Tag Archives: Renaissance Hotel

My Weekend in Houston

2 Oct

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*A detailed summary of my trip to Houston, Texas for the Seahawks game against the Houston Texans*

Saturday: Our flight left Seattle at 10:15 Saturday morning. After getting my Sea-Tac staple meal (Wendy’s breakfast) and enduring a long wait at the gate, I took my aisle seat in 25D and we were in the air shortly thereafter. The plane ride was full of Seahawks fans and a couple Seattle news personalities. Seahawks play-by-play man Steve Raible sat in first class and Paul Silvi of King 5 was seated about 10 rows in front of me. I’ll spare you the details of my flight, as it was, well, a flight. Pretty standard stuff. The only thing worth noting was the beverage service, as the flight attendants took about 30-40 minutes to get to our row. I joked with the guys sitting next to me that we would probably make it into Texas before we got our first round of drinks.

After we landed we took a bus to the off-site rental car facility and got our car. Let me say here that when we walked out of the airport towards the bus the Houston humidity really hit me. I hadn’t felt humid conditions like this since going to New York in the summer of 2006. The drive from the airport to our hotel in south Houston took us right past the downtown Houston skyline and shortly after passing downtown we exited the freeway and were at our hotel, the Crowne Plaza at Reliant Park. The hotel is located right off the I-610 freeway and is a 5 minute walk from what is called “Reliant Park” which includes Reliant Stadium, the Reliant Astrodome, and Reliant Arena. Last season in Arizona I stayed at the Renaissance Hotel which was located about the same distance away from University of Phoenix Stadium that the Crowne Plaza is from Reliant Stadium and I think that the Crowne Plaza was the exact opposite in all facets compared to the Renaissance:

The rooms are small, the ceiling in the bathroom was about two inches taller than my head, the ceiling above the shower was moldy, the bathroom mirror hung at breast level, meaning taller people like me have to bend down in order to see themselves in the mirror, our room faced the highway instead of the stadium, not only was there no free breakfast but there was also no complimentary coffee in the lobby in the morning, and there was only one vending machine in the entire building.

After checking-in we headed to a Buffalo Wild Wings near the campus of Rice University for the UW/Arizona game and to participate in a 12th Man rally. The restaurant was packed with Seahawks fans, thus it was standing room only and it truly felt like I was back at home. After ordering a glass of St. Arnold’s Oktoberfest (a local brew) and a few wings it came to our attention that a cameraman from Kiro 7 news was among the 12th Man faithful. He announced to the crowd that we were going live on TV in Seattle within 5 minutes so I got in prime position to be right in front of the camera. Even with a minimal warning to friends back home on Facebook, my friend Alan confirmed that I was “looking good as always” right in the middle of his TV screen. Success! At least somebody saw me on TV. After watching the Huskies knock off Arizona we picked up breakfast and beer at a local Kroger, headed back to the hotel, and called it a night. My wake-up call for Sunday morning: 7am.

Random Thought: There was a poster hanging at the bar for spicy Bloody Mary’s which included pepper flavored Absolut vodka. You read that right. PEPPER flavored vodka. As in salt and pepper. I have never heard of pepper flavored vodka before and the thought of it makes me want to gag. It must be a Texas thing.

Sunday: I struggled tremendously in getting a good night’s sleep due to the anticipation of the game and the noise from the cars driving on I-610 right next to the hotel. I woke up at 7am, showered and got dressed, bought a cup of coffee downstairs, had a muffin and was watching pregame and drinking Bud Light by 8:45am. This was the third road game I have been to where the Seahawks play in the 10am Pacific Time slot so it is really weird to be in the hotel pre-gaming with pregame shows on instead of the early games. We left the hotel and walked to the stadium at 10:15am and were inside the stadium by 11am. Our seats were in section 523 which was the fourth row of the upper deck. The seats looked straight down the Seahawks sideline so they were about halfway between the goal post and the corner of the endzone.

On the whole, Texans fans were very nice. I only had one notable moment of heckling when I was in line to use the restroom at halftime. The Seahawks were trailing 20-3 and as I was in line I heard phrases like “Seahawks suck,” “Go back to Seattle,” and “who the hell is ‘Hansman?!” in reference to the customized Seahawks jersey I was wearing. The Texans fans around me were also very knowledgeable about their team. The lady who sat behind me was a Texans season ticket holder and she admired the fact that I was a Seahawks season ticket holder who was dedicated enough to travel to see them play on the road. She was the most realist fan I have ever met. Before the game she explained the feeling the Texans fan base has for certain players. As the game wore on she became less and less willing to talk and after the game I politely told her “maybe we’ll see you guys again in February [for the Super Bowl].” She hostilely and angrily replied “no we won’t. Not the way we played today” and walked away.

Random Thought: A lot of Texans fans do not like Matt Schaub. That was evident after the game when a handful of Texans fans burned his jersey in the parking lot. They do not have faith in his decision making at all and they think it’s time that the Texans move on from both Schaub and head coach Gary Kubiak, who they believe is a package deal; they feel you have to get rid of both of them or neither of them. It reminded me of the last couple years of the Matt Hasselbeck era in Seattle. The feeling with Hasselbeck seemed to be “we like you, you got us to the next level, but you’re past your prime and you make terrible in-game decisions now. It’s time to part ways.”

At the end of the game I went absolutely crazy. We stuck around at the seats to watch the Seahawks celebrate on the field and to wait until most of the Texans fans had left. We walked down the ramps of Reliant Stadium (which were a similar set-up to the ramps at CenturyLink Field) with a large group of Texans fans and they were all visibly frustrated. Nothing negative was said in our direction but it was a very hostile feeling. Myself, my dad, and the two other guys we went with couldn’t shake our feeling of amazement and disbelief; we couldn’t believe what had just taken place inside that building.

After the game we went out to dinner to a Mexican restaurant called Pappasitos Cantina and celebrated with a couple rounds of cervezas. If you are ever in Houston, I highly recommend going to Pappasitos and trying the chicken and beef fajitas. They were the best fajitas I have ever had. The meat was juicy and the onions, Pico de Gallo, and beans added flavor that I had never experienced at a Mexican restaurant before. After watching the San Diego Chargers beat the Dallas Cowboys (to the delight of the Texans fans at the restaurant) we walked back to the hotel to relax and to see the highlights of the Seahawks/Texans game, something that we were hoping to see during halftime of the afternoon games but didn’t.

During the first part of Sunday Night Football I went for a walk around Reliant Stadium one more time to bask in the glory of seeing the Seahawks win live on the road for the first time since 2007. Upon my arrival back to the hotel, I somehow stayed awake for the rest of Sunday Night Football and shortly thereafter, I crashed. What a day.

Monday: I made up for the lack of sleep I had got the night before, as I slept in later than I had planned. After getting ready for the day we checked out of the hotel and headed for downtown Houston, where we would spend our afternoon before heading back to the airport to come home. We were contemplating different ideas on how to spend our Monday afternoon. A small road trip to the Gulf of Mexico, touring NASA headquarters, and touring Minute Maid Park (home of MLB’s Houston Astros) were among our ideas but we did not do any of these which was too bad.

After walking around the downtown core we ate lunch at Tejas Bar and Grill and drove over to Minute Maid Park to walk around the stadium. Even though we did not tour the stadium you could still see into the stadium from the outside. One cool thing about Minute Maid Park was that they incorporated a previous standing building on the property into the stadium; much like how the San Diego Padres incorporated the Western Metal Supply Co. building in left field of Petco Park. The left field plaza was an old train station terminal building that they turned into a waiting lobby, the Astros team store, and a restaurant. Afterwards we headed back to the airport to fly home. From the end of the game to our arrival back home, I still could not believe that I witnessed one of the greatest comeback victories in Seahawks history.

All in all, Houston is a city that I would only visit again in special circumstances such as Super Bowl LI in February 2017. It was a fun trip and I was glad that I was able to come home happy.

My Weekend in Arizona

12 Sep

Friday: My flight to Phoenix left Seattle at 3:20 Friday afternoon. I was in an aisle seat about 25 rows back and to be honest my flight could have gone a lot better. Let me touch on the one bright spot; there were at least 20 Seahawks fans on my flight and when we started to descend towards Phoenix, most of them started to get riled up. That was a lot of fun to be a part of. Now to the annoying part of my flight. The guy sitting next to me was wearing a Seahawks shirt and Seahawks hat, which was nice. About an hour into our flight while I was listening to music, he wanted to start a conversation about Sunday’s game. I told him about my annual road trip and what my outlook on the game was and he told me about his thoughts. While he was talking I remembered one of my least favorite things about talking to strangers about football; I ALWAYS seem to know more about the game than they do, so I had to listen to amateur analysis that either didn’t make sense or was completely irrelevant. To make things even worse, he was boozing throughout the entire flight. As the drinks went down, the more annoying and belligerent he got. I tried to make it clear I wasn’t in the mood to talk by putting in my headphones but he just would not shut up. The icing on the cake was that he would try to get up to use the lavatory at the most inopportune times including right when the beverage cart was in front of our row, and once the flight landed and everyone seated on the aisle was standing and grabbing for their bags in the overhead storage bins. At least I can say I didn’t have the most frustrating flight, as one of the other guys I traveled with got a condensed life story from an elderly woman he was seated next to.

After getting off the plane we headed for the rental car shuttle. Once we stepped outside it was like walking into a sauna. 90 degree temperatures at 6:00pm is uncomfortable but also add in the smelly Phoenix air and you are miserable, at least to start. I got used to it by the end of the weekend. After getting our car we drove about 20 minutes to Glendale, the site of both University of Phoenix Stadium and our hotel. We checked in to the Glendale Renaissance then drove to In-N-Out Burger for dinner. After dinner we headed back to the hotel and I took a self-guided tour of the place. Let me tell you, I have never stayed in a more luxurious hotel than this place. Unfortunately I was only there for the weekend and since we were busy for most of the trip, I was not able to take advantage of any of the amenities the hotel offered which includes a beautiful outdoor pool with bar, state-of-the-art workout room, or the spa.

We then walked around what is called the “Glendale Entertainment District” which includes our hotel, University of Phoenix Stadium, Westgate shopping center, and Jobing.com Arena (home of the NHL’s Phoenix Coyotes). All of these buildings are within walking distance. We spent the rest of that night at a pub called McFadden’s. If I had to simply describe McFadden’s, imagine if Finn MacCool in the U-District had a baby with a place like Coyote Ugly or Cowgirls Inc. The women are incredibly attractive and the beer is expensive. All in all, the four of us had 12 Guinness’s total which racked up a tab close to $80. To a college aged man, McFadden’s is a place to go drink and observe the people around you. Our bartender may have had the most clothes on of any bartender and she was only wearing a bra-type tank top and shorts that were so short her buns were drooping from the base of them. I’m not going to lie though it was fairly awkward being at a place like that with my dad. This bar became a talking point among the four of us for the duration of our trip because each night we pondered the thought of going back to drink there. When we got back to the room we called it a night. Even though we had landed at 6 at night, we definitely made the most of our first night in Arizona.

Saturday: After pounding a coffee and a cinnamon roll, the four of us headed to downtown Phoenix to tour Chase Field; home of MLB’s Arizona Diamondbacks. We have done a baseball stadium tour for the past three road trips and this one was one of the best. Among the stops, a pool located beyond the right-center fence, the club level, a suite, the visitors’ clubhouse, and the Diamondbacks dugout. After the tour we had an appetizer and beer at TGI Friday’s which is located in the second deck in left field. It is a similar setup to the Hit it Here Café at Safeco Field but because this restaurant is a TGI Friday’s, the food is leaps and bounds better than what is served at the Hit it Here Café.

After leaving downtown Phoenix we headed towards Peoria. I stayed in Peoria for my three trips to Mariners spring training so it was nice to see how the area had changed in the last ten years; the last time I went to Arizona. We killed some time at a mall (the same mall I had bought Pokémon cards at in 1999) before heading over to Buffalo Wild Wings for the Washington Huskies game against LSU. After some bickering (by my dad) about which televisions the Husky game was going to be on, I enjoyed some classic buffalo and spicy garlic wings while watching my Dawgs get pummeled by LSU. We left at halftime because the game was so bad. On the way back to the hotel we stopped to get beer for Sunday morning and to get a poster and pens so I could make a sign for the game.

When I got back to the hotel I made this sign:

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And then I called it a night in preparation for a HUGE day on Sunday.

Sunday: My alarm went off at 6:30am and I was immediately alert with adrenaline flowing through my veins. I pulled back the curtains on the window and witnessed a spectacular view of the stadium and then I turned on NFL Network to watch NFL Gameday Morning. After watching Warren Sapp make his “bold” prediction that the Kansas City Chiefs would beat the Atlanta Falcons 41-0, I took a shower and got in my gameday attire. I went down to the lobby to get another cup of coffee and cinnamon roll, not before I high fived two young girls who were wearing Seahawks jersey’s. The prefunction started in my room at 9:30am. While flipping back and forth between the Colts/Bears game and the Redskins/Saints game, I drank a 6-pack of Bud Light and then at 11:30 we headed across the street to the stadium.

Imagine walking into Costco on a 100+ degree day and walking straight into the frozen produce section in the back corner of the building. That is the only example I can think of when comparing the difference in temperature between outside the stadium and inside the stadium. There was easily a 25 or 30 degree difference and it really hits you once you open the doors and enter the stadium. I held my sign for the duration of pregame warm-ups, hoping FOX would get it on camera to use when the coverage of the game started on TV. Unfortunately I was not informed that my sign made it on TV by any of my friends watching back home so I just assumed all of the work I had put into it came short of my ultimate goal. The Seahawks had a great turn out in Arizona. I had several Hawks fans around me and I saw many 12th Man flags around the lower bowl of the stadium. After the Seahawks ran out of the tunnel, it was the Cardinals turn to be introduced and the building went absolutely crazy. I can easily say that it was the loudest environment I have been a part of on the road. Of course the noise level was not even close to CenturyLink Field, but it definitely came the closest of all the places I have been. Add in 50,000 white rally towels and it felt like a playoff game. The game had its ups and downs. I can’t remember the last time I screamed so loud after Sidney Rice’s touchdown. I wanted to make sure Cardinals fans knew I was there representing the Seahawks. After Braylon Edwards’s dropped pass on 4th and goal, I immediately slipped into a state of frustration, anger, and disbelief. I went back to the hotel and sat in a chair upset while listening to the broadcast of Sunday Night Football. After grabbing another burger at In-N-Out for dinner, I returned to my chair and sulked until I fell asleep about an hour after the Sunday Night game.

Monday: I woke up at 6:30am again in order to get ready, pack up, eat breakfast, and drive to the airport. Because one of our group members was heading to Detroit instead of back to Seattle, we had to get to the airport early because his flight left an hour before ours. I sat at the gate for a little over an hour before boarding my flight and I tried my best to get over the painful loss from the day before and to start focusing on Dallas next weekend. I noticed that there were some media members on my flight home; Ian Furness of Sports Radio KJR sat in the fourth row of first class and the cameramen and production team from Q13 FOX sat three rows behind me. I sat in row 19 by the window. This time around, I sat next to another Seahawks fan returning home but we did not communicate at all. Upon our descent to Seattle, I had a breathtaking view of downtown Seattle. Unfortunately my camera was not working on my phone so I could not get a picture. If I could have taken a picture, I’m confident I would have gotten likes on Facebook that would tally into the 30’s or 40’s haha. I made it home just in time for the Monday Night Football doubleheader and told my roommates all about my great but painful weekend.

I had a ton of fun on this trip. I highly suggest going to Arizona to see the Seahawks play. It is a trip that is easy to make with friends especially if you are staying in the Glendale Entertainment District. I hope my friends and I can put a plan together so I can make that trip once again next season!

Seahawks/Cardinals Preview

7 Sep

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Matchup: Seattle Seahawks vs. Arizona Cardinals

Site: University of Phoenix Stadium (Glendale, Arizona)

Kickoff: 1:25pm

NFL Kickoff weekend is finally here! In week 1, the Seahawks travel to the Arizona desert to take on their division rivals, the Arizona Cardinals. The Cardinals lead the all-time series with the Seahawks 14-12. Their most recent matchup was a 23-20 Cardinals overtime win in week 17 last season. I will be in attendance in Arizona this weekend, as I am going on my annual Seahawks road trip. The Seahawks must get off to a hot start this season to avoid falling into a hole early like they did last season. Here is what I will be focusing on this weekend in Arizona.

If you predicted at the start of offseason activities that the starting quarterback matchup for this game would be Russell Wilson vs. John Skelton you need to go to Las Vegas or go buy a lottery ticket immediately. This is the most intriguing storyline of the game. Russell Wilson beat out Matt Flynn to be the Seahawks starting quarterback and John Skelton beat out $63 million man Kevin Kolb after Skelton led the Cardinals to a 5-2 record in their final 7 games last season and had a fairly better preseason performance than Kolb. I am very nervous about how Wilson handles the pressure being his first ever meaningful NFL start. I expect to see a considerable amount of scrambling and quarterback rushes on Sunday. All may not be productive but I can see Wilson breaking away from the Cardinals defense for a couple runs of at least 10-15 yards. John Skelton is the better option at quarterback for Arizona which is disappointing for me because we have a better chance to win if Kolb is the quarterback in my opinion. If Skelton has time to throw he can be dangerous. It will be huge for our defense if we can put immense pressure on Skelton all game long. All in all, I believe the Seahawks have the advantage at quarterback. Although Wilson is a rookie, he has shown unbelievable poise and has a demeanor that rivals very great quarterback in the league.

Earlier in the week news broke that Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch has been dealing with back spasms and is a question mark for Sunday’s game. Although Lynch is a big factor in our offensive gameplan, I believe Robert Turbin, Leon Washington, and even Kregg Lumpkin are fully capable of keeping our running attack afloat in Arizona. Lynch is a beast but when you have a solid offensive line leading the way, it doesn’t matter who is running the ball. Having said this, I expect to see Lynch play this weekend. On the subject of the offensive line, 7th round rookie J.R. Sweezy is slated to start at right guard this week. Sweezy, who hasn’t played on the offensive side of the ball since pee-wee football, starts in place of incumbent John Moffitt who has been recovering from elbow surgery. Although Moffitt is healthy, Coach Carroll explained that Sweezy has fully earned the opportunity to start because of how well he has picked up the techniques to play along the offensive line.

At wide receiver, the Seahawks will start Braylon Edwards at split end, and Sidney Rice at flanker. Golden Tate has a sprained knee and will not play this week. Doug Baldwin will be back in the slot after missing most of the preseason because of a hamstring procedure. I am excited to see how we use different receivers in different packages. My bold prediction of the game: expect Charly Martin to have at least three catches for 25+ yards.

On defense, Bruce Irvin has a good chance to record multiple sacks this weekend. The Cardinals offensive line is banged up and battered and may be the worst offensive line in the NFL. The Seahawks MUST take advantage of pass rush opportunities. Expect Irvin, Chris Clemons, and Jason Jones all to contribute. Even if we can force John Skelton into bad throws, we have a good chance to create turnovers.

Over the last 8 seasons, the one constant of Arizona Cardinals football has been all-pro wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald. What is amazing to me about Fitzgerald is he makes catches thrown from anybody. No matter how good or bad the Cardinals quarterback is, if the ball is thrown in Fitzgerald’s direction, he will most likely make the catch. In 2 games against the Seahawks last season, Fitzgerald had 14 catches for 213 yards and one touchdown. The secondary has to make sure we lock him down so he doesn’t break away. Although containing Fitzgerald is important, the Seahawks secondary has to make sure to also pay attention to Michael Floyd, the receiver lining up opposite Fitzgerald. Because the Seahawks have one of the best run defenses in the NFL, expect Skelton to throw early and often. A successful pass rush and the Seahawks defense taking advantage of Skelton’s mistakes will put us in a great position to win this game.

On defense, the Cardinals studs are defensive lineman Calais Campbell and cornerback Patrick Peterson. Along with these stars, I am also looking at the steady play of up-and-coming linebacker Daryl Washington. Washington was awarded a six-year contract extension this week, locking up what Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt described as potentially “one of the best linebackers in the conference.”

Random (Trip) Thoughts: My flight for Phoenix leaves Friday afternoon and I plan to head straight to In-N-Out Burger… Other stops tentatively scheduled during my weekend stay in Arizona are a tour of Chase Field (home of the Arizona Diamondbacks), Peoria Sports Complex (spring training home of the Seattle Mariners), and possibly a quick hike up Camelback Mountain. Apparently when you get to the top of the mountain, you get a breathtaking view of downtown Phoenix… I am staying at the Renaissance Hotel in Glendale. It is right next to the stadium. Check it out!…

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… My plan is to make a Russell Wilson poster for the game on Sunday. Since I am sitting in the lower bowl, there is a good chance I may get on T.V. If you are watching the game, be on the lookout for me!… I come back Monday evening just in time to watch the back half of Monday Night Football with my roommates… This will be my fourth trip to Arizona. I have not been back since 2002. I am excited to see what has changed in and around the city.

Prediction: Here is my history when seeing the Seahawks play on the road:

2007 (San Francisco) – Seahawks 23, 49ers 3

2009 (Indianapolis) – Colts 34, Seahawks 17

2010 (Denver) – Broncos 31, Seahawks 14

2011 (San Francisco) – 49ers 33, Seahawks 17

2011 (Dallas) – Cowboys 23, Seahawks 13

As a sports fan, there is no worse feeling than to sit at the airport or at the hotel after watching your team lose on the road. Months of planning and hundreds of dollars spent, only to see your team fail. I am absolutely SICK of this feeling. There is no reason why the Seahawks cannot win this game. Expect Russell Wilson to play well but make some mistakes. I believe the defense will be the ones to win this game for us. Like Coach Carroll always preaches, it’s all about the ball. If the Seahawks win the turnover battle, and I believe they will, they will be heading home 1-0. It has been 5 years since I have seen the Seahawks win on the road and I am telling you right now, I predict this personal losing streak will come to an end this weekend.

Seahawks 27, Cardinals 23

I will try to blog from my iPhone this weekend but my posts will be brief. It may be as basic as a picture or a random thought. I hope to have my review post done and published by late Monday night once I get home. If not, look for it on Tuesday afternoon. Thanks for reading everyone. It’s time to get back to football. Go Seahawks!