Monday, February 28, 2022

Albuquerque Airport Art

Good sleep, quick shuttle, and an easy walk through TSA PreCheck security gave us time to admire this statue, one we’d managed to overlook on past visits.

We will refer to it in future as The Bird Man of ABQ.

Sunday, February 27, 2022

Cocina Azul in Albuquerque

After saying our thank-yous and goodbyes in Durango, we enjoyed a scenic drive back down to Albuquerque.

For one last fix of Southwest Mexican food, we headed to Cocina Azul. It’s successful enough to have grown to three outlets over the years.

The premises are modest, the service is friendly, the burritos were delicious, and the prices are reasonable.

What’s not to like?

Homewood vs. Hampton at Albuquerque Airport (ABQ)

We stayed at the Homewood Suites one night and Hampton Inn & Suites before flying back.

Both are nice but Hampton has the edge for modernity and comfortable beds.

The Durango Hampton Inn was pleasant too.

Saturday, February 26, 2022

Friday, February 25, 2022

Thursday, February 24, 2022

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

A Good Afternoon of Flying

We comfortably made our second and settled comfortably into Row 1 together after a kind passenger offered to trade with Kathy.

A new cabin crew marched on about 10 minutes before departure, while the crew that had greeted us left. That’s a new one for us.

The pilot had been warned of turbulence near ABQ, so meals were served early in the three-hour flight. We chose Alaska’s interpretation of pho.

The approach and landing were fairly smooth, and in due course we caught the rental car shuttle bus for that surprisingly long ride. We’ve wondered more than once about the rental car center’s distance from the airport.

We picked up a nice looking Toyota Highlander from Budget and headed towards the Homewood Suites.
Pro tip: Stay right at the bottom of the hill when you see the sign, lest you end up on I-25 heading toward Albuquerque.

We navigated it quite successfully on our second try.

Best-Laid Plans Department

We’ve just learned that our flight to Seattle is currently delayed 53 minutes. If it’s not a dreaded “rolling dekay,” we’ll still have well over an hour to connect to our upgraded flight.

We’ll just have to wait and see.

“Where’s the plane?”

EMail From Alaska Airlines: 'You've been upgraded.'

The pleasing email came to Brian, even though it was Kathy who made the reservation.

We're flying from Bellingham to Seattle to Albuquerque today (BLI-SEA-ABQ), and have been wondering when or if we'd be upgraded to First Class, in light of our new "exalted" status as Alaska 100k flyers. 120 hours came and went, as did 72, 48, and 24. Alaska was still offering First Class seats for sale on this fight, and we could spot four vacant seats in various parts of First Class on the seat map.

Finally, around 22 hours before our flight, the upgrade notice arrived. We'd previously gotten advice from experienced Alaska flyers that we should "split" our booking, as we used to do on United, to allow us to be upgraded one at a time as seats became available. We discovered we were number 2 and 3 on a list of 26! That number 1 must be somebody extra special, or more likely another 100K, of whom there are apparently many, who paid a higher fare.

In this instance, it didn't matter as we were assigned to window seats in two different rows. Kathy managed to switch Brian's seat to a vacant aisle in front of her row, so it may be possible to make a trade. Still, it's an 1180-mile flight of less than two hours, and not a big deal either way.


Friday, February 18, 2022

Covid Testing to Enter the U.S.

Travel still presents many challenges, from wearing masks to having to show proof of vaccination to enter restaurants in some jurisdictions, Hawaii for example. For another example, as of now the U.S. is still requiring a negative viral test (NAAT or antigen test) to enter the country.

Before arriving at our first U.S. port on our fall transatlantic cruise, Oceania arranged for free testing on board.

The Hilton hotel we stayed at in Cancun Mexico in January arranged free on-site testing for guests.

Flying back from Europe at the end of March, as we have planned at the moment, will leave us to make our own arrangements. The U.S. State Department has posted some country-specific details here

Travel guru Christopher Elliott has a column up in USA Today:

How to find a hotel with COVID testing and quarantine facilities wherever you travel

Our plan is to fly back to the U.S. from Rome. The Rome Airport is currently offering tests. Since tests are required of every inbound U.S. passenger, we can probably assume the airports and/or airlines will continue to make them available. Of course, everything may change again between now and April 13, the date of our flight.

Being a traveler isn't as simple as it used to be. 

Thursday, February 17, 2022

Almost Home

After two pleasant flights HNL-SFO-SEA, and a few hours of sleep at the Hilton (the weather was great and we walked both ways), we’re aboard a Q400 in our favorite exit row at the front.

Next stop BLI.

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Alaska Honolulu to San Francisco

A smooth transfer from hotel to airport, despite carrying back a bunch of belongings for neighbors who sold their Honolulu property. We checked all four of the large items for free.

Alas, no WiFi aboard this flight, so Brian bought a couple of magazines for the flight, something we haven’t done in a long time.

It’s another 737 MAX 9, and this flight we’re in F.

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

One Low-Key Day in Waikiki

After a very filling Valentine’s Day dinner at Tiki’s last night, we were still feeling full this morning.

It rained on and off too so we hung around our room for awhile. After spending time  at the pool and hot tub, we decided to use our food credit at M.A.C. 24/7, the lobby restaurant with a surprisingly good reputation for a hotel joint.

The catch-of-the-day fish tacos were tasty and filling, even leaving half the curly fries untouched.

Later we went for a walk along Waikiki Beach. Lots of people watching to be done, and other sights as well.

We couldn’t even handle Happy Hour appetizers, so we bought two cans of beer at one of the ubiquitous ABC stores and are enjoying them on our balcony, idling watching a children’s tennis class on the rooftop across the street, while taking in the other views.

The surfers wait for a wave.

A plane climbs out of HNL. That’s where we’ll be tomorrow afternoon.

View From the Hot Tub - Hilton Waikiki Beach

After our “light” lunch in Mac’s 24/7 (currently not open 24/7)…

Honolulu Valentine’s Day Dinner at Tiki Bar & Grill

Two blocks from our hotel and a very enjoyable last-minute splurge…Our young server, Nicolo, was friendly and knowledgeable, an excellent combination.

Honolulu: Confusion at HNL

After an enjoyable flight on Alaska, we had hoped our arrival would be smooth. We had our Hawaii Safe Travels form confirmed with two green checks emailed to us, and wristbands attached by the Alaska employees at PDX.

Still, the signage was inadequate and the HNL employees seemed overwhelmed and exasperated by the challenge of sorting passengers into two - or was it three? - separate lines.

We eventually made it through that crowd (so much for social distancing), only to find a baggage carousel that got jammed up. Employees finally arrived to clear it.

After they, we found our transfer driver from go808ecpress and enjoyed a relaxing drive to the Hilton Waikiki Beach.

We checked in and after asking nicely were assigned an ocean view room on the 17th floor. Nice.

Monday, February 14, 2022

Departing PDX

The airport appears largely renovated. We have to walk a long semi-circular route to get to C gates

We’re now aboard an AS 737 MAX 9.

Will we keep our empty middle seat in Row 8? The drama…


Next stop HNL.

Sunday, February 13, 2022

A Dinner Hour Layover at SEA

When airfare prices permit, we often originate our flights in Bellingham and connect at Seattle.

Our eventual destination is Honolulu for a quick trip, but our flight itinerary is BLI-SEA-PDX-HNL-SFO-SEA-BLI., including overnights in Portland outbound and Seattle inbound.

We arrived here close to the dinner hour  and have three hours to burn so where to eat?

We chose Sam Choy’s and it’s not bad. We started with a “poke flight” shared appetizer.

Kathy next chose a garlic shrimp dish and Brian pulled pork. Both came Hawaiian style with rice and macaroni salad.

People are watching a football game on the TVs but it didn’t interfere with our dining.enjoyment.


Airline CEO: Masks Forever?

This bit of news from Skift is not encouraging:

TAP Air Portugal CEO Says Airline Passengers Will Wear Masks Forever

We hope her opinion is not accurate.

Saturday, February 12, 2022

When Hertz Hurts: '20,000 Police Reports'

According to Gary Leff at View from the Wing, even as the rental car giant defends itself from accusations that it has wrongfully accused customers of car theft and sent them to jail, it continues sending people to jail.  Incredible! Details below:

OMG The Hertz Story Is Worse Than I Thought, They May Have Filed 20,000 Police Reports

Thursday, February 10, 2022

Last Flight of the Day - SEA to BLI

After using two of our remaining Alaska Lounge passes to relax in their N lounge, we left at the 10:00 PM closing time to head back to C.

We’ve now boarded a little Q400 and will hope to land at Bellingham shortly before Midnight.

An enjoyable trip that included two long travel days.

FLL-LAX on Alaska: The Beast and The Beauty

We’re flying FLL-LAX-SEA-BLI today.

There were only three rows of First on the first leg so, despite being 1 and 2 on the upgrade list, we remained in Premium row 7 with an empty middle seat.

That changed when a perfectly nice man and his small dog were assigned to our row. The dog was unhappy about being in a pet carrier, and made his displeasure known with shrill yips as they approached down the aisle. The piercing sounds continued as the owner sat down. The dog was as aggressive toward his owner as an eight-pound dog can be.

The petulant pooch finally napped for upwards of an hour or two in the middle of the flight, but for the first two hours and the last 1 1/2 hours. The owner smuggled the dog onto his lap for some time until getting busted by a flight attendant.

The owner was extremely embarrassed and apologetic. There wasn’t much he could do, other than obtain tranquilizers from a veterinarian for the return trip.

And the “beauty?”

That was a handsome 14-month-old boy in Row 6 en route back home to Australia with his mother from a visit to grandparents in Colombia. The lad was fascinated with the dog (“Woo,woo!”), so the little beast brightened his travel day, if nobody else’s.

We’ve miraculously found a quiet corner at LAX to rest our ears. We’re flying in First LAX-SEA, hopefully in a canine-free cabin.

Update: seated in our second flight, we get customer care cert emails from our cabin crew in the amount of $75 each, a nice gesture that we’d neither requested nor expected. Woof woof!