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July 4, 2007

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WHERE'S JOHNNY JET?                                 Puerto Rico

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Ola from Puerto Rico! Last week, I was hot air ballooning in New Mexico and this week we're snorkeling in the Caribbean Sea -- isn't air travel just grand? If you're up for some fun in the sun that includes a boat trip out to a deserted island, horseback riding in the foothills of a rainforest and souvenir shopping in Old San Juan, then jump on the next plane ... or read this week's story. Remember, if you're an American citizen there's no passport required to travel to this fabulous getaway. If you don't have time to read the story, don't worry! We have a two-minute Johnny Jet video at the end. Also, don't forget to check out the second installment of Juliet Pennington's three-part series on her travels through South America. This week, she's in Argentina.

Before we get started, I'd like to mention that I was an expert guest on Our Generation: Fly With Me, which premiered last week on The History Channel! The show focused on the evolution of air travel and Our Generation looks at the people and events that have helped shape the Baby Boomer Generation. It was a lot of fun to tape as they used Chino airport for a backdrop (just 56 miles east of LAX). The highlight was touring this G5 private jet from It killed me to say "no", when the pilot offered to give me a lift back to LAX (near my house) after he filmed his segment. Sadly, I had to decline because I was the last interview of the day. But when a gorgeous flight attendant came out with warm, homemade chocolate chip cookies I almost said, "See ya!", unclipped my microphone, wiped off my makeup and jumped on board. Can you blame me?

This was my first trip to Chino and in no way am I in a hurry to go back. As far as I could see (though admittedly, I didn't look too closely) there's not a lot going on ... but I did see (and smell) lots of dairy farms. Near the airport was Flo's Café, which reminded me of the diner from the '70s TV show Alice . The Air Museum Planes of Fame was founded in 1957 to preserve aviation history. It houses over 150 aircraft, spanning the time of manned flight, (from a replica of the Chanute Hang Glider of 1896, through to modern space flight), and includes numerous milestone-achieving test and research flight vehicles. If you're an airplane fanatic and in the area, I recommend stopping by. General admission, $11. The Air Museum Planes of Fame, 7000 Merrill Ave. #17, Chino, CA; tel.: (909) 597-3722.

My flight to San Juan was booked on American Airlines, which is the only carrier to offer nonstop service from California to Puerto Rico. Unfortunately, they weren't offering their nonstop service the day I was traveling (the frequency changes dramatically depending on the season) so I had to connect through Miami. The connection wasn't bad, as I didn't need to change terminals or go through security again. Flight time from Miami to San Juan (Luis Munoz Marin International Airport, airport code: SJU) is a quick two hours.

Taxi service in Puerto Rico isn't terribly expensive; a one-way fare from the airport to my hotel, five miles away in Condado, cost $14. When I landed, it was 8:30pm and there was a full moon illuminating the dark night sky. I made small talk with the driver and on the ride over to the San Juan Marriott I asked how safe Puerto Rico was these days. He said it's like any other major U.S. city. Fair enough. Then he asked where I was from. When I told him L.A., he practically slammed on the brakes, turned around to look at me and said, "Now that's a dangerous city!" Touché! I have been to Puerto Rico several times but the last time was in 2001 when I was a part-time road manager (ahem, high-paid babysitter) for a boy band. My first (and most memorable) trip was with my parents, back in 1986. We stayed at the now infamous Dupont Plaza Hotel, which is known for having had one of the most devastating hotel fires in U.S. history. Three disgruntled employees set the fire in the early morning of December 31, 1986. In less than 12 minutes, those bastards had killed 97 people; most were Puerto Rican, as the fire was limited to the lobby and casino, which was a popular local hangout.

That wasn't the first fire that the hotel had seen. A few months prior, on my trip with my parents, there had been another fire. Fortunately, no one was hurt that time. But I'll never forget how my mother took charge during our fire experience. At 3am that morning, I remember my panicked mom waking my dad and me up, telling us that there was a fire. We were on the 19th floor and the alarms weren't blaring but the smell of smoke was definitely filling the air. I was impressed by how fast my mom got us out the door. While other guests were waiting for the elevator, my mom correctly instructed us to take the stairs. My mom was always nervous about hotel fires and every time we stayed at a hotel, she mapped out a path to the stairs before going to bed. Sure enough, she knew exactly where they were when it counted. I was 16 at the time so I jumped down the sets of stairs like they were puddles. But I realized halfway down that my parents weren't keeping up so I went back to get them. It turned out that the fire had been started in the stairwell so the smoke was at its worst in there. To this day, my dad believes that's how I contracted asthma (I was diagnosed shortly after), but I'm not sure. I do know that prior to that experience, I used to think that my mom was overreacting with her routine of locating the emergency exits. She'd leave her purse and valuables, a change of clothes and a flashlight near the bed, so if ever there was a fire, she'd be ready to make a quick escape. Since that unforgettable night, I began doing it too ... though perhaps not as meticulously and minus the purse.

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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


The Set At Chino


Flo's Cafe


Plane Museum


Plane Replicas


Private Jet


Inside The Jet


Flight Attendant


Flight To San Juan


Welcome To San Juan




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