To Tom S.'s 10MM party, slowly, by degrees

Discussion in 'Trip Reports' started by violist, Sep 3, 2011.  |  Print Topic

  1. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    I'd originally planned to spend my last night in New England
    at Logan and so had booked an early flight out, but my age
    was nagging at me so I treated myself to the Embassy Suites,
    which was available last minute at a very attractive rate.
    I showed up an hour early, and my room, the Revere, wasn't
    made up yet, so the desk clerk put me in the Orient Heights,
    slightly smaller, close to the elevator, but with a better
    view. It consists of a conference room, wet bar, living
    area with sofabed, king bedroom, and largish bath that as it
    turns out serves as effective noise buffer to the corridor
    and the elevator. Something outlandish like 900 square feet.
    I felt a bit dwarfed but made up by strewing my clothing all
    around the room.

    There was seating for 8 at the conference table, which had
    an unplugged Ethernet cable on it. Apparently whoever had
    prepped the room couldn't find the jack. Turns out it's at
    the corner of the room, behind the curtain.

    A living room larger than that of my house, when I had a

    My buddy Link agreed to come out to dinner on short notice.
    I'd thought of asking Nicholas the gor-may, but he was busy.

    Link is a fairly adventurous eater, though inclined towards
    vegetarianism, a creed I don't have enormous sympathy with.
    We do manage to find places that will suit us both, most of
    the time. This evening the honoree was the well-regarded
    Taqueria Cancun, a small storefront a block from the
    Maverick blue line stop.

    We arrived around half-past five, and there were already
    several tables filled, a good sign, and with patrons of the
    brownish persuasion, an even better sign. Maybe it was the
    fact that Coronas were three bucks (we had several of those)
    or maybe the food was actually good. It seemed a sure thing.

    I spared no sensibilities and ordered an enchilada de lengua
    - a crisp-fried tortilla topped with shredded lettuce, some
    tomato, sauce, a few tablespoons of chopped boiled beef
    tongue, and some Mexican cheese, which I picked off. Pretty
    good, and I even convinced Link to try a bite, which she
    found "interesting." And yuca con chicharron, yuca being
    among my favorite starches and chicharron being one of my
    favorite meat products. The bad news came out from the
    kitchen - no more yuca, could they substitute potatoes? I
    said no, just give me a plate with a lot of chicharron.
    Later on the bill I was given a $2 discount for having no
    starch. The bits had a little higher ratio of meat to fat
    than I'm accustomed to, so they were chewier rather than
    crispy; still quite good with a squeeze of lime.

    Link said her chile relleno was tasty and authentic, though
    it appeared too cheesy for me to try a sample. I did taste
    the green sauce, which was good if mild.

    The hotel is about a ten minute walk from downtown Maverick.

    We went up to my suite to see the sights (it's no good if I
    can't brag to someone); she oohed and aahed appropriately.

    The Manager's Reception at the hotel was still going on
    when we went back down to the lobby - at a normal Embassy
    Suites, this is a way for guests to relax and mix, aided by
    a glass or three of embarrassing plonk or Budweiser product,
    but thanks to Massachusetts being what it is, free booze is
    not an option. You'd think that cheap booze was, but it's
    not, as it turns out.

    There was a fair spread of quite bad food.

    The stuffed shrimp wrapped in bacon were all right but a
    bit resilient in a superballish way and very salty; and
    there were sort of potato samosa things, also salty. These
    were later replaced by what looked like eggroll but turned
    out to be some sort of pizza-flavored excrescence - a greasy
    wrapper encasing tiny bits of rancid pepperoni in cheezoid
    lava. Over yonder were chipsandip and crudites with ranch.

    We decided to be fair and buy a couple Sams at the bar; this
    was a little misguided, as it cost $17 (counting tax and
    tip) for two drinks. I thought that Trip Advisor had advised
    that the bar prices were fair. Wrong.

    As I had an early plane to catch, and I cannot afford too
    many beers at that rate, and I'm too old to pick up blondes,
    sleep seemed to be the proper course at this point.
  2. goalie
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    goalie Gold Member

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    Very nice Mssr. V.
    (tho maybe you should try picking up brunettes [or dare I say, a redhead] :))
  3. the_happiness_store
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    the_happiness_store Silver Member

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    Nice story
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  4. Freddie Listo
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    Freddie Listo Gold Member

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    Always a pleasure to read one of your trip reports, V. Thank you. :)
  5. Scottrick
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    Scottrick Gold Member

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    You're lucky to get one beer for $17 in Vegas. Otherwise it sounds like you had an okay time.
  6. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    US1289 BOS PHL 0530 0651 E90 3A

    What I should have done, had I known I'd be hotelling it,
    was to take the 0830 and get a nice sleep. Instead, the 0400
    wakeup call was most unwelcome, and though it was nice that
    the shuttle was right there, it was not nice that it was at
    0430. Of course, I was the only person aboard.

    Security was a little stacked up - there being flights out
    at 0500, 0530, and 0600, but I got to the gate close to the
    start of boarding. Ensconced myself in my seat and slept:
    I was completely conked out for the duration of this flight,
    total waste of a first-class seat. The flight came in on
    time if not a little early, so I had 4, count'em, hours to
    waste. I went to the RCC and discovered that Yuengling is
    served on request in 10-oz, 12-oz, or 16-oz glasses. I
    became familiar with these.

    US4118 PHL IPT 1115 1207 DH8 4F

    As frequently happens, this flight was half an hour late.
    My buds Billy and Annie had lunch plans for us, and Annie's
    brother Rob waited patiently for us at the Mulberry Street
    Cafe, which was previously unknown to me. It's a tavern that
    serves pretty good food - I got a half-pound burger rare for
    $3.50, and it was exemplary. They make it up on Yuengling,
    which is about the same price as the burger but costs them
    10% as much. The others got various sandwiches, including
    what is said to be one of the best (certainly it must have
    been one of the biggest) Philly cheesesteaks in town.


    Williamsport is blessed with a good fishmonger called
    Helmrich. He gets mostly New England and Chesapeake stuff,
    and it's about as fresh as you can get away from the shore.
    One day, Annie came back triumphantly with six doz clams and
    three large lobsters, so we had an enormous clam starter,
    after which we steamed the lobsters over the clam juice -
    just heavenly. Sadly, Annie threw out the liquid after
    the meal, and my next day plan of lobster risotto went out
    the window. The shellfish totally overpowered the Nieto
    Senetiner Torrontes 09, a disappointingly weak and
    unconcentrated wine, with attractive but faint melon and
    tropical fruit but too scanty both in acid and richness.
  7. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    When I'm in town, I get my quality time with Rob at the
    Saturday farmers' market, which brings together a bunch of
    Amish, some return-to-the-earth hippie types, and a few
    young entrepreneurial sorts. Some interesting produce,
    baked goods, lots of dairy things, farm-canned stuff; also
    costume jewelry, knitted goods, etc. Sometimes there are
    things to nosh on, but they serve mostly to advertise more
    take-home wares - and are not cheap. We buy various short-
    season veggies, sometimes meat, very big very fresh eggs,
    and bread; the sweet pastries tend not to be nearly so good
    as what Annie makes - or Panera for that matter. This time
    we ran into our friends Dan and Barb and had a cup with them
    (I don't generally drink coffee, so I had a cup of something
    else) and then rushed back for a festive breakfast of
    scrapple and eggs, which filled me up for the day - I really
    love scrapple, even though it's essentially fried cornmeal
    mush with minced pig head mixed in.

    It is a pattern at this place that I have a meal of the
    day, and then there's another meal of the day later, and
    sometimes yet another later. Annie, after all, is the one
    who once took me out for a big lunch with many beers and
    immediately thereafter trucked me to the 72-oz steak
    challenge, where I crashed and burned of course, eating
    only half the steak and hardly any of the potato, salad,
    and bread, which I wouldn't have been able to eat anyhow.
    I would have done better had I gotten a rare steak rather
    than the medium one that somehow came out. This was not at
    the Big Texan, but rather one of its knockoffs, the
    Firehouse (or was it Engine House) in Arizona.

    So I was informed that this was the day for me to go out
    to a pig roast run by Jeannette and Doug, friends of Annie
    and Billy and whom I didn't actually know. Jeannette is a
    famed redhead bombshell, Doug the local Beemer and Porsche
    dealer. They have a sizable spread, by local standards, out
    in Jersey Shore, and every year or two they host a big
    shindig, where the rich rub elbows with the merely amusing.
    Turns out Billy was feeling rocky, so Annie's brother Rob
    took me out there (he'd bought his car from Doug).

    A lovely property, wraparound porch, and, as Annie says,
    you can see forever down the crick, i.e., a great view down
    the valley. People bring tents and stay for days, eating off
    a roast beast, playing games, and getting massively
    intoxicated. Or so the rumor goes. We were there just for
    the daytrip.

    Turns out they didn't actually do the roasting this year -
    apparently last time there had been a contretemps with the
    roasting time, and they had had to chop up a giant pig and
    finish it in batches in the oven; the cooking had been done
    off premises and prepulled - it came in three varieties,
    cajun-seasoned, rhubarb, and plain unlabeled (actually
    finished with sweet peppers and quite good).

    A couple kegs of Yuengling kept me busy, along with
    substantial chunks out of a pan labeled "beef brisket
    20 lbs." Of the Yuengling I poured many for myself and
    many more for others; the brisket I stole the fatty bits
    from for myself and the heck with everyone else.

    As my tribute, instead of one of ten kinds of brownies
    or five kinds of multibean salad or anything like that,
    I brought a bottle of Lucid absinthe and gave a little
    lecture-demonstration on the topic, one that contrary to
    popular belief is not all that dear to my heart.

    We left while there was still some daylight to get down
    the hill by; the party of course was still in full swing.
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  8. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    :eek: Last beers I had in Vegas were free.
  9. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    July 4th started with bacon and croissants, the bacon thick-
    cut apple-smoked from Ted, the local butcher - excellent;
    the pastry came from a factory someplace, and I avoided
    them. Billy didn't get up on time, so no maple sausage, as I
    had been commissioned to make.

    A couple hours later, the expected cookout at the Weber.
    Burgers - very big 2/3 pounders, somewhat rare, except for
    mine, which was essentially uncooked. Nathan's hot dogs.
    French fries made with good clean fresh oil: they smell
    so darn good, but I am not enthusiastic about the taste:
    I guess potatoes are not my thing. Lots of beer.

    I worked this meal off by making picadillo-stuffed
    empanadas for the evening. I used Goya premade rounds for
    these, because they were there. Next time I think I'll use
    regular pie crust, maybe with a little annatto or something
    for color. Franny and Jim from across the way came over for
    drinks and snacks. Despite the pastry being a little hefty,
    the empanadas were a success - I'd made 4 dozen of the darn
    things, and 3 dozen got eaten.

    Otherwise an alcohol-fueled and most indolent day, with
    visitors in and out.


    Next day: I'd had various things left over, so I made
    scrapple chips (leftover scrapple) and empanada filling
    omelet for Billy and me - Annie is leery of leftovers,
    no matter how good they are.

    US4544 IPT PHL 1650 1744 DH8 4A

    As usual, this flight was a bit late. No connections were
    put in jeopardy, though, which made it an exception to the

    US1888 PHL BOS 1915 2052 319 3A

    I really do prefer a real airplane to the jungle jet, even
    the E90 with its relatively comfortable upholstery and 11
    first-class seats. On an Airbus, for a flight of this length
    I can get by with one Glenlivet; on the 90 I need two.

    This time the hotels were running over $200 (even the
    Rodeway was well over 100) so I was going to sleep in the
    airport again, but on a whim I checked and found a last-
    minute 143 for the Hilton and jumped on it. Of course, one
    gets no special room for that price, just the run of the
    mill, the upgrade being the club floor. Whatever - I was
    going to be there only 8 hours. The room was the smallest
    I'd been in in this hotel.
  10. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    UA 836 BOS ORD 0655 0828 763 8A Ch9^^

    It's a twisty walk through the garage from the hotel to
    Terminal C, and I allowed extra time: feeling relatively
    vigorous as I did, though, the trip took half as long as
    I had budgeted.

    They switched in a widebody, I don't know why - a boon for
    everyone but the very fat. I'd noticed our crew walking to
    the gate as I headed to the club - the four-striper was a
    slender blonde with a tail that wouldn't quit, the three
    a somewhat older male.

    A short respite for e-mail and some juice later, I moseyed
    to the gate, where the equipment swap was making greater
    than usual chaos. I used the premier lane with alacrity and
    found my way to my place and settled down for a snooze in
    the fairly excellent bed. The captain announced channel 9.

    Breakfast consisted of well-nigh uncuttable dry mystery-meat
    (chicken?) sausages seasoned with cinnamon and pepper, a
    chive omelet that was announced as a cheese omelet, and I
    was thankful that it wasn't, and potatoes that were half
    rubbery cubes and half brown detritus - the brown stuff
    actually tasted pretty good, though.

    On the side - a fine example of a Wonder-bread croissant
    (pretty nasty), a fruit appetizer of decent grapes, melon,
    and pineapple, and a stray tin of blueberry yogurt, which
    I managed to avoid.

    We landed a bit early and did the usual aimless taxi
    looking for a place to park. Fine, as I had planned to go
    downtown and don't enjoy the El at rush hour.

    At the station I discovered that my CTA card had expired
    just a week or two before, and there's no recourse. Poop on
    you, Chicago.

    Nonetheless, CTA it was, and I headed off to the Belly Shack
    (I think that's the name) right by the Western stop; this is
    a hippy-dippy countercultural place that has earned the Bib
    Gourmand award. I thought I knew what to expect - I was
    wrong. It's actually a ton more corporate than expected,
    kind of ok given that corporatism and professionalism and
    competency often go hand in hand in hand. The setting: very
    bare, thumbing its nose at restaurant convention, rather
    unattractive and reminding one of an ice-cream parlor. I
    ordered the special, Lola's Lechon, extra fatty, and was
    informed that the stuff came in prepackaged by Lola, and
    one got what came. Which was pretty ordinary pork loin
    that had been marinated in a salty-sweet substance, roasted
    to medium-well, though juicy for that, served in thin
    portion-controlled slices with a sauce of cilantro, red
    bell pepper, ginger, fried onion, garlic, fish sauce, lime,
    etc etc etc. Hippy-dippy food, flavor piled on flavor to no
    clear purpose. It came with its soupy flavorful sauce over
    yellow coconut rice, which was done a little dry, so that
    averaged out. The food was decent, though by no means good,
    and reasonable, though by no means inexpensive. Service was
    willing and friendly.

    I don't know why I picked the Hilton Rosemont, formerly the
    Sofitel, right opposite the convention center. But there I
    was. Got a decent room, nothing special. I don't recall an
    executive lounge, but maybe I just stalled out and crashed.
  11. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    UA 641 ORD SFO 0703 0938 752 4F Ch9^^ Empower^

    Again Channel 9 was announced and provided. And in-seat
    power, but this was the day that I didn't have the right
    adaptor with me. Breakfast was the more standard issue of
    skinless spongy brown and serve sausages, a cheese omelet,
    and the usual fruit, which I must admit they're continuing
    to do a decent job with.

    Staying with my friend Anne in San Fran. Thank goodness for
    friends. I can't keep up this hotel thing forever. As reward
    I took her to that old FT hangout in Millbrae, the Hong
    Kong Flower Lounge. This used to be a distant second choice
    to the funnily named, cheaper, and better Fook Yuen, which
    is now unfortunately gone. Things ingested that I recall:

    roast pork bao - good
    taro stuffed with pork - very good
    glutinous rice balls stuffed with pork - peculiar but good
    meatballs - very mediocre
    brisket soup - okay.

    There were a couple other dishes I think, vegetables
    perhaps, unmemorable.

    As I had a day pass, we decided to ride Caltrain to the
    stadium, where we discovered that tickets for the day's
    game were quite expensive indeed, so we strolled to Red's
    Java Hut to drown our sorrows in cheap beer and decide
    whether we wanted to pay scalper prices to watch a couple
    teams that neither of us really cared about. Verdict:
    numerous beers si, costly game no.

    She wanted to hit Burlingame for the Straits happy hour,
    so we did that, more cheap beer, but nothing I particularly
    wanted to eat. We found a tamale vendor in a local farmers'
    market who was just closing up, so hot pork tamales for very
    cheap were the order of the day.

    A bottle of Genesis (Columbia Valley) Merlot was pleasant
    though disappointingly mass-marketly sweet. I get tired of
    brightly made open fruity wines after maybe half a glass.
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  12. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    Next day I went downtown to see my classmate Donna; as it's
    a block from her office, I suggested Yank Sing; she didn't
    demur, though later it turned out she had agreed just for
    the sake of politeness.

    We had a fairly satisfactory meal that cost about twice
    what I expected, well-executed but in no way special
    versions of fried shrimp, pot stickers, steamed roast pork
    bao, dry-sauteed green beans with dried shrimp, xiao long
    bao, and Peking spareribs. A couple of beers. $84. Nah,
    not worth it, and probably never again.


    Dinner at Golden Era vegetarian restaurant up in the
    Tenderloin with l'etoile (+1), Magic111, tom911, KathyWdrf.
    VPescado was supposed to show up but was preparing for his
    housewarming next day (which I had to send regrets for).

    I arrived quite a bit early and found tom911, our public
    transportations having worked out advantageously. We stood
    outside and chatted for a while but then decided to go in
    as it was becoming a bit breezy and lest we begin to blend
    in too well with the local creatures of the evening.

    The restaurant has an alcove with a round table that seats
    up to comfortably, so we took that. We ordered some
    appetizers - spring rolls and fresh rolls, both pretty
    decent and not suffering too much from the lack of pork
    (in the first case) and shrimp.

    The rest of the guests came in right around on time, and
    we proceeded to have a good old time.

    I seem to recall a cucumber and greens salad with corn or
    something with maybe a peanut sauce (or perhaps that sauce
    was saved from the fresh rolls); there may have been another
    green dish as well, I forget.

    A sweet-sour tomato soup was very nice, though the noodles
    in the bowl were a bit non-al-dente, if you will. There
    was another noodle soupy dish on the table - it was fine
    but unmemorable by comparison. I think it might have been
    curried noodles with fake chicken.

    For mains, I was happy with the eggplant with mushrooms;
    there were various other things on the table that didn't
    catch my attention or fancy.

    An eggless creamless flan was a little on the rubbery
    side but tasty enough; the chocolate cake opposite was
    said to be very decadent and delicious.

    I had to find my way to the Doubletree SFO, where I've had
    successful mattress run stays before, so bade everyone adieu
    at a relatively early and sober hour (no booze at the
    restaurant, and iced tea had to suffice) to catch the KX
    back down to the airport and the hotel shuttle from there.

    The Doubletree has been renovated, which is fine, but it was
    fine before. The lobby is a little spiffed up, the rooms
    almost identical (and it could be individual variation that
    I recall anyhow). Oh, what's with the redesign of the
    company logo? The new one is so much worse.
  13. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    I'd tried to get on the historic flight out of LAX on which
    Tom Stuker was going to notch his 10000000th flown mile
    (approximately over Des Moines - there's a photo out there
    someplace that shows the gent posed by a sign that says
    something like "you put Des Moines on the map"), but even
    with contacting party central at United headquarters, it
    became clear that not only was first class chockablock, I'd
    have a hard time getting on the flight at all. They were
    perfectly happy with me taking a detour to LAX to for that
    part of the festivities, but afterward I might not get out
    on the right plane or even the right day. So I stuck with
    what I originally had.

    UA 972 SFO ORD 1006 1619 763 9K Ch9^

    Contrary to what the seating resources say, this bed-seat
    is perfectly okay. Of course, on a longer flight, the
    "proximity to the galley may be bothersome," but it seemed
    private enough even when people were bustling about behind.

    A genial if tired-looking crew. Hot towels; hot nuts.

    The lunch choice was "Southwest soup" and "Southwest chicken
    salad," the former a rather salty though palatable tortilla
    soup that I'd consider paying cash for on the ground, the
    latter your usual leftover greens, dryish though brined
    chicken breast with grill marks painted on, minced tomatoes,
    some corn and beans, and cheese on top; I believe the
    dressing offered was ranch. Wente Chardonnay isn't what it
    used to be.

    We came in a bunch early and taxied to a gate right near the
    C18 club, where the party was to be held. Had our preparty
    outside until they opened the velvet ropes for the select
    few, an assortment of Tom's friends and relations, media
    personnel, a hodgepodge of Flyertalkers, Randy and Tommy
    and other dignitaries, and so on. Quite a nice bar spread,
    Veuve Cliquot, Stag's Leap Karia Chardonnay, and Mount
    Veeder Cabernet being the stars (I drank myself silly
    on the Chard).

    We'd been early, and the party plane was late! by an
    embarrassing hour. But finally the honoree showed up
    with his family and the top brass of United in tow.
    Cheers and applause.

    Fancy catering: in addition to the usual cheese, crudites,
    chips and dip stuff, there were very jumbo shrimp cocktail
    and perfectly rare filet. Quite well executed.

    Speeches. Mr. Smisek was there, as were the director and
    various senior staff of Mileage Plus, assorted United
    employees, and apparently the staff of the United office
    in Detroit, where Tom generally shops. Tom gave one of
    the speeches - one of the best and certainly the sincerest
    of the lot.

    He was given various tchotchkes, including his personalized
    bottling of the Mount Veeder and a one of a kind titanium
    Mileage Plus card, which was put on display for the
    inspection and envy of all.

    The greatest treat for me was watching a 747 with Tom's
    name on it pull up to C18 (apparently the first 777 was
    also named for him). We were gabbing away, and all of
    a sudden we were instructed to direct our attention to the
    adjacent window, where soon the queen of the skies made
    her appearance amid oohs and ahs and finally loud applause.

    There was an afterparty at the Hyatt, which I understand
    was most excellent; I was too dead on my feet - very little
    sleep the previous few days and very much Chardonnay - to
    stay for it. All things considered, my choice of nonstop
    return to the hotel seemed wise.

    UA3726 ORD PHL 1045 1341 CR7 2F

    I was completely conked out for the duration of this flight,
    total waste of a first-class seat. The flight came in on
    time if not a little early, so I had 2 hours to waste. I
    went to the RCC and paid a visit to Mr. Yuengling.

    US4405 PHL IPT 1530 1629 DH8 2A

    This flight is one of the worst for delays and cancellations.
    It cancels 18% of the time and has a 58% on-time average,
    giving it a FlightStats rating of 0.0. Fooled us all, it
    came in on time. (I do pick 'em - another of my regulars,
    US1888, has an on-time percentage of 50 - also
    FlightStats rating 0.0, and that's only because they block
    it at an hour 37 for a 280 mile flight).

    - fin -
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  14. tommy777
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    tommy777 Co-founder

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    Love your reports! Thanks for sharing!

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