Las Vegas, 2019

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

I went on a long weekend solo trip to visit Grace in Las Vegas.  I left work at 3:00PM, took the rapid to the airport arriving in plenty of time and had an easy direct flight arriving 8:00PM Vegas time.  Grace picked me up at the airport and we drove home to her apartment where I was staying with her.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

I dropped Grace off at work after stopping for coffee and then hit the road for Red Rocks Canyon Park which was just a quick 30 minute drive.  I drove down a road towards Calico Basin which was actually a residential  neighborhood with just a few amazing houses in the desert.  I parked the car at the end of the street and walked toward the hills taking in the amazing scenery.  Blue skies, no one else around and beautiful scenery.  I hit the road, paid the fee to get in the park, drove around the scenic loop soaking in the scenery and stopping at two or three spots to explore on foot.  I stopped at “Ice Box Canyon” and started on the trail that goes up to the mountain and through canyons but ran out of time and didn’t get to the end… next time.  I drove back to LV to pick Grace up as she was only working a half day.  We went to lunch at Esther’s Kitchen in the art’s district.  It’s a popular place and was perfect for lunch.  We each had pasta, bread and wine – all excellent.  We drove back to Grace’s place so she could change out of her working clothes and then hit the road for more hiking.  We drove about an hour and a half north to Valley of Fire State Park.  The park was amazing  – like walking on the moon.  Truly breath taking.  We drove around the loop, stopping at different places, taking lots of photographs and going on short hikes.  We drove back to Grace’s place and took a rest for awhile and then drove to the strip.  We had dinner at Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill at Caesar’s Palace.  We both had margaritas.  I had ancho rubbed pork tenderloin and sweet potato tamale and Grace had whatever the fish special was.  Everything was very good.  After dinner we walked the strip – checking out the Christmas displays at Bellagio and getting dessert at the Momofuku window in the Cosmopolitan.  Their cereal milk soft serve, that we had in NYC in the spring was our goal and it did not let down.  So good.

Calico Basin in Red Rock Canyon

prayer circle

the visitor center in the park was actually very nice
The visitor center in the park was actually very nice. Modern, outside and I was literally the only one there which was pretty cool.

and I was literally the only one there which was really nice

start of Ice Box Canyon trail
the path leading to Ice Box Canyon

lunch at Esther's Kitchen
lunch at Esther’s Kitchen
Valley of Fire
desert selfie

moonscape

cruising the strip after dinner
sin city

Inside the Bellaggio which was all decked out for Christmas

Friday, December 13, 2019

I dropped off Grace at work in the morning and then worked for two hours at a coffee shop downtown called Mothership Coffee.  It was a cool little place in a set of new shops that someone converted from an old motor motel.  That section of Las Vegas, just beyond Freemont Street, is quickly turning into a great spot.  I decided to drive to Hoover Dam to check it out as I never have been there.  It was just about an hour drive.  I took the tour that brought you into the powerhouse and then to some interesting viewing areas.  Amazing to say the least.  Pictures don’t do it justice. I liked all the art deco details and the hugeness of everything.  I tried to find a hiking trail in the area but wasn’t able to find it so I decided to head back to Grace’s neighborhood to explore.  I had lunch at a place called Honey Salt in Summerlin.  I sat at the bar and had an Anchor Steam and avocado toast.  I browsed a bit at some stores and then went back to Grace’s place, took a nap and waited for her to get home from her holiday party.  We went to Fremont Street for the night.  We grabbed some drinks and walked around enjoying the craziness.  We stopped and played some $5 blackjack but had really bad luck and only lasted around 20 minutes – my only gambling of the trip.  We had a really good dinner at a popular Thai place on Fremont Street called Le Thai.  It had a great atmosphere and the food was excellent.  After dinner we walked around some more and stopped at a club for one last cocktail.  Fun night.

sculpture outside the coffee house
cappuccino and ham and cheese croissant at Mothership
Mothership Coffee Roasters

the underground powerhouse at Hoover Dam
huuuuuge
looking the other direction
Hoover Dam selfie

Lake Mead side of the damn – at historic low
half in Nevada and half in Arizona
Lake Mead

avocado toast still life
cocktails on Freemont Street
Santa! Get off your phone!!
Fremont Street craziness
strolling downtown
Le Thai

Saturday, December 14, 2019

We slept in a bit.  I drove around the corner to get some coffee from Starbucks and stopped at a fancy donut place and brought them back.  We eventually got ourselves going and went out shopping.  Grace needed some side tables and lamps for her living room so I told her I would get them for her.  We went to Target which didn’t have much of anything so we then went to IKEA which of course had everything and then some.  We stopped and In and Out for burgers for lunch.  I’ve never been to one so that was a nice treat.  Burgers were good but fries were only so so.  We then went shopping for a couple of hours at a nearby outdoor shopping place that had lots of good stores.  We bought some Xmas presents as well as some things for the upcoming wedding.  We went back to Grace’s and put together the IKEA items and rearranged her living room just a bit and it looks great.  After taking a good afternoon nap, I packed up my stuff as I was flying home at 11:00PM and we hit the road.  We decided to go to Chinatown.  First stop was the Golden Tiki. An over the top tiki bar with all the trimmings.  We sat at the bar, each had a good tropical drink and listened to the cheesy bar playing in the corner.  The bathrooms are worth the trip.  We then went a few blocks down to a small pho place that Grace heard was good.  There were only about 8 tables that were all full and about 12 people waiting for one so we decided to go somewhere else – next time as it looks like a good spot.  So we ended up going to Sapporo Revolving Sushi which ended up being super fun.  After waiting for about 30 minutes at the bar, drinking a beer and sampling some sake from the very nice bartender we got to our table.  A revolving track of little plates of sushi went around and you picked what you wanted, piling up your plates on the table so they knew how much to charge.  You could also order from an ipad thing and a little robot rolls out with your order.  So cool.  We ate lots of sushi and ordered some pho and then match creme brulee.  Everything was great… and relatively cheap.  It was time to get to the airport after dinner so Grace dropped me off and was off to another party.  My red eye flight was on time and I actually slept for most of it… a first.  The flight was even thirty minutes early getting to CLE.  Courtney picked me up at the ungodly hour and we went right back to bed when we got home.

Christmas shopping in sunny 60 degree weather is the way to go
The Golden Tiki
wallpaper in the men’s room
the wall of the men’s room had cages full of skulls…. bizarre
sushi smiles

Las Vegas, July 2018

Wednesday, July 11th, 2018

Grace is doing a twelve week internship at Boyd Gaming in Las Vegas so Courtney and I went to visit her for a long weekend of fun and frivolity.  We worked all day and caught the rapid to the airport to take an early evening flight.  We got to Vegas with no problems and Grace picked us up and drove us to our hotel, the  Mirage.  We forced ourselves to stay up to 11:00PM Pacific time by walking around for a bit and having a drink in one of the many bars in the hotel.

starting our journey at the Rapid station in beautiful CLE.
a quick pint and burger in the airport before our flight
We had the first row with extra leg room. nice.
in flight jack and gingies
the view from our room at the Mirage was spectacular
We liked the Mirage a lot. Great location and just cheesy enough.

Thursday, July 12th, 2018

We slept pretty well and didn’t end up getting up too early.  We hit the Mirage buffet around 8:00AM as it was included in the good deal we got for the weekend.  We don’t have much experience with buffets but this one sure seems awfully nice.  Everything we had was great – except the coffee,(No it was really bad-cbh) but I’m a snob.  I had fruit, cinnamon rolls, banana Nutella pancakes, bacon, pork belly, tamales on and on.  Just a little bit of each but it was a great meal.  We then took to the strip for a nice morning stroll taking in the sites: north past Treasure Island and then walked around inside the Wynn.  Went back to the hotel and were at the pool by 10:30. The pool was awesome with lots of palm trees, waterfalls and Pina coladas.  We had a lunch reservation at a place we wanted to go to but bagged it as we were enjoying lazing by the pool. We opted for a mid day happy hour meal later on instead.  After a short siesta we hit the pavement again walking through the humongous Caesar’s palace and then looped back to the Venetian where we were meeting Grace.  We had drinks and really good food at Canonita where Grace and her friend Julie eventually met us.  We took off for the Mirage afterwards as we had tickets for Cirque De Soleil’s  LOVE.  I have been wanting to go to this show for years and years and was so excited to finally be able to go.  It was great.  The staging, acrobatics, lighting, music and everything was amazing.  After the show we grabbed a daiquiri for the road and joined the throngs on the strip.  We walked through the Bellagio, watched the fountains a couple of times and  ended up back at the Mirage having pancakes for a late night meal.  We said goodbye to Grace who lyfted back to her place and quickly crashed after a long day.

view of the pool from our room in the early morning
vacation selfie
inside Wynn

strolling past the Venetian
assuming the position
It’s noon somewhere right?
loved the huge video screens they had everywhere
the Forum shops at Caesars Palace
enjoying margaritas at Canonita

ran into Fergie on the way out of the Venetian
going into the show
LOVE theatre pre show.
strolling through the Bellagio
It was a beautiful hot evening every night

late night pancakes

Friday, July 13th, 2018

We slept really well and were quickly getting acclimated to west coast time.  We hit the buffet again for another breakfast feast and then walked some it off checking out other spots.  We liked the Linq Promenade which was pretty new and found a nice store where we bought a few things.  We ubered out to the Orleans – a casino off the strip- where Grace’s office was.  Grace showed us around, introduced us to her colleagues and we had lunch at a place there with Grace and Julie.  Grace was able to get the afternoon off so we went back to the UNLV dorm where she was living to get a few things and then headed back to the Mirage to spend the afternoon at the pool like good Las Vegas tourists.  The pool was hopping but we managed to get a spot and had a good time cooling off in the pool, people watching and drinking too many pool drinks.  We ubered over to Fremont street.  We had tickets to see magician Mike Hammer at the Four Queens.   It was fun. 50% magic and 50% comedian. He was really good though.  Grace got pulled up to the stage for one of the tricks. After the show, we took in the crazy sights on Fremont street– people zip lining overhead, street performers, classy tourists…   We checked out the Container Park, an area with repurposed containers turned into small shops, restaurants and bars.  We sat outside at one of the bars. I had a very good Manhattan while we listened to a good Indigo Girls sort of band.  We then went a couple blocks down town and had dinner at Carson Kitchen and a great late night meal.  We sat on their roof top patio with the rest of the hipsters and split tempura green beans, gyro tacos, a butter burger and tater tots.  We walked back down Fremont Street and each headed back to our separate places after a fun night.

another beautiful hot morning. minus 10 for the fake grass though.
striking workers at Margaritaville – don’t go there!
working girl
Grace was staying at a dorm at UNLV that was pretty nice
pool time

view of pool action from our room
the lovely assistant
at least he’s honest
crazy Fremont street
pictures don’t do it justice
cocktails at Oak & Ivy at the Container Park
Another beautiful evening
off the strip

Saturday, July 14th, 2018

We slept in past 8:00AM Vegas time.  We got our stuff packed up and then headed down to the breakfast buffet which turned out to be a brunch buffet since it was Saturday and ended up having even more food… shrimp, prime rib, Chinese food, good desserts… can get used to this life.  We checked out around 10:30 and rented a car to go exploring.  We picked up Grace and headed to Mount Charleston – state park about an hour drive west of Las Vegas.  It was interesting to see how built out Las Vegas is getting and then it abruptly ends at the mountains.  The mountains were beautiful.  The elevation was pretty up there. We stopped at the welcome center in the park and soaked in the views and then went on about an hour hike up up up the mountain that was supposed to end at a waterfall but we never were able to find the waterfall.  It was fun to see something different – and so different than Las Vegas.  The elevation made the hike tougher than we expected.  We drove back to Las Vegas and went to Town Square Park – an outdoor mall place – and had late lunch/early dinner at Yard House – a sports bar with lots of beer choices.  It was nice to get out of the heat as it was super hot out.–it felt like we were standing in front of an open oven.  We still had some time to kill before we had to get to the airport so we did the Vegas thing and went to the Hooter’s casino and played blackjack for an hour.  The only gambling we did all weekend except for 15 minutes before the show on Friday.  Grace and I started with $20 each playing the cheap blackjack table and ended with a total of $100.  It was fun.  We said goodbye to Grace dropping her off at the nail salon to spend our $60 winnings and then headed to the airport to drop the car off and head back home on the red eye.  The red eye is as bad as it sounds, as usual,  but we made it back to CLE at 4:00AM, ubered home and were happy to be home after a fun long weekend.

Pictures fail to give justice to the beautiful landscape

…still looking for that waterfall.
beautiful country

chillin
living the dream
an airport with a view
back home to a beautiful Sunday on the beach