Monday, January 7, 2013

Leaving Vegas

Friday the fourth was our last day in Vegas. We said goodbye to my sister and her boyfriend early in the morning, as they took off to California to visit his family. The rest of the group was planning on flying out at about 4pm.

Jonathan and I had already mapped out our return trip to Tulsa. We wanted to install a new fridge while before we went traveling again. Hopefully this will help with the food issue. Anyway, since we didn’t want to spend the night anywhere that was below freezing, we were planning on driving a long distance on Saturday. Therefore, we were going to get a couple of hours down the road that day to lessen the load on the next day. That meant we needed to leave by 2pm or earlier, since sunset came early and we crossed a time zone.

However, we still had a few hours that morning. I wanted to visit the M&M store, to see if they had white chocolate and peanut butter M&Ms. I thought it would be a good chance to spend some time with my mom, so I invited her along. Sadly, the M&M store didn’t have any of the kind that I wanted, but my mom got Jonathan a bag of whatever he wanted. There was also a display model of the M&M racecar. After that, my mom decided she still needed a few souvenirs for folks, so we escorted her shopping a bit more.

By then, it was time for lunch. We went to the Cafe at the Monte Carlo, where my Dad joined us. One last small meal to get some family time in before we all departed. Afterwards, we all said goodbye and Jonathan and I hit the road.

We stayed at a BLM ground in Arizona, where it was still above freezing at night and near I-40. That next morning, as we started down the road again, we were pulled over by the local police. Confused, as Jonathan wasn’t speeding, we waited for the cop and Jonathan reminded me to pull out our insurance and registration. While I was still hunting for the registration, the cop came up my side, so I hurried to roll down the window. As soon as he came up, he asked about whether we were required to have trailers tagged in Oklahoma. Having researched this before, we were certain that we did not and took our word for it. Then he wanted to see our registration as the tag had the previous year’s sticker on it. Jonathan then explained that he hadn’t been paying attention when he put this year’s  sticker on and had put it on the wrong side. The cop just needed to look at the other side, which he later saw. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find the current year’s registration, which infuriated me, as I remember making a point to remember to put them in the van as soon as we received them. Fortunately, he was able to look us up through insurance or the previous year’s registration or something and we were fine. Apparently, the real reason he stopped us, though, was that we had come from the BLM ground. He explained that since there was someone’s private mine there as well, overnighters weren’t encouraged and we should avoid staying there in the future. Advice heeded, we were allowed to leave without a ticket or anything, hallelujah! When we got back to Tulsa and got our mail, we found the registration hadn’t arrived before we left for Baja. Made me feel a lot better.

Later as we travelled and I looked up the weather for our destination that night, we discovered that the location would be below freezing there as well. So Jonathan decided that we would try to drive all the way on Saturday. We arrived at about 3am and slept in the driveway of Jonathan’s brother’s house after setting up the space heater that they left out for us. We were tired enough that we actually slept all morning and didn’t even rouse when the inhabitants left for their churches.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Party!

Thursday the third was quite the busy day. Not only was it the 57th anniversary of my grandparents, but I had a lot planned. We started off with a breakfast date with my sister and her boyfriend. Il Fornaio was supposed to be a good breakfast place as well, so that is where we ate. It wasn’t very impressive, in my opinion, as they sent my a very pathetic muffin, but at least the coffee cake was good. At breakfast, we ironed out the plans for the rest of the day. It basically meant that all my day was accounted for.

After breakfast, Jonathan and I went to the laundromat to get some clean clothes. That took us all the time until our next event, which was a visit to the stratosphere. We went with Suzanna and Mitchell, no one else was interested. We went to ride the rides on the top. They had a tricky marketing scheme set up there. It was $15/ride plus admission or $33 to do all the rides once with admission included. If you wanted to repeat a ride, you had to pay $9, I believe. These were all posted on the sign. Then in small print on a paper on the register for $34 (one dollar more) was the unlimited package that let you ride all the rides as many times as you want all day long. So, if you weren’t paying close attention, you could end up paying more than you should.

The rides were fun, although cold. My favorite was the X-Scream. It is a ride that is a like a combination of a teeter-totter and a roller coaster and 866 feet above Vegas. It is quick and unexpecting without giving you a headache or nausea. And the line was short and in the sun, which made it much more enjoyable.

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From there, Jonathan and I had to go to Drago Sisters Bakery to pick up the surprise cake for my grandparents. I had had a hankering for Tres Leches cake since Cabo San Lucas. I finally had a chance to get some. None of my family had eaten it before, so I was basically pushing my desires off on them, but I wasn’t particularly concerned, as they normally had similar tastes to mine.

As soon as we got back from the bakery, it was time to pick everyone up to go to dinner at Musashi Japanese Steakhouse. That was the one place my brother wanted to eat before we left Vegas, and I thought it would be a good place for my grandparents anniversary dinner, so Suzanna and Mitchell made us reservations there. It turned out to be a great meal. THE BEST chicken that I have ever had! And they had quite the show while cooking the food. I think my grandparents had the time of their lives.

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And to finish off the perfect meal, the tres leches cake hit the spot! It was also quite the success with everyone, not just me. Everyone said it was one of the best cakes they had one, but it wasn’t even the best tres leches cake I had ever had.

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Thursday, January 3, 2013

Dam Adventures

Tuesday was the day we had planned to visit Hoover Dam. Therefore, my sister had everyone meet for lunch at 11am at Diablo’s Cantina, where we could eat and head directly from there to the dam. Good thing she did. My parents and brother were rather late to lunch.  I think they had to deal with something with the family business or such.

When we finally left the restaurant, we told everyone to meet us on the street. Jonathan and I and my sister and her boyfriend (Mitchell) were going to bring the vehicles around to pick everyone up. As desired, they were right were we wanted them, and we loaded quickly and didn’t hold up traffic. That is where the plan hiccupped again. Apparently my brother had gone back inside to use the restroom when we showed up. I had assumed everyone was there and we took off. Mitchell took off too, following us. Then they were telling us to pull over in the middle of the Strip (Las Vegas Blvd) so that they could pick him up. We didn’t want to do that, so we drove on to a gas station and let them figure it out. So, instead of following each other to the dam, we ended up separated.

Both cars did eventually get to the dam with everyone. However, when we tried to park the van in the parking lot, they said that we couldn’t because of our propane tank and we had to cross the dam and park on the other side with the RVs. We had my grandparents with us, so we needed wheelchairs, though. So we went ahead and rented the chairs before we crossed the dam. Unfortunately, the only available parking was a mile up the hill. That wasn’t going to work with my grandparents. So, we turned back around and dropped them off back at the visitor’s center where my brother was waiting. Then we went and parked again. The walk actually did me some good and allowed me to examine the exterior of the dam, so I didn’t mind.

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We caught up with my family in the tour area, where they had quite the security system. They had the annoying line arrangers that amusement parks have. And the restrooms were on the other side of that. Several of us needed to use the restrooms, but when we tried to go (by going under the ropes directly to the restroom), we were scolded, sent back under and forced through the picture area before we could go. It felt like quite the power show by the security team, but I suppose they felt it necessary to keep everyone safe.

Finally, we got in line to do the powerplant tour. When we were hustled into the theater to start the tour, my grandparents, along with my brother and mother escorting them, got to sit in the front, while we were sent to the back. Not a big deal, but apparently the order you exit the theater dictates the order in which you get to tour the underground. So, we got permanently separated from them for the rest of the tour. We did get to see them at intersections, when we exited the elevator and they were entering, etc. We met them after the tour up on the roof of the visitor’s center. One of them left the wheelchair up there while they went inside, so I got pushed around it. My dad offered to take me down the stairs in it. You can tell what I thought of that.

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Following the tour, we made reservations at Il Fornaio (The Baker in Italian) in New York New York for dinner. We had just barely enough time to park before we had to start over that direction. My grandparents both elected to join us, which was great. By the end of dinner though, Jonathan and I were tired enough, so we called it a day.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

New Year’s

My family does not consist of morning people. My grandparents get up really early, when they need to, but other than that, I am normally the first one up. So, Jonathan and I are normally up first and grab a breakfast that we can make in the room. Then we would have all morning to just chill. Finally about 11am, everyone will start waking up and wanting food.

Tuesday, January 1, my grandma wanted some food, so I took her down the elevator to the “Street of Dreams” on the first floor of the resort. It is a collection of stores and restaurants. We went to Yogurt In, where they served crepes. My grandma got a savory crepe, but it was a bit overwhelming. After she finished, my brother wanted food and came down to meet us. He got himself some Chinese food from the food court.

I wanted to do something with the family other than gamble, so I asked my brother what was interesting about. He suggested the water show at the Bellagio. An hour and a half later, we had my family rounded up (minus my grandpa who didn’t want to go outdoors and my sister who was wandering about with her boyfriend) and started out towards the Bellagio via the monorail which connects several casino resorts. When we arrived at the Bellagio, we wandered about to find the water show, but arrived just as it finished. It would be another 45 minutes before it was displayed again, so we decided to move on and find some food.

DSC02112 The Bellagio had a polar bear made out of flowers!

DSC02109 The Bellagio was overall beautiful and decorated for Christmas still.

This was an experience. By then we were all tired of walking and hungry. However, finding a place that we could all agree on was difficult. Eventually, we decided on Planet Hollywood, but upon entering the building, we could not find the restaurant. We found out it was back up the street a ways at another resort. We finally ended up at P.F. Changs, which was located in the Planet Hollywood edifice. I don’t believe I had ever eaten at one before, but the food was delicious. Afterwards, we were all exhausted and headed back to the Monte Carlo.

By this time, though, my sister and I realized that the only way were going to be able to get everyone to hang out together would be to plan something and tell them to be there (and tell them a time thirty minutes earlier than you need them to arrive). So we worked together from here on out to make sure we spent some quality time with everyone starting on the next day.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Reunited

Monday, December 31, my brother texted me to let me know “my” room number (19-309) while Jonathan and I were at Walmart picking up supplies to carry us between the sporadic meals with my family. While we were heading over to the Monte Carlo, my grandma texted me to let me know as well and said she was going to get breakfast at McDonald’s. When we arrived, Jonathan carried the box of water bottles my sister had requested. We got into the elevator and I pushed floor 13 without consulting my phone, and then headed to room 309. We knocked on door, but no one answered. Figuring they weren’t back from breakfast yet, I wanted to try the second room. I didn’t know what the other room number was, though. I texted my brother, but that reply was slow in coming and we really needed to go to the restroom, so I decided to leave the water outside the door to 309 and go find a restroom. Since the cleaning staff was working on 307, I thought I would mention to them to not throw out the water. When I did, they wanted to know why I didn’t put it in the room, and I explained I didn’t have a key, so they kindly opened the door and put the water inside for me.

While we went to the bathroom, Chester (my brother) sent me the response to which room he was in. When I asked where everyone was since they weren’t in their rooms, he called me to find out where I was. He started giving me instructions back up to the room, and I realized my error of going to floor 13 instead of 19. Whew! Now to figure out how to get the water back. So, we returned to floor 13 and asked housekeeping to retrieve the water for us. It was a different person this time, though, and she wasn’t a native English speaker, so explaining the situation to her was interesting. At first, she refused saying she couldn’t let us inside, but then Jonathan explained we didn’t need inside, we just needed the water that was slid in before, then she agreed. Woo, saved!

From there, we proceeded to the proper floor and met my Grandma and brother in the hall. Yay! Then there were hugs and greetings all around. In addition to my siblings, parents, and maternal grandparents, my sister’s boyfriend, Mitchell arrived from California. So we got to meet him for the first time. And, shortly after, since everyone except Jonathan and I had not yet had breakfast, we went out to eat. We ended up going to a sports bar at New York New York. And, I guess I am someone that everyone wants to share with, as everyone was offering me a taste of their drink, although every one of them contained things I don’t like in a drink (caffeine, alcohol, carbonated water, etc.). My sister finally broke the cycle by ironically offering me a taste of her water.

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Afterwards, everyone wanted to gamble and peruse New York New York’s casino area, but as Jonathan and I don’t like to gamble and the smoke-filled air is too much for me, we parted ways for the afternoon. We did meet up with everyone for dinner. We walked down to Excalibur, but found nothing enticing there. Then proceeded back down the road and found Hard Rock Cafe. I started off badly with the dinner. They had a blondie that sounded heavenly that I wanted. But they were out. So, we substituted the crème brûlée, but they 86ed that as well. Unhappy jen. My brother and father had good fajitas, though, that they shared with me.
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Afterward, Jonathan and I went to bed. But, at about 11:30, he woke up and went to the van to grab our pillows. The ones at the hotel were really thick and uncomfortable. So, we were awake for the fireworks show at midnight for the New Year’s celebration.  They were shot off the tops of the hotels and went on for about 15 minutes. They were loud enough that I don’t think I would have slept through it anyway. They were gorgeous, though.

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Delayed

Sunday, December 30, woke as a nice day. We had planned on meeting my family at the airport that night at 10pm, so we were not in any hurry. I jogged, Jonathan read, then we went and took showers before heading down the road. After our showers, however, the van was really acting up. Jonathan pulled over and turned off the vehicle for a moment to check something out, and then it didn’t even want to start. Jonathan eventually got it turned over and we pulled off into an empty lot at the campground to check out the problem.

After two hours under the vehicle in the chill morning, Jonathan discovered the ignition coil was at fault and swapped it for the spare. Yes, we did have a spare as we carry several parts and tools in our trailer. Some people think we are crazy, for a) planning for a vehicle to break down and need parts and/or b) traveling in a vehicle that would need spare parts. But, if you think about it, after travelling thousands of miles in any vehicle, it will need maintenance of some type anyway. We just carry that stuff around with us, as we don’t have a garage to put it in and sometimes a store is a hundred miles away. It saves us time, money, and frustrations.

Anyways, by the time we got everything put back together and a lunch eaten, it was 2pm and we still had 3 hours to travel. We were already tired, so we decided that we would not meet my family on Sunday at the airport and instead would meet them on Monday at the hotel. As it was, we would be pushing it to find a place before sundown. We had planned on staying at Seward’s Point, a free BLM site on Lake Mead, but it was an hour around the lake. We figured that the money saved in gas could pay for a site at a closer campground so we stopped at the one nearest Hoover Dam.

Found out later that it was probably a good thing we didn’t meet my family at the airport. Their plane was delayed quite a bit. So we would have been waiting for an hour or more at the airport for them to arrive. So, we let them sleep in and contact us at their leisure the next morning.