Monday, February 25, 2013

Las Vegas Tropicana: First Impressions

After two excellent UA flights in First Class, we arrived in Las Vegas a little early and picked up our cheap rental car from Advantage.

After Brian told the agent what he thought of the demand for a second phone number from somebody else, we picked up our Chevy Cruze and find that it's quite adequate. The GPS steered us to the Tropicana with only a couple of hitches and we found a parking spot in the free garage without a problem.

We were referred to a check-in lounge since we're so special. The Tropicana has been a Doubletree since the beginning of this year and they seem to be trying hard to attract customers.

We enjoyed a reasonably priced dinner at the Italian restaurant and played a few slot machines before deciding to call it a day. There are probably a few people in Las Vegas going to bed before we are at 10:30 p.m., but most of them are probably working an early-morning shift.

We hope to be rested up to tackle the world tomorrow morning.

Pre-Check: What A Breeze

Our first try at using a TSA pre-check lane with our United boarding passes was today, after signing up for the program months ago.

The machine beeped three times when the agent scanned them, and we breezed through a metal detector without taking our shoes off, or our computer or liquids out.

It could make flying fun again! Unfortunately, it's random and you never know when you'll get the dreaded single beep which means you're consigned to a lane with the less fortunate travelers.

Along For The Ride

We didn't get to bed until well after 12:30 a.m. but it was worth it.

Dana and Avery gave us a ride from Issaquah down to a big gymnastics meet near Vancouver Washington where Avery competed as a member of her club.

For some reason they scheduled the youngest kids last on Sunday night so it was an early morning for Avery to head out the door to school this morning, as we sit here enjoying our third - maybe fourth - cup of coffee.

We were proud grandparents. She competed on the bars, beam, floor exercise, and vault, and did well enough to end up seventh overall in her category.

The vault was something to see. Competitors get two tries and on her first try, after running full-speed, she had to stop because she was leading with the wrong foot. We were nervous in the bleachers awaiting her second try, but she nailed it and scored her first 9.0. Wow!

In awhile we'll pack up and head toward the airport and our flights to Las Vegas via San Francisco. We dropped our United Club memberships - this is our first United flight of 2013 - so the next time we check in may be in Las Vegas.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Vegas baby, Vegas!!!

That's where we're heading Monday for four nights, as a result of a cheap fare we spotted.

We're dividing our hotel nights between to free nights at Bally's, thanks to comps from David and Dana, and two cheap nights at the Tropicana, now a Hilton Doubletree property, where we'll get a couple of stay credits to maintain Diamond status.

We stayed at the old Tropicana around 1982 or so with Kathy's brothers and her late Uncle George, our first time there as "grownups."

How time flies.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Back Home On Sehome

We're back home after three nights visiting with Lily, Peyton, and their daddy.

It was great fun for us and they seemed to enjoy it too.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Sniffing Out The Latest Travel News

In A Fog

It's still foggy in this area of Mirrormont but there was actual sun shining down below when we drove the twins to school while their older sister and mother are away at a gymnastics meet.

It's fun babysitting, and the girls have been very helpful. We think they're trying extra hard, since they report Mommy warned them that Nama and Dapa are "forgetful."

Hilarious! Now what were we talking about?

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Carnival Triumph: When A Floating Palace Starts To Stink

Better stinking than sinking of course, but we really feel for the passengers and crew still stuck aboard Carnival Triumph as the ship is towed to port.

It's a reminder that those floating palaces are ships - vessels - and things can go wrong. The latest bad news can be read here. From Sunday to Thursday is a long time to endure the conditions passengers are describing.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

F.X. McRory's: Happy Hour Near Seattle's King St. Amtrak Station

To take advantage of a bargain fare, we again had a three-hour layover at Seattle yesterday as we rode Amtrak from Vancouver WA back to Bellingham. The King Street Station is undergoing a major multi-year renovation and we had no desire to sit in a portable waiting area next to a construction zone for three hours.

It was a drizzly night and fortunately only a short one-block walk to F.X. McRory's. Even more fortunately, we arrived shortly after the beginning of their Happy Hour. What's not to like about that? To our own surprise, our favorites were the vegetarian spring rolls (the waitress thought they were made in-house) but we also enjoyed the Edamame, Peel-and-Eat Shrimp, and Kobe Burgers.

The sign describes it as the World's Largest Bourbon Bar.

No bar photos, Paparazzi!

The Vegetarian Spring Rolls tasted as good as they looked...

Then it was back to catch our final train and home to Bellingham after a most enjoyable two-day rail trip.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Views From Our Journey

A typically glorious view from the Amtrak Cascades...

That Red Velvet Cake presentation at Trace Restaurant in the Seattle Westin, composed of beet mousse, cream cheese frosting, and a garnish that includes little "berries" made of beets. Audacious dessert...

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Aboard The Amtrak Cascades

What a fancy title but it's fun to be looking out the window as we stop briefly at Tukwila, and then travel onward past Emerald Downs on our way to Vancouver.

The Internet is sporadic but it keeps us in touch. We enjoyed a great lunch at Trace in the W Hotel, about a 15-20 minute walk from the King Street Train Station. A terrific seafood chowder followed by a wonderful main course of divers scallops - great big ones and not overcooked - and an audacious "red cake" dessert based on beets of all things.

This was all for $20 and we got a 10% discount from that with our Starwood membership. It was a fine meal, especially at that price.

Next stop is Tacoma as we relax in our quiet and comfortable car. At its best, Amtrak can be a very enjoyable way to travel.

Riding The Rails Again

Kathy noticed a bargain price for a return trip on Amtrak between Bellingham and Vancouver Washington, so this morning we'll drive down to the Fairhaven station, board the Amtrak Cascades at 8:45 a.m., and enjoy the coastal scenery to Seattle, where we're due to arrive at 11:05 a.m.

In Seattle we have enough of a layover to to go out for a quick lunch somewhere not too far from the station, before catching the 2:20 train scheduled to arrive in Vancouver at 5:20 p.m.

We decided to stop in Vancouver rather than riding across the river into Portland since we stayed in the Vancouver Hilton some years ago and really enjoyed it. We found a very attractive rate available and it's a very short walk from the train station.

We're going to overnight there before hopping back on a train Tuesday morning and returning home. A silly little adventure but we're looking forward to it.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Snakes At A Birthday

Our Blane celebrated his third birthday party with friends, cousins, and reptiles.

Even young Jace insisted on being in the photo.

Disneyland Trip: Riley's Favorite Ride

Our poor deprived granddaughter claimed that she'd never ridden on an escalator. The favorite rides of her trip were thus on escalators, including a three-escalator ride at SEA as we used up some time waiting for our commuter flight to BLI by riding the subway and riding the escalators down and up.

Friday, February 1, 2013

About That "Million Miler" Lawsuit Against United Airlines: It Lives

We posted here back in 2011 about our pleasure at earning Million Mile Flyer status on United Airlines. Was it prescient that we wrote there, "Loyalty should run both ways..."?

In 2012 we wrote here about the Million Mile Flyer suing United over the loss of benefits.

We've continued to follow the back-and-forth debate about the merits of the case and were pleased to read this yesterday:

United Continental fails to end frequent flier lawsuit

(Reuters) - A federal judge on Thursday rejected United Continental Holdings Inc's attempt to throw out a lawsuit accusing the world's largest carrier of taking benefits away from some of its most loyal fliers.

The lawsuit filed last May by Chicago resident and United customer George Lagen accused the carrier formed from the 2010 merger of United Airlines and Continental Airlines of reducing perks for MileagePlus customers with "Million Miler" status.
This is good news for us, but only time will tell if United will decide to restore those benefits or continue to fight the suit as it proceeds toward the discovery stage and eventually to trial.

You can read the entire article here