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.

Friday, September 17, 2010

AYCJ - Day 10 - New York New York

It's Day 10, Thursday, September 16 on my 30-day JetBlue All You Can Jet Travel Adventure. Today was Art and Italian food in New York.

I realize at this point in the trip that not only is my sleep schedule a bit confused, but my eating schedule is as well. When traveling one often does not eat the same foods one eats when home, so it will be interesting how 30 days of this works out. It's Day 10, one-third of the way through.

After sleeping in, at my friend Todd's place in Brooklyn, we both headed into Manhattan to MOMA (Museum of Modern Art). I was going to wait for "free day", which is Fridays after 4pm, but... Todd is a member, so I went as his guest and we enjoyed a wonderful Matisse exhibition. We walked around the entire museum, sat out in the Sculpture Garden for awhile, until the rains came. It was a big storm, wind, rain, and I heard that a tornado may have actually come through the city. We hid inside MOMA until it slowed to a drizzle.

About museums, I know some people don't think of going to museums when traveling, but what I like about them is that, if you're looking at an original painting or sculpture from a museum's collection, that is the only place you'll see that particular work. There are traveling exhibitions with works borrowed from other museums, but it's one of the few things left that is unique to a location. In most big cities, the major stores you see are all the same no matter what city you're in. It all looks like the same mall, no matter where you are. But Art and other Exhibits in local museums are mostly unique to that place, so that's why I enjoy finding interesting museums in new places.

In a museum, after walking around for awhile, you can get to information overload, where you're seen so much, it's hard to digest what you're looking at. At that point, I like to just keep walking and wander around the rest of the galleries, pausing when something catches my eye, for whatever reason. You can discover interesting works that way.

We walked around midtown, to the west side, and had Italian food at Amarone's on 9th Avenue. I love Italian food so it's always a good option for me. And a friend used to have his Christmas Eve dinners there when I lived in NYC, so I knew it would be good. Some pasta and wine, for a delicious end to a stormy day.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

AYCJ - Day 9 - The People Ride in a Hole in the Ground

Day 9 - Wedneday, September 15, in JetBlue's All You Can Jet 30-day travel adventure -- more NYC adventures.

Photo: Staten Island Ferry, NYC skyline

This was a day when I'm better off traveling alone, because I walked and walked and walked all day long, covered a lot of ground.

Started with a nice breakfast in Brooklyn, with my current friend/host Todd, who is letting me stay at his place for a few nights. Then onward to the Brooklyn Museum. I wanted to see the exhibition for Abdi, who won the Work Of Art competition on Bravo TV, which I wrote about previously in this blog. There are about a dozen of his pieces there, I really like his work. Walked around the museum seeing their other collections, they have some interesting things there.

Got back on the subway into lower Manhattan, walked over to the Smithsonian American Indian Museum, a free museum that I always enjoy walking around and seeing what they have. Their main collection moved to Washington DC when the museum opened there, but they still have interesting collections.

As I walked outside, I saw the Staten Island Ferry... so I decided to take a boat ride. It's free, and takes about 25 minutes each way. You have to get out in Staten Island and wait for the next ferry returning to Manhattan, so figure about 1 1/2 hours to complete this trip. It was a beautiful afternoon.

After returning to Manhattan, I walked along the Hudson River, in Battery Park City, a lovely place for a walk in NYC. There's a lot of construction happening around the World Trade Center, apparently things are starting to progress on new buildings there.

Took the subway up to Soho, to a gallery that a friend recommended. It was almost closing time, but I walked around and looked at some interesting drawings. Then subway again, up to midtown, checked out what used to be the Revlon employee's store, for discounted cosmetics. It's now a store on 39th Street where they sell cosmetics, either last year's colors, or overruns I think. I looked around, but all I could think of was... more stuff to carry around! So I didn't buy anything.

For dinner, I went to Kennedy's pub on W. 57th Street. A good Irish Pub in NYC is a great place to go for dinner at the bar. It wasn't too loud in there, there was a spot at the end of the bar. I ordered delicious fish and chips and a beer, and had great conversations with others at the bar. It was a great end to a very busy day, and I was tired! You can stay in good shape walking around NYC, without even realizing it. Miles and miles and miles you can walk, and lots to see along the way.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

AYCJ - Day 8 - the Bronx is up and the Battery's down

It's the 8th Day on my 30-day JetBlue All You Can Jet Adventure, and there will be several days in New York City ...

Photo: Statue of Liberty

Today I found my way to Brooklyn with my luggage for the next few nights of lodging. More subways, more stairs, but somehow I pulled through.

Then back to Manhattan for some karaoke action! A few friends, mostly from a singing class years ago, gathered to sing at Carrie's apartment. Reiko, Eleanor, Lydia, Carrie and I may have talked more than sang, but that's good too. And you haven't lived until you hear women of a certain age singing Tom Jones songs... It was nice to catch up with old friends.

Then I headed out and walked into midtown, by Rockefeller Center, and into Times Square. When I lived here, I used to occasionally walk into Times Square just to see what new signs and lights were up. It's so packed with people, I remembered why NYC residents rarely go near Times Square, unless they're going to see a show. You especially don't want to be there when the shows get out... in the early evening on matinee day, or any night around 10:30pm. The crowds are mind-boggling. But Times Square is a unique place, full of activity and energy. I quickly got to the point of ... okay, I saw Times Square... now let's get out of here!

I jumped on a subway to go from Times Square (42nd St) down to Union Square (14th St) and an express train was just pulling up. This is a wonderful thing, once you figure the trains out. The express trains only stop at the big major streets, so you can save travel time if you know what you're doing, and you don't see the street you want whizzing by as the train passes it! So the train stopped only at 34th Street, then 14th Street. I traveled 28 blocks in just a few minutes. The subway can be a wonderful thing... when it's working... and going where you want... and especially when there are escalators...

I learned today that Cosi Sandwich places have free WiFi. So, I've just finished my lentil soup, club sandwich, decaf and chips, and I'm writing this post. Tonight it's off to Brooklyn, then I have to figure out how to organize my next few days' activities. So much time, so little to do. No wait. Strike that. Reverse it.

Monday, September 13, 2010

AYCJ - Day 7 - New York New York, it's a wonderful town

Day 7 on the JetBlue 30-day All You Can Jet Adventure, and it's time for New York City!

Photo: Times Square

Taking the Air Train in from JFK to the E Train (subway) is relatively easy, I've done it before, and there are even several escalators along the way (hurray). A few places with stairs, but you can't have everything.

At the O'Hare JetBlue terminal, I met some other AYCJ adventurers, and we compared notes on where we've been so far, so that was fun to see what people are doing and planning.

I have loaded some of the photos from my camera to my laptop, but I have figured out one potential issue with blogging from the road. Finding WiFi locations where I can spend lots of time blogging, adding photos, etc. Currently... I'm at the Apple Store on 5th Avenue.... shhhh, don't tell them. Wonder how long I can stand here writing my blog, using their WiFi, before they ask me what I'm doing. I think this store location is open 24 hours... Can that be possible? There are 3 or 4 gazillion people in here right now, it's quite amazing... and loud.

But I'm in New York City, where I lived for 11 years, several years ago, so it will be a good time to see old friends and catch up. My first stop is with my friend, Carrie, who I met in a singing class at the Y years ago. She is graciously letting me land on her couch for a night. And tomorrow, we have an afternoon karaoke session scheduled, in her apartment. A few other friends will come by so that will be fun.

Tomorrow my plan is to stay with a friend in Brooklyn for a few nights. That means hitting the subway with my luggage again... (sigh)... such is the glamourous travel life I am leading! I could splurge on a cab I guess, but... trying to be frugal! And I just bought my MetroCard.

That's the first thing I did, right off the JFK AirTrain and I recommend it for anyone visiting NYC. Get an unlimited MetroCard. My 7 day card (good for 7 days from when you first use it) was $27, and it will be worth every penny. I can use it on any bus or subway for the next week, as much as I want. You can also purchase cards that deduct for every subway or bus ride you take ($2.25), but it's just annoying trying to keep track of that. With the unlimited card, just swipe and go. Swipe and go. Swipe and go.

May write more later. And I will be adding photos to posts one of these days. I don't think I can stand here typing much longer ... people seem to be stopping and looking over my shoulder... probably should go. Thanks, Apple. Hey, and thanks, Big Apple!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

AYCJ - Day 6 - Chicago suburbs

Day 6 of my 30-day adventure using the JetBlue All You Can Jet Pass. A quiet day in the 'burbs.

Slept in for awhile, had a good breakfast at a local Northfield, IL diner, a nice walk around the neighborhood, laundry and a complete re-packing. How do things in my luggage get this messed up in only 6 days? A load of laundry and I start off fresh with all clean clothes! (hey that's a big deal if you're traveling for 30 days. I did not bring 30 days worth of clothes.)

We finish the day with more pizza... and champagne! A toast to my last day in Chicagoland. Thanks to my Aunts Mary and Maureen for being the fabulous hosts they always are. And to my friends MB and Bonnie, for spending a great day together.

Tomorrow morning I'm off to O'Hare Airport, where I will fly to my next destination, which is ..... wait for it.....

No really ... you'll have to wait for it. I'll tell you tomorrow... when I get there.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

30 days of JetBlue Travel - Day 5 - the 'burbs

Day 5 of my All You Can Jet Travel adventure.

After sleeping in longer that I planned to, (needed it) spent some time in Chicago's northern suburbs, finding a place with WiFi, and figuring out why my MacBook doesn't always want to get its email. It's not very interesting, but when you're writing from the road, you are at the mercy of the technology. I have a hard enough time keeping up with it, and when it doesn't work quite right, it can be frustrating!

Other than computer issues, it was a nice relaxing day, ending with a fabulous Italian dinner.

We went to Washington Gardens, in the northern suburb of Highwood, IL. My two Aunts and I shared a few dishes, all delicious. Veal Fontina (with green pepper, garlic, oil, tomato, fontina cheese), Rigatoni Amatriciana (spinach, pancetta, cannellini beans, tomato sauce) for our main courses. And we split an appetizer that I forgot to mention as an all time, old time Chicago favorite: Shrimp De Jonghe. I spelled it right, it's not dijon and has no mustard anywhere near it. It's basically shrimp, butter, garlic and breadcrumbs and it's amazing. Shrimp and garlic are always a good combo. This is a great dish, and I don't think I've ever found it outside of Chicago, where it was invented.

Chicago's ever-changing sky has been fun to watch. Oh good, blue sky! Uh-oh, clouds are rolling in. Wait, no, it's blue again! Oh look, clouds... And this all in one afternoon! There have been some pretty clouds though. I'll be posting pictures of clouds and other things soon.

Friday, September 10, 2010

AYCJ Pass Travel - Day 4 - Chicago

Today, Friday, September 10, on the 4th day of my 30 day All You Can Jet Adventure, from the northern suburbs of Chicago, we headed south to the great Museum of Science and Industry, then west, for Italian beef!
Photo: Johnnies for Italian Beef, Elmwood Park, IL

The Museum of Science and Industry is in a building that was built for the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. It's a museum where you can play with stuff -- press buttons, turn cranks, make things happen. As a kid, this was always a fun museum, and it's amazing that it's still really good. We spent most of our time in the Storms exhibit. We made tornadoes and vortexes (there's a difference... but right now, I couldn't tell you what it is), caused an avalanche, watched lightning, waves, a tsunami, all sorts of stormy subjects.

We toured the Pioneer Zephyr, a passenger train from 1934 and saw exhibits about the human body (I tried to find which muscle in my shoulder I had likely sprained/strained/torn), computers, transportation, the environment. We didn't have time to see it all, but I ran around at the end of the day to take a look around at everything. For anyone who has been there before, the Whispering Gallery is still there, and the baby chicks are still hatching in their incubator. We missed the "Science Theater Show" called "Poop Happens" and well, maybe that's just as well.

Then we headed out west to the Oak Park area for the best Chicago treat ever -- an Italian Beef sandwich. For people not from Chicago, no, it's not a french dip, and no, it's not a Philly cheese steak. It's different. It's better. We went to Johnnies, a popular little spot. Italian Beef with sweet peppers, dipped in the juices, so the Italian bread is good and soggy with the deliciously seasoned beef juices. French fries. Homemade (at Johnnies) Italian Lemon Ice. Delish.

Another good day with lots of walking. So, even with all the beef and pizza, I should be losing weight..... right?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

JetBlue AYCJ Pass - Day 3 - in Chicago

Photos: The Art Institute, and clouds over Lake Michigan

Day 3 of my 30-day JetBlue Adventure. Thursday, September 9, in Chicago.

Check-out time was at noon, so I decided to catch up on some sleep and sleep in! hurray! Because this hotel room was like an apartment, with a full kitchen, and a coffeemaker with coffee, I took the opportunity to save on some restaurant meals, and had picked up some essentials for breakfast.

The local 24-hour Walgreens seemed to have many travelers inside, picking up essential grocery items for their hotel rooms. I had some cereal in a ziplock bag (it was just going to go stale at home, and if I finish it, maybe my luggage will get slightly lighter!) With some yogurt and milk, breakfast is set! Check my email on the hotel's wireless system, and start packing up to move on to the next stop.

Does anyone else walk around their hotel multiple times, checking for stray personal belongings that are trying to stay behind? Everything out of the bedroom? check. Everything out of the bathroom? check. Wait, let me look one more time.

The Seneca Hotel and Suites was a good find. I had a one-bedroom apartment for a couple days, right next to the Hancock building on Chicago's north side. I found a Travelzoo deal of $109/night, which for a hotel in a big city, is a pretty good deal. I took advantage of the kitchen to save money on food, and save it for those days when I won't have a kitchen, or when I'm out with friends. They have a gym (which I never got around to using) and a nice rooftop deck (which I did enjoy). And when I checked out, they let me leave my luggage with them for the couple of hours I walked around, waiting to be picked up.

After yesterday's clear, blue sky, the morning started out clear, but the blue sky narrowed to a small strip of blue, which slowly moved out over the lake, pushed off by gray clouds. It was still nice to walk around the lovely Chicago lakefront though. It's not the ocean, but someone once told me they were surprised by the size of Lake Michigan. When they heard "lake" they assumed you'd be able to see the shore on the other side of the lake. But in Chicago, you cannot see across to Michigan. It may as well be an ocean (without the surfing).

Now I'm trying to figure out if you're on a lake shore, how far can you see across the water, to the horizon? How far away is the horizon? And how many miles is it, across the lake to Michigan from Chicago?

My Aunts Mary and Maureen picked me and my luggage up at the hotel, and we drove to the Art Institute. When I grew up in the suburbs, I spent some weekends with Mary and Maureen, in Chicago. We would go downtown to the department stores, or to the Art Institute. Their father (my grandfather) was an artist, a painter, so I had an early introduction to art. They also helped me develop my love for Chicago, and for cities in general -- So much to see and do, so much activity.

The Art Institute was wonderful, as always, and their new modern wing is beautiful.

We headed up to the northern suburbs, my next sleeping location, but stopped and picked up a pizza first. (Chicago pizza!) The first difference I find between Chicago and New York pizzas -- New York: pepperoni. Chicago: sausage. It was delicious.

Another busy day has left me tired again. Will I ever catch up on my sleep? Especially while I stay up late to write this blog? If I miss a day of writing, will the whole thing fall apart? Will I ever post any of the pictures I'm taking along the way?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

JetBlue AYCJ - Day 2 - Windy City

Wednesday, September 8, Day 2 of my 30-day adventure, in Chicago

Photos: Millennium Park Bandshell, "the Bean" sculpture, and the view of the John Hancock Building, from my hotel roof deck.

A beautiful day in a fabulous city with wonderful friends. Decades ago, Mary Beth, Bonnie and I spent a couple years together as friends at Wheaton Central High School. Years have passed when we didn't see each other at all. And yet we can spend a whole day together with no plan, and have a great time. Walk, sit and talk, walk, stop and eat, walk, talk, laugh, talk, walk some more, drink, laugh, talk. That was our day.

What is it about old friends, that you've known since you were younger? Maybe it's that we all really know each other's history, because we went through it together. We know each other's parents and siblings, the houses where we grew up, hanging out together in high school. You will never have that with anyone you meet as an adult. So there's a common bond. An uncommon common bond.

We met at Millennium Park, just east of Michigan Avenue in Chicago. Today was a beautiful day, bright blue sky, a few fluffy clouds, slightly chilly in the morning, perfect temp later. Walked around the fabulous shiny silver bean sculpture, where I, like everybody else, took many pictures of cool reflections. Walked around the amazing Frank Gehry-designed bandshell, more photos. We walked to the Aqua Building, because I had seen a documentary about its design and building. More pictures. I'm a bit of an architecture fan I guess. I love when something is well-conceived and beautifully-built. And we later enjoyed the water fountain with the faces. I don't know what it's officially called, but anyone who has been there knows what it is.

We walked around the beautiful lakefront. We ate lunch outdoors, which in my view is mandatory on a beautiful day. And there may have been a margarita or two in there somewhere.

We walked down State Street, to Carson Pirie Scott, a department store where I worked for 6 months, right out of high school. I was the receptionist in their advertising department, back when individual local department stores had their own advertising departments. I thought I was so cool, at 18, commuting on the Northwestern Train in from the suburbs to the big city each day.

The Carson's building, which was built in 1899 (I just looked it up) is empty, like the bones of a dead carcass stripped bare. It was sad. Looking in the windows of the Main Floor where the women's accessories, purses and cosmetics had been, there were just concrete floors and the old pillars. I know things change, nothing stays the same, but this made me sad, maybe because I had some brief history there. And down the street, Marshall Fields is now Macy's. Every store is now Macy's. Is this really progress for us consumers... Okay, sorry, enough of sounding old and cranky. I'm just tired. (and maybe a little old and cranky...)

Mary Beth headed home, and Bonnie and I walked to my hotel, where we sat on the roof deck on the 17th Floor with a bottle of wine, relaxed and enjoyed the end of the beautiful day. And Bonnie did all this walking with one foot in a foot brace/cast/shoe device thingy (that may not be the official name for it). She tore the muscle in the arch of her foot. I may not have that exactly right either, but when she described it, all I remember thinking was... "OUCH". Between her foot and my shoulder, we were quite a pair. But what we lack in physical prowess, we make up for in determination.

Walking around on a beautiful day, in the city where I was born, and that I've always loved. Enjoying a rare entire day, catching up with old friends that I don't get to see often enough. That was a great day.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

JetBlue All You Can Jet -- Day One

AYCJ -- Day One -- of 30.

30 days of travel? Really? What have I done? And what made me want to do this? There were a couple times today when I asked myself that question. But all in all, it was a good day.

The first time I questioned my own sanity was when the first of 4 alarms went off between 6:15-6:30 this morning. (I am not, by nature, a morning person). I even told my mom the night before, if you're up at 6:30, call me... just in case I'm not up. And she did. Thanks mom! I woke up and in my groggy first moments, had thoughts of... wait, what am I doing today? 30 days traveling? Really? OMG. And WTF! Why am I doing this? But then I awoke fully and started getting ready to go. I figured missing the very first flight would not be a good start to the 30 day travel plan.

My first flight from Long Beach, CA to Chicago, IL was fine. I even got my AYCJ luggage tag! It didn't seem like there were very many people flying out of LGB using the AYCJ pass. Or if there were, they were being very quiet about it all. The flight was very full, I was in a middle seat, which is never the seat of preference. And one man next to me was... how shall I say... above average in terms of width in relation to height. But I concentrated on eating my snacks and clicking around my Direct TV screen, checking the weather, the news, and seeing what Judge Judy was up to.

A flight attendant (not from JetBlue) once told me that flight attendants really really like when the passengers have things like TV's to watch during the flight, because then passengers often stay quiet for hours! TV -- our big distraction. And I'm sure it's true. Just think, at home, you think nothing of clicking around your TV for 3 or 4 hours. And on JetBlue, you do that, and, hey look, you're in Chicago!

So, we landed 30 minutes early in Chicago, and isn't that just typical, we couldn't find a place to park. We sat on the tarmac for several minutes, then pulled in to the gate, still a bit early. All was well.

After picking up my checked bag, I headed for the "trains to the city". Chicago is one city that has a subway system (the blue line) that will get you, in one train ride, from the airport, to downtown. (It shouldn't be that rare for a city to offer this ... but it is.) I love being able to take public transportation at times like this, but, since a trip to the airport almost always includes luggage... after today I wanted to research who invented escalators... so I could thank them. I have never been so happy to see escalators in all my life. But mostly there are stairs.

I have a sore left shoulder. So I wanted to use my right hand to lug the biggest (35 lb) suitcase up and down the subway stairs. But, being weighted down with a carryon and a purse, strapped across me like a pack mule, I also wanted to hold on to a handrail. That meant I had to go up and down stairs on the left side of the stairway. The wrong side. Which frankly is one of my pet peeves when people do that, because it completely screws up pedestrian traffic. But I couldn't explain to everyone, "You don't understand, I have a sore shoulder."

So I just waited for the crowd to subside and made my way down stairs, up stairs, down stairs, up stairs. I had to transfer to second train to get closer to my ultimate destination. At 5pm. Rush hour. Everybody just wanted to go home from work and there were a few of us, trying to maneuver ourselves and our luggage, onto and off crowded trains. I was sweating, tired, and just ready to land somewhere! I'm doing 30 days of this! OMG and WTF!

This post is too long already and I'm tired! But to sum things up, my day ended well. I'm in a hotel room that's more like an apartment, in a lovely area of Chicago's near north side. I walked to a wonderful exhibit of Alexander Calder mobiles, which always make me smile, and it was even free night at the museum (which I had discovered when researching my trip). Stopped and picked up some wine and some food to eat, came back to my room, took off my shoes, put my feet up, enjoyed a lovely glass of wine and thought, okay, there it was, I made it. Day one of 30!

Monday, September 6, 2010


JetBlue named their pass "All You Can Jet" and uses the acronym AYCJ, so I have come up with a name and acronym for my 30-day adventure:

FAFAA! It's my "Friends And Family Across America" Tour. No, I don't usually name my travels, but this does describe this trip pretty well. I'll be visiting friends and family members that I haven't seen for years, scattered in different parts of the country, and spending some time in new places too.

I'm excited to get started and hope I can get some sleep tonight. Must remember to set alarm clock. And I'm sure I'll be napping on the plane tomorrow. I'll feel better once I'm on the first flight and we're off and flying!

Memories of Airline Food

Today I'm grateful for frozen dinners. While scurrying around, trying to figure out just how much stuff I really need and want to lug around while traveling, I'm happy to have frozen dinners on hand. Quickly nuke and eat them, and get back to packing ... if I remove this one shirt, will it give me any more space?

Frozen dinners are a lot like airline food. Well, like airline food used to be. I liked airline food. (yes, I'm weird.) A hot meal at 30,000 feet. That little plastic tray of chicken, pasta and vegetables always seemed a bit odd and extravagant. I guess it was extravagant, since it's now an ancient relic of airline days gone by. Wow, I'm not as old as I sounded right there... really. But buying a sandwich just isn't the same.

So I look at my little plastic tray of steaming hot chicken and pasta. Imagine that it's an airline meal. And that my travel adventure has already begun.

Now, back to packing... do I really need two pairs of shoes?

Saturday, September 4, 2010

JetBlue AYCJ Travel - Pack It In

Not "pack it in" like quitting... this journey is just beginning. But how do I pack everything I need? And what will I need in the changing seasons of multiple locations? The goal of course is to pack only what you'll use. The challenge is how to figure that out.

Shoes and toiletries take up way too much space, and they're heavy. Simple black shoes are the best and for me, comfort is key. But why can't women's shoes be both cute AND comfortable? Finally, some shoe companies have figured this out and there are more attractive and comfy choices available, so we're making progress. The only secret for toiletries and cosmetics is to try and simplify down to the essentials. They're still heavy and bulky, even in travel sizes. And why don't our bags get noticeably lighter as we use up all these potions anyway?

Black and Tan is not only one of my favorite pub beverages, but it is my preferred color scheme when packing. Black pants, tan or khaki pants, and jeans can take me just about anywhere. Depending on destinations, add black or tan shorts or a skirt, and then shirts and tops of various sleeve lengths and colors. Pack colorful tanks and t-shirts, add some long-sleeved button-front shirts in basic colors, like black, white, tan, brown or grey and your layering possibilities are practically endless. For cooler weather, just wear an extra layer, or add a black sweater and/or jacket.

Though probably in the minority here, I would rather be in wrinkled cotton and linen than in crease-free polyester. I just prefer how cottons and linens feel. I also love washable silk shirts, which take up very little space, and if you wash them out in the sink, they dry amazingly fast. The colors sometimes fade when you wash them, but I haven't had a problem with that, and you can always pack them in a plastic bag, if concerned about colors running.

We need zip-lock bags for carry-on toiletry containers now, and they can also be used for vacuum-packed packing. Just put t-shirts, tanks, undies or socks into a gallon-size or larger zip-lock bag, zip it partially closed, put it on your bed and sit on it. Finish zipping it closed while the air is pressed out of the bag. It will take up much less space and you can re-use the bags while you travel (dirty laundry, wet swimsuits, etc.)

Those are my packing pointers and tips. Now, can I fit all this stuff into that bag?

Friday, September 3, 2010

JetBlue AYCJ -- T-minus 3 days and counting

As I've described in the last few posts, I'm about to embark on a journey across America, using JetBlue's All You Can Jet Pass.

Today I made my last visit to the torture team, Jon and Erin... Sorry, that's not nice, they're the fabulous physical therapy team who have helped me work my very sore shoulder back to normal, or as close to normal as possible in such a short time. Now I just have to keep exercising and stretching while I travel. So, if you're also traveling JetBlue in the next few weeks, and you see someone slowly stretching her arms overhead, to the side, to the back, with a slight grimace on her face ... that might be me. And let's hope that lugging luggage all over the country will just make me stronger. So a shout-out to Jon and Erin. Thanks guys. Now, where's that ice pack?

This is it, the final 3 days for planning and packing. Tonight I visited the Pacific Ocean, as the sun was starting to set. A beautiful day at the beach, people fishing off the pier, swimming, walking on the beach, in the cool evening air. In the coming weeks, I will also visit the Atlantic Ocean, arriving around sunset time. Although, since that it's the Atlantic and, you know, east-facing, I suppose checking out the view at sunrise will be more impressive at that end, won't it? Hm... what time is sunrise, and will I be awake early enough to see it? I don't know the answer to that. Typically, the odds are very slim that I will be up early enough for a sunrise, but when one is traveling, one's sleep schedule is often, well, non-typical. So will I be up in time to watch the sunrise over that other ocean? We'll just have to see what happens.

But first, packing... how much stuff do I really need to carry around with me? Let's see... no, on second thought, let's sleep. I'll figure it out tomorrow.