Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Las Vegas: Day 2

Check out day. Time to go home... again. We checked out of Paris and left our bags with the bellman while we went out and grabbed some food, went shopping and played a few more slots. I was somewhat disappointed to find out today that you can actually go up to the top of the "Eiffel Tower" at the Paris hotel. That would've been really fun for Denise and I to do last night. Oh well... next time.

Our flight was around an hour late taking off due to some sort of accident involving the refueling truck. Supposedly they even called in an ambulance for the guy. Not really sure how something like that happens when those things probably go like 5 mph.

Because I had to dig the Explorer out of several inches of snow at the Park N' Fly and help Denise dig her car out too, I didn't get home until around 1am. Bed time!

Monday, February 26, 2007

Arizona: Day 6 / Las Vegas: Day 1

Woke up early this morning and hit I-93 north to Vegas. A hour or two later, we grabbed some breakfast at a McDonald's on Route 66 in Kingman, AZ. An hour or two after that, we were driving across the Hoover Dam. Then it was on to good ol' Vegas. That's when the real fun began.

I headed towards the airport and drove out to where all of the rental car places are. But after driving through once, I never saw a Fox rental office. Confused, I looped around and drove through again. Still nothing. So I called Fox's number only to be told that Fox rental no longer has a location in Las Vegas, despite what the agent told me. I had even paid the $150 drop off fee to drive to Vegas. Heck, he even gave me directions there.

So I spent several minutes with the Fox rental district manager while he kept repeating fairly obvious and unhelpful things like "How can you be in Vegas? We don't have a counter in Vegas." I kept telling him that wasn't my problem since his own agent told me I could drop off in Vegas. Finally, he agreed to see if he could work out a deal with a rental agency here. After getting the runaround and being sent to a couple different agencies multiple times, we finally managed to ditch the car.

From there, we went straight to the Paris hotel where we were staying. Our room was quite impressive. We spent the rest of the night walking the strip, playing slots and even visiting downtown. I tried to show Denise the fountains at the Bellagio, but much to my disappointment, they were turned off due to "high winds." We finally went back to the room and crashed at around 4am.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Tucson: Day 5

Woke up to some rather unpleasant news this morning. Denise and I were supposed to be flying out of Phoenix this evening at around 8pm. But due to what sounds like some pretty heavy snowfall back in the Twin Cities, our flight was cancelled. After spending a good 20 minutes or so on hold with Northwest Airlines, I was told that we wouldn't be able to get another flight until Tuesday. So it looks like we'll be staying two more days.

But there's a bright side. Since it was the same cost, we decided to get a flight out of Las Vegas (since Denise has never been) on Tuesday evening. So after some last minute preparations, we said goodbye to the family and headed north. We just pulled into a Best Western in a little town called Wickenburg, AZ, which is about halfway between my parent's house and Las Vegas.

So tomorrow we'll be getting up bright and early and heading to sin city where we should have most of the day tomorrow and a good share of Tuesday to bum around! Sweet!

Tucson: Day 4

After another lazy morning, the whole family had some lunch at a great little seafood chain up in Tucson called Rockin' Baja Lobster. Afterwards, we all went to visit my grandma, who lives in a retirement home in Tucson.

Then Denise and I took a very scenic drive up Mt. Lemmon, an incredibly picturesque mountain north of Tucson. There's a little village up on top called Summerhaven but unfortunately the gift shop (and more importantly the Cookie Cabin where you can get freshly baked chocolate chip cookies) was closed by the time we got up there. But we weren't disappointed for long since we managed to time our drive down just as the sun was setting.

The rest of the day was spent back down in Green Valley relaxing with the family and playing a little Phase 10.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Tucson: Day 3

Today was mostly spent in the car. The original plan was to get an early start and head north to Phoenix and then on to Sedona, but we took a few detours along the way. For lunch we dined on some delicious Magpies Pizza. Then we took the long way through the mountains to Prescott, AZ. We then managed to miss our turn for Sedona and ended up on a pretty cool gravel road that took us through the mountains where it began to snow. By the time we decided to turn around and finally got to Sedona, it was dark so we didn't really get to see much of it.

After that, we headed back to Phoenix to pick up my oldest brother Matt and his wife Maria from the airport. After a tasty In-N-Out Burger, we headed back down to Green Valley.

Tucson: Day 2

Another gorgeous day in AZ. I believe the temps were up around 75 and not a cloud in the sky all day long. It was a little slow going in the morning for Denise and I since we were both still fairly tuckered out from traveling the day before. When we finally got ambitious enough, we headed to my parents house for a delicious breakfast of french toast and bacon, which my mom buys right from the butcher shop. Mmmm... bacon...

Then we made a run for the border. Even though I forgot to bring my birth certificate, we talked to some locals here and heard that you can park on the US side and walk over to Nogales, Mexico, and all you need to get back in is a driver's license. So we hit I-19 and went about 40 miles south to the border.

This might sound odd, but Nogales actually reminded me a little bit of New York City. Certainly not in size, but it's essentially filled with dirty little storefronts and persistent street vendors that relentlessly hassle you to check out their knickknacks as you walk past. Oh yeah, and farmacias. Muchos de farmacias! But we did have a lot of fun exploring and buying some souvenirs. We also made friends with one store owner nicknamed "Fish"--he never explained the nickname, only telling us it was "a long story" (see picture at right).

On the way back, we stopped at a pretty famous little spice shop, the Santa Cruz Chili & Spice Co, in Tumacacori. Then we continued north through a little "city" called Tubac. It's called an "artist colony" down here but it's basically a bunch of hippies selling arts and crafts stuff. But it was good enough for us to look around and grab a quick bite to tide us over until dinner.

We spent the next few hours beating up the rental car driving through Madera Canyon and Box Canyon where we witnessed a typical (i.e. awesome) Arizona sunset. Afterwards, we picked up my dad (since mom was a little under the weather) for some dinner at an awesome local Mexican place right in Green Valley called Manuel's. (Every time I come down here, I absolutely have to go to Manuel's at least once!)

Even though I was tired by this point, Denise somehow talked me into going a few miles up the road to the Desert Diamond Casino where we played some slots for a couple hours. Then it was back to the hotel for some much-needed sleep.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Tucson: Day 1

As always, day 1 is typically just known as "traveling day". When you get up at 4am and don't really stop moving until like two in the afternoon, it tends to wear you out. And it doesn't help when yours truly isn't exactly a huge fan of traveling; my 5-second attention span tends to hinder such things. However, this time wasn't so bad since Denise brought her portable DVD player. So we watched Office Space and played some card game that I just learned and don't know the name of.

At the rental car place, what was described on Expedia as a "midsize, Toyota Corolla or similar" somehow turned into a PT Cruiser... yeah, no thanks. So after 10 minutes of the saleswoman trying desperately yet fruitlessly to talk me into upgrading to a Dodge Charger, I paid for a small upgrade to a Chrysler Sebring.

The rest of the afternoon was spent having lunch with my mom at the Quail Creek Grill and checking in at the hotel. Later on, we met up with my dad, my brother Ryan and his wife Kate at a pizza place called Sauce up in Tucson.

That was all the excitement we could handle for one day!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Way too early to be awake!

Always a shocker when the alarm goes off at 4am. Ugh. But fortunately, it's for a good reason. Denise and I will be leaving shortly to head to the airport en route to sunny Green Valley, AZ!

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Another good night at poker

I hosted Mark's monthly poker game at my place last night. We had a pretty good turnout (not quite as good as the last couple) of somewhere around 20-25 people with 7 rebuys. This time, Mark and I had the foresight to put out a cup for a $1 donation to help me defray the $25 room rental fee. Although everyone must not have felt the need to help out since there was only $16 in the cup at the end of the night.

Anyway, I had a pretty solid night. I was pretty much middle of the road stack-wise all night until the final table. Fortunately, I got some pretty good hands at just the right times to get me into heads-up with Joey Vandermark. On the final hands, we each had pretty mediocre hands. But fortunately, it was an equally mediocre flop of 9-8-4(?). I had a 9 and Joey had an 8. He went all in, I called and my 9s held up.

With a few shootout tokens, I ended up taking home over $330. Not bad!