Vegas, Phoenix, Denver Trip, Day 4.

So one thing I forgot to mention about the previous day: Jean lives in Sun City… and after dinner, and as the Cubs were getting humiliated again, Rachel and I decided we’d go for a little walk around the neighborhood. Jean warned us to be sure we knew where we were going, because it just so happens that this entire neighborhood was designed by Daedalus, and with coyotes roaming free out in this area, we could very much end up another victim of this modern day Labyrinth. [I hope you enjoyed today’s mythology lesson.] Anyway, the neighborhood was confusing, and it’s easy to get lost. So Rachel and I went for a walk, and then we got lost… a little bit of walking, and Rachel figured it out, and we made it back to Jean’s house… but I thought that was kinda funny.

We woke up after getting to sleep in a decent amount (10ish?) and the first mission was to remove the top from the Jeep. It was trickier than I expect, but I suppose if it was easy to do, you’d have a lot of Jeep with tops blowing off on the highway, and parked jeeps with their tops pulled off as if they were part of “Jeeps Gone Wild” or something. With the Jeep taken care of we headed back inside, where we had breakfast. Jean has fruit trees in her back yard: [White] Grapefruit, Orange, Tangelo, and part of a branch of Pink Grapefruit. We had a White Grapefruit for breakfast. All I’ve ever had before was red grapefruit, and I do not like red grapefruit, so I was skeptical. It was the most fantastic thing I had tasted in a long, long time. Also, the idea of having fruit trees in your backyard really interests me. That seems like the greatest thing ever: “Would you like a snack? Why not go in the back yard and grab one that the earth has created just for you.” Fantastic!

The main events for today were a tour of Chase Field (Formerly Bank One Ballpark), home of the Arizona Diamondbacks, and then a Cubs vs. Diamondbacks game. “Woot!”. So we hopped in the car, and drove in to Phoenix. We parked, and showed up to the stadium in plenty of time, and the tour started. The stadium itself was quite nice. Some key features: They have a roof that can open or close, depending on the heat, and I suppose if someday it rained in this state. They also have a pool out in right field that people can hang out in during the game. The Diamondbacks are also the youngest team to win a World Series, beating the Yankees [yea!] back in 2001, so there is quite a lot of stuff in the stadium celebrating that, and rightfully so. They also have a lot of information spread out throughout the stadium about the history of baseball, baseball stadiums, broadcasters, the World Series, the All-Star Game, etc. It was all quite interesting. Our tour guide was also quite knowledgeable, and as there were Cubs fans, Dodgers fans, Diamondback fans, etc. in the crowd (maybe 10-12 people on the tour) he would point out particular facts and information about those teams as well, and then quiz us and make us feel stupid.. until we pointed out that Nomar was on the Dodgers, not the Cubs. Also, Chase field is one of only two fields that feature the old style “Catcher’s Walk” between the plate and the pitcher’s mound. Anyone know the other field? [Mark does]. One more trivia question: MLB retired Jackie Robinson’s number 42 a number of years ago. No new players could take #42, and so only players who were already #42 could keep that number until they retired. At present, there is only 1 player left with #42. Know who it is?

So the tour continued, and then we were in the visitor’s dugout. It was awesome. As we were hanging out there, some Cub players showed up far out in the outfield, and were warming up. Shortly after that, the tour was done. We had a few hours to burn before the game, so I called up my brother, and he gave us some directions, and we headed out towards his school. We showed up, and after finding the secret passageways to actually get to the school, we made it into his classroom in time to see him finish up his class (Latin… Nerds!). He showed us around the school, then we headed back to his place, and we met up with Rebecca and Steven, and met my new niece, Emma. We then took off for this nice pizza restaurant, and had some lunch and just kinda hung out for a while. It was a lot of fun. Soon it was time for the game, and we headed back to the stadium.

I won’t say too much about the game, save for a few little points:

  • I took many, many pictures. This should surprise no one. The odd part was that there wasn’t anything particularly interesting that happened the entire game, especially on the Cubs’ side. They didn’t score any runs, and had very few hits.
  • There were many more Cub fans than Diamondback fans. I’d put the breakdown at at least 2/3 Cubs to 1/3 Diamondbacks.. and it could’ve been 3/4ths…
  • There was a “Cubs fan” behind us who was very loud, very stupid, and I wanted him to die. First off, he was a “Cub fan” who hated everything about the Cubs. He hated the manager, he hated all of the players, he hated the owner, and I’d assume he hated Wrigley as well. Perhaps he liked the logo, or the supposed “kewl factor” of being a Cubs fan.. like how all those preppy kids are pretending to be “geeks and nerds” now because it has a weird kewl factor right now. Here’s the deal: You’re not, stop trying to cash in on something just cause it’s popular now. That doesn’t make you kewl, it makes you a poseur. Why aren’t you still “totally into Swing music!” and wearing your trucker hat? ESAD. This guy was so very loud and annoying (Think “Home! Home!” and you get the idea) that he made parts of the game truly painful. At one point, his solution to the Cubs slump was to get rid of the entire team except Ronny Cedeno, fire Dusty Baker right now, and get rid of Jim Hendry. I didn’t hear it, but I also assume they have to leave Chicago, and change their name. This kid was annoying. I cheered when he left in the 7th.
  • The Phoenix Suns were playing the Lakers in Game 6 (in LA) at the same time as the Cubs game, and so most of the TVs in the suites and boxes were on the Basketball game, and whenever they flashed the score on the big screen, the crowd went crazy. [FYI: The Suns won in overtime. We made it home to Jean’s to see the last 6 minutes of the 4th quarter, and the overtime. It was an exciting game. The Suns beat the Lakers in game 7, and everyone in the entire world was happy about that. OH, except that idiot who “would put $20 on the Lakers right now! Let’s go! 20 buck!]
  • Glendon Rusch was brought in from the bullpen, and did not give up a home run. I think that’s a record.
  • Cubs lost, and looked awful.
  • The Stadium was beautiful, and we had good seats.

That was pretty much the whole day. A great day in terms of “I love-a the baseball” but a Cubs win would have been nice. One little/final sidenote: JEan is a big Diamondbacks fan.. so when we returned, I asked “Did you enjoy the game?” And she laughed, and enthusiastically replied “Yes, I did!”. Tomorrow is Tuscon!


Vegas, Phoenix, Denver Trip, Day 3.

We woke up around 11, and made it out on our way by 11:45. Not too shabby, really, considering how dead tired we were when we finally got to the hotel. On tap for today was the zoo, and then going to Jean’s house, where we’d be staying for the next few days here in Arizona.

The zoo experience was amazing. It’s the kinda thing that you can prolly get a better idea of by looking through the pictures, but I’ll give you a few highlights:

  • Feeding the birds was my favorite part. We got to do that twice: Some Lory Parrots and the Turaco. The Lory parrots would fly over into our hands, and perch on our arms and eat wedges of apple from our palm. My favorite part what when this one animated bird hopped up my arm, and started tugging on my shirt with his beak. I’d take my sleeve back, and he’d tug on my shirt at the chest. It was funny.
  • We fed giraffes! They have really long tongues. Once we were done, I had Rachel pretend to have more food to get a nice picture. Sorry, Giraffe.
  • The Prairie Dogs and Meerkats were adorable.
  • I really liked all the other birds, but Rachel was more interested in animals that she could (or at least wanted to) pet.
  • After this whole thing, I decided I wanted to own a bird. A smart one that can talk, but isn’t loud, is neat, and doesn’t smell. Suggestions?

After the zoo, we drove near the Air Force base (F-16’s were flying by the zoo all day), then went over to Jean’s house, and took her out to dinner. There Rachel ordered the Mediterranean Chicken… then was given a salad… She questioned the water, who said that’s what she ordered… even though she had mentioned mashed potatoes… So he brought her the Menu, and pointed to the Mediterranean Chicken Salad… and she turned the page and pointed to the Mediterranean Chicken meal. So she had to wait a while to get the correct meal.. but dinner was good, and we headed back to Jean’s house, and watched the Cubs vs. Diamondbacks game (Jean is a big Diamondback fan). Cubs lost, to no one’s surprise. After that, we saw Bob Uecker on Leno (Uecker is a Hilarious man.) then called it a night and went to bed. A very good day!


Vegas, Phoenix, Denver Trip, Day 2.

So… we slept in today. Well, no, We didn’t sleep in.. Rachel slept in. I woke up at 8ish, and walked over to the Venetian, and after getting lost for about a half hour, I finally found the place to buy tickets for the Gondola rides, and got us some tickets for that. Having a bit of time to blow, I headed down to the Casino, and won back the money I had lost the night before… That’s right.. I made a kewl $2.00 this morning. I walked back, and transfered pictures from my camera over and checked them out for a bit, and just worked on random things until Rachel finally woke up. We cleaned up and packed up a bit, then walked over to the Venetian, and took our Gondola ride. It was kinda interesting. I spent much of the time while in line trying to figure out if there were motors powering the boats, because they seem to gain speed at an unusually high rate… that mystery was solved as soon as we got in (That’d be a “yes” on the motor). Our “driver” was fun, and he sang that song from Lady and the Tramp while we waited for our turn to pull up to the dock and get out.

After the Gondola, we stopped and got some food (Pizza) at the food court in the Venetian, then walked a bit, and headed back to Ceasars. We packed up all our stuff, and dropped off our bags at the Bell Hop place, and headed out to the pools. It was very sunny and warm, and we took a dip in 3 pools (We skipped the Nudie pool), then laid out in the sun and enjoyed some pricey drinks for a few hours. Afterwards we headed back in, and enjoyed the nickel slots. Rachel had the hot hand, and made $4 turn into $12.50, which was neat. When we got bored we walked around, checked out the Aquarium, and some of the shops. We headed out to Treasure Island to see the Pirate show, but according to the announcer dude, the winds were too strong, so they cancelled… which was weird, cause there was no wind. Perhaps there was a strong gust 10 feet above our heads or something.. who knows… Anyway, we headed back… at some point in there we hit an Express for men, and I found the T-shirt I wanted on sale (just a plain orange shirt to go with a nice button up shirt Rachel got me a few weeks ago) so I got that, and a green shirt (Buy 2 for something, or 1 for pretty much the same price). We walked back towards the Casino, and walked right past Matt Leinart. He was talking to a few people while with 2 friends, and so we stopped and looked back to make sure it was him.. and it was. We made it back into the Casino to see them setting up a huge party thing (Red Carpet, tons of security, etc..) to celebrate Matt’s draft into the NFL. So that’s neat. We played the slots for a little while, and kept getting free drinks, which was neat… and then decided to head off to the airport super early, so we’d not miss it.

The taxi drive there was uneventful save for one moment, when [while we were clearly speeding] a siren blared out right behind us, and the driver looked completely freaked, until we saw that it was an ambulance. As he let it pass, he turned: “That scared the CRAP out of me… I was just thinking there are never cops on this road.” We laughed. Good times.

This time, the airport was not a problem at all (Woo!). Automatic checkin worked like a charm. Bag check-in was not a big deal.. Rachel’s bag was 5 pounds heavy, so she took out her shoes, a pair of jeans, and a bra (I assume the last one was on accident.) and we put them in my bag. Her bag was then 2 pounds under, and mine was exactly at the limit. We sat around a HOT Airport for a while.. I found a free WiFi spot to hitch a ride with for a while, and eventually our plane showed up, and we were on our way.

Our plane was filled with Airline people (Flight attendants/Pilots, etc.) Seriously, there were at least 20, and it was not a big plane at all. More or less every row had a flight attendant or pilot in uniform. I wonder if there was a convention or something… it was weird. The flight went well.. no major ear explosions.. I just had to keep swallowing every 30 seconds or so to pop them.

Once on the ground we got our bags and headed to the Rental Car shuttle, and made it to our Rental Car place (it is now around 1:15 am) The mixture of long days, sitting in the sun, Alcohol, and a flight had made us (Me to an unhealthy extreme, I think) tired. I was exhausted, and wanted to sleep. We did eventually (after some computer problems) get our rental car: A Jeep Wrangler. Rachel was overjoyed! And we then had a 45 minute drive to our hotel near Sun City.

The drive there was going fairly well.. only 2 missed turns, and they were right out of the Rental Car place, so easily forgotten… then after 2 highways, we ran into some trouble… The problem seem to be that Mapquest had us taking a road that didn’t exist. Since we didn’t know the road didn’t exist, we kept looking for it, and ended up going well past where we wanted to go, then turned around, and past it again.. then turned around, and passed again. After a considerable amount of time, we pulled under a light (we could not get internal lights in the jeep working) in a parking lot, and looked at the map and the directions. We called the hotel, but they never answered their phone. Finally, Rachel decided to skip the MapQuest directions, and just go by the map and the hotel information, and a short time later we made it to the hotel. [MapQuest gets the finger.]

When we went to check in, our reservation has in ink “No Show”.. which the receptionist quickly whited out. (Rachel had told them when she booked the reservation that we’d be showing up around 2am. It was close to 3:30ish. We got into the room, and I noted that we had to be awake and checked out by 11:00. That did not seem likely.


Vegas, Phoenix, Denver Trip, Day 1. The Vegas Strip

I’ve walked the strip [before], but Rachel’s never been… this time it was a bit different, though. As we were getting ready to head out (Once it had gotten dark, and I had taken my much needed nap) I turned on the TV to see the news. Apparently a giant crowd of people were marching towards the strip as part of the Illegal Immigrants protest thinger. The news showed helicopter footage, and the crowd appeared large. When we got outside, one entire side of Las Vegas Blvd. was shut down. We got to The Bellagio, and stood by the fountain, and watched the crowd for a bit. they were all well behaved, and just kept chanting “U-S-A” and “Decent Wage”, I believe. Then the fountain started up with “Proud to be an American” and the entire crowd cheered loudly. The fountain show for that pretty much sucked, but a few minutes later, it started up a jazzy version of “The Pink Panther” which was awesome. We continued to walk the direction of the crowd, and when we got near New York/New York and the Tropicana, that’s where the crowd was gathered , and there were people shouting in megaphones and microphones and stuff. Lots of News Cameras and Trucks, and people stopped to watch, and the Helicopters were everywhere. So yeah, kinda neat.

Also, I saw a guy with a sign/painting that I thought was Fantastic, and when he saw me trying to take a picture of it, he kinda held it up for me. Tada:

Sad Liberty

So that was the big excitement… we went past the crowd, and checked out the Mandalay Bay (snuck back to see all their pools and beached) then blew some pennies on the penny slots (Rachel got 8 free spins, which was neat.) For a short time I was up 2 cents. I should’ve cashed out.

When we headed back, the crowd was already gone.. so that happened fast. We looked through the MGM, then continued on past Caesars and got to the Mirage in time to see the Volcano. We were too late for the Pirate show at Treasure Island, but hope to hit that today before we head to the airport. We stopped here and there to sit and look around. At one point some a dude showed up and gave us balloon hats, and started making conversation, until i handed him a few quarters, and he went away. I was pleased when he left. [So… If in the future you are talking to me, and I hand you some quarters, it means I want you to stop talking, and go away.] We then walked the long, long, long way to the Stratosphere, and made it just a few minutes before they stopped selling tickets.. but, as has been the rule thus far on this trip, that meant we were too late, as there was no one selling tickets anymore. Oh well. We were exhausted, so we grabbed a cab, and headed back to Caesars Palace, and our fantastic room.


Vegas, Phoenix, Denver Trip Day 1.

Okay, so I’m currently on the plane, and the ear thing is starting up again.. i’m getting really dizzy and I’m not so sure I can look at the screen anymore.. and nope, I can not.. my eyes are closed and I’m really, really dizzy… I’m chewing gum but that’s doing nothing for me.. so now I’m getting hot and cold waves running through me, and now the right ear has taken the lead, and definitely feels like it wants to explode… I can’t really hear anything anymore.. the ding of the bell was very, very muted.. I’m now sweating., and my heart rate has risen noticeably…. I can no longer type…

Left ear pang.. This is fantastic. We’re passing over the Mississippi river already.. There’s a long wretched story about how we got to be where we currently are. Just as a preview: This is not the plane we’re supposed to be on. Also, Rachel is not sitting by me.. also, we’re angry. And now I think the pain has hit that point where I want to die. Signing off for a bit.

I am back. We’re flying over Aspen, I’m told. After i shut down my machine, I closed my eyes, and went crazy dizzy for about 5 more minutes, then my right ear popped. Let left me spinning to the left for another 5 minutes, when the other one popped with a loud squeak. Woo!. I felt awful for the next half hour, while trying hopelessly to just fall asleep.. until I eventually did. I woke up about 10 minutes ago… We’ve got a bit over an hour to go. Now you get to hear the story of getting here:

Rachel and I left my house Sunday evening (7:15ish) and drove out to my parents place. Rachel had worked the last few nights (11pm – 7 am) so she was tired and hungry, and slept much of the drive, while I finished up the last few chapters of The Bourne Identity on Audiobook. [I liked the movie a bit better, but it was quite good, and now I must start “Supremacy”] All was fine on the trip out, save for some rough rain that made seeing impossible for a bit… then I got a bit caught up in explaining guitar “bar chords” to Rachel, and somehow managed to not only miss the exit, but get stuck on the Toll road as well. So two exits and $.60 later, we were where we were supposed to be, and we made it to my parents’ place. We had Aurelios Pizza, played Cranium Cosmos, and just hung out for a while, finally going to bed after midnight.

Woke up at 3:20 AM, and had a quick breakfast, then my dad dropped us off at the “Bus to O’Hare” place (and also bought us Bus tickets.. thanks Dad!). A little over an hour later we were at the Airport. We got in the long line for United… so far so good. We got up front, and they’ve got those touch screens you use to get all your info. Rachel choose our stuff.. and it asked for a credit card/Driver’s License.. so she put in the credit card.. and it said it needed more information.. so we searched around, and found our confirmation number, and she put that in. It said that it wasn’t working, and we should get an assistant to help. There was no one around free to help us, so we started over again. This time after her credit card number, we choose to put in the date of our flight.. it gave us 3 options: Yesterday, Tomorrow, and the next day. WTF!? We started over again, and tried the Confirmation number again. Meanwhile, I started looking around for a person to help us out. A lady was nearby, but the person to our left got her first. Finally, when the machine didn’t take the Confirmation number again, the lady was free, and we got her attention. She asked what the problem was, and we explained. She asked when our flight was, and we said “6:20”. She said (Through smiles and a little laughter) That we were “one minute too late” and we couldn’t log on anymore. We said “No.. we’ve been here at least 10 minutes already.” And she sent us to someone who could “help us”. [handoff #1]

We got to the line for the “help lady” in time to hear a British man explain that he’d been trying to get his stuff to work for at least 10 minutes, and that it’s “unacceptable” that the machine thinks he’s now too late. The lady repeated the “too late” thing a bit, and the British guy asked for her superior. A man arrived… explained the “too late” thing, the Brit explained the “Go to Hell”, and eventually, the “help” guy said that he could get him on the plane, but he couldn’t check his luggage. That worked fine for the Brit, as he had just the carry on and a small case that they could take at the gate. Then the “help” guy turned to us. We explained that the exact same thing happened to us. The guy looked at our large suitcases, and said there was no way we could take those to the gate… and that we were too late. We explained that we were not too late, and that after at least 10 minutes, they said we were 1 minute too late… He seemed to doubt our story, and said that the machines had never done anything like that, in a “I know you’re lying, you little kids” kind of way. I responded that it would appear it had done so today… twice” in a “Seriously, Go to Hell” voice. He got behind the desk again, and said that all he could do was put us on the next flight. We asked when it was… “8:00”. What about our connecting flight in Denver? “No.. it’s a direct flight”. Okay… when does it land? “9:15” Score. That’s fine by us. It leaves later, but it arrives before we were going to arrive, and no layover in Denver. He said he’d get us “seats on the next flight”. Those were his words. We got our passes, pleased to know that he had “seats on the next flight.”

We went through the “Cedar Point in mid summer on a Saturday with nice weather and a new coaster just opened” size security line, and with one more small turn to go, a security person pulled us out for special security stuff, which really meant we got through a ton quicker.. which was nice. Rachel had knitting needles (the 9+ inch kind) in her bag [I thought she was joking at first] but they appeared to not be a problem (What a difference a few years makes)… and we were off to our gate.

We sat for a while, then decided to take a walk. On the walk back Rachel took a closer look at our boarding passes, and couldn’t find the seats. That’s when I noticed that they were “Standby”. So “seats on the next flight” has turned into “I’ll put you on a list.. we’ll see”. We are now angry. We rush back to the gate.. but there is no one on duty. It is around 7:10, and the flight was to leave at 8:00+, with supposed boarding at 7:30ish. We walk back to the United customer service line, and wait there for a bit. Eventually we get to talk to a dude. Rachel explains what went on up front, and the man confirms that we are on standby, and that there are currently 18 unclaimed seats, and 20 people on standby, so our chances seem “pretty good”. I then ask if there’s a chance we will not be on the plane, and he jabbers a quick bit, but pretty much says yes. I explain that the man up front did not say we might not be on a plane, he said we had seats. The guy says that it “looks pretty good” for us, and that we should wait to hear our name at the gate. We are now very angry.

We make it back to the gate, and there’s a lady at the desk. We approach her. I explain the situation, and that we were told that we were going to have seats on the next flight, and that that appears to not be the case. She explains that we’re on standby, and that there’s about 3 unclaimed seats and many, many people on standby. I (angrily) explain what the guy up front had told us, and she said starts talking about how were were late, and should have been there earlier. Then [in my mind] I leaped over the counter and ended her…right then and there. We explained that we were there on time, and it seems that we were lied to up front just to make us go away. I asked if she new who the supervisor up front was.. she did not.. she said there were many… and then suggested if I was upset I could go up there to find him… because going through security again and leaving this gate is exactly what makes sense now. I was not impressed with her at all. Rachel remained standing a few feet from her for the next while, and I sat down.

The plane was running late, and the lady announced first that there were many, many people on standby, so they shoudl wait for their name to be called if it was going to be called as the plane was sold out. She then announced that the plane was running late and would be arriving at a different gate.. so we all went over there. I walked with Rachel, and she let me know that another person showed up to work with the lady, and had remarked that there were a lot of standbys.. and the lady had responded “Yeah, I know, I’ve already been attacked.” ESaD. We walked to the new gate, and people began getting in line, and started boarding the plane. Rachel suggested a blog entry entitled “United gets the finger” [They do, by the way]. Then, some names get called. First one.. then two more. then a fourth. Then Rachel gets called! She goes up, and asks what about me? The lady said my name was next on the list. I said if I didn’t make it I could prolly run and meet up with her. So yeah.. my name is next on the list.. that’s good. The “3rd” group of people to be seated are called.. and that includes Rachel. The lady grabs the mic, and calls a different name.. stellar… we continue to wait.. and after a short bit, my name is indeed called.. and we grab our stuff, and get on the plane. “Woo”.

The movie on the plane was “Last Holiday” with [according to the flight attendant] “Queen La-TEE-ah” (No “Fah” for the queen this time, I guess). And that was the story of how we got to Vegas.