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So Now It’s Backtracking To Las Vegas

19 May

If you read any of my earlier posts, you know how much I like casinos. So, obviously, I was pretty anxious to go to Las Vegas and had to change the plan to go to Carol’s birthday Party. My so sweet husband (not really, but I guess I sulked well this time) agreed to take me back to Vegas after visiting Irvine even though he swore there would be no backtracking on this trip. I guess somewhere along the way, I must have also told Jim that I wanted to drive over the Hoover Dam (but not see the Hoover Dam because it was so very manmade) and I wanted to approach Las Vegas after dark because I’ve been told it’s quite something to see as the lights “rise” out of the dessert. That’s the part of the trip to Las Vegas that he had at the forefront in his mind so that’s the first thing that we did. I was kind of irritated because I could hear slot machines calling to me. It turned out okay, but not without me sulking awhile first.

The most important thing that I noticed about driving over the Hoover Dam was that it was a lot shorter than it always appeared in movie scenes. It only took a few minutes to get across and that annoyed me. The view once we got to the other side though, was profoundly beautiful. The sun was low and the way it reflected on the rock and water was amazing. My photos do it no justice:

The water behind the Hoover Dam in the early evening

The water behind the Hoover Dam in the early evening

Just because the tourist thing to do is to take a picture of the actual dam, I did that too…but, mind you, only because I was, in fact, a tourist and that’s what tourists do. I sulked appropriately while I did it and didn’t even try to get it at it’s most flattering angle. That’s the new bridge they’re building in the background because they don’t want people to drive over the dam anymore. The bridge is pretty cool because it’s so high. It’s not opened to drive on yet.

Hoover Dam With New Bridge In The Background

Hoover Dam With New Bridge In The Background

Jim pacified me about not taking me right to the Vegas casinos by taking me to a small casino near the Hoover Dam. I liked that casino and won $240.00. We were pretty late leaving because I don’t like to leave a slot maxchine that’s actually letting me win. Obviously, he made me leave anyway.

I’d had a lot of build up about Las Vegas and thought I was going to love it. Every friend I’ve ever had or made at our little local Indian casinos has eventually asked the question “Have you been to Vegas yet?” and I’ve always answered sadly “no, but I hope to soon”. Las Vegas is a casino lovers Mecca. At least most casino lovers. Let’s just say I didn’t like the whole Vegas experience at all. It wasn’t even just that I wasn’t winning. I’ve done lots of that “not winning” thing but always had fun getting there and never said I didn’t like it. So I’m a bit of a masochist. What can I say?

There were really only two things that I really liked in that city of neon. The first has absolutely nothing to do with casinos. That was researching, locating, then going into the pawn shop made somewhat famous by the TV show “Pawn Stars“. Jim and I watch this show often and they always have some pretty cool stuff. I was really hoping to find Chumlee there because I think he’s hilarious, but there, sitting on a stool in the middle of the shop, was The Old Man. There was quite a line of people waiting to talk to him, have photos taken, or just get an autograph. I thought about not caving to the urge to get on the line, but I did anyway. When I got up there, I told him about the trip we were on and got his autograph. I asked him where Chumlee was and he told me he was on his way to Florida. Jim asked him the best question “Do you have regret saying yes” to which he answered with a laugh “I think about it everyday.” Jim was really proud of making him laugh. The man was dressed all in black and really did look kind of sad sitting there while people filed past him. It was still an adbventure to go there, but I wouldn’t want to be put on display like that.

The second thing that I liked about Vegas was the water show in front of the Bellagio. I’m kind of strange. I cry at parades and the way the water fountains danced to the music was just so beautiful and dramatic that really managed to elicit some strong emotions. I was happy that we caught that show.

 

San Juan Capistrano Mission

17 May

The day after Carol’s party we had planned on heading to Legoland in Carlsbad, California. I was up and ready to go quite early, but Jim slept in. As a matter of fact he slept so long that about every half hour, I’d Google a new place to go that was just a little closer to the hotel we were staying in and still get us back to Irvine when Chris and Carol got home from work. We ended up going to the Mission at San Juan Capistrano after Jim woke up around noon .
The mission was established in 1776 in an effort to spread the Catholic faith and tradition to the Native Americans. Some of the buildings show extensive restoration but much of the mission still stands as it was. While admission to the mission included using an audio tour, Jim and I declined and explored completely on our own. We might have missed out on some of the history, but got to look at exactly what interested us. For us, this was the old architecture and the plant life.

Bells and some of the older ruins at San Juan Capistrano

Bells and some of the older ruins at San Juan Capistrano

I could just imagine monks wandering through these covered walkways

I could just imagine monks wandering through these covered walkways

Having been raised a Catholic but not a practicing Catholic now, I was disturbed only by the fact that the traditional area of candles that one can light for the souls of the dead had been changed to a gift shop purchase rather than an area where one could insert coins in a donation box to light a candle. While I am no longer a practicing Catholic, some rites still stick with me and I would have liked to light a candle for my mother who would have appreciated having a candle lit for her. It angered me that such a simple thing had become a commercial thing complete with the signs that said “Please do not touch the candles. Candles may be purchased in the gift shop”.

Candles Could Only Be Purchased In The Gift Shop

Candles Could Only Be Purchased In The Gift Shop

The gardens were positively beautiful and had a wide range of wonderful plants that were both familiar to us and completely unfamiliar. Unfortunately my allergies were very familiar to me and the familiar plants attacked with a vengeance. Of course, I did spend about 14 years living with a cat that I was outrageously allergic to, so I didn’t let the sneezing and sniffles bother me much. Jim only says “Bless you” if I sneeze in groups of 4 times or more. I use this as a gauge to see if I’m going to have a bad allergy attack. It’s weird, but it works.

A Prickly Pear plant in bloom

A Prickly Pear plant in bloom

 
 

Of Pedal Cars, Parties, And The Hotel California

16 May

We had to be in Irvine, California on May 16th for my sister-in-law’s surprise birthday party. I was anxious to get there for that, but really, really anxious to get there so that we could dump off the noisy metal pedal car that had a horrible habit of slipping from its precarious perch on top of all our stuff in the back of the car. My brother, Chris, had graciously agreed to ship it home for us. It’s a good thing too, because one more dirt road and I would have to stuff the thing with packing peanuts and wrap it in 18 layers of bubble wrap to get the continuous rattling out of my head. Besides, if we didn’t get it out of there, there wouldn’t be any room for all the stuff that seems to accumulate on a trip like this.

Being the strange kind of person Jim is, we opted to stay at a hotel even though Chris and Carol refer to their home as the “Hotel California”. This meant that I could drink but Jim couldn’t. I rubbed it in big time. It was really hard to keep from saying anything about the party. I almost slipped up more than once, but Chris really had this all planned out and covered. He told us in front of Carol that they were going out to dinner with Ernie, their neighbor, and that since we were there Ernie had said we were more than welcome to come along.

I really liked Chris and Carol’s friends. Ernie, who is Asian, made us I feel like we were instantly part of his family. On the way to the restaurant where the party was held, Chris made a comment about the inherent respect, Asian children have for their parents. I thought about this for just a few minutes then answered “Yes, I’ve often wished my children were born Asian.” The entire car burst into laughter. The thing is, I was half serious.

The party was excellent…good food, good drink, good view, and best of all, great company.

My Goofy Brother, Chris and His Gorgeous and Wonderful Wife, Carol with Jim's Duck

My Goofy Brother Chris and His Gorgeous and Wonderful Wife Carol with Jim's Duck