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"Maps of Johnny's travels courtesy of MyTripJournal.com. Start a travel website of your own for free now."
What a great week. It started off when some fun guests popped into town for a short visit AmberMac (her website: www.AmberMac.com) and her sidekicks Caroline and Marcella brought a little sunshine to Southern California last week. I met Amber back in October while taping a travel segment on Tech TV. She’s the co-host of the Toronto-based show “Call For Help.” The girl knows technology. She’s also responsible for talking me into starting a Johnny Jet blog which I launched just this past week. It’s different than the weekly newsletter, because it will be updated daily (unless I’m off in a remote part of the world) and will be just a few lines long.

I hear the rain finally stopped in Los Angeles (it broke a 115-year-old record for precipitation during a winter rainy season). But I needed to escape, so I didn’t stick around to see the sunny skies. I was supposed to be in Capetown, South Africa but my trip got canceled at the last minute – it’s a long story. I was bummed, but instead of sulking around the house I scoured JohnnyJet.com for cheap tickets to anywhere warm and sunny. ESPN was on the tube in the background, and they were talking about baseball spring training. I realized that would be fun to check out -- especially because the players are more accessible to fans than during the regular season.

Spring training takes place in two states. Arizona is host to the 12-team Cactus League. Nine teams (Anaheim Angels, Chicago Cubs, Kansas City Royals, Milwaukee Brewers, Oakland Athletics, San Diego Padres, San Francisco Giants, Seattle Mariners, Texas Rangers) play in the Phoenix area, while three team (Arizona Diamondbacks, Chicago White Sox, Colorado Rockies) are based in Tucson. Arizona is just a short flight from L.A., and it wasn’t looking too dry. So I decided to check out the Grapefruit League, which is made up of 20 teams (Atlanta Braves, Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox, Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Indians, Detroit Tigers, Florida Marlins, Houston Astros, Los Angeles Dodgers, Minnesota Twins, New York Mets, New York Yankees (Go Yanks!), Philadelphia Phillies, Pittsburgh Pirates, St. Louis Cardinals, Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Toronto Blue Jays, Washington Nationals) spread throughout the sunny state of Florida. The forecast for Florida was for warm temps and sunny skies.

Florida was really a no-brainer for me. My friends at the Palm Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau said they could take care of me with baseball passes. I already knew I could stay with my sister Carol, and spend time with my niece and nephew. They live near Delray Beach, which is between Fort Lauderdale (Airport Code: FLL) and West Palm Beach (Airport Code: PBI) Airports. PBI is a bit closer, but it’s usually more expensive to fly in and out of. Not so this week, though, as I found a very last minute flight (I’m talking just a few hours before takeoff) for only $301 on USAir.com. Although the website does not charge a service fee, trying to book a ticket on the site is a joke. After I picked the flights I wanted and filled in the personal info form, I was asked for my frequent flier number and pin. I have a USAir number, but I don’t have a pin (at least I don’t think I do). However, the system would not allow me to either recover my data or get a new pin. After three attempts I closed the USAir.com window and logged on to Orbitz (through JohnnyJet.com of course -- we get a commission). I was more than happy to pay their $6.99 service fee, because it took only a minute to book my ticket. Besides, I like Orbitz’s customer service -- they do a great job of alerting customers of current flight status by calling or emailing passengers.

Instead of taking a taxi to the airport, I drove myself. I used Park One, the closest private parking lot to LAX. From there you can walk to the terminals, but there is no reason to -- shuttle buses come by every 2-3 minutes. My only recommendation before using their lot is to check out the location map. That’s because finding their entrance is a challenge. Their best deals are found online. That’s right: Travelers can reserve a spot ahead of time at LAX, or 30 other cities they serve across the United States. LAX rates (including all taxes) are: self-parking: $16.45 per day; valet parking: $21.95 per day. To save a few dollars, online users can print a coupon good for one free day (three-day minimum). If you who don’t have time to print the coupon, Park One offers discounts (many other parking garages do too) to frequent flier or organization members. Just show your card: Southwest Rapid Reward Members get 20% off, United Airlines Mileage Plus Members get 15% off, Delta SkyMiles members 15% off, and AAA members 15% off. LAX Parking by Park One, 6351 W. Century Blvd. (corner of Century Blvd. and Sepulveda Blvd.), Los Angeles; tel.: 310-417-3566.

I left an hour before my 10:55 p.m. flight. There was no security line, and I zipped in. Part of the reason was because I didn’t have to check in at the airport; I already did it from home, using USAir.com. At least that part was easy: three clicks including print, and I was done. Walking to my gate, I heard someone ask for an autograph. I turned, and just a few feet away was Jerry Rice. I have to give it up for Jerry, because the soon-to-be Hall of Famer was flying Southwest --and was the last one standing in a very long line. He didn’t have a cell phone to his ear, and he wasn’t dressed all flashy like many sport stars. Only a few people recognized him. It’s nice to see these guys can travel like the rest of us. BTW: Only in LAX can travelers run into two celebrities in 20 seconds. As soon as I sat down at my gate, I noticed my seatmate was Roy Firestone. (He used to be on ESPN, and now has a sports show on HDTV).

I wasn’t looking forward to my flight. Who likes red-eyes? To make matters worse, I had to fly through Charlotte (that’s how I got such a cheap ticket). Not only that: I was in coach (ouch!). To prepare for the nasty overnighter, I did a few things that usually make a big difference. First, I ate dinner at home. Second, I took a long hot shower, then put on comfortable warm clothes (I threw them in the dryer to make them nice and toasty). I dressed in layers: t-shirt, long-sleeve rugby shirt, zip-up sweatshirt (with johnnyjet.com logo) – all because you never know how hot or cold your plane will be. Sweatpants, socks and sneakers completed my comfy wardrobe.

I packed a bottle of water, ear plugs, eye mask, MP3 player (loaded with soft music and motivational speaker tapes my brother sends me, which always put me to sleep –but shhh, don’t tell him that). The only thing I forgot was my 1st Class Sleeper (a crazy contraption by a pilot that makes sleeping in coach easy). Although I almost always sit on the aisle (I like to be able to get up anytime I want), on red eyes I prefer a window (so I won’t be disturbed by my seatmates getting up, or flight attendants pushing carts). To ensure absolute comfort, just before boarding I asked the gate agent (very politely, of course) if I could get a window seat with an empty row or open seat next to me. I scored the latter.

Yucking it up with Roy, I forgot to use the restroom before I boarded. I didn’t realize this until we took off. The Chinese guy occupying the aisle seat not only didn’t speak a lick of English; he was also out cold. He must’ve been real tired, because he was drooling profusely. At one point I couldn’t take it any longer, and almost slipped my napkin under his chin. I didn’t have the heart to wake his jet-lagged ass up, but I also didn’t want to get his slobber all over me while trying to jump over him. Instead I sat there staring at the flight attendant call button – the one you should never touch unless it’s an absolute emergency -- and holding my crotch like a rapper from the Bronx. Luckily the 2,120-mile flight took only 3 hours and 45 minutes. But I didn’t sleep a wink, and when I arrived at 5:55 a.m. local time I looked, felt and walked like Frankenstein.

I felt better once I reached the main terminal (and bathroom). The brand new-looking terminal is very spacious, has aviation memorabilia – and there are even rocking chairs all over. Now that's Southern hospitality! It was just what I needed to go with my tasty breakfast sandwich (country ham, egg, cheese, hash browns served on a biscuit) from Carolina Pit BBQ. That’s my kind of food! And it made the 591-mile, hour-and-40-minute flight to West Palm Beach bearable.

Since I have taken Tri-Rail (South Florida’s commuter train) to and from the Miami and Fort Lauderdale Airports, I figured it was only right to try it from the other airport they serve: PBI. Well, that’s the last time I ever take that thing from there. First, the information desk gave me the wrong pick-up time (I ended up running to catch the shuttle, only to sit and wait). Second, the shuttle bus costs $1.25 -- and passengers need exact change (the other two airport shuttles are free). A ticket on Tri-Rail costs $5. Last and most important, the bus was 20 minutes late, so when we arrived at the station 10 minutes away, the train was just leaving. I ran, but was stopped by security personnel. Ugh! To make matters worse, the next train would not arrive for -- get this -- another 3 hours and 30 minutes. Can you believe that?! It should run every half hour. After taking a red-eye, getting no sleep, waiting for a bus for an hour in the heat and then just missing a train, you’d think I would have screamed out loud. I thought about doing that – or crying -- but then I thought, Who cares? Life is good, and I’m in sunny Florida!

Next week I’ll tell you about spring training, and my trip to Palm Beach County. Then we’re off to a new part of the world (for me). If you can’t wait, check out the blog.

Happy Travels,

Johnny Jet

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    • *If you heard about us somewhere else or have the link to the story please email Johnny Jet media and let us know where!
    • I really enjoy all your newsletters but this one prompted me to finally write....any fan of Sideways is a friend of mine. I saw that movie twice and enjoyed it even more the second time. I can't wait until it comes out on DVD. Your "Sideways trip" was sooooo interesting that I felt like I was reliving the movie for a 3rd time. The pics of all the familiar locations were top notch, especially that windmill at the Days Inn! You should go to Tuscany and take the "movie trip" again for Under the Tuscan Sun. We actually found Frances Mayes house when we traveled there three years ago. Keep up the great work because I look forward to your newsletters. Barbara Beauchemin - Greene, RI
    • I absolutely LOVE your newsletter, having seen Sideways. I can't wait to do a tour myself someday so will print out your letter for later use-or to arrange for clients. Judy All Star Travel (Illinois)
    • Your review is worth a million dollars to SanBar. Suggest to the local C of C people that they use this write up along with all of the pictures and prepare a handout to go along with the 'Sideways' map. Of course, give them a release on the copyright so that they can give credit to 'JohhnyJet' and your web site. Regards, Dave and Marion Swett from the Golden State of California
    • Loved your trip through the San Ynez Valley. We used to eat at the Hitching Post in the 1970's, which was when the motorcyclists were always there on Saturdays and Sundays. Went to a wedding in Santa Barbara three years ago, and although I love the Napa Valley, I was very impressed with the wineries in the local. Will have to spend more time there after reading your article. Thanks, John, Denver
    • I just saw the movie "Sideways"....on an AIRPLANE! Isn't that way cool! I was flying from Nassau to ORD a couple days ago. I didn't care for the movie too much, I was told that the airline chopped the best scenes and language. Keep up the good work. JM, (ORD & MDW)
    • My wife wants to go on that Sideways tour. Looks kind of cool even for some like me... Kurt - Palm Desert, CA
    • Johnny, great Santa Ynez valley wine trip. I make the trip every few months, always stay at Wine Valley Inn. Rhonda Manning, the sales mgr, will take care of you. Anybody heading to Solvang, drop by and say hi to Rhonda, she is a sweetheart. Look forward always to your newsletter. Keep up the great commentary. A long time reader, Craig L - Ventura, CA
    • Dennis's video is priceless, it reminds me of the parties in our basement. Carol - Florida
    • Dude, you can frickin write. I read the whole newsletter without stopping. The biggest laugh I've had all week was .. "he was laying Sideways." Wallach - Boise, Idaho
    • Great issue of the newsletter. Next time you visit Solvang try Abelskievers ( Danish breakfast treat pastry ) with strawberry jam. Terrific. I don't live there but a relative does. Don - Southern CA
    • I've tried a couple of times to unsubscribe but I keep getting your newsletters. Please unsubscribe me. Sorry, but after you broke up with Amber Airplane you became boring. :) Desiree G - Holland America
    • Enjoyed your letter because it brought back so many memories. Lake Cachuma looks so much better then it did in the summer of 1957. Then it was hot dry and dusty. The places you talk about in your letters make it all come back to me. As a teacher I used my summer traveling. Thanks for doing such a good job. Inez - Idaho
    • I loved the Sideways Tour newsletter. Aebleskivers (a fave of mine and I have 2 pans to make them :)), Dennis dancing to Cyndi Lauper, and Ostrich Land (my friend Sarah and I drove down 101 a few months ago and on our way into Solvang had to stop and see the Ostrich's as they aren't something you see everyday)!?! It was great. Lora - Los Gatos

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