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11:11-1-1-11

Posted on Saturday, January 1st, 2011

Dave!I am posting this at 11:11 on 1-1-11 because it seemed like a good thing to do.

When it comes to New Year's resolutions, I'm pretty boring because I have the exact same New Year's resolutions every year. The same five goals going on for heaven only knows how long. This year is no different, except I am working on some projects which will definitely add some excitement to my 2011. More on that later.

Here's my score card for fulfilling my resolutions in 2010...

  • Try a Pop-Tart flavor I've never had before. DONE! Vanilla Milkshake. I agree with Poppy... truly horrible.
  • Travel somewhere I've never been before. DONE! Traveled to Alkmaar, Bucharest, Prague, Malta, Tunisia, Corsica, Portofino, Monaco, and the Amalfi Coast.
  • Visit a Hard Rock Cafe I haven't seen before. DONE! Visited Malta Cafe, Valletta Bar, Albuquerque Hotel, Tulsa Hotel, Hollywood Blvd. Cafe, Berlin 2 Cafe, Prague Cafe, and Bucharest Cafe.
  • Drink a beer I've never drank before. DONE! I drank several new beers, but the most memorable was the Watermelon Wheat Beer by 5 Seasons West in Atlanta.
  • Get another Apple product. DONE! iPhone 4, Apple TV, iPad (which I gave to my mom).

Here's hoping that the Pop-Tart people keep making new flavors so I can fulfill my resolutions again this year!

   

And now for what's new this decade...

DAVETOON: Lil' Dave and Bad Monkey celebrate 2011

   
I work. A lot. And while it's work I love, the fact that it's non-stop and never-ending has sucked most of the joy out of what I do. This year I am trying to rediscover the joys to be found in creativity by coming up with projects just for me. Five new projects to go with the same five resolutions I do every year. Five projects centering around stuff I like to do, but don't get to do so much any more...

  1. Collecting Hard Rock stuff.
  2. Creating DaveToon products for Artificial Duck Co.
  3. Writing fiction.
  4. Drawing pictures and comics.
  5. Keeping secrets.

And here we go...

DAVE'S FIVE PROJECTS FOR 2011

• The Hard Rock Project. I owe the Hard Rock Cafe a huge debt for continuing to inspire me to travel to new places. When I think of all the awesome cities I've discovered that I would have never visited if not for a Hard Rock being there, my gratitude knows no bounds. Coming up with a project to celebrate my love of Hard Rock collectibles wasn't easy, but then I saw my closet packed full of their T-shirts and the HARD ROCK 100 PROJECT was born. For 100 days I'll be wearing a favorite Hard Rock T-shirt from my collection and sharing the photo both on my DaveCafe fan site and my DaveCafe Flickr feed. Here is Day One (which you can read about by clicking on it)...

Dave in his Hard Rock Vault Orlando Shirt!

   
• The Artificial Duck Project. After losing my T-shirt printer, twice, I kind of let the Artificial Duck Co. store languish for a year. That's going to change. I've been working on some new T-Shirts and will be getting that set up at yet another printer soon. But that's not all... more totally sweet crap you can't live without is being planned and should be appearing this Summer.

   
• The Writing Project. After being invited to RW's house for pizza and plenty of good conversation, I realized that I wanted to start writing again. I used to write stories all the time, and loved the escape I got from it. But then my blog kind of took over all my writing time and I stopped. This Spring that's going to change in a big way. You'll be finding out all about it sometime in March.

   
• The Drawing Project. Before computers took over all my design work, I used to draw, paint, and even sculpt. Don't get me wrong, I love designing on the computer, but it's not the same as "getting your hands dirty" with a pencil and a drawing pad. Proving that one thing leads to another, The Writing Project led to me finding The Drawing project. It's been a lot of fun, and should also be debuting in March.

   
• The Secret Project. Yeah, this one is going to take a while... most of the year, in fact. I'm waaaayyyy over my head this time. And loving every minute of it. So far.

   
And that's it. Plans are already in motion.

Here's to an interesting 2011.

   

Day Two: Köln-Essen

Posted on Friday, January 28th, 2011

Dave!As I type this, it is 12:30am Saturday, January 29th in Cologne, Germany.

Since I woke up at 3:30am Thursday, January 27th in the US Pacific time zone, this means I have been awake for 37 hours straight. And yet I am still not tired. I tried to sleep on the plane, but ended up watching The Social Network again (a little more boring that the first time, but still awesome), Salt again (liked it even more the second time around), and Scott Pilgrim Saves the World again (which sucked even more the second time around, because whiny, dorky Michael Cera is NOT lady-killer slacker hero Scott Pilgrim... AT ALL. This movie could have been sheer perfection if the lead role weren't so hideously miscast).

Anyway...

The flight from Seattle to Amsterdam via Delta Airlines was bliss. I wasn't upgraded, but the plane was so empty that I had almost an entire row to myself, which was super-sweet. Except for the not-being-able to sleep thing, it truly was a flawless experience. As was my connection at Schiphol, as usual. Looking out the plane-window at sunrise, it was looking like a glorious day in DutchyLand...

Schiphol Airport

Except... it was freezing cold. Even after the sun was out. Much like it would be when I finally ended up in Cologne. As I landed, I noticed that Gowalla had rolled out their new flight-tracker status updates, which is wickedly cool...

Gowalla Flights Update
Not shown is my flight from Wenatchee to Seattle... probably because Wenatchee hasn't been considered an airport yet?

Anyway... after checking in at my hotel and then getting some work done, it was time to head up to Essen for some dinner with friends. While waiting at the train station, I ran across an awesome poster... I just love good advertising! That's the hugely tall Cologne Cathedral buried in snow there...

Cologne Snow Day!
"Ihr Beitrag zum klima? Mehr Bus & Bahn fahren!"

Dinner was with my fellow Hard Rock Cafe fans, Marc & Mechthild... with vegetarian pizza hand-made by Mechthild herself, which was as beautiful to look at as it was delicious...

Pizzzzzzzza!!
Easily the best pizza you'll find in all of Germany. You may commence being jealous now.

But the truly unexpected surprise of the evening was the beautiful salad that was served. I still have no idea what kind of greens these were... or even if there's a US equivalent... as I had never seen them before. Marc & Mechthild called them "winter salad," as there doesn't seem to be an equivalent name for it in English (they looked!). The greens appear to be some kind of thick four-leaf clover type-thing, tasting buttery and sweet. There's absolutely no bitter notes in the flavor at all, which made the whole thing taste like frickin' candy when tossed up with a lovely vinaigrette. I shit you not, CANDY...

Mechthild's Winter Salad
If all salads tasted like this, I'd be eating a lot more fucking salads!

After-dinner conversation was all Hard Rock Cafes and world travel (two of my favorite subjects!). The time went flying by and suddenly it was 11:00 and time to take the train back to Cologne. The evening was loads of fun, despite the fact that I really should have been dead from lack of sleep. Praise be to the power of the internet for continuing to find me wonderful friends around the globe!

And now it's 12:56am here in Cologne, which means I've been awake for 37-and-a-half hours straight.

Still not tired.

I have no idea what my deal is, but I sure don't want to be around when this lack of sleep catches up to me!

Alas, I have no choice...

   

Day Six: Köln

Posted on Tuesday, February 1st, 2011

Dave!So very tired...

The weather in Cologne today was odd. It was dreary and cold, but not the kind of cold that lands on you... it was more a general cold around your immediate vicinity. Sure I could see my breath and needed a jacket, but wearing gloves was too much, and my hands were perfectly fine without them. I'm a real weenie when it comes to having cold hands, so this was kind of freaky. In a good way.

What was decidedly not freaky was that they finally replaced the chocolate chicken! Isn't she awesome?

Chocolate Chicken Lives!

   
As today was my last day in Cologne I had intended to try and wander around a bit, but I was just too exhausted and had entirely too much work to do. So instead of eating dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe, I just bought some pins and a T-shirt while breezing through after work...

Hard Rock Cologne Bar

Hard Rock Cologne Wall

It's a fairly small property, but has all the classic Hard Rock fixin's so I really like it here.

Alas, I didn't have time to hang around, so dinner consisted of glorious Patatjes Met "Pommes Frites mit Mayo" with a delicious Spritzringe and a Coke back at my hotel room for dessert...

Pommes Frites mit Mayo

Spritzringe and a Coke

   
While I was walking to the tram stop so I could get "home" I noticed some interesting things:

   
ONE: HINDENBURG! After the movie Titanic made a gazillion dollars, I remember asking when somebody would get around to making a modern movie drama about the Hindenburg tragedy...

Apparently they now have, as I've seen the posters around Cologne...

Hindenburg: The Movie
"Ein Traum von Ruhm" - "A Dream of Glory"

   
TWO: MADONNA! I've lost count of the number of times I've walked through Neumarkt, but this is the first time I can ever recall seeing this Madonna & Child statue glued to one of the buildings on the Eastern loop. While I'm sure it must have been beautiful at one time, it's kind of creepy now that pieces have fallen off and it's been partially eroded by pollution and the elements...

Madonna and Child Statue

Madonna and Child Statue ZOOM

   
THREE: BANNED! I never take food or drinks onto the tram anyway, but I found it funny that fries and mayo are specifically banned on the signage (along with coffee and Kölsch/beer)...

NO PATATJES MET!
NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!

   
And now I suppose I should probably pack my suitcase. I've got a long, strange journey ahead of me tomorrow, and the last thing I want to have to do when I wake up is pack before rushing off to the airport.

   

Venice: One-Thirty-Six

Posted on Saturday, March 19th, 2011

Dave!British Airways gave me the best that I could possibly hope for on any trip: an uneventful flight.

And so here I am in Venice, Italy for a few days. Partly because there's a new Hard Rock Cafe here. But mostly because I watched a television program on New Orleans where some scientist guy reminded everybody that Venice is sinking into the sea and could be wiped out if a big enough flood were to strike despite our best efforts. This freaked me out a little bit, because last time I was here the city was just recovering from a small flood. With all the recent natural disasters plaguing the world, I thought it a good idea to see Venice again... just in case.

It breaks my one rule for my annual birthday trip (to see a place I've never see before), but I love Venice, and heaven only knows when I'd find time to visit again. Besides, I've already been someplace I've never been to this year, so I guess it's all good.

And I managed to get that 136th Hard Rock visit too...

Hard Rock Cafe Venice

Inside the Hard Rock Cafe Venice

Inside the Hard Rock Cafe Venice

Hard Rock Cafe Venice Chandalier

The cafe itself is small. Very small. Tiny even. But it is beautifully appointed, and I was thrilled that the new "hipster-lounge" decorating style that's been plaguing new Hard Rocks around the world has been mercifully downplayed here. It's decorate more like a "classic" Hard Rock, which is nice. The location is superb, just off the Piazza San Marco, so hopefully the tourist trade will keep this property alive for a while.

And I'm off to watch the sun set from the Rialto Bridge. That's an experience that never gets old.

   

Honolulu

Posted on Friday, May 6th, 2011

Dave!Aloha!

Today was mostly a work day, but I did get some time to goof off in Honolulu and do some of the things that made me not mind dragging my ass across the Pacific to be here. This pretty much boils down to three things...

   
#1 PUKA DOG!! Originating on Kauai, Puka Dog eventually opened up a shop in Waikiki (UPDATE: Puka Dog is now Hula Dog in Oahu, still Puka Dog in Kauai. UPDATE 2: Hula Dog in Waikiki was CLOSED when they tore down the International Marketplace! SUCKS!! Check Hula Dog's website for their locations). I can say without reservation that this is my favorite meal in all of Oahu. Just like Chicago, which has a hot dog to call their own, Puka Dog is a hot dog done Hawaiian-style, and they are amazing...

Puka Dog!
Don't let the line scare you... Puka Dog is worth the wait!

They are also very different and uniquely Hawaiian in oh so many ways...

  • THE DOG! You can either get Polish Sausage or a Veggie Dog. I must say, the vegetarian option is among the best veggie dog I have ever tasted. Not even a little bit rubbery!
  • THE BUN! Well... it's not really a bun. It's a tiny loaf of bread that has a hole drilled in the end. They place them on heated spikes, so you get a toasted interior and a soft exterior that tastes like magic. Your choice of white or wheat.
  • THE CONDIMENTS! And here is where an already unique hot dog goes completely off he rails. Condiments are injected into the hole in the "bun" and the dog is poked down into it...
    • Secret Lemon-Garlic Sauce! Choose from Mild, Spicy, Hot, or Hot-Hot. Do NOT be scared off because you think it will taste too lemony! It is an AMAZING mayo-based sauce, and the lemon is just a hint. I always go with "hot" which is not too hot for me at all.
    • Specialty Relish! There's Mango, Pineapple, Coconut, Banana, Papaya, and Star Fruit. The Mango is my favorite (and their most popular) but sometimes they have a "special" flavor. This time it was MAUI SWEET ONION AND I LOVED IT!
    • Mustard! They have "regular" mustard... or even ketchup if you're insane... but what you really want is the Hawaiian Mustard in your choice of Lilikoi (tangy) or Guava (sweet). Both are good, but the Lilikoi (Passion Fruit) Mustard IS TO FUCKING DIE FOR!

The way you order is kind of "Soup-Naziesque" but they don't treat you too badly if you goof it up. But it's pretty hard to goof up if you follow the steps on their menu board. For example, I order like this: "I'll take a Veggie, Hot, Mango, Lilikoi on White, please!" But, no matter how you order, you're getting an amazing meal that's unlike anything else on earth... in a very good way...

Puka Dog!
Left is a dog in the hole. Right is down a few bites so you can see all the condiment goodness within!

   
#2 KISSES!! Everybody loves Hershey's Kisses. Those little foil-wrapped pieces of deliciousness are truly a treat to behold. And then Hershey's took it to The Next Level and introduced Kisses with almonds, caramel, and peanut butter in the middle (among other things). BUT... only here in Hawaii can you get Hershey Kisses with Macadamias in the middle! They are everything you'd dream they'd be. And at $5 a bag, they'd better be...

Hershey Macadamia Kisses

   
#3 NEW HARD ROCK!! As anybody who follows this blog already knows, I am incredibly disappointed with the "new-style" Hard Rock Cafe properties. Instead of the old-school method of cramming every available surface with awesome Rock-n-Roll memorabilia, they instead put a few meager pieces in glass cases and scatter them on a few walls. So when they moved Honolulu's Hard Rock from the old location to the new one in Waikiki, I was horrified at the idea of it being a shitty "new-style" cafe. And it is. Kind of. Because while there isn't a tremendous amount of memorabilia, it is more than usual. And they DO have this awesome ribbon of guitars running up the wall and across the ceiling of this beautiful, beautiful restaurant...

Hard Rock Cafe Outside!
Approaching the all-new dual-level Hard Rock Cafe at Waikiki!

Hard Rock Cafe Outside!

Hard Rock Cafe Outside!

   
Pretty sweet, eh? And, on that note, I am about ready to pass out, so I'm off to a night of (hopefully) sweet slumber.

BUT, BEFORE I FORGET...

I ran across proof positive that President Obama was BORN AMERICAN, BABY! Because if it's in a children's book, it must be true, right?

Obama American Proof!

Good night!

   

Bullet Sunday 236

Posted on Sunday, June 12th, 2011

Dave!Home at last for another edition of Bullet Sunday!

   
• Debatable. I won't know for certain until I tune into the debate tomorrow night, but I'm pretty sure I'll be longing for the good ol' days when it was George W. Bush running on the Republican presidential ticket. ...

CNN Presidential Debate

The candidates that the Republicans are trotting out for 2012 quite literally scare the shit out of me. It's so bad that I have no need for laxatives. If I'm constipated, I just envision a future where Michele Bachmann is President of the United States of America and run for the toilet. Which means I should probably be picking up some adult diapers after work, since I don't have a television in my bathroom.

   
• Roadshow. This year marks the 40th Anniversary of the Hard Rock Cafe. To celebrate, they've been traveling around the USA with a collection of memorabilia honoring rock history. This past Thursday, I was lucky enough to be in Seattle when they stopped by...

Madonna's Boy Toy Wedding Dress

Michael Jackson's Jacket

Brandon Flower's Jacket

It was a lot of fun... and FREE! If you're on one of the city-stops, I highly recommend checking it out (a list of dates is here).

   
• Crap. When I got home today, one of the first things I did was watch the South Park mid-season finale that was waiting on my DVR. It was shockingly meta. Instead of being a brilliant commentary on some current event, it ended up being brilliant commentary on South Park itself. And it scares me because it looks very much like they're setting up the show to end. And now that Trey Parker and Matt Stone are the toast of Broadway with the nine Tony Award wins for their play, The Book of Mormon, I guess it's understandable. They've been doing South Park for 15 years, and maybe they feel it's time for something new...

South Park Stan's 10th Birthday

Even so, I will miss South Park when its gone. It's a consistent voice in satire that never fails to entertain. As a fan, I don't think its run its course yet, but maybe that's a good thing.

   
• Reboot. I reserved comment on DC Comics massive "reboot" of their entire universe until all 52 titles had been announced. Now that they have, and everything DC is being reset to issue #1, all I can say is huh?

I mean, there are some things I'm excited about... Jim Lee penciling a monthly title again (Justice League) for one. There are some things I'm curious about... like the two new Legion of Super-Hero books. Other things have me intrigued... like a drastically different take on Supergirl. Still other things have me puzzled... like Barbara Gordon's return to being Batgirl. And a few things have me ambivalent... like Superman's drastically altered uniform (both of them)...

DC Relaunch Titles

I'll give it a look... but all I can really do is wonder how long the reboot will last before there's another reboot.

   
And now it's time for me to reboot. It's going to be a long week.

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Fortieth

Posted on Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

Dave!Today is the fortieth anniversary of the Hard Rock Cafe.

On June 14th, 1971 in London, England, Isaac Tigrett and Peter Morton opened up a cafe serving American food with a rock-n-roll sensibility. One day Hard Rock fan Eric Clapton gave Tigrett a guitar. When Tigrett told him that he didn't play guitar, Clapton said he should hang it on the wall. When Pete Townsend found out about it, he wanted his guitar hanging on the wall too. Thus began the tradition of adorning Hard Rocks with rock-n-roll memorabilia, turning them into mini museums with some of the most astounding rock artifacts on the planet.

With the sole exception of Apple (and possibly Sony), I can't think of a company which has had more of an effect on my life than the Hard Rock Cafe. Since 1990 I've been to 137 properties around the world. Many of those places I would have never visited if not for the Hard Rock Cafe. In addition to encouraging me to see the world, it was the Hard Rock which first got me to share my life online. It was also the Hard Rock which is responsible for Lil' Dave and Bad Monkey coming into being...

Bad Monkey!

As if that weren't enough, I've met dozens of fellow Hard Rock fans from around the globe who have become my friends.

To say I owe a lot to the Hard Rock Cafe is a bit of an understatement. I quite honestly don't know what my life would be like today without the place.

Undoubtedly it would be a lot less interesting.

So happiest of anniversaries and many thanks to the Hard Rock Cafe!

   

Day 02 – Sydney

Posted on Saturday, September 24th, 2011

Dave!Well, the crappy weather I was expecting yesterday finally decided to make an appearance today. Not that I am in any way complaining... I am so very grateful for yesterday's unexpectedly beautiful weather that I'll gladly suffer through a little rain.

After meeting up with Kazza we headed east to visit St. Mary's Cathedral. Unfortunately, photography is not allowed in the beautiful interior, but the exterior is quite nice as well...

St. Mary's Cathedral
Impressive. Most impressive.

St. Mary of the Cross Statue
The nun looks pretty bitchy, but...

St. Mary's iPad
...she gives all the kids an iPad, so she can't be all bad.

From there we were off to Mrs. Macquarie's Point. There's an interesting story behind the name, and it's a great place for spectacular Sydney Harbour views, even in the rain...

Mrs. Macquarie's Chair
Yes. Mrs. Macquarie's Chair is just as comfortable as it looks.

Rainbow Lorikeet
A Rainbow Lorikeet... they're everywhere.

Sydney Harbour View from Macquarie's Point
Still a pretty sight, even in the rain.

Heading back towards the city you run right through the Royal Botanic Gardens...

Royal Botanic Gardens
Leaving the Asian Gardens section of the Royal Botanic Gardens.

Royal Botanic Gardens
Inside the Royal Botanic Gardens Greenhouse at the Tropical Center.

Royal Botanic Gardens Fern House
The Fern House atrium at the Royal Botanic Gardens.

Royal Botanic Gardens Flowers
It's Springtime in Sydney, so all the flowers are blooming.

Royal Botanic Gardens BATS!
Bats are hanging around everywhere... mostly sleeping, fighting, or drying their wings.

Bastard Cockatoo
This is called a "Cockatoo," but I call it "Fucking Bastard Bird"... vicious, nasty, and total destruction with wings.

From there it was time to take a ferry across the harbor to Manly...

Manly Ferry Sign
It's the world-famous Manly Ferry!

Opera House from Manly Ferry
Cruising by that Sydney Opera House. Again.

The Corso at Manly
Walking down The Corso towards Manly Beach.

Manly Beach
Manly beach. Where only manly men dare swim in the rain.

Manly Signs
Everything in Manly is pretty manly...

Manly Kangaroo Fajitas!
...especially the Manly menus, where they make cute little kangaroos into fajitas.

After returning to Sydney, it was time to visit the Queen Victoria Building, which is a real jaw dropper. Certainly the best-looking mall I've ever seen...

Queen Victoria Building
Not wanting to get drenched, it was time to visit the Queen Victoria Building!

Queen Victoria Building Stained Glass Entrance
Seriously beautiful everywhere you look. This is an entryway.

Queen Victoria Building Atrium
Center atrium at the Queen Victoria Building.

Queen Victoria Building Clock
Awesome diorama clock at the QVB.

Queen Victoria Building Main Hall
The sexiest damn mall you'll ever see.

It was as we headed toward Darling Harbour that the rain decided to get serious...

Darling Harbour Bridge
Rain pours down on the bridge across Darling Harbour to the Harbourside Mall.

But that's okay, because I was more interested in visiting my 138th Hard Rock than the weather. Unfortunately, Sydney's new Hard Rock is yet another "Hipster Lounge" travesty, but it's massive size means you get to see a lot of memorabilia even though it's pretty spread out...

Hard Rock Cafe Sydney
Hard Rock Cafe entrance.

Hard Rock Cafe Sydney Hipster Lounge
Welcome to the cheesiest hipster lounge you ever will see!

Hard Rock Cafe Sydney INXS Shrine
The Hard Rock Cafe Sydney's so-called "shrine" to INXS.

Hard Rock Cafe Sydney Spaces
Not the most intimate and cozy Hard Rock property I've been to. The place is massively huge.

Darling Harbour at Night
Leaving Darling Harbour at night.

Something I didn't know: Sydney has a monorail. It was a convenient way to escape the rain and head back into the city...

Sydney Monorail
Hey, it may cost $5, but that's still cheaper than a ticket to Disneyland.

Another perfect day Down Under... albeit with police horses waiting in my hotel lobby...

Horses in the Hotel Lobby!
No. They weren't there to arrest me. I think.

And.... I guess it's time to log-off and go charge every piece of electronics I own. It's shocking how much gadget crap it takes to be civilized now-a-days.

   

Day 10 – Gold Coast

Posted on Sunday, October 2nd, 2011

Dave!After finally making it to my flight out of Cairns, I landed in Brisbane two hours later. From there it was a 35 minute ride to my hotel, followed by another hour and 10 minutes on a train, followed by yet another 30 minutes on a bus... before I finally made it to the Gold Coast and the Hard Rock Cafe Surfers Paradise.

The Gold Coast has a feel very much like Miami Beach, with loads of high-priced properties and plenty of beachfront. When I arrived, the weather was flawless, with blue skies and warm sunshine tempered by a slight breeze...

Hard Rock Surfers Paradise Guitar

The cafe itself is a beautiful older property with loads of cool memorabilia to look at...

Hard Rock Surfers Paradise Interior

Hard Rock Surfers Paradise Interior

Hard Rock Surfers Paradise Grateful Dead Shrine

Hard Rock Surfers Paradise Beatles Shrine

Hard Rock Surfers Paradise Exterior

After having lunch and looking around the cafe for a while, I headed to the beach only to find that the clouds had started moving in...

Gold Coast - Surfers Paradise Beach

Surfers Paradise Sign

By the time I had wandered around for a while and made it back to the Hard Rock, the weather had taken a drastic turn...

Hard Rock Surfers Paradise under Dark Clouds

That's quite a difference considering it happened in under four hours!

Luckily, the skies were clear once again when I made it back to Brisbane.

And now that Hard Rock #139 is out of the way for me, I suppose I'd better see about unpacking my suitcase.

   

Day 12 – Fiji

Posted on Tuesday, October 4th, 2011

Dave!Despite every single day being jam-packed, I can honestly say that this is one of the most relaxing vacations I've ever had. Then today I ended up in Fiji, which somehow ends up being even more relaxed and laid back than Australia.

And why Fiji? Well, there's a Hard Rock Cafe here I haven't been to... but I've actually wanted to visit ever since I first heard Lister wax poetic about his dreams of Fiji on Red Dwarf.

So when it came time to plan my vacation, some hard choices had to be made. And because I didn't have six weeks available to see everything on my wish list, I eventually drew a line through Sydney and split my vacation options into two choices, North or South...

Dave Aussie Travel Map
Not that I don't want to see Perth and The West, but that's another ballgame entirely.

Ultimately, I went with the North itinerary because it fit better into the two weeks I had available and was quite a bit cheaper. Adelaide, Hobart, Melbourne, Canberra, and New Zealand will have to wait until next time.

And so Fiji it was. It's a short three-hour flight out of Brisbane, so why not?

Especially since Hard Rock #140 was within my grasp...

Hard Rock Cafe Fiji

Hard Rock Cafe Fiji

Hard Rock Cafe Fiji Staircase

Hard Rock Cafe Fiji Bar

Port Denarau, Fiji

It's a really nice old-school two-level property that's pretty impressive. I look forward to visiting again when I have a little more time to explore their memorabilia collection.

In the meanwhile, it's time to put a little vacation into my vacation...

   

Tampa

Posted on Saturday, October 29th, 2011

Dave!And so it's time for my annual late-October trip to Orlando.

Except I begged to have my meeting relocated to Tampa, because it's home to the only Hard Rock Cafe in the USA that I haven't visited yet. Fortunately, my begging skills are unparalleled, so I got my wish and here I am.

The last time I was here was to visit the new Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in May 2004 (and to see some friends in the area). The following year I virtually visited the city when I tried to figure out where a mystery photo had been taken, but that doesn't really count. So... it's been a while.

Anyway, for some odd reason the hotel/casino complex launched without a Hard Rock Cafe. That was remedied in December of last year when, after nearly seven years of waiting, a cafe was added and opened its doors. Or maybe it wasn't added and just ended up replacing some other restaurant, I don't know. What I do know is that it's big. 17,500-square-foot big. I also know that it's one of the "new-style" cafes with very little actual rock-n-roll memorabilia, which is a shame. All that aside, it's still pretty cool...

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Guitar Sign
At the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino!

Hard Rock Cafe Tampa Entrance Through the Casino
The new cafe has its entrance off the casino's main floor.

Hard Rock Tampa Entry Bar
You actually walk through the bar to get to the dining room.

Hard Rock Cafe Tampa Inside the Bar
The bar itself is very cool... despite having no rock memorabilia.

Hard Rock Cafe Tampa Dining Room
The dining room is massive, and even has a stage.

Hard Rock Cafe Tampa Kitchen
A big restaurant has a big kitchen! The horseshoe above says "Who Do You Love?"

   
But even cooler than checking another Hard Rock of my list? I got to meet up with the amazing Blondefabulous for lunch!

It's Blondefabulous!

   
After my adventures in Hard Rock Land, I returned to the airport to finish up work stuff, then went back to my hotel so I could take a nap before dinner.

At which point I then risked my life to eat at Earl of Sandwich.

Earl of Sandwich

In a day and age when places are sued because they don't have handicap accessibility, I am regularly shocked at how many places have no pedestrian accessibility at all unless you drive there by car. Like so many places now-a-days, The International Plaza (home of Earl of Sandwich) can't be reached by foot... even though it's pretty much across the street from my hotel...

Tampa Hostile To Pedestrians

A) I walk to the end of the road... NO CROSSWALK.

B) I see there's a crosswalk on the other side of my street, but there's NO CROSSWALK to get over to it.

C) Once I survive running to the other side of my busy street, I can finally cross over to The International Plaza... except the sidewalk stops, and there's no place to walk to get there.

D) Miraculously, there's a crosswalk to the Northeast, so I cross back across my street so I can climb through bushes to some grass and not have to walk on the road. But eventually I have no choice, because there's nowhere else to go. I then nearly get hit by traffic... twice.

E) After dinner, it's dark. I don't want to risk walking on the road, so I exit on the other side of the mall where there's a sidewalk.

F) The sidewalk doesn't go out to the road, so I'm screwed again. I once again climb through the bushes to grass so I don't have to walk on the road.

G) Once again, NO SIDEWALK and NO CROSSWALK. I end up having to walk along the shoulder of a dark, busy road so I can get back to the only crosswalk I know.

H) Still no crosswalk on my street, so I walk down the road to cross in the hopes I might be more easily seen if a car comes bombing down the road. Nearly get nailed by a motorcycle.

Sheesh.

I mean, seriously, this is insane. Why in the hell can't we WALK anywhere anymore? Do they really expect me to get a taxi so I can just cross the street? That's just stupid. Public places should be legally required to be publicly accessible by pedestrians. How hard is it to add a frickin' sidewalk when you put in a road?

But whatever. As I have blogged many, many, many times, Earl of Sandwich makes the best frickin' sandwich on earth (which only makes sense considering their family invented the thing back in 1762). Their Veggie Sandwich (hold the Roasted Red Peppers) is pretty much worth risking your life over...

Earl of Sandwich Sandwich!

And now that work is over, the Hard Rock & Blondefabulous have been visited, and I've eaten Earl of Sandwich, I guess my work here in Tampa is done. Tomorrow I fly back to Seattle...

Seattle To Tampa Map

Don't you just love crossing the entire country for a single day's adventure?

   

Day Four: Aruba

Posted on Sunday, March 11th, 2012

Dave!If it's going to rain in The Caribbean, it's usually just for a bit in the morning until the sun comes out and burns the clouds away. Which is why I'm at a complete loss as to why the ship's itinerary has it docking in Oranjestad, Aruba (an independent part of the Netherlands) at FRICKIN' SEVEN O'CLOCK IN THE MORNING when it was pissing down rain... then leaving at 12:30, just as blue skies were arriving. If I were a sun worshiper coming to enjoy one of Aruba's magnificent beaches, I'd be pissed.

But I'm not, so I don't get all bent out of shape. Heck, cloudy days with a little rain make for some beautiful photos, so I'm perfectly fine with that kind of weather.

Which didn't come until 9:30am, meaning I spent a couple hours getting drenched. Because the rain rolled in just moments after docking...

Arriving in Oranjestad, Aruba

Visiting the "California Lighthouse" (named for a ship that sunk off the coast here) was a wet experience indeed...

California Lighthouse, Aruba

But after a while the sun started breaking through and even the dogs were coming out...

Aruba Doggies

By the time I arrived at "Baby Natural Bridge," the rain had completely stopped and the skies were clearing...

Aruba Shore

Aruba Shore

"Baby Natural Bridge" is a land formation where the water has eaten away at the base of a big rock, creating a bridge...

Baby Natural Bridge Aruba

Baby Natural Bridge Aruba

The original "Natural Bridge" was bigger than "Baby Natural Bridge," but it collapsed into the ocean back in 2005. It's the black busted rocks you see on the right there...

Busted Natural Bridge

And here's a better view...

Busted Natural Bridge

In the above picture, the waterline used to extend all the way up onto the sand there. But when Natural Bridge collapsed, it blocked off the ocean. Apparently, tourists used to walk across the bridge all the time so, luckily, it fell apart in the early morning when nobody was around to get hurt.

There's a few places on the island where giant boulders randomly appear for no reason that geologists understand. This makes them a tourist attraction, and you can even climb on top of one like a mini Stone Mountain!

On Top of a Giant Boulder

And, of course, my last stop had to be the Hard Rock Cafe Aruba, so I could pick up a shirt and a few pins...

Hard Rock Cafe Aruba

Hard Rock Cafe Aruba

AT LEAST I WOULD HAVE BOUGHT A T-SHIRT IF THE SHOP HAD ANY OF THEM... ABSOLUTELY ANY OF THEM... IN A SIZE LARGE!! How incredibly stupid do you have to be to run out of the one souvenir that everybody wants in the most popular size on earth? It's as if the management at this Hard Rock just said "Fuck it! We don't want the cash!"... and then set a huge pile of money on fire in the middle of the fucking restaurant. I mean, seriously, selling souvenir shirts and pins at a Hard Rock is like printing money. You get guaranteed sales at a massive profit margin, and so it makes zero sense why any Hard Rock would ever... ever... run out.

Unless they were purposely trying to run themselves out of business.

Oh well.

With an hour left to kill, I wandered down the colorful streets of Oranjestad...

Colorful building in Oranjestad

And, as you can see, blue skies struck with a vengeance... just as the ship was leaving port.

And that was the first port excursion on my cruise. A welcome event after two days trapped on a giant boat at sea.

   

30 DAYS DRAWING CHALLENGE: Draw the Turning Point in Your Life...

Buddha Lil' Dave

While there are many turning points in my life, the biggest would be a visit to Thailand back in 1998. My entire outlook on life was completely changed. Suddenly all the things that once seemed so critical to my happiness became trivial and petty. Some of this came from studying Buddhist teachings... but mostly it came from the beautiful example set by the Thai people themselves. It was as if I had been sleepwalking for decades and suddenly started to wake up as to what was important in life.

It doesn't get to be more of a turning point than that.

   

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