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Old 10-10-2016, 08:53 AM   #1
glitch
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Default Checking on Uncle Sam....travel notes, beer and aspen-gold

Edit:
Since the topic has been split into various threads, here are the links to all the parts, in their chronological order.

Checking on Uncle Sam....travel notes, beer and aspen-gold


Peaks + Perks....New England (US) picture book


A Touch Of Quebec (Canada)


Lobster-Tales (Maine, US)


A World Of Its Own...Colorado + The Rockies



Enjoy!
__________________________________________________ _______








A not-too-serious thread full of entirely biased thoughts and impressions along a 3-week ramble through New England, a little of Quebec and some of the Rockies. All set against the final weeks of 2016 US-electioneering, a hunt for fabled autumn colours, lobster rolls, fabulous scenery and local foamies.
Some of it might also be helpful to others hedging similar plans.
Alongside, there’ll be various photo- threads in “irregular order of progression” of the highlights and key targets....just to try something different.

Air-Traffic-Control, San Fran




Airy-Farey

Following some previous experiences, it was Air NZ again for “The Big Hop” across the Pacific to San Fran. The price was good, we knew the Kiwi Flyers from previous trips...but didn’t check the booking details to their full fineprint. 23kg luggage allowance sounds good when you’re travelling with bike-gear...helmets, jackets, boots, tools, emergency kit, tyre-repair kits etc etc are hefty items!
The standard 20kg international allowance makes things difficult.

The fine print on the online-ticket listed one leg (SanFran-Auckland, the 11.5hr. jobbie) as operated by “UA” (United Airlines) under their Star-Alliance code-sharing arrangements. The resident “Yank-ster” son-in-law picked it up amongst some uhh-ohhs....and right he was.
UNITED honoured its shitty reputation at full measure with one of the crappiest check-in computer systems on the globe...no online check-in available and random seat assignments via their computer-only check-in resulting in a dozen or more angry families at the service counter after their brood were assigned random seats all over the 300+seats cabin....while the single staff successfully melted into the background wall panelling, never to be seen again for an hour or so.

Aggro galore, mums+dads foaming at the mouth, kids howling with tears...the cabin-staff ultimately sorted out the roughest bits.... but man, keep yer hands off United, they well and truly deserve their rock-bottom reputation. One positive surprise was the use of a newish-777....rather than the expected duct-taped, fence-wired and rivet-popping DC-3.
All other legs Melbourne-San Fran+return legs were with Air NZ operated flights and at the usual standards, great staff, laughs and giggles etc.

United could certainly do with some of this:





As for US -domestic flights...
Doing our own online bookings, most airlines look alike (except United, of course)...so we’d finished up booking the SanFran-Denver-Boston (and return) legs with one of the local operators, Southwest Airlines, not having a clue about their operating procedures or available network...they’d get us to Boston and back, that’s all that mattered.

The essence: SouthWest is the “Ueber” of the local US Airlines, the network is HUGE, the staff happy-funny and chirpy, the fares low, great accessibility at airports/ check-ins etc etc....but it’s strictly NO FRILLS!
...Super generous 2x 23kg!!!! baggage-allowance per head on any flight,
...external check-in counters at most airports (check-in at taxi drop-off zones, out on the footpaths)
....no first/ business class,

Check-in right next to the drop-off/ cab zones



...no movies, no screens, no headphones, no food, no WiFi onboard
...soft-drinks/water free, drinks/ alcoholics @ $5 each, free pretzels/ nuts.
...AND!!!...they’re ON TIME!!
Let’s round it up to a “Recommended” status....particularly for those who’re lugging bike-gear around (considering that 2pieces of luggage/ 46kg total per head issue).




No assigned seats either... you log into your booking online and grab a “boarding pass”.... the sharper on-time you are, the “higher” your rating.
Log in ...exactly!...24hrs before the flight and you might get an “A”-pass....meaning you’re within the first 15 or 30 to enter the plane and pick any seat you want....the “B”-group follows next etc. Not a bad way of doing things considering the speed and quiet civility it all happens with...we liked it big-time. After all...it’s only about 1-to 5hr. flights at most...no big deal then.
SouthWest...thumbs up.

Swooping across the Rockies




Full-sized carpark required:



...and any more chrome and bling...and it needs 12-ply truck-tyres and a trailer.



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Old 10-10-2016, 10:53 AM   #2
glitch
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Default Re: Checking on Uncle Sam....travel notes, beer and lobster rolls

Travel-tip (for the Over-50s...or thereabouts, nobody ever checks)
AARP membership
What is AARP?

The US$16 annual membership (print your own membership-card after signing up) pays for itself at the first night's hotel/ motel check in.
10-20% discounts at time of booking by most hotel chains, particularly all/ any of the Wyndham group of places....of which there are aplenty.

Also discounted entrance fees at many places/ restaurants etc etc.


National Parks/ State Parks/ Marine Parks etc etc

Each state seems to make its own rules here, but in general $$$ add up VERY quickly. A small, brown sign pointing towards a feature/lake/lookout and there's a USD$4/ head entrance fee...looking for a picnic table in a scenic location is another USD3.50/ head....add any of the "Big Ones", and there's another USD20 or so per car for a day pass.
That makes a healthy USD35 or so (~AUD50/ DAY!!) for a day-cruise incl. a nice picnic spot and a peek at some gorge/wave-rock/waterfall or such.

Given some valid ID, a so-called Annual Inter-Agency-Pass can be bought for USD80 which is valid for 8 different authorities (covering nearly 90% of all attractions/ parks etc) and vehicles with up to 4 people....right across the US/ all states.
https://www.nps.gov/elro/planyourvis...nnual-pass.htm

Passes can be bought at nearly all Visitor Info Ctrs/ entrance booths of National+State parks etc etc
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Old 10-10-2016, 12:58 PM   #3
Paul n Dixie
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Default Re: Checking on Uncle Sam....travel notes, beer and aspen-gold

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Old 10-10-2016, 03:16 PM   #4
ozav8r
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Default Re: Checking on Uncle Sam....travel notes, beer and aspen-gold

Very enjoyable banter Pete - keep 'em coming! And you're right about United - we hear it all the time on our 777's going across. People saying "never again United". Makes our job easy too, except it's hard to soar like an eagle, when you're in formation with flock of turkeys;-)
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Old 10-10-2016, 03:23 PM   #5
glitch
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Default Re: Checking on Uncle Sam....travel notes, beer and aspen-gold

Early morning, Denver Airport.
Airport roof mirrored in the glass-facade of the nearby Westin Hotel.
Where else would the terminal-shuttle-train be accompanied by cracking whips, whinnying horses and banjo-riffs?
LOVE the place!





Another 4hrs 40mins to the EastCoast






Getting outta Dodge (Boston, actually)...aka... Massachusetts Turnpike Tango!

Hailed as one of the worst/ busiest roads in the US, the “Mass Pike” lived up to its reputation...particularly on a late Friday afternoon, arghhh.

There’s little info available via Google as to the state of the conversion from “cash-tolls” to “electronics -tolls” that’s been happening for the last 18 months for that 150mi stretch to the New York State border.

But the USD270 Massachusetts-toll-road add-on by the rental-car mob seemed worth a possible USD250 fine+ toll.... if caught out.
As expected, they were trying to flog hot-air, bastards.

Priceless: a true Italian style traffic-chaos with 3”inch gaps at 70mph, horns going on all sides, wound-down windows with shaking fists and flippin’-the-bird to everyone in general and Grand-Prix style outbraking + fishtailing manoeuvres at the toll-booths were worth every damn penny from the “heart-attack-corner”.
While all tolls could be paid for in cash... if you had a keen eye spotting the right booth and the balls or sheer stupidity of using all of your insurance cover for a total-loss-claim on the little Toyota Prius.
Oh, what a feeling, fark yeah!!

100miles west of Boston the pre-booked flea-shack looked ok in the dark, the Outback SteakHouse opposite sprouted some ridiculous versions of true-blue-tucker and 2 knackered, little Aussies shook hands on the success of the mission!!

Made it outta Dodge, hell yeah!
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