Monday, February 17, 2020

We're Down with Downtown: Atlanta, Georgia


Stadium 28 now in the books, it's time to see what else this town has to offer.  We picked this  hotel, the Hyatt Place Perimeter in Dunwoody, in part because it is close to a Metro station.

We walk over and catch the train into the city at the Sandy Springs station.


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We're hungry so our first stop is an Atlanta institution for lunch. A couple of blocks due west from the North Avenue Station is The Varsity. Entering their doors and hearing the calls of their signature cry..."what'll you have"...we hang back just a bit to get our bearings and check out the menu before ordering.



A massively long counter beckons us where we head up to order a few of their famous hot dogs and a BLT for my wife.

We take our lunch to a table adjacent to one that President Clinton sat at (picture on the wall proves it!) and dig in.



While the hot dogs are indeed tasty, they're also pretty tiny. Tim and I could have easily had another two to go with the two we ate. Being in Atlanta, though, the cold Coca Cola went deliciously with those little dogs.

Back on the Metro, we continue on to the Peachtree Center Station in the heart of downtown. A short walk to west brings us to Centennial Olympic Park, which served as a daily gathering place for Olympic visitors and participants during the 1996 Summer Olympic Games when they were held in this city.



There is a computer-controlled fountain in the shape of the five Olympic rings that has frequent shows set to music to watch. At other times, you can splash in them to cool off.

It was a short distance away from here that a bomb went off during the games that killed a mother bringing her daughter to a free concert and a cameraman from Turkey who later died of a heart attack after being wounded.



A ferris wheel is across the street, offering views of the city. CNN offers tours of its studios at the south end of the park and Coca Cola has a kind of expensive attraction at the north end, explaining how the drink is made and the cultural impact it has had around the world.



It's time for us, though, to call it a day and we head back to the hotel. Tomorrow, there'll be some Civil Rights history touring for us.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2018
All Rights Reserved

Photos by Letty Musick
Copyright 2018
All Rights Reserved

Sunday, February 16, 2020

The Cocktail Hour - Latin Passion


Watch the Video!

This week on the patio, we're enjoying some Latin Passion!  Stop it...it's just the name of the drink.  This is kind of like a more sour version of a tequila sunrise.  It is very good and pretty too.

Here's the recipe.

INGREDIENTS - Two Drinks
2 oz Tequila
2 oz Brandy
1/2 oz Amaretto
splash of passionfruit syrup
2-3 oz. sweet and sour
spash of grenadine
1/2 lime

Squeeze lime into cocktail shaker that is 1/3 full of ice.  Put in just the smallest dash of passionfruit syrup, too much will make your drink too sweet. Pour in tequila, brandy, amaretto, and fill to top with sweet and sour.  Shake and strain into two old fashioned glasses about 2/3 full of ice.  Splash a little grenadine over the top and let it sink naturally...don't mix any more.

This is a pretty potent cocktail, so enjoy in moderation.  

Cheers!

-Darryl

Friday, February 14, 2020

Land of the Braves: Game Day in Atlanta


It was a very long travel day yesterday, more frustratingly long than actual time-wise long, so we slept in as long as possible. Of course, that means we would miss the hotel's breakfast hours and would have to fend for ourselves.

Luckily, when in the south, we've got a few options we don't have back home. A decent, cheap breakfast (or lunch or dinner) can always be found nearby at the local Waffle House.



So that's what we did.

Afterwards, it was back to the hotel to rest up a bit and get ready to go to tonight's baseball game where the Braves would be hosting the San Francisco Giants at Sun Trust Park.


Watch the Video!


Sun Trust Park is the newest stadium in Major League Baseball, now going through its second year of operation in 2018. It replaces Turner Field, which was build for the 1996 Olympics, is located in downtown Atlanta, and is now home of the Georgia State Panther football team.

The new stadium is located outside of Atlanta in Cobb County. There is no good public transit to the stadium...we will need to drive and try to find a place to park.



Leaving with what we thought would be a big cushion in time to get there, we find ourselves stuck in barely-moving traffic when we get close to the stadium. There are no police officers directing traffic and it's kind of a free for all when you're trying to get close.

After following signs for the lot that had the handicapped parking, I ended up beyond the stadium and realized either I missed the last sign for the lot or that it didn't exist. We ended up paying $25 to park in a KFC parking lot and walking about a half mile back to the stadium.



Outside, a couple of faux streets have been constructed with a few restaurants and bars to give is a sort of downtown, party feel...maybe the kind it must have really had back when the stadium really was in downtown.

We make it in, find our seats by the left field foul pole, and get ready to take in the game.

As it gets underway, I go to the french fry stand directly behind our seats to get Tim an order of garlic fries. An inning later, I'm still in line and Letty has come to see if I had problems.



"No, it's just how long I have to stand in line."

About ten minutes later, I get to the counter and order. Then, I get to stand off the side for another ten minutes before I finally get the fries.

After delivering the fries, I get back in line at another stand to get our hot dogs and beer.  After a total of three innings (1/3 of the game for those of you not familiar with baseball) of standing in line, I'm finally back in my seat.



I've only missed three home runs and the scoring of nine runs in total. Not to be too concerned, though...the home team would go lose to the Giants 9-4.

It was May 4th for this game, which meant that a Star Wars theme was overlaid on the festivities, with in between inning entertainment and a special fireworks show afterward.

The Force wasn't with us, though, as we left a bit underwhelmed and saw the fireworks from a distance as we hiked the half mile back to KFC to get our car.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2018
All Rights Reserved

Photos by Letty Musick
Copyright 2018
All Rights Reserved

Monday, February 10, 2020

Travel Days are Rarely Fun: Arrival in Atlanta


After the frustrations of leaving Los Angeles have faded, we arrive at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson airport. It's a real breeze compared to LAX.

As we will be traveling many miles where our only non-car options are plane or bus, we decide to rent a car. Picking up at the Enterprise counter at Atlanta is no problem at all and soon we're on our way to our hotel, the Hyatt Place in Dunwoody, a suburb a little north of Atlanta proper.

There's a traffic jam so it's not until around 9PM, we check in and notice a sort of restaurant/food bar at the other end of the lobby. After dumping our baggage in our room, we come back down to eat.

I order and the guy behind the counter says it'll take 25 to 30 minutes. With nothing better to do and not knowing the neighborhood, we decide to wait.

He's chatting up others at the bar, then goes to help the other employee on duty to check in a few arriving guests, and then before you know it, it's 20 minutes and we still haven't even gotten drinks.

I go over and ask if he forgot about us..."no, I didn't forget."

He goes over to the bar, pulls out a manual with instructions on how to mix our drinks. We finally get them. 10 minutes later, there's no sign of food. I ask him again..."it'll be out soon."

I grab a bag of chips off of the counter for Tim, who's getting pretty hungry at this point, and the guy goes back into the kitchen to make our food (probably using the company handbook to figure out how to make our order).


Around 50 minutes after ordering, our food finally comes out...a microwaved mini pizza for Tim, pulled pork sliders for Letty, and short rib tacos for me (pictured).

Letty's mad because the sliders have none of the cole slaw or pickles the menu described them with. Mine is not made correctly, either. Only Tim's pizza seems to be somewhat edible.

I tell the guy about it and he explains they ran out of the missing ingredients. I told him that was unacceptable, you could have said something before you made us wait almost an hour for half-assed food.

To his credit, he struck the entire meal from our bill and we took Tim's pizza up to the room to share a little bit so we could all have a little something before going to bed.


Luckily, the room was nice and the bedding comfortable. We'll take up the rest of Atlanta starting tomorrow after we get a night's rest.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2018
All Rights Reserved

Sunday, February 9, 2020

The Cocktail Hour - Scarlet O'Hara


Here's a new one for us, a southern classic.


Watch the Video!


Ingredients:

1 oz. whiskey
1 oz. Grand Marnier
juice of one small lime
top off with cranberry cocktail

Mix all ingredients into a highball glass filled with ice.

Cheers!

Darryl

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Lithium Lunacy at LAX


A couple of years ago, I got tired of pushing a manual chair with Tim on board for long trips. I looked into light-weight, power travel chairs and...lo and behold...I actually found a couple. We took the plunge and bought one that would allow Tim to be his own driver on these trips and my back muscles would get a break from pushing all that weight around all day long.

You can see our story on that travel chair here.

Since then, we have traveled by air with that chair to several destinations across America, Europe, and Central America and on several airlines many times...including our favorite of Southwest...with no issues at all.

The airlines have simply asked us to remove the lithium batteries from the chair, carry them onboard, and store them in a bag that prevents their contacts from touching anything. We do this handily with a canvas bag my wife made for them which has two compartments, one for each battery, which keeps them secured and separate from each other.

This has never been a problem, until now.




At the beginning of our trip to Atlanta, we did the usual preflight protocols with the Southwest gate agent and then went to relax and wait for our flight to board at Los Angeles' terminal 2. When it came time to preboard, the gate agent came up to ask us about our wheelchair and batteries.

"I need to ask you about your wheelchair batteries...how many volts are they and how many watts?"

"I don't know offhand but we remove them from the chair when flying and carry them on."

"I need to know or you may not be able to take them."

"We've flown several times with them, including on Southwest, and have been told they're OK and we just need to remove them and carry them on."

She goes off to check. I take the time to whip out my phone and go to GeoCruiser's website to get the better specs.

When she comes back, I show here..."24 volts for both batteries (12 for each battery - Ed). 144 watts. Take a look, this is from the manual."

"You could have just typed that up,"...pretty impressive since it was a PDF with full color Geo Cruiser logos and all..."the batteries need to have a sticker on them with that information."

"Ma'am, this is how the batteries came. I didn't just type that up, especially on this phone. We traveled with them many times, with no problem. Look, they're here in this separate bag, complete unable to touch anything else."

At that point, it was time to board the plane. They let us go down the jetway.  The lady comes back down..."we can't let you take the batteries."

I called Geocruiser and got Manny from customer support on the line.

"Manny, I'm at the doorway of a Southwest jet and they don't want to let us on with the Geocruiser batteries, can you explain it to this lady?"

"Sure..."

I hand the phone to the lady who promptly starts talking to Manny while she walks away with my phone back into the terminal. In the meantime, others on the plane are telling us to get on and take our seats.  This photo was taken while we were waiting for them to come back with our phone and decision.



I'm getting ready to pull the CRO option (each airline must have a Complaint Resolution Officer available to handle issues with special needs passengers at all times).

A Southwest terminal employee comes on and says we can travel but not with the batteries, we'll just have to do without when we get to our destination. I explain that we're to be gone over two weeks and that will leave us without a truly working wheelchair.  She goes off to get a supervisor.

The supervisor shows up..."sir, you cannot travel with the batteries in the wheelchair.  They must be removed (emphasis mine)."

I told her "they are right above our heads in a special bag we have for them in the bin. They've been out of the wheelchair since the beginning. We told your gate agent multiple times that they were removed and have never had a problem before. Would you like to see them?"

"That won't be necessary, I believe you. Have a nice flight."

One last thing from me..."then would you please tell your gate staff this and explain to them the policy so this doesn't happen again? Oh yeah, would you please return my phone to me?"

Phone returned, doors are closed, and we have an uneventful and easy flight to Atlanta.

Postscript...on arrival at Atlanta, the baggage handler brings us our chair and says "that's a cool chair, this is only the second time I've seen one."

As I put the batteries back in, I explain to him what happened back at LAX.

"That's silly," he says, "we had training on this particular chair. They should know better."

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2018
All Rights Reserved.

Monday, February 3, 2020

Rewards Come to Those Who Wait: Cashing in our Points for a Post Retirement Vacation Blowout


We're not really hard-core points warriors (those who live to exploit every advantage to accumulate rewards points for traveling) but we're not ones to shy away from opportunities to collect points.

Over the years here at The World on Wheels, we've been known to cash in points for a free flight or a night in a hotel here and there but have not really made a great effort to accumulate a lot of points to cash in for a big vacation.

Until now...

The last couple of years worth of travel have involved a more concerted effort on our part to accumulate points for one of our biggest vacations yet...a multi-week blowout covering two southern states with a cruise to the Bahamas thrown into the middle just for the heck of it.



I retired from my job in March after 30 years of service (that's a picture from my retirement luncheon) and we had longed to take a long trip through the south once that happened. The original plan was to take a month, start off in Key West and slowly make our way through the southern states heading back home.

Over the years, pieces of that trip were whittled away with our adventures to Tennessee, Texas, and the Florida Keys. Plus, a month might be pushing it now, so we've cut the time down a little bit and narrowed the scope some...we'll be starting off in Atlanta and going south from there with the goal of seeing the last remaining unseen baseball stadiums in our quest to visit every Major League Baseball park.



Now, what about the points?  A few years ago, our traveling evolved so that Southwest Airlines turned out to be our preferred airline so all three of us signed up for their Rapid Rewards program. All of our trips started out with the question "Does Southwest fly there?" Many times they did (but not always) so we booked them as much as possible.



The last few years, we've flown on them to Baltimore, Nashville, Dallas, Houston, Fort Lauderdale, and more.  A couple of years later, we have enough to cash in a free flight for the three of us to Atlanta, so our first leg of airfare is basically free (it cost me an extra $16 for taxes and fees for the flight).



Our Hilton points were enough to get us five nights at a hotel in Miami, so those will be cashed in later on this trip. In the meantime, an old Hyatt rewards account that I'd forgotten about had enough points for a couple of nights so we'll be using that in Atlanta to stay at the Hyatt Place in the northern part of the city. In between, we'll have to pay out of pocket for a couple more nights at the Hyatt, the rental car, and a few more hotel nights between Atlanta and Miami.



Lastly, we use a Costco Citi Visa card for most of our purchases which has a very generous cash reward program. In the last year, we've built up enough rewards on that to pay for the cruise to the Bahamas.

Stay tuned...we're off to Atlanta for our mosty-free, big-blowout, post-retirement vacation!

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2018 - All Rights Reserved

Photos by Letty Musick
Copyright 2018 - All Rights Reserved

Sunday, February 2, 2020

THE COCKTAIL HOUR: Moscow Mule


I have a theory...that my wife likes Moscow mules so much not because they taste good (they do!) and have a good kick but that it gives her a reason to go shopping for the copper mugs used for the drink.


Watch the Video!

After being very picky about it, I just went ahead and ordered a set on Amazon. They came in last week so, already having the ginger beer and vodka in stock, Tim and I set out to try our hand at it.

The results can be seen in the video, above.

INGREDIENTS - (1 drink)

2-oz vodka
6-oz ginger beer
juice of one lime
sprig of mint

Pour the vodka into the mug. Cut off a few leaves of mint from the sprig and put into the mug. Muddle the mint in the vodka.  Put in the lime juice, fill cup with ice, fill with ginger beer and stir.

Garnish with the rest of the mint sprig and a slice of lime.

Option 2 is to add a splash of Cointreau or Grand Marnier to the drink

Option 3 is to add a splash of sweet and sour

If you want it sweeter, you can also add a splash of grenadine.

Postcript: my wife returned the mugs and will buy a set she likes better.


Rated #1 Consumer Reports

Cheers!

Darryl