IT’S TIME TO CHECK OUT TSA PRE-CHECK!

TSA pre-check

TSA Pre-Check has been around just over four years now. It is a way to expedite your movement through security at most US airports. Designed primarily for the business traveler, it provides three bonuses we all can enjoy: (usually) shorter, faster moving lines; you don’t have to take your computer or other electronics out of your bag; and you can keep your shoes and jacket on. Frequent fliers such as myself have customarily been gifted this benefit by the airline with whom we have status. But when I fly on another airline, I have to join the long line and start undressing!

Even if you’re an infrequent traveler, you may have enjoyed the TSA Pre-Check experience on a past flight. It’s been given out randomly for the past few years so that more people could sample the program. Ultimately, it’s a subscription service offered by the TSA. The more who experience it and like it, the more subscriptions they will sell. It’s marketing at its best!

Of course, something that is designed to keep “the friendly skies” safe should, perhaps, require that everyone going through the expedited (and therefore arguably not as thorough) screening process be worthy of the benefit. As subscribers increase, they are growing frustrated by those in the line who don’t really know where they are or why, nor what the line requires. They slow the process, resulting in the expedited line sometimes being slower than the general line. TSA has put into motion new regulations that will decrease and eventually eliminate not only the random gifts of Pre-Check by US airlines, but also offering it as a benefit of status to their frequent fliers (USA Today – 10/19/2015).

I decided it was past time for me to find out the process for getting permanent Pre-Check status. Like most good things, it began with a Google search which quickly took me to https://www.tsa.gov/tsa-precheck/apply. The application process is simple and straight-forward. Then you must answer a battery of questions primarily pertaining to whether you’ve been involved in any sort of a felony situation in the past 7 years. Read the questions carefully! They are worded so that sometimes the “right” answer is yes and sometimes it is no.

Next, I was directed to a location where the face-to-face part of the process would happen. Despite rumors I’ve heard that this can be done downtown, in Folsom or in the Sunrise or Country Club Mall areas, the website showed the only “local” office being in West Sacramento (across Jefferson Street from Club Pheasant in the Lowe’s parking lot). The next closest location is in Stockton. I selected a date and time that suited me, and received an e-mail confirmation.

My appointment was yesterday. Despite the fact five people sat in the IdentoGO, USA office when I arrived, with proof of my appointment I was ushered right in. They checked my driver’s license, scanned my passport and collected $85. (Credit cards only – they don’t take cash!) I reconfirmed my answers on the online application. Then they electronically took all ten fingerprints. No ink! I was out in 10 minutes.

Though I was given a card on the way out saying TSA would notify me of my acceptance (or not) within 45 days, they also gave me a website where I can monitor my status. They said a Known Traveler Number (KTN) is usually assigned within 7 days. Sometimes it happens in as fast as 24 hours. Once I get that number, I will provide it to all the airlines on whom I fly, whether frequently or not, and enjoy expedited screening. They did stress this action must be taken in advance. Ticket counter agents cannot add the benefit on the day of travel.

One last thing – the subscription period is five full years. Even if you’re a relatively infrequent traveler, I think this is a pretty small price to pay for an expedited airport experience. Your thoughts?

A Note From Mark – The Day We Met An American Legend

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There were about 20 of us seated in the Grandstand Theater in the museum. We were on one of Sports Leisure’s popular Baseball Road Trips several years ago. This one had a theme. We were following the life of Yankee legend Yogi Berra. Our itinerary had included a visit to (old) Yankee Stadium, where Yogi was immortalized in Monument Park with other Yankee greats. We had stopped in St. Louis, Yogi’s hometown, and toured the neighborhood where he grew up with his great niece as our guide. She regaled us with stories of Yogi and we marveled at how two legendary baseball figures like Yogi and his friend Joe Garagiola could have grown up on the same street. Now we were in New Jersey, at Montclair State University, home of the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center. We’d been listening to Dale Berra talk of his own major league baseball career and the career of his father, Yogi. After about 15 minutes of story-telling, Dale paused and said, “Before you folks leave, I have a piece of memorabilia I’d like to show you,” and he opened a small door and disappeared behind it, leaving it slightly ajar.

We looked at each other in anticipation. What could it be? A World Series ring? Maybe the Yankees had loaned a World Series trophy to the museum? Would we get to touch a piece of history? Well, yes on the history thing, as you’ll soon see. And yes, I think you could call what was shown to us a “trophy”. We waited for what seemed like hours but in reality was only a minute or so. The door swung open, and a small, slightly hunched over figure appeared. We collectively sucked in our breath. It was Yogi himself.

image1Yogi Berra (center) at his museum in Montclair, surrounded by his Sports Leisure fan club.

Seems that word had gotten to him that a group of people were out on a trip, tracing some of the stops Yogi’s journey in life had taken him. So he decided he’d like to come down and meet us. When Yogi walked in, our collective jaw dropped. We were like kids in a candy store, staring at him without speaking or moving a muscle.

After about 15 seconds, Yogi spoke up. “You can come on down here, he said.” We still sat transfixed. My legs were like rubber, I couldn’t get them to work. After a second encouragement to join him, we made our way down the steps. Yogi shook everyone’s hand, asked us about our trip and wondered aloud why someone like him would be that interesting. One of the first things I noticed was the gnarled shape of his hands and fingers. Foul tips and pitches in the dirt for decades had broken and bent his fingers so that they sort of curled together. Catcher’s hands I think they are called. Hazard of the trade.

We tried to ask Yogi questions, but admittedly, we were star-stuck. For the next 10 minutes or so, I didn’t know whether to cry, smile or wet myself. Friends later asked if I’d gotten his autograph. I hadn’t. Signatures on a piece of paper have never held any intrigue for me. Just standing there, in the presence of a man who was not only one of the best baseball players to ever put on a uniform, but was indeed a great man, was an honor you could feel, in a humble sort of way that spoke of the man himself. In just those few minutes you could sense that Yogi was a kind and gentle man, a man of great integrity.

(His integrity was such that in the 1980’s when George Steinbrenner fired Yogi after only a few weeks of managing the Yankees, he vowed never to return to Yankee Stadium again, and boycotted the field until Steinbrenner publicly apologized over a decade later.)

Born to Italian parents and growing up in a rough and tumble neighborhood known as “The Hill” in St. Louis, Lawrence Peter Berra served his country in WWII and was a machine-gunner on the USS Bayfield during the Normandy invasion. He played the game with a passion few have ever reached. He was the heart and soul of the Yankees.

Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Joe Dimaggio, Lou Gehrig; the Yankees have had their share of legends, of Hall of Famers. Superstars. Certainly Yogi fit into every one of those categories. Some of his World Series records will never be broken for the simple reason with 30 teams now it isn’t likely anyone will ever play in as many World Series games as Yogi did.

Ironicly, it was his malaprops, his creative use of the English language, which made him memorable. By now, you’ve heard many of them repeated often in the days since Yogi’s passing. They make us laugh. Now some will make us reflect on the man who said them.

“It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.”

“I take a two hour nap everyday between one and four.”

Of a St. Louis restaurant, he said, “No one goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.” On attendance at Yankee games, he commented, “If people don’t want to come to the ballpark, how are you going to stop them?”

He once spoke of purchasing three of his favorite cardigan sweaters in different colors, “navy blue, navy green and navy brown.”

My personal favorite, “It’s déjà vu all over again.”

And on and on. Some of Yogi’s “sayings” will live on forever. He once stated, “I really didn’t say everything I said.” Except those around him verified he did. Often.

Bobby Hofman, a childhood friend who eventually played shortstop for the New York Giants and worked for the Yankees, hung the nickname Yogi on him after noting Berra’s resemblance to a Hindu holy man the two had seen in a movie. In his early years with the Yankees, he was mostly known as “Larry.”

Now Yogi has passed and we have lost something special, a true piece of Americana. Yogi wasn’t just a baseball player, he was one of us. His entertaining way of saying things made us laugh, made us think, made us human. Yogi cut through the airs of fame and fortune and talked to us on a level we could all appreciate and understand. We didn’t laugh at Yogi as much as we laughed with him. He was the guy you wished you could have a cold one with.

He passed peacefully on the 69th anniversary of his Major League debut, at the age of 90. No American sports figure other than perhaps the likes of Joe Louis, Muhammad Ali and the previously mentioned Babe were more recognized by the American public than Yogi. At this writing, funeral arrangements were still pending. Where you would hold it, I don’t know. Other than Yankee Stadium itself, what venue could possibly hold all of the people who would probably like to say goodbye to a man they never met?

Owning a tour company has allowed me to go a lot of places, see a lot of things, meet many wonderful people. But I sincerely doubt anything will ever top the day a diminutive man appeared from behind the door of a make-believe baseball stadium. As one of his friends, the late Wes Westrum, also a master of malapropos said, “When they made him, they threw away the molding.” Amen. Not likely will there ever be another Yogi.

And that, is just one man’s opinion.

Merry Christmas from Sports Leisure Vacations

Merry Christmas to all our online travelers.  It’s been an amazing year, and we just wanted to take a moment to thank you for everything!  Here are just a few videos we found interesting and worth a share.  Enjoy your weekend and be safe!

First we have the story of Christmas…slightly updated.  We all got a kick out of this around the office.  Enjoy!

The Story of Christmas….updated

Next, you all will probably remember David Walburn from our 2010 Tour Preview Day.  He joined us all the way from Montana to entertain and amaze us.  David recently sent us his new holiday song to share with everyone, so that’s what we’re doing.  It’s definitely an awesome way to spend a few minutes today!

David Walburn singing Christmas Time Again!

Merry Christmas!

Radio, from a Different Point of View

Born in ’87, radio is one thing I can honestly say I’ve taken for granted my entire life.  While I enjoy “tuning in” to my favorite music station occasionally in the car, the majority of my time is now spent listening to my iPhone or downloading my favorite talk shows online.  I love being able to listen when I want and skip the commercials.  In fact, it wasn’t until recently, when Mark started his own radio show called The Travel Guys that I truly began to appreciate all the hard work and time it takes to put out a quality radio program.

Every week, Mark scours the planet for interesting interviews, travel stories and oddities.  Whether it’s the local barber in a small city or a chocolate farmer in Hawaii, no stone is left unturned in his quest for quality content.  Each week, these random interviews and interesting tidbits magically (with the help of Tom Romano!) gel into the radio program you hear on Sundays.  It’s a lot of effort, but definitely worth it.  The Travel Guys is unique because it allows you to travel the world from the comfort of your living room or car.  This year alone I’ve been taken across The Lincoln Highway and back on Route 66; from Mackinac Island to Hawaii and the Florida Keys.  I’ve explored the farmer’s markets in Oregon, learned a little about cruise ships and shuddered at the idea of bed bugs.  Having now helped out with a little bit of the interviewing and radio process, I can appreciate these experiences all the more!

I recommend you dedicate some time and check out The Travel Guys, it’s on every other Sunday on KFBK AM 1530 from 12-1pm PDT.  Or, if you’d rather check out that commercial free version I told you about, just head over to www.travelguysradio.com.  You can listen to all the previous episodes and catch new ones just a few days after they air.

As of this writing, the next episode of The Travel Guys airs Sunday, November 7th at 12:00pm PDT on KFBK AM 1530

Our July/August Newsletter is now live

Mark and some fellow travelers meet Yogi Berra, Clayton talks about new security measures with the TSA and Sports Leisure is preparing for this year’s Tour Preview Day!

Check it out for yourself over on our publications page, or rest assured your copy is in the mail!

Our 2010-11 Tour Preview Day is coming up on September 11th.  This year’s show will feature the Food & Folk Festival, tons of entertainment, and as always – your chance to get the coveted Tour Catalog before anyone else!

Space is limited, and tends to go quick, so be sure to reserve your spot over on our Registration page or by calling the office.

On the Lincoln Highway….and Stuck in the Mud!

Some of you may not be familiar with the Lincoln Highway, I know I wasn’t until just a few weeks ago.  Indeed, of the nation’s historic highways, the Lincoln Highway is quite possibly one of the least well-known.  This is an unfortunate fact, especially considering the exciting stops, interesting people and wealth of history the follows America’s first trans-continental road.  Having just returned from a 4 day scouting trip of the Lincoln Highway, I wanted to take a moment and give you all a brief update on Sports Leisure’s upcoming Chicago-Cheyenne trip on the old road as well as some things I learned along the way.

As part of my preparation for the trip, I spent the two weeks prior reading up on some of the road’s history, most famous stops and best bathrooms (an important aspect of any adventure!).  What I learned was that this road was truly a labor of love for all those that helped make it possible.  Private donations kicked off the highway’s conception and its supporters spent months preparing the best route to take through the country using mostly already existing local dirt roads.  Far from what we’re used to seeing today, the Lincoln Highway meandered through town after town of small-time diners, farm land and local neighborhoods.  Even after the highway was finished, traveling it was no small feat.  The trip took a minimum of 30 days to finish and the first Lincoln Highway guide even suggested that you bring full camping gear for some stretches and to light signal fires in the event of an emergency so local townspeople could come to your aid!

Above all else, however, I learned that when you’re traveling America’s oldest roads, some things never change.  Traveling the old highway today is just as exciting as it ever was – though arguably in a different way – and maintaining it is still a labor of love.  Most of the small towns were bypassed long ago and largely left abandoned, but you can still see the highlights if you know where you’re going.  For example, you’ll absolutely love the Egyptian theater in Dekalb and the old Creston murals.  Exploring the corn fields in Nebraska for trail markers is an adventure, but be careful!  Our trip left us stranded in a foot of mud while we searched the plains for evidence of a wagon trail long since deserted.  You’ll have to see if you have better luck than us come June if you’re joining us as we explore the Lincoln Highway.  One more thing, if you happen to locate the mysterious footsteps in Ogden, I want to hear about it!

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Surprise “visitor” mars Open House for Hundreds

Sports Leisure News Bureau

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The annual Open House celebration at the Sports Leisure offices was a huge success last weekend, despite a rather strange visitor who insisted on interrupting each of the ten sessions.  A combined crowd of nearly 300 attended and were kind enough to bring along requested donations of toilet paper and Easter toys.  Nearly 1,000 rolls of TP were donated to Loaves and Fishes and 133 toys, mostly Easter bunnies, were given to Officer Zach Hatch of the Rancho Cordova Police Department, for delivery to low-income children as Easter presents.

Sports Leisure staff was on hand to share a lively presentation lasting a little over an hour.  Guests were treated to a continental breakfast or light lunch, depending on their arrival time.  Sessions were limited to a maximum of 40 to allow a more personalized experience for travelers.

A quick update of previously announced tours was given, with Scott, Ramona, Kevin, Clayton, Patricia and Mark giving one minute snippets on selected trips.  After a special interest feature presentation that varied from session to session, the schedule of short new summer and fall trips was unveiled.  All the trips will be listed in the upcoming Sports Leisure newsletter, which will begin arriving in members’ mailboxes at the end of this week.  Readers of this blog can access the new newsletter on line at www.sportsleisure.com, click on the new newsletter section in the middle of the home page.

As previously mentioned, the only obstacle to the otherwise perfect presentations was a visit from a character that insisted on referring to herself as “Honolulu Helen.”  Decked out in a grass skirt, coconut shells and a variety of cheap and tacky leis, she barged (and that is the only nice way to say it) into the room each time the program reached The Real Hawaii tour, regaling the audience with the virtues of the Sports Leisure package. We were only able to snap this quick, blurry photo of “Helen” before she darted out the door, but eye-witnesses report that the blurriness is actually an improvement over reality.

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Vice-President Clayton Whitehead, when asked to comment on the carnage…I mean visitor, could only shake his head and say, “Why, why did she have to come here.  Ten times in three days.  It’s just a tragedy.  We should have hired security to prevent that type of thing”

Mr. Whitehead’s comments seemed to sum up the shocked reaction of others in attendance.  Helen was last seen boarding a Super Shuttle van headed for the airport.  Despite (Helped by?) her antics, the program was a success, with many of the new trips reporting heavy sales interest this past week.

New Overnight Vacations Available at SportsLeisure.com

NEW!!!  The Osmond Brothers at John Ascuaga’s Nugget in Sparks * 2 Days – April 1st–2nd

The Osmond Brothers started their careers 50 years ago and have sold over 77 million records.  Don’t miss this rare appearance outside of The Osmond Theater in Branson, MO.  Your accommodations will be at the Nugget.  You will receive dinner before the show as well as a $5 cash bonus and a $3 food credit if including the show in your package.  There are no bonuses or dinner for those not including the show.  Before returning home the following day there will be a three hour stop at the Silver Legacy in Reno where you will receive a $5 cash bonus.  200 Gold Passport Points  $179 p.p./dbl.occ., $199 single

Check it out here…

NEW!!!  Lily Tomlin at John Ascuaga’s Nugget Hotel/Casino * 2 Days – May 7th–8th

In 1969, Lily Tomlin joined the sketch comedy show Laugh-In.  Some characters from the show have been associated with her throughout her career, including the wisecracking, snorting telephone operator, Ernestine and the bratty five-year-old Edith Ann.  She has also starred in many movies and continues to entertain audiences with the stories of her life.  Lily performs in the Nugget’s Celebrity Showroom.  Your accommodations will also be at the Nugget where you will receive a $5 cash bonus as well as a $3 food credit. Before returning home the following day there will be a three hour stop at the Silver Legacy in Reno where you will receive a $5 cash bonus.  225/250 Gold Passport Points  $219 p.p./dbl.occ., $249 single

Check it out here…

The Traveler for Jan/Feb and Open House Registration

Just a quick note to let you all know that our Jan/Feb newsletter is now available online. This issue features new vacations, day trips, customer letters and more.  You can check it out by clicking here or heading to sportsleisure.com and clicking on it from the homepage.

We’re also pleased to announce that for the first time ever, you are free to register for this year’s Sports Leisure Open House online.  To register, simply head to sportsleisure.com and click on the post-it note in the top-left hand corner.  You will then be free to select your session and reserve your spot.  You can also register by giving us a call at (916) 361-2051 after Friday.  Remember, online reservations are available now, phone reservations cannot be made until Friday.  This event is open to all Sports Leisure Travel Club members and their friends.