Two adventure-seeking college buddies are back on the ground in Buffalo after squeezing 50,000 miles — and a marriage proposal and new careers — out of a pair of all-you-can-fly plane tickets that took them to 30 cities in 31 days.
Clark Dever and Joe DiNardo touched town at Buffalo Niagara International Airport about 12:05 a.m. Friday, five minutes after the end of a JetBlue promotion that allowed a month of unlimited travel for $599.
Along the way, there was skydiving in Los Vegas, stage-diving in Houston, cliff-diving in San Diego. Dever even dove into a marriage proposal, popping the question to his girlfriend, Susan Cope, when she flew out to Phoenix to meet up with him. (She said yes.)
"It was the journey of a lifetime," Dever said later Friday morning as he and DiNardo, both 25, recounted the adventure at a Buffalo coffee shop.
The trip meant 58 flights for Dever and 62 for DiNardo, who detoured back to Buffalo to quit his job halfway in. They figure each flight cost them about $13.
The pair, who recruited two other friends for the trip, managed to make every flight to avoid what would have been a disastrous cascade of rebooking and fees. Only one flight was delayed, for 30 minutes.
After mapping out their route, they went into the trip with few concrete plans for any city, relying on Facebook, Twitter and a Web site: www.12hoursinacity.com, to meet up with people who could show them around, provide a place to stay or a ride.
Companies that jumped in with services got plugged on the Web site and others became official sponsors.
"The biggest thing we learned is that so many people are so willing to help you out," DiNardo said. "Everywhere we went, someone wanted to buy us something or give us a place to stay or show us their city. People are very, very proud of their individual cities and they like to show them off."
"People would hear what we did in other cities and they would want to show off and top it," Dever said, "... so it got pretty brutal for us."
Because of JetBlue's flight patterns, the group couldn't gradually work their way across the country. Instead, they made several cross-country treks in and out of the carrier's hub at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. But at least those flights gave them enough time to sleep for more than the 90 minutes to two hours at a time they averaged.
"We got so good at sleeping on planes that I would be asleep before the cabin door closed and wake up at the gate," DiNardo said.
The travelers said they picked up 2,300 Facebook fans and more than 1,000 Twitter followers in the month and 30,000 people visited the Web site, where DiNardo wrote about their experiences and Dever posted photos.
"Everybody wishes that they were doing what we were doing," Dinardo said. "Our business was to take in the city and so we were able to really experience things. ... Like in New Orleans, we might have gone to one place on Bourbon Street. We got the local New Orleans, the real music," he said.
Not everyone thought the pair could pull it off.
"Most of our friends were, 'This is the worst idea ever. It's going to be hilarious. I just want to watch so I can see it explode,'" DiNardo said.
JetBlue spokesman Sebastian White said the Buffalo travelers were among several people who took great advantage of the promotion. The airline did not disclose how many passes were sold.
Now that they're back, DiNardo and Dever are looking ahead to new careers. Dever quit his job as a Web developer to pursue photography full-time and DiNardo left his job as a marketing vice president midway through the trip after his company suggested he come back to work. He's got a consulting job lined up with people he met during a stop in Austin, Texas, where he'll be moving soon.