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Friday, June 8, 2012

Kirk Catch-up

Well I have been horribly remiss keeping this blog up to date and, as a result, have not posted anything about my yearly outings with my good friend Kirk. Look at earlier blog entries for blogs on our earlier trips as well as an intro which describes the history of our friendship.


Kirk Intro

2001 Part 1
2001 Part 2
2001 Part 3

2002 Part 1
2002 Part 2
2002 Part 3
2002 Part 4

2004

2005 Catch-up


With this post I hope to catch up on what we've been up to. I don't know how much I'll remember - I do have some notes and I've also been in the habit of keeping receipts from trups to help jog my memory (Kirk's suggestion, actually). I'll do my best, but I can promise that there will be stand-out experiences that I remember which I will write about here.


Well... here goes...


In 2005 we went to Las Vegas and Anaheim. While in Las Vegas we stayed at the Tropicana and while in Anaheim we stayed at the Anabella. Staying at the Trop was a big treat for me because, while it is now somewhat old and worn out, the Trop was "the place" to stay while in Vegas when I was young and I never got the chance to stay there. I still recall the commercials for "The Island of Las Vegas" narrated by Geoffrey Holder. The age of the resort aside, their pool is still first rate. One highlight for us on this trup was "The Star Treek Experience" at the Hilton. Neither Kirk nor I are big Star Trek fans, but I had done this some years earlier and I thought Kirk would enjoy it. I pride myself in my ability to figure out the way they do illusions in theme park attractions but I can't for the life of me figure out how they did the floor in this attraction.


We drove with my brother Todd (who lives in LV) to Anaheim. Unfortunately something came up for Todd not long after we arrived (we had actually just gotten into Disneyland) and he had to leave suddenly. Another unfortunate thing was that I got sick the last day we were there, plus the temperatures turned somewhat cold, so I was miserable the last day. On the plus side it was Kirk's first visit to California Adventure which was fun. Still, we decided we would have to come back again and sort of re-do this trip.


In 2006 we went to WDW staying at the Hampton Inn. I honestly don't recall much about the trip except to say it the first time on Expedition Everest for both of us. What ana amazing ride EE is! And we even got to see it with the Yeti working! Yeti or no, it's still one of my favorites. As I say to people - it's a roller coaster with a plot twist.


In early Spring of 2007 we went to Tampa. The highlights of the trip were going to a Spring training game at Legend's Field (now George M. Steinbrenner Field) and a trip to Busch Gardens. A particular highlight at Busch Gardens was the coaster SheiKra, which has a pretty much vertical drop. Awesome ride! Additionally we had dinner at Ruth's Chris - one of my favorite steak houses. I had a Kobe NY Strip that was quite possibly the best steak I've ever had. Of course I had to take out a second mortgage to pay for it...


We skipped 2008 but went back to WDW in January 2009, staying at Saratoga Springs. Kirk and I had started a sort of tradition - on our first day at the world we head to Disney Hollywood Studios (DHS). We get to the park right at openig and go straight down Sunset Blvd where we get one FastPass (FP) - usually Rock 'N Roller Coaster (RnRC) and we ride Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (TXToT). If it's a slow day we may even ride TZToT as well and if we're really lucky we might even get a second FP. Once we're done with Sunset Blvd we head over to the ABC Commissary for breakfast. It's funny, folks often dis the commissary on different Disney blogs and podcasts I listen to, but they never talk about breakfast. IMO the breakfast at the commissary is among the best of any of the in-park breakfasts - at least in terms of counter service.


This was a four-day trip, the 10th through the 13th. On the 10th we went to DHS in the morning and the Magic Kingdom (MK) in the evening. On the 11th we went to MK in the morning and Epcot in the evening. On the 12th we went to Animal Kingdom (AK) and went to The Boardwalk in the evening. While at the Boardwalk we ate at the Big River Grill. This was a pleasant surprise with very good food. One mistake I made was to order one of the house beers. I just don't like specialty beers. The only beers I like are lite, crisp and simple. I also like stouts - like Guinness - which I guess is a little odd. Anyway, on the fourth day we went back to Epcot where we had lunch at the San Angel Inn.


In September of 2009 we re-visited Las Vegas and California.We arrived at LV on the 15th and stayed 3 nights at the Hard Rock Hotel. I have to say that the HRH was a lot of fun. We flew to John Wayne Airport for the California leg of our journey. We stayed at the Portofino Hotel in Anaheim for 3 nights - the 18th to the 22nd. We did the obligatory Disneyland trip - 2 days in this case - and also went to a game at Dodger Stadium.


A little side story here. I love the show Diners Drive-in and Dives on the Food Network. Any chance I get I try to go to one of the restaurants featured on this show. A few weeks before this trip I was watching DDD and the host - Guy Fieri - says "next time you are going to a game at Dodger Stadium be sure to go to Mom's Tamales!" needless to say this got my attention. Se, we went to Mom's on our way to the stadium. One problem we had was that they took forever to serve us, but once we got our food it was excellent. the tamales were great, but I also ordered a chile relleno and it was the best I've ever had.


I hadn't been to a Dodgers game since I was about 13 so I was very excited to go back to Dodger Stadium. It's a really nice stadium built right into the rolling LA hills. One thing about the stadium is that the LA haze and the bright sunshine actually can make it hard to see the ball. This was a bit disconcerting for us because we were right along the first base line and on more than one occasion we did not see a hard hit foul ball until it was already past us. But, we made it through without getting hit...




In January 2011 we returned to Walt Disney World. We stayed at the Pop Century Hotel for 3 nights, January 20th - 23rd. We did a couple of things differently on this trip. First, for the first time I worked with a travel agent for a Disney trip - Dreams Unlimited Travel. Our agent Marla did a terrific job. I highly recommend working with Dreams Unlimited. Also, for the first time Kirk and I took advantage of the Disney Dining Plan. Personally I think the dining plan is not a great deal in most circumstances - but for 2 guys like us who would use every dining credit we were allowed it was actually a good deal. Also we really used our credits well - as an example we had lunch one day at Le Cellier - which costs 2 dining credits at dinner for what is essentially the same menu.


Another highlight of this trip - for me at least - was doing the American Idol Experience (AIE). A friend of mine had told me about how she and her son did AIE, but didn't get past the first audition. Anyway, I went to an early audition and was selected for the show. At first I planned to do Elvis Presley's "Suspicious Minds" but I ended up doing Brooks & Dunn's "Boot Scootin' Boogie". It was a lot of fun to do the show, but when it came to do the show I found that I was up against two 14-year old girls. Needless to say, I did NOT want to win! And, luckily I didn't.

The only other thing about this trip to highlight was our trip to the new Hacienda de San Angel. We enjoyed it in general, the food was pretty good though honestly the menu was a bit... odd. I ended up ordering from thr appetizer menu. I love Mexican foos but I wish Mexican restaurants would include at least some basic combinations - I mean the only tacos on the menu (outside of the appetizers) were shrip tacos - and that's not what I wanted. Our biggest complaint, however, was that we waited over 45 minutes for or seat.

Anyway, that brings us up to date. Kirk and I went on a long planned trip to Washington DC this year and I will be posting that as my first "new" blog post soon. Woohoo! I'm all caught up at long last. I hope you enjoyed and will check back with the blog on occasion.
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