Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day

This morning I was thinking about Memorial Day and what it means. They kept flashing pictures of soldiers from Colorado who have lost their lives. I can't help but being sad for those who have lost their lives fighting. However, I think that we should remember those we've lost but continue to be thankful for everything that we do have as well.

Over the past few days, my husband and I have been in the car for over 16 hours. When you cover vast amounts of this country by car, you realize how amazing and resilient this land and its people can be. We have seen so many different types of landscapes and economies. From the dusty deserts of Nevada to the lush green springtime mountains in Colorado and back to the agricultural plains in the east. While driving across this gorgeous state, I could hardly keep myself from tearing up at the thought of leaving, but I am also really excited for new experiences that lie ahead. The fact that my husband and I have the freedom to choose as we please and move across the country for new opportunities and excitement is something I am incredibly thankful for today... and most every day.

This morning I was in the mood for the Zac Brown Band song "Chicken Fried" so I thought I would share!

Today we're in eastern Colorado, and we're going to watch my husband's grandfather take part in the Memorial Day events. It's a bittersweet time to remember those who we've lost but to be thankful and honor those who have served and are still with us today.

Hoping you have something to be thankful for today!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Piloting Life Cribs: The Crashpad Tour

I wanted to give you all the tour of where I have been residing for the past few days and nights.

This crashpad has been "home" to my husband for the past six weeks.

My husband's crashpad currently has a rotation of about eight guys "living" here. You'll find pilots, a TSA worker, and an airplane mechanic all under one roof. I find it sort of discomforting that anything relating to aviation/pilots has the word "crash" associated with it, so I tried coming up with a different name for the crashpad. All I came up with was "overnight pad", but obviously that sounds rather "feminine" if you will. So crashpad it is. After all, it is a place for crashing each night.

My husband and I have been sharing his twin size air mattress, so that's fun. Really heated, or not heated depending on who wins the blanket, tug of wars ensue shortly after we both fall asleep. Not to mention the battle for space. Fun times. No magic happens here. Just sleep.

It's almost like we're sleeping in the cockpit of an airplane...

Flying high in the living room

In the "living room" you'll find posters of the cockpit where my husband and two other new hires studied throughout their training. Next to the cockpit you'll find a random palm frond. I have no idea what that's all about, but it adds a little color to an otherwise "vanilla" room. Who can argue with that?

 It's all about the coffee

The kitchen centers around the coffee pot. It's a staple at the crashpad. Coffee pots outnumber cartons of milk around here. You'll also find plenty of foods for grilling and the microwave, because we all know that when the women are away the men will eat foods not allowed at home. Let's be honest, there aren't a whole lot of fruits and vegetables in this crashpad kitchen.

The backyard has a few resident black widows, so watch where you step. You might also find some great smells floating from the grill. The crashpad is usually pretty quiet with people in and out at all hours of the day, so try to keep it down out here. That's the crashpad, folks!

I hope you enjoyed the tour...

Now get out of here!  ;)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

At Home in the Journey

Journey: an act or instance of traveling from one place to another :

Lately I've been questioning the definition of "home".
Is home the town where I spent most of my young life growing up?
Maybe home is the roof over my head?
No. These don't seem right, because lately I haven't been able to define home.

Sometimes things we think we know change.

Last week, I wrote about how the journey is more important than the destination. I find that idea very interesting, because in the past month or so, I feel much more at home while on a journey than I do once I get to where I'm going. Something about flying and traveling makes me realize that "being in between" is okay. We don't always have to know where we're going as long as we're moving forward.

While flying from Denver to Las Vegas, I spent my time, like I usually do, gazing out of the window to the right side of my seat. With each passing moment, my attention was fixed on what was outside of my window at that very moment. There was no worrying about what I would see next, because all that mattered were the gorgeous views at that moment. Every passing second, peering from an airplane window, is like a snapshot image at high speed framing a moment in time.

Sometimes it's sunrises, sunsets, or white fluffy clouds.

At other times it's storm clouds, lightning, and rain.

No matter what, I love every second.

I took these images over Lake Mead with our trusty Canon point and shoot. These pictures were very hurried, because we were descending quickly through the storms. Lake Mead is beautiful even with rain clouds overhead.

In The Art of Travel, Alain de Botton writes:
"When feeling sad at home, I have often boarded a train or airport bus and gone to Heathrow, where, from an observation gallery in Terminal 2 or from the top floor of the Renaissance Hotel along the north runway, I have drawn comfort from the sight of the ceaseless landings and takeoffs of aircraft."

I have a feeling that Alain de Botton and I have something in common. Although I enjoyed my time watching small airplanes at Centennial Airport in Colorado. London or not, takeoffs and landings are a constant in life. The only constant in life is change.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Full Speed Ahead!

This past week has been a blur.

My mom flew in from Michigan.
We cleaned house...
Grocery shopped multiple times...
and prepared things, decorations, and food for my cousin's party.

My cousin graduated from H.S. this past weekend.
We celebrated her graduating with a big party!
Over the weekend we cooked food, ate food...
and then ate even more food.

The place looked amazing for her party.
My cousin had bunches of flowers, cards, and gifts.

Most importantly,
everyone was there to
celebrate her achievements!

In the fall, my cousin heads off to Washington for college!
I am so looking forward to hearing about her adventures in school.

Congratulations Nicolette!
Everyone is incredibly proud of you.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Unpredictable By the Day

The snow has been never-ending in Colorado lately. The area has already seen almost twice the average snow fall typical for the month of May. The Denver area gets rain and storms, and in the foothills we get lots of that fluffy white stuff. Yesterday we accumulated probably almost 3 inches of snow, and this was by 3pm. Lately, the meteorologists have underestimated the frequency of our snows. Snow apparently has a mind of its own and can be very unpredictable.

My aunt just bought some flowers to decorate for my cousin's graduation this weekend, and we had to bring them all inside. Poor, pretty little flowers. It's way too cold for them to be outside. I'm pretty sure that it's way too cold outside for me too. However I am sure that we, me and the flowers, will manage to survive this wintery May weather.

Every once in a while we heard thunder rumbling in the distance. When there was a big lightning strike we saw the foggy sky light up for a brief moment. Thunder snow is amazing! My mom, who is here from Michigan, and I sat on the covered porch and listened to the weather for a little while. It was pretty amazing. Since she has been here we've seen rain, hail, snow, and sun. You just never know what you're going to get! Colorado has been quite the mixed bag of weather these days.

Even the cats stopped to smell the flowers during this snow storm of ours. Twister thought the flowers were for him. Little did he know, they're actually for my cousin's graduation. Silly cat. Good thing the snow didn't bother him too much. He hibernated in my aunt's room on and off all day, but every once in a while he did stop to smell the flowers in the living room. Flowers inside the house really brightened up the dreary day here in Colorado.

The snow will probably melt in a day, and it will be like we never had any snow in the first place. Funny how quickly the snow disappears in the hot Colorado sun. The meteorologists might give us an idea of the forecast, but it seems to vary from their plan quite often lately. I'm learning not to rely on the forecast very often. High expectations only create disappointment when things don't go the way you would like.

I snapped a few pictures of the snow and realized that it was really beautiful outside. The clouds always make for great photos. The diffused light makes things much easier to photograph, because you see things without harsh shadows that too much sun creates. One thing predictable about the weather is that my photos will not turn out overexposed, and I'm thankful for that!

What are you thankful for in this unpredictable life?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Steady As She Goes

Slow and steady wins the race, right? At least that's the lesson we learned from The Tortoise and The Hare. But sometimes I find myself wanting to race for the finish line so that I can "get there faster". Then I remember a quote reminding us that life is about the journey and not the destination. It's not the finish line that matters, it's how we get there. More importantly, we need to learn and grow along the way. There isn't always one path to the finish line, but we must work for our goals.

image via Pinterest

Sometimes I forget that moving forward is as simple as putting one foot in front of the other. I need to stop thinking I can take this giant leap to get where I am going. All of the steps in between build us up to who we are, and without them we're missing something.

image via Pinterest

Thank you to those who
commented on yesterday's blog post 

image via Pinterest

I was overwhelmed with the kindness you all offered to me. Sometimes I feel really undeserving, because I feel that maybe it's not fair to complain or express struggles in life. That's life at times though. Thank you all for offering kind words and advice for getting through tough times. We all deserve kindness and love in our lives, and I think as a blogger it's our responsibility to lift people up when they need it. Again thank you all for the kind works and love you sent my way. (:

Slow and steady. Day by day. We'll make it through.

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I also really want to say a big thank you to all of you who follow this blog!

I just made it past the 100 follower mark, and I am so thankful for all of you. When I first started blogging, I had no idea that you could even follow a blog. Blogging was a mystery to me. Over time I have found some wonderful blogs out there, and I'm really thankful that you have found me too!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Our Situation aka Constant Uncertainty

I'm currently so stressed out that we still have no idea when we are moving to Florida. After my husband finishes his flight simulator training for his new job, he has to complete IOE (Initial Operating Experience) in an aircraft. We still have no clue where or when that will take place. I am sort of freaking out here. The previous sentence is probably the understatement of the year.

We cannot make plans for moving, reserve a U-Haul truck, look for housing, or basically do anything to prepare us for this move to Florida yet. Please tell us something already! Waiting and patience are definitely not my strengths at the moment. You would think I'd be used to the uncertainty of the airline industry by now. I love me some stability in life, and that is one thing we have almost zero of right now.

My husband still "lives" in a crashpad in Nevada. I still "live" with my family in Colorado. We both still sleep on air mattresses like we have been for the past month. I really wish I could pretend that sleeping on an air mattress for that long is fun. Apparently my make believe skills are lacking with "old age".

At least my husband lives in a nice crashpad. If there is such a thing as a nice crashpad. When we drove out to Nevada and moved his things into the house, I had some serious deja vu. For good reason. The house my husband rents a room in is the same exact floor plan that my friends from college lived in years ago. I had stayed with my friends while visiting Las Vegas, so I showed my husband around his own crash pad when we arrived in Nevada. Funny how things work sometimes.

I am so proud of my husband for working incredibly hard! He is doing a whole lot of studying, memorizing, and practicing. The flight simulator training has been going well for him, and his simulator check ride is next week! I know he'll do great, because he is the best pilot ever! Even though he's been gone for a while now, the time has gone fairly quickly.

Now if we just had some idea of when we can move to Florida! (:

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Oh Dam It: Our Tour of the Hoover Dam

My husband and I are becoming "that couple". We like touring historic sites, and we kind of sort of enjoy learning together. Touring the Hoover Dam last week was most definitely our cup of tea, and I have pictures to prove it. Warning: this post has a lot of dam(n) photos.

Come along with me on a tour!

After the Desperado roller coaster fiasco, we headed for the Hoover Dam with our minds set on taking one of the two tours they offer. We opted for the shorter of the two, because the hour long tour was 3 times as much money. We're sort of cheap frugal like that. We also thought we would probably be back some day, when we have more money to spare, and take the longer tour.

Before taking the dam tour, we spent some time walking around the sculptures that grace the side of the dam road. (Feel free to giggle when I say the word "dam" in front of another word. Almost everyone on the tour giggled at one point or another). Yeah, we're mature around these parts.

While on the tour, one guide told us the temperature was about 104 degrees that afternoon. Not to mention, there was some pretty stifling humidity in the air due to all of that amazing water. That water can be very powerful! Pun intended. We were warned not to visit in July and August. I could only imagine we would melt into the concrete during those months, and there is a lot of concrete at the Hoover Dam!

After browsing the statues, we hurried into the air conditioned visitor's center for our tour. It began with a short video covering some history of the dam construction, and then about 20 of us were shuffled onto an oversized elevator. The ride down into the bowels of the Hoover Dam lasted for about 90 seconds. It was a claustrophobic's nightmare. Good thing we're not claustrophobic! (:

We learned a lot about the construction of the Hoover Dam, water rights between states, amounts of electricity the generators produce, and what happens to the water after it creates power. Don't worry, it's just returned to the river below the dam. Pretty painless for the water, I believe.

Part of the tour had us in a room over one of the two diversion tunnels created during construction of the dam. In the picture above, the tour guide is basically pointing at our location. Let me tell you, the vibration of the floor due to the gushing water under our feet was a little unnerving considering we were about 550 feet below Lake Mead. Even better news, the dam is almost as thick as it is tall. I might not be claustrophobic, but I do have a little thing about drowning. I think that growing up watching the Poseidon Adventure messed with my head a little. Good news though, we survived the diversion tunnel room!

After making it out alive leaving the diversion tunnel, we hopped on the elevator to visit the "power plant" part of the Hoover Dam. This is where the magic happens folks! The power of gravity and water is unleashed on these poor unsuspecting generators. It was incredible standing in one of the two generator rooms, because the power generated by the Hoover Dam gives millions of people the ability to lighten things up a bit.

What would we do without electricity?

It is seriously amazing what a powerful river, massive amounts of concrete and hard work, some crazy amazing turbines, and lots of tiny electrons can do. Okay, maybe I oversimplified that a bit, but I like it that way. Just go with it.

After learning far too many numbers and watts, we climbed the stairs to the observation deck overlooking the dam. It was still 1009 degrees outside, so we didn't stay long. Just long enough for me to snap a picture of the cluster of power lines that carry power away from the dam.

After leaving the Hoover Dam, we both decided that we needed to walk across the bypass bridge that was recently completed. The Mike O'Callaghan - Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge, next to the Hoover Dam, was another amazing feat of concrete and construction. You can drive across the bridge, but we opted for the good old fashioned foot method. I also wanted to take a few pictures.

The roadway is almost 1,000 feet above the river.
Walking across the bridge may not be a great idea for those afraid of heights.
Don't look down!

If you visit the dam, I suggest taking some time
to walk across this incredible structure.

The wind practically blew us away, but the views from the bridge were incredible! Look to the left and you see Nevada. Look to the right and you see Arizona. The Hoover Dam almost looked small from atop the bridge. It was fun watching the boats cruise around Lake Mead too, and I think maybe some day it would be fun to get out there on a boat!

The bridge is a bit of a walk from the parking lot but worth it. Touring the Hoover Dam and walking across the Mike O'Callaghan - Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge were a great way to spend the day!

After a long and tough day on a dam(n) tour, we stopped in a small town near the dam called Boulder City. We happened to stumble across a little local brewery called the Boulder Dam Brewing Company, and of course we could not pass up a tasty local brew. The beer was much better than the food, but they were tapped out of a few beers so we didn't get a big selection. It was a nice way to cool down a bit after a hot afternoon at the Hoover Dam.

The Hoover Dam was everything we expected and more. The whole thing was a little hard to comprehend, because the dam creates amazing amounts of electricity. We were bombarded with so many numbers, but just being there was unbelievable.

I hope there weren't too many dam(n) pictures for you to handle.

If you made it this far, thanks for sticking with me through the tour!

This week is crazy busy for me, so I can almost promise you the rest of my posts won't be nearly this lengthy. I love you for reading my sometimes tiring blog posts! Have a wonderful day blog friends.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Sunny Days

I actually woke up to sunshine this morning, but the weather in Colorado lately has not been very Colorado-like at all. The weather has actually felt more Michigan-like than anything. My home state of Michigan is usually the cloudy and cold that has been Colorado as of late. Needless to say, I am ready for some sunshine!

My mom recently flew in from Michigan, and she wants to go back home because it was much nicer there! She is shocked at our snow and clouds, because she was expecting sun and heat. Me too.

In the past week it snowed at least 4, it might have been 5, times, and I think I saw the sun for about 2.5 hours in the last 7 days. Seriously. Not cool, Colorado. Not. Cool.

This is what it looked like last week. It has since melted, but it's supposed to get cold again this week.

Last week I spent some time visiting my husband in Las Vegas, because my husband is still there training for his job. He's been there over a month now, and I have been missing him like crazy. The time apart, even though I'm having a tough time with it now, will be worth it. My husband's new job will have him home every night, and I am looking forward to more time together.

For now, I enjoy visiting him in Las Vegas, because it means I get to escape the Colorado snow and clouds.

Here are a few of pictures from Nevada, and I hope they make you feel warm inside. I know that I could use some warm sun right now.

After not much longer we'll be moving to Florida! I recently read online that the area where we're moving holds a record for most sunny days in a row at 700-something days. Needless to say, I am thrilled to be moving somewhere so sunny and warm!

I hope everyone is having a lovely spring!

Has the weather been nice to you?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Coasting Through Life

The thrill seeker in me has always enjoyed been obsessed with roller coasters. I grew up about a six hour drive from Cedar Point amusement park in Sandusky, Ohio. Not sure if you've ever heard of it, but it's kind of a big deal. Cedar Point calls itself "America's Roller Coast". It's actually really clever, or cheesy depending on how you look at it, because the park sits on the coast of Lake Erie. Roller coasters + the coast = America's Roller Coast! I actually experienced my first roller coaster ride at Michigan's Adventure,* but we won't go into detail about that place. Let's just say I was hooked from my very first ride, and it's been all downhill, and uphill, from there.

* When I was in 8th grade I broke my ankle on a water slide there, and I ended up needing surgery to fix it. The words Michigan's Adventure sort of leave a bad taste in my mouth now, but I'm not bitter. No.

This is really embarrassing, but growing up I had a VHS tape consisting of front seat rides on the best roller coasters in the country. So what. I'm an only child, and I had a really great imagination. I actually thought I might want to be a roller coaster engineer at one point. Then I realized that engineers need to know crazy complicated math, and then I didn't want to design coasters anymore. I would rather ride them. However, I digress. The 3-D video tape really made me feel like I was there in the front seat. Don't judge me. After watching my incredibly thrilling 3-D roller coaster tape, I had the itch to ride these roller coasters in real life! Only makes sense right? Let me tell you the rides are much better in person than from the couch, or chair parked in front of the television, in your living room.

Desperado Roller Coaster at Buffalo Bill's Casino in Primm, Nevada

Over the years though, in real life I've ridden roller coasters in Michigan, Ohio, Florida, Texas, Colorado, California, and Nevada. Basically if I am anywhere near a roller coaster, I try need to ride it. Pretty simple.

While in Nevada last week, I asked my husband begged relentlessly to ride the Desperado roller coaster at Buffalo Bill's casino in Primm, Nevada. It was one of the coasters on my VHS tape, and I have always wanted to ride it. I mean I grew up "riding" this ride already. Let me tell you this was a serious life goal, and I was so thrilled to get the opportunity to get on that Desperado and coast! We hopped in the pickup and drove the almost 30 minutes to Primm. Upon arriving at the casino, we find that the roller coaster was shut down due to high winds in the area. We had driven past dust devils and massive dirt clouds on our way to the casino, so it shouldn't have been a surprise. Finding the Desperado, my dream, temporarily closed was one of the biggest disappointments in my life! Maybe I'm a little dramatic, but there was no way I was going to leave the state of Nevada, for possibly quite a long time, without riding that roller coaster! No way.

Instead of sitting around the casino waiting for the slight possibility of the Desperado reopening, we did what any defeated young and adventurous couple would do. We put on our game faces and took off for the Hoover Dam! I mean, the next best thing to a dream roller coaster ride is a tour of a massive dam made of concrete right? I think so! More on the Hoover Dam tour later though. That's a whole post of its own.

For good measure and bragging rights of saying we were in California, I asked my husband if we could drive across the Nevada/Cali state line before heading to the Hoover Dam. Score!

After touring the Hoover Dam, it felt like the wind had died down quite a bit. It crossed our minds my mind to call Buffalo Bill's casino and see if the Desperado had reopened for the evening. After some number punching to speak with a human on the 800 line, we found out that the roller coaster was indeed open for the night. Although, in the same breath the woman said that if the wind picked up again it would close. My husband decided it was probably in his best interest to get me on that ride, so off we drove again to Primm! Let me tell you this seemed like the longest ride ever. I kept hoping the wind would stay calm, because it would have been heartbreaking if they closed the Desperado due to wind again. A girl can only take so much heartache.

We arrived in Primm, parked the truck, walked/ran (guess who was the one running) to the front doors, rushed through the casino to the ticket booth, bought Desperado tickets, waited for a few endless minutes, and boarded the roller coaster for our ride. Let me tell you, I will never get enough of that "clink, clink, clink" as the train climbs the first hill. Then most everything was downhill from there! We laughed/screamed/cried (happy wind-blown tears), and we had an exhilarating ride to end our fun filled day. Hopefully I'll get more opportunities to coast my way across this country, because I, Ashley, am a roller coaster addict.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Free Stuff is Good. Pools are great!

A couple of days ago, I mentioned that my husband and I visited an incredible pool in Nevada for free. Yes, completely free entrance to a pool on a hot and sunny day. It was like winning the pool lovers lottery I tell you, and I do love spending time at the pool.

Days before leaving Colorado, I researched casinos that allowed non-hotel guests entrance to their pool. As far as I know, most (there are a few exceptions) Las Vegas casinos require that you are a guest of the hotel in order to enjoy their pool. The researcher in me was discouraged that I had not found a pool we could use as visitors, but my husband saved the day and told me about a casino south of Las Vegas, called the M Resort, that allows people to pay an entrance fee and use their pool. I was sold at "pool". My husband browsed the M Resort website and found that women over 21 get into the pool for free, and men pay a fairly small entrance amount ($10-15) to use the pool. Upon arriving at the pool entrance, the employees told us that the entire weekend was free for everyone, men and women. I mean, combining free and pools is like winning the lottery twice! Needless to say, we were pretty happy with our free day at the pool, which actually turned out to be not so free after a couple buckets of beer and some lunch. Oh well. You win some, you lose some.

We relaxed at the M Resort infinity edge pool for most of the afternoon. The lack of crowds was a very pleasant surprise, and the deejay-mixed music created a fun pool atmosphere. Food and drink prices were surprisingly reasonable for Vegas standards too. We expected higher prices, but it's possible they are more competitive since the location is a far enough distance south of The Strip. Too bad their room prices seemed a bit high, because my husband and I agreed that we wouldn't mind staying at the M Resort over a Las Vegas strip resort some time. Our day at the M Resort pool was a nice way to start off our time in Nevada together.

I'll leave you with some pictures
from our day at the M Resort:

Happy Friday blog friends!

Travel and Airline "Perks"

From my seat I could see this brilliant bright blue lining the horizon. That blue then faded to a darker blue and then almost to an inky black sky filled with blazing, bright white dots. Flying to me is still a very peaceful thing, because it feels incredibly timeless. Soaring above daily life and across time zones feels almost surreal, especially when thinking about cruising inside of a metal tube above the clouds. I will never tire of flying. The quiet moments, the sunsets and sunrises, those are times when I love gazing at the world below. Problems seem to melt away into the horizon, and I almost forget where I am and what was bothering me. One moment just fades into the next, and before you know it you're somewhere else.

Although at times I could do without the crowds of people, crying infants, and seat backs reclined inches from my face, I still love to fly when I can. Window seats, early morning departures, or late night and quiet flights make most disturbances fade to the background. The smell of warm chocolate chip cookies seems to ease discomforts too. Even though we cruise above daily life below, the creature comforts of life on firm ground still exist. At times, the cookies and television on board the plane take away from the often peaceful experience of flying. Daily distractions or not, flying is such a peaceful thing for me.

Instead of a bright blue horizon, after the sun sets I enjoy the stars from a higher altitude than usual. Funny how they feel so close when you're sitting in the window seat. At times it's almost like you can reach out and touch a star or a cloud. Sometimes it's so easy to lose track of time and place while on board an airplane. Before I know it, I'll be driving myself home after spending time in the sky. For a moment, I almost forget that I just left my husband and am heading home without him. At times, it feels as if we're still together. Flying does that to me, and I welcome the quiet time to think about life and reflect on life below the clouds.

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It is highly likely that I was born with an uncontrollable a tiny bit of a travel bug. I typically enjoy adventures, discoveries, and learning about new locations. For me, a big perk* of being married to a pilot is not just travel opportunities, but it's an opportunity to stretch outside of my comfort zone once in a while. Doing things that are not always comfortable force me to learn and grow. When things get too predictable, our life changes in drastic ways. For example, my husband's new job is taking us to Florida. While I've always enjoyed the water, beach, and sun, I had no idea that Florida would be my home some day. This travel bug is more of a learning bug for me, and I never intend to stop learning.

* An additional perk, of knowing people working in aviation, is when you board a flight that a flight attendant friend happens to be working. It also helps when they may or may not give you a free mimosa, or two. Not to mention the free DirectTV they may or may not have given you for free. All of the above things make flights just a little more smooth.