Trip Report – Southern Adventure January 2014

It’s not a circus without a few clowns, right?

Pam & Mike’s Southern Adventure 2014

Jump to:

Day 1: On the road from Terrebonne to Laughlin
Day 2: Pig-in-a-poke and how the other half lives
Day 3: Two clowns visit ghost towns. And donkeys. Lots and lots of donkeys.
Day 4: Taking the dam road to Las Vegas, with a stop in a dam town for a little antiquing along the way.
Day 5: Scary Clowns and Elvis is in town.
Day 6: Old school tech day with pinball and fusees, and we totally ignore the possibility of Stranger Danger.
Day 7: “More, Please” at Red Rocks and CarsLand Vegas Style.
Day 8: This Circus has no clowns, but I hear the high wire act is pretty good.
Day 9: What kind of clowns go into Mexico just for cheap booze? That would be us.
Day 10: Capybaras and Condors and Red Pandas, oh my.
Day 11: California Mis-Adventure?
Day 12: Disneylast

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This all started because we were channel surfing.

A few years ago we sat bored in front of the tv on a rainy Saturday. This doesn’t happen often as Mike never sits still. Even when he’s sleeping he’s still moving. The cats find him decidedly un-cuddle-worthy on that account.

Basically, the only way I can get him to relax is to feed him massive quantities of beer and Chinese food.

I, on the other hand, am a cat’s dream – overly warm, with plenty of extra padding, and I can sit for hours without moving. At least someone appreciates my Zen-like skills.

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Day 12 – Disneylast

I can’t believe I’ve actually milked this trip report out so long! I thought at first that I’d just do a quick synopsis with a few photos, but then I realized, DUH, nothing I ever write is a synopsis. My synopsis aren’t even synopsis’s (is that even a word?). See, I can’t even write an opening paragraph about nothing without getting all wordy.

So, here we are at the last day of this vacation. Well, of course it’s not really the last day, that’s tomorrow, but I’m definitely NOT going to bore you with a report of our drive home (booo-ring).

We got up bright and early and headed to the parks. I did forget to mention the one other nice thing about Fleabag Flats, there’s a Starbucks next door. I had a freebie Birthday drink waiting for me, so we stopped in and I got a gigantic Frappuccino. I don’t usually drink this much caffeine in a day, so by the time we get to the gates I’m jittery as heck. I probably should have eaten some breakfast to soak up a little of that sugar and all. Fortunately I’ve got some protein bars in the pack so I eat one of those and the DT’s go away.

We used our Disney-fu to find a gate with no line and created our own. Of course soon we had a bunch of sheeple behind us, while the gate next to us remained without a line until they actually opened and people finally realized “hey, that’s an entrance too!”

Last thing I told Mike as I handed him the camera, “Don’t forget to get the top of the building in the picture!” Either I was talking Swahili, or he’s deaf.

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Day 11 – California Mis-Adventure?

The last time we visited Disney World Lite (Mike’s term) was prior to my discovery of Tour Guide Mike and EasyWDW and the revelation that there is actually a way to tour that helps avoid lines and all that jazz. Although we visited often and I understood how to use FP and had a general idea of what needed to be done early to avoid lines, I was still an infant when it came to touring plans. I was really excited to be back here and see how all my education about the right way to tour would change Mike’s mind about this place.

See, in Mike’s mind, Disneyland is made up of fun rides, crowds, and long wait times. California Adventure is the boring place where he can get in a nap while his wife rides stuff.

Looking at the schedule for today and tomorrow, morning EMH today is over at Disneyland, tomorrow it’s California Adventure. Also, Radiator Springs Racers is down for maintenance today and open tomorrow. Putting on my WWJD (What Would Josh Do) thinking cap, it wasn’t hard to figure out where we’d start this morning.

As we walked up the center promenade, I pointed out to Mike the long lines for DL while there were just a few people on the CA side – his response, “sure there are, people LIKE Disneyland, NO ONE likes California Adventure”. Grump. My plan here is to get in and grab FP for World of Color, then head to TSMM and hopefully get in a few rides before lines build.

Mike kept asking me what was so special about this nighttime water show. I knew from experience that if I try to talk things up too much it just gives him more ammunition if it doesn’t live up to expectations, so I just said that there were lots of people on EasyWDW who said the show was incredible, and they were all people whose opinion I trusted, so I think we should see it. He grumbles about the hassle, but since there’s no fireworks at DL either of the days we’re here, he finally accedes to my wishes.

Getting FP for WoC was quick and easy, and we were on to TSMM at a fast walk. We got there in front of most of the crowd…and the ride is down.

Really?

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Day 10 – Capybaras, and Condors and Red Pandas, oh my.

One benefit to arriving anyplace 4 hours early is you get great parking. With exactly 3 other cars in the entire lot, we selected a spot right up front that would even have some shade later in the day.

Balboa Park is so cool. The architecture is a beautiful byproduct of the 1915 Panama-California Expo, which was held to celebrate the opening of the Panama Canal – advertising the fact that San Diego was the first port of call vessels would encounter after the passage. The Spanish Colonial Revival design of most of the buildings created a look and feel that was unique to the area.

Theodore Roosevelt visited the Expo and said he felt that these “buildings of rare phenomenal taste and beauty” should be left as permanent additions to the park. Smart guy.

Although they look like stone, these structures were built of wood and plaster, with some of the detail work being sculpted from modeling clay.

The gardens here are amazing too. Everything is so lush and green, and it’s a gorgeous morning to enjoy it. Continue reading

Day 9 – What kind of clowns go to Mexico just for cheap booze? That would be us.

Leaving Las Vegas this morning. Not the way Nic Cage did, so that’s a plus.

Boy, that alarm clock can sure be annoying after so many days of sleeping in added to the late night last night, but I finally get up and ingest enough caffeine to get my brain going. I’d packed everything I could yesterday, so all I had to do was shove our pj’s and shower bags in and do one last idiot check. Good thing too, Mike found a pair of my shorts under a pillow that had been thrown on a chair! I’m usually so good about keeping track of things this sort of freaked me out.

When we’re on motorcycle trips and spend every night in a different hotel I have a laminated checklist (of course I have a list) reminding me of everything we need to do before leaving in the morning. I clip it to my tank bag and just go down the list. When I get to the last item I know we’ve taken care of everything and I don’t have to spend the first hour on the road worrying that something was forgotten.

Of course, since we’re not on a motorcycle journey and we’re not moving every night, I don’t have a list so I get to spend the first hour in the car worrying I’ve forgotten something.

Dummy.

Fortunately, the beautiful sunrise does take my mind off of things for awhile.

It’s another absolutely gorgeous day. We’ve had wonderful weather so far and shorts are starting to feel normal after months wearing jeans and sweaters. Continue reading

Day 8 – This Circus has no clowns but I hear the high wire act is pretty good.

We slept in this morning again, knowing that tonight will be a late one, and tomorrow morning hideously early.

I tell Mike we’re going to the Springs Preserve. No “pick your fave out of a list of options”, I’m putting my foot down because I know he’ll enjoy it once we get there.

The Springs is a complex that includes a natural history museum, the Nevada State museum, a Desert Living Center, and outdoor gardens. It sits on 180 acres just 3 miles from downtown, but it feels a million miles away. It’s cool and quiet, smells wonderful, and gives your eye something to dwell on that’s not flashing or made of neon.

We see you there Stratosphere.

The whole thing is built on the site of the original artesian springs that gave Las Vegas its name and started it as a town. The springs were used by the Native Americans in the area for years, then John Freemont and Kit Carson camped here in 1844. I’m sure Freemont would be thrilled to know his name is now in lights on a street named for him. Okay, “thrilled” is probably not the right word, “baffled” might be closer to the truth. Continue reading

Day 7 – “More, Please” at Red Rocks and CarsLand Vegas Style.

Today we’ve got the option of the Mob Museum, a couple of art galleries, or the Auto Collection at The Quad (used to be Imperial Palace). Which one do you think Mike chose?

If you’re guessing the art galleries, you’re tuned into what I was hoping he’d select, but of course he went with the cars. It’s a good thing I like this stuff or my alcohol budget for this trip would be through the roof.

We decide to splurge a bit beforehand and head to Red Rocks for another awesomely inexpensive and completely delicious luncheon buffet. I did take a few photos of our food, but apparently I don’t have Josh’s magic photo filter that makes good food look good. Everything I shot looked worse than mess-hall food and I’m decently certain Red Rocks would pay me to NOT post them.

You’ve probably noticed a lack of gambling going on during our time here in Vegas. We’re not big gamblers, although Mike does enjoy playing Blackjack occasionally, and I will play the nickel Poker machines (one hand at a time, slowly so I don’t “waste” my money), but neither one of us ever really feels the need to gamble when we’re in Vegas, there’s tons of other things to do. This place isn’t for everyone, but it is definitely possible to have a great time without ever stepping up to a table or pulling the arm of one of those electronic bandits.

However, when we went to Red Rocks yesterday we signed up for their Players Club for the two dollar discount on the lunch buffet. Of course you also get a $3 credit to use at the machines. After lunch today we hung around to use up those credits. We ended up playing for maybe 45 minutes and I actually came away a couple bucks to the good! Walking out to the car was when we really hit the jackpot though. What do we find parked nearby but a group of high-end sports cars! Oh my goodness, what a batch of Italian deliciousness!

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Day 6 – Old-school tech day with Pinball and Fusees, and we totally ignore the possibility of Stranger Danger.

Today we get to play pinball!!! I know, sort of a silly thing to get excited about, but I really love pinball. We have our own machine at home, Flash Gordon. Built in 1979, it’s a wonderfully cheesy addition to our game room.

Vegas is home to the Pinball Hall of Fame, a labor of love by the Las Vegas Pinball Collectors Club that not only offers more than 150 games at a quarter or 50 cents a play, they’re also are a non-profit who donates all proceeds to the local Salvation Army.

They open at 11am, and it’s only 10, so we have some time to waste before we head over. Mike thought we might “stop in and see the Pawn Stars shop”, hahahahahahahahaha hahahahaha yeah, that’s almost as funny as someone saying they might stop in at Hollywood Studios some afternoon during Spring Break and ride TSMM a few times since they have an hour to kill. I asked Mike if he ever noticed the massive line of people stringing around the building whenever they showed the front of the place? He said, “It’s early in the day so it’ll probably be slow”. Uh, okay. It’s sort of on the way anyway, so we drive by…

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Day 5 – Scary Clowns and Elvis is in town.

I mentioned before that one of the best things about Vegas for us is that it forces Mike to relax a little. I know, Vegas and relaxation don’t really go together, but for a guy who sets his alarm at 5am whether he needs to or not, a place that keeps the sidewalks rolled up until 10am is a good way to force him to slow the heck down.

It’s even more important right now, since he’s picked up a cold somewhere along the way and is hacking and coughing his way through the night. If he were a normal person, I’d be sad that he’s having to deal with this on vacation, but it’s better than having to deal with it at home where he’s working 12 hour days delivering packages in frigid weather.

So, he still gets up at 5am, but instead of racing through his morning routine he gets to relax and drink a few cups of coffee while he’s reading a magazine or watching a movie.

Speaking of coffee, they’ve got a Keurig in the room. Yay! But they have cups packaged with a sticker on top saying its $3.50 a pop. I’ve honestly never stayed in a room where they charge for the coffee packets, until now. So of course our first stop this afternoon is a Target where we buy some k-cups (after stopping at McDonalds for cheap coffee).

After that, we had the “what do YOU want to do?”, “I don’t know, what do YOU want to do?” talk. I hate those. I had a list (of course I had a list!) of a variety of things that we could do that were within budget and that might interest both of us. Mike was in a mood where nothing sounded interesting, so “we” spent the afternoon at antique stores. Yay. My favorite. ZZZZzzzzzzzz… Good thing I brought the Kindle. Continue reading

Day 4 – Taking the dam road to Las Vegas, with a stop in a dam town for a little antiquing along the way.

Mike loves looking for motorcycle stuff at antique stores, he could do it for days on end. I like wandering around antique stores for about 2 hours, then I’m done. Actually, I think it’s a good thing that only one of us likes to own “stuff”. Our place is packed to the gills as it is, I can’t imagine how insanely over-stuffed it would be if I also collected fripperies.

This is not to say I don’t love spending money. I do. But it’s on tools and electronic gizmos. I might try and act all high and mighty sometimes, and say Mike’s stuff is all just dust-gathering shelf art, and my stuff is used to create things – but when my stuff is a few years old it’s worth nothing, where his stuff just keeps gaining in value. So who is smarter? Don’t answer that.

We get up early this morning, pack up the car, and we’re on the road by 9am. It’s cooler today, and a little windy. Perfect on-the-road and in-the-stores kind of weather. I can’t figure out why the rocks would be flipping us off, but back at ‘ya, buddy.

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