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Last Post: Trip Report: Sacramento
Last Commentator: Eric Gowins
Last Modified: October 22, 2014 @ 2:40 pm (GMT -7)
 
Tue
21
Oct '14

Trip Report: Sacramento

Yes, I know, Sacramento – lots of snippy comments on “The Pit Called Sacramento.” “Why?” they asked. $96 round-trip and I got upgraded to first class in each direction. The cheap fare was the result of a two-hour “flash sale” announced by Alaska on its Twitter Feed. A week or so later it was $128 round-trip to Denver (snagged to see Dan and Lisa), this week it was Omaha and Salt Lake City – I passed on those two.

And then there is Jameson – my “faux nephew”. He has moved from the public sector end of the environmental business to the private side, moving from Lake Tahoe to Folsom (it’s more than just a prison). As for the “faux” part, he’s me dead brother’s widow’s new husband’s nephew – but with his parents often celebrating Christmas Eve at my parents’ house when they lived out in El Dorado, it’s really more like a three family circus.

I booked a nice midday flight, but still means setting the alarm, just not for 5AM. That’s means I’m not as cranky in the Board Room:

And who could be cranky when you are flying on the Disney Cars Alaska plane:

Though I was a little confused by the need for this sign on the jet way…

One I boarded, the most amazing thing happened. Instead of water, they asked if I’d like anything to drink – so of course, Jack and Diet. On the ground! A first on Alaska. Maybe is was because the back half of the plane was only half full (First, of course, was packed). The view from seat 1D:

And there was even a light lunch on the hour and a half flight – a curry chicken salad that was quite tasty:

Picked up my bag and headed to the rental car place where they tried twice to sell me an upgrade. Tip: if they are trying that hard, they don’t have the compact car you rented. I ended up in a mid-size Mazda 3 that they were trying to get an extra $20 a day for…almost new, less than 2,000 miles on it.

Got to the hotel and checked in – Hawthorne Suites by Wyndham – I get 20% off lowest rack rate as a result of my WorldMark ownership (they are managed by Wyndham). Nice room:

Had a little nap, did a liquor and mixer run before Jameson got off work. We hung out for an hour of so catching up before it was off for a sushi dinner at Mukuni in Citrus Heights.

We opted for the Sho Chiku Bai Nigori (unfiltered Saké) and the Two For $45 tasting menu…one from Column A, one from Column B, two from Column C and one from Column D (the dessert column). Not a bad deal, we were both full at the end which is not cheap to so at a sushi restaurant:

And the “shooter” that I thought about, but didn’t get:

And the “cheesecake” dessert which was really quite good – and I’m not a dessert person:

A few more drinks at the hotel and Jameson was off to the house where he rents a room – a situation that he is trying to change. He has an eye on his own apartment, the first living by himself in his life – at 31. Wow.

As for me, it was TV and bed for tomorrow it’s off to Amador County, home of one of California’s premier Zinfandel growing regions.

A hot breakfast comes with the room – lots of starch (make-it-yourself waffles, cereals, toast, rolls, etc.) and a steam table with a protein, potatoes, some egg dish (changes daily). First stop is Renwood. We carry three of their wines…

Very quiet it being a Wednesday, but it is crush season, so there are a few people. Basically I had the tasting room to myself – with Stephen as a guide:

The benefit of owning a wine shop (and bringing your business cards with you) is complimentary tastings and the 20-30% off trade discount. I try not to abuse the privilege and generally buy a bottle – in this case for Jameson’s new girlfriend whose birthday is tonight. She got a bottle of the 2011 Barbera. I didn’t realize how much Barbera they were growing in Amador County. One slight emergency during my visit – Alaska announced a Flash Sale and I had no cell service in the country. Luckily Renwood has public Wi-Fi so I quickly logged in on my phone – only to find that this week’s specials were Omaha and Salt Lake City. I’ll pass.

I’m afraid the hot buffet breakfast didn’t last, so it was off to Villa Toscana who has a nice little restaurant at their winery.

That was my view while eating my pastrami and swiss grilled sandwich:

I’ve had their wines before and I think they are one of the “direct to customer” wineries that make all their money on selling their wine at retail and renting out the grounds for weddings. Which also means no trade discount since they don’t wholesale.

Sated, it was off to Villa Noceto – another of the wineries that I used to visit for the years that the Labor Day Manscouts Gathering was held just outside Plymouth on Bell Road at Rancho Cicada. We used to carry their Sangiovesse, which I bought a split of for my mother (headed there next week).

Didn’t get a picture there, or Terre Rouge/Easton where I sampled some more free wines, and bought a split of their Zin port (only a 20% discount), then it was onto Sobon Winery, which I’d been to before, and we carried their Zinfandel a while back. By this time I’m sort of done with wine tasting – didn’t even sample their ReServe line…until I noticed that they had a Tannat. Tannat is a fairly obscure grape (unless you are in Uruguay). Their Tannat is an 93% Tannat, 7% Zinfandel. Here is their tasting room:

No time for a nap when I got back to the hotel – time enough to have a drink and check email before Jameson showed up have cocktails before the new girlfriend’s dinner party at Hamptons in downtown Folsom. We even had enough time for a little walk around. Cute, old city center.

So apparently there used to be a rail yard in the middle of town.

Now there is a Museum in a rail car, and the old roundhouse, minus house:

And then it was off to dinner at Hamptons – dinner for 8, plus one who showed up, late.

With a flaming table:

Arrived during daylight, but at the end, we were in the dark, lighted by the flaming table:

Once everyone was gone I got a little better picture of the flaming table:

Not bad for being the oldest person there and I passed on going “caving” drunk after dinner – back to the hotel room for me as I’ve got a flight tomorrow.

Couple of more drinks after Jameson dropped me off in his “adult” car – Mink (Audi’s name for dark gray) A-6. Considering I last saw him driving a beat up Nissan pickup truck (which he still owns), definitely a step up.

Up and out in the morning to the airport (apparently my second home, any airport). If I can only get there…. I’ve never seen 40 people in line for a rental car shuttle back to the airport:

No lounge but a great airport, good food options, and charging stations everywhere, light, airy…

But soon enough I’m back in seat 1C…but no cocktail until we are at 10,000 feet:

Boeing Sky Interior, but new in the transition phase, no outlets. No worries, I’m offline.

Best $96 dollar flight I’ve ever taken.

[224.0]

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Wed
15
Oct '14

Status Report: All In A Day’s Work.

In the fall, Mondays mean Trade Tastings… and one that I never want to miss is the one by one of our smaller distributors — name withheld to not out them for putting on a great spread.

Ten tables with half a dozen bottle of wine which is much more “doable” than having a 100+ bottles open. I actually got to swallow a bit. Especially since I’m snacking on fresh shucked oysters (from Taylor Shellfish) and BBQ’d sausages (from Rain Shadow Meats):

I decided to forgo the other tasting of the afternoon – probably twice as many tables, and catered local BBQ – instead I went home to cut parts for the new Vermouth Rack for the shop – here is the finished product, though honestly, I only got the pieces cut but not assembled as company was coming for dinner. Here is the “ready-to-install” rack.

Ignore the drink that I spilled on it getting it out of the garage. Yes, there is a water or gas pipe that will be going through the shelf.

Speaking of dinner guests… a passel of 20+-year-olds….and dinner prep started at 4PM because of the menu I foolishly chose:

  • Fresh Baked Bread
  • Garden Salad
  • Osso Buco (braised veal shanks)

Braise the veal shanks…

Remove them to a plate…

Sautee the onions and celery and garlic….

Deglaze the pan with red wine, add the chopped tomatoes, the herb sachet (bamboo towelette wrapped), and cups and cups of chicken stock (homemade)

Simmer for 2.5 hours…while the bread bakes and you set the table:

And they showed up with “flower” – but it’s a lilly and looks great:

Much good conversation over dinner, and much fun play in the “wardrobe closet” after….

Seems everyone loves fur.

This is not going to help getting up in the morning for my flight to Sacramento.

[223.6]

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Wed
8
Oct '14

Status Update: New Year’s Resolutions

For those long time readers you might remember my New Year’s Resolutions…if you’ve forgotten, it’s here: http://blog.unclemarkie.com/2014/01/01/new-years-resolutions/

So, how am I coming on these goals?

  • Achieve Million Miler Status on United Airlines, which will give me United Premier Gold status for life for me and a significant other (accepting applications).
  • Achieve Elite Status On Princess Cruises, which will give me these lifetime benefits when cruising with Princess:
  • Achieve Alaska MVP Gold status by match (applied for at 12:15am) and keep it for next year by flying 40,000 flight miles. Benefits?
  • Reduce blog posts to only the interesting stuff, rather than the day-to-day stuff that I’ve been doing for the last five years – unless there is an outcry from the readers. That said, don’t expect a post until Sunday when I’m packing for my Bay Area trip and having Salamander Hellbender to dinner.
  • Get some more “billable hours” to quit sucking down my 401K. Have a lead on another “registered agent” gig.
  • Not piss off my business partner

For the benefits associated with each of the top three, go to the original post.

United Million Mile status (Gold For Life!):

Princess Elite (Black Card) status:

And Alaska MVP Gold status:

That covers all the status goals… and I still have a few more flights for the year:

  • Next week Sacramento r/t that I picked up for $96.20 to see Jameson
  • End of the month an Albuquerque r/t that I picked up when Alaska announced their new flights. $218.00 with double miles (three times for me being MVP Gold) to visit Mom
  • First week of November a 4-night cruise so flying to LA for $198.20
  • And I want to take one more train trip this year so that will be a one-way flight someplace.

As for the last three New Year’s Goals?

  • Kept blog posting to travel or event related stuff rather than day-to-day
  • Have picked up a few more billable hours… gained one and lost one this week but the one I gained pays more
  • Business Partner is still alive so that means we haven’t killed each other, and it’s worked its way into a comfortable situation.

Well, there’s my year-to-date report.

[224.4]

1 Comment »

One Response to “Status Update: New Year’s Resolutions”

  1. Eric Gowins, the senior colonel Says:

    Good for you, Markie. I applaude you.
    E

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Sun
5
Oct '14

Trip Report: Fico’s Birthday In Tucson

Another week, another trip. This week I used my last two Gold Guest Upgrades for 2014 to secure first class round-trip Seattle to Tucson for $300.

But first, an amusing shot from Sea-Tac, a SubPop record store in the airport concourse…

And my plane, which you can’t quite see from here, is in the Portland Timbers livery:

Not a bad fare, too bad I didn’t realize it came with a dog. A “service dog” that needs some seriously remedial training.

The guy behind me doesn’t look too pleased with the dog either… or maybe with me taking the picture. That damn dog panted all three hours to Tucson riding on the woman’s shoulder – and the woman herself smelled like a dirty ashtray. Guess it could have been worse, the dog could have had its buss a foot from my face for three hours.

Here is my exchange with Alaska’s Customer Response Team:

1:06pm Mark Stephen Souder

Can you tell me what the rules are concerning “service dogs” — the one in the picture attached I doubt is a “service dog” even with the service dog vest on. This is a picture from bulkhead first class (1A — old lady and dog, 1C myself). I discreetly inquired with the flight attendant who said there is nothing they can do…that dog rode her shoulders for the entire flight, panting in my direction the whole way, which is better than getting it’s butt 12″ away from my face for two hours. And FYI, being slightly allergic to dogs luckily I had pills on me, but hope your planes are equipped with EpiPens.

2:07pm Alaska Airlines

Hi Mark Stephen Souder, sorry about the experience you had. Regarding service animals, if the passenger provides us identification cards, other written documentations, presence of harnesses, tags or credible verbal assurances of the service animal, then we have to accept it as a service animal. -John

2:21pm Mark Stephen Souder

Are their behavior rules in the cabin? All other service animals I’ve seem are at the feet of their companion rather than crawling over seat backs and going for my food.

2:40pm Alaska Airlines

Service animals doesn’t have to sit at the feet of the companion. I have seen smaller dogs that sit on the lap and they help the companion detect low blood sugar levels. -John

2:53pm Mark Stephen Souder

Thank you for the information — is this a situation where I could ask to be reseated due to allergies?

2:58pm Alaska Airlines

yes, you can always ask a flight attendant to be moved to another seat in first class. -John

So, dogs trump allergies – and any old paperwork and harness qualifies. At least it wasn’t a German Sheppard in a bulkhead row.

And, of course, the dog went after my lunch…

But before long memories of the nasty little dog faded as I settled into Life At Ficos…a little Ensalada Caprese because the early lunch wasn’t terribly filling…

And then to the pool…

Dinner tonight was out with a friend of Fico’s at Parish – I had a couple of appetizers, the Chile Rellenos and the Frog Legs Wrapped In Bacon. But we started with the Bacon Popcorn.

Here is the “office” set up…

Wednesday we celebrated Fico’s Birthday will dinner for eight at the house…a lovely salad:

Roasted root vegetables:

And BBQ’d chicken thighs:

Definitely a group effort for dinner, but then there was the wine:

The two Mondavi’s were from the 90′s and still tasting quite good, even with the desert of Tres Leches cake:

And the birthday boy (technically on Friday)…

Work for me all day Thursday, between the usual Thursday Madrona Wine Merchants site updates, there was a proposal due for another consulting gig that is looking good. That would make three jobs to be juggled – a good thing since I need the money since I keep spending it all on travel.

Dinner Thursday night was a couple of pan-friend rib eye steaks I’d picked up at the same time as the chicken, the remaining roasted veggies and another salad, though not quite as nice as the one Sam(antha) made last night. Dessert (and drinks) was at the Coronet Café at the Coronado Hotel – featuring a Gypsy Jazz Trio with Sam on violin…

They are pretty good as you can hear in this clip — and who doesn’t love an accordian:

Before you know it, it’s Friday, time for breakfast and out the door at noon:

The standard Uncle Markie breakfast – a couple of eggs and some meat product.

No lounge at the airport – but there is a GREAT sushi bar in the concourse…

Plane is on time…and no “service dogs” on this leg…

Cocktails, then a little lunch, which I just ate the chicken out of…

And before you know it, I’m shopping at Safeway on the way home since I have company for dinner…great view of Tahoma (Mount Rainier) from the parking lot:

A bit of haze from the temperature inversion, but still pretty.

Dinner tonight is a rare one, with Dwight up from Olympia for BrickCon at Seattle Center – yes, he’s a LegoHead, and an Amtrak fan as well, so I passed on my collection of Amtrak wares…

Needless to say, it was a long evening.

Back to work tomorrow.

[226.4]

1 Comment »

One Response to “Trip Report: Fico’s Birthday In Tucson”

  1. Eric Gowins Says:

    Markie:
    Can you make me a service animal vest for Waylon? Kate says he wears a size 1. I’d be glad to cover your expenses.
    E

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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.

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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.

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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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