Life is Better With Plans, Right?

My first meme!!!

It’s been a while since I blogged and to my six fans out there, I apologize.

However.

I have a plan.

I’ve spent the last six months working on my novel, Yager’s War, a historical mystery set in 1940s Holland (about a Chicago detective who must find his missing sister before the Germans invade) and that has distracted me somewhat from sitting down and ramble-writing. AKA blogging.

All fair and fine.

But I’m back, baby.

Time to restart blogging, again. But time to kick it up a notch.

So this month, I’m going to look at revamping the website (which means an old dog like me will have to learn some new tricks.)

I’m going to look at changing up the content of the blog.

I’m going to try and make it a billion times better.

And maybe attract one more reader (see, proper goal setting is about making the bar so low that you’ll easily vault over it and not twist a metaphorical ankle.)

So put down that video game, pause season 5 of Homeland on Netflix, put supper back in the oven or move date night to tomorrow.

Cuz I may need your help.

What would you like to see in the blog?

I’m thinking some funny memes. Some advice from people who know what they’re talking about (and not, you know, me). A few guest blogs. Less selfies of me trying to look like Brad Pitt going insane.

Inner Harbour, Victoria, BC.

But first up, our trip to Victoria.

This year, we won’t be able to manage a proper vacation. You know, pack 20 bags, yell at the kids to hurry up, to stay together, to stop picking your nose in public, then spend 2 weeks somewhere that only I want to see (“What’s the deal with this Grand Canyon thing, Joe?” “Hello! It’s grand! And a canyon!”) and engage in Bataan death marches around exotic locals to see things we’ve never seen before (“Wait, Joe, I’ve seen the Eifel Tower on TV, so why do we need to see it in person?”)

Don’t get me wrong, next year, we are totally doing those things, but not this year.

This year, it’s short trips. Hit and run vacations. 2 days here. 2 days there. No planes. No borders. No strip searches (sadly – Apparently, they’re supposed to be done by professionals, not me.)

So this year, we’re going to try to do more things by… ack, I can’t even say it…by… by the seat of our pants.

Without a plan.

Without.

A.

Plan.

Grand Pacific in Victoria, BC.

Well, that’s not entirely true.

We’ve got a bit of a plan.We’ve booked a hotel (the fancy–smancy Grand Pacific) and we have arranged to visit family, but nothing like, 7am, breakfast, 7:35 go to bathroom, 7:50, get into car, 8:30 (have you ever tried to get kids into a car quickly???), head off to see something, 9:00 see something and take lots of pictures of it. 9:10 yell at kids for complaining there’s no wifi. 9:40 head off to see something else that may or may not be cool…. Etc, etc.

Nope. We’re trying to be more flexible (and by ‘we’, I mean, ME.) It’s me growing as a human being while devolving as one at the same time.

Friday night, we’ll take the ferry and sort out what to do when we get there. Saturday, brunch with family, then, THEN, sort out what to do afterward, then the evening, see fireworks, but make no plans where to see them from or what food to eat or ….

Wait, I need a moment.

Ok, hyperventilating over.

Then, Sunday, totally playing it by ear. Maybe see a friend. Maybe look around town. Maybe relax in the pool.

At the very least, it could be interesting.

Likely, I’ll be drinking more than usual.

At least, that’s the plan.

And hey, thanks to all my readers who followed me. I hope you’ll return, make a few comments below or on Facebook, and help me create a better blog. Text me, email me, respond in the comment section. Let me know what you think.

10 Best Moments For Me On the Vegas/Grand Canyon Trip

The Venetian sky. Real or not real?
The Venetian sky. Real or not real?

There were a lot of great moments on this trip. Big moments. Small moments. Funny moments. But here a few I might not have mentioned (or in desperate need of re-mentioning.)

  1. Debating with The-Youngest whether or not the sky in the Venetian Hotel was real. He said, no and cited these facts: The Venetian sky was blue, but when we came in, it was night outside. None of the clouds moved. There were no birds in the sky. He could see where the paint had chipped off. He pointed to an access panel in the ‘sky’, like one Truman had seen in the Truman Show. I told him if he hadn’t seen that show, he’d be fine with the sky. Thank you very much, Jim Carey.

  2. Watching The-Oldest follow the piano player’s every move at the Venetian. In later years, he might watch a stripper with such fascination or AI robots controlled by Skynet, but for that moment, that pianist was his world. That we actually found the musician in what I will now describe as ‘an epic quest’ was also a great memory, and I was so happy we could do something cool for The-Oldest who seemed always to be doing stuff other people wanted to do.

  3. Wearing those silly balloon hats in Senor Frogs. Now, this may not be a cool moment for everyone, but I tend to be too serious sometimes or too concerned about what other people think, but on that night, I proudly wore my balloons and didn’t care what anyone thought. PS, I was also a little drunk.

  4. The 1001 faces of The-Oldest. Outside of the Bellagio
    The 1001 faces of The-Oldest. Outside of the Bellagio

    Having The-Oldest vow to pull a different face for every picture we took of him. He pretty much succeeded, though I think we caught him genuinely smiling, once.


  5. Becoming an honorary Avenger. Or a member of the Scientific Training and Tactical Intelligence Operative Network. (Don’t judge me.) I know I wrote a whole blog about this, but whatever, it was totally fun, and I’d do it, again. Only next time, I might wear my Captain American pajamas.

  6. Pictures never do the Grand Canyon justice
    Grand Canyon almost defies description

    Seeing the Grand Canyon, again. For all the lights of Vegas, for all the concrete used to make the Hoover Dam, looking upon such a great natural wonder should be on everyone’s bucket list.


  7. Getting the nerve up to take a picture of the bikers in Flagstaff. Sure they were French, and with their girlfriends, but had that gone wrong, I would have found out how good the trauma care is in the States or hoped that at least someone would get time for beating me to death.

  8. Watching The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World laugh and play with her children. Her love for them is beyond measure, and the happiness they bring her is beyond value.

  9. I  kind-of actually understood the Cirque du Soleil – Beatles show. I mean, who really understands these things? But I got closer than I ever did before. Plus, the show made me cry. I can’t explain why it would, but something in the way they moved…

  10. You can even find a bit of Paris in Veags.
    You can even find a bit of Paris in Vegas.

    The last walk on the last day. Night time. Full-on Vegas. I loved the smells, the sounds, the sights, the crowds, the energy, the colors, the odd-ball loonies… everything. That was my Vegas. Wild Vegas. Untamed. Sure the kids may be in therapy for years over that short walk from the Bellagio Fountains to the Venetian, but listening to the street preacher preach about sin or pushing our way through a mob of Hangover doubles is something you just can’t experience in Vancouver.

 

 

Oh, you know what, there’s really 11.

The last highlight was getting to spend so much time with the boyz and The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World. Seeing Vegas, alone, had no great appeal for me. Ditto with the Grand Canyon. Or the Hoover Dam.

Experiencing it with them, though… priceless.

I am one lucky SOB.

******

And that concludes our epic adventure down south. But wait, isn’t there a wedding coming up?

I may have a few things to say about that.

Top 10 Things To Do In Vegas With Kids

This is for you, Joe. The Avengers. Don't pretend otherwise
This is for you, Joe. The Avengers. Don’t pretend otherwise

Ok, the long awaited list is here. Is Vegas kid-friendly? Are there things to do with kids in Vegas?

The answer to the last question is, yes.

  1.  The Avengers Tour – ok this one may be recommended just because I’m a complete Nerd and super Avengers fan, but it’s tons of Hulkie fun. If you like reading or listening to audio tours. And I do. Or if you want a chance to lift Thor’s hammer or see all of Ironman’s suits, then this is for you. I had a blast here.

  2. NY, NY for lunch or supper. I love the Village Street Eateries. Great place for burgers or pizzas, and for the adults, a fantastic faux-street with shops and restaurants.

  3. So much to see and buy in the candy stores besides, you know, actual candy
    So much to see and buy in the candy stores besides, you know, actual candy

    Hersheys Chocolate Store – First of all… chocolate!!! Second of all, they don’t even call it a store. They call it Hershey’s Chocolate WORLD! But, hey, it’s a store full of chocolate and, like the world, it’s free to get into. It can be a lot of fun looking at all the variations of chocolate bars or candy you can buy, and searching for that perfect peanut butter cup cup or Hershey Kiss pillow.


  4. Coke Store and M&Ms store – Not that they’re the same, but they’re right beside each other. 3 stores of products that relate to products. Coke glasses. M&Ms candy dispensing machines. Coke shirts or stuffed Coke Polar bears. M&Ms licence plates and key chains. All the vital stuff every person needs.

  5. The Adventure Dome –Ok, it’s not Disneyland or even Legoland, but for the price, it’s a great way to spend an afternoon or the whole day.  It’s $32 US per person and that allows you to stay all day. All day. Think of it like a carnival come to town. But if you want to save a bit of money, have one parent sit out the rides and video the experiences.

  6. The fountains at the Bellagio
    The fountains at the Bellagio

    Fountains at Bellagio – It’s free. It’s fantastic. And it’s in the middle of the strip, so it’s easy to get to, either by walking or by taking a bus or cab. Watching the fountains spray and pulse and wave to music is simply magical.


  7. The Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay – Not the cheapest thing out there, about $22 a person, but you can make of it what you want. You can touch slimy things. You can see real life piranha. And you can spend as much time as you want either staring at a croc or watching the sharks glide over you, under you or around you. It’s more of a zen thing, really. Like watching waves come in. Or golf.

  8. See something Cirque – We went and saw The Beatles – Love and the boys loved it. the Michael Jackson show might be another good choice. But take a look at seeing at least one. If you’re cash-strapped, look for the least popular and get last minute tickets for a show like a cirque du soleil – the holocaust.

  9. The High Roller – A great party place, too, but the boys loved going high above Vegas and seeing it all. It’s a slow ride and anyone with a fear of heights or problems with movement needn’t worry, it’s the most stable, safe ride out there. Again, it’s not super cheap, but it’s one of those neat experiences that will be remembered. Especially if you take lots and lots of pictures.

  10. Get out of Vegas – Lots of fantastic tours to the Grand Canyon or Hoover Dam, or be like us, and rent a car. The surrounding area is gorgeous and bleak, but so worth seeing. And that Grand Canyon, wow, it’s still one of the most impressive things you’ll see in your life. Nature kicks ass, folks, yes she does. It really shouldn’t be missed.
Sometimes just being with your family is fun. No matter where.
Sometimes just being with your family is fun. No matter where.

But hey, being anywhere with your family should be kinda fun. Even a mall.

Because that’s what makes vacations fun.

Not the glittering lights or walls of M&Ms, but the time spent with friends or family, simply doing ‘stuff’ together. Sharing experiences. Creating memories. Holding hands.

Those are the best moments on a trip.

Or in life.

 

Things we did not do, but seem kinda cool…

Madame Tussaud’s

CSI Experience

Gondola ride at the Venetian, but man, that’s an expensive 15 minute ride.

or check out these sites… 39 things to do. 23 things to do.

10 Things I Would Do Differently (Vegas and Grand Canyon Edition)

As with any trip, the real goal is not to see new places, have fun or expand your mind with amazing experiences. No, it’s to come home and analyze what happened and make plans to improve the next outing.

  1. How cool we looked just leaving the Treasure Island Hotel. Not sweaty, yet.
    Day time and night time are completely different experiences in Vegas

    Never, ever bring kids to Vegas. Ha, just kidding. But if you want to go to see the fountains at Bellagio or visit Fremont Street at night, then cab it. Avoid the massive crowds which can be full of scary people, stupid ass drunks and Chewbaccas. As much as I enjoyed those things, it’s simply not a good idea for anyone with kids.


  2. Think twice about believing the kids will enjoy looking at the stunning architecture in many of the hotels. It’s like dragging a dog into the vets to get its shots. I mean, I get it, no one’s going to be blown away by the inside of Treasure Island, but I was surprised they didn’t much care for the interior of Mandalay Bay, NY, NY, or even the Venetian. The Venetian!!! Venice. Italy at its faux-finest! Sigh. *cancels next year’s trip to Europe*.

  3. In Vegas, bring water. Same for the Grand Canyon. Buy it in a cheap grocery store. Stock up. It’s ok. But that heat will take it out of you in a big way.

  4. Try Uber. We didn’t, but I wish we had. On the other hand, no one drove us to a warehouse and dismembered us with chainsaws, either.

  5. Or eat at a Dunkin Donuts, you just never know who'll check you out
    Or eat at a Dunkin Donuts, you just never know who’ll check you out

    Find cheaper ways to eat. We found that if you ate from the concession store, you saved about $100 for breakfast. (We bought cereal and milk there.) There are cheap places to eat, like Denny’s or even McDs, but you have to get out of most hotels to find them. Sure, they may not have gourmet food, but I tell ya, what’s going to make you sicker, a grand slam breakfast or paying $150 for 4 for pancakes in a hotel restaurant?


  6. Bring headache pain meds. Double check that you have them. Triple check. Cuz, if you have to go looking for them while you have a blinding migraine… yeah, no fun at all. Also, bring something for upset stomachs. Those meds are easy to find in Vegas when someone eats too many Jolly Ranchers. Oh, hell, with kids, just remember to pack the medicine cabinet.

  7. Wash your hands a lot. Bring wipies or that disinfecting gel, especially when you have someone who either touches everything in sight or puts his fingers in his eyes a lot.(Can you guess which one  applies to me and which one applies to The-Youngest?)

  8. Talk to people more. By and large, Americans are very friendly people and some of the best times we had were when we chatted with people in line or in a cab or while eating at Denny’s. This is really a ‘me’ thing since The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World actually loves to chat with people. It’s me and my grumpy demeanor and toxic glares. But next vacation, I’ll try to be more outgoing. “You’d love to chat with me about a time share? Well, wow, lead the way my good man.”

  9. Remember that when The-Oldest says he’d kinda, maybe, you know, almost like to do ‘something’, but it’s not important, then he’s actually saying, hey, it is totally important and would make a great experience for him. Sometimes I think we need a universal translator not for Chinese to English, but for teenagese to parent.

  10. Traveling without a rigid, confining schedule does not, in fact, kill me. “Playing it by ear” can work, even if it makes my eye twitch. A lot.
Pictures never do the Grand Canyon justice
Pictures never do the Grand Canyon justice

However, this time around, I am proud to announce we did learn from past excursions. We knew doing stuff with kids takes longer. We knew to pack extras of pretty much everything since things go missing, accidents happen or things get spilled on other things. We had stuff for them to do on long journeys. We made sure to include them in the planning process (though The-Youngest’s list of 100 things he HAD to do made us think we may have to keep him to a top 10 list.) We took time to take lots of pictures. And we tried our best to make sure EVERYONE had a good time (like The-Youngest in the Hershey store, me at the Hoover Dam, The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World in the fashion mall, and The-Oldest listening to a piano virtuoso.)

I can’t wait for our next trip.

Can you guess where?

 

 

Top 10 Quotes From the Vegas Trip

Is he being thoughtful or thinking up something funny?
Is he being thoughtful or thinking up something funny?

So, our trip is done, the boyz are back in school, and it’s time for a recap of our trip to Vegas. And what better way than the 1st of 4 top 10 lists.

 

Top 10 Quotes From The-Oldest

  1. “I am providing the laugh track.” After he laughed, and I commented that he doesn’t often laugh at a lot of my super funny jokes.

  2. “The smell just comes at my face.” It was the smell of Vegas after the rains came. A wet, kind of sulphuric, moldy smell.

  3. “He’s the Beeth.” Now this means, ‘he’s the best.’ ‘The most amazing.’ It comes from his favourite composer, Beethoven. I have no idea how it got morphed into ‘beeth.”

  4. “Coffee tastes like black.” Yes, yes it does.

  5. His new word of the trip – “Danger noodles.” For snakes. I think this one will catch on.

  6. The Grand Canyon “has been touched more by cameras than by humans.” Wow, I mean, wow. That’s actually deep.

  7. “Girls? What girls? There were girls? Looking at me? What? Where? When? What?” After I told him about the incident in Dunkin Donuts where 2 girls checked him out.

  8. luigi-and-marioEvery morning in our hotel room, he’d write a quote on the foggy bathroom mirror to his brother. My favourite… “Will you become Luigi?” It meant, will his brother get taller than him. See, ‘cuz Luigi, from Mario Brothers, is taller than his older brother. Yeah, I didn’t get it until he explained it to me.

  9. “I am funny. I had meat.” After I told him he was on fire one night for all the funnyisms.

  10. Then the words that may define him. “I’ve found my passion, Joe. Music. It’s what’s in me.” How cool is that? It brought manly tears to my eyes.

I know there were more, but being old and forgetting things, these were the best that I could recall. When did he become such a funny guy? A deep thinker? Or has it always been that way and he’s just becoming more comfortable belting it out so I can hear him.

Either way, he’s an astounding cool guy.

Next up, the best things to do in Vegas with Kids. In my opinion.

Peace out.

The Day of Wins and Fails in Las Vegas Pt 1

Someone wants something really, really badly.
Someone wants something really, really badly. Like a trip to the Adventure Dome in Circus Circus.

It was time, to quote The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World, “to let The-Youngest go Orangutan.”

After weeks of research, of looking up Vegas pictures, of reading reviews and watching idiots do idiotic things in Vegas on YouTube, the day had finally arrived for The-Youngest. HIS DAY. A day at the Adventure Dome. A day of roller coasters, bumper cars, and food-court food.

Little could he have possibly guessed what would happen.

Still a little tired, we all ate at the hotel restaurant. $115 for breakfast. And The-Youngest only ate his toast. So that’s $30 for toast. What’s worse is that I felt compelled to eat everything that was left. So, good bye diet, hello second helping of eggs and hash browns and sausages.

I wasn’t mad at The-Youngest, though, he was just so excited.

This is the terrifying El Loco roller coaster in the Adventure Dome. Old Circus Circus.
This is the terrifying El Loco roller coaster in the Adventure Dome. Old Circus Circus.

“Joe, did you know that you can get a pass for the whole day and go on all the rides? Joe, did you know that they are open until midnight? (I think I groaned at this point.) Joe did you know that El Loco is the best rollercoaster ride in Vegas? Joe did you know they have ANOTHER rollercoaster, too? It’s called the Canyon Blaster, and someone threw up on it? (Today?) No. There was a video (Great. I always wanted to throw up on a rollercoaster.)

So, yeah, I was less than enthusiastic about the whole roller coaster thing, but boy, was he keyed up. The-Oldest was as well. I could tell because he only half-shrugged when we told him what we were doing today. Not a full-on Gallic shrug, more of a “Yeah, I guess this could be interesting” kind of way.

Getting ready to go out into the summer sun, I made the rookie mistake of letting The-Youngest do his sunscreen. He slathered it on so thick that he looked like the Joker from Suicide Squad, minus the green hair. I scraped off as much as I could and used it to cover my vastly larger areas of white skin while he rubbed it into his skin. But at least we’d be protected from sunburns. Even if we lived on the sun itself.

How cool we looked just leaving the Treasure Island Hotel. Not sweaty, yet.
How cool we looked just leaving the Treasure Island Hotel. Not sweaty, yet.

Being near the Adventure Dome, we decided to walk. It wasn’t late in the day and, sure, the sun shone outside and heat shimmered off the pavement, and all the beggars retreated into the shade, but somehow we thought this was a good idea.

Ok, I thought this was a good idea.

Well, it really wasn’t that bad a walk. We avoided the sleazy guys handing out flyers of naked women (escorts?) and avoided more guys handing out pamphlets for sightseeing tours or discount show tickets. Not easy things to do.

The ruins of a once great casino. The Riviera.
The ruins of a once great casino. The Riviera. Check out the link for more info.

Plus, along the way, we got to see the debris from the latest Vegas Hotel demolition. Of all the places in the world, I don’t think there’s one that transforms as much as Vegas. It evolves faster than a rewrite of a movie that had a poor screening.

But we made it, a bit sweaty, a bit hot and The-Youngest dragged The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World through the maze-like casino. Even with The-Youngest trying to memorize the map and The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World using her mad navigational skills, we ended up, well, I have no idea, but there was no dome.

This is us trying to figure out how to get to the Adventure Dome.
This is us trying to figure out how to get to the Adventure Dome while waiting for the hula-hoop girl to appear. I think The-Oldest doubts we’ll ever figure it out.

Now, if you’ve ever been to a Vegas casino, you need to know that they have spent a lot of time, energy and money making sure it’s easy to get in, but you soon get lost trying to make your way from point A to point B. I guess the thinking is if you get lost, the flashing lights and ringing bells and people shouting, I’ve won a billion dollars, will make you forget what you came to do and sit down and gamble a bit.

What we did find was a cool little circus act. Every ½ hour. Or thereabouts. Like an old carnival show. Feeling lost and bewildered, we did what we do when we’re lost and bewildered, we sat down and watched a girl dance with hula-hoops.

She did things that would throw out my hip, herniate my spine and wreck my neck so badly that I’d need a Darth Vader suit to simply walk around (which I have to say, having thought about it more, sounds kind of cool.)  She displayed the kind of incredible gymnast-like flexibility that even on my best day, even when I was young, even if I fell down the stairs, I never had. And, she made it all look easy.

She was spectacular, but despite her smiles on stage, she looked sad when she left. She was Russian and they seem to look sad a lot, but I wondered if she thought her life would end up here, on the stage of a casino performing for chubby white guys who looked like they had nothing better to do. Clearly, she’d been a gymnast at some point. Maybe a medal contender. And now this.

I would be sad, too.

But it could be worse. At least they let her wear clothes. And she wasn’t in Russia anymore.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BZPM6HXrsCQ

As nice as it was, however, it was just a rest stop for us. An oasis of human entertainment in a desert of lights and sounds. As soon as it ended, we were off to the Dome. I think we took the longest route possible, but finally got there.

And when we did, something really odd happened.

Being Goofy in Vegas

Vegas. I place to be serious? I think not.
Vegas. A place to be serious? I think not.

There are times when you have to be serious and times when you can be, well, goofy. We had a lot of serious. The Grand Canyon. The Hoover Dam. So, by the time we arrived in Vegas, we didn’t realize what time it really was. Silly time.

Amazingly enough, we returned our Sonata rental about as fast as it takes to order a Big Mac.

Wait.

Now I want a Big Mac. Hold on. I’ll be back.

Ah. Mmmmm. Yum. So, as I was saying….

We returned the rental without any problems, but the taxi ride to our hotel wasn’t as easy or fun. We got in a taxi driven by an Ethiopian madman. Ok, I don’t really know if he was Ethiopian or mad, but he kept talking on his cell phone as he drove 100mph through traffic, weaving in and out, and even looking down at his phone to check texts. It was terrifying. I’m sure that’s all pretty much the driving style in Mogadishu, but in Vegas, well, it was a lot to take, especially with kids in the back seat.

Our destination. Las Vegas. The Treasure Island Hotel. No pirates, though. They've been killed
Our destination. Las Vegas. The Treasure Island Hotel. No pirates, though. They’ve been killed

But we arrived at Treasure Island without being killed in a fiery car crash, kidnapped, or taken out into the desert and murdered.

Now the TI is not one of the new, plush, luxury hotels. It’s a little dated, doesn’t have the best pool in Vegas and has even stopped doing their incredible pirate battle out front, but it had something important to me. It was cheap. And on the strip.

We checked in, dragged our bags upstairs and by the time we unpacked, we were all exhausted from the day. Hard to believe a day of driving can take it out of you, but it does.

So no wandering around in search of food. We’d eat at the hotel.

Senor Frogs. Vegas.
Senor Frogs. Vegas.

Now where to eat? There was a pizza place, but it was basically a counter with stools, and completely full. The frozen yogurt shop had room for us, but even I needed more than frozen yogurt for dinner, so we ended up at Senor Frogs.

But wait, isn’t that, like, a party bar/restaurant with tequila nights and bikini contests and drinking games? Well, yes, but at 6pm, not so much.

However, being overly tired, we slipped into a goofy mood the moment we sat down, even before the tequila arrived for the weary parents. The-Oldest noticed that they had signs on the ceiling, signs that had wise (or wisenheimer) sayings.

Things like, she may be hot, but somewhere there’s a guy who’s tired of her sh*t. Or if you can’t change your situation, change your attitude.

Old school memes. In my day, we called them signs, but whatever
Old school memes. In my day, we called them signs, but whatever

Memes, basically.

We had fun reading them, but how to explain the first one to a 13-year-old. Or a 9-year-old? It’s like when they ask what a sausage fest is because there’s movie called sausage fest.

I mean, do I lie and say it’s a movie about sausages? Yummy, tasty sausages? In the end, we muddled through the explanation since it wasn’t the most awkward question they’ve ever asked, and moved on to food as fast as we could.

We got lots of food, had silly balloon hats made for us, which we all wore, and had one of the best dinners so far. Not that we got what we ordered, oh, no, but that ended up being part of the fun. We’d order a milk and our very Latino waiter would bring a mountain dew. We’d ask for the bill and get more salsa chips (no charge, amigo, no charge.)

Ok, so The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World doesn't look giggly, here, but she was, honest. She had tequila.
Ok, so The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World doesn’t look giggly, here, but she was, honest. She had tequila. And a queen balloon hat.

Did I care that I wore the silly balloon hat? No. I wore it with pride. So did the boys, even The-Oldest who is coming into that age where he is mortified of looking goofy (especially with his parents.) But in that moment, on that night, in that city, Vegas, we gave into our goofiness and had the best time.

Because, tomorrow, we do Vegas, baby!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UBPnQMk_pPI

Above, for your information, is The-Youngest’s first real use of the selfie-stick I bought for The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World’s birthday. He took a few pictures with it at the Grand Canyon and about 5000 when he tried to do a video and did burst shots for 10 min, but this is his best one.

And hey, if you like this series of adventures, please follow the blog, or share me on Facebook, Twitter or whatever cool, new social media platform you use. 🙂

 

 

Where Do You Find Travel Adventures

Pictures never do the Grand Canyon justice
Pictures never do the Grand Canyon justice

Why travel? I mean, really. Why?

To experience stuff you simply wouldn’t experience at home. Sights. Sounds. Tastes. Smells. Textures. And to occasionally be surprised.

Not that we don’t have a ton of cool stuff to experience here. Hell, people come from all over the world to walk around Stanley Park, sway on the Capilano Suspension Bridge or buy our real estate. So there’re lots of things here, too, but Vancouver is not the world, and the world is an amazingly interesting place.

Days Hotel
Days Hotel

Now, let me take you to Tuesday, morning. 7am. Location: The restaurant at the Days Hotel in Flagstaff. Not a place you’d expect to see something you don’t see every day. But that’s the beauty of traveling.

As I sat down to have a good breakfast, get some writing done and let the family sleep in, who should walk into the restaurant but a biker gang?

A French biker gang.

I sh*t you not. 8 of them.  Who knew that France had biker gangs? Who knew bikers would want to come to Arizona? As tourists?

They were mostly old guys and half of the group were women, looking like they’ve seen a lot of road, but smiling and chatty just like any tourist would be.

They all took a table together. Got menus from the waitress who spoke about as much French as I speak Swahili. She tried her best to explain the specials, but I don’t think they understood. Even when she repeated the choices with a higher and higher volume.

I have to say, the bikers seemed a lot less intimating when they said, oui, nes pas or mais non. Not that I had the courage to go up and take a picture of them or sit down and ask what brought them here, but I do have a theory on the latter.

Route 66. Perhaps the most famous highway in America.
Route 66. Perhaps the most famous highway in America.

See, some of the highway we’d traveled (and would travel, today) was old route 66. A famed highway from long, ago. A highway that you can take from Chicago to Santa Monica.

It’s a route filled with abandoned gas stations, ghost towns, old bridges, ruined warehouses and lost of bits of Americana. It’s actually a great road, a road less traveled.

I set one of my novels here. The Darkest Desert. Oddly, it featured biker gangs
I set one of my novels here. The Darkest Desert. Oddly, it featured biker gangs

I even set one of my novels on locations along Route 66, in California, so I got a chance to drive a bit of it a few years back, and I loved it. I could see why bikers from France might want to take that route.

Despite the leathers, the bikers were polite as hell. The busload of Koreans who came in to eat sat about as far away from them as they could, but there was no need. The bikers were happy to enjoy their American food, laugh and tell stories with each other, and plot the next leg of their journey.

French Bikers. Despite their outer appearance, polite, full of good humor and very French
French Bikers. Despite their outer appearance, polite, full of good humor and very French

In the end, I did sneak a picture, but all the while I thought, boy, this is why I get out of the hotel room. You just never freaking know what you’ll find.

It was a great start to a day where we had one thing I thought we MUST do and one thing the-Youngest thought we MUST do.

 

Top 10 Cool Facts About the Grand Canyon.

I admit it. I love facts. Facts are fun. Here are a few..

1)94% of the Grand Canyon is untouched by humans.

Like the ocean, the Grand Canyon remains largely untouched by smelly people
Like the ocean, the Grand Canyon remains largely untouched by smelly people

That information makes we want to go touch things. Same with The-Youngest. Give him a year there, though, and he’ll have touched everything.

2) They totally goofed up how long people had been in the canyon. Originally, it was thought about 4000 years, ago, but recent discoveries put mankind buggering around in the area at about 10,000 years, ago. Even Wiki needs to be updated. But it makes me think how many facts we take as facts are not, in fact, facts, but best guesses.

3)going to 11 The river rapids are so dangerous that here there is an entirely new rating. Most go I-VI. The rapids here go to 10. Like Spinal Tap’s Nigel Tufnel’s speakers going to 11. (See link for why, it’s kinda cool.)

4) The dude who finally and successfully navigated those rapids had one arm and couldn’t swim. Think about that for a moment. His name, not a crazy name like John ‘the macho man’ Powell. Simply John Wesley Powell.

Just as I was about to take the perfect shot of the Grand Canyon, two people stand to admire the view. At least they gave scale.
Just as I was about to take the perfect shot of the Grand Canyon, two people stand to admire the view. At least they gave scale.

5) 5 million people visit the canyon every year. Most show up the same day as we do and try to block all my cool shots.

6) No one has been killed by a mountain lion in the park. I was massively disappointed. I say we serve up the dumbest tourist every year to one of those cats just to make sure they’re well-fed.

7) It’s not the deepest or widest canyon. Screw you, Himalayan and Australian canyons, it’s still the prettiest.

8) Scientists don’t agree on how it was formed. Oddly, I’m ok with that. I worry a lot more when everyone agrees on something without question. Sounds more like dogma than science to me.

The picture of the Grand Canyon I took from space that last time I was there.
The picture of the Grand Canyon I took from space that last time I was there.

9)The Grand Canyon is one of the few natural landmarks that can be seen from space. Like me with my shirt off. It’s also listed as one of the 7 natural wonders of the world.

10) You can see about a quarter of the earth’s natural history here. Or approximately 1.75 IMG_0491billion years of history of a world 4.5 billion years old. Older than the dinosaurs. It’s older than Betty White.

For more cool Grand Canyon stuff, check out these links.

National Geographic 

Written by the Grand Canyon itself, I think.

Lonely Planet

My person go-to site – Trip Advisor

Best Things to Do

Best Map For the South Rim

Let me know if you have any advice to add 🙂

 

 

 

More Unexpected Experiences at the Grand Canyon

The IMAX at the vistor's center in the Grand Canyon.
The IMAX at the visitor’s center in the Grand Canyon.

There are things that should be done in order. Watching the first Game of Thrones episode before watching, like, the 10th. Eating fries before a burger. And seeing an IMAX show about the Grand Canyon before you see the Grand Canyon.

Why?

Cuz fries get soggy or cold.

And an IMAX film simply pales in comparison to the real thing. So, having seen the real thing, a movie, even a big screen movie, is kinda lame.

But that’s what we did after the Grand Canyon Tour. Our guide, Sean, told us that if we wanted to take a small hike, he had the perfect spot. We are not, however, big hikers and the thought of bringing The-Youngest to a spot that had 270 degrees of ways to fall off a cliff, we thought, yeah, no to that.

Plus, we were starving and so, while we waited for the next IMAX showing at the National Geographic Information Center, we decided not to go to any of the places recommended by the guide (due to time constraints) and instead ate at the Pizza Hut. It was awful. Just awful. But at least we had full bellies and were in time for the IMAX.

Now, even if I had seen the IMAX show before the actual Grand Canyon, I may have been disappointed. There were none of the going-over-a cliff-shots that make me queasy. None of the virtual near things coming right at you that make you swerve in the seat. No sense of speed or ear-shattering sound. It was mostly just shots of the canyon and a docu-drama about the dude who actually rafted down the river for the first time. John Wesley Powell.

Green screen or the real thing? A bit of haze in the distance made the Grand Canyon look made-up
Green screen or the real thing? A bit of haze in the distance made the Grand Canyon look made-up

Both The-Youngest and The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-world thought the actual Grand Canyon seemed like a green screen picture. It made sense since it was a bit hazy in the distance, but I thought what a cool observation?

Afterwards, we bought our traditional souvenir t-shirts for the boys and then went to go to the car, only to have the most unexpected thing happen.

It rained. Thick heavy drops splashed on the ground. The air smelled of dust and wet juniper trees. Dark clouds loomed overhead, and as I looked at them, I wondered if we would get a thunderstorm as well?

But as we drove away, the rain disappeared. No matter. It made for an interesting moment. Something I would never have expected to see or experience.

Mexican Food at the Salsa Brava. Mmmm, good!
Mexican Food at the Salsa Brava. Mmmm, good!

As for dinner, just to be super annoying we phoned to change our reservation, AGAIN! They were super nice and fit us in earlier than we planned. Dinner at Salsa Brava wasn’t the amazing birthday dinner I’d dreamed about, planned for, but the food was delicious, the portions HUGE and The-Youngest even braved the Salsa bar (trying a tasty green chili one.)

Stuffed full, we retreated to the hotel to get to sleep early. We needed to get up early the next day and suffer through another 4-hour drive.

Sadly, not my picture of horizontal lightning, but this is what it looked like. Wow!
Sadly, not my picture of horizontal lightning, but this is what it looked like. Wow!

However, that storm, remember the one at the Grand Canyon, yeah, it caught up with us and split the sky with an incredible lightning show. Thunder peeled across the horizon and I got to see something I’ve never seen before. Horizontal lightning.

It was the perfect way to end a perfect day – another display of the power and beauty of nature.

Sleep be damned.

 

The Grand Canyon – It Doesn't Disappoint

That's it, boys, the Grand Canyon! That's the Colorado River, you see.
That’s it, boys, the Grand Canyon! That’s the Colorado River, you see down there. Kinda cool, huh?

I won’t lie.

This blog could be boring.

No one fell off a cliff. We didn’t get attacked by mountain lions or vultures. We didn’t have to hike out of the bottom of the canyon in 104-degree heat. We simply took an astonishing tour of the Grand Canyon’s Southern Rim.

If you don’t like reading about fantastic tours, I get it. It’s ok. You can skip this post. I won’t hold it against you. But if you are ever thinking of going to the Grand Canyon and want to know what one family experienced, then read on.

Let me do a plug for the tour company. Sadly, I’m not receiving any money for this, but maybe one day when I monetize my blog and have a million followers, I will sell out and give good reviews for massive compensation. But for now, it’s just the truth.

Pink Jeep Tours
Pink Jeep Tours

Pink Jeep Tours and our guide, Sean, were awesome.

The moment we arrived, they treated us so well. The guy at the counter knew we were coming. Knew we might be late. Congratulated us on making it and said we could still catch the 8:30, said we had a great tour ahead of us. Or we could wait for the next one. Whatever works for us.

We chose to go right away, but that kind of friendly is awesome. I’m sure he would have held my backpack and computer if I asked.

Now the Pink Jeep Tour only has, you know, jeeps. So, we had to share with two other people. Friendly people. From Cincinnati. A dad and his son doing the long drive home, seeing what they could see from LA back to Ohio.

So cool.

Our Pink Jeep Tour Guide, Sean
Our Pink Jeep Tour Guide, Sean

Our guide was Sean. Tall. Thin. Long fingers. Young. Enthusiastic. The type of guy who actually seems to love what he doing and loves to talk about it even more.

Hard to fake that stuff. I know. I’ve tried. I can pretend to like Chopin for only so long before I start to fall asleep.

And off we went.

The+Youngest became the official assistant guide on the Grand Canyon Tour.
The-Youngest became the official assistant guide on the Grand Canyon Tour.

The-Youngest, being the cutest kid in the world, was designated by the guide as the official assistant guide and map holder. The guide told us the parts of the Grand Canyon we’d be seeing. Why we’d be seeing the best parts. What would be the stops we’d make.

At our first stop, we got out and, like the first time I saw the canyon so many years, ago, I was awe-struck.

Pictures never do the Grand Canyon justice
Pictures never do the Grand Canyon justice

There aren’t any words to describe the canyon.

It is grand, for sure, but grand is such a small word for something so immense.

It is simply magnificent and, since I’m afraid of heights, not a little terrifying, with cliffs and no fences what would stop me from tripping and falling 6000 feet.

But looking at the layers of rock, at the colors, at the way the light and shadow made each formation, each outcropping, or landmark or feature utterly breathtaking made me realize how beautiful, beautiful can be.

Duck Rock. Or do you see the head of a sphinx? Or a monkey with a hat?
Duck Rock. Or do you see the head of a sphinx? Or a monkey with a hat?

I’m not sure the rest of the family had the same experience. I listened with rapture as the guide told us about the 6 million year history of the canyon, how once it had been a part of a mountain chain taller than Everest, then how it had been under a sea, how once it had been a marsh or a desert or a lush plain filled with all manner of plants and animals.

I loved hearing about the people who inhabited the nearly uninhabitable canyon. About how the canyon is unique in the world (it has a combination of deposits pushed up by the plate tectonics, then sheared and shaped by water and wind).

For The-Prettiest-Girl-In-the-World, it put all of the world’s petty problems in perspective. The world had remade itself so many times. Creatures lived and died and become part of the rock. We humans barely occupied the tiniest speck of time in the canyon. In earth’s history.IMG_9340[1]

 

 

 

IMG_9339[1]For The-Youngest, he didn’t care at all about the history or geology or the funny stories the guide told about his experiences with the canyon. He wanted to run around and get as close to the edge as he could. Personally, I think he just hated not having any attention on him, but his antics terrified The-Prettiest-Girl-In-the-World.

Our guide showing us how to take a picture like we were falling off a cliff
Our guide showing us how to take a picture like we were falling off a cliff

And me.

My worst nightmare is not falling off a cliff, though that is quite terrifying. No, it’s someone I love falling off.

So she held The-Youngest’s hand when she could, but not wanting to treat him like a 3-year-old, she tried to let him experience the canyon in his own way. But, in the end, I had to have a talk with him. Man-to-man. Face-to-face. No threats. I simply told him his mom couldn’t have fun and enjoy the canyon and the tour if she had to watch constantly out for him.

For the most part, it worked. Not because of what I said, but I think he didn’t really want to ruin his mom’s enjoyment. Plus the guide showed him how to take a picture that LOOKED like he was falling off a cliff.

Yes, it's the Indian Watchtower at Desert View, a 70-foot-high stone building located on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon
Yes, it’s the Indian Watchtower at Desert View, a 70-foot-high stone building located on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon

We got to see the canyon from several vantage points, and at each point, it was different and incredible. We stopped at the very touristy tower, and while I’m not a big fan of touristy, we had fun climbing to the top of it, and taking in the view.  To be honest, though, while the Boyz ran to the top, by the time I got there, I was red-faced and breathing hard. Most of the other tourists looked at me like I was having a heart-attack.

But that was the worst that happened.

We simply had a great time seeing one of the world’s wonders, guided by the entertaining and enthusiastic, Sean.

So, my advice, if you can, see the Canyon at some point in your life. It’s worth the drive. It’s worth the flight. It’s even worth unclogging a toilet.

Even if it makes for a terrible blog post.

Trolls, Bad Choices and No Acme Anvils – Grand Canyon Day pt 1

Pink Jeep Tours, Grand Canyon, Arizona. Our goal for the day.
Pink Jeep Tours, Grand Canyon, Arizona. Our goal for the day.

Up at 5:30 am.

Why? It was Grand Canyon day and we needed to arrive by 8:30 am. We had a tour booked. Pink Jeep. The eastern side of the southern rim. Looked amazing.

No one was impressed at getting up so early. Boyz looked like death. The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World spent extra time in the bathroom getting all pretty-like.

As she did so, I went downstairs to have the front desk hold my backpack with my laptop. Normally, this encounter goes something like this. “Mind if I leave my laptop bag with you?”

“Why sure, sir, thank you for staying at our hotel, we’d be honored, nay, blessed, to look after that ratty-looking bag.”

Instead, when I asked if I could please leave my bag, I encountered one of the worst types of creatures on the planet.

The night shift guy.

Long, greasy hair. Thick glasses. Probably writes a lot of horror porn. “Why?” he asked like I had just asked him to give up masturbation.

“My laptop won’t fit in the safe,” I told him. Not that I wanted to put it there. Last night all that we put inside was nearly locked up forever.

He looked at me like deciding if he should use a hacksaw to cut up my body or dissolve me in acid. “What?”

I repeated my request. In my most polite Canadian tone.

 

The guy looked like Manson with glasses. Had I known he was on at night, I would have not slept.
The guy looked like Manson with glasses. Had I known he was on at night, I would have not slept.

He sighed, shook his head, then walked away.

 

He just walked away.

“So you’re taking it, yes?” I said. I may not have sounded so polite.

“I guess,” he said, cleared a spot on the counter, then took it.

He said nothing as I thanked him and I strode back to our room. Apparently, they only put the-very-pretty-young-Asian-girl-with-white-pants-who-couldn’t-have-been-nicer out at night. In the morning, they use trolls. Who need to bathe.

Despite our best efforts, by the time we hit the road, we were behind schedule. Google said we’d arrive right at 8:30.

The tour started at 8:30!!!

And that didn’t include any lost time due to traffic, me making a wrong turn or getting behind someone from Whiterock who drove 20kph under the speed limit.

So I did what I usually do when late. I made a series of bad choices.

First, we had to get gas. Now we should have gotten gas last night, but after all, that had happened, we were simply too exhausted. Maybe we could have made it, but maybe not and who wants to be stuck on a highway begging for someone in a pickup to put us in the back with the hogs so I can get gas at a gas station.

And because we were late, the pump wouldn’t take my card, and I had to go inside, and because we were late, there was a huge lineup, and then I had to guess how much gas and apparently, a lot is not an acceptable answer.

So, I made my best guess and was totally wrong since in the US they pay about as much for a tank of gas as we pay for tolls over a bridge, and so I had to get back into a lineup to correct my error. In the meantime, the Boyz and The-prettiest-girl-in-the-world had gotten lots of healthy snacks for the drive and tour. Plus lots of water.

Having paid, we sped off, my eye twitching with anxiety.

How did I miss the WRONG WAY signs???
How did I miss the WRONG WAY signs???

Then, I thought it might be fun to take a wrong turn and drive onto the highway.  Onto an exit. On a one way street.

The f-word may have been used. A lot. The swear jar was owed about $145.

But I managed to U-turn in the middle of the road and correct my navigational error. The good news was that, by now, EVERYONE was fully awake and wide-eyed.

I might even use the word terrified.

Then we had to get coffee, because even when you’re late, you need coffee. How else was I supposed to drive 50 miles over the speed limit, pass everyone, and avoid the wildlife on the road?

But about 1000 people had the same idea and we had yet another line-up to line-up.

See, the rules of being late specifically state that everything that can delay you further will delay you further.

But we got coffee, and I sped off like we were being chased by tough-looking bikers (who, spoiler alert, appear in a later story.)

The 2-hour drive could have been filled with lots of swearing and me passing trucks over a double-line on a blind hill (and, FYI, a Hyundai is not built for passing anything) but The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World saved the drive by phoning the tour company and seeing if we could book a tour an hour later.

No problem, they said, or if you get there in time, you could still take your original tour.

Stress melted away. My eye stopped twitching. And I enjoyed the drive up, the area not like the Vegas desert but filled with pines and cedars (or as I later learned, not cedars, juniper trees), and green grass and cows and the occasional deer darting in front of us.

roadrunner
Roadrunner! Meep-meep. The coyote’s after you

The Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World pipped with delight when she saw a road runner whiz by in front of us. Disappointingly, no coyotes or Acme anvils followed.

And without incident, accident or breakdowns, we made it to the canyon. At 8:15. I made epic time.

Our tour awaited!

 

 

 

How to Get There From Here – Vegas to the Grand Canyon pt 1

Google says 3hrs, 47 min, but does Google include pee stops, donut breaks, lunch and scenic pullouts?
Google says 3hrs, 47 min, but does Google include pee stops, donut breaks, lunch stops and scenic pullouts?

All we had to do was get from Vegas to our hotel in Flagstaff, AZ, south of the Grand Canyon. Maybe see the Hoover Dam if we had time. Maybe stop for lunch.

But that’s it. (Though, ‘it’ was a four-hour drive from Vegas to Flagstaff without stops!)

Oh, yeah. Also.

There may have been a birthday supper booked at the best Mexican restaurant in Flagstaff, (as featured on the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives with Guy Fieri)  but I began to fear that would not quite work out. It would all depend on how fast we could get going and how important it was to rush. If we rushed too much, we could miss out on those magic moments, but if we didn’t, then the birthday dinner would be a bust.

Our chances of making the reservation in time dimmed right from the start. Somehow the tags came off my luggage and being me, and loving black, when I bought new luggage, I chose the black one… like a thousand other people.

Then The-Youngest, with his keen eyes, spotted it and raced over to lift it off the conveyor. Being 9, though, my luggage nearly pulled him onto the conveyor. It could have made a funny YouTube video (or at least a vine,) but instead of filming him, I ran over to rescue him, even though he did not want to be rescued in any way, shape or form.

Worse case for him, he got to ride my luggage like a pony around the conveyor belt. Worse case for us, he fell onto the conveyor, got his arm caught, then ripped off, and as he flailed around, screaming, he fell into the luggage loading hole and somehow found his way into a threshing machine.

So no video.

Our ride from the airport to the car rental lot. The-Oldest couldn't look more happy.
Our ride from the airport to the car rental lot. The-Oldest couldn’t look happier.

With our bags in hand, we went in search of the shuttle to our rent-a-car. Only two ways we could go and, yes, we chose the wrong way and had to march back again to the other end of the airport. But we had super light luggage so it really wasn’s so bad.

Stopping The-Youngest from using the wheeled luggage as a bowling ball to knock over lines of tourists, though, was more of a challenge.

Outside, nice weather. Hot. It’s a dry heat. Boyz not impressed. They said they’d felt hotter in our backyard. It was 96 outside and they were in the shade.

The shuttle took us on a long journey to the rental lots in a land far, far away. It is a bit odd, but whatever. Vegas is as Vegas does.

At the rental place, Aussies the size of small tanks got angry that they had to wait in line. I guess there are no lines in Australia. Or maybe the steroids made them angry all the time. Personally, I wouldn’t like to face down a 6’6” guy with a thick red neck and a throbbing vein in his forehead,  but a 5’1” guy did just that, mostly by saying “I understand, I get why you’re angry, we’ll get to you as fast as we can, ” until the Aussies wandered away to go lift Volkswagens or something.

Hyundai Sonata. A decent enough car. Certainly it was big enough for all of us.
Hyundai Sonata. A decent enough car. Certainly, it was big enough for all of us.

Car was a Hyundai sonata. Red. Comfy inside. Steered well.

I think the most dangerous part was getting out of the lot. People zooming in at the last moment, backing out to get on the road, wheeling luggage without looking around of just being German or deciding to chat in a large group and not move while people are trying to get in and out of parking lots.

Despite the need to make time, we had to stop for food. Denny’s. Remember the goal of keeping the boys fed? Well, no way we’d survive a 4-hour drive with 2 hangry boys. So, we stopped and by doing so, had a cool little encounter.

See, this is what you get when you don’t rush. I need to remind myself of this. And eating a lot of chocolate before bed keeps me awake.

A grab machine. I have no idea what it's really called. A claw machine? A clawinator?
A grab machine. I have no idea what it’s really called. A claw machine? A clawinator?

While waiting to be seated, a special needs person wanted to play the grab-a-toy-game and couldn’t figure it out. He was confused and was getting upset so I asked The-Youngest to come over. He’s an expert on these machines. More than the makers, I think.

Anyway, he took the time to show the guy what to do. Push that. Move this that way. There you go. Let it drop down. See. You got something! Great!

The-Youngest can be the coolest kid sometimes!

The other guy was delighted in a way that only mentally handicapped people or Leaf fans can be. I was proud of The-Youngest.

It was an encounter, an adventure I couldn’t have predicted.

At Denny’s, I actually had a healthy meal. Well, Denny’s healthy anyway. Veggies and eggs on some potatoes. No free food though. On your birthday at Denny’s, you get a free meal, but only a Grand Slam and The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World wanted an avocado chicken burger. They didn’t sing, but did bring her a burger (not on the menu), cuz, you know, it was her birthday.

We grabbed road supplies, forced The-Youngest to put back an American-large bag of chips, two bags of nibs, one box of bubble gum, and a super large bottle of pop. He still took a big bag of Cheetos, a bottle of water and some candies. Me, I bought M&Ms and got mocked for it since we’re going to the M&M store at some point.

On the road, the plan really began to fall apart. We were way behind schedule. The chance of making the birthday supper was now 20/80.

No time for the Hoover Dam.

We’d see it when we got back.

There was a point I would have to call off the birthday supper, but there was a part of me that wouldn’t do that until all hope had died.

Leaving Vegas
Leaving Vegas

With the sun behind us, slowly dipping in the sky, we buckled up and sped off, The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World navigating, The-Oldest listening to classical music and conducting in the back seat, and The-Youngest starting to crunch away on his gigantic bag of candies.

How To Enjoy That 'Travel Day'. Or Not.

1 bag less than normal
1 bag less than normal

There are travel days when you simply have to, you know, travel.

Nothing more.

But can those humble and unassuming days of vacation also be an adventure?

I guess it is all in how you look at it. Right?

Here’s the first day. As seen in a non-epic way.

Had to catch 10:15 flight. Needed to be there 2 hours before. Needed to drive 1 hour. Prettiest-girl-in-the-world needed a good hour to become the-prettiest-girl-in-the-world.

At least when you get up early, you see this
At least when you get up early, you see this

Had to do math. Math said to wake up at 6:15. Math is mean. Math never lies.

Had to pack the night before. Loved the new suitcases. Stuffed a ton inside them. And they still weighed out under 30lbs each. Fearful of the boys packing theirs, but tried to let it go. Did deep breathing exercises. Tried to be all zen about it.

No traffic problems. Parked in the cheaper of the lots. Took shuttle to departure terminal. Being The-prettiest-girl-in-the-world’s actually birthday, day, we took over the rolling of her luggage and carrying her carry-on.

Inside. Hit ‘yes we have dangerous goods by mistake’. Doh!!!! Had to speak to an attendant. Had to explain I’m an idiot. Something I’m pretty used to explaining so all went well. Used opportunity to have a quiet word with attendant about doing something special.

Wait!

Need to back up. Remember I said today was her birthday? Well, I need to make it special somehow. And I had a plan.

A week before, I phoned WestJet to see if they could do anything special for the Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World and they said they couldn’t, not really, it’s just something they don’t do anymore.

Booooo!

But I didn’t give up. I told the WestJet employee that I wanted to make this trip more than just special since the birthday girl is such an amazing woman. Plus, I added, WestJet had a great reputation for going that extra mile and I needed them to go that extra mile.

In the end, the WestJet girl said she would put a note in the file and they would see what they could do at the gate. Nothing’s promised, you understand, but ask, she said.

So, flash forward, and we’re at the ticket counter and I asked if the attendant had gotten the note about making the flight special, and he said, ah, errr, umh, ah. No.

So, I made the same request, only trying my best to look all sad and puppy-eyed. He eventually found the request, hummed and hawed a bit, but he could not resist my sad face and agreed to pass along something to the in-flight attendants.

The day before, we had cake!
The day before, we had cake!

The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World, however, knew something was up.

How did I know this?

She asked, “Something’s up, isn’t it?”

“Why no,” I replied. “Nothing at all. Not a thing. Nope. Nothing.”

She frowned at me. “If there’s anyone singing happy birthday to me, I’ll murder you in your sleep.”

“Fair enough,” I said, and wondered what they’d do. Would they sing? Give her some free peanuts? Would I be murdered in my sleep?

A little anxious, we went through the auto passport check-in. How cool is this thing?  It scans your passport, your face and then prints out a receipt saying you’re awfully handsome or something. I took a great picture, The-Youngest looked like he was afraid we were kidnapping him and The-Oldest pulled such a horrible face that it looked like we’d molded a monster out of clay.  FYI – he was very proud of that face.

However, somehow we buggered THAT up, too. Who knows, maybe messing up that whole, yes I’m carrying banned weapons and bombs in my underwear made the passport machine suspicious. Maybe it was the expressions on the children’s faces, but we had to speak to another real, live person.

Oh how everyone loves customs. From USAToday.com
Oh how everyone loves customs. From USAToday.com

Now as any traveler knows, getting special attention from customs or border guards is about as fun as a colonoscopy. Or watching an hour of Criminal Minds Beyond Borders.

But we smiled, were politely Canadian, and since we weren’t actually terrorists or kidnappers, just technological goobers, we were let through.

Felt relieved.

Ate badly at the airport, but seriously who can resist Cinnabon’s?

Then onto the plane. The-Boyz and The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World were able to sit together. I sat beside a footwear salesperson. Against my normal tendency, I actually talked to her. And I talked to the air hostess or whatever they call the woman who has to feed and water all the passengers. She had braces and hated them. I empathized with her chewed up cheeks, the stupid braces catching on her lips, the fact we can’t really eat in public and if we do, we’re likely to have what we ate on display in our braces, then spit it at them.

But what I really wanted to know is what they would do for The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World?

I waited. No take-off announcement. No free peanuts. No cake with flaming candles brought out from the cabin. I began to worry that NOTHING would be done.

So I asked one of the attendants. And she said they would be doing something on the decent. She wouldn’t say what.

The-Prettiest-girl-in-the-World eyed me suspiciously. I mean either I was flirting with the pretty attendant or her worst fears were about to come true.

In the end, on the decent, they asked everyone on the plane to wish The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World a happy birthday. She went beet red, sunk down in her chair and gave me the finger… right at the moment a little girl leaned around to wish her a happy birthday.

Perfect timing.

I leaned across the aisle and wished her a happy birthday. She told me she’d get me for this. She. Would. Get. Me. For. This.

Mission accomplished.

IMG_9295
Vegas beware, we have arrived.

The great birthday adventure had begun!

But more little adventures awaited us on our day of travel.

Some I couldn’t have possibly predicted despite my overly active and twisted imagination.

 

The 2016 Family Vacation

 

vegas
Where else would you take the children but Vegas?

Like most families we get to have one vacation every year.

Last year, we went to Oregon Coast. Family gathering. Lots of food. Sandy beaches. Sea-lions.

The year before that, San Diego. The zoo. Legoland. And my first outing as a stepdad.

So this year, we had to do something different. The boyz got to see Disneyland with their dad last year as well, so that was out. Apparently a hike up to the top of some Rocky Mountain was out, too. As was a week deep sea diving.

In the end, we went with a split vacation. We’d see the majestic – if not outright jaw-dropping – Grand Canyon

And Vegas.

You know, lights. Strippers. Gambling. Joe Pechi putting people’s heads in a vice.

But wait, THAT’S not a kid’s vacation.

True, but was there another side of Vegas? A kid’s side?

I mean, having our 9-year-old watch women take off their clothes isn’t someting we want to happen. Nor are we going to take them to a gun range and let them fire off 1000 rounds on an MP5 submachine gun. Sadly.

Still, there was plenty to interest the boys that wouldn’t get us arrested for child endangerment.

Now with the grand canyon, there was zero interest. I mean, why go see it when you can download a youtube video? Or watch it in IMAX?

But I was adamant. Like a good parent telling their children to eat beans or stop licking the electrical socket, I was sure it would be good for them. A once in a lifetime experience. A chance to see one of the great natural wonders of the world.

grand
The Grand Canyon. Would it be a breathtaking experience or the snoozapolooza? 

So what if there wasn’t a splash mountain in sight? So what if Pokestops would be few and far between? This would be a visual wonder, dammit. A freaking visual wonder!

And if that failed, there’d be Vegas.

But what to do in Vegas?

Ask the 9-year-old.

As soon as I stopped ranting about how spectacular the Grand Canyon would be, and switched to Vegas, The-Youngest perked up a bit. Being of his generation, he went on-line to sort it all out.

We tasked him with a top 10 list and he didn’t fail us. That’ll be a future post. It’s actually a pretty impressive list. Cancel going on your own vacation so you can read it.

For now, know that we have an epic trip planned. One day at the canyon, or as the boyz call it, the snoozapalooza. Then 4 days in Vegas.

Our goal. Give the boys a great experience. Avoid them seeing a lot of drunk adults, including, but not limited to, us, and balance off goofy fun with some real life reality.

Will we succeed? Will it be awesomely amazing?

I’d beat against it, but I’ll keep you updated.

In the meantime, the next post will be the 10 things we’ll be doing differently on this trip.

And I’d put it out there… what would you do in Vegas? With your family?