Saturday, July 26, 2008

No Seats, No Schedule, No Remorse, Oh Look a Movie Star!

Last week I took a quickie trip from Phoenix to LA. When I left that morning every flight around me at Sky Harbor was oversold and begging for volunteers. When I went to return from LAX in the afternoon the flight before mine was oversold and begging for volunteers.

As soon as the volunteers were collected, that flight took off.  They then cancelled the next flight (mine), and told me (and the volunteers from the previous flight) that the rest of their flights that day were also all oversold. We would all have to spend the night and fly home the next day. I was stunned, no seats for a very simple flight, on a route that leaves every hour, from one of americas busiest airports, in the middle of the week. Guess this is the future of travel.

I found a seat on a competitor. They also turned out to be late, but at least they flew.  Since I bought my ticket at the last minute, they asked if I wanted to upgrade for $15 and guarantee early boarding. I said sure. When the flight finally came, they asked for volunteers......

Only then did it occur to me that they sold me my full fare ticket on a flight that was already sold out. Think about it, what other industry can sell the same product to multiple buyers, at the same time, without it being fraud? Hmmmm.  They then take the purchased product away from the lower priced buyer.

It is getting weirder out there.

On another topic, I did see an actress (Ali MacGraw - Love Story and The Getaway) in the terminal. I know I'm getting old when I recognized her and realized she went pretty much completely unnoticed by everyone else. Probably a welcome thing, to be able to be famous in one's youth and then move freely later in life.

In my travels I have seen a few famous and nearly famous folks: Tony Curtis (in Hawaii), Hulk Hogan (saw him twice - go figure?), Brian Dennehy (in Nashville), Clint Eastwood (Reno), Tom Hanks (kind of funny spotting him as an adult in Santa Monica, since we were neighbors and played together as kids), Kenny Rogers (Phoenix Airport), Wynona Judd (Nashville), and Jim Nabors (Atlanta). And yes, dear Iniquitosfish, how indeed could I have forgotten Ms. Jameson (LA to Phoenix flight). Spotting celebrities while traveling is always one of those "Is that?" moments for me.

Roadboys Travels © 2008

Friday, July 25, 2008

Dad Proposes at Yosemite

The Ahwahnee


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Great Sierra's

Installment Six: The Mountains of Ansel Adams, John Muir, and Mark Twain

We start in the third State Capital of California: Sacramento. After short stints in Benicia and San Jose the Capital found a permanent home in Sacramento.     

Sacramento for me will always be special. My family roots here run back to the Gold Rush. My Grandmother used to tell me stories about growing up there. Losing her own father to the lure of the Klondike and Dawson gold fields. Seeing the thousands of Chinese rail workers and detecting the occasional smell of opium drifting in the air.  She loved the tree lined streets and remembered that awful day in 1906 when her own uncle left for San Francisco and never returned.

The Capital is always green and lush.  In a state with frequent water shortages this seems ironic.  But due to its strategic placement capturing the run off from the Sierra's snowpack, Sacramento has just never had to worry about water. For many years homes in Sacramento didn't have water meters.  This is where the California "Delta" originates and where California's rice farmers thrive. Until its huge floodways were built it was also a place with devastating floods.

If time permits take a tour of the State Capital, walk the streets of Old Sacramento, and if you come in the fall spend a day at the California State Fair at Cal Expo. Cal Expo will never really be the State Fair for me. I remember the old state fairgrounds with its lifesize pictures of all of the Miss California's lining its main walkway. This was where the County Pavilion's every year had giant tableaus composed of the grains and produce they grew.  

For me the best attraction in Sacramento is the California State Rail Museum. The completion of Leland Stanford's Southern Pacific Railway truly signaled the emergence of the Golden State as a power to be reckoned with. No longer was California dependent on the Pony Express for mail and the stages of the Well's Fargo lines for travel. Now the nation was efficiently unified all the way from the Atlantic to the Pacific and was poised to effectively exploit California's climate, oil, timber, fishing, and agriculture. The natural resource based economy and two World War's ushered in a period of industrial growth for the likes of Howard Hughes and McDonnell Douglas in aviation and a whole host of heavy industry. The wealth of California seemed to be endless.

California in my youth was what everyone wanted to be. It was new, young, clean, and tan. It was movie stars, Bel Air, and Disneyland. It invested in freeways, bridges, aquaducts, dams, nuclear powerplants, the Bay Area Rapid Transit System, and its public schools, and prestigous universities. California in the space of a century become the eighth largest economy in the world. That was California transformed from the Grapes of wrath to the melting pot, full of hope and prosperity.

I'll never understand what happened to California.  In my childhood when people heard I was from California, they would get all wispy and say "Oh, I'd love to live there".  

After leaving for about a decade I returned back to California in 1987 and it was obvious in the meantime California had committed fiscal hari kari.  By passing Proposition 13 nearly any Californian that owned a house prior to 1976 was now statistically destined to become a millionaire.  And their wealth came without any future burden of having to pay a fair share of taxes.  California now expected its newcomers to bear the lions share of its operating costs.

As a result few newcomers will ever own a home and California's rich get richer.  The state gets increasingly transient. 

What I found troubling when I returned was the feelings expressed by older residents. They felt entitled, expressing no remorse for stealing the future from the states newcomers and its children.  In a little more than a decade California's once envied public schools and community college system were in a state of obvious decline (and in some case shambles), Orange County was broke, and the once beautiful landscaping on the freeways was long since dead.  By leaving and then returning the effects of Prop. 13 were obvious and profound.

I noticed something else too. Now when I told people I was from California, they would say, "I don't think I could ever live in that crowded and dirty state!"  That cut to the quick.

OK, head the car onto Highway 50 because we are going to Lake Tahoe or as everyone in Northern California says; "Going up to The Lake".

If it is winter plan to ski and be sure you carry tire chains. If it is summer try not to make the trip on a Friday or on a 3 day holiday weekend when the road is filled with Bay Area residents hell bent to "get there". Still 2 lanes in a few stretches and one wreck on Highway 50 and you can find yourself backed up for hours.    

If time permits stop for lunch in Placerville.  This is the heart of gold rush country and piles of mine tailings are still plainly visible everywhere.  

When you reach Echo Summit nothing really prepares you for your first glimpses of Lake Tahoe. Aside from Crater Lake in Oregon, I can think of no lake in North America that can match Tahoe's azure blue color. Until a few years ago, it was also known for its extraordinary clarity.   The lake now supports so many residents it is losing clarity. 

At the lake enjoy a day of water or snow skiing, or golf, or a hike down to the Vikingsholm at beautiful Emerald Bay. Just get out there and do something.  At night take in a show at one of the South Shore's Casinos.  

If you get bored here, check your pulse, you might already be dead.

From Lake Tahoe our Golden State Tour actually leaves California for the Biggest Little City in The world: Reno. Reno still has much of the charm that Las Vegas lost twenty years ago. With very walkable casino center you go in and out of most of it's major casinos with ease to play those nickel slots. If its summer consider a side trip to Virginia City. In its day this was the biggest City between Denver and San Francisco. Mark Twain stopped here documenting his travel's in his classic "Roughing It". He stayed in Virginia City long enough to become editor of its newspaper.

From Reno drive south through Nevada's state capital Carson City. See if you can find a basque restaurant for dinner. Come hungry. After leaving Carson City head to Minden and join Highway 395. You will pass back into California and drive past the moonscape silly sand formations of Mono Lake.  

If it is winter we are going on south to Death Valley to end our California tour.  If it is summer turn west and cross Tioga Pass to experience the splendor of Yosemite.

Now Yosemite deserves a section of its own. In summer I personally like approaching it from the east (it is the road less travelled). A word of caution, Tioga Pass is always closed in winter (and much of the Spring and Fall).  So plan carefully.

When you reach Yosemite, plan to hike, watch the climbers on Half Dome, and relax. Yosemite is the closest place California has to heaven. A side note for those lucky enough to plan to come here from the West in winter. Winter is simply magical in Yosemite. The days are cold and mostly clear. Its snow carpeted meadows are a cross country skiers dream. The park is nearly empty in winter, yet the beautiful dining room in the Ahwahnee is open year round. In winter I personally love to stay in the little white cottages at Wawona.

Perhaps my fondness for the place comes from my mom's affection for it after working two summer's at Yosemite's Camp Curry. She was there at the time when the Firefall was signalled every evening by an indian maiden singing "Let the Fire Fall". It is also where my dad spent his gas rations in order to come and propose to her.

Now if Tioga Pass is closed just plan to continue south, there is still plenty to do. For example, if you pass it early enough in the day divert off for a side trip to the Ghost Town of Bodie. A California State Park, this is perhaps the best example of a ghost town in California. It is off the beaten path a little, but well worth the trip.

Then continue south past the sites of the Japanese internment camps and the Owens Valley (where Mulhollond quietly bought water rights until he could divert all the water from the once pastoral Owens Valley to LA). The new source of water "for LA" was actually diverted to allow the San Fernando Valley to be developed triggering a real estate land rush of epic proportions.

My final stop is Death Valley. In winter this is a spectacular destination.  Splurge on a night at the Furnace Creek Inn. Bring lots of film as this place is full of very photogenic geological wonders. Do not leave without a tour of Death Valley Scotty's amazing castle at the extreme north end of the park. The story of Scotty is the stuff of legends. A flim flam man who was true to his word.

This is the end of my suggestions for traveling in California. Now go and explore it yourself and tell me what you find!

Roadboys Travels © 2008

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The North Coast


Benbow Inn

The Giants

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Rugged North Coast & Redwoods

Installment Four: Where all the Old Hippies Went

There is no place I know that offers a fair comparison with California's north coast from Marin to the Victorian fantasy of Mendocino. This is the stretch of the coast where whole stretches remain relatively untouched and one can squint and get a glimpse of what the Coast looked like before the cries of "gold" from Sutter's Fort changed California forever.  

You have to take some time planning this part of your trip. With towns spread far apart, sponenaity may not be rewarded here. Plan to stop along the way to collect driftwood. Stop at Fort Ross (built to support Russia's fur trappers in California). Just north of the cliff town of Gualala is Anchor Bay. This is where my sister, my dad and I would wait for low tide to go out with a crowbar and gunny sack to harvest abalone. They were huge and they were tasty. Now abalone must be only harvested using scuba. The sparkling abalone shells we harvested encircled my Mom's flower beds for decades.    

Once you make it to Mendocino plan to spend a day or two. There are lots of victorian B&B's and the town is awash in artists, candle purveyors, and the most birkenstocks on humans you will see this side of the Oregon border. Stop in to see American Pie crafts gallery on Main St.  This store was recently relocated from Wilmington NC (where it was profiled by American Craft magazine). I found some of the best birthday and Christmas gifts ever here (including an amazing carved whistle by Connie "Caw" Roberts that looks like Georgia O'Keefe!)

Just a bit North of Mendocino is Fort Bragg. This is where if you have a day you can take the skunk train. The rail line was built to move redwood timber to the mills in Mendocino. The rail used a small self propelled motorcar which according to local lore, you could smell before you could see. Now there are original skunks, a steam train, and a more modern diesel train that makes the run from Fort Bragg to Willits.  At an average rate of 29 mph, the trip is pretty relaxing.  

From Mendocino drive north to where Highway 1 ends to join Highway 101. Of the major North South highways, only 101 flirts with the coast. Travel north to the amazing redwoods.  As soon as the opportunity exists exit Highway 101 for the Avenue of the Giants. Aside from hiking or biking, driving this 31 mile 2-lane road is the very best way to absorb the power of majesty of this forest.  The quality of light that drifts down from the tree canopy and shear density of the forest is awe inspiring.

Once you reach then end of the Avenue, it is time to double back and head south on 101 to Garberville.  Here you would do well to stay or eat at the Benbow Inn.

After a stop in Garberville the remaining trip has you cutting over on Highway 128 which will take you through the heart of the Wine Country. Plan to spend some time lunching in Saint Helena and/or Napa.  Stop at the classic old Christian Brothers or one of the newer upscale wineries for a tour and tasting. Try to arrange your time so that any drives in this area happen on weekdays as the weekender traffic from the Bay Area really can choke things up.

From here motor east to Sacramento. That is where we will pick up Installment Five. 

Roadboys Travels © 2008

Thursday, July 17, 2008

MIddle Coast and Northern California

Installment Three: Big Sur to San Francisco

When the top goes down on the sports car, a few "ultimate drives" come to mind. Places like Old Whitebird Hill in Idaho, pristine stretches of the Blue Ridge Parkway in the Mid-Atlantic, but perhaps the best drive in America is the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) or California 1.  

Anyone that drives the PCH to "get somewhere" is missing life. This is the drive you make when there is simply no rush to get from point A to point B. 

At every bend there are mists, driftwood, soaring cliffs, and beautiful WPA vintage concrete arch bridges. This is California's delicate strand. It is frequently closed for rockslides, fires, and all kinds of natural disasters. It just reminds us the price to be paid to see places like breathtaking Big Sur. Admittedly, you do have to pass by "Too Cute" Carmel (see earlier discussion about La Jolla in San Diego), but you can't ignore the life size "bonsai" (the coastal cypress) trees of Monterey. This stretch of California's coast evokes something different to everyone who experiences it. To a golfer it is Pebble Beach. To my daughter it is the aquarium in Monterey. To a foodie it is six kinds of Artichokes from Castroville. For me it is the best parts of my childhood spent at the boardwalk in Santa Cruz.   

This is the place where for a few weeks of the year trees are covered in Monarch butterflies and the University of California (UCSC) just mellows out.  

When you leave Santa Cruz crossing the Santa Cruz Mountains (where old VW buses go to die) to the Bay Area, you pass through the land that Hitchcock called home (which explains why so many of his last films were set in Northern California). These are the hills where Paul Masson planted mountain vinyards. As you motor out of those hills you come to Silicon Valley's version of the Promised Land (Los Gatos, Monte Sereno, and Saratoga). These are the "Too Cute" little towns where the geeks that "made it" go to buy a little beater of a cottage for 2-3 million dollars. This was also the area that bore some of the biggest damage during the Loma Prieta earthquake.  

Silicon Valley was once the "Valley of Hearts Delight" and there are still a few cherry and prune orchards in the Valley to prove it. But for the most part (aside from Cosentino's food markets) the valley has now been pretty much wrecked by the computer industry.  While San Jose has worked hard to spend the computer largess to create some sort of a downtown, it for the most part, still offers no real destinations. The Childrens and Tech Museum's are fun, and Sarah Winchester's mental illness expressed as architecture, is still there for touring. But after that, the pickens are thin.  Its time to go up the Coast to San Francisco.

Along the way up the peninsula is Stanford University and some of the priciest real estate on planet earth.

Once you get to "The City" the sightseeing options are simply too many to count. A few places I think are pretty cool are a bit off the beaten path. Try some amazing Greek food at Kokkari or fabulous dim sum at Yank Sing (reservations mandatory at both). Do not miss the Tadich Grill which has continuously served some of the best seafood in San Francisco since the Gold Rush. The menu changes daily, the waiters are right out of Daschell Hammet, and they do not take reservations, so go get in line. I also suggest that you find an original "Its It" San Francisco's official ice cream treat. Probably my most touristy stop is still the Buena Vista (where the Irish Coffee was invented and perfected). I also love the De Young Museum and a bike ride through Golden Gate Park. No trip for me is complete without a walk down Maiden Lane (with a stop at the Circle Gallery - which has got to be the test run Frank Lloyd Wright used for his eventual Guggenheim Museum in New York).  At Christmas this then leads to a stop at the Padesta Baldochi Florist.  This florist had already been operating in San Francisco for 35 years when the great quake of 1906 hit.

Sadly many of my favs are now gone. Playland-at-the-beach is now crappy condos, the City of Paris at Union Square (who had the best Christmas tree in the Bay Area) is now Phillip Johnson's bizarre Nieman Marcus store (which now puts up some kind of goofy designer tree of crap under the old stained glass ceiling), and San Francisco lost a big piece of its heart and soul with the passing of the flagship I. Magnin store.

All that said Coit Tower still reigns, the Ferry building has been refreshed and reborn, and nature finally did what no man could do, removing the ultimate waterfront blight: the Embarcadero freeway.

Now this is where I must stop and put in a pitch for the much maligned neighbor to the east and my hometown - Oakland. Oakland will always have better weather than San Francisco. It has its beautiful felt covered hills, the Bay Area's ultimate deco masterpiece the Paramount Theater, Jack London Square, and its beautiful Lake Merritt. Oakland has treasures like Mill's College (with some of the best surviving examples of Julia Morgan's architecture - yes, she was the architect for Hearst's Castle!), the Chabot Observatory, and the best views of the San Francisco bay.  While you are there drive through Berkeley. Have lunch at Chez Panise and spend a night at the grand old Claremont Hotel.  

Now you are ready for the Wine Country and then back to the Coast up to Charles Moore's Sea Ranch and on to Bodega Bay (where Hitchcock tortured its residents with a bunch of mechanical birds).

Installment Four will follow.

Roadboys Travels © 2008

The Bradbury Building

The Bullocks Wilshire Store

The Sunset Tower

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Southern California A Tale of Love and Hate

Installment Two: LA

Ok so now we move on to the Golden State Trip #2: Los Angeles or simply "LA". 

Locals draw fine lines between Orange County (I kind of like the City of Orange - and not much else - in the OC), East County, LA and its varied neighborhoods, the beach cities, and "The Valley", but to everyone outside of Southern California, its all just "LA".  

Me I have always had a total love hate relationship with LA. I ache for it.  I hate it.  LA is more than a place, it is a lifestyle. It is the only place in America where locals name freeways starting with "The".

For most visitors the essential trip to Southern California simply includes a day or two at Disneyland, Universal Studios, and maybe a trip to the beach at Santa Monica.

To me, visiting LA is waiting in line for a chili dog at Pinks. It is a morning spent wandering around the "World Famous" Farmers Market (with slices of pie from Du Pars available 24 hours a day). LA is an afternoon movie at the Chinese Theater, or gumming some mochi ice cream in Little Tokyo.  It is getting lost gawking at the stilt houses in the Hollywood Hills. It is a trip to the LA County Museum of Art and an afternoon at the Autry Western Heritage Museum.

Although nobody back east wants to admit it, LA has damned fine buildings.  I don't mean the modern ego based dreck like the Getty (gee whiz, why couldn't they have left the best last piece of open land in LA open?). Think of how much good the Getty complex could have done if it had been built somewhere where it repaired a damaged site, instead of subjugating a perfect one?  

No, I mean truly LA buildings.  The stuff that only works in Los Angeles.  Roadboy's Law #1: if you can pick up a building and move it from one city to another, and it works, then its a bad building. Buildings should be "of" the place where they are built.

So I marvel at wonders like the LA City Hall, the Mission Inn in Riverside, and the Bradbury Building downtown with it's eerie filtered light "sci fi" victorian steel interior.

Albert C Martin's Iconic LA City Hall

The Interior Rotunda of Riverside's Venerable Mission Inn 

I adore Bertram Goodhue's magnificent downtown LA Library and the Hollywood Bowl.  LA is the Formosa Cafe, the Hollywood Forever Cemetary, and the Observatory in Griffith Park. It is the old Wilshire Bullocks Store, the fountain in MacArthur Park, and the Wiltern Theater. It is arts and crafts houses in Pasadena, and deco masterpieces like the Sunset Tower and the LA Union Station.  To me all of that is truly "LA".

The LA Library

Feel free to blow off a visit to vapid Rodeo Drive (refer to my note about La Jolla in San Diego). Instead go stroll the 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica or visit Old Town Pasadena. Go to Venice Beach for an afternoon. I know I'm a hypocrite, I can't handle Mission Beach in San Diego, but I'm somehow just fine with Venice Beach. Go Figure?

Suggestions where to stay: The Checkers Downtown, Rennaisance at Hollywood and Highland, and the Magic Castle Hotel (Hint - it is the only way a non-member over 21 can gain access to the private Magic Castle).

All I ask is that you take some time and decide what the real LA is to you.

Then when you find yourself about ready to scream, point the car north and head for Santa Barbara  Update 2011: See my post for Santa Barbara and eventually William Randolph Hearst's "Castle" at San Simeon.

Roadboys Travels © 2008 / 2011

Monday, July 14, 2008

Roadboy's Golden State

Seems like a few times a year everyone in Arizona migrates to San Diego.  The veterans of this migration visit their favorite places over and over.

Since most of the folk in Arizona are recent transplants, some (amazingly) from places north and east of here, they frequently ask for tips when making a first visit to The Golden State.

First off, California is too big to generalize about, so I tell them to plan multiple trips and break it down by regions. Its sort of like when I lived in Alaska and people said they were coming for a visit.  I'd try to explain that it takes many trips to scratch the surface of Alaska. California is much the same.  There is the San Diego Trip.  There is the LA/Southern California trip. There is the Big Sur, San Francisco, and Wine Country trip. There is the North Coast, Redwoods, and Mendocino trip. Finally, there is the Sierras, Lake Tahoe, Yosemite, and Death Valley trip.

While a couple of adjoining regions can easily be combined on a single visit, its best not to push it. Just spread it out and try to vary the seasons in which you visit. Winter in Yosemite defies words.

Installment One:  San Diego - The Zonie's Favorite 

OK I'm a freak, I actually like the drive to San Diego via Yuma. When I make that drive I can stop in Yuma and eat at La Fonda (superb tortilla's and tamale's). Lets face it, life is always better after a plate of good Mexican food.

As you approach San Diego's far east county you come to all of the boulders.  It is total Fred Flintstone.  I love it.

Now once they get to San Diego most folks immerse themselves in "San Diego the Amusement Park" (the Zoo, Sea World, etc.).  

OK, do that stuff, but work the trip a little and try some of the following:

If its summer, plan a trip to Humphrey's Half Moon Inn on Shelter Island for one of its evening concerts.  The Inn is nothing to write home about; pretty gardens and fifties polynesian kitsch. The architecture is totally "Gidget Goes Hawaiian", but the concerts at Humphrey's little waterfront theater are nothing short of amazing (see for yourself - go look at their website and be amazed). Year in and year out Humphrey's schedules concerts that you would never believe could be booked into such a tiny little outdoor venue.  I think the performers must view Humphrey's as a cool summer getaway themselves.

On your way to Humphrey's stop at Point Loma Seafoods. It closes early, has limited seating, and it only takes cash. You'll have to be able to read the lines and you will not be rewarded for being timid. Just wade in, make your way up front, order, and enjoy the freshest fish in San Diego. It will be fried and it will also be the best bargain for fresh seafood you will find in San Diego.

The architect in me has to be emphatic here: Go To Balboa Park! This is Old California at its best. Old California is better than New California. The buildings are left over from a worlds fair lifetimes ago. Take a picnic. Smell the eucalyptus groves. Go to one of its obscure little museums (I like the old car museum). The World Famous (WF) San Diego Zoo is located here. While I like zoo's I can't take the Panda thing. This zoo is over-the-top.  

A side note, as you get closer to LA you will be confronted with more and more WF (World Famous). Seemingly everything in LA is WF. But I digress.

On the way to Balboa Park stop for breakfast at Hob Nob Hill. No restaurant in San Diego serves more movers and shakers in an average day. Get a bowl of their amazing Cream of Wheat. Feel your arteries slap shut. Must be a brick of butter in each bowl.

Go to Scripps Aquarium, it is small and the researchers are right there. Getting there allows you to experience San Diego's Torrey Pines and the University area. So pretty.

Last thing, if you must, go ahead and make the trip to Coronado. Have a drink at "The Del". This is where many old Republicans choose to go to die.

So, if the above are my Do's, here's my Don'ts.

Avoid Mission Beach. Its scuzzy.  Exception: The Tower 23 Hotel.

Avoid Mission Bay. It is simply a dredging operation gone bad.

At all costs try to avoid the hype of La Jolla (La Hoy-a). Romney's house is here and it sort of just breeds yuppie scum.

Avoid the hotel ghetto called "Hotel Circle".

Despite what it may think of itself San Diego is clearly not America's Finest City, but it is arguably one of California's Southernmost treasures, go enjoy it.

Roadboys Travels © 2008

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Flight Steward was Crying

The Thin Blue Line of Customer Service

Update 2014
It has been 6 Years since I published this particular blog post. And, in the intervening years nearly all of the major airlines have merged, merged and re-merged. We've said goodbye to Northwest, Continental, and America West and hello to higher fares and fees, fees, fees. Soon we will say goodbye to US Airways too. So in 2014 airline seats are all full and the space in planes is so tight outbursts of customer rage are common.

As for US Airways, after years of steady declines in service (the latest cut - no pillows in First Class) and skyrocketing increases to every conceivable fee, it is now profitable. Its employees are still underpaid, yet its CEO compensation just keeps climbing.

Also, with the lessons it learned from its two prior failed attempts to merge (Delta and later United), US Airways successfully pitted unions and shareholders against American's Board of Directors and won a merger with the last legacy carrier out there (American).

The SEC initially objected to the merger (talk about closing the barn door after the horse left), but then allowed it which resulted in US Airways conceding gates at DC's National airport and a short term commitment to retain PHX as a hub. But, as the taxpayers of Pittsburgh well know, US Airways commitments to retaining a hub is pretty worthless.  Since the airline's CEO has relocated to Texas, and since the airline recently announced it will no longer pay for naming rights on Phoenix's downtown Basketball Arena, it is pretty safe bet that as soon as the SEC requirement expires Phoenix flyers will be the ones who lose out on this deal. 

BTW It is a foregone conclusion that the "New American" will soon join United and Delta and change its frequent flier system to simply reflect money spent on airfare, rather than miles flown. Hence, Roadboy suggests you consider switching your frequent flier loyalty to the mileage based British Air Avios system. 

Herewith the original bog post.... 

The other day I was flying to Chicago and was impressed by the service by the flight steward. Because I live so much of my life in planes they upgrade me on most of my flights.  Yeah I'm the "million miler" guy you disdain in row 1.

The view from Row 1 can be telling.  We routinely hear discussions about flight delays before the pilot makes a PA and we see exactly what is going on as the flight attendants chat.

In this morning's Sunday AZ Republic I read an article with the CEO of the airline I fly the most (US Airways) telling me, his customer, to "get used to more and more declines in service and as many new charges as his bean counters can dream up".  

This guy is very well paid. 

It made me think about the airline's front line people. The ones I see every day. The people that can't hide behind desks in gleaming towers gazing out over a fake lake.

It made me think about my flight steward to Chicago. 

He was pretty amazing. He delivered snacks to us with a little smoking cup filled with dry ice. He checked on us a lot.  He demonstrated the kind of care and affection for his passengers that let us know his concern was real.  At the end of the flight he personally wrote us a note thanking us for flying that day with US Airways.  He was no kid.  He was a pro.

What was unsettling was my view from Row 1.  From my vantage in the middle of the flight, during that time when things are finally quiet enough that the cabin crew can actually sit down, I happened to notice he was crying.  It was his moment, I tried to look away, but from Row 1 I could not help but invade his privacy.  

You know we make so many demands on these people that we tend to forget they are humans too. What is worse, now that the airlines are making drastic cutbacks, these folks have to listen to us grouse every day about the airline's MBA bred indifference to its customer's needs and feelings. 

You see it was just after that flight I read about US Airway's announcement to join American in imposing all sorts of new charges, cutbacks in service, and a big lay-off.

I kept thinking about my steward. A guy with a mortgage. The one who said hello and thanked us personally. I wondered if he was contemplating his own lay off. Wondering about how he would pay his bills.

This guy is one of the real heros for his airline. An airline whose rich CEO reminded us again this morning in the business page that the airline business is dog eat dog and we should "stop sniveling and suck it up".

Roadboy's Travels © 2008
Updated 2014

Observations From a Confirmed Road Warrior

Yep.  I travel a lot.

I am on the road for work or pleasure almost every week. Over the years I've come to realize that the old saying "many people come looking, looking, few see" has a lot of truth to it. As a country we are becoming a big strip mall. Restaurants in every town look the same, hotel chains look the same. Heck, I've even found myself getting up at night to look out the hotel window just to remind myself where I was.

So this little blog is dedicated to trying to discern and describe what is special about the places I go. It might be the fact that you can buy popcorn every night from a guy in a little shack in Geneva Illinois. Food is important to me. Especially food that is regional and real. It might be a discussion about the increasingly sad state of travel. At this point I don't really know what it will be.

My posts will have an attitude, deal with it. I am an architect and architect's tend to have a surplus of attitude. Put a room full of us together and no one comes out alive. We look at the built world pretty harshly. A building's materials, mass, color, and sustainability, we judge everything. My own buildings are almost all public. I design City Halls, 911 Centers, Courts, Police Stations, and Forensic Labs. Kind of a strange little niche, but it is what I do.  

My posts will also probably reflect the fact that I have moved around the country a lot. I've lived in every climate: moderate, mountain, desert, arctic, and tropical.    

Hopefully, these little postings will be of interest to someone out there.

Thank you for joining me on life's journey!

Roadboys Travels © 2008