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Monday, September 29, 2014

United States Air Force Academy ... Enough Said!

After having worked at USAFA as an assistant professor and counselor, and being a retired Air Force officer, I must admit that I am a bit biased. BUT ... the Academy IS THE BOMB!

The most majestic location of any of our service academies (sorry West Point and Annapolis), the scenery is awe inspiring. The iconic Cadet Chapel with its towering spires and modern design is the centerpiece, but there is so much more to see.

The Eisenhower Golf Courses (Blue and Silver) are top-notch, abutting the Rampart Range and challenging even the best golfers, particularly the Robert Trent Jones designed 7,200+ yard Blue Course. I have seen a 12-point buck (deer) and his harem standing next to the tee munching on an early morning breakfast of grass and, just the other day, a group of wild turkeys foraging through the thickets surrounding the par 5 5th hole (Blue).

Enter through the North Gate off of I-25 and follow the signs to the Visitor's Center where you can see many exhibits and take a short walk to the overlook and an up close view of the Cadet Chapel and "The Terrazo" where you can view cadets marching to and from classes, lunch, and appointments during the school year.

CombatCritic Gives the United States Air Force Academy 10 Bombs Out of 10



Key Words: USAFA, United States Air Force Academy, US, air, force, Air Force, academy, Colorado Springs, Colorado, Springs, military, service, cadet, cadets, Eisenhower, golf, course, Robert Trent Jones, CombatCritic

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Colorado Springs, CO: Arceo's: Good, Consistent, Authentic Mexican Food at Reasonable Prices

Arceo's
4608 Rusina Rd Colorado Springs, CO 

Phone: (719) 264-0143
$$$$$







The exterior leaves quite a bit to be desired, cracked cement sidewalks, poorly maintained landscaping, and a building in need of some TLC, but once inside a rainbow of color hits you like Dorothy experienced when exiting her house for there first time in the Land of Oz.

At $2.75, the guacamole is excellent and a terrific value when compared to similar portions in Kansas and Missouri (and Amanda's Fonda) going for $5 to $7. The chips and salsa are made in house, complimenting the guacamole well. Their margaritas are not great, lacking flavor (and alcohol) and at $5 for a small house margarita, not a good value.

The Enchilada Tapatia, a rolled flour tortilla filled with chicken, onions and green peppers, cheese, and refried beans, then topped with enchilada sauce, melted cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, sour cream and guacamole ($7.00), was massive and filling.

The Number One (#1 - $7.75), three crispy tacos with choice of ground beef, chicken, or shredded beef and lettuce, shredded cheese, and tomato chunks comes with rice and beans. I ordered the shredded beef variety and was disappointed by not only the taste of the beef, but also because the meat had not been drained well and by the time I got to my second taco they were soggy and falling apart. I do not enjoy eating tacos with a fork, but had no other choice. When I told the server about my disappointing experience, she said "sorry" and walked off.

The cheese and onion enchilada combination plate ($8.50) comes with three enchiladas stuffed with cheddar cheese and topped with sliced onion and a choice of red or green chili sauce, accompanied by rice and beans. These are some of the best enchiladas in Colorado Springs and eastward to Missouri.

Having eaten at this and Arceo's South Nevada Avenue location on numerous occasions over the years, I have to say that this was not the best experience we have had. But everybody has a bad day now and then and Arceo's has been consistently good in quality and value in a state not well known for great Mexican food.

CombatCritic Gives Arceo's 7 Bombs Out of 10 ... BOMBAS ARE BUENAS!





Arceo's Mexican Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Title: Arceo's: Good, Consistent, Authentic Mexican Food at Reasonable Prices
Key Words: Arceo's, Arceo, Mexican, restaurant, menu, food, taco, enchilada, burrito, guacamole, chips, salsa, margarita, Colorado Springs, Colorado, Rusina, CombatCritic, TravelValue

CNN Says Obama's "Latte" Salute Is Not An Issue ... I DISAGREE!

On September 25, 2014, several CNN reporters alluded that President Obama's "latte" salute released by the White House a day earlier was not an issue deserving much attention. I watched initial footage of the "salute" (and I use that term loosely), was appalled (not surprised) and still am. If you have not seen it, here it is ...



The President of the United States is Commander-In-Chief of the United States Armed Forces and we in the military swear allegiance to the Constitution of the United States of America and, ultimately, our commander-in-chief when we enlist for service. Those two United States Marines you saw smartly and professionally saluting our president as he disembarked Marine One are the "best of the best", likely highly decorated combat veterans and deserving much more respect than President Obama was apparently willing to provide that day.

I have seen Obama's half-assed attempts at saluting my comrades in arms on numerous occasions, but the latte salute was a new low, even for him. If he truly respected our men and women in uniform, he would take his obligation more seriously and dispose of garbage before boarding or departing Air Force One or Marine One. 

How difficult would it be to remember his duty to salute his brave and dedicated subordinates every time he gets on or off the plane or, in this case, the helicopter dedicated to his safe transport. Could one of those in his massive entourage not hold his coffee for two minutes while he performs his official duties and pays respect to these young men and women whom risk their lives every day to ensure his protection? The very least he could do is give them the smart, professional salute they so richly deserve.

CombaCritic Gives President Obama A Dismal 1 Bomb Out of 10 for Poor Leadership and His Lack of Support for Our Military and Veterans ... More Bombs Are Better!

Key Words: Obama, CNN, Don Lemon, Don, lemon, president, commander-in-chief, commander, Marine, one, Air Force, TV, United States, Marines, PresiYdent Obama, salute, latte, coffee

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Colorado Springs, CO: Jill's Kitchen: Not Cheap, Fair Breakfast Fare

Biscuits and Gravy - $4
Jill's Kitchen
2416 E Boulder StreetColorado Springs, CO 
(719) 475-2621

A bit of a hole-in-the-wall, the place needs some updating, but appeared clean. The staff are friendly and attentive.

Kitchen Scramble - $8.29
We shared the biscuits and gravy (full order - $4; half - $2), a large portion on 4 biscuit halves smothered with white (country) gravy with chunks of sausage. The biscuits were fresh and the gravy was decent, lacking flavor and needing some added salt and pepper. My mom also ordered a rash (side) of bacon ($3.79), seeming a bit overpriced for just four pieces of bacon.

Side of Bacon - $3.79
I ordered the Kitchen Scramble (full order - $8.29), scrambled eggs, onion, home fried potatoes, and cheese topped with two pieces of bacon. There was plenty of food, but it was mostly potato chunks (home fries) that had an earthy (root vegetable) taste. The potatoes could have used some seasoning. I have had scrambles at many breakfast restaurants and this one was subpar when compared to some of the better eateries.

The menu is not as "cheap" as other reviewers indicated, but the food was decent, hot, and served quickly. Not one of the greatest or least expensive breakfasts I have ever had, but a fair value.

CombatCritic Gives Jill's Kitchen 5 Bombs Out of 10 ... BOMBS ARE GOOD!








Jills Kitchen on Urbanspoon






Key Words: Jill's Kitchen, Jill's, kitchen, Jill, breakfast, lunch, eggs, bacon, food, eat, menu, restaurant, Colorado Springs, Colorado, Boulder, CombatCritic, TravelValue

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Colorado Springs, CO: "I remember this place being much better"

Trivelli's Hoagies
2819 N Nevada Avenue 
Colorado Springs, CO 80907
"I remember this place being better" - C.T. Sorrentino - aka CombatCritic

The sandwiches are "OK", not as good as they once were. We had the "meatball" sandwich, which oddly enough does not come with cheese (unless you ask for it - costs extra) and the "cheesesteak". Because the original owner is supposedly from Philadelphia, the cheesesteak should be a no brainer. Or should it?

The meatball (6 inch - $5.70) was tasty enough, but neither very big nor loaded with meat as I remember and the tomato sauce flavorful, not too sweet or spicy. The bread was good, not too soft or hard (old). The cheesesteak ($11.78 for a 12 incher), which came on a similar "hoagie" roll, was loaded with meat and a bit greasy even for my taste (read my review of Dempsey's in Lawrence, Kansas). I added a side order of french fries ($2.15) which was rather small for the price and cold by the time our meal arrived.

My son, a vegan, asked the young lady on the phone before ordering if they could accommodate his dietary restrictions, including no meat, eggs, cheese, or oils (a personal preference), and she indicated that they could (after checking with her  manager/chef). Having confirmed that the pasta was not made with eggs and that the tomato sauce had no meat or added oil, he ordered the spaghetti and meatballs (minus the meatballs - $6.89). He was also told that his meal "comes with a salad" and that our entire order would come to a little over $28.

Side Salad - $6.89?
When he arrived to pick up our order, my son was told that the pasta sauce was cooked with the meatballs (vegan?) and that there was oil in the sauce after all, so he could not eat the spaghetti and meatballs. They appeared perturbed over his dietary restrictions and removed the spaghetti and meatballs (but did not deduct the price), leaving him with what he thought was a "large side salad full of veggies" (it was in a large container which he did not open before leaving). However, when he arrived home and opened the container, there was a pile of shredded, brownish iceberg lettuce and a few chunks of tomato and even fewer slices of onion (see photo). They charged us nearly $7 for a pile of lettuce and a few veggies that probably cost them less than fifty cents!

The food alone would get 3 out of 5 stars (5-6 out of 10 "bombs") based on quality, quantity, and "value", but the $7 side salad and their anti-vegan attitude forced me to deduct a "star" (two bombs). Therefore ...


CombatCritic Gives Trivelli's Hoagies (Nevada Ave) 5 Out of 10 Bombs ... MORE BOMBS ARE GOOD!

Trivelli's Hoagies on Urbanspoon

Key Words: Trivelli's Hoagies, Trivelli's, Trivelli, travelli, hoagies, hoagie, sub, sandwich, cheesesteak, meatball, salad, fries, menu, CombatCritic, TravelValue, Colorado, Springs

Monday, September 8, 2014

Lawrence, KS: Fool Me Once, Shame On You ... Fool Me Twice, Shame On Me

Genovese
941 Massachusetts Street
Lawrence, KS 

(785) 842-8300
In my initial review of Genovese, I gave them a lackluster 5 Out Of 10 Bombs … BOMBS ARE GOOD … but looking back, I may have been too generous.


Bruschetta
We had bought a Genovese Groupon for $58 which included two appetizers and four entrees because we had planned to go with some friends, but our dinner plans fell through and after our first paltry experience, we were in no hurry to return. With the Groupon promotion lapsed, the “face value” of the Groupon “will still be honored” (according to Groupon’s website and disclaimer) and not wanting to waste $58, we decided to use it when my sons came to town for a visit from Colorado.

Insalata Caprese
Because I was using the “cash value” of the Groupon, not the promotion, I decided to utilize the “buy one entrée and two drinks, get one entrée for half off” offer advertised recently in the Lawrence Journal World (LJW). However, when it came time to pay the bill, the server told us that the manager would not honor the LJW offer. I asked to speak with him, explaining that the “cash value” of the Groupon was no longer a promotion, but if he wanted to honor it (even though it had expired) and give us the two appetizers and four entrees in exchange, that would be great! Otherwise, we were using no other “promotion” and I asked him to please honor the LJW coupon. He refused, not quite able to grasp the complexity of the situation or the meaning of “customer service”.

       Wild Mushroom and Asparagus Ravioli
Our meal, being bland, overpriced, with too much sauce on the pasta, was unremarkable and because it was overshadowed by the manager’s poor attitude, I will not waste too much time here explaining it. Leave it to say that the bruschetta ($6.50 - pronounced “brew-sket-ah”, not “brew-shet-a”) was three small pieces of white bread from the supermarket with a little cheese melted on top (bruschetta in never served with cheese), a little olive oil, and topped by three small grape tomatoes cut in halves. The Caprese salad (insalata), a favorite of mine, at $9.50 was equally as disappointing, being sprinkled with balsamic vinegar, another culinary faux pas, a few small slices of yellow tomato, thin pieces of mozzarella cheese, and a couple grape tomato halves in the middle. My wife's wild mushroom and asparagus ravioli was supposed to come in a broth, but there was little broth visible, the pasta were dry, and their filling almost non-existent. 

Being a former baseball player, it normally takes three strikes to be “out”, but in the case of Genovese, two strikes shall suffice …

“Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”

Genovese will not be getting another chance in my book, mostly because of the manager's unprofessional attitude, but also because of the poorly executed, overpriced food and …

CombatCritic Now Gives Genovese a Paltry 2 Bombs Out of 10 … More Bombs Are Better!






 Genovese on Urbanspoon

Key Words: Genovese, Italian, restaurant, Massachusetts, street, Lawrence, Kansas, 66044, Groupon, pasta, pizza, TripAdvisor, antipasti, Yelp, sausage, wine, UrbanSpoon, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value

Papa KENO'S Is A GAMBLE When It Comes To Timely Delivery And Customer Service

My son ordered over the phone because we could find no way to order online as advertised on their Yelp page but the employee told him "we'll have it out when we have it out". We live just 3 blocks away, but after 45 minutes there was still no sign of our pizza. It finally arrived nearly an hour after we placed our order, so I guess the guy on the phone was right after all.

Poor customer service aside, the pizza, although not cheap at $18 for a one-topping 18 inch cheese pizza, was not bad. We had the salami pizza and two order of breadsticks and the tab came to a little over $31 before tip. Not cheap. As far as I could tell, they do not offer specials online so what you see is what you get.

Decent pizza, not so decent value, and poor customer service means ...

CombatCritic Gives Papa Keno's (Lawrence) Only 4 Bombs Out of 10 ... More Bombs Are Better!








Papa Kenos Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Key Words: Papa Keno's, papa, keno's, keno, pizza, parlor, food, Italian, menu, review, Lawrence, Kansas, Massachusetts, street, downtown, delivery, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value

Friday, September 5, 2014

Christian Brothers Roofing: Expensive, Inflated Bids and Poor, Disrespectful Customer Service

Christian Brothers Roofing (CBR), once I could get them to do an estimate and at $16,238, came in $3000 to $6000 higher than the next two bids, but I decided to give them a chance to tell me why their estimate was so high and what I would get for the very substantial excess costs. As you will see in her own words, it seems as though Melody, the CBR estimator, continuously apologized for the delays in getting back to me, making me feel undervalued as a customer, particularly one spending tens of thousands of dollars on a new roof ...

From: Melody McCullem <melody@453roof.com>

Date: Wednesday, August 27, 2014 at 9:46 PM

To: CombatCritic
Subject: Roof Estimate from Melody with Christian Brothers Roofing
 Hello, Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to help you.  I apologize for the delay in getting this information to you.  Per your request, I have attached the estimate for a new roof. I would love to meet with you to show you the pictures that I took of the storm damage and to also review your insurance documents.  I know that I found more than $2500 in repairs that are needed for this property.  Additionally, you mentioned that you were retired military and I am not sure if other contractors have mentioned to you that GAF (manufacturer of Timberline) has a special rebate that they offer to you. Please let me know if you have any questions or would like to move forward. Thank you, Melody McCullem816-214-7402


I contacted her on Thursday, August 28, 2014, asking to meet the following Tuesday to discuss the CBR bid. After hearing nothing for two days, I sent the following email:

From: CombatCritic
Sent: Saturday, August 30, 2014 11:36 AM

To: Melody McCullem

Subject: Re: Roof Estimate from Melody with Christian Brothers Roofing
 Melody, I called and left a message 2 days ago [8/28/2014]. I’ll be at the house in KC on Tuesday and can meet you at 1pm to discuss your bid. I will then be making a decision. Please let me know if you or another rep can meet me at that time.
 Thanks


Four (4) days after my request to meet the following week, I finally received a response (with more apologies for being delayed) …

On Sep 1, 2014, at 4:31 PM, Melody McCullem <melody@453roof.com> wrote: Hello, I received your voicemail and your email. I am pleased that you would like to go over the estimate that I put together.  I have been out of town and apologize for the delayed response I understand that you are in town tomorrow/Tuesday for a few hours and hope that we will be able to connect.  Unfortunately, my schedule is very full for tomorrow…I might have some time around noon, but know that I would have more availability after 5pm.   As for the references, at this point I would encourage you to look on Angies List.  We have 100+ positive reviews and are the highest ranking roofing company.  It is not a common practice for us to give out other customer contact information. If you would like additional references after we meet, then I will contact a few of our customers for you and ask them if I may share their information with you.
 Again, I apologize for the delayed response and look forward to hearing back from you regarding your availability for tomorrow.
 Thank you, Melody McCullem816-214-7402


I guess customers are supposed to be more flexible than business owners when it comes to spending $16K, but I know that is not the case and told Melody my schedule could not meet her unreasonable demands. After all, I had given her 5 days to work me into her schedule, but she ignored me for four of the five and expected me to submit to her schedule …

From: CombatCriticSent: Tuesday, September 2, 2014 8:42 AM
To: Melody McCullem
Subject: Re: Roof Estimate from Melody with Christian Brothers Roofing I'm not available after 2pm. Sent from my iPhone


Melody then arrived unannounced at the house on the following Tuesday while I was meeting with the other contractors, putting me in an uncomfortable position. However, after the other contractor left, I gave her the opportunity to discuss her bid, but it seemed all she could do was talk badly about the other bids (which she never saw) rather than trying to deflate her bid (full of unnecessary upsell/upgrade charges) to meet our rather hefty budget.

Melody insisted that she could get my insurance company to pay for most, if not all, of the roof replacement, so I agreed to give her a chance to contact them in an effort to have them pay for the necessary damage repairs:

From: Melody McCullem <melody@453roof.com>

Date: Tuesday, September 2, 2014 at 8:00 PM

To: CombatCritic
Subject: RE: Roof Estimate from Melody with Christian Brothers Roofing
 Hello Chris, Attached is the Insurance Contingent Contract.  As you can see, it basically says that all three parties must agree on the “scope and price” of the storm damage.  My goal is also to get 50%+ of your roof paid for.  I know that I can prove storm damage all over the place, but I could not possible tell you exactly how much I will be able to get your insurance to move because there are things/people that are out of my control.  I would love to see your insurance documents to know what they are already looking at. Please let me know if you would like to move forward. Thank You, Melody McCullem816-214-7402


I sent her the contingency contract back immediately, telling her that our tenants had reported more leaks and interior damage after large storms that very morning and that it was urgent that we get to roof replaced ASAP if not take temporary precautions to avoid unneeded damage to the interior of our house:

From: CombatCritic
Date: Wednesday, September 3, 2014 at 11:17 AM

To: Melody McCullem <melody@453roof.com>

Subject: Re: Roof Estimate from Melody with Christian Brothers Roofing
 Melody, Documents attached.  As you can see from the photos I received this morning from the tenant, we need to move quickly on this before more damage to our home is incurred as a result leaks in the roof. Is there something we can do to minimize damage until the claim is settled and work can be performed? Thanks,


But I received no response indicating that Melody had received my message much less any indication that she had started working with our insurance company. In most states there are provisions for a three (3) day cooling off period after signing a service contract to cancel, so with $16,000+ on the line and an unresponsive contactor, I had to make a decision to protect myself and our home. I sent her the following message:

From: CombatCritic
Sent: Thursday, September 4, 2014 2:31 PM

To: Melody McCullem
Subject: Re: Roof Estimate from Melody with Christian Brothers Roofing
 Melody, After 24 hours without a reply, unless I see some rapid progress, I’m going to have to go a different route.  If you haven’t contacted USAA and provided me with a firm timeframe for resolution by tomorrow (Friday, Sep 4 2014), I’m going to have to cancel the contract IAW Missouri Revised Statutes, Chapter 407, Section 407.937 (Right to cancel contract—notice of cancellation, effective when—form of cancellation).  For $16K+, I need someone who is responsive and action oriented, particularly because WE HAVE A LEAKING ROOF CAUSING DAMAGE TO OUR HOUSE. I have until midnight Monday to cancel the contract under Missouri Law, but will be making a decision NLT 2pm tomorrow in order to get someone to secure our roof and prevent further damage. Thank you, 
I guess I should not be surprised because customer service is a thing of the past and CBR apparently has more customers and money than they need (not surprising considering the cost of their inflated bids), but this is the unprofessional response I received:

From: Melody McCullem <melody@453roof.com>
Date: Thursday, September 4, 2014 at 8:32 PM
To: CombatCritic
Subject: RE: Roof Estimate from Melody with Christian Brothers Roofing
 I received your email and immediately reached out to Property Claims Team to request a re-inspection.  They are not able to set appointments for adjusters and told me that they would be in contact with me asap. I attempted to contact them again, but unfortunately, I was still unable to schedule something.  I was told that someone should be in contact with me before noon CST tomorrow.  I did take action after receiving your agreement yesterday afternoon and apologize that I have not been able to make rapid progress. From your previous email, I understand that you are unhappy with the lack of action takin by your insurance company. Unfortunately, I am not able to control your insurance company. Subsequently,  I do not wish to work with someone who will begin making threats and quoting Missouri cancellation laws to me within 24 hours of sending in an email asking for CBR to help re-open an insurance claim and help collect on unpaid damages. From this point forward, I will consider our contract void and will direct all future correspondence from your insurance company back to you. Thank you, Melody McCullem816-214-7402
I remember the days when businesses believed that “the customer is always right” and we were treated with dignity and respect, but these days it is THE NORM, NOT THE EXCEPTION that businesses seem to care less about customer service. In many more cases, including this one, businesses apparently believe that they can do whatever they like, treating paying customers like we OWE IT TO THEM to dole out our hard earned money while being treated with indignity and disrespect. BUT, I HAVE A CHOICE WHERE I SPEND MY MONEY AND CHRISTIAN BROTHERS ROOFING WILL NOT BE RECEIVING A PENNY OF MINE!

UPDATE: September 18, 2014 After eliminating the lowest bid, we replaced our roof with premium shingles, materials, and labor, nearly identical to those quoted by Christian Brothers ($16,238), for just $11,900. The materials were professionally installed in less than 5 days, SAVING US OVER $4,000 WHEN COMPARED TO THE CHRISTIAN BROTHER'S BID.

CombatCritic Gives Christian Brothers Roofing (Kansas City, MO) A Paltry 1 Bomb Out of 10 for VALUE and CUSTOMER SERVICE


Key Words: Christian Brothers Roofing, Christian, Brothers, roofing, roof, contractor, business, Kansas City, Missouri, house, shingles, asphalt, cedar, shake, pitch, CombatCritic, TravelValue

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