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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Go Country - KKGO 105 - Los Angeles, Country music is back!

This news is pretty exciting for Los Angeles country fans. There is once again a real country music station serving the Los Angeles area. That's right, Go Country - KKGO - 105.1 on your FM dial just launched in Sourthern California.

Ever since the miserably failing attempt by Emmis Communications to install Rick Dees back into the Los Anageles market by ejecting KZLA 93.9 FM from the airwaves in favor of the KMVN - MOVIN format -- there has been no country music available in this large market. Yes, there is Ventura's KHAY and San Bernadino's KFRG -- but both do not effectively reach the Los Angeles markets.

While not everyone has made the move over to KKGO (namely Peter Tilden & Ashley), many of your favorite personalitites have made the move. The veterans from KZLA include Sean Parr, Whitney Allen, Adrienne Brooks, Paul Freeman, and Tonya Campos.

The new Go Country is owned by the relatively independent Mount Wilson Broadcasting, that owns only a couple of other Los Angeles radio stations.

Give go country a quick list, I believe you will find the country music selection to be very similar to what you were used to on KZLA. In addition, the familiar voice of Sean Parr patrols the morning radio waves.

Looks like KKGO has a winner in Go Country and it is setting up to the successful country radio in Los Angeles.

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Officially Cursed Status?

A recent posting from the Cornerstone Conference by another owner......

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I feel like things between the Lord and myself are good. I have a great marriage, good job, enjoy being part of a ministry, but when things are going this wrong, (a friend of mine tells me), I have to examine my life and ask if there is some sin in my life that I am not surrendering.

Although I no longer have Shaun Livingston on my fantasy team, I drafted him fairly high this year, as the heir apparent to the up and coming Los Angeles Clippers. After his injury the other night, which was the about the most disgusting thing I've seen (rivaling Joe Theismann or Napolean what's his name from the Raiders), this has capped off an injury plagued season beyond belief.

To date, my injuries have been:

Yao Ming (a killer)
Carlos Boozer (could be expected)
Lamar Odom (still at 70% some nights)
Dwayne Wade (hurt enough to cry)
Ron Artest
David West (double double king last year)

I have yet to have boils or my family lose their life, but in terms of fantasy basketball which I have enjoyed for years, WHAT IS GOING ON?

"Though you slay me (and Yao, Ron, David, Dwayne, Lamar, Carlos and Shaun), I will trust you."

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Monday, February 26, 2007

Hawaii Trip – Day 5 – Relaxing in Waikiki

Well, today is our last day in Hawaii for this short vacation here. On this trip, as with previous trips, we will be taking a red eye flight back to Los Angeles (LAX) tonight. The only unfortunate thing about it is that not only do we need to go through San Francisco (SFO), but we are both going directly into work. Call us crazy.



On past trips, we had to plan carefully, since checkout time at the Hilton Hawaiian Village (HHV) is 11:00am, 12:00am if you are lucky enough to get late checkout. If you are not leaving the hotel until 7:00pm or 8:00pm – it was difficult to make sure you stayed fresh and yet still enjoyed the day.

Well, things have changed at Hilton Hawaiian Village (HHV). Now, on your day of departure you can reserve a hospitality room where you can freshen up. You are allotted 20 minutes per person in the room – so, for us that would be 40 minutes. The only trick is that you can reserve one day before your departure – so, when we woke up on Day 4, we called and made our reservation for 5:00pm!

So, with a hospitality room reserved in advance for 5:00 tonight, we had a very relaxing day. Once again, based on the good food at the Rainbow Lanai – we chose to have the breakfast buffet at the upgraded rate of $5/person. Very enjoyable.

After breakfast, it was a first for us. We paid for and reserved a beach umbrella, a chair and a chaise lounge on the Hilton Hawaiian Village’s beach. Generally, we have thumbed our nose at that thought of paying for space on the beach, but decided to give it a try on our last day – to the tune of $50.

For me, I try to avoid the sun like the plague when in Hawaii. It just burns me up real quick – when in California it is a little more manageable. I must say that this day at the beach with the umbrella and chair was the most pleasant day that I have ever spent at the beach. For us, it was worth every penny of the $50 and we will definitely use it in the future.



Other than spending the day at the beach, we broke quickly for lunch down to Dukes. We generally prefer Dukes’ lunchtime menu over their dinner menu. We have been to Dukes in Malibu several times and it seems to be much better in Waikiki. None the less, it was a relaxing meal that we enjoyed.



When the day came to an end, we enjoyed our hospitality room provided by the Hilton Hawaiian Village. We cleaned up, and then enjoyed our last Hawaiian sunset from Tropics Cafe & Beach Bar.



Finally, we headed to the airport compliments of Roberts Transportation. Los Angeles, here we come!

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Dodgers On Deck Pre-Onsale is Wednesday (Tickets)

Another great reason to subscribe to Dodger's "On Deck"...........



As a Dodgers On Deck subscriber, you have the exclusive opportunity to participate in the Dodgers On Deck Single Game Tickets Pre-Onsale Wednesday, February 28 from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. PT. This pre-onsale allows you to purchase 2007 single game tickets, online-only, prior to our public onsale Saturday, March 3.

Each Dodgers On Deck subscriber has the opportunity to purchase eight (8) tickets for all regular season games**. OPENING DAY tickets are NOT available during this pre-onsale opportunity.

To purchase tickets, please visit the 2007 Schedule page on dodgers.com or click the below on Wednesday starting at 10:00 a.m. Once on the schedule page, click on the next to the game(s) that you wish to attend.

** Pre-onsale dates are subject to change. There will be a strict ticket limit for all regular season games. OPENING DAY tickets are NOT available during this pre-onsale opportunity. Orders exceeding the assigned per-ticket limits will be cancelled without contact from Ticketmaster and the Dodgers. This offer is subject to availability and requires a credit card, which will be charged at the time of purchase.

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Sunday, February 25, 2007

Hawaii Trip – Day 4 – A Little bit of everything

On this Sunday, day 4 of our trip to the Island of Oahu on Hawaii rather than starting our day out at the Tropics Café & Beach Bar, instead we chose a different breakfast option. Now at the Hilton Hawaiian Village, Gold & Diamond HHonors members can also upgrade to a buffet for $5 at either the Tapa Café or the Rainbow Lainai, located in at the base of the Rainbow Tower. Since the Rainbow Lanai has a great view of the Waikiki Beach and the Pacific Ocean, that was our choice.



Overall, a great breakfast buffet. You can have eggs made to order (Omelets), and a variety of hot and cold selections are available including Hawaiian fruits, and your standard scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, hash browns and more. There was a minor annoyance with the rude guest talking on his cell phone and could not understand why the cook skipped him – however I will avoid any sort of rant on that.

After a great breakfast, we headed out for the Aloha Stadium Swap Meet. We always have a great time at this flea market – and find most of our souvenirs there. It was another successful trip there including some new shirts, picture frames, and some great dried fruit. You can read more about it in this post here.



Once we finished up at the Swap Meet, we headed back towards Waikiki to do some whale watching at the southern tip of the Island. After a couple of quick stops right around Haunauma Bay, we found success at the Halona Blow hole and were able to watch at least two different Humpback whales breech and splash in the water. A great site, even from the shore!



Then, we hiked up to Makapu’u Point, another well known location to watch for Humpback whales. We did not get to see any there, but you can read more about the specifics of our whale watch here.

We had accomplished all of that before lunchtime, but boy were we hungry. So, we headed to the town of Waimanalo, because we new that they have one of the L&L Drive-In Hawaiian BBQ restaurants. Ashley and I split a Chicken Katsu, and enjoyed every piece.

After lunch, we headed to the Waimanalo Bay Recreation area to spend the afternoon at the beautifully sandy and uninhabited Waimanalo Beach. I had some fun body-surfing in the afternoon waves while Ashley just relaxed on the beach. (Read more about Waimanalo in this post.)



In the late afternoon, we headed back to Waikiki Beach so we could turn in the Avis rental car before they closed for the evening. Once that was turned in, we were conveniently next to the ‘Cheeseburger In Paradise’ restaurant and we had a bite to eat. (See review post here.)



Finally, after dinner – we took in the full sunset from Waikiki Beach as our last full day in Hawaii ended. On the walk back to our hotel, a traditional Hawaiian dance show was performed down at the beach. We enjoyed that before heading back to the Hilton Hawaiian Village for the evening.



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Saturday, February 24, 2007

Hawaii Trip - Day 3 - Oahu - Around the Island

Today, once again started off with a beautiful sunrise coming over the Diamond Head crater and lighting up the Waikiki Beach and the ocean waves. We quickly grabbed our free continental breakfast (HHonors Gold) at the Tapa Bar & Beach Café and then headed to our Avis rental car to leave Hilton Hawaiian Village for the day.



Our first destination was Kualoa Ranch, an adventure and sight-seeing ranch on the windward side of the Oahu Island. In addition, many movie and television shows have been filmed at the Ranch including Karate Kid, Jurassic Park, Pearl Harbor, & Lost – just to name a few. We highly recommend a visit, you cannot miss this attraction here on Oahu – you can read more about our experience here.



After finishing up our lunch at Kualoa Ranch, we jumped in our car and headed north for a jaunt along the famous North Shore of Hawaii. As you reach the north-eastern tip of Oahu, you come into the famous Shrimp Stand area. Along the Highway 83 road, there are many shrimp farms and shrimp shacks – where you can stop and grab some great freshly fried shrimp. We elected not to stop and enjoy, still full from our buffet lunch at the Ranch.

Continuing along the north shore, we made stops at the Sunset Beach & the Banzai Pipeline, Waimea Bay, and Sharks Cove. The normal crowds of tourists were crowding the beach for the winter waves. The sets were coming in at the 5-7 foot range. Nice waves, but nothing impressive for a native California who is used to the likes of Rincon and County line where these kinds of waves can be had often.



After some nice relaxing at the beaches of the North Shore we headed to Haleiwa. Haleiwa is a great little town where the 99 and 83 highways meet on the North Shore of Oahu. Most importantly, it has an old town area that houses the Matsumoto General store, home of the World’s greatest Hawaiian Shaved ice.



Then we returned to the Hilton Hawaiian Village through Honolulu and Waikiki Beach. That evening, we originally intended on visiting the Hula Grill in the Outrigger Hotel. However, a downpour started at 6:30pm, and we decided to cancel our reservations. We ended up eating at the Hilton Hawaiian Village’s steakhouse, the Village Steak & Seafood restaurant – you can read more about that here.

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Kualoa Ranch – An Oahu Must Visit!

Today was our opportunity to finally visit the Kualoa Ranch on the windward side of Oahu on the islands of Hawaii. It was an experience that was well worth the wait. Ashley and I had such a great time while we were there, that we would consider the Kualoa Ranch to be on of, it not the top ‘must see’ entertainment and adventure experience location here on Oahu.



As I have previously mentioned, we were originally supposed to head out to Kualoa Ranch on Friday, but because of the mistake by the booking agency – changed it to Saturday. So, first thing this morning we jumped in our Avis rental car and headed out across Likelike Highway towards the ranch.

Understanding a little more about this ranch is important. This is a family owned ranch of 4200 acres of pristine Hawaiian island land. It was purchased many years ago for a thousand dollars from the Hawaiian King. It has been passed down through the family through generations and now is owned by a couple of brothers. The rumor is that the Hilton Corporation recently offered over $3 billion for the land. However, one of the initial conditions was that the land would not be sold – and it has not been. It is also a working ranch, meaning there are approximately 350 head of cattle roaming the grounds. While down from a high of 1,000 heads some time ago – it is still a sizeable number. Additionally, there is a large orchid farm on the ranch that provides the majority of the orchids used for arrival leis.

We arrived shortly before the suggested check-in time of 9:00am and wandered around a little. The ranch is just that – it has a general store where you enter where you can get food & souvenirs, and a few barns and areas where you board the various adventures and tours that you choose.



Checking in right at 9:00am, we still had our full choice of the two things we were interested in doing for our half day adventure. We ended up signing up for the horseback ride as well as the ranch and movie set tour. There were several other options including an ATV ride, a jeep trek through difficult terrain (using Pinzegauers), ocean kayaking, and shooting rifles at the gun range.



While we were waiting for our horseback ride to begin, we wandered over to the stables where they had a chocolate lab. The lab’s name was Yoda, and his owner’s name was Mike. Both were extremely friendly. We learned that Yoda loved the ranch and roaming it – even though he has a plastic hip from being hit by a car some years ago. A great, relatively calm 7-year old chocolate lab – imagine that.



As we jumped on our horses, we noticed the real attention to safety that the staff had, as well as the general great condition that all of the horses were in. We had a great little ride up and down one of the hills on the ranch. This is a great ride for new or beginning horse-riders, as the morning 1 hour ride is a walk – no trotting or cantering. Those who have been a number of times will have plenty of time to take in the beautiful scenery and letting the horse do the work for you. The horses know what to do and will only take advantage of you by trying to eat during the ride. There is even a photo opportunity that you can take.



It is really important to mention the competency and friendliness of the staff at Kualoa Ranch. While being very safety minded, and still very conversational – they manage groups of up to 25 riders generally in both English and Japanese very successfully. Even with the majority of the folks that have never been on a ride before, you still feel safe and know they are looking out for you.



The ranch and movie set tour was equally entertaining although quite different. As the tour started, two buses loaded up – divided by English and Japanese speaking. We had a tour bus operator that was pretty young, that did a good job.



The first stop was at the top of a hill at a World War II bunker that was used to film the movie Pearl Harbor. Inside is a lot of memorabilia from the various movies that have been shot at the Kualoa Ranch.



Outside, the spot is dedicated as one of the observation spots for the Whale Watchers of America. There are few folks posted to watch for various behavioral exhibitions of the humpback whales as pass by – blowing, slapping, and breeching. The spot does not appear to be open to the public, although the watchers are currently tracking a pod of about 5 whales, however we do not catch a sighting. Further, our onshore experiences watching whales can be found here.

Continuing on the tour, we go past a number of movie sets including:

Lost – Hurley’s 3-hole course



Jurassic Park – the last 5 minutes of the movie was filmed here, although the rest was filmed on Kauai.



Mighty Joe Young – numerous scenes here.



Windtalkers – lots of live explosives, apparently the director blew up two of the 4 shacks from Mighty Joe Young without permission during testing. However, he made up for the misunderstanding with a sizeable check.

Godzilla – nice foot prints.



50 First Dates – Great scene where Drew Barrymore chases down Rob Schneider while with Adam Sandler.



While out on tour, we also run into a number of the folks working and patrolling the Ranch. Both Mike & Yoda the lab are with them and they spend some time with the folks on the tour during a stopping point.

After the tour is over, we head back to the Kualoa Ranch General store to have lunch. With the half-day tour package, a buffet Hawaiian barbeque lunch is included. It has an excellent assortment of BBQ ribs, chicken, Mahi-Mahi, salads, and more – complimented with guava punch. We enjoyed our meal out on the front porch which over looks the Kualoa Park and the ocean. An excellent end to our half-day adventure.



We had such a great time on the Kualoa Ranch that we will definitely be back should we visit Oahu in the future. We recommend you visit it as well, it is a Hawaiian adventure that will excite you and give you great memories of Hawaii! Make sure to say hi to Yoda for us!

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Village Steak & Seafood – Restaurant Review – Hilton Hawaiian Village

While this was our third visit to the Hilton Hawaiian Village in Waikiki on the Island of Hawaii, we had yet to try the flagship steakhouse, Village Steak & Seafood. The main reason we had not tried it is that the prices at the steakhouse were relatively high compared with high end steakhouses like Chuck’s, Ruth’s Chris, and Morton’s. Perhaps the reason was because this was a resort property.



We ended up at the Village Steak & Seafood unexpectedly on this particular evening. We had reservations at the Hula Grill down the beach; however an evening downpour was in progress at the time we needed to leave with no signs of letting up. In addition, we had some Hilton Hawaiian Village dollars that we needed to spend which defrayed the cost.

The Village Steak & Seafood is relatively small and located at the base of the Tapa Tower. A small portion of seating inside and the remaining is outside just beyond the Tapa Pool and the Tapa Bar.

The wine list has a broad selection of bottled wine, but is fairly limited if you are looking for wine by the glass. For instance, only one option for each type – Merlot, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, etc.

The dinner menu is relatively broad selection of poultry, steaks, & seafood ranging in entrée price from $28 (chicken) to $62 (steak and lobster). A couple of examples include the 14oz Rib Eye steak at $41 and the $42 8oz filets. Entrées include selection of potato (french fries, baked potato, & mashed potatoes) and some vegetables. Any soups, salads or the highly acclaimed salad bar are extra and range from $8-13.

After some debate, I chose a repeat performance of my dinner at Chuck’s Steakhouse and elected for the Caesar Salad, and Rib Eye steak with the french fries. When the meal arrived, I was impressed with the presentation and the potatoes – but somewhat disappointed in the size and thickness of the cut of meat that I received.

The steak was cooked exactly to my request, but was somewhat lacking in flavor. Interestingly, the Rib Eye steak samples that they had served in the lobby the night before had a better taste and flavor. It was not awful, but the Rib Eye I had at Chuck’s a few nights before was far superior in everyway.

The best part of the meal was the ‘french fries’ which were more like potato wedges. They were an excellent side dish to the meal.

We chose not to sample the dessert menu, instead electing to head over to Lappert’s ice cream parlor across in the Rainbow Bazaar shopping area.

My opinion is that the Village Steak & Seafood restaurant is overpriced for the quality of the food you receive. While the meal and the service were not bad, they pale in comparison to both the atmosphere and food at Chuck’s Steakhouse in the Outrigger, or the soon to be opened Ruth’s Chris just opening down the street. However, if you do not want to leave the Hilton Hawaiian Village property – the Village Steak and Seafood restaurant is probably the best you will get at the hotel!

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Matsumoto’s Shaved Ice – Best on the Planet!

No trip to Hawaii is complete without a visit to Haleiwa to the M. Matsumoto General Store. Why would you choose to visit this little hole in the wall in the smallish old-town area of the town of Haleiwa on the North Shore of Oahu? For the shaved ice of course!

Matsumoto’s as it is affectionately known, serves the world’s greatest Hawaiian shaved ice. Apparently the secret is out, as on this particular Saturday, the line was well out the door – we had seen this before. Tourists such as ourselves and locals alike jump at the change to in line for one of Matsumoto’s famous creations.



Outside a group of girls were still in their AYSO soccer uniforms and enjoying their tasty treats. As timeless as Matsumoto’s is, their prices are still unbelievable. That’s right, $1.50 for the small size and only $1.75 for the larger size. We all pay $2.50 or more to enjoy far less impressive treats on the beach at Waikiki!



This particular trip, I reverted to my all-time favorite – the Matsumoto – which is a blend of Lemon, Pineapple, and Coconut flavors.



Ashley, on the other hand chose the all-time famous – the Rainbow – a blend of Strawberry, Lemon, & Pineapple.



Some recent additions to the Matsumoto’s include two of the most recent snow cone / Hawaiian shaved ice fads: beans & ice cream. As choices, you can simply get some ice cream mixed in with your shaved ice. Or you can also add in ‘beans’ which give the treat a little additional taste. Although we have not tried either, we hear they are tasty!

Without question, Matsumoto’s shaved ice is the best in the world. Check it out next time you are in Haleiwa and you will see why!

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Friday, February 23, 2007

Hawaii Trip – Day 2 – Unexpected Surprises

Our second day here in Oahu in the Hawaiian Islands turned out quite a bit different than we anticipated, however we still had a great time.

We woke up to a nice sunrise with our Nihau Suite in the Hilton Hawaiian Village looking directly towards Diamond Head. We were still adjusting to the change in time from California, so we arose just a few minutes early to catch it. We also purchased some Kona – Macadamia Nut – Vanilla coffee at the ABC store the night before, so we brewed a couple of cups and enjoyed the sunrise.



Next we headed down to the Tropics Bar & Beach Café for our free Hilton HHonors Gold & Diamond breakfast. Pleasantly surprised, we learned from our waitress that the policy had changed and according to her the ‘free’ breakfast was really now free. Previously, the free breakfast only included a small piece of fruit and a piece of bread rather than the entire continental buffet. Now rather than paying the extra to ‘upgrade’, the continental breakfast is included – along with some other great options.

This is the second thing already that we had been pleasantly surprised by, contrary to popular opinions about the hotel. A couple of folks had mentioned a ‘change’ in management. If that was true, it is definitely noticeable.

After breakfast we headed down to the Tapa Bus & Tour departure area to await our transportation to the Kauloa Ranch. After a small ordeal, which I talk about more in depth here – our plans changed for the day, and we will be heading to Kauloa Ranch tomorrow.

Thrown a curveball, we decided to make a day in Waikiki out of it. After spending some time around the Hilton Hawaiian Village pool, we walked down the Waikiki Beach to eat at the Cheesecake Factory lunch.

(Yes, I know what some of you are saying – doesn’t Ashley work for the corporate offices of the Cheesecake Factory? Yes, she does. However, she enjoys visiting them in the places we travel and meeting some of the folks she works with. In addition, the Cheesecake Factory in Honolulu has a little difference feel than the others.)

After lunch, we wandered around the shopping areas including the International Marketplace to see what the newest Hawaiian gift items were. Pretty impressively, even though it has only been 18 months since our last visit, much has changed. The entire Royal Hawaiian Shopping in center is under going a major face lift as they continue to bring in the high end stores. Disappearing is the aged cement façade of the past, and is being modernized. In addition, the entire Lewers Street has almost been completely renovated. Already there, or coming soon include the Yardhouse Bar & Grill, Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, Roy’s, The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, and much more. The new location is very convenient to the Hilton Hawaiian Village (HHV).



The bulk of the afternoon is spent by the Tapa Tower Pool. Amazingly, when compared with years past, getting a place by either this pool or the super pool has been very easy. Apparently the weekend after the NFL Pro Bowl is a great time to visit!



Every Friday night, Hilton Hawaiian Village presents King’s Jubilee which is a performance that takes you through the history of the various dances of the culture of the Hawaiian people at the super pool. Surprisingly, given the relatively light occupancy rate at the hotel, the King’s Jubilee was absolutely packed out. We elected not to get our $12 reserved seats, which we somewhat regretted when we saw the crowds gathered. Fortunately, the show had changed very little since our last visit and we enjoyed it from a distance.



At the end of the Friday night show, fireworks are set off over the Waikiki Beach just outside of the HHV. If you are on the beach as we were, they are so loud and close they are almost a little scary!



For dinner, we head over to one of our favorite restaurants to eat at while we are here, Bennihana of Tokyo. It’s located right within HHV, and serves great Teppan Steakhouse food. Always entertaining as well as good food, next time you’re here in Hawaii give it a try!



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