White Castle Jalapeno Sliders from the grocery store

White Castle Jalapeno Cheese Slider
White Castle Jalapeno Cheese Slider

I spotted these White Castle Jalapeno Cheese Sliders in the frozen section of my local supermarket this past week, and absolutely HAD to buy and eat them.  I’ve never been to an actual White Castle location, like Harold and Kumar, but I have had the Original Sliders, the Cheese Sliders, and the Chicken Breast slider before from the grocery store.

White Castle Cheese Slider
White Castle Cheese Slider

According to the White Castle web site the origin of the name “slider” comes from the observation that they were so easy to eat.  I can’t disagree with that.  I really like the grilled onions on the cheese sliders and when I tried the jalapeno ones I found that I liked the little bit of added “heat” but that it decreased the amount of onion flavor I was tasting.  I’m not sure if this is because there was less onions, or simply a masking effect.

I liked the jalapeno ones, but I’m going to stick with the cheese sliders as my favorite overall choice.  Look for these in the frozen foods section of your grocery store.

Jimmy Dean Breakfast Bowl – Sausage

IMG_20160118_153106

Sometimes I skip eating breakfast to save some calories but when I want to eat a breakfast quickly at home, I like a Jimmy Dean Sausage Breakfast bowl.

It’s ready in about 4 minutes and besides tasting pretty good, the portion is sized right to satisfy without making me feel too full.  This variety lacks the Bacon that’s found in the Meat Lovers version, but it has an ample amount of sausage and cheese.

I will typically buy 2 or 4 different kinds of these at the grocery store at the 2 for $5 price.  A cup of coffee and this with a squirt of hot sauce added is how I start many of my days.

Jamaica, Hedonism II May 2016 Trip Report

Map of Jamaica
Map of Jamaica

This was my second trip to Jamaica and to the Hedonism II all inclusive resort.  My first trip was in March 2015 and I liked it so much that I had been planning a return trip this year.  I’ve indicated where pictures from 2015 were used in addition to the ones I took on this trip.

I have airfare alerts using AirfareWatchdog setup for fares from the US to Montego Bay, Jamaica (MBJ) but in this case I used a Delta Skymiles redemption for a round trip coach class ticket from Daytona Beach, Florida. (DAB)

I noticed that the Hedonism II resort was offering a room rate sale for some select dates, and then matched that up to the dates when I could get a ticket by redeeming the least amount of my frequent flyer miles.  When I found a match I booked my reservations.

Prior preparation for this trip was based on some things I had researched before my initial trip in 2015 and also on some things that I learned while I was there last year.

Cheap Flip Flops
Cheap Flip Flops

At the resort it’s very practical to wear flip flops when walking and then slip them off once at the beach or pool.  My good Reef brand sandals which I had for years recently blew out a sole and I haven’t replaced them with a good pair so I picked up a cheap pair from a local store before my trip.

Insulated mug
Insulated mug

At the resort there are multiple bars, and all of your drinks are included.  Top shelf liquors as well as beer is available.  The resort serves in a normal sized plastic cup but if you want to cut down on the number of times you need to go to the bar, and have your drinks stay colder for a longer time, you should buy and take an insulated mug or tumbler with you to use.  I bought a Bubba brand mug to take with me.

Hat and cheap sunglasses
Hat and cheap sunglasses

No one wants to get bad sunburn on vacation, and having a hat along with sunscreen helps me avoid this.  I have expensive sunglasses but for a trip like this I get a cheap pair that I won’t mind if they are damaged or lost.

Lanyard and room key
Lanyard and room key

The folks at Hedonism II will gladly punch a hole in your plastic room key, to allow you to attach it to a lanyard or a wrist bracelet.  I had one at home that I threw into my suitcase for use at the resort.  You might wonder why that’s important and it is because Hedonism II is a clothing optional resort that also has some nude only areas.  Don’t assume that you will have a pocket for storage.  You don’t need your wallet once you check in, and you aren’t allowed to have your cellphone in the nude only area, so for many people a room key, a cup, a towel, and some sun tan lotion is all they take from their rooms to the beach or pools.

Early morning flights
Early morning flights

My departure from Daytona Beach was so early in the morning that I didn’t even go to sleep the night before.  I figured I could get some sleep on the plane flights during the trip down to Jamaica.  Compared to my recent trips to Vancouver and Amsterdam, these were relatively short flights and I was fortunate to have been given First Class upgrades for 3 out of 4 of my flights.  I had a coffee with Bailey’s Irish Cream while I was in my seat during boarding.  The flight to Atlanta only takes about an hour.

Coffee and Bailey's
Coffee and Bailey’s
Sunrise at the ATL airport
Sunrise at the ATL airport

The plane arrived in Atlanta about the same time as sunrise.  I found my way to the Delta Skyclub nearest my departure gate, and had a Bloody Mary while I waited for my next plane to board.  I wrote a recent trip report about how I like the Ballast Point Mix they are using now to make them.

Skyclub Bloody Mary
Skyclub Bloody Mary

I was offered and accepted a glass of champagne to enjoy in my First Class seat while the rest of the passengers boarded in Atlanta.  Once in the air I passed on the breakfast service and got a little bit of sleep during the two and a half hour flight down to Montego Bay, Jamaica.

My cell phone worked fine soon after cutting it back on in Montego Bay. The Google Project FI service is supported in Jamaica, although the cell networks in Jamaica aren’t 4G LTE from what I can tell.

Project FI Jamaica
Project FI Jamaica

I was one of the first people off of my plane and joined a fairly short line in the customs and immigration area.  Once I was done with that I found the Club Mobay location in the arrivals area for a short visit.  I have access to this club as part of the benefits from one of my credit cards and was able to enjoy some small appetizers and a Red Stripe beer while waiting for my bus to the resort to begin boarding.

Club MoBay MBJ arrivals
Club MoBay MBJ arrivals

The first time I visited Jamaica, I took a private sedan that I arranged to take me to and from the resort in Negril.  The one hour ride each way cost a total of $100 USD for the round trip plus tip.  This time I used a bus service and the cost was only $50 for the round trip, plus tip.  There were about 8-10 other people on the bus, all going to resorts in the Negril area.

Motor Coach at MBJ airport
Motor Coach at MBJ airport

Negril is about an hour’s drive away from the Montego Bay airport, and I was able to use my cellphone to catch up on email during the ride.  The folks on my bus didn’t want to stop at a bar along the way, so we arrived in Negril just after noon local time, which was 1 hour later than east coast time this part of the year.

Hedonism II
Hedonism II
Hedonism II
Hedonism II

The check in process was pretty easy and didn’t take very long at all.  The lobby used to have some tile art work but this year I looked for it and didn’t see it.  Recently the owners of Hedonism II have been on a steady pace of renovation and it’s helping update a resort that was built decades ago.  At this point I’m just eager to drop my stuff off in the room and get down to the beach.

Tile art work
Tile art work I saw in 2015
Hedo II lobby 2016
Hedo II lobby 2016
Hedo II Lobby chairs
Hedo II Lobby chairs

I had booked a garden view room on the Prude side of the resort to save some money but was nicely upgraded into an Ocean view room on the Nude side of the resort.  The rooms are a nice size and I find them to be pretty comfortable other than having loud air conditioning units.

Hedo II room view
Hedo II room view

I should point out that even the Prude side of the resort is clothing optional.  The lobby and main dining areas are pretty much the only places where clothing is an absolute requirement.  If you are leaving your room to go to the beach or one of the pools, there’s no need to wear a bathing suit.  Some folks don’t, while others do or wear a cover up and then disrobe once they get there.  If you stay on the Prude half of the resort, you can keep your clothes on all of the time if you like, but you should expect to see others that choose not to.

Working on my tan 2015
Working on my tan 2015

I find the time I spend at Hedo II to be mostly easy relaxed days and nights.  I don’t wear my smartwatch and I only check emails once a day.

Hedo II Courtyard
Hedo II Courtyard

There is a charge to connect to the WiFi when you are in your room but there’s free access up in the courtyard area of the resort.  I’d bring my phone or tablet with me to a meal in the dining room nearby, and then move to a chair in the courtyard to check on things when I needed to.  I could use cellular data as part of my Project FI global roaming but speeds in Jamaica were slow and it was easier to use WiFi.

Hedo Resort Nude area
Hedo Resort Nude area

There is ample signage and enforcement by staff on the nude side of the resort of the prohibition of electronics that might be used to take photographs.  Concerns about photos of you having a good time on vacation at Hedo ending up on the internet are really, really small.  People simply follow this rule and don’t cause problems for themselves or others.

Hedo II Beach
Hedo II Beach
Hedo II Beach
Hedo II Beach
Hedo II Beach
Hedo II Beach
Hedo II dock
Hedo II dock 2015

There’s a reason that the photos I took were from early in the morning, and that they don’t show anyone else in them.  Some folks even tell family and friends that they are going to a nearby resort instead of Hedo II so they aren’t judged for lifestyle choices.  If you talk to the people you meet at Hedo II you will find that most of them have been there multiple times and plan on returning for future trips.  It’s simply a very friendly and accepting atmosphere with a focus on having fun and that’s very appealing.

I’m not super peculiar about food other than I like variety and will choose quality over quantity.  I think the resort has pretty good food in it’s dining room and restaurants.  There’s typically a couple of local Jamaican dishes along with an assortment of other western cuisine.  I ate supper in their Hibachi Style place my last night there.

Hedo II Omelette
Hedo II Omelette

I awoke on the last day of my vacation to issues with the water in my building.  When I called and asked when the water would be on and available to take a shower, I was told that a burst pipe had been repaired and to wait an hour for the water service to be restored.  Sadly it was off between 7 AM and 11 AM when I had to leave for my transfer back to the airport.  It was only at my checkout that the offer to use a shower in the spa was mentioned.  I wish I had thought about that earlier or it had been suggested earlier, but it wasn’t.

Hedo II Moon Hill
Hedo II Moon Hill
Hedo II Moon Hill
Hedo II Moon Hill

The ride back to the airport on the bus was subdued and uneventful.

MBJ airport 2015
MBJ airport 2015

I was able to check in and then spend some time the Club Mobay departures lounge before my flight began boarding.  I had some small jerk chicken and pulled pork sliders to snack on and used the WiFi during this wait.

Club Mobay departures
Club Mobay departures

I was glad to have been upgraded to First Class again for this flight.  That’s doubly nice when it happens on an award ticket.

GoGo domestic service issues
GoGo domestic service issues

My flight was equipped with WiFi but the domestic GoGo Inflight service it provides is only available when you are pretty close to the ground stations located in the US.  It didn’t work after takeoff from Montego Bay, and for the amount of time it took to fly North past Cuba and get close to Florida.

The ability to connect to the Delta Studio server on the plane, and stream entertainment to my phone or tablet was not possible as long as the plane’s air to ground connection with GoGo Inflight was not working.

GoGo Domestic Coverage Map
GoGo Domestic Coverage Map

Once the domestic GoGo Inflight service was working, the Delta portal started to work and I was able to get a display of the flight tracker.  This service works for a little distance off the US coast.  At this point I could also have streamed entertainment to my tablet of smartphone from the server on the plane.

Delta Portal Flight Data
Delta Portal Flight Data

The seat back display’s map of My Flight never loaded the map graphics.  There was a choice to watch Live TV on this 737-900 ER but when you selected those channels, you would get a screen that said “Service Not Available”  This continued for the duration of this flight.  I would have watched CNBC or CNN if it had been working.

My Flight Display
My Flight Display

My original booking had me returning from Atlanta on the last flight of the evening but I was able to confirm a seat on an earlier departure that would get me home about 2 hours earlier.  A very nice Delta employee in Atlanta assisted me with this change, and this is one of the reasons why I’ll continue to select Delta for my travel when ever possible.  That earlier flight was delayed about 40 minutes leaving Atlanta, but even the later flight that night was delayed, so it was still a good choice to switch to the earlier flight.

I’m really glad I decided to visit Jamaica and Hedonism II again, although doing it so quickly after two other trips was less than ideal.  I will continue to monitor the pricing of airfares and accommodation for future sales and economical opportunities to plan my third visit.

I was OK with the warmer weather and the resort having less people than when I went in March of 2015, and would consider going back during the week of Mother’s Day in future years.

Amsterdam, May 2016 Trip Report – Part 3

This trip report is a continuation from part 2.

I used my headband mount for my Gopro Hero 4 Session and took some video as I walked from my hotel over to the Amsterdam Centraal Station to buy a train ticket the day before I had to leave town.  Sure I could have done this on that morning but I wanted to get it done ahead of time in case I was running late, and I also was planning on walking around that day anyway.

I’m sure I looked like a doofus but I don’t care.  I decided to leave the video raw as I shot it and not apply any kind of stabilization, in an attempt to make it look as much like really walking around in person, as possible.

After I bought my ticket inside, I recorded myself walking back out, past the religious lady who was street preaching on the corner, and then over to a cafe I had never visited before.

The Flying Dutchman Cafe was a pretty nice place with a large tabby cat who acted like he owned the place.  I happen to like seeing animals in bars, that are comfortable with people around them.

The Flying Dutchman Cafe
The Flying Dutchman Cafe Amsterdam
The Flying Dutchman Cafe Amsterdam
The Flying Dutchman Cafe Amsterdam

One of the things that I like to do when I travel is visit the international location of US Fast Food chains and see how the menu items might be different than the ones here.  I stopped at a McDonald’s location in Amsterdam and the first thing I saw was the ordering kiosks.  I had seen these before in Germany and Spain.

Order Kiosk at McDonalds
Order Kiosk at McDonald’s

I ordered a couple of low cost items.  A bacon cheeseburger and a chili chicken sandwich.

Amsterdam McDonald's
Amsterdam McDonald’s

The bacon cheeseburger looked and tasted pretty much like what I am accustomed to.

Bacon Cheese Burger in AMS McDonald's
Bacon Cheese Burger in AMS McDonald’s

The Chili Chicken sandwich was a small chicken patty topped with lettuce and what I would say was sort of a sweet and sour sauce with a little bit of chili pepper in it.  Not bad but not great.  Cheap.

Chili Chicken sandwich
Chili Chicken sandwich

The total cost for all of this was only three and a half Euros.

Low cost meal
Low cost meal

On my last day in Amsterdam the walk back to the train station and the ride to the airport was uneventful.

If you read my Vancouver trip report, you might recall the “SSSS” I got on my boarding pass for the Vancouver to Seattle flight on my return.  Guess what?

I hit the lotto twice in one week
I hit the lotto twice in one week

Yep, down there on the bottom of the boarding pass I got from KLM at check in is those 4 repeating characters.  Another swab down and luggage search in the name of security theater.

I was able to spend some time in the KLM Lounge after I cleared Immigration to leave Europe.  I like the lounges in AMS as they are much nicer than most in the US.

B767 at the gate in AMS
B767 at the gate in AMS

My return flight from AMS was on a Delta Airlines B767 that took me to Detroit.  I watched the rest of the Mr. Robot Season 1 episodes as well as the Black Mass movie.  I didn’t get sleepy as this was a daytime flight.

DTW is a fine airport and this time of year I really don’t mind flying back into it or Minneapolis (MPS) if the connections work out better for timing.  I picked this over earlier in the morning departures so I’d have a bit more time in Amsterdam.

Once I cleared Immigration and Customs and security back into the airport, I found the Delta Skyclub and had a little time to relax and recharge before going to the gate for my next flight.

Upgrade listing
Upgrade listing

Checking the upgrade list showed that I was #1 and as it turned out I did get upgraded into First Class on this less than two hour flight from Detroit to Atlanta.  That was nice and the flight was uneventful.

Delta plane at the gate in DTW
Delta plane at the gate in DTW

Once in Atlanta I had about an hour before my next flight, the last one of the day that would bring be to Daytona Beach was to board.  I just chilled out and once again watched as I was upgraded into First Class just before boarding.  This was really great and not totally expected as I was flying on a points reward ticket.  The order for upgrades puts people on paid tickets ahead of award tickets, so needless to say I was rather pleased to have gotten upgraded on 2 out of the possible 3 flight.  Delta doesn’t offer no cost upgrades to it’s frequent fliers on the two long flights I took to and from Europe.

I did get some sleep during the flights between Detroit and home.  I had a really good time in Amsterdam and it remains one of my favorite places to visit.  I would stay at the same hotels again and will probably plan enough trip there around the same time next year.  I hope you liked reading this trip report and the others on my blog.