Friday, May 29, 2009

Going with the flow

Heading out to work soon. I wanted to be off tonight. Nope. Going to Cleveland, OH and back then to Little Rock, Arkansas for 5 hours sleep (reduced rest overnight). I am *supposed* to be done tomorrow morning at 6:40AM. We will see. Kelli wanted me to go with her to a "party barge" tonight on Lake Lewisville. One of her coworkers is having a party.

One of Kelli's dog's is having issues. Doogie has been acting funny for the last two days. There was a bard storm Tuesday night. He hasn't eaten much since. He has always had issues with storms. His demanor is very different. He has been sitting next to me whenever I am home alone. On Wednesday he was shaking like he was scared/cold. If I play ball with him he goes back to his old crazy self. He doesn't like staying in his crate. The REALLY odd thing is no other dogs will go in his crate. Kelli washed all of the sheets in his crate last night. Most of the time the dogs go nuts over clean sheets. Something is really odd.

I gave him some ham from my lunchable this morning. First time he ate one little piece. An hour later he ate all of it. I bought a different brand of dog food today. He ate a little. Odd. I normally don't care for the dogs. Doogie's change is bothering Kelli. This makes Kelli upset. If Kelli isn't happy...I'm not happy....thus I am trying.

Next month is going to be ugly for me at work. My company laid off 75 pilots recently. Next month they are realizing they will be short staffed. All pilots flying my aircraft were told not to expect much in last minute vacation request, moving days around or dropping flights. By contrast this month I was able to move around a bunch of days to get 8 days off in a row. Hmmmm.

Time to go to work.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

First Big Win!

I've put over $1000 into my slot machine. I have had a few small wins (one $300 win, several mid $100 wins). Today I hit my first "big" win...$750!!!

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Casino Byrd

My Slot Machine arrived today!

The driver from DB Schenker called around 10AM. He stated I needed a check to pay for delivery (it was a COD delivery). Hmmm when asked about paying by credit card he stated I had to call the main number. Yeah.

DB Schenker is not set up for consumers. After two phone calls and and being transferred 3 times...I paid the delivery fee.

The truck arrived 10 minutes later.

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I felt like the dad in A Christmas Story when he got his fancy prize. Fragile! Must be French!

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I love it. I truly do. I have put over $500 into it. I have won very little. The biggest hit so far was 300 credits. Kelli has "lost" over $180. She hasn't hit anything more than $30.

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It is very interesting seeing the guts of the machine as well as all the software setup options. One I didn't know about was the sound of the reels stopping. A slot machine makes a mechanical click. That click is just a solenoid clicking on and's easy to turn off (mine is currently off). There are a ton of options. I spent a good hour playing with them.

My machine takes in coins and bills. For coins I can set it up to take in dimes, nickels or quarters. Regardless of which is inserted it thinks its a quarter. Right under the coin slot slot is a coin comparator. I put in a "sample" coin that is used to compare coins put in. If I put a nickel in as the sample coin, only nickels will be accepted. Pretty neat.

I tore through all the rolled quarters and nickels Kelli had so neatly stored away. I love my wife.

Kelli wasn't too happy when she got home...but she did play for a bit.

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Not sure what my next machine will be. Why more than one machine? Well....Casino Byrd of course.


Weekend in Portland

We had a nice weekend in Portland. It's nice being able to visit family no matter how far away they are.

The first night we stayed in my in-laws house. The second night we stayed in a Holiday Inn Express as my sister in law would be staying in the house with her daughter and her girlfriend Kelly. The third night we were back in the house as Jami stayed in Portland with friends. The fourth night we stayed in a Holiday Inn Express in Portland next to the airport.

My niece Haley is absolutely amazing. Her mother ,Jami, is doing an excellent job raising her. I have never seen a 23 month old with such an extensive vocabulary. Haley can carry on a conversation with no problem. Haley is also really tall for her age. I mean really tall. Something in the water in Sacramento.

Jami also brought along her new girlfriend Kelly. We met Kelly back in February when we went to the San Jose. At first Haley had a problem with two women with the same name, Kelly and Kelli. Being so intelligent she got over it quick. Kelly is very nice and down to earth, much like Jami. Kelli and I are glad Kelly and Jami are happy together as they are a good match.

Saturday morning we went to the Portland Rose festival. We had a good time. All of the rides had age and height restrictions. Riders had to be 2 years old and higher than this arbitrary line. Haley isn't two yet...but she passed for 2 easily. She rode a few rides without a problem. She rode the Merry Go Round once without being rejected for being too short. The second time though the employee said she was too short and refused to let her ride. Hmmm yeah. We left soon after that, Haley had a good time.

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Kelli the Unibomber

I love cotton candy. I eat it whenever possible. Cotton candy is also something I give to Haley and Gianna (my other niece on Kelli's side of the family) whenever I see them.

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I give cotton candy to Haley each time I see her, mostly because I love it and she makes a mess

Kelli and I love a TV show called Man vs Food. We have plans to visit many of the restaurants he visited. So far we have visited two; The Big Texan in Amarillo and now Salvador Molly's in Portland.

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On the TV show, Salvador Molly's looked huge. In reality it's pretty small. The host of the TV show, Adam Richman, tried the Great Balls of Fire challenge at Salvador Molly's.

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The Great Balls of Fire Challenge is 5 cheese fritters and all the sauce. The catch? Well each cheese fritter has at least 5 habanero peppers inside and the sauce is almost entirely made of habanero peppers. I love spicy food. I have eaten many spicy foods before. I figured this would be no problem.

I was wrong. I was really wrong. The first bite sent flames through my mouth, down my throat and into my stomach. Did I say I was wrong?

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I already had a plan on finishing. I would use A LOT of sauce on each bite to avoid having to drink the sauce at the end.

John, my father in law, ordered me a glass of milk. Before it arrived I drank 1/2 a gallon of water. The only time my mouth wasn't on fire was the first few seconds I had liquid in my mouth. I finished...but I was in pain. I could barely speak. Pain.

I ordered a jerk chicken taco plate for lunch. I couldn't eat it. My mouth was in pain. My stomach was boiling. Bad idea. I will have my photo on the "Wall of Flame" for a month or two (they appear to rotate them in and out).

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I ended up taking the lunch to go. Afterwards Kelli, John and I did our favorite past time. Gambling!

Oregon has Indian casinos. The one we went to was waaaaay out of the way. John had previously won a good amount of money on some kind of video poker machine that is part of the state lottery. We used some of that money to gamble at a real casino.

We all had fun. I was up maybe $30 at one point. I quickly went down. Slot machines were the only games we played. They did have a few games I have not seen before in person. I also saw a ten cent machine for the first time. I have seen nickels, quarters and dollars....but never dimes! After an hour Kelli was up $120. John and I convinced her to blow it and try to win more. She lost it all. We all left broke.

The drive back to Albany was interesting. John called our GPS crazy and took us on a shorter....scenic route. His route was shorter....but I don't think it was faster. Oregon is a beautiful state and we saw a lot of interesting things. On the way back I ate my lunch. My stomach had finally settled down.

Sunday we drove down to Eugene, Oregon to have lunch with Kelli's Grandfather. Sunday was his birthday. For lunch we went to Sizzler!

Sunday evening my brother in law Bryan came over to the house with his wife Jessi. Kelli's family loves board games. I have never really been into them. They played two games before we had to leave. It had been a long day. Our flight back left at 6AM Monday. We would have to get up at 2AM to check in and then leave the hotel by 4:30AM. I wanted to be in bed by 10PM Sunday night. I had to be the "bad guy" and make Kelli quit playing games by 7:45PM to make the drive to Portland and get gas twice. We were low on gas in Albany. Oregon is one of the two states where it's illegal to pump your own gas. Getting gas can be very slow. At 7:48PM we were backing out of the driveway. I asked Kelli what time she thought we would be at the hotel. She said "9:30PM". She then admitted she had no idea where the hotel was. Hmm yeah. I punched the address into the GPS. The ETA was 9:44PM and we had not stopped for gas yet.

Kelli is just as stubborn and hard headed as I am....maybe more so. She was determined to make 9:30PM. She made it....but only by speeding at least 5MPH over the speed limit the entire way. We were in the hotel at 9:28PM. Bed by 10PM.

We checked in at 2AM and were numbers 1 and 2 on the list. We left the hotel at 4:30AM. By 5AM we were walking into the airport. At 5:50AM we were sitting in my least favorite first class seats....3A and 3B. These seats are bulkhead seats at the front of the cabin. Eh....still better than coach.

The flight was fine.

Our next trip is in 3 weeks. We will be going to Sacramento for a wedding. I am sure getting there could get interesting. I am betting we will fly into San Jose or San Francisco.

Slot machine should arrive today.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Making it to Portland

Kelli arrived home late last night. She attended a play with her mother. All evening I kept track of ways to get out of town. Most of the time the loads on flights stay steady the night before departure. Not last night! The morning direct flight to Portland wavered up and down by 3 to 4 seats. The only way to get to Portland on American Airlines is thru Dallas. The remaining flights for the day were all very full.

Our original plan was to fly to San Jose on American Airlines, sit around for a bit and then catch a Southwest Airlines flight to Portland. Southwest Airlines has hands down the best system for employees of other airlines to list and check loads. There is an 800 number that is totally automated and very easy to use. I love it. I spent the last few days figuring out ways to get to Portland on Southwest.

When I travel alone, on other airlines,  I don’t pay a cent as I can use my jumpseat privilege. When I have Kelli with me she pays a small fee per segment. Because Southwest doesn’t have a “hub” and flies lots of short flights, the cost for Kelli can get high. To keep cost down I only looked at direct flights to Portland on Southwest.

The only flights that were reporting “good” on the Southwest listing number were from San Jose and Las Vegas. That’s it. The first flight out on American Airlines Thursday morning  from Dallas to San Jose looked great Wednesday afternoon. Wednesday evening it turned “red” meaning very few seats open. The number of employee standbys was more than 3X the number of open seats. Not good.

I then looked at Las Vegas. There were only 2 seats open, but there were no standbys. I listed Kelli and I and then checked Southwest. The flight from Las Vegas to Portland was still good. Nice. If we got “stuck” in Vegas….well at least we were in Vegas.

I set my alarm clock for 3:08AM and went to bed. The Vegas flight left at 7:10AM. Employees can’t check in until 4 hours prior. There is normally a race to check in as check in time determines your spot on the standby list. Literally milliseconds can determine if we get seats or not. This morning I started clicking the check in button at 3:08AM. Kelli woke up. Something was going on with my computer in the bedroom as is it took a while for the page to refresh. I closed and reopened the window. By the time I checked us in we were number 6 and 7 on the list. Ugh. More employees listed. In addition to the employee standbys there were 10+ revenue (paying passengers) standbys. "Real Passengers" (who pay "real money") go ahead of employee standbys. With only two open seats it was not looking good for us.

The San Jose flight left at 7:25AM so I waited until 3:25AM and checked us in for that flight as well. We were numbers 2 and 3 and there were 8 open seats. We went back to bed with the plan of leaving at 5:30AM for the airport. My mother in law was on the direct flight to Portland leaving at 9:20AM. She would have to get up early and travel with us to the airport.

Kelli woke up in the 4 o’clock hour to start getting ready and pack. I was somewhat awake and checked on the Portland flight. Things were looking better. There were now 6 open seats. Kelli and I discussed our options. If we used our high priority passes we would almost certainly get seats. We each get 4 passes per year. We have already each used one on the way to Miami for our cruise. The next flight to Portland left at 12:40PM. Due to the 3 hours between flights I seriously doubted any passengers on a later flight would go standby on the 9:20AM flight. Hmm.

At 5:19AM I began clicking the check in button. We were numbers 1 and 2. We decided to forgo going to San Jose or Vegas and try for a direct flight to Portland. My mother in law wasn’t too enthusiastic as she could have stayed in bed for 2 more hours. Ehh…Welcome to our world Mrs. Richmond!

As the minutes ticked down Kelli and I kept an eye on the standby list. Around 7AM a revenue standby indeed was on the list. In addition 4 passengers in coach upgraded to First Class. Ours hopes of First Class seats were gone. We decided not to use our high priority passes and use regular passes. There were still 6 seats open in coach. We left the house at 7:50AM. My mother in law was a little worried as she is used to being at the airport so much earlier. She doubted Kelli and I on how quickly we would be at the gate. I assured her by 8:30AM we would be thru security and near the gate. I live at DFW airport. Sure enough at 8:35AM we were sitting at the departure gate. Looking at the standby list things were getting dicey. There were just 4 seats available. We moved down to numbers 4 and 5 on the list due to 3 employee standbys using higher priority passes. Hmmm. Not good. Also for some reason the mobile employee website was reporting different information than the PC employee website. We might not make it. If we do make it I might be on the damn jumpseat for 4 hours!

Boarding began. My mother in law walked on board and we told her we would text her if we didn’t get on. Two passengers had not yet checked in. There were a total of 6 employee standbys….and exactly 6 open seats. Just enough! Kelli got an aisle seat toward the front of the plane in 9D. I got the very last row next to a window with a view of the engine at row 32F. The next challenge was finding room for our bags.

Why are most passengers so clueless on how to properly store carry on bags AND what really is a carry on bag? If both bags have wheels they are not carry on. One of the carry on items is supposed to be a personal item that is too be stowed underneath the seat infront of you. Yeah.

I was in uniform today. I have no qualms about moving peoples bags in the overhead bins. On American Airlines MD80s the “AB” side of the plane has smaller overhead bins than the “DEF” side. Many announcements are made about this. On the “DEF” side regulation size rollerboards WILL fit wheels first. As I walked down the aisle I told Kelli to keep an eye on me and I would make a hole for her. Halfway down I saw a small backpack in the “DEF” side. I asked to move and then moved the bag to the “AB” side. Kelli’s bag was taken care of. Just ahead of me though…was a problem. Some lady had TWO comforters in the plastic bags filled with comforters and other crap! How did she get this far? Those are way over carry on size! I did tell her to store one under her seat (again being in uniform helps). She then took up ½ a storage bin. Grrrr. Toward the back of the plane I played the “I’m moving this small bag to the other side” game. In addition to small bags I saw jackets, camera bags (really? Can’t store your camera bag under the seat?!?!?) and MATCHING rolling bags taking up all kinds of space. I did find room for my bag though. Done. Once I sat down I had a bad thought. Here I was getting ready to sit down for 4 hours in coach…and I was starving! All I had was one fiber bar and a liter of water. I planned on eating the bar ½ way. Thankfully though a Flight Attendant helped me out with a snack. Still hungry.

The flight went fine. We arrived 30 minutes early. The car rental was in Kellis name (in case I couldn't make the flight) and was scheduled for 3PM.

We normally rent from Alamo/National. They have clean cars and always have a deal for airline employees. I used a "regular" person discount and reserved a mid-size car for $12 a day for 4 days for a total of $70 all in. Not bad.

When we arrived at the Alamo lot the only mid-size cars were a Toyota Corolla, Chevrolet HHR and a crappy Dodge Caliber. Being in uniform I politely asked the attendant if they had a true midsize car like an Altima, G6, Malibu or Fusion? He said no. I then asked if I could take an SUV instead. Score. We rented a Toyota Highlander SUV for the same price. It sucks down more fuel, but it's a nice ride.

My mother in law has no wifi. I am using a neighbors unsecured wireless connection. I get just one small bar for connection. Nice.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Slot Machine a comin'

I can now track my slot machine online. If you care to follow along here is the link. I am hopeful it comes Wednesday or NEXT Tuesday as I am planning on going to Portland this Thursday.

Getting to Portland could be interesting. There are currently just 3 open seats on the plane. There are exactly 3 standby passengers. If a fourth pops up and I'm the only pilot.....I could get the jumpseat. I will not ride in the cockpit jumpseat for 4 hours. No way.

Backup plans are to go to San Jose, Denver or Salt Lake City on American and then hitch a ride on Southwest, Frontier or United to Portland.

My Mazda5 amazes me more and more each week. I would say each day....but I don't drive it each week. I got gas today. I have a neat application on my G1 called Mileage Log that keeps track of my average MPG, tank MPG, average gas price and average gallons per fill up. Today I filled up with 12 1/2 gallons and got an AVERAGE of 28.64 MPG!!! The EPA estimates for my car are 21 city 27 highway. I got 28.64 MPG with mostly city! Boooyah! The lowest MPG for a tank was 24.34 MPG. I am averaging 26.08 MPG so far.

I saw a very good movie today. I watched Taking Chance. It's a movie about a soldier who died in Iraq being transported back to his family for burial. Watching this movie really made all my little problems seem minuscule. I already have a really hard time walking down by the departure gate for the soldiers at DFW airport. Their gate is just down from the American Eagle gates. On most flights I make a point to show respect to the soldiers as they board by thanking them. When I make a PA I start with "Good afternoon Service Men, Service Women, Ladies and Gentlemen we will be departing in just a few moments...." Watching this movie today really grounded me. Those who have Netflix this is a must see movie. I enjoyed it so much I bought it on as soon as it was over.

Tomorrow Kelli turns 30. She will officially be old. Sucks thats she still looks 17. Why? I get the "dirty old man looks".

I bought an external SATA case for my old laptop hard drive. When I plugged it into my Macbook I  got an error message that the device was drawing too much power. Nice.

I had to rename my aviation blog. I have to have complete anonymity. Having my last name in the URL and my first name in the blogs made it too easy for people to figure out where I was based and what airline I worked for. The new name is. .......

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I can't type the name as it would be picked up by search engines. There will be no links between this site and the other one. The other blog is like an adopted red headed step-child. Funny thing is that I now get an average of 110 unique (meaning different computers...mine are not counted) visitors per day. Nutty.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Got my slot machine!

I had the day off yesterday. The flights BACK from Vegas were very empty. The flight to Vegas...not so much.

Kelli and I typically take the first flight out of DFW. Yesterday that was the ONLY flight that was even a little open. There were 30+ employee standbys going on that flight. In normal fashion I woke up 4 hours prior to departure and checked in. Getting a good spot on the standby list at my airline is solely based on  check in time and priority status. We each have 4 high priority passes per year. We haven't had to use them yet. The flight left at 7:10AM. I started clicking on the "check in" button at 3:08AM. The system kept giving an error (because I can't check in prior to 4 hours from departure) until 3:10AM EXACTLY. Every other time I had done this I always landed in the top 2 or 3 on the list. Yesterday I was number 11! Seeesh.

There was no chance I would get First Class. Turns out no standbys got First Class. I did get an aisle seat. Done. Traveling with just my laptop bag was a nice change. No luggage to worry about finding a space for.

I rented a compact car from Alamo for $28 all in. As I walked down the compact aisle I saw a Nissan Versa, Chevrolet Cobalt, Kia Spectra and a Ford Focus. Initially I wanted to try the Versa....but something drew me to the Ford.

The Focus was a basic model. Nothing special. The interior quality is much better than the last Ford I drove (which was many years ago) and much better than my friends Ford Escape Hybrid. I attached my hand held navigation system and drove away.

I drove away thinking "this is a really nice car". I reached down to turn on the radio and thought, "doh I forgot my AUX input cable". I use the cable to plug my Zune MP3 player into the radio. I then looked down and saw a USB port....for the Ford/Microsoft SYNC system. Hmmmm.

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While driving I plugged in my Zune and thought for sure there would be some incompatibility. Nope. Right away the LED screen on the dashboard said "indexing". After a few minutes it was done. I pressed a button on the steering wheel and said "Play Artist Lily Allen". The car read back my command...and then began playing Lily Allen. The system played every artist I asked without having to repeat the command. I love the SYNC system! Not only does it allow a better qaulity audio connection than the AUX input cable, but it charges the Zune as well! Navigating the playlist and songs was very easy.

The car drove very nicely. According to the readout I was getting 38 MPG.

The drive to the slot machine vendors was longer than I expected. They were both near Laughlin, Arizona. After a little over 2 hours I arrived.

I compared slot machines at two different vendors. One dealt with slightly older unique machines (located across from many hotel/casinos in Laughlin) while the other had newer machines. The store with the older machines had prices waaaay higher than I thought they would be. The employee who greeted me was very nice and taught me a few things about slots. He also stated the other vendor might have better prices. After about 10 minutes I left.

The next stop was about 20 minutes away in Golden Valley, AZ. The Focus did very well climbing up the steep inclines. The scenery was a nice change as well.

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As I walked in I was happy to see the same slot machines I saw on their website ( ). Some slot machine vendors I contacted stated the photos online were not necessarily the same slot machines for sale. They were "representative". Hmmm yeah. Not so with Rocky Mountain Slots. I walked around the show room and played a few machines. I then found *my* machine.

The employees were very helpful. The machine I wanted was almost done being refurbished. The employees showed me the ins and outs of the machine. It was very, very, very clean inside and out. I decided to buy it. In addition they gave me a free slot stand. Slot machines are very heavy (200-225 pounds!). They can't sit on just any old table. Slot machine stands sell for $100-$250. I was getting a used (but good condition) stand for free. Here is my slot machine.

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That is the EXACT machine that will be on the way to our house Friday.

The drive back took me over Hoover Dam. I haven't been to the dam in years. They are building a new huge bridge to span the length of the dam. The new bridge will allow traffic to bypass the dam. Getting through the damn dam is a very slow process.

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While driving back to Vegas there was a guy in a golden Pontiac Grand Am speeding and weaving through traffic. He passed in no passing zones while going UP hill many times! Karma finally caught up with him.

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I wanted to stop by the strip for a little gambling. The traffic on the strip was moving slower than I have ever seen! Construction. I had to give up and head to the airport. After filling up with gas I was happy to calculate 34 MPG!!!! Nice!

After clearing security I saw a huge crowd of people standing around. After asking around I was told they were filming a new George Clooney movie! I left the crowded area and walked down the way a bit. I saw several people in black shirts and headsets standing around.

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Hmm....I started playing with my phone and then noticed several people dressed in American Airlines uniforms complete with AA ID cards. Something was fishy. Flight crew members don't normally just stand around airports together. They were actors!

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The movie is Up in the Air. I am guess that American Airlines is paying to be in the movie. The uniforms were actual AA uniforms and the badges were perfect copies (I walked close by an actor).

They did film a general terminal scene and I was able to walk right through. Maybe I will make the final cut. Ha!

For the first time ever I played a slot machine at the airport. What kind of machine? The same kind I bought....but with the addition of Wheel Of Fortune.

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I put in $5 and got to spin on my third pull. I won 100 quarters on the spin and cashed out. That win paid for the gas for the rental.

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The flight back was VERY empty. Only 60 of 188 seats were full. I picked First Class to get a meal and a few cocktails. There were movies shown each way. On the way there was He's Just Not That Into You. On the way back was Bride Wars. I have seen them both.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

It's good to be the Captain

Being a First Officer, I am second in command. We act as a crew, and for 99.9% of the situations that come up, we discuss and decide as a crew. Sometimes my opinion gets thrown out the window. Such as what happened yesterday.

Spring time in Texas means storms. We have had quite a few. Yesterday I flew from Amarillo to DFW at 6AM. I looked at the radar before I left the hotel and saw a line of Thunderstorms from Amarillo to new DFW. There was a way around the storms by going west and then south to go around the back of the storm.

After take off ATC (Air Traffic Control) advised us to head south and to avoid the worst of the weather. The Captain and I both had our weather RADAR on. We could also see outside. The radar was full of nice pretty colors (meaning bad weather). The view outside was the same. The Captain chose to decline the advice from ATC and fly throught the storm. I advised that it might be a good idea to head south. The Captain stated he didn't want ATC flying "his" plane and that we had a good idea of what the ride would be like.

There was nearly non-stop lightening all around the plane. The turbulence was non-stop. The ride was bad enough that the flight attendants had to remain seated. I am used to turbulence and am rarely bothered by it. The bumps were enough for me to cinch down my seatbelt and shoulder harnesses.

Due to the cold temperatures, high humidity and rain, I had to turn on every safety system we have. I turned on the anti-ice systems to keep the wings and engines free of ice. I then armed the continuous ignition systems to keep the engines from flaming out. The turbulence mode was turned on for the autopilot to allow the plane to deviate from the desired course more than normal (to keep the autopilot from contstantly correcting the course due to turbulence).

For 35 minutes non-stop we were kicked around.

After getting home I looked at the flight path with the weather overlayed as it existed during the flight. If we had gone south we would have avoided most of the weather.

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If we had just gone south and west we could have avoided most of the weather and had a smooth flight. Pilots are confident and remain cool and collected most of the time. During this flight I did have a moment or three that we just might not make it.

The next flight was to Des Moines, IA. This was MY leg. I looked at the RADAR before we left and had a plan of attack in mind.

We had enough fuel on board to literally fly to Boston...but we were only going Des Moines. The line of storms was still there. I decided to fly north east and climb until I could find a "hole" in the weather. Just east of Texarkana I found my hole. The ride was much better and we didn't need any of the extra safety systems turned on.

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I learn things from each Captain I fly with. Some good....some bad. One day I will be Captain. It's good to be the Captain.

On a totally unrelated note a friend of mine (also a pilot for my airline) had a baby boy today....named him Bergen. Interesting name. Photos can be seen here

Sunday, May 10, 2009

$100 Steak The Big Texan

I am in Amarillo. The plan was for me to fly the flight here and have Kelli in the back as a passenger. I haven't flown a flight with her on board. At the last minute the flight downgraded to a smaller plane which I don't fly. Oh well. Kelli and I both rode in the back as passengers.

After we arrived Kelli got the rental car while I got my bags. We made our way to The Big Texan Steakhouse. The Big Texan is known for their "Eat a 72 oz steak and the dinner is free". We wouldn't be doing that.

We forgot today is Mother Day. The restaurant was packed! We walked around the gift shop and the waiting area. They had slot machines for play! They were play only...couldn't win any real  money. I didn't play.

After being seated we chose to go for the Mothers Day buffet. The buffet was $7 for Mothers...$15 for everyone else. Kelli is an honest person. The waitress asked if she was a mother, Kelli said "I could be". Hmm...

We ate a lot of food. A lot of food. The bill came...both full price. The reason I titled this blog "$100 Steak lunch is related to the term "$100 Hamburger". This is basically flying out to a city just for lunch. Kelli and I had $100 BBQ two years ago. Nice. On the way out the Richmond gene kicked in and Kelli bought some homemade fudge.

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The candy area had these really pretty bubblegum candy thingies. Be a shame to actually eat one.

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Big Tex has a fleet of limos offering free pickup in the area....not sure about return service though. In true Texas style they all have horns on the front.

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The hotel I was staying at was just down the street. She had a few hours before her flight. We hung out for a bit and she made her way back to the airport. Since I work for the airline I told her the inbound plane was delayed. At the time it was only 30 minutes or so late.

After she arrived she sent me a text. The plane was still in Dallas with mechanical problems! Nice. Eventually the plane left Dallas.

Kelli then sent me a text that police were standing by to meet the plane. Turns out a passenger assaulted a Flight Attendant. I know one of the Flight Attendants very well as I flew a whole month with him. I know the Captain very well also.

The plane arrived. The passenger (an old man) was escorted off. The plane ended up leaving an hour and a half late. Kelli has bad luck when she tags along with me on my trips.

She came along with me for the first time a few months ago when I went to Shreveport. The overnight then was 18 hours long on a Sunday. Shreveport has  a casino. We love to gamble. We rented a car and had a great time gambling. I would be flying the first flight out the next day. Before we left to go to Shreveport, the return flight to Dallas had 40+ open seats. When we got back to the hotel after gambling the flight was full. A flight had canceled that night and all the passengers rolled over to the morning. I tried to reassure Kelli that the first flight of the day is the most missed flight as passengers sleep in/decide to take a later flight/just don't show up.

In the morning we drove to the airport and dropped off the rental car. The rest of the crew was taking the hotel van. The ground crew were a little confused seeing me arrive by myself.  I prepped the plane for the return flight before the crew arrived. The plane sat right in front of the departure gate and I could see my wife from the cockpit. She sent me a text that ALL the passengers showed up and she wouldn't be getting on. Feeling bad for my wife I went up to the gate and gave  her my laptop bag. The passengers gave us an odd look. Here was this pilot giving his laptop bag to some passenger? Yeah. Kelli then sat in the airport for 12 HOURS missing 7 other flights! A flight attendant who was commuting to work (and also getting bumped off flights) saw Kelli sitting there and asked if she worked for the airline. After a few minutes the flight attendant realized she knew ME and told Kelli that if she didn't get on a flight she could stay the night at her house. Airline people take care of each other. Thankfully they got on a flight home.

Kelli is on her way home now. Not sure if she will ever come to an overnight with me again.

This trip has been fun. I made two butter smooth landings today. They were kind of exciting. With low clouds I didn't see the runway until 10 seconds prior to landing. Fun! The Captain I am flying with is 61. He needs to retire. Getting on there with his memory.

Tomorrow I have three flights before being off for 2 days. I am still planning on going to Vegas for the day Wednesday.

My mother in law comes in town next week.

In my plane I carry pets in the cargo area often. There is a switch that must be turned on for them to survive. If I don’t turn it on….whatever pets we have in the back will likely freeze to death. As part of our checklist we always turn it on after takeoff. What the switch does is allow conditioned cabin air (after it’s been passed through all the smells associated with the cabin) to enter the cargo compartment. During the summer I will turn the switch on before we leave the gate to keep the pets at a comfortable temperature. Anyway here is a picture of the “dead puppy switch”.

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I have yet to kill I pet....I always check!

Time for the Amazing Race finale.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Back to normal...back to being gone

I am leaving today for four days for a trip. Until this month I have been home almost every night. When I was gone it was only for one night. This month things are a little more "normal" with me being gone more often.

Last year I was away from home 9-11 nights a month. I flew more....and was thus gone more. With the reduction in flying by the general public...airlines flew fewer flights...thus I flew less. The summer flying season is ramping up and I somehow got a normal (non-airport standby) schedule this month. Amazing. I think Kelli is a little annoyed at me being gone after having me home so much. I also think she will be a little happier with me being gone so much as I won't be around to leave a mess behind.

I go in for my yearly checkup with my FAA doctor on Tuesday. It's been just over 3 years since I started flying. My blood pressure has dropped from 140/90 to a more reasonable (and healthy) 118/75. All without drugs. Go me.

My sister in law might take one of OUR baby names for her next kiddo if it's a girl. We picked the name Amelia back on June 27, 2007 ( She can use it if she wants....ours will be the REAL Amelia. Bleh.

Mother in law coming in town in less than two weeks. We are supposed to fly back with her. Flights are getting a little full. We might have to get creative. As a backup we might have to go to Denver and then take United or Southwest to Portland. Getting back should be no issue.

I installed Windows 7 on my Macbook Pro yesterday. Windows 7 is the next version of Windows. Microsoft is allowing anyone to use Windows 7 for one year free of charge. It feels the same as Vista.

Tonight I am staying in a Raddison hotel. They have Sleep Number beds. Should be interesting.

Gotta shave my head and get ready for work. Back to normal. When I get back I will have been gone 7 nights so far this month. My paycheck at the end of June (when I get the per diem for this month) should be pretty hefty....enough to buy another slot machine. I love my wife.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

All this crap over $50?!?!?!?!?

Our neighbor really blows. She never cuts her grass. Her two tress died. She has had a Minivan parked in her driveway that hasn't moved in over a year. Her bushes are all overgrown. The only good thing is the state of her house makes ours look amazingly awesome.

When the fence blew down Kelli to the ropes and got estimates and then placed a detailed note (with a picture of the damage) on our neighbors door. The estimates were all for $300. We needed three post installed. Only two were damaged. The third post was to insure this wouldn't happen again.

I explained to our neighbor the estimate and the repairs. She said it sounded like it was too much money for the work needed. I then explained for me to do the work the materials alone would cost over $180. She said she would only help pay for two post and not three. The only way should would pay for three post is if we got our neighbors BEHIND us involved. The fence portion damaged was ONLY between our two houses. The neighbors behind us did erect a fence and attach it to part of our fences, but that in no way caused the failure. I tried to explain this to her. She relented. Fine, we agreed to split to cost of TWO of the three post. So her portion was $100 instead of $150. She got all worked up over $50...really?

The fence is all fixed. The repairman didn't leave Kelli and receipt. She is supposed to call and inquire about one today.

I had a fun day at work yesterday flying to Des Moines. Today I am just sitting in the airport on morning airport standby.

When I did morning airport standby all month in February I had a routine where I would sleep for 3-4 hours, get cheap coffee that offered free refills, watch TV for a few hours and then head home. This morning I am back on the routine.

Next Wednesday or Thursday I am planning on going to Vegas for the day to look at a slot machine. The Slot Machine isn't in's actually in Golden Valley, Arizona which is just 90 miles south of Vegas. I know I am need to remind me.

I am going to install Windows 7 on my Macbook Pro today. Microsoft is allowing users 1 free year of use from the new Operating System. Should be interesting.

Just 4 1/2 hours left till I can go home.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Finally home

Kelli dropped me off at the airport at 6PM on Thursday. I had originally planned on being home early Saturday afternoon. Well crap hit the fan when storms moved in Friday night and stayed around all day Saturday. The weather caused my flight back home to be cancelled. Later Saturday night I was reassigned to work thru Sunday morning. Then on Sunday morning I was reassigned to work thru Tuesday evening.

Prior to this weekend, I haven't been away from home, for work, for more than one night since January. I stayed the night in a  Comfort Inn in Little Rock Thursday night, a Crowne Plaza in Cleveland Friday night, a La Quinta in Little Rock Saturday night and a Marriott in Cleveland Sunday night. The first two hotels had hard beds...didn't care for them. The Marriott had the best beds of the four....which is a great thing as I was exhausted.

I flew for 18 hours over the 5 days. That's more than I flew all of last month. I am paid for 75 flight hours each month no matter how little I fly. If I fly more than 75 hours I get the extra money. The extra time away from home will help on my paycheck at the end on June. The nearly 97 hours away from home will net me $170 in per diem. That's more than I get in a month of airport standby.

Being gone so long really sucked when the fence blew down in the storm. Trying to help Kelli while being states away wasn't easy. It will be interesting when an offspring is involved. I did get a chance Sunday afternoon to rush home and erect the fence to let it dry out. I used twine to "rig" up a support system. Last night when I got home I bought nylon rope and made a much more robust support system. Estimated cost to fix the fence $300. Our neighbor is still out of town. Hopefully she will agree to pay half the cost.

A slot machine is still in my future. I was going to go look at one today....but I am exhausted. After working 15 hours Saturday, 12 hours Sunday and 9 hours yesterday, I need som timee to just sit. Right now I am working on going out next Tuesday to look at a few slot machines. The one in Houston is still my top pick, but the seller hasn't gotten back to me with more details.

I am now using Twitter. After months of thinking it was a silly communication medium.....I changed my mind. I have many thousands of interesting thoughts (well I think they are interesting) throughout the day. Many times I forget them. With Twitter I can instantly post my thoughts on this page. The Twitter account I am using is shared with my aviation blog so it might seem odd at times.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

If I were a betting man....wait I am a betting man

I moved my schedule around this month in a pretty daring way. I set myself up to work 6 on, 1 off, 6 on. I figured (based on 4 months of data!), that I would be home most of the time (and nights). I haven't been away from home for more than one night in the last 3 months. Yeah about that.

I worked airport standby Wednesday...and went home. I left home Thursday afternoon and was supposed to be home Saturday afternoon. The flight to Cleveland Thursday was very rough. The roughest I have ever been thru. Somewhere over Indiana we got rocked so hard by turbulence the plane suddenly dropped 500 feet and rolled violently to the right. The Captain fought for over 20 seconds (which seemed much longer) to keep the plane level, while our altitude shot up and down. I advised the flight attendants to sit down. One didn't make it to her seat as was weightless for a while. Thankfully she has been around a few years and braced herself and avoided injury. No passengers were injured, but many has stained shirts from drinks being spilt and more than a few filled up the air sickness bags.

By Saturday morning everything still looked okay for my plan. Saturday afternoon thunderstorms changed the plan. I flew back to DFW and had to keep my hands on the controls for over an hour as we were kicked around by turbulence again. Not as bad as the day before, but close.

Originally my crew was to fly from Cleveland to DFW to Fayetteville, Arkansas to DFW and be done. Well we were re-assigned to fly to Little Rock, Arkansas and back...being done about an hour later our original schedule.

Once we arrived in Little Rock yesterday at 1PM, thunderstorms in the area delayed our departure. First by an hour...then another hour...then 2 more hours and so on. I am legally only able to be on duty for 14 hours a day. There is one exception in that I can fly up to 16 hours as long as the aircraft is off the ground before the 14 hour mark and I can complete the flight in the 16 hour window. Sixteen hours is a long work day. My crew started the day at 6:00 AM Eastern (5:00 AM Dallas time) Saturday morning. The flight from Little Rock to DFW normally takes 1 hour 7 minutes. Due to weather we were being routed over Oklahoma, to west Texas then to DFW. The new flight time was 2 hours 10 minutes. The last departure time we were given was 5PM Dallas time. We would be barely legal to go. Then ATC advised us that they wouldn't allow us to take off until 6:45 PM. At that point we knew we would be illegal. The passengers were in luck that an entire crew was deadheading (flying as passengers) on our flight and agreed to fly the plane to DFW. After waiting around the Little Rock airport for 6 hours, we finally went illegal and went to the hotel.

We were supposed to deadhead back on a 6:55AM flight ot DFW. At that point I was being sent back to Cleveland for an overnight. I didn't really want to go. I want to go home. An hour later my crew was scheduled to fly the flight back instead of deadhead. All of this was predicated on the DFW to Little Rock flights making it in. This morning I checked my schedule again. Two DFW to Little Rock flights last night cancelled. My crew is now going to fly back at 12:15PM. I then sit around for 4 hours before flying to...........Cleveland!

I'm tired. I really wasn't thinking I would be gone for 5 days. I packed for it though.

The flight I was supposed to fly back from Little Rock did make it to DFW, but not before holding (flying circles in the sky) for quite a while over Oklahoma. Below is the flight path along with the weather radar at the time.


Still loving my job. Not liking it right now....but still loving it.

Friday, May 1, 2009

I think I found my slot machine

It's located down in Crosby which is in north Houston. If I can negotiate a fair price I might drive down and pick it up next week.

The machine can easily be converted into other games with a different kit. This machine is the most recent machine (called an S2000) out in casinos. This model comes with a 4th bonus wheel, bill validator and more. Kelli will not be pleased. Yeah you read that right.