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April, 2009:

My Map Of States I have “Visited”

I’ve been traveling (standby) a lot the last month.  In fact the last three weekends.

Weekend 1: MEM-LAX-LAS-DTW-MEM
Weekend 2: MEM-TPA-MEM
Weekend 3: MEM-DTW-ERI-DTW-MEM

It all depends on the time of year.  Getting in and out of Florida during the couple ‘Spring Break’ months each year is tough.  Winter is tough to Florida.  Summer is easier but then the number of flights is cut back because not many people travel to Florida in the summer.

Weather has a lot to do with it as some bad weather in a completely different area of the country than where I want to go can just clog the entire system.

It’s best to travel on the flights that leave earliest in the day.  The customers who miss those flights get put on the next flight.  Those who end up missing THAT one to an even later flight.  By the end of the day – if there are weather delays about the country – things get tough.  So I try to get up really early and take the first flight of the day if I can.

I do travel alone most of the time which makes it a lot easier.

Anyway, I broke out my US map the other day.  The one that I have that I color in red – the states I’ve been to in my life.  I don’t know how long I’ll have the benefit of standby travel but I think I’ll try to fill in some more of these states just for something to do. :)

I have a rule though.  In order for it to ‘count’ you have to actually EXIT the airport property.  The point is that just connecting to LA in Minneapolis doesn’t count as a visit to Minnesota. 

I’ve flown through Dallas a bunch of times but I’ve never set foot on Dallas soil outside of the airport terminal.  Though I’m just talking ‘states’ and I’ve been to Texas a number of times.

I mean I’ve flown THROUGH Detroit a bunch of times – even spent a night sleeping in the terminal, but I’ve never technically BEEN to Michigan.

On my way to Bali in 1991 for a skydiving meet I got off the plane in Hawaii while they boarded some surfers and refueled.  But we were technically an international flight at that point and could not leave the gate area.  So I’ve never really ‘been’ to Hawaii.

Hawaii should be fun though.  But unlike the rest of the country, Hawaii would probably requires a day or two of vacation.  Who wants to go to Hawaii and then just turn around and come back home? :(

I’m retired from the Marines and the military has a resort somewhere in Hawaii… right on the beach.  The rooms are pretty cheap so maybe I’ll take a couple days off and go there sometime.

I also am aquainted with quite a few people online that I’ve never met.  Nothing like meeting up with one of them for lunch on a Saturday afternoon huh? :)

Just looking at the map a few things jump out…

I’d like to knock off Iowa by visiting the “Field Of Dreams”.
I’d like to knock off Wyoming by visiting Yellowstone.
I’d like to knock off Oregon by visiting – getting as close to as I can – Mt. Rainer
I’d like to knock off Washington but taking a pic in front of Microsoft and/or seeing Mt. St Helens.
I’d like to go to Oklahoma and get a really good steak.
I’d like to go to Arizona and see Meteor Crater and the Grand Canyon

Of course I’d go anywhere to watch a minor league baseball game with someone who wanted to go.  Or even by myself.

Oh well.  Maybe some of you have some other ideas.

Here’s my current map.

The $2,468.84 Hamburger

With my job I occassionly will do something on the spur of the moment that is a lot of fun.  Usually it’s going somewhere crazy on short notice just because I always wanted to and at the moment it seems to be a good idea.

You may recall my day trip from Memphis to Mount Rushmore last year.

I don’t remember when I first heard of IN-N-OUT BURGER.  Probably on TCF or TRL where my friends from California talk about it a lot.  I had always wanted to fly out to have one… just because I could. :)

I’m pretty busy on weekends visiting my folks in Florida, up in Philly visiting friends or down at the lake in Alabama playing around.  This past weekend though was a free one.  It seemed like a good time to go get the elusive In-N-Out Burger.

Originally I was going to just fly to LAX.  There is an In-N-Out Burger just a mile or so from the airport.  I figured to jump a cab, shoot over, eat and get back for a return flight to Memphis.

The problem with that is that most of the flights from the West going East leave in the morning or at least by a little after noon.  That’s because with the time change if you leave later you don’t get back East until nighttime.  I don’t have any close friends who live in LA and I wasn’t about to get a hotel room at LAX and rent a car.  The flight back to Memphis left at 12:20PM.  The flight to LA from Memphis arrived at 10:49AM.  That would give me an hour and a half to get off the plane, get out of the terminal, get a cab, get to In-N-Out Burger, Order, Eat, Get a cab back, Get through security and get to the  gate to leave.  Not gonna happen.  In Memphis, yeah… You could fly in, get to Corky’s or Gus’ Fried Chicken, eat, get back, security and plane in an hour and a half… no problem.  Not in LA though.

I looked a little further and thought ‘Hey, there’s an In-N-Out Burger in Vegas.  I’ve never BEEN to Vegas.’  The flight to Vegas from Memphis was pretty full so I wasn’t sure I could get on.  But the flight from Memphis to LA was fine and the flight from LA to Vegas was fine.  ‘Hmmm.  Arrive in Las Vegas around 12:30PM.  Red-eye back home leaves at 10:15. Saturday night so there would probably be room.’

Off I went.  I had not been to California since 1991 on my way home from Bali.  I forgot how pretty it is out West.  Snow on top of the mountains… desert… 

 The flight was enjoyable and I even got a breakfast. :)

We arrived in LA on time.  I walked a short distance to the gate for the Vegas flight and got on shortly after.  The flight to Vegas was very short… only 236 miles.

When we arrived I found an information counter.  The nice woman told me that since I had plenty of time I could grab an airport shuttle to New York, New York and walk three blocks to In-N-Out Burger from there.  I put my small bag in a locker (I brought some clothes in case I got stuck overnight somewhere) and hopped on the shuttle.

It was obvious most people arriving in LAS had been there before.  They chatted it up about what they were going to do, who they were going to see, where they were going to eat.  I just sat there with my mouth shut. :)  I had no idea what I was doing.

Shortly we stopped first at MGM – across from NYNY.  I decided to get out here and walk.  All these people and their bags and bags of luggage were slowing me down!

My first lesson was trying to learn how to cross the street. You can get killed walking around here!

They had these cool overhead walkways that were cleverly designed to ease you into the various casinos.  Smooth.

I got my map out and figured out where In-N-Out was.  Three blocks to the West.  Ok.  Only problem was there was an Interstate between me and it.

It was like a mirage.  I could SEE In-N-Out but I couldn’t get there.  So close… yet so far.

:(

Every which way I walked I could NOT figure how to get across the Interstate… without actually trying to run across 12 lanes of traffic. 

 It took awhile but eventually I figured a way over the interstate.  But I was now on the opposite side of the busy street from In-N-Out.  Sheesh. 

Finally!  There it is!  Right in front of me!!

The place was mobbed.  Apparently half the tourists in Vegas had the same idea.  Only they were smart enough to get a cab.

I tried to act like I knew what I was doing.  I just stood and observed for a few minutes.  Then I went up, ordered a Double-Double with grilled onions, fries – Animal Style (which means they put grilled onions, some sort of secret sauce and some other stuff on them) & a chocolate shake. Not bad.  I took my number (20) and waited.  The next number they called was SIX!

It took 15 minutes or so to get my order.  But it was worth it.  There was no where to sit but I found a table outside and enjoyed my lunch.  Here is a ‘Before’ picture.

Here is an ‘After’ picture. :)

Yum.

With my primary objective complete I headed back to The Strip. 

I wanted to ride the roller coaster at NYNY but they wanted $14 a ride!  I guess it wasn’t that important.

To be honest I really didn’t do much except people watch… and there were PLENTY of people to watch.  I didn’t spend one dime gambling.  I didn’t buy a drink.  I didn’t buy anything to eat but In-N-Out.  I just walked around all afternoon.

I was a Vegas virgin that knew nothing.  It would have been a lot of fun with a friend or five…  I kept wondering where the old casinos I saw in that James Bond movie “Diamonds Are Forever” where.  The Golden Nugget.  I learned after I got home that they are all in ‘town’ and that was 5 miles North of where I was.  Bummer.  Now I have to go back.

I looked up the strip and saw the Stratosphere.  I REALLY wanted to go up in it and ride the coaster and that thingie that shoots out over the edge.  But though it looked close I figured it was WAY too far to walk.  Another reason I have to go back.

I kept looking for the CSI chicks but I never did see them.  Bummer.

I went to Hooters Casino.  Basically it sucked.  It was like going to Hooters down the street here in Memphis.  The signs all over that said ‘$3 blackjack 24/7′ were all lies.  The lowest minimum I saw on a blackjack table in any casino was $15.

Like I said, I was getting bored so I grabbed a cab outside Hooters and went back to the airport.  Apparently a LOT of people come and go to Vegas… but Saturday night must be one of the slowest nights.  The place was empty.  I went through security in about 30 seconds.  Then I found a bar to watch the Villanova game.

Around 9:30 I went to the gate and got ready to board.  It was a long, uncomfortable flight.  Although the Exit row of a 757 is huge.  Stretching out as far as I could I couldn’t touch the wall in front of me with my feet.  The guy next to me was hogging the armrest though so I tried to sleep with my arms crossed.  I wish I was in First Class… maybe I could have gotten some rest. :(

We got to Detroit about 4:30AM.  The flight to Memphis left around 6:25 getting me back to Memphis around 7:30AM.

Hmmm.  In less than 24 hours I traveled 4,228 miles, walked (it felt like) 6 miles around Vegas and got me my In-N-Out burger. 😀

w00t!

I got home, climbed into bed and woke up about 3PM.  I’m STILL tired.  I don’t think you’re supposed to stay awake that long when you’re pushing 50.  Especially with hard (gas perm) contact lenses in your eyes for 26 hours straight. :(

Alrighty Then.  Another thing to check off my list. 😀