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 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?

The Russians are Coming

Actually, the Russians already came and went. It was almost 200 years ago. Realizing Alaska was a good place for hunting and fishing but not growing a lot of food stuff, the Russian American Company decided it needed a new outpost; One that could grow food in support of its outposts in Sitka and along the Aleutian Islands chain. But where? Spain had everything from San Francisco Bay to the south and Britain’s Hudson Bay Company had most of the Pacific Northwest under its control. Russia, not wanting to make any of its European brethren unhappy enough to declare war, decided on a quiet, flat peninsula in between the two great world powers on California’s Sonoma Coast and named it Ft. Ross.

The Russians erected a stockade, plowed fields and fell redwood trees to build seagoing vessels. Ft. Ross was actually California’s first shipyard. They unofficially conducted trade with the Spanish and entered into hunting agreements with Yankee shipping for sea otter pelts. They formed peaceful alliances with the nearby native tribes and pretty much kept to themselves. After 40 years, the Russians decided it was time to vacate the fort. Growing food right along the seacoast had never been terribly successful and it was found to be cheaper to buy it directly from the Hudson Bay Company. The Spanish were spreading further north, establishing additional missions and granting large swaths of land to settlers in the region. The writing was on the wall. Most of the contents of the fort were sold to John Sutter and the Russian settlers left California as quietly as they arrived.

But in a fascinating way, Fort Ross has remained very much in the hearts and minds of not only the people of Russia, but the Russian-Americans who now reside in California. The fort represents an historical tie between émigrés and their homeland. Several times a year, Russian-Americans gather at the fort. They celebrate their culture with traditional food, music and dance. They celebrate mass in the fort’s chapel with assistance from Russian Orthodox priests from the Bay Area. The Russian Pathfinders Scouting organization regularly camp at the fort and help out with functions.

As the fort celebrates its 200th Anniversary next year, several special events will be held with several sponsors including the Russian Federation Consulate in San Francisco. Sports Leisure hopes to find one event we can put together with a tour. If you are interested in participating, please contact our office and asked to be put on the Priority Notification List.

The Ramona Bowl

Helen Hunt Jackson’s novel Ramona is a classic love story of life in early California which
authentically depicts the cultural diversity of emerging settlers and native peoples during the 1850’s.
Each year, the communities of Hemet/San Jacinto join together to share their love of theatre arts and
bring Ramona back to life. The pageant is America’s longest-running outdoor play with over 400 actors,
singers, dancers and horsemen staged in the uniquely beautiful Ramona Bowl, a breath-taking natural
amphitheater. The Bowl is as important to the play as all the costumes, animals and props are. The
natural setting makes the story so much more authentic. And the Bowl’s surroundings, about 160 acres of
canyon country, really allow the audience to immerse themselves in the story. Make time this spring to
join Sports Leisure Vacations and enjoy the splendor of Ramona!

Helen Hunt Jackson’s novel Ramona is a classic love story of life in early California which authentically depicts the cultural diversity of emerging settlers and native peoples during the 1850’s. Each year, the communities of Hemet/San Jacinto join together to share their love of theatre arts and bring Ramona back to life. The pageant is America’s longest-running outdoor play with over 400 actors, singers, dancers and horsemen staged in the uniquely beautiful Ramona Bowl, a breath-taking natural amphitheater. The Bowl is as important to the play as all the costumes, animals and props are. The natural setting makes the story so much more authentic. And the Bowl’s surroundings, about 160 acres of canyon country, really allow the audience to immerse themselves in the story. Make time this spring to join Sports Leisure Vacations and enjoy the splendor of Ramona!

Check out the official Ramona Bowl trailer on Facebook

Thanksgiving Eve?!?!?!

Take the Thanksgiving Train to LAWhat is it that’s so special about Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve? Both are clearly descended from the event one day later, yet they have grown in popularity to become holidays in their own right not just in America, but all around the world. Some consider the Eve to be more popular and celebratory than the Day itself. Even I have fallen prey to the wiles of a good Eve. For example, nowadays I only go to church on December 24th, never the 25th, and New Year’s parties are always on the Eve, leaving the following day free for those who enjoy watching the big game on TV, hangover recuperation or both! Personally, I usually reserve New Year’s Day to clean out my closet.

So why is it that Thanksgiving Eve doesn’t enjoy the same revered place in American culture? Can it not be equally festive? Why is this singular wintertime Eve not also known as a time for good food, drink and fellowship? I think it is past time that lovers of Thanksgiving Eve (and anyone else simply looking for a good reason to celebrate) should rise up and do something about this terrible disparity in the calendar. Won’t you join me?

This year, Thanksgiving Eve is November 24. On that date, “Take The Thanksgiving Train to LA” takes rail for the last time. On this very special journey, we charter the historic Silver Lariat, the beautifully restored lounge car from the pre-Amtrak California Zephyr, and make tracks from Oakland to Van Nuys (just short of LA). The all-day trip includes three meals served hot and fresh from the microscopic gallery tucked in below the observation dome. The hosted bar is open all day for “adult beverages” from Bloody Marys in the morning to evening cocktails. A host of attendants are there to attend to your every need including owner/restorer Burt Hermey. If I do say so myself, it’s a great way to spend an Eve.

Upon arrival in Southern California, we sleep well for two nights in the 4-Diamond Hilton Hotel in Glendale. On Thanksgiving Day, the transportation theme continues with a visit to Long Beach for a ride on a real Venetian gondola in the canals of the Naples neighborhood, followed by the lavish Champagne Holiday Brunch and ship’s tour aboard the venerable Queen Mary. (Want to sleep on the ship? Check out “Anchors Away” in February!) On the day after Thanksgiving, we wrap up the trip with a ride aboard the new LA subway to Hollywood for a guided tour of everything both classic and new in Tinsel Town. A flight from Burbank Airport returns you safely to Sacramento.

Only a couple spaces remain on this exciting adventure. Call the office at (916) 361-2051 or toll-free at 1-800-951-5556 and make your reservation today!  You can also learn more about our Thanksgiving trip to LA by clicking here.

Chris takes on Death Valley and the Eastern Sierra Nevada

What’s in a name?  With a name like Death Valley, it would seem not much.  I was recently assigned to plan and escort our Death Valley and the Eastern Sierra Nevada Tour.  As I began my research I was shocked at what I found.  There is more than just dry, cracked clay and tumbleweeds (as I have always envisioned), instead there is actually an abundance of LIFE in Death Valley.  The park is home to numerous species that have adapted over time to the dry conditions and thrive here such as the Bullhorn Sheep and Coyote.  Luckily, we will have two full days of touring to take in the sights and to learn more about this fascinating region.

The Furnace Creek Ranch will be our oasis in the desert.  You can check out their website in order to give you an idea of the accommodations and the beauty that awaits you at every angle.  Make sure to look at the photo gallery provided on the site.  My interest has definitely been piqued and I am eager to continue my research to learn more.  If you are interested in joining me I encourage you to take a look at the hotel link provided above and feel free to write to me at with any questions…or just write to me to share information or a story from a previous visit.  I look forward to hearing from you!

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, 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.


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.

Casino Mystery Trip are among our most popular tours!

Last spring on a scouting mission I developed one of the most unique tours, the Rich Man Poor Man Casino Mystery, March 21-25.

I’m not real good at keeping secrets and this has been a tough one as the posh Rich Man portion of the tour stays 2 nights at an incredible hotel set in magical scenery. The property boasts marvelous one of a kind shopping, a spa, and of course a casino. The Poor Man’s accommodations are not as fancy but there is endless entertainment, shopping, gaming and even golf courses close by. We will be motor coaching between the two destinations (it takes an airplane to get there), stopping at places of interest during our travels.

If you have never taken a mystery tour before but you enjoy testing Lady Luck or browsing the shops, take a chance on this one, you won’t be disappointed. Happy trails, Scott

You can checkout Rich Man, Poor Man by clicking 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 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 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.

The Great Comment Giveaway

We hope you all had a fantastic holiday season, and would like to welcome you to the new year with a contest here at!  We’re offering a $50.00 gift card to a local restaurant OF YOUR CHOICE to one lucky winner at the end of January.  All you need to do to enter your name in the contest is post a comment on any blog post we release this month.  Not sure how to do that? Don’t worry, we’ll explain it further below.

The rules are simple:  We’ll be posting various articles, travel discount opportunities, announcements and random musings here on our blog at various times throughout the month. To enter, all you need to do is:

  1. Read the entire post
  2. Think of a great comment
  3. Write it into the comments section below the article on our site.

For those of you reading via email, you’ll first need to click on the title of the post to write your comment.  Replying to the email won’t work, to qualify for the contest you’ll need to post your comment on the actual site. Your name can only be entered into the drawing once per blog post, but you are free to comment on all the posts to increase your chances!

So there you have it, our first ever online contest here at Sports Leisure Vacations.  Remember, you can’t play if you don’t comment, so be sure to sign up for email announcements whenever a new blog post is released. Click here to sign up for email updates now. Let us know what you think in the comments 😉

Our 2010 Catalog & Dream Book, “Imagine,” Mailed to All Travel Club Members

 From the Sports Leisure Newsroom – The brand new 60-page, four-color Dream Book, entitled “Imagine,” was dropped at the post office Wednesday morning, September 2nd.  Travel Club Members should begin receiving their personal copies in the next few days.  Be sure to look for the special Day Trip insert, which also contains dozens of Early Registration Di$counts for tours, cruises and vacations in the catalog.  The book will be posted on the web and be available for distribution to non-members beginning Monday, September 7th.  Copies are also available at the Sports Leisure office.