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I recently returned from my first couple trips since the big liquid bomb scare and the resulting heightened security, and quite frankly, my biggest fear in flying remains getting stuck in a middle seat between a crying baby and an obese passenger en route to a Star Trek convention.
Now that we've more or less settled into the new security routine, here are five quick thoughts on how the new measures affect travelers:
1. Unless you can get everyone in the country to stop showing up earlier than necessary for morning flights, try to book late morning or early afternoon flights. Because so many people show up way early for flights, there is often a big backup in the morning that results in airport lines that make you wonder whether you're trying to fly to O'Hare or onto Space Mountain. By early afternoon though, the lines usually thin out, sort of like Dodger Stadium after the sixth inning.
2. While it's inconvenient not to bring liquids onto a flight, you can turn this to an advantage. With more people checking luggage due to this restriction, there is more room than ever in the overhead bins -- heck, I was tempted to crawl into the overhead in search of some leg room. More importantly, I've found no lines whatsoever to use the carry-on only check-in kiosks. It's like going to a Marlins game.
3. Not checking baggage obviously means you can't bring toothpaste or hair product on your trip but I'll let you in on a little secret learned from years of travel: You can buy that stuff when you land. It's true. Toothpaste is available everywhere you travel, with the possible exception of Pullman, Washington (Disclaimer: That's a Husky-Cougar joke. Feel free to substitute your rival school's location for Pullman). As for hair product? You can buy that too, or you can be like me and just wear a baseball cap everywhere you go.
4. Always bring something to read. It makes the occasional wait go much easier.
5. This is the big one: Don't be afraid to travel.
Both our government and the news media love to keep us as frightened as possible. Terrrorists, serial killers, rapists, identity thieves, hurricanes, mosquitoes, earthquakes, socialized medicine, Michael Jackson -- there are so many alleged threats out there that we probably should never leave the house. Except then we would have to worry about carbon monoxide poisoning. Hell, it's to the point where Americans are even afraid to drink tap water.
The best way to address this fear is to travel and see that everyone is NOT out to get us. Despite what you hear and read, both our country and our world are filled with friendly people who would much rather share a beer and a laugh than do you any harm.
True, you might run into danger when traveling to a strange land, as demonstrated by this story headlined: "Woman Crashes When Teaching Dog to Drive.'' But the same thing can happen at home. Well, maybe not the exact same thing as being hit by a woman letting her dog drive the car. But something bad. As insurance companies will tell you, most accidents happen within two miles of home. A friend of mine tells me that his best friend's father tried to counter this by barring the kid from driving within two miles of the house. Whenever they went anywhere, the father wouldn't hand over the wheel until after they passed the two-mile perimeter.
I think the old man may have been missing the point but that should still be a lesson for the rest of us. We should feel safe exploring the world beyond the local video store and Starbucks. Don't be afraid to get out there and see it. Even if it's in Pullman.
OK, I'm desperate here! I'm going with my friend to the Transplant Games in Australia. We are set to leave on September 8th. We will arrive in Sydney on Sunday morning September 10th local time. My problem? I am a HUGE Ohio State Buckeye FAN! I'm an alumni twice over. I've figured out that the prime time OSU at Texas football game (Saturday at 8:00 p.m. EDT I believe) will be at 2:00 p.m. local Sydney time Sunday. I have been looking for months to find someplace - ANYPLACE - in Sydney where I can watch this game! PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE help me! Even point me in the right direction, and you can have my proverbial first-born! I'm almost out of time!
Catherine C., Powder Springs, Georgia
First of all, Catherine, if you were a real fan of a real team -- such as Michigan -- you wouldn't leave the country during a big game. But you do deserve a buckeye sticker on your helmet for being willing to sit inside for four hours on a weekend afternoon in Sydney to watch the Ohio State-Texas game. Speaking of which, since it's technically The Ohio State University, is the proper grammar the The Ohio State-Texas game?
Anyway . . .
I called Allan, the concierge at the Sydney Harbor Marriott, and he recommended a couple places that should do the trick for a big American football game. One World Sports in Darling Harbor has 60 screens, Trophies at the Star City casino shows sports 24/7 and Cheers in downtown Sydney also shows American games. He also says the Marriott has ESPN in its rooms.
Another option is buying a Slingbox, which costs about $200. Hook it up to your TV before you leave home and you'll be able to watch the game live on your laptop.
Enjoy the trip and go Buckeyes.
Got a sports travel question or tip to pass along? Contact me with your questions and I'll try to reply next column.
During a recent cross-country flight, I made a vow that I wouldn't buy another book until I made some headway into my ever-growing stack of unread books. The bad news is my vow lasted only until I changed planes in Minnesota and walked by the airport bookstore. The good news is Berlin Games by Guy Walters is a tremendous account of the 1936 Olympics: the athletes, the atmosphere, and most importantly, the politics behind those infamous games. Recommended for sports, history and travel buffs.
On the other hand, I did finally get around to reading my old copy of Cold Beer and Crocodiles by Roff Smith, in which he circumnavigates Australia by bike. Like his cycling, it starts off a little sluggishly but turns into a fine travelogue across deserts, into some nasty Outback pubs and racing away from the occasional typhoon. Recommended for cyclists and travelers to Oz.
Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com who has covered sports on five continents and written about them all across America. His work can also be found on Page 2, and his book, "The Devil Wears Pinstripes," can be ordered through jimcaple.com.