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Wondering what happened since the last newsletter? Plenty! First, I left Erie in the eye of the storm. Actually, there wasn't much left over from Hurricane Isabel.  The winds were only 20 mph, which didn't prevent me from flying back to Los Angeles.  I had an hour layover in Denver.  I didn't mind that, because I like DEN (the Denver airport) -- except when I have to be in downtown Denver (it's about 23 miles, too far from downtown). DEN, which opened in 1995, is clean, bright, and has plenty of places -- making it great for connections.  

Food options is key these days, because as everyone knows passengers aren't being fed like they used to. Chances are your flight won't have any food on it for free – maybe not even to buy. (Always check with your airline before boarding to see if they offer food).  United offered only a little bag of pretzels, mixed with a few nuts, so when I landed at DEN I was famished. Luckily my flight arrived early, so I had some time to walk over to Wolfgang Puck's for some grub. This is not the easiest restaurant to find, because it's located upstairs in the B concourse (between gates B37 & B39). They have all kinds of appetizers, sandwiches, pastas, and of course Wolfgang's famed designer pizzas. I go for one reason only: to get one of the tastiest BBQ chicken sandwiches around. It costs $7, but when it's made right (not like the time the chef rushed it and it wasn't very good) it's mighty tasty. If you’re in a hurry, get it to go (it takes five minutes) -- snag a bunch of napkins and you’re all set. Don't forget to grab one of their delicious chocolate chip cookies (get one for me too, please)!
I didn't want every hungry eye to stare at me on the plane, so I wolfed down my sandwich at the gate. Of course I made a mess, because the sandwich is like a sloppy joe (it's shredded chicken). I was feeling pretty good when I heard them call my name at the podium. The agent took my coach ticket and handed me a first class one (I forgot that a few days earlier I called and put my name on the upgrade list).  Just my luck, I thought: I spent $10 on dinner and now I will probably be fed a feast. I wondered if I would turn down the meal.  Well, luckily for me (unluckily for the other passengers) there was no decision to make. They didn't serve food. I was happy, so I just layed at a 45-degree angle in my nice big cozy seat and watched airline programming, as my seatmates watched me devour my chocolate chip cookie. So much for hungry eyes!
The landing in L.A. was so smooth that the middle-aged, female (white) flight attendant got on the PA and said, "That landing was as smooth as butta." Everyone laughed and clapped for her and the pilot. Guess you had to be there, but it was pretty damn funny, and it's good to see United allowing their FAs to loosen up. 

I took a taxi home because Amber Airplane was having a little birthday party for her friend Shelly.  Remember I told you last week that Amber Airplane brought back her sister Erica and niece Chloe from Cleveland?  She also brought back a ton of toys, and the house was a mess. Things were everywhere, the TV was blasting with cartoons, and I suddenly felt like one of those mean fathers they portray on TV. You know, the ones who come home, trip over the toys and gets angry. I loosened up after a while, but at first it was a bit overwhelming. Now that I think about it, maybe it was the opposite. After a week of watching Monsters, Inc. and Pee Wee Herman over and over, I was ready to jump off the Golden Gate Bridge. Just kidding (sort of)! Just let me say: Living with a baby for a week is the best birth control method around.  
The good news is that Amber Airplane and I had an engagement party to go to out of town. Our good friend Andy is getting married next year, and his party was Saturday night in Hollister Ranch on the beach. This is a private, 39,000-acres spread a few miles north of Santa Barbara. The scenery is unbelievable. It turns out that my buddy Andy's grandparents are -- the Hollisters! They sold most of the property as 100-acre parcels. It's so private and plush up there that many stars now call Hollister Ranch their home. I wish I could too! 
It takes two hours to drive to Hollister Ranch from L.A. (depending on traffic, of course). The ranch entrance is located next to Gaviota State Beach. A guard gave us a map of the property and told us where Andy's party was being held. We drove for seven miles on the beautiful property, mostly along windy roads. Amber Airplane felt a little carsick. I probably would have too, if I hadn’t been driving. This place really is a working ranch -- we almost ran over a few cows hanging out in the middle of the street.  Don't worry: Even if you don't know someone who lives in Hollister Ranch you too can see this awesome scenery (you just can't stop there). In addition, Amtrak travels through the ranch, right along the coast, several times a day.
We were greeted by Andy, appropriately wearing a cowboy hat. When we stepped out of the car we could smell the clean, refreshing ocean air mixed in with BBQ chicken!  Yee haw! I was plenty hungry (BTW: Dinner was awesome). I ran into a bunch of old friends I hadn't seen in a long time. Most of them were my buddies from Marymount College Palos Verdes (MCPV), where Andy and I met. We went to school together there, then worked together in the admissions office.  The first person I bumped into was Father Sean, who used to be the campus priest. I also caught up with JP (and his partner Glen) and Peter (and his wife Tania); I worked with both JP and Peter at MCPV.  
Those pictures were taken up on this hill that we walked up just before sunset.  Is this place not God's Country or what? It was so amazing that as everyone was going back down the hill to the party, I pulled Amber Airplane back up and said, “Let's just hangout.” We hugged, kissed and talked. I asked Amber Airplane if she loved me, and she looked at me like I was crazy. She said, “Of course I do!” She looked at me like something was wrong. She thought I was going to say, “Well, I cheated on you,” but she couldn't have been more wrong. I pulled her in close and said, “I have to tell you something.” That's when both our hearts started beating rapidly -- for different reasons. She thought I had bad news, but I had only love. I said, “Do you remember when I rode on the tractor with your father in South Dakota this summer?” She nodded her head nervously. I said, “Well, I asked him then if I could have your hand in marriage.” She just looked at me and said, “You did?!” as tears flowed rapidly down her eyes. I then said, “Do you remember when you were blowing bubbles at your friend Wendy's wedding last week and I was standing alone with your step-dad?”  She nodded again. I said, “Well, I asked him if I had his permission to marry his daughter.” Amber Airplane was trembling a bit. I slowly got down on one knee, took out the biggest ring I could afford and said, “Amber Marie Nelson: Will you marry me?”   

She said "YES"!  We kissed, hugged and laughed for the next couple hours, alone under the star-filled sky. With no lights or big cities around, looking up into the sky made us feel like we were watching an episode from National Geographic. It was surreal -- like our entire night. One of the craziest moments came as I was marveling up at the sky and thought to myself, Mom, I want you to be the second person to know that I am engaged. I hope you’re happy for me. Just show me a sign -- any sign. How about a falling star?” As I hugged Amber Airplane from behind, with my head resting on her shoulder, I heard a noise and looked back toward the party. Right then Amber Airplane yelled, "Did you see that?” I asked what. She said, “I just saw a falling star for the first time in my life!” I asked if she were serious -- and then I told her what I said in my head to my mom. Amber started to cry, and I did too.  
We walked hand in hand down the dark hill and agreed not to tell anyone, so we wouldn't take away from Andy and Kathy's moment. We said goodbye and thank you to the happy couple, jumped in the car and drove a few miles north along the 101. We spent the night in a town I hadn't been to in 17 years. Solvang is located in the Santa Ynez Valley, just 30 miles north of Santa Barbara. It's two miles east of the 101 freeway at Buellton. The last time I was in Solvang was with my mom, dad and cousin AJ when we came out to California for my first time, and drove down the coast.
Solvang, which literally means "Sunny Valley" in Danish, was founded in 1911 by a group of Danish educators. Visitors from Denmark admit to the authenticity of Solvang's turn-of-the-century Danish architectural style. Walking down the street, Amber Airplane said she felt like she was in another country, and I agreed. Many   of the buildings in this town have half-timbered walls, copper/slate/ thatched roofs,  stained glass windows and sharply angled roof lines. There are also cobblestone sidewalks, windmills and old- fashioned warm hospitality -- just like in Denmark. I am part Danish on my mom’s side of the family, and was fortunate enough to go there a few times with her.
We got the last room at the Chimney Sweep Inn.  Weekend rates begin at $109. We got one of the nicer rooms, for only $159 a night. Since we had just gotten engaged I thought I would pick Amber Airplane up and carry her into the room. However, the room was pitch black (except for a little light coming from the other end of the room). I figured I could see the bed so I would just drop her there, go back, grab the bags and find the light switch. But I should've turned the lights on first, because I didn't see three steps down to the living room. I don't know how I am still here writing this, because we almost died.  When I came to the first step I felt like I walked onto a trap door. We just dropped down. Fortunately I broke Amber Airplane’s fall by somehow quickly turning around so she could land on me. I could say you had to be there, but I'm glad you weren't.  

The room was really nice and spacious. So was the bathroom, which is key for Amber Airplane. The best part about our room was the fireplace with a Duraflame log all ready to be litChimney Sweep Inn, 1554 Copenhagen Dr., Solvang, CA, tel: (805) 688-2111.
In the morning we checked out of our quaint little hotel went to breakfast. The Chimney Sweep Inn serves a free continental breakfast each morning between 8 and 10 a.m. (featuring Danish pastries) but we passed on that. We wanted something more substantial, so we went to the most popular place in town for breakfast: Paula's.  They serve really good pancakes and are not expensive (for a touristy town). At Paula's and most of the other restaurants in Solvang waiters and waitresses wear authentic turn-of-the-century Danish costumes. After breakfast we walked the streets and checked out the shops. We picked a great time to visit, because it was Solvang’s Old Danish Days annual weekend festival.  Paula's Pancakes, 1531 Mission Dr., Solvang, CA. tel: (805) 688-2867

This is a great festival, with a lot going on -- all kinds of  dancing, and partying on the closed streets.  And I can't forget plenty of food! The specialty in this town is aebleskivers   (Danish pancake balls).  My mom used to make those when I was a kid. They are served with raspberry sauce -- and they were inexpensive too!  There was even an aebleskivers eating contest that the organizer tried to get me to participate in at the last minute. I would've entered, but I had just finished eating that monster pancake (and half of Amber Airplane’s) from Paula's.
On the way back down to L.A., Amber Airplane (soon to be Jet) spotted a Barnes & Noble off the freeway in Oxnard. She made me stop so she could buy   bridal magazines. Oh boy, I am in for a world of -- happiness.

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Happy Travels,


  • *If you heard about us somewhere else or have the link to the story please email Johnny Jet media and let us know where!
  • Hey Johnny, Love your website and I enjoy traveling vicariously through you & Amber... You'll probably think I'm strange (which I am), but I just wanted to tell you that one of my favorite things about the site are Amber's outfits - I love the way she dresses - so cute! :)  I love seeing what new outfits she has on every week...Tell her to keep on shopping - she does a great job!! Hoping you'll come to Houston (it's the 4th largest city in the US!) and give us props, Lisa W. - Houston
  • It's your old music professor from Marymount College.  I was reading today's USA Today and lo and behold there was JohnnyJet!  I knew you had gone into the travel business but had no idea how successful you have become...FANTASTIC!!!    Good for you...I'm very proud of my old student.  I just got through looking at your website and it is simply MARVELOUS!!!   I plan on going back to it and studying it more fact, I put it as one of my Favorites.  Don - Palos Verdes, CA Dear John; Nancy and I loved your newsletter. It seems to be becoming a 'family" newsletter. Perhaps you can invite photos from your extended 'family' taken while on vacation at places of interest.   Since your following is growing you need to include them as part of your family.  Dad
  • This is a fantastic job you have done on your site, Johnny.  Would take me a lifetime to enjoy all you have on it .  Keep up your good and very informative work.   Ellie
  • So now you're on my favorite news station (Fox) I see.   Congratulations.  Bob - Pittsburgh
  • I REALLY look forward to your newsletter every week, it's the BEST!!Karen R. - Littleton, CO
  • I truly enjoy your newsy photo-packed informative newsletter.  I frequently have wanted to write to you about something in your letter.  Three items inspired me to finally do so:  1 - TSA's - what's their problem?  I fly at least once a month from Spokane to Chicago, and my husband and I travel a couple weeks every year, at least once to Europe.  I think the TSA changes the rules on every flight, BECAUSE THEY CAN!  Grrr.  2 - Your Mom.  I was with my Mom when she died (at 59) from cancer, and I tear up every time you talk about her.  It's so nice to hear about someone else who had a great Mom and who celebrates her life.  3 - What finally sent me to the keyboard was the operatic neighbor dog.  So I'm attaching my favorite Billy Collins poem , titled "Another reason why I don't keep a gun in the house."  Enjoy.  Diana Churchill - Spokane, WA  
  • Since Amber caught the garter I think it is time for U to pop the question we are all wanting to hear you ask.  I hear from your Aunt she is a very fine young lady. I love getting the pictures of the family who I haven't seen in so long.  Keeps me in touch with them.  Take care of yourself and Amber and God bless you. Inez - Idaho.  

    *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.
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Johnny, If you are cruising to Alaska, I suggest using Seattle as your embarkation point. If you sail on Norwegian Cruise Line with a round trip from Seattle you can save on your airfare as compared to a R/T out of Vancouver, or a one way flying into or out of Alaska. If you plan far enough in advance Southwest Airlines usually has a $99 each way sale from most US airports served by Southwest. Andy Kingsbury

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    Plane Food Worth Paying For
    Should you bring your own meal on your next airline trip - or buy it on the plane? Free food on shorter flights is gone. The major carriers eliminated their air fare in a recent cost-cutting effort, and not a moment too soon. Few people liked the in-flight meals to begin with. But travelers don't want to go hungry either, at least according to a survey by caterer LSG Sky Chefs. Nearly three out of four passengers want the option of buying meals during the flight if the airline isn't offering a freebie Details in Power Trip.

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Labor Day marks the end of the traditional summer vacation period—and the beginning of the fall bargain season. Prices for accommodations in peak summer destinations generally drop off substantially, while winter peak areas won't hit high season for another three or four months. For seniors able to travel any time, fall probably offers the year's best rates. Where to go in fall? I have lots of suggestions: Click Here To Read Article

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