Thursday, April 11, 2013

Start Spreading the News: Part 1 - Heading East

Part 1:  This Page
Part 2:  Connecticut to New York

Our flight was Saturday morning from San Francisco, 90 miles from our house, to Newark.  We looked into a "park and stay" deal at several of the SFO airport hotels, since I was out of points.  It would have cost about $170 for the week.  Not terrible but it's above the $50 threshold that warrants further research.

We had asked my aunt who lives in the Bay Area if we could stay there and if she could drive us to the airport, and she happily obliged. 

Left Friday evening after I got home from work to head out to the Bay.  Stopped at our favorite sushi restaurant for dinner, got to our aunt's house, and everything went as planned.  She even was willing to drop us off and pick us up, saving about $65 in parking fees and an hour on each side of the trip.

UA 798: San Francisco-Newark

Saturday was Day 2 of the Congressional Budget Sequester, and the news had been warning of slowdowns at the airport due to layoffs and furloughs, so we arrived 2 hours ahead of our flight.  It was way more than necessary, as the airport was basically empty.  However, the flight was full, like they always are nowadays.  Unlike most flights we take, the SFO-EWR nonstop was completely full of business travelers.  My seat neighbor was a larger person so I switched with Nancy to balance things out.  I realized that my large laptop combined with my large midsection means I can't open the laptop flat to do work while on a plane (in coach, which is how I travel pretty much always) if the seat in front of me is tilted back, as they usually are.   So I need to either lose 50 pounds, buy a netbook, or just not work on an airplane.  I think you can pretty much guess which is going to happen and which isn't.

The kids handled the flight surprisingly well.

We made the mistake of not bringing food onto the plane.  We had had a bagel for breakfast at SFO and by midday we were hungry.  To subsidize Nancy's packed trail mix, we got a"mediterranean box" snack pack for $9 and shared it 4 ways.  The items were interesting (olives, hummus, pita chips, cheese, crackers etc) but I could have eaten the whole thing and still have been hungry.

Also read the United Airlines magazine cover to cover.  Wondered how often people successfully meet their mates through It's Just Lunch.  Also wondered how many people expect their matches will look like the matchmaking staff, whose photos are featured prominently in their ad.

Crossword puzzle was fairly easy, about equivalent to a NY Times Tuesday puzzle.  Southwest's are harder.

Arrival at Newark

The UA terminal at Newark is now officially my third least favorite airport, after (1) Dulles and (2) LAX.  We had to take 3 escalators down to baggage claim, and then ride 3 other escalators up to the Airtrain to the car rental center.

Once on the Airtrain, a fully automated inter-terminal tram with no drivers, we had a brief harrowing experience.  At one stop, our 5-year-old son jumped out of the Airtrain car, thinking we had asked him to.  We hadn't, so we shouted for him to get back in the car and he did, before the doors automatically closed.  After retelling this story to my aunt, she suggested we write our phone number on his hand with a sharpie pen.  Not a bad idea at all.

Renting at Dollar was fine.  I like Dollar because they seem to lower their rental rates a few weeks before pickup and also they don't inflate car classes:  reserve a midsized car and you get a midsized.  I had signed up in advance with my credit card, etc so we could take a car relatively quickly and go.  The agent offered an "all-you-can-drive" toll pass for $15, which we took. This turned out to be a good deal given that just crossing the George Washington Bridge itself is $13.  Can you believe that?  $13 to cross a bridge.  The car was fine - a Chrysler.  The kind you rent.

Dinner on the Road

I had prepped for dinner by yelping "Matzo Ball Soup" near the Newark Airport and got this place.  We used a GPS to get us there and it led us through a pretty sketchy part of downtown Newark.  Not only was the place closed, it looked like it hadn't been open in years, although it had in actuality apparently closed at 3pm that afternoon.  Anyways, it seems like the place people go to for lunch, a la Langers in L.A., in an area that was pretty sketchy after dark.  So we hightailed it out of there.

After driving an hour over the GW Bridge and north toward Connecticut, we were starving.  We were in the Bronx and got off the freeway happenstanced on Dimos, a take out pizza storefront which looked much better than the chinese restaurant down the block with 2 tables.  It turned out to be a great and our itch for NY pizza was scratched immediately. It didn't hurt that we were famished.  The owner was a great guy and somehow the bill came to like $20.  The location in Yelp is under another name, Supreme Pizza.  Here is my review.

We drove on and finally arrived at a Days Inn in Connecticut.  It was ok.  After we unpacked, we realized we needed more towels but the family who owns the place was already asleep and asked us to get them in the morning.  I posted a review on and somehow it showed my review as a 4 when I thought I had entered a 3 tops.  That said, our 2nd floor walkup room in Connecticut was bigger than about 90% of hotel rooms in Manhattan.

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