About Me

An avid traveler I have had the good fortune to have spent my career in the travel and vacation industry. From Bali to Copenhagen and all points between is where I have been or intend to go. This blog however is specific to the Western half of the United States as I explore this part of the world.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Highway to the pleasantly surprised zone...

Our friend Rachel called the other day and told us that she could get some free tickets to see Kenny Loggins with the Pointer Sisters as an opening act.

Well they were free okay! And besides... I still have a soft spot for Footloose and TopGun... and I know the Pointer Sisters, "Fire", "He's so Shy", "Slow Hand", "I'm so Excited"... they played them all and very well too... that was a blast from the past... late 70's, early 80's man!

Kenny was great too... but of course you don't sell gold and platinum records if you are merely okay... well at least in the 80's you didn't... not like today's manufactured stars. I'm under no illusion that there weren't manufactured stars back then... it just seems like today they decide the image, songs, lifestyle, etc... then just insert warm body...

Anyway, I could tell Kenny was trying to separate from his old stuff as he has some knew music out or about to be out... and it wasn't bad... I got my "Footloose" fix right before the encore so that was cool... though he only played a little of "Highway to the Danger Zone." I still had the image of him with the buzzcut and big aviator sunglasses... he looks much different now.

When I told my buddy Victor I was going he asked me if that type of music fell into the genre of Wussrock or Spazrock... sheesh... I still had to laugh though.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Go Ahead...

Today I felt like a shoot. All of my contracts were completed for the year... in fact I exceeded my year goal by some 125% or so when all is said and done and my goals this year were nearly 200% higher than 2004! Needless to say I was feeling good... so to celebrate why not blow off a few rounds with my 357 Magnum... a Smith and Wesson model 66 that was my grandfather's service revolver when he was on the Indiana State Police Board.

The place I usually go is The Gun Store, not the most original name but they have a nice indoor range and until recently carried the 357 frangible rounds (meaning no lead) as they don't want to breath atomized lead from standard rounds all day or worry about ricochets. Frangibles turn to dust upon impact with the steel back plate of the range.

It's nice to go in every once and a while and shoot off 2 boxes of ammunition (100 rounds total) I'm not bad either...

The only thing that gets me sometimes are the guys and sometimes, though rarely, women, who have an urge to fire an automatic assault or military weapon... good lord are they loud... when I went shooting today I had someone next to me with a .45 Thompson a WWII weapon but more commonly recognized with an ammo drum clicked in and a mobster rubbing out his rivals... then there was the M-16 and the AK-47 wow really loud.

I am tempted to rent one gun though and shoot off one or two clips... only because of the name... the 9mm Madsen M50 SMG... a Danish gun.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Mom's Sugar Cookies

My mother sent me some sugar cookies the other day and I opened them up and had a bite... I will tell you what... I was not expecting the flood of Christmas memories that I got... it has been a while since a taste or smell triggered such a onrush...

Memories of...

... making cookies as a child with my mother...

... the small plastic containers with different colored sugars, silver balls, pastel stars, red hots...

... the same cookie cutter shapes as always...

Sonny even was a little surprised as I rummaged through the cookies to find a Santa with a silver ball in his cap or a Christmas tree with the same silver ball as a star at the top and the glee I felt upon finding one.

Just amazing.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Christmas Morning

This is me waking up way too early...

This is Angela and Sonny modeling their Happy Bunny attire

Lisa enjoying a gift

Buy more save more??? what the hell?

Ribbon girl

The material aftermath

The physical aftermath

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Christmas Eve

Well it is an official tradition in Vegas now... Dinner at the Eiffel Tower Restaurant at the Paris followed by a stroll through the Bellagio's Christmas display.

This is a slight variation from the tradition started by my family of going to Le Coq Au Vin in Orlando, FL. It is a fantastic restaurant that on Christmas Eve hires very talented quartet of carolers that move from table to table usually singing two requests from each table... my Poppa (mother's father) would treat us to a truly excellent experience there every Christmas Eve that Sonny later joined with me when we became serious as a couple.

The Eiffel Tower Restaurant while not providing carolers does provide an excellent level of service and we got the same table we had last year with a spectacular view of the strip and the Bellagio fountains. Shea was our wait captain last year but had taken a job at the bar this year and we had a new chap. I need to find his card so that I can request him next year.

The experience was excellent again this year... and this year we went to church service before the meal... going to a midnight service after so much food and wine would have been difficult.

When I received the bill at the end of the meal it only added to the appreciation of all those fancy meals my family has treated me to.

After dinner we strolled through the Bellagio seasonal display which I was happy to say changes from year to year... while seeing what we saw last year would have been nostalgic and still nice... it was great to experience something new and different.

After much photo taking and goofing around it was time to head home... to wrap a few more gifts for under the tree and settle down for a well deserved sleep.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Christmas shopping in the West

Well, I suppose that shopping in the West is not really much different than in the East except for the fact that it is noticeably less crowded... especially in Vegas... which is nice. When I lived on the east coast whether it be Fairfax or Norfolk, VA or Orlando, FL you could certainly count on wall to wall shopping crowds as Christmas approached. I imagine it has much more to do with population density than anything else but what a difference.

Shopping at Meadows Mall or my favorite Fashion Show Mall wasn't much different and in fact was less crowded in Fashion Show than during the Summer. I didn't really have to wait in long lines and spend more time deciding than waiting which is quite a shift... had time to pop by Teavana and get some yummy Monkey Rolled Oolong Tea with honey... have lunch at California Pizza Kitchen and stroll around the mall like a man without an agenda.

In the east I had my list and was practically Olympic fast walking as I weaved through the crowd like Clinton Portis... list in hand eyes on the prize and a mental count of money to be spent, money spent and available funds.

Crazily I missed some of the hustle and bustle of Chrismas shopping in the east but hey at least I didn't have to worry about Aisle Rage...

P.S. If you were wondering about the dancing Santa's helpers? It is all part of Fashion Show's deal... they have a runway in the middle of the mall... during holiday they have holiday events but normally they have models, modeling what is sold in the mall... the Fredericks and Victoria's Secret shows are the best!... well at least from my point of view.

Sunday, December 18, 2005


Well I wasn't quite on the slopes by 8:30 when they opened... had to get some chow first. However, when I opened the blinds and looked outside... what a site... it looked like a blizzard had hit... about a foot of new snow on my patio railing, over night and it was still coming down.

So I put on my snowboarding attire, grabbed the board and walked over to the gondola... I had spoken with Eric, Ian and Sal about meeting up at lift 15 which was going to require some navigation of the slopes to get there... this was my first time on Mammoth Mountain.

I made it to the lift while shaking off some rust... it was especially challenging not having boarded in a few years, shaking off rust and hitting large areas of ungroomed fresh powder.

Since I am regular and not goofy, my right leg was getting a hell of a workout leaning back to keep my nose from diving into the powder. For those of you who don't know... regular stance is having your dominant leg in back while goofy is having your dominant leg up front... the front leg is what you lead with most often going down the hill and your front foot is usually about 15 degrees off the perpendicular of the board.

Unfortunately, during my runs I never hooked up with the group... visibility wasn't that great and I never saw them or they me... oh well, I had a great time and a nice work out... however the level of snow coming down and the visibility dropping had me concerned about getting back to Vegas... so riding was done by 12:00pm and I was on the bus back to The Village.

Once I arrived it was hurry up and finish packing and get out of Dodge in my Dodge. The training session I had planned had to be rescheduled because any more time not moving could have meant not getting over the pass.

We did have to get some gas and some food so we filled up and popped into a KFC... and I experienced some of those wonderful drivers again... imagine my surprise while washing up after eating and suddenly it sounds and feels like an earthquake starting... it was no earthquake... it was an amateur driver coming in a bit to fast for a landing and slamming into the KFC wall hard enough to break the wall on the inside! I'm glad I was only washing up... imagine if I had been in there using the head!

The road out was snow covered as was 395 a major highway... the real challenge however was getting over the pass... I suppose the next two pictures will speak for that experience...

By the time we got to the end of Benton Crossing and finally into Benton the snow had let up considerably.

Oh and when you are in need of a rest stop and there are none for about 50 miles it's okay to pull over take care of business... What's not okay is your wife taking a shot of you zipping up your fly! I felt like Tommy Boy when Richard (Spade) pulls the car away when he is whizzing on the side of the road... effectively blowing his cover.

After getting back to Fish Lake Valley the snow had disappeared and by the time we were approaching Vegas we knew we were in the fast lane again...

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Saturday in Mammoth

When you are staying in the Village... where do you go for breakfast?? There is only one answer... Old New York Deli and Bagel Company... they open early... the food is great, fresh and they have a broad selection... I usually get the lox and bagel but this trip it was a chirozzo breakfast burrito... wow enough for 2 people. I had been thinking about doing a little snow boarding but Sonny and I were a little lagged from the drive, then the cocktails, then the bed in our unit that Fred Flintstone would have been proud of as it felt to be made of granite...

Instead we had a relaxing morning and then headed over to 8050 to view the model. Much of the building is still under construction so we had to hard hat it. The model was fantastic and I noted that I was particularly looking forward to the roof spa/bar/pool/hot tub with flaming water fountains and the whole bit to be completed!

We then decided to take the gondola ride up to the mountain base to check out the scene... when the doors opened at the top of the mountain and I saw the slopes... I knew I wasn't leaving until I had done some snowboarding.

When we got back down I was ready for some Christmas shopping and oh... rent a snowboard! We rented from this bitchin snowboard shop called Wave Rave. It is the place to go if you are a snowboarder in Mammoth. They were very helpful and hooked me up on a Burton demo. I got some Burton pants too while there because my old ones were done for... Some Black Burton AK 3L vents did the trick!

Once we got back we did some solo shopping to get those things for each other that we... may have seen when shopping together and thought that it might be a good gift kind of thing... we met back at the room around 5:00pm to get ready for the Tallus holiday cocktail party.

By that time it started snowing. I had heard some people discussing that the weather report said it would only be about a foot by Monday night... well that wasn't to be the case. By the time we were heading out the door the roads were covered with snow. I had some concerns because while I have 4 wheel drive I have TOYO PROXES directional summer tires. They move forward through the snow well but breaking is a little hairy... so as long as you are cautious and keep plenty of distance, oh and don't go DOWN steep hills you will be okay.

The trip to Tallus was only about a mile... but in that mile there was a lot of accidents... drivers putting their cars through the motions like it was summer. I almost had a Thunderbird slide into me on the way.

Once we got to Tallus I met with Eric, Ian and Sal and chatted with many of the guests. I had an interesting real estate discussion with a gentleman upstairs that went a little long for Sonny who was feeling a bit tired. I had spoken with a broker for the property and had promised to do a short sales meeting the next day about 2:00pm but alas it was not to pass... we stayed until about 10:30pm and then it was back to the room... after all I needed the rest because I was planning on snow boarding at O-dark-30!

Well I didn't really go right to sleep... new snow... beautiful night... outdoor fire... had to go stand by the fire when we got back and enjoy the new snowfall.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Driving to Mammoth Lakes, CA

I was invited about a week ago to attend a client's Holiday Party in Mammoth Lakes, CA. It is about a 5 hour drive door to door... and I best know the drive from the landmarks.

Since I don't really know the rout by roads... this is how I would describe it if you asked me in Vegas... "How do I get to Mammoth Lakes from here?"

"Well let me give you the locals route... not the MapQuest route... it will cut a little over an hour of the drive and a lot of the boredom. First you want to get on the Vegas beltway (215) or 95... whichever you are closer to and head north. If you take the beltway get off at 95 north and stay on that road for about 3 hours.

You will see such sites as Area 51 and Beatty, Nevada. Beatty is called the gateway to Death Valley... but I sometimes refer to it as the gateway to Southern Nevada Brothels such as Angel's Ladies, Shady Lady and The Cottontail Ranch... Once you get through Beatty these are the only landmarks you will see along the way... the rest is desert valley and mountains.

The Cottontail Ranch is the one you want to remember because that is where you want to take a left off of 95 North and head into the mountains. You will follow this road for some distance until you cross into California for a short bit and then head into Fish Lake Valley (look at the satellite image not the road map). After crossing the California border you will drive about 5-6 miles and come to a fork in the road... continue straight... not to the left.

There are several interesting things about this valley... the most obvious can be seen if you are driving in the spring or summer. There are huge and most often round alfalfa fields dotting the desert... everything will be desert brown except for giant round or semi circle patches that are a lush green. Most of them are round because of the irrigation system used... the long wheeled irrigation tubes that span the radius from a central pivot point constantly going around, creating an irrigated circle.

The other thing to look for is wild horses... you will be driving through open range for about 40 minutes and will more likely than not see wild horses in groups of 3 to 6... there is one gas station about half way across Fish Lake Valley in Dyer... but large taped off signs warning of ethenol in the gas warned me off of that fill up spot... I suppose it may not hurt the engine but why take the chance?? What other impurities might there be?

Eventually you will come to Route 6... the road you will have been traveling will end at route 6... take a left... this you will follow up over a small mountain range... through a ghost town (the state uses it to store highway utility vehicles now) and down into a valley and eventually to Benton. This is where you want to get gas! I have a 5.9 liter Dodge Durango R/T and make it this far with about an 8th of a tank... if you have something with worse gas mileage than a 5.9 liter v-8 then fuel up in Beatty too!

At the Benton service station you will take a right and travel through Benton Hot Springs and then upon reaching the top of the road... before you start your decent you will see a sign that reads Benton Crossing... take a left there and cross over some beautiful wilderness... once you reach the other side of the pass you will be at Lake Crowley... I have seen people fish the feeder rivers but haven't done it myself... yet... anyway keep following this road and eventually you will come to 395 and a lme green church on the left... take a right and 10 miles up the road is the exit to Mammoth Lakes... a great summer and winter destination"

The above photo is what greeted us as we pulled into Mammoth... ah it really felt like Christmas! Snow, lights what else could you ask for?? Well at that point I was thinking dinner... check in and check out the local eating establishments... We stayed at The Village... an Intrawest property... they have a pretty standard mold to their ski villages... Mammoth Lakes, Squaw Valley, Northstar, Beaver Creek and more... you always know what to expect and what you expect is a nice alpine style village with comfortable accommodations, shops and restaurants...

We Checked in and I noticed that a restaurant that had been under construction the last time I was here was now open... LuLu's... Upon entering the restaurant we immediately noted the upscale feel and the meal exceeded our expectations! However, before we were seated I ran into one of my clients in Mammoth, Sean of 8050 Mammoth, a Private Residence Club right next to the main gondola... he told me that the model was finished and that I should come by on Saturday.

After a nice dinner we thought we might go out by one of the fires in the village and enjoy some warmth on a cold winter evening and the company of strangers...