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Dinner in Tampa at Bern's

Dinner in Tampa at Bern's

Old Feb 5, 00, 9:34 am
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Location: Kirkland, WA
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Dinner in Tampa at Bern's

Early Mileage Run

The fateful day had finally arrived for the long-awaited trip to Tampa to eat at the fabled Bern’s Steak House. The day began with a call from an Internet store at 6:45 a.m. to confirm an order I had placed the night before. I confirmed the order and suggested they call people on the west coast a little later in the morning in the future. Then 10 minutes later my cell-phone pager went off because I had entered the wrong flight number into United flight paging and it was telling me that the flight to Dulles was leaving at 8 a.m. This was not good because we were on the 1 p.m. flight, so I went to the website and fixed the problem.

I picked Hunnybear up in Fife, Wash., where she was paying the piper on her current assignment, and drove us to the MasterPark. Their service was flawless as usual and we were dropped off at Island 2 so that we could try out the United/Alaska curbside luggage check-in and check in for our flights at the 1K room with our friends the angels. It was not to be, though, as the curbside valet had closed for some reason at 11:45 a.m. on a Friday. So we went to the 1K/Full Fare First Class line instead and checked in with Laney, who is one of the nicest agents there. She chatted with us about our mission on this trip, less in disbelief that we would be going to Tampa for miles as that we would be going to Tampa for dinner.

We hit the RCC to up- and download, then popped into the 1K room to bid angel Missy a fond farewell, it being her last day of work before retirement. It was indeed a sad occasion for her many admiring fans, as evidenced by piles of candy, doughnuts, and flowers scattered around her desk. She performed one more angelic service for us before retirement, calling the gate to see why they had neither boarded nor changed the flight status by 1 p.m., the scheduled departure. It turned out they were changing a seat cushion.

We finally boarded flight 218, the Airbus 320 to Dulles. Surprise! This plane had some kind of funky turquoise color scheme on all the seats. Boy was it ugly. It didn’t seem like United—maybe it was a recently purchased aircraft from another airline and they hadn’t had time to reupholster. I certainly hope they don’t plan to outfit the whole fleet like this. Other than the color, the seats were the normal A320 type with adjustable headrests and non-functioning power outlets. Coats were hung behind row 3, reducing the recline significantly. Audio on my seat was intermittent, a very frequent problem on all United planes. Not only that, the reading light went out halfway through the flight and went crazy, flashing wildly, when I tried to turn it back on. It did finally behave.

Of the two flight attendants serving first class, one was pleasant enough but the other was an aging schoolteacher type who didn’t crack a smile the whole trip. We did get a preflight drink service, unusual in a delay situation. I told the schoolteacher I appreciated the preflight drink. She walked away without acknowledging me. We took off 35 minutes late and the service began with mixed nuts and menus.

We had seats 3A and B again because row 2 was taken when we booked. Of the 12 FC passengers, five were 1K, so there was only one couple who didn’t get their meal order taken ahead of time, so we were asked next-to-last. The Jacques Pepin menu showed a prosciutto appetizer and a choice of pork, crabcake, or boneless chicken breast for entrée. Fortunately we both still got our choice. I had had good luck with pork, so I ordered the last one of those, and Hunnybear took the crabcake. The ham was tasty and smoky and came with an interesting artichoke preparation. Salad was garnished with croutons and baby mozzarella. Wine was Amberhill Chardonnay or the perennial Louis Martini Cabernet. There was another cabernet listed on the menu, but the schoolteacher rapped my knuckles when I asked about it.

Then the entrees arrived. Hunnybear’s crabcake was excellent, but the pork arrived so overcooked that I needed to saw the knife through it six or seven times to cut it. I told the nice flight attendant that I couldn’t eat it and asked if there was anything else. She went to check and then the schoolteacher came back and told me there was a chicken left. I asked for it if it wasn’t too much trouble. She went away, then returned with the chicken and told me it was only available because the man across the aisle didn’t order anything. OK. It was good, but she took my fork away with the pork and I had to ask the nice stewardess to get me another one.

The movie on this flight was Anywhere but Here with Susan Sarandon and Natalie Portman. It was watchable, with good acting, but I thought the plot wandered toward the end. Or maybe it was I who was wandering due to the effect of the gin I was drinking. Hunnybear liked it.

After dinner they came around with Ben & Jerry’s sundaes, Mrs. Fields cookies, and a little chocolate tartlet all at once, rather than save the cookies for just before landing like they’re supposed to. It all worked out, though, because it provided more time for them to sit down in their jumpseats and read magazines for the remainder of the flight instead of refilling my coffee and water. Heaven forbid they work five hours in a row to take care of 12 passengers. If I had to commute to Dulles, I would be really unhappy with United. This transcontinental nonstop should have superb service and enough FC seats to accommodate the people who want to upgrade. As it was, there were three 1Ks and 11 Premier Executives in coach and the crew on this flight really didn’t make an effort.

We landed about 40 minutes late and gate C21. Fortunately we had plenty of time to make our connection to Tampa at gate D1. I always feel comfortable on a 727, especially in seats 1A and B which we had. We arrived to late to hear the stewardess smash up the ice, but we got a nice preflight drink and she even closed the galley curtain, which I think shows respect for the passengers. A bunch of passengers from an oversold Ft. Myers flight came on at the last minute.

Unbelievably, there was no food at all, even in first class, on this two-hour flight! I suppose it was the lateness of the hour, but really, it’s prime dinnertime if you’re connecting from the west coast. I think any flight this long should have a meal in FC.

I tried using the $1.99/minute GTE Airphone to make a data call, but it didn’t work. My modem didn’t respond to the unusual dial tone and I couldn’t get it to dial, even after unchecking the “wait for dial tone” box in the modem settings.

We landed at a minute after midnight, four minutes late, in Tampa. We went to the Hertz counter (they didn’t seem to have Gold service here) and picked up our car. As the agent handed me the keys, I heard myself being paged! Believe it or not, this is the first time I have ever been paged in an airport. It was Catman, so I picked up the vaunted white courtesy phone and got his cell number, which I called to find that he, Punki, and Essxjay were all having drinks at the Hilton. I told him we’d check in at the Sheraton and then meet him.

We were assigned a Ford Contour and asked if we could get a Taurus instead. It wasn’t a problem but the Taurus didn’t have Neverlost, so we raced back downstairs and got the keys to our original red Contour. The passenger seatbelt was jammed. As usual the hotel list was out of date and I had to guess that the Sheraton Grand was now a Wyndham and the Westin Suites was now the Sheraton Suites. That turned out to get us to the right place. We checked in with Ray, a very nice agent, who gave us a room on the eighth (top) floor. There was no Platinum amenity box in the room, so I called down and asked about it. They had never heard of such a thing.

We drive two minutes to the Hilton and were delighted to see Catman with two beautiful women in the lobby bar. We laughed and sang for a couple hours and made plans to meet the next morning at 11 for Krispy Kreme.
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Old Feb 5, 00, 10:17 am
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Very enjoyable report. I graduated from college in Tampa and often had dinner at Bern's when family would visit - and was picking up the tab!

Addicted to airline miles? Check out: The Airline Mileage Workshop
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Old Feb 5, 00, 10:23 am
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Great report, QL.

I am sooooooo jealous I couldn't make it to TPA for the dinner. Enjoy!!!!
shadow is offline  
Old Feb 5, 00, 1:26 pm
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There used to Hertz Gold service at TPA, but it was only in the (Blue?) baggage claim area on the other side of the terminal. If you come in on United, and are claiming baggage, you have to go back upstairs, then down a different set of escalators.
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Old Feb 5, 00, 9:40 pm
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those hotels have been changed (name wise) for at least a year... TPA was one of the few highlights of my 1 1/2 years in Tampa...

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Old Feb 6, 00, 10:27 am
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The Haunted Mansion

We made it out of bed in time to make it over to the Hilton around 11, then chatted in the lobby for awhile while various of us noticed that it was darned chilly outside and changed clothes accordingly. Joining us was Punki’s lovely sister Georgia. Our first stop was the fabled Krispy Kreme, so we set the Neverlost for the address Punki had procured earlier on W. Kennedy. “Lucy,” the voice of Neverlost, gets particularly excited when you enter a street address, reciting numerals in machine-gun rapid-fire as you attempt to navigate the gnarly user interface. Nevertheless, we got there minutes ahead of Punki and Georgia, who took a different route and ran into Gasparilla traffic.

Today happened to be the date of the biggest annual event in Tampa, the Gasparilla parade. It is named after the pirate José Gaspar who landed in Tampa Bay with his booty back in the good old days. Naturally, this event is commemorated with a huge parade and Mardi Gras necklaces thrown from floats to exuberant spectators. We didn’t have a desire to fight the traffic and see the parade, probably because we didn’t want to feel like we had “seen it all” and there would be nothing left to live for. Now we can always come back another day for this auspicious event.

Krispy Kreme did not have the Hot Doughnuts Now light on and the sixteen-year-old girl behind the counter guessed that it would be another hour before it was on, so we decided to just get coffee and come back after brunch. Essxjay asked the girl for advice on places to go for brunch. She told us to just drive down Dale Mabry and all the places are there: Village Inn, IHOP—any place you want. Punki found an adult woman wearing a nice sweater with a boy in tow dressed like a pirate. She gave us an alternative, a place nearby called the Brunchery. We set the Neverlost for the Brunchery.

We had no problems getting a table for six because everybody else in Tampa was off watching the pirate parade. The food at this place was quite good. Hunnybear and I each had the Southwestern Omelet special. Catman picked up the check when no one was looking and Punki told him he was bad. We ate fairly quickly and then left Punki and Georgia to go pick up geo1004 at the airport.

Rather than pay for airport parking, I drove the rental car to the Hertz return and told them I wanted to trade it in because of the jammed seatbelt. So we went up to the US Airways lounge, met geo1004, and returned to a different red Ford Contour with Neverlost to head once more to Krispy Kreme.

Alas, the hot light was still not on, but we ordered a dozen originals anyway ($4.49) plus one creme-filled for me to try. I set up geo1004 with the digital camera to capture my first bite. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for a guy like me who’s a couple of pound overweight, so I ate a whole original and almost all of the creme-filled. We demolished all but of couple of the dozen between us then prepared for a sugar crash as we headed off to explore nearby Clearwater.

To get to Clearwater, we took a beautiful 17-mile causeway surrounded by turquoise water full of diving pelicans. They put on quite a show as we approached the town. I wanted to take a look at the headquarters building of the Church of Scientology, located in downtown Clearwater. The religion, founded by science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, is famous for recruiting celebrities such as Tom Cruise and John Travolta, and also for mounting vicious campaigns of harassment and unending litigation against its enemies. I knew the Flag building would be easy to spot because I had read on the Internet that the sidewalks were all torn up, ostensibly to renovate them but more likely to deter the frequent protesters from carrying their picket signs on the public sidewalks in front of their building.

Downtown Clearwater is not a big place and we found the HQ building only one block off the main drag. Next door was the brick warehouse-like building that had just been purchased by an anti-Scientology group to headquarter their protest campaign. I explained to geo1004 and Essxjay about the Sea Org, the elite corps of Scientology, who wear blue naval uniforms. Geo1004 said he had just seen a woman dressed like that, but a circuit around the block failed to sight her or one of her cohorts again. With that, we continued down the road to Clearwater Beach.

Clearwater Beach was a beautiful white-sand shore on the Gulf of Mexico. It was much like any beach community with hotels and swimwear shops running up and down the beach road. We braved the chilly wind long enough to say we walked on the beach, then strolled along the beach road. Essxjay and geo1004 popped into a cigar store, and when we joined them we realized just how inexpensive cigars are in Florida. They were selling a plastic-wrapped brick of 25 Dominican Cohibas for $55. In Seattle it would cost four or five times that amount. Must be taxes.

The drive back to Tampa was marked by a stimulating philosophical discussion between Essxjay and myself on the merits of Objectivism while the other passengers either slept or were put to sleep. We dropped the others off at the Hilton, then Hunnybear and I went back to the Sheraton to work out. The gym at the Sheraton Suites Tampa Airport had a couple of very nice step machines, a Lifecycle, and a treadmill along with a universal gym. The equipment looked through a window onto the pool, and during our intense workout we were rewarded by the arrival of a pair of bathing beauties. They looked like they’d be even more beautiful in eight or 10 years when they would graduate from high school. The two girls entertained us by diving for necklaces, which was a far sight better than the constant politics on TV.

It was now time to head for the fabled Bern’s restaurant, the putative point of this trip, so we met dgolds in the lobby. We were about to leave when we got a desperate call from Catman. Apparently the nine of us who were staying at the Hilton could not get a taxi because of the Gasparillo festival. Could we come over and squeeze about half of them into our car? Well sure, we’ll try. But dgolds had talked to the dispatcher of the courtesy van at the Sheraton, who offered to drive over to the Hilton, pick up our friends, and take them to Bern’s! It’s nice to stay at a full-service hotel. We were just about to implement our plan when Catman said the taxis had just arrived, so we called it all off and just drove to Bern’s as originally planned.

Neverlost took us on a weaving course of one-way streets to get to Bern’s. We parked the car in the wrong lot, because Bern’s has a wine store two blocks north of the restaurant, so rather than get back out in the traffic we walked the two blocks. Georgia told us Bern’s reminded her of the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland. It reminded me more of Caesar’s Magical Empire in Vegas, but PremEx said it best: Bern’s is furnished in early Bordello. We renewed old acquaintances with him, auh20, and kokonutz , and met Scott the Flyer for the first time. The seating arrangement was as follows:

Catman dgolds Punki kokonutz Georgia auh20
Essxjay PremEx Hunnybear QuietLion geo1004 Scott the Flyer

It was an incredibly long, leisurely dinner that seemed to fly by in much less time than was actually consumed. Everybody gets onion soup (or vichyssoise) and salad with dinner. I also ordered one of the 26 caviars Bern’s has on the menu, the “Chattanooga Beluga.” It was much less expensive than regular Beluga and the eggs were smaller, but the taste was similar. We passed it around while we waited for the steak. I recruited forces to share a 30-ounce Chateaubriand with Hunnybear, kokonutz, and auh20. It was unbelievably good, among the best steak I have ever had. They do everything themselves at Bern’s: aging the beef, growing the herbs—they grow their own vegetables, make their own charcoal, machine their own kitchen equipment—I am not kidding. This place is vertical integration at its most ridiculous.

As for wine, auh20 ordered a 1989 St.-Julien. (His original choice had been a Dunn from Californnia, which the sommelier almost cried over when he brought out because it was too young to die in this fashion. So he recommended the St.-Julien.) Essxjay ordered a fabulous wine I’d never heard of called Topolos, an alicante bouschet 1995, Sonoma County. It tasted like chocolate. PremEx ordered a beautiful Estancia meritage. At geo1004’s recommendation, we ordered a 1993 Ridge Geyserville Zinfandel which was wonderful.

They had us settle up the dinner bill before taking us upstairs for dessert. The downstairs bill came to $75 each including a generous 21% tip (they always tack on 12% automatically and make a point of telling you the waiters make no salary). We split in on eight credit cards, all but one a mileage-earning card. I won’t reveal who lost the mileage opportunity for fear of embarrassing her.

Nick, our waiter, took us on an extensive tour of the kitchen and wine cellar (half a million bottles) before taking us upstairs to our private dessert room. There are a seemingly infinite number of oval rooms of different sizes, each with an airline-like control panel (how appropriate!) giving choice of music and a call button for the waiter. Essxjay and Scott the Flyer had Cherries Jubilee and PremEx and dgolds shared a Bananas Foster, both prepared tableside. Hunnybear and I had a chocolate layer cake with a scoop each of vanilla and peppermint ice cream. The list of dessert wines went on for pages and pages. I recommended a Madeira for Essxjay and got a glass for myself too. The coffee was Folger’s crystals. Auh20 picked up the dessert bill and there was nothing anyone could do to dissuade him, except possibly for “here, let me chip in,” which wasn’t tried.

Five and one-half hours after we arrived, we completed this wonderful meal. Earlier, I had offered a toast to the memory of my father, who died of smoking-related cancer almost 20 years ago. Today would have been his 72nd birthday, and I realized he would have been the same age as the King of Thailand, celebrating his doubly auspicious sixth cycle. So we toasted the old man, making the dinner even more special for me. This was truly an evening to remember.
QuietLion is offline  
Old Feb 6, 00, 10:41 am
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Excellent trip report QL, and as stated we all had a great time and actually very reasonable considering what we had. Made some new friends and reacquainted with some old ones. All in all to everyone who wasn't able to make it please do next time as everyone I've met on FT has been a class act and a true friend. Well on to NY for dinner with Catman, Boomer, Blondebomber, Richg and anyone else who can make it to the Ruths Chris on Monday night at 7:30ish.

Cheers Scott
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Old Feb 6, 00, 11:53 am
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Here's my "real time" addendum from Laptop Lane in ORD.

Due to circumstances dealing with an ever-changing itinerary, I was forced to fly DCA-ORD-TPA. Now normally, this would be fine 'cause it means an extra bunch of miles. But I was really not in the mood, so just suffered my fate quietly. The a-320 DCA-ORD had about 15 people on it, and only 3 or 4 in 1st class. The 757 ORD-TPA was standing room only. The ORD-TPA segment was the first time I heard someone really pitch a fit about the order of meal ordering on UA. It turned out that there were 2 1Ks and we happened to be sitting next to eachother in row 4. We were asked first and then the FA skipped around asking in order. The lady across the aisle from me was asked toward the end and was given no choice and pitched a fit: "For 10 minutes I have watched you skip around the cabin taking orders and you only come to me after there is no choice left?" The FAs explained that they ask based on who flew with them the most, but she was having none of it. While I was sypathetic, there was no way in heck I was going to give her MY chicken!!!

Anyway, after checking in (no room upgrades thanks to my FT friends who had already filled the executive floor), I joined the crew in the lobby and dealt with the cab situation. In the end, I rode with Punki's sister .

The meat (thanks for the idea, QL!) was great, but not as good as the company. We laughed and "dined" for hours. My Sandeman '63 port certainly hit the spot (thanks, AuH2O)!

Being still somewhat sober at this point (1:30 AM, as I recall), AuH2o and I planned on going out to rectify that situation. Catman could not be convinced to join us, sadly. But alas, we could not find a bar that serves beer, so had our driver richard take us back to the Hilton, where Prmex, Scott, Catty, sxj and george were holding court in the lobby lounge (you see, its not that catman didn't want to drink, its that he didn't want to drink with US) I watched as Goldwater tried in vain to rally the troops over a beer then finally hit the sack around I would guess 3 or so.

Punki and I figured out that we were on the same TPA-ORD in the morning, so I caught a ride with her to TPA and we arrange to sit in 1 A&B on the 727. Punki and I were gabbing during the safety check, and were shushed by a fa who said we were making it hard for the lady reading on the PA to concentrate. We had a lot of fun making fun of that!!!!

But we had GREAT service from another FA, Lena, who when I mentioned that it was a special day for Punki, gave her a bottle of cab. We chatted her up (I would call it "pumped her for information") then rewarded her service with a cervice certificate.

Oh, and by the way, Premex, it may say 1K million on the manifest for you, but I got a card from the pilot on this flight thanking me for my loyalty, so HA!

I wanted to catch an 11:30 out of ORD-DCA, and could have made it if I had sprinted, but alas, the 11:30 was cancelled and now I have to wait for the 12:30. At least I will get to sit up front...

Thanks for a great evening, everyone...


Just wanted to mention that I sat next to Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID) on that 12:30 ORD-DCA in seats 2C&D on a 737 (relates to a recent thread about pols in 1st class). Also was served a mixed grill lunch on this flight (my ORD-IAD flights NEVER have food). The Senator had ordered a special seafood meal, but when the FA opened it, it contained a steak (!). The Senator took it in stride (and even seemed pleased at the screw up). Later I was in the gally chatting with the FA and she was mad at catering...she showed me the tin the food came in and it clearly said "seafood meal" in red pen on the lid...

No note from the pilot on this segment

[This message has been edited by kokonutz (edited 02-07-2000).]
kokonutz is online now  
Old Feb 6, 00, 6:06 pm
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Join Date: May 1998
Posts: 10,247
Ok, It's my turn to give just some impressions on things:

*The whole Tampa experience was wonderful. Bern's was even better surrounded by eleven wonderful friends the second time around. (Yes, MileCrazy I did have a great time with you too in December. I'm glad we did this so I can have an excuse to go to Bern's again.)


*A wonderful evening wtih the beautiful and entertaining essxjay at this great Cuban Diner called La Taveresta (SP? -- help Samantha!) Great Cuban food and even better company.

*A Flyertalk classic comic moment #1: Essxjay and I go back to the Hilton expecting to see Punki, who had just left to go to the restaurant. So the taxi driver calls the dispatcher and we eventually get Punki back.

*One thing about F-T get togethers: they can go on for hours and nobody watches the time. Hense: we shut downt eh HIlton Bar Friday Night/saturday morning at 2:45pm.

*One fo the most special highlights is meeting Hunnybear, one of the most charming and beautiful women I have ever met. You are such a lucky cat Mr. Lion (who I'm always glad to see and talk to!)

*The look of Quiet Lion eating a Krispy Kreame donut for the first time: priceless.

*I now kick myself for not stocking up on cigars at the store with the low prices and low tax that essxjay and geo1004 found.

*Forgetting the pirate festival, we had to scramble to get two cabs for 7 people. Luckily I had a cell phone to call Quiet Lion who arranged a van from the Sheraton to get us all. Luckily PremEx got the Hiltno to call two cabs. Then call Lion back to cancel the van. (F-T Comic moment #2)

*Going back, another F-T Comic moment (#3
Geo1004, PremEx, Essxjay and I all packed in the back seat of a cab. Luckily we are all in shape and thin taht we could do it.

Now my explaination for my buddies KOKONUTZ and GOLD: I hit the wall in the desert room which was clastrophobic. I was tired and had planned to go to sleep. (I could not do another all nighter: I have to produce Monday morning!)

But back at the Hilton my BIG BRUDDAR PremEx says "anyone want a cee-gar?" He is very convincing guys, and it was nice to be invited to join him, essxjay, Scott the Flyer and Geo1004 for a cigar and a Black Russian.

I would have loved to party with you all night but I did not have enough sleep Friday-saturday. Plus I had to make sure geo1004 and I got to the airport on time. Sorry!

I will make it up to you both:

*Gold in NAWLINS: I'll rest up and we can party all night.
*KOKONUTZ in NYC: We can start in the afternoon and then do round two after I go see the Lion King with AnnaS.

Catman is offline  
Old Feb 7, 00, 8:39 am
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Awww, catman, I was just joshin' with ya. You know I love you .
kokonutz is online now  
Old Feb 7, 00, 9:42 am
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After a get-together like that, the plane ride home is bound to be an anticlimax:

Quick return

The day started with our bill slipped under the door. The bill contained two surprises: first, the rate was $10 higher than we had booked, and second, there were no phone charges at all. I decided to give the hotel management a break and only mentioned the first problem when I called down. They said they would adjust it. When we checked out the clerk was unsure how to make the adjustment, but the supervisor came over and took care of it. Soon we were in the car in search of breakfast.

Neverlost has a great feature called “nearest.” It’s best used for gas stations but can also, with a modicum of wisdom, be used for restaurants. We booted up Lucy in the parking lot of the Sheraton and scrolled through the list of hotel restaurants until we came to “Shelly Deli.” We thought that sounded fine, so we headed for it only to discover that it was the name of the food mart in a Chevron station. We quickly reprimanded Lucy, who took it like a champ, and selected Ruby Tuesday as an alternative destination. We went there, next door to a Barnes and Noble, where people used to buy books before Amazon.com, and ordered a couple of decent blue-cheese burgers, medium.

We returned the Ford to Hertz. The quick-return agent had never heard of using a coupon, so we had to go into the office and talked to the same agent who helped us exchange our car the day before. She went hog-wild and deducted everything imaginable, including one day’s Neverlost because I had told her the GPS was a bit off. We ended up saving almost $20 over the quoted rate.

We checked in after a short wait at the First Class/Premier line. There is no Red Carpet Club in Tampa, so we headed directly for gate D48 just as my United Flight Paging came over my cell phone to tell me the flight was leaving on time from gate 48 (no D). There are still a few bugs in the system. The flight was boarding as we arrived, so we took seats 1A and B on flight 1450 to Washington/Dulles, a Boeing 727 and got a couple cups of water before takeoff. In-flight service began with drinks and Party Mix. The snack was a choice of Tuscan Wrap with “prociutto ham” and grilled-chicken Caesar salad. We both passed, hanging the blame on Ruby Tuesday’s. Out of eight FC seats, there were four Premier Executives, one 1K (me), on 1K million miler, one Lufthansa Gold, and one regular mileage plus member. The crew once again failed to close the curtain between classes, resulting in traffic through the FC cabin to use the forward lavatory.

We landed on time at IAD, where there was still plenty of snow on the ground. The crew failed to mete out the hung-up coats before landing, which was symmetrical with their failure to offer to hang them up before take-off. We had about a half-hour to spend in the Red Carpet Club, so we picked the one at C17, next door to our flight at C19. We found the only two free workstations in the crowded club, one right next to a hot blonde in a silver crushed velvet dress who turned out to be none other than…Essxjay! She had been struggling with her modem settings, a favorite pastime for all in RCCs, and I was fortunate to be able to dispense a few words of advice to help her connect. The three of us connected for 20 minutes or so—to the Internet, not to each other—and soon we were off to our respective flights.

We boarded the 757 that was to be flight 219 to Seattle and had no sooner turned left than who should we see but our old friends, the redhead and the schoolteacher, the flight attendants from the SEA-IAD flight on Friday. Well, we now knew what to expect and determined to have a fabulous flight in spite of it. We were looking forward to the hockey movie Mystery, Alaska, because Hunnybear is Canadian. I asked the redhead what was on the menu. She broke one out of the plastic bag and showed me, although she warned me that they hadn’t checked the actual food yet so it might not be accurate. It turned out to be OK, and it looked like a winner.

We had about a 40-minute wait on the ramp due to United scheduling a zillion flights all to leave within a half-hour of one another at 5:30. Finally we took off. We got the good mixed nuts and I ordered a Black Label and soda but got Black Label on the rocks.

Appetizer was a large serving of chilled smoked salmon that was one of the best appetizers I’ve had on United, even though it was served atop a mound of tasteless pickled cabbage. That was followed by an ordinary salad with choice of parmesan pepper or Asian sesame-ginger dressing. For the entrée, there were four choices: lamb chops, turkey piccata, salmon again, and ravioli. We both chose the lamb chops provençal. The portion was large and they were cooked medium, certainly edible if a bit more cooked than we usually order lamb, but my portion was quite fatty (Hunnybear’s was not). The seasoning was not particularly great, but overall it wasn’t bad, especially compared to the overdone slabs of rubber they’ve been serving me lately.

Mystery, Alaska was as clichéd a sports movie as you can get and it pulled all the right heartstrings because I was blubbering my eyes out by the end. I used to think the 757 was an inferior airplane to watch movies on because instead of a projection screen all they had was a video monitor. Now, compared with the LCD displays on the Airbus, I look forward to the quality on the 757!

Once again the stewardesses compressed the meal service, serving the cookies and the chocolates at the same time as the ice cream. I asked the schoolteacher if this was something new. She said no.

Audio was once again screwed up on this flight. My right channel kept clicking and distorting and Hunnybear could barely hear at all. Replacing headsets worsened my problem, cutting out the right channel completely. I just hope the mechanics take better care of the flying parts of the plane.

I had a chance to look at the manifest as I got up to refill my own water glass twice during the two hours after the dinner service in which the crew decided they didn’t have any more work to do. There were eight 1Ks (two of whom were million milers) and 10 Premier Executives in the 24-seat first-class cabin.

Just before landing, the redhead, whom we had a chance to chat with extensively as she sat around not working for the last two hours of the flight, came around with a superb hot-towel service. They were dripping wet and set to “surface of the sun” temperature. It was a nice end to a flight marred mostly by the indifferent service of two stewardesses who didn’t seem to want to be there, but also by the poor maintenance on the audio equipment.

Our bags came out near the front, MasterPark picked us up, and we took the secret freeway home.

The end.
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Old Feb 7, 00, 9:57 am
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Originally posted by QuietLion:

They had us settle up the dinner bill before taking us upstairs for dessert. The downstairs bill came to $75 each including a generous 21% tip (they always tack on 12% automatically and make a point of telling you the waiters make no salary). We split in on eight credit cards, all but one a mileage-earning card. I won’t reveal who lost the mileage opportunity for fear of embarrassing her.
It's common knowledge among FT'ers in the know that PremEx doesn't use a mileage earning card ... surely you weren't referring to him as a her
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Old Feb 7, 00, 11:12 am
Join Date: Sep 1999
Location: Kirkland, WA
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Thanks for the great trip report, QL, and for the idea to put this whirlwind trip together! Meeting everybody was just great - I always love putting faces to "handles". Looking forward to the Cat-Man-Do in NYC (or, as QL says jokingly, the Cat-astrophe) and seeing everyone again!
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Old Feb 7, 00, 11:18 am
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My turn:

A whirlwind visit to Tampa. I've now more than doubled the number of F/Ters I've met. And let me say, I'm pleased to have done so. The friendship and welcoming nature of this crowd is truly heart warming. New faces for me included dgolds, auH2O, Scott the Flyer, Punki (and her wonderful sister), PremEx, Honeybear, and Mr. "between the lines" himself - QuietLion. Moments after arrival at Gate 87 I spot the familiar faces of Catman and essxjay coming to meet me. A brief visit to the US Airways Club for some bitters, beers, and some planning for the rest of the day. Then off to meet Quiet Lion and Honeybear for a trip to the Krispy Kreme to capture Quiet Lion's first sample of KK's glazed. Sugar highs and sugar lows followed. On our trip out to Clearwater half of us were wide awake and others were half (or more) asleep.

Clearwater was a nice diversion from the snow and ice of DC. Essxjay ran into the surf, we browsed a cigar shop and snapped a few shots of the birthplace of L. Ron Hubbard's empire (thanks for the 'enlightenment' QL ). Then it was back to the Hilton for some and that full service hotel, the Sheraton, for QL & Honeybear.

Four days of the flu earlier in the week and a late night on Friday sent me directly to bed for a much needed nap. An hour and half later, I dressed, showered and tossed back a caffeine laden Mellow-Yellow and it was down to the lobby to meet the crowd to head to Bern's. As has been mentioned in earlier posts, the Gasparilla Festival was in full swing, and cabs were as hard to come by as international upgrades on US Airways (which is to say they do not exist). I rode with Punki, kokonutz, auh2o, and Punki's sister who kindly offered to drive. Along the way we saw a catfight (please ask kokonutz for details, and NO Catman was not involved). Bern's was everything it should have been for a group of steak loving maniacs like most of us. They are as serious about their steaks as we are about our miles... which is to say fanatic. Punki held off on the beef (but availed herself of a wonderful shrimp dish) and the rest of us ordered by cut of meat and by the ounce. What a way to go. I could rant and rave about the wine list but I won't. I could have browsed it for days but opted to go with a familiar wine (see QL's report above for details on all the choices of the table). The after dinner tour took us to the wine cellar where I was tempted to leave the group, wedge myself between two rows of Bordeaux and live out the remainder of my life in that little slice of heaven.

And a huge thank you to auh2o for picking up the dessert tab (I'll pay for that flashlight the next time we're in San Francisco auh2o... deal? ). After the dining experience was over (1 a.m.), kokonutz and auh2o made a well appreciated effort to push the evening into overdrive, but alas, I was unable to rally. Lacking sleep and trying to digest steak, wine and amoxocillin (see flu comment above) did not leave me with the energy reserves such an evening requires. Sorry guys . I'll rest up for the next gathering and join in ALL the fun. A quick drink with PremEx, Scott the Flyer, essxjay, and Catman back at the Hilton set me up nicely for slumber.

Checking the manifest for the Tampa Gathering revealed that of the 11 F/Ters in attendance, there were at least 7 United 1K's, 1 United PremEx, a Continental elite and one US Airways elite (me).

I had a great time in TPA (a special thanks to Catman for being the ambassador of FT ). And it was truly wonderful to meet more of the crowd that ply the skies. Cheers.

[This message has been edited by geo1004 (edited 02-07-2000).]

[This message has been edited by geo1004 (edited 02-07-2000).]
Old Feb 7, 00, 11:42 am
Join Date: May 1998
Location: Seattle
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geo1004 writes:

"The after dinner tour took us to the wine cellar where I was tempted to leave the group, wedge myself between two rows of Bordeaux and live out the remainder of my life in that little slice of heaven."

With this single idea, George, you have gone from being a delightful young man to becoming a true philosopher and genius in my book. May I join you after I have finished all my travels, FlyerTalk meetings and shopping tours?

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