Trip to Seattle

 
Display at Chihuly Glass Garden
Chihuly glass sculpture
Overview

This is a 2 night trip midweek trip where we drove to Seattle, WA in June 2017. We used Hyatt credit card rewards to cover two nights at the Olive Hyatt 8. Seattle has great eateries, art and coffee.

Using the Hyatt credit card to stay at the Hyatt at Olive 8
Seattle Hyatt Olive 8
View from the Olive Hyatt 8. Nice quiet room

We had a ‘free’ one night stay that comes with the annual $75 renewal fee. For the other night which cost 15,000 Hyatt points we had some points from a previous stay, and supplemented that by transferring in 9,000 Chase UR points. If I was paying cash we would not be staying at a Category 4 Hyatt, but the cost of 2 nights booked in November 2017 for June 2018 would be $367/night or $734. The Hyatt card is a great deal if you stay at least one night a year in a Hyatt. The Olive at 8 ends up being very quiet and the location is perfect for us. We can walk down to Pike place market and up to restaurants on Capitol Hill.

Getting to Seattle

For the DW and I we don’t mind the drive. Having lived in Seattle and dealt with the traffic we know to arrive mid-day (no later than 2:30 pm) and to leave after the morning rush (around 9:30 am). Leaving the Palouse and driving over to the “West side” is a pretty low stress drive. We could also have flown in and taken the “Link light rail” form the airport to our hotel and we may do that in the future, especially if we go in the winter to avoid any chance of snow in the Pass.

View of Rainier form Eastern WA
View of Mt. Rainier on the drive west. Not much traffic till you get near Seattle
The Pine Box and Fogon Cocina Mexicana
Pine box tavern
Entrance to The Pine Box tavern

I met up with a friend at the Pine Box pub where they had a nice selection of beers on tap. Its a pub set inside what was previously a mortuary. It has high ceilings and nice wooden benches. Perfect setting for an IPA. Then we walked up Pine street to the Mexican restaurant Fogon Cocina Mexicana. The food was great and the service and margaritas were also great.

Chihuly Garden and Glass
Display at Chihuly Glass Garden
If you like color, this is the place to be
 
Whaaaaat

The next morning DW and I take the monorail to Chihuly Garden and Glass. The entrance fee is $24 a person but we both felt it was worth it. The glass is lit up and it’s a major spectacle. Outside in the garden there are glass sculptures with interesting plants.

Lunch at Din Tai Fung

We take the monorail back to Westlake Center and walk two blocks to Pacific Place. Even midweek for lunch we had to wait, but if you get your name on the list there are some stores to browse. The food is awesome. I don’t think you can go wrong but we enjoyed the shrimp and pork dumplings.

Tiki night at Rumba

If you like Rum then Rumba has a nice happy hour 5-6pm every day and also has Tiki night on Wednesdays. They have some pretty inventive drinks and the happy hour tacos are good.

Tiki night at Rumba
High quality libations on the Tiki menu
Starbucks Roastery and Tasting Room
Starbucks Roastery and Tasting Room

On the walk back to the hotel we stop at Starbucks Roastery. It’s a bit of a surreal experience. No expense was spared in creating this coffee shop/roastery and it makes me think of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. From their website: “The Starbucks Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room. You’ll find it at 1124 Pike Street, in Seattle, Washington. It is a place where you can experience coffee from the unroasted bean to your cup of coffee. You can watch it being roasted. You’ll see the burlap sacks it comes in. You can watch it being loaded into the green coffee loading pit. You can buy it scooped at the coffee scoop bar. You can experience your coffee as a pour over, Siphon brewed, Clover-brewed, a shot of espresso, espresso beverages, and more.” We have dessert and coffee and then head back to the hotel.

Starbucks Roastery
Willy Wonka would be proud
Breakfast at Pike Place market

Thursday morning we walk down to Lowell’s restaurant. It has great views of Elliot Bay and yes it is touristy. We waited for a table on the second floor and then we saw that they were seating two couples at one table, we instead ordered ourselves from the counter for open seating on the third floor. No problem midweek.

Seattle breakfast
View from third floor at Lowell’s. Breakfast as the ferry comes in.
Back to the Palouse
Palouse barn
Seattle is fun, but it’s good to be back home in the Palouse

With some relief at navigating the traffic, we get across the I-90 bridge and head out of Seattle. As we get over Snoqualmie Pass the traffic reduces. Finally we are back in the Palouse and a more relaxed pace.

Summary

It’s fun to spend a day or two in Seattle and visit old friends and go to nice eateries. Next time I’ll try and also book a show. The Hyatt credit card is great for this type of city outing.

Trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico

Granite sculpture of cutthroat trout in downtown Santa Fe
Overview

This is a 5 night trip trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico. We used credit card points to cover ½ the flights (Spokane to Albuquerque), the rental car, and the Inn. Santa Fe has great hiking trails, eateries, art, and beer. It also has interesting Pueblo ruins nearby. We went in late August arriving on a Sunday and leaving on a Friday morning to avoid the weekend, and did not find it crowded. The temperatures were just right, highs around 80F.

Planning the flights

We used Alaska points to fly there, and our Chase Sapphire Reserve (CSR) $300 travel credit to pay for most of the return flight. We booked about 10 months in advance and unfortunately our convenient flight from Spokane to Albuquerque was changed for the worse. I called Alaska as soon as the flights were changed and asked for a better flight. The rep offered to refund my points. But I politely said that since I had booked so far in advance I did not want a refund, as there was now no availability to rebook using points. I requested a change to a specific flight which left at 6am. We were given that flight which now meant leaving the homestead at 3:30 am… This happens a lot to us when booking with points or cash far in advance. The flights are changed closer to the departure date, and it is usually less convenient. I suggest contacting the airline as soon as a flight is changed for the worse. But find a desired flight before you call, so you can ask for a change to the specific flight you want. For the return flight we found a convenient flight on Delta. Again the flight was changed to a longer layover (1h45min) in Salt Lake City after we booked it. I looked online and it was still the best flight so I did not request a change.

Booking the rental car with Chase UR points

For the car I like to use Chase UR points via the CSR card to take advantage of the primary insurance that comes with it. We don’t carry collision on our own older vehicles, so the primary insurance through the CSR card is important. I looked at the ratings of the car rental companies at the Albuquerque airport using Google maps and booked with Enterprise which had a high rating. Total cost to rent a compact from Enterprise for 5 days from the Albuquerque airport: 15,866 UR points taking advantage of the 1.5X value of points for travel using the CSR card.

Booking a place to stay using Chase UR points

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Trip to Waimanalo, Oahu

Trip to Waimanalo, HI
Waimanalo Beach
Overview

This is a one week trip where we stayed at a vacation rental in Waimanalo, Oahu. We used credit card points to cover the flights (Spokane to Honolulu) and the rental car. Waimanalo beach is spectacular with light colored sand and azure/coral blue water. Overall Oahu was a pleasant surprise, as for some reason I had expected the most populous island to be less beautiful than Kauai where we had visited previously. Instead I found the landscape stunning, and we were treated very well by the locals.

Planning the flights

We wanted to use points which required booking well in advance, almost a year. But I’ve found it’s often difficult to find convenient Round trip flights using points. But if you only look one way you can often find convenient flights using one program to get there, and a different one to return. We found convenient flights to Honolulu using 20,000 Delta Skymiles points per person and convenient flights returning to Spokane using 15,000 Flying Blue points per person. Once I had found the flights I moved Citi ‘Thank you’ points to my Flying Blue account which posted immediately and then purchased the flights. The Delta points came from an Amex gold card. In total we used 70,000 points for two people. To me there is no problem having flights there and back on different reservations/different airlines. But I like to book both passengers (DW and I) using the same program on same reservation so we can easily arrange seating together, and if the airline changes the reservation, both tickets are linked. The Flying Blue flights were actually on Delta, but we saved 5,000 points per person using Flying Blue points.

Planning where to stay

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Idaho loop

Map of road trip through central IdahoRoad trip overview

This is a road trip we did in Summer 2015 from the Palouse through central Idaho and a little bit of Montana. We camped three nights, stayed in a hotel one night, and stayed in a vacation rental the last two nights. It was a nice balance of roughing it and comfort. Idaho is an amazing state and we had a great trip with several hikes and enjoyed some fun eateries.

First stop: Boulder-Louie Lakes loop

We had a 7:30 am departure and got to the trailhead around noon. The drive itself was spectacular, particularly the drive from Grangeville down to Whitebird. It was a Tuesday and the first part of the loop from the trailhead to Boulder Lake had quite a few people. After we got to Boulder Lake the trail runs along the side of the lake before heading uphill and the traffic dropped off.

Boulder Lake Trail near McCall, Idaho
Boulder Lake

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