Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Geezer IX - Wrapping It Up

The Trip Home

Today we head for home and I have to admit, we are both ready.  We had a great time in Flagstaff and Las Vegas, but after being gone so much the last two and a half months, we are really looking forward to being home for a while.
As usual it took us a while to get up and packed so we didn’t get on the road until 10:30.  We made our usual stop at the Primm Outlets at the California border so we could shop at the Williams Sonoma Outlet store and have a rice bowl for lunch at the Lotus Express.

We had an audio book to listen to on the way home so the time passed quickly, but because of our late start and time spent shopping, we didn’t get home until around 7:30.  It felt good to be home, but there was still that let down feeling at the end of the trip.

Final Thoughts

There is nothing better than getting together with our old friends for our annual “Gathering of Geezers”.  It doesn’t matter where we go or what we do, we all just have a good time being together, catching up on our lives and of course being geezers, talking about our health.  For three of the last four years we have met in Wyoming or Idaho where fall comes early so we thought we would have warmer weather in Arizona – not quite, we got rain and cool temperatures.  It was actually warmer last year in Wyoming.  No matter though, we still had a great time and are already looking forward to next year, our tenth annual gathering.  We also had a good time in Las Vegas, not the best gambling, but that’s why they call it gambling.  Good food and good times made for a fun time.  All in all, it was another great trip (is there ever a bad trip?).

As I said before, we are planning on being home for a while.  We may take a short trip or two, but our next major trip will be next April when we travel to Hawaii with our good friends Doug, Ev, Cathy and Heather.  We have rented a house near Kona on the Big Island and will be spending 10 days enjoying Hawaii and our time together.  That’s all for now, so we'll see you on down the road.

Geezer IX - Las Vegas

We arrived in Las Vegas around 2:30 and as usual we are staying at Harrah's.  We have been getting suites on our last few visits to Las Vegas, but today we were disappointed to be given a standard room, I guess we are getting spoiled.

Harrah’s has just finished a major renovation so we were looking forward to the upgraded rooms, but were a little disappointed.  The room certainly looked better than it did before, but it was still small (I guess even renovation can’t make them bigger).  The disappointment came because although the room looked better, it really wasn’t upgraded to make it a more functional and comfortable room and we actually found a lot of things to be more inconvenient.  I won’t go into the details as everyone’s taste is different, but in future visits if we can’t get upgraded to a suite we will probably start staying at a different hotel.  We are not so spoiled that we need a suite, but the standard rooms at Harrah’s are very small even by hotel standards.

So enough about my room complaints ... we got settled in the room and went down to the casino to do a little gambling before dinner and didn’t do very well.  For dinner we ended up just getting sandwiches at the Fulton Street Food Hall and then finished the night in the casino.

I’m not going to bother with a day to day run down of what we did in Las Vegas, I’ll just hit the highlights and lowlights.  First, the lowlights (mostly mine); I had the worst gambling time of my life.  For us, gambling is entertainment and we really don’t expect to win much, but we do expect not lose our money too quickly, we like to get some play as we lose (the entertainment part).  That didn’t happen to me this trip, I lost and I lost quickly.  I am pretty conservative and bank enough so I don’t go home broke, but there was nothing to bank and I lost every cent of my gambling money.  Oh well, we still had a good time and the good thing is, I can’t do any worse in the future.

On the other hand, after a slow start, Val did quite well especially on our last day.  She really likes to play the various editions of the Buffalo slot machines and she seemed to hit jackpot after jackpot.  I was happy for her, but I’ll admit I was a little jealous too, but that’s the way it goes as we seldom ever do really well or really poorly at the same time.  She didn’t come home ahead, but she did come home with a good part of her gambling money, which is really enough for us.

All those buffalo means Val has just won $432.
Now for the highlights ... we have seen Love (the Cirque du Soleil show based on the songs of the Beatles) in Las Vegas three times already, but we decided to go again this trip.  It is at the Mirage which is right across Las Vegas Blvd. from Harrah's so after a short walk, we were in the theater and on our way to our seats.

This is the 10th anniversary of the show and they have made some major changes so we wanted to see the new version.  A lot of the elements of the show were the same, but it had definitely been changed.  I don’t remember it well enough to list everything that changed, but I did notice a few.  The staging and background videos had definitely changed, but the most striking and impressive change that I saw was the lighting.  Technology has changed in the last 10 years and that was very evident in the sophistication and complexity of the lighting; it was very, very good.  The other thing that Val and I noticed was that there seemed to be less acrobatics and more dancing than before.  Except for the lighting I can’t say that the show was better, but it was still really, really good and we had a great time and enjoyed ourselves very much.  We sat next to a lady who lives in Las Vegas and has seen most of the Cirque du Soleil shows in Las Vegas and I don’t think she really thought she would be impressed, but at the end of the show she enthusiastically said it was the best Cirque du Soleil she had seen.

We also ate really well on the trip so I’ll hit the highlights of that.  The night we saw Love, which is at the Mirage Hotel, we ate at the Border Grill next door to the Mirage in the Caesar’s Forum Shops.  We had eaten there for the first time on our last trip and liked it so we decided to go again and weren’t disappointed, it was very good.

We spent a lot of time in Linq Entertainment Promenade between the Linq and Flamingo Hotels and ate at several places there.  Since the Linq Promenade first opened, some businesses have closed and others have opened, but it seems to have stabilized and appears to be a very popular area.  Both day and evening there was always a lot of people strolling, eating and drinking, but especially in the evening.  I really like the area as there is a lot of variety in places to eat with many of the restaurants offering outdoor seating where you can watch the world go by.  We are not drinkers, but if you are there are also plenty of bars and pubs to hang out in.

We had eaten at the Yard House when the Linq Promenade first opened and went there for lunch again this trip.  The food and service are good so it is a good place to go for lunch; we have never been there for dinner.  For dinner we tried the Flour & Barley Brick Oven Pizza, which we really enjoyed.  It was a balmy evening and we sat outside and had a really good pizza, we definitely will go back.

The last place we ate in the Linq Promenade was Gordon Ramsay Fish & Chips, which was having a soft opening during our visit.  We were expecting some really good fish and chips, but to be honest, we weren’t very impressed.  It may be a matter of taste as we thought the fish was a bit mushy and the crust a little too crusty.  The reason I say it may be a matter of taste is after talking to one of the staff we found out they use Atlantic cod, which is evidently different than Pacific cod that we are used too.  I complained about the fish and chips we had in Canada and on the ship on our recent cruise in the North Atlantic so now I think I know why.  I "googled" it and it turns out that Atlantic cod are softer, but have a sweeter taste as opposed to a firmer, but more savory taste for Pacific cod, so as I said it may be just a matter of taste.  We will probably try it again and hopefully we will like it better.  Gordon Ramsay was going to be at the grand opening, which was the day we left so we didn’t get to attend, but it probably would have been too crowded for us anyway.

We also had a couple of desserts after our meals in the Linq Promenade.  Val is an ice cream lover so we both had a hot fudge sundae at the Ghirardelli Ice Cream and Chocolate Shop.  I’m not much of an ice cream eater, but I have to say it was really good.  The other place was Amorino Gelato, which was new since our last visit.  I didn’t order anything for myself, but I ended up sharing Val’s chocolate and coconut gelato with her.  It was very smooth and very good.

I saved the best for last, which was Gordon Ramsay Steak at the Paris Hotel.  We ate there for my birthday last year and had one of the best steaks we have ever had so we decided to go back and were not disappointed.  We started by splitting a Heirloom Tomato Salad, which was very good.  For our main course we both had the American rib cap waygu (kobe) steak that was amazingly tender and a seared crust that just tasted wonderful.  The sides are huge so unless you have a big appetite I would advise splitting them.  Val and I shared a baked potato (also very, very good) and an asparagus plate.  For dessert we shared a Sticky Toffee Pudding with brown butter ice cream, which was an amazing way to finish off our meal - very, very good.  By the end of our meal we were so full we couldn’t eat another bite, but wow, what a meal!  I’m not a big steak eater so I haven’t eaten at a lot of the better steak houses, but this is certainly the best I’ve had in my experience and not just for the steak alone, but for the whole meal from the bread at the beginning to the dessert at the end.  We will definitely be back.

As you can see I had a lot more to say about eating than gambling, which says a lot about how bad my gambling was, but also how much we enjoyed the food on this trip.  The weather was very moderate for Las Vegas so it was very pleasant outside.  This trip we spent 5 nights instead of our usual 4, and still didn’t have enough time to do everything we wanted to.  We definitely were ready to leave as Las Vegas can really tire you out (especially us old people), but we really enjoyed ourselves and had a great time.

Geezer IX - Route 66

This is not about Dave and Val's travels, but about Jack and Steph's.  After leaving Flagstaff they took Interstate 40 west until Ash Fork, Arizona where they got off the interstate and onto Route 66.  This stretch of Route 66 between Ash Fork and Topock, Arizona is the longest remaining stretch of this historic highway.

Here is a map of that stretch of Route 66 (marked in red).
After they got home, Jack sent me some great pictures he took along the way and since Route 66 was one of the themes of our Geezer Gathering this year I decided to add them to the blog.  So here is a sampling of the pictures Jack took as he and Steph explored this stretch of Historic Route 66.

Thanks so much for sharing your pictures Jack, they are great.  The next time we are on Interstate 40 and have the time, Val and I will definitely be taking this route.

Geezer IX - Departure Day

Jack and Steph were up early and Val and I soon followed suit as we didn’t want them to leave without saying goodbye.  It was a somber group eating breakfast and doing the final packing; the end of our Geezer Gathering is always a sad time.  Jack and Steph were soon ready to leave so we said our final goodbyes and Val and I watched them drive off.  These annual Geezer Gatherings are something we all look forward to and they seem to fly by too quickly.  The only consolation is that we can start looking forward to next year’s gathering, which will probably be in Montana.

Val and I will be spending a few days in Las Vegas before we go home so since it's less than a four hour drive, we took our time before leaving.  We did our final packing and it was finally time to hit the road; next stop Las Vegas.

Geezer IX - Geezer Day 6

Our last day in the geezer house – John and Greg will be leaving after lunch for the drive to Phoenix and their flight home, and Jack, Steph, Val and I will be leaving tomorrow morning.  This morning we awoke to beautiful blue skies, which was perfect as this morning was group photo time.  After everyone ate breakfast we put on our geezer t-shirts and Viking helmets and took pictures at several different spots around the outside of the house.  It’s a little tedious, but a lot of fun as we preserve our memories of this year’s geezer gathering.

Before our group photos, I took a few pictures of our house for the week.

The rear of the house.
We had a very nice back yard.
In honor of Val and my Voyage of the Viking cruise last summer, we all wore our Viking helmets.

The puzzle masters pose with their creation before it has to go back in the box.  It was a great puzzle that fit right in with the Flagstaff theme.

To soon it was time for lunch and we lingered for quite a while until it was time for Greg and John to leave.  It’s always a sad time when the first geezers leave and this year was no exception.  We said our goodbyes and watched them drive off.  It’s amazing how quiet the house seemed after they left.

After lunch we sat around the table for one last talk before it was time for John and Greg to leave.
With their Viking helmet in place, John and Greg leave for their drive to Phoenix and their flight home.
Jack and I decided to take a walk out to the railroad tracks again, but this time we went straight overland from the back of the house.  It was a nice walk through the forest and we arrived at the tracks just as a train passed by.  We decided to take the easy way back and took the road that passed by the front of the house.  This hike was less than two miles and much easier than our hike earlier this week.

Val and I have another week before we get home so we have been doing laundry today (mostly Val).  When that was finished we faced the inevitable – it was time to pack.  By the time we finished packing it was time for dinner so all the leftovers were set out and we grazed our way through as much as we could.  I didn’t think I was very hungry, but it was all so good I couldn’t help myself and ate more than I should including the last piece of “wacky cake”.

After getting the dinner things put away we sat around and talked for a while, but it was finally time for bed and we reluctantly called it a night.  Jack and Steph are going to follow old Route 66 home so they want to get an early start.  Val and I are going on to Las Vegas which isn’t too far so we will have a more leisurely morning.

Geezer IX - Geezer Day 5

There were clear skies this morning so after breakfast we were off to Sunset Crater and Wupatki National Monuments.  Steph decided she would rather stay home and enjoy the solitude so there were only five of us going.  Sunset Crater and Wupatki is less than an hour’s drive from Flagstaff so we were soon there.

There is a loop that runs through both areas so our first stop was Sunset Crater.  It is an area of ancient volcanic activity which left large lava fields and a crater.  We took a short hike through the lava fields and made a couple of other stops before heading on to Wupatki.  The weather continued to be beautiful with blue skies and scattered clouds, but we did see darkening skies to the west.

The lava fields of Sunset Crater.

We drive down and out of the mountains to Wupatki.
We moved on to Wupatki, which is an area of ancient pueblo ruins.  We stopped first at the visitor’s center and hiked out to the largest of the ruins.  It is a very interesting area and the ruins are quite extensive.  The area by the visitor’s center was probably home to about 150 inhabitants, but there were once over 40,000 living across the whole Wupatki area.  

After finishing at the visitor’s center, we headed off to another ruin called Wukoki where we spent some time exploring and taking pictures.  By the time we finished there it was getting past lunchtime so we decided we better start back and get something to eat.


Dark clouds are moving in.
There were a few more ruins to visit, but we skipped those and started back to Flagstaff.

As we left the park the cloud cover got heavier and heavier and soon we were going through some very heavy rain showersAt one point it must have hailed as it was piled up along the road and looked like snow.  Places to eat were far and few between, but we finally found a place to grab a hamburger and then drove on back to the house.

We thought maybe we could find something for lunch here, but after looking around, we decided to move on.
We arrived back at the house around 4:00 and the house smelled wonderful.  Steph was in charge of dinner tonight and was making pot roast, potatoes and vegetables, and biscuits.  After downloading our pictures it was time for dinner and we had another delicious meal, the pot roast was great.

Pot roast for dinner, delicious.
After dinner it was mostly talk, but things were a little somber as Greg and John were leaving tomorrow.  The week has gone by so quickly it’s hard to believe tomorrow is our last day together.  We are already talking about where we will go next year.