Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Portland Oregon: Exploring the Downtown Christmas Decorations

One sure fire way to get into the Christmas spirit is to check out the downtown decorations. I took the MAX light rail to downtown Portland one afternoon and did just that. I looked at store decorations and shopping mall decorations but what I think I enjoyed most was the diversity of decorations in the downtown hotels. Here are some samples. Merry Christmas!

Of course we had to check out The Benson Hotel's tree. The lobby is always elegant.
The Benson used huge ornaments.

Benson Hotel elegance.

More of the beautiful Benson Hotel ornaments.

Nordstrom had some interesting wooden and felt pine cones.
So then it was off down the street to find a traditional Doug fir.
This beautiful tree was in the lobby of the Hotel Lucia.

Hotel Lucia decorations.

The Hotel Lucia used some wood ornaments, too.
Look closer. The tree is made of glass
at the Kimpton Hotel Vintage

Glass wine bottles to be exact!
After all that walking you may be interested in enjoying some down time in an elegant holiday setting. If you are lucky enough to get a reservation, enjoy a special Russian Tea at the Heathman.

There is much more to see and do during the holidays in Portland. Enjoy our article from Wander With Wonder on Christmas in Portland.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Cascade Locks: Things to See and Do in this Columbia Gorge Community

As the wildfires burned this last September, we began to realize how the little community of Cascade Locks on the Oregon side of the Bridge of the Gods felt as the flames, smoke and cinders came closer and closer to their town. The visible remnants of the Eagle Creek Fire still line I-84. The town was all but shut down during the fires. And they are still recovering.

After the all clear was given, the townspeople began to pick up the pieces of their disrupted lives. Tom Cramblett, Mayor and Captain of the Sternwheeler Columbia that docks seasonally in Cascade Locks, was on television talking about the town, their strength and their financial woes.

A group of businesses gathered together and began a promotion to bring funding to the businesses who proudly were #CascadeLocksStrong. You could purchase gift cards from the many businesses thus giving them a boost when they needed it most. I was one of the people who bought those gift cards and now, that the fire was deemed 100% contained, it was time to head out to the Gorge and show them a little love.

Scenic Drive to Cascade Locks

Finally the rains were stopping for a week. With the imminent threat of landslides from the rain-soaked hills, I was reluctant to drive scenic Hwy 14 on the Washington side. But it was drying so I took off for Cascade Locks to meet some friends for lunch. Sure, we could have met for lunch in Vancouver or Portland, but we wanted to let Cascade Locks know that they were not forgotten.

The weather was promising as I headed out east on Hwy 14 on the Washington side. I always stopped at the Cape Horn lookout for a photo op. But things were different that day. All of a sudden the road was enveloped in fog. I’d never seen it like that.
Cape Horn Overlook - WA Hwy 14
The rest of the drive was quiet and scenic. I reached the Bridge of the Gods in record time and rumbled across the steel bridge with grids so open you could see the river below. It was good to be back in the Gorge once again.

Spirit of Cascade Locks

As I drove off the bridge I noticed a yellow hazard tape stretched across the entrance to the Pacific Crest Trail. Things had changed. And then I noticed the rest of the wooded drive was lined with lighted Christmas figures. Cheerful, pretty and full of spirit.

Since I had Francesca the Coonhound with me, and I had promised her that she could explore Thunder Island, we continued on and parked at the lot near the Locks Waterfront Grill where the sternwheeler docks in summer. The sun came out as we took a look at the statue of Sacagawea, the Shoshone woman who helped Lewis and Clark in their explorations of the area.

My dog stopped to sniff yet another statue, one I hadn’t noticed before… Seaman, the dog. Seaman was the only animal to complete the entire journey with Lewis and Clark. There are statues in his honor in several Columbia River cities. Francesca was impressed!
Francesca poses with Seaman, the Newfoundland
We continued our walk along the river and came to the bridge leading to Thunder Island.

Exploring Thunder Island

Thunder Island is a small island that was carved out of the mainland in 1890 to build the Cascade Locks and Canal. The historic locks and canal provided safe passage around the rapids for ships traveling up and down the Columbia River. There is a trail along the edge of the island. We checked out the interpretive information and then took a trail to the right. It’s fun feeling as though you are out in the mighty Columbia River.

At the end of the island we saw a huge blue heron, probably 5 feet high. It took off as soon as Francesca and I got very close. We rounded the end and continued on the other side of the island stopping to look at views of the Washington side of the river. We came upon a platform used for weddings on the island. (There is electricity and resin chairs people can use). As we reached the other tip of the island we stopped to admire the Bridge of the Gods. 
It was a beautiful, clear fall day on the Columbia River
 And then I looked up, at the hillsides. They were covered with snow. It was beautiful.

A recent snow dusted the hillside.
Also on Thunder Island, you can visit Thunder Island Brewing Company and the Thunder Island Historical Museum located in one of the original lock tender’s homes.

Cascade Locks for Lunch

I’m usually in Cascade Locks in the summer for hiking and walking and a favorite stop is the East Wind Drive Inn. This little drive in is a go-to place for ice cream after a hike or drive in the Gorge. They serve breakfast and burgers too. But we kept walking this time as our destination for lunch was farther up.

We passed some motels and a grocery store and the Native fish shop, the Brigham Fish Market. The serve up chowder and fish lunches as well as sell local and Alaskan sea food.

And then on the corner, just before you turn up to drive on the Bridge of the Gods is the Bridgeside Restaurant (used to be Charburger). It’s been there forever. And they still have the same arrowhead collections, wagon wheel chandeliers and marvelous char-broiled burgers.
Bridgeside was warm, cozy and decorated for the holidays.
The fire had not dampened the spirit of Cascade Locks.
Their baked goods are excellent too. Try a slice of marionberry pie. We sat at one of the many booths with a view of the Columbia River and Bridge of the Gods. It’s a homey, warm destination on a winter drive into the Gorge.
Marionberry pie with a view!
It’s one place we wanted to show some love on our day trip. It’s one place we had good memories and wanted to create more. Cascade Locks is a town worth exploring, having a picnic, stopping for an ice cream and enjoying the views. The people of Cascade Locks are strong and we were pleased to see that they were very open for business.
Bridge of the Gods

More on Cascade Locks and The Columbia Gorge

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Celebrate the Holidays New Orleans-Style at Acadia in Portland

Located in the Sabin/Irvington neighborhood of Portland, Acadia has been serving modern American cuisine rooted in Louisiana food traditions since 2001.  The restaurant uses locally-grown fruits, vegetables and meats, as well as exclusively wild caught seafood from the Gulf coast and Pacific Northwest. 

Once again, Acadia Bistro chef/owner Seamus Foran is continuing the restaurant’s long-standing tradition of hosting Christmas Eve Réveillion Dinner and a rousing New Year’s Eve.  Derived from the 18th century Creole tradition, “réveillon” comes from the French word for “awakening” and refers to a late night/early morning meal served after midnight mass on Christmas Eve.  Hungry families returning from church services would feast on a sumptuous meal that had been laid out in advance.  Acadia has been hosting a Réveillion Dinner since 2004 and remains a popular option for diners who want to enjoy time out with family and friends, without getting the kitchen dirty.

For both evenings, the set menus consist of four courses of traditional Cajun and Creole dishes, as well as updated classics.  Acadia’s Réveillion Dinner will be served from 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. on Sunday, December 24th.  The cost is $70 per guest, and reservations are strongly recommended. 

Save room for Bread Pudding!

Acadia’s Réveillion Dinner 

Crawfish Deviled Egg

First Course (choice of):
Hushpuppies with orange horseradish marmalade
Louisiana style BBQ shrimp
Local Chanterelle Mushroom Toast with smoked onion relish and fresh herbs
Cornmeal Fried Willapa Bay Oysters with miso-remoulade 

Second Course (choice of):
Field Greens Salad with creole mustard vinaigrette and crumbled egg
Apple Salad with frisee, feta, roasted beets and orange bourbon vinaigrette
Acadian Gumbo with andouille, blue crab, gulf shrimps, crawfish and okra
Louisiana Snappin’ Turtle Soup with sherry and hard cooked egg 

Entrée Course (choice of):
Grilled NY Striploin with horseradish whipped potatoes, truffle butter, and jus de veau
Confit Duck Leg with cornmeal waffle, winter chicories and red chili honey
Gulf Shrimp Madeleine with watercress and fried onion
Almond Crusted Seabream with delicata squash, blue crab, mandarins and brown butter vinaigrette
Goat Cheese Gnocchi with brown butter fried sage, chanterelle mushrooms, toasted pumpkin seeds, and roasted carrot puree 

Dessert Course (choice of):
Vanilla Bean Bread pudding with toasted pecans and salted whiskey caramel sauce
Chocolate Buttermilk Cake with brown butter sea salt ice cream and ganache
Rainbow Carrot Cake with sweet cinnamon chèvre, and candied pepitas

New Year's Eve at Acadia

On Sunday, December 31st, the little Bistro starts rocking again with a special New Year’s Eve multi-course dinner commencing at 5:00 p.m. until the ball drops.  The cost is $60 per guest, reservations strongly recommended.  Menu:

Smoked Tomato Soup

First (choice of):
Hush Puppies orange-horseradish marmalade
Louisiana BBQ Shrimp lemon, butter, black pepper and rosemary
Chanterelle Mushroom & Onion Toast balsamic charred cipollini, fresh herbs
Cornmeal Fried Willapa Bay Oysters with red curry cream and cucumbers

Second (choice of):
Field Greens Salad crumbled egg and creole mustard vinaigrette
Roasted Beet Salad arugula, baby kale, pomegranate seeds, lemon vinaigrette and whipped chèvre
Cajun Country Gumbo with chicken and andouille sausage

Third (choice of):
Braised Beef Brisket with “round-up” beans and smoked onion relish
Fried Louisiana Catfish with spinach Madeleine dressing, ginger-orange aioli, watercress
Smoked Pork Cheeks with white cheddar grits, bourbon peach jam, and mint gremolata
Louisiana Gulf Shrimp with crawfish stuffing, smoked tomato butter, and celery root remoulade
Goat Cheese Gnocchi with apples, sage, chanterelle mushrooms, pecans and roasted carrot puree

Dessert (choice of):
Bread Pudding with bourbon caramel sauce, pecans, whipped cream
Chocolate Pot de Crème
Carrot Cake with sweet-cinnamon chèvre, pepitas

As the restaurant will be serving only the set menus on these evenings and seating is limited, reservations are recommended.  Call (503) 249-5001 to reserve seats.

About Acadia
Acadia is located at 1303 NE Fremont St. in Portland.  For reservations, please call (503) 249-5001.

Note: Information provided by Heather Jones Consulting and posted as a courtesy.

Friday, November 17, 2017

La Fonda: Luxury New Mexico Hotel Known as Santa Fe’s Living Room

La Fonda is Santa Fe. Situated on a corner facing the iconic Santa Fe Plaza, La Fonda has welcomed travelers since the early 20’s. If you want to get a true sense of Santa Fe style and hospitality, stay at La Fonda. Or, at a minimum, enjoy a sunset with a signature margarita in hand at the rooftop Bell Tower bar.

La Fonda Santa Fe
La Fonda at night. Photo courtesy: La Fonda

La Fonda: Part of Santa Fe History

City of Santa Fe records indicate that La Fonda sits on the site of the town's first inn, established when the city was founded by Spaniards in 1607, making La Fonda the oldest hotel corner in America. It is the only hotel marking the end of the old Santa Fe Trail.

One of the reasons you’ll want to visit La Fonda is that it is an excellent example of traditional Santa Fe architecture. The hotel you’ll see today was built in 1922 and features the influence of famous architects Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter and John Gaw Meem.

Within the adobe walls of La Fonda are many treasures. When I first visited I had the pleasure of meeting the traditional Spanish artist who had painted the glass panes and furniture in the rooms. His artwork was traditional folk art and he had a workshop in the hotel’s basement.

With the recent renovation of La Fonda comes more art. Chandeliers were taken out of storage and refurbished. Recent art additions include paintings by contemporary artists Tony Abeyta, Mateo Romero and Marla Allison.

La Fonda has launched an Artist-in-Residence program. You can experience a working artist studio every Thursday through Saturday afternoon in the lobby of La Fonda.

They call La Fonda, “Santa Fe’s Living Room,” and when I lived in Santa Fe, I felt it was my downtown home. I’d take a break from the heat of Indian Market and sink down into one of the cool leather couches admiring the Gerald Cassidy (1879-1934) paintings… the dark and intriguing Los Matachines caught my eye.

La Fonda Santa Fe
Los Matachines Lobby Art.
The dance-drama of los Matachines is an ancient tradition in the Hispanic Southwest.
It is one of the very few dances shared by both Hispanic and Native peoples.
The beautifully tiled women’s room was a stop as I walked from Canyon Road, through the Plaza toward my home by the historic Rosario Cemetery. On some Friday evenings, I’d meet friends there for a drink in La Fiesta Lounge.
La Fonda Santa Fe
La Fonda lobby - a cool retreat or a place to meet.
Photo courtesy: La Fonda
For a glimpse at the art of La Fonda, enjoy this article in Western Art Collector. And when you are in Santa Fe, take a free docent-led tour of the history, lore and art of La Fonda.

Staying at La Fonda

Least you think the accommodations are creaky and historic, you need to know that La Fonda recently went through a major renovation. Rooms are state of the art while maintaining the look and feel of the traditional Santa Fe style. I’ve stayed at La Fonda twice, but haven’t had the pleasure of returning since the renovation.

I was surprised to find out that La Fonda added rooms in a newer section of the hotel. The section called The Terrace at La Fonda, a decidedly boutique hotel feel. With a separate elevator and a designated on-site concierge, the newer, and more spacious section is close to a beautiful ballroom and terrace with a view of Santa Fe’s Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis.
La Fonda Santa Fe
On the terrace outside the ballroom.
15 one-of-a-kind luxury Santa Fe suites and rooms brought a new level of luxury to La Fonda guests.

The Terrace provides amenities such as Wi-Fi, plush bathrobes, Egyptian cotton bedding and a Keurig coffee maker. The luxurious Terrace rooms offer exclusive access to your own private concierge, balcony and a private fitness center and hot tub on the Terrace patio.
La Fonda Santa Fe
Spacious Terrace suites. Photo courtesy: La Fonda
But now with the renovation, more rooms at La Fonda have the same upscale feel. Each guest room offers a different experience, featuring a plush bed adorned with a hand-painted headboard as well as handcrafted furnishings and original artwork. 
La Fonda Santa Fe
Traditional King Bed Room
Note the hand painted headboard, punched tin lamp and armoire
and local Native art. Photo courtesy: La Fonda

Many rooms offer stunning views of the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis Assisi or the Loretto Chapel. Amenities you would expect of a top hotel are there, along with historic touches.

Rooms range from the basic cozy rooms to suite guest rooms. 
La Fonda Santa Fe
One bedroom guest suite with Kiva fireplace.
Note the painted furniture, Native American art and tile floor.
Photo courtesy: La Fonda

Dining at La Fonda

La Plazuela, situated in the location of the hotel's original 1920's outdoor patio, is now indoors. With a fountain in the middle of the dining room, skylights and floor to ceiling windows, you’ll have that courtyard feeling year ‘round.
La Fonda Santa Fe
I love the courtyard feel of La Plazuela
Photo courtesy: La Fonda
I found it a wonderful place to meet someone for breakfast. Ask for a table by the fountain and you’ll feel like you are outdoors. You’ll find the cuisine to be both traditional American and deliciously New Mexican. New Mexican cuisine with a modern twist is how some of the most popular dishes are described.
La Fonda Santa Fe
My favorite breakfast dish... French Toast
enjoyed by the fountain at La Plazuela
At dinner look for seasonal selections including delectable Filet & Enchiladas, spicy rubbed Wild Boar Loin and Pan Fried Rainbow Trout.

The rooftop Bell Tower Bar has been renovated and, weather permitting, offers the best seat in town for a Santa Fe sunset. They serve informal lunch and dinner. Try the Bell Ringer margarita, their signature drink. It’s a spicy drink with jalapeno.

La Fonda Santa Fe
The Bell Tower Bar is the best place to be at sunset
Photo courtesy: La Fonda


New Touches to Look For at La Fonda

There is so much to discover... the old and the new. The beautiful new gift shop called “Detours” after the Harvey House Indian Detours used to be small and tucked into a corner. Now look for the original carved wooden Indian Detours sign that is mounted behind the cashier’s desk in the new and expanded gift shop. The store now occupies the large space on the corner of Old Santa Fe Trail and San Francisco Street. It features a variety of works by New Mexico artists.

A highlight of the new lounge and bar are the wooden tables inlaid with the Mimbres designs of Mary Colter (she also used these same designs in her china patterns) and a giant 5 foot iron rabbit named Harvey which stands in the back of the bar, also the Mary Colter design which she originally used as standing ash trays in the lobby.

Learning More About La Fonda

For a quick read on La Fonda history and some great photos, have a look at the book, From Every Window – A Glimpse of the Past (.pdf).

Completed in October 2016, La Fonda Then & Now, is a beautiful coffee table book that chronicles the life of the hotel, from the early Fred Harvey years to present day.  This 224-page book is richly illustrated with vintage archival and contemporary images, many of them never seen before. 

La Fonda on the Plaza Website
100 E. San Francisco St., Santa Fe, NM 87501
Toll Free 800-523-5002 • Phone 505-982-5511
Fax: 505-988-2952

Friday, November 10, 2017

North Drinkware Launches New Blue Mountain Cobalt Collection

Launching today, North Drinkware is launching the limited edition Cobalt Collection featuring Mt. Rainier and Mt. Hood in the base of these stunning glasses. Using the accurate USGS data of the Pacific Northwest’s most iconic peaks, these 16 oz. pint and 8 oz. tumbler glasses are a new take on the classic North Drinkware Pint and Tumbler.

I first heard of North Drinkware when they were launching their clear Mt. Hood tumblers and pints. With a mountain in the bottom, looking exactly like our favorite mountain, I was entranced. 

The Cobalt Collection
 It takes more than 15 steps over the course of 2 days to make just one of their glasses. And they have added The Maroon Bells - two of Colorado’s most iconic 14'ers, California’s Half Dome from Yosemite and Camel's Hump, Vermont's most iconic peak. They also have laser-etched coasters to coordinate.

While only the Mt. Hood and Mt. Rainier glasses are available in blue, you can see the company is expanding, much to the delight of those who love our mountains and our outdoors.

Buy yours from North Drinkware or one of their retail partners.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

5 Special Holiday Experiences in the Western U.S.

The western United States, depending on the altitude and the day, can experience either mild or frigid weather. And so holiday events can range from cozy indoor dining to outdoor walks. We love the diversity of this area and have some wonderful ideas for your holiday in the West:

1. Warm Up with a Russian Tea Experience in Portland, Oregon
Russian Tea. Photo courtesy Headwaters
High Tea usually brings up images of cucumber sandwiches and ladyfingers. But in Portland, there is something new to experience on the tea scene. Noted Portland Chef Vitaly Paley and his staff add a Russian flare to tea that draws from Paley’s own Russian family heritage. The new Russian Tea Experience at Headwaters at the Heathman brings you specially formulated Smith Teamaker teas and dishes from Paley’s mother’s and grandmother’s recipe boxes.

2. Enjoy the Art and Bonfires on Canyon Road in Santa Fe, NM
Gallery windows on Canyon Road. Photo by Elizabeth R Rose
Santa Fe in Spanish means “holy faith,” and so it is fitting that Santa Fe, New Mexico is a true Christmas destination. Like other more well known Christmas destinations Santa Fe has all the magic, the lights and the joy of the season. However, the Christmas celebrations in Santa Fe are also deeply rooted in faith, history and culture. What you will experience in Santa Fe at Christmas is beautiful, authentic and spiritual. Here are some tips on how to enjoy a southwest Christmas in Santa Fe.

Full Article on Christmas Eve on Canyon Road.

3. Experience 5 Portland, Oregon Holiday Experiences

Tubas in Pioneer Square. Photo courtesy Travel Portland
Rainstorms or not, Portland, Oregon is filled with holiday spirit. Since the Pacific Northwest is known for having some damp, grey weather this time of year, the sparkle of lights and decorations is more than welcome. Here are some great places to enjoy holiday events and decorations and 5 of my favorite wow spots to experience Christmas in Portland.

4. A Favorite Holiday Event in Anacortes, WA - Winter Wonderland Walk

The Grinch. Photo by
Lara Dunning
Looking for a unique Pacific Northwest holiday celebration? At Winter Wonderland Walk in Anacortes, guests follow a lighted path to decorated campsites at Washington Park where festivities include caroling, s'mores, roasted chestnuts, campfires and the Grinch and Santa. 

5. 3 Ways to Celebrate the Holidays in the Skagit Valley of Washington

Holiday display in the Skagit Valley. Photo by Lara Dunning
The Skagit Valley has more than eagles and snow geese in winter, it also has charming small town holiday celebrations in Anacortes, La Conner and Mount Vernon. Festivities include a town crier, a prawn pot tree, sugar cookies, pixie dust, and a parade that includes lighted floats and marching bands. 

Monday, October 23, 2017

Alaska Airlines: Don't Put the Can in the Can Ever Again

How do I start? First of all, I have to say that I had an absolutely fabulous time touring Boise, Idaho for upcoming articles in Wander With Wonder and Real Food Traveler. Boise is fun, funky, clean, welcoming and absolutely beautiful in fall.

I had a great visit to Boise, Idaho
I spent my last day in Boise racking up quite a few steps on my FitBit. I walked from the luxurious Grove Hotel to the Capitol, and then all the way back down Capitol Boulevard to the historic Union Pacific Train Depot. I then Ubered to the beautiful Telaya Winery (great Mourvedre by the way) and Ubered to a late lunch at Juniper in downtown Boise. After a hearty burger lunch, I made my last visit to the alleyway, dubbed Freak Alley Gallery and walked back to the hotel.

I was photographing details of the Freak Alley murals.
What I didn't realize was that before the day ended, my eyes would
be feeling just like this!

I started packing.

Alaska Doesn't Always Fly Idaho Wine For Free

While visiting Boise I was gifted with two lovely bottles of Idaho wine. I looked forward to enjoying them with friends. As I put them in the cute green Boise gift bag, I started thinking.... wine is liquid. TSA doesn't like liquids. So I went on the Alaska Airlines website to learn a bit more. I read between the lines. They kept mentioning. "Up to a case of wine can be shipped free as baggage." Somewhere else I read that the wine needed to be packed well. They'd mark it "fragile," but it needed to be packed.

I looked at the two bottles of wine in the cute green gift bag and bade them goodbye. Knowing that they would not be allowed to "fly free," or at any cost, I left them as gifts for my host. Sigh... it was good wine!


Just about then my phone went "ping" and I had a message from Alaska Airlines. My 6:31 flight was delayed until 7:10 p.m. - not the end of the world. Since I had reserved a shuttle to the airport, I went early. And that's when everything went to heck in a hand basket, as they say.

Delay #2

After finding a quiet corner on the main floor of the airport with a plug for my phone, and almost falling asleep, I decided it was time to make my way downstairs to the gate. I looked at the reader board at the gate. My flight showed a further delay... this time it read that they would be boarding at 7:55 p.m. The light and bright gate agent announced that there had been a mechanical issue with the plane and it had not left Portland yet.

I schlepped my carry on bag (which by now felt like it weighed 50 pounds) over to the "Business Center" where I sat down at a cubicle reminiscent of my college days at the library studying for exams.

I was really getting sleepy.

Delay #3

The light and bright gate agent announced that there would be a further delay and didn't give a reason. He did, however, hand out $12 food vouchers, good for any restaurant in the airport. At that point I was hoping for a hotel voucher as I was really sleepy. My eyeballs were getting scratchy. But I recalled a pleasant looking restaurant upstairs and schlepped my now 60 pound carry-on up there.

I decided a healthy dinner would give me strength for whatever adventures the night would bring. So I ordered a salmon filet with salad. The cheerful waitress apologized... they had run out of salad. I could have another side. So I had salmon filet with french fries, not so healthy after all.

Good News, I Guess

The light and bright gate agent announced that our flight had finally left Portland and when it arrived, they would let the passengers deplane and we'd be off as soon as possible. Time passed and the the light and bright gate agent keep looking nervously out the window watching for our plane. Finally, he announced, with a smile, that the plane had landed. Eventually a throng of weary passengers came into the terminal and we got in line for boarding.

The light and bright gate agent then announced that the toilet on our flight was not working so, he said, "I suggest you use the restroom before boarding."

But Wait... This Isn't Horizon Air!

I lugged my now 75 pound carry-on all the way to the far gate. I was expecting to see a shiny Horizon Air Turbo Prop awaiting me. That's what Alaska flies on this route. Instead I saw something unrecognizable... SkyWest Airlines. And the plane wasn't all that shiny and new looking. We climbed up the ramp to be greeted by a weary but very pleasant flight attendant.
Oh oh, what's this?
Aircraft bait and switch?
Once  I found my seat, I looked around. The plane reminded me of those I experienced in Central America... recycled U.S. planes. When a plane got too old to fly in the U.S., name brand airlines sold them to little regional airlines in Central America. My reminiscing was interrupted as the Captain came to the cabin.

The Truth is Out!

Captain Tim explained why Flight Attendant Debbie was looking a bit harried. The flight was delayed a little bit coming into Portland. But that's when the real problems were discovered. The restroom toilet mechanism was ruined and had to be taken apart. This was no easy task. The problem, he said smiling, was "Someone had flushed a soda can down the toilet... the mechanism was then jammed." And, he added, "we have locked the restroom. It is not operable. If we let you use it, it will back up and flood the passenger compartment of the plane." The picture painted by the Captain was enough to hope no one needed to use the bathroom!

After the safety briefing, Flight Attendant Debbie told us that if anyone really needed to go, she would unlock the bathroom, and you could flush manually with a bottle of water. "But don't throw the bottle into the toilet, now," she added with a smirk.

The Flight

Captain Tim also explained why we didn't recognize the plane. He said that there had been such an increased demand for flights that they had run out of planes. While new ones were being built, a lengthy process, Alaska needed to use planes from SkyWest airlines, kind of like hiring from a temp agency (my words.) He added, "The planes are old but fly faster than the turbo-props you are used to."

I settled back hoping they flew really, really fast!

Indeed, the flight was 55 minutes and the plane stayed in the air just fine. Flight Attendant Debbie, the sole flight attendant, offered refreshments... water, ice (alcohol if there is any left, she quipped), red wine and beer. She added, they had no sodas. I wondered if that was because they came in cans? :)

The Aftermath

After we landed, I got home with my 100 lb carry-on in record time. Uber works great, I have found. And this morning I received an apologetic email from Alaska Airlines with a $75 discount coupon for a future flight.

Moral of the Story


Read more of my flying stories.
Read More Than You Want to Know About Airport Bathrooms.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Billie Frank: Santa Fe Ambassador Will Be Missed

I opened my Facebook page a week ago and saw a post from Steve Collins, a dear Santa Fe friend. It read in part, "Billie died yesterday." Those words hit me hard. I recoiled. And then I thought... this is a cruel scam. But, no, it wasn't. It was real. Life, and death, had just changed my day. It was probably an hour before the shock wore off and I burst into tears.

My first thought was about Steve, her devoted husband and life partner. How could he deal with this unexpected tragedy? My heart went out to him.

Billie and Steve in Taos
I first encountered Billie and Steve when I was reading about Santa Fe in the now defunct I was considering moving to Santa Fe and I was considering writing about my experiences for I enjoyed reading Billie's narratives about life in Santa Fe. And so I contacted her.

She had decided she was too busy to continue writing the Santa Fe column for Examiner and welcomed my applying for the slot. And she became an instant friend, advising me on Santa Fe and sharing my joy as I moved to "The City Different."

And, move, I did. One of the first couples to invite me to their home for dinner was Billie and Steve. I found the house in a neighborhood in my new town. They invited me in. The decor was decidedly Southwest, and Billie's collection of pottery fit in well. Billie and I chatted as Steve cooked. Steve, an accomplished chef, usually cooked when I visited. He enjoyed making creative dishes to suit Billie's diet. And, his food suited my palate just wonderfully.

And so went our friendship. We reviewed restaurants together, took some day trips to explore the surrounding area and chatted about the ups and downs of travel writing. Sometimes Billie didn't feel very well. She had allergies and was dealing with some immune issues. But she had a zest for life and for exploring the West despite these maladies. And she inspired others to follow in her traveling footsteps with her writing.
I appreciated dining with Steve and Billie.
They never made me feel like a "third wheel!"
I enjoyed running into Billie and Steve at gallery openings, Santa Fe markets, and press events. It was always nice to see them.

I'm sure there's a good Billie quote I should put here!

We bundled up and met on Christmas Eve to walk Canyon Road. Billie and Steve took me under their wings and showed me their favorite galleries and explained the holiday traditions. And we had fun!

On one particularly memorable evening, we watched the sun set from the hilltop home where they were living... savoring the scenery and the high desert beauty. Steve bar-b-qued and we chatted. We were all living the good life in Santa Fe.

I enjoyed hosting Billie and Steve at my home too and, on my last evening in Santa Fe before moving back to Washington State, they joined other friends and me for a pizza dinner and fantastic Caesar Salad made by another good Santa Fe friend, John. It was a good send-off.

But sometimes we don't get the chance to tie up loose ends and say good-bye. It was that way for all who loved Billie Frank. Our last communications were about restaurant reviews and photographs. She was searching for photos to accompany yet another article she was working on. She was always appreciative of my "free for a friend" editing services and my photos. I followed her travels and was happy to see she was enjoying Pagosa Springs, Colorado.

Sunset from my trip to Pagosa Springs
She was always willing to share her thoughts and feelings even when frustrated with technological glitches (most always caused by Mercury going retrograde.) They say Mercury retrograde is all about slowing down and being more mindful. Communication is more difficult (but not impossible) during a Mercury retrograde period. And I never knew about this until I met Billie.

It is because of Facebook and email that I was able to have an ongoing friendship with Billie and Steve. I loved her recaps of happenings in Santa Fe. It was a great way to keep in touch... those Tidbits!
Another fun restaurant review!
I'm missing Billie. I'm missing her long black outfits and her long necklace with the turquoise pendant she wore all the time... and her red hair with the attitude to match it.

If I could talk to Billie, I'd say, thank you so much for being a friend, and sharing your passion for the Southwest with me. I am certain there is a void in beautiful Santa Fe. You were an amazing ambassador for the city and represented the Santa Fe vibe so well.