Friday, 4 August 2017

Vacation Blog VIII, Part IX, the long voyage home begins....

7:30 AM - Well I guess we have to face reality, it's over. The vacation is over. Oh, the humanity.

No matter how good a vacation is, it's always nice to get home, isn't it?

The BEING home is nice. The TRAVELING home, notsomuch. Anyway, we are still flying First Class and as of right now the flight is on time.

Here is a first: It is actually forecasted to be HOTTER IN SEATTLE today than it is here in Vegas. Bizarre. I guess that will be a nice change of pace. Usually we get off the plane to cold and rain.

Good thing we are going to get a nice lunch on the plane as we don't have a ton of food left to eat this morning. Toast, toast, and toast. MMMM toast.

11:55 AM - Our plane takes off on time, or thereabouts. We might have the most adorable flight attendant ever taking care of our section.

We are about to have one of the worst travel days in our life. So given that I'm mentioning this while talking about our flight, you would think it has something to do with the flight, right?

Wrong. As usual, Alaska Airlines is nearly perfect. Friendly service, a fantastic meal (Chicken and Brie sandwich with a raspberry sauce - so good!), and an uneventful flight that landed on time. We get our bags in just minutes and are in our car and on our way home.

3:00 PM - I had originally suggested to Tracey that I thought we would be on the road by around 3 o'clock. I nailed it EXACTLY. I rule.

She and I had a disagreement about how long it would take us to get home. I said (without looking it up) that it should take us about 2 hours and 40 minutes to get home (not accounting for stops, or traffic, of course). Just now, I looked it up to see if I was crazy:

  1. Route #1
  2. Route #2
via I-5 S
2hr 51min 

OK so I was off by 11 minutes.

Tracey insisted it would take us WAY longer than that. One of us was about to be reallllly wrong. And it was me.

6:00 PM - We are now about 15 miles SOUTH OF BELLINGHAM.

From SeaTac to Everett....yes, all the say through Seattle to Everett.....we got up to about 10 mph. That is not a typo. THREE HOURS from SeaTac to the North end of Everett.

At that point, it was almost as if the Red Seas had parted and we started to drive close to the normal speed. But the damage was more than done by that point. I know it was rush hour on a Friday afternoon, but that is fucking insane.

We stop at Fred Meyer for a few groceries, then have a very quick chat with an agent at the border, and we are on our way.

What a horrible drive. But eventually, we arrived home after another terrific trip. I miss Vegas already! Where is my huge soaker tub? Where is my frozen Pina Colada? Where are the buffets?!?!?

Oh well, I guess I'll have to go back to work on Tuesday in order to earn enough money to go back next year. That shit's expensive!

Thanks for reading, hope you had a chuckle or two. Until next time, I am...

the Dean.

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Vacation Blog VIII, Part VIII, our last day in Vegas, better make it a good one!

8:30 AM - Not bad, but it took me forever to get to sleep last night. Not nearly as rested as yesterday. Sleepy bear still in full hibernation mode so I'm not sure what time our day will begin, but we have no morning plans so it doesn't really matter.

Pretty glad I just confirmed tomorrow's flight time. Thought our flight was for 2:30, but that is actually the time we LAND in Seattle. We leave at Noon. That is a pretty important piece of information which will affect our plans for tomorrow morning.

10:05 AM - Hibernation is over and breakfast is in full swing. I'm using up the rest of the turkey bacon and eggs, trying to leave here tomorrow morning with virtually no leftover food to toss out. I don't think we will 100% accomplish that goal, but we will be pretty close. We are heading out for lunch today but will be back here in time for dinner, which will consist of whatever the heck we have left in the fridge. It's looking like chips and salsa might be the main course.

Gotta have a shower before we go out, in order to rid my hair of the rest of the debris from our ill-fated drive up the strip last night.

12:30 PM - We arrive at Mandalay Bay and head up to the Shark Reef exhibition to see some sharks and other stuff. Living near the ocean my entire life, I feel like I take this sort of thing for granted. Some of these animals are truly breathtaking. Oh, and a tub of piranhas.

After the sharks we head to the buffet for lunch, cashing in another one of our 2-for-1 MyVegas rewards. This buffet is a couple levels below the Wynn and Bellagio, but it's also about 15% cheaper so for those of you who are budget conscious, that's a good option. The food is perfectly good, but where they fall down is in the labeling. Not one single item is labeled gluten-free (let's face it, most of it probably WASN'T gluten-free so maybe it's more than a labeling issue).

No question that Bellagio wins the "Buffet-bowl", not only the best food but also a fantastic selection of WELL MARKED gluten-free options (not to mention the World's Greatest Invention!!). The Wynn was a close second.

4:45 PM - After running a couple quick errands, I'm planning on heading down to the pool where Tracey is already residing, but then I realize it is ONLY FIFTEEN MINUTES TO FOOTBALL SEASON!! WOOOOOOOOOO!!! I know it's only the Hall of Fame Game and no starters are going to play, but it's the signal of the best season of the year: NFL season. I only watch the first few minutes before heading down to the pool where Contended Bear is blissfully enjoying the pool.

They have a frozen Pina Colada outfit here and I am dying for one, but I am suffering from a case of "Buffet Belly" and I don't think it's a good idea to pump a bunch of frozen alcohol on top of it, so I'm going to have to leave my PC count at a pathetic 3. I am a little embarrassed.

6:30 PM - We are done with the pool for this trip, and head upstairs to watch a little more football and start to pack. We are on our way to the airport in the morning. While we pack, we open up the Provence Rosé and pair it with our gourmet dinner of chips and salsa. It actually goes pretty well.

Pretty much packed and ready to go tomorrow. Can't believe we are leaving already, we just got here! This trip was the best trip ever, it was the greatest trip in the history of mankind, and I just got a call from Steve Wynn who told me we were the best guests in this history of their resort. He offered us a suite for free for the next month but we have to get back to work. Sad!

BTW, I just wanted to mention that Donald Trump is the worst human being on the planet, and I hope that the Grand Jury that Robert Mueller convened today nails him and his entire family to the wall. Lock them UNDER the fucking jail.

Political rant over.

Until tomorrow.....

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Vacation Blog VIII, Part this what it feels like to actually sleep in???

9:59 AM - Oh boy. If this is what sleeping in feels like, I like it.

That is the most consecutive hours I've slept since the Nixon administration. Unreal.

I think I've just used up all my excuses for not being able to "go-go-go" and have a ton of fun today. Tracey gets up just minutes after I do, so we should be good to go today. Today's plan is going to be a little exploration, and then hit the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art, and dinner at the Bellagio buffet.

Going to relax at the resort for a couple hours and since we still have a few bottles of wine to drink before we go, time to crack open our remaining Chardonnay.

1:00 PM - Off to Bellagio to park and then we are walking over to the Linq to peruse the pomenade and get some lunch. They opened up an In-N-Out burger there and nothing will stand between my wife and In-N-Out.

The promenade at the Linq (which used to be the disgusting Imperial Palace for any of you who haven't been to Vegas in a while) is really quite nice, and although it was fully open when we were here a year ago, several places have changed. That includes the aforementioned In-N-Out burger, but it also includes a Gordon Ramsay Fish N Chips place, and since I don't like crappy hamburgers, I stop there to grab lunch. I have shrimp n chips, and upgrade the chips with some bacon and parmesan. It's really quite delicious, and quite a bit of food for $20ish too.

Gordon Ramsay is taking over this city. He already had Gordon Ramsay Pub N Grill (Caesar's Palace), Gordon Ramsay Steak (Paris), Gordon Ramsay Burger (Planet Hollywood) and now this Fish N Chips place...and he's not done yet! Coming soon, Hell's Kitchen!!! It will be located outside Caesar's Palace, in the spot that used to be Serendipity 3 and Stripburger. The construction has already begun, scheduled to open this winter. I can hear it already: "You can't even cook risotto, you fucking DONKEY!!!!!". Ah, good times.

Tracey gets her In-N-Out (after a pretty long wait) and she enjoys it. They don't have gluten-free buns, of course, so she just takes her chances. It's a treat for her. Even she admits their fries are pretty crappy. Talk about an overrated establishment.

Right after lunch, I hit up another new location at the Linq, a frozen daiquiri bar and am pleased and proud to announce that my Pina Colada count has hit three. I am NOT LEAVING THIS CITY until it gets to at least four. Oh, the pressure.

It is cooler today. I think it only hit 103.

Seriously, the heat has been debilitating this trip. so much so that in the future I don't think we will come here in July, we may move our yearly trips to earlier in the spring. It is just overwhelming to walk in this heat.

By the time we get to Bellagio (which is not a long walk from the Linq), we are spent. Tracey has to go into the washroom just to splash some water on her face and cool off a bit. My legs are close to cramping up. It's insane. Thank God I got a lot of sleep last night, because I can only imagine how tired I'd be if I were fighting this heat AND fatigue.

Off to the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art. The current exhibit is a retrospective on the life of Muhammad Ali. Photos, quotes and memorabilia from this most interesting man. I'm a bit too young to remember Ali in his heyday, but this exhibit brought some of his early triumphs, and problems, to life. It was really impressive.

We've seen a four wildly different exhibits here. The first one we saw was a Monet exhibit, which was incredibly cool. We own a Monet print, and it was a bit surreal to be standing there in front of the original. The next exhibit I saw was without the wife, it was an Andy Warhol exhibit. Just a little bit different from Monet. That guy was just kooky. Last year they were hosting an exhibit of photographs from world renowned shutterbug Yousuf Karsh called "Icons of the 20th Century" (you can read a bit about it here, if you like). And now the Ali tribute. Great stuff.

4:45 PM - Next up is dinner at the Bellagio buffet, which is not yet lined up. We are just starting to get hungry, so we could wait another half hour or so, but I suggest it's better for us to go in and get seated as it is going to be busy. No law against sitting in the buffet and picking at some salad or small appetizers until Hungry Bear arrives!

4:46 PM - Hungry Bear arrives.

No, that's not totally true, but it's funny anyway.

Since we were here last, they have done some minor renovations, adding get-it-yourself beverage centres. It used to be that the wait staff would get you all your drinks, now they just get you anything from the bar and you have to get your pop, juice or water yourself. If that sounds like a negative, it is not. Why is it not? This is why.

I have dubbed this the World's Greatest Invention (sorry, fire and the wheel). For those of you who may be unfamiliar with these little miracles, they serve you pretty much any kind of pop you can imagine. Feel like Peach Sprite? No problem. Cherry Vanilla Coke? Vanilla Root Beer? Strawberry Dasani Water? Check, check. Caffeine Free Diet Coke with Lemon? Oh yeah, baby. Caffeine Free Diet Coke with ORANGE?? That's right, bitches, I said ORANGE. (Full disclaimer, the orange wasn't as good as the lemon). They also had options for lime, raspberry, vanilla, cherry and I think even strawberry. I need to know how to get one of these for my house. Seriously, if anyone is looking for a good Xmas idea for me......

This is not the first time I've seen one of these machines; they actually have one at the Scotiabank Theatre in Vancouver, and a couple of years ago when we were down here we noticed they had just installed one at the Mirage Buffet. At that point I kind of assumed we would see them EVERYWHERE by now, but no, this is the first one we've seen this trip. Basically any kind of drink made by the Coca-Cola company is available in this machine, with different flavors to augment it. Awesome.

For those of you who enjoy mutated donkey urine, Pepsi also makes these machines.

After dinner I am enticed to sit down at a "Deal or No Deal" machine, which works kind of like the old game show. We pop in only $10 and spin the wheel which determines if we get to see the cases or if we just lose our bet ($5), and on my first spin I hit the best option, I get to see the cases and the values are doubled! The top value case is about $575 so I stand a chance to win a lot of money for my $10 investment. I pick my case (lucky number 13!!) and then I have to open up 5 cases. Four of the 5 are very small, one was in the middle, so I did really well on my first try and the bank offer was just over $70!! I took it, of course. My case had $30 in it. I played a few more spins but wasn't able to get back to the cases, but I cashed out about $55, enough to pay for dinner (we had a 2-for-1 pass) and parking. Oh yeah, let's talk about parking. It's not free anymore. Not even close. Valet at the Bellagio is $25 for over 4 hours. It's comparable everywhere. I don't know how much self-park is, but I know it's not free either. That sucks.

6:30 PM - On our way home from Bellagio, with the convertible top down, and we actually have to put it up during the drive as it is so windy we are being pelted by debris!! And I mean pelted. I think I forgot to mention in yesterday's entry that the winds at the pool were really intense to the point that it kept blowing cups and napkins into the pool. It wasn't windy when we left this afternoon, but the wind gusts are back with a vengeance tonight. I don't recall ever seeing wind like this in Vegas.

As I'm typing up this blog I am fishing debris out of my hair. Seriously.

7:30 PM - Back in the room and we debate about going to the pool but Contented Bear makes an appearance and in seconds she's in the tub. As much as she loves the pool, I believe that Contented Bear's happy place is a huge soaker tub. I can't blame her, this tub is remarkable. I'll be in there about 17 seconds after she vacates the premises.

While typing up the blog entry, we crack open the last bottle of white wine we had bought, a nice Chenin Blanc/Viognier blend that we've had many times. We have three bottles left in the fridge: two reds that are definitely going home with us in our luggage (we have travel bags that have worked before, so they should be fine) and a bottle of Provence Rosé which we may drink tomorrow, but if not, it can go home with us too. We have three bags.

One of the reds is a Syrah we have never tasted that was given this review from world-renowned wine critic Robert Parker:

The same can be said for the 2013 Syrah Relentless, which might end up being the finest one they’ve ever made. The berries were the smallest they’ve encountered, and they were not the only winery to say that about the 2013 red varietals. A blend of 97% Syrah and 3% Petite Sirah, the wine is opaque black/purple with an incredible nose of subtle wood, charcoal embers, blackberry, blueberry and black raspberry fruit, baking spices, and again, a roasted meatiness with some bouquet garni thrown in the background. The complex aromatics were already starting to roar from the glass, and the wine, enormously endowed, is full-bodied and flawlessly constructed. This is a killer effort that should drink well for 40+ years. 
Barrel Sample: 98-100 Points

So, yeah, really hoping that one gets home in one piece. Just sayin'.

If you are interested in reading my reviews of all the wine we have enjoyed on this trip, you are in luck, because I just posted them here.

8:30 PM - Contented Bear is still in the bath. I may have to fight her for it, or lure her out with some nuts or something.

9:00 PM - I yell "SQUIRREL" and Contented Bear hops out of the bath and runs down the hallway. I now become King of the Tub. And in case you don't believe me.....

Yes, that is a table in the tub, to support my wine, almonds, and iPad. With this development, I have officially won the vacation.

9:45 PM - Ran out of wine, so out of the tub and I guess it's time to wind down for bed. Hoping to have another good sleep so we can enjoy our last full day in Vegas.

Pina Colada count sits at 3, which is how many I had last year. All you can do it strive to get better every day, right? So I can't go home with that same pathetic number. Onward and upwards!

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Vacation Blog VIII, Part VI, last night we saw turtles, tonight it's going to be Ducks!

10:30 AM - I am awake, feeling more rested than the 6 hours of sleep I got would normally entail. Tracey has been up for an hour or so and is making breakfast. The smell of bacon is probably what jolted me out of bed. It has that effect on me.

No plans for us today until 4:30, when we are heading to the Eiffel Tower Restaurant for a special event, a tasting of Duckhorn wines accompanied by some small plates. Dinner buffet plans after that, and then back here to an evening at the pool. For now, we relax!

3:45 PM - In the car on the way to the Eiffel Tower for our wine tasting event. We are appropriately dressed for the restaurant (and horribly INAPPROPRIATELY dressed for the heat!!!). The event is really good; samples of four of their wines, but not surprisingly none of their really high-end single-vineyard wines are available. Hey, we paid only $40 for this event, which comes with wine and some very delicious small bites, so we can't complain that they didn't bring the really exclusive stuff. The wines we get to try are universally excellent, and as a bonus they are all readily available at our stores back home.

5:30 PM - After the event we walk across to street to the Crystals mall to do a little more very expensive window shopping and then go to Aria for dinner. We have a 2-for-1 buffet reward that we are planning to take advantage of, until we see the lineup is about an hour long. I do NOT wait in line an hour for a freaking buffet. Maybe we'll try again tomorrow at a more reasonable time. Epic fail of planning by me. I feel shame.

Oh, and before dinner we hopped on the tram to go to Monte Carlo as they have one of those frozen beverage places and I'm jonesing for another Pina Colada. But there must be some sort of universal conspiracy against me as the place is gone! In fact, due to some major construction, ALL the shops in that section of the resort are gone. Sad!

7:45 PM - Back to the resort after our ill-fated attempt at dinner. We are just going to head down to the pool and get something there, they have a pretty full menu. I end up with fish tacos and Tracey orders a Big Salad. It should be called the gigantic salad, as she ends up eating about half of it, and brings the rest upstairs to finish. Both meals were excellent, far above the quality you might expect from a poolside grill.

After dinner we pool. We hot tub. We pool and hot tub. And then it's time to head back upstairs. My lack of sleep last night has finally caught up with me and I expect (hope) to be asleep in the near future.

Feels like we just got here and yet we have only two more full days before we leave! Better pack a lot of merriment into those two days.

Almost unbelievably, the Pina Colada count is still at 2.

Vacation Blog VIII, Part V, and I think today is going to be a much better day

7:00 AM - MUCH better. I wake up feeling pretty refreshed and rarin' to go. Of course, Sleepy Bear will still be asleep for hours, so I "rare to go" down to the gym to get in a nice little workout. It's a very nice fitness room here, but it's also very busy.

8:30 AM - Back up into the room and I'll just hang out until hibernation ends. Watching the NFL Network training camp reports. It's so exciting that football is almost back!

9:00 AM - Tracey's up, breakfast is underway, and then we will be out the door on the way to the Mirage to pick our tickets for tonight's show and redeem a bunch of our MyVegas rewards.

But first, I'm going to have a short bath.

Oh boy, now I think I understand why Tracey loves this bathtub so much.

Gotta get out of this bathtub before it becomes a part of me and I will never want to leave. Out the door to the Mirage, first stop to Rhumbar for a frozen Pina Colada!!

CLOSED?!?!?!?! Those Mother Fuck**g Pieces of S**T how DARE they deny me my tasty frozen goodness?????

Well, OK, we'll go get out tickets and surely by the time we are done, they'll be open.

11:40 AM - They are still not open. And don't call me Shirley.

Screw it, I'm not waiting around until Noon. Off to the Forum shops to peruse their goods and we just happen to wander into a Louis Vuitton (you know, the way Trump happens to fire people in his administration) and I make the mistake of trying on a pair of their running shoes; yes, running shoes at LV. And they are without a doubt the most comfortable shoes I have ever had on in my entire life. But seriously, if I'm going to shell out around a grand (CAD) for a pair of casual running shoes, I'm going to want to wear them on semi-special occasions, and I can't remember the last special occasion I had that called for bright red L.V. shoes. So, regretfully, I decline to purchase them. But I'll tell you, if I win any money playing poker this trip, I may just reconsider.

We have lunch at Trevi, one of our favorite spots here, and it is fantastic as always. I have the Meatzza Pizza, same thing I had last time, and Tracey has a gluten-free pasta dish (nice selection of gluten free pastas here) which she loves. We both eat about half of our meal, and the rest came home with us for dinner tonight. Two huge entreés and 2 pop for under $50, even better considering it is also going to double as dinner.

2:15 PM - Back at the resort for a few hours before Terry Fator tonight. Popped open a bottle of wine and we may nap, we may hit the pool, we may do both, or neither....we'll just see....

2:17 PM - Well, Tracey chose "nap".

6:10 PM - After eating our leftovers from Trevi for dinner, we are off to the Mirage for the Terry Fator show. I have seen him once before, but this is Tracey's maiden voyage. First, however, I am finally able to double my Pina Colada count at Rhumbar. MMMMMMM delicious.

7:30 PM - The show starts right on time, and Fator starts it off by singing Dean Martin's classic, "Ain't That a Kick in the Head". From there, he spends the next 2 hours entertaining us with a couple of his own songs and even a little audience participation, but this show is really all about the puppets. If you aren't familiar with Fator, he was the winner of Season 2 of "America's Got Talent". I remember it well; I remember thinking "Oh a ventriloquist. Wonderful. If he is the greatest ventriloquist on the face of the Earth, he still doesn't have a chance to win this show". Boy was I wrong.

I remember one review I read of this performance: "I never thought I'd hear a voice like Roy Orbison's again. Tonight I heard it from a turtle".

What a fabulous show. He is very funny, not to mention that all of his impressions are good and most of them are absolutely spot on. Highly recommend this show the next time you are in Vegas.

After the show, Tracey heads back to the resort while I stick around to play a little poker. The Mirage spreads a $65 tournament at 10 pm. Unfortunately it only draws 14 entrants so it's hardly worth even entering, but it's been over a year since I played so I sit down anyway. I'd love to post a bunch of interesting hands for you poker fans out there but I can really only think of one.

I'm chip leader at this point, 10 players left, 6 players limp into the pot and I am in the SB with AQo. I consider raising but I decide it might be worth it to play it sneaky, try to catch a flop and get all the money in. Not to mention that there is exactly zero poker talent at this table. I mean, hardly a surprise for a $65 buy-in tourney, but even by those modest standards, these guys really suck. One of the players in this hand is a girl in her early 20's playing in her first-ever tournament (I know this because I heard her and her father discussing it with the floor before the tourney).

The flop comes Q72 rainbow which is obviously huge for my hand. I bet $1500, about 3/4 of the pot, everyone folds along to said girl in late position who shoves all-in for $2200. More folds around to the guy on the button who calls the $2200 (and has about $4K left, I have him covered). Because her raise was so small it does not open up the action to me, I cannot re-raise, I have no option but to call. The turn card is irrelevant and I put the button all-in, he calls, and he tables AA!!!!! I though *I* was being sneaky! LOL. She had QT so I had her crushed but all the chips go to the button and I am left with about 15 big blinds which I am not able to turn into anything and I am later eliminated in 8th.

So I decided to hop into a 1/2 cash game, where I struggled to hit any flops (I mean, like, ZERO flops) but I do get dealt some premium pairs and they hold up, so despite all the lousy flops I am only losing about $100 when I get dealt Kh9d in the big blind, unraised pot. Finally I nail a flop of Ks9s2d, but my lone opponent has As3s and you can imagine where this is going. After all the money goes in on the flop, he turns his flush and I am done for the night, $400 poorer but it was nice to play cards again at least.

4:00 AM - Jesus I am starting to get used to 4 AM. I manage to get into bed and not wake Tracey up, which was what I was hoping for....what I was not hoping for was about 15 minutes later when she flails her arm into my mid-section, not knowing that I was there. :)