Sunday, 30 November 2014

John Fogerty

Most of you will know Mr. Fogerty as the lead singer of Creedence Clearwater Revival, once of those iconic groups that ruled the 60's and early 70's.

Before the show, a video production was played detailing the year 1969 and all the craziness that happened that year; from Vietnam protests to Woodstock. What a bizarre time it was. I'm sure people living during that time didn't realize it at the time; but it's not likely we'll ever see another period of time quite like that one.

The show started about a half hour late, but Fogerty came out with verve and energy that belies his 69 years. The man can play guitar; of course, he's been doing it for 50 years so I guess he should be good at it by now!

 
 

This is the first time I've ever seen him in concert. In fact, I honestly wouldn't have recognized him if he came up to me on the street and punched me in the face. I like CCR and know all of their big hits, but I wouldn't say I was passionate about them. I'm a little moreso after this great concert. Two and a half hours later, when he finally wrapped up the show with Proud Mary, I'm not sure who was more exhausted; him or me. Actually I'm pretty sure it was me!!






 
 

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

2014-15 NHL Season

Save your time and money, no need to watch, just read this blog post and you will know everything you need to know about this upcoming season.

Oh, just in the interest of full disclosure, I watched exactly zero seconds of pre-season hockey and, being in California for most of training camp and pre-season, heard very little.

And my pre-season pick to win the SuperBowl was New Orleans, who at this point look like they can't beat anyone. So there's that.

Playoff teams:






Atlantic Division:

1. Boston
2. Tampa Bay
3. Montreal

Metropolitan Division:

1. Pittsburgh
2. New Jersey
3. Philadelphia

Wild-Card

1. Detroit
2. Washington

3. NY Rangers
4. Columbus
5. NY Islanders
6. Florida
7. Toronto
8. Ottawa
9. Buffalo
10. Carolina

Western

Central Division

1. Chicago
2. Dallas
3. Minnesota

Pacific Division

1. Los Angeles
2. Anaheim
3. San Jose

Wild Card

1. St. Louis
2. Arizona

3. Colorado
4. Calgary
5. Nashville
6. Vancouver
7. Edmonton
8. Winnipeg

Stanley Cup:

Los Angeles over Boston


Hart Trophy, Art Ross Trophy, Ted Lindsay Award: Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh

Norris Trophy: Drew Doughty, Los Angeles

Vezina Trophy: Cory Schneider, New Jersey

Lady Byng Trophy: Tyler Seguin, Dallas

Selke Trophy: Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles

Calder Trophy: John Gibson, Anaheim

Jack Adams Trophy: Mike Babcock, Detroit

GM of the Year: Stan Bowman, Chicago



Monday, 29 September 2014

It's all over but the credit card bills.....day 20

7:00 AM - Oh not a great night of sleep, but we made it through a night at Super 8 without being murdered in our sleep so that's a win. The free breakfast doesn't look or smell appealing so we head to Denny's for breakfast.

Yes, you read that right, Denny's was the higher quality option.

After breakfast consisting of the usual Denny's options (lots of half decent food, more than most humans could eat), we're back in the car and headed home.

The drive home is fairly uneventful. Tracey is crazy tired so I take over for her for the lousy part of the trip; through Tacoma and Seattle. They really need to do something about the traffic. I mean, I get it is bad at rush hour, but it's 3 PM on a Saturday for chrissake.

Five lanes of traffic, and I can't get by them. I haven't seen a line like that since the Washington Redskins 'Hogs' of the 1980's. 

After we get through there, nothing of note until we get to Bellingham. We stop at Fred Meyer, not far from the Bellingham airport, to pick up a few things that we can't get at home..... and holy crap, they have really upgraded that store! Their wine section (yes I know, like we need MORE wine) has gone from average to INCREDIBLE. They have Opus One! Opus One in Fred Meyer!!!

Hey, it's $6 cheaper here than it was at the winery?!?!? Hmm I wonder if I should get another bottle?

Tracey shoots that idea down pretty quickly. We do pick up a couple bottles of her favorite Chardonnay though and head back to the car to finish our trip. Really not sure exactly what to expect at the border, I've heard some horror stories about trying to bring wine across the border at Sumas.

6:30 PM - We arrive at the border and declare our wine. The guard couldn't be any friendlier, but he informs us we do have to go in and pay a bit of duty and tax on our wine. He says it might be "quite a bit". Hmm that doesn't sound good.

We get inside and organize our receipts so that we know which four bottles we are claiming as exempt and which 11 bottles we will have to pay duty on. We get helped out by another very friendly gentleman who calculates our amount owing at only $75! That's about 1/3 of what I expected, so we head over to the cashier and happily pay them what we owe. The cashier is ANOTHER very friendly guy. Best experience I've ever had at any border, ever. What a difference good, friendly service makes, even at the border. I get that they have a tough job, and it's nice when they can still be pleasant to deal with.

7:00 PM - Home and sooooo tired, but satisfied after a terrific vacation.

Thus ends The Amazing Vacation Blog (TM), 2014 edition. Thanks for reading, and I hope you had a chuckle or two (maybe even three!).

Friday, 26 September 2014

The Amazing Vacation Blog (TM), Day 18 and 19

That's right, true believers, two blog entries for the price of one! And if the price you paid for this blog entry was anything other than zero, you might be crazy.

Thursday, September 25th - Our 10th wedding Anniversary

9:30 AM - Heading out the door, leaving our resort on our way back to Disneyland, which is the only place on Earth we should be celebrating our 10th Anniversary.

This resort had some good points and some bad points. I've already mentioned some of these, but here are a couple more. The good:


The view from our patio. A lovely view of the mountains (what passes for mountains here, anyway) and a golf course. A lovely place to sit and enjoy some wine and relax. Except for this....the bad:


So that chair in the foreground is mine. The other two are our neighbors'. Yes, behind that flimsy excuse for a wall, is our neighbors' patio. Those of you reading this know me pretty well, do I seem like the kind of guy who wants a couple of blue-haired neighbors sitting 2 feet away from me, hearing and seeing everything they say and do? No, didn't think so.

Oh, if you ARE the type of person who would enjoy that, let me know what time the kumbaya sing-along is, I'll be sure to book a colonoscopy for that day....or something more painful.


11:00 AM - Back at Disneyland and checked into the Disneyland Hotel, but of course our room isn't ready so we drop off the luggage and hit the park. It's a freaking zoo in the park today, so we only hit one ride, Pirates of the Caribbean, and do some shopping and say goodbye to the Happiest Place on Earth. It's truly special to us, and there is nowhere I would rather be.

Since we probably still have a few hours until we get our room, we hit the pool. This is actually our first time in this particular pool; the last time we stayed in this hotel it was winter and not really appropriate poolin' weather. It's another hot one today, though, so some pool time is just what the doctor ordered.

4:00 PM - Up to our room. Wow, it's gorgeous. There is no doubt that the Grand Californian Hotel is 10X nicer than the Disneyland Hotel, but the room itself here is more "Disney" than the rooms at the GCH. Our headboard has fireworks that light up :-)

We head down to the ESPN zone for a quick snack to get us through to our 9PM dinner reservations. We consider staying there to watch the first half of the Giants/Redskins game but decide against it. We can watch the game comfortably in our room while we get ready for dinner.

By midway through the third quarter the game is a blowout, so we finish getting ready and head down to Steakhouse 55 for dinner. We get there a bit early but they are able to seat us immediately. It's pretty crowded, given the day and time, but not full.

The food is amazing, the service impeccable, and we have a great dinner on a very special night. Pretty much a perfect ending to a perfect trip.

Except it's not QUITE the end of the Disney trip, just yet.....

Friday, September 26th

8:30 AM - We are up and off to Storyteller's Cafe for their breakfast buffet. Our favorite breakfast buffet, probably ever.... the food is so good and the characters (not the big characters, but all the critters....chipmunks, monkeys, raccoons, bears, etc) always add a little something with their antics.

The food MUST be good, as we keep coming back here despite the obvious varmint infestation.

Off to the World of Disney store to finish up our shopping for the trip, and then we're done. We get our luggage and car (which, incredibly, still fits everything we acquired this trip) and we're off. Leaving here is always the saddest part of any vacation.

And then there is the drive. Holy crap. This is always the worst part of this trip..... driving driving driving driving and not getting anywhere. Well of course we get SOMEWHERE, but we don't get HOME. Still lots more driving left tomorrow, but at least at the end of that day, we are home.

Clearly the weather Gods are trying to welcome us home....we drive through a rainstorm in Stockton, and lightning in Redding. Rain and lightning in California. I am going to call someone and complain.

10:00 PM - We decide to finish the trip like it began, by spending the night at the La Quinta in Grants Pass. Seemed like a good idea at the time....but they are full. FULL. The La Quinta in Grants Pass, Oregon, is full.

You can't make this shit up.

So it's across the street to the Super 8. EW. EWWWWWW.

Best part about it? Cheap as Hell.

Worst part? Cheap as Hell.

Oh well, it is what it is....the room is clean and seems comfortable enough for one night. All we need is a pillow to put our head on for 7-8 hours, since Tracey refused to drive all through the night to get us home.

So THIS is how the next decade of marriage begins.....with her outlandish selfishness.

Oh and before anyone points out that she does ALL the driving, that is not true. I drove like an hour and a half today. So there.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

The Amazing Vacation Blog (TM), Day Seventeen!

9:04 AM - Up and Tracey is beginning The Process as we head to the San Diego Zoo. We had planned to leave around 8:20 to get to the gates by 9. Seems as if we missed our wake up call (in other words, Tracey didn't set her alarm). No big deal, we have all day in the park if we want it, but the animals tend to be more active in the morning before it gets hot.

2:00 PM - Back after a couple hours of the Zoo. It's a great zoo, but it never quite measures up to the Safari Park. We did get some great pictures, but ironically the extra care that they give the animals by ensuring their enclosures are as natural as can be can get in the way of seeing the animals or getting great pictures.

They have a lot of the same animals from the Safari Park of course, but the stars of this Zoo are some of the more unusual animals. When did you last see an African Serval?


Mugging for the camera. What a ham.

Or how about this Amur Leopard? Sadly they estimate there are less than 45 of these gorgeous cats left.


Even seen one of these? Me neither. It's a Borneon Binturong. Sorry it's not a great pic but he was in full on "lazy" mode and didn't move an inch.


Lots of other good stuff I'll post once I've gone through all the pics.

2:30 PM- Off to the pool for the last time here. Tracey puts in a couple hours as usual; I can only handle about an hour, as it's really busy today. The pool is packed with people, especially kids.

4:15 PM - Down to the market to replenish a couple supplies we need for our trip home (ie Diet Coke) and then start to organize our clothes to pack up. With tomorrow being a one-day stop at the Disneyland Hotel, we are going to try to get everything we need into a duffle bag so we can leave our big luggage in the car overnight.

OMG, I found Fanta Pineapple and Fanta Strawberry pop! You don't understand the level of excitement I am experiencing right now. I can't remember how many trips across the border we used to make to pick up Strawberry and Pineapple Crush! They stopped making it a million years ago, so although it's a different brand name, I bought one of each and I hope they live up to my expectations! Giddy with anticipation.....

5:00 PM - No time for pop, however, as it's 5PM which means it's Chardonnay time! Of course, given how much wine we have to try to bring across the border we should probably drink until we pass out tonight, but given that we have a big day tomorrow (which happens to be our 10th wedding Anniversary), perhaps a drunken stupor isn't the best plan.

After the first bottle of wine, a simply SPECTACULAR Chardonnay, I break into the Pineapple Fanta...and it's pretty good. Not as good as the Pineapple Crush used to be, but still a nice trip down memory lane if nothing else.

7:00 PM  - Tracey has finished making dinner, basically the rest of the food we had bought, so we crack open the 2003 Tempranillo that we bought the other day. Quite nice for the bargain basement price of $15. It was normally $30 but it was on their "half price" rack.....perhaps because Tempranillo doesn't always age as well as other red wines, so maybe 11 years old is getting close to the end. This bottle was fabulous though, I'd say it had peaked but if it was on it's way down, it was going down very slowly. For $15, an absolute steal.

8:00 PM - On Twitter participating in BC Wine Chat (a weekly wine discussion) while I'm in California enjoying a BC wine! Kidding, of course, if I were enjoying a BC wine down here it would have to have been something I brought down myself. They have zero BC wine here. They've heard of us..heard good things....but we ship none here. They do have a few different Inniskillin Ice wines from Ontario (which are probably quite good) but that's it.

Thankfully, it seems logical to me to participate in BC wine chat while drinking a United States version of a grape from Spain. Sure. Whatever.

If you enjoy wine, check out the #bcwinechat every Wednesday at 8PM. Always a different topic, always informative.

Packing continues as we watch TV and prepare to head out in the morning. Still some things we want to accomplish in Disneyland before our special Anniversary dinner so we have to get moving!!










Tuesday, 23 September 2014

If you only skip one blog entry, this might be the one...

....because we did nothing today.

Tracey has a bit of a sore foot, so we decided to push our San Diego Zoo day to tomorrow and just relax today. There was some pooling, some napping, some relaxing, and a couple really great bottles of wine. Th-th-th-th-that's all, folks!!!

Hoping and expecting that Tracey's foot will feel good enough in the morning to hit the Zoo and tomorrow's blog entry will be more entertaining.

Let's face it, could it possibly be worse??

Oh, but if you don't follow my wine blog, you might have missed the entry I wrote today about our most amazing tasting of our Napa trip, here:

http://deanswineblog.blogspot.com/2014/09/two-words-opus-one.html

Monday, 22 September 2014

The Amazing Vacation Blog, Day Fifteen!

7:30 AM - Tracey's alarm goes off...much too soon. She informs me that she was having a great sleep before the alarm woke her up. I suggest that this means she gets to enjoy two words today: Afternoon nap!

She brings up two different words: Grouchy Bear.

Uh-oh.

9:30 AM - We arrive at the Safari Park to finish up everything we missed the other day. We came early on purpose, as the animals don't care for the heat any more than we do, and they are much more active in the morning. We are so lucky, as we get some great pictures of many different animals, including this beautiful tiger:


These gorgeous eagles:


A condor, who seemed to be posing for our pictures:


Oh, did I mention two three-week old Cheetah cubs????


Yeah, that's a pretty good day right there. And there was lots more.

12:30 PM - Done what we wanted to do and back at the resort for some lunch. After lunch, off to the pool, where Tracey spends a few hours ( I manage an hour or so, my usual limit).

1:30 PM - While I'm back in the room, our maid, Lupe, comes in and cleans up a bit. Of course her name isn't really Lupe, but if you watched Seinfeld, you'll get it. Every maid is named Lupe.

One tuck, one no-tuck, Lupe.

5:00 PM - After some relaxing we head down to dinner at the restaurant on site, called Canyon Grille. My first impression is that it's a pretty crappy restaurant that is masquerading as a high end restaurant. I'm wrong, however, as the food is actually pretty damn good, and we have a really nice meal for only $60 (it was a lot more than that of course, but only 60 before the wine). Quite impressed.

7:00 PM - I Google "wine" and "Escondido" and find one really nice wine store in Escondido, so we go there and spend way too much money on wine we can't possibly bring across the border without paying duty. Seemed like a good idea at the time. They had a little automated tasting bar in their basement where we got to try a bunch of wine for a nominal charge. Very cool. Great store.

11:00 PM - We had planned to go to the San Diego Zoo early tomorrow but since it's already past 11 PM and we are finishing up our second bottle of wine, that ain't gonna happen. Hopefully we'll get there early enough that some of the animals will actually be awake. If not, I'll have the wife yell and scream and wake them up so I can get some good pictures. Seems like a plan.

Can't believe this trip is in it's home stretch. What a terrific vacation so far!


Sunday, 21 September 2014

The Amazing Vacation Blog (TM), Day Fourteen!

8:45 AM - Up for today's relaxing day of football and notice that the wife is already up; that either means she's REALLLLY looking forward to today's day of football or, more likely, she had a terrible sleep and is just up.

It's the latter.

After I cook up an omelet and some bacon for breakfast, we do a little channel surfing only to find out the only game being televised here is San Diego at Buffalo. I'd rather drink turpentine than watch that abortion. This actually reminds me of my childhood and the reason I absolutely despise the Seahawks...back in the day, before the NFL Sunday Ticket package existed, the Seahawks were always the only game we were able to watch. Being a 49ers fan (who were in the same time zone and who's games were generally on at the same time as the 'Hawks) it was pretty damn irritating to never get to watch my team (and remember, the Niners were dominant then and the Hawks were a joke, so that made it even worse) on TV and constantly be subjected to the clowns from Seattle.

So now you know the genesis for my Seahawks hatred. Oh, and I also want to set the 12th man on fire, so there's that. Oh, and the steroids. Let's not forget the steroids.

1:00 PM - I head off to the bedroom to watch the Niners/Cardinals while Tracey stays in the living room to watch the Broncos and Seahawks. It occurs to me that if we were home, we'd be watching both of these games at the same time in our living room. Watching them in two different rooms is not quite the same.

We're having hot dogs for lunch, we picked up all the necessary goodies for hot dogs at Target the other day.....except for wieners. Hmm. That's a fairly important ingredient in hot dogs. Without the wiener, I believe it's just called a "mustard bun". Guess I'll head down to the market here at the resort to pick some up.

4:30 PM - After watching the Broncos make a miracle comeback only to lose to the Seahawks in overtime, I have to clean up the blood splatters and broken pieces of the TV.

6:00 PM - Tracey is cooking Filet Mignon with mashed potatoes for dinner, while I crack open a nice bottle of Syrah we picked up at Miner Family Vineyards in Napa.

Dinner is lovely and the wine goes excellent with the steak. Man I sure wish it were easier to find these wines in Canada. Although we tried to focus our Napa tastings on wineries that we could find back home, there are still only certain wines available; it's not like we can find Joseph Phelps' entire portfolio. The Syrah we are having tonight, and last night's beautiful Cabernet Franc, are impossible to find. I need to make some friends who live just across the border in Bellingham or Sumas.

Outside of the wieners trip, I didn't leave the room today (and Tracey didn't at all). Now THAT'S a pretty good vacation Sunday!!!

Hopefully we can both get an excellent sleep tonight, as our intention is to go back to the Safari Park tomorrow morning to try to catch up on some animals we missed the other day. Since the animals tend to be more active in the morning, we're hoping to get some action!!





Saturday, 20 September 2014

The Amazing Vacation Blog (TM), Day Thirteen!

6:00 AM - Hmm, the wife has not had a good sleep and is not enjoying this bed, so she heads out to the pull-out couch to try to get some sleep. Amazingly, I sleep much better after she leaves :-)

9:30 AM - Up and Tracey is making some bacon and eggs for breakfast. Definitely one of the big advantages of a resort over hotels....food in a fridge and making your own meals from time to time.

12:00 PM - In the car and off to the San Diego Safari Park. This park, which used to be called the San Diego Wild Animal Park, is always a favorite of ours. SIXTY-FIVE acres big. Always lots to see and do. Also, kudos to them for having special parking for Hybrids; we get to park about 30 feet from the gate.

After touring a ton of exhibits and getting some great pictures, including some adorable meerkats and rather intimidating gorillas, we sit down for a bit of lunch before our scheduled event.




3:10 PM - We get to the area for our encounter with a cheetah. It's called the Cheetah Run Safari; the cheetah runs, of course, which everyone can see, but we have a better view and get to "meet and greet" the cheetah after the show. What a gorgeous animal.


And one happy kitty cat. He spent a lot of our encounter time purring and licking his trainer.




Before the run, we get an added bonus, a face to face (almost) meeting with another cat, an African Caracle. Tracey and I have encountered this species of cat once here before and we are the only guests who know the name of the species. We feel pretty smart :-)



The cheetah runs twice, so fast that I can hardly keep up with him with our camcorder. It's an awesome experience. Cats rule!! So much better than stupid humans.

Kidding. A bit.

4:30 PM - done for today but we have some other things we want to see here so we are going to come back on Monday morning for another couple of hours. Love this park.

6:30 PM - Dinner time, and we've opened up our Turnbull 2010 Cabernet Franc to go with the Parmesan chicken and rice we cooked. It's absolutely terrific. Tracey called this the "best Cab Franc" ever during the tasting and she reiterated that fact tonight. I agree. It's really terrific.

8:30 PM - It's Saturday night, which means it's ice cream time. Why? Because it is. EVERY night should be ice cream night.

No big plans for the evening but relaxing and trying to get a good night's sleep. Tomorrow is a resort day, with a rather large amount of football to be consumed...maybe. We'll miss our NFL Sunday Ticket so we'll have to watch whatever game they put on TV. Hopefully they make some good picks, if I have to watch the freaking Patriots I might have to shoot my TV a la Elvis.




Friday, 19 September 2014

Day 12, the end of Disney (for now), on to Phase Three

8:00 AM - Up and while Tracey begins The Process, I finish packing and head down to La Brea Bakery to grab us some breakfast. I get a couple of bacon and egg paninis. HOLY CRAP they were fantastic. Absolutely fantastic. Highly recommend these. Will be sure to go back next week and get more.

11:00 AM - Checked out of the hotel which is always heartbreaking, but a little bit less so than normal this time as it's less than a week until we are back for one night. Not this exact hotel, but the Disneyland Hotel just down the "street", and by "street" of course I mean at the other end of Downtown Disney.

Off to Disneyland where we ride the last few rides we had missed, and a couple for the second time, before deciding it's time to hit the road. We decide to take the Monorail out of the park, and boy did that ever turn out to be a fabulous decision, as we got to sit in the nose of the Monorail! That was the first time we had ever done that (it's not something they always do, we just got lucky...right place, right time) and the view is totally different than what you get anywhere else in the Monorail. Quite a lovely way to end this chapter of our vacation.

We get our car, squeeze the luggage in (and we've hardly bought ANY Disney stuff yet.... getting it all into the car on our way home next week is going to be interesting) and hit the road.

3:30 PM - We arrive at the Lawrence Welk Resort in Escondido, our home for the next 6 nights. We've stayed here before, and it's always lovely. After a short wait to check in, we are given our room and head over to the "concierge" to get our parking pass and to book our 90 minute timeshare presentation...or so they hoped. I turn them down, which never goes over that well, but c'est la vie. I am honest and tell them that $100 is just not enough to justifying spending 90 minutes of my wife and my time on a timeshare pitch that we have no interest in. We already own a timeshare (obviously, as they knew we exchanged our timeshare week through RCI) and there is no chance in Hell we are buying another one, so why bother? They push a bit but I shut them down and we head up to our room.

Things don't start very well, as the first thing we notice is that there is no in-suite laundry!! WTF??? I would never never never never never never ever ever ever ever book a place with no in-suite laundry, especially for the third week of a 3-week driving tour! I mean, we packed exactly enough clothes for two weeks, with the expectation to wash our clothes for the third week...and we have to hump our clothes across the street to launder them? Uh-uh. No fucking way.

Back down to the desk to talk to the Manager and complain. He is very sympathetic, but can do nothing for us now, as the resort is booked for the entire weekend. It's crazy busy so I'm not totally surprised by that. He has promised to try to upgrade us to a bigger room with laundry as early as Monday if it's possible. We'll see.

If that wasn't enough, the room also doesn't have a bathtub.... and my babydoll loves her baths! I couldn't really care less, it has a gorgeous huge shower which is fine with me, but Tracey is less than impressed. Hopefully that will rectify itself early in the week.

Other than those two (rather important) issues, the room and resort are lovely. Our patio overlooks a golf course. Actually, it's ON a golf course.

Down to Target to pick up supplies for the week (I get ID'd buying wine.... good Lord. I've been old enough to buy wine in the USA for longer than this clerk has been alive) and then back to the resort where we grab some Pizza Hut for dinner before the chore of laundry begins. There is a pool (one of the five at this resort) right next to the laundry so we head there while we wait for the laundry to finish. It's a lovely pool area, which features two pools, a hot tub, water slide, kiddy water area, and fire pit. I suspect this pool may see a fair amount of my wife over the next few days.

We had originally left ourselves open to the idea of going back to Disneyland on Monday to finish up anything left undone, but we got just about everything done so we don't need to do that. We will just spend another day chilling at the pool, and maybe we'll go up to Temecula to check out some local wineries.

I guess you could say instead of Screamin' and Soarin', we'll be Drinkin' and Snorin'.

9:00 PM - Finally finished all the laundry, it's washed, folded and put away. Finally feels like we are here and relaxing. Time to open up a bottle of Pinot Grigio bought at Target and relax for the evening. Tomorrow we are off to the San Diego Safari Park! Always fun.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

The Amazing Vacation Blog (TM), Day Eleven!

8:30 AM - Well I suppose that's what I'm going to consider a "sleep-in" on this trip. Tracey wants to sleep a bit later so I get dressed and head out to Disneyland to hit the rides she doesn't care for. Well, ride, actually, just Star Tours. Normally the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage would also fall onto that list but it's down for refurbishment this month.

After the ride, I am hungry so I have a cinnamon bun and a corn dog. Breakfast of Champions. God DAMN they are good.

Still hot today but much more manageable. Probably 7-8 degrees cooler than yesterday.

11:40 AM - Hmm. No water in the room. Call the front desk and apparently a pipe burst so we are going to be without water for a couple hours. No huge deal as we are heading out for lunch anyway.

12:00 PM - Lunch at Tortilla Jo's. Tracey orders a tamale, the same thing she had the last time we were here. For those of you (like me) not familiar with tamales, they are served inside a banana leaf, which you don't eat. She notices that this time they unwrapped the banana leaf before bringing it to her. She comments that it is probably because so many "gringos" tried to eat the banana leaf. She's probably right.

After lunch, back to the pool, our last opportunity at this beautiful pool this trip. I last for an hour or so before retiring back to the room for a little nap. Tracey hangs out for a couple more hours. She LOVES her pool time. She doesn't really "tan", but she does have a bit of a hue :-)

4:30 PM - Tracey returns to the room just as I'm waking up. Time to pack as tonight is our last night here, for now. We are off to our resort in Escondido tomorrow but we return here for the last night on our vacation, which happens to be our 10th wedding Anniversary.

We are just hanging out in the room tonight, watching some football and having a relaxing evening. Tracey picked Tampa Bay to win in her office pool; as I write this, they are down 35-0 at halftime.

I guess I should confess I convinced her to pick the Bucs :-)

7:00 PM - I head up to Earl of Sandwich to pick up some dinner, neither of us is crazy hungry after our big lunch. It hits the spot just perfectly.

What a terrific vacation so far; tomorrow after we check out we are going back into one of the parks to have another great day before heading down to Escondido to start the third leg of our trip.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

We have reached double digits of joy and merriment!

7:45 AM - We are up and preparing to head down to DCA for "early morning magic"...basically we get into the park at 9AM, one hour before the general public. We put that hour to good use, doing Toy Story again, plus Screamin' and Tower of Terror.

Oh, and it was brought to my attention that I failed to mention in yesterday's blog that Tracey kicked my ass at Toy Story. This is true; she beat me like a red-headed stepchild. It was one of the worst performances of my Toy Story career.

Today I gained a modicum of revenge winning a narrow victory; however, one of the screens didn't work so we were playing that level blind, so really that constitutes an unofficial game. We'll have to try one more time.

10AM - Just as the park opens to the public we are out; off to the Rainforest Cafe for breakfast. Remember when the Rainforest Cafe seemed to be taking over the world? They were everywhere (including Metrotown). Now, notsomuch. There are around 20 of them left. We always get a pretty good meal here though, and today was no exception.

Right after breakfast we hop onto the Monorail and head into Disneyland to cross a few more things off our list. We try the old "divide and conquer" routine; I head to Space Mountain to get Fastpasses and Tracey hops in line at Alice and Wonderland. After Alice we hit a few more of the rides in Fantasyland before using up our passes on Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy. I confess that the "Ghost Galaxy" part of this ride does nothing for me. Space Mountain is pretty awesome by itself; this is one ride that gains nothing by "Halloweening" it up.

2:00 PM - After a few hours in the park we head back to the hotel and hit the pool for a little more RnR. It's another scorcher today; the heat (and Florida-esque humidity) is more than just a nuisance at this point....it's become a character in our little drama. And a much more frequent character than the ones we usually see in the parks. I can only imagine how hot the cast members must be in those outfits. Ouch.

7:30 PM - We had  a great meal at Catal earlier this trip so we decided to go back. Part of it, of course, was the opportunity to take one of our Napa-bought bottles to dinner and pay no corkage fee. Tonight we took the Silver Oak 1999 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. OMFG. Amazing. It didn't really pair well with our dinner, but we knew that in advance (we both knew we were having the risotto, which was quite lemony and would pair better with a citrus-y white) and saved most of the wine for after dinner. Fabulous.

After dinner we wandered up and down Downtown Disney for a while before settling down at the Uva Bar for another drink or six. I enjoyed a couple nice glasses of wine while Tracey went crazy with Sangria and a mojito.

11:20 PM - This might be the latest I've been awake since the Carter administration. That is probably a slight exaggeration, but only slight. Hey I have no problem being up late, back in my youth I was quite the night owl, but my issue is that my body is probably going to wake me up at 6 AM as usual. We'll see........planning to sleep in a bit tomorrow if allowed to do so!



Tuesday, 16 September 2014

The Amazing Vacation Blog, Day Niner !

7:30 AM - I'm awake and I have an epiphany. Our plan today was for Tracey to sleep until whenever, and then we'd go into the park in the afternoon. I decided it was a better idea to split up the day; go into the park early and go back to the room when we get worn out, then back into the park for dinner and World of Color.

9:00 AM - I wake Tracey up, only to find out she didn't get to sleep until around 4 AM. Oops. I am going to pay for that, I suspect. Grumpy Bear is still hibernating but 5 hours sleep might change that in a hurry.....

10:00 AM - We are off, into California Adventure. It's not that busy today so we manage to hit a lot of the big rides, including Soarin' and Radiator Springs Racers. Stifling heat today again. We do the best we can to stay hydrated and see as much as we can before we pass out.

On the way back to the room, we see a lady patting herself down in a panic, then exclaim "OH GOD WHERE IS MY PHONE?!?!?"

It was next to her ear. She was ON the phone.

3:00 PM - Back in the room to shower and relax a bit before heading back to the furnace, er, park for dinner. Tracey has been a real trooper so far, making it through the day without one appearance of Grumpy Bear; of course, when I ask her to go back into the heat I may see the debut of Husband Murdering Bear but we'll jump off that bridge when we come to it.

4:50 PM - Tracey gets up without incident or any sign of violence, and hits the shower. We have reservations for 6 PM at Wine Country Trattoria, which comes with entry into a preferred viewing area for World of Color.

6:00 PM - Dinner at Wine Country Trattoria, and Disney tried to murder my wife. There must have been some kind of cross contamination with shellfish and she broke out in some pretty serious hives. All I could think was "man, I'm going to get free passes FOR LIFE!!!!". No such luck though, as she was fine within an hour or so. Dinner itself, aside from the near death, was excellent as usual. We both had a chicken dish which was just superb. Add to that a pretty darn good bottle of Far Niente Chardonnay, and we left satisfied and alive.

7:30 PM - We have a few minutes before we need to get to our viewing area for World of Color and we are still crazy hot so we decide to go on the Ariel's Undersea Journey ride, for the second time today. It's a good ride and most importantly, it's really cool inside. In this heat, it's nice to really go "under the sea". Darling, it's better down where it's wetter, take it from me.

There is only really one positive thing coming out of this heat wave: boobies. Seriously, I don't go to Disneyland to ogle beautiful young women in very little clothing.....it's just a fringe benefit.

8;15 PM - World of Color, which Tracey correctly described as "jaw-dropping". If you haven't seen it, you need to. This was our second viewing and it was even better than the first time. Wow. Just wow. We were in the front row where signs told us "you WILL get wet". We did, a bit, like a mist or gentle rain. It was the best I've felt in a week.

9:00 PM - Bedtime and I am going to make the wife take a sleeping pill and get some sleep. Tomorrow morning comes soon and I don't like my chances of keeping Grumpy Bear hibernating for TWO days in a row!!! She didn't come out once today, despite very little sleep and incredible heat. My wife rules.

Monday, 15 September 2014

The Amazing Vacation Blog (TM), Day Eight!

8:15 AM - SUCCESS! A post-8 AM sleep in! Now this actually feels like a vacation!

While the wife sleeps, I walk down to Earl of Sandwich and pick up a couple of breakfast sandwiches. They are Egg McMuffin-esque, but I must admit the McMuffins are better. When I return she is awake and getting ready to go out. Today is "pool day", but first we had the brilliant idea to go into California Adventure (in our pool clothes) and ride the Grizzly Run Rapids Ride. Hey, who cares how wet you get when you are dressed in your bathing suit and headed right to the pool?

It's a fabulous plan, as we get drenched but couldn't care less. Such a fun ride, and even more so when you don't have to be concerned with whether or not you are going to be uncomfortably wet for the rest of the day. Off to the pool!!!

After an hour or so, I've reached my pool limit, so I head back to the room to relax while Tracey continues. The pool was so dead that we had one of the three pools to ourselves for most of the time. Such an awesome pool, with many lifeguards and waiter service.

1:45 PM - Tracey's back from "pool day" and we are getting ready to head to lunch....er, dinner.... er....what do you call a meal at 3:30 in the afternoon anyway?

"Pool day" isn't actually over, it will continue into "pool evening" as we are planning on heading back down for another swim/hot tub after the football game tonight.

One of the best features of our room is that we are directly across from Haagen Dazs. The only downside?

We are directly across from Haagen Dazs.

3:15 PM - Into the Blue Bayou early for our meal, and we get a seat right next to the water. The ambiance here is off the charts, of course (how many restaurants are in a theme park ride??), and the food is always great. For the first time ever I'm not that crazy about my entree, Cajun salmon, but it's still good - just not great. All the extras are terrific as usual. Salad, two kinds of buns, and the side dishes are always top quality and today is no exception.

On the way out of the park, we hop into a store that we hadn't yet been into (featuring some amazing Disney art), and I notice quite by accident that Mickey AND Minnie are right next door posing for pictures with guests. And there is virtually NO lineup! All the Disney trips we've been on and we've never had pictures with BOTH of them until today. Check that one off the list.

Glad they had them inside; my GOD, can you imagine how hot those costumes are for the poor performers inside? Unreal.

On our way back to the room we stop at the aforementioned ice cream facility and we both make a terrible choice which neither of us enjoys much. That just means that it didn't count and we'll try harder to get the proper ice cream selection tomorrow! We will just keep trying and trying until we get it right.

8:30 PM - After the football game we head down to the pool and hot tub until to find we have been joined by every freaking kid in the State of California. Good grief. It's almost 9 PM on a Monday, don't these kids have school tomorrow? They can't ALL be from BC can they????

There are, no exaggeration, 60 people in the pool, so after about 2 minutes of being splashed and involved in a rowdy game of "Marco Polo", we head to the hot tub which was empty 10 seconds ago and is now half full, but whatever. We get chatting with a nice local couple, and her parents, who are enjoying a couple days of "staycation" at the resort. That's a pretty good place to come for a couple nights.

9:50 PM - Back up to the room to plan our day for tomorrow; seems like a sleep in day (or at least whatever my version of "sleep in" is these days) and then over to DCA in the afternoon. We are having dinner over there before the World of Colour show....er, World of Color as these Yankees put it. We've seen the show once before but I've heard they have made some changes so looking forward to that.




Sunday, 14 September 2014

The Amazing Vacation Blog (TM), Day Seven!

7:45 AM - Progress! At this rate, maybe by the end of the trip I'll be sleeping in past EIGHT o'clock!! Dare to dream.

This is another hotel that offers a free breakfast so we are going down in an hour or so to eat before coming back up to the room to clean up and pack for the move down the street to the hotel equivalent of the "Main Event" of the vacation.

10:30 AM - We are checked in at the Grand Californian and drop off our luggage. Our room isn't ready, of course, but we have everything we need to head into Disneyland! There is really nothing as exciting as walking through those gates for the first time. Every trip, it brings me goosebumps. Oh, and it's hot today. Holy cow hot. Off to Pirates, our traditional first ride, and we are both dripping in sweat waiting in line. Thankfully it doesn't take too long to get inside the building where it is cool and comfortable.

I love technology; everyone in line (it seems) is checking their phones for their fantasy football results :-)

We already got Fastpasses for Indiana Jones, which we haven't been on for YEARS.....the last time we were here it kept breaking down so we missed it, and of course this ride doesn't exist in Florida. After our ride on Pirates it's almost time for our Indy passes so we decide to double up and head down and get Fastpasses for Splash Mountain (hey I would love to get soaked in this heat!). We also hit the Winnie the Pooh ride. So cute. I've always said it: everyone loves a good Pooh.

We head back to Indy just to see everyone in line leaving the line, in fact they are coming out through the exit. Apparently someone puked in the ride! Not actually ON the ride, I understand, but in the lineup...so they evacuated the thing to get it all cleaned up. Anyway, since the ride was closed, they told us to come back and use our Fastpasses later. We'll do that tonight.

We head over to Big Thunder Mountain, which just recently reopened after an extended refurbishment. The wait time is posted as 10 minutes, but it was actually closer to 3. There was really no wait at all, just the time it took us to walk through the ropes. Always a great ride, but some new scenery added during the refurb made it even better.

Off to lunch at the Big Thunder BBQ where we consume copious amounts of chicken, ribs, beans, coleslaw, yada yada yada. Oh I think I'm going to be sick.

Not kidding, I ACTUALLY feel quite sick. Walking down to Splash Mountain and the heat and the BBQ are not a welcome combination. Thankfully we don't have to spend too much time in line before we get on the ride where we get absolutely DRENCHED (wettest I have EVER been). Normally I'd be irritated being THIS wet but it's about 149 degrees right now so what do I care? I'll be dry pretty soon. Tracey might even be wetter than I am; she walks with a SPLOSH SPLOSH SPLOSH.

It's getting pretty close to the time we expect to be able to get to our room, so we start walking back while doing a little shopping on Main Street. Our room still isn't quite ready so we hit the lounge and watch a bit of football while we wait.

4:30 PM - Finally up in our room, unpacked, and relaxing. Celebrating our arrival with a lovely bottle of Viognier and some artisinal cheese we picked up in Napa. Planning on a light dinner while we watch the Niners on Sunday Night Football, then back into the park for a late evening of fun. This is the only night we are here where the park is open late (Midnight) so we want to take advantage of the coolness!

Our room is gorgeous of course, with a lovely view of Downtown Disney. It will be fantastic to relax on the patio and watch the action go by....but perhaps not right now, while it's so freaking hot. The air conditioning of our room will be just fine, thanks.

8;20 PM - After a fabulous "light" dinner of wraps from Earl of Sandwich, a new food option in Downtown Disney, we head back to Disneyland to see the fireworks.

9:00 PM - Oh my God. It's 9 PM, I'm sitting on Main Street awaiting the fireworks, and I'm sweating. It's 31 degrees Celsius at 9 PM. The sun has been down for hours, and the pavement I'm sitting on is almost unbearable.

After the fireworks we use our Fastpasses to knock Indiana Jones (which has had some minor scene improvements since we last rode) off the list. We try for the Haunted Mansion and Alice in Wonderland but both have waits over a half hour and we're too tired for those kinds of lines at this point. We walk right onto the Matterhorn, which we haven't been on in YEARS. It's had some improvements as well. As we discover we have both hit some rather large walls, we mosey on over to the Monorail and take it back to our hotel.

11:00 PM - In for the night and have decided to change our plans again and sleep in a bit tomorrow. We have a late afternoon lunch at the Blue Bayou scheduled for tomorrow before coming back here to watch the Colts on Monday Night Football.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

The Amazing Vacation Blog (TM), Day six!

6:50 AM - well that's more like it, I suppose. Not exactly a vacation sleep in, but at least in the same ballpark as my usual wake up time. I notice I am alone in bed.....Tracey is on the couch! Oh boy. She mentioned that the bed was really soft...too soft for her...so I guess she couldn't sleep. To me, it was like sleeping in a big King Size cloud of pillows! Softer is better for me. Just another example of the only part of our marriage where we are completely incompatible: sleeping.

She likes firm mattresses, I like soft. She needs to sleep in total darkness with no sound (earplugs, in fact). I require light and noise (TV usually). She sleeps at room temperature, I like my bedroom to be meat-locker-esque. It's definitely a challenge.

She's asleep as I type this, hopefully I am typing quietly enough not to wake The Bear. Couch Bear is usually much grouchier than Bed Bear so hopefully she sleeps until she wakes herself up......

Oh boy, it turns out that she moved to the couch because of someone's snoring, not an uncomfortable bed. She has awaken in a lovely mood, hopefully she doesn't get too tired during the day, bringing on the appearance of Grouchy Bear.

9:30 AM - Down to the lobby to pick up some muffins and coffee for breakfast while The Process is underway. We are planning a few hours in the park, that's usually enough time to see everything we need to see here. Checkout time is 11 AM and I expect we'll be using every minute of that time before we are ready to go.

What a beautiful hotel. So much better than the place we last stayed in, in Hollywood, which had blood stains on the carpet, a door so sketchy we actually moved a bureau in front of it to protect ourselves during the night, and a lobby so small that Tracey had to stand out on Hollywood Blvd. while I checked in because we couldn't both fit.

Just a slight upgrade this time.

11:00 AM - Off to the park! No huge lineup getting in; they have a sign advertising approximate wait times, and since the Despicable Me Minions Mayhem ride says only 10 minutes, we high-tail it over there. Of course, so does everyone else. Oh, that reminds me:

Reason 1,798 why Disney is better than Universal:

At Disney, a posted 10-minute wait time really means "little to no wait". At Universal, it means "bring a book".

So by the time we get to the ride, the 10 minutes changes to 20, and while we are actually in the line, it changes to 50. It didn't take us 50, but it was in the 30-40 range. It's a terrific ride, quite new for California (we did ride it on our last trip to Universal Florida), but it's a must-do for anyone, especially if you enjoy those movies. And if you don't enjoy those movies, you might want to skip this park, because the Minions are everywhere. EVERYWHERE. They obviously understand that it's OK to milk a popular franchise, I just wonder what the shelf life of this franchise will be. I know they are making a Minions spin off movie but unless they do a Despicable Me 3, which to my knowledge they haven't talked about, it might peter out.

Anyway, I love the Minions, so good for them. Hope it is successful.

We also notice where they are building California's version of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Exciting to be sure, but it doesn't seem like the area they are using (close to the Simpsons area) is big enough to do it right...but we'll see.

They've also opened up a new Transformers 3-D ride which I hear is a lot of fun, but the wait is over an hour (even in Universal time) and I can't stomach that long a wait today. Next time.

After only three attractions today (also including the Backlot Tour and The Mummy) and lunch, we are done. It's Saturday and the place is a zoo, and the heat has taken care of us. This is the hottest I can ever remember in September down here. It's crazy hot.

Oh, and the posted wait time for The Mummy was 20 minutes. After being in line (in the heat) for about 15, we hopped into the "single riders" line and rode separately....it still took us well over 20 minutes. I wonder if Universal figures it's guests can't tell time??

3:15 PM - We are in the car and headed down the freeway for our 45 minute drive to tonight's hotel. ROFLMAO. 45 minutes? Maybe if we had one of those futuristic cars we all saw in The Jetsons. In real life, on the L.A. freeway, it takes us an hour and a half.

I've never seen it so brown down here. It's not like I didn't know they were going through a drought, but I'm not sure it is getting quite enough attention back home. Miles and miles and miles of nothing remotely green.

4:45 PM - We arrive and check into tonight's 'transitional' hotel, the Comfort Inn, about 3 miles from Disneyland. We generally spend a night in one of these types of hotels if we are getting in quite late (so as to not pay the huge prices of the Grand Californian for nearly nothing), which was the original plan here, but after we changed the itinerary I didn't bother to change the hotel. It won't kill us to stay off-site for one night, and the hotel is very clean and perfectly comfortable for one evening.

5: 15 PM - We arrive at Downtown Disney to look around a bit before our dinner reservations at Catal. We brought the bottle of 1998 Merlot from Miner Family Vineyards that we purchased earlier in the week; Catal offers ZERO corkage fee if you bring your own wine. They have a fabulous wine list so I would not generally bring wine to a restaurant like this, but since we really need to drink quite a few bottles before trying to get back into Canada, this seems like a great time to start. We take the wine to Catal right away so it doesn't stay in the heat, and they put it into a red wine fridge for us with no problem.

It is so hot that we can't just go into a store to get cool; we have to go into a store and find the air conditioning and stand under it. It's really insane. After the crazy hot summer we had at home, I would have been fine with some milder temperatures.

7:00 PM - Dinner time and we decide to sit outside for our meal. It's still hot, but tolerable; I figure it's just about as hot as I could possibly stand while eating dinner. It doesn't really get any cooler during dinner, either. We have a great meal, and the wine was simply wonderful. After two courses and an appetizer, our bill (after my Annual Passholder discount and tip) was $75. It really pays to bring your own wine :-)

After dinner we look around a bit more, and try to see what else we want to do that we don't already have planned, and then walk back to the parking lot.

9:30 PM - Back to the room to have a look at our plans for the next few days. I admit it, I'm a planner; I like to have things planned and booked well in advance....but you gotta be flexible when circumstances dictate, and the heat is going to dictate we change our schedule. It's not getting any cooler. In fact, just the opposite...so we talk about switching to an "evening" schedule and staying out of the heat. It seems like a great idea until we check the park schedule and realize they aren't open late during the week in September, so there isn't much chance to make any significant changes. We are just going to have to accept the fact that we'll have to go into the parks more often and for shorter days. We can adjust.

Tomorrow we move to the Grand Californian Hotel & Spa, and have our first day in the parks! Fun!






Friday, 12 September 2014

The Amazing Vacation Blog (TM), Day Five


3:52 AM - Sweet Jesus.

It would be funny if it weren't so sad that I'm up at this time of the morning; and not after a good sleep either. Oh, the humanity.

5:50 AM- After a couple hours of laying awake counting ceiling tiles (not that I can see the ceiling, it's pitch black), I am contemplating getting up and going to the gym when I notice that I am finally getting tired. So much for that.

7:30 AM - Awake again, and the wife is still not stirring, so off to the gym I go. Thankfully this is mostly a travel day and I can usually sleep in the car. I'm going to need some sleep!!

I spend about as much time at the gym as I possible can given the lack of sleep I have enjoyed so far this trip, and then stagger back to my room. Thank goodness it's across the hall.

9:00 AM - We're up and hitting up the free breakfast before checking out, loading up the car and heading onto the highway. I should say, HIGHWAYS. Nine different highways, no exaggeration, to get back onto the I-5 to lead us to Universal City. The California highway system is truly mind-bending.

I manage only about one hour sleep in the car (SERIOUSLY?? I CAN'T EVEN SLEEP IN THE CAR???? I used to be able to sleep in the car WHILE I WAS DRIVING!!!)

4;10 PM - We pull into the Hilton (if I were crass, I'd make a joke about how most guys would talk about pulling OUT of a Hilton) in Universal City, literally a 5-minute walk from the theme park. After checking in, we head out to the Universal CityWalk to grab dinner and look around. After a decent meal at Tony Roma's, we're back to the hotel to relax and hit the pool and hot tub.

While we are down at the pool, we both get calls on our cell phones from our alarm company. Of course, we didn't take our phones to the pool. Apparently my Dad closed a window he was not supposed to close, set off the alarm, and couldn't figure out what else to do. The alarm company dispatched the police. Thankfully we had left a key with our neighbors who let the police in, and they, after talking to Dad, obviously realized that he was not a burglar and went on their merry way. I suspect we are going to get a bill for that false alarm. Aye, carumba.

The joys of leaving an elderly man in charge when going on vacation. Actually he's far from "in charge", he's below three of our cats on the list of who we trust, but I guess the police have a preference to talk to an actual human being instead of a feline in these circumstances.

8:30 PM - After all the excitement, I decided I needed a damn glass of wine, so we cracked open the Robert Mondavi Moscato that they comped us yesterday. It's absolutely fabulous; the only downside is that it's only a half-bottle and after the alarm fiasco I probably could have used quite a bit more :-)

9:00 PM - OK I am going to take many sleeping pills. Just enough to go to sleep, not enough to mix with the wine and kill me. I hope. If I'm wrong, I'll let Tracey write tomorrow's blog.

Tomorrow: Universal Studios!


Thursday, 11 September 2014

The Amazing Vacation blog (TM), Day Four!

9:00 AM - I'm finally awake enough to drag my ass out of bed and head down to breakfast. Oh man that was a lousy night and with a big day ahead of us, I'm a bit concerned that I might hit a wall today. Oh well, not much I can do about that but forge ahead.

11:30 AM - We arrive at our first destination for the day, Caymus Vineyards, for a semi-private tasting. We are one of four couples at the tasting, and although we are the only ones from another country, we are by far the closest ones to Napa. The other couples all came from the deep southeast of the US. None of them have even heard of Canada.

OK, I probably am slightly exaggerating there.

The wines are terrific, of course, but we leave without buying any because we can easily get these back home...and Lord knows we don't need any more wine to try to get through customs when this trip is over.

1:00 PM - We arrive at Joseph Phelps for our next experience; we are actually booked for 1:30 but they have no trouble getting us in early. They have taken great care to ensure we have a great guest experience in a temporary venue; their normal tasting area is undergoing a multi-million dollar renovation, due to open up sometime next spring. The temporary area is very comfortable and our guide takes us through a tasting of a lot of great wine. Just about everything we taste here is high-end and expensive, and we are fortunate to taste two vintages of their flagship wine, Insignia (2006 and 2010). They also feature a couple of terrific Pinot Noirs, and we end up picking up one of their not-so-expensive Pinots which I suspect we will consume on this trip, so we don't have to try to bribe the Customs office when we try to get back into Canada.

3:00 PM - We arrive at Duckhorn, again we are a little ahead of our appointment but no problem getting in early and we are seated at a nice table inside. Outdoor tastings are available everywhere but it's just too freaking hot today...it's over 100 degrees. This is another winery who's wine is readily available back home (notice a pattern??), although most of the specific wines we get to taste today are winery-specific and not available in most stores, but at least we get a flavor of their winemaking technique. As usual, all the wines are top quality.

On the way back from Duckhorn, we stop in at Opus One and pick up a bottle of their 2010 that we tasted yesterday. This has officially become the most expensive bottle of wine I have ever purchased (outside of a restaurant) and we will be putting this one into storage for a special occasion. We drive it back to the hotel, in fact, because we don't want to leave it in a hot car for even a couple hours.

5:30 PM - We arrive at Robert Mondavi for our "Twilight Tour and Tasting". Tracey is quite disappointed to discover that Robert Pattinson is NOT going to be here.

Another great tour and tasting experience, which ends with a lovely charcuterie plate and an open-bar style tasting of whatever we wanted to taste, including their 2010 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon which recently received a score of 99 points from Wine Spectator magazine. It was fabulous, as was everything else. We also tasted an interesting Merlot from 2007; the interesting part was that it was still really closed...for a 7 year old wine, the tannins were very sharp and it definitely needed to age more. Our guide suggested it could age for 30 more years! I tend to agree; and that's quite a lot for a Merlot. I was going to pick up a couple of bottles of this but it turned out they were sold out, so as an apology for not being able to buy them, they gave us a half-bottle of Moscato for free! Very nice gesture and a beautiful end to this part of our trip.

7:49 PM - Back in the room, done for the day and exhausted, in a good way. Tracey says "how do you spell over-indulge? N-A-P-A". I would concur.

Look, here's the thing: If you are poor, or cheap, don't come here. It's simple. I say that as honest advice, it's not my attempt to appear rich or superior (which I don't claim to be), but if you enjoy wine and want to have a fantastic time, and don't mind paying for the experience, get on a freaking plane right now. This is simply an amazing part of the world, and I can't wait to come back and spend a week or so exploring the 1.7 billion wineries we didn't get to yet. If you stand in the right place and fall forward, chances are a part of your body will be laying in 3-4 different wineries. They are everywhere. EVERYWHERE. It's insane, in the best possible way.

Packing up our stuff tonight, preparing for two "one-night stands" the next couple of nights, so trying to pack just the right amount of clothes and toiletries into one bag so we don't have to lug our luggage around for the next couple nights.

Next up: Universal City!

The Amazing Vacation Blog, Day III

Wednesday, September 10th

4:44 AM - Sweet Sassy Molassey. 4:44 AM. This is going to be a LONNNNNNNG day. I'm up an hour and a half before the freaking fitness centre opens for goodness sake!! What kind of a moron gets up at 4:44 AM on vacation?

After laying in bed doing nothing, so as to not wake the wife and incur the wrath of the "You-Woke-Me-Up-Too-Early-You-Idiot" monster, I get up to gather my workout clothes to go hit the gym that is conveniently located about 25 feet across the hall from our room.

6:04 AM - Despite the posted hours saying "6AM", I am unable to get into the fitness centre. As I head up to the front desk to see why, I pass a woman coming out of her room, heading towards the fitness centre....by the time I get the front desk guy to help me, this lady is already in the fitness centre. She tells me the exact same thing happened to her yesterday; she couldn't get in at 6, went to the front desk, and by the time they had gone back, another guest had got in. Apparently "6 AM" is just a guess on what time the door actually opens.

7:00 AM - Back to the room where I continue to avoid waking the beast...I am mostly successful, and am able to hop back into bed for a little while until it's time to get up.

8:00 AM - Up and down to the lobby for our free breakfast. It's very similar to what we had at La Quinta yesterday; decent food, decent selection....all pretty good for free (well, nothing's free, but included in our room rate anyway).

Back to the room where The Process gets underway before we begin our very busy day.

10:30 AM - We arrive at Opus One for our semi-private tour (5 people total) and tasting. Opus One only makes one wine, a Bordeaux blend, so our tasting is only going to be their current vintage, plus one library vintage. Opus One wine is expensive; $235/bottle here (current vintage), and we can get it back home for $400. During the tour, it becomes pretty easy to see why. The detail they go into is insane. For example, these barrels cost $1800 each, and are only used ONCE. That's right, ONCE.


And they are all different; purchased from many different European coopers. They are able to sell the used barrels for $250...so you can see they spend quite a pretty penny on just the barrels. I guess they have a right to charge $235/bottle.

The tour was amazing, the wine sublime (the second vintage was from 2007). It was a great experience and an incredible way to start our Napa experience.

12:30 PM - We have an hour or so until our next booking, so we go driving around to find a winery that will let us taste without an appointment...not as easy as you might think. We find one called Miner Family Vineyards. Great find! We get to taste everything they have available, 11 different wines, including their flagship Bordeaux blend called The Oracle (which sells for $90). It was nice, but it was probably unfair to taste it an hour after Opus One. Anyway, we walked out of there with a lovely Syrah and a Merlot from 1998! Yes, 1998! For only $55! What a steal! They actually had Merlot from 1997 too but the girl helping us said she had recently tasted them and the 98 was better so we choose that one.

2:00 PM - We arrive at Silver Oak for our Food & Wine Pairing lunch. We get four small plates of delicious food with four wines; two from Twomey Vineyards, their sister winery, and two Cabernet Sauvignons from Silver Oak (one from Alexander Valley, one from Napa). ALL the wines are amazing and they all improve with the food that was picked out specifically for that particular wine. What a difference proper pairings make!!

We leave with three well aged bottles, all at a pretty reasonable price, as well as a shirt and a leather wine 2-bottle carrying case. We are blowing our wine budget all to Hell already :-)

4:00 PM - Our next private tasting at Turnbull Cellars. This is not one I had heard of but was recommended to me, and they recently had a Cabernet Sauvignon get a perfect 100-pt score from renowned wine critic Robert Parker, so we figured we better check them out. Another fabulous experience, as our personal guide took us on a tour of the winery and we tasted five excellent wines, including the "best Cabernet Franc ever" according to Tracey. We didn't get to taste the 100-pt wine, but we bought one anyway, along with the Cab Franc. Getting these wines across the border may be a bit of a challenge :-)

That's it for wine tasting today (thank God), so we head back to the hotel and walk across the street to an Italian restaurant for a nice dinner...the first actual sit-down dinner of the entire trip to this point.

6:30 PM - Back in the room and I am asleep. I kid you not. I was asleep at 6:30 PM.

10:30 PM - Damn, that was too good to be true. Now I'm awake, and tired and grouchy. I stay this way until the wee small hours when I'm finally able to get back to sleep. Gotta get some rest, we have another huge day of wine tasting tomorrow!


Tuesday, 9 September 2014

The Amazing Vacation Blog (TM), Day 2

Tuesday, September 9th

6:30 AM - Vacation or not, this is the time I get up these days. Yes, I know, it's sad. Anyway, today I'm down to the car to move it and see if we have a big problem or not; turns out probably not, as there is very little water on the ground under the car. Anyway we still have to have it checked out, if we have a hole a hose or the radiator we have to have it checked out.

7:15 AM - TRACEY IS UP TOO!! Obviously you know there is a problem when the wife is up and it starts with a "7" !!

7:30 AM - After a very lovely breakfast (sausages, eggs, waffles, muffins, etc...much better than the usual free breakfast), we head down to the Honda dealership. They tell us that according to our symptoms, it's more than likely just the air conditioning dripping through as it is supposed to (and it has nothing to do with the large rock that hit us). Just to confirm they check all the fluids to make sure nothing is wrong, and everything looks fine so we probably dodged a bullet. Phew!

Well, we are ahead of schedule but there is no reason not the hit the highway and get down to Napa. I am in the driver's seat again, we'll see if I can possibly drive for three hours again today!

9:15 AM - Nope. Tracey takes over and I'm asleep in minutes.

After my lovely wife misses the turnoff (second time this trip, already!!!), I wake up..... if she was ever going to miss a turn, this was the one to miss though, as the next exit takes us ostensibly to the same place, so no harm done and no time lost. And, since we are way ahead of schedule anyway, I have no reason to bitch (but I will anyway, because that's what I do!). We get onto a cute little highway that I have dubbed "The Long and Winding Road". That title pretty much sums it up. Up, down, left, right, up and right, left and down, holy crap. I actually feel bad that I am not driving on this cool little road....and my wishes are soon granted as Tracey pulls over because she is actually feeling a bit woozy from all the crazy driving! I mock her a little bit ("gee, honey, if you are sick from driving this highway you are going to have fun on the Disney rides") as you would all expect me to do (so would SHE). As I drive the highway like I'm driving in the Indy 500 (seriously after putting our car into SPORT mode it drives so INCREDIBLY well) I am having a great deal of fun, but I have to retract the mocking as it starts to get to me a little bit too. That is some serious back and forth and up and down at high speed. Still, a very very fun drive.

We've been driving to California, off and on, for 10 years, and have always bitched about all the freaking construction. It is still there, but this time we have noticed it is FINALLY paying off!! Miles and miles of beautiful, paved highway...including long stretches of the I-5 and almost all of The Long and Winding Road. What an incredible difference it makes to the drive! Kudos to the California highway people. If any of you happen to know any of them, please give them my best ;-)

1:15 PM - We arrive at our hotel, Best Western Premier Ivy Napa Valley; beautiful!! Man did we ever luck out. We booked this quite a while ago, and the price almost doubled between that time and today for the same room. And we got luckier than that..... we had originally zeroed in on an absolutely gorgeous resort called Andaz Napa, which was pretty reasonably priced for a high end resort (I should call it "Napa Reasonable", which means we would have only had to sell one kidney each to afford it), but when we went to book it all the normal rooms were sold out, leaving only suites in the $500-600/night range. That was more than I was willing to spend ( I mean, c'mon, why not save a couple bucks and spend it on the WINE!!!), so we went elsewhere and found this place. Then the earthquake hit....and Andaz Napa is one of only TWO hotels in the Napa area that is still closed! Had we booked it when we first found it, we would have had to cancel and scramble for a new hotel just about 10 days ago, and we would have never found anything close to this good at the price we booked it for. We would have ended up at a Motel 6 or something probably. Man did we get lucky.

2:30 PM - We pick up some lunch/dinner at Panda Express, some water and pop at Target, and head back to the room. You know you're eating some haute nouveau cuisine when Panda Express is by FAR the classiest meal you've had during a trip......yesterday's meals consisted of Taco Bell and Dairy Queen so this was quite a step up. I believe that there are quite a few better meals ahead of us on this trip :-)  After lunch, off to the smallish, but very nice, pool and hot tub to unwind a bit.

4:30 PM - After I'm done with the pool, I ask the Front Desk where to go and get a nice bottle of wine, and they send me down to a specialty grocery store that reminds me a lot of Whole Foods. They have quite a nice selection of wine. I find a bottle of 2008 Wolf Blass Gold Label Shiraz for $20 (yes I know I'm in Napa freaking Valley and just bought a bottle of Australian wine, but at that price I can't resist), and I notice they have a clearance buggy marked "Earthquake Shake Sale". They don't have that much left in there, but they did have this little beauty:


A $100 bottle of Napa Cabernet Sauvignon, on sale for $60. It was on the ground after the earthquake but was not damaged, except for the fact that the broken bottles had leaked all over it. They cleaned it up and are selling it for 40% off.....sounds good to me! I haven't tried this wine before but this is one of the wineries that was recommended to me for this trip. I couldn't fit them into our schedule, so this is a pretty exciting way to try it at a very reasonable price. When I tried to open it, I noticed one little problem...I forgot to bring a freaking corkscrew!! LOL what an asshole. We remembered our aerator and our nice Cabernet Sauvignon glasses, but forgot the corkscrew!!! Thankfully we are in Napa and the front desk has one, so we take it over there and they are able to open it for us. It's lovely (the quake shook some up sediment, no doubt, but no harm done), and the longer it sits in the glass it improves greatly. I'll have a full review of it on my wine blog once I get that updated.

7:00 PM - In the room watching TV and uploading this blog while finishing off this great bottle of wine. This is a pretty damn good start to what is going to be an EPIC vacation! Tomorrow we visit Opus One, Silver Oak, and Turnbull Cellars....wow that's going to be a great day!

Time to finish off the chinese food too and chill out before bed. Tomorrow starts early as we will get breakfast here in the morning before starting at Opus One and 10:30 AM. Yes, 10:30 AM. Thankfully there is a long winery tour first so we won't actually be drinking wine until close to Noon; my experiences at tasting wine in the AM have not been entirely positive up to this point (looks like I need some personal growth in that area!).

Ciao until tomorrow!


The Amazing Vacation Blog (TM)

Hey don't bust my balls about the title of the blog. If Sony Pictures can re-boot the Spider-Man franchise after three movies, I can damn well reboot my vacation blog.

Monday, September 8th

And awayyyyyyyyyy we go.....

10:30 AM - We're in the car and on the way, a half hour AHEAD of schedule. Definitely a first. Big lineup at the Sumas border crossing but thanks to NEXUS, we are through in a breeze. I'm driving the first leg of the journey, just for kicks and giggles. As regular readers know, I'm not the driver in the family, but I thought I'd give Tracey the morning off.

1:30 PM - THREE HOURS!!! I deserve a medal. Tracey's turn.

2:30 PM - Tracey's driving while someone a couple cars ahead of us loses control (blown tire) and boots over to the shoulder, sending debris everywhere, including a large rock which bounces in front of the car, then under the car making quite a large noise. This will become relevant later.....

8:30 PM - We stop in Sutherlin for gas and a burger for dinner. After we come out of the restaurant, I notice a puddle under the car. Oh boy. We move the car and Tracey investigates.....it's definitely not oil, seems to actually be water. We just had our windows washed, hopefully it's just the remnants of the water that has dripped through. Hopefully.

9:30 PM - We pull off at Grand Forks for the night. We check into a very nice La Quinta and park right in front of the lobby to unload. When we move the car.....MORE WATER!! Oh boy, that's not leftovers from windows that were washed an hour ago. Not good. Anyway, there isn't much we can do about it at this point, might as well relax for the evening and try to get a good sleep. Hopefully we'll still have a drive-able car in the morning and we'll take it to the local Honda dealership to get it checked out. If this turns into a huge repair bill, it's going to put quite a dent in this vacation.

On an interesting note, tomorrow morning's breakfast at Denny's will be my 9th or 10th visit to the Denny's in Grand Forks, Oregon. I cannot explain that, as I've never stayed overnight here before as far as I can remember.

.....then I find out that it turns out we get breakfast with our room, so much for Denny's 10th visit!!!

Off to bed, hoping for good news tomorrow!!




Sunday, 17 August 2014

Boyhood

For those of you that do not regularly visit RottenTomatoes.com and think that movie critics' opinions don't matter because they are just opinions, you might want to stop reading; this column is probably not for you.

For the true cinemaphiles out there, yesterday I was treated to one of the great experiences of my lifetime. That is a statement that I don't make lightly.

As of right now, Richard Linklater's Boyhood is rated at 99% fresh on RT, with 181/183 critics giving it a positive score. The names of the two "critics" who panned this film, and I use that term very loosely with these chowderheads, are Rebecca Cusey and Matt Pais. I don't know who the Hell either of them is, but they should both be forced to give up their critic's designation and find another profession. I hear that we are really short on basket weavers.

It's not just the 99% score that is truly remarkable; it's the reviews themselves. A movie could get a very high score by being pleasant, mildly entertaining, and still quite forgettable. But let me share with you some of the short comments by some top critics about Boyhood:

Linklater's Boyhood is a must-see film for any lover of the movies. It's the type of film that was imagined when they invented film.

Boyhood is the summation of Richard Linklater's entire career...A moving and masterful evocation of what it means to be a family, and all the hurt and hope that comes with it.


This is more than a groundbreaker: It's a new American classic.


The closest thing to a lived life that fictional cinema has yet produced


Linklater has crafted what may be the most ingenious film of the century here and given it a tone like no other 


Richard Linklater's latest feels more like living a life than watching a movie. It's a one-of-a-kind experience.


Few filmmakers ever make a great movie. Fewer still ever make a movie that expands what movies can express. Richard Linklater does both with Boyhood.


There isn't anything else quite like "Boyhood" in the history of cinema, although that wouldn't matter one-fifth as much if it weren't a moving and memorable viewing experience in the end.


I have long maintained that Richard Linklater is the most gifted and audacious director of his generation. His new movie, Boyhood, which runs 2 hours and 44 minutes, is a stunning reconfirmation.


And finally, from probably the most well-known movie critic alive today, Richard Roeper:

One of the most remarkable moviegoing experiences I've ever had.

Now to be fair, not ALL of the positive reviews are as glowing as the ones I picked out above; there are some that are more middling; but I also didn't pick out ALL the fabulous reviews. Check them out for yourselves.

As for my personal review, I don't really think there is much I could add that hasn't been said above. The words "epic", "brilliant", "audacious", "groundbreaking", all listed in the above reviews, are a good start, but they are just words. You need to experience this for yourself.

Can you imagine everything that could have gone wrong here? How do you even contemplate to film a movie over 12 years, starting with a 7-year old boy, and his 10-year old sister (played beautifully by Linklater's daughter Loralei)? What if the boy grew up to be a disenfranchised idiot, who had no interest in finishing this project? Or if Loralei decided she just didn't want to be part of "dad's dumb little movie" anymore as she reached into her teens? Or what if one or both of them just couldn't ACT?

Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke, as the parents, both give the performances of their careers. But the star of this show is the unknown Ellar Coltrane, who quite literally grows up on screen before our eyes. It will be interesting to see if he decides he wants to continue acting; I suspect he can pick his own scripts if he does.

Hopefully by now you have all stopped reading this and gone to whatever site you choose to check out the movie times and are planning to go see this film right now. It might be tough to find, but you won't regret it. I'm hoping/expecting that the release of this masterpiece gets wider and wider; I saw it on a Saturday afternoon at 2 PM in a mostly packed house, and the word is that it's per-screen average gross has been excellent, which bodes well for further screens. We'll see.

If it doesn't get a wider release into a theatre near you right now, it will.....they will put it back into theatres the day after the Oscar Nominations are announced. This is as close to a lock for a nomination for Best Picture and Best Director as I have ever seen in a Summer film, not to mention 4-5 others I suspect.

It runs 2 hours and 44 minutes, but I felt like it was over in 10. I never wanted it to end, and I cannot wait to see it again. I may even see it again in a theatre.

Friends, see this movie.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

The OTHER Beatle

Last night, at the beautiful Hard Rock Casino Vancouver (which is actually in Coquitlam, but I digress....), I was fortunate enough to cross the last surviving Beatle, Ringo Starr, off my bucket list.

That sounds bad....no, Paul McCartney didn't die yesterday....but I saw him already, so Ringo was the last surviving Beatle to cross off my list, not LITERALLY the last surviving Beatle. OK I hope that's clear now.

The view from Row 3


Beatles fans know that Ringo only sang a handful of their classic tunes - and he had a few of his own - but how would he fill a two-hour long show? With his "all-star" band, of course.

The band consisted of Todd Rundgren, Steve Lukather, Richard Page, Gregg Rolie and Gregg Bissonnette. With the possible exception of Rundgren, you have never heard of them. But you know the bands they were in:

Lukather - Toto
Page - Mr. Mister
Rolie - Santana, the Storm, Abraxas Pool, Journey
Bissonnette - David Lee Roth band (post Van-Halen), Santana

A seriously talented line-up......and shortly after Ringo had opened the show with a few of his own tunes, he introduced the band who started to take turns at their own stuff. After Rundgren went first, Lukather brought us back to the early 80's with Toto's "Rosanna". It must be noted that Lukather was not Toto's vocalist, and he got some help from the others with the vocals.

About this time, I turned to my friend and informed him that when it was Mr. Mister's turn, if they performed "Kyrie" instead of "Broken Wings", I was going to charge the stage.

Shortly after Rosanna ended, it was turned over to Mr. Page (who WAS the lead vocalist on Mr. Mister), who, of course, broke out into "Kyrie". I had to be restrained.

Next up was Rolie....who bears a striking resemblance to "Rowdy" Roddy Piper. Just when you think you know the song, he changes the sheet music.

(There are about 5 people on the planet who will get that joke.....and if you are not one of them, trust me, those 5 people are laughing their f'n asses off right now).

Rolie engages the audience with some fine keyboard playing and some classic Santana with "Evil Ways". It's about this time that I start to realize this isn't going to be a "one-song" deal from these other artists... it's a greatest-hits-extravaganza. We get all the biggest stuff....yes, I get to hear "Broken Wings".... but also "Africa" and "Hold the Line" from Toto, "Black Magic Woman" from Santana, and Rundgren doing his iconic anthem, "Bang the Drum All Day". Quite an eclectic mix of music spanning several generations; when you think about it, the Beatles broke up in 1970 - 8 years before Toto's first album and a full fifteen years before Mr. Mister had a hit.

And of course, Ringo did all of his big Beatles stuff. Yellow Submarine, I Wanna Be Your Man, Act Naturally, and finished it off with With a Little Help From My Friends. As the show wound down, all the artists sang a chorus of "Give Peace a Chance" and that was it. Actually, I'm wrong when I say he did "all" his Beatles stuff; curiously absent was one of his biggest Beatles tunes, Octopus's Garden; but that's a small quibble in what was otherwise a terrific evening. Bravo to all involved, and I hope they come back someday in the near future.











Saturday, 14 June 2014

Once again, the KINGS of the NHL!

Last night, in front of a rabid, sold out crowd at the Staples Center (best arena to watch a game in, as far as I'm concerned), the Los Angeles Kings closed out a remarkable season by eliminating the New York Rangers and winning their second Stanley Cup in three years. As George Takei would say....ohhhhhh myyyyyyyyyy......

What a season. What a playoffs. The Kings showed a resilience that I am not sure I have ever seen before, sending the stats nerds running for their computers. To wit (copied from Eric Duhatschek):

the Kings were: a) only the fourth team in NHL history to win a playoff series after losing the first three games; b) the only team in NHL history to win three consecutive seven-game series; c) the first team in NHL history to win three consecutive playoff games after trailing by two goals; and d) the first team to hold a 2-0 series lead in the Stanley Cup final after not leading in either of the games.

The Kings' run in this year's playoffs wasn't impressive; it was impossible. You cannot come back from a 3-0 deficit against a team like the San Jose Sharks (remember they lost the first two games by a combined score of 13-5!!!!), recover from TWO three-game losing streaks (in seven game series? Think about it), eliminate the defending Champs, a terrific Blackhawks team, in a thrilling seven-game marathon, winning THREE of those games after trailing 2-0, AND still find the energy to outgun the Rangers in five tough games, finishing off the unprecedented feat in a most fitting way: winning the Stanley Cup in the longest game in franchise history. It just can't be done.

But it WAS done; it's the stuff of Hollywood, except that I don't think an audience would find it credible.

This was, no question, the second greatest hockey related moment I have experienced in front of a television set. Second? Well, nothing is likely to ever beat the Bruins crushing the dreams of the hated Canucks in 2011..... that is the stuff of lifetime dreams right there.... but this is close.

But Dean, I thought you were a Flames fan? True, and 1989 will always be special....but I wasn't there to watch it, having a late night shift at Safeway and hearing the result before getting to see it on VHS after midnight. Awesome, but not quite the same. The same can be said for Dallas beating Buffalo (the infamous Brett Hull toe-in-crease game), which I saw on a tiny TV in a casino as I was playing in a poker tournament. I was home when the Kings won just two years ago, and I was very proud of them, but they beat my beloved Devils so it was bittersweet. Same thing when the Devils beat Dallas in 2000.

That just leaves us with the Devils other two wins; both I was there to witness, and both were awesome, but neither finished off as amazing a playoff year as this one. I was in a bar in North Vancouver when the Devils swept Detroit in 1995 to win their first Cup, and although it was exciting to see, there was little drama; the Devils were SO much better than the overmatched Wings that the outcome was never in doubt. Not to mention that it followed a lockout-shortened season that took the wind out of everyone's sails a little bit. I guess third on my list would be 2003 when the Devils beat Anaheim in a thrilling seven game series in which the home team won every game. It was an amazing accomplishment and I felt a sense of pride, but during the "dead puck" era, the hockey itself wasn't that enthralling. The Devils scored just 216 goals that season, and Patrik Elias lead them with just 28 tallies. Three of the games that the Devils won in the Finals were 3-0 shutouts from Martin Brodeur. Not exactly the kind of excitement we got this year.

216 goals in an entire 82 game season from the Stanley Cup champs. It seems like the Kings scored that many goals in the playoffs this season. Ironically, that is still 18 MORE goals than the Kings scored during their offensively-challenged regular season, but the playoffs were a different beast entirely. Kudos to Dean Lombardi for acquiring Marian Gaborik at the trade deadline; what a difference he made to their offense.

For those of you who mock because I have five "favorite teams"; well, I really don't give a flying F**K what you think. And just to be clear, I have ONE "favorite team", and four others that I respect and cheer for to varying degrees. Nothing has (or ever will) change that, and the order rarely changes except in the case of extraordinary circumstances. I wasn't very happy with the Flames when they signed Todd Bertuzzi (having said that, Bertuzzi was a model citizen during his time there), and then there was the Sean Avery era in Dallas, which was so bad I couldn't even watch their games until they finally ran the idiot out of town. All of us, even great organizations, make mistakes; as fans, it should be our jobs to point them out while still supporting the team, not jumping on and off the bandwagon like the fans in a certain city that shall remain nameless but I suspect you all know what I'm talking about.

Kudos to the Los Angeles Kings on an amazing feat, an amazing season, and on handling yourself with grace and class while doing it. Congratulations to the entire organization, but particularly to Robyn Regehr, who was robbed of a Cup in 2004. So very proud to be a fan.