Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Vegas, Baby part III

Vegas, Day 1
Vegas, Day 2

The Dam bus arrives early at the Monte Carlo. Which required me to set an alarm clock. As the alarms of the construction site could not be guaranteed to go off at the correct time. Or again within 9 minutes to constitute a snooze. So we alarmed. Snoozed. Showered. And dressed.

As we went down for breakfast. Alarms actually started going off in the hotel. Fire alarms. With flashing strobe lights. It was very loud. But no one seemed concerned. Not the workers in the food court. Or the bosses in the pits. Well. Those security guards that were running. They might have been concerned. Yet no one said "get out!" Or "run for your life!" So we stayed and had breakfast. In the food court. With the sirens. And the strobes.

We headed out the doors and looked for the sign to the dam bus.

The drive to the dam is really not that long. It's maybe a 20 minute drive. However. There are two things that slow you down. One is that everyone must go through a security check. No commerical vehicles are allowed to cross the dam. When our bus pulled over, an officer from homeland security came aboard so that he could go through all the overhead compartments.

The other delay is simply traffic. There are lots of people that want to visit the dam. And there are even more people who simply need to pass on by. But they get stuck with all the tourists. And then there are the commercial vehicles. Who simply need to pass on through. They are re-routed about an hour and a half out of their way. At least for a bit longer. As a huge bridge is being built over the canyon and will provide a much more convenient bypass.However. That bridge. That bypass. Is about 2 years behind schedule. And part of it blew over this year. More work is a good idea.

So...our bus parked. And sent us on our merry way to yet another line. Another security check point. X-rays. Metal detectors. Body cavity search. And we were in like Flynn. To yet another line. This time to see a dam short film. Short dam film? It was dam fascinating.

Next? You guessed it. Another line. This time to an elevator. Into the bowels of the dam. We rode down to a spot beneath the dam to see the original tunnels that were built to divert the river during construction.

(See the dam in the diagram above? And the "pipes": that look golden, then gray, then blue? The pipes at the top...there is a line that goes vertically through the diagram? We are at the intersection of the gray pipe and the line at the top. Dam clear, huh? If only I knew photoshop and could write on my picture with an X and say "we are here")

Next we headed back up. This time to see how the water is used to turn turbines so that they can harvest electricity. Electricity is the bonus in this project. And makes it so that the dam can operate as a non-profit.

Finally we headed up to the top and the observation platform. It really is a sight to see. Amazing. And so large that I could not capture it all in my lense. And now that I look at it. I realize that we never had the chance to actually walk across the bridge. Or rub the toes of the winged statues. Sigh. Next time.

In the gift shop we found some very exciting souvenirs for the girls. Dam placemats!

And then we were off to the next part of our three hour tour. The Ethel M. chocolate factory. Chocolate samples for lunch sounded like a splendid idea. And going to a chocolate factory at lunch time. When you are starving. Dam brilliant marketing plan.

So...what about you? What US landmark would you like to visit? What is your favorite chocolate?

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Saturday, November 7, 2009

Weekend Whimsies

Enough about me....let's talk about you...

rain or snow?

apples or oranges?

Crayons or colored pencils?

Favorite John Hughes' movie?

scented or unscented?

What toppings do you put on your burger?

gift bag or gift wrap?

print or cursive?

corn chips or potato chips?

Favorite soup?

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Thursday, November 5, 2009

Vegas, Baby...part II

Vegas: Day 1

My body was still on Eastern time when it woke up this morning to an ungodly Vegas hour. But the construction workers were at it full force. And there were half a dozen alarms. Car alarms? Sirens? Fire alarms? Going off. I opened the curtains to see my view. The Monte Carlo has a pretty impressive pool area. You cannot see it all from this photo. But there is a hot tub. A large lounging pool. The lazy river you can see. And that large pool by the river? That is a wave pool. A wave pool. At my hotel. But as I watched. I noticed the palm trees swaying in the steady breeze. Then those palm trees bent. And bent. As the breeze changed to a gust. Note to self: wear jeans today.

Just beyond the pool was the construction of the city center. All those late nights are paying off and the construction looks about done. The monorail pad looks like something out of a Star Wars movie.

I woke up Michael. I had an errand for him to run. I sent him off to the half price ticket booth to see what we might do today. While sending small prayers to the gods of Vegas that Cirque tickets might be in our future. My chore was to figure out how we could meander the strip without walking too much. One of the guide books suggested using the bus. Specifically the Deuce. A double decker bus that runs up and down the strip. 24 hours a day. I got online to figure out where the stops are located. And it says "stops at virtually all the hotels on the strip." Cool. That says minimal walking to me!

My next chore was to go down and buy an excursion to Hoover Dam. And lament over the fact that the Grand Canyon tour was not in our budget. Or time restraints.

I went back to the room to wait for Michael and our cirque tickets. Only to discover that most cirque shows are dark on Wednesday nights. And that we were now the proud owners of tickets to see "The Price is Right." Well. If we can't win at slots. Maybe we can win the big showcase.

By now, it's getting to be late morning. And I am STARVING. My body says it is early afternoon. And I have not had breakfast. Or lunch. We decided that it was a good time to go to the buffet. Especially since we had buy one get one free coupons. And it was even cheaper because we went in a few minutes before lunch was being served. So we got the breakfast price. My husband now feels like he has won it big. We started out with a little breakfast. And then moved right into lunch. It was pretty good.

Then it was time to finally play some slots. This is all that gambling means to me. Pushing that button. And waiting to see what shows up on the pay line. I found a machine that actually paid if nothing was on the pay line. It was kinda like a do-over. So many times I was so close to the big pay off. Centimeters away. I just knew that the next roll would get me to that jackpot. And actually. When we finally walked out. I hadn't lost any money. I think I was up about ten or twenty dollars. Which was good because Michael had quickly lost all of his allotment.

And when I stood up to head out. There was a travesty. My backpack purse. It broke. The strap was no longer attached to the bottom. And I could not carry it like a backpack. I threw it over one shoulder and we headed across the street to catch the Deuce.

I am thinking that it is quite easy to spot the tourists on Las Vegas Boulevard. We are all standing around. Gaping. Spinning to see it all. And taking pictures of just about everything. Then again. All of us at this locale are probably tourists. I think the locals don't venture here unless they have to. We made a mental note to come back to the four story M&M store.We checked out New York, New York. I bet the girls would love to ride that roller coaster. And you can see the other hotels down the strip: NY,NY, The Excalibur, the Luxor is tucked behind, and finally Mandalay Bay. It looks like they are so close. But Mandalay Bay is really 47 miles down the road. Or something like that. Damn mirage

Oh. And look at what else we saw: It was just like being in Atlanta. And it might the only place in town that you can actually buy a coke. When you are craving a coke. And all they have to offer you is Pepsi.

Our bus arrived. We were armed with our exact change. And we found a seat. We needed to go to Bally's. Which is between the Paris and the Flamingo. And Bill's Gaming Hall is in there too. Somewhere. So we are riding along. And we pull up in front of the Paris. Michael suggests we get off here. But. I thought the bus would stop a smidge futher down the street. Right in front of Bally's. Because the website said they stop at all the hotels. (Yeah, yeah. It said "virtually." I chose to ignore that word. Unfortunately.) So we stay on. And we drive on. Right past Bally's. Past Bill's. And right to the edge of the Flamingo. A good 27 miles away from Bally's. Or something like that.

So we begin our trek. That I was trying to avoid. Down to the end of the street. Up to the overpass. Over the street. And towards Bally's. Except that I could not figure out how to enter. There is a huge sign to enter the resort. But it says "Bally's Monorail." And I didn't want to go to the monorail. I wanted to go to the Price Is Right theatre. So we walked more. And some more. To the main entrance. Where we quickly discovered that the monorail entrance was what we wanted. Ugh.

We went to get in line. And we got one of those cute price tag name tags. And had our picture taken in front of a green screen. Where they inserted the big wheel behind us. You'll just have to use your imagination here. Since I didn't buy it. But. I look sweaty. Windblown. Did I mention sweaty?

The show was hysterical. Who knew? Now. This is not the Drew Carey Price is Right. This is the low key version. Again. Who knew that low key exists in Vegas. But it was low key. And hysterical. The host was Todd Newton. Who I have seen on E! And the announcer was David Ruprecht. Who?? The guy that hosted "Supermarket Sweep." Who?? Nevermind.

What made the show was all the contestants. (There were 4 contestants called up for each round of lots of people got to play. Unfortunately, our names were never called.) There was the woman who was visiting Vegas with her friend. Her friend being the man she has lived with for the past 18 years. Who still hasn't asked her to marry her. Then there was the woman who giggled. Constantly. So much giggling she couldn't even give her bid. And there was the woman who brought her purse up with her to bid. Because she didn't trust the people she came with to look after it. Nor could she recall their names. But she knew she had known them for years.

After the show we decided to go and check out Caesar's Palace. And do a little gambling. (The whole time I am thinking about Alan asking "So...did Caesar really live here?") We ambled through the casino. And ambled a little more. And the ambling turned into walking. And we ended up in the forum shops. Which are really cool. The floor is cobblestone. And the ceiling is like the sky. There are fountains. And if you keep going. There is even a fountain of gods. That talk. And while I sat down to listen to the story of Zeus. And Hermes. And Aphrodite. I noticed something.

Do you see it, too? Over in the corner. No, no, no. The other corner. It's a Brighton store! And it was calling my name. I found just the thing. A tiny purse. With a ginormous strap. You should have seen me in the store. Trying on all the teeny tiny purses. To see how much I could still fit inside of one. I am not sure how I made the transition from my ginormous giraffe bag to this tiny thing. But it was done. And we were on our way. Out of the hotel. Because I was sooo not going to amble. Or walk. Or trudge back to the casino.

We finally figured out how to get out of the shops. And I amused myself looking at the spiral escalator. Is that redneck that I was amused? Entranced? Enthralled? One cannot possibly be a redneck. AND own a Brighton purse. Right? Right? Hello?So we headed out of Caesar's to the Deuce stop. And back to the Monte Carlo. Where we played slots again. Had dinner. And went back up to our cologne soaked hall. On the thirteenth floor. So that we could crash at a decent hour. Because we had to be ready for the Dam bus at 8am.

So...what about you? Do you like the Price is Right? Wave Pools? Riding the bus? Brighton purses?

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Monday, November 2, 2009

Vegas, baby part I

When I first heard about the blog conference that SITS was hosting in Las Vegas. I knew that I had to be a part of it. After our year of medical maladies. Topped with a cherry flood. A vacation for the grown ups was just the ticket. I have never been to Vegas. And I could not wait to soak up it's lights. Glamour. Nudie cards. And Kitsch.

Being the strange bird that I am. My first order of business was research. To figure out how early we might be able to fly out. To see what shows could possibly be in our budget. To find an inexpensive hotel on the strip for the first part of our week. To arrange a little off site travel. And to investigate the possibility of renewing my vows with Elvis. Well. Not literally with Elvis. Since I am not married to him in the first place. Nevermind.

My first exciting find was that I had enough credit card points for us to fly for free. Of course. We probably got all those points from certain medical maladies. Which begs the question of if there weren't medical maladies, would we have been able to go to Vegas? Which begs other questions. That I won't torment you with since it's enough that they keep me up at night.

Finally a few weeks before we were to leave. I finally decided where we would stay. And for the rest of our week. I decided not to plan at all. But to just see what each day would bring. And see if we could win big on the slots and supplement our plans accordingly. Because one should always plan vacations on a wing and a prayer. And the thought of hitting it big. Right? That is what everyone is doing these days. You heard it here first. Cause I just made it up.

We flew out of Atlanta on a Tuesday afternoon. Giving many thanks to Lizzy who graciously agreed to drive Michael and I to the airport. She had no idea that her graciousness would extend to a 3+ hour drive home due to an accident on the interstate. I am sure that she is still wondering where her tshirt is. We arrived in Las Vegas with much less pomp and circumstance.

We decided to stay at the Monte Carlo resort at the south end of the strip. I got us all checked in. When I noticed the strangest of things. We were assigned to a room on the 13th floor. The 13th floor! I thought that hotels skipped this floor. Evidently not. We had a no smoking room. Perhaps this was the floor the powers that be decided was best for us. Our room and floor did not smell of smoke. But it smelled like someone had spilled a whole bottle of cologne. Cheap cologne.

Don't get me wrong. The room was fine. The hotel was fine. Especially considering I only paid $59 a night. But do you know what is going on all around the Monte Carlo? They are building what is called "The City Center." It is a huge hotel. Casino. With restaurants. Shopping. Church. Synagogue. And even a school. And this complex is scheduled to be finished soon. But to finish it. The construction goes on 24/7. The city truly never sleeps. And neither does anyone staying at the Monte Carlo.

It was almost bedtime. But really, it was early in Vegas. My body says it is 11pm. My clock says it's only 8pm. And those peanuts on the airplane are a distant memory. So we went off in search of food. There is a food court by the casino and I found this place that made yummy guacamole. Where only the casino bosses behind those cameras might be able to tell you if the plate was licked clean.

With a little nourishment. We got a little energy. And decided to go and check out the strip. If we could figure out how to get there. We walked through the casino. And walked. And walked a little more. We passed the steakhouse. The cafe. The buffet. The magician's theatre. A bar. And more slots. And we walked a little further. Binoculars might have been helpful. And then we were out. I knew that the Bellagio was the next casino up the street. And that the Paris was directly across the street from the Bellagio. And look. The Paris is so close. So we decided to walk over to see those famous fountains.

Did you know that Las Vegas is in the desert? One of the effects of being in the desert is a mirage. Part of a mirage is the feeling that things are much closer than they appear. When they aren't. Kinda the reverse of your side view mirrors. (But the same sort of feeling you might get if you see in your sideview mirror a T-rex chasing you.)

So we walked to the Bellagio.

Have I mentioned that I don't walk? Besides being lazy and having zero stamina. I have horrid heel spurs. Which makes walking rather difficult.

And we walked some more. The Paris never looked any closer. It remained what seemed the same distance away. Even though we kept walking. And walking. And walking.

And finally. We were there. Without a sofa to crash into. Nary a stone bench in sight. So I leaned on the wall. And waited for the next show to begin.

And I must say that we were rewarded. Handsomely. I knew the fountains were a must see. But I don't think I got the extent of how cool they really are. The fountains are choreographed to music. So every show is different. And the water really does move with the music. And the song we heard. It was fabulous. And oh so fitting: "Hey, Big Spender." (It's times like this that I wish I still had my playlist.)

And if the pictures aren't enough, I found a video of it on youtube:

And when it was over. I must have still been enraptured. Because we walked back to the hotel. Walked. And walked. And a little further. I even contemplated the bus stop. But I had no idea where it might let us off. So we kept walking. Back through the casino. Past the bufet. And cafe. And food court. To the cologne soaked hall. And into our thirteenth floor room. And right into bed. With the sounds of saws. Hammers. And construction detris lulling me to a peaceful night's sleep.

So...what about you? Have you ever been to Vegas? Favorite hotel there - or one you would want to stay in? Are you shocked that I have blogged two days in a row?

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Sunday, November 1, 2009


We forgot. Ran out of time. Or ignored it. One of those. Or all of those. But there was no pumpkin in our house this year. No orange canvas for Michael to practice his mad skills. Last year he did the two-head kitty monster. Which showed the scariest thing to happen to us last year. Carving doctor bills on the pumpkin for this year might have been an interesting challenge.

And what did the girls choose for their costumes this year? Madalyn went through a long list of possibilities. Renaissance princess. Grecian princess. Egyptian princess. My mother took her to Target to pick something out. And she decided to be a skeleton. Princess? I think we should have given her a tiara.

Katie decided to make her own costume. So that she could be her absolute favorite thing. A pie. She had it all planned out. She would wear silver pants. For the pie tin. And a tan-ish shirt. Her words. So she would have the pie crust down. And then she wanted to make slits in the shirt to show the fruit in the pie. And then have a hat that looked like she was ala mode. Uh-huh. Have I mentioned that I am not creative? This was a project that firmly rested in her hands.

She knew. And I knew. That this project was a go when I found the silver leggings. The store clerk gave me an odd look when I told her the leggings were for a Halloween costume. I would like to know what occasion calls for silver leggings. Where would you wear silver leggings? The rest of the costume came rather easily. The brown hoodie was found in her sister's closet. She made the apple slices and slits for her shirt. And glued a hundred cotton balls on a hat. Refused to have a cherry on top. Because she doesn't like cherries. Marischino cherries actually. "Real" cherries are yum.So here they are. In all their independent glory.

Did you know that sometimes skeleton. Princesses? Like to snack on pies?

Do any of you remember what we found in Katie's bag last year? Someone had put in some fun dip. That was personalized. From Valentine's. Yep. Regifted candy.Shockingly. It happened again. This time to Madalyn. She got a peanut butter bunny. Yep. An Easter bunny. For Halloween. Now that is scary.

So...what about you? How did your kids dress up for Halloween? Did you dress up? What is your favorite candy to steal from your kids? What candy did you hand out?

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