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  • Sioux Falls, South Dakota
  • Swiss Alps
    • Fall domestic and international fare sales from six airlines
    • Cross-country fare deals starting at $198 R/T
    • Vacation sale to 19 European cities
    • Stay in Vegas for as low as $25/night
    • Beijing Super Sale!
    • Five Nights In Hong Kong And RT Airfare From $588
    • Coast to coast: Discount carrier America West will begin non-stop transcontinental flights between Los Angeles and San Francisco and both Boston and New York JFK. The Los Angeles service will begin Oct. 26, while flights between JFK and San Francisco will begin Dec. 19. Boston-San Francisco service will begin March 1. America West will fly two daily round trips using Airbus A319 jets on all four routes. The A319s will have 12 first-class seats and 112 main cabin seats. Last-minute fares start at $299 each way.
    • THE BLUE ROOM AT SYDNEY AIRPORT IS THE NEWEST ADDITION TO VIRGIN BLUE'S NETWORK of airport lounges throughout Australia. The Blue Room is open to all travelers who pay a $5 introductory pay-as-you-go entry fee. Annual passes are available through Sept. 30 at an introductory rate of $175. Standard annual membership fee of $195 applies after Sept. 30. Blue Room services and amenities include play zones, workstations, massage, and food and beverage areas. Visit for more information. (FROM BTE)
    • Prague Fall: Book by Aug. 31 to take advantage of Nordique Tours' Super Savings package for travel to Prague. Prices start at $399 per person double occupancy for travel from Nov.1 through March 31. Package includes round-trip airfare to Prague from any Lufthansa Airlines U.S. gateway city and accommodations for four nights including daily breakfast. Package is non-refundable and subject to some holiday blackouts. For details.(FROM BTE)

    • Earn up to 10,000 miles on your Disney vacation
    • Online booking bonuses for ten airlines
    • Earn Triple Points At Sheraton In Bangkok, Hong Kong And Singapore
    • Earn 500 Bonus Starwood Starpoints For Online Booking
    • United Mileage Plus Visa Million Mile Giveaway Through September 30, United Mileage Plus Visa card members have the opportunity to win 25,000 Mileage Plus miles -- a chance with every purchase. Cardholders are automatically entered in the Million Mile Giveaway and one 25,000-mile prize will be awarded each day by random drawing.  For full sweepstakes rules .
    • Triple miles: Thrifty Car Rental will offer triple frequent-flier miles on eight airlines for some rentals Monday through Nov. 14. Customers renting through will receive 150 miles a day — instead of the standard 50 — for Alaska Airlines, American, Continental and Delta. Frequent-flier members of America West, Northwest, United and US Airways will earn 750 miles for each rental instead of the usual 250. The triple miles offer applies to rentals of compact cars and above that last two to seven days.
    • Easy AA: Life is getting easier for the 45 million members of American Airlines' AAdvantage frequent-flier program. American has standardized the number of miles required for an award trip on all AAdvantage participant airlines. Previously, American's partner carriers charged varying numbers of miles for award flights. The change cuts the number of AAdvantage awards from 500 to 130, and makes it easier for members to use two or more AAdvantage participant airlines on the same awards trip.
    • WONDERING JUST HOW FAR YOUR US AIRWAYS DIVIDEND MILES CAN TAKE YOU? How about outer space? US Airways has teamed with Space Adventures, a leading space experiences company, to offer a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to fly in space on the world's first private mission to the International Space Station (ISS). A whopping 10,000,000 miles will get you an eight-day stay for two aboard the International Space Station.
    Didn't have a chance to read last week's newsletter? Click here!

    Hello again! Before you start reading, though, check this out: I snagged more bootleg pictures from my cousin AJ's wedding (thanks to my cousin Nina).    

    Okay, back to business. About a month ago Amber Airplane told me we had to go to South Dakota to visit her grandparents. Cool, I thought! We would pop in for a long weekend, spend some time with her relatives, check out the sights and take off. Well, she had a different idea. We had to go for nine – nine! -- days because she has two sets of grandparents, and of course they live on opposite sides of the state. When I gave her one of those NINE DAYS? TO SOUTH DAKOTA? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? looks, she freaked. She said, “After all the time I spend with your family...” blah blah blah. I know all you females out there are saying, “You go, girl.” As it happens, it took me all of one nanosecond to realize she was right. 

    Besides, I like her grandparents. And of course it would be a great opportunity to check out parts of South Dakota I had never seen. All I wanted was for my cell phone to work -- and that there was high-speed internet access. For me, being without high speed for nine days would be like Marsha Brady without her brush.

    We had traveled nonstop this summer (actually, this year), especially in July. We came home once a week just to catch up on laundry, bills and whatever – but never more than 36 hours. When you are home for that little time you don't get much sleep, so we were a bit cranky. Amber Airplane and I are both eight-hours-of-sleep people.

    After a silly argument about Amber Airplane being late for the taxi (partly my fault -- I should know by now she's always late), we took the first flight to Denver.  We then hopped a regional jet to Sioux Falls, SD, in the eastern half of the state (Map courtesy of Travel websites from $19. Free demo.). The flight was only an hour, but Amber Airplane passed out. I have never seen her sleep like this, so I had to shake her to make sure she was still breathing.

      FSD (airport code for Sioux Falls) is a tiny little place. I love small airports, because the bags usually come out so quickly. Ours did, and I lugged Amber Airplane’s trunk to the curb where we were to be picked up by her sister, Erica, along with Erica’s husband Jimmy, their 19-month-old baby Chloe, and Amber Airplane’s little brother, Casey.

    I admit, it was awful nice of Jimmy to rent a big o’ minivan for all of us. But after you hear this story, you’ll understand why next year I’m renting my own car. Screaming babies don't bother me, and to be honest I don't think Chloe screamed once. My problem was with Jimmy. He's a crazy driver. You know: one of those dudes who can't pay attention. He fiddled with the stereo, searched for CDs, and turned around to make smiley faces at the baby. He’s also got a lead foot. Jimmy can fly faster than the planes I ride in. 

    Most of the time he went 90. Granted, the South Dakota highway speed limit is 75. But 90 is way too fast, especially in a minivan. I almost learned the hard way that South Dakota is a dangerous state to drive in. I never heard more horror stories about people getting killed driving than I did this past trip. Based on those tales, South Dakota must have the country’s highest traffic fatalities per capita. And we were almost one of them.

    Jimmy was cruising along I-90 at 90 when a farmer pulling a tractor, who was pulled over on the right side of the road, suddenly decided to make a U-ey. I have no idea how Jimmy managed to outmaneuver this trailer, but he did. For a split second we were on two wheels. Almost everyone was sleeping but Jimmy, Amber Airplane and I, and it was something I’ll never forget. Our hearts were pounding for a half hour after (I was also taking a few hits off my inhaler), and Jimmy said it took almost a day for his leg to stop shaking. To Jimmy's credit, he saved our lives.  

    So remember this warning: When you drive in South Dakota, use extreme caution. (Also, try not to drive with Jimmy.) Most of the trip I had a knot in my stomach because of his driving. I was mad at myself for not standing up like a man and saying how I felt. I thought it was difficult to do that, because I hadn’t rented the car and I'm not related to him. But I’ll never let that happen again. Jimmy's a good guy, and he understood when I finally said, “You have one job: to get us there alive.” Later I told him there was no way I would get back in that car unless I was behind the wheel. He said fine, and I drove. It was that easy.
    Now let's have some fun.

    First of all, you don't see much more than  fields when you drive in South Dakota. It's pretty amazing to see nothing but farms (and more farms). When the sun sets or storms roll in, it's picturesque. I should mention that on those farms you see signs for Wall Drug every 10 feet (okay, maybe every mile). What's Wall Drug? I asked that question too. Wall Drug is probably the best-marketed pharmacy on the planet. Ted Hustead, the founder, was a genius. He made a little drugstore in the middle of nowhere internationally famous. He posted signs all over the state, country and world. That's right: the world. There are over 3,000 signs in total, all advertising Wall Drug. I guarantee, if you visit South Dakota you will be so sick of seeing those signs that you will cave in and see what all the ruckus is about. But you’ll have to wait: Our visit to Wall Drug takes place next week, because it's on the other side of the state. This week, sit back and fasten your seat belt … Jimmy's driving!

    We headed to the middle of nowhere to visit Amber Airplane’s fraternal grandparents. They live in Winner, South Dakota a small town three hours from Sioux Falls in the south-central part of the state. How does a town get to be a Winner? In this case, it was because they "won" a right-of-way when the railroads were handing them out.

    Our first tourist stop was halfway there: the Corn Palace in Mitchell. Supposedly, the world’s only corn palace   As silly as it sounds, it's really a remarkable structure, standing in tribute to the agricultural heritage of South Dakota. Early settlers created it to display the fruits of their harvest on the building exteriors in order to prove the fertility of South Dakota soil. It was first built in 1892.

    The whole town of  Mitchell exists because of this corn palace, which attracts visitors from around the globe. Today the building is used by the entire region for stage shows, as well as sports events in the arena. During the day a market takes place, where you can buy every possible gift having to do with.... that's right, CORN!  Corn Palace, 601 North Main, Mitchell, SD, tel.: 866-273-2676.
    Amber Airplane told me her grandparents’ house was in the middle of nowhere. She wasn't lying! The good news is. I was expecting to be on a farm, with no one else in sight. Instead they live in a quaint little town in the middle of nowhere, and their farm is several miles away.   Winner, South Dakota has a population of about 3,100. It's so small that everyone knows your business (so don't get in trouble). 

    Her grandmother and grandfather grew up in Winner. We had a surprise visit from someone else who grew up there, too: Amber Airplane’s father surprised everyone and flew in from San Diego for a few days. We had a great time hanging out, eating home- cooked food and checking out their farms.    Her grandpa is a big farmer, with thousands of acres of farmland. They grow mostly wheat, soy, and corn.  Did you know that just one stalk of corn grows only one edible piece of corn. Corn is harvested in the fall, but it is not hand-picked. This machine not only picks up the ears; it also shucks the kernels off! The cob and other waste goes out the back end. As you can see we had a great time learning about life on the farm, and playing with their toys. We rode through the cornfields on the 4x4 and tractor and checked out the cattle.

    The machine in this picture is called a  combine and cost about $350,000. This is what they use to harvest, and as it's massive. So here’s another tip: When you see a combine driving down the road, don't even thinking about passing unless you can see for miles – yes, miles. Farmers are known for speeding, and as Amber Airplane’s father says, head-on collisions are not pleasant. BTW: Her father is an ex-Navy commander who also taught me that South Dakota's well  water is the second cleanest water in the world. The first? (I asked him that too.) According to Mike, it's water on the newer Navy ships. They treat the water right on board.

    Another FYI: The mosquitoes weren't as bad as I thought they would be, but I did get stung a few times by a little bee I had never seen before. To avoid mosquitoes or bees, I highly recommend bug-repellent wipes.  

    The only time we ate out in Winner was when we went for dinner with Amber's uncles (her mom's brothers). They live near town so we had a good inexpensive meal with them, then checked out their thousands of farm acres the following day. They have more horses and cattle than anyone I know. However, they also have rattlesnakes in their yard, so you know I was doing the Deion Sanders high-step from the car to the house every time. The Outwest Bar and Grill, 865 West 2nd, Winner, SD, tel.: 605-842-2324.

    Because we were on the Amber Airplane Family Summer Tour, we stopped by her aunt's house and played with her 20 (yes, 20) cats. Her aunt was kind enough to take us an hour and a half down to Nebraska (yee haw!) for a float ride down the Niobrara River. I had never floated down a river, but I heard it is the thing to do in the west. On a hot summer day, I have to say I agree!  It's pretty damn cool. You rent tubes for $25 each, and float down the river. It takes about four hours when the water is flowing pretty good (like it was when we went). The key is to bring a cooler filled with drinks and all kinds of snacks, which is what her aunt did. If you go, make sure to stop at the halfway point (the Smith waterfall). It's Nebraska's tallest waterfall, and probably the coldest.  It sure is refreshing though.   Sharp's Tubes & Canoes, HC 13, Box 34A, Sparks, NE 69220, tel.: 402-376-2506
    That's all for this week, folks. Next week we finish up our trip of South Dakota. So get your Harley all shined up, because we visit Sturgis, the Badlands, Deadwood, Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse, Hot Springs, Custer, Rapid City and – yep -- Wall Drugstore. And don’t forget to set your watch back, because the western half of South Dakota is on Mountain Time.
    • Lately, I catch myself in many conversations saying "HEY, THIS GUY I KNOW.... " - how close we all feel to you JJ! Kelly - Hilton Head, SC
    • So is this just a site to rub in all the cool things you and Amber Airplane get to do or what?  I mean I really hate getting your emails b/c every week I think to myself "what cool place are these two going to go to next?" Seriously!  I really like seeing your site though I was just teasing - I wish I had your job! Amy - San Francisco
    • I want to travel like you. Nick - Massachusetts
    • We enjoy your newsletter! Sam & Nancy - Watch Hill, R.I.
    • Next time you and Amber are in Anchorage, check out the Whale Fat Follies at Mr. Whitekeys. I saw the show a few years ago – it was hilarious! David - Danville, CA  REPLY:  You are right!  It is hilarious.  Amber and I saw the show last year
    • I agree with you about Simon and Seaforth restaurant, it's great. My wife were staying at the Hilton (did you ever try their breakfast?) and were exploring downtown and found the restaurant. We've been back several times but you should have warned your followers that they will experience Alaska "prices", sort of like a NY on the last frontier. Did you ever ask why the native king crab was so ridiculously expensive there or are you and Amber strictly carnivorous? Anyway, it seems that the crab is caught there and then shipped to Seattle or thereabouts and then back to Alaska. Sounds like an opportunity for an entrepreneur. Keep up the chatter and the terrific info wherever you and Amber go.  Burt - New Jersey
    • I am a senior at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.  I recently caught the travel bug after spending a semester in Europe.  I came back to Alaska for the summer to work, and I happened to watch the news one night to see the Johnny Jet plug from Scott McMurren.  I signed up for the newsletter because I am looking for more travel options after I graduate.  I would hate to get a "real" job right away.  I noticed in the picture of Johnny in front of Mt. Rushmore that he was sporting a LMU Lacrosse t-shirt.  Is Loyola Marymount his alma mater?  Since I've been getting the newsletters, I've been thinking about what an awesome life he's been living.  I didn't have a specific travel question or anything at the moment, I just got excited about him coming to Alaska, tromping around my home (and writing wonderfully about it), and then seeing his "LMU" shirt.  Good luck with all your success!  Sincerely, Joe - Alaska
    •  You did an amazing job on TechTV today.  You were the calmest and coolest I have seen yet.  Only thing was that wasn't the shirt I told you to wear. I said the LIGHT blue one not the dark one.  You did a great job and you should be very proud of yourself!!  Great job again!  xoxo Amber
    • I saw you on TechTV's "Call for Help" today and just now checked out your website...I must say--it is FABULOUS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I cannot believe the amount of information there.  It has been put on my favorites list..... Thank you, thank you, thank you for a great website....this is what the Internet is all about! Melissa 
    • Saw you on Tech TV. Good show, good tips. Keep up the good work. Dr Don - Chicago
    • First I'd like to thank you for your work.  I look forward to getting my newsletter.  You always have great deals and excellent information.  I appreciate the research you do that saves me the time.  Keep up the good work.  I'd like to let my fellow readers know about a great discovery I made.  It's . They have incredible deals for lodging all over the world.  Their slogan is luxury resorts for motel prices and they do deliver.  My friends were able to take their two kids on a vacation to Arizona which included a few days in Sedona for $450 for the week for the four of them.  I myself spent a week at a 5 star resort in Las Vegas with two other friends.  It cost me less than three nights at a decent hotel.  I'm planning a trip with a friend to Cape Cod in the fall now which is going  to cost us $500 ($250 apiece!) for seven nights and eight days for a one bedroom suite.  They certainly have changed my idea of what my budget can afford.  T. Shafir - Santa Rosa, CA

      *Please note that we reserve the right to post excerpts, perhaps edited, from your message on the Johnny Jet website and newsletter. We will not use your full name without your express permission. If you'd rather not have your message posted on the website or newsletter, just say so and it won't be.
    Sun & Beach Packages - Kids & Family Packages - Great Outdoors Packages - Destinations Under $250* - Search for a destination at the Site59 Homepage
    Alaska sounded like it was wonderful. My husband & I went a few years back and spent two weeks - we used Anchorage as our home base over the weekends, but spent a week in the Homer/Seward area and another week up around Fairbanks, Cheena Hot Springs, & Denali. Another resource you should let your readers know about is a book called the "Milepost". It gives mile post-by-mile post descriptions of every nook, cranny, restaurant, hiking spot, etc. along the highway(s) in Alaska. It was our Bible while we were there. Glad to hear the wedding went well - so, when are you and AA hooking up? Keep up the entertaining stories. Looking forward to South Dakota! - Robin S.

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      Kill First Class
      Flying first class isn't what it used to be, to hear travelers like Gary Arbonies talk about it. "First class is what coach class was like a decade ago," complained the San Diego furniture consultant. It isn't just the meager meals, which he says resemble those once served in steerage. Legroom and service have slipped, too, as the airlines' fortunes took a nose dive. Maybe it's time for domestic airlines to stop pretending they offer first-class service, at least on domestic flights. > Details in Opinion .

      Can First Class - Go Ahead, Ditch First Class - First Class Fading Fast .
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    Fun Factory Tours for All Ages  
    Special from Bottom Line/Personal
    by Karen Axelrod

    Looking for something fun to do that is educational, too? Tour a factory. Always call ahead to confirm tour times, age minimums, etc. Here are some of the best...


    (Chicago). Watch up to 3,000 cheesecakes shuttle into the giant ovens. The 30-minute tour departs every weekday at noon. Includes a slice of cheesecake. Rubber-soled, low-heeled shoes are required. Infants not allowed on portions of the tour. $3 for adults... $2 for children ages 12 and under. Combination tour/lunch packages also are available.



    E-One (Ocala, Florida). Watch as fire trucks are built and tested. The 90-minute tour of three buildings involves considerable walking. Sandals are not allowed, and high-heeled shoes are discouraged. Tours leave at 9 am, 11 am and 1 pm on weekdays, weather permitting. Closed on major holidays and December 25 through January 1. Admission is $6 for adults... $4 for seniors and children under age 12. Kids must be at least age six to take the tour.



    Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream (Waterbury, Vermont). Learn how ice cream is made during this popular 30-minute tour, which features a seven-minute movie on the company's history. Includes an ice cream sample. Tours depart every 15 to 30 minutes between 9 am and 5 pm daily. Evening tours available in July and August. $2 for adults... $1.75 for seniors... free for children ages 12 and under.


    Dreyer's and Edy's Grand Ice Cream (Union City, California). Hour-long tours at 9:15 am, 11:15 am and 2 pm weekdays. Reservations required. Summer tours fill up months in advance. Admission is $2. Includes a double scoop of ice cream.

    800-655-3904, ext. 7,


    Herr's Snack Factory Tour (Nottingham, Pennsylvania). Taste warm potato chips right off the line. Sixty-minute tour runs Monday through Thursday from 9 am to 3 pm... Fridays 9 am to 11 am. Reservations suggested. Free.



    Basic Brown Bear Factory (San Francisco). Watch teddy bears being made during this 30-minute tour. You even can stuff your own -- the cost ranges from $12 to hundreds of dollars, depending on the size. Tours begin on the hour between 10 am and 4 pm daily. Free.


    Vermont Teddy Bear Company (Shelburne). Thirty-minute tours generally run every half-hour from 9:30 am to 5 pm, Monday through Saturday... 10:30 am to 4 pm on Sundays. Adults $2... kids under age 12 free. A coupon for family admission is available on the Web site.

    802-985-3001, ext. 1800,

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