Category: Travel

Albuquerque 2021

Because my dad died during Covid, we delayed his memorial service until this summer, when we thought the pandemic would be over. It’s not, of course. However, it worked out well because his birthday is August 5th so my mom scheduled it for that day.

We flew to Albuquerque on August 4th, checked into Hotel Chaco and then met almost everyone else for dinner at El Patron. My brother Todd, my sister-in-law Rozanne, my niece Kristin, my sister Trish, brother-in-law Jeff, their daughters Sarah and Leah, my aunt Lorna, my cousins Jodi and Delene and my mom, of course, were all there.

Dinner at El Patron

The memorial service was the next morning at their church. It was a nice service and my sister, brother-in-law Jeff and I spoke (I transcribed what I said here). I have a fear of public speaking so I was very very nervous about it. My sister was too, and fortunately, I brought airplane bottles of Maker’s Mark so we snuck away before the service and we each had one to calm the jitters. 😝

We had a family lunch at my mom’s house after the service. My uncles, a.k.a. my dad’s brothers, Bob and Roy, Roy’s wife Leslie and Bob’s daughter Carole were there too.

Gay, Sarah, Trish, Leah, Kristin, Jeff, me, Hudson, Havana, Bob, Eva, Rozanne, Todd, Carole, my mom, Leslie, Roy, Jodi, Lorna and Dalene

Across the street from our hotel was Sawmill Market, which was fantastic. We ate almost every meal there, trying to never repeat anything, and we still didn’t try 3 or 4 places. Next visit to Albuquerque, I guess. Everything we had was really good and it was so convenient to go there and everyone could get what they wanted versus spending 20-30 minutes on Yelp before every meal trying to find a good place to go.

First dinner at Sawmill Market

The highlight of the trip (of the year?) for Havana and Hudson was meeting Charlie Heaton, an actor in Stranger Things and other things. Several Netflix shows are filmed in Albuquerque and he was filming season 4 of Stranger Things so was staying at the same hotel and happen to be sitting all alone next to all of us at dinner on Friday night at Level 5 where we had a big family dinner. I sent him a beer and we got him to come over and say hello to everyone. Later, we had dessert and invited him over to share desserts and he hung out and talked to all the kids for a while.

Eva, Havana, Charlie and Hudson

Our hotel room had a nice big terrace so we hosted everyone for pizza dinner, from Sawmill Market, of course, on Saturday night. A bunch of us went over to order the pizzas beforehand and then had a drink outside in the courtyard waiting for the pizzas. It was a very nice evening all around.

My mom, Jeff, Hudson, Eva, Carole, Sarah and Gay

Orcas Island

We got out early on Thursday and went to Orcas Island for 2 nights, staying at Rosario Resort. We got to the island in time to have a great brunch at Outlook Inn and we had a fun dinner at The Mansion. On Friday, we had lunch at the casual restaurant overlooking the marina, went to the pool, got takeout pizza from Hogstone, a James Beard nominated restaurant that you just can’t get a dine-in reservation to, took the pizza to a nearby park by the water to eat and then drove around the island before coming back to the hotel, watched a little of the Olympics and then went to bed.

Palm Spring(s) Break 2021

Our first airplane trip since Mexico in 2019 took us to Palm Springs for Spring Break for the week. We rented an Airbnb with a pool and mostly stayed at the house by the pool, ate dinners outside and did very little else. It was a nice to have a change of scenery and warmer weather.

I was concerned about taking flights during Covid but they were short flights and everyone at the airports and on the planes were very safe, wore masks and everything was contactless.

Before we went to Palm Springs, Seattle was still chilly and I was wearing sweaters. While we were away, Seattle changed to warm weather and it feels like Springtime.

Lake Pend Oreille

We rented a house on Lake Pend Oreille (“Ponderay”) for four five days to have some time with Gay’s dad and aunts, but the aunts couldn’t make it. We stopped in Spokane to pick up Gay’s dad — she drove his truck to the house near Sandpoint, ID — and we arrived at the house at 6:30pm, early enough for the kids to play in the water. Hudson brought his fishing pole and immediately went to the end of the dock to fish, and got up early Sunday morning to start fishing.

On Sunday, Gay’s mom and stepdad, Jim, brother and wife, Trina and his kids, Danica and Dalton, came over from Spokane for the day, which included lunch and dinner and playing in the water.

The house

When Gay was little, she and her dad boated on this lake often. So we rented a boat for a couple days too. It was supposed to be delivered Monday (Labor Day) but a significant windstorm with 60mph winds hit Idaho and knocked out power to thousands, including us, and the water was so rough that it made it impossible to deliver the boat. But the boat, a 23-foot Monterey 238SS, was delivered on Tuesday conveniently to the dock at the house.

I couldn’t get Bob to drive the boat, but all the kids wanted to drive it. Havana and Hudson took us all the way from Sandpoint to Hope. And they loved learning how the techniques to “make fast” a line to a cleat so they were quick to attach the fenders and then jump off the boat to help me dock by tying it to cleats on the dock.

The boat made it possible to get out farther so Hudson could fish. Eva then learned to fish and I took them both out in the evening and early morning, before online school, to go fishing. Hudson caught one fish and got it on the boat for a photo but it was too heavy for the line and it escaped back into the water.

After their morning online school each day, we took the boat out for the afternoon for tubing and swimming around the bays near the house and could not tire the kids out. After dinners, Hudson and I watched the Tour de France on my iPad until bedtime. We originally planned to leave Thursday but we were having so much fun and the house was available for an extra day so we extended the trip for one more day, with the boat too.

Bob, Barley & Eva

Barley really loved the boat, he wanted to get on it and didn’t want to get off. That surprised me. He normally hates not having all four feet firmly on the ground but didn’t seem to mind the rocking of the boat at all, he could even fall asleep while we were cruising at 30mph.

Havana at the helm
Hudson at the helm

Laughing Dog Brewing is just minutes from the house in Ponderay. Gay and I used to drink their then-flagship IPA because it had a picture of a dog on the label that looked exactly like Illy and we’d never been to the brewery so we couldn’t resist stopping in.

Laughing Dog Brewing
Havana feeding a goose from a kayak at sunset
Eva, Havana, Hudson & Gay on the “inner tube”

We got home to a very smoky Seattle thanks to the forest fires in California, Oregon and Washington. Air Quality Index is over 200, “Very Unhealthy”, and is expected to be that high until at least Monday. We should have stayed in Idaho through the weekend!

Sep 13 Update: eastern Washington and Sandpoint, Idaho had twice as high AQI numbers since we returned. It’s good we left when we did!

Being ground zero for Covid-19, the CHOP debacle and now this, 2020 has not been very good to Seattle.

I90 near North Bend

Mexico 2019

Gay was talking to Edie, Fiona’s mom, in early November, about going to Mexico after Christmas during the kids’ break from school. They go almost every year since getting engaged in Sayulita in the 2000s. A couple weeks later we had a plan to get an Airbnb in Punta Mita together. Eli and Hudson are close in age and Eva and Fiona have long been great friends, but Havana had no one so we invited her friend Hannah to come with us.

Hannah’s dad, Dan, brought Hannah over at 7:30am Friday and gave us all a ride to the airport to fly to Puerto Vallarta. Edie & Zach + Eli and Fiona had flown in the day before, stayed a night in Puerto Vallarta and met us at the house in Punta Mita on Saturday.

Sunday

We watched the Steelers lose to the Ravens and fall out of the playoffs, then we went to the beach and pool at the W Hotel and then we watched the Seahawks lose to the 49ers and drop to the 5-seed in the playoffs.

Sunset (Zach’s photo)

Monday

Beach and pool at the W Hotel for boogie-boarding on the boards that Edie & Zach brought from their previous trip here. Havana and Hannah baby-sat the kids and the adults went to the town of Punta Mita to Hector’s Kitchen, a modern Mexican restaurant which was very good.

Tuesday

New Year’s Eve! We all went to Sayulita. This was our 3rd time in Sayulita. The first was in 2008, then 2012 and now in 2019. Great beach surf town, ever more touristed but still very small. Edie & Zach got engaged in Sayulita and have been there almost every other year since. We all had dinner at Sayulita Cafe.

Dinner at Sayulita Cafe

We met Edie & Zach’s friend, Georgia, who moved there in 2009 and runs a local ex-pat baby-sitting empire. Dinner at Sayulita Cafe. [Show photo of Havana’s re-enactment]. Got champagne and groceries and went home to play Exit game and wait until midnight to see fireworks in the bay.

Wednesday

Rain all day. Stayed home. Reading. Zach & I watched Oregon v Wisconsin. Adult dinner at Los Agaves in Punta Mita (where we ran into more friends of Edie & Zach).

Eva swimming in the rain

Thursday

We spent the morning and early afternoon at the beach, including lunch at the W’s Wet Deck beach restaurant again. Edie & Zach and the kids left soon after to catch their flight home. We stayed a while longer at the beach before going home to get ready and then go out for our last dinner at Venazú, another of the W’s restaurants, which was very good – Gay, Hudson and Hannah we adventurous enough to eat crickets! All the kids got to try their hand at driving the golf cart to and from the W and our house.

Eva in the W complex
Crickets! 🤢
Santa

Friday

We got a driver to take us to Puerto Vallarta (and hold our luggage) before our flight. Due to an accident on the highway, it took an hour-and-a-half to get there. We had a good lunch at The River Cafe, walked around the old town and on the Mercado a little before taking the car to the airport for our flight home.

This was our 7th visit to Mexico including our 3rd to the Puerto Vallarta area: Cancun (for a day our two on our way back from Cuba) in 1998, Zihuatanejo in 1999 and again in 2000 for Eric & Steve’s wedding, Cabo San Lucas in 2009, Puerto Vallarta in 2008, 2012 and 2019. Mexico is my most-traveled-to country by a long margin.

Monday in New Orleans

Last day in New Orleans. We started with a brunch at Josephine Estelle and a walk around the CBD/Downtown District, the Warehouse District, down Canal Street, through the French Quarter again and then to Herbsaint for an early dinner before we left for the airport.

The highlight of this meal was one with Fideo noodles, a toasted pasta dish with creamy mustard sauce with tomatoes. We’ve never had it before. Sounds like it wouldn’t be good but it was.

After the 5-hour flight, we got home in Seattle at 10:30pm. The kids were asleep, we let Megan go home and we went right to bed.

It was a great 72 hours. I was impressed with New Orleans when I was in my mid-20s and even moreso this time. It’s fun just walking around the city and experiencing how unique the place is and how friendly the people are. The food, which is wonderful everywhere, the culture and the history make it so special. It was hard to leave, I could have stayed another night. We can’t wait come back with the kids, but maybe we should wait until they’re 21+.

🍸 🎉 🥃 🎺 🌶 🎷 🐊 ⚜️

Sunday in New Orleans

Everyone else went out again for brunch at Atchafalaya, which I’m told was amazing and had a build-your-own Bloody Mary bar. Yum.

But I’m not in New Orleans during football season on a Sunday often, so I wanted to watch a Saints game at a sports bar with locals. If I was smart and had planned ahead, I would have gone to Manning’s Sports Bar & Grill, named for famous Saints QB, Archie Manning, and father of Peyton and Eli, but there were 42+ people waiting ahead of me to get in. So I went alone to The American Sports Saloon. The place was full but a big family of Saints fans let me sit at their table. As a thanks, I bought them a “bucket of beer” (cans of Miller Lite in a bucket of ice, sadly) and nachos. The Saints beat the Buccaneers. After the game, I got a coffee and spent 3 hours walking around the French Quarter by myself enjoying the unique character of the city. Bourbon Street seemed to be cleaned up since my first visit but too touristy and still a little seedy.

Gay met up with me later and we walked home. We had made a reservation at Maison de la Luz for the night, so we packed up and left to check-in there. We had drinks in the hotel bar and then had a late 9:30pm and another great dinner by ourselves at Peche. The group of friends was a lot of fun, but I don’t get many opportunities to have dinner alone with my wife so I needed that.

11pm was too early, so we then met up with everyone else at The Elysian Bar again!

Saturday in New Orleans

We slept in until 11am. Well, I did, Gay got up and went running. Most of everyone else went to brunch at Cane & Table (like Cain & Abel, get it?). Gay and I got ready, drank coffee and finally left by 1pm to go to the same place, who had just left, and had our own delicious brunch.

Gay in front of our house dealing with a lost Uber driver
Perfect time for a Bloody Mary … so healthy
Biscuits & Gravy with Grits + egg

The weather was clear but chilly, similar to Seattle’s, about 50°F, thanks to a cold snap that hit the Midwest this week. Apparently, it’s normally 20°F warmer.

We walked around the French Quarter and then to Louis Armstrong Park, where a Gumbo festival was going on with a jazz concert, of course. We stayed there for a while and then walked across town to The Elysian Bar, a very stately bar for cocktails.

After a brief rest at our houses, we all went to Cochon and had a fantastic dinner.

We went back to the French Quarter and hung out on Frenchmen Street in Jazz clubs, got one of every hot dog (except the vegan one) from Dat Dog and we all ate them on the street outside the jazz clubs. Another 4am night for almost everyone.

Tulane University Hospital

No one is quite sure how it happened that Matt cut his eye right on his eyebrow. Gay always thinks stitches are necessary and convinced him to go to the emergency room. At 1:30am. Gay, Cathy and I got an Uber and we were off to the hospital. I had the brilliant idea to bring some beers along knowing we’d be waiting a while in a boring hospital.

I didn’t get through the metal detector because of the beer cans, the security guard opened my bag and told me that beer cans have to go around the metal detector. Duh! I walked through and the guard put the beer back in my bag. Southern hospitality! New Orleans’ casualness with public alcohol would soon be apparent to us all.

While in the operating room with Matt waiting for the doctor I passed out beers to the others but thought better of having my own until just before the doctor came in 30 minutes later. He kicked us out and outside the room I dropped my just-opened can and beer spilled all over the floor. Now what do I do?! Immediately someone yelled down the hall “Don’t worry, I’ll call it urine and have it cleaned up!” More southern hospitality!

Gay, Matt and Cathy post-operation

New Orleans people are so friendly. The doctor knew we were out-of-towners and asked where we were from. I asked him how he got to New Orleans and he matter-of-factly explained “I met a girl online from New Orleans so I moved here, she turned out to be a man, then I met a real girl, got her pregnant and now I’m stuck.” It was an interesting night. We got home at 4:30am and everyone was asleep.

New Orleans 2019

Gay and I left the kids at home and left for New Orleans this morning. Gay’s friends from college organized the trip and I’m tagging along. Jon & Megan are watching the house and Barley. Hudson is spending the night at Bowie’s for his birthday party, which worked out well, Eva is spending tonight at Fiona’s and Havana is staying home. We’ll see how Jon & Megan handle 4 kids!

I was in New Orleans only once before in 1994 or 1995, can’t remember, on a business trip and really liked the place. But I’m wondering if it surpassed my low expectations or if I really do like it and I’m about to find out.

We landed in New Orleans at 5pm. Nice new airport. Cathy, Deina and Jeff, who I met for the first time, were on our flight and we Uber’d to our Airbnb house in the 7th Ward. Everyone else from New York (Eric & Sandi and Cindy), Jasper from Saratoga, and Matt from Arizona, who I also met for the first time, were already there having snacks and drinks.

Eric, Sandi, Matt, Cindy and I went out looking for groceries, got some jerk chicken from a street vendor, found a market where we ran into everyone from the other house: Jason & Nancy (I haven’t seen them since … 2002?!), Peter and Justin. We took our groceries back to our house.