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April 19, 2006

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WHERE'S JOHNNY JET?                                            Scotland to Scottsdale

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Greetings! This week we travel from Scotland to Scottsdale – beam me up, Scotty! We left off last week in Edinburgh after completing a Da Vinci Code movie tour (here’s the link to our archives). Getting back home via Newark was an adventure, but I made it in time to attend a star-studded Hollywood party and take a quick golf outing to Arizona.

Of course, the one time Edinburgh has a blizzard is the day I’m flying out. Continental’s flight to Newark was oversold, and because I was one of the first passengers to check in, they offered me a chance to volunteer my seat for compensation. Like a fool I didn’t take the $500 Continental voucher, free night in a downtown hotel, round-trip taxi, meal voucher and a possible upgrade to first class the next day. One part of my brain said "do it!", but I had secured the best coach seat on the plane (an exit row aisle that reclines), and was already mentally home. But looking back after more than six hours of delays (including evacuating the terminal for 30 minutes into the freezing cold because some idiot was smoking in the bathroom), I realized I made a mistake. I should’ve taken the money. One of my friends did -- and she not only left the next morning on time, but in First Class. Ugh!

Actually my trip to Newark wasn’t that bad, especially if you compare it to Continental’s poor inbound Edinburgh passengers who were trapped on their plane for an additional five hours. (It was their plane I was waiting for, but I’d much rather be in an airport than on a plane.) Because snow closed the Edinburgh airport while they were en route, they circled for an hour, then had to divert to Belfast to refuel. After finally landing in Edinburgh they sat on the runway for 30 minutes, waiting for a gate to open. If that wasn’t bad enough, when they arrived at the gate the jet way broke. They waited another 30 minutes before the door was opened. Talk about making a long trip longer!

With the six-hour delay I missed my 1:30 p.m. connection to LAX (as well as the 3 and 5 p.m. flights that followed). There was only one flight left that day. After clearing customs in Newark, I ran to the Continental counter. The agent there said with a little bit of attitude that I didn’t have a seat on that flight, and she thought it was sold out. When delays like this happen the airlines are supposed to automatically roll your name over and "protect" you. She checked and said, "Miraculously there are two seats left." Of course, both were in the middle. Like I really wanted to fly in a middle seat for 6 hours, after just getting off of a 7 1/2-hour flight! I hate middle seats so much I said, "I’d rather go out tomorrow to get a better seat." (I could have taken the train into the city to see friends). After that she stepped her attitude into high gear and said, "Then you’ll just have to purchase a whole other ticket."

Why didn’t I volunteer my seat?!

Instead of requesting a supervisor and making a big deal, I sucked it up and took the middle seat. It’s almost criminal how little leg room Continental gives coach passengers. I’m not especially tall – 6 feet -- but my knees were jammed into my chest. About five minutes before the airplane door closed, a woman suddenly asked me if I would mind switching rows so she could sit next to her family. If she had the toilet as an assigned seat I would’ve taken it, but when I glanced at her seat number (23D) I felt like she was Bob Barker telling me I’d just won the Showcase showdown. Maybe my not being a jerk back to the agent caused karma to be on my side. On top of that, her seat ended up being next to the only empty one on the entire plane! How about them apples?

Back home, I attended the 6th annual TV Land Awards at Santa Monica Airport. TV Land is the cable channel that replays old television shows. This is a fun award show, because you get to see and meet many of the actors you grew up watching. Guests enter by walking down a red carpet. Then they take their assigned seats, at a 10-person dinner table. After the 2 ½-hour show there’s an open bar and really good buffet dinner. It’s also the chance to meet the stars. (Many take off right after the show, so you have to be quick. This year I met Mary Tyler Moore, Sid Caesar, Larry Hagman, Adam West, Jimmie JJ Walker, Ralph Malph and Potsie Weber. How cool is that?! The highlight came in the buffet line when I got talking to a nice couple from New York. After I handed them my card the woman looked at the Johnny Jet logo, smiled and said, "You know what? I made your mom’s Mississippi Mud Cake last Christmas." She found it on the webpage dedicated to my mom. I was shocked, but felt so honored that my mom had been remembered by a total stranger.

Before my next trip I finally found a great way to back up my laptop without having to spend hours using CDs or DVDs. Because my life is on my computer and I don’t always have time to back it up, this has always been one of my main concerns when traveling. Not any more, though, thanks to Seatgate’s 120GB external hard drive. It’s the size of a thin paperback, but it can store more data than my 90GB Toshiba laptop. I have 44GB of pictures and movies alone. They’re irreplaceable, but copying them over on DVDs or CDs would have taken days. With my new Seatgate external hard drive, I spent just over an hour backing them all up! How amazing is that?! I no longer have to worry I’ll lose pictures if my laptop is stolen or crashes. These contraptions come in all different sizes, including a pocket 5GB hard drive that is perfect for travelers who want to carry only their work files and/or digital music (up to 80 hours), photos (4,000) and digital video (13 hours), and not their laptop. Just plug the attached USB cable into a computer, and your files are there. For more information check out, or buy online at

My cousin AJ, his friend Chris and Chris’ wife Val invited me to Arizona for the night, so we could play golf the next morning. The LAX-to-Phoenix flight is only an hour. This might have been my last time flying on an America West plane, though. They recently merged with USAirways. The new company will do away with the America West name, and be called USAirways. Only a small tribute sticker by the plane door will remain.

The drive to Scottsdale from PHX Sky Harbor Airport takes 30 minutes without traffic. I won’t name names, but as you can see someone brought way too many bags (7!). I hadn’t checked in with them, so I almost fainted at baggage claim when one bag after another came out. Just getting out of the building necessitated a porter; reaching the hotel required a super-stretch limo -- and we still barely fit. Thankfully there won’t be any more extra bag charges. I talked to the guilty party, who took my advice. That person went away the following week, and took only one bag!

We stayed at The Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, a AAA 5-diamond hotel and a member of the Leading Hotels of the World group. It’s in an ideal location, set against the backdrop of Arizona's McDowell Mountains, and has a Spanish Colonial feel. This place is pretty plush and really huge. The 651 guest rooms including 2 Presidential suites, 72 villas and 119 casitas. It is perfect for either large corporate conferences, or vacationers who want to stay in one place and not leave the premises. The Princess has it all: 3 restaurants, 2 championship golf courses, tennis courts, pools, and one of the best spas in North America (according to Condé Nast Traveler). The Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, 7575 East Princess Dr., Scottsdale, AZ; tel.: 480-585-4848 (toll free 866 540-4495).

The greater Scottsdale area is home to over 125 golf courses, many of them rated among the top 100 courses in the world. We were invited by a friend (and member) to play on one of the nicest golf courses in America: Whisper Rock Golf Club. This private 18-hole course, designed by PGA Tour player Phil Mickelson, opened in 2001. There are only 400 members, and they include some pretty well known people. Here’s an idea: Dan Quayle was playing in front of us, and Fred Couples was in the clubhouse when we had breakfast. As you can see from these pictures, golf in the Arizona dessert is almost magical. I love staring out at the mountains and cactus, with the bright big blue sky as a backdrop. For more information on Whisper Rock visit their website.

Next week we are off to a country I’ve never been to before, but have always wanted to visit. Here are a couple of hints: It’s a 12-hour, 45-minute flight from LAX, and the locals are named after a flightless bird.

Happy Travels,
Johnny Jet

*Please tell us what you think of this week's newsletter!

Pictures From

The Trip


Edinburgh At 5am




Edinburgh Airport


Evacuating the Terminal


Continental Plane


Pilot Asking
"What's Going On?"


Mary Tyler Moore


Sid Caesar


Larry Hagman


Jimmie JJ Walker


Donny Most &
Anson Williams


America West


Too Much Luggage


Fairmont Scottsdale Princess


Fairmont Pool


Whisper Rock Golf Club


Golf Anyone?



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  • The link for the Edinburgh video connects to the London video. I'll be taking a transatlantic cruise to the UK from NYC at the end of the month, and we'll be spending 3 nights in Edinburgh. I have not read your newsletter for quite some time. I see that you've done quite a lot with it! REPLY: Sorry! I had the wrong link. Try this one:
  • .
  • I felt as though I'd been whisked back to Scotland......memories of 1978 and boy, would I like to go again. Great job and I loved the music and video. Linda M - Twain Harte, CA
  • Loved the "HAXO" video of Scotland. Actually you are doing a great job each session keeping us in touch with the rest of the world. Thanks Johnny Jet. Pete from Irvine
  • I must say I am enjoying these articles, but wondering if this is the same Edinburgh I've been too twice, once in April and once in August. Never were the crowds at either time so bad the Castle isn't worth a visit. The trip from London to Edinburgh is only 3 1/2 hrs. so can't see it would take that long from Lincoln except perhaps the waiting around. I wouldn't want anybody discouraged from seeing this wonderful city. I have been finding this interesting as although I haven't read Dan Brown's books I have read many others of this genre and it is interesting to see fans following the grail so to speak. Thanks for the articles. Annette Code, Pitt Meadows, B.C.
  • Very interesting trip you had in Scotland. Sharon - Atlanta, GA
  • I loved your information on your trip. I am originally from Scotland so it made me homesick and also laugh at the description of our food. Keep em coming! Betty C – Stockton, CA
  • I have really been enjoying your newsletters. Sincerely, Tannie Meyer
  • Loved this week's newsletter-makes me want to visit Scotland. Really enjoy your videos and your choice of music. Keep them coming! Ann F. - Brunswick, GA
  • I dispute the point you make about haggis only being eaten by tourists, it is also a popular dish in Scotland itself. Traditionally Haggis and clapshot (mashed turnip and potato) is eaten on Burn's night, where the work of the poet Rabbie Burns is celebrated. Haggis is also a popular ingredient in the Scots breakfast as you experienced and is eaten as part of a main meal regularly. In fact I had some for my supper last night! Regards, Heather Combe – Edinburgh, Scotland
  • The Da Vinci Code Scotland newsletter was terrific! Kristin Garrison - Ohio
  • Cool videos... I always enjoy your newsletter. How do you manage all this travel? I'm very jealous, even though I just got back from a fabulous 2 months in Africa! Cheers from a fellow travel junkie. Jan T - Seattle, WA

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