Well we all arrived in Seattle but it was a long day. Will have to do this entry in two parts so will start with Sharon.
I had finished packing late Friday night. I had to take my bigger carryon since it would have to hold my laptop (or my purse) to keep me down to 2 items since John wasn’t with me. It’s really getting bad how much electronic stuff I take with me now. The carryon has my laptop, Kindle, DSI, iPod, cellphone, camera, 2 pairs of binoculars (John forgot to take one), noise reducing headphones, and all the batteries/chargers needed to support them. I should have included the car charger for my cellphone. It also had a packing cube with the change of clothes I’d need for Sunday morning. It was way too heavy for a carry on and definitely need to figure out how to pair it down for next year’s China trip.
I left home at 5 am Eastern time to start my part of the trip. Traffic was light but the airport was surprisingly busy when I arrived. I don’t remember the last time I had to stand in a security line at CVG. It moved pretty quickly and I arrived at my gate with just over an hour to wait for my flight. For some reason I decided to just get a cereal bar at the store instead of breakfast at McDonalds. Not my smartest move of the day. The flight was almost totally full but luckily the one empty seat was the middle one next to me. It was a bit bumpy as they worked their way around some storms but we arrived in Salt Lake on time. The only problem for me was we landed in Terminal D and my next flight was in B. So with just under an hour between flights and lots of travelers on a holiday weekend there was no time to grab lunch on my way. The flight to Portland was also a bit bumpy but landed right on time.
After getting my checked bag I headed across to the car rental center to find a sign that said to just take the shuttle which of course was just pulling away when I got there. Another one came a few minutes later. When I made the reservations the only one that had a decent drop-off charge was Alamo. The others wanted several hundred dollars more to drop the car in Seattle. I was extremely hungry at this point since I’d left the house 10 hours earlier and had only a cereal bar, cookies on the first flight, and pretzels on the second. It’s just over an hour to my mother’s place and she was busy watching the Red Sox game when I got there so wasn’t sure I’d be able to get her to leave for a while. We also had to pack her suitcase which took a while. We got a good assortment of T-shirts, Sweatshirts, pants and the dress she wore to my wedding for formal nights. Then we headed out towards Seattle.
I was absolutely starving at this point so we stopped at Red Robin to share a burger and fries. She had her hot tea and I had my Chocolate shake. Anything would have tasted good at that point (well as long as there was no cheese or tomatoes on it). We made a few rest stops along the way to stretch our legs and make sure I could stay awake. I had planned to drive to the hotel to drop off the suitcases and then return the car but we saw the sign for the rental car return and decided to do that. It’s obviously a very new car rental place in Seattle with a several story parking garage type where you go up till you find your company. Alamo was near the top. But then you have to go up to the top level to get the bus to the terminal. So the woman checking us in found us a cart so we could use the elevator. It was a lively group on the bus (If there ends up being a YouTube video of an older guy swimming in his underwear in the Dominican Republic then that’s the group on our shuttle). We got off at the first stop where I had to find a cart so we could take the elevator up to be able to walk across the bridge to the parking lot to find another elevator to take down to get to the hotel shuttles. Luckily I remember this from our trip here 2 years ago.
The shuttle from the Fairfield Inn showed up quickly and we were at the hotel checking in. They have a good pre-cruise package that includes a shuttle to/from the port. The man checking us in was in training but very nice and we had a few good laughs and jokes about my last name (those who know it should understand). At this point it was about 7 Pacific Time so we waited for John and his mother in the mother’s room watching a baseball game (Seattle/Texas I think). Their flight arrived around 8 but I’ll let him tell his part of the story.
My journey to Seattle actually began last Tuesday, when Sharon dropped me off at CVG. I did take the time to get a biscuit egg and bacon breakfast sandwich. My journey took me to LA where I planned to visit my mom and friends for a few days before continuing on with my mother to re-unite with Sharon and her mother at the Fairfield Inn in Seattle. I had to rent a car from Alamo, in order to use up one of my five Alamo coupons that I acquired through Discover’s matching bonus rewards program. Basically you get a $40 coupon for $20 of Discover Rewards Dollars. Unfortunately I didn’t read the fine print about two years ago when I got five of these coupons. I figured $200 would nearly cover the car rental we would need for our journey to Portland from Seattle after our last Alaska Adventure with HAL. If I had read the fine print I would have ‘discovered’ that you can only use one coupon per rental. And as I ‘discovered’ when I made that first rental, you must enter your coupon code before the Alamo site will quote you a price. And because I missed that little quirk the first time I tried to make the rental, I also ‘discovered’ that the prices they quote with the coupon are higher than the ones they quote without a coupon. I’m not sure if this is still the case, but it wouldn’t surprise me if sometime in the future I receive a notice from some law firm that I can participate in a class action suit and maybe wind up with a windfall of $15 or so. I found it interesting that the cheapest car available this week approaching Memorial Day was a mid-size SUV, which actually worked out great for going out with my mom and two other friends for dinners and to the movies. I chose the deep blue Hyundai SUV that Sharon no doubt would also have picked. It is a nice feature of Alamo choosing which car you want (of the type you’ve selected). Aside from getting slightly lost making my way from the rental place to the freeway, and getting stuck for about ten light changes to get back on track, I made my way to my mother’s house without delay. Her collie Buddy, who at seven years of age no longer lives up to his early nickname of “Bouncing Baby Buddy”, actually seemed excited to see me after 1 ½ years.
My mom and I had planned to go to Caruso’s II for lunch, because Ron and Linda don’t much care for this Italian Restaurant, but it’s one of our favorites. But Ron was working late, so neither of them would be joining us for dinner, so we decided to try Daphne’s, another of our favorites offering Greek food, which Ron and Linda also don’t care for. Ron was the best man at our wedding, and Linda is his sister. You may discover that there are a lot of things that they don’t care for. Unfortunately Daphne’s was no longer in business. We wound up at Red Robin and my mom enjoyed her burger, and I my prime rib sandwich. My mom had recommended that as one of Ron’s favorites, but he later claimed that although he liked the sandwich, he didn’t care for the price. Ron might like Ohio, because the prices are lower there, as I’d already noticed by the $4 gas I’d been seeing everywhere. My mom and I did get to Caruso’s for dinner, and enjoyed our cannelloni with Chianti. They also make an excellent individual antipasti salad that comes with the dinner if you ask for it. But I noticed it no longer came with the two black olives; although it featured loads of salami and pepperoni and mozzarella. And it was served with a pepperoncini (or what they call banana peppers in Ohio, go figure). After dinner, I called Sharon, and then off to bed.
The next day I discovered that the TV in the family room had a problem with the sound… which could only muster the faintest whisper. Trying to increase the sound with the controls resulted in it cutting out altogether. Now you must appreciate that the TV is wall-mounted above a four-foot wooden shelf, and access to the cables is difficult. My mom got all concerned because Linda was planning to move in while she is gone to house-sit Buddy, and she couldn’t do that without TV. I was beginning to wonder how long my stay would be without TV and without internet. My mom cancelled that since I was there last. Linda did come over in the afternoon and the three of us played some single-bid auction pinochle. My mom was getting the hands, and I certainly wasn’t. My mom edged past Linda in the first game, then dominated the second game, and it looked like Linda would win the third game, but the card-Gods decided to smile on me for the last two hands. We went out for Japanese/sushi; but, again Ron was too tired to join us. I should have told him I was buying dinner. My mom really likes the “Happy Hour” 98-cent draft Kirin. My mom and I both enjoyed the miso soup, which was the best I’d ever had at this place. I enjoyed the yellow-tail sashimi, and we shared some shrimp tempura and Ken’s Special (made with lobster). Sharon and I talked again after dinner.
The next day was especially long without TV and internet and of course without Sharon. We didn’t even have Skype which got us through the long times apart before we were married. I texted Ron at work to let him know my mom was buying dinner tonight at Sisley’s, a family/Italian high-end chain at the local mall in Santa Clarita. All four of us went out and enjoyed a great meal. I had my long-time favorite butternut squash ravioli made with a brown-butter sage sauce. Ron had the cioppino which he said was excellent. He normally gets the black and white cake, but because it was brought in from the bakery yesterday and not today, he decided to eschew that delicacy. Sharon and I talked again before she retired for the evening.
On my last full day in Southern California, I took my mom to Panera Bread for breakfast. She enjoyed the gouda-sausage soufflé and I had the four-cheese soufflé (okay, I also had a poppy-sweet-onion bagel with light cream cheese). I really do plan to start back up on my diet again after the cruise. She had talked to her brother who thought he had the same problem with his TV as I was having. He recommended turning the volume down low with the remote, and then finding the physical volume control on the cable box, to adjust it. I tried, but never did find such a volume control on the box, but did stumble across an audio cable that was connected. Another one seemed loose. The sound seemed to be working again. I later discover that while the sound was louder, trying to increase it would result in losing it altogether. At least it was loud enough to listen to (if Buddy isn’t barking). We decided to go see the matinee for the new Star Trek movie, “Into the Darkness” and it was enjoyable. Even my mother liked it, but for Ron and Linda, the plot was too predictable… I hear this every time we go to the movies. Starting with the first scene with the Tribble, they had it figured out.
It was Friday, and we had dinner at Betito’s Mexican Restaurant. Ron actually had a premium Cadillac Margarita made with Anejo. I ordered the same, but I later found out I didn’t get the premium tequila. The place was packed, and we had to wait quite a while to get seated (because Ron went to the gym and then played two games of racquetball first). I told Ron that in Ohio, Cadillac Margaritas are regular margaritas made with orange juice. There they have regular margaritas, and “Texas Margaritas” made with top-shelf tequila and with Grand Marnier. The other thing that I haven’t found in Ohio is a decent taco… hard shell tacos will inevitably get you a bad Taco Bell taco. When the waitress came by to ask us how our meal was, and she was talking to me, Ron chimes in “Don’t bother asking him, he moved to Ohio to be with that woman.” My mom was in the middle of sipping her margarita, and I thought I was going to have to give her the Heimlich again. It’s hard to describe the sound one makes when one is both choking and laughing hysterically at the same time. Later that night I would realize that my margarita was made with the silver gut-rot tequila and I was both wide awake and suffering from a splitting headache. This is one thing Ohio does right. This is getting really old not being able to see Sharon, but we said good night again by long distance, hopefully for the last time.
The next day we had a 5:55pm flight to Seattle. My mom wanted to go to Caruso’s for lunch, and again had the cannelloni. I had the stuffed shells with a side of sausage, and the food again was excellent. We got to the airport without incident, except for being approached by a homeless person at the gas pump. I really like the way Alaska Air has done the check-in at LAX. The friendly agent questioned, why we weren’t sitting together, and I thought that we were, but our tickets weren’t booked together because of my 3-city flight itinerary. It may be the same thing that happened to Sharon and I on our return from Argentina, some accommodating agent moved one of us to put two other people together because our tickets weren’t linked in the system. He quickly arranged for us to have two aisle seats across from each other. When the plane finally did board (just as on Sharon’s flight) we discovered that the seats next to both of us were empty, even though this was a “full” flight. We landed, had a marathon walk to baggage claim, found our bags immediately, got on the elevator, across to the other side where we spotted our shuttle bus from the bridge above. It was still there after we got the elevator back down. We hadn’t needed a luggage cart, because my mom’s suitcase is smaller than my carry-on. I hope she has enough clothes for the trip. From Sharon’s text, we knew to go straight to rooms 209 and 211. Tonight, at least, we can say goodnight face to face. Sharon has this fear that the mothers won’t get along for a whole week, and the cabin arrangements will need to be reassigned. I doubt that will be a problem.
Breakfast on a Sunday boarding day morning at the Fairfield Inn was a zoo. Besides the Oosterdam, a Princess ship is sailing for Alaska today as well. At various times, they were out of eggs (and I use that term loosely), out of sausage, and worst for my mother, out of coffee. But we’ve got our bags tagged and will head down to wait for the shuttle to the ship shortly so will get this posted.
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