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This is probably one of my craziest introductions. Lately when I told people what I was doing for memorial day they looked at me wierdly.. and asked one thing… Why? My reply…. “Because I can”.
This all stems back a number of years, when I first started reading about points and I saw a trip report from either Lucky or Gary (I don’t remember which) on Cathay Pacific First Class. I saw it and I was hooked. I had to fly it one day. Well that eventually was going to come to fruition. My friend Charles flew it last year when he came to visit this side of the country and he told he how easy it was to fly JFK to YVR on Cathay First Class using American points. Using Qantas points was just stupid as it would of cost me way to many. How do I get enough American points to do this… well 1 credit card churn is all it took. Once I got my credit rating the first thing I did was apply for an American Airlines Citibank card. 50,000 points later (after like $2000 in spend in 4 months.. pfft whatever) and I was set. Finding the availability was a whole other story.
Eventually after plenty of planning i managed to get the flight booked in and the total outlay was $2 in taxes. I scoffed at this on the phone. Then the agent remembered the phone reservation fee. Dammit. $25 added on. Still a $3500 airfare one way from New York to Vancouver for $27… Hell YES!
So one flight set. Now how the hell do I get to New York. I managed to find a cheap one way flight on Jetblue and then booked that. Crap… now I have to get from Vancouver back home to Seattle. Can’t drive, that won’t work. So I ended up checking Amtrak vs Bolt Bus. Bolt wins. Mal’s taking the Bus! From an Economy Seat to a First Class Suite to a Bus… talk about differences. Here is what a crazy ass itinerary looks like on a map:
So with that all booked in. I was flying out on the Jetblue red eye on Thursday night (which is tonight actually!) and then I was not flying to Vancouver till Saturday night at 10pm so I would actually have some time to see New York. I managed to get a really good rate on a room in New York at the Eventi, which is a Kimpton Hotel. I did status match over (and I talked about that in the past). This was planned to be my first stay at a Kimpton but my Portland trip fixed that. So that was the east coast covered. What about the West. 2 nights were required in Vancouver as I got in on Sunday morning at 1am. So I tried my trusty old friend the Fairmont Vancouver Airport. They came to the party with their usual cheap rates and I was set.
Fast forward till to about a week or so ago and I find out that I will be in New York for the opening of the new Delta T4. So a few emails back and forth and hey presto. Mal has press invite. It did mean I was going to have make quick turns on arrival in New York but hey it would be worth it. My plans got all changed up and it meant I wouldn’t be able to go spotting anymore in New York but I would keep it for Vancouver. Also found out that a friend would be in New York on the Friday so that solidified my evening plans hanging out with her.
So in the end it looked like this:
Thursday 23rd May – Jetblue B682 Seattle to New York 2130/0545+1
Friday 24th May – Delta T4 Opening, New York fun and Frivolities – Eventi Hotel New York
Saturday 25th May – New York during the day, Cathay Pacific CX889 2200/0130
Sunday 26th May – Fairmont YVR Airport, Spotting, Avgeek Fun
Monday 27th May – Bolt Bus – Vancouver to Seattle
It would mean I have a whole heap of firsts for me:
1. First Transcon Red Eye
2. First flight on Jet Blue
3. First flight on Cathay Pacific
4. First flight Trans Con in First Class
5. First Media Event NOT in Seattle (trips don’t count)
So Stay tuned, This one is going to be indulgent!
I lead into this over the last few days and you may have noticed a nice little new logo on the right hand side. Well that is part of this post as well. The next few weeks are going to be pretty crazy and full on but all I can say is “Bring it On”.
The next few weeks are full of Travel. I think I am spending almost as much time away from home than I am at home. I have 3 trips planned over the next few weeks and when you roll it all together it looks like the map above. What am I doing? Well 2 of the trips are for “pleasure” the other is for “Work”. Not my real job though (if the US Government reads this, I am not being paid ). The first trip is my Cathay Pacific First Class Adventure. Way back when I first got my credit rating here in the USA, the first thing I did was a churn for an Citibank AAdvantage card. The reason? Well so I could spend the time sitting in Cathay Pacific First Class from New York to Vancouver. The total cost of that flight… $27. Yes that’s right $27. There will be a full lead into the Trip Report and definately stories on AirlineReporter but it shall be a load of fun. Staying at one of my favourite hotels in Vancouver as well, and spending time with friends on either end I hope. Either way shall be a great long weekend. It will mean a couple of firsts for me. 2 new airlines (Jetblue & Cathay Pacific) and 2 Border crossings in less than 48 hours. I will be coming back to Seattle on Bolt Bus so it will be good to see the differences to the service now that they have been operating for a solid year.
The second trip is my “Work” trip. On the 1st of June All Nippon Airways resumes their 787 services to the USA. Their first route is from San Jose, just outside of San Francisco. It is a pretty big tech destination being that the headquarters for companies like Google & Apple are located right next door in Silicon Valley (Palo Alto to be exact). So what has that got to do with me? Well ANA has selected a couple of Avgeek’s to join them on this “Innagural” service and one of them is ME! I get to fly the 787 again! I don’t know if I can tick it off my list as a real “Innagural” service but either way I am excited. Japan is not our intended destination though. We are headed to Hong Kong, to show just how much fun an Avgeek can have out there. But the bit I am excited most about on the trip (other than the flights that is) is the fact we are staying at the Peninsula Hong Kong. To me the best hotel in Hong Kong!! I can’t wait to share more details about the trip via AirlineReporter but that will be hopefully in the next week or so.
The last trip is barely 2 days after getting back from Hong Kong I am heading to LAX for a day of plane spotting. Ages and ages ago I made a promise to my friend Kinny that the next time he came to the states, we would fly down to LAX and we would go spotting. Well he flies in the day after I get back from Japan. So I guess I am heading to LAX. Hopefully I can rope in a few other Avgeeks and make it a good day down there. Should be a fun day hopefully! Don’t know if there will be any In n Out in my forecast for that day, but I am sure we will be there for some photos. I do see a rental from National on the cards and that means at least a hopefully awesome car!
It shall be a crazy few weeks. A total of just over 21,000 miles with 4 different hotels, a number of new airlines (Jetblue, Southwest, Cathay Pacific). Travel on both Planes, Trains and more than likely Automobiles and lots of late nights and early mornings. Bring on the awesome food, the good times and the fun!
This morning was the Fly Day 5k, the 2nd time I have run this race. It would probably have to be my favourite run as not only do you get to run (something I actually love doing now) but you get to run on an airport! With planes landing around you! But going into this morning I had a few goals:
1. Beat Last years time
2. Run my fastest ever 5k time
Last year when I ran the Fly Day 5K for the first time I did manage to set a new record 5k pace. That and I beat my time by a solid 2 minutes. But incrementally I have been dropping my time since then. So much so that my previous best 5k time was 25:40. That’s tough to beat. Well… maybe
That is this mornings run. Yes that time is 25:10 but thats a couple of seconds under that time as I was a bit slow in stopping it after I started the run. I am absolutely stoked at what I acheived. Hell during the run I thought I was going to slow. I was pretty cold the head wind was INSANE! I guess that’s the thing when you running at an airport, especially parallel to the runway for most of it, you are either with the wind or against it. Sadly I was against it this morning. Had I gotten a bit of a tail wind helping to push me along, I might of gotten there faster
The rest of the day was pretty epic. Even before the race the #avgeek in me was ecstatic. I couldn’t sleep much last night I was full of excitement and anticipation as I had put a lot into the race today. Well that was probably a good thing as before the race was due to start an Antonov AN124 & an Atlas 747-8F was due to be moving about the field. Add onto that an unexpected Dreamlifter as well, totally crazy day! Afterwards there was so many Boeing movements it was crazy. Add onto that the Warbirds and GA stuff all over the place, it was totally the best day since Aviation Geek Fest.
But now I am home, its 7pm and all I have eaten today is two small pancakes at breakfast this morning after the race. I am starved, I am totally shattered and right about now, I want to sleep. But I got a lot to do before I can rest tonight, and rest I will!
As this week progresses I am just one more training run away from Saturday’s Fly Day 5k at the Paine Field Aviation Day. Last week I ramped it up so that I could be able to really push hard on the day.
I want to be able to two at least one of two things at the event this year. Fiest I want to be able to surpass last years time. If you have a look at this:
You can see last years run where I did it in 28 minutes. Lately on bad days when I am not running at full pace I am doing sub 29 minute runs, on an average day i am sub 27m30s, so the though of not breaking that time is pretty low.
What I want to do though is a sub 26 minute run. This is getting tougher and tougher to achieve. I am averaging low to mid 26 some days on a flat course wjen pushing it hard but like Tuesday this week:
That time would of been spot on would I not of had to stop at traffic lights three times. This won’t be a factor on Saturday as there should only br other people in my way, however the run isnt flat with about the last kilometer or so up hill (well upward incline at least).
So tomorrow morning is my final training run. It will be an all out balls to the wall push on a flat route. I hope to god nothing bad happens but it will work out either way. I don’t normally run a flat route on a Thursday but i adjusted the training to compensate as I don’t want to go to harsh the day before to give my body a slight rest before the push.
Doesn’t mean I’m giving myself Friday off though, I will probably just hit the exercise bike in the gym to give my legs a day of no pounding the joints, and then come Saturday morning it is on for young and old. If I can’t get under 26, that’s ok I can deal with it, but I certainly won’t accept a time over 28.
With the run finished I can relax with a pancake breakfast (thanks to the firefighters at PAE) and then a day full of planes flying about. Sunday will be my first rest day in almost 7 weeks. Then comes about another month or more of hard work as the next month is looking full of travel and some pretty awesome times.
But that’s for another day
Well what can I say about Portland. I still love the place. The weather was freaking amazing, the drive down pretty easy (apart from constant traffic till I passed JBLM on the way south but that was to be expected). I will post a full review of the hotel later this week (as I still have to write it up) but I had a blast of a time either way, and felt like I should share some of the moments from the weekend (and the main photos).
My idea of hitting the streets and having a street food dinner on Saturday night was just an absolute fail. There wasn’t many places open for dinner and what was open, just didn’t entice at all. It was all kebabs and burgers but to be honest, I can get that any old place. So I ended up just getting a bento and eating watching some TV in the room. But I could not go without some voodoo! I was there early it seemed as I was only in line like 15 minutes or so. Last time was a good hour. But I failed at my doughnut selection. Not in taste… in size! Since I had been walking around all evening hunting down street food and since it never ended up i figured, 3 was the appropriate choice. 1 big doughnut, 2 small right? That equals 2 big doughnuts. Yep wrong! Went with a Memphis Mafia as my 3rd doughnut… it was freaking HUGE!!! bigger than the other 2 combined. Damn tasty though!
The spotting was pretty awesome around the airport with the tip to use the parking structure was spot on. $3 an hour so a couple of hours wasn’t exactly going to break the bank. But the one spot that was on the opposite side o the runway, right in front of the touchdown/rotate point… illegal to park in. But I did anyway. I didn’t get a ticket but I did get asked to move on. The guy was really nice about it, he wasn’t a douche or anything so I give him full props for that.
I leave you with a few final thoughts that I had on the way home while driving in the beautiful weather. As the ram gobbled up the interstate with effortless ease, I was driving past green everywhere, blue sky, mountains around. I looked in my mirror, I could see Mount St Helens in the rear view mirror or Mt Rainier out the side window. Snow capped volcanoes dominating my view. I looked around and thought.. This is my home now? What the hell! I don’t want to leave this place. It just astounds me how amazing the scenery is up here. Sure the weather can be crazy with cold, rain and grey, but when the weather is good here, the place shines. Screw it… I don’t want to go home to Aus. This is my home!
|PDX Road Trip|
To celebrate my One Year of living in the USA and mainly just because I can, I am heading to Portland in a few hours. Me and the truck are going on our first solo road trip. I am taking her down on the I5 tonight all the way into Tax free heaven.
I am looking forward to it as the last time I was in Portland was back in 2011 on my big round the world trip. This time I will be staying in town at Vintage Plaza hotel. I status matched over to Kimpton so can’t wait to see what they are doing for me (but more on that in the hotel review next week).
Tomorrow I am heading out to the Evergreen Museum as well out in a different part of Oregon and I do believe I can see Voodoo donuts in my future!
Well time to get back to work and then next stop….. Portland!
Exactly 1 year ago today, VA8 touched down at Los Angeles Airport on Runway 25L. As we taxied towards Gate 56 in T5 it was truly the beginning of a new adventure for me. I was onboard that flight and had just left my friends, family and life behind in Australia to begin a new one, a few hours north in Seattle. Since that move I have to admit it has been a crazy fun filled time. Life has been a never ending adventure of new friends, new experiences, new food, new people, even new cultures (whoever says there isn’t culture in the USA has no idea).
But how do I feel about the move, especially after my recent trip home. I have been over here a year now, with a year (or less than) left on my visa, what is ahead of me. Well first and foremost it’s time to sit down with work and look at my future, because to be honest they have to have a say in it. Simply because without their sponsorship, I am going home! But do I wan’t to go home. Hell No! I wan’t to stay, I don’t want to go back to Australia. I want to stay here in the USA and continue the life I have built for myself.
Sure I miss my friends and family back in Australia but that was to be expected right? I do wish I could transplant some of my friends over here to the USA but there are a few people who are coming to visit so that does me fine I guess. I get to see my folks in August when they come over to Canada for a number of weeks. But I will be heading up to visit them in Vancouver for a weekend. So that covers that side of things, but I am striving to keep making new friends and meeting people when I can. But I am a shy person by nature and I have been burnt in the past, so its slowly slowly on that front.
Life is still pretty awesome over here in the USA and I wouldn’t trade it for anything… EVER. If there was a way for me to get my green card easily (other than the lottery or marriage) then I would do it. Anything to stay here in Seattle! I love it (Weather and all) and it surely means I am settling in when I see a temperture of 55F (roughly 11c) and think… wow its warm today! Ahhhh the life in the Pacific North West. I wouldn’t trade it for the world!
Now that my Qantas First dream has been fulfilled, what now? Well the end of May i am flying Cathay First Class so no need to get working on that as it was easy. Other than getting myself into the Lufthansa First Class Terminal (which seems like it is going to take some strategic thinking to do that) my one other real desire right now is Singapore Airlines.
I’ve already flown them a couple of times and their business class product both long haul and regional are fantastic. Their long haul seat is practically a First Class Suite. But their actual First Class Suite seems to be the epitome of luxury. Only onboard their A380 so it is fairly exclusive and at one point when first released, cost a fortune.
Now though times have changed and the cost is reasonable. A one way Suites fare between Tokyo and the West Coast of the USA will set you back about 70,000 points. So that’s my aim right now. Working towards that amount of Singapore Airlines Krisflyer points. I managed to get 50,000 points when I got myself an American Express Premier Rewards Gold card, that took a huge chunk away. But now I still have 20000 to go.. What to do?
Well I am taking my first attempt at manufacturered spend, kind of. All the rage in points earning circles right now is using gift card purchases to rack up heaps of points. You buy the gift cards on your credit card and use them like cash or use them to pay off your bills. Cheap easy points. I am doing this kind of thing but not all the way, yet.
The hardest thing about doing this for me is getting the right gift cards and they are hard to come by in Seattle. So i have decided to just do what I can so I am not losing out on anything. Good thing with my Amex is that it is double points on Gas & Grocery. I have a good strategy still with this. Here it is.
Walmart and American Express put out a prepaid card that unlike any others had a bill pay function where you could get them to send a check to pay your bills, then came the ability to writr checks from the card, now resembling more a bank account than a prepaid card the Bluebird is just pretty awesome. You can load up to $1000 a day at Walmart onto your Bluebird card, and I have two Walmarts within 10 minutes of my place.
With a little bit of guidance from Scott at HackMyTrip I now have my process down pat and it means I don’t miss out on any points. My biggest points loss was my rent & utilities. Almost $1000 a month and it just was not possible in the past to use a credit card. New owners came in and they allowed credit card rent payments, but with a $38 fee. Stuff that! I can buy $500 gift cards at QFC or Fred Meyers for $6 a piece, they can have a pin assigned to the card (not all allow this) and I can then load them onto my bluebird at the local Walmart, where I can then write a Bluebird check for my rent. Sounds complicated? It’s not.
I did this for the first time over the weekend and it was easy. My time in Walmart was all of 3 minutes, I shop at Fred Meyer weekly so adding on a gift card to a weekly shop is nothing. The hardest thing is writing the check and walking it to the office.
What does it cost me to do this? Well the cards are $6 a piece so $12 a month plus all up about 10-15 minutes of my time each month. The good thing is that using my amex getd me double the points as I’m buying at a grocery store. 2000 points for 12 aint bad. What’s even better is I can earn grocery points towards fuel discounts at the same time!
Ahh the life of a points junkie. Confusing right?
Well I have been back for about 2 weeks now, and the trip looking back was damn crazy. I can’t believe I almost missed the wedding ceremony. I mean seriously, the whole reason for going to Australia and I come so close to missing it. That would of been shame that I could not of lived with at all!
Lets look at some of the things in the trip though the good and the bad.
Bad – Long Haul Economy. It’s never good, it always sucks but this flight with VA wasn’t their best but it wasn’t the worst flight I have ever had either. It was “so so”, not really worth talking much about.
Bad – Qantas First Class Suite Windows – My one and only complaint about that Qantas flight was the fact I couldn’t see out the window cause the seat is so far away from the window. I mean seriously if thats the worst thing about an experience like that….. damn!
Bad – Rydges Capital Hill Canberra – Service failures across the board… way to go Rydges.. not going back thats for sure!
Good – Chrysler 300C – Love this car… enough said.
Good Yet Bad – Radisson LAX – They always seem to come through on the upgrades but then they always have failures of some kind. This time it was the bed (though in the times I have stayed there the bed has never worked anyway)
Good – Langham Melbourne – Absolutely Loved this hotel, definately staying at Langhams when I can afford it!
Good – Qantas First Class…. i <3 it. I want to do it again… right now… please!
This trip was worth every cent (though I didn’t pay for the flight down), the hard earned points (140,000) and the $350 in Fuel surcharges were totally worth it. I still have a bucket load of Qantas points so now that I have that dream flight done, where to look next? I should of earned a good portion of points on this trip from Virgin, however for some reason I am still chasing the Virgin America points. Freaking stupid that I have to do retro claims, it is always the same with Virgin America. Virgin Australia domestic points posted practically the same day, however the long haul flight took almost 3 weeks! Totally not cool Virgin Australia! But all in all I did manage to get my 4 minimum segments, so I am a gold for another 12 months
All in all I spent an ungodly amount of time in the air, almost 18000 miles travelled, for 4 nights back home in Aus, 3-5 hours with my folks, getting to see my friends and family. Was it worth it? Hell yes!