Friday, November 24, 2023

Contour Airlines Again?

Josh suggested the idea of coming to see him and Shelby in Madison Wisconsin.  Then, we’d head down to Chicago to the Champions Classic to watch Kentucky play.  Donna had no desire to go to the ball game, so I tried to decide what options I had to get to Madison (besides a 7.5-hour drive).  So, I decided to give Contour Airlines another try.

It turns out that Contour flies to O’Hare from Marion Illinois which is about an hour drive from where I live.  I could then take a bus from O’Hare to Madison.  The cost was much less than a rental car plus I only had to drive an hour instead of over seven.  I felt adventurous so I decided to give it a try.

The Contour app is still terrible.  You cannot get your boarding pass from it; you must use the web version.  So, I ended up just getting my boarding pass printed at the Williamson County Veterans airport (it’s the actual airport name in Marion).   The airport is very nice.  I hadn’t flown out of there in years.  It reminded me very much of the design of the new Barkley Airport here.  I got my boarding pass with no problem and sat down in their very nice waiting area.  Security was easy and quick.  The waiting area to board is nice.  They do take your carry on unless it’s very small since compartment space is at a premium.  We boarded on time and headed out.

We were told that the fly time was fifty-seven minutes.  They were correct on that.  However, we didn’t get to the gate until over 30 minutes later.  Why do you ask?  You sit on the tarmac for a considerable amount of time.  Also, there is a BUS that takes you to the arrival gate.  You pick up your carry on they’ve stowed and restow it on the bus.  The bus takes you to the arrival gate.  You then take a train to the place where the rental cars are (called the MMF or multi-modal facility).   The buses leave at the hour during the day (check the schedule to be sure though).  I knew the next bus left at four, so I hustled to try and catch that one (as opposed to waiting till five).  Turned out I needn’t bothered.  The bus was almost 30 minutes late.  The driver stows your luggage underneath the bus and scans your ticket.  The buses are nice and I had a comfortable ride to Madison.  There are stops at Rockford Illinois, South Beloit Illinois and Janesville Wisconsin.  These stops are strictly to pick up passengers, you don’t have time to get off.  The bus took about 2.5 hours to get to Madison where Josh and Shelby picked me up.

So, a few days later, Shelby dropped me at the Park and Ride and I caught the bus to O’Hare.  On this route, they drop you at whatever terminal you are leaving from.  I took the Blue Line train from O’Hare (the station is at Terminal 2) to my hotel in downtown Chicago.  I then walked a few blocks to my hotel.    When I left Wednesday morning, I took the Blue Line to O’Hare.  I got my printed boarding pass from Contour again.  I headed for my gate.  Turns out that three different commuter airlines share the gate.  When we were going to board, they shouted out your flight.  You line up and then get on the shuttle bus out to your plane.  The flight back to Marion went fine.  I was even able to grab some Krispy Kreme donuts heading out of the Marion.

If you are thinking about trying this, consider the following.

  • The Contour App is terrible.  Leave enough time to get your boarding pass at the airport.
  • I would be very wary of a tight connection at O’Hare.  You think you have plenty of time when you touchdown, but with the shuttle and the immenseness of O’Hare, you very well may not.
  • Buy your bus ticket online before you get there.  You don’t have to pick a specific time; your bus ticket is good for a year.    A roundtrip ticket is a better deal than two one-way tickets.  The website is There are several possible bus bays you can be picked up at.  Listen very carefully to the people with the bullhorn, they will tell you where to wait.
  • If you are going downtown, use the train.  It’s a lot cheaper (2.50) than any other option.  Plus, you can often get there quicker if the traffic is bad.
  • Be listening for your flight at the gate in O'Hare back to Marion.  It's easy to miss if you are not paying attention.

Would I do this again?  Yes, I would.  It’s certainly a viable option to get to Chicago from the Paducah area.

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

That's the Way the Cookie...


So, the hottest thing in the Paducah area seems to be Crumbl Cookies.  It’s been rumored to be opening for months.  It finally opened last Friday the 10th and my understanding is that it’s been packed ever since.  I’ve been told there is always a line out the door into the sidewalk. 

I’ve never had a Crumbl cookie.  Our son brought some over last weekend, and they were really good.  He also took our granddaughter last Friday to get some.  They are very large cookies.  They are very dense, almost cake like.  They have different flavors each week. I had the chocolate chip (a young lady at church told me I was boring).  Donna had pumpkin chocolate chip. 

We looked at this week’s flavors and they looked really good.  I of course wanted the boring chocolate chip.  Donna really wanted a carrot cake cookie.  They also had a buttermilk pancake cookie and a honey bun cookie.  So, while I was out doing errands, I ordered these four on the Crumbl cookie app.  When I arrived, there was indeed a line out the door.    A young lady finally allowed those of us who used the app to come inside.  There is a digital board with names on it to tell you approximately what order in line you are.  After a bit of a wait, the young lady brought out my pink box.  She showed me what was in it for my approval.  I then headed out with my cookies.  We ate them when we got home.  Donna said they were all great.  I tried the buttermilk pancake and honey bun and they were really good. 

So, a couple of things you should note.   The cookies aren’t cheap.  Single ones are over 4.00 apiece.  If you order them in groups of four or six, they are a bit cheaper.   All they have are the six “cookies of the week” plus water or milk.  That’s it.   They also routinely run out of certain ones during the day.  They make them from scratch, so I would expect that.  I strongly recommend you get the Crumbl app.  It will tell you if a cookie is temporarily sold out.  I saw several people come in wanting the Strawberry Cheesecake cookie to find out they were sold out until they could make more.   

I am going to really watch out to not stop there every week.  It’s located close to the Wal-Mart/Kentucky Oaks Mall.  I could see me getting cookies each week.  That isn’t good for my waistline or my wallet.

Now as a bonus, I will give you a Stuart Yancy insider tip.  I am going to tell you where you can get a great chocolate chip cookie.  In fact, you can get a baker’s dozen of them for about what you pay for one Crumbl cookie.  Where might that be?  McDonalds!  In fact, when you order them through the McDonalds app, there is often a deal where you can get free fries with them since they cost more than two dollars.  What more could you ask for?   The cookies also meet with my granddaughter Lucy’s approval.  She loves going to McDonalds to get them.  Granddad makes us wait to order them until Lucy eats all her Happy Meal.  I order them on the app and Lucy loves going to the counter to get them when they call my name.

I need to stop now.  I have a strong desire for another cookie.


Thursday, July 20, 2023

London Town


So, I ended up going to London a few weeks ago.  My son Josh and his wife Shelby went along.  Josh and I went to see the Cardinals play the Cubs but we did a lot more while there.  While we were at it, we headed over to Paris for a few days.  I figured instead of giving details here (I’ll be glad to personally discuss with anyone who wants), I’d just enumerate the differences I found in London and “the States”.

First, there is the obvious fact that Londoners drive on the other side of the road.   You might say (like I did) “Well, I’m not going to drive so I don’t care.  Think about it though when you cross the street.  You are supposed to look “left, then right, then left again”.  Not in England, you do the opposite.  Josh drove us once in a ZipCar.  I flinched every time he made a left-hand turn – which is akin to a right-hand turn in the US.  Also, their gas prices look great until you realize gas is sold by the liter in London.  It’s over six dollars a gallon!

Second, their mass transit system is the best I’ve ever used.  The red double-decker buses are wonderful and between those, the “Tube” (subway) and trains, getting around London was very easy (even for a mass transit neophyte like me).  You can get an Oyster Card or simply use any credit card with a chip.   You can use Apple Pay or Google Pay.

Third, most places don’t have air conditioning.  I was told that it rarely gets warm enough to need it.  Of course, the week we were there, it was in the 80s.  We had one fan in the Air B&B we stayed in.  We ended up getting another one at a place called Argos. It reminded me of a modern-day Service Merchandise where you requested what you wanted at a terminal and they bring it out to you.  We ended going to a couple of American restaurants (McDonalds and Slim Chickens) strictly because they had air conditioning. 

Fourth, there is no such thing as all you can drink soda.  Even at McDonalds they don’t have this.  The only place that did was Slim Chickens.  Interestingly, they only had diet soda.  Self checkout is even more prevalent than here.  If you want plastic bags (and didn’t bring your own), you pay for them.  There also seems to be a mini grocery store on every block that has more than our average convenience store (like produce and baked goods).  Tesco, Iceland and Sainsbury were the main brands we saw.

Fifth, the words used there for various things are different.  Lift is elevator, nick is steal (as in “they keep nicking the Abbey Road sign”) and biscuit is a cookie.  You’ll figure this out when you go to McDonalds looking for a sausage biscuit and they don’t exist there.    The ground floor on an elevator is zero not one.  And if you want to go to the basement, that’s -1.   They also use the pounds as opposed to euros like the rest of Europe.  We rarely used cash though, we used Google Pay.

Finally, they are on the Metric system.  It’s kilometers, liters, Celsius and kilograms.  You’ll learn to do approximate conversions in your head.   I guess the US is going to stay independent and stay on the Imperial system forever.  The power plugs are even different (than both the US and the rest of Europe).  You’ll need a British adapter.

We saw Buckingham Palace, Hyde Park, the British Museum, the Tower of London, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, the Tower of London, Windsor Castle, Stonehenge and Bath.  And I had to take a Beatles Tour.  The history in London is so interesting (at least to me). 

If you get the chance, go.  The people there were very accommodating to us “Yanks” as they called us.  People said they loved my accent; I don’t know what they were talking about 😊.

Sunday, July 9, 2023

Contour Airlines - The Sequel


So, I decided to take another try at flying out of Paducah on Contour Airlines.  The flight ended up being competitive with other airports, so I took a shot at it.  What I did this time was make my reservation via American Airlines.  I could check in for the American flight via their app and for Contour via theirs.

I arrived at the airport and the TSA gate agent said, “Your ID doesn’t match your identity”.  I was wearing my Green Lantern shirt and he said my ID should have said “Hal Jordan”.  We had a good laugh over that.  Little did I know that would be the highlight of my flight out of Paducah.

Everything went fine at the beginning.  We boarded the plane on time and started off.  Unfortunately, there was an announcement that there was an issue, and we were taken back to the terminal at Barkley and had to deplane.  We had to stay in the gate area since the TSA agents were no longer there (since the next flight wasn’t until that afternoon).  We sat there for several hours until someone arrived to pronounce the plane OK.  Most of us were going to miss our connecting flights.  I thought I would have time since my layover was over two and half hours.  I asked the person from Contour if I’d make that.  She shrugged and said “Probably”.    She did tell us all that even though the flight time was listed as two hours, we would get there in one hour and five minutes.

So, we took off finally over two hours late.  We did indeed get there in one hour and five minutes.  Unfortunately, it took almost twenty minutes to get to the gate and start deplaning.   My departing flight to New York was of course in a totally different terminal.  I still would have time to make it if I hurried.  Then, it hit me.  The plane from Paducah had limited overhead bin space.  So, our carryon bags had been tagged and stored on the plane.  It took over fifteen minutes to get those.  So, I missed my connecting flight.

Things did work out OK though.  Fortunately, American has a dedicated support desk in their terminal at Charlotte.  I was able to easily get on the next flight to LaGuardia which left within the hour.  I didn’t get my preferred seat in the aisle, but at least I wasn’t delayed too much.

So, my chance of flying out of Barkley again on Contour?  Pretty low unless it’s a great deal.  I feel the risk of missing my connection is too great unless I have a long layover time (which means sitting in Charlotte for hours potentially).  It is a shame though since when I flew back, I was one of the first to get to arrive at the new Barkley terminal (it had opened the day before).   It’s a very nice facility – you could still smell the “new”.  The old terminal had been there as long as I could remember – at least forty years.  This one is much better.  I don’t know how much I’ll be seeing of it though except possibly to rent a car from Enterprise.

Saturday, June 17, 2023

Mr. Yancy's Wild Ride


Since Denver beat the Lakers when I was there to go the NBA Finals, I felt like I just had to go to Denver.  I got my hotel room with no problem.  The next step was to find a flight to Denver on short notice.  After quite a search, I found a reasonably priced non-stop flight from St Louis to Denver.  I got my ticket to game five in Denver so I was all set. 

My drive to St Louis went fine.  I got a notification that again (like my trip to Los Angeles) was going to be late by an hour.  I had debated parking in the economy lot or the cheapest lot I could get and walk to the terminal.  I went with the economy lot.   I had to wait a bit.  A shuttle bus came by.  There were so many of us waiting it couldn’t hold all of us.  The driver apologized profusely.  She told us they had trouble hiring drivers.  I still got to my gate in plenty of time.   The hotel I had a reservation at had free dinner.  Since I was late, I was going to miss that.  So, I got on chat with the airline (United) and asked for compensation to be able to eat at the airport.  They gave me two 20.00 vouchers they I got supper and some snacks with.

The flight to Denver started off well.   About thirty minutes in, an announcement came in that we had to make a landing in Kansas City.  It turned out that there was a smell of smoke on the plane.  So, we had to land to see what it was.    We were greeted was snacks and were eventually given a 20.00 meal voucher (my third of the day).  After over three hours waiting, the maintenance crew decided the issue was just an exhaust fan.  So, we got to leave.  I will say the Kansas City airport is a very nice new airport.  I’ll probably never be in it again though since I can drive there in six hours. 

We got to Denver about five hours after we were supposed to.  I walked to the hotel shuttle area to wait.  After about an hour, I called the hotel to see where the shuttle was.  It turns out, it only picks up at the west terminal and not the east.  Guess where I’d been waiting?  I finally found my way to there and got on the shuttle.  I made it to my hotel about midnight.

What an adventure!  Fortunately, the Nuggets won game five (and their first NBA Championship) which made the whole ordeal worth it.  Going back, we had to wait a while for economy shuttle.  It made me really consider parking in the more expensive walk up lot next time.  I’m flying out of St Louis in July.  Hopefully it goes better.

Wednesday, May 31, 2023

No Frills

So, I decided to make a last minute trip to Los Angeles.  My beloved Denver Nuggets were in the NBA Finals with the Lakers.  Why the Nuggets you ask?  Here’s why.   Plus, my son Josh and daughter in law Shelby are staying there for about a month.  So, that made the decision easy.  I wouldn’t need a hotel and I managed to get a ticket to the game.  However, the flight was another issue.  Given, that it was the last minute, flights were very high.  So, I might the decision to use one of the low-cost, no-frills airlines - Spirit.  I was able to get a reasonable price out of Louisville.  So, I booked my ticket.

This difference with these type of airlines is everything costs extra.  It costs for both checked and carryon luggage.  You can bring one personal item – a small bag of purse but they are very strict that the size is below their requirement.  If you want to choose your seat, that costs too.  You can see how if you are not careful, you can start to approach the cost of a  full fare airline.  I went ahead and paid for a carryon (I was glad I did later) and got an aisle seat (which I prefer).  The cost was still much less than full service flights.

I headed to Louisville.  About 45 minutes in, I get an alert from Spirit that my flight was going to leave a couple of hours late.  That meant I could take a more leisurely drive.  I stopped at Clarkson church of Christ to worship that morning.  I made a planned stop at the city park in Elizabethtown.  I ate the lunch I had brought.  As I prepared to leave, I get a new alert from Spirit.  The flight wouldn’t leave til after 10:30pm now!  I called their support.  The issue was the original crew had now exceeded the number of hours they could work.  So, they had to bring in another crew.  I wasn’t going to go sit at the airport for hours.  So, I hung out at the park reading.  Then, I went to a couple of stores.  I had dinner at the Culvers there and finally went to evening services at Elizabethtown church of Christ. 

I then headed for Louisville.  I arrived at Muhammed Ali airport.  I’d never flown out of there before.  An interesting thing is just about all its parking is within walking distance of the main terminals.  It’s also about half of what it costs to park at the Nashville Airport.  I have PreCheck, but there wasn’t much of a line so we were all herded into the same line.   I got to my gate and saw it was going to be almost ELEVEN before we were to leave (on what would be a four hour flight).  Spirit had sent me a voucher to buy food.  Unfortunately (with it being Sunday and later), nothing was open.  I did have the forethought to bring snacks.  There are several areas throughout the terminal where you can sit and plug in all your devices and set up a laptop or tablet.  I did that and watched some of the Heat/Celtics game.  The new crew finally arrived and I got on. 

The seats seemed a little smaller but it wasn’t awful.  I tried to sleep a bit and managed to.  There is no in-flight entertainment or chargers.  You even have to pay if you want a snack or soda or water.  Keep that in mind.  We arrived about 1 AM. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d been out that late.  Since I just did carryon, I could head right out to the pickup area.  Even though it was that late, it was still bedlam.  Josh and Shelby pulled up and I threw my stuff in their car.  I got to their Air B&B and crashed out.

My return flight went much better.  One other thing you can do with Spirit is put in a bid for either what they call “The Big Front Seat” or an exit row seat.  I bid on the exit row seat and won!  The flight was on time and that exit row seat made all the difference in the world in a much more relaxing flight home.   I’m a tall guy and could easily stretch out.  I got to the airport and had an uneventful flight home.

What did I learn?  One, Louisville is another option to fly out of.  It was only about an hour further than the Nashville Airport.   Two, I might try Spirit again.  I’d sure bid on an exit row and I might not fly so late in the afternoon just in case of a delay.  It’d have to be a lot cheaper than the full fare airlines for me to do it again though.

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Contour Airlines

I don’t fly a whole lot.  When I do, I’ve generally either driven to Nashville (most of the time) or St. Louis (occasionally) instead of using our local airport – Barkley Regional.  It’s usually much cheaper and much more flexible on times I can fly.  I fly Southwest mostly and there are a good amount of Southwest flights out of both of these airports.  I had planned a trip to Orlando in January.  I ran the costs and it wasn’t going to be quite as good of savings to fly out of Nashville as opposed to Paducah.  Plus, the regional carrier out of Barkley had recently changed.   It was now Contour Airlines. I decided to give it a try.  Keep in mind that my review is based on one trip and “your mileage may vary”.  However, it certainly influenced how I will fly in the future.

First, everyone I dealt with in person at Contour both in Paducah and Charlotte (the routing airport for Paducah now) couldn’t have been nicer.  They were very helpful both to me and with other passengers I saw them dealing with.  Also, each person gets one free checked bag even on the American legs of the trip (Contour has an agreement with American).  However, these were the only good things I can relate.

First, their app is not very good.   For example, it is very difficult to retrieve your boarding pass once you check in for a flight.  I talked to a young lady that was leaving from Paducah with me who had an mobile pass.  She said she was able to screen shot the pass once she checked in.  She couldn’t retrieve it the previous time she checked in so she remembered to screen shot it when she checked in for her return flight.  I could never get the mobile pass to display on my trip down.  I had to print out my boarding passes for each leg of the trip – something I have not done in YEARS!   I even saw some script errors display while trying to use the app. 

Second, Contour states that they have a partnership with American Airlines.  However, when I purchased my ticket via Contour, I could only choose my seats on the Contour legs of my flight. I confirmed with Contour support that I couldn’t choose my seats on the American legs of the trips. I ended up with a middle seat on both American flights. Speaking of which…  Their support leaves something to be desired.  They are hard to get ahold of.  They don’t even answer the phone 24 hours a day.   They are open from 5:30am to 10:30pm.  They have an email address that you can send support requests to.  My first request was answered.  I never heard back on any others. 

Finally, I need to relate how the return flight to Paducah went.  I checked in on the app and saved my boarding pass.  However, I only got a boarding pass for the Contour leg of the trip.  I didn’t get one for the Orlando to Charlotte leg that was on American. I called at 8pm that night and asked for a return call.  I never got it.  I was concerned about it and when I woke up at 2am, I was able to directly chat with American.  While the Contour trip ID didn’t work on their site, I was able to get the American trip ID and call up the boarding pass for the American leg. There was another issue.  It had MR appended to the end of my last name.  I know there are sometimes issues if your name on the boarding pass doesn’t exactly match your ID.  American could not fix the issue since they didn’t originate the ticket.  I called Contour when their support line was supposed to open.  For the next couple of hours, all I got was voice mail.  I got on their Facebook page and mentioned the issue.  They said they were not aware of any such issue.  Mysteriously enough though, I was then able to actually request a callback from Contour support now.  After several hours, they called back.  I explained the issue and asked if there would be issues with this? Their answer? “I hope not”.  That was not reassuring.  I held my breath as I got to the airport and checked my baggage and went through security.  Fortunately, I had no issues.  I got to Barkley to be greeted there by my two favorite girls 😊.

I have decided that unless flights end up being significantly cheaper out of Paducah than Nashville or St Louis, I probably won’t be flying out of there again.  It’s a shame really.  It appears a beautiful new terminal will be opening later this year.  I just don’t want the hassle and lack of support.  I’d be interesting to hear anyone’s experience in flying out of Paducah to see it went for them.