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Today is Rafi’s 6th Hebrew birthday…crazy how time flies!
On June 3rd I wrote about an incredible offer from JetSmarter, a free 3 month membership for anyone with 1 million miles or top-tier elite status. Too bad I couldn’t get 6 months for having both 😉
My membership was activated by June 8th and I had been avidly checking to see what flights would be available from Cleveland. JetSmarter deals are typically only posted the day of, or the day before a free flight.
On June 14th, a flight popped up from Cleveland to Philadelphia, departing on the morning of the 15th. There was a 7.5K BA Avios flight back from Philadelphia to Cleveland that evening, so a friend and myself planned to fly into Philly on a private jet, check out some of the historical sights, try the new Citron And Rose Tavern, and fly home.
We booked the return flight with BA Avios, but the deal turned out to be a dud. JetSmarter wound up cancelling the Cleveland to Philadelphia flight on the evening of the 14th. Luckily it was just outside of the BA 24 hour cancellation period before the flight, so we got our Avios back.
We were a bit bummed until we saw the following evening that the return flight that we were supposed to take from Philadelphia back to Cleveland was delayed on the runway for hours, before finally getting cancelled in the wee hours of the morning!
On Saturday evening, June 17th, Cleveland hit the jackpot. There were free JetSmarter flights to Detroit, S. Louis, and Minneapolis. I originally had a flight booked to San Francisco on the 18th with my grandfather, but wound up cancelling that when the Cavs were eliminated from the Finals. There would be no repeat of the incredible trip I had in 2016 to see the Cavs win it all.
Minneapolis immediately caught my eye. I have never flown through there, so that would make the 100th airport that I’ve flown into.
But more tempting for this Indians fan was that the Tribe was playing in Target Field. They had won the previous 3 games and were looking to complete the 4 game sweep on Sunday to lay claim to first place in the AL Central.
Rafi has become quite the sports fan himself and what better way is there to celebrate Father’s Day and a birthday than to fly to Minneapolis on a private jet and catch a ballgame together?
View the rest of the trip report after the jump:
At midnight I booked a JetSmarter that was scheduled to depart at 8AM and waited for them to confirm the flight, fully knowing that there was a decent chance that it might get scrubbed.
And then I waited. And waited. I asked for an update at 12:30AM, 1AM, and 1:30AM, but they were unable to confirm that I could take the flight to Minneapolis and kept asking to wait another few minutes for a status update.
And so I went to sleep and set an alarm for 5:30AM, hoping that they would have an answer either way by then. Alas, there was radio silence.
I was about to throw in the towel. I love to travel and make lasting memories, but JetSmarter was turning out to be a giant dud.
But my wanderlust prevailed over sleep and sure enough at 6:37AM they confirmed the flight.
JetSmarter requires that you be at the airport 30 minutes prior to the flight or else you have to pay a $1,000 fee. How in the world could they confirm a flight just 83 minutes before departure with that kind of requirement? I asked them that and they said they would not charge the fee if I missed the flight.
And so I told Rafi to throw on an Indians shirt and hop into the car. He was beyond excited to be taking another father-son trip.
Rafi does love to sweat the details though. He’s been on over 100 flights and was incredulous that we were leaving the house at 7:20AM for an 8AM flight. He said that even with Pre-Check we would never make the flight!
But of course I had a surprise for him.
We parked at the IX-Center, which is the location of the Atlantic Aviation FBO (fixed-base operator) for private jets taking off from Cleveland Hopkins. As with most FBOs, parking for private jet clients is free.
The pilot was waiting for us in the FBO and checked my ID. He was surprised that he was taking passengers and said that they just had to provision the plane for us, which would take a couple extra minutes.
Within 2 minutes of arriving we were walking onto our private jet. The booking experience may not have been great, but what a pleasure it is to just walk onto a plane without parking far away, going through security, boarding, and all of the regular hassles of flying.
Our private jet from Cleveland to Minneapolis:
The plane itself was definitely a bit more tired than the Citation X that I flew on last December:
It also didn’t have features like a live flight map that the Citation had:
The liquor selection on the Hawker was also a step down from the Citation X.
Hawker liquor selection:
Citation X liquor selection:
The WiFi worked well and there were free newspapers on board as well:
Nothing like a little nap on the couch:
Our Hawker 800XP in Minneapolis:
And there was a Citation X there as well:
I brought along an Evenflo Maestro travel carseat and a GoGoBabyz Travelmates for Rafi. Alas I couldn’t figure out how to tether the carseat to the blue Ford Mustang that Rafi wanted, so we got an SUV from Avis and drove to Vitali’s Bistro for brunch.
The owner wasn’t there and there were lots of items that weren’t available, like Pancakes and Pizza. But Rafi sure loved the chocolate milkshake:
And I had a delicious mocha milkshake:
The chocolate crepe was delicious:
I didn’t care for the “Fish Tacos” which were not at all what I was expecting fish tacos to be:
But the Felafel was very good:
While we were eating I also bought us tickets for the Indians-Twins game on Stubhub. They were a fraction of the price that they had been the night before.
With a couple of hours to kill until the ballgame, we went to the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, which was a free and fun diversion, full of lots of whimsical sculptures.
Rafi especially loved this swinging sculpture:
Even the trees in the garden make noise:
“But what is it supposed to be?”
Rafi loves highways, so I wasn’t surprised that he wanted to walk across the bridge over the I-94 that connects Loring Park with the Sculpture Garden. Definitely not a bridge for someone with a fear of heights:
There’s a great view of the garden from the bridge:
You can even climb some of the sculptures:
There was also mini-golf at the garden, but it was time to head to the ballgame when we discovered it.
I thought I’d be smart by driving past the $15 parking garage and opting for street parking a little further away. Alas the street parking had variable pricing and was $3.50/hour for the game, so all I wound up saving was a buck. But hey, a dollar saved is a dollar earned…or something like that. Plus the meter took credit cards, so I earned 3 points per dollar on my Sapphire Reserve.
Target Field opened 7 years ago and is really a beautiful ballpark. There is a “kosher” hot dog stand there, but unfortunately it’s not under an Orthodox Hechsher.
We had seats just to the left of the Indians dugout, that weren’t behind the net.
Rafi’s favorite player has always been Jason Kipnis, who is the runner on 3rd base in this picture:
Kipnis even tossed Rafi a game used ball after an inning. In honor of Father’s Day the ball had blue print and stitching:
Being a cute kid at an away game definitely has its perks, as Jose Ramirez also tossed him a ball during the game:
The Indians completed the 4 game sweep, helped by Encarnacion’s 2 long balls. And that’s a good thing as there’s nothing worse than traveling for a ballgame and watching your team lose!
We stuck around after the final out, though they cut Rafi out of the TV coverage:
And then as we were taking a picture, Jason Kipnis came back out onto the field. I told him we flew in from Cleveland for the game and showed him Rafi’s shirt and the ball he tossed him during the game.
Jason asked Rafi if he could borrow his ball and put his John Hancock on it. Then he took a picture with him as well. Total class act and it made Rafi’s day!
I'm not sure how I could have scripted this 6th birthday and Father's day trip any better. Rafi, wearing a @JasonKipnis22 jersey, was tossed a Father's day baseball by Kipnis during the @Indians game and he came over to sign it and take a picture with him after the game! Plus the Tribe completed the 4 game sweep! #RollTribe
They had a kids run the bases program after the game, so we waited in line before getting to walk on the field and run the bases:
I share a birthday with Charles Schulz and have always had a soft spot for Peanuts, so we stopped by this display outside of Target Field:
After an exhilarating afternoon we went to Prime Deli for dinner. Rafi ordered the “Shnitzel Basket” off the kids menu. He was hoping for a basket of small shnitzel pieces and wasn’t thrilled with what came. But he did like the fries 🙂
I ordered a Samosa appetizer, but it was very dry:
The winner was my entree, a sauteed steak sandwich with mushrooms and onions in a delicious horseradish aioli on a yummy baguette. And yes, the fries were indeed very good.
Service isn’t great. We had to proactively ask for a water refill and I had to ask multiple times for a to-go package and the bill. I had asked the waiter privately to please put a birthday candle in one of the desserts and he said sure, but he didn’t end up bringing it out with a candle.
He acknowledged afterward that he forgot the candle when he brought me the receipt to sign, but he didn’t return my credit card with the receipt. I would have wound up leaving the card there if not for the owner coming outside to return it to me.
The chocolate torte though was nice and moist:
And the turtle pie was delicious:
Rafi had a birthday party in school on Monday morning and the only flight back to Cleveland that night was on Delta. They wanted $480 or 40K miles for the flight, but I was able to redeem 24K Hybrid points via the AMEX Business Platinum for the flight. We didn’t wind up booking a return flight until after we landed in Minneapolis! Once again, miles created an opportunity to create memories that will last a lifetime.
In the airport, we got some friendly jeers about our Indians gear, but I joked with the Pre-Check agent that at least I wasn’t wearing Packers gear. The TSA agent next to him was apparently a Packers fan and joked about sending me for a full pat-down 😀
Delta flies to all kinds of obscure airports from Minneapolis. The gate next to us had a flight to Minot. Rafi asked me where that was and I had to look it up. Just 2 days after that someone posted on DDF looking for advice about redeeming miles for a flight to Minot!
On the other side of our gate was a movie screening room, a pretty nice amenity for the airport. But we didn’t have time to check out the lounges or the room as it was time to board our flight.
After an uneventful 80 minute flight home to Cleveland, someone from the FBO pickup us up from the terminal and drove us to our car that we parked that morning.
Rafi was sad that he didn’t get to give me the Father’s Day present he had for me that day, but was thrilled that we made it home by 11:45PM while it was still Father’s Day.
Flying in a private jet, getting some good kosher food, watching an awesome baseball game, getting 2 game used Father’s Day baseballs, meeting and getting a ball autographed by Jason Kipnis, flying home with miles.
And best of all we got to spend some real quality father and son time together. This was definitely one Father’s Day that neither of us will forget.