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May 9, 2007

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WHERE'S JOHNNY JET?                                 Erie, PA

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Good news! My dad is doing much better after his bypass surgery, and this week Iím taking you to Europe! Yeah, baby! For a peek at my experience flying coach on British Airways, checking in to a marvelous London boutique hotel and scoring front and center tickets for "Wicked," join me on our journey from Erie, PA to Los Angeles, then over to London. I know itís not the most direct route, but as you will see thereís a method to my madness.

We left off last week in Erie, where my dad had just undergone successful emergency quadruple bypass surgery. Today heís home recovering well Ė and he really appreciates everyoneís prayers and good wishes. I thank you too! Emergencies like this make me wish I had a wife and kids of my own. My dad loved having his children fly in from all over the country, to join his second wife Nancy by his side. Itís always nice to spend time with my siblings -- we seem to do it less and less as we get older. Because visiting hours in the ICU were so limited, we made the most of our "free" time. Almost every day we took a walk or flew a kite together at Presque Isle (website) Ė a beautiful state park jutting into Lake Erie. (The French name is appropriate, as the area is "almost an island.")

Erie is not known for good food, but we managed to find a couple of good restaurants. Petra Restaurant (website, 3602 W Lake Road; tel.: 814-838-7197), offers tasty Middle Eastern and Mediterranean dishes like baba ghanoush and kibbeh at reasonable prices. Mi Scuzi (website, 27th & Myrtle Streets; tel.: 814-454-4533) just opened up two blocks from St. Vincent Hospital, and serves decent Italian food. I loved my chicken Scarpiello and homemade pasta ($15.95). If you want old-fashioned American food in an American setting, head to Freeport Restaurant (11040 E. Lake Road, North East, PA; 814-725-4607), 15 miles outside of Erie. My brother Frank, friend Natalie and I discovered this popular eatery coming back from the Interstate Antique Mall (just up the road from the restaurant) that my sister Carol raved about. We didnít find any bargains at the antique shop, but perhaps you will. Interstate Antique Mall, 5446 Route 89, North East, PA; tel.: 814-725-1603.

LAKE ERIE FACTS: Lake Erie is the 12th largest freshwater lake in the world. Itís 241 miles long (east-west), and the maximum width is 57 miles. The average depth is 58 feet; the maximum is 210.

As I mentioned last week, to get to Erie I cashed in 25,000 Delta SkyMiles, and paid an extra $50 (because I had to leave within 20 days), plus a $10 security fee. Booking online at was free (tickets processed by Delta Reservation Sales over the phone cost $10) and easy. However, when I had to change my return ticket to stay longer (until my dad was out of the woods), the only way was to call. Delta put me on hold for so long -- over 40 minutes -- that I finally hung up and drove to the Erie Airport, just a few miles away. Delta has only two flights a day out of Erie (both to Atlanta), so I went 30 minutes before one of the departures. I waited just five minutes, as there were four agents working the counter. That was amazing -- Iíve seen other airports and airlines with just two agents for a whole slew of flights. Unfortunately, the agent informed me I could not change an award ticket at the airport Ė it had to be done over the phone. So frustrating! She gave me what she called a more direct number for Award Reservations (800-323-2323), but I still waited another 40 minutes on hold. When an agent finally answered Ė she accidentally hung up! I couldíve screamed -- actually, I did.

When I called back I pressed the button for the international department to see if that made a difference. It did -- I got through in five minutes. Changing a domestic Delta award ticket costs an additional $50, and award space must be available (itís very limited). TIP: If you are using miles but cannot make your scheduled flight, itís important to cancel before departure. Otherwise, you risk losing the value of the ticket. I did this, and did not need to set a return date for a whole year -- plus I was given the ticket number to locate my credit when I do re-book. Interestingly, with an award ticket I could have used the return to fly out of another city. If no flights were available from Erie -- or if I simply wanted to drive somewhere else -- I had plenty of options, like Buffalo, Cleveland, Pittsburgh or even New York Ė all for no extra charge (except the $50 change fee). NOTE: You canít change the original destination once itís been ticketed.

I was in L.A. for only a couple of days, but I went back specifically to tape an ABC travel segment for local TV. Itís supposed to air tonight (Wednesday, May 9) in Los Angeles.

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Copyright 2007 JohnnyJet, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Pictures From

The Trip


Erie, PA


My Dad


My Siblings


Presque Isle


Flying Kites at P.I.


Petra Restaurant


Mi Scuzi


Friend Natalie


Lake Erie Sunset


North East, PA


Freeport Restaurant


Interstate Antique Mall


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