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You probably have all seen flight trackers (if you haven’t, don't worry; I'll write about them soon). However, I bet you've never seen anything like the Airport Monitor brought to you by Passur.com. I'm not usually at a loss for words, but all I can say is: They're simply amazing.
When you log on to an Airport Monitor, you'll find all kinds of neat information. The first thing you notice are little planes moving across the screen. The green planes are taking off; the blue ones are landing. This is current airport action, so by clicking on any planes you find live, detailed information. This is found on the right side of the screen, in the blue box labled Flight Information. Not all information is always available (such as flight origin and destination), but the type of plane and altitude are almost always shown.
Every Airport Monitor includes maps of the airport and the surrounding area. You can zoom in or out. The closest map you can get in detail is 5 miles; the farthest you can go is 80 miles. Naturally, the farther you zoom out, the more airplanes you see. Whether you live near an airport or just love plane spotting, you will love checking out these Airport Monitors.
The only downside is that they don’t yet have one for every airport. So far, these airports use Passur.com’s software: Boca Raton, Boston, Burbank, Cleveland, John Wayne Orange County, Los Angeles, Louisville, Martin County, Nantucket, New Orleans, San Jose, St. Petersburg-Clearwater and Westchester County.
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Just a few hours ago the longest commercial flight landed at LAX. The flight was supposed to be 16 hours from Singapore, but it got in 80 minutes early. That means tonight's 18-hour return flight (it's longer because of the jet stream) might be even longer. Ouch! I went to LAX to take these pictures of its landing. It was pretty cool, but surreal - I was supposed to be on this inaugral flight myself, but I had to cancel at the last minute. Maybe I'll be on the NEXT world's longest flight in June: Singapore-New York.
So where was I? Let’s see…Our house guests left, and in came my cousin Dennis the next day. When you live in Southern California it sometimes seems like there’s a revolving door of house guests. But it was cool, because we like seeing Dennis, and he was in town only for the weekend. He had to get back to Chicago to take care of his kids because his wife, Sheridan, was going away for five days with her girlfriends. While we were at dinner Dennis asked Amber Airplane what she was doing the following week. “Just working on my website,” she said. So he asked, “How about you and Johnny come to Chicago to help me baby sit?” Before I could say anything, Amber Airplane said “Sure!” I thought, “Hmmm… It’s 70 degrees here and about 5 there. What’s going on?!”
But as these things do, it worked out fine. I scheduled some interviews, and I got a lot of work done at their house (they have a wireless modem).
That night we drove with Dennis in his rental car to LAX. We were going to take my favorite type of flight, the red eye. Just kidding! I hate red eyes -- especially short ones like L.A. to Chicago -- because I'm in the air for only 3 hours and 15 minutes, so I can’t get a lot of sleep.
This was the first time I traveled with cousin Dennis on the same plane, and hopefully the last. That guy is a nightmare. First of all, he didn’t listen to me when I told him to use a skycap to check his bags. He thought with an e-ticket he had to go to an agent. Big mistake. He waited in a line for a while. It was pretty funny to watch, which we did after quickly checking our own bags with the no-line skycap. Dennis got only halfway through the line, because one agent after another kept leaving to go home. It was pretty pathetic that they ended up with only one check-in agent for 20 travelers. If Dennis and the others had used a skycap, there would’ve been no problem. And no need for him and the others to yell at each agent as they left. “Have a nice night now!” they said sarcastically.
Another mistake was getting seats near my cousin. We were all in coach, with Dennis one row in front of us and across the aisle from me. Amber Airplane and I had three seats to ourselves in the middle section of the 767. Once on the plane Amber Airplane and I put in our earplugs, donned our eye masks and said night-night to each other and my cousin. Unfortunately, Dennis forgot his mask and ear plugs, so he had to listen to a screaming baby the entire flight. At least, that’s what Dennis told us.
I don’t sleep well on planes, but I try to block everything out, meditate and try to rest, so when we land I have some energy. I remember during the flight hearing the baby once, but far worse was someone blasting his headphones and hearing that obnoxious muffled bass sound. I remember thinking how nice it would be to give that person a good pop in the head. When I lifted my mask to give a stink- eye, who was it but cousin Dennis! I asked him why he was listening to music so loudly. He said, “I can’t take it anymore. The baby is driving me nuts!” I just laughed, put my mask and plugs back on, and said goodnight. When I woke up I saw my cousin had his blanket over his head. His eyes were bulging out of their sockets, and he looked like he was ready to be committed. He was lucky he didn’t get arrested for looking like a terrorist.
We landed at 5 a.m. local time. When the pilot announced the 5-degree temperature, the entire plane moaned. The worst part was we had to find Dennis’ Volkswagen Cabriolet in long-term parking, warm it up, and fit all our bags inside. Dennis was too shot to drive, so I drove. It wasn’t easy: Bags were everywhere, including my lap.
We arrived to his house earlier than expected -- it was still dark -- so we all went back to sleep for a couple of hours. When I woke up I drove down Lakeshore Drive to downtown Chicago. I had an in-studio radio interview on WCKG. After the interview with Bob Sirot and Marianne Marciano I headed to the WTTW (PBS) studio for my monthly TV gig. I spoke about winter travel deals, and both shows went really well (I think).
It was so cold in Chicago that I barely left the house. Growing up, that’s what I hated about Connecticut winters. The cold turns me into a couch potato. Living in L.A., I’m used to going for three-mile walks every day. In Chicago I was lucky to take a 30-yard walk. And when I did leave the house, I nearly broke my neck slipping on icy stairs. I gotta say, I don’t miss living in these conditions. Why do people put themselves through this torture? Even the garbage man looked miserable.
The real fun began when Sheridan went out of town the following morning. I learned pretty quickly who the pushover parent is when their son Willem suddenly came down with a mysterious sore throat. It reminded me of my days playing hooky. Dennis’ daughter Bea was obviously sick but Willem was questionable -- very questionable. To make a long story short, both kids didn’t go to school all week.
Dennis insisted on cooking the first night. He actually made killer soup, but the chicken he forgot about in the oven didn’t turn out as well. The house quickly filled up with smoke, and panic set in. I think this happened before, though, because Dennis spoke some Dutch word (his first language) to the kids. They had their routine down cold. One quickly opened the front door, while the other grabbed a dish towel and fanned the air over the fire alarm. The ringing stopped, no emergency trucks came, but it got darn cold in there, and I mean quick. It was so cold, we had to put on our coats and gather around the oven to stay warm until the smoke cleared.
Now I know why Dennis wanted Amber Airplane to come. She took over the cooking from there. She made some nice meals, including her world-famous monkey bread.
Then the snow came. I love it when it snows (except when I’m traveling). It makes everything so beautiful . This was the only exercise I had: shoveling the walk (breaking my back) and taking a short walk with Amber Airplane. No one felt like cooking the next couple nights, so we ordered takeout from some great places. For an array of Asian food and tasty fruit drinks try Joy Yee Noodles in Evanston. Joy Yee Noodles Joy Yee Noodles, 521 Davis Street, Evanston , IL; tel,: 847.733.1900 . For Italian we had Maggiano’s. Maggiano’s Little Italy, 175 Old Orchard Ctr., Skokie, IL; tel.: (847) 933-9555.
On Sunday, when Bea felt better, we went to breakfast at the Original Pancake House. The line was literally out the door. Luckily it moved quickly, and the food was really good. I had their famous apple pancake, which was the size of a hub cap. Walker Brothers Original Pancake House, 153 Green Bay Rd., Wilmette, IL 60091-3303; tel.: (847) 251-6000.
Sheridan was due back that evening, so we left before she arrived. We knew Dennis would get an old-fashioned whipping for letting the kids play hooky, almost burning the house down and instigating the water fight we had in the bath room. (Oops! I wasn’t supposed to write that. Hopefully Sheridan won’t read this week’s newsletter. If she does, you can bet Dennis will be in BIG trouble again.)
At O’Hare airport we ran into my buddy Steve from Southern California. He was in business class, so we upgraded and all sat together. It was a quick flight home, but when we landed Steve thought the airline lost his luggage. It turned out we waited around unnecessarily. His luggage had been put on an earlier flight, and was sitting around the corner waiting for him. It happened because Steve got to the airport so early. I guess being prompt isn’t always the best move.
Steve gave us a ride home, and we were off on an eventful week. I’ll tell you all about it in the next newsletter. BTW: FYI: If you live in Southern California, please come by the L.A. Times Travel Show this weekend. It's being held at the Long Beach Convention Center. On Saturdayat 11 a.m. I'm speaking on a panel. Afterwards, I'll sign books.
Also, be sure to tune in to World Talk Radio this Thursday night (February 5) at 9 p.m. ET, 6 p.m, PT. Amber Airplane and I are guest hosting the popular show "Travel Hub." Feel free to call in at 888-514-2100 and ask us questions.
P.S. Do me a favor and click one of the sponsors below and book all your online travel through JohnnyJet.com. It will help keep this newsletter free of charge. Thanks
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How to book a ski vacation: Smarter Living's definitive guide |
If you're thinking of planning a ski vacation, it's possible to purchase your airfare directly from an airline, rent a car from an agency, book a hotel near a ski resort, and then buy lift tickets on the mountain. But before you do, know your options: Bundling several travel components together can save you time and money. Click Here To Read Article
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