Sunday, March 31, 2013

Nevada Test Site (NNSS) Tours

The Nevada National Security Site, originally the Nevada Test Site, was the home of America’s domestic nuclear weapons testing.  100 open air tests, or “shots” as they are called by NNSS, were conducted in the 50’s and 60’s and 828 underground tests were conducted until 1992.  The site is still used for subcritical testing, DHS training, weapons R&D, weapons assembly, radioactive waste storage, and other activities not discussed.  It’s also a good place to take a device one finds with nuclear materials mated with explosives, that is if you didn’t want to bury it where you found it.  
GRABBLE - May 25, 1953
The site has tours open to the public once a month, but reservations need to be made in advance.  More information on the free tours is available on their website.  The problem is their site looks like it hasn’t been updated in a year and the email address is dead.  What you should do is call National Security Technologies (tour operator company) at 702-295-0944 and ask about tour availability.  Frequently there are cancelations so short notice booking is possible.  I booked my aunt and I on a tour about two weeks before the tour date, others on the tour reserved space about a year ago.
PRISCILLA - June 24, 1957
The tour was great!  The tour guide worked at the site doing nuclear tests for 20 years and is very passionate about the area and its history.  The tour departs Las Vegas in a new coach bus in the morning and arrived back in the afternoon.  No cameras or electronic devices are permitted.  The NNSS is very desolate, but there are some fun things to view.  Frenchman Flats was the original areal test site and still has remnants of the test structures.  The railway trestles are an amazing display of the destructive force of a relatively small blast.  Some of the test houses are still standing too.  Some of underground craters are huge; Sedan for example is more than 1,200 feet wide and 350 feet deep.  The bus also drove us into the Bilby crater to help give a sense of scale.  The landscape is pot marked with dozens and dozens of craters.  There are also the remnants of the cancelled US-UK Icecap test.  This test was a few weeks from detonation when the testing moratorium was signed.  All the test facilities are in place and it looks ready to go on short notice.  It’s somewhat eerie to see it 21 years later, but is a great visual of what testing was like.  
Icecap Test
Some of the modern uses for the Nevada National Security Site are also displayed.  There was a tour of the radioactive waste dump that was interesting (I’ve also very comfortable with how waste is stored).  We also drove through a DHS training area with quite a few wrecked vehicles.  Some of the current uses were kept a good distance away and Area 51 is about 12 miles from the Sedan crater.
Sedan Shot
It was a great tour and fun way to experience Las Vegas off the strip.  I also recommend the MobMuseum in downtown if you have time.  The Westin on Flamingo felt dated, but it’s the closest SPG location to The Strip.  
NNSS Landscape

Friday, March 29, 2013

Smooth Landing Into Denver Today

I came back from a 36 hour trip to Vegas (more later) and had a very smooth arrival and landing into Denver.  Those are very rare when there is any wind on the mountains, especially on the small CRJ-700.  It's a great day to fly.
United 757 at DEN
I took a bunch of pictures with a disposable camera (made the TSA hand check it too), it may be a little while before those are developed.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

United Airlines A319 First Class Seat 1A

I have mixed feelings about United's A319 aircraft.  Seats 21A and 21F do not have a seat in front of them, so you have about 50 in of leg room.  The first class cabin however has only 8 seats.  It's always a difficult flight to clear an upgrade, especially when flying hub to hub or at peak times.  On my most recent flight, my upgrade cleared at the gate (1K on a Q fare flying on a Sunday morning DEN-SFO if you are interested).
United A319 Seat 1A
The first class seat in United's Airbus fleet is very comfortable and has plenty of recline.  There isn't too much legroom, but the bulkhead for 1A and 1B has a cutout for a little more space.  No meal was served (United A319 lunch review) and I was able to get in almost two hours of work on the flight.  The flight went fast and was a nice trip all around with some fun views coming into SFO.
United Airlines A319 Parked at Denver

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Lufthansa iPhone App

I enjoy all things Lufthansa, especially their brand.  I am reading Lufthansa and Graphic Design: Visual History of an Airplane, an interesting review of their brand and it's developments over time (the book is too small for the rich imagery, it should be coffee table size book but is a small paperback).  I also like their iPhone app because it has a pictures section to download phone wallpapers.  The images are great, I have a 747-800 for my lock screen and the Lufthansa logo on a cabin wall for my wall paper.  The app is worth the download just for the images.
One of my Lufthansa Pictures

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

I Finished Grad School

I finished school and can travel any time now, not just between Friday and Monday so I don't miss class.  I can go anywhere, but don't have any pressing plans.  I'm still limited by my 10 days of PTO too.
Ready To Go

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Hilton HHonors Points Inflation

If Zimbabwe can function after hyper inflation Hilton HHonors can too.   Hilton is changing their award chart by adding three new categories so the most expensive hotels go from 50,000 points to 95,000 points, 90% inflation.  They adding a fifth night free bonus like SPG, but that doesn't take out the sting of hyper inflation.  The changes go into effect March 28th, so book now at the old prices.  There may be some better values at road side Hampton Inns, but the fun of points programs is the aspirational aspect of awards, not general discounts.   
Hilton Vienna, Nice Hotel

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Southwest Fighting In Denver - Status Match

Southwest is trying to steal elite flyers in Denver from Frontier (this happened last year) and United.  This is a big move to take on United on their home turf.  I can't wait for fare wars out of Denver to start.  United will match Southwest fares everywhere Southwest flies and I can grab some cheap miles and vacations.  Competition rocks!
Southwest 737 Heading for Battle
Here are the offer details:
We have an exciting opportunity for Colorado Rapid Rewards® Members who have elite status through the United Airlines MileagePlus® or Frontier EarlyReturns® programs!  Through April 30, 2013, MileagePlus Premier® and EarlyReturns Ascent or Summit members can get complimentary Rapid Rewards A-List Membership!

To take advantage of the status match offer, just send an email (make sure your Rapid Rewards state is CO first):

Subject:  Colorado Status Match Offer
1.  First Name:
2.  Last Name:
3.  Rapid Rewards(r) account number:
4.  Phone number:
5.  Attach a copy of your current, valid United MileagePlus(r) Premier(r) or Frontier EarlyReturns(r) Ascent or Summit membership card or statement.
6.  Enter "Colorado Status Match Offer" in the subject line.

To avoid delays, please ensure that your request includes all of the above information.  Please note that your e-mail submission cannot exceed five megabytes (5MB).

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Frontier Airlines March 2013 Coupon Code

Use promo code SPRING5 and take 5% off your next fare. Buy by 3/18. Fly by 6/8/13. Happy travels.
Frontier Jets Ready to Go

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Good Morning

It's (always) a great day to fly.  I'm grounded this weekend until finals are over.
Sunrise at DEN

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Star Alliance Lost Another Airline

The Star Alliance has lost two airlines in the last two months (though they don't leave until 2014).  US Airways bought American and is going oneworld after the merger and today it was announced that TAM, as part of their merger with LAN, is going to be a oneworld carrier too.  This new (though not shocking) development will limit awards in South America, especially to small and medium cities.  Star Alliance is still my favorite for awards, but it's not the far and away winner any more.
TAM 777 Landing at FRA
I'm not counting Blue1 in this because it was disbanded by SAS.  The biggest loss is that their airplanes looked outstanding.  They also good availability (all coach carrier) around Scandinavia.  Spanair (also tied to SAS) stopped flying last year, complicating trips in southern Europe.  I enjoy connecting in MUC and FRA, but I do miss the flexibility.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Guess Which One I Flew

Guess which of these was my aircraft this weekend.  Yup, the CRJ.  I was connecting in SFO and saw about a dozen planes that made me think 'oh, I want to go on that one.'  The CRJ did not evoke a similar reaction.
British Airway 747 Looks Great

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Upgrade List Tension

I had some drama at the airport this morning, there was no traffic, Pre-Check was a breeze, and my aircraft was at the gate two hours early, but I was #1 on the upgrade list with zero seats remaining.  Then I looked again and one seat was available.  The upgrade cleared just before boarding started and I grabbed a window seat too.  A good start to my travel day.
Upgrade List Tension