Vegas to Bangkok via SoCal

A week ago, Friday found us at the home of life long friends for a nice dinner of edmami, fried rice and assorted tunas caught and cooked by our host. Camaradarie of long time friends just can’t be beat. Dinner and enthusiastic conversation were followed by a drive to Mandalay Bay. Specifically to the House of Blues venue inside the strip property. We saw an artist I mentioned here or on one of the social media sites already. As will routinely be my custom, people, places and things I am not impressed by I will simply not name. The lack of mention will indicate to you its not worth your valuable time. The venue itself is totally worth it if there is a can’t miss artist playing when you are in this gaming town. (The fav in our repertoire is STP on the MGD blind date tour in 1999) In regards to this specific show, the consensus of our group was disappointment. Specifically by the guitar skill “showoff” we had anxiously awaited. Furthermore, any performance artist (including unexpected ones like the comedian who joined the main act this night on stage) can kiss my a** if they think I pay good money to hear their political rant. “No a**hole, I really wanted to see your magic when I paid this inflated ticket price!” All said, the five of us as old friends had a fun time even if a round of 5 cocktails set us back $88 pre-tip!

A leisurely day enjoying casino hotel amenities and perusing the sports book lines for the big game was the sum total of our agenda for Saturday daytime. In the evening, we once again met our friends for dinner. This venture out took us to the Monte Carlo area of the strip. We parked in the garage near the T-Mobile Arena and made our way to The Park Las Vegas. This is a beautiful new area. Upon rounding the corner to the restaurant my eyes fell on a beauty we had not seen since Burning Man 2010, there before us in all her glory stood Bliss Dance. We felt so lucky to stand in awe, once again, with this work of art before us. We gazed at her a second time from the balcony during the tour of the restaurant our friend built. Alas, we stood before her once more on our walk around the park following our dinner fun. She’s that entrancing, that perfect. If you have the chance, go see her in person not just via the link I included above! Our dining experience was like no other we had ever participated in before. Sake Rok. Wow. What an over the top Vegas style experience in every way! Food and entertainment, top notch, and the build which was done by our friend’s company was done in progressive style of Vegas now. A cool factor when on the balcony is the proximity to the clank of the cars on the rails and the screams of the riders on the roller coaster at next door New York New York. In all regards, we highly recommend including the experience in your schedule next time you are in the city. “Sake Rok, Sake Bomb!”

Sunday of course found us in the Southpoint Sports Book making the final decisions on the props that would keep us cheering all the way through the big game. The casino was alive with everyone’s anticipation of this 51st annual sporting spectacular. Big screens were added in the showroom, the grand ballroom and the exhibit pavilion to insure viewing pleasure for all. The game and half time shows most of you saw so we don’t have to review that here. Our largest wager was on the over. Phew, was that bet a nail biter! Near the end of the game, while sitting in the book (which we never left in case of an in running opportunity) I watched as security staff, in a surround formation, escorted the writers to their drawers at their positions in the book. It was almost “cartoonic“. Each with their own money bag, plump and round, I heard others in my midst wonder at the dollar amount they each contained. Little did I know we would later be standing in line when a robbery would occur! We literally were at the cashing window, that over bet ticket in the machine, when the whole place went into a surreal slow motion. A writer jumped the counter with a claim to “robbery in progress” when our eyes caught the blur of a person with gun in hand running to the back office area and back out again. A flurry of motion occurred while they closed the book and security personnel in hot pursuit ensued. Our ticket was back in hand, cashing was postponed. The book was closed until the following day…never a dull moment! After the excitement, we caught our breath and decided to tackle our hunger in a big way, we had only snacked from the deli during the game. Primarily Prime Rib was our satiation of choice. The food in this hotel proved it’s worth every spot we visited.

Monday found us “chilaxin” and cashing those tickets. Partaking of the happy hour at Zenshin attracted us for the second time during our visit as did the late night specials at Coronado Cafe. We checked out Tuesday at noon to meet our friends for lunch at Yard House at Town Square Mall before hitting the dusty trail to SoCal. Farewell to Vegas, a favorite place to return time and time again.

Our afternoon desert drive to SoCal could have been simply the I-15 corridor but variety being the spice of life we took the road less traveled. Exiting I-15 at Nipton Road (which kind of looks like something from a scary movie), we entered unknown territory at the turn on to Ivanpah Morning Star Mine Road and traveled through the heart of the Mojave National Refuge. This path allowed us to view the Kelso Sand Dunes and to veer off on the National Trails Highway, through Twenty Nine Palms and into California. If desert rocks, plant life, beautiful skies and exotic sunsets like only the expansiveness of the desert can provide enthrall you, indulge yourself in this drive sometime. It filled my soul with my love of the desert. This piece of our trip has brought me to a mantra of “palm trees not pine trees!” We stayed in Temecula, hearing it’s Old Town was worthwhile, maybe someday but it was just a quick overnight stay on this journey.

The canyon was vibrant green and dotted with oranges and yellows from the wild flowers in bloom. The signs of pouring rain were reflected in the reddish soils of the hillsides. Wednesday we made our way to San Diego. This time not to bask in the beauty of this city but specifically to visit a friend at Scripps who has taught us once again how lucky we are in life. I ask that as you read this dear blog devotee that you please will him some strength. His climb to recovery is still, after a full year of hospitalization, a very mountainous one. “We love you Cisco, you can do this.” Following the PCH and watching the fog loom over the sea we made our way to Long Beach. The destination was the home of the baby sitter for our truck, a long time friend of our sons, one of “the boys”. We Ubered to our hotel near LAX hoping the bags I had packed marked Thailand really contained our needs for this long journey. We slept and then spent the day with a good coffee and a 5 mile round trip walk to the post office, which took us coincidentally back to the beach. Foggy and breezy but calming at Playa Del Ray. We grabbed some lunch at a quirky joint, The Shack, quintessentially a beach dive. Great bloody mary’s, salads, music and conversation. On the walk back we spotted the coming of the full moon pictured here. A moon to guide us on our way yet keep us connected. The flight leaves at 2:30 pm. You ready? Let’s do this! Southeast Asia here we come.

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