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.