Off The Grid

It’s been 5+ years since I took an entire week’s vacation. I mean a true vacation, not thinking about or doing any work the entire time. I’m doing something a little unconventional (but if you know me, you shouldn’t be that surprised).

Started with 2 Things

Two things that I haven’t done in a   l o n g   t i m e:

  • stopped at a McDonald’s
  • went through the drive thru

I almost forgot how those things worked. Both of them.

I wanted a coffee for my drive to Wintergreen. I wanted it fast so I could get on with my vacation. McDonalds happened to be right there (seems like they’re everywhere, doesn’t it?!).

As much as I despise McDonalds for — well, almost everything, really — I’m actually glad I chose this one. Before your head flies off in sheer amazement, let me explain.

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My new (almost) 3 year old buddy

How my recent 4-day vacation with my 3-year-old cousin, Zachary, reminded me that we’re all role models, whether we like it or not. He’s also my new best bud. What an awesome kid!

During a recent family vacation in Vegas, I got to see one of my second cousins for only the 2nd time ever. He’s now almost 3 years old, and such a joy to be around.

It was great to see him, and we are now best buds. But it was also a good reminder of how we’re all role models, regardless of if we want to be, try to be, or like to be. We just are. Here are a few examples.

Bedtime stories

It was the first time I could remember ever being asked to read a bedtime to someone. And when asked, you can’t possibly say no. We read Toy Story & Curious George, and he even managed to sneak a little snuggle time in.

Copycat

It’s true. They will do everything you do. Say everything you say (or some mangled sentence fragment very similar).

I was doing a quad stretch one morning, and Zach slowly creeps into the room, observes me for a minute, then starts performing the stretch. I caught him doing it again the next day.

Hats off to his parents

The kid has impeccable manners. He asks to be excused from the table before getting up. Always says please and thank you. Heck, he even loves fruits & vegetables – broccoli, carrots, blueberries, strawberries, clementines – you name it.

How can anyone NOT want to have kids?

Las Vegas Vacation: 4 days in review

My recap of one, pretty awesome family vacation in Las Vegas, NV. My new 3-year-old best friend, gambling, Fountains at the Bellagio, The Stratosphere, Terry Fator, The Freemont Experience, hiking a canyon…

Here’s a recap of my recent family vacation to Las Vegas, NV. Not necessarily in any order…

Jump directly to the photos below

My favorite part

Although I enjoyed most of the trip, the best part was seeing Zachary, my (almost) 3-year-old second cousin. I enjoyed the experience so much, I wrote a separate post about it.

Seeing family

I have family spread out in a few places across the country – Jersey, Florida, Pennsylvania, Nevada – so when I get a chance to see them, it’s always nice. It’s that unconditional love sort of thing.

The main Vegas Strip

The main strip in Vegas is “as advertised.” I’d recommend you at least see it once, but you’ll have to decide if it’s really for you or not. The hotel/casinos are massive and extravagant. Everything else is 10x bigger or more outrageous than it needs to be. Tourists everywhere. Slot machines around every corner (even in CVS 30 minutes outside the city). Beers in hand on the street (some even in brown paper bags). Sketchy guys (and gals) handing out flyers for strips clubs with half-naked women on them. I mean, “it’s Vegas.”

I can do without much of that. But here’s what I do recommend you see:

Fountains at Bellagio

This was my favorite part of the Vegas strip. The fountains… bigger than I thought. The water… goes much higher. The choreography to the music… literally breathtaking. It’s amazing during the day… even better at night.

Bellagio Fountains video (although it doesn’t do it justice)

The Stratosphere

This is the 1,100 ft. tower overlooking the Vegas strip – and the entire valley. They’ve got 2 roller coaster rides that throw you over the edge, and 1 that drops you straight down to the ground. But you don’t need to ride any of them to enjoy yourself up there. The view is spectacular. I’d recommend catching a sunset if you can. And don’t forget your camera.

The Terry Fator Show

Terry Fator is a ventriloquist. I think he won America’s Got Talent a few years back. I wasn’t overly thrilled going into it. I kept expectations pretty low. But this dude was hilarious for 90 minutes straight. Every character. Every skit. Every voice. Every song. He must’ve had at least 15 characters, and a unique singing voice to go along with each one. Again, the videos don’t do him justice.

Terry Fator videos

Gambling in Vegas

Let’s get something straight. I’m not a lucky person. Never have been, never will be. And I’m perfectly OK with that. I actually prefer it that way. But even if you don’t like to gamble, I do think you can have fun with a little bit of money. Let’s just say I learned a few things…

Card games

Don’t sit down at a table unless you know the game inside & out. The only thing worse than losing all your money is not understanding how you lost all your money.

You can’t sit down at a $5 blackjack table with $30 and expect to have a good time. You might as well just put your 30 on the table and walk away. Give yourself more than 6 hands to see how things play out.

Slot machines

At first I thought they were stupid. But when I realized I don’t know any card game inside & out, the slots became my friend. Two things in particular that I learned:

  1. Play a slot that you understand how it pays out.
    I recommend one with 3 columns and no more than 5 lines you can hit. Take a minute to read how to play. Knowing what you are trying to get increase the fun factor tenfold.
  2. Be superstitious.
    And don’t be afraid to let everyone know. I’m not superstitious at all, but for an unlucky guy playing a game that relies 100% on luck, it makes it interesting. I threw in a few fist pumps, a couple “Big Bucks, No Whammies,” and even kissed my money voucher. Believe me, I earned every cent of the $1.50 that I won.

The Freemont Experience

In a word… “eh.” And that’s me being nice. Freemont was the original “Vegas” before they built up the current strip. I’ve never seen more wife beaters (the tank tops, not the actual human beings), mustaches, fortys and tramp stamps in one 5 block radius. The Freemont light show made a landfill look like a tourist attraction. Save yourself some time and leave this one off the itinerary.

Hiking Sloan Canyon

Most people come to Vegas for the strip, but I was equally excited about the desert trails, mountains & canyons. So excited, I went for a 3-hour hike into Sloan Canyon. You can read my separate writeup here.

Thanks

Big thanks to Jason & Crystal for an awesome guest room, excellent tour guide skills, and having 2 of the coolest, most well-behaved kids I’ve ever seen. Also to Mom & Grandmom for funding part of my gambling experience, and Uncle Tom & Morris for picking up the restaurant tab. You all allowed me to have a great time without emptying my pockets, and I really appreciate that.