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DAY THREE: Glasgow – Bullet Sunday 373

Posted on Sunday, March 23rd, 2014

Dave!Unleash the haggis... because Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• Prayers. Truly horrible news from back home... a massive mudslide has devastated a residential area east of Arlington in my home state of Washington. All my hopes go out to friends who have family amongst the 18 people still missing... along with everybody else affected by this tragic event.

   
• Air Yet another excellent flight on KLM Royal Dutch Airlines... this time from Amsterdam to Glasgow. My only disappointment was that they didn't hand out landing cards for non-EU citizens during the quick 1-1/2 hour trip, which meant I had to fill one out at the airport. But that's hardly worth complaining about. Oh, a bit of advice... when offered a choice between "sweet snack and savory snack," go for the savory snack, it's a packet of incredible Gouda cheese biscuits.

   
• Immigration. When you arrive at passport control there's a big sign telling you that tougher border control laws in the UK will cause a longer wait. Since I was at the front of the plane I didn't have many people ahead of me... but the sign wasn't lying. I've been to the UK many times, but on this trip I really got the third degree. They wanted to know absolutely everything about me, my job, my past travels, and the purpose of my visit. Usually I just say "tourist" but, given the level of detail they were drilling for, I literally said "I am a Hard Rock Cafe collector and I am here to visit the new Hard Rock Cafe Glasgow." Then I had to explain what I collected and what else I would be doing while in the UK. And then... then... because I am such a shifty-looking character, I had to go through it all over again with a police inspector. Despite the hassle, everybody was friendly and welcoming, so I guess there's that.

   
• Cash. I never bother getting local currency for my destination ahead of time, because I usually get a better exchange rate by using a cash machine when I land. The only problem being that Glasgow's airport only has a pitiful four ATMs, all of which have insanely long lines. Since I had to have cash for bus fare into town, I was forced to wait. So lesson learned. I'll be going home with a few quid in my pocket for my next trip to the UK, as it would seem cash machines are a rare and elusive creature in these lands.

   
• No. 153. And, now, the reason for my visit... The Hard Rock Glasgow. Like many of the UK properties (both current and past), the cafe is located in a beautiful old building. This particular cafe is in a great location, directly across from the Queen's Street train station on Buchanan Street, a popular shopping district in the city. It's not at all flashy, and would be easy to miss if you weren't looking for it...

Hard Rock Cafe Glasgow

Hard Rock Cafe Glasgow on Buchanan Street

The interior is truly bizarre... in the best possible way. It's equal parts classical architecture and starship Enterprise...

Hard Rock Cafe Glasgow Interior

Hard Rock Cafe Glasgow Interior

Hard Rock Cafe Glasgow Interior

The bathrooms are located off a spiral staircase that's filled with silver guitar sculptures...

Hard Rock Cafe Glasgow Interior

The surprisingly-spacious Rock Shop is at the front of the building, and you pass right by it coming and going...

Hard Rock Cafe Glasgow Interior

All in all, a terrific property. Alas, sadly, the rock memorabilia adheres to the new "hipster lounge" aesthetic so it's badly displayed and there's not much of it, but at least the building is interesting. Oh... and if you're not a vegetarian like myself, you'll be happy to know that the specialty burger for this Hard Rock is a hamburger smothered in haggis with cheese on top!

   
• In A World... I was saddened to learn that one of the most famous voices on the planet, Hal Douglas, passed away. If you've ever seen a US movie trailer, odds are you know who he is... even if you didn't know his name...

One of kind. You will be missed, sir.

   
And now I must say cheerio, as I am falling asleep as I type this.

   

DAY FIVE: Rome

Posted on Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

Dave!I've already been to the Hard Rock Cafe in Rome several times. The only Italian property I haven't been to is the new cafe in Florence. But if I flew directly to Florence, I wouldn't have the opportunity to eat at my favorite restaurant on earth.

So I got up at 3:30am. So I could get to Glasgow Airport by 4:30am. So I could fly to Rome at 6:40am.

This meant skipping breakfast, but that's okay. By the time I got to The Eternal City I was starving, which meant I had room for the city's signature dish for lunch: Cacio e Pepe ("Cheese and Pepper" on spaghetti pasta)...

Cacio e Pepe in Rome

It's a classic dish that's deceptively simple. The trick is getting the pasta cooked to a perfect al dente texture, which is tough in the USA because everybody overcooks their noodles. So you either have to go to RW's house or fly to Italy to get it done right.

Now, the prudent thing to do when you are in Rome is to run around and see all the sights. But I've already done that. And I've been up since 3:30am, so I took a nap instead.

But no worries, I was sure to wake up in time for a late dinner at my most favorite restaurant in all the world: Alfredo alla Scrofa, where Le Fettuccine Alfredo was invented...

Alfredo Alla Scrofa Fettuccine Alfredo

Alfredo Alla Scrofa Fettuccine Alfredo

A heart attack on a plate, gloriously mixed to order right at your table...

Alfredo Alla Scrofa Fettuccine Alfredo

Alfredo Alla Scrofa Fettuccine Alfredo

After dinner I decided to wander over to the Spanish Steps so I could climb to the top and visit the cafe where I first tasted Stracciatella Gelato, my all-time favorite...

Spanish Steps Rome

Gelato in Rome

Gelato in Rome

And, because this is Rome, the walk back to your hotel is filled with incredible sights...

Barberini Fountain

Roman Building

Buona Notte!

   

DAY SIX: Milan and Florence

Posted on Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

Dave!With the exception of one horrendous problem, today was a pretty great day.

My plan was to head up to Florence to see the new Hard Rock Cafe there, but I had a long-time friend (and fellow Hard Rock fan) who had wanted to trade a few pins, so I decided to visit him in Milan, a city I have never been. For some reason I had thought the city was quite close to Florence, but it's actually two hours by train farther... which meant I started my day with a three-hour train ride out of Rome.

It was all worth the trip though, as Milan is a beautiful city. I started with a visit to Duomo di Milano (Milan Cathedral)...

Duomo di Milano

Duomo di Milano

Duomo di Milano

Duomo di Milano

After the cathedral, I was going to visit a small church called Chiesa di Santa Maria presso San Satiro, but I walked right past it and ended up finding Tempio civico di San Sebastiano (The Temple of San Sebastiano), which is a rather unique and beautiful round church...

Tempio civico di San Sebastiano

Tempio civico di San Sebastiano

I did a quick back-track to Chiesa di Santa Maria presso San Satiro (no photos allowed) but couldn't spend a lot of time because I would be late for visiting Biblioteca Ambrosiana (Library of Ambrose), which is home to Leonardo da Vinci's Codex Atlanticus, a massive set of books containing anything and everything from the mind of one of my all-time inspirational heroes, Leonardo da Vinci. You enter through an art gallery that's connected to the library. Unfortunately, I didn't have a lot of time to browse the collection of art here, but it's a very nice collection...

Leonardo da Vinci's Codex Atlanticus

The Codex itself consists of over 1,100 pages, but only a fraction of those are viewable at any one time. Usually the rotating collection on display centers around a theme which, in my case, ended up being music. Included in the display I saw were pages with Leonardo's sketches for an automated drum machine, various instrument ideas, acoustic architecture studies, and much, much more. It was absolutely fascinating, and I could have spent hours pouring over those few pages available. No photos were allowed (of course) but I found a sample page on the internet to give an idea of what they look like...

Leonardo da Vinci's Codex Atlanticus

Fantastic stuff.

After a visit with my friend to exchange some pins, it was time to head to the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie, for what is arguably Milan's most famous attraction.

But first... a cookie break while I waited for my ticket reservation time...

Milan Cookie

The Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie is a rather unassuming building that's almost boring, when compared to the many other religious buildings in the city...

Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie

It's what's inside of it that makes it worth the effort of visiting, Leonardo da Vinci's The Last Supper...

Last Supper of Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie
One of you bitches is going to betray me!

No photos were allowed, of course, this is just an image of an image I found on the internet. But it's not like any photo could do the work justice anyway. I had always thought that it was an interesting, but not terribly inspiring work, and didn't have much of a desire to see it. But that opinion was formed by looking at photos of it in a book.

And then I got to visit the painting in person, and now I know what all the fuss is about.

It is an awe-inspiring work of art. Both artistically and technically, it's mind-bogglingly beautiful. Definitely worth a visit. But, as with most exhibits of this importance in Italy (or most any other country), MAKE TICKET RESERVATIONS IN ADVANCE! Tickets are guaranteed to sell out, and if you just wander in hoping to see it, you're going to leave disappointed.

And here is where disaster occurred. I left myself one hour to get back to the train station to catch my ride to Florence. As always, I consulted Google Maps to get me there. The instructions were quite simple... take the Malpensa Airport Express Train two stops to Bovisa, then take the S2 train to Milano Porta Garibaldi railway station.

Easy, right?

So I ran to the train and hopped on just before the doors closed. I grab a seat just as the train leaves. And then I notice that the train didn't stop at its first stop. Much to my horror, the train didn't stop at the Bovisa stop either. We just kept on going...

Google Maps FAIL Milan

Turns out Google has the train information wrong. This particular run of the Malpensa Airport Express IS FUCKING NON-STOP! And so I ended up having to ride all the way out to the airport (35 minutes), wait for the next train back to Milan (15 minutes), then ride all the way back (35 minutes). Needless to say, I missed my train. Which means I would also miss my train to Rome. Which meant I had just wasted one hour and 25 minutes plus $120 in non-refundable train fare.

THANKS, GOOGLE!

Oh well, I made it to the Hard Rock a bit late, but I did make it. And Florence has a great property that was made from an old movie theater building...

Hard Rock Cafe Florence

Hard Rock Cafe Florence

Hard Rock Cafe Florence

Hard Rock Cafe Florence

On my way back to the train station, I passed The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore (Basilica of Saint Mary of the Flower) or, as it is better known... Il Duomo di Firenze (Cathedral of Florence)...

The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore

Even more beautiful at night, I think.

Back in Rome, I went for a late dinner at Alfredo's, of course, because I just couldn't help myself. And... my short visit to Italy is done.

   

DAY SEVEN: Nice

Posted on Thursday, March 27th, 2014

Dave!I've been around Nice when visiting Monaco and Eze, but have never actually been to Nice proper. Now that there's a Hard Rock in town, that had to change.

Well, that and the movies shot in the city always make it look so amazing. Like that car chase in Ronin... or that car chase in The Transporter... or the car chase in Never Say Never Again (well, not a car chase per se, but that would have been an excellent addition to the film, wouldn't it?).

And so... on to Hard Rock No. 155...

Hard Rock Cafe Nice

Hard Rock Cafe Nice

Hard Rock Cafe Nice

Hard Rock Cafe Nice

Beautiful views. Lovely restaurant. Kind of boring for a Hard Rock.

After lunch I headed to the beach. The weather was not great beach weather, but it was still a beautiful day on the Côte d'Azur...

The Beach at Nice

Lovely turquoise water, but something seems... off...

The Beach at Nice

Wait... that's not sand... it's... ROCKS?!?

The Beach at Nice

Yes. The famous beach at Nice is covered not with sand, but with rocks? All this time I had no idea. And yet there were people laying around with beach towels and the whole bit. Which can't be comfortable, can it? As I stumbled across the "beach," attempting to keep my footing while walking on cascading stones, I admit to being a bit disappointed.

Until I stopped for a second and listened to the rocks rolling in the surf. It was totally hypnotic...

Nice itself is quite a lovely city. Especially back at their main square, Place Masséna, which features the "Fontaine du Soleil" (Fountain of the Sun) in the southern half. From a distance, it looks quite impressive with a giant statue of Apollo standing in the middle...

Fontaine du Soleil

It's when you get closer to the fountain that things start to get disturbing. Apollo has freaky bulging eyes staring at you. And the crown of horses on his head look more like those baby chest-bursters in Alien. Not to mention his dick... swinging...

Fontaine du Soleil

And the statues in the fountain basin? Utterly bizarre...

Fontaine du Soleil

Clockwise from the upper-left...

  1. Nude Woman Flying with Buffalo While Holding a Baby?
  2. Nude Pipi Longstocking Riding a Giant Ugly Carp?
  3. Nude Man Shielding His Eyes from the Sun While Walking a Bull?
  4. Nude Man Directing Traffic with a Horse?

The northern half of Place Masséna is wide open... except for these poles that have nude men (covered in bird shit) kneeling on top of them...

Place Masséna

Place Masséna

No idea what that's all about.

Walking back to the train station, I passed Nice's version of the Notre Dame Cathedral...

Notre Dame Cathedral Nice

Which looks better with a little HDR magic...

Notre Dame Cathedral Nice

My original plan was to take a train to Cannes or Monaco for dinner, but I was just done traveling for the day. I was actually done with traveling for the week. Tomorrow's flight back to Amsterdam at 6:30am will be hard enough.

So an early night to bed it is.

   

Hard Rock Hotel Palm Springs

Posted on Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

Dave!I did not set my expectations very high for The Hard Rock Hotel Palm Springs. Even though it was a HR Corporate project, the website gave it the feel of a crappy quick-and-dirty "conversion property" like Tulsa and Albuquerque. Those lazy hotels where they just slap a few pieces of rock memorabilia on the walls, change a few door-handles to be guitar-shaped, hang a logo above the door, and call it a Hard Rock...

Hard Rock Hotel Palm Springs

Hard Rock Hotel Palm Springs

Nope, despite outside appearances, the Palm Springs hotel was actually really well done. Much more than just a coat of paint and some superficial decorations. The lobby was beautifully themed with rock instrument sculptures, a lot of music-themed details, and a surprising amount of memorabilia. The design is beautifully eclectic and authentic Hard Rock, featuring a full lobby bar, a restaurant, and a merch shop... all really well done.

The reception desk...

Hard Rock Hotel Palm Springs

The very nice bar in the lobby area...

Hard Rock Hotel Palm Springs

Lobby staircase and FUN...

Hard Rock Hotel Palm Springs

Speaker sculpture...

Hard Rock Hotel Palm Springs

Sessions restaurant...

Hard Rock Hotel Palm Springs

Memorabilia case at the entrance...

Hard Rock Hotel Palm Springs

But the biggest surprise? They actually put some effort into theming the rooms! Many times they don't even bother with a hotel conversion, but it looks as thought they gutted everything and made it be Hard Rock style...

Hard Rock Hotel Palm Springs

The only disappointment in the conversion was the pool area. Not only is the pool tiny, there was no effort to make it look very Hard Rock. They half-heartedly spray-painted a few Banksy-inspired murals on a couple walls and that's about it...

Hard Rock Hotel Palm Springs

Hard Rock Hotel Palm Springs

   
Overall a pleasant surprise. This is a great hotel... and a great addition to the Hard Rock family. The staff was terrific. Everything is clean and impeccably-maintained. The location is fantastic, just one block off Palm Canyon Drive downtown. Even the pricing seems comparable with similarly-equipped hotels in the area (i.e. a bit expensive). I enjoyed my stay very much.

Except...

In keeping with the growing trend of screwing your guests, of course there's a fucking "resort fee" you have to pay at checkout. The Hard Rock Palm Springs charges $30 per day, which is definitely on the high-side. It includes the usual... local calls nobody will ever make because they have fucking mobile phones and don't know anybody local... access to the gym which nobody will bother with because they're on vacation... access to the pool, which you've been getting free at every hotel since the dawn of time... internet access, which should be included in the room cost anyway... basically, bullshit amenities that are valued a hell of a lot less the $30 a day. I'd give you a complete breakdown of what it includes but, of course, a complete breakdown cannot be found on the hotel website because they want to camouflage this fucking bullshit charge as much as possible. I dunno. Maybe it also includes parking, which helps justify the cost IF you have a car... but $30 a day still seems fucking insane.

I only stayed for one day and didn't have a car, but I did get a ride to the airport and use the internet, so I'm trying not to be sore about paying $30 for nothing (seriously, if you still charge for internet, you're a fucking nickel-and-diming douchebag of a hotel). I could not stay here longer than two days without feeling as though I were being seriously ripped off. I would not.

But this is how it works now. Hotels want to grab people with cheap-ass room rates on the discount sites, but don't actually want to give their customers a discount. Hence the "resort fee" bullshit.

Oh well.

If you're looking for a nice place to stay and don't mind being violated with a mandatory fee for shit you won't use, by all means give the Hard Rock Hotel Palm Springs a look.

   

Bullet Sunday 384

Posted on Sunday, June 8th, 2014

Dave!Take time to be kind... because Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• Window. My first time visiting Pittsburgh... back in 2002... I flew into the airport, rented a car, then headed into the city. Unlike most cities where you can see the buildings in the distance and know what you're getting into, Pittsburgh is hidden. Mt. Washington obscures the skyline so you have no idea what to expect until you drive through a tunnel that leads to the city. And for somebody like me who was expecting a run-down, dirty, old steel town, it's a spectacular surprise. Which I've finally managed to film on my fourth try...

Pittsburgh is a beautiful city filled with terrific architecture and lots of green spaces. That it has one of the most amazing reveals of any city on earth is just the icing on the cake.

   
• Hard Rock. The bulk of my Sunday was spent kidnapping Becky and driving to Ohio so we could visit the new Hard Rock Casino and Hard Rock Cafe in Northfield Park, Ohio. Sadly, it's a franchise property, so it's not in the same league as other Hard Rock properties, but they still did a very nice job...

Hard Rock Northfield Park

Hard Rock Northfield Park

Hard Rock Northfield Park

Hard Rock Northfield Park

Hard Rock Northfield Park

Hard Rock Northfield Park

Hard Rock Northfield Park

I ended up winning $40 on my first pull in a slot machine, so that pretty much paid for the cost of getting here... how cool is that?

   
• Bridge. On the way back to Pittsburgh, Becky navigated us to Banks Covered Bridge, which is near Wilmington Township, Western Pennsylvania...

Banks Covered Bridge

Banks Covered Bridge

It's a nice old bridge that's in really good shape... having been "rehabilitated in 1999, 110 years after it was built in 1889.

   
• Bridge Deux. Not far from Banks Covered Bridge is McConnell's Mill Covered Bridge, which has a state park built around it...

McConnell's Mill Covered Bridge

McConnell's Mill Covered Bridge

McConnell's Mill Covered Bridge

McConnell's Mill Covered Bridge

McConnell's Mill Covered Bridge

The bridge is unique in that it uses something called a "Howe's Truss" in its construction... something that's apparently rare for Pennsylvania bridges.

   
• Meal. After an afternoon of excitement, it was back to Pittsburgh for dinner. This time to the Squirrel Hill neighborhood, where even the hipster mannequins are battling receding hairlines...

HIPSTER MANNEQUIN!!!

Killer goatee though. Apparently that's the default facial hair configuration in the greater Pittsburgh arean.

   
And now? Time to lapse into a coma of relaxation...

   

Pigeon Forge

Posted on Saturday, July 26th, 2014

Dave! And so here I am in Knoxville, which is pretty much just a landing point for my real destination: Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. The city is kind of a resort area that built up around Dolly Parton's theme park, Dollywood, and there's all kinds of interesting things to see and do.

But I'm not here for the attractions. The Hard Rock Cafe in Gatlinburg (one of my favorites) closed up shop and moved up the road to Pigeon Forge, so I decided to check it out with some friends who came from Chattanooga. From the outside, it's nothing special. They painted it purple, but it's still incredibly boring. No giant guitar. No unique Tennessee-inspired architecture. Nothing very special at all...

Hard Rock Cafe Pigeon Forge

As expected, the interior is inspired by the newer-style Hard Rock "hipster lounge" design aesthetic I loathe. The good news is that they toned it down a bit so it's not quite so douchey. No giant flowing curtains and other crap obscuring the joint. Inexplicably, there's a lot of ropes hanging above the bar. If this were a port city, that might make sense... but Pigeon Forge is about as land-locked as you can get, so I guess it's some kind of S&M-inspired tribute to Fifty Shades of Grey or something...

Hard Rock Cafe Pigeon Forge

Holy crap do I miss the "old-style" cafes that were packed to the rafters with rock memorabilia! These newer cafes are style over substance, and all you get are a few scattered pieces of clothing... a few guitars... maybe some hand-penned lyrics or something. It's as if the people designing for the chain now have no fucking clue what the Hard Rock is supposed to be about...

Hard Rock Cafe Pigeon Forge

Case in point... they had one of Dolly Parton's dresses hanging on the wall. And while they do have a plaque below the piece explaining its history, there's no photo of Dolly wearing it... or note from Dolly about it... which is what you'd likely find in an old-style cafe where they were more interested in the memorabilia telling a story instead of a merely using it as a design accessory...

Hard Rock Cafe Pigeon Forge

Sad, really.

But anyway...

After parting ways with my friends, I decided to wander down the street to The Titanic Museum. I was curious to see how it stacked up to the "Titanic Experience" I visited in Orlando.

It certainly looks really impressive...

Titanic Museum Pigeon Forge

Titanic Museum Pigeon Forge

But then, tragedy struck.

I noticed a sign saying "no photos or video"...

Titanic Museum Pigeon Forge

Disappointing, but not a deal-breaker. Yet. Before buying a ticket, I head to the gift shop to see if they have a souvenir guide to the museum. If I can't take pictures, a book will have to do.

Except they don't have a guide book.

Fuck. That. There's the deal-breaker.

I am sick and tired of museums who don't allow you any way to re-visit your visit. Don't want me taking photos? Fine. But sell a fucking guide book so fifteen years from now when I want to remember my visit I have something to actually remind me. I visit a ton of museums, and it's not like I can remember every damn thing I've ever seen in them.

So screw the Titanic Museum. I am done supporting this kind of crap.

My friends recommended that I visit the Pigeon Forge Gem Mine before I left, which sounded interesting...

Mine Your Own Gemstones

What you do is buy a bucket of dirt that has a random assortment of gemstones and other goodies hidden in it. There are al kins of choices, depending on what you're interested in, and the prices range from $15 to $200...

Mine Your Own Gemstones

I bought a more modest bucket that was like $20 or something...

Mine Your Own Gemstones

Once you've paid for your dirt, you take a seat at a water trough where you can start mining for your treasure...

Mine Your Own Gemstones

After dumping a couple scoopfuls into your screen box, you shift it in the trough so that the dirt washes away...

Mine Your Own Gemstones

That leaves you with gemstones, agates, fossils, and other interesting stuff...

Mine Your Own Gemstones

Once you've finished your bucket, you can go inside to have them evaluate your haul. This can take a while. There was only one "assayer" on duty, and she spent twenty minutes with one person who must have been mining for days because she had bags and bags of rocks...

Mine Your Own Gemstones

Luckily, I was in no hurry, so I visited the... uhhh... "Gem Museum" they had...

Mine Your Own Gemstones

Eventually my name was called and I got to learn what all I had. Which was nothing too spectacular, really. I rather like the nice piece of amethyst I found though (the purple-ish thing at the top)...

Mine Your Own Gemstones

I also got some nifty minerals, a couple fossils, and a really cool agate (on the far left).

Mine Your Own Gemstones

If you want, the shop will clean up your pieces, polish them into something pretty, and make it into some jewelry for you in 24 hours. I wasn't interested in spending any more money, so I took my bag of rocks and left.

Overall, the Pigeon Forge Gem Mine was a pretty cool experience, and a good waste of time (I was there for just over an hour). Some people were spending hundreds of dollars on bucket after bucket, so you could probably make a day out of it if you wanted to.

But don't be there too long, or you'll miss out on the many dinner theaters going on. There's musical theater. There's church theater. There's Hatfields vs. McCoys theater. There's all kinds of dinner theaters. There's even Lumberjack Feud theater, which looks like it would be a total bloodbath...

ZOMFG! LUMBERJACK FEUD!!!

I wasn't sticking around for dinner theater, but I did want to stop at the souvenir shop where Jesus saves...

Jesus Saves Incredible Bargains!

It's a junk-lovers dream come true, as they've got every kind of crap you can think of...

Jesus Saves Incredible Bargains!

But I didn't have time for shopping (or paying $3.50 to see the live bears they keep out back), so I headed back to Knoxville... where I finally decided to venture into the city, which is quite nice...

It's Knoxville!

The highlight of my visit was the Mast General Store, which was a lot of fun...

It's Knoxville!

It's Knoxville!

I ended up finding some really nice shirts on sale, so I bought a bunch to take home...

It's Knoxville!

I could have bought a lot of things, but I only have one small suitcase, so I had to pass. I did grab a bag of bulk candies, however...

It's Knoxville!

And there you have it. My one day in Tennessee. In a few minutes I'll be off to the movies and then calling it a night so I can pack up for my flight out tomorrow.

After I've eaten all my candy, obviously.

   

Day Three: Johannesburg

Posted on Friday, September 19th, 2014

Dave!And so here I am in Johannesburg, South Africa.

I added a full day layover in the city to recover from the long-ass 30-1/2 hours of travel I put in yesterday. Originally I was going to fly into Cape Town, but they don't have a Hard Rock Cafe there anymore, so Johannesburg it was.

The property is of the new-style "hipster cafe" variety. Usually I hate the cold and impersonal approach of these Hard Rocks, but this one is not so bad. It has a nice assortment of memorabilia, at least (even if it's not as big as it could be)...

Hard Rock Cafe Johannesburg

Hard Rock Cafe Johannesburg

Hard Rock Cafe Johannesburg

Hard Rock Cafe Johannesburg

Hard Rock Cafe Johannesburg

Hard Rock Cafe Johannesburg

Hard Rock Cafe Johannesburg

Hard Rock Cafe Johannesburg

The Hard Rock is located in the district of Sandton on Nelson Mandella Square, where they have a very nice statue of him...

Nelson Mandella Square in Johannesburg

And so... after posting this I'm off to bed with hopes of getting some sleep before a rather busy day tomorrow. Though I doubt I'll get to update my blog because the hotel internet is utter shit...

Crappy internet connection error

Good preparation for when I have no internet at all real soon now.

That'll be interesting.

   

Bullet Sunday 410

Posted on Monday, December 8th, 2014

Dave!Don't say it's over... because Bullet Sunday on Monday starts... now...

   
• 161! This evening I net up with two local bloggity internet friends, Chris & Kyle, for a visit to the Hard Rock Cafe Mall of America... which has been built into the middle of the USA's largest shopping complex. For a "new school" property, it's not bad. Certainly not as great as the former Minneapolis Hard Rock since it's a douchey hipster-lounge "new school" property... but at least there's some decent memorabilia to be found...

Hard Rock Cafe Mall of America at Minneapolis.

Hard Rock Cafe Mall of America at Minneapolis.

Hard Rock Cafe Mall of America at Minneapolis.

Hard Rock Cafe Mall of America at Minneapolis.

Hard Rock Cafe Mall of America at Minneapolis.

Hard Rock Cafe Mall of America at Minneapolis.

Hard Rock Cafe Mall of America at Minneapolis.

Hard Rock Cafe Mall of America at Minneapolis.

Oh... and the location is pretty good. Right next to the LEGO Store...

Hard Rock Cafe Mall of America at Minneapolis.

And that's Hard Rock property no. 161.

   
• SPACESHIP!

SPACESHIP!!!

Thanks, Benny!

   
• Pub Night! After drinks at the Hard Rock, we headed to Ward 6 in St. Paul for dinner. I had the fried egg sammy (sans the bacon) and loved it. They actually put TWO fried eggs on there, which makes for an especially gooey delicious mess. Fantastic fries to boot. As if that wasn't enough, it was PUB QUIZ NIGHT! Our table was #1 for three of the four rounds, so we probably would have devastated the rest of the players... but we left before round 4 because it was taking really long to get through the questions. Still, great place for food if you're in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area.

   
• Thomas! This guy is genius...

While funny, am I the only one who thinks that this will one day lead to his death?

   
• UPS! This is too adorable...

Now I can't help but wonder if this kid will grow up to become an actual UPS driver.

   
• THANKS, OBAMA! Love him or hate him, this was pretty dang funny...

Cue the asshole brigade with cries of "Shouldn't he be running the country? And by 'running' I mean 'ruining"?!?"

   
And... tomorrow I'm in the air yet again, so I bid you goodnight!

   

Siouxland

Posted on Tuesday, December 9th, 2014

Dave!And so today I flew into Sioux Falls so I could rent a car and drive down to Sioux City... home to the latest US Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. It's nothing overly-fancy, but it does have some nice pieces of memorabilia and pretty good theming throughout.

But I'm getting ahead of myself...

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sioux City

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sioux City

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sioux City

As you can tell in that last photo, the hotel part and the casino part are two separate buildings. The hotel was the former Simmons Hardware Company Warehouse (which you can read about here)... then they plastered the casino building right up next to it. You can see that they used the original exterior wall as the new interior dividing wall when you use the rear entrance...

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sioux City

The lobby is beautiful and decorated nicely for the holidays...

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sioux City Lobby

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sioux City Lobby

Interestingly enough, the reception desk has a full bar behind it. I don't know that I've ever seen that before!

The rooms are great, but not terribly "Hard Rock." With the exception of a guitar painting and a strip of photos next to the toilet, there's just not much to distinguish this from a "regular" hotel room... albeit a very nice one...

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sioux City Rooms

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sioux City Rooms

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sioux City Rooms

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sioux City Rooms

Hallways are pretty mundane and memorabilia-free, except for the carpet and door art...

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sioux City Hallway

Memorabilia is fairly good once you get to the casino portion. Not so much on the casino floor, but all the way around it...

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sioux City Memorabilia

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sioux City Memorabilia
A shirt worn by Elvis Presley!

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sioux City Memorabilia

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sioux City Memorabilia

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sioux City Memorabilia

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sioux City Memorabilia

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sioux City Rock Shop

Not wanting to spend all my time in a casino (I'm not much of a gambler), I decided to head out into the city and see what museums could be found in walking distance from the Hard Rock. The first I ran across was the Sioux City Art Center... which is not an actual museum, but they do have a small collection. The building itself is one of their best works of art, however...

Sioux City Art Center

Much to their credit, they had a beautiful Dale Chihuly seaform vase in their collection...

Sioux City Art Center Chihuly

And a series of paintings focusing on cornfields. I couldn't really tell if they were painted to be faded and tough to make out... or if they were badly faded from sun damage or something. Still interesting. Though I found it impossible to photograph them well...

Sioux City Art Center

Much to my surprise, they also have a Jackson Pollock on loan...

Sioux City Art Center Jackson Pollock

Not one of my favorites by him, but Polock's works are alway great to see in person... the way the paint layers up is an interesting effect that gets lost in photos.

From there I walked to the Sioux City Museum, which focuses on the history of (you guessed it) Sioux City...

Sioux City Museum

There's a lot of history in a relatively small space... almost too much at times, because it gets so cluttered you don't know where to look...

Sioux City Museum

Sioux City Museum

Sioux City Museum

A nice museum, really... and totally free (though you can make a donation).

After a while I decided to head back to the hotel... disappointed that both cities I visited bearing the name of the Great Sioux Nation didn't actually have a museum dedicated to the Native Americans which inhabited (and continue to inhabit) the region. A teepee and a few crafts in the City Museum were about it. Perhaps one of the Indian reservations would have a museum, but they're so scattered I wouldn't know where to begin looking. I've done some cursory Google searches and came up empty. Guess I need to find a book.

Oh... and I found this cool shot along the way...

Sioux City Alley

Dinner was an interesting side journey.

Three days ago, Blogography reader "Omaha Carl" left this comment...

As always, just LOVE it when you share your travels.
If you ever get to fly-over country. i.e. the Omaha region, consider me for a guide, or at least for suggestions.
Carl Mann
(NOT the country singer from the 50s and 60s)

Smartass that I am, I replied with this...

I’ll be in flyover country day after tomorrow… see you then! :-)

It was a joke... but then I got to thinking about how Omaha couldn't be more than an hour-and-a-half south of Sioux City. So I Googled it and, sure enough, an hour and thirty-four minutes...

Google Maps

So... a couple emails later and I was off to Omaha for a terrific dinner with Carl...

Anthony's in Omaha Nebraska

If you're ever in Omaha, Anthony's makes a mean bowl of pasta (and it's way more than I could eat!). I'm just sad that I didn't have room to eat a salad with some Dorothy Lynch dressing (which is apparently a very Omaha thing to do given that it was invented in the city of St. Paul, due East of the city).

Thanks so much to Omaha Carl for the great evening!

   

Dave14

Posted on Wednesday, December 31st, 2014

Dave!For those who only read one of my posts each year... or anybody wanting a recap of the past year here at Blogography... this post is for you! As usual, I've jettisoned loads of the usual junk so this entry is "mostly crap" instead of the "total crap" they usually are.

This year presented me with some harsh struggles, unwelcome challenges, and a lot of bad news. But there were some good moments in there that kept 2014 from being a complete disappointment, so here we go...

   


JANUARY

• Explained why I'm in favor of legalizing marijuana even though I don't use marijuana...

Yes on Washington 502

   

• Jester and I visited the Walt Disney Family Museum at long last, then saw the amazing Betty Who in concert...

Betty Who in San Francisco!

   

• Made time to add another section to my forearm tattoo.

   


FEBRUARY

Got angry.

   

Everything is awesome.

The LEGO Movie Poster

   

• With much sadness, I had to say goodbye to a friend.

   

Penis! Vegina!

   


MARCH

How I read.

   

• Flew to the Netherlands for PATATJES MET!

Patatjes Met!

   

Visited Glasgow, Scotland for Hard Rock No. 153...

Hard Rock Cafe Glasgow

   

• Revisited Florence, Italy for Hard Rock visit No. 154...

Hard Rock Cafe Florence

   

• Then went onward to Nice, France for Hard Rock visit No. 155 and nearly got killed in the process...

Hard Rock Cafe Nice

   

Visited Friesland, the land of my forefathers, with The Dutch Bitch... then continued to the resort island of Schiermonnikoog.

   


APRIL

• Back to San Francisco for work and the same old routine, which means... MINI DONUTS!

BAG-O-DONUTS!

   

• Can't go to San Francisco without another tattoo...

Om Mani Padme Hum

   


MAY

• Visited the new Palm Springs Hard Rock Hotel, which is No. 156 for me...

Hard Rock Hotel Palm Springs

   

• Discovered the best damn veggie burger ever while in Chicago...

GAH! IT'S SO DELICIOUS!!!

   

• And so... Apple is definitely broken.

   

TILTED WITH HOT COFFEE GIRL... ZOMG!

TILT! at Hancock Center

   

Finally saw Morrissey in concert on a trip to Tampa... AND HE DIDN'T CANCEL! WOO-HOO!

Morrissey Concert Interlude

   

• Ate the world's best potato salad with Certifiable Princess then explored Ybor City where we found... THE BAD MONKEY BAR!!!

Bad Monkey Bar

   


JUNE

• Once again flew to the amazing city of Pittsburgh and got to spend time with HelloHaHaNarf Becky, one of my most favorite people on earth... LET'S GO BUCS!

Becky and Dave2
That's right... bask in our adorableness!

   

Becky and I drove to Ohio so I could visit the Northfield Park Hard Rock Casino (No. 157) and Hard Rock Cafe (No. 158)...

Hard Rock Northfield Park

   

• Thanks to my sister, I got to watch a Mariners game with field-level seats!

Dave!

   

It's over.

   


JULY

Fuck you, you fucking fucks.

   

• Managed to live through another fire seasons in Central Washington...

Wildfires

   

• Visited Pigeon Forge, Tennessee so I could check off Hard Rock No. 159...

Hard Rock Cafe Pigeon Forge

   

Visited some lighthouses in Maine and ate the best blueberry crumble I have ever had in my life...

Marshall Point Lighthouse, Maine

   


AUGUST

• Saw my favorite movie of 2014... Guardians of the Galaxy.

   

If you've never suffered from severe depression... if you've never stood by helplessly as somebody you care about battles depression... if you've never made an effort to understand what depression is or what it does to you... then please, for the love of God, shut the fuck up about it.

   

• Bought a new camera lens... my first telephoto glass in many years.

   


SEPTEMBER

• Flew to Salt Lake City and got to meet one of my childhood fantasies... ERIN GRAY!

Me and Erin Gray

   

• Went to the Retro Futura Tour with Marty from Banal Leakage to see TOM BAILEY OF THE THOMPSON TWINS LIVE IN CONCERT!

Tom Bailey Retro Futura Tour 2014

   

• Added Hard Rock visit No. 160 to my list in Johannesburg, South Africa...

Hard Rock Cafe Johannesburg

   

• Fulfilled a lifelong dream to visit Africa and go on safari with a trip to Mana Pools in Zimbabwe...

Lions in the Shade

Elephants in the Zambezi

   

• Photographed lions while visiting Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe...

Hwange Lioness

Hwange Lion Cubs

   

• Accidentally discovered a love for astral photography...

Zimbabwe Night Sky Milky Way

   

• Flew to Victoria Falls to see the largest falls by volume on the face of the earth...

Victoria Falls

   

THINGS I LEARNED ABOUT A SAFARI VACATION IN AFRICA!

   


OCTOBER

What's in my camera bag?

   

• Took a short vacation from my vacation with a trip to New Orleans... and tattoo No. 6...

No matter where you go... there you are.

   


NOVEMBER

   

• Had the extreme pleasure of attending a reading by my favorite living author, David Sedaris...

Sedaris Autograph

   

A look at blog stats.

   

God bless America? If this is what we've come to, I sincerely doubt it.

   


DECEMBER

Try showing a little class...

   

• Took some time to do some night photography while I was in Portland, Maine...

Portland's Harbor Fish Market.

   

• Stopped by Minneapolis to meet up with some blogger friends and visit the Hard Rock Cafe Mall of America, which would be No. 161 for me...

Hard Rock Cafe Mall of America at Minneapolis.

   

• Flew to Sioux Falls so I could drive down to Sioux City and see my last Hard Rock of the year... a hotel and casino No. 162...

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sioux City

   

• Closed out my travel year with a stop at the World Famous Corn Palace.

   


And that was my adventures in 2014.

Here's wishing everybody a terrific 2015!

   

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