Saturday, June 30, 2012

Play Ball!

June 29, 2012 - San Diego to Las Angeles xxx miles (I forgot to look and am too lazy to go back to the car now).

Today did not go nearly liked I had hoped or planned.  I got a later start from San Diego than I had expected.  Then, I couldn't really find the Pacific Coast Highway in San Diego, so I ended up taking I-5 north out of the city.  I managed to get on PCH just south of Orange County and meandered my way along the coast through Dana Point, Laguna Beach, and Newport Beach.  These towns were exactly what I expected of an Orange County beach town.

My cousin Bob - who recently moved from LA - suggested I get these awesome Korean BBQ tacos from a food truck parked near Universal Studios.  As I needed to get there by 230, I left PCH and got back on the interstate.  When I finally got to the food trucks, the one he suggested was not there.  He had read the website wrong.  I "settled" for some pretty awesome tacos from another truck and then set off to find my hotel.  The hotel should have been a 30 minute drive, but took 90 minutes.  (Driving around LA today confirmed that I wouldn't want to live in the city - too much traffic.  AND, the traffic wasn't even all that bad for LA).

When I arrived, they said they did not have my reservation as they said I had booked for Thursday night, not Friday night.  They charged me as a no-show for Thursday night and couldn't honor the price I had booked at for Friday.  They only had suites available so my $75 hotel room was going to cost me over $200.  I used their phone to complain to the Choice Hotels corporate office and by the time I got off the phone, she didn't even have the suites available.  They sent me to another Comfort Inn, which is actually nicer.  I plan to dispute the charges on my credit card.

So, I was not having a good day when I got to Dodger Stadium for the Met-Dodgers game.  I decided to splurge and bought a ticket right behind home plate.  The seat was phenomenal - about 8 rows back from home plate.  The Mets' knuckleballer All-Star pitcher, R.A. Dickey was pitching and from my seats, I could really see how the ball moved all over the place.  He pitched a fantastic game - with only one base runner through 6 innings and 10 strike outs.  He ended up going 8 innings, no runs, giving up 3 hits, a walk, and a hit by pitch.  Just a fabulous pitching performance.  (and as I didn't care who won, I was perfectly fine seeing the Mets win in a blow-out).  

I kept score by hand throughout the game, which made for a nice and relaxing way to spend the game.  Without anyone else at the game with me, I was happy to sit there and mark the game's progress with pen and paper.  I became the guy who was keeping score in the section.  Two fathers explained to their sons what I was doing.  Several people asked me for stats during the game (particularly how many strikeouts Dickey had).  A fireworks show finished off the night and made for a spectacularly enjoyable evening.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Stay Classy, San Diego

Las Vegas to San Diego - 511 miles.

Tuesday June 26, 2012

The drive from Las Vegas to San Diego was mostly uneventful.  The scenery was absolutely amazing.  I especially loved the joshua trees in the high desert, as well as the more lush mountains the closer I got to the Pacific coast.  While I was driving I came up with a Road Trip Manifesto:

  1. (1)     If I see something that I want to do, I will do it.  I am on no one’s schedule and will not rush from point A to point B.  Money may only play a small role in any decision.  I have saved up money for two years in Belize and if I blow a little on this trip, then so be it.
  2. (2)    Corrolary to (1) – If I do not want to do something, I will not do it.  If I get tired of driving the Pacific Coast Highway and want to skip ahead on the interstate, then I will.  This is my roadtrip and I am not going to be beholden to some advance idea of what it should be. 
  3. (3)    Eat and drink local – Whenever possible, I will eat at local restaurants – not chain restaurants.  I hope to avoid the Olive Gardens, Red Lobsters, and Chilis of America.  I plan to ask locals where their favorite restaurants and bars are in town and then ask the waiter for the specialty of the house.  (Please note that (1) supersedes this rule)
  4. (4)    If the World’s biggest/smallest/tallest/fattest/tiniest/largest whatever is within five miles of the route, I MUST stop to see it.  Anything that is more than five miles off the route is optional.
  5. (5)    Whenever I see one of those machines that will flatten a penny into a small coin with a kitschy design on it, I must do it.  The kitschier the better.

Additional points may be added in the future.

June 27, 2012

I love zoos.  When I was a kid, Aunt Kathy would take me to the Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo almost weekly during the summers.  I knew that zoo like the back of my hand.  So, whenever I am in a new place, I always love visiting the local zoo.  I have been to zoos in half a dozen countries and probably a third of all U.S. states.  Of course, I had to visit the world famous San Diego Zoo.
The zoo is fantastic, but I don’t think it justifies its extraordinarily high price tag of $42 per person.  The zoo is expansive and has world class exhibits for bears, elephants, gorillas, pandas and giraffes.  The bus tour (which I oddly remember taking when I was 5 years old) was disappointing, as was the skyfari air tram.  The big cat exhibits were not very impressive (this may be due to the San Diego Zoo safari park which exhibits many of its African big game animals in a more rugged setting).  I still had a good time, but I don’t think the park justified its price tag.   (I was also miffed by the numerous signs thanking donors for the bench or the various animal exhibits. Not a single sign thanked all of the tourists for forking over $42 a person, which I am sure can buy a few benches).

The worst part about the zoo  was that someone keyed my rental car while I was visited there.  There is a slight chance it happened at my hotel (not staying in the best neighborhood), but the damage is so noticeable I can’t imagine that I didn’t see it in the morning if it happened overnight.  Hopefully, either my car insurance (which I specifically didn’t cancel yet) or my credit card will cover the cost of the damage, but it definitely put a damper on my day.

For dinner, I headed over to Little Italy to meet my Belize colleague Ashley.  She was my “work wife” in Belize – the person I could complain to about all the stupid shit my other co-workers were doing.  She left Belize in February and started her second tour in Tijuana last month.  It was great to see her and catch her up on all the latest gossip from Belize and hear how things are different in TJ (turns out we had it pretty easy in Belmopan).

After dinner, I was walking around Little Italy and stopped in a local art gallery.  I struck up a conversation with the proprietor about my trip up the Pacific Coast Highway.  He recommended a few places to stop along the route.  When he realized I was only in San Diego for a few days, he said I should head out to Sunset Cliffs right away to catch the sunset and then head over to Ocean Beach to see the hippies around the Farmer’s Market.

I followed his suggestion and had a great evening watching the sun set over the Pacific.  There was a bit of low cloud cover, so I didn’t get to see the sun drop directly into the sea but the view was still gorgeous as the waves beat against the cliffs.  The Ocean Beach Farmer’s Market was just as great as he suggested – surfers trying to catch one more wave, siblings racing each other on the beach, hippies in a hacky-sack circle, and at least three head shops that may or may not dispense medical marijuana.  I stopped at a local ice cream shop and asked if they had any specialties (see the manifesto above).  She suggested I try the “hot waffle ice cream sandwich.”  I did and it was delicious.

June 28, 2012

I started the morning by heading to Coronado beach.  I originally planned to spend a few hours at the beach, but it wasn't as great as I hoped.  The water was so freezing that I didn't do more than wade in the shallow waves for a few minutes.  I tried to relax on the beach for a bit, but the sand was covered with swarms of small flies.  These are not the obnoxious noseeums of Belize that bite like crazy, but they annoyed me enough to abandon my plan to read on the beach all morning.  Instead, I took a long stroll along the beach.  The variety of beach culture always astounds me.  Here were mostly surfers in their wetsuits, families with kids playing in the sand (it was fantastic sand, except for the flies), and what appeared to be a lifeguard summer camp with several dozen young teens racing in and out of the water.  While watching the junior lifeguards, I saw about a half dozen dolphins swimming in the shallows waters off the beach.  After my stroll, I drove my car down along the scenic coast almost to the Mexican border.  (For a variety of reasons, I cannot actually cross into Mexico on the trip).

After a pit stop at my hotel to watch the Germany-Italy Euro 2012 semi-final, I headed out to the cliffs at Torrey Pines.  This was another suggestion by the friendly art dealer in Little Italy.  When I got there, I discovered dozens of parachutes sailing off the cliffs 350 feet above the water.  I learned that these cliffs are great for paragliding because the strong regular winds blow into the cliffs and then shoot up, allowing the gliders to ride the wind up and land in the same place they take off from.  For $150, I could partake in a tandem paraglide.  I hemmed and hawed for a few minutes before I remembered rule #1 of the manifesto.  I checked with the office and I fit within the weight restrictions (a problem I have had with skydiving), so I signed up.  Unfortunately, after waiting about 40 minutes for my turn, the wind began to die down.  Although they were still sending people out, the lower wind made it harder for heavier parachutes (ME) to land back on the cliffs.  We'd likely have to land on the beach below and climb the stairs back up.  Obviously, no one wanted to do this, so we canceled my flight.  I'm a bit disappointed, but it was still awesome to watch all of the paragliders.

I then made my way down the coast to La Jolla (pronounced like the Georgetown Hoya) where I stopped along the sea again.  Here, the cliffs were much smaller and they had several small beaches just below the sidewalk.  One of the beaches, known as the children's pool, had a number of harbor seals swimming in the calm water.  They regularly rest in the area, though they didn't seem to be getting any rest today with all the swimmers around.  Further down, I saw a sea lion pull himself onto some rocks to sun bathe for a few moments.

I ended my evening in the lovely Gaslamp Quarter, which is the dining and drinking area in downtown San Diego.  It was really a nice area and I wished that I were not exploring it by myself.  Dining alone is never much fun, but I saddled myself up to the bar and ordered the San Diego home fries skillet (a specialty of the house - see rule #3), which was delicious.

Overall, San Diego is a fantastic city, which I will have to visit again in the future.  The city was not exactly what I expected - the landscape was hillier, for example - but each part of the city has its own vibe.  You can feel the extensive military presence here, but it is not overbearing like it can sometimes be in DC.  Many of the best views of the city are commanded by huge glorious houses up in hills, but along the beach are small one story bungalows that seem directly out of a Beach Boys song.  I explored a few bits and pieces of the city but I barely scratched the surface of what the city has to offer.  One day, I will return for a longer trip.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

We love them the most

Six years ago, Mom and I drove from Arizona to Omaha on my way back to law school after visiting my family for Christmas.  A few hours into the trip, I hit a rock in the road and busted my wheel (not just the tire).  We hobbled around Gallup, New Mexico looking for a replacement wheel and tire.  During this time, Mom noticed that the diamond on her engagement/wedding ring was missing from its setting.  We tore apart my car looking for the diamond, but never found it.

Since then, Mom stopped wearing the ring.  Without the diamond, it looked odd and given their financial situation the last few years, they never even really looked into having it replaced.  A few months ago, Katie suggested replacing the diamond as gift from the kids for their 35th Anniversary.  Shelley and I both loved the idea and we recruited Dad into the scheme to help with the logistics.

On Saturday afternoon in Vegas, we all went to eat together at Caesars Palace.  Although their anniversary is not for another month, this was the last time we would all be together before then.  Katie found an amazing personalized card, which got Mom crying by itself.  When she saw the ring box, she looked at it perplexed before opening it.  Once open, she gasped and immediately put on the ring.  She loved the ring and I caught her staring at it several times during lunch.

The moment Mom realized what was in the box

Mom showing off her ring

Viva Las Vegas

Prescott Valley, AZ to Las Vegas, NV –  331miles (June 22-25) 

Day 1 - 
Friday morning, Mom, Dad, and I piled into the 2011 Nissan Versa that is my chariot for this grand journey around the Western USA.  The car was filled to capacity with one large suitcase, two carry-on size suitcases, a backpack, a cooler filled with cold drinks, a bag of snacks, two pillows and three adults.  Not all of this stuff was mine.

The desert mountains of northern Arizona and Nevada are like nothing I’ve seen anywhere else in the country.  Desolate and majestic, these mountains are nothing like the snow-capped peaks of the Rockies, the dense forest of the Appalachians, or the jungles of Hawaii.  Large barren rocky peaks jut into the desert sky and then plunge to desert valleys below.  

Arriving in Las Vegas is always amazing, no matter how or when you arrive.  At night, you see the dazzling neon of the strip spread out before you.  A night landing at the airport is sure to give anyone goosebumps.  You land so close to the strip that the climactic finale in Con Air almost seems plausible (and when was the last time someone said that about a Nic Cage action movie).  But, I think I prefer driving in from the Hoover Dam.  Suddenly, as you crest one of those desolate mountain peaks, Sin City spreads out before you like an oasis - a mirage on the desert floor below.  Breathtaking.

The clear highlight of my first day in Las Vegas was dinner.  About a year ago, I was watching the live coverage of the World Series of Poker when they started featuring Bob, a player from Belize (He eventually finished 7th).  According to the broadcast, he owned a poker room in Belize City – which was great news for me because I didn’t know there WAS a poker room in Belize.  I began playing there regularly and became friends with Bob.  As we were both headed for Vegas at the same time, we exchanged phone numbers and agreed to meet up.
Soon after we checked into our hotel, Bob called and offered to buy us dinner over at the steak house in the Bellagio.  I warned him that there were six of us (me, Mom, Dad,  Katie, Katie's fiancée Paul and Paul's sister, Rochelle – Shelley wasn’t in town yet), but he told us to come on over.  I had the filet mignon and it may have been the best steak I have ever eaten (sorry, Dad).  It was so tender, perfectly cooked and seasoned.  The lobster mashed potatoes were just as delectable.  My first meal on my road trip will most likely end up as the best meal of the month.   Thank you, Bob.
The rest of the day – and early morning – was all gambling.  I didn’t do too well in the casino, losing a couple hundred of dollars.  On the bright side, I played craps with three Elvises, hit a straight flush at Pai Gow poker for the first time ever, and helped Godzilla destroy shit in a slot machine bonus round.  (Foreshadowing - this turned out to be my best day gambling).

Day 2- 
My mom and I have always connected through music.  She grew up as a teenager in the 60s and 70s and loved the Eagles, Jackson Browne, Bruce Springsteen, and the other rock and roll greats.  But unlike most parents, she didn’t freeze her taste in music.  Although she thought the 80s music sucked, she LOVED 90s music – Counting Crows, Dave Matthews Band, Pete Yorn, Matchbox 20, Sheryl Crow, U2, Wallflowers.  She loved them all.

She loves going to concerts.  As kids, my parents took us to Jackson Browne and the Eagles and she instilled the same deep love of music in me.  When I was a teenager, we started going to more and more concerts together.  Inevitably, we’d be at a classic rock show like Don Henley and I’d be the youngest person in the audience or we’d be at popular rock group like Counting Crows and she’d be the oldest person in the concert.  But,  regardless of the band we always had a great time and bonded as mother and son.  So, over the last decade, I started buying concert tickets for us as a present for Mother’s Day or her birthday.  We’ve seen Counting Crows (both our favorite band) a half dozen times, Dave Matthews Band, Eric Clapton, and others.  We made up dream lists of who we wanted to see and at the top of this list was Garth Brooks (I went through a country phase in middle school and NO ONE was bigger  than Garth in the 90s).
So, when I saw that Garth Brooks was playing in Las Vegas a week after I started home leave I had to buy tickets for my Mom and me.  I asked my sisters if they wanted to go and Shelley decided to join us.  In the end, the whole family (plus Paul and Rochelle) joined in for the trip to Vegas.

BEST. CONCERT. EVER.  When we got to the concert hall, there was nothing on the stage but a bar stool, a few bottles of water and a guitar.  When the show started, out came Garth and no one else.  It was just him and a guitar.  He said he wanted to start at the beginning and played his first single, “Much too young to feel this damn old.”  “But”, he said, “now let’s go back to the true beginning.”  And he proceeded to take us on a musical journey through the 60s, 70s, 80s and into the 90s. 
He started off with the great country legends of Merle Haggard and George Jones – his father’s music.  He followed that up with all of the biggest rock and roll hits of the 60s and 70s.  These songs influenced him when he was growing up.  But not only did he sing his way through these songs (and boy can he sing), but he told the stories of what these songs meant to him – sitting in his dad’s piece of shit Chevy truck, stealing his brother’s James Taylor LP, and his mom listening to “Heard it on the Grape Vine” on repeat on a 45 (the old people in the audience seemed to understand what these “45s” were. I think it is some kind of record).
He would also show how these songs influenced his own records.  After playing some chords from a Bob Segar song, he said “If you grew up in Detroit, this music sounded like the means streets of Detroit, but out in central Oklahoma, it sounded like thunder.”  The crowd roared as he launched into “The Thunder Rolls.” 
About two-thirds of the way through the show, he brought out his wife Trisha Yearwood.  They sang their duet together and then she launched into “She’s in love with the boy” which was a huge hit back in my country phase (although I always thought Faith Hill sang it).  She finished with “Walkaway Joe” before she ceded the rest of the show to Garth.  At this point, we had reached the 90s and as Garth said, “The 90s were very good to me.”
From that point on, he hit basically every hit that he ever had.  These were the great songs like “Papa Loved Mama”, “Unanswered Prayers”, “The Summer”, “The Dance”, “Rodeo”, and of course, “Friends in Low Places.”  It was awesome.  I have been to dozens of concerts in my lifetime and it was the best one I have ever been to. 

Day 3 - 
Besides the Garth Brooks concert, the other reason I wanted to go to Vegas was to play in the World Series of Poker.  I have been watching the WSOP on ESPN since Robert Varkonyi won the Main Event (the year before Moneymaker).  Over the last few years, I have gotten more serious about poker.  I began to play more often, read a few poker books, and even won a few tournaments (two online tournaments, a school tournament in Ireland, plus my big win in Belize last December).  In cash games, I am generally winning more than I am losing.  But I was never sure if this was because I was good or because I was playing against weak competition.  So, I looked over the events and decided to play in the $1,000 buy-in no limit hold 'em event on Sunday.

Admittedly, I was a bit nervous when I started the event.  My insides were doing flip-flops as I found my seat.  There were almost 300 tables in three different conference rooms filled with ten players each trying to take my chips.  My biggest worry was going out on the first hand, but fortunately I looked down and saw a 4-7 offsuit and mucked my cards.  (Warning: the next few paragraphs will have nothing but boring crap about the tournament.  I didn't play with anyone famous and none of this is interesting to anyone but me.  But, since it is my blog, I am writing whatever fucking boring poker stuff I want).

The first big hand I got involved in had me in the small blind (25-25) with a Q-6 offsuit.  The free flop came out Q-6-7 giving me two pairs.  I checked in first position and the cutoff (one before the button) bet 300, which both me and the big blind called.  A 10 came on the turn and I bet out 400 chips.  The big blind called and the cutoff raised to 1800.  We started with only 3000 chips, so a call was out of the question.  I either move all-in or fold.  I didn't have much information about this player yet, but he seemed like an aggressive player.  My best hope was that he had pocket Aces or pocket Kings, which explained his big raise but left me leading.  Pocket 10s would have me crushed (drawing to just two Queens).  A set of 6s was unlikely, but a set of 7s was very possible.  Plus, I still had to worry about the Big Blind who would act after me.  Ultimately, I folded because I wasn't willing to be knocked out of the tournament so quickly.  The Big Blind also folded (he later told me that he had Q-7 for a higher two pair).  In the end, I think that the raiser had pocket 10s and I made a good fold, but I lost 25% of my chips in the first 30 mins.

I didn't win a single hand during the first level and ended with 1725 chips (start with 3000).  Level 2 was much better as I won a couple of pots to move up to 3725 in chips.  We also lost the first player from our table.  Two tight players went all-in with the exact same stack (neither had played a pot yet).  The A-Q beat the A-K with a Q on the river - providing the first of several bad beats I would see at the table.  More importantly for me, I began to feel more comfortable playing.  Many of the players now getting knocked out were experienced WSOP players and I was beating them (or at least outlasting them).

Over the next two levels, I moved tables twice and won nothing more than small pots.  By the end of level 4, I was back down to 2225 in chips and struggling to stay in the tournament.  My family had come over to watch for a bit (it is not exciting to watch at all).  I told them to stay around for a bit because there was a good chance I would soon be out of the tournament.  At this point, I basically needed to double up or lose as I didn't have enough chips to lose a hand and not be crippled.  I called a limped pot from the button with pocket 4s and was rewarded with a 4 on the flop.  One player bet and I moved all-in.  Unfortunately, I did not get any callers, but I did win the small pot to get to 3650 by the end of level 5.

During level 5, I tried to get cute with a suited 3-4.  I raised from the button into a limped pot and both blinds called.  It checked to me after a missed flop and I made a continuation bet to take down the pot.  The small blind cooperated, but the big blind raised me all-in and I folded my shitty cards.  I was back to survival mode and only playing if I was willing to move all-in.  Just before the end of the level, I bet all-in with a suited A-J and was called by QQ.  I hit two Aces on the flop and doubled up to get to 4500 at the dinner break.  

Making the dinner break was one of my main goals of the tournament (along with not being the first one out, making the money, and winning the whole thing).  Around this time, they started posting how many players were left and there were 860 players who made it to dinner (out of about 3000 total).  The average chip stack was close to 10,000 so I was well below average.  BUT, I was still playing.

After dinner, I patiently waited for my spots to move all-in.  I am actually very good at playing a short stack, so I was comfortable.  I moved all-in several times without getting any callers - although I generally wanted someone to call, winning the blinds and antes was important.  Each win gave me about an extra half-hour to play and get the hand that would double me up.  By the time we ended level 7, I was back down to 3700 in chips.  After just a single rotation without playing a hand, I was down to 2600.  I could not last long and soon doubled up with AK vs. 10-10 (hit the A on the turn).

Now, I had around 5,000 in chips and a quick double up would get me up to the average stack and allow me to play real poker (not just all-in poker like I had played for the past 3 hours).  The first player to act raised to a suspiciously high 3,000 chips (the normal starting raise was around 1,200 at this level).  I looked down and saw pocket 9s and felt I had no choice but to move all-in with 4,800.  If I had had anymore chips or he had led out with any fewer chips, I think he would have folded his A-J offsuit.  Unfortunately, he was pot committed and called me.  A jack hit on the flop and sent me home.

They were breaking our table just as I was knocked out.  That left approximately 560 players remaining in the field of 2949.  I outlasted 2389 players and finished in the top 19%.  297 players would make the money.  I honestly feel that if I had doubled up there, I could have made the money.  Although I didn't win, I am still proud that I played and I could see myself going back to play again.  I am capable of playing with these players and could win a bracelet with the right circumstances.

Day 4 - 

I slept in on my last full day in Vegas.  As everyone but Shelley was going home that day, we went to a few casinos before seeing them off.  Shelley and I then went over to the Mirage to play poker (cash game).  You may recall from the movie "Rounders" that the poker room in the Mirage is the center of the poker world.  Even though that is no longer remotely true, I wanted to play poker there anyway.  Shelley and I sat down at a $1-$2 no limit hold 'em cash game.  We played there for about four hours until Shelley busted out of her original $100.  I cashed out about $300 up for the table.  I had so many good hands, it wasn't really fair to everyone else.  Three hands in a row, I three-bet (re-raise before the flop) with A-Q or better.  If I had these cards the day before, I would have won the damn tournament.  I spent the rest of the night losing my winnings to various other casinos.

Overall, Vegas was a fantastic trip despite the fact that I lost money in basically every casino I visited.  I had a great time with my family.  The dinner on Friday was great and the Garth Brooks concert made the trip all worth it.  I enjoyed playing the WSOP and hope to do it again in the future (maybe home leave 2015?).

(note - pictures to follow)

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

So far, home leave is awesome

I landed in Phoenix last Thursday night and my dad picked me up.  Even though it was after 8 and the sun was down, it was still over 100 degrees.  I rarely spend time down here during the summer (usually, I am here for the holidays) and the heat is unbelievable.  Fortunately, my parents recently moved to Prescott (pronounced like it rhymes with biscuit) Valley, which is 2 hours away and 30 degrees cooler.

On Friday, both my sisters came up to my parent's house and we had a wonderful family dinner.  As my little sister is getting married later this year, this may very well be our last family dinner with just the five of us.  My dad cooked steak and lobster - which was delicious.  We were going to play a game of cards, but my other sister was feeling sick.

Saturday, I went down to Phoenix with Katie and we headed out to trivia night.  Her fiancee Paul is a trivia buff and our team should have done well.  One of the questions asked how many states border Iowa (my home state) and the final question required us to put four countries (Saudi Arabia, Spain, Peru, and Venezuela) in order from largest to smallest.  Both of these questions should have been in my wheelhouse, but I counted Kansas as a border state and thought Venezuela was bigger than Peru.

For Father's Day, Katie and I met my parents and grandparents at the Red Lobster where Shelley works and we had a wonderful late lunch.  That night, we went and played BINGO with my grandparents (way more fun than it sounds).  My grandfather BINGO'd for $900, while the rest of us lost.  Monday we hung out in Phoenix for a while before picking up my rental car.  Today, I took my Mom to a doctor's appointment, got my haircut, did some shopping and stopped at a local casino.  I ate Five Guys burgers for lunch and marveled at the breadth of options available at Target.  

If all of this sounds perfectly boring to you all, that is by design.  I am going to spend four weeks running around the country.  I need a few days to relax first.  I hope to blog at least a few times a week on the road, but no guarantees.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

One Week Left

Well, the movers have come and gone.  All of my stuff is packed into a few crates making its long slow journey to Frankfurt.  Packout was actually much easier than I expected.  As far as I can tell, they didn't pack any Embassy furniture or full garbage cans.

Now that packout is done, I have a week of saying goodbye before I start home leave.  I have modified my road trip plans.  Rather than purchase a car and drive myself to DC, I am going to rent a car and then fly out from Phoenix.  This way, I don't have to rush into buying a car, worry about licensing it and insuring it.  Plus, I will get to see my family again before I go to DC.

You can see the general route on the map below.  Highlights of the trip will include:
(a) Garth Brooks in Vegas
(b) Playing in the World Series of Poker
(c) San Diego Zoo and Sea World in San Diego - first trip to SD since I was 4
(d) Driving up the California coast on Highway 1
(e) Exploring the San Francisco Bay area
(f) Red Wood National Park
(g) Astoria, Oregon - where The Goonies was filmed
(h) Seattle
(i) first trip to Yellowstone National Park

If anyone has any suggestions for places to visit, things to do, restaurants to eat at, or any other suggestions, please leave a comment.
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