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The Dark Passenger Trip Report

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Kathmandu, Nepal
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The Dark Passenger Trip Report

Posted as replies. If you are a reader who likes the TR all upfront, this is not the thread for you. That will come later once I'm done. If you want to look at the pics that are associated with the TR, you can find them at:


I promise there are no untoward pictures.

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1. Re: The Dark Passenger Trip Report

Lets do this, Ship that

Acton, Canada
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2. Re: The Dark Passenger Trip Report

yay!!! I hope ya had a wonderful trip!:)

Kathmandu, Nepal
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3. Re: The Dark Passenger Trip Report

(You will read references for pics - they are not in the TA version obviously - so you'll need to go to the blog to find them)

Also known as the Entourage Trip Report: The Vinny Chase Package . . . . could have also been called the Let Me Upgrade You Trip Report . . . . since I'm not completely done writing all this, consider all three working titles at the moment.

I believe it was around the 4th of July when the germination of this latest trip began. I knew Whale Jo’s 40th Birthday was coming up in September and wondered what he had planned. I don’t know which one of us mentioned Vegas first, but once it was out there, forget about putting that idea to rest.

The next two or so months of planning took on a life of its own. The initial plan was just to have me and Whale Jo head to Vegas, but that seemed a titch too Brokeback Mountain, so we opened up the invite list. In the end, the participants on this trip (the Vegas portion anyways) numbered six. I know in previous reports I’ve described some of these players, but in case you haven’t read through some of the old articles, here’s a summary of the crew for this trip:

Jaco: Me. What do you need to know about me? Just turned 40 this year, quit my job (lawyer) earlier in the year (best decision of the decade) to chase a dream. This is an odd feeling sitting here trying to type words that describe who I am . . . as if this were some sort of B.S. job application. Let's see . . . I have an active imagination (I believe in things that go bump in the night . . . and Santa Claus) . . . I love Vegas (obviously) . . . and I don't think things get much better when you are having laughs and good times with friends and family. I don't mind crying at corny cheese ball sentimental sh_t (America's Got Talent) and I don't like ants. Or spiders. The picture over there is me getting in my favorite car - the Wynn Phantom (taken 10/2008).

Whale Jo: The birthday boy. Turned 40. Been one of my best friends since 6th Grade. That's a long time. We have a ton in common, including the same first names. He's just one of those dudes that I know has my back, as he knows I have his. He’s got a generous, crazy, frenetic energy about him. Case in point . . . we were fishing one time and upon landing a really big salmon, he got so excited about the whole thing that he sunk his teeth into the surprised creature and tore out and ate a chunk of its flesh. He enjoys crying as well. This is a pic of Whale Jo going uber-bonkers outside the private jet.

Smooth Chazz: The affable southern gentleman. We went to law school together. Solid character. Though only a few years older than me, I can’t help but notice that in photos he looks almost 60. In life though, you'd call him "Babyface." Must be the camera. If you want a guy that can tip back quadruple makers marks, watch SEC football, and be a good wingman while you flush black chips at the tables . . . this is your dude. This is a pic of Chazz sulking in the Phantom as we leave Encore for the airport.

Frankie Styles: Another polite southern gent. (though to be honest, I think both him and Smooth Chazz were born and grew up in places far from the south). Another lawyer. And a damn good one. Frankie provides some of the most gut busting moments of the trips with his amazing wry and poignant sense of humor. He’s also likes being carried like a baby (as you'll see from another picture I'll post later on in this report). Knows his wine. Excellent skill to have when the five other dudes at the table are all 1/2 in the bag. This is a pic of Frankie taking care of business atop the Chateau Marmont.

Hee-Haw aka Lone Sioux: My brother in law. Smart, solid and down to earth guy. Enjoys Vegas and enjoys going on long walks by himself in Vegas. Thank god I like this guy - he's married to my sister after all. Very handy. If a flood was to ever hit Vegas and we needed an ark to get out of there - he'd be the one that could build it out of bath soap. He doesn't like the nickname Hee-Haw, so that's why I'll call him it. :) This is a pic of him at the Chateau. Don't know what he's looking at . . . I'll have to discuss that with him at the next family dinner.

Scooter: A new member of the crew this trip. A H.S. buddy of mine (and Whale Jo). We go a long ways back. Another very smart dude. Observant and genuine, he brought a lot to this trip and hope he makes it on future trips. Loved the fact that he's a veggie, but took a timeout to try the beef at Carnevino. Shipit Scooter. This is a pic of Scooter trying to tell Whale Jo that it isn't a good idea if he tries to land the plane.

So there you go. That’s the cast – we’ll see if any of them demand that their bylines be rewritten after reading my descriptions. If you're reading this boyz, changes will cost you $25.

Anyway, so back to the planning. I don’t know any other way to represent start to finish the change of plans that occurred during the trip planning process than to lay it out in a list. Here’s how the trip changed from beginning to end:

(1) Fly into Vegas on Thursday and meet up with Whale Jo and leave Saturday a.m. for home;

(2) Same as (1), but include the Vegas crew in the party;

(3) Same as (2), but add a helicopter tour of the strip at night or arrange to play a private poker game with Daniel Negreanu (here's some INFO on him in case you don't know who he is) or Jean Robert Belande (here's INFO on him as well);

(4) Scrap the copter ride, instead what about playing with Negreanu or Belande and/or fly to LA to meet Whale Jo at airport and fly on his Southwest flight with him;

(5) Wait . . . why not fly out on a private jet instead?

(6) So now choice is, fly into LA Thursday a.m. and the fly out that morning on private jet or play poker with Daniel Negreanu.

(7) Screw you Negreanu, private jet trumps you.

(8) Why wait until Thursday morning? Fly into LA Wednesday night, surprise Whale Jo and take him to private jet and fly out to Vegas that night.

(9) Wait. Can’t just touch down in LA. Must party. So fly in to LA Wednesday night, have dinner, then sleep, fly out on private jet in a.m.

(10) Nah. Excitement and surprise level needs to be upped. Fly in Wed. early evening, meet up for a birthday party at Chateau Marmont, then fly out on private jet at midnight.

(11) Oh, and when we check in to Encore, it’s not into a 2BR Parlor Suite as Whale Jo thinks . . . nope . . . instead it’s a 2BR Apartment Suite . . . . shipit.

(12) And as an afterthought . . . stay Saturday night as well.

Props definitely need to be given to Mrs. Whale Jo for making this possible. What an incredible wife to put together such a mind-blowing experience for her husband and his buddies. If you ever read this Mrs. Whale Jo, the boyz can never thank you enough – Mr. Whale Jo is one lucky SOB to have met you. The effort you put into all this was exceptional.

So there are the short strokes on where this trip began and where it was going . . . . so without further ado, let’s dive right into it, shall we . . . the water is warm, as they say (though not quite sure who “they” really is or are . . . )


Day One: Wednesday

“Upgrade Day”


Total amount of people on the flight to Burbank heading to Whale Jo’s birthday party: 13 (8 adults, 5 kids – ages 6-10). It was a bit different starting off the Vegas trip with wives and kids in tow. Definitely a little lower key.

Sitting in the airport waiting for departure, I got this e-mail:


To: Jaco

From: Mrs. Whale Jo’s Assistant

Date: 9/15/10

Re: New tail number for tonight’s flight

Hi Jaco-

[The jet charter] just let me know that tonight's flight has been upgraded to a larger, nicer aircraft. The new tail number is xxxx. Please inform the driver as he approaches the airport, and I will be reachable if you have any questions!

thanks, and see you this evening.


Sure, I’ve been upgraded from coach to first, from a regular room to a suite . . . but an upgrade on an entire plane? Now that was something definitely unique. I let out a little tiny whoo-hoo. How could this not be an unforgettable trip?

Now, if you are wondering why there were wives and kids accompanying the fellas on the trip, here’s the scoop. During the planning process Mrs. Whale Jo asked if the ladies wanted to come down and hang out in LA. The plan would be to go to the birthday party, stay at the Chateau for a night, then the next day take the young gals to the American Girl Experience and stay at the Mr. and Mrs. Whale Jo house for a couple days. Why not? Girls are entitled to have fun! And, as it turns out, they had a blast – worthy of its own trip report. I'll make sure to plug in details of their trip in this report . . . here's a teaser though . . . at the movies with an A-List Celeb . . .

I can’t remember if I mentioned it before, but everything we were doing was supposed to be a surprise to Whale Jo. He only knew that we were meeting in Vegas and that maybe he had some dinner plans with his wife the night of his birthday. In order to keep up the ruse, I e-mailed him from the plane, trying to convince him that we were not in LA and that I was back home taking care of domestic requirements.

As some point during the e-mail exchange, I received this e-mail from Whale Jo:


To: Jaco

From: Whale Jo

Date: 9/15/10

Re: Birthday

just left you a message - just got a free upgrade to the penthouse suite at the Chateau!!!!!!!!!!

oh my god

I wish you were here

I am on top of the world


Another upgrade? Ship that. Of course, at this point he thinks he is staying in that room at the Chateau. In fact, at one point during the flight, I received an e-mail from Whale Jo with his idea of what surprises were in store for him:


To: Jaco

From: Whale Jo

Date: 9/15/10

Re: Birthday

so sick

at least 3000 square feet on top of the hotel facing the entire city wraparound views

[Mrs. Whale Jo] says every big actor has stayed here and had parties here

I still can't believe it

and now she is cancelling my flight so I know something is happening in the morning

that's why I think you are coming here

plus she was frantically cleaning the house - obviously someone is staying there!

I think you and [Mrs. Jaco] are already here and [Mrs. Jaco] is going to palm springs with [Mrs. Whale Jo] and you and I are taking a private plane to vegas in the am and staying in a penthouse suite at encore

that's what I think

call me from your home phone

then I will know you are still [at home].


Dang! He was getting kind of close . . . at least with the private plane idea. But way off on me already being down there. Also off on the plans for the wives. I had to laugh. Though he did kind of put a checkmate move on me by requesting a call from my home phone – no way I could accomplish that at 30,000 ft. somewhere over southern California. Oh well. Best I could do was tell the truth. So I e-mailed him and swore on everything I hold holy that I was not presently in LA and that everything would be revealed by tomorrow.

Arrival into Burbank was smooth. I had pre-arranged two 10-person BLS limos for us all. They were waiting for us and promptly whisked us off to the Chateau. Our driver took an odd circuitous route to the Chateau . . . at least one I hadn't been on before. A lot of corners . . . I kind of started to get car sick. But, thankfully just before I was going to boot out the window, we arrived.

The Chateau.

Let the fun begin . . .

For those of you who have not been to the Chateau, it is really kind of impossible for a limo, or really any large car, to actually drive up the driveway to main entrance/garage, just too tight. So, the limos dropped all of us off, along with all of our bags, curbside just down the hill from the hotel and we all proceeded in what must have looked like some odd parade.

The Chateau Marmont, at least to me, has a very old school feel to it. There's nothing overtly modern day fancy about it - more like a classy old dame. We got the girls checked in and they went to go check out their room. The guys went up to stow their bags in the penthouse suite.

The five of us, Smooth Chazz, Frankie Styles, Hee-Haw, me and Scooter, milled around the suite and took in the sights while the party was set up for Whale Jo's surprise party. We were being served humbow, chicken wraps, and some sort of shrimp chip with dipping sauces. The food was amazing and I hope nobody noticed that I might have ate too much before the party started . . . .ooops. Drinks for the evening consisted of three of Whale Jo's personal favorites: 7 & 7, Mont Gay Rum mixed with cran and orange, and red wine. Knowing that a long night was ahead, I tried a few of the rum drinks, then stayed with straight cran (though I do think maybe I pulled some beers out of the mini-bar down in our gals' room).

Whale Jo was out to dinner with his wife and his family (who had also flown in for the event). I was pretty sure he thought that I would be meeting up with him at dinner. His head must have really been spinning. It wasn't too long after our arrival that we got word that Whale Jo was in the building.

Take your places everyone . . . lights out.

At this party, besides those of us that had flown in from out of town, were a cool collection of Whale Jo's LA friends. The plan of attack for the surprise was to have them inside the suite when Whale Jo walked in. Then, after that surprise had subsided, he was to be lead out of the suite to the terrace, where we would then casually walk around the corner and give him another surprise.

I heard him walk in the room and the people inside, true to form, yelled out a hearty SURPRISE. He went bananas. I watched carefully through a crack in the blinds from outside. Lot's of hand shaking, hugs and well wishes.

Then, Whale Jo was lead to the terrace. He marveled at the set-up. But he had no idea what lurked around the corner.

We waited.

And waited.

And waited . . . .

Then as a group, we casually sauntered into his field of vision.


He was floored. Absolutely floored.

"I knew you were here dude!" Whale Jo screamed out as he gave me a big bear hug.

Then he began to realize that more of the crew had made it down.

"Frankie Style! Chazz! Oh my god! Scooter? Hee-haw?"

He was even more surprised to see the little people and our lovely wives. I wish I had gotten a pic of that smile on his face (though I do suspect someone has it and I'll add it in after the fact). Whale Jo was one happy dude.

"What else is in store tonight boyz? Are we going to Vegas?"

What was I going to tell him? The truth?

I don't think so.

Smooth Chazz and I then proceeded to tell Whale Jo that while we might be going to Vegas, it certainly wasn't going to be tonight. Not even tomorrow. Nope. Tomorrow we (including Whale Jo) were all going to the American Girl Experience! We were all there to see him pick out his daughter's first American Girl!

That's also another picture I wish I had - his face when he realized that we weren't necessarily joking. It made sense after all . . . .our wives and girls were there . . .

Little did he know what was really about to happen.

For the next three hours, all of us out of town folks mingled with the LA crowd and had a genuinely good time. It was fun to get to know some of the friends Whale Jo has made in LA since moving there permanently. The young girls had a blast at the party and had even a better time heading off for a little late night swimming.

Then, eventually, it was time.

Whale was informed to have his bag ready by 11:15. We were getting picked up.

“Where are we going? Are you serious? We are leaving tonight?!?!?!?!?”

As he bounced off the walls, I made sure to let the other fellas know that departure time was near. Once 11:15 rolled around, we all headed down to the lobby and to the curb.

“Seriously, where are we going?”

“Private Jet. Vegas”

As much as we had tried to keep the cat in the bag, this secret was just too big to keep any longer. Whale Jo’s face lit up like a Christmas tree. Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

As we waited for the limo, Scooter suddenly scooted across the street. WTF? Turns out he wanted a picture of a taco joint . . . Pinches Tacos . . . apparently “pinche” can be a nasty word in Spanish and Scooter found the irony picture worthy.

Finally the limo arrived and took a much more direct route back to Burbank airport. During the drive, we finally had our first pre-Vegas gambling moment.

Since none of us had flown in a private jet before, we weren’t sure whether there would be booze on board. And for goodness sakes, who needs a dry plane when you flying out to Vegas at midnight? So we had the driver pull in to a random AM PM so someone could run in and get beer. Hee-Haw took charge. But before heading out, Smooth Chazz and Whale Jo made a bet on the over/under for the amount of time it’d take him. Whale Jo predicted over 2 minutes, Chazz under. As soon as the limo stopped, Hee-Haw was out like a bullet. And in 1:12 he was back in the vehicle with a ½ rack of Corona and another ½ rack of something else. Job well done sir.

Ahhhh. I cracked open a cold Corona and watched the lights go by. The limo got a little silent as we approached the private hanger where take off would occur. It actually kind of reminded me of heading into a federal detention center . . . high chain link fence, razor wire, security gate . . . .but once we cleared the entrance we saw all the iron on the tarmac . . . and then our plane . . . lit up . . . stairway down . . . it was really happening. Vegas baby.

Here are all the pics I took during the plane ride. I have a video of the landing, but unfortunately I was a little too amped up when I shot the video of us landing and didn't have the wherewithal to actually hold the camera in one position . . . it looks like the plane is flipping over . . . I'm trying to fix that. Anyways, check these out, and then following these pics I will try and put words together than can accurately describe the experience.

 It really is like a dream. Stepping out of the limo and seeing the white, gleaming jet just waiting for the six of us to hop aboard and fly to Vegas. The two pilots greet us with strong handshakes (don’t want someone with a fish hand shake flying my plane!) and tell us that as soon as we’re all on board, we’ll take off. There are a ton of “No ways!”, “This is so cool”, “Shipit”, “Can I ride on the roof”, being shouted about as we board.

The plane? A Hawker 800XP. The interior. Soft colors, not too unlike the Wynn color scheme, accented with gold trip and gold cup holders. Soft supple lazy boy like seats. The cabin interior measures about 5.75 feet by 6 feet. Plenty of room. Oh, and it turns out they do have drinks. Anything you want. Beer. Wine. Booze. Some light snacks are in a goodie basket. And there’s a bathroom! That’s the first place I head – but takes me a while to figure out where the actual toilet is. It turns out it’s hidden underneath what looks like a normal bench. Guess when things get really crowded, a person could spend the ride in the john.

Once we’re all done bouncing around the plane, we tell the pilots that we’re good to go. Almost immediately we’re moving. And nobody tells us to put the seat belts on. Though I decide to. Just in case. We’re opening beers, doing toasts when suddenly it’s take off time.

My goodness.

It’s probably the closest I’m going to come to riding in a rocket to the moon. This plane has POWER. Forget the long windup of a 767 lumbering down the runway. This pony went from zero to hundreds of miles per hour in what seemed like 2 seconds. The force was so abrupt and powerful that Chazz’s beer literally flew out of the cup holder all over the side of the jet. If he hadn’t been buckled, I imagine he would have flown through the air all the way to the back.

And then we’re in the air. Lifting effortlessly, quietly, can’t believe how quiet, into the air. The lights of Burbank and LA beyond zoom out, turning from identifiable buildings and cars, into tiny little LED lights in some old school hand held video game. On the wall in our cabin was a nice big video screen that showed exactly where the plane was, airspeed, altitude and outside temperature. Kinda cool to watch.

This particular part of the trip is something I will never forget (and someday hope to experience again). The conversation was light, tons of laughter and by far the smoothest plane ride in the history of my universe. I still can't get over how it didn't feel like we were flying . . .

And then Vegas came into view . . . and what a view it was. So close, yet still so far . . . now the fun was really about to start.

(to be continued)

(yes, i know it's probably the longest pre-Vegas travel part of a trip report - sorry)

Calgary, Canada
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4. Re: The Dark Passenger Trip Report

I am so excited! A Jaco trip report!

Awesome so far! Thanks for sharing!


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5. Re: The Dark Passenger Trip Report

Great pre-trip. Love all the details, as usual. More, please!


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6. Re: The Dark Passenger Trip Report

I leave in four days. This is exactly what I need to get myself ready.

Grand Junction...
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7. Re: The Dark Passenger Trip Report

Thanks for starting this TR. I'm at home sick for 4 days, doc orders. So now I have something to do as I wait for my trip Oct 1st. Can't wait for the rest.

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8. Re: The Dark Passenger Trip Report

Love it so far! Can't wait for the rest

Cleveland, Ohio
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9. Re: The Dark Passenger Trip Report

Great report. Loving it!

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10. Re: The Dark Passenger Trip Report

Take your time and do it right!