Internet Travel With Context
The 2019 First-Half Review
Read all about it! Adam Sandler peppers us with profound travel truth. Fifty years of Concorde memories and the sad tale of "Concordski," an ill-fated Soviet doppelgänger. How the designers Charles and Ray Eames pitched "mobile lounges" at Washington/Dulles in the 1950s. The rapid decline and fall of the Hyatt Regency Dearborn, one-time auto-industry icon near Ford's world headquarters. The down and dirty on Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, the swampiest of Washington swamp things.

Profound Travel Truth ... From Adam Sandler

You have to take your travel truth where you find it, even if it comes out of the mouth of goofy Adam Sandler. The comedian and actor returned to Saturday Night Live last weekend for the first time since he was fired from the cast in 1995. He even revived Operaman, his caped, handkerchief-swishing, singing news-parody character. But the travel truth did not come from Operaman. It arrived in a sketch spoofing Perillo Tours and its amateurish TV spots. After several jokes at the expense of frontman Steve Perillo--who sells Italy trips to people from around the world, but "mostly from Long Island and Jersey"--Sandler's "Joe Romano" suddenly turns profound. Travel can't fix what's wrong with your life, he notes. "If you're sad now, you might still feel sad there." Romano explains that "you're still gonna be you on vacation." Travel "cannot fix deeper issues. That's a job for incremental lifestyle changes sustained over time." Trying to temper expectations, Romano/Sandler even spills the ugly truth about travel photos. "The pictures you're in are gonna have you in them," he says, "If you don't like how you look back home, it's not gonna get any better on a gondola." The sketch lasts about four minutes and Sandler and SNL's writers leap from early parody--visit Venice, "the city of wetness"--to explorations of alcoholic behavior masked by Tuscan wine tours. (Originally published May 9.)

Fifty Years: Misty Watercolor Concorde Memories

Concorde made its maiden flight 50 years ago this month from Toulouse in France. The 27-minute flight on March 2, 1969, got aviation geeks and clickbait-obsessed media gushing about supersonic travel all over again. The British media and French outlets (see inset) were especially jazzed about the milestone since an Anglo-French consortium built the aircraft and that became the basis of Airbus. Concorde also has a permanent cheering section and a conspiracy theorist convinced the aircraft would still be flying if only the deep state didn't hate the aircraft. No one doubts Concorde was a speedster, stylish and the epitome of aviation cool in its time. (In fact, Martin Deutsch made that point in 1989 and in 1997.) But when Concorde was retired in 2003, its time had passed. The aircraft was a nasty gas-guzzler, it wasn't particularly comfortable or luxurious anymore and the small fleet operated by British Airways and Air France was literally falling apart. And the sole reason there has never been a successor: high cost. Aircraft makers know flyers won't pay the insane fares needed to justify designing, building and operating a second-generation supersonic aircraft. (Originally published March 7.)

Meanwhile, Back in the U.S.S.R. ...

Concorde's anniversary has had one interesting side effect: It reminded aviation geeks of "Concordski," the incredibly ill-fated Soviet version of a supersonic transport. The Tupolev TU-144 was a bizarre, Concorde-on-the-cheap idea that the leaders of the Soviet Union demanded Russian aircraft experts develop to showcase the East's vast technical prowess. But the plane and the program were an engineering and operational nightmare. Its fate was sealed by a crash at the 1973 air show in France (see inset) and no airline would buy it. In fact, the TU-144 only made 55 passenger flights on a single route between Moscow and what is now known as Almaty, Kazakhstan. Besides operational and mechanical issues, Concordski had another problem: The same Soviet leaders who demanded the plane be built eventually were afraid to let it fly lest it crash again and besmirch the image of Russian technology. (Originally published March 7.)

Dulles Mobile Lounge Fails, Then and Now

Quick, what's the worst thing about Washington/Dulles? I mean, besides being named for the amoral John Foster Dulles and besides the fact that it is a hub for United, the airline equivalent of John Foster Dulles. Yes, of course, the worst things are those detestable "mobile lounges" that slowly, haltingly and uncomfortably shuttle us from the gates to aircraft held at hard stands. Shocking as it may seem, famed designers Charles and Ray Eames thought that mobile lounges were the solution to airport crowding. Honestly, they did, and there's proof in the form of a 1958 film they created to pitch lounges to airport officials and Eero Saarinen, who designed Dulles' iconic gull-winged terminal. The animated film makes mobile lounges sound like, well, a late 1950s solution to a 21st-century problem. After you watch the film, check out this clueless new story lauding the concept of mobile lounges. "Dulles still works for the modern world of commercial air travel," the writer incoherently explains. The Eames have an excuse, of course. They had an idea that didn't work out. What is the writer's excuse claiming that Dulles "works for the modern world?" Has he ever flown from Dulles? Who says things like Dulles "remains a delight for the modern traveler" in 2019? (Originally published June 13.)

The Crash of the Former Hyatt Regency Dearborn

The Edward Hotel and Convention Center in Dearborn, Michigan, closed abruptly just before Christmas. There were many fire code and maintenance violations. Who cares, you say? Let's try this: The former Hyatt Regency Dearborn, the one-time jewel of the swanky Detroit suburb and an icon of mid-1970s hotel building, has shut its doors. Got your attention now? The crescent-shaped building with 773 guestrooms was a go-to venue for the auto industry and visitors to Ford World Headquarters. There was even a monorail, a prototype for what Ford thought could be a commercial transit system. The current owner, a Chinese-Canadian executive known as Edward Gong, was arrested for securities fraud in December, 2017, but that is merely one of the latest wrinkles in the Dearborn hotel's slow-motion, six-year crash.

Opened in 1976, the complex was sold in 2011 and Hyatt bailed the following year. Radisson agreed to take on management--which is a sure sign of decline--but even that didn't happen. The property went independent the day after Hyatt departed and dubbed itself the Adoba Hotel. It was mismanaged, maintenance was deferred and the Michigan auto industry declined. The hotel fell into foreclosure in October, 2014. A new owner bought the 14-story property, the second-largest lodging in Michigan, and the hotel bumped along as a second-rate conference center under the name Royal Dearborn. Gong purchased it in early 2016 and renamed it the Edward in his own honor. His seconds insisted Gong was wealthy and would restore the hotel to its former glory. He didn't. Now the massive edifice is shuttered and faces an uncertain future. (Originally published January 31. A July 4 update: The hotel remains closed as U.S. and Canadian authorities try to squeeze assets from Gong, who owes millions in taxes and is being pursued on fraud charges.)

Transportation Secretary Chao, Swamp Thing

When he ran for president in 2016, Donald Trump whipped up his base with a triple threat of go-to promises: Lock her up! Build the wall! Drain the swamp! Nearly three years into his administration, however, Hillary Clinton is not locked up, Mexico doesn't want to pay for the wall (and neither do most of us) and, um, "drain the swamp" is a sad, tragic joke. Case in point: Elaine Chao, Transportation Secretary, wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and notorious Washington Swamp Thing.

Chao's um, swampiness, was well-documented even before Trump nominated her. But her swamptastic behavior while running the DOT has been epic even by the, er, relaxed ethical standards of the Trump cabinet. Last year noted she never seems to work on Fridays. Earlier this year, it called out Chao's, um, generosity to friends of Mitch from back home in Kentucky. Last month it was revealed that Chao never bothered divesting her shares in a major highway-construction firm as she promised in a pre-confirmation ethics agreement with the Transportation Department. And this week a pair of stories in The New York Times excoriated Chao for exactly the kind of deep-state shenanigans Trump claims to oppose. She uses her government position and stature to bolster the financial position of the gigantic shipping business owned by her family. Her position helps her burnish the reputation of the firm, an indispensable player in the U.S.-China shipping market. (Originally published June 6. A June 13 update: Politico reports that Chao set up a personal liaison for requests from Kentucky politicians and companies.)