Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Wine Traveler’s Travels Vol. 19 (From the archives)

Originally posted 17 December 2001

            This weekend was much too short, Tyler’s birthday party was held at the Claim Jumper Restaurant.  Right after I got there I received a page that turned out to be a fax machine.  Anyway the meal was great and they even brought Tyler a piece of cake with a candle in it at no charge.  We are still waiting for the Bird to come from the breeder, The only other store we found with a Cockatiel wants $50.00 more for them, so we are waiting.  When we were on our way home Tyler was getting a little depressed he didn’t have his bird and he also hadn’t gotten the Harry Potter cake he wanted.  Well Gail and I looked at each other knowing that was soon to change because we had already picked up a cake at Albertson’s which was decorated with Harry Potter and was a marble cake just like he wanted.  We sent him to get something from his room while I searched for the birthday candles I knew I had.  It took some searching but I finally rounded up 12 candles from about four different styles of birthday candles.  We then called him into the dinning room you should have seen him light up.  About this time I realized I had left my pager and cell phone on the table at the restaurant, I called and they had it but were closing in the next few minutes and the place was in Redmond over 30 minutes away.  They told me someone would be there at 6 AM; my flight was at 6:20.  So I went there at 6 AM and got a later flight by luck.

            This week’s flight is on United, and my destination is St. Petersburg, FL.  I spoke with Dad and found that Sister Gregory will be in Florida this week and we will try to get together.  I was able to get booked on the 11:15 flight through Denver; security at this time of day was much better than I am used to.  But once I got to the gate area the monitor indicated that my flight was going to be 40 minutes late and that I might miss my connecting flight.  So I went standby on the oversold flight at 9:15.  I was able to get a good seat on this flight and am now sitting in the Denver airport waiting for my connecting flight.

            The next leg of my journey was aboard an airbus 320.  This was about the size of a 757 but the seats were so jammed in that my knees touched the seat in front of me.  As I have seen on most other flights there was not an empty seat anywhere.  I really think the airlines used the 9-11 incident as an excuse to lessen the number of flights so more of them would be full, without the excuse of 9-11 the flying community would have balked at the inconvenience.  If there are fewer people flying these days I think it is more likely because there aren’t any seats for them.  We were served a snack box with a small sandwich a bag of chips with about 5 or 6 chips in it and a small cookie.  I liked the idea of having a snack box as opposed to the bag you get on American because it gave you something more convenient to eat from.  I got to my hotel at about 9:30 pm and as I drove up to the entrance of the St. Pete Hilton the valet met me took my keys and arranged for the bellhop to take my bags, this was not at all what I am used to.  The room was very nice with a nice king size bed and solid wood furniture.  There was bottled water next to the ice bucket and the usual coffee maker with a rather good tasting coffee called City Blend.  The rate was only $85, which I have paid at places that didn’t come close to the service I received here.  This is the way Tyler thinks all my hotel stays are, he is always telling me that I shouldn’t hassle them about cleaning up the house, that I am just used to all the service at the hotels I stay in. 

Tuesday morning I got up early and went to the hospital to get their system ready for the upcoming upgrade.  Dennis showed up a little later and we were able to get the upgrade finished by 5 pm.  I spoke with my manager on how well the upgrade was going and he said “Great, because I need you to go to Carson City, NV tomorrow night.  I called my Dad to let him know we would not be able to meet on Thursday as we had planned.  Dennis and I went looking for someplace to eat dinner and found a place called Fred Flemmings Famous Bar-B-Que.  We both had hankering for ribs, well we were in luck; as we were trying to decide from the menu the waitress informed us that tonight’s special was and all you can eat ribs and catfish, we both said that’s what we want before she could finish. The ribs were meaty, tender, and just the right amount of smoked goodness, the catfish was lightly battered and seasoned to perfection, and served hot and succulent with a tartar sauce.  The side dishes were fries and coleslaw that tasted like something my maternal grandmother made.  This is a place that I highly recommend to anyone visiting the Tampa/St. Pete area.  We realized during our meal that we didn’t even let her tell us how much this fine meal cost.  We were shocked to see the bill was only $8.99.  We put away a lot of ribs and catfish. 

Things went very well at the hospital and I finished early.  My first arrangements for my change to go to Reno were for an America West 8:30 pm flight that would get me into Reno at 1 AM.  None of the car rentals would be open so I would have had to stay at a hotel close by and get a car in the morning.  As it turned out I was able to get done by Noon on Wednesday so I got an earlier flight on American.  As much as I have complained about the regular American attendants and their attitudes; the ones on my Tampa to Dallas flight were exceptional.  They had great attitudes and were very attentive.  Maybe things are looking up for American.  After a short wait at DFW (Dallas/Fort Worth) airport I was on my way to Reno for another three-hour flight with no food, and the usual stoic American attitudes.  I arrived in Reno and the rental car here was a Toyota Camry, nice drive for a foreign car.  I checked into the Best Western Pinon Plaza Resort where I usually stay when in Carson City.  It was after the regular restaurants had closed so I went to the Margarita Saloon in the resort and ordered from their late night menu.  I had Chicken quesedias, which really hit the spot since I had not eaten since much earlier in the day.  The upgrade, Thursday morning, went very well here also and I was asked to come in on night shift to visit with the night nurses.  I went back to the hotel and slept till about 8 then went to the restaurant and had their Thursday night special, a 1 lb Rib eye steak with baked potato and salad/soup bar.  This steak was wonderfully prepared and the salad bar had a nice selection, the soup was a baked potato soup.  All this was nicely priced at $7.99. 

Friday after checking the software and working with the nurses I went back to Reno to catch my flight home I stopped at the Costco to gas up and pick up one of their $1.50 hot dog and soda specials.  Then it was off to the airport and home on Alaska airlines, as usual I was randomly chosen to be frisked and have my bags manually searched.  It seems every time I fly Alaska I get “randomly” chosen.  The advantage this time though, was that I knew from check in that I had been chosen so I was able to get frisked first and get on the plane right after first class.  The short two hour flight was a bit bumpy but otherwise uneventful.  Always glad to be home, and this time it would be for two weeks as the company closes for the holidays and we there is a planned meeting the first week of the year so I won’t be traveling till the 7th of January. 

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