Vegas Vacation 2019

Thursday – This year I decided to take a little winter break trip with my 16 year old son. Las Vegas was going to be a new experience for both of us and I wasn’t sure what to expect but I’d been told several times it’s OK to take kids there. I used Costco Travel to purchase a package that included Airfare, 2-Room Suite and Full Sized Car. It was pretty reasonable given the trip was during the holidays. I’m sure we could have spent less if we went a different time.

We arrived at the Indy airport about 2 hours before the flight and had to park in the garage due to Fast Park and the long term lot being totally full. That was $100 I was not planning on spending…

We ended up flying through security and sat around for an hour and 50 minutes. Go figure… TSA staff said we missed the early morning rush. Given it was “the busiest travel day” of the year I expected some long lines. I think the most I’ve ever waited in the Indy TSA line is 15 minutes.

United’s puddle jumper to O’Hare decided it didn’t want to fly causing us to not only get to O’Hare late but also miss our connecting flight. They had to re-book us on an American flight & it included a 4-hour layover in Chicago. At this point we were hoping our bags made it to Vegas. 

The flight to Vegas on AA was uneventful but as expected our bags didn’t make it. The United app said they were on an earlier flight. When I talked to AA they said the bags were still in Chicago and would be on a flight that got in at 1:30am. 

Exhausted after 12 hours of miscues we filled out the necessary paperwork, picked up our rental car, and headed to the Venetian hotel for the night, hoping our bags would be at the hotel in the morning. 

Friday – Still on Indiana time I woke up quite early and checked the United app, sure enough the bag status had changed to say they had, in fact, been on the 1:30am flight. A call to United pointed the finger at AA and the call to AA baggage claim went unanswered.

Since we had a full schedule for the days I decided to head back to the airport (10 minutes away) and directly to the United baggage claim. You know what? Our bags were sitting in the lobby with no indication that they needed to be sent to the hotel. I was happy to take possession and wasn’t even asked for any kind of ID or luggage tag check, scary right?

With our missing luggage in hand we freshened up and made a beeline to the Hoover Dam with the anticipation that the earlier we got there the better. We were right, as we were able to get tickets for the first tour and watch the masses pour in as we were finishing the tour.

Unfortunately the recent rains had flooded part of the tour so we were unable to go into the dam, but the remaining tour, including the power plant, was very well done and fascinating! I highly recommend this tour but make sure you get there early.

Since we were so close you Arizona we dipped into the state to pickup a Geocache and claim a log in a new state. It was on an abandoned bridge along the highway so it was a quick stop.

Boulder City was next on the itinerary for sone lunch and further itinerary planning. Boulder City Brewing Company hit the spot and we were back on the road headed southwest to check out the Seven Magic Mountains along I-15. 

Seven Magic Mountains can bee seen from I-15 but you need to exit several miles before the art display or you’ll need to backtrack a dozen miles or so. It’s an interesting display of painted rocks and it’s quite the tourist destination. I was amazed by the number of people vitiating on a Friday afternoon.

We completed our Friday drive with a stop at Del Taco to see how it stacked up to Taco Bell. In one word… BETTER. It was super clean inside and the food was nice and hot. The key difference between Del Taco and Taco Bell is the freshly grated cheese and the sauces. We were both glad we stopped and really wished we had one of these in Indy!

The rest of the day consisted of us wandering around the Venetian hotel and trying not to get lost. It’s amazing how many high end stores and restaurants they had under one roof. We found a new British Pub and closed the evening out with some proper grub and a pint of Guinness for me.

Saturday – Sleep came a lot easier than the night before now that we’d secured our luggage and walked more in one day than in recent months. The filling pub food didn’t hurt either. We awoke with the sun and finalized our plan to head out into the desert and explore some of the less famous landmarks in the area.

If you can, it’s a good idea to get away from the Strip to eat. We found a neat little place called Lulu’s Bread and Breakfast. It’s a small, family run, breakfast/lunch spot with Lulu herself taking care of customers personally. Our breakfast sandwiches and chorizo veggie hash filled our bellies before our journey into the desert to check out some of the lesser known landmarks.

We headed Northwest out of the city and really enjoyed the scenery. The roads were in great shape and traffic was pretty light. We drove for about an hour before stopping at a rest area to stretch our legs. From there we headed South for 2 hours. Along the way we found a few places to stop and take pictures.

Unfortunately one of the stops was not planned and included a roadside discussion with the California Highway Patrol. As soon as I saw him approaching us northbound a quick glance of my speedometer told me it was probably going to end up with a traffic stop. It’s VERY easy to speed in the desert, especially in a rental car that you’re not familiar with. If I would have had my Valentine 1 Radar Detector I might have had enough notice to check my speed. In the end it was a pleasant discussion with the Trooper Friendly and a ticket for a lot less over the limit than what he clocked me at.

We proceeded south to the town of Baker to check out a few places. Alien Jerky was a HUGE tourist draw. It’s a pretty cool looking building and very easy to spot with the Alien light poles. The other landmark was the World’s Largest Thermometer that stands 134-feet and commemorates the record 134 degrees Fahrenheit (57 degrees Celsius) recorded in nearby Death Valley on July 10, 1913.

Looping back to Las Vegas on I-15 was pretty uneventful until we went through Mountain Pass. There was a nice covering of snow and cars pulled over along the side of the road for miles. They weren’t stopped because of the road conditions they were stopped because people wanted to PLAY in the snow along the highway! It was a weird sight and one of the stranger things we saw on the trip.

I hear that no trip to Vegas is complete until you visit In-N-Out Burger. We had some time before the car was due back and were both getting a little hungry. As my Son’s suggestion we ordered a pair of Animal Style Doubles and Animal Style fries. It was a solid meal. The Animal Sauce differentiated it from Steak and Shake or Smash Burger. I’d eat here any time.

Sunday – Today was the day we decided to be tourists. We slept in a little and hit the Grand Lux for breakfast. This is by far the most reasonably priced restaurant in the complex. I’ve eaten at the one on the Magnificent Mile in Chicago so I had a pretty good idea what to expect. They offered a $30 breakfast buffet that looked very good but we knew we would be walking a lot today so we both decided against a huge breakfast.

Up to this point I hadn’t even put a penny in a slot machine and I was starting to get the itch. My son wanted to watch some sports in the hotel room so I had an hour or two to explore on my own. I visited the casino desk and got my loyalty card with some free credits on it and hit the slots.

WOW you can blow though some cash pretty quick on the slots. Once I got about $30 down I gave that up and switched to Roulette and Blackjack. At least with these games you can slow down your losses. I went up and down $100 in each direction and ended my adventure with a loss. It was a lot of fun but I think I prefer the newly legal sports betting back in Indy that I can do from the comfort of my couch.

We ventured out of the Venetian complex on foot and walked the strip a bit. It wasn’t very busy in the morning so we enjoyed that. You can tell the city has spent a lot of money on security. There are 4-foot bollards along both sides of the street for it’s entirety as well as several elevated pedestrian bridges to get people across the street safely. Cameras are everywhere and the police presence is noticeable. It feels like a pretty safe place to be overall.

Caesars Palace and the Bellagio are filled with more high end shops and restaurants. In fact, all of the hotels we walked through pretty much looked the same. We made a big loop and walked for a few hours before returning to our room to watch some football.

Dinner was back at the Grand Lux where we enjoyed a really nice pasta dish and some mini beef wellingtons. We also picked up a cookie and croissant at the Bouchon Bakery for breakfast. By this point we were worn out and called it a night. We had a 6:50am flight on Monday and we were both ready to relax.

Monday – 4am came really early but we were both ready when our 5am Uber showed up. It’s such a short trip to the Airport I didn’t worry too much about time. Well, that was a mistake. TSA at the Vegas airport was packed and they were searching everyone and pulling every 3rd or 4th bag off the conveyor for further inspection. People were stressing out about making their flights as it was taking 60+ minutes to get through the queue.

We made it on our flight and after we pushed back the pilot came on the overhead and said we had a warning light and had to go back to the gate. That took about 30-minutes to figure out and then we had to get more fuel. We ended up leaving an hour later than scheduled and had less than an hour to change planes in Chicago.

Other than the lady next to me elbowing my ribs evey time she moved it was an uneventful flight. With the tailwind it was shorter flying back then when we went out.

Once in Chicago we had to basically go from one end of the airport to the other. Our flight was scheduled to leave on time but after we boarded we were informed that we had to get a de-icing and it would be another hour before we could take off. It ended up taking 90-minutes from push back before we went wheels up. So basically every leg of this trip had some kind of problem or delay. Now I remember why I like to drive everywhere!

Back in Indy and our bags actually made it, even though the United app said one was still in Chicago. It was good to get home and we talked about our trip all the was home from the airport. My son wan’t to go back when he turns 21. I think we can make that happen!

So the take away from this trip is this. United Airlines had a LOT of issues, Vegas is HUGE and can be VERY EXPENSIVE if you’re not careful. The Hoover Dam is amazing as is Del Taco and In-N-Out Burger. Get a car and get out of town but watch your speed. If you’re going to gamble be prepared to lose. Enjoy the people watching, you won’t be disappointed.

We’re already talking about or next trip and trying to figure out where to go… Thanks for reading!

92 County Geocaching Adventure

Just got back from a 2-day adventure with my son in Southern Indiana collecting Geocaches in 2o new counties. The goal is to visit all 92 Indiana Counties and log a Geocache in each one. After this trip we only have 16 counties left to complete the challenge. We were hoping to complete the challenge this year but we’re not going to make it.

Only 16 more counties to go after this trip!

It took quite a lot of planning for this 2-day trip. With so much ground to cover we needed to be as efficient as we could be but still have some fun. After a lot of research I identified 20 Geocaches that had multiple “Favorite Points” as voted on by other Cachers. This usually means a Geocache is something special and not just a 35mm film container (or pill bottle) in a bush. I was hoping that by choosing favorited caches we would have more fun and my 15-year old son would stay interested in our goal.

The Plan…

Of course when the day came we had rainy (but WARM) weather. We ended up with Rain on day-1 and a cold front in the afternoon of day-2. Considering this was between Christmas and New Years I was really happy with the overall 50-degree conditions.

Below is a gallery of the photos taken during the trip. We had a great time and are already planning to get the remaining counties in the next few weeks (if the weather cooperates!).

Evansville Sunset
Fire Tower!
West Baden Christmas Tree

Snow Day Fun Day

We’re staying in today & watching the snow come down in Central Indiana. I was looking around on Reddit and came across a post with a link to a website where you can make your own Smart Phone wallpaper from a map.

Here are a few I made for the Indianapolis area, and another one for downtown:

You can select any location in the world and adjust the color and size to perfectly fit your particular phone.  I’m particularly fond of this one on my iPhone 7 Plus lock screen:

Do you know of other sites that allow you to create these kind of wallpapers?  If so please leave a comment below!

Extended List of Netflix Categories

I’m a big fan of Netflix especially their in-house original programming like Ozark, Master of None, Narcos, and Chef’s Table.  Netflix uses over 3500 categories to organize their videos and they get very detailed.  When you browse their website you’re only seeing the main categories.  There a LOT more such as:

 

Action & Adventure starring Jean-Claude Van Damme

Independent Crime Movies from the 1970s

Military Social & Cultural Documentaries

Until recently little has been known about these sub-categories  If you know the category number you can navigate directly to that category and discover all kinds of new things

Using this list, it’s possible to search by very specific categories.  All you need to do is take this URL:

http://www.netflix.com/browse/genre/NUMBER

Then replace NUMBER with the category number on the right side of the list.  Looking for Movies starring Charlie Sheen?  Just use category number 2686.

I’m sure the category listing will continue to evolve as new ones get discovered.  Right now the only way to search these specific categories is with your PC or Mac. Give it a shot and see if you can find something new to watch tonight!