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Pilot who threw pizza party on tarmac wins awesome slice of fame

Frontier Airlines pilot Gerhard Bradner made a not-so-split-second decision after his diverted plane full of passengers sat grounded on the runway in Cheyenne, Wyo., because of bad weather. When food on board ran out, he made the tough call -- to Domino's Pizza to order more than 30 pies, paying out of his own pocket.

Social media and media outlets ate it up. "Greatest airline pilot ever," People magazine gushed. labeled the act "a slice of awesome."

"Not sure if he was hungry, but it is not unusual for our pilots to go above and beyond to provide care for our customers," a Frontier representative told NBC News. "We had depleted all our food onboard."

The Monday night flight that departed at 6:40 p.m. local time from Reagan International Airport in Washington, D.C., and was supposed to go to Denver. But severe thunderstorms forced the flight to divert to Cheyenne until the weather lifted, according to media reports.

The delay lasted a few hours, which prompted the captain to...

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Russia: Tour explores space program, from Star City to launch pad

Star City was once the secret site in Moscow where Russian cosmonauts trained for trips to outer space. Now a nine-day tour takes you there, offering an insider's look at the history of the space program and even some zero-gravity cosmonaut training.

And there's a blastoff too. Seattle-based Mir Corp. takes the group to Baikonur, Kazakhstan, where a manned Soyuz rocket readies for a flight to the International Space Station.

"We will observe the early-morning rollout of the Soyuz rocket and follow it to the launchpad site together with the press, military personnel, cosmonauts and their relatives," company President Douglas Grimes said in a statement. "The following day we will gather in a VIP seating gallery at Mission Control Center for the live satellite feed of the Soyuz docking."

Before and after the launch, participants explore the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center and hear firsthand accounts of outer space from a cosmonaut, and visit sites such as the Space Exploration...

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Megabus to offer assigned seating on West Coast trips -- at a price

Southern Californians who travel on Megabus can now reserve a seat -- for a fee.

Taking a page from the airline playbook, Megabus will charge travelers who want premium seats, such as those with a table or in the upper deck, on its double-decker buses.

The 10 most popular bus seats, as Megabus calls them, will be available for reservations for trips starting Sept. 10 in 30 cities, including Los Angeles, Riverside, Burbank, San Francisco and Las Vegas.

The company rolled out the service on the East Coast and Canada earlier this summer.

How much you pay for a seat depends on the route you travel and the date.

Here's an example: I checked the Megabus website and found availability for a round-trip journey from Los Angeles to San Francisco leaving Oct. 2 and returning Oct. 6. Tickets cost $1 each way (plus $1.50 reservation fee).

To book a reserved seat on the buses I would take, I had the option of paying an additional $3 for a table seat, $5 for a balcony seat upstairs, and $7 for an...

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London, Bangkok most popular destinations for 2014

More than 18 million people will visit London this year, making it the top tourist destination in the world, according to a MasterCard travel report released Wednesday.

London beat out second-ranked Bangkok, the No. 1 tourism stop in 2013, likely because of political unrest in Thailand this year that may have caused travelers to stay away.

Of the 20 most popular destinations in the world, only one U.S. city made the cut: New York City, with an estimated 11 million visitors. Others in the top 10 include, in order, Paris at No. 3 then Singapore, Dubai, New York City, Istanbul, Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong and Seoul.

The MasterCard Global Destination Cities Index for 2014 says tourism dollars exceeded gross domestic product growth since 2009. Why are more and more people traveling?

The growth of a middle class in emerging markets (China is a good example), increased need for business travelers to hit the road despite the digital age and "proliferating innovations" in luxury travel.


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'Shawshank Redemption' at 20? Ohio prison, film sites plan events

"Remember, Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies." That line from "The Shawshank Redemption" perfectly describes the 1994 movie too.

Nowhere is that "good thing" more alive than in Mansfield, Ohio, home to the prison "so menacing that the jailhouse is a character in itself," as an AMC blog post said. Now the town is organizing a Labor Day weekend blowout to celebrate the film's 20th year.

But do people really come to Mansfield for a "Shawshank" fix? "Oh my gosh, yes!" spokeswoman Amy Weirick says in an email. "It's crazy. Some 3,500 came last year for the anniversary of the filming. They expect even more for the movie release anniversary."

The Shawshank Trail Facebook page has more than 4,000 likes, she says, not bad for a town of 45,000 people. Anniversary events from Aug. 29 to 31 include:

--a cocktail party at the famed Ohio State Reformatory, a.k.a. Shawshank State Prison ($50);

--an afternoon at Pugh Cabin, where the film opens, with...

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You can join a trip that aims to solve the Amelia Earhart mystery

Only rarely does a group tour come along that makes the most fiercely independent traveler’s heart beat faster -- a journey so complex that you couldn’t pull it off alone, and so unusual that you can’t help yearning to go.

An intriguing example takes place next summer in a remote part of the Pacific Ocean: It’s a chance to join a team of experts searching an uninhabited coral atoll for traces of lost aviator Amelia Earhart.

The island is Nikumaroro, and it’s not the one that Earhart was aiming for when she and her navigator, Fred Noonan, vanished into the Pacific in July 1937 on their around-the-world attempt.

They took off from New Guinea, heading east, and were scheduled to refuel on a mid-ocean speck called Howland Island. They never got there. 

Their disappearance spawned a flock of theories, theories as simple as a crash to those as complex as capture by the Japanese military on the eve of World War II, to those as far-fetched as being kidnapped by extraterrestrials.

Plus one that...

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Idyllwild: California mountain town fest shows lemon lilies some love

Lemon lilies are true California natives. Tall stalks, big trumpet-shaped yellow blooms, super sweet smell. They're hard to miss when you're rambling through certain parts of Southern California's wild places.

I was lucky enough to be on a trail that started at Buckhorn Campground, about 34 miles north of La Cañada Flintridge, when I stopped in my tracks at the sight of a mini-forest of lemon lilies.

The town of Idyllwild in the San Jacinto Mountains loves them too, so much so that it celebrates what's botanically known as Lillium parryi with a two-day festival each year. This year's event will be this weekend.

"The goal it to make everyone aware of them," said Julia Countryman, festival spokeswoman, "and not to pick them when they go hiking." She explained that in the 1900s, the hills were covered with hundreds of thousands of lemon lilies.

People started finding and uprooting the plants to take home. But the wildflower didn't thrive in home gardens because the habitat was wrong. That...

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Tallest water slide in the world is set to open Thursday in Kansas

After several months of delays, Verruckt, the world’s tallest water slide, is set to open Thursday in Schlitterbahn water park in Kansas City, Kan.

At a little more than 168 feet high, the ride is taller than New York’s Statue of Liberty. It was to have opened at the end of last month, but a mechanical issue scrubbed those plans. That issue has been addressed, spokeswoman Winter Prosapio said Tuesday morning.

Here's how the ride unfolds: Thrill-seekers climb nearly 300 steps to the top, clamber onto a four-person raft then plunge downward at more than 50 mph. They are then hauled up a 55-story hill and sail downward again, landing with a splash in a pool of water.

"We want you to feel like you're coming out of a cannon and getting shot out and then falling straight down," water park designer Jeff Henry of Texas said in a June 29 Travel Channel show called "Xtreme Waterparks."

Guinness World Records representatives visited the Verruckt slide in April to certify it as the tallest water...

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With new TSA rules on laptops and cellphones, keep chargers handy

How many times have you boarded a flight with a dead cellphone or laptop?

Under new TSA rules, if you do so when returning to the U.S. from abroad, you'd better keep your charger or mobile battery pack in your carry-on bag — or risk having your electronic devices confiscated.

Travelers on direct flights to the U.S. from some overseas airports (which ones aren't specified) must be able to power up devices when they go through airport security. "Powerless devices will not be permitted onboard the aircraft," the Transportation Security Administration announced in a release Sunday. "The traveler may also undergo additional screening."

Why? U.S. officials fear that Middle East terrorists have developed a way to hide explosives from metal detectors, body scanners and pat-downs.

Here are some tips to keep in mind if you're flying home from an overseas trip:

—Charge your devices before you go to the airport.
—Keep chargers in your carry-on luggage, not in checked bags.
—You might want to carry...

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Hawaii: Documentary tells the story of interned Japanese Americans

The stories of thousands of Japanese American citizens detained during World War II because of their ancestry will be shared when a documentary is screened this month on Hawaii’s Big Island.

The Untold Story: Internment of Japanese Americans in Hawaii” chronicles the lives of those who were imprisoned.

It will be shown at 7 p.m. July 29 in the Kilauea Visitor Center at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Admission is free but a $2 donation is encouraged.

The documentary was produced by the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii in Honolulu. It preserves the history of Japanese Americans in Hawaii during the war. An exhibit displays works of art created by internees, including small sculptures carved from toothbrush handles.

More than 2,000 people were arrested within 48 hours of the Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. They included business and community leaders, newspaper editors and even Buddhist priests.

Most of those arrested were held at the Honouliuli Internment Camp about 25...

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Plans afoot for 450-room hotel near Elvis' Graceland in Memphis, Tenn.

Graceland may be gaining a 450-room hotel to greet visitors to the estate in Memphis, Tenn., where Elvis Presley lived and died.

New owners of Elvis Presley Enterprises recently won local approval for what's tentatively being called the Guesthouse at Graceland, according to a company statement. It would be on a separate property north of Graceland and serve tourists coming to tour the king of rock 'n' roll's spread.

If all goes as planned, the hotel is expected to open in August 2015. The hotel will include a sports bar, theater and center for events.

Renderings show the entrance will look a bit like Graceland, which has a Colonial Revival-style front framed by white columns. The hotel plan made it through the approval process by city agencies, according to the Memphis Daily News.

"I want to rise and say this particular project will generate up to $70 million in the inner city," Memphis City Councilman Harold Collins said in the story. The newspaper also reported in mid-May that...

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Hawaii: Maui's Sheraton resort drops rates to as low as $199 a night

Saving money in Maui? You must be kidding. But here's a deal that lets you do that, except that you must act quickly.

The deal: Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa has a summer/fall deal good  for savings through Dec. 23. View rooms start at $219 a night for stays through Aug. 17 and $199 a night for stays Aug. 18-Dec. 23.  This deal is non-refundable and must be prepaid and booked by July 16. Blackout dates are Nov. 22-26.

Tested:  I tested the deal online and by phone for dates from August to early December and found the deal widely available. For a four–night stay beginning Oct. 28, the total was $902.74  ($199 + $26.68 in taxes per night). This doesn't include the nightly resort fee, which runs about $36.

Info: Online bookings are reserved with promo code JUNETZ. To book by phone, call (866) 716-8140 and request the TZSM1407 rate.

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