jcollie719: (Collie Wink)
I scheduled my car's repair for July 25.

The rum and coke gummies turned out well. I used Captain Morgan spiced rum. The spiced rum is a good match for the sweet cola flavor of the gummies. I just drained the excess rum and drank it, so I'm buzzed at the moment.

I can now use the TSA Pre-Check line when I fly. I used some of my frequent flyer miles to pay for the Pre-Check sign-up.
jcollie719: (License JCollie719)
"I drive a bucket/This ain't Rolls-Royce shit."

I brought my car to an auto body shop today to get an updated estimate for repairing the car's dents and hail damage. The estimate came out to around $6,500. The employee who did the estimate said the repairs would cost more than the car is worth. He recommended just leaving the car as is. I would like to have all the dents taken out since I'll likely be driving it for at least another 5-10 years and would like it to look nicer.

If I can't find a more flight-friendly case for my fursuit (one with a zipper closure instead of the action packer.) I may either drive to Furry Fiesta next year or arrange a ride with someone else. The trip would be about 50% longer than my 2011 trip to Oklacon.
jcollie719: (Jamie pawpet)
 My Washington, DC vacation started out a bit shaky but quickly got much better. Since my tax refund -- around which I budgeted my trip -- won't arrive until next month, I applied for a $1,500 loan through the Lending Tree website in the week before the trip. A local branch of One Main Financial completed the loan and said the money would be in my account on Thursday, the day I flew out to Washington. My mood was dampened a little Thursday morning when I got an e-mail from Lending Tree saying the loan wasn't approved. I greatly reduced my spending that day, then got an e-mail that night from One Main saying the loan actually was approved and the money was in my account!

THURSDAY
My first flight from Colorado Springs to Chicago was very peaceful because no kids were on it. I had a cup of orange juice and a stroopwafel on the flight, then got a tomato and mozzarella sandwich and a bottle of water during the layover in Chicago. There was a kid on the flight from Chicago to DC, but it didn't make a lot of noise.

The singles group went to Whitlow's restaurant in Arlington for dinner Thursday night. I had a barbecue bacon cheeseburger, chocolate cake for dessert and a rum-and-coke. Instead of separate checks for each person, the restaurant gave checks to each table of 5-6 people. I didn't have any cash on me at that point. The bill for the table was $120; the others at the table offered to reimburse me if I paid for the table with my credit card. I figured this would still leave me with enough money left on the card for the hotel and one or two nights of dining, along with cash in my wallet (This was a few hours before I learned my loan was approved.)

Taking the subway back to the hotel, I thought the train's announcer was beatboxing and calling himself "Willie Rest-In-Peace." Looking at the signs, I realized he was saying the train was headed toward the "Wiehle-Reston East" station and the "beatboxing" was just the announcer clumsily putting the microphone in its holder.

FRIDAY
The day started with a group tour of the Capitol building. There was nothing really going on since Congress wasn't meeting at the time. The group had lunch in one of the Dirksen Senate Building's cafes (I had chicken and fries.) A member of our group took us on a tour of the Senate's TV and radio studios.

The group went to Chadwick's bar before the dinner cruise. The cruise went up and down the Potomac river. I had the parmesan chicken for dinner. After the cruise, the group took an Uber ride to the Crystal City Sports Pub near the hotel. The pub was too crowded, so the group went down the street to Bar Louie instead. I had a couple of s'mores martinis.

SATURDAY
I wasn't able to sign up in time for the White House tour (The deadline had passed before I committed to go on this vacation.) I was told the group would meet at Arlington Cemetery for a bus tour at 1 PM. I took the subway and got there by about 12:50. I waited inside the visitors center and asked the group on Facebook when/where the group was supposed to meet. When I didn't get a response by 2:00, I headed back to the hotel.

That night, the group had a few drinks in the hotel bar, then headed down the street to Ted's Montana Grill for dinner. I had a "Red Rock" bison burger and some "Mountain Breeze" martinis (no relation to the Mountain Dew knockoff from Safeway.)

I got back to the hotel around 10 PM, then played some of the games on Steelwoulfe's Jackbox stream for a couple of hours.

SUNDAY
The group had a brunch buffet at the Crystal City Sports Pub. I got some andouille sausage with peppers and onions, some biscuits with chipped beef, and a mimosa. My ankles had blisters from all of the walking I'd done so far. I decided to just have two of the instant pasta cups I packed for lunch, then had dinner later in the hotel's restaurant. I couldn't stay up to listen to all of Doggy Radio because I needed to get some sleep before my flights.

MONDAY
United Airlines had given me two one-time passes to their "United Club" lounges for this trip. I had a two-hour wait at both DC and Chicago's airports, so I visited the lounges at both locations. I had a light snack at each location, along with coffee in Chicago. My flight from Chicago to Colorado Springs left about 40 minutes late. There was a loud kid a couple rows in front of me on this flight. I had eaten an edible before the flight, so I was thankfully relaxed and unaffected by the kid. The flight wasn't too far behind schedule, arriving 10-15 minutes late.

I thought I had lost weight during the vacation due to all the walking I did because the planes' seat belts fit comfortably on all of the flights. When I got home, I saw I had gained 11 pounds. I don't know if I have less body fat than before or United recently installed longer seat belts. I've had to request seat belt extensions on many of my past United flights, but none this time.

Another cruise reunion is scheduled for July in Denver. That will be much easier and cheaper for me.
jcollie719: (Craig Ferguson Ooooo)
I hope I'm able to find a substitute for my KRCC shifts during my upcoming vacation. The person listed as a part-time sub said he wasn't available that weekend. There are other part-time staff members, but I'm unsure which ones would be allowed to fill in for me.

I will soon be able to talk more on the air at KRCC. After the recent schedule change and partial switch to automation, Weekend Edition was the only program with breaks where I could talk. The station engineer said now that the automation system's kinks are mostly ironed out, he would insert 15- or 30-second breaks in the remaining programs so I could give a quick weather report, announce upcoming shows, etc.

Reading about the United passenger who was forcibly removed from a flight due to overbooking was disturbing. Four passengers were removed so four United employees could have their seats, according to news reports. When I began taking singles cruises in 2006, I signed up for Continental Airlines' frequent flyer program since they had the lowest-priced flights at the time. I was moved to the UnitedPlus program when Continental and United merged. I had flown American Airlines to last year's cruise in Grenada because United doesn't fly there. I had a better experience flying with American. Having a hub in Dallas is also a plus for Furry Fiesta. My flights to and from DC this month are on United (bought mostly with miles,) but I will likely use other airlines in the future until United improves.

I still haven't received my federal tax refund. My dad filed the return, so he said he would look into why it hasn't been deposited.
jcollie719: (JCollie Fursuit Head)
My boss at KRCC tried to contact me during my Toastmasters meeting earlier, looking for additional phone staff for the membership drive's final day.

I just saw an article about a proposed "Hyperloop" train which would serve various cities:
http://www.kktv.com/content/news/Colorado-proposal-among-finalists-for-Hyperloop-system-418587193.html

One of the planned routes would go from Cheyenne, WY to Houston, TX, with stops including Denver, Colorado Springs and Pueblo. I don't know if this route would stop in Dallas/Fort Worth, but there's another route linking DFW with Houston. This would be a nice system (if I'm still alive when it's completed) for traveling to Texas Furry Fiesta.

Just 20 days until my Washington, DC trip, and 124 days until Rocky Mountain Fur Con!
jcollie719: (Panda Kigurumi)
I'm looking at the conventions/vacations I want to do in 2017 and seeing which ones I should attend or skip. I likely could only afford Rocky Mountain Fur Con and one other choice. A third option may open up if any Colorado furs could give me a ride to and/or share a room at Furry Fiesta or BLFC. I have plenty of frequent flyer miles saved up to pay for the airfare to one of the destinations.

March: Furry Fiesta
-- I've attended this con four times since 2010. The past two years allowed me to see several furry musicians live. TFF allowed me to meet many of my online friends in person when I first attended. The availability of food trucks and some restaurants within walking distance is excellent.

April: Singles Cruise reunion in Washington, DC
--I haven't been to DC since 1984. The singles group is debating whether to stay in a hotel in DC or the Virginia suburbs near a subway line. One of my brothers lives in Alexandria.

June: Biggest Little Fur Con
--This would be my first time at BLFC. All the positive feedback I've heard about the con and the resort hotel have made it tempting for me. The resort has lots of activities available like bowling and go-carts.

August: Rocky Mountain Fur Con
--RMFC is the only definite con on my list for 2017. It's only an hour's drive away for me. If worst comes to worst financially, I could share a hotel room to save money. Sharing a room with a handler would be good since my fursuit should be finished by then.
jcollie719: (Turtle Farm)
I got home from my vacation in Grenada last night. I felt like I had either a cold or bad allergy when I woke up today, but taking a Zyrtec and drinking lots of water seems to be reducing it.

I just weighed myself and found I gained about 15 pounds during the cruise. I didn't eat a lot of junk food during the cruise since this was a small working ship instead of a large cruise ship with lots of food options. I was hoping I had lost weight since a red shirt which had been a little tight on me fit comfortably during the trip.

FRIDAY, JULY 1
A woman from Pueblo going on the same vacation said hello to me at the Colorado Springs airport. Our assigned seats were across the aisle from each other during all three flights. While waiting for the first flight, we saw another passenger with a small dog named Bashful, though it sure didn't seem bashful! I had a breakfast quesadilla during the first layover in Dallas. When the second plane landed in Miami, it had to wait on the tarmac about 30 minutes since a plane with mechanical problems was stuck at the gate our plane was supposed to use. Another gate was found, and my cruise friend and I took a cart to the connecting gate. We landed in Grenada on time, but my friend and I discovered our suitcases were still in Miami.

The cruise group stayed at the Flamboyant Hotel. The hotel itself is spread out with dozens of buildings, and getting from one place to another requires taking flights of steep steps outside. The group met for dinner and drinks at the hotel's Owl Sports Bar.

The rest of the trip... )

RANDOM THOUGHTS DURING MY VACATION

I forgot to pack my name necklace for the singles cruise. The cruise director made me a new one. He had to make one with my last name since he didn't have an O to spell John.

If I do a trip like this again, remember to pack laundry soap and a change of clothes in my carry-on.

The streets on many of the islands remind me of San Francisco. Any unemployed mechanics could move to this area and make a good living repairing brakes and transmissions.

Each of the ship's cabins has an en-suite bathroom about the size of a walk-in closet. I could never get hot water through the sink or shower. Also the floor in the rest of the cabin is tile. "People are going to be stepping out of the shower with wet feet on a boat that's rocking. Let's put down slick tile for them. Not just any tile, but dark blue tile that won't reflect any light in the cabin."

The island tours were okay, but being in the back of a truck with occasional breezes is not the same as being in an air-conditioned vehicle.

PSA: If an out-of-shape person asks how far away something is, either give an estimate or say you don't know. An out-of-shape person's idea of "not very far" is a much shorter distance than someone in shape.

I had a slightly bothersome ear infection before and during the trip. Also, my hemorrhoids began bugging me halfway through the trip.

When asking myself if I wanted to do this cruise again, I thought I would only do it if it were a private charter like this trip was. Also, I'd definitely work harder to lose much more weight before then.
jcollie719: (Ryan Headdesk)
I got the last two tax forms I needed in the mail yesterday.

I woke up to snow today. After a few days of warm weather and a warmer weekend in Texas, it's a bit of a downer. On top of that, it just had to snow on a day I need to be out and about. The warm weather will return for a bit next week.

While thinking about my upcoming vacations, I remembered I have plenty of frequent flyer miles saved up; I could save money on travel next year by using them.
jcollie719: (Turtle Farm)
I might as well resume this countdown: 106 days until my singles cruise! After finishing my laundry tonight, I'll see how many shirts, shorts, etc. I need to get before the cruise.

Taking a weekend off seems to have temporarily reset my sleep clock. Yesterday and today, I woke up around 8 AM.

I gained seven pounds over Furry Fiesta weekend. Unlike last year, I had more sodas and not enough water. Even though I comfortably fit into the airplanes' First Class seats, the tray tables were in the armrests instead of on the back of the seats; the trays couldn't lay flat due to my gut. I will work hard to get my weight back down before the cruise.
jcollie719: (Panda Kigurumi)
SUNDAY
I forgot to check out the food trucks on Friday and Saturday. I went to the SoCal Tacos truck and got a steak burrito. I put on my kigurumi after lunch and went to "Rhubarb and Cosmik Ruin Everything." I got a Double-Double and "animal style" fries from In-N-Out Burger for dinner. After closing ceremonies, I hung out in the hotel bar for a bit. I needed to wake up early on Monday, so I wasn't able to listen to The Rabbit Hole, Radiolawn or Doggy Radio.

MONDAY
I checked out of the hotel around 7 AM. I refilled my rental car's gas tank before returning the car to the airport. Even though my airline seats were in First Class, the flights only offered drinks and light snacks because each flight was under 2.5 hours. I grabbed breakfast at the Dallas airport, then lunch at the Houston airport. My flight landed in Colorado Springs around 4:30, and I made it home around 5:30.

It's amazing how much Furry Fiesta has grown. When I first went in 2010 (The con's second year,) about 780 people attended. This year's final registration total was 2,820. If I'm able to attend in 2017, I will either fly directly to Dallas on American Airlines or drive to Dallas. I had downloaded a few podcasts to my smartphone, but I didn't pack headphones for listening.
jcollie719: (Collie Wink)
After one final delay, my flight to Denver took off around 1:15 PM. This cut my layover time to just under 2 hours. That was still more than enough time to get to my connecting flight and grab lunch at an airport deli.

After landing in Dallas, it took longer than expected to get my luggage since one of the baggage claims was jammed. I finally got my luggage and a rental car (Toyota Camry.) I got dinner from In-N-Out Burger and got to the hotel just after 9 PM.
jcollie719: (lunchiesdogangl)

My flight out of Colorado Springs was supposed to depart at 11:19 AM. I received a text from United saying the flight was delayed until 12:38, then another text an hour ago saying it was delayed until 1 PM. I'm glad my connecting flight in Denver doesn't leave until 3:35. I got to the airport around 10 AM and had breakfast.

jcollie719: (Collie Wink)
I was able to find work substitutes for next weekend.

Paying for all three of this year's vacations in advance has put a slight strain on my account. It should be able to gradually recover over the next few months. I'll be much more careful with vacation planning next year. I decided to splurge on a cruise later this year because I haven't taken one in 8 years, and this is a much smaller, private cruise (about 50 people) in an area of the Caribbean I haven't been before.
jcollie719: (Birthday Cake)
I'm taking advantage of the slightly-warmer weather this week to do some of the things I've been putting off. I finally got my car's oil changed this afternoon. I'll get a haircut and renew my passport either Wednesday or Thursday. The passport expires next week, and I'd like to have a photo without Doc Brown hair.

100 days until Furry Fiesta!
jcollie719: (Jcollie719)
I've been looking at travel options for next year's Biggest Little Fur Con if I decide to go then or wait until 2017.  The cheapest options would either be taking Greyhound out of Colorado Springs or flying Southwest Airlines out of Denver.  The Greyhound trip would take roughly 24 hours, so taking Southwest would be the better option.  I took a 16-hour trip on Greyhound to Furry Fiesta in 2010.  I'd rather not relive that nightmare.  Flying another airline out of Colorado Springs would cost $400-500.  Driving to Reno would cost $400-600 and take at least a day and a half.

I made the first payment for my fursuit earlier today.
jcollie719: (Panda Kigurumi)
Mighty glad to be back where I belong at Furry Fiesta!

THURSDAY

I had to take a cab to the airport since my car is in the shop. The plane for my first flight (Colorado Springs-Denver) took off 35 minutes late but arrived in Denver only a few minutes behind schedule. The connecting flight to Dallas took off on time and arrived 20 minutes early. While waiting for my SuperShuttle, I got a text reading "Hello from van #399." I wondered why a shuttle driver would text that, then I recognized the phone number as Growly's. I went to bed early due to having a couple of drinks and a huge dinner.

FRIDAY

I fell asleep during the afternoon, missing the beginning of Bucktown Tiger's concert. I stayed to catch the concerts of Pepper Coyote and Bandthro. This is the first time I've seen most of the musicians in person. After returning to my hotel room, I read a Tweet about Bucktown playing one of the lobby pianos. I went back down to hear him, then went to a room party and a poker game with him.

SATURDAY

Bucktown gave me his new "Purrfect Pitch" CD and a Paw Recognize Paw cap in the Dealers Den (Thank you!) I went to the Guest of Honor lunch at Maggiano's Little Italy. Following the Matthew Ebel concert, I had dinner/drinks with him and a few others. I got to meet YiffSkritchMurr then. I went to bed after visiting the "cub hub" and another room party.

SUNDAY (a.k.a. From Furries to Flurries)

I didn't know Dallas actually had Winter! Many folks went home today to beat the snowy weather. The news said hundreds of flights out of DFW were delayed or canceled. Thankfully my flight still left Monday (though it was delayed due to waiting for de-icing.) I ended the night listening to The Rabbit Hole and the beginning of Doggy Radio before bed.

MONDAY

I waited in the hotel's lobby bar for my SuperShuttle to the airport after checking out. Growly came down and said his SuperShuttle was canceled. I had gotten an e-mail saying my shuttle was scheduled to arrive, but I called the company to find it had been canceled as well. Growly, another fur and I shared a cab to the airport since our flights took off within an hour or two of each other. After my flight landed in Denver, the flight attendants, a United e-mail and DIA's departure screens said my connecting flight would take off from gate B84. After getting there, the screens and another e-mail said the gate was changed to B48. Luckily, the two gates aren't too far apart.

OTHER THOUGHTS

Heard live again: Bucktown Tiger, Matthew Ebel
Heard live for the first time: Runtt, Fox Amoore, Rhubarb the Bear*, Cosmik, Amadhia, Pepper Coyote, Alexander James Adams.
The furs I met/re-met included: Krystal_Aristokats, GlacierPaws, YiffSkritchMurr, StratosfearTully, Azal and KuddlePup.
* I saw "Julie Bunny Must Die" at Oklacon 2011, but this was the first all-music performance by Rhubarb I've seen live.

It's nice to have a vacation where I'm not cutting corners or worrying about a budget.

My room was on the party floor, so I went to sleep late due to all of the "boom-boom-boom" down the hall (There was also lots of loud music!)

This is the first vacation/convention where I actually weighed less afterward, losing 3 pounds. The chilly weather discouraged me from going out to eat (even to the food trucks that stopped by.) I had much less soda than usual, having water and juice with many meals. The lack of caffeine caused me to feel tired more often, requiring a nap or two each day. Most of the breakfasts/lunches I had were in Rim's cafe, so mainly oatmeal, sandwiches and coffee.

I needed seat belt extensions on two of the four flights I took. The flights using CRJs (Canadair Regional Jets) had seat belts which accommodated my fat gut. I paid extra for Economy Plus seats to get more legroom, but they're still the same width as regular Economy seats. If I'm unable to get my weight below 260 by the next time I fly, I'll consider flying First Class just to avoid the embarrassment of crowding someone else's seat.
jcollie719: (lunchiesdogangl)
It's hard to believe I was in Florida just 12 hours ago. There were a couple of weather-related delays on the trip home. I was supposed to arrive back at DIA at 11:15 PM, but I got in around 1 AM.

Saturday: EPCOT at Disney World
The wait time for the Soarin' ride was 120 minutes, so the group decided to skip it. I had been on the Soarin' ride at California Adventure back in 2001. Instead, we saw the "Circle Of Life" film featuring Timon, Pumbaa and Simba from "The Lion King."
Briefly walked through the "countries" before stopping in the Mexico section for lunch. After lunch, the group went back and spent more time in the other country sections.
We ended the EPCOT trip on the "World of Tomorrow" ride inside the huge disco ball at the entrance. I got a video postcard of the trip sent to my e-mail. Unlike Universal, there were more rides I could actually ride.

Saturday's dinner was at Dick's Last Resort. This chain of restaurants features intentionally rude/obnoxious staff who put bibs and paper hats on the customers, then write insults on each hat. My hat had "My mommy still dresses me." Some of the group previously said they didn't plan to go to Dick's due to the "crappy food and attitude." I liked the food, and the "attitude" is about the same as attending a Don Rickles show or Friars Club roast (It's all in fun.) I had ordered a 45-ounce margarita with my chicken fried chicken, only drinking from one of the two straws in case I needed help finishing it. Either my alcohol tolerance is stronger, the amount of ice in the drink watered it down or my food soaked up most of the alcohol. I got to keep the glass as a souvenir (More like a trophy!)

The group held a pajama party Saturday night. I brought the batch of bacon chocolates I made at home. I forgot to label them or tell anyone what they were (I had put them in a Whitman's box,) so not many people tried them.

The group had breakfast at Denny's on Sunday, then people with later flights brought their luggage into the room of a group member who was staying an extra day so we could hang out at the pool.

There were a few notes I made on planning and packing for future reunions:
* Individually list medications I need to pack. I forgot to pack Zyrtec and acid reflux pills.
* Budget $15-20 for each breakfast, $30-40 for lunch and $40-50 for dinner.
* Ask others about possible rides to/from the airport before booking an airport shuttle.
* Get weight below 250 lbs. and waist below 48 inches to fit in more amusement park rides and airplane seats.
* Factor an extra $50 into room price when splitting cost between roommates.
* For Orlando trips, plan to stay until Monday to visit FPS.

I will definitely wait until I can really afford it before going on another trip like this.
jcollie719: (lunchiesdogangl)
Starting Friday with a stuffy nose made me realize I forgot to pack a bottle of Zyrtec allergy pills. I got some Benadryl from the resort's convenience store.

After flying in to Orlando on a red-eye flight Thursday, I napped for a few hours. The cruise reunion group had dinner that night.

To be continued as I'm starting to doze off.

(The above was written on Friday night.)

On Friday, some of the reunion group went to Universal Islands of Adventure. I was hoping to ride The Hulk roller coaster. The rides with shoulder restraints have a couple of test seats at the ride entrance to see if people will fit into them; I didn't fit into the seats for three of the rides since the safety belts were 2-3 inches too short for me. That's quite ironic that a ride would be named after a character that wouldn't be able to fit in the ride (at least when he gets mad!)

I finally found two rides that could accommodate me, the Spider-Man ride and the Cat In The Hat ride. At the end of the park visit, the group (including me) went on three of the water rides.

I am disappointed that I missed out on riding some of the rides, but that will definitely motivate me to stick to my diet and exercise plan so I can fit into the rides the next time I go.

Thursday night's dinner was at Tu Tu Tango. The group hoped to get into Howl At The Moon before 10 PM, but there was a private event going on until then. We killed some time at the Hooters next door until Howl let us in.

After the Universal trip on Friday, I went back to the resort where the group was staying to shower and change clothes. I returned to Universal later to meet the others for dinner at Margaritaville at Universal City Walk.

Bah! Dozing off again. I'll wrap up my weekend in a day or two.
jcollie719: (Lipton Lolly)
I got a new double boiler for making candy. I made my first batch of bacon chocolates last night. While they were good, I couldn't really taste the bacon in them. I couldn't find any maple-cured bacon, which the recipe called for, so I used regular bacon. I don't know if I need to use more bacon or find a less-rich chocolate (I used Cadbury Dairy Milk.)

My frequent flyer miles with United expire at the end of June. I wasn't accepted for an offer to keep them from expiring, but the program allows me to buy digital music downloads with the miles.
jcollie719: (Panda Kigurumi)
There's only two weeks until Rocky Mountain Fur Con! I'll be driving up to Denver on the Thursday before RMFC since Foxtrot is being held that night (and early registration opens on that day.) I'm going over my packing list to see what I need to buy for the trip. So far, I've written down Wet Ones and mini cereal boxes on my shopping list. I had an online discount near its expiration date, so I ordered some travel-size toothpaste, Kleenex and a box of granola bars.

I will ask one of the Toastmasters if he can fill in as Sergeant-At-Arms on the Friday I'll be in Denver. I also need to find substitutes for my KRCC shifts.

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