kevin_standlee: (Kevin and Lisa)
This was our final full day here in Iceland, and essentially the final day of the "vacation" part of the trip, as the remaining days are travel to get home, with two stopovers scheduled. Knowing our limitations, we scheduled nothing today, set no alarm, and stuck to Reykjavik.

Althing Gardens )

We were unable to find in any of the stores any rain jackets that were (a) our size, (b) our desired color and style, and (c) not Made in China. In fact, we only managed to get (a) and (b) to match once. There were way too many things with DESIGNED IN ICELAND in big type and "made in China" either hidden in small type or left off entirely, where you had to ask the staff, who would admit that despite the way the stores' signage suggested, the goods weren't really made in Iceland, or even within the EU economic zone. Annoying. It looks like we may have to go back up to Salem, Oregon, and have some coats custom-made from a place we know there.

We did, however, find a pair of work gloves that was not Chinese made and will come in handy moving wood when we get home. Nearly all heavy work gloves I can find in Fernley and environs are all Chinese.

More about Parliament Square )

We walked back to the hotel and had a "picnic lunch" in the room, eating up the last of our supplies purchased over the past few days. I was also a Very Bad Diabetic. Just across the street outside our hotel window there has been a Waffle Wagon every day. Today I broke down, went over there, and bought a chocolate-and-cream covered waffle, which I enjoyed over a coffee back in the room. (The hotel won't let you eat outside food in their common room.) It was excellent. I'm rather glad I won't get another chance to have another one now. Mind you, with over 33,000 steps walked in the past two days, I'd like to think I've earned a few indulgences.

Last Dinner )

After that big dinner, and especially the desserts, we took one last long walk around The Pond, and then up the hill to our hotel. We took a different route this time, which took us by the British Embassy (housed in the same building as the German Embassy), then past a cafe located in what a streetside plaque said was once called "Red Square" because the coffee-house was a center of Communist organization in past days. For what I expect is the final time, we climbed up to the top of the hill and returned to the hotel.

It has been an interesting four days here. We've booked our reservation for the prepaid return bus transfer to Keflavik Airport tomorrow at Noon, which will get us there a little earlier than strictly necessary, but we want extra time. Our return ticket is KEF-MSP on IcelandAir Saga class, then MSP-SEA on Alaska Airlines first class, all using Alaska Airlines miles. The first leg leaves KEF at 16:45. I checked with IcelandAir, and there's a direct KEF-SEA flight at 17:45 that has plenty of room in Saga class. However, over the phone, IcelandAir won't change the ticket because it was issued by Alaska. The Alaska agent with whom I spoke said they can't change the ticket either, despite the availability, due to the limitations on how many IcelandAir seats Alaska can sell. They both said that my only hope is to show up at the airport and see if the folks at check-in can see some sense and book us directly to Seattle, saving a great deal of hassle and transfer at MSP. Fingers crossed that is works.

There's a pretty good chance that I won't be online here again until we get to Seattle on Monday night, after a very long day in the air no matter how you slice it. Knowing that we could only get Saga class one direction, we deliberately scheduled it for the return trip. At this point in the trip, I really hope I am able to get some sleep on this portion of the trip, albeit not so much sleep that I'm ruined for returning to Pacific Time.

So long, Iceland. It's been fun. I don't know if I'll ever get to come here again, but I'm glad we came. I think I can see now why certain persons were trying to goad some of us into bidding to hold a NASFiC here.
kevin_standlee: (Kevin and Lisa)
After returning to the hotel with our purchases, Lisa and I stopped to have one of the sodas we bought and rest our feet. I checked messages and saw on Facebook that Kevin Roche and Andy Trembley were back in their hotel room as of only an hour earlier. I called Kevin and asked if they would like to meet for lunch, and they agreed, so we collected our things and headed back downtown.

A second reason for going back to the hotel was that I had a poster tube with the small vinyl WSFS banner (made by Sasquan) that hangs from the front of the Business Meeting table with me, and I wanted to mail it home rather than somehow try to fit it into my already overloaded luggage. The post office is downtown between the train station and the Sokos hotel where Kevin and Andy were staying, so this worked out well. The trains are running again, and there were no queues at the post office, so we managed to connect with K&A roughly on time to head off on a Viking Expedition.

We're Gonna Starve! )

After lunch, we bade K&A goodbye because we were aiming for one more hobby shop for Lisa to look for trains. It was a longer walk than I thought it would be, partially because I rather unnecessarily went up and down hills getting there. We didn't find anything Lisa wanted to get, but we found yet another person who described herself as a "con-goer" who had known about Worldcon but had not gone. We told her that Worldcon would be in Dublin in two years and she sounded interested.

Given our location, we took the opportunity to ride the Helsinki Metro. Because Cheryl's friend Otto gave us a lift from the ferry terminal when we arrived and our other trips didn't take us along the axis of the Metro, we'd never had a chance to sample it. This was more of a joy-ride, but when you've bought a multi-day unlimited transit pass, you have the ability to hop on and off systems like this.

<a data-flickr-embed= )

An afterthought from this morning: We had an interesting piece of equipment follow us down the tram tracks when we first set out for our first round of tourism and shopping.

A Tidy System is a Safe System )

After a brief recovery time in the hotel (and a final short grocery stop for a snack for tonight and for tomorrow morning), Lisa remembered something she had seen in Stockmann's department store downtown, so we made one final round trip downtown. I think we got good value from our transit pass.

Returning from the last trip, we threaded our way through the latest batch of tourists trying to figure out the elevators, Lisa took a bath, I composed journal entries, and we continued our packing. The alarm for tomorrow is set for 4:15 because we need to take an early train to get out to the airport for the flight to Iceland tomorrow.

We have had a wonderful time here in Helsinki. I would love to get a chance to come back here someday. Everyone was so good to us, and we enjoyed ourselves immensely.
kevin_standlee: (Atomic Vegas)
Although our hotel room is on the opposite side of I-15 from Las Vegas Blvd, it has a good view of "The Strip"

Balcony Views, Night and Day )

Yesterday, we decided to take advantage of the free hourly shuttle from the Staybridge to New York New York.

An Hour Was Enough )

We had a look at the restaurants, in particular the deli, and while things made an effort to look like a cartoon version of New York, and for all we know the deli food was good, we decided that we'll stick to the Manhattan Deli at the Atlantis in Reno. We caught the next shuttle back to our hotel and drove to the Black Bear Diner (#25 in our passport) instead.

Tomorrow morning we leave Las Vegas. Having nearly driven off the road the last time we tried to go all the way home from Vegas in one day, we are heading for Tonopah tomorrow.
kevin_standlee: (Reno)
Over the past few days, Lisa and I (mostly Lisa) have unloaded my sister's boxes from the minivan to our storage locker and garage, so yesterday we could put the middle seat back into the Astro, returning it to what we consider its normal configuration. (The rear seat lives in the storage locker except for those rare times when we need seating capacity more than cargo space.) Today, however, we took slight advantage of my Central Time-zone shifted schedule and shortly after I knocked off work for the day, we headed into Reno, where we had dinner at the Peppermill (the server and manager recognized us and commented that it had been a while, which is true) and did a round of grocery shopping. It's certainly a lot less crowded on a Thursday evening than a Saturday afternoon.

Lisa drove us home, and I'm about to fall into bed, since by my body clock it's nearly midnight.
kevin_standlee: (Kuma Bear)
On Friday evening, when I decided to not drive to Yuba City that night but instead go down early the next day, Lisa reminded me that we'd been meaning to try the (relatively) new Flame Grill restaurant over near Scolari's grocery store here in Fernley. Every time we've passed them, we've seen their sign advertising "Friday Fish Fest" and thinking it would be nice to try it.

Well, the Flame Grill is a bar-grill, and Lisa said it smelled too much of beer. Furthermore, it turns out that the "Friday Fish Fest" is simply the fish and chips from their regular menu. So we balked and went to the Black Bear Diner instead. They used to have an all-you-can-eat fish fry on Fridays, but I think we contributed toward them giving up on that.

The Black Bear had a nice salmon dish that Lisa liked ([livejournal.com profile] travelswithkuma got to have all the fish he could eat). I opted for their Friday prime rib special, which I thought was pretty good, too. We then took advantage of a free-play coupon for the adjoining Fernley Nugget casino, and ended up $2.50 ahead. That's nice, but not as nice as what happened to the person who we heard whooping and hollering as we were finishing dinner. As I went up to redeem the $10 free-play coupon, there was much excitement behind the counter as they were drawing up the paperwork for a Big Win (which is to say anything that requires them to issue an IRS Form W2-G proceeds from gambling). Someone had hit a $2000 jackpot.

We took our $2.50 and went home. I had to get to bed in order to be up at 5 AM the next morning for the trip to Yuba City about which I've already written.
kevin_standlee: (Reno)
Because we called off the originally planned trip to the Bay Area by train today (it's just as well; the train was three hours late), we instead went and did a fair bit of shopping. [livejournal.com profile] travelswithkuma and I got to hang around a bit.

Hanging Out With Kuma Bear )

By the time we finished all of the grocery shopping, we were getting hungry, so we went to the Sparks Nugget and had a very late lunch or early dinner at the Oyster Bar. The food is as good as usual there. How well the resort is doing overall is another story. They're doing a big renovation. It sort of looks like the Gilley's "cowboy" nightclub they put into the space where Trader Dick's Polynesian restaurant used to be is closed down. Whether that's permanent or not, I haven't heard. Not that I was ever going to go to Gilley's. I wouldn't ride the mechanical bull even before I hurt my back a few years ago playing "whirlyball" at a company outing in Chicago, and the music there was both too loud and not to my taste. The Nugget just hasn't been the same since the Ascuagas sold it (and then the new owners resold it not long thereafter). But we'll keep going back to the Oyster Bar as long as it's there.
kevin_standlee: (Fernley)
Lisa drove us over to Lowe's after I got done with work today, where we had to return a part that we'd purchased but ended up not needing. On the way back home, we decided that we should take advantage of the $4.99 pasta special night at Rilasa Italian Restaurant. We went home (it was too early to have dinner anyway) and a bit later I drove us back over, where we both had the special. When you add in the extras (we both added shrimp) and tip, it was $20, but that still seems like a pretty good deal for pasta dinners for two people. Although the servings seemed small when we first were served, it turned out to be more than met the eye, and we were quite full by the time we got home.

We really should go for a walk, but we're both very tired, so we are calling it a very early day.
kevin_standlee: (Reno)
This morning Lisa and I drove into Reno bright and early to get our shopping errands done.

High Water in the Truckee )

Our first stop was the Atlantis Hotel-Casino, where I cashed in the ticket for my bet on the Australian Open.

Not a Job I Would Want )

Collecting my winnings for betting on Roger Federer to win the Australian Open, we decided to spend them on brunch at Toucan Charlie's, and were in fact the first customers at the counter when they opened. (This is the source of today's post title; thank you, Roger!) I enjoyed the breakfast, but the buffets have stopped agreeing with Lisa. There are just too many things in the food, particularly food dyes and additives to which she's sensitive, that make her ill.

We did manage to complete the rest of our shopping and got home just after 1 PM. Lisa, who has mostly been up nights the past week or so, went to bed along with [livejournal.com profile] travelswithkuma while I started doing my laundry and packing the RV.

In the most recent storm, all of the trans-Sierra routes have been hammered and closed at various points, including US-50 (rockslides), CA-70 (flooding), and most importantly, I-80 (major mudslide). The only alternative was a detour from I-80 onto CA-20 to Grass Valley, then CA-49 to Auburn. This would work, but was likely to be slow and crowded as a major freeway was being funneled into a two-lane mountain highway. To my relief, this evening Caltrans announced that they'd managed to clear the mudslide and that all lanes are now open again. I'm off to the Bay Area in the morning.
kevin_standlee: (Fernley House)
This morning, Lisa and I went into Reno where we used up the remainder of my comp points with the Atlantis and had breakfast at the buffet. It was a good breakfast; the remodel hasn't mangled their breakfasts the way it did the dinners, and it's harder to mess up breakfasts. Not being in any hurry and with the restaurant not crowded, we lingered over breakfast. I used up the $10 that I won at the Wigwam yesterday on Keno. (I won $5 on the $10 ticket but then spent it on more tickets that didn't win, so that was that.) Trying to get the blood flowing after all of that food, we walked around the hotel, where Rotary International was having a conference. There were a bunch of people in red vests labeled "Sergeant At Arms," and I wish we'd had WSFS ones made for Joyce and her team of SAAs that made running last year's WSFS Business Meeting so much easier.

As we headed out to the van, it started raining, so the one errand that would have obliged us to be outside for quite a while was scrapped. However, we took care of a bunch of other smaller errands before heading home. Lisa had been up since about 2 AM and decided to turn in very early. I listened to the Giants game (rats, let that one get away). Just before 5 PM, I went out and waved at Amtrak #6 running through on time. Within seconds of my going back inside, I heard the sound of large raindrops hitting the porch awning. Soon thereafter, it got very loud and very wet.

Hail, Hail, the Storm's All Here )

That was a pretty intense storm, although it did not last long. I'm grateful that we didn't have to be out driving in it.

Lucky Day

Apr. 8th, 2016 04:25 pm
kevin_standlee: (Fernley)
With the Wigwam Restaurant/Casino only two blocks from my house, it wasn't really playing hooky from the Day Jobbe to go have lunch (really a very late breakfast) today. I had my usual breakfast and redeemed the $10 match play coupon. Today I was very lucky and won $26, which paid for the meal and $10 more besides.
kevin_standlee: (Reno)
Many of you who attended the Reno Worldcon in 2011 may have eaten at Toucan Charlie's, the buffet in the Atlantis hotel/casino. That has been Lisa and my go-to place for a buffet, although we've taken to avoiding Friday-Saturday on account of the extra charges aren't worth what they add to the menu on those two days. Recently the buffet was shut down for a remodel, and it reopened not long ago. The first time we tried to go was after Lisa's last doctor visit, but we balked from lunch due to the excessively long queue. Last night after work, we drove into Reno to give it another try.

The results were disappointing. Lisa doesn't like the new decor, and while they've expanded the menu a bit, adding charcuterie and gelato, the extra dishes do not appear to justify the increased price. Although I somehow ended up gambling enough to make it into the second tier (of five) in their affinity program, the $2 discount only applies to my meal, not to Lisa's, and besides, you have to keep re-earning the status, and I do not foresee spending enough there to renew my status by June 1, inasmuch I'd have to spend as much as I did since June 1 last year to do so.

On top of all of that, the Atlantis is apparently still of the opinion that if they sing "Happy Birthday" they have to pay royalties for it, so they have a made-up-themselves song, which we got to hear about six times last night. Their lawyers presumably never got the memo that says the copyright trolls lost, and that "Happy Birthday" is public domain. It does no good to tell the managers; they're under orders from a Higher Authority.

The staff at TC's is just fine. They're all nice people and have been good to us. Some of them remember us ([livejournal.com profile] travelswithkuma is apparently very memorable). But aside from possibly finding a time when we can sneak in on a weekday morning to take advantage of the two-for-one breakfast buffet, we may not be returning. We possibly will transfer our buffet allegiance down the street to the Peppermill. Their "locals discount" applies even if you aren't a higher-status affinity-club member, and also applies to both of us, not just me.
kevin_standlee: (Rolling Stone)
It appears that there might have been a period sometime today when chain controls over I-80 were lifted briefly; however, it cannot have been for very long, as as I type this, westbound I-80 over Donner Summit is closed at Truckee due to an accident, and when it does reopen, chains will be required. I could possibly have gone the long way around via US-395 to CA-70 via the Feather River Canyon (a much lower crossing of the Sierra Nevada, but something like 100 miles out of the way over a winding mountain highway that I might enjoy driving on a sunny spring day, but not during a winter storm in an RV that doesn't handle that well in the best of conditions. I'm better off having gone early, even though it leaves me somewhat at loose ends this weekend. Still, it means I can adjust to tonight's time change while down here already rather than also having to drive the same day as dealing with the loss of an hour, and that's important given that I already lose sleep when I start working down in the Bay Area because I'm generally having to wake up two hours earlier when here than when at home.

This morning I discovered something I thought might not exist anymore: an open Hometown Buffet restaurant, this one in Newark. It's not great dining, but it's an economical breakfast. No telling how much longer it will be there, given how many of the other restaurants in the chain have closed, usually with no warning.
kevin_standlee: (Fernley)
Lest you think I always win when I gamble: On Sunday, I had breakfast at the Wigwam Restaurant/Casino a few blocks from my house, as I've taken to doing on weekends when I'm home. I like their breakfast there ($13 including tip), and have been going more often since they've been sending free-play coupons in the form of "have a meal here and get $10 free play." The last three times before this weekend, I was able to parlay that free play into a free breakfast, and in one case enough to pay for the next one. However, this past Sunday, putting the entire $10 down on a single blackjack hand (because if I'd won, there was an additional $10 bonus free play coupon I could use), I was dealt a 15 versus a house 7 showing -- an awful hand. I drew and busted, but I would have lost had I stood as the down card was a ten; it was an unwinnable hand. I resisted the urge to try and "win it back" and went home instead.

We do a lot of small-time gambling, and I keep track of our wins and losses, because I'm sufficiently law-abiding that I know that any net wins are taxable. Having done my taxes for last year recently, I was surprised to see that my net loss for 2015 was less than $100. I expected it to be a low three-figure sum. I guess I've won more often than I remember.
kevin_standlee: (Fernley)
I had another "buy a meal, get $10 free play" coupon from the Wigwam Casino down the street. This is an easy coupon for me, because I like their breakfasts anyway, so I went down and had breakfast this morning there. Because I'd done so well on the "coupon conversion" of free play into spending money last time, I went ahead and paid cash (about $13.50 including tip) rather than putting it on my credit card. I then went over and redeemed the coupon, and as is my wont, put it in the blackjack machine. Now the 21 game there has its annoyances, such as only paying even money on blackjack and not allowing you to double down, but the play was with house money, so I don't complain too much. After burning off the $10 free play, I had $12 on the meter, and my betting system said I should bet $2 on the next hand. I vowed to quit no matter what, placed the bet, and won, just walking away with $14 and an effectively free breakfast, again.

Now I'm the kind of customer promotions like this do not want at all, because had I burned off the free play with nothing to show for it, I would have also left. But as long as they want to keep presenting me with a roughly 50:50 chance at a free breakfast (blackjack odds being what they are) that I like eating anyway, I think I'll keep taking them up on the offer.
kevin_standlee: (Reno)
We went into Reno today to pick up a pair of shoes that Lisa had ordered from the SAS store, and also to look for a computer cable I need to make the new laptop computer work more effectively. (Specifically, a DisplayPort-to-DVI adapter.) There's no place I could find in Reno/Sparks where I can get it. There are times when I do miss being so close to Fry's Electronics. If I'd been in Fremont, I would have just gone to Fry's and picked it up. The guy at Staples said he could order one, but I said not to bother. I can live without it until I'm in the Bay Area again (and indeed, there may be some of them in my office down there). It would have just been more convenient for me.

Things are rather busy at our usual haunts, and when, after picking up some stuff at Whole Foods Market, we saw that the restaurants at the Atlantis and Peppermill were too crowded for us (what we get for going in on Saturday instead of Sunday-Thursday), Lisa said, "Let's go to our favorite place," and without even having to ask, I took us to the Sparks Nugget and John's Oyster Bar, where the shrimp pan roast never disappoints.

Because we got off to such a late start today (and because I'd spent about six hours wrestling with computer configuration trying to get all of my files off the backup media onto the new machine), we didn't get as much done today as we expected, and that means we'll have to go in again sometime early next week to do our larger-scale grocery shopping. I do, however, have sufficient supplies for my one-man watching of the Superb Owl show tomorrow. Lisa says she'll leave me to it. And here I didn't even put down a small bet on either team, just so I'd have a dog in the fight.

I'm glad to be home.
kevin_standlee: (Fernley)
I had a coupon good for $10 in free slot play at the Wigwam Casino (two blocks from my house) with purchase of a meal from the Wigwam Restaurant, so yesterday morning, I walked up and had lunch (actually a late breakfast) there. (Lisa is still trying to get over a cold and told me to go enjoy myself.) The meal was $13 including tip. After eating, I showed my restaurant receipt and they applied the $10 free play to the machine of my choice (in this case the blackjack machine). You can't cash out free play; however, after running through $10 worth of bets, I found that there was $13 on the meter. I decided to not be greedy and cashed out.

I think that's the best conversion of free play to spendable money I've ever managed. And the food was pretty good, too. Thanks, Wigwam!
kevin_standlee: (Kevin and Lisa)
Today was Lisa's birthday, which was another reason for my wanting to get home last night. We got dressed up and went into Reno/Sparks, where I took Lisa out to dinner at John's Oyster Bar. The staff there still recognize us and said they'd tell our favorite servers, Matthew and William (they're brothers) that we stopped by. Because it was Lisa's birthday, they gave her a slice of cake at the end of the meal as well. We were grateful that they did not come and sing some sort of birthday song to her. (Most places haven't yet got the word that the copyright trolls on "Happy Birthday" lost; the song is public domain after all.)

The Nugget is doing prize drawings this weekend, and we were there for the 6 PM drawings for $1000 in casino free play, but we didn't win. We have to go back in tomorrow to do our larger-scale shopping (today's trip was not a shopping expedition), so we should stop by the Nugget around 4 PM because we do have entries in the draw (must be present to win) and the top prize is a new Mercedes.

It's a good thing we didn't have our hearts set on eating at the Atlantis buffet, because Toucan Charlie's is temporarily closed for renovation. There are lots of signs saying how much better it will be. I'll be curious to see what the renovated restaurant is like. At the very least, I reckon they will replace the carpet, which was getting rather worn out.
kevin_standlee: (Kevin and Lisa)
Lisa and I went to Reno this morning. Before we left, I took a photo of the poor pathetic jack-o-lantern who is still sitting by our front door because neither Lisa nor I have taken the time to put him out of his misery.

Help! I'm melting! )

First stop was brunch at the Atlantis (which serves in this case for lunch and dinner as well, and surprisingly didn't send my blood sugar into the stratosphere). We walked over the skybridge to the convention center, where Wizard World Comic Con Reno was going on. We did not buy a ticket. We just walked to the pre-function area and back. Some nice costumes about, though. Having walked some of that big meal off, we set off for the actual grocery and gift shopping.

Doing Our Part for the Economy )

We did manage to get home and get the van unloaded before Lisa ran completely out of fuel, even though I stopped to gas up the minivan because gas at Fernley has come down to $3.05/gallon, which is forty cents/gallon cheaper than Reno/Sparks and even ten cents lower than USA Parkway.
kevin_standlee: (Kevin and Lisa)
Because I was working in the Bay Area on October 13, I was unable to take Lisa out to dinner on our actual 19th wedding anniversary, so we went out on Thursday night. We went to the Sparks Nugget's Steakhouse, making our reservation based on when our favorite waiter, William, would be working. We've known William since he was a bread server at the Oyster Bar. Nowadays we don't see him as often because we can't afford to go to the Steakhouse as often, but it is of course a step up in the world for him, and he told us how happy he has been to be working there.

Dinner at the Steakhouse )

Lisa and I are not thrilled with most of the changes the new owners of the Sparks Nugget have made to the casino; however, the Steakhouse and the Oyster Bar remain great restaurants, and we're enjoying them while we can.
kevin_standlee: (Seaside)
Monday night, after dealing with some late Day Jobbery that arrived while we were pedaling around Seaside, Lisa and I went out to dinner at the Shilo Inn on the Prom, which gave us an excellent view of the beach as the sun started heading for the horizon on our final night here. The staff were very friendly, and the manager very obliging after I reported (with no rancor) a small rock that had managed to make it into the clam linguini.

After dinner, the timing was just right to walk down to the shoreline to watch the sunset.

Many Others Had the Same Idea )

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