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Our Week with the Grandkids

Our Week with the Grandkids
and trying to survive 13 hours in Economy
July 2014

Now that we are in Denver, Mrs. SFO and I don’t see our two California sons (San Francisco and LA) and our four grandkids.  While grandkids are great, especially in small doses, we’ve thrown caution to the wind and decided to have all four here this week. I’ve been traveling with our SFO grandkids for years, usually shuttling them to Honolulu to spend time with my DIL’s family.  Now that we’re in Denver, I pick up the SFO grandkids, bring them to Denver and then take them back home.  Although this year, my oldest son ask “would you mind dropping them off in Hawaii instead of San Francisco?”  Why not, I’m always up for a mileage running, or so I thought.  And this year, the LA crew is coming at the same time.   OMG, all four of them for 5 days…. two 6 year old girls and two 3 year old boys.  What were we thinking?

So here we go, starting with an SFO pickup.  Unfortunately, DEN-SFO is a bad route for an AA Executive Platinum.  United, Frontier and Southwest are the only nonstop options.  Ugh.  I picked Frontier for my DEN-SFO because they are perfectly fine if you get pay a little extra for Stretch Seating, with a 36-37”pitch, and the price was right.  ;)

With a 7:39A departure and no PreCheck on Frontier, I left the house at around 5:40A.   Car seats installed I headed for convenient valet parking. 

I used my CLEAR to skip the lines but got the regular invasive security nonsense, complete with Nude-o-scope.  It has been so long since I didn’t have PreCheck, that I was like a kettle today, including forgetting to take off my shoes. LOL.  Off to the train and over to the Concourse A…

And up to Level 4 and the AA Admirals Club.    Not many people here this morning, perfect for a fresh batch of AC pics.

At around T-50, I headed down to Level 2 and the gates.


Time for plenty of cool Frontier livery pics.

Then over to the gate.

Lots of extra seats, but apparently the cleaners forgot to turn flip them back to the usable position.

Frontier F9 Flight 657
Denver-San Francisco
7:39A-9:06A (sked)
July 13, 2014
Economy - Stretch Seating

At $119 one way and an extra $25 for stretch seating, this was $70 less than I would have paid for E+ on United.  And I didn’t have to fly United, at least today.  

Organized boarding by zone.  Stretch seating gets you a Zone 1 BP and priority boarding.  Not  sure how well then carry-on size limit policy and the GA didn’t even look at my back pack which was borderline.  Pleasant looking cabin, leather seats.

Lots of leg room. Well worth the $25...

Today's BOB Menu.

Excellent, friendly service from 3 friendly FAs.  Although they charge for soft drinks, water and coffee are complimentary.

All in all, a better than anticipated 2 hour Y flight. 

Next Up:  OMG, the misery that is Southwest. 

Despite an initial warning about an ATC hold, we departed DEN and arrived SFO on time, at around 9:10AM. We pulled into Gate 43 of T-1 and I used work stations at Gate 42 and Free SFO Wifi to catch up on work.  At around 9:55A, I started heading over to the Southwest counters to meet my son and two grand children.  Ah memories...

The old Continental counters and Presidents Club at the far end, now another SFO conference room.

With a football field length line inside, we queued ten minutes outside to check bags, then headed off to security.  I didn't even realize the I had PreCheck on my BP until the security line dragon told me.  Also said I could take the kids with me, even though they didn't have PreCheck.  Unfortunately, that was the highlight of my day with Southwest.   Don't know what it is but I loathe this airline.  Well I actually do know why.  It's like riding a bus that flies, except not as comfortable.  And at SFO, an horribly antiquated concourse. 

Plane watching, three year old style.

Southwest 334
San Francisco-Denver
July 13, 2014
Seats... does it really matter 

The Southwest cattle drive.  No assigned seats... it's essentially a free-for-all.  Boarding is done according to check-in time but you can jump the queue by paying a fee.  I checked in at precisely T-24 and got A58, A59 and A60 which meant we were the 58th, 59th and 60th pax to board.  

And naturally, the usual evil eye that I only found later when I was editing.  

Finally our turn.  Wifi on board.  Another Southwest joke.  


With A58-A60, we were able to get three seats together mid-cabin.  Not that it really matters because, except for 10 seats (4 bulkhead and 6 exit row seats), they are all garbage seats unless you are 3 or 6 years old.  A far cry from Frontier or any other airline with extra legroom economy seats.  What kind of fool pays extra to buy a Business Select ticket to get a low A boarding pass in the hopes of running down the jet bridge fast enough to get a bulkhead aisle or window or exit economy seat?   

Southwest does hand out snacks to everyone, if you are so inclined, and complimentary non-alcoholic beverages.

Live TV is available on your personal computers, tables and smart phones.  I opted to pay $8 for Wifi which was completely useless for anything other than slow downloading of emails.  Hard to believe but even United's Wifi (where they have it) is actually faster.

We departed and arrived on time and mercifully only had to endure 2.5 hours in this tin can.  Two Y flights down and one more (the big one DEN-HNL) flight to go before returning to the pointy end, hopefully for the rest of my life.  The kids also enjoyed being on the ground.

Some nineteen hours later, I'm back at DIA to pick up the next wave.  As their inbound Southwest flight from Burbank was delayed, I had a chance to explore more including the stunning new Westin adjacent to the main terminal.

And another football field length of empty United counters.   Might have made sense before Jeff turned DEN into RJ central.

Then I decided to tempt fate and take pics of the both north and south security.

South security where the only line is at PreCheck.  Count on the TSA to screw up a good system.

Yeah, the left hand lane is Pre-Check.

Waiting outside train arrivals...


Back to the house for lots of play, and finally dinner.

With papa on the grill.

Our first full day with the entire gang... off to Centennial Park.  

And the requisite plane pics, take off from nearby Centennial airport (APA).

And then to nearby Lollipop Park.

And finally for a late Happy Meal lunch.


OMG, what a long week!   I'd forgotten how all consuming kids can be.  Where do they find the energy?   And four under the same roof at the same time.  Mrs. SFO and I need a vacation.  
More pics from the week.  Loading up at Target. 

The Denver Children's Museum.​

And nearby Belleview Park in Englewood.


WIth the three year old fascinated in cow milking a fake cow.  LOL.

O-M-G. Friday morning.  Finally.
After a week with the grandkids, Mrs. SFO finally gets some peace and quiet and a day to herself, while I'm shuttling two grandkids to Honolulu.
And just as we said last year, the words "never again" were mentioned.  LOL.
Not the best flight options to Hawaii, especially when I need three seats.  Crappy United has a daily DEN-HNL nonstop but, it is United and they wanted $1,100 for Y.  ROTLMAO.   With sparsely filled cabins and a pattern of releasing award seats at T-7, I figured that they would eventually release award seats on the nonstop.  In the interim, I booked "just in case" refundable F tickets on an Alaska Airlines one-stop via Seattle.  Ultimately, United indeed released award seats, F at 50K and Y at 22.5K.  I initially booked three FIrst seats, but cancelled them within 24 hours when I couldn't actually select seats and the reality of "how do I control two kids when we're not really sitting together" set in.  So I opted for Economy Plus seating, even getting one free E+ seat when UA.com couldn't process credit cards and I had to call web support.
With an 11:30A departure, I gave myself plenty of time with the kids and arrived at the airport two hours before departure.  Even with PreCheck and using the Priority (Star Alliance Gold) counter, it took 45 minutes to get to the B concourse.  Just in time for lunch at Elway's and a far better meal than any of the F or J pax ate on our flight, or any other United flight, today.

United 328
11:30A-2:32P (sked)
12:05P-3:00P (actual)
July 18, 2014
Economy Plus
Seats 29ABC
We arrived at nearby B36 just as Zone 2 was starting to board.   Boarded thru 2L and a right turn thru a pathetic looking J cabin....
... to Economy Plus.  Really? 
Pleasant enough DEN-based crew.  Not there is anything for them to do... a pass of the beverage and BOB carts just after take-off, and another pass of the beverage cart at T-2 hours.
The only thing that made this survivable was a pretty good IFE system with 100+ movies, including a few recent Bollywood releases.  Not that I'd want to do this again anytime soon, but 34" pitch and IFE made Y survivable.  Including a fuel truck delay, we were on board for eight hours, and the kids were absolutely amazing.   Between their ipads and the IFE, they were great travelers.

After a long walk from Gate 7 to baggage claim and a brief visit, I handed the kids off to the Honolulu grandparents.  Next up, across the street to the National counter and a rental car for a quick (or not so quick rush hour) drive into the city.  Some pics of the city...

After dinner and after the traffic had calmed down, I headed over to Waikiki.

Sorry but... don't think that she'll make the Girls of Honolulu list.

Before driving back to the airport.


With a 10PM flight back to Denver, I had enough time for dinner.  Not just any dinner.  Dinner at one of Mrs. SFO and my favorite restaurants.  We first heard of Alan Wong when we lived on the Big Island and he started The Canoe House restaurant at Mauna Lani, after training in Tokyo and New York's Lutece.  Alan's modern Hawaiian cuisine is simply out of this world.  His restaurant empire includes restaurants in Honolulu, Maui, the Big Island, Toyko and (coming in November) Shanghai.  His original King Street restaurant will celebrate its 20th anniversary next year.

My decision tonight was easy.  All my favorites in one "classic" tasting menu... with wine pairings.

Starting with Alan's signature "Soup and Sandwich"... Chilled vine ripened Hamakua Springs tomato soup and Kalua Pig Sandwich with grilled Big Island goat dairy mozzarella cheese, and foie gras. 

Chopped Ahi Sashimi and Avocado Salsa Stack, on crispy won ton, spicy aioli and wasabi soy.

Oh yeah!

The Butter Poached Kona Cold Lobster, Keahole Abalone, Hamakua Eryngii mushrooms and green onion oil. 


One of my all time favorites... Ginger Crusted Onaga with Alan's incredible miso sesame vinaigrette, mushrooms and corn. Paired with a beautiful Reisling.


And as if that wasn't enough, the incredible Twice Cooked Short RIb, Soy braised and grilled "Kalbi" style, gingered shrimp, Kochu Jang sauce.


And dessert, Alan's longtime signature dessert, The Coconut... Haupia Sorbet in a Chocolate shell, Tropical Fruits, Lilikoi Sauce. 

What an amazing treat this dinner was.  One of the best meals of the year at what is one of our Ten 10 Favorite Restaurants in the World.