Vegas, December 2017

This was a trip that was planned sometime earlier this year (I forget when, exactly), when we got a mailer from the Wynn for some screaming deal – two nights, two buffets, and two tickets to Le Reve for $400. Depending on how you look at it, we either ended up getting the stay free or the show/meals free.

In any case, we flew out to Los Angeles early the morning of December 4th to grab B’s car and drive to Vegas.

Monday, December 4:

Our flight was super early and we didn’t really eat much prior (well, B; I had eaten more), so we grabbed a bit more food when we landed as well as some coffee. We then started the drive to Las Vegas.

We took a small detour just outside of town to see the Seven Magic Mountains, an art installation, which apparently has been around since May of 2016 and will be on display until May of next year.

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It was a bit windy and cold, but still super neat. I would recommend checking it out before it ends, as it’s a quick and easy drive outside of the city. I don’t know Uber/Lyft/taxi rates, but you could seriously rent a car for an hour and go.

Our next stop was the Wynn, where B dropped me off with the bags and then went to go park the car at the Mirage, the closest MLife property (free parking). I hung out waiting for him. We then got checked in and quick ran across the street to Fashion Show for a bite to eat. I tried a new lobster roll in Luke’s Lobster.

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Close-up.

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With the bag.

Spice blend was a bit weird – it reminded me of the shrimp/spices Noodles and Company uses on the Buttered Egg Noodles and Parmesan – but it definitely wasn’t the worst lobster roll I’ve ever had. Proper bun … I’d put it about average.

Snack eaten, we wandered around the Wynn a bit before doing a quick workout.

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Some of the holiday decor.

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View from the room.

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Room.

We weren’t too terribly hungry, so we just grabbed a snack waiting for the show to start – a very expensive beer and popcorn that we split.

Le Reve, however, was AMAZING. A bit abstract for sure, but visually stunning. I wish I had seen they allowed photos (just not flash) as I would have taken a few, but on the other hand, I’m also glad I didn’t as it really allowed me to be immersed in the show. Both of us highly enjoyed it. It is an expensive ticket for sure, but totally worth it.

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End of the show.

Ate: egg and oj at the house, oatmeal at the Delta Sky Club in DIA, plane snacks, Starbucks, Chick-fil-a breakfast sandwich, road trip snacks (including tasty doughnuts at some random place in Hesperia, Calif.), Luke’s Lobster lobster roll, half a Jamba Juice, popcorn and beer.

Tuesday, December 5:

The original thought was to run in the morning – north side of the Strip, could run without all of the stupid stairs and bridges – but Las Vegas was actually kind of cold this trip (silly desert) and we neglected to bring proper running clothes. Oops. So we figured we’d get our workout in later when it warmed up.

So, first things first, we hit up the Wynn buffet.

Visually, it was gorgeous.

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Inside.

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Close-up of one of the displays.

However, the food? Actually fairly mediocre. I’ve eaten at enough Vegas (breakfast) buffets to know that a regular salad bar is usually a thing; not at the Wynn (unless I wanted a Caesar salad, which no.). So that was disappointing. The eggs Benedicts were very hit or miss in terms of the ham/Canadian bacon on them (I picked up one to try it; no meat; had to grab another one); the bagels were tiny and since they toasted them for you, got kinda burnt; desserts were terrible. Very glad we got it free and didn’t pay for it. You should not finish a buffet feeling full yet terribly unsatisfied. Ugh.

Walked over to Fashion Show to get coffee afterward (Starbucks for me, Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf for B) and since it was still too early for anything to be really open there, grabbed the car and headed to the Gamblers General Store, a place B wanted to hit up. Not entirely my scene, but it was still pretty cool. Want to buy a full-sized craps table or just some playing cards/dice/chips for the house? This is your place.

Headed back to Fashion Show after to officially walk around since we never (I have, but years ago) have officially OFFICIALLY walked around.

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USA Hockey has a store there!

We were debating on what to do for lunch and ended up deciding on Ra Sushi. Nigiri was great, as was the cucumber roll. The shrimp tempura roll? Something was off about it. The hot green tea was also some of the worst I’ve ever had. Would not recommend; would not go back to.

Felt like death afterward, so moved the car back to the Mirage and headed back to the hotel to chill a bit.

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Holiday dolphins in the Mirage.

After things settled a bit, we headed down to the Wynn fitness center again (which is AWESOME I might add) to get in a quick mile or so on the treadmills and then a lift. We were initially going to meet up with a pilot friend of B’s (and his wife) for a drink before they headed to the Golden Knight’s game, but they were running late so no meet up for us. We still got ready for our (late) reservations because we wanted to walk on down to the Bellagio.

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The Wynn has a baby fountain choreographed to music … competing with the Bellag?

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Conservatory at the Bellagio. Love the little detail like the hook.

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Stunning as always.

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B and one of the polar bears. I think Coca-Cola was a sponsor …

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Frolicking polar bears. I think I like the murderous penguins from a couple years ago better …

Dinner that night (December’s date night) was at Prime Steakhouse. We had kind of hoped for patio seating (out by the fountains), but would have had to wait an extra half-hour for it. Since it was pretty cold out … we decided we’d pass and just grab a table. We got led to the table … and it wasn’t officially ready, so we got herded back to the bar area. A few minutes later, table is ready, we go back for good … and got free drinks for the inconvenience? Which, given that the glass of Pinot Noir I ordered was $20ish, I’m not really complaining about, but I feel was also unnecessary as seriously, shit happens.

We essentially ordered the same thing – filet mignon – with Yukon gold mashed potatoes to split as well as Brussels sprouts, and the Market Tomato Salad to split.

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Essentially a twist on a Caprese salad, it wasn’t bad. A bit too much arugula for my tastes (so. peppery.) and the burrata cheese was a bit too smooth (?)/off texture for me, but the tomatoes? Delicious.

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Potatoes, steak, sprouts.

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Close-up of the sprouts, with pears, bacon, and chervil.

Okay, so the main course. If I’m going to eat at a ridiculously schmancy steakhouse (and pay $68 for a piece of meat), I expect the quality of that piece of meat to be way up there. I’ve eaten at enough ridiculously schmancy places* (thanks, dad) to know that a properly well-cooked piece of beef? Should not need sauces to make it taste good. We think it was under-seasoned, for one (where’s my salt crust pre-cooking?), and secondly, the parts that were more well-done (we ordered it medium-rare and it was cooked properly, but the outside bits are more done; you know how it goes) didn’t taste of high quality beef and rather had the texture of something you’d get at more of say, a Texas RoadHouse or something. Which yeah, is good, but not at that price point.

The potatoes weren’t bad (and quite good when eaten in combination with the filet)(even though I make a better mashed potato) and the sprouts … well, let’s just say that B ate most of them. Not cooked well, too mushy, bacon needed to be crispier, and the pear, which took the texture role, was too sweet for how they were prepared.

(I think I watch too much Chopped.)

Dinner took a bit of time to come out, but I wasn’t too worried about it since these schmancy steakhouses tend to do that. However, our waiter and like two other people came to apologize about the wait (or say that the food was coming right out or whatever). In apology for the wait … we got free dessert (and coffee). Um, okay?

(for you keeping track at home, this means that our drinks and our desserts (that we probably honestly weren’t going to order as it was) were going to be free, and not due to anything on our parts. we said absolutely nothing and honestly didn’t care about the slight delays.)

We got two desserts – a molten lava cake made from Valhrona chocolate with vanilla bean ice cream and a New York style cheesecake with cranberry sorbet.

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Made me think of D Bar’s “molten cake thingy everybody has”. Pretty dang delicious.

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Didn’t eat the sorbet/cranberry stuff (don’t like cranberries), but the cheesecake was really good.

Dinner, in short, was ass expensive, but it could have been a lot worse. Would I recommend Prime? Maybe. Depends on if you like dropping a lot of money on food. While I don’t like frequenting those types of joints often, I’d be intrigued to see if say, Fix, is better.

Walking home was really nice after that dinner. Urp.

Ate: Wynn buffet, Starbucks/Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, Auntie Anne’s, Ra Sushi, Prime Bellagio

Wednesday, December 6:

We woke up and legitimately had a food hangover. Oh dear lord. I did something I don’t really ever do and worked out without eating food first. I am very much a creature of habit and like breakfast FIRST THING. This morning? Nope. Sweating a bit made me feel a bit more human, which was nice.

I had a couple options for coming home as B started a trip later that day, with, ironically, a Vegas overnight. I could …
– head back home on a flight that morning
– stay in Vegas by myself for the day, spend the night with him down at the Signature, and leave on a flight the next morning
– drive back to LA with B and catch a flight home that night while he goes off to work.

We ultimately decided on option three, which was nice since I usually always have to take the first flight out of places. So, we packed up, I hung out while B grabbed the car, and we popped over to the Peppermill for some breakfast, because as much as we didn’t particularly feel like eating ever again, we knew we needed breakfast.

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My type of breakfast.

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Love this place.

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B likes getting pancakes the size of his head.

We grabbed coffee and some Christmas presents at Starbucks on our way out of town (and I had a conversation about dinosaurs with one of the baristas) and settled in for the drive back.

I bought a cookie at Starbucks just in case … and I eventually ate it sometime in California … but my stomach was still not happy with me from the vast amounts of food I had consumed the day prior. As a result, dinner ended up being snacks (cheese, cucumber, grapes, hard-boiled eggs, and ramen) in the Delta clubs. I got home super late, but it was worth it.

Ate: Peppermill, Starbucks, Delta Sky Club noshes, plane snacks

We did talk a bit about the stay on the drive back to LA, and we determined that while the Wynn was nice, it’s not the place for us. It was also a bit too far north – we love our Bellagio, basically. Definitely worth the experience, though.

*While I am familiar with eating at the “high rolling” places, mostly from my relatively extreme youth, it does not mean that I am comfortable at them. That’s for the rest of my family. Typically the more expensive the place, the stuffier it is … and I just don’t do stuffy.

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Tempe Trip 2017

Also known as our yearly trip to Ironman Arizona. Since 2012, we’ve only missed one year (2014). Other than that, we’ve been down every year. Probably will actually skip next year, however. Maybe.

In any case, I’m not going to share anything from the race, but rather the trip surrounding it. I’ve also been apparently forgetting to take pictures with my actual camera half the time (Instagram stories are wicked fun, yo), but I still did get several. Two of the food ones were phone pics, though.

Wednesday, November 15:

A very long day of driving. But! Did see the sun do a cool effect somewhere on I-40/Route 66. Forget whether this was still in New Mexico or the Arizona side of things, though …

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Ate: egg at the house, snack at Starbucks, lunch at Golden Corral (mmm, salad), dinner at Logan’s Roadhouse, various homemade car snacks.

Thursday, November 16:

We stayed at the (really new) Hilton Garden Inn ASU, which was about three miles from Tempe Beach Park (that is, IMAZ ground zero). Alas, no free breakfast, so we went out at a place I found on the interwebs, Matt’s Big Breakfast. Matt’s has a few locations around the area, but we ate one just down Rio Salado. B had The Hog & Chick (their basic meat and eggs and potatoes) while I had the daily special … eggs benedict.

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Menu.

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Hashbrowns were terrible. Eggs Benedict wasn’t bad (although only one of my eggs was poached properly). They also pretty much forgot about B’s toast, which was sad, because it was good homemade sourdough.

After breakfast, a stop for coffee (mmm coffee) and then off to the Desert Botanical Garden, which, yay, FREE with our reciprocal membership. Because, if you know me/us by now, you know we love looking at cactus.

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Chihuly pieces.

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They had a butterfly exhibit. This is just one of many photos I took in there.

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Good to know.

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Building on site.

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Oh look, photo op site.

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(After saguaros,) my favorites – purple prickly pears.

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Poor Lonely George.

After the Gardens, it was off to the spring training home of the Colorado Rockies (okay, and the Arizona Diamondbacks), Salt River Fields.

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I may have brought this sweatshirt solely for a photo op.

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Super cool.

Afterward, we grabbed lunch, went back to the hotel to get a workout in, and then headed off to B’s great aunt and uncle’s house for dinner and conversation.

Ate: Matt’s Big Breakfast, Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf/Starbucks, Sweet Tomatoes, homemade food made with love by family.

Friday, November 17:

We wanted a bit of a lighter breakfast so we headed off to a Whole Foods for their oatmeal bar. Was not nearly as good as the ones ’round these here parts. I had a coffee social with my SMASH teammates, so we headed to Tempe to go FINALLY hike the A mountain (I think?) that’s right on the ASU campus and behind the mill on Mill.

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Dinosaurs enjoying the view.

I really don’t remember much of this day, weirdly. I know I did the coffee social, and I know we checked out the expo … and I know I went back to the Tempe Mission Palms to go to the SMASH warehouse sale … but I think the rest of the day was fairly low-key.

Ate: Whole Foods, Starbucks, random snacks thanks to the coffee social, In-N-Out, Gordon Biersch, Cold Stone.

Saturday, November 18:

We had the Tempe Friends and Family 5K this morning, so we woke up a bit earlier to head down to Mill – not only for a parking spot, but to grab breakfast at NCounter. We’ve eaten there quite a few times before and love it. Some pre-race oatmeal with a side of eggs was perfect.

If you really want to know how the race went, you can pop on over to the tri blog.

Post-race, we got coffee and checked out the expo, buying some general Ironman merch (as well as IMAZ stuff sans-date, since we have done it before).

As we’ve picked up curling this year, B wanted to go see the curling club … so we did that.

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Yes, we’re nerds.

We technically got invited back to curl on Sunday … but ended up passing on the offer.

Lunch was at a little teriyaki place at Tempe Marketplace which was pretty tasty. We were trying to keep it a little low key as that night was date night!

We needed to figure out a November date night and I figured this trip would be a perfect time to do it, so we found a nice place in Scottsdale called Olive and Ivy. When researching the trip, this place kept popping up a lot as well as everyone saying “eat on the patio,” so we decided sure, let’s eat here … and get reservations on the patio. Totally worth it.

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Art on the river outside. If you look to the left and see the bistro lights, that’s Olive and Ivy.

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Menu.

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View from our table.

We split some bruschetta.

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We tried:
Prosciutto: fig preserve, port salut
Mushroom: roasted garlic, crescenza
Brussels Sprout: whipped goat cheese, crisp prosciutto, sherry gastrique

The Prosciutto had too much arugula on it, but otherwise it was pretty good. The Brussels Sprout was missing … something, and the Mushroom would have been better had it been warm (but it was still my favorite. Despite our server trying to tell me it was terrible).

For dinner, B had the Veal and Spinach Ravioli (parmesan, mizuna), while I had the Sea Scallops (creamy polenta, roasted brussels sprout, bacon gastrique).

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It. Was. Delicious.

Ate: NCounter, Starbucks, Yogi’s Grill, Olive and Ivy.

Sunday, November 19:

Entirely a day of cheering on athletes. I had 14 people I was tracking. Two made it to Kona and, unfortunately, two didn’t finish.

Of note, though, was our “dinner.” My friend Katie said we had to go to Culinary Dropout, as it is her favorite restaurant in Tempe. As we basically grazed and snacked all day, we didn’t eat a full meal; rather, we each got a salad and split two appetizers.

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Soft pretzels and provolone fondue. SO GOOD.

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Cheddar and potato pierogies. Also quite delicious.

It was pretty tasty. Not sure if it’s my *favorite* place in Tempe, but was quite delicious.

Ate: hotel breakfast buffet, Starbucks, Cabin Tempe (not recommended), ice cream from the Baked Bear, Culinary Dropout.

Monday, November 20:

I dropped B off early to Sky Harbor as he had a trip that started Tuesday … but given the drive and flights and blahblahblah … he had to leave that morning. I grabbed some coffee and headed down to Tucson so I could pick up some tamales. As I got there before the tamale place opened, I took some photos around town.

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Some of my favorite street art in Tucson. Off 6th.

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Lost Barrio.

Tamales picked up, I started the drive back, stopping in Las Vegas, N.M., for the night.

Ate: Starbucks, random snacks from gas stops, Cracker Barrel.

Tuesday, November 21:

A short day – even with a weather/accident delay outside of Larkspur (and a stop at the grocery store), I was still home by noon. Hooray.

Ate: hotel breakfast, Starbucks, home cooked goodness.

2017’s September Road Trip: Part Two

So, initially, when I started this story (on the trip itself), I figured I’d have three posts – the previous one, one on Santa Cruz/Monterey, and then one on Las Vegas. However, I didn’t take nearly as many pictures in Las Vegas as I thought I would … so we’re wrapping this up in one longer tale. Good? Good.

Friday, September 8:

Friday morning, we woke up, ate breakfast at our hotel, and then drove the few hours from Sacramento to Santa Cruz. We didn’t stop driving until we hit San Jose, when I needed to fill up my tank. I don’t know where we stopped, exactly, but it was not the nicest area and the people driving around seemed batshit crazy … so we snagged a less-than-ideal lunch in Wienerschnitzel (mmm, corn dogs) and got back on the road.

We checked into our hotel, the Ocean Pacific Lodge, which we thought was maybe a few blocks from the race? Well, it was a few blocks from the race start, but literally across the street from transition. Like I could see the bike area from our room window. We wanted to check in for the race right away, so we went ahead and did that, as well as bought a few race items.

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Hotel. Transition would be to the left.

After a short ride to test out the bikes and a shower, we headed out for some dinner. Since lunch was so greasy, we decided on some nice sushi for dinner at I Love Sushi, which hit the spot.

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The Friends Roll, one of the ones we got.

Bellies full of delicious sushi, we walked around a bit to explore.

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Because a.) why not; and b.) he calls me his siren.

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Rides wouldn’t be going until the weekend.

Saturday, September 9:

We woke up fairly early Saturday morning as we had to drive back into San Jose to find a Chick-fil-a so as to get sandwiches for bike food (we eat pickle juice-soaked chicken patties on the bike. don’t ask …) as well as a few extra chicken egg and cheese biscuit sandwiches so as to eat something for breakfast the next day. We also hit up a Target for some bottled water to prep our race bottles with.

Back in Santa Cruz, we dropped our bikes off and went for a short run to shake out our legs, stopping by the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Exploration Center, because why not.

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Inside.

It was super simple. Not sure if I’d recommend it.

Post-run, we showered and then went off to drive a bit more of the bike course, grabbing lunch along the way in Davenport, Calif.

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Whale City, our stop.

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I had the North Coast Chicken Sandwich – grilled chicken breast topped with sauteed leeks and mushrooms on a fresh bakery roll. It wasn’t too shabby.

Drove back to the hotel to prep everything for the next day and to just relax. We left around 5ish to get our nails done at The Nail Club (no website; not the best mani/pedi I’ve had, but totally not the worst) before grabbing our typical breakfast-for-dinner at the Santa Cruz Diner. Fantastic meal except for the bacon. Mediocre bacon. Sad, sad day.

Sunday, September 10:

… was race day, so the vast, vast majority of the day was spent doing that.

We did grab dinner at the Seabright Brewery, which was a letdown. I think we just need to realize that neither of us particularly like the food at brewpubs. I might have had the worst fish and chips I’ve ever had in my life. Pretty terrible.

Monday, September 11:

We woke up, packed up the car, checked out, and headed toward Monterey so we could hit up the Aquarium.

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Roadside fruit/vegetable stand we stopped at. You can sorta see B inside. Some of the best strawberries I’ve ever had in my life.

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Monterey.

We hadn’t been to the Aquarium since our engagement trip back in 2009, so it was nice to revisit.

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Super friendly bat ray we were petting.

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Cuddling up in a giant clam. We have a similar picture from ’09.

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Jellyfish.

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Gorgeous sign in the cafe area.

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Cute little crab.

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B outside.

We ate lunch at the restaurant inside the aquarium, which was actually really tasty. I had mussels while B had a much better fish and chips.

Post-food, we spent a bit of time wandering Cannery Row.

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Pier.

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Kidlets looking out over the water.

We also got a bit of a treat at Ghiradelli.

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Brownie Sundae. *drool*

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B with his hot fudge sundae.

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Spotted this on the way back to the car. Oh Monterey and John Steinbeck …

We took ourselves and our stuffed bellies back on the road. Our original plan was to drive to L.A. to stay at B’s crash pad for the night … but he forgot the keys back at home. So, we decided to give ourselves an easier drive to Las Vegas the next day and made Bakersfield our stop. It was better than Wendover, let’s just say that. It had a Hooters near our hotel, though, and wings and salad made for a great dinner.

Tuesday, September 12:

We took a somewhat leisurely morning in Bakersfield, hopping on the hotel treadmills for a tiny bit and eating breakfast before getting back on the road. The drive from Bakersfield to Las Vegas wasn’t one of the more exciting ones I’ve ever experienced, but it wasn’t Utah, so there’s that.

We got to Las Vegas, I dropped B off to check in to the Bellagio while I parked the car (and got the greatest garage parking spot ever so we just decided to stay in it for the entire stint). I met him inside and then we went to get the rest of our stuff and get settled. As soon as the bags were in the room, we went right back out to snag the In-N-Out burger we’d been wanting since the moment the race ended for lunch. It was delicious and totally hit the spot.

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View from the room.

The rest of the evening (since we ate lunch pretty late) was spent mostly relaxing with a little bit of gambling. I had a pretty good night at the slots, actually winning for a change. We did eventually wander back out for a bit more food, which we got at PBR Rockbar. We got a spinach/artichoke dip (meh) and some of the best potato skins I’ve had in a really long time.

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Food consumed, back to the Bellagio for a bit more gambling and watching the fountains from the privacy of our own room.

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Dinosaurs watching out the window.

Wednesday, September 13:

We had maybe thought about waking up early to go ride our bikes in Red Rock Canyon on this day … but that didn’t happen. Instead, the day went a bit more like this:
– Starbucks for coffee.
– Room to change.
– Bellagio Pool Cafe for brunch.
– Bellagio Pool for a few hours, sitting out and playing some cards.
– Room to change and … other things.
– Out and about toward the south end of the Strip, grabbing snacks and booze along the way.
– MGM Grand to play the Sigma Derby horses for a couple hours (and drink).
– Back to the room, grabbing a few more snacks in the process.
– Room for … things.
– Eventually back out to Mon Ami Gabi for a loose dinner, more hooch, and profiteroles.
– Room for the night.

Thursday, September 14:

We weren’t in as rough of shape as we might have feared the next morning – luckily we spaced out the drinking enough. Woo! (we don’t drink much usually. the previous day was abnormal for us.) We were, however, thankful that we had our free breakfast buffet that we were using that day. Oh beautiful delicious salad. I may have been on vacation but I can’t go that long without you anymore.

Post-breakfast, we wandered the other way up the Strip, stopping in the Venetian for coffee at the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf. Post-coffee, it was window shopping time! The Venetian shops are great for that, clearly, as well as they are for loose food (the Lobster Me lobster roll isn’t doing it for me anymore, though, so sad day). We did the same thing over at the Forum Shops over at Caesars, and eventually ended up back at the Bellagio. Where I got myself a crepe at Jean-Philippe Patisserie.

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Nutella crepe, obvs.

A little more gambling was also done before we got ourselves our second In-N-Out of the trip, because it sounded delicious and we were on vacation, damnit!.

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We also decided to do something new in the Sprinkles Cupcake ATM.

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No, seriously.

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Ain’t technology grand?

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Actual cupcake? Frosting was better than the cake; cake was a bit dry, actually; and too many sprinkles. I know, I know. I wish I had known about the seasonal pumpkin cupcake on the ATM, as I totally would have gotten that instead.

Friday, September 15:

The greatest thing about driving to and from Las Vegas is that you don’t have to wake up at the ass-crack of dawn to try to catch a flight out so you can actually have a leisurely breakfast. Whaaaa?

So since we weren’t originally planning on driving straight through back home, we had a nice meal at the Cafe Bellagio and were able to see them putting together the Conservatory (which was actually closed for the duration of our stay. womp womp.).

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Peacock!

We checked out and hit the road. We were thinking of hitting up some national parks in Utah on the way … but we couldn’t figure out which park and how to make the timing work and a place to stay … so we just decided to press on through the whole way. Which was mostly fine, except for the lightning that either hit the car or right next to it just outside of Rifle, Colo. Eek.

All in all, though, it was another great road trip adventure!

2017’s September Road Trip: Part One

So clearly it seems like I’m doing a September road trip every year now … which I guess makes sense, given that our anniversary is in September and we often find a trip to do this time of year. This year, we knew we needed to be in California to race Ironman 70.3 Santa Cruz, so we decided to drive on out and then hit Las Vegas on the way back.

Wednesday, September 6:

We left fairly early Wednesday morning, with Salt Lake City, Utah, as our final destination. We had a few options – through the mountains on I-70, adding some extra time to go through Dinosaur, or up I-25 and cut across Wyoming on I-80. Ultimately, we decided on the latter, which was an awesome decision. Wyoming went by super quickly. Utah? Well, Utah is weird.

We rolled into Salt Lake City … and, more to the point, the suburb of Layton, so we could see the house that B lived in for a few years when he was younger.

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It was about as he remembered, with slightly different landscape.

After some deliberation, we decided to keep pressing on to the border, choosing to stop in Wendover, Utah. Which ended up being awesome, because we were able to stop at the Bonneville Salt Flats.

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Kidlet perspective.

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On the salt flats.

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I in theory could have driven Fiona on them, but chose not to.

In Wendover … we stayed at possibly the sketchiest Quality Inn we’ve ever encountered. Seriously. I didn’t feel safe leaving our (thousand dollars worth of) tri bikes in the car, so we unpacked those even though we hadn’t planned on it until Santa Cruz. I’m also pretty sure I slept like crap thinking I was going to die. We had to close the security door because it had been propped open for who knows how long.

FUTURE NOTE TO SELF: ALWAYS READ THE REVIEWS. ALWAYS.

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We stayed on the Utah side of things.

Thursday, September 7:

After the worst night of sleep in a really long time, we woke up at least a good hour earlier than planned, packed the hell up, ate breakfast at one of the random casinos on the Nevada side of things, and got the fuck out of Dodge.

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Peace out, Wendover Will.

Most of the day was spent driving across Nevada. So exciting, in general.

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Nevada.

We did make a tiny detour in Reno, just for a picture and to pop into the Circus Circus where I do actually remember visiting when I was a wee child.

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I’m a tourist.

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After Reno, it was just pressing on to Sacramento to see where I lived for a few years when I was a kid. (I’m a Colorado native, but we did spend a few years in the Sacto ‘burbs thanks to a job shift of my dad’s.)

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I don’t miss you, house. However, you’re missing your lilac (honeysuckle?) bush in front.

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Church we used to attend. The school we went to is to the left and down the hill.

For dinner, we went to a burger place we used to go back in the day, Jasper’s Giant Hamburgers.

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It totally still looks the same.

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As for the taste? Welllll, let’s just say good ol’ Jasper’s can stay on Memory Lane. Beef was very mediocre, and the fries are now normal as opposed to the fried potato rounds (think the buffalo chips from Buffalo Wild Wings) they used to have, which were the bomb.

After dinner, we went to our (happily researched, safe area) Springhill Suites in Roseville, another Sacramento suburb.

When we pick back up … our second installment will be Santa Cruz!

Minnesota State Fair, 2017

I’ve written about the Minnesota State Fair a few times (most notably last year, when it got its own post), but as we like to go most years … you get another one!

We snuck in for the day – left Denver at 6am and left Minneapolis about 12 hours later. A car was rented, street parking was found, and enough fair food was consumed to make me realize that this is getting harder and harder for my stomach to handle as the years go by. Urp.

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Pre-fair shot. Yay, excitement!

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We were starving, and Brandon still wanted something breakfast-y, so we headed over to the French Meadow booth. They sadly got rid of their doughsants (*tear*), so none of that for me, but we did try their breakfast croissant sandwich. It was okay. It tasted good until it didn’t … probably because of the (we think chive) in the eggs.

We headed into the DNR building to look at fishies after that, but it was hard to do as it was super crowded in there. Oh well.

Still hungry, we decided to try one of the foods we discussed last year: a Pronto Pup.

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With stands all over the fair, these are some of the most popular corn dogs at the fair, and apparently the ones preferred by adults. Neither of us was impressed (at all), and it prompted us to get better food.

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I waited in line to get the Fresh French Fries while B went and got a chocolate milkshake from the Gopher Dairy Bar. This year, both were delicious, but only when combined together for that perfect salty/sweet combination. When each thing was consumed on its own, it didn’t do it.

With that many calories consumed in that short of time … it was time to walk the food off. We looked at a lot of the animals, petting a gorgeous horse (that apparently was a world champion) and laughing at the chickens. And watching a cock fight try to break out (as best as it could despite the fact that all combatants were in separate cages).

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Really enjoyed the Libertarian Party booth and their commitment to the “on a stick” theme that the MN State Fair is known for.

After meandering through the agriculture building and the international bazaar, we decided to try a bit more food.

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Cheese curds are still the best, though maybe I should avoid the mutant curds that are like three-in-one. I think my heart still hurts from that one.

We sat for a little while after the curds, resting our feet and enjoying the shade. We did eventually get back up and stroll over to the Machinery Hill area of things. I heard that Giggles Campfire Grill had a fish (walleye) sandwich so I sort of wanted to check that out (for the next visit), but the pictures made it look like a thing that I would not be interested in.

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New Ferris wheel on grounds.

We thought some vegetables would be good to possibly settle things, so our next stop was the corn roast.

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We were planning on splitting an ear of corn like we had split everything else thus far that day, but the guy asked B if he wanted a two-for-one …

The corn weirdly enough worked to settle our stomachs enough (oh, beautiful vitamins) to be able to squash down our last bit of fair food, the Minneapple Pie.

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Mmm, delicious deep-fried apple pie.

On our way out, we encountered the parade, so we sat and watched it (because we never really do). I snapped only a few photos.

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Princess Kay of the Milky Way float (basically a “Miss (teen?) Dairy Farmer” award specifically for the fair. Not sure what her duties are, but she gets her head carved out of butter.).

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Vike-Bike. This was just too awesome to NOT get a picture of.

Parade done, we left and headed back to our car. With perfect timing, too, as it started raining as we drove off.

A stop at Starbucks for some iced tea and to change, and then back to the airport (where I bought a teensy tiny salad which tasted so dang delicious) to catch a flight back home.

If you’re interested, the fair runs for another few days, through Labor Day.

On Tucson in August

I went to Tucson at the beginning of the month so I could go to tri camp.

I drove down a day early, on August 2nd, so I didn’t have to rush getting to the first swim session on time.

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Driving.

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This really doesn’t do the clouds justice.

Tucson was still in monsoon season – or at least the tail end – and I experienced rain on my drive in. I don’t believe I have ever seen the desert that green – or, at the very least, have ever experienced it humid, which it was. Completely crazy. I texted my dad about it, and he said the best thing about the desert post-rain is the smell, and it did smell amazing, even by my hotel.

I didn’t take a lot of pictures during camp – my main focus was to get through it, and I did that. I did get to experience a new part of the region, though, in Sonoita and Parker Canyon Lake. The latter, about two hours southeast of Tucson, was like being in a whole other state. The saguaro? Didn’t exist down there. I felt like I saw more trees than cacti.

Post-camp, B came down so we got to spend a day together. Before I picked him up from the airport, I stopped for breakfast at Bisbee Breakfast Club.

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Menu. I had the Daredevil.

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Food.

I wanted pretty standard, so I went with pretty standard, but it was good. I’d go again to try something a bit more fancy for sure.

After I picked up B, we mostly just drove around. Neither of us wanted a crazy day (plus it was hot … that summer in the desert thing …), so it worked out. I showed him a lot of what I did in camp, which included driving where we rode at Gates Pass.

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You get a sense of how green everything is here. We even saw some blooms still on the saguaro, which is RIDICULOUS.

Besides driving around, I also wanted to bring home some green corn tamales for the family. I found a different place to try – La Mesa Tortillas – which was the smart move. Their tamales are so much better than Tucson Tamale Company (in my opinion), and their tortillas are to die for. Seriously. We bought some on a whim and it was the best decision.

We decided on a nicer dinner, so chose El Corral. I’m pretty sure I’d been there before, but it was probably somewhere back in the early 1990s, so I didn’t remember too much about it.

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We started off with their spinach artichoke dip, which had too much spinach in it to be good. Would not recommend (unless you like more of a spinach dip) or get again. For dinner, so many things looked good. Ultimately, B got their prime rib (delicious), and his baked potato was one of the best I’ve had. I got a combo, with mesquite grilled chicken (just a tad too heavy on the pepper; otherwise perfect) and their baby back ribs (cooked well; just didn’t like their BBQ sauce).

The main reason we chose them over another steakhouse we were looking at was solely for dessert. They had a mud pie on the menu, and a good, proper mud pie is hard to find.

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Not bad. Too much chocolate mousse, not enough cookie crust.

We were going to split it, but then B realized that the seasonal fruit cobbler was peach, so he ended up with that instead.

We met up with our TriSports friends Seton and Debbie after dinner at a local pub for a drink (well, B drank) as a great way to close out the trip.

The next day, a nice long drive back home with a killer sunrise.

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Birthday Shinedown 2017

In general, I like getting the hell out of Dodge for my birthday.

There are a myriad of reasons for this, but mostly, I like hiding. Part of it is because I’m right around a holiday (4th of July) and no one is ever around to celebrate, part of it is because everyone always forgets (parents included) … I’m a weird one in that I generally loathe my birthday.

B, wonderful as he is, has taken it upon himself to make my birthday as awesome as possible. Which for me, means spending it just the two of us (if able; his job makes this iffy), and not in Denver.

Originally, our thought was to go to Boston for my birthday (so I could eat all of the wonderful things), but cost prevented that. So, plans changed. I thought if B wasn’t home and had to work, I’d treat myself to a ridiculously expensive hotel room in the mountains (either Vail or Beaver Creek) for a night and hike around and see wildflowers and whatnot. Or maybe we’d do that even if he was home.

But then we learned Shinedown was touring some in the summer and what do you know … they were playing a show on my birthday. In Lafayette, Ind. That’s what we both honestly wanted to do more … so that’s what we did.

The morning of July 4, we hopped a flight from DEN-MSP and then caught a flight to IND where we rented a car and drove the hour or so to Lafayette. I’d been to Lafayette (well, West Lafayette to be specific) years before – my parents met at Purdue University, and my dad played clarinet in the band, so we went back for an alumni band thingy for him where he played on the field during a football game. I don’t think Brandon had ever been, though.

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Across the street from our hotel.

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Fourth of July band concert. Oh small towns …

We didn’t stay out to watch fireworks, but could see about a good dozen or so displays from our hotel window. And, since it was Indiana, where fun fireworks are legal, who knows how many of those displays were actually “official.”

The next morning, we woke up and hit up a diner across from the theater for breakfast.

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Random street piano I made B play for the photo op.

We wanted to see if anyone had started lining up yet, and thankfully, they hadn’t. After breakfast, we went for a run – training never stops ’round herrre – then back to shower and to explore.

We popped over to the Purdue campus for a bit – I was taking random photos and seeing if my parents could guess where I was – so I could see if there was anything good in the bookstore (there wasn’t). If they had a “Dad-style” shirt I would have gotten him one, but nope. We wandered over to the stadium so B could send pictures of a rival Big Ten stadium to his Gopher fan dad and drove over to the airport so B could get a sense of their flight program.

After that, we drove my history nerd self over to the Tippecanoe Battlefield.

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(We took a serious picture, too, if you can believe it.)

We were starting to get hungry again at this point, so we grabbed some snacks from a gas station and then ate possibly some of the worst Chinese food I’ve had in my life. So terrible.

(As far as birthdays go, this one was awful in terms of food eaten.)

Back to the hotel for a tiny bit and then to the theater to sit outside for a good four hours so we could be up front for the show. We didn’t have a bad spot – 10 back, maybe? – and I had my phone and my nook and some snacks. The hotel was also only four-ish blocks away so if we needed to pee, we’d take turns leaving and going back. This way, we could also take back anything we had to entertain ourselves before heading in. B also left the line at one point to grab us more food – salads and, for him, wings from Buffalo Wild Wings. Worst salad I’ve had from them, too, btw.

Eventually, we were let in, rushed the stage … and were pissed to find VIP people (who were supposed to all be on the upper level in assigned seats) on the rail. Grumble. In any case, we were only one person back from the rail and by the time Shinedown really got going, B weaseled his way up on to the actual rail.

First up was Lacey Sturm.

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They were … okay. I guess she was the singer for Flyleaf back in the day. My thoughts in bullet point form that I made on my phone post-show:
– meh
– bassist good
– guitarist played ZM sig? (in reference to a PRS Signature Zach Myers guitar; proven accurate on Instagram a few days later.)
– (her) voice got drowned out a lot
– sings with passion, but don’t get her stage presence (not sure with what she was doing up there …)
– one of the worst covers of “Roxanne” ever (did not enjoy)
– one of the cymbals fell over and it was funny
– someone in the audience said she had a good vocal range, but I don’t see it. Honestly didn’t like her style.

Basically, it’s not like they were bad; just not for me.

Between sets, we got to see the set up, as usual, and our location enabled me to spot something I’ve never seen before –

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Zach Myers’ Grizzlies guitar case. Ha.

Since it was birfday show, I didn’t want to take a lot of pictures – I really wanted to enjoy the show – so I only got this one, and I normally would have deleted it because, crap, but whatever.

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As for the show itself …

– It was SO. FUCKING. HOT. inside the theater. I was sweating so badly and at a few points, thought I was going to pass out due to the heat.

– Someone apparently yelled “you suck” up at the stage, so Brent Smith legit stopped the show to go lecture him and the crowd and saying they didn’t need to be there and could walk off the stage. I’m super glad they continued the show (for obvious reasons), but seriously? Whoever that was? NOT COOL.

– In this, my seventh Shinedown show (third state!), I finally broke my streak of seeing a new song performed. I’d already seen every song at this show. Kind of sad day, but also not really.

– The crowd at this show? Sucked. Unfriendly people around, a lot of Facebook live-ing going on, a lot of pictures … Ugh.

– I think because I was so happy, I cried through about 75-80% of the show. Seriously.

– Brandon was able to get Zach’s attention at one point with a scribble on his phone to say that it was my birthday; Zach mouthed “how old,;” I said 34 with my fingers; he mouthed “older than me;” I mouthed back “BARELY!” (okay buddy, by like four months); and he flung a guitar pick our way. It didn’t quite make it, but the security guard retrieved it and got it directly into my hands. (I made sure to thank him again specifically after the show).

All in all, we were able to snag four picks, and it was mostly me! Usually B is the guitar pick snatcher; this time it was me. Yay.

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Marquee post-show.

Going back to those guitar picks … I was the happiest that I was able to catch both Eric Bass’ and Zach Myers’ show-specific picks because it had my birthday on them … so I tweeted a photo of the picks and a thank you out, and lookie who retweeted it:

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Hee!

As we were ranking Shinedown shows later the next day, I found it hard to properly place this show. Not the greatest set list, hot as balls, shitty crowd … but the birthday happiness aspect makes it have a special place in my heart.

Once again, thank you to my husband as well as all of the guys in Shinedown – Eric Bass, Barry Kerch, Brent Smith, and especially Zach Myers – for making this one of the best birthdays in a long time.