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August 29, 2007

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WHERE'S JOHNNY JET?                                 Cooperstown to Erie

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MEDIA ALERT: On Sunday, September 2 at 9:44am PST, I will be a first-time guest on Sandy Dhuyvetter’s TravelTalkRadio show. It's heard on over 50 radio stations around the world, including Africa and China. Just log on to to listen live!

Greetings from an undisclosed location in Europe! I know, I know ... how the heck did I get back here so soon? Well, it's been a whirlwind of a summer and making my second hop across the pond in three weeks has just been the icing on the cake, so to speak. So, where am I headed next? I'll give you a hint at the end of this week's story, but for now, we'll only get as far as my transatlantic flight. This week, we travel from Cooperstown, NY to Erie, PA for an impromptu, mini family reunion; then we fly back to my home in Los Angeles via Pittsburgh. I love being in Manhattan Beach in August, mostly because this sleepy beach community really comes alive as it plays host to two of the most memorable beach volleyball weekends. The AVP tournament is the Wimbledon of professional beach volleyball and the six-man tournament is open to the public. All 200 teams wear hilarious costumes and there's a lot of partying! It has to be one of southern California's craziest events; it's just downright out of control. You're going to have to see the pictures and video to believe it. But if you're looking for something a little more low key, check out our latest story from writer and photographer Jerome Shaw. We sent out him out on assignment to discover a side of Las Vegas that you may not have known about. Join him as he explores downtown Las Vegas and all that it has to offer.

I was somehow able to convince my brother to drive four hours from where we grew up in Connecticut to pick me up in Cooperstown; we then headed on to Erie to see our dad. Cooperstown isn't exactly on the way but Frank's a good man. The five-hour, 320-mile drive was long and we took the northern route through Albany, Syracuse and Buffalo. The only stop we made along the way was at a rest stop in Seneca, NY for some food and to switch places behind the wheel. To give you a little background on my family, if you're new to the site, my dad moved to Erie after my mom passed away in 2000. He got remarried to my sister's neighbor and has been living a good life until his emergency quadruple bypass surgery, just a few months ago.

I write about Erie all the time so I won't bore you with the details. However, I will say that it was fabulous, as usual, to see my dad; he's almost 100% recovered from his seven-hour operation. The man even managed to play catch (football and baseball) and then nine holes of golf. Would you believe he almost beat me and that I came close ... I mean Tiger-Woods-close... to an eagle? We didn't do anything special. We just relaxed, played games with the kids, picked wild raspberries and enjoyed Erie's short but spectacular summer. Erie can be dreary, particularly in the winter, but there's nothing dreary about the summer, especially if you're near the lake. The sunsets are amazing. To top it all off, both of my sisters were in town too, so we had a mini family reunion.

Spur of the moment travel is all fine and dandy until it's time to purchase a last-minute plane ticket. Ouch, it can be expensive! I needed to get back to L.A. and Erie's airport (ERI) is not the cheapest airport to fly in or out of. Nearby airports like those in Buffalo, Cleveland and Pittsburgh are all less than 130 miles away and you can usually find fares there that are much easier on the wallet. I logged on to my two favorite travel websites: and Shameless plug, I know. However, each site features a different search engine for air, hotel, car and cruises. On, we use the BookingBuddy search tool and is powered by OneTime. Both eliminate time spent tediously and repeatedly inputting cities and dates. You simply have to enter that pertinent information once, then choose which agencies (Expedia, Travelocity, Kayak, for example) you want to use to price out fares. Both sites are valuable tools and each one's a bit different; some prefer one over the other. Plus, as you're probably aware, there isn't just one website out there that will always find the absolute lowest price. Prices vary by agency, destination and time among other things. That's why it's key to shop around!

During my search for a one-way ticket from ERI to LAX,, came up (this time) with the cheapest fare. After I clicked "purchase", I got a response that read, "You'll receive your flight confirmation via email within 24 hours." WHAT?! My flight was less than 48 hours away and I needed to know right then, as hours from then, the airfare could double! I felt like knocking on the computer screen like a lunatic and screaming, "Um, hello! McFly! Anyone home?" Seriously ... what if it didn't go through? Would Orbitz pay the difference in fare? Absolutely not! For the record, Orbitz isn't the only guilty party ... many of its competitors send out these ridiculous notifications, too. If you ask me, any travel agency booking tickets online should send a confirmation within five seconds ... five minutes max. Not within 24 hours. The good news is that in the end I didn't need to panic and call Orbitz as I intended ... within three minutes, I did receive a confirmation. Moral of the story: Before you jump through your computer screen like I nearly did, wait 10 minutes. Then do it.

The following day, I printed out my boarding passes on This can be done as early as 24 hours and up to 90 minutes prior to your scheduled departure time. I noticed that both the aisle seats I had reserved when I booked were now gone. Instead, there were only dreaded middle seats available. I suddenly got a hollow feeling in my stomach, a feeling that only worsened as I saw that the seat map was not displaying any other choices. Ugh! I called USAir to find out what the heck had happened and the snippy agent basically said, "Sorry, that's the way it goes." I almost snapped but that's the worst thing you can do when you want positive results. So I said, "Ma'am, I'm sure you wouldn't want to sit in a middle seat on a transcontinental flight, now would you?" "No sir," she replied. "Well," I continued hopefully, "I'm a six-foot, 203-lb guy who sometimes forgets to put on deodorant. Now even if you were in an aisle or window seat, you probably wouldn't want my big, smelly arse sitting next to you either, now would you?" She gave the same honest reply. She finally let her guard down and chuckled a bit. Bingo! That's when I went in for the kill. So I asked her politely if she could please speak to a supervisor and have them release one of the premium seats they always hold for elite members. Sure enough, she put me on hold but eventually came back with exit row aisle seats! Overall, I'd say it was a well spent 20-minute call but one that could have been avoided had Orbitz and USAir done a better job syncing their services up.

Not surprisingly, my USAir flight out of Erie, headed to Pittsburgh, was delayed. The agent at the Erie airport told me that there was a good chance I'd miss my connection to Los Angeles as I'd only have 25 minutes to run from one terminal to the other. I had a few options. I could take a chance; if I missed the flight, USAir would put me up in a Pittsburgh airport hotel for the night and the following day I'd make a connection to LAX since the nonstop was oversold. My other option was to stay in Erie for a few more nights but that wasn't going to happen. I asked how my chances looked and was told that since I wasn't checking bags, my chances were 50/50. I decided to go for it and fortunately, I made my flight and I didn't even need to run! The L.A. flight was delayed 40 minutes as well ... the one time I welcomed a tardy departure.

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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


Cooperstown to Erie


Long way to go


Family Reunion


My Dad


Playing Catch






For an EAGLE!


Kahkwa Club


Picking Raspberries




Dinner Out Back


Out for the night




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