Where Neon Goes to Die

The most exciting [blogable*] activity from my latest trip to Las Vegas was a visit to the neon museum, a non-profit whose mission it is to collect, restore, and display signs from Las Vegas's past. The museum is still in its beginning stages, so the tour was less of a museum and more of a tour of a fenced-in gravel lot. But that doesn't mean it was any less cool*.

So besides "museum" being somewhat of a misnomer, at least currently, the focus on "neon" also doesn't necessarily stand true. Many, if not most, of the signs in the boneyard are pre-neon, or at least pre-neon-overload. In my book, that makes it all the better, as it is reminiscent of the old timey Vegas before its over-the-top consumerism* as seen here.

Putting these two denotive-nitpickyisms aside, I can't recommend the boneyard highly enough. The place seems to come alive with the stories from the tour guide of the history of a certain casino chain's font choice and the pre-WWII rivetless construction style. And while they have kind of a discouraging photo policy, I managed to snap a few good shots. Read on for more reactions and photos.

More...
Sunday September 9 2007File under: travel, pics

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Laughlin Nevada


In hopes of avoiding the crazy crowds (and prices) of Labor Day weekend in Las Vegas, I thought it might be fun to check out Laughlin, Nevada. Afterall, when all you are looking for is air-conditioned large spaces with flashy lights and all-you-can-eat buffets, one Nevada "resort" town is as good as any other, right?

As it turns out, Laughlin was a great place to pass a day (although any more than that and you would be pushing it). There was a pleasant path along the river that passed in and out of the casinos (which is a good thing because if you tried to walk the whole thing (a whopping half mile), you would prolly die of heat stroke). The highlight for us was probably the Colorado Belle (pictured above). It was a river boat themed casino that did a great job of giving you the impression of being on a river boat. I even felt on the edge of seasickness a few times.

To complete our tour of Laughlin, we did a few geocaches on both sides of river*. We also had lunch in a great little riverside park while watching the scads of ski-dooers ski-doo (on their ski-doos).

Yep, if you are looking for a cheap relaxing mini-vacation, give Laughlin a try. If you have any class or are looking for something fancy where your stories will hold your friends' and family's attention, you might want to keep looking. Case in point.
Wednesday September 5 2007File under: travel

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Cheeseburger in Paradise

I've been a Jimmy Buffett fan of varying degrees for the past 10 years or so. His music has saved me from completely losing my sanity one summer when I was stuck behind a copy machine 40 hours a week, transported me away from my gloomy cubicle in the middle of a Washington winter (via radio margaritaville), and inspired real life travels to tropical places. So when it came to looking for a place to eat on the Las Vegas strip recently, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to check out the Margaritaville Cafe.

At the outset, I was somewhat skeptical of it being overly cliche and having the marketing shoved down our throats, but in the end, I was pleasantly surprised. While the music was a little loud, it was good*. There were guys on stilts walking around making balloon hats, which gave everything a kind of party atmosphere. Then, once an hour, a bikini clad lady emerged from a volcano, slid down a water slide, and ended in an extremely oversized margarita glass. It was quite a spectacle.

Besides the carnival atmosphere, the food was really good. I couldn't pass up ordering the cheeseburger in paradise. While it wasn't the best cheeseburger I've ever had, it was pretty dang good. Emily had a salad with onion and cucumber relish, bbq sauce, candied pecans, and fried chicken. While it sounded a little out there, it was actually really good.

Yep, good music, good food, and good atmosphere = a dang good evening.
Monday September 3 2007File under: travel, food

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Travel Essentials


1. A pen: This is the single most indispensable thing for me when I travel. You never know when you'll need to fill out border declaration forms, copy down phone numbers, schedules, or addresses, or give your number to a sexy flight attendant*.

2. A crossword puzzle: Not only does a crossword work great for killing those minutes spent waiting for your bus to come, your food to come, or a late friend to arrive, but it also functions as a great notepad for phone numbers, addresses, schedules, todos, travel observations, and more. I always try to carry single sided crosswords when I travel just for this reason. Looking over the notes taken on the back of them when you return from your trip is always a hoot. (Oh, and I guess Sudorkus could work in a pinch.)

3. Reading material: For the waits that are longer than a few minutes, having a book/magazine/travel guide handy can greatly help pass the time. The one thing that is guaranteed* in travel is that you will always have down time. Paperbacks works great and can often be exchanged with other travelers you meet along the way.

4. Camera: I try to keep my camera handy while traveling, but not to the point of being one of those guys*. You never know when a good shot will present itself. I take pictures not only to remember my trip later, but also to share my travels with my friends and family (via this blog of course. Who actually looks at printed pictures anymore?).

5. Ear plugs: Those $.50 yellow thingies you squish up and jam in your ears can be a lifesaver for flights with crying babies, shared hostel rooms with snorers, or time when you just want to block everything out. I rarely go anywhere with a pair of these handy.

6. Spare change: Having a dollar or two of spare change can save lots of headaches when traveling. Many public transportation systems require exact change (or at least don't give change), vending machines are often the only choice for a quick meal before hopping on a bus, some fountains simply require having a wishing penny thrown in, and for the 11 people left in the world without a cell phone*, public pay phones rarely accept dollar bills.

7. Fork and spoon: While these don't lend themselves well to air travel*, they are great to have around when exploring new places. Often times when you are trying to travel on the cheap, the grocery store provides meals. Eating yogurt with a spoon is much easier than eating it with an expired driver's license. (Using your own utensils is also a great way to avoid sending more plastic to the land fill.)
Wednesday August 29 2007File under: travel, misc

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Kwik-E-Mart

As most of you already know, the Simpsons Movie opened this past weekend. And as most of you might suspect, I went and saw it on opening night. I'm giving it a thumbs up! Good plot, good inclusion of the characters we have come to know and love*, and lots of good jokes. All in all, it was just like paying $10 to watch a good, long episode without commercials. Anyway, I enjoyed it muchly.

Since the Simpsons Movie is kind of a big deal to me, I tried to think of ways to make it special. I immediately* discounted the idea of dressing up like Prof. Frink. Camping out for tickets was also out of the question due to the 105 degree heat. Luckily, one of the 12 or so 7-11s that have been converted to a Kwik-E-Marts is in the Las Vegas area. (I've heard confirmed reports of others in Seattle (thanks, Siri) and Washington D.C. (thanks, Izak) Bingo.

Most notable at this particular Kwik-E-Mart was the number of other slack-jawed gawkers roaming around with cameras. Good thing there was lots to take pictures of. Life-sized replicas of many characters were placed around the store, although the Jasper from the freezer had been stolen. There were Simpsons-themed foods and drink available as well. The Buzz Cola was sold out, but there were Squishees a-plenty. I enjoyed a nice sprinkled donut. There were also little subtleties around that made it quite fun, like dashing uniforms for the employees and other quirks.

On my way out, I struck up a conversation with the cashier* who told me how well the promotion is working for 7-11. He said that in the Las Vegas area alone, they made over $30,000 in two weeks off the sprinkled donuts alone. Not bad at all.
Thursday August 2 2007File under: travel, movies

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110 in the Shade


A few nights ago, Emily and I went up Red Rocks Canyon to the Super Summer Theatre. The venue is gorgeous with the red rock cliffs surrounding a grassy lawn and professional stage. Everyone brings their blankets and chairs, along with picnic dinners, and enjoys an evening outdoors watching legitimate theater. Because it is a couple thousand feet higher than Vegas, the temperature is bearable, some might even say pleasant*.

110 in the Shade was the name of the play we saw, not a description of the weather where we were seeing it. And I guess I should call it a musical instead of a play. There was lots of singing. It immediately brought to mind that Simpsons episode about painting the wagon red. Hilarious. It also struck me as completely the opposite of what kind of experience one might expect to have in Vegas. Rather than high gloss, air-conditioned casino entertainment, it was more old-timey community-oriented fun.

While the atmosphere was spectacular, the temperature was bearable, and Pei Wei hit the spot, we opted to beat the crowds and head out early before we found out if Lizzie hooked up with Sheriff File and if Starbuck made the rains come. I imagine it all worked out. All in all, it was an awesome evening.
Monday July 30 2007File under: travel, misc

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Bling Bling

Gambling with other people's money is good times, esp. when it forces you to try new extremely intimidating games. Chris, with his convoluted craps plan, was the big winner for the night (although we quickly deviated from his plan, but it worked out great). "Daddy needs a new graphing calculator" drew a few looks from the table attendents, but it was worth the extra 5%. His take...drum roll please...$33.50 (plus the initial $10). I'll take the appropriate action and finally utilize that donation box on IHJ.

Taking second place on the winner list was Sarah who doubled her money on quarter slots (not to mention the free Bud Lite that Emily got from the appropriately*-dressed cocktail waitress). We found an old school machine with actual reels and an honest to goodness pull-arm and let the money roll in. Unfortunately, it wasn't old school enough to have the coins come tumbling out. We had to deal with a printed ticket instead.

On the converse side of things, both Julie and Andrew walk away empty handed. Julie, since we couldn't find a $.25 slot machine with hearts on it, we put your dollar on a machine with dolphins (appropriate, eh?) but it went away just as quickly. Since we didn't conform to your specifications, however, you are off the hook on payback. Andrew, your bet gave us the least trouble because 17 seconds after it was placed, it was gone*. Because it was so easy, I will let you off the hook for paying me back if you agree to put it towards future debts accrued on the frisbee golf course.

As for the only bet that requires research, synthesis, and understanding, we will have to wait until February to find out how Ryan did. It does give me a reason to follow football this year, though. Go Steelers!!

All in all, a great night at the casino. The only downside is that Emily has now become afflicted with the "There's No Way I Can Lose at Craps" bug, which we all know will come back to haunt her. As for me, I think my own personal Gamblor* has been sated and Senior Tuesdays at the Northern Lights Casino will tide me over until my next Vegas Vacation.
Sunday July 29 2007File under: travel, misc

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Spot the Irony


Anyone? Anyone? Well, I got a good chuckle out of it, at least.
Saturday July 28 2007File under: travel, pics

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Get Rich Quick (or Gambling By Proxy)

I once again find myself in the Las Vegas area. "Who goes to Las Vegas in July on purpose?", you ask. Good question. In its defense, the weather has been quite exciting with thunder storms, flash floods, and temperatures that have more or less stayed below the 100 degree mark. But enough pleasantries; let's get down to business.

Last time I passed this way, I talked to a few people about my idea of gambling by proxy. This time, I want to make that dream a reality for us all. The concept is this: for all of you who aren't able to make it to casinos, whether because of time, geography, or overbearing spousal reasons, I offer you my time and location* so that together we might both become rich.

The rules go like this. You name the amount, game, and bet (e.g. $10 on roulette 15) and I will go place it. I'm thinking the games that lend themselves to this would be roulette, craps, slots (please be as specific as you like with the type of machine), and blackjack (although you would have to accept my decisions*. If you lose, you pay me the amount lost. Kind of like if you were here, but without having to deal with the crowds, stress, and heat. If you win, we split the winnings 75/25 (yes, the bigger amount is for you*).

The concept here is to allow anyone to be a part of the BdW experience, to participate in this adventure that I am on, to have a little innocent fun while on your government-mandated 15-minute coffee break at the office. The action and outcome will be documented here. And besides the excitement and fun this will create, you will be helping to support BdW (web hosting ain't free, ya know.) So get your bets in by Friday night and then leave the rest to me.
Wednesday July 25 2007File under: travel, misc

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Bike Portland!

Portland likes bikes. Or at least they recognize the value in accommodating and encouraging them. I've never seen a city that is as bike friendly as Portland is. There are bikes racks in front of most establishments, often overfilled. I even saw a neighborhood that blocked off a parallel parking spot and filled it with bike racks so the sidewalk wouldn't be clogged. In the space it takes to park one car, there was space for over a dozen bikes. There is space for bikes on the buses and the MAX (the light rail public transportation), also often filled. But what has impressed me most about the biking scene in Portland is the number and quality of bike routes.

In my short time in Portland, I've probably ridden over 50 miles. The difference riding on designated bike routes makes is huge. Often these routes are on lesser traveled residential streets so you don't have to contend with traffic. When the routes do follow major roads, there is a lane set aside for you, painted and everything. Every time the route makes a turn, there are signs pointing the way and updating the distance (and estimated time) to the major landmarks. And for people not terribly familiar with the area, there is even a route planner.

All the encouragement and accommodation seems to be working. You see bikers everywhere you go, ranging all the way from spandex clad aerodynamic racer types to little old ladies with their groceries. Seeing all these cyclists is so inspiring to me. Whether it is their intention or not, the positive environmental impact of pedaling across town instead of pedal-to-the-metalling across town is huge.

I count my miles bicycling among my favorite experiences here in Portland. It kept me in shape, showed me the city, and saved the planet all at the same time. Yes, I agree with sentiment often heard around the city, on billboards, bumber stickers, and store windows: Bike Portland!
Sunday July 22 2007File under: travel, transportation

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