Road Trips and Travel Tips 2014-15
Fast Check-in with TSA Pre-Check
The TSA Pre-Check program allows you a much faster, lower-hassle route through airport security. There is a shorter line, and you don't have to remove jacket or shoes or take your lap-top out of its bag. It makes air travel almost as easy as 1999.
If you are an older, frequent flier you may occasionally get the "TSA Pre-Check" note on your boarding pass without your doing anything. But you can have it every time if you officially enroll in the program. To do this, go to the Enrollment site, fill out a questionnaire, and sign up for an appointment. You will be interviewed and pay $85 for your Known Traveller Number. Then, whenever you book a flight you give the Known Traveller Number and your boarding pass will have the magic pre-check note on it.
Getting to the Airport
There are now at least four ways to get to the airport:
- Drive yourself and park in a long-term parking lot,
- A door-to-door shared-ride van such as Supershuttle,
- A solo ride in a Lincoln Town car from a limo service such as 101 Limousine,
- A solo ride from one of the ride-share services like Uber, Lyft, or SideCar.
We've tried all modes and our favorite is the last one. We've had very good experiences with both Uber and Lyft. They offer all the comfort of a limo service; are almost as convenient as driving yourself; yet the fee is less than a taxi and close to that of the shared-ride van. You need to register your credit card with the service, then load its app on a smartphone. When you want a ride, open the app and request one. A car arrives in minutes. No money changes hands, no fuss, no tipping.
Cost-wise, a ride in a van or with Uber/Lyft is about the same as 4 days' parking. So if you will be away for more than 4 days, it's better to use some type of ride service rather than airport parking.
Airport Parking Reservations has a nice search that lets you find and book the best off-airport parking at (apparently) any US airport. They find a number of options under $10/day at SJC, and under $20/day at SFO.
For SFO you can park in the airport-run long-term lot for $18/day, now payable with credit card or with FasTrak.
Skypark costs $17/day for outdoor or $19/day for covered parking. ParkSFO has a building where you can have covered parking for $19/day (and you can print a one- or two-days-free coupon from their website).
There are several other SFO options; see the Airport Parking Reservations site linked above.
At SJC, the airport-run Economy Lot 1 costs $15/day.
Use these sites to find flights and hotels.
|hipmunk.com||Our favorite flight-search site. Enter your departure and destination airports and dates; you get a clear, compact table showing when all flights depart and arrive. Click a flight for details or to book it. (Doesn't cover Southwest.)|
|southwest.com/||Southwest schedules and ticket sales must be accessed at the company site; they are not available from Expedia, Travelocity, or other aggregator sites.|
|Two great starting points: you enter your air travel information once; each returns links to a number of sites that offer the best fares. Kayak does hotels and cars as well.|
|seatguru.com/||When booking a flight, before you get to the seat-selection part, open this site in another window. Click on the airline and enter your flight number. Seat Guru shows you the seat map as that airline configures that type of plane, showing which seats to prefer and which to avoid.|
|us.lastminute.com/||For the bold (or feckless) traveller, buy bargain seats at the last minute.|
|booking.com/||The most comprehensive hotel search site, finds hotels in the most obscure towns worldwide and lets you book them directly.|
|Priceline.com||Bay Area Consumer's Checkbook found that Priceline produced hotel rates "lower than those available on other booking sites."|
|tripadvisor.com/||Hotel price comparisons based on four other sites including Expedia and Travelocity; and user reviews of hotels.|
The FBC has no "travel committee" as such. If you want to help organize fan activities on one of these trips, write to The FBC and volunteer!
Below is some information about the logistics and local attractions for some away trips.
The Cardinal plays the New Mexico Lobos in "The Pit" at 7pm on the Monday before Thanksgiving.
The only visible nonstop service is a SkyWest/United Express flight from SFO. You can depart at 10:45am, arriving ABQ at 2:07; see the game; return the next day at 8:10am arriving SFO at 11am.
If you plan to do this you should book tickets beforehand; The Pit will not sell out but will have a big crowd. Single-game tickets go on sale Oct. 27th. Call (505) 925-5858; section D is behind the visitor's bench.
Once again the Cardinal attend the "Waikiki Beach Marriott Rainbow Wahine Shootout" in Honolulu. Those who went to this tournament in Honolulu two years ago got to see the Cardinal squeak past Baylor and Brittney Griner. This time the challenging tournament opponent is North Carolina, along with Prairie View and the host Rainbow Wahine.
The complete schedule of games can be seen in the UH schedule page (scroll down to the entries for 11/28-30). There are two games on each of Friday, Saturday and Sunday, at 2pm and 4:30. (Thus you will have mornings free for sightseeing.) Stanford plays North Carolina in the opening game, 2pm on Friday the 28th.
Hawaiian Air has a single nonstop service to HNL from SJC. Both Hawaiian and United have numerous nonstops out of SFO, and these appear to be somewhat cheaper than the one from SJC, so SFO is probably your best departure point.
There are hundreds of hotel options in Honolulu. Check with the WBB office to learn the team hotel, if you crave the chance to sometimes share an elevator ride with a team member. Otherwise use Booking.com to review the wide range of options.
In prior years these games were sparsely attended, so it is probably safe to defer buying tickets until you arrive.
The Cardinal play on a Wednesday at Chattanooga (time still TBA as of 9/28) and on Saturday at 1pm against Tennessee in Knoxville.
These towns are less than two hours apart by car, so if you are minded to see both games, you can drive between them.
There are no direct flights from the Bay Area to either city. You will change planes in (probably) ORD or ATL. To see both games, you'll probably take a night flight from SFO on the Tuesday, arriving in Chattanooga Wednesday morning. Then you'll have all of Thursday and Friday to travel between the cities. Here are Tripadvisor's 77 Things to do in Chattanooga and 51 Things to do in Knoxville.
To see only the Tennessee game, one might consider taking a red-eye Friday night and another after the game on Saturday, trading the cost of a hotel stay for, essentially, 24 hours of continuous travel briefly interrupted by a game. Unfortunately there don't seem to be any two-plane evening schedules out of SFO to Knoxville (TYS), only 3-hop schedules with long layovers. There are options to fly TYS-SFO after the Saturday game, for example a United Express flight that departs at 5:59, so at least you don't have to spend another night in Knoxville.
Traveller-in-Chief Wally Mersereau sketches his idea of the best logistics:
If I was going to go I would do it this way: fly to Knoxville on United with a stop at O'Hare. Stay in Knoxville that night. Drive to Chattanooga on its game day and stay there that night. Do something for two days, including driving back to Knoxville. Go directly to the Knoxville airport after the Tennessee game and fly to SFO via Dulles on United. This provides larger planes on the longer legs of the cross-country flights. Air service to and from Knoxville is much superior to any way in and out of Chattanooga by air.
The Cardinal plays in Seattle at 7pm Friday, then in Pullman at 1pm on Sunday.
For the UW game there are numerous nonstop flights from either SJC or SFO that arrive in plenty of time for the game. There are a number of hotels near the UW. You have all day Saturday at liberty in Seattle. In summer you might think of driving the very scenic route across the mountains to Pullman, but that can't be recommended in winter when even I-90 can be closed by weather. The flight from Seattle to Spokane is very scenic, in good visibility.
It is possible to return to the Bay Area from the Pullman game that day. Assuming decent weather, you should be able to drive from the WSU campus to the Spokane airport in time for a 5:10 departure to SJC via Portland, and certainly for a 6:30 departure via Seattle, both arriving at 10:30. (That is not the case for returning to SFO; all the GEG-SFO departures on Sunday depart before 5pm.)
Tickets should be available at the door for both games.
Things to Do
See the PAC-12 Tournament topic below for things to do in Seattle.
Spokane is not the home of the Washington State Cougars, but it is where the team and visiting fans usually stay. Downtown Spokane has supposedly become more interesting in the recent years with much renovation and the completion of the River Park Square mall. The historic Fox Theater is a renovated performance venue (click for schedule), which now houses the Spokane Symphony.
The Riverfront Park (which features "one of the best outdoor skating rinks in the nation"), the Riverside State Park and the Spokane River Centennial Trail are all either in or very close to Spokane and offer plenty of possibilities for hiking or biking—weather permitting.
It is about a 2 hour drive from Spokane to Pullman, where the Cougars lurk (keep that in mind when booking your flight). Check the official WSU Campus Map.
The Cardinal play at UCLA's Pauley Pavilion at 7pm on Friday, and at USC at 5pm on the Sunday.
It's a tossup whether to fly or drive for the L.A. trip. Given good weather, the door-to-door travel time is almost the same. (The Mythbusters tested it and got 5:33 one way, 5:25 the other.) On the plus side, if you drive, you needn't rent a car to get around in LA. On the minus side, that drive home up I-5 is a challenge on a Sunday night. You might try to break it with a late supper and lots of coffee at Harris Ranch, but this year, with that ridiculous TV-forced 5pm Sunday game time, drivers will probably barely make Bakersfield before having to stop for the night.
Air travellers have it a little better. There is a single AA departure LAX-SJC at 10:10pm. There are several post-8pm departures for SFO. So it is possible to get home late on Sunday, rather than spending another hotel night.
UCLA games can sell out; you should order tickets from the UCLA site as soon as they are available on 1 October. Section 101 and 102 are behind the visitor bench.
USC doesn't draw a big crowd to their nice arena, and all seats are general admission for women's games, so plan to buy tickets at the door.
Things to Do
Eat at a Top Chef's restaurant! Some winners and runners-up of the Top Chef TV show have restaurants in the L.A. area:
- C. J. Jacobsen won Top Chef Duels 2014. He is executive chef at Girasol in Studio City.
- Brooke Williamson was runner-up in Top Chef season 10. Her restaurants are the gastropubs Hudson House in Redondo Beach and The Tripel in Playa Del Rey, and also a sandwich and breakfast bar Playa Provisions in Playa Del Rey.
- Michael Voltaggio won Top Chef season 6. He owns ink on Melrose avenue.
- Ilan D. Hall won Top Chef season 2. He owns The Gorbals in downtown L.A.
The following are some things that FBC members have enjoyed on previous trips to LA.
- The Getty has lots of fine art in a stunning setting. On a clear spring day, great views of downtown. Room to wander and sit, and a nice cafeteria.
- The Huntington has even more, and more varied exhibitions than the Getty, and a vast garden. Nice cafe and tea room.
- Hancock Park, including the La Brea tar pits, the Page Museum in which the Tar Pit discoveries are displayed and explained, and right next door, the massive L.A. County Museum of Art. Just north of Hancock Park at 419 N. Fairfax is Canter's Deli, hit it for a pastrami, blini or an egg cream.
- The Norton Simon in Pasadena is another world-class art museum. On the way back, for something completely different, stop at the Soda Pop Stop, with 450 kinds of sodas and sarsaparillas and 500 kinds of bottled beer.
- The Skirball Center is a Jewish cultural center and a world-class museum.
- Gamble House is a magnificent turn-of-the-century villa, designed and stuffed full of furniture by Greene and Greene.
- Los Angeles: there is a "there" there, and you can find it on a walking tour led by the Los Angeles Conservancy. The docent-led tours are mostly on Saturday, or get one of their self-guided tours for use on another day.
- Disneyland! 'nuff said!
- Descanso Gardens, not as vast a garden as the Huntington but just as big a variety of plants and lots of places to sit and meditate.
- Is the Universal Studios Tour corny and kitschy? You betcha, and we loved it!
- For birders, Bolsa Chica ecological preserve in Huntington Beach has a great variety of shore birds visible from an easy walking trail.
And if that isn't enough, here's Tripadvisor's list of things to do in LA.
The Cardinal plays at ASU in Tempe on Friday at 8pm, and at UA in Tucson on Sunday at 3pm.
The typical itinerary is to fly in and out of Sky Harbor airport in Phoenix (PHX), then drive two-plus hours each way to Tucson. For example, US Airways has a convenient flight SJC-PHX at 12:30 Friday, and a return PHX-SJC at 9:15pm on Sunday. It should be feasible to make this departure, even though the concession to the PAC-12 Networks TV schedule forces a late-Sunday game time at the cost of fan convenience.
Phoenix Airport to Tempe
New from 2013 is a convenient, inexpensive light-rail link from Sky Harbor Terminal 4 direct to Wells Fargo Arena on the ASU campus. Sky Harbor has three terminals, numbered 2, 3 and 4. A small train, the Skytrain, connects Terminal 4 to the Phoenix Metro light-rail system. Here is an airport map showing the layout of terminals and airlines and the route of the Skytrain. If you arrive at Terminal 2 or 3, make your way to Terminal 4 using a bus shuttle. From Terminal 4 follow signs to the Skytrain. At the Skytrain's 44th Street terminus, an escalator takes you to the light-rail platform. Buy an inexpensive day-pass from a machine and board the next eastbound train. Four stops, about 12 minutes, brings you to the Veterans' Way/College Ave. station, from which you can see the arena just two blocks ahead.
For the Arizona game it is always safe to buy at the door, although if you want to order ahead, hit the UA website linked from the Schedule page.
For the ASU game in Tempe, it is important to order ahead, as the Wells Fargo Arena is always packed for this game. Go to the Sun Devils site linked from the Schedule page or call (480) 727-0000. Sections F and G are behind the visitor's bench.
Things to do around Tucson
Here is a nice article from the New York Times titled "36 Hours in Tucson." It covers several interesting things other than the old standards like:
- Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum has more than 300 live animal species and two miles of paths. Located 14 miles west of Tucson in Tucson Mountain Park.
- Catalina State Park—bird-watching and hiking.
- Arizona State Museum (on University of Arizona campus) interprets the history of Southwestern cultures.
- Mission San Xavier Del Bac, an impressive example of Spanish mission architecture, built in 1783-97.
- Sabino Canyon in Santa Catalina Mountains offers hiking as well as narrated excursions aboard shuttle buses.
- Sosa-Carillo-Fremont House in downtown Tuscon, one of Tucson's oldest adobe buildings with period furnishings and changing exhibits. Walking tours may be arranged by calling 520 622-0956 (Saturdays only).
Things to do around Phoenix
- The Desert Botanical Garden is always worth a visit.
- The winter home and studio of Frank Lloyd Wright at Taliesin West gives a good tour.
- Shopping in Scottsdale.
- The Heard Museum has ten galleries of native cultures and art, including ethnological, historical and contemporary objects of Southwestern Native Americans, daily artist demonstrations, more.
- The Pueblo Grande Museum contains a prehistoric Hohokam village ruin that includes a platform mound, ball court and irrigation canals.
Stanford plays Cal at Haas Pavilion on a Wednesday night at 7pm.
We have no suggestions to offer. Anyone who thinks they would like to drive to Berkeley and find a parking place for a 7pm game on a weeknight is welcome to try. Or you could always drive to the Fremont BART station and hunt hopefully for a parking place around 5pm on a weekday, and good luck with that. The rest of us are apparently expected to show our support and team loyalty by staying home and watching the so-wonderful PAC-12 network, for whose sole convenience this year's schedule is designed. If we get it.
The Cardinal play at OSU in Corvallis on Thursday at 6pm. They play UO in Eugene at 1pm on Sunday.
There aren't likely to be many Bay Area fans at the OSU game, seeing as it requires giving up two work-days, plus at least three hotel nights for the long weekend.
You can fly to Corvallis (changing planes in Portland) from either SFO or SJC in good time for the Thursday game. It is possible to fly nonstop(!) from Eugene to SFO departing at 4:28pm on the Sunday. If you are flying back to SJC you have to wait until Monday morning.
It is feasible for a person unencumbered by a job to make this trip by road, and pleasant if the weather is decent. The itinerary would be:
- Wednesday drive 6 hours to Ashland, OR (many good motels and restaurants);
- Thursday morning drive another 6 hours to Corvallis; check into hotel; see game.
- Friday and Saturday at liberty in Corvallis and/or Eugene;
- Sunday drive to Eugene for the 1pm game. Afterward, drive 4 hours south on I-5 to Ashland (plenty of motels, no need to prebook even for this late arrival);
- Monday have breakfast in Ashland, complete the drive home.
There are generally plenty of available seats at OSU, but to be sure of sitting in sections C or D near the visitor's bench you should order from the OSU site linked from the Schedule page. For UO tickets the same advice applies; sections 102P, 102L and 202 are behind the visitor's bench in Knight Arena.
Things to do, places to eat
- Via Magazine's article on Eugene (2009), and a head-to-head comparison between the two towns (2010).
- The local paper's "Best of Eugene" listing for 2013-14 may be of interest.
- University of Oregon Museum of Natural and Cultural History.
- Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at the University of Oregon.
- Scenic day trip driving to Coos Bay/North Bend.
For the third year the tournament is at Key Arena in Seattle. Seattle is easy to get to, with many flights by many carriers and a wide range of hotels. Key Arena is in the Seattle Center with plenty of parking and the monorail for access from downtown. Several comfortable hotels are in walking distance of the games.
If you are sure you are attending the tournament, you can book the best seats in Key Arena right now. Ticket pre-sales are being handled by the Seattle Storm organization. Call or email Kirk Bighaus who is very eager to set you up with good seats: 206.272.2554 or kbighaus at stormbasketball dotcom.
Stanford will have an allotment of tickets to sell through the Stanford ticket office, closer to tournament time. Full schedule and ticket purchase info to come later.
Things to do
Two high points for views over the city (besides the Space Needle) are the SkyView Observatory on the 73rd floor of the Columbia Center, and the Seattle Great Wheel. On a day when, as local people say, "the mountain is out" (i.e. not hiding in clouds) you will get a stunning view of Mt. Rainier from any of them.
Restaurants: This "Thrillist" article lists "Seattle's 11 best new restaurants of 2014" and at least 5 of the 11 sound like they are well worth a visit.
If instead of a pick-me-up you want to chill, marijuana is now legal in Washington State. Adults may possess up to 1oz of marijuana for private consumption. After a slow start at developing appropriate regulations, the state liquor commission has begun licensing retail shops. As of October there are two licensed marijuana retailers in Seattle, Uncle Ike's at 2733 4th Ave. South and Cannabis City at 3210 East Union St.
To properly lounge with coffee or a J, you need a book, and the Elliot Bay Book Company at 101 South Main rivals Powell's Books in Portland, a great browsing bookstore (with a just-OK coffee shop in the basement).
If you have the time, it might also be worth visiting the famous Pike Place Market, which is consistently rated as one of the best places to shop for food in the US. In the middle of the market look for the elevator that takes you down to the waterfront esplanade. A brisk mile walk along the water brings you to the Olympic Sculpture Park, an outdoor wing of the Seattle Art Museum.
Been there, did that last year? And you've been to the Chihuli Glass in Seattle Center? Here's one you've haven't been to (because it opened after the tournament): the Official Bad Art Museum of Art on the walls of trendy Café Racer in the University district.
Like airplanes? Take your rental car to the south end of town and spend hours among vintage planes in the three hangar-sized galleries of Boeing's Museum of Flight. Then step outside and walk inside of President Johnson's Air Force One, and the last Concorde SST to fly. If you are interested in aviation, budget at least four hours for this stop.
Continue 30 miles south to Tacoma and visit the Museum of Glass, where you watch major works being blown in the working "hot shop" every day.
Barely half-mile away in the confusing streets of waterfront Tacoma is the LeMay Car Museum, a huge collection of vintage cars presented in a vast but beautiful gallery. If you are a car buff, expect to spend at least three hours.
For the Cardinal, the first and second rounds are ... TBS!
Locations likewise TBS.
The Final Four is in Tampa, FL., the same arena as 2008 when Stanford eliminated Connecticut in the semifinal and lost to Tennessee in the final.
You can start planning your trip right now at the Final Four website.
Last year we had a mental breakthrough regarding the right way to schedule a Final Four trip. You should book your trip on the expectation that Stanford will be eliminated in the first round. This means, reserve the hotel only through the night of the first-round game and book your return flight for the day after the first-round game, which is usually a weekend day.
If Stanford does win, there will be no objection from your hotel at extending your stay for two days. After all, a lot of other people have just checked out! And your airline will usually not have a problem rebooking your return flight to a weekday flight—although you might want to initially buy a higher-priced ticket that doesn't have a big rescheduling fee.
Things to do