used to be in operations at Microsoft, whoever did the operations planning for this should get demerits.

The Seattle-Portland leg had ice available in all the sleepers for passengers personal drinks (and in my case for a plastic baggie for my cranky knee), when we got back on the train in Eugene, NO ICE in any of the four sleeping cars – I had to go begging in the Parlour Car which thankfully was operational on this leg. Finally I can get some work done…until, of course, 30 minutes out of Eugene we are in a dead zone for the next twelve hours.

I dropped all 15,000 of my Amtrak Rewards points for this one-zone roomette ticket (Award Code 104) – please make me happy and return a third of them, or offer me lots of dollars in future travel credits because this wasn’t the holiday I was promised.

Mark Souder
Amtrak Guest Rewards Number: XXXXXXX

That’s how the trip started.

The reading material for the trip? The Big Burn (and the Fire That Saved America), by Timothy Egan. Reading this on the train on the 104th anniversary of the forest fire that destroyed Wallace, Idaho and numerous other towns. 3.2 million acres of mostly public forest land were destroyed by the fire – and hundreds of lives and buildings. Truly a fascinating read even for someone who usually prefers fiction.

As usual you can click on the book and be directed to Amazon to purchase it – it’s just out in paperback, and it looks like you can borrow it f free.

From the letter above (which will have all the other “foibles” from this adventure before I send it off to the folks at Amtrak) you can see the “ugly” side of the trip, but there were good moments like the renovated King Street Station in Seattle – though I don’t look totally awake in the photo. Apparently when you have cocktail company show up at 10PM, wake up on the couch at 3AM not having packed, suddenly are you glad for a packing list:

Computer Bag

  • Tablet with Front Page and Streets and Trips
  • Power supplies
  • Mouse
  • Extra keyboard and stand?
  • Paperwork for train and flights
  • Plenty of ones for tipping on the train

     

Suitcase

  • White Port recipe book
  • Botanical Brandy mini
  • Extra book in addition to the Fire Book (which goes to the Colonels after I’m done with it)
  • Bag of computer widgets
  • 2 glasses for the train
  • Bourbon? Booze? For the train
  • Mixer for the train
  • Long pants for the train – green
  • Shorts for Colorado
  • 3 shirts
  • 3 socks
  • Matching shoes
  • Bathrobe
  • Speedo
  • Toiletries

     

Extra Bag

  • Box of booze for Dan and Lisa


Of course, there were a things missing… pen/paper and headphones in the computer bag, hat in the luggage – and I counted wrong so I was short a set of clothes. But still, not bad for 3AM with a cab coming at 8AM.

And the sleepy time photo of me:

Trainside:

And with the office set up (only to be broken down two hours later). I have tethering on my phone so the situation wasn’t nearly as “grim” as I presented it to Amtrak:

This Sleeper Car had something I hadn’t seen on other Sleepers – a counter where normally the ice, fruit bowl and huge trash can go – this car also had the advantage of the ice drawer under the coffee…something I wouldn’t see for the rest of the trip.

Welcome to Portland’s Union Station and the clusterfuck of moving an entire train onto buses and the traffic snarl on the freeway – hoping that we will be running late into Sacramento so I can get a free breakfast on the train. If it’s on time, I’d be twenty minutes early for the beginning of breakfast service.

Had lunch in the dining car (Bockwurst on a pretzel roll [diet out window] with pico de gallo relish, and chips that I didn’t eat) met a lovely young man at my table, Michael wearing a delightful t-shirt sporting “Drink Beer, Make Things”. He was amused that I was a home distiller and that my motto would have been “Drink Moonshine, Make Things, Don’t Use Power Tools.

During the transfer process I waited for Michael to load him down with water and fruit from the sleeping car since he was in coach.

We were the first coach to leave Portland, and the next to the last to arrive. How does this happen – though it’s not like they are leaving without us. At the Eugene, Oregon Amtrak station:

Before you know it, it’s time for the very unusual for Amtrak “First-Come, First Serve” dinner – normally by reservation, but I wanted the Braised Lamb Shank for dinner so I bolted for the dining car at the first announcement:

That would be a split of the Hahn Cabernet Sauvignon – at the shop we carry the Hahn Chardonnay. Not sure if it was worth the $15, but the Lamb called for a heavy red.

And typical Southern Oregon photo – trees through a rail car specially designed to haul cut timber:

I ran into Michael after dinner and invited him back to my Roomette to sample both my Oak-Aged Brandy and Lucky 13, which was aged for 13 months in New American Oak (as all Bourbons must be). Rules for Bourbon, in case you were interested.

The car attendant put the upper bed down, we continued drinking and chatting until past midnight when the booze ran out. And now, he didn’t stay, though I would have welcomed it.

Tomorrow morning at 6AM is Sacramento and the next leg – I just slept with the chair in recline mode – easier to get up and out in the morning.

[? ? ?] But can assume a couple of pound gain from “train food” three times a day.

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Tue
19
Aug '14

Advice Report: How To Be A Good Houseguest.

A quick post on some things I’ve learned over the years about being a good houseguest when you are visiting friends or strangers (in no particular order):

  • Travel lightly and don’t leave anything behind.
  • Just because airfare is cheap doesn’t mean that you should visit the same people every six weeks.
  • When using the shower – reset the controls to the same place you found them, i.e. if the water is coming out the tub fill when you got into the shower, make sure it’s there when you are done. And if there is a squeegee that means you should use it to wipe down the glass.
  • Bring a hostess gift. Wine is always a good choice. I know of a nice wine shop: Madrona Wine Merchants (sorry, that was a plug for my shop).
  • Speaking of alcohol, if you drink your host’s alcohol replace, is with equal or better quality.
  • Offer to shop and cook meals – it’s the least you can do since you are saving lots of dollars compared to a hotel.
  • Be mindful loading the dishwasher – many hosts are VERY particular about how things go in.
  • Inquire with your hosts if they’d like you to strip the bed or leave it at the end of your visit.
  • Don’t linger in the bathroom – get in, do your business, get out. This is especially true of places with only one bathroom. And leave the bathroom at least as clean as you found it.
  • Travel with a bathrobe – and use it.
  • Don’t overstay your welcome – think 3 or 4 days max.
  • If there is easy, convenient public transit from the train station or airport – use it. If it’s a quick overnight visit and your host is 45 minutes from the airport – just rent a car and save the three hours of travel time.
  • If you see a pile of shoes by the front door, add yours to them. It means that your host has a shoeless house.
  • Match your schedule to the host’s schedule – at least the getting out of bed part. And if you stay up later, quiet as a church mouse.

And some things you should pack for your convenience and so you don’t have to borrow from the hosts:

  • Pen and paper
  • Cloth shipping bag, which is good for a day bag around the city
  • Windbreaker that rolls up tight incase the weather changes

I’ve some of these lessons the hard way, others I’ve learned from bad houseguests of my own.

Any other rules you would like to contribute?

And I know, a blog post without a single picture….not even a selfie – miracles do happen.

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1 Comment »

One Response to “Advice Report: How To Be A Good Houseguest.”

  1. Uncle Markie Says:

    And don’t forget to pack a hat if you are sensitive to the sun.

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Tue
12
Aug '14

Visitors Report: The Colonels Come To Town.

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

BTIIMap

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

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

The Camlin

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

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

gallery_12

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

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

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

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

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

  • CHICKEN POTSTICKERS 7
    garlic, ginger, cabbage, sweet hot soy sauce
  • ASIAN CURRIED STEAK FRIES 3
    curry spice, ketchup
  • KOREAN BULGOGI SKIRT STEAK * 8
    pickled cucumbers, sesame seeds
  • GRILLED MISO RIBEYE * 11
    tempura onions, sweet miso sauce
  • WAWAII ROLL WITH TOASTED COCONUT 12
    smoked salmon, macadamia nuts, blueberry wasabi sauce
  • CHICKEN YAKISOBA (wheat noodles) 8
    vegetables, yakisoba sauce, sesame seeds, pickled ginger
  • LIME RICKEY SHRIMP ** 8
    quick fried. peanuts, hichimi, lemongrass vodka sauce

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

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

WP_20140807_001

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

WP_20140807_002

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

WP_20140807_003

And then to go crawl around some planes:

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

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

piglette-1

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

piglette-2

piglette-1

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

piglette-3

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

WP_20140807_009

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

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

WP_20140807_010

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

Seafair Weekend 008

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

P8080281

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

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

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

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