2006 MASTER BLOG

Text and Photos ©2006 Mark E. Halliday

 

“Year of the Mileage Run”

Unusual trips and “almost-free” hotel stays by following the deal.

…..and elite status on Star, OneWorld, and Skyteam alliances.

 

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JAN 17 - FEB 01:   PHILIPPINES: CEBU - DUMAGUETE - SUBIC 

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My first Mileage Run of the year, aimed at getting UA status via cheap fares posted on www.Flyertalk.com. This would not be a “pure” MR, as I opted to visit new destinations in the Philippines instead of Hawaii.

TUE JAN 17

AUS-ATL       15K AA Miles award ticket

AUS-DFW      AA# 1524      13:48-14:51            Economy

DFW-ATL       AA# 1390      15:38-18:40            Economy

Sat on Tarmac at end of DFW runway for two hours waiting for ATL to re-open after storms.

Atlanta Airport Microtel $40

 

WED JAN 18 

ATL-HNL        $132             First Class upgrade: 30K UA miles

ATL-SFO       UA# 1249      07:30-09:47            First

SFO-HNL       UA# 0075      12:20-15:52            First

Airport bus to Waikiki $8, Waikiki Hotel $90, WI-FI in room $10. Waikiki looked too touristy for me, really just a estination suited to couples and families. So I re-considered spending two weeks in Oahu or beyond, but could not change return flights, even with penalty. Logged on and booked onward HNL-MNL using 60K NW Miles on CO Air Micronesia flights via Guam. I knew the Philippines would be a better choice, very much a bargain destination, with friendly American-oriented people. There are usually a few expats around as well to provide conversation and local insight.

 

THU JAN 19

HNL-GUM       CO# 001        15:20-18:50+1         Economy

FRI JAN 20

GUM-MNL       CO# 933        20:00-21:40            Economy

Sat next to interesting CO Freight Manager. He managed Port Moresby freight back in the days when I was flying into PNG from GUM, and we reminisced about the old “Combi” 737, the front half a passenger compartment and the rear full of palletized cargo. On arrival at MNL, walked to upper departure level, and taxi to small hotel in Mabini area.

 

SAT JAN 21

MANILA

SUN JAN 22

MANILA

MON JAN 23

Fly to Cebu, Cebu Airways

Downtown Hotel $45

TUE JAN 24

CEBU Mall

WED JAN 25:

6 AM: FastCat Ferry, Cebu Pier to Dumaguete (Business Class!)

          Dumaguete Hotel- only available one night.

THU JAN 26

Dumaguete hotels full, taxi to beach area south of Dumaguete…..xx…. Hans place was full, so I stayed at a Swiss run place a mile away. No TV or computers, but nice pool. Taxi dropped me at market at ………...then walked along beach back to hotel.

 FRI JAN 27

Dumaguete to Manila:  Cebu Airways

SAT JAN 28

Manila to Subic Bay: ex-US Naval Base facilities now ttansformed into nice hotels and casinos. Hired a taxi to take me around to …… , an area with nice modest hotels on beach, for future reference.

 SUN JAN 29

          Taxi from Subic to Bataan. Ferry from Bataan peninsula to Manila Yacht Club. Taxi to Townhouse Hotel near MNL airport.

MON JAN 30

Visited Intramuros, old original Spanish walled center of Manila. Area hs been restored only in the last decade, after being flattened in WWII. Breakfast at Starbucks.

Sleep in afternoon, paying half day at hotel, then taxi to airport at 9 pm. Check-in for flights to HNL, lounged and e-mail after surprising upgrade on flight to Guam. Per the rules, reward tix cannot be upgraded. However, my award ticket “Rule Buster” fare required 40K (instead of standard 20K) miles. It books in full Y economy class, and my elite status on NW allows space available upgrade on Y tickets. Nice glitch....and I feel better about the double mileage penalty.

MNL-GUM       CO# 934        23:10-04:40+1         op-up to First

 

 TUE JAN 31

GUM-HNL                 CO# 002        07:10-18:15 (-1)

Moana Hotel near HNL, $105, sleep for 15 hours.

HNL-ORD                 UA# 002        17:20-05:16            First

WED FEB 01

ORD-ATL                 UA# 0594      06:10-09:07            First

ATL-DFW                AA# 1411      11:30-13:02            Economy

DFW-AUS                AA# 1398      15:13-14:19            Economy

 

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FEB 16-MAR 08: PHNOM PENH - SAIGON via MEKHONG DELTA - SIHANOUKVILLE

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Apr 07–21: HOLY WEEK MORIONES FESTIVAL, MARINDUQUE

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XXX MAR XX: Mileage Run: AUS-BUF for AA Gold Challenge

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TUE MAR 28: Mileage Run: 3X AUS-DFW-AUS for AA Gold Challenge

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 x3= 30K AA bonus miles

AA #1157          AUS-DFW          06:00-06:58

AA #1959          DFW-AUS          08:26-09:21

AA #1489          AUS-DFW          10:50-11:49

AA #0808          DFW-AUS          13:00-13:57

AA #1338          AUS-DFW          14:39-15:40

AA #0416          DFW-AUS          16:20-17:19

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MAR 31-APR 02:   AUS-JFK Mileage Run / Theater Weekend:

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TICKET:

AUS-JFK        DL#

JFK-AUS        DL#

            WEST END STUDIOS, 850 WEST END AVENUE                                                                                                                                                                            
            NEW YORK, NY     Check In: 3/31/06    Check Out: 4/02/06                                                                                                                                                                       
            Room: Standard Shared 
                           Rate    Taxes/Fees         Total                                                                                                                                           
       3/31/06                   60.00     12.51     72.51                                                                                                                                            
       4/01/06       85.00     16.58                 101.58                                                                                                                                            

            TOTAL                                         174.09 

 

 

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MAY 02-10:  SALEM (Via Atlanta and Honolulu)

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TICKETS:            UA:       IAH-ATL             $212                 

UA: ATL-HNL             $132                  First upgrade 30K miles

CO:            HNL-YVR             $170                  First upgrade 35K miles

Total= $514

TUE MAY 02

drive to IAH

IAH-ORD                UA# 7539           13:56-16:30                    E+

ORD-ATL               UA# 0566           17:45-20:50                    E+

On the trip Atlanta to Honolulu, “FourWheels”, a mileage runner sitting near me, recommended this thread on UA forum at flyertalk.com:      http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/showthread.php?t=458247

Well, I had heard rumors...but I finally flew with the guy I'll call "Mr. Pillows." This is a very frequent international flyer, whom the 'Carnation People' have determined can have whatever he wants, however he wants it, and that, he does:  On each and every flight, he is guaranteed the very same first class seat, no matter what.
He is provided with an entire bag--by that, I mean a four foot by two foot by four foot plastic bag---full of pillows strictly for his own use onboard the flight, none of which are to be distributed (under any circumstances, at ANY point during the flight) to any other passengers. A minimum of twenty United pillows for his own use, guaranteed, on any flight. The explanation? "Mr. Pillows is an extremely important customer. He pays us millions extra for his pillows. He always flies full fare!" Okay, then there are the specific newspapers, just for him. And did I mention the blankets? You got it--one bag of ten LARGE blankets--exclusively for Mir. Pillows.

Explanation? "He likes to 'nest'; it's the least we can do, for such a great customer. He flies with us nearly every week of the year. No one else is to touch these pillows or blankets. We just leave them in frtont of his seat; he'll do the rest. He'll get his own, during the flight, if he needs them. We leave them by the seat, and Mr. Pillows stows them wherever he likes, so do not move them from this (isolated, of course) first class seat. Let him do it." (Needless to say, Mr. Pillows immediately clogs up the boarding process by standing in the aisle at door 1L, carefully stowing all of it in the front closet, and leaving absolutely no space for anything or anyone else.)

Oh...did I mention the big bag of milk? Yup. Mr. Pillows's milk--bought and boarded by United--must be separately stowed in a chilled carrier onboard the first class galley. If you don't recognize the milk, don't ask. It's not our usual 2% milk; it's a special whole milk. We get it overseas for him, deadhead it here, and then use it as he returns to his native land.

"Oh...need I mention this? No one--not crew, not cockpit, or other passengers, are to be served any of the milk out of this bag of milk." And there--sure enough-- were the quirky, sexy plastic 'bottles' of milk for Mr. Pillows. Each item was hand delivered to the airplane, in advance of the boarding process, by a separate United employee. Two 'Carnation People' followed up, with visits to ensure Mr. Pillows' happiness, prior to departure.

 

WED MAY 03

ATL-ORD               UA# 0283           08:00-09:01                    First

ORD-HNL               UA# 0001           10:15-13:45                    First

HNL-SEA               NW# 0096           21:15-05:49 +1                First

THU MAY 04

SEA-YVR               NW# 2230           07:30-08:25

   9 AM      Thrifty Rental Car

   2PM       Tacoma- Lunch with Peter Donohue

   8 PM      Salem

FRI MAY 05

            “Sitting on a beam” jigsaw puzzle.

SAT MAY 06

 

SUN MAY 07

 

MON MAY 08

11 AM drive to YVR

Marriott (free cert) Vancouver Airport

Richmond BC

TUE MAY 09-                   BIRTHDAY FLIGHTS

6 AM                    return rental car  $120

YVR-SEA               NW# 4017           06:50-07:43 

SEA-HNL               NW# 0219           08:40-11:32                    First

Taxi to Pearl Harbor for Arizona Memorial. Not enough time to finish tour.

HNL-ORD               UA# 0002           16:25-05:15+1                 First

 

WED MAY 10

ORD-ATL               UA# 0594           06:15-09:14        First

ATL-ORD               UA# 1131           14:40-15:47        E+

ORD-IAH                UA# 7593           16:55-19:40        E+

   drive to AUS

 

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JUN 04-JUL 19:  Tbilisi-Baku-Zurich-Cyprus-Cairo

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AUG 15-25:  Salem and Anchorage (the hard way)

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TICKETS:            DL:        AUS-HSV            $260

CO:            HSV-ANC            $208       (H-class: Upgraded 15K miles)

 

TUE 15 AUG

AUS-ATL               DL# 1675            08:05-11:14

ATL-HSV               DL# 0620            12:40-12:36

HSV-IAH                CO# 3130           14:55-16:50

IAH-PDX                CO# 0553           17:40-20:00

            Hut Shuttle to Salem ($33). Mom and Dad pick me up.

WED 16 AUG

            Install second hard drive in both Mom and Dad’s PCs.

THU 17 AUG       

Setup WIFI card on laptop, test with drive by library.

FRI 18 AUG

            SVHS extension cable from laptop to TV. Download Pink Panther movie from Movielink.       

SAT 19 AUG

            Lunch at Spirit Mtn casino.

SUN 20 AUG

Terry and Karen visit. Mexican Dinner in Oregon City with Betty, Jason and friend.

MON 21 AUG

Move Karen’s Computer Desk downstairs. She drops me at PDX.

PDX-SEA               CO# 8264           14:30-15:22

SEA-ANC               CO# 1583           17:25-19:45

Jeff picks me up at ANC

TUE 22 AUG

            Rainy day. Meet Jeff for lunch at one of his watering holes. He is pretty busy working on a new restaurant project nearby. I clean up his laptop a bit.

WED 23 AUG

            Drive to Indian Valley, buy Ham. Buy some stuf at Costco. Dinner with Jeff and girlfriend.

THU 24 AUG

            Jeff drops me at airport in PM.

ANC-IAH                CO# 0286           22:40-08:26

FRI 25 AUG

IAH-HSV                CO# 2776           10:30-12:25

HSV-ATL               DL# 6150            16:00-18:00

ATL-AUS               DL# 0343            19:20-20:37

 

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SEP 26-OCT 31: Phuket - Sri Lanka (the Tsunami Tour)

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NOV 14-17:  NW Gold Elite Run: Denver to Aguadilla, PR

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Mileage Analysis:

(DEN-MSP=693) + (MSP-EWR=1017) + (EWR-BQN=1586) +

(BQN-EWR=1586) + (EWR-DTW=491) + (DTW-DEN= 1142) = TOTAL: 6515

 

TICKETS:  CO# VWDW6J   NW# OSWQNG  $98 RT

               UA# K9N3HO  $260- $200 cert =$60

 

TUE NOV 14

AUS-DEN               UA# 6652           11:18-12:48        First

            Ramada Inn Downtown Denver        BRG= Free

1150 E. Colfax, Denver, CO 80218      Room Type: King  

 

WED NOV 15

DEN-MSP               NW# 0436           06:25-09:24        First

MSP-EWR              NW# 0624           13:00-16:45        First

EWR-BQN              CO #312             18:10-23:10        Cancel

               Hotel:      FaroHotels Suites, Aguadilla, Puerto Rico 787.890.9000  $85

            Well, well, well...... My first failed MR. MSP-EWR was 2 hours late yesterday, due to ATC limits, or "weather" as NWA was careful to label it. So I deplaned at Term B 2 minutes after the CO flight EWR-BQN departed from Term C. Even if I had been there 20 mins earlier, still must re-clear TSA going from B to C. NWA was not that helpful, did offer to send me to Ponce last night since I had misconnected for my flight to “Barranquilla”.

            I had to provide my own hotel at EWR. so I came back to DEN today, where car and hotel were set up, and my return to AUS is tomorrow AM on UA. I am hoping I can get NWA to "Original Routing Credit" the missing miles from EWR-BQN-EWR, which is what is needed for Gold Elite qualify. Discouraging run, but I suppose it was bound to happen eventually. In hindsight, 2 hours is not a safe interval for an EWR transit and airline change. But then, what is?

            More distressing is the 30K miles I burned to upgrade to First Class. This was really just to cover the two 4-hour flights on CO, as I often will get the free upgrade from NWA as Silver, and 2 hour coach segments are OK anyway. Has anyone had any luck re-instating all or some of the upgrade-mileage in a situation like this? I expect when I misconnect and no-show, NWA doesn't have to pay CO for the First Class seats, but I may be wrong. Well, I have not heard of "trip in vain" rules. I will search on that.

            After confirming the BQN flight had departed, I went to the NWA counter. The agent didn't offer any suggestion, but asked what did I want to do. I did not know exactly what I wanted! Roughly calculated the cost of losing prepaid hotel in Denver and changing DEN-AUS ticket at $200. So I just told the agent I guess my only option was to go back to DEN in the morning. At that point he noticed I might still catch a Ponce flight with CO. I couldn't estimate the cost of a 2 AM taxi to BQN from Ponce, but did not think I would like the answer.

The discussion never really got into rules of any kind, except that it was a misconnect due to weather. I did call in yesterday; agent said to send a written request and explanation to Worldperks address. So I guess it will take some time to know if I make Gold Elite.... I am still trying to decide if I should only ask for the original mileage credit, or complicate the request by pointing out the lost value of the 30K upgrade that went half-unused.

 

THU NOV 16

BQN-EWR              NW# 6231           10:25-13:30        Cancel   

EWR-DTW NW# 0655           16:15-18:18        First

DTW-DEN              NW# 1225           19:00-20:10        First

            Ramada Plaza Denver Area North                  BRG= Free

10 East 120th Ave Denver CO 80233               Room Type: King  

 

FRI NOV 17

DEN-AUS               UA# 6552           10:25-13:22        First

 

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NOV 20 - DEC 01:  Alaska Ham to Oregon

MON NOV 20

                                     Supershuttle        05:30

            AUS-SFO            UA# 657 10:45-12:29        First

            SFO-PDX            UA# 282 13:08-14:52        WL

 

TUE NOV 28        UA-1K Final Qualifying Run

            PDX-SFO            UA# 220 13:15-14:59        First     

            SFO-JFK             UA# 014 16:00-00:20+1    WL

 

WED NOV 29

            JFK-SFO             UA# 005 06:25-10:00        WL       

            SFO-PDX            UA# 1117           10:45-12:29        First

 

THU DEC 01

            PDX-DEN             UA# 794 09:07-12:39

            DEN-AUS            UA# 7704           13:53-16:52

 

 

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DEC 11-18:  Puerto Aventuras, Yucatan, Mexico

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MON DEC 11

            Supershuttle 4:15 AM

            AUS-DFW            AA# 580             07:00-07:55

            DFW-CUN            AA# 315             09:30-12:05

TUE DEC 12

            Ek Balan and Valladolid with superguide Moro

WED DEC 13

            Beach   

THU DEC 14

            Coba Day trip, Fire show at Beach Theater

FRI DEC 15

            Mayan Culture Show

SAT DEC 16

            XpuHa

SUN DEC 17

            South Pool Complex

 

MON DEC 18

            CUN-DFW            AA#1654            13:10-16:05

Mom, Dad, Karen headed back to Oregon on AA flight. I pickd up Avis rental car at CUN, Dodge Attitude, automatic, one grade car better than reserved. The insurance would have doubled the rental from $186 to $370, so just went with minimum Mexican liability already included in rate. That is the important part that keeps one from going directly to jail. Anyway, insurance does not cover local police bribes, which are the biggest risk.

$30 of tolls on Cuota to Merida, road pretty empty, 300 km, arrivd about 3 pm at Hotel D´Champs, LP said they had internet, but no WEP key could be found. A large altar for Santa Barbara over the reception desk. Walked around Merida in evening, internet at Cafe Habana, check out some other hotels, farmacias tell me Tamiflu not available in Mexico, early to bed.

 

 

TUE DEC 19

8 AM watched soldiers raising flag in Gran Plaza. Huevos Motulenos ($6) in Cafe Habana (desde 1952), then upstairs for internet, bought 340 shares ECA, and Dell projector mount from Ebay. Visited the cathedral and the Blistering Christ, which had a line of people waiting.

Left hotel at 11 AM, within 2 blocks the local police pulled me over for making a right turn on a red light. They were correct, that is not allowed here, I remembered, too late. So we chatted a bit, they checked my license and papers, and said lets go to the station where I could pay the $20 fine. I said OK, I will follow you ! But, of course, turning down a side street less open to public view, they pulled over and asked if ¿¿¿ I REALLY wanted to go to the station ???

 I enquired about paying an instant on the spot fine of $10, they said that was reasonable, gave me another reminder to always respect the signs, shook hands, and I was off to Campeche. This really made my day, no kidding. I was 12+ years out of practice on this maneuver, but performed OK. The only thing missing is the crying girlfriend in the passenger seat. And I can once again re-confirm the standard rule:

 ¨YOU WILL NEVER GO TO THE STATION¨.

I actually thought I might see the station for a minute or two. Later I wondered why this happened so quick, and looked at the rental car. Sure enough, a big rear bumper sticker says AVIS. In Spanish AVIS translates as "FREE LUNCH HERE". Topped up at Pemex, 27 liters of Magna for 185 pesos, Almost 30 mpg at 130 KM/h with AC blasting. Near Highway 180 turn off for Uxmal, another challenge: A matched pair of gleaming gasoline tankers were neck-and-neck racing in my direction taking both lanes. I politely decided to simply move to the very wide right shoulder like everybody else in front of me.

 

As always, Mexican road signs provide a constant stream of reminders:

RESPECT AND OBEY THE SIGNS

THE SIGNS ARE A SYMBOL OF SECURITY

AFTER AN ACCIDENT NOTHING IS THE SAME

VIBRATORS IN THE CITY

DON´T MISTREAT THE SIGNS

DON´T PUT ROCKS ON THE HIGHWAY

 

Arrived Campeche about 2 PM, drove around, found parking spot in front of Hotel Colonial, AC room with 2 big beds, $25. Impossibly small shower though ! Dropped off 5 kilos of laundry for $7 at Lavanderia Antigua. Campeche is very nice, clean, colorful World Heritage Sight city. Traffic not bad, policemen in snappy uniforms with radios on almost every corner. Dinner at La Parroquia, Pulpo al Mojo de Ajo, Sopa con Ajo y Huevo, and GRANDE Marg and Bohemia, $21. Folkloric dancing at seafront Baluarte 8:30 pm

 

 

WED DEC 20

Torta and lime juice in Mercado for breakfast $1.50. LP Walking tour of Campeche, along top of 3 Baluartes, drive car up to Fuerte San Miguel, with fine museum and three jade masks from Calakmul. Pick up laundry 3 PM, drive south towards Champoton along coast, nice area and lots of Cocktelerias. Turn South to Escarcega, 5th ugliest toiwn in Mexico, Mom tells me. Pemex 20 liters, 140 pesos. Hotel Posada Escarcega $20 AC and good cable.

 

 

THU DEC 21

8 AM breakfast Huevos Mexicana at hotel, drive East towards to Calakmul. At turnoff from Highway 186, pay $4 for car and $4 per person to enter Calakmul Biosphere Reserve. Exciting 60 km very narrow winding access road through beautiful mtropical forest, max speed 20 mph, Blue Morphos fluttering everywhere, birds flying out into roadway. Signs say no cutting of trees and Calakmul is a nuclear-fre zone.

11 AM arrive Calakmul archeological site, $3 entry, 2 km walk via "Ruta Larga", visit Acropolis and Gran Plaza. Climb up Stuctura II for excellent view over the pristine jungle. Only 30 people visited the site today, perhaps the main reason I would say Calakmul is the most pleasant site I have ever visited. The Gran Plaza is full of shade treas, not the manicured grass one finds at Tikal and Chichen. 1 PM depart back to road to Mex 186, blast through Xpujil to Chetumal, Pemex 200 pesos, Hotel Paradise Caribe $42, AC, WIFI

 

 

FRI DEC 22

Drive along Chetumal bayside road towards University of QR, beautiful garden areas and lots of modern monuments and parks. Huevos Mexicana and coffee in center, then Chetumal Maya Culture Museum 10-12 noon $5, very interesting displays, especially of Xiballba (Mayan Underworld) in lowest level. Ccheck out of hotel, guest pass at new Sam's Club and buy Negra Modelo (cheap!) and Ice.

 1 PM start drive to Playa, arrive 4:30 PM, heavy traffic, Pemex 190 Pesos. Check in totally new Holiday Inn Express at Playa Del Carmen, three nights free using 30K points! Good internet connection ia ethernet in room. Back to another Sam's Club for whole Hawaiian pizza $9, eat in room. Drive down to 5th street area, walk along pedestrian mall. Found Jeff Griffin's friend Keith at Captain Dave's bar. Back at hotel, watch Carlito's way on Cable, couldn't sleep until 3 AM.

 

 

SAT DEC 23

Coffee in room, 11 AM drive north looking for Xcalacoco, went down a road marked Coco Palms, that seems to have been it. Veered left at end for Pinos restaurant, rented a palapa with nice large hammock for $10. The hammock guy had lived there for 26 years, and said Miguel of Xcalacoco sold out about 4 years ago. Spent all day almost finishing Michener's the Drifters. The young hippies explored Mozambique and are in Marrakesh. References to Isla de Mocambique and Zambela Game preserve will have me studying that country.

5 PM Back to PDC (the Xcalacoco road is 7 km north of Juarez ave). At Sam's again, buy Sangrita de Viuda, the ctitical spicy-hot ingredient for making Vampiros. And another whole pizza (supremo !). Enjoyed pizza back at room, but annoyed to find that maid pocketed about $5 worth of peso coins I left on computer table. Reported to manager, but this is Mexico, after all.

 

 

SUN DEC 24

 

 

MON DEC 25

CUN-DFW      AA#1688       14:15-          Fly to AUS also 07:10, 13:10

            DFW-AUS            AA#

 

 

            Text and Photos Copyright ©2006 Mark E. Halliday