Sunday, October 30, 2011

Tom Stuker: The 10-Million-Mile Man Rocks

We've had ourselves quite a weekend at the Chicago Seminars. Along with all of the information flowing around the room, we were fortunate enough to talk to a couple of terrific celebrities in the world of frequent flyers.

First we had the opportunity for a brief private chat with the "Miles Godfather," the legendary Randy Petersen. What a pleasant and unassuming gentleman he is. We'd met him once before in person at the first Star Alliance Mega Do and it was a lot of fun to be able to say hi again.

Second, we met for the first time in person Tom Stuker. Although Tom had joined FlyerTalk previously, Brian more-or-less introduced him to the community by starting this FT thread, and he was kind enough to remember us and to thank us for the nice things we've written about him.

He's as personable in real life as he appears in interviews such as this one. We enjoyed the chance to talk with him more in a breakout session on the future of United and its mileage program.

Tom just finished filming the first episodes of a new reality show for Spike TV, Car Lot Cowboy. That's one we'll have to catch.

In the meantime, he offers some travel tips useful for all of us in this CNN interview - you don't even need 10 million miles to take advantage of them.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Chicago Travel Seminars

We'd forgotten how tiring it can be to sit in a chair all day and listen to other people talk. It's almost like, well, being back in school.

We enjoyed an array of travel heavyweight experts today. We heard presentations by Gary Leff, Lucky, and an inspirational talk by United's legendary pilot ambassador, Captain Denny Flanagan.

A true highlight of our day was the chance to chat privately for a few minutes with the guy who pretty well started it all, Randy Petersen.

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Chicago Seminars: Flying More For Less

We're flying SEA-ORD today to attend the Chicago Seminars, all about travel and points.

You can read an early version of the schedule in Post 4

Tom Stuker, the 10-Million-Mile UA flyer, plans to drop by, and Randy Petersen, the Guru of Gurus who founded FlyerTalk and MilePoint will be there too.

It should be fun.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Bahn Thai: Greater Seattle's Best? It's Possible

What a horrendous drive - more of an extended traffic jam - into Seattle tonight. This is a result of the Alaska Way Viaduct on Highway 99 being temporarily closed for partial demolition. We arrived at our hotel nearly an hour late and wanted nothing more than to park the car for the evening.

A quick Internet check revealed well-reviewed Vietnamese and Thai restaurants two short blocks away. We went with Bahn Thai and were not at all disappointed. In fact, it was terrific.

It's located in an old house that's quite charmingly decorated. Their menu features four combination menus, something we don't find that common in Thai restaurants.

For $18.25 we enjoyed the Pattaya combo,which included a Chicken Satay appetizer, complete with a plate of peanut sauce, a delicious Tom Yum Prawn soup, and finally two entrees, Nuea Yang Wine Dang (beef marinated in red wine), and Prawns Delight, prawns with green beans covered with a rich and tantalizing sauce, plus a bowl of steamed rice.

We read elsewhere of somebody claiming it to be the best Thai food in Greater Seattle. It was a delicious meal and we'll definitely go out of our way to return here. In the meantime, since we're flying in the morning, we were diligent to make sure there weren't enough leftovers for a doggy bag. That would have broken our hearts.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Wenatchee's Spring Lotus Vietnamese Restaurant

We may have found our new favorite Wenatchee restaurant tonight in Spring Lotus, a Vietnamese "Pan-Asian" joint.

Friends of Kim had raved about it so we gave it a try and were quite impressed.

It's a modern and modest little place near the local Target store. We ordered Spring Rolls, a yellow curry, a garlic chicken, and a beef and broccoli. Each costs $10.95 and comes with a generous sided of steamed rice. We also enjoyed the chance to order a $3.95 chicken nuggets and fries plate for the grandkids.

It gets generally positive reviews on Urban Spoon and Yelp, which doesn't surprise us at all.

We'll have to try them out for Pho sometime for lunch, and it's definitely a place we'll visit again.

Providence To East Wenatchee In A Day

We enjoyed a smooth flight on a Dash 8 PVD-IAD. What wasn't so smooth was "deplaning," to use that silly word.

All we had to do was climb down the stairs to the tarmac but it took literally 10-15 minutes before a crew was available to open the door and let us out.

With about a one-hour connection from the time we landed, it was a scramble to catch a people mover and get from the A concourse to the D concourse. We turned down a bump opportunity because UA only had one seat on the next flight five hours later and we had better plans.

It was a fine flight IAD-SEA in Row 2 of an Airbus 319. We both napped for awhile and, despite the delay of UA's weight-and-balance computers sending the seal of approval to the pilot, we landed only a few minutes late.

We picked up our car and drove over to Issaquah to take grandkids Avery, Peyton, and Lily, along with Mom Dana, to dinner at their favorite Mexican restaurant (their daddy is having fun in Las Vegas). We jumped back into the car to make the quick two-hour drive to East Wenatchee for a visit with grandkids Blane and Riley and Mom Kim (their daddy is out of town too) and ran smack into a construction project on I-90, which merges two lanes down to one just after the summit. Our GPS confirmed that we lost more than an hour as we crawled along in stop-and-start traffic for, well, an hour or more.

We eventually arrived, said a quick hi to Kim and headed for bed around 1:00 Eastern Time. We slept hard, and Brian has now found the coffee so the morning is looking brighter and we should have enough energy to try to keep up with Riley and Blane.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

PVD Elevated Walkway: Rental Car Facility To Terminal

It's about a quarter of a mile and a nice way to loosen up, since we'll be spending much of the rest of the day sitting as we fly PVD-IAD-SEA and then drive home.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Homeward Bound From PVD

We attended a beautiful wedding, enjoying one of the best meals of our trip - seafood skewers - at the reception, said hello to people we know from the Southwest, plus a cousin of Kathy's from Boston whom we haven't seen in about 30 years. We also met the groom, his parents, and grandparents before sneaking out relatively early, not too long after the music started.

We're back at the Airport Sheraton, all packed up, and ready to drop our rental car off in the morning before boarding our first flight of the day to IAD.

It's been a whirlwind trip and fun to discover a little bit of the this part of the US. The driving is still, well, interesting even after three days here, but the natives are very friendly.

A Sunny Saturday In Providence

We're enjoying our stay in the Hampton Inn & Suites® Providence, along with other folks attending niece Gina's wedding. It's an historic building erected in 1920 as the Old Colony House, home of the Old Colony bank, and has been at various times a bank and a chapel before its eventual restoration.

Nine of us ate a local seafood restaurant last night that promised much and didn't live up to expectations. It was still an enjoyable evening.

We're moving back to an airport hotel tonight, and in the meantime attend a wedding and a reception. The hotel is giving us a late check-out and we can leave our car parked here until this evening.

It's another glorious day here, and we could draw some very inaccurate conclusions about the Rhode Island climate after our four days of sunshine and warm days here.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Providence Weekend

We've already learned a few things about this part of the world, in between enjoying the company of Kathy's three brothers, their wives, a nephew and three nieces (including the bride).

First, Providence seems obviously to be a city that's been around for a long time, with lots of twisty streets and complex intersections, many of them torn up and in the process of being rebuilt. It feels quite a bit like driving in a European city.

Another factor that reminds us of Europe is when we're out on the autobahn, er, Interstate. Anything less than about 10 miles over the speed limit and you're in the way. Drivers like to tailgate and also to cut back in right in front of you after they've passed. It keeps us on our toes.

The weather is beautiful this weekend and we're enjoying it during our very short stay before climbing back on a plane Sunday morning.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Moderately Choppy Ride To Providence

Thursday morning comes early when in the Eastern Time Zone.

It was raining when we took off from ORD and raining when arrived in PVD. In between, about an hour of our two-hour flight was through what the pilots call "moderate chop."

Still, we were lucky to be in F again and a friendly and humorous flight attendant served us a "snack" that passed nicely for dinner, a chicken salad for Kathy and a chicken wrap for Brian.

As soon as daylight arrives, we'll find out what this Rhode Island looks like.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

O'Hare Airport: Windy In The Windy City

After a great flight on a 320 in F halfway across the country, our UA pilot landed us at ORD quite smoothly after a bumpy approach. It's rainy and windy outside and looks fairly miserable for the five o'clock rush commuters, but we're warm and comfortable inside, sitting in a United Club in the C concourse after traversing that psychedelic underground walkway that we've walked so many times.

This was the first time we both noticed that the weird music emanating from somewhere is comprised largely of an excerpt from UA's signature music, Rhapsody in Blue. Ah, the value of a musical education never ceases.

We board a 319 for PVD in an hour or so. In the meantime it's nice to stretch out here. Checking online we notice UA has announced a travel waiver (change without charge) for flights to, from, and through ORD. No wonder it looks a little wild to us.

on The Road To Rhode Island

A pleasant enough drive to Seattle yesterday, a pleasant stay at a Sheraton Four Points in Seattle, and a quick and quiet walk through the TSA metal detector this morning at SEA - no rubdown search for either of us.

We're on our first visit to the United Club, at least under its new name. We've spent a lot of time in the Seattle Red Carpet Club over the past few years, and it's reassuring to see the same friendly employees at the front desk.

Today we fly SEA-ORD-PVD for niece Gina's wedding this weekend. This will be our visit to Rhode Island and we're looking forward to it.

We'll have to add "laptop power cord" to our travel checklist, since Brian rolled it up into a tight little bundle at home yesterday and then failed to pack it. A stop at a Staples this morning fixed that with a replacement cord, and it's a good reminder of how forgetful we can be.

Friday, October 14, 2011

We're Floored By The Results

We finished installing our new floating floor late Friday afternoon, just in time for a visit from Riley and Blane and their mommy...

Put your feet up and make yourself at home, Blane...

Sunday, October 9, 2011

A Whole Lot Of Oven Goin' On

Our new oven finally arrived Saturday, delivered right into the kitchen by two friendly young fellows. It seemed timely to stop working on the floor and start working on the oven.

We pulled out the old one and dollied it out to the garage. We then found out that 30 inch wall ovens come in different sizes. Our cutout was too big for the new oven. It could have been worse - it might have been too small.

Kathy spent some frustrating time building a cookie-sheet drawer just wide enough to make use of that four-inch gap. Finally, 24 hours later we were ready to pick up the oven and hoist it into place Sunday afternoon. Luckily, the trickiest part was removing and re-installing the door.

An old TV stand made a handy spot to stow the new oven while Kathy wired it in.

Finally the beast is confined to its new cage.

It's in, complete with labor-intensive cookie sheet drawer underneath, and another time we might have cooked a turkey in honor of Canadian Thanksgiving. Instead we went out for Mexican food at Paso Del Norte in Blaine.

Wouldn't you?

Monday, October 3, 2011

Rock Climbing In Yosemite

No, we're not planning to. But we did run across a fascinating CBS 60 Minutes video of Alex Honnold, the best free-style rock climber in the world.

You can watch it here.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Floor Chores

Does anybody think installing your own new flooring is just a lot of fun?


The carpet in the dining room and the linoleum in the kitchen are now officially removed.

We're taking the rest of the day off.

Our Young Jet-Set Friends

We really enjoyed running across this Wall Street Journal Middle Seat column.

It highlights some young flyers who enjoy mileage running, including Will, a New Zealand FlyerTalk friend of ours.

Hanging around these young guys is a lot of fun, even though they have a lot more energy than we do.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

We're Almost Floored

We arrived back home to Birch Bay with a couple of days to spare before our new kitchen and dining room floor was delivered right into our garage.

Now comes the tricky part: assembling it.