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A Hell of a Place to Be Stuck

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Lingerie and Football Make a Good Combination

Whoever thought of putting attractive women in lingerie on a football field is a genius.  It’s as good a combination as peanut butter and jelly, chicken wings and buffalo sauce, and sky diving and wearing a parachute.  And the Lingerie Football League is no powder puff game.  These women came to compete and to hit.  There wasn’t a single time in the game that I saw any fear even though all they were wearing for protection was small shoulder pads and a helmet.

Anytime lingerie football is brought up the first time to anyone, there seems to be an instant fascination  with it and an interesting discussion follows.  And it was no exception when one of my co-workers discovered it and brought it up in the office.  By the end of the conversation several of us had already made plans to go to the game between the Las Vegas Sin and the Green Bay Chill.  So when Debi and I got to the Orleans Arena we weren’t sure what to anticipate but we were looking forward to finding out.

The show before and during the game was similar to what you would find at any professional sporting event.  The ususal dance music to energize the crowd, the darkened arena and bright colored lights during player introductions, the usual consumption of beer, and an even higher level of testosterone in the stands.  While the crowd wasn’t large, probably not even a couple of thousand, the ones that were there were intense.

It only took the opening kickoff to realize they weren’t messing around, as the runner was thrown around and slammed to the turf.  For the next hour and a half it was women running full speed into one another, knocking each other on their asses, and sometimes kicking them after they had knocked them on thier asses.  As a pass that was intercepted by a Las Vegas defender was being run down the field, a fight broke out at the other end  with fists flying that would have excited a hockey fan.  But it wasn’t only the beauty and brutality that entertained.  There was also a level of skill that I hadn’t expected.  The quarterback for the home team repeatedly flung the ball half way down the field to recievers that made impressive catches.  She finished the game having thrown for five touchdowns and the Sin easily won 30-0 for an undefeated season and setting up a playoff matchup in their next game against the Los Angeles Temptation.

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Courtyard by Marriott-North Phoenix

For our weekend in Phoenix, we stayed at the Courtyard by Marriott at 9631 N. Black Canyon Highway just off of the I-17, only about 10 minutes north of downtown Phoenix.  This was the first time that we had ever stayed a a Courtyard, and it was a nice experience.  Courtyard’s tend to cater to the business traveler, so a stay over the weekend was a quite time to stay.  While we would not have any use for them, there are a couple of meeting rooms that can accommodate up to 25 people.  Also because it is predominantly for business, there are other amenities that a business traveler needs.  Just off of the lobby, there are two public computers to access the Internet.  But also, in each room there a hookup for free Internet access if you have a laptop with you.  I enjoyed the fact that this was free because it seems so many hotels now have a charge for in-room Internet service.  

The rooms are good size.  The room that we stayed in was on the ground floor with a view to the outside.  It had a king size bed, a couch and coffee table along with a desk for the Internet hookup and limited table top space for working.  They one thing that was missing from the room that I am used to having and would have been convenient was a small refrigerator or a microwave.  We had eaten out for dinner and had brought back leftovers and had nowhere to keep them, although some rooms other than the basic do have these.  There was the standard cable package and a medium sized flat screen TV.  There were high definition local channels and some cable in hi-def, such as ESPN, but most cable stations were in standard definition.  One thing that I always like to have in an hotel room is a nice bed.  The bed was very comfortable and I was very pleased with it.  There was a sliding door that had access outside to the parking lot, but all of the rooms on the inside look out onto the pool and each room either had a patio, or on the upper two floors a balcony.

There are other amenities at the property that I did not use, but would under different circumstances.  There is a small fitness room with two treadmills, an elliptical machine, and some free weights.  There is a pool that in other times of the year would be very nice to have access to.  The amenities that we did utilize was the lounge are just off of the lobby.  There is a gas fire place that adds a nice touch to the atmosphere, and a large screen TV.  The weekend we were there, the NFL playoffs were on and since since Marriott is an official sponsor of the NFL they were promoting it by having fresh popped popcorn and the desk clerks were wearing jerseys.  The other nice feature that we did use was the hot tub.  It had been a cool, overcast day with a light rain in the afternoon, and the sauna in an open sided but covered room was a nice way to end the evening.

The one thing missing that I have grown accustomed to in my travels is a free continental breakfast.  There was a hot breakfast bar that was available for an additional charge that did look and smell appealing, but for the same price or less you could get a similar meal at any restaurant,  including one right next door.  The convenience of only having to go to the lobby for breakfast would be attractive for a business traveler that would be able to charge it on the company’s  account.  For the average personal traveler there are better alternatives.

It was a very nice weekend stay.  It was very clean, the staff was friendly if not extraordinary, and provided a comfortable feel and stay.  I am sure it is similar to most Courtyard by Marriott’s anywhere and a place that I would stay again.  In fact, we already have plans to return to Phoenix in February and plan on staying at the same location again.

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I Would Sell Myself Out for Chicken and Dumplings

Have I ever said before how bored I am with driving through the Mojave desert?  Just in case I haven’t, let me say it now.  I am completely bored with driving through the Mojave desert.  After living in Las Vegas for nearly a decade, I have become too familiar with the landscape and have lost all interest in seeing it pass by at 75 MPH.  And from the gutted out houses and trailers that were once someones home dotting the side of the highway, I am not the only one that feels this way.  The time creeps past as the distant mountain ranges appear to never get closer and the view after a half hour of drivings seems to be exactly the same.  The desert is harsh, it is monotonous.  I am ready for the drive to be over.  Fortunately I am traveling with Debi. Her company makes what would be an intolerable drive bearable.  Being with her makes all the difference, and when she suggested we stop in Kingman to eat at the Cracker Barrel, I was completely in agreement with her.  She knows how much I enjoy eating at Cracker Barrel.  

Most times I don’t like eating at chain restaurants, especially when we are traveling.  The good thing about chain restaurants is you normally know exactly what to expect.  The bad thing is you normally know you can expect something completely unexceptional.  The same crap they served you when you stopped will be exactly the same crap they serve you in Kentuchy when you stop in Missouri.  It will be the same tasting, same looking, served in and identical looking dining room, same completely ordinary experience.  Corporate homogenization at its best. Now after that complaining, there are sometimes I don’t mind a corporately homogenized experience.  And I don’t mind making an exception for Cracker Barrel occasionally.

 For me there is something about Cracker Barrel.  I think it is nostalgia, a sense of familiarity.  I was raised on southern cooking.  I don’t know of any other restaurant that we can go to and I can order chicken and dumplings, with corn, green beans, and fried okra.  It feels like home.  It feels like my Mom’s cooking.  And while their dumplings can’t compare to my Mom’s, it is still the closest that I come without making the trip all the way back home to Indiana.  The portions are always huge, and as always I leave having eaten way too much, but feeling satisfied and content.  My soul be be a little more empty for giving in to a packaged corporate giant, but my stomach is full.

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Snow Shoeing is Best Done Without a Hangover

Winter is not a time for hibernation.  Not for us.  Instead, it is a time to get outside and take advantage of the cold and the snow.  For Las Vegans the place to do this is the Spring Mountains which are a mountain oasis jutting up like an island out of the sea of the Mojave.  This island-like environment, isolated much like the Galapagos in the Pacific, creates a unique home for several species of plants and animals, such as the Palmer’s chipmunk, that can be found nowhere else except here.  But more importantly, at least to me, this distinct geography means that those of us living in the valley can have the temperature soar to over 110 in the summer and in the winter drive a little over a half hour from our home and be skiing, snowboarding, sledding, or snow shoeing.  This is why Debi and I had decided to spend the weekend at the Resort on Mt. Charleston.

That night we stayed at the resort and it had proven I am getting to old to party like that.  When the morning came I woke up feeling as if I were in a fraternity again.  That all to familiar feeling of a nasty hangover.  The pounding head.  The weak stomach.  The desire  to pull the covers over my head and spend the day sleeping it off.  But we had plans to go snow shoeing that afternoon and we weren’t going to miss out on it.  So after sleeping as late as we could I pulled back the curtain and coiled back like a vampire being exposed to the morning sun.   After taking a few minutes to adjust to being in the world of the living again, we made our way downstairs to the hotel restaurant, A Cut Above.

Our table was  next to a large window looked out onto the snow-covered mountain side.  After the caffeine from the coffee started to kick in, I began to appreciate the view we had from our seats.  I ordered the appropriately named Whole Mountain Skillet which did resemble a mountain of eggs, bacon, sausage, peppers and some other items I’m sure I have forgotten jumbled all together and piled over a layer of potatoes.  It was way too much food for a morning after drinking, but breakfast was included in the package deal we had, and hell if I wasn’t going to get my money’s worth.  After breakfast, we checked out of the resort and  made the short drive to the Lee Canyon side of the mountain.  As soon as we walked outside the cool mountain air started to revive me and bring me back to life.  It was turning into a nice way to start a day of recovering from our excesses.  When we got to the Lee Canyon side, the road was lined with parked cars.  This is a great escape for locals and there were plenty of people who had the same idea as us and were taking advantage of a nice Saturday afternoon.

Debi had been snow shoeing once before, but for me I was a snow shoeing virgin.  Since we were both just beginners we thought we would take one of the free hikes offered by the Park Service that are guided by a ranger.  They even provided the snow shoes. They were not the kind that look likde giant tennis rackets strapped to your feet.  They are modern, aluminum, light weight, and surprisingly easy to adjust to walking in. 

Despite the fact it had not been a good year for snowfall, but there was still enough for hiking at the meeting site at the Bristlecone Trailhead since it is at over 8,000 feet in elevation.  It didn’t take long trekking through the snow to realize this wasn’t going to be easy hung over.  We both agreed that next time we would snow shoe and then party that night instead of the other way around.  Another thing that quickly became apparent was how this could be very enjoyable.  Despite the fact we were with a group of strangers hiking alongside an empty campground and not back country camping, it was still new and intriguing to me.  In the distance there was the distinct cracking and popping of a campfire and the smell of smoke mixing with the aroma of burgers cooking over an open flame.  Pushing further up the hill, we left the campground and quickly became isolated in the forest.  Here the smells and sounds changed.  The silence was only broken by the crunching of the snow as it packed down beneath our shoes and the puffing as we tried to catch our breath after only moderate exertion.  The combination of elevation, a life time of neglecting my physical conditioning, and a lingering hangover made it difficult.  We stopped to catch our breath and the only sound remaining was the cold wind blowing through the pines as the bright greens trees slowly danced back and forth in against the blue skies.  The clean air and the bright sunshine turned the sky a deep blue not seen in the city.  I could really get into this.  With the quickly setting winter sun and the shadows growing longer, it was time for us to end our hike and head back down the hill.

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Who Knew? They Can Party on the Mountain

While millions of people every year are magnetically drawn to Las Vegas by the bright lights and excitement, many of us who live here just want to escape it.  One of our escapes, one of the places tourists neglect, is the Spring Mountains.  Or as the locals here simply call it, Mt. Charleston.  The mountain is the perfect getaway for a day, or a romantic weekend for couples.  It is a place you can go to find quiet.  And quiet is what we thought was in store for us when we had made our plans to spend a night at the Resort on Mt. Charleston.  We were wrong.  Way wrong.

On Friday in the late afternoon with the sun already slipping behind the mountains, we left for the half hour trip from northwest Las Vegas up Kyle Canyon to the resort.  Although the drive is not a long one, it is one of contrasts.  The valley is pure Mojave desert and the first part of the trip is through a landscape of sand and creosote bush with very little else growing. But as you make the turn onto state highway 157 and start the climb up the canyon towards the village of Mt. Charleston, the scenery changes as the elevation climbs.  After only a few minutes, Joshua trees begin appearing, and they eventually give way to pinon and pine trees as we entered the Humboldt-Tiayobe National Forest.  Nearly 5000 feet higher than the valley below, the change in temperature is immediately noticeable.  The chill in the air and the snow on the ground let us know we had arrived.

A Cut Above, the restaurant at the Resort on Mt. Charleston, is another reason for us to stay at the resort.  It is fine dining and the perfect way to start off a romantic weekend.  The dining room is quiet and is on a rounded corner of the building with windows all along that are lined by the tables.  With the early sunsets of winter it was dark out by the time we arrived and could not see outside at dinner. However, it did provide a beautiful view at breakfast the next day. The service was very good, the food even better, and my company was the best.  

After dinner we were out front of the resort when a tour bus pulled up.  When the first person off the bus said “I’m drunk” to no one in particular, we knew that the mood of the night was about to change.  Later when we can back downstairs from our room to go to the bar next to the lobby, the group had already started to arrive.  As we started talking to them, we found out they work together and they were in Las Vegas for a convention and the company they work for had sent them up here for a retreat.  They were ready for a good time.  It’s a small bar just off of the lobby that has a few machines for gambling, a pool table, a juke box, few tables, and not much room.  At first when we arrived at the resort we had worried we would be the ones that were rowdy for the resort, but those worries quickly vanished when the glass of wine was spilled on the pool table.  It wasn’t much longer until the pool table became a dance floor as women took turns showing their skills, then the chandelier was swinging, and later somehow someone’s belt was hanging on the Christmas tree.  Who knew hanging out with tourists could be that much fun.  It was like going to a company Christmas party without that awkward moment the next time at work wondering what you did in front of you co-workers in that drunken haze.  All we had to do was stumble upstairs to our room knowing we would never meet any of them again.

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A New Year, Some New Thoughts

This past year saw some difficult times for us, but also left many wonderful memories.  I’m sure that 2012 will bring it’s own challenges.  Some of these are known, but like always most are unseen.  But New Year’s Day is about optimism for the future.  It is about potential.  It is a blank page with an unlimited possibility of stories to be written. And looking ahead Debi and I have a lot planned for the New Year.  We have a lot of writing to do to fill those blank pages. 

Some plans that we have made are already definite.  Next weekend we will be heading up the mountain for a stay at the resort to go snow shoeing.  The weekend after that we are leaving for Phoenix.  And the dates aren’t set yet but we are going to Costa Rica, our first trip to Central America.  I am certain that we will be making several return trips back home to Salt Lake City and Indianapolis.  Other trips we have talked about making include West Palm Beach for spring break, an Alaskan adventure for what is expected to be the best season for the Northern Lights in 50 years, and many weekend drives and side trips. This doesn’t even take into consideration we live in Las Vegas with the seemingly endless entertainment opportunities.

Or will this year be time for a once in a lifetime trip.  Maybe a visit to Myanmar. A nation still ruled by a military regime but who’s cold relationships with other nations are thawing, and tourism is now legal and visitors can enter.  Or will this year bring our first trip to set foot in Africa or South America.  It truly is a blank page waiting to be written and we are looking forward to writing this adventure.

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A Life of Adventure

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