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!

Weekend of Activities

If you know me you know I have a lot of hobbies.  Some would say I have too many…

This past weekend I took the boy to Ohio and introduced him to Briarwood Sporting Club in Bellefontaine and a really amazing  Loose Meat sandwich at the original Maid Rite sandwich shop in Greenville.

Briarwood is located on almost 500 acres of immaculately cared for property and offers 16 lakes with 11 different fish species as well as hunting opportunities in the fall.  I was the lucky winner of a discounted 1-year membership at a Ducks Unlimited auction last fall.  It’s not a cheap membership but after spending some time there I think it’s going to be a place we escape to many times a year.

Greenville Ohio is the home of Kitchen Aid and it has an amazing store that carries just about every make, model, and color the company currently makes in its factory down the road.  It also has a little museum in the basement that helps tell the history of the infamous mixer the company is known for.  I always have to stop in and usually end up bringing a new product or accessory home.  This time around I picked up some replacement parts for my stand mixer as well as a cold-brew coffee maker (future review in the works).

The Maid-Rite restaurant is about as old school as it gets.  Loose Meat sandwiches, chips, and drinks are the only things on the menu.  Somewhere in its history people started sticking gum on the building and after all these years it’s practically covered in it.  A little gross but it’s a tradition evidently.

Although the weather wasn’t the most cooperative we really enjoyed our day-trip to Ohio and are looking forward to the next one!

Time-Lapse Magic (Repost)

10-04-2017 – Still one of my favorite time-lapse videos of all time.  I happened to find it again while cleaning up some old posts on the blog & thought I’d repost for those of you who might not have seen it the first time.

02-16-2012 – I’m experimenting with time-lapse Photography and it reminded me of this fantastic example.  This is a cross-country drive from LA to NY in an old convertible.  The imagery is mesmerizing and the music is very catchy.  If I can come up with something 1/10th as good as this I’ll be very happy.  Enjoy!

Olivier Gondry – Lacquer – Behind from GOOD EGG HQ on Vimeo.

What We’re Reading in August

Circle_4-704x528Found an interesting website earlier this month called Historic
Indianapolis
.  I think I ended up there after a post on the Facebook Group Indianapolis Long Ago, which I’m a member (lurking more than contributing).  Lot’s of fun facts about the great city of Indianapolis at both locations.  I’ve really got the bug to get out of the suburbs and give “city life” a try in Downtown Indianapolis.  Not sure I’d make it there more than a few years without wanting to get back to the Urban Sprawl but it would be a fun experiment.

Really nice travel article in the NY Times called From Montreal to Minnesota, by Inland Sea by Porter Fox.  He spent 6 days on a cargo ship crossing the Great Lakes and checking out the sights along the way.  Evidently this is a totally legit trip and cargo ships offer this in limited quantities.  Probably going to be booked for a while after this article gets circulated.

Keeping on the maritime theme this morning the NY Times wrote about the only floating Zip Code in the US.  It’s a mail boat that meets up with cargo ships, like the ones in the previously mentioned article, and delivers mail, packages and supplies.  Sounds like a great summer job for someone a lot younger than me.

hostess-deep-fried-twinkiesFinally, in the food department, Hostess is rolling out Deep Fried Twinkies in a Walmart frozen food aisle near you.  Preliminary reviews have actually been positive piquing my interest just enough to maybe try in the near future.

Have a great week out there & like it or not Fall will be here Thursday, September 22.  Get those outdoor activities planned!

The TSA’s Response to Its Master Key Scandal Is Priceless

us-tsa-master-lock-keys-leak-online-have-already-been-3d-printed-491580-2“Scandal” might be too strong a word. But you’d think the TSA would have been ashamed when hackers released 3D-printer files for its master keys, which can open any any TSA-recommended luggage lock. Does the TSA feel ashamed? Not even close. – Source: Gizmodo

SO, Mr. Traveler, that fancy TSA Approved lock you picked up at the luggage store is just giving you a false sense of security.  It didn’t help that the Washing Post ran an article with a clear picture of every type of key.  All it took was someone with the right 3D Printer software to mock-up a sample & release the templates to the world.

Another thing to add to the list of why flying sucks…