Saturday, October 23, 2010

All You Can Jet... a postscript

Has it really been over 2 weeks already since I returned from my 30-day JetBlue All You Can Jet Adventure? Wow, time flies... whether you're having fun or not!

It was a fun 30-days, but it was tiring. I think it was the constant thoughts of... Where am I? Where do I go next? Do I need any reservations? Is it all set? Who do I need to call? Should I check the weather? Am I behind on my blog? Is there WiFi here? Did I print out my boarding pass? How am I getting to the airport? Which airport am I getting to?

All those little things add up. And of course your normal sleeping and eating patterns are completely confused. It's fun, because I tend to get bored when things are too routine for too long. But the other extreme can be exhausting! Like everything else in life, it's finding the balance that's the key... and the trick.

Flying 30 days for $499. It's a great idea, and a way to fill seats, during a slow season, on flights that will be flying anyway.

Turns out, back in 1966, my father did a similar... but different... trip. He traveled on a Greyhound bus for 99 days for $99. He broke it up into segments. I think it was 3 weeks in one direction, then home to the Chicago suburbs. Then 3 weeks in another direction, then home. For 99 travel days. He was writing for a restaurant industry magazine at the time, so he wrote about restaurants he found along the way.

Personally, I think I'd rather spend 30 days on a plane, than 99 days on a bus. But it's all relative I guess. I took a 24-hour bus ride from Chicago to Denver once, many many years ago with my friend Mary Beth. It was a fun adventure too. But, we were much younger then... 24-hours on a bus is a fabulous adventure... the first time. Its glamour can wear thin after that.

Travel can be tiring, but I enjoy exploring new places. Maybe it's genetic, being willing to travel for days on end, for a little adventure, to explore new places, to shake up our normal routine working lives. I sometimes envy people who are travel writers, who explore new places for a living, and share what they have found. But I suppose even that can become a routine of sorts.

I met a woman in Wales once, on a girl's choir tour I took (that's a whole other story). She asked us to call her Auntie Joyce. Auntie Joyce loved to travel. She enjoys being home, but after she's home for awhile, she said, in her lovely Welsh accent, "If I'm home too long, I get itchy feet. I have to travel and go somewhere new." Itchy feet. I love that expression.

So, here's to itchy feet. That desire to explore, to expand our horizons, to meet new people in new places, and learn more about the world. JetBlue's AYCJ pass satisfied my itchy feet for now... but who knows what travel adventures lie ahead?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

AYCJ - Day 30 - The final day, Leaving Las Vegas

Wednesday, October 6, Day 30 of the 30-day JetBlue All You Can Jet Travel Adventure. Final day in Las Vegas, and the final, and short, flight home to Long Beach, CA.

photo: my AYCJ luggage tag

This is it, the 30th day. I'm in Las Vegas, and get up in time to get a good breakfast before checking out at noon. I stayed in the casino long enough to play my new favorite poker machine... thinking maybe on the last day I could come out ahead... but alas, that was not to be. Another dollar down!

Then I drove to the home of my friends Kathy and John, several miles west of the strip. She gave me a tour, and we relaxed for awhile through the afternoon. Then it was time for me to return my car, and get to the airport for the final flight home.

photo: sky over Las Vegas Airport, on the final night

When planning this trip, I had a feeling that by now I'd be tired and would appreciate a short final flight. It's less than an hour to
fly from Las Vegas back to Long Beach Airport. So that was nice. The shuttle that drove me home made another stop first, and the drive home took longer than the flight!

But I'm home. And I'm exhausted. I will be reading over my writings of the past 30 days, and might write more in the days ahead. I appreciate any comments you might have, if you've read the tales of my 30 day travel adventure. I traveled across the
country, on my Friends And Family Across America tour!

photos: leaving Las Vegas, and arriving in Long Beach

AYCJ - Day 29 - Las Vegas

Tuesday, October 5 - Day 29 of my 30-day JetBlue, All You Can Jet Adventure. Is it really almost over? Have I really been on the road for 29 days?

Since I got to bed at 4 am, I'm tempted to just sleep all day... but I can't! It's the last 2 days, I'm in Las Vegas, and I have to get up and do something! It was at least 11 am before I really got moving, and this is one time when I'm glad that the hotel cafe serves breakfast all day long. Even though it's almost lunch time, what I really want is bacon, eggs, hash browns, toast and coffee. So that's what I had before I set out for the day.

When I'm in the enclosed hotel/casino atmosphere for awhile, I start to crave some fresh air and sunshine. And since I had rented a car, I decided to go for a drive and explore some areas beyond the strip. I drove first up the strip, to the north end, the somewhat older, downtown area. Then I turned west on Charleston, and headed out to Red Rocks, which my friend Kathy had told me about the previous day.

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is about 15 miles west of the Strip. It's nice to know that a protected area of natural beauty is not so far away. I paid the $7 admission fee, and walked
through the exhibits in and outside of the Visitors Center. There is lots of information there, and I may have to come back someday to really read it all, but, as I've done before on this trip, I took in what I could in limited time, and decided to drive the 13-mile scenic drive. There are many hiking trails too... but I drove, and stopped to take some pictures along the way.

It was late afternoon when I drove back from Red Rocks, through another area of Las Vegas, and returned to the hotel. I was tired
from the driving, my eyes were dry (I am in the desert, aren't I?)
and I went to the coffee shop in the hotel, where they have free WiFi.

After working on my laptop for awhile, I pause to realize just how much noise a casino creates. There is a constant din, a large variety of electronic sounds from the machines. I rather miss the old clink clink clink of coins from old fashioned slot machines. The electronic/computer versions of those sounds just aren't the same... but they are noisy!

The noise is getting to me, and I'm a little tired, hungry, and cranky. So I picked up some food
to go from the food court in the hotel, and took it to the relative quiet of my room. I watched the sunset, and took a little nap, to catch a second wind for the final AYCJ night.

Thanks to JetBlue's AYCJ Facebook page, I learned that a group of fellow AYCJ'ers were meeting at New York New York Hotel at 9 pm. I drove over there to meet them. It was nice to trade stories with other travelers on this crazy 30-day adventure, here in our 29th day. I have been out on the road the entire 30 days, and was surprised to know that most people had stopped back home at least once during the 30 days. I don't know how many passes JetBlue sold, but I'm curious how many others were out traveling the whole 30 days?

Unfortunately, I had gotten a couple calls I had to return, and was still feeling rather tired, so I left the group a bit early and returned to my hotel. Finding the poker machines that my friend Kathy had showed me how to play, I put in one whole dollar, gave the cocktail waitress a dollar tip for my Manhattan cocktail, and played at that machine for about 45 minutes. I didn't win any money, and had dropped to about 15 cents, but when I got it back up to 50 cents, I finished my drink, cashed out, and called it a night. So for $1.50, I had a cocktail and almost an hour of game time. As I've said before, I guess I'm not what you'd call a high roller!

AYCJ - Day 28, Part 2 - Viva Lost Wages

Monday, October 4, Day 28 in my 30-day JetBlue All You Can Jet Adventure. Here is part 2 of Day 28, my first night in Las Vegas.

Having checked into my room at the Orleans Hotel, I met my friends Kathy and John, who were downstairs in the casino, playing at their favorite machines while they waited. I stopped into the TGIFridays Restaurant in the hotel for a quick and inexpensive cup of soup and salad. I hadn't eaten anything for awhile, and needed a little something to keep me going.

Then Kathy and I headed to the Mirage where she had gotten tickets to the Cirque du Soleil show set to Beatles Music, "Love". What an amazing show. So much talent, amazing visuals, design, and a beautiful, inventive production. The music of the Beatles has been a favorite of mine since, well, since the Beatles first appeared on Ed Sullivan, and if you're too young to remember that, well, trust me, that was a few years ago, and it was great.

There were a couple problems during the show, but it wasn't with the production, the problem was with audience members. Excuse me a moment while I complain and rant about rude people in an audience.

Why would anybody pay good money to see a live theatrical production, and then talk continually to their friends throughout the show? Are they too dumb to realize that sound carries, and others can hear them? Or are they too selfish, rude, and inconsiderate to care?

Other audience members did not buy tickets to listen to you talk to each other. We paid to hear and see a professionally written and produced performance.

We had 2 guys behind us, behaving like 9 year olds, sounding like they were about to get into a physical fist fight. I tried to ignore them and enjoy the show, but it was difficult. Ushers had to intervene to get them to be quiet.

A couple rows back, across the aisle, 2 women couldn't stop talking. If you can't stop talking for 90 minutes, then maybe you should just stay home and watch TV. Don't go out, and especially don't get tickets to any event where there are other audience members around you, because we are not there to listen to your chatter. It's rude, selfish and inconsiderate, to the audience, and to the performers.

While I don't like to generalize, and don't want to sound like an old fuddy duddy.... the offenders in this case seemed to be people in their 20's and 30's, though their maturity level seemed to have stopped in their teens. Do people really not realize how rude they're being?

After the show, an usher told us that this happens at almost every performance. They have to intervene and ask audience members to be quiet. Alcohol has something to do with this, as people are out drinking before they come to the show. But why would you spend money on an expensive show, if you don't care to watch it? Why do you want to disrupt everyone else's enjoyment? I don't understand it, and if anybody can explain it to me, I welcome a discussion about audience behavior expectations. Okay, enough of that... I got it out of my system, and feel a little better now.

It was about 11 pm when we exited the show, and went into the Beatles Love store, where I purchased a couple inexpensive, lightweight souvenirs (a fabric patch and a shopping bag). I haven't been shopping at all on this trip (more to carry around!) but we're near the end now, so I spent just a few dollars on a couple small things.

It was close to midnight, and Kathy's Las Vegas tour begins. She has lived in Las Vegas for a few years now, and should really work for the visitors bureau! The Strip was pretty empty on this night, which was unusual, but made for pleasant driving. She took me to the Wynn hotel, and we gambled at a couple poker machines, where she showed me how you can play for awhile, and not spend too much money. That's a helpful tip, when you don't have an unlimited budget. I didn't win anything, but at least didn't spend too much either. Then we went to the Bellagio, to see the Conservatory, where beautiful plantings are changed several times a year. I didn't get to see the water fountain performance, but someday I'll be back, with more time to spend.

The buildings in Vegas are so over the top. It's interesting to see the designs, the marble and other extravagant materials used in these hotels and casinos. They obviously have money to spend, and money doesn't always buy taste, but the designers must have a great time working on these projects.

There's obviously a lot of profit in the Casino industry. We were
near a "High Rollers" room, where a woman was playing at a $25 slot machine. That's not 25 cents. That's $25 per button press. She couldn't push the button fast enough. It was something to watch. Press, reels spin, nothing. Press, reels spin, nothing. Then she would win something. Press. Press. Press. Must-spend-money-faster! It was amazing. Don't know if she actually came out ahead, but, every 4 presses was $100 spent! And I don't know about you, but that was way out of my league, budget-wise.

We returned to The Orleans to play a few games and have a cocktail while we played. We realized we were getting a bit tired... then realized it was it was 3 am! That's Vegas for you. It's funny that you can just walk around the hotels at 2 in the morning, sightseeing, being a tourist, and it's not a big deal. The 24 hour restaurant at the hotel offered special breakfast deals from midnight to 6 am. It really is a 24-hour city.

Because things are going 24-hours a day, the cleaning and repair crews have to do their work, even while people are up and gambling. On this, the first night in my hotel, they were doing plumbing work from 1 am to 4 am, so there was no water in the room.

Since I was just getting in at 3 am, I checked at the front desk to ask what I should do if I wanted to wash my face and brush my teeth before I crashed. She offered to send housekeeping up with some bottled water, and I was concerned that it would take too long for that to happen. I agreed to that and returned to my room. I got some ice from the ice machine to kind of brush my teeth, wiped off my face, and waited for housekeeping. Forty minutes later, I couldn't wait any longer, put the "Do Not Disturb" on my door, and went to bed. About 4 am, I heard water start to flow through the pipes, and I went to sleep.

This was a 6:30 am to 4 am day. Another long one, but, that's what you do in Vegas, right?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

AYCJ - Day 28, part 1 - Travel, Seattle to Las Vegas

Monday, October 4, Day 28 of my 30-day JetBlue All You Can Jet Adventure. Another rather long day. Here is Day 28, Part one - the travel part.

Up at 6:30 am, my sister Karen drove me to the Seattle Airport by 8:30 am, for my morning flight to Long Beach, then Las Vegas.

Every time I pack up again for a new place, that feeling of "did I forget something" will run through my brain. Today, there was a little something... Entering security, take off jacket, check, shoes off, check, laptop out, check, toiletries out, check. Then they stop my purse while it's in the machine. Oh no, I didn't pour the water out of my water bottle.... D'oh! Carry empty water bottle, and fill it up at a drinking fountain after security. But don't carry water through security.

She asked if I wanted to go back before security and drink it, but leaving my belongings there while I go back through to drink the water didn't seem like a good idea. So she found someone to empty the plastic bottle, sent it back through the machine, and all was well. It only cost me a few minutes, but it's the little things that can hold you up.

We left Seattle, where it was slightly overcast but dry, and arrived in Long Beach, California, where it as raining. That seemed backwards, but oh well. Everything appeared to be on schedule, so I called my friend Kathy in Las Vegas to coordinate our evening. She got us tickets to a show tonight in Vegas at 7 pm. My flight was scheduled to arrive at 4 pm, so it seemed like that wouldn't be a problem.

Until of course, we boarded the plane for the 50 minute flight... and sat on the runway for an hour. The pilot said it was a delay in Las Vegas, but still not sure why we sat there. I panicked a bit about timing, and Kathy and I developed a few Plan B's, in case I didn't get to Vegas in time.

photos: rainy in Long Beach, sunny arriving in Las Vegas

We left an hour late, arriving in Las Vegas by 5 pm. Caught the shuttle to the terminal, found baggage claim, and caught car rental shuttle to rental place. This process always seems to take a bit more time than you plan on. By the time I got my car and was heading out to Las Vegas Blvd, I was a little stressed about the time, and managed to make one wrong turn as I left the airport. Quickly turning around, while at a stoplight my phone rang. Kathy was at the box office, and managed to swap our 7 pm show tickets for 9 pm show tickets. Oh good, no more rushing around, I can breathe, we had time to spare! Whew!

Arriving at the Orleans Hotel, which is off the strip on Tropicana Ave., I drove around, trying to figure out where to check in, found it, got my room key, drove around to the parking garage and parked. Then I had to figure out how to get from the garage to the Hotel Room elevators (you have to walk through the Casino, of course!) But that all takes time as well, so I was very happy that we had a 9 pm showtime instead of 7 pm, because I'm not sure I would have made that!

AYCJ - Day 27 - Relaxing in Bellevue, WA

Sunday, October 3, Day 27 of my 30-day JetBlue All You Can Jet Adventure. A day spent relaxing with my sister Karen, and her 2 daughters, my nieces, Andrea and Christine.

We had many potential plans for today, including going to a corn maze, which would have been fun, but... we're all tired and perhaps a bit lazy. It was nice to just hang out together for the day. At one point, we were each sitting at our own computer, checking emails and whatever it is we do at our keyboards for hours at a time. At least we did talk to each other and didn't resort to emailing each other, in the same room... but we did joke about that... Communication in the 21st Century. Hopefully talking won't completely give way to typing to each other... hopefully.

We watched an old movie, "Funny Face." You can't go wrong with Audrey Hepburn, Fred Astaire, Gershwin music, Paris, and fashion from 1957. That's over 50 years ago. Geesh, where does time go anyway?

Time now to re-pack... again... for the final travel days.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

AYCJ - Day 26 - Seattle and Bellevue

Saturday, October 2, it's day 26 in my 30-day JetBlue All You Can Jet travel adventure.

One more day in Seattle. My sister Karen picks me up from my friend Gail's house, and we go downtown to walk around Pike Place Market. It's the weekend so there are lots of people walking around. We see the fish market, the produce vendors, and other vendors selling all sorts of things.

Then because I've spent two full days immersed in many beautiful examples of fine art, I decide it's time for a little change of pace. We ask for directions to the Gum Wall. This involves going down stairs from the market to an alley down below. This is not as scary as it sounds, and I haven't researched just how, when or why the gum wall began, but... it is a wall .... of gum. It has become a bit of a tourist attraction, and here I have photos to prove it. It is, how shall I say... unique.

I'm not sure how long this gumball machine has been part of the attraction. I was told it hasn't always been here...

Then we found a restaurant called the Pink Door and got a bite to eat. The entrance is on Post Alley, where there are all kinds of shops, restaurants and bars. We each ordered a panini, while enjoying a nice view of the water from their patio. Then we couldn't resist a dessert, which consisted of 3 scoops of gelato (Italian ice cream) in dark chocolate, hazelnut, and pomegranate. Delicious.

We returned to Karen's home in Bellevue, WA, a suburb of Seattle, stopped at Trader Joe's for some 3 buck chuck, and enjoyed a delicious dinner of fresh local salmon.

In these final days of travel, I realize that 30-days of travel is about the right length for me. I have found myself thinking, "How many more flights, airports and cities do I have left? Oh, right, one more city, then I'm home!" It's been a great 26 days so far, but... I will be ready to be home by the time Wednesday rolls around.

AYCJ - Day 25 - Seattle Sculpture and Waterfront Views

It's Friday, October 1st, and Day 25 of my 30-day JetBlue All You Can Jet Adventure. Wow. It's October, and only 5 more travel days remain.

photo: View from Sculpture Park
Today Gail, her son Peter, and I drove into downtown Seattle to visit the Olympic Sculpture Park. What a beautiful spot. We strolled up paths, down sidewalks, over hills, viewing many great sculptures, in what is 9 acres of open space, free to the public, on the Seattle waterfront. Allow plenty of time to explore, and there are many places for great photos. I'm not even sure how long we walked around in there, but it was great. I do know the day started out blue sky sunny, and by the end of our walk, typical Seattle cloud cover had settled in.
The large red sculpture, titled Eagle, by Alexander Calder is one of my favorites. If you've been reading this blog since my first day of travel, you may recall that I also saw a Calder exhibit in Chicago. I always enjoy his bold, colorful, playful sculptures, mobiles and stabiles.
Photo: Calder sculpture and Space Needle

Typewriter Eraser, by Claes Oldenburg is a playful and fun sculpture. A giant sculpture of an everyday object, although we discussed the fact that many people might not even know what a typewriter eraser is. What do you think? How old does one have to be to have seen one of these in real life (and in its real size)?
Photo: Typewriter Eraser Sculpture

There are many great sculptures in this park, too many for me to talk about here. This sculpture park is definitely worth a visit.

photo: Seattle Cloud Cover sculpture

A recurring theme here seems to be art, then food. Again today, after walking around the sculpture park, we were hungry!

We walked along the waterfront, and ended up at the Edgewater Hotel. It could be called the
On-water hotel, as it is built on a pier, directly over the water. Apparently the Beatles stayed here in the 60's, and it still has its charm, designed like a lodge, with trees and timber and amazing water views. A wedding was about to start in the top floor banquet area, which looks like a great spot for an event.

We were between lunch and dinner time, so... happy hour strikes again! The three of us selected 4 items from the bar menu and it was all delicious. Patty melt sliders, 2 orders of fish and chips, and an order of lobster mac and cheese, which was rich and cheesy and delicious.

A seagull perched on the sill just outside the window as we ate, and wouldn't leave! I finally brought a few french fries outside to the patio (where it was a bit too cool and breezy for diners) and our friendly seagull gladly gobbled those up... but came back to the window to watch us finish our snacks.

Another good day of art, food, and lots of walking.

AYCJ - Day 24 - Seattle

Thursday, September 30, Day 24 of my 30-day JetBlue "All You Can Jet," "Friends and Family Across America" Adventure.

Today my friend Gail and I took advantage of Seattle public transit, and took a $2 bus ride from her neighborhood into downtown Seattle.

First stop was the Seattle Public Library. Yes, the library. If you're a fan of architecture, this building is a must. Built in 2004, and designed by Architect Rem Koolhaas, this building is a cool house indeed. In a cloudy climate like Seattle, the glass and steel building lets in an incredible amount of light. We took the elevator to the top floor, and walked down the spiral ramps, gradually descending each floor, viewing the stacks of books and varied seating areas as we walked.

Next stop was SAM. The Seattle Art Museum. Though I arrived too early for a Picasso exhibit that opens soon, there was plenty to see. As I mentioned previously in this blog, I like to visit museums because you see things you won't see in any other city. In this case, one gallery showed Aboriginal art from Australia, and I don't remember ever seeing examples of this art before, so that was fascinating. We walked through other galleries, seeing Native American art; Islamic Art; and contemporary paintings and sculpture from American, European and Chinese artists.

Like any museum visit, once you get tired of walking, it's good to take a break. So we went to the restaurant in the museum, called Taste. We were there in time for their Happy Hour, 3-6 pm, which worked out perfectly for us. A menu with $5 snacks and $3 beers was just what we needed. We shared an order of Rosemary Fries with a horseradish dipping sauce, and an order of Alsatian Flatbread, which is like a small crisp pizza, with cheese, caramelized onion and bacon. There were several other things on the menu that sounded good too, but this was just what we needed for a late afternoon pick-me-up.

We walked down to the waterfront to watch the approaching sunset over the waters of Elliott Bay in Puget Sound. Then walked back up the hill (lots of hills in Seattle) to catch the bus to return home.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

AYCJ - Day 23 - Fly FL-NYC-WA

Wednesday, September 29, Day 23 of my 30-day JetBlue All You Can Jet Adventure. A really long travel day, flying from Tampa, Florida, through JFK, and into Seattle. And just one week remaining!

As I mentioned in the previous post, this travel day started, after only short tries at napping Tuesday evening, at 3am Wednesday, when I drove my rental car from Tarpon Springs to the Tampa Airport. The good thing about driving at 3am is... no traffic! The bad things are finding an open gas station, and finding your way in the dark to a place you've never been. It's about a 45 minute drive, I found an open gas station, almost missed the ramp onto the short tollway to the airport, and definitely missed the turnoff to the Alamo Car Rental return location.

Alamo's location at the Tampa Airport is quite confusing and not with other car rental return places. And when I finally drove around and found the correct turn-off, thanks to a helpful employee at the other car rental location, I had driven so far, I thought I must have missed it, but it was still ahead of me. The signs weren't well lit at night, it was hard to find, but apparently they're in a transition time, and their location might be changing in the near future. I can't be the only one who has found this confusing so hopefully their new location will be easier.

The good news is, even at 4 am, they had employees ready and waiting to take my car and to shuttle me to the terminal, so that all went smoothly. Arriving at the JetBlue Terminal at about 4:15 am, several of us were there before the JetBlue employees arrived, which they soon did, when the counter opened at 4:30.

Things went smoothly, although Tampa Airport is the first place I've had to go through one of the body scanners at security. I have to say, it was creepy. Didn't like it at all. As my laptop, shoes, purse and other belongings went through on the belt and sat out there, waiting for me to claim them, I had to pause to go into the body scanner. I wasn't even sure what it was until I had to stand on the foot marks, and lift my arms out in front of me, as a thing moved around me.

Then they asked if I had anything in my pockets... kleenex, does that count? I did have on a canvas belt, but the buckle is metal I guess. Had to take that off, and they had a woman pat me down around my waist for some reason. The rivets in my jeans pockets maybe? It was creepy, and I was nervous as my laptop and everything just sat at the end of the conveyer belt and I tried to keep my eye on them. Plus it was 4:30 in the morning, after no sleep, so I wasn't in the best mood. But I got through that, and went to the gate by 5 am.

The 6 am flight from Tampa to JFK was fine. I lucked out weather-wise, as there were weather delays in NYC the day before, and a tropical storm was predicted to travel from Florida, up the east coast the next day, so I think I flew this route on just the right day, between 2 bad weather days. No way to plan that ahead of time, I just got lucky.

Being very tired, I did fall asleep on the plane. To me the best reason for a window seat is having a place to rest your head, and lean against the plane, to try to nap. My small inflatable pillow came in handy here, though it's still hard to get any real sleep. But I figured any little bits of sleep I could get had to be helpful. We landed at JFK by around 8:30 am, and I had until 10:20 am before boarding the flight to Seattle.

Flights to Jamaica were being cancelled, due to severe weather, but the Seattle flight was on schedule. I had some breakfast at JFK, went online with my laptop for a little while using the free WiFi at Terminal 5, and boarded for the 6 hour flight to Seattle. Combined with the 2 1/2 hour flight to JFK, that's a long time on a plane. Not the longest stretch by any means, but it was long enough. And most of the flights I've been on have been almost or completely full.

photo: Mount Rainier peaking (peeking) through the clouds as we approach Seattle

Arriving in Seattle at 2 pm (5 pm east coast time), I got my luggage, called my friend Gail, and found the light rail train to take me from the airport into Seattle.

You see interesting people on trains sometimes.... A couple of young women got on the train, went to opposite ends of the train car, and proceeded to have a conversation with each other... from opposite ends of the car. They weren't even really shouting, but, well, it was... amusing. Then another woman on the train was putting on hand lotion, and a few minutes later, was putting on nail polish. When I looked again, and her hand was under her t-shirt, I realized she was putting on deodorant. People are funny...

My friend Gail met me at the previously determined train stop, and we drove back to her house. By now it was around 4pm, which was 7pm on my east coast body clock. Other than a few plane naps, I guess I had pulled an all-nighter, which I haven't done since... well I don't remember when. I decided to take a nap, and slept from 5pm until 8pm, which felt great. Then Gail, her son Peter, and I had a delicious spaghetti dinner, watched TV, relaxed and chatted. I was in bed by 12:30am, and slept until 9:30 the next morning. Ahhh 9 hours of sleep. Just what I needed.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

AYCJ - Day 22 - Last day in Florida

Tuesday, September 28, Day 22 of my 30-day JetBlue AYCJ Adventure, end of the Florida Road Trip.

A day of practicalities, getting ready for the final week of travel. Laundry, errands, packing, necessary things in 30 days of travel.

Getting ready for a long travel day, starting tonight, well actually tomorrow early morning. Leave Tarpon Springs around 3am. Return rental car 4am. Catch 6am flight from Tampa to JFK. Hang out at JFK for a little while, JetBlue's Terminal 5, before catching a flight to the west coast. Let's just hope I don't fall asleep anywhere along the way, at least until I get on a plane. And there were some weather delays today, so... here's hoping for a good travel day tomorrow. Stay tuned.

AYC - Day 21 of 30 - Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks

Monday, September 27, Day 21 of 30-day JetBlue All You Can Jet Adventure.

photos: Fishing boats in Tarpon Springs, and Gulf Coast Beach at Howard Park

In Tarpon Springs, Florida, I decide to mail a box home to myself, relieving me of about 5 pounds of unnecessary bulk. It's near the end of the trip, but, even 5 pounds less will be nice for the last week. Just hope the post office holds it with the rest of my mail... keep your fingers crossed.

Bernie and I went to the gulf coast beach at Howard Park. Beautiful scene, but even the breeze off the Gulf can't cut that Florida humidity. Guess I haven't gotten used to it in the last few days. I feel sticky, oh so sticky, I feel sticky and icky and damp...

Then we went into the sponge docks area of Tarpon Springs, for lunch at Hellas Greek Restaurant. There are many Greek Restaurants in Tarpon Springs, but Hellas is Bernie's favorite, and the food was really good. I had a Gyros and he had a Greek salad.

Greek sponge divers began harvesting sponges in Tarpon Springs about a hundred years ago. I'm not sure how much sponge harvesting is still done, but there is lots of fishing in this area, and lots of Greek food.

Also, I didn't exactly ask, but I don't think the sponges live in a pineapple under the sea... at least not as far as I know.

Monday, September 27, 2010

AYCJ Day 20, in Tarpon Springs, Florida

Sunday, September 26, Day 20 of my 30-day JetBlue All You Can Jet Adventure.

Arriving last night in Tarpon Springs, I'm at the home of my uncle Bernie. We had a delicious dinner of spaghetti and his homemade spaghetti sauce and wine.

Stayed up till about 1am and slept in this morning till 10. It's hard for me to know how long I'll sleep these days, if I don't have to be anywhere that morning, I tend to want to catch up on my sleep, but then again, I'm traveling, so I don't want to sleep away a whole day.

This is day 20 of 30. So with 10 more travel days to go, maybe a little extra sleep will help me survive the next 10 days... without getting too cranky!

Stopped at a local Starbucks to get online and catch up on computer things. Not much travel news to report for today, but a good, low key day of talking, relaxing, sleeping and catching up. Tomorrow, to the sponge docks!

AYCJ, Day 19, Florida Road Trip continues

Saturday, September 25, Day 19 of my 30-day JetBlue All You Can Jet Adventure.
Lake Placid, Sarasota, Tarpon Springs.
Soggy Cereal, Love Bugs, Gulf Coast.

photos: the beach at Sarasota, evidence of love bugs

Morning with Lou and Beverly in Lake Placid, Florida. Coffee is brewing, so I put a little milk in a white mug, to await the finished brew. I leave it on the counter, and go to another room for a few minutes. When I come back, there is an empty white mug on the counter, but my mug with the milk in it is missing. I see Beverly drinking coffee, and figure she has the mug with milk in it, so I'll just get more from the fridge. But she didn't have milk in her coffee, so I am puzzled.

I mention that I had set aside a mug. She said she poured some dry cereal into a mug, then poured it back into the canister where they store the dry cereal. I paused, and thought.... uh-oh. Then she said it was strange because some of the dry cereal seemed wet. Uh-oh, I thought again. The mug was white, so you might not automatically see a half-inch of milk in it. Turns out that's what happened. Bev didn't realize there was milk in the mug. She poured some dry cereal into the mug, then poured it back into the canister... with a whole new box of dry cereal. I picked up the canister and looked at the clear plastic bottom, where a small but noticeable amount of milk sloshed around the previously dry cereal.

Oh no, my little bit of milk in a mug has just ruined an entire new box of cereal. I explained to Bev that there was milk in that mug and that she must have poured it into the canister of fresh, dry cereal. As we figured out what happened, we laughed, because it was an unusual sequence of events that led to this little kitchen debacle. I felt bad, but Beverly took it in stride, with an "oh well, nothing to be done about it now" attitude that I wish I could adopt more often.

As we sat at the table sipping our coffee, Lou went into the kitchen and in a few moments, we heard his voice say, "Beverly, some of the cereal is wet." Yes, well... there's a story about that... It was funny, as we tried to explain what happened... the mystery of the soggy cereal. Maybe you had to be there, but if I had intended it as a prank, it couldn't have worked any better. I just never could have thought up something so clever ... hiding milk in a white mug.

With soggy breakfast finally finished, I finished packing to move on to the next Florida stop. After finalizing some hotel and car reservations for the final 2 days of this adventure, I was ready to continue my Florida Road Trip.

On the road again, I traveled on Highway 70, heading west to the Gulf Coast. It was a two-lane road, and there was occasional traffic, but much of the time it was almost like a private highway. I searched for radio stations playing songs I could sing along to, which is one good reason for traveling alone I suppose.

Then I hit an area of the highway I decided to call "Bug Alley". All of a sudden, I realized I was having to look around the quickly multiplying bug splots on my windshield in order to see the road. More and more dots and splots appeared. "What am I driving through?"

As I stopped at a light in the town of Arcadia, there were black bugs flying around my car. I have since learned that these are Love Bugs, because apparently when they mate, they fly around attached together. I couldn't tell if I was seeing single or double love bugs, but ... I kept my windows closed. No love for the love bugs here.

Arriving in Sarasota, I followed directions to the home of my Uncle and Aunt, Joe and Arlene. I hadn't seen them for quite a few years and they look the same as I remember! We had a good visit, catching up on family news. Arlene and I drove to the Sarasota beach and had a nice walk in the powdery soft sand. Back at their house, they very helpfully provided glass cleaner and a squeegee and cleaned all the love bugs off my windshield, which I'm very grateful for, because I believe it is good to be able to see through the windshield when you're driving. It would have been nice to spend a bit more time but this whole trip has been like that, it's 30 days of travel, but just short times at each place.

Back on the Florida highways, heading north, through Tampa, and up to Tarpon Springs, land of sponges.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Day 18 AYCJ, Friday Sept 24, Lake Placid, FL

Photos: on the Canals in Lake Placid, Florida

Friday, September 24, Day 18 of my 30 day JetBlue All You Can Jet Adventure

Lake Placid, Florida, a place not many people have heard of. Lake Placid? You're in New York? Nope, Central Florida, south of Orlando, just south of Sebring.

After a lovely leisurely morning with Lou and Beverly, I went out into the canals and lakes, boating with Captain Lou! Not being much of a boater, I helped as much as I could, getting gas in the tank for the outboard motor, lowering the boat down into the water (well, we didn't do that manually, it was an electrical pulley-strap system thingy ... and I'm sure that's the official nautical term for it).

We were off into the canals. It was beautiful, parts looked like jungle, many houses on the canal, with boats in their docks. We headed out into a lake, and Captain Lou stepped on it! We sped across the lake, apparently not going all that fast, but it sure felt fast, especially when the front of the boat... hmm, is that the bow?... anyway, when the front goes up in the air it just doesn't feel right! I kept wanting to lean forward, afraid we'd flip over backwards! But we didn't.

There was a nice breeze on the water, and then it drizzled a little bit. It felt good actually, in the humid air, to have a little drizzle falling on us. So we returned back towards the house, and since it stopped drizzling, we headed the other way down the lagoon, into another lake. I quickly learned that when Captain Lou puts his cap on backwards... hold on, speed demon Lou is about to strike! We sped for a minute across this other lake, then headed back down the lagoon to head back towards home.

Parts of the ride felt like we were on the jungle cruise at Disneyland... except for real... except no elephants or rhinos, real or not. Then it started to drizzle again. Ah, that feels good. Then the drizzle became more of a rain. Well, still feels good. Then it got a little heavier. Oh this is funny, it's raining a little isn't it? With still quite a bit more ground to cover, er I guess I mean more water to cover, before returning to home base, the downpour started. We had no cover over us, the boat is open, so it poured and poured, and we got completely drenched!

"Are we there yet?" I asked Captain Lou. But we weren't there yet. We weren't there yet for several good long minutes of much good hard rain. We started laughing, it was funny because we were like 2 drowned rats! It rained and rained. I guess it's good that there was no lightning. We finally got back to the house, got the boat back in, and Beverly met us with a stack of towels. My shorts and socks were soaked and my shoes are still drying out.

Of course, about an hour after we got back in the house, the sun came out and it was a beautiful day. Hey, let's go out on the boat!

That night we made a delicious chicken dinner. That went smoothly, except after I finished stirring the sauteed spinach, the utensil in the pan suddenly flipped out onto the floor, flinging bits of cooked spinach all over the kitchen. I'm still not sure how that happened, but it may be the last time Beverly lets me help her cook.

Friday, September 24, 2010

AYCJ - Day 17 - Florida Road Trip

Photos: Fort Lauderdale, FL

Thursday, September 23, Day 17 of my 30-day JetBlue All You Can Jet Adventure. Time for my Florida Road Trip. Fort Lauderdale to Lake Placid Florida.

One knows it's humid out when one exits an air conditioned hotel room, into a moist Florida morning, and one's glasses fog up.

It must have rained in Fort Lauderdale last night, everything was wet. And yes, the air was very humid. I had breakfast at the motel, made a waffle, had juice and coffee. Then I got in my rental car, and drove to see a little of the Fort Lauderdale beaches. The Atlantic Ocean looked a little choppy, but it was beautiful.

Got to the freeway that I hoped would get me where I needed to go, and I was right! Made it to Highway 27, and headed north to the Lakes area of Central Florida (south of Orlando), driving through a few rain showers along the way. I'm visiting my friends Lou and Beverly, whom I haven't seen for several years, so it's wonderful to be able to spend a couple of days with them. We went to a great Greek restaurant last night, and I'm enjoying just relaxing and catching up with them. But I'm spending too much time writing at their computer. Still have to see if there's a WiFi place nearby where I can get online with my laptop. But for now, enough computer time!

AYCJ Day 16 - Rather long travel day. NO-NYC-FL

Wednesday, September 22, Day 16 of my 30-day JetBlue All You Can Jet Adventure

A long travel day, and now a second attempt at reporting on it, after the first one disppeared as I tried to work around a non-working wireless mouse. And I just typed it as a gmail draft, figuring I could copy and paste it here, but that's not working... so I'm retyping it all... again ... aghhhhh. If there are any typos, I apologize, but I'll try to catch them.... later.

Beginning in New Orleans, I arose at 6am, after getting to bed at 1am. This wasn't even due to partying, just catching up on blog-writing and packing. For this long travel day, I took advantage of the Country Inn Hotel and Suites free breakfast. A free hotel breakfast is perfect for a day like this. It's fast and easy, and there for you, no thinking required.

The hotel is not a sleek, modern skyscraper kind of place. It was built in an old warehouse of some kind, so it has character, old brick walls, and other interesting architectural quirks. It's on Magazine Street, west of Canal, so away from the Bourbon Street area, but an easy walking distance.

The day really started with a lesson on why you need to double and triple check things when you travel. The airport shuttle was to pick me up at 7:10am. By 7:18 or so, I called the shuttle to see where they were, but had to leave a message when no human responded. I had arrived in New Orleans on 9/20, told the shuttle person I was only in town for 2 days, and she said she could schedule the return shuttle to the airport right there. By around 7:20, I looked at my receipt, and noticed it said pick up at 7:10am on 9/29. Wait. What? I looked at it for a second, and thought, what day is it today? Uh-oh. She put the wrong date on this. It should be 9/22. Aghh! I started calling again and the woman at the hotel front desk help me by dialing as well.

I got through to a human, and started telling her my problem. She asked why I waited until 7:30 to call... "But I did call, nobody answered!" Breathe. Don't panic. It's all fine. She checked with dispatch and said a van would be there to pick me up, and bring me to another van that would get me to the airport by 8:30. My flight leaves at 9:45. So that's what we did. After a short tour around New Orleans, picking up people, moving onto another van, we were off to the airport.

One other van passenger had an AYCJ pass, so we compared notes on where we had been and where we were going next. In the Country Inn Hotel, I had seen a man wearing the AYCJ logo, which, of course, gave me permission to yell out at him, "Hey, All You Can Jet, me too!" It's like being a member of a secret club. Maybe we should have an AYCJ secret handshake.

On the airport shuttle, we talked about the pass, and at least one of the passengers was making a note to check next August to see if JetBlue would offer it again in 2011.

We made it to the New Orleans Airport fine, and to JFK with no problems. Another full flight, but I did manage a little nap time on board. This was my first time spending time between flights at JetBlue's Terminal 5 at JFK and it was nice. Several food options, and places to plug in your computer and use free Wifi. By the time I had eated (salad bar and soup) I had time to check my email, and it was time to board the next flight to Fort Lauderdale. At one point, sitting in the terminal I looked around and thought briefly, wait, where am I? Oh right, back in NYC, headed for.... oh yeah, Florida... geesh!

The pilot made a comment about heavy traffic driving in on the Van Wyck (NYC expressway leading to JFK) and then we headed out to the runway, and stopped. And waited. The pilot initially said it was a weather delay that was backing up planes. I recalled that when I was leaving NYC (was that really only Monday, 2 days ago?) they warned of heavy traffic, since the UN was in session all week. I wondered if there were foreign dignitaries arriving at the airport. Then I remembered that President Obama was going to speak at the UN this week. Hmm, I wonder if that's today?

Whenever any president visits your town, expect traffic delays. When Reagan visited LA, he often stayed at the Century Plaza Hotel, and whenever I heard many helicopters buzzing overhead, I knew, he must be in town. While I was living in NYC, visits by both Clinton and Bush caused delays, including stopping a subway line that I was one. It was above ground, and traveled over an expressway the president's motorcade would be using. We waited until the motorcade had passed.

I turned to CNN on my JetBlue Direct TV screen, but didn't see any reports fromNYC. Then the pilot confirmed there was VIP Movement or some such description at the airport. When we started rolling forward again, after about an hour's delay, we made a turn towards our runway and there were at least a dozen jets of various sizes in line behind us. Then I checked CNN again, and there was President Obama arriving at the UN. Wow, he got into the city fast! Apparently a motorcade is faster than taking the AirTrain and the subway!

The flight to Fort Lauderdale was fine, we arrived about an hour late. I waited for my bag, then took the shuttle to Car Rentals. I was happy to be getting a car for this week. Florida Road Trip! I can just throw my stuff in the trunk! My initial plan was to get to Fort Lauderdale in time to see the almost full moon rise over the ocean, which I saw once and it was amazing. The full moon low on the horizon is HUGE! By the time I got my car, the moon was alreaday high up in the dark sky. Frankly I was too tired to care much by now.

I found my way out of the airport and finally found my motel by around 8pm. The motel was a little lower quality than I had hoped but I really just needed a place to sleep for the night, and didn't want to spend a lot of money. I needed a little something to eat, so I stopped at the nearby McDonalds for something cheap and fast, got back to my room, showered, and finally got to bed sometime after 11pm. I've been up and moving since 6 am. That was a long day.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

AYCJ - Day 16 - A rather long travel day. NO.NYC.FL

Just have to say, I just spent way too much time writing this post. And it's gone. I couldn't save it for some reason, it was quite a long story about Day 16, Wednesday, September 22, my very long travel day... and I have to start from scratch. Will have to reconstruct it.
Maybe tomorrow.

Where's my wine.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Day 15 - AYCJ - New Orleans

Tuesday, September 21, Day 15 of my 30-day JetBlue All You Can Jet Adventure.

photos: Streets of New Orleans

Wow. It's the half-way point. 15 days down, 15 days to go.

The day starts with breakfast at the hotel. It forces me to get up and downstairs before 9:30, if I want to take advantage of the breakfast. It's a pretty good selection to choose from. Scrambled eggs and sausage, oatmeal, fruit, cold cereal, coffee, juice, and even waffle irons to make your own waffle.

After breakfast I returned to my room. I wasn't quite ready to hit the streets yet. When I was finally ready to go, I headed out into the humid, moist, hot air. I think I heard it was 91 today. Don't know what the humidity was. Probably better not to know! I kept looking for shade and breezes as I walked around, exploring the city.

I walked down by the river, and after walking awhile, decided to go into Harrah's Casino, because I figured at least it would be air conditioned. I'm not even a fan of air conditioning, I always prefer fresh air. But I was very very grateful for air conditioning today.

In casinos, you used to be able to just drop a quarter into a machine and see what happens. Not true anymore. The machines take only bills and tickets. And minimum $5 bill. So I had to get change for a 10. After finally figuring out where to turn my 10 into two 5's, I wandered the machines. Found one that supposedly cost only 1 or 2 cents per credit. But of course they say you have to play many credits for better chances. You insert your $5 and it deducts the credits it needs. I played for a short while, winning some credits here and there, but in very little time my $5 was gone.

I wasn't going to spend the other $5, because, frankly, it wasn't that much fun. The machines are all electronic, you don't even get to pull a handle or hear coins drop. And I couldn't even figure out what I was trying to match most of the time. I'd win a credit and not even be sure how I did it. Then I saw a Sex and the City game. There were 4 of them, and one man was playing at one of them. So I sat at another, and fed it my $5. That $5 disappeared even faster than the first $5. So that was enough of the casino for me. Back out into the steamy streets.

Walking on Decatur Street, I found Cafe du Monde. For under $5, you can have a Cafe Au Lait (half coffee/half milk) and an order of 3 beignets (French donuts, showered in powdered sugar). I couldn't believe I ordered a hot coffee on this hot day, but after sitting in the shaded patio under a fan, it didn't seem quite so preposterous. And it was amazing. it was the perfect snack. The beignets were light and delicious. Dipping them in the coffee, eating them dry, it all worked. Spooning up the rest of the powdered sugar with a little coffee... yes I did that. A group of musicians played amazing dixieland jazz on the corner, so it was perfect.

I left there and walked some more, wondering how people stood the heat and the.... moisture. I ducked into some shops and galleries, and looked for a place to eat. But the humidity made me feel sweaty, sticky and tired. At one point I felt like I just wanted to lie down in a refrigerator somewhere... but where can one do that?

My plan was to eat a late lunch as my big meal of the day, then return to my hotel and ... pack for my next, early travel day tomorrow.

So I found La Bayou Restaurant, on Bourbon Street and had a fried shrimp platter and a local New Orleans beer. The platter turned out to be enormous, 10 great shrimp, 4 hushpuppies, cole slaw, and a giant pile of fries. And maybe I should have known in a place like New Orleans, I should ask about the size of beer she was bringing. A pint is plenty, but she brought out a glass that was apparently about 24 ounces. Yikes! That's a lot of beer.

I got a take out container for the rest of the fries, and snacked on some of those later. It's now hours later and I'm still not hungry. Sometimes I like to eat a large meal in the middle of the day, and just snack later. I spent a little more on the shrimp and the giant beer than I had intended, but other than the beignets, it was the only meal I bought today, so that worked out okay.

Now I have to get ready for my 7:10am pick up by the airport shuttle tomorrow morning. Let's see, that means, get dressed, packed, have breakfast, and check out all by 7 am, so that means getting up at 6am, or maybe a little earlier, so.... good night!

AYCJ - Day 14 - Travel Day, NY to NO

Monday, September 20, Day 14 of my 30-day JetBlue All You Can Jet Adventure.

On the move again, I leave NYC on the E train subway, to connect to the AirTrain at JFK. This is my first time spending any time at Jet Blue's Terminal 5 at JFK, JetBlues main hub, home base. It looks like they have a special area for AYCJ pass-holders, but it's pretty full. The computer stations with WiFi were great, and I spent some time catching up with my emails, until it was time to board my flight to New Orleans.

When I planned this trip to visit Friends And Family Across America, I realized that I'd be visiting places that I've been to before. Nothing wrong with that. But I decided that this 30-day adventure had to include at least one new place. Somewhere I've never been. New Orleans.

I picked up my checked bag, then went to the airport shuttle desk (which I had researched on the web, and had in my pages of notes). A round trip ticket to any downtown hotel from the airport (and back) is $38. The van filled up and we headed off to New Orleans, at about 5:30pm. Out shuttle driver was also part tour guide, and shared some local New Orleans tips, and his own personal Katrina survival story.

After checking into my hotel (free WiFi in the room is very helpful!) I took off walking, looking for a relatively inexpensive place for dinner. In New Orleans there's no open carry law here, so people can walk around the streets with alcoholic drinks in their hand. And they do. And there's an interesting mix of sports fans and music fans. New Orleans was playing in Monday Night Football tonight in San Francisco, so TV's everywhere had the game on. (They won.) And there are musicians scattered around the city, in clubs and also on corners, just playing music.

Bourbon Street is an interesting mix too. Some of the restaurants are fairly expensive, and on the same street, are many places offering, how shall I say... adult entertainment. Can someone tell me why they're called "Gentlemen's Clubs"?

"That was no gentleman, that was my husband."
That would be my own twist on the old joke, "Who was that lady I saw you with last night? That was no lady, that was my wife."

Okay, sorry... where was I? I was amazed how hot and humid it still was, at 7 or 8 pm. When we landed in New Orleans, the JetBlue pilot reported that conditions were clear, sunny, and... moist. Boy was he right.

As I walked around, I found a few art galleries, and in one of them, I asked for advice for a not-too-expensive place to eat. He recommended the Gumbo Shop, around the corner, and it was a good choice.

The Gumbo Shop, housed in a 1795 building looked casual and was busy. I couldn't decide between the shrimp creole and the jambalaya, so the waitress suggested I get the combination plate with those two dishes plus red beans and rice. It was perfect. With only 2 nights in a city, you need to sample as much food as possible, so why not try several at once! With a glass of wine, it was a perfect dinner. I really wanted to try the hot bread pudding with whiskey sauce, but just couldn't eat another bite. Maybe next time.

AYCJ Chicago entries -- now with photos!

Photos have been added to a few of my early All You Can Jet Chicago Days, way back when, let's see, around September 8 and 9, so take a look back at those days if you wish. And here's one more
Photo: Fountain in Chicago

They look a bit small to me, so if they're too small to view, just leave me a comment, I'll try to fix that. (Hey, it's all a learning process...) And I hope to add some NYC photos soon. It all takes time.... more than perhaps I had imagined when I came up with this idea... But that's okay, it's been fun, although I'm only half-way through, aren't I? ...

AYCJ - Day 13 - Last full day in NYC

photo: sunset on the Hudson River

Sunday, September 19 - Day 13 of my 30-day JetBlue All You Can Jet Adventure

It has been interesting finding time to write this blog as I travel. In a place like New York City, you are on foot and often have to carry around on your back (or in your shoulder bag) everything you need for the day. Some days I elected to leave the laptop at home (my bag was SO much lighter!). And on the days with the laptop, I looked for a Starbucks, or an equivalent "free WiFi" spot, the trick was finding one with space to sit and work. I know this isn't a serious problem in the general scheme of things, but, it's been interesting, searching for WiFi places, something I hadn't spent that much time doing before this.

But it's Sunday now, my last day in New York City before I take off for the rest of my 30-days of travel. At lunch time I walk from Manhattan's west side over to midtown to catch the N Train Subway to Astoria, Queens. There I meet my friend Jeanne and we enjoy a lovely Thai food lunch. We met when we both worked at CBS, and lived a block from each other in Astoria for awhile. It was nice to visit for a little while and catch up.

I lived in Astoria for several years, and always thought it as a good option for those of us who could no longer afford to live in Manhattan. It's a quick subway ride away from midtown Manhattan and is less expensive. Apparently Astoria has gotten more popular in recent years, new buildings have gone up, more people have moved there... and I guess some prices have gone up too, so it may not be as affordable as before, but then what is?

The five boroughs that make up New York City are: Manhattan, Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island. When you live in one borough, you often don't get to many, if any of the others. But in my NYC week, I made it to all 5 boroughs. It's true that in Staten Island I only saw the Ferry Terminal, where I exited one ferry and waited for the next outbound ferry. And for Queens, if you land at either JFK or LaGuardia airport, you have been to Queens. But today's lunch in Astoria meant I visited Queens for more than just the airports. (And with a couple connecting flights through JFK yet to come in the next 2 weeks, I'll be in Queens again!)

After lunch I returned to Manhattan, and walked through a great (or not so great, depending on your point of view) NYC tradition.... The Street Fair! Every Saturday and Sunday, for much of the year, various streets and avenues are shut down to traffic so a variety of vendors can sell their wares. If you're looking for something the vendors are offering, it's a good thing. If you're in traffic that is stopped because the blocks have been shut down... it's not such a good thing. This one was on 8th Avenue, from about 47th to 57th Streets. My favorite cheap fast snack at Street Fairs used to be a skewer of chicken sate at the Thai food stands, for $1. It's very possible that price has gone up, but I forgot to check, so don't quote me on it ... I may be very out of date.

Returning to Richard and Arnold's, we took a nice walk over to the Hudson River. They've done a great job of fixing up the waterfront all along the Hudson. We walked around an area around West 46th Street, that has nice play areas, walking and biking areas, benches, a dog playground that was fun to watch, a restaurant, it was great. I was a bit anxious to get back, so I could repack everything and get ready for tomorrow's travel day.

New York can be crowded, aggravating, annoying, frustrating. But it is like no other place. And to finish the song I started in the headlines a few days back... New York, New York, it's a wonderful town!

Day 12 of 30 days on JetBlue - Another NYC rooftop

Saturday, September 18 - Day 12 of my 30-day JetBlue All You Can Jet Adventure.

Morning starts a bit slowly and not too early in the Bronx, which is how I like it, with a lovely breakfast (Bonnie even made pumpkin muffins -- She really should open a B&B). From the Bronx, I take a bus to the D train (subway), switch to the A train, and came up at the Port Authority Bus Terminal on 42nd Street in Midtown Manhattan. With one more day left on my 7-day MetroCard pass, I have already gotten more than my $27 worth, swiping the card on subways and buses all over the city this week... sometimes even on subways I hadn't planned on taking... (see yesterday)

I walked over to my friend Arnold's millinery studio (he makes hats and other cool things for theatrical productions), where it's always interesting to see what they're working on. Together we walked to his and Richard's home on Manhattan's west side, in an area called Hell's Kitchen. I believe I've heard the history behind that name... or are there competing stories about how this area got that name? If I stop now and research it, I'll never catch up on this blog! So, if you know where Hell's Kitchen got its name, leave it in the comments, and we'll all learn something!

We went to the rooftop of their building around sunset time, and enjoyed the evening air and the beautiful view of the city, as all the lights came on, under an almost full moon. It's an ever-changing view, because, well, they keep building new buildings, which block out the view of the older buildings. But that's life I guess, things just keep on changing.
So, another good day, running around, and spending time with friends

Monday, September 20, 2010

AYCJ Day 11, Friday in NYC - Oh the subways

Friday, Sept 17 - Day 11 in my 30 days of travel with JetBlue's AYCJ pass.

photos: NYC rooftop gardens and Sunset over Hudson River

It appears I'm a few days behind in my blogging, so I'll be sure there's a date at the beginning of each post to show which day I'm reporting on. Now let's see if I can catch up... Friday, Sept. 17, in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and the Bronx.

Friday was a perfect example of how wonderful the NYC subways are .... when they are working. But when the subway that you are counting on is shut down for any reason, life in New York can be positively hellish.

My plan to move my 30 pound suitcase into Manhattan from Brooklyn began innocently enough. I had been staying in Brooklyn with my friend Todd, and he offered to help me move said luggage. This may be the last time he ever offers such a thing. The plan was take the G train to the E train, and a walk on the street to our target destination. There were stairs to maneuver along the way, but when we left the G train for the E train, it all went horribly wrong. The E train was sitting there, with subway employees saying that there was a sick passenger onboard the train, they were waiting for EMT to arrive, and there was no way to know how long it would take.

When this happens, there is always an alternative, but it's not always easy. We had to go up stairs to a street in Queens, walk down a block, across a street, and further up more stairs to an elevated track for the 7 train. A detour like this is bad enough, but with luggage... it's really not fun at all. Many people made this trek, others with luggage too, trying to get into Manhattan. I heard two women talking about the sick passenger, who said, "I don't know, he didn't look THAT sick to me."

In this situation, it would be good to remember that if we were that sick passenger, we would indeed be glad that the subway employees would wait with us until help arrives, but when you're trudging around to an alternative train station, and it's costing you time and aggravation, it's hard to stay in a generous frame of mind.

We finally made it. But it was hot and exhausting.

Later in the day, I joined my friends Maryann and Bonnie, at Judy's apartment near 14th Street to catch up, since we hadn't all been together for years. Judy wanted to have a little something for us to snack on, so she had a great inexpensive NY idea for appetizers. She went to her corner pizza place, bought a couple slices, brought them home, cut them in small bite-size pieces, heated them up, and voila! Snacks!

Her building has a fabulous roof deck, on about the 22nd floor. Living in NYC made me a big believer in roof decks, or roof gardens. Why don't more places utilize their roof space? We enjoyed the view as the sun set over the Hudson River. (well, over New Jersey really.) And though we didn't have a lot of time to spend together, it was great to see everyone.

Then Maryann, Bonnie and I walked to another subway and headed to the Bronx. About halfway there, that subway train stopped, they told us to all exit the train, and wait on the platform for the next train to arrive. I'm still not sure why. Must have just been my subway karma for the day. But we finally got to our destination. Bonnie and Maryann live in the same apartment building there, and we had a slumber party! I like the idea of a grown up slumber party, where you can eat chinese food, drink wine, stay up too late talking and laughing, and no one has to head home till morning. So that's what we did.

It was another full, fun day, in spite of a bit of subway drama. In NYC, you can't let little things like out-of-service subways stop you, you just have to keep going. That's why some days in NYC are more jam-packed and fun-filled than others.