Disneyland Adventure, Part Two

Back with part two of my Disneyland trip. If you missed part one, click here.

Since we figured out the Starbucks situation the previous day, on Tuesday, February 13, we headed to the park early again, thinking it opened at 8am. Nope, it was at nine. Happily, this meant even more time to get B and I coffee (and we ended up getting my sister-in-law a latte as well). Sweet, beautiful caffeine, how I love you.

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Fountain (with rainbow!) in Downtown Disney.

Apparently, the thing to do with Disney California Adventure, is to gate rush the Radiator Springs Racers (do that as your very first FastPass of the day) and then, get another one for later … since if you do it an hour after you ride, your FP will probably be for sometime that afternoon. Yeah. It’s that popular.

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Decor in the line.

We rode this one with Stefan and Amelia; it was a fun, Cars-themed ride (pseudo-coaster). We won, so woo!

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With a cow tractor.

Our next FP wasn’t for a little while, so we split up from my family for a little while and walked around. We did The Little Mermaid – Ariel’s Undersea Adventure on a whim since there was no wait. The ride was a super loose retelling of the movie and super, super cheesy.

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On Pacific Wharf.

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All dressed up for Lunar New Year.

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We’re both year of the pig/boar.

When they opened up the bridge over to the other side of Paradise Pier, we popped on over. As we were still waiting for the family (we all had FPs together), we popped on King Triton’s Carousel.

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I rode a dolphin.

It’s really funny how much a carousel can make you dizzy … even with the Dramamine. Just made me even more happy I avoided the damn tea cups the day prior.

Our next pass was for Toy Story Midway Mania!, another shooting-type game. We did this with all six of us. My brother got the highest score, then Brandon, then me in a distant, distant third. Jax, our 1.5-year-old, got none. I would have found it hysterical if he had gotten *something*.

B and I split off again to go do some rides on our own. B stopped at a cart for a churro and I hopped into Fiddler, Fifer, and Practical Cafe for a croissant/cinnamon roll hybrid that was DELICIOUS as well as a miniature California Adventure Starbucks mug.

Post-snack, our next FP was ready, so we did Soarin’ Around the World. There’s a huge error in Patrick Warburton’s costume in the mini video they show before getting on … which you probably won’t catch unless you’re really familiar with the aviation industry. Like we are. The ride itself was okay. Apparently it was better when it was Soarin’ Over California. I think it would have been better had the trip around the world made better geographical sense (like let’s *actually* go in the correct order guys).

Since it was kind of cold and therefore had no line, we next hit up Grizzly River Run. It’s one of your generic water splash rides (like Disaster Canyon at local park Elitch Gardens), but I like those. We got sufficiently wet – B moreso than I. I got myself some popcorn while he attempted to dry out. I’m thankful I had an extra pair of socks on me, as he soaked his. He had his wet pair hanging out of his bag to dry out … but they became our second and only park casualty (the other being a hair tie I lost on Space Mountain the previous day).

Our next FP was at Goofy’s Sky School (because why not).

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Getting more flight certs.

It was a tiny, short, fun little coaster.

We were trying to be smarter about eating, so we got soup in breadbowls (me clam chowder and B broccoli cheese) at the Pacific Wharf Cafe. The soups were average, but I love good sourdough and this was some of the best.

Food eaten, we strolled over to Hollywood Land and chilled out in the atrium of Disney Animation for a while, sitting down and chilling out to clips from Disney movies. It was quite glorious.

The official reason for sitting around a while was waiting for my brother and family to wander over. Our next FP was for Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT!. Stefan’s wasn’t until a bit later … but he weaseled his way on saying his FP wasn’t working or something. Apparently this was something they did at Disney World a bit … but. Please don’t do this. The guy let him on, but he clearly knew he was gaming the system. Customer service standards dictated that he couldn’t tell my brother to eff off, but I know he wanted to. People, don’t be assholes. Just wait your damn turn.

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The ride itself, the former Tower of Terror, made me very happy for the Dramamine. I will say that had I been more familiar with GotG I may have enjoyed it more.

Stefan went off for chowder and beer after this while his wife and daughter hit up Frozen – Live at the Hyperion … we wanted to do neither so we actually finally utilized our Park Hopper and escaped back over to Disneyland. Our first stop was at B’s favorite, Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters … where he proceeded to destroy me. My forearm also cramped up pretty badly (stupid barista arm).

Since it was Mardi Gras, our next stop was back over to New Orleans Square. B got another frozen Mickey bar of death (well. frozen Mickey ice cream sandwich of death to be accurate), which we ate while watching a jazz band. We also got B another character picture.

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With, as he reminded us, Captain Jack Sparrow.

One of the “rides” I missed the day previous that I really wanted to do was the Enchanted Tiki Room, so that was next.

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So cheesy. But why the eff not?

Then back over to New Orleans Square since I knew Dr. Facilier from The Princess and the Frog was wandering around and since it was Mardi Gras, I wanted a picture with a character from the New Orleans-based movie.

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Success.

Because we could – and, well, Indy – we rode Indiana Jones Adventure again too. It didn’t break down which was wonderful *and* B asked if we could ride so I could be up front at the wheel of the car which was totally kind of fun.

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Because I didn’t get a good picture of the sign the day previous.

We split up afterward – I hit up the French Market Restaurant to purchase some beignets for everyone as a Mardi Gras treat while B got in line for the Astro Orbiter. Thankfully I made it over to him right as he got on the ride.

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We did some more Astro Blasters afterward (because why not) where I destroyed B – therefore winning the best-of-three series – and went back to the Market House so I could get a full-sized Disneyland Starbucks mug for my sister-in-law and a mini one for us before heading back over to California Adventure.

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I delivered beignets to the fam, we all walked back to Cars Land. From here, we all split. Nicole took Amelia and Jax to “meet” Lightning McQueen and a few rides, my brother absconded with B for another ride on Radiator Springs Racers … and I peeled off to get some sunset photos.

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Magical sunset in a magical place.

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Got super lucky with a break in the people for this one.

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Cars Land is magical at night.

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B said that if you weren’t familiar with the movie, you could easily think this was taken on the actual Route 66.

We all met up to do Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters. B and I took Amelia while Stefan and Nicole rode with Jax.

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In line, straight out of the movie.

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In line. My brother bought Star Wars ears.

The ride itself was okay. Definitely more fun for smaller kids. B bought a Dinoco shirt at a shop dressed up as the Radiator Springs Curio shop and I took a few more photos on the way to dinner.

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As someone who loves neon, I loved Flo’s at night.

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Nicole made reservations for all of us at Wine Country Trattoria. The pinot noir I had was okay (I think B’s was better). The caprese salad we split was delicious (and photogenic).

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Between the four adults, we ate about half the menu. Nicole had the shrimp fettuccine alfredo (I had a bite of noodle. It was okay), my brother had osso buco (did not try), B got chicken parm (average), and I got the ribeye (because it came with sprouts and mmm, plants)
(not my most favorite meal, but also not the worst I’ve had).

Post-dinner, the park was unfortunately closed (or closing) – 8pm. Shorter hours that day at California Adventure, maybe?

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We popped into the World of Disney store in Downtown Disney on our way out and got me a shirt and a few more ornaments for the tree.

It was a long, exhausting day. As you can see, we fit in a LOT of rides and attractions. The Park Hopper was definitely worth it as it was nice to get out of CA for a little while. It might have possibly been a bit too much time around my brother (I love him, but I don’t always like him) and his cute, but energy-sucking kids (this introvert was dying).

We had a lazy morning on Wednesday, February 14, and we unfortunately weren’t able to do anything together for Valentine’s Day, but we did hit up the beach for a few minutes before B had to drop me back off at the airport.

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Perfect, peaceful way to end the trip.

Disney was fun for my first time back in damn near 30 years. We’re discussing doing Walt Disney World in a year or two. Will I be back to Disneyland? Probably … but I don’t honestly think I need to for at least five years.

Disneyland Adventure, Part One

I have a lot of photos and we crammed a lot into two (three? four?) days, so I want to split up this post.

A few months ago, we learned that my brother and sister-in-law were planning on taking their kids to Disneyland in February. B likes Disney and hadn’t been in about ten years and I haven’t been since the late-1980s. Possibly 1990. A long time ago, in any case. So, with permission, we decided to loosely tag along, since we mostly did our own thing.

Thanks to flights the way they were, we had to skip curling Sunday afternoon to catch a flight to LAX. We ate snacks in the Delta Sky Club (I pretty much ate lunch thanks to some salad-y type stuff) before picking up his car and driving to Anaheim. We stayed at the Anaheim Marriott, right near the Convention Center (less than a mile away from Disney). We considered going out to dinner, but decided to do it on the cheap thanks to the schmancy lounge at the Marriott having really delicious chicken wings. A stop at Target was made that evening, however, for some Dramamine so we didn’t vomit everywhere.

(My equilibrium changed sometime in college and my life has been hell since. I used to do spinny rides and roller coasters (and read in the back of a car) no problem. However, I can no longer read in vehicles and it’s hard for me to be in the back seat of a car for more than an hour. It’s terrible. As a result, I haven’t been on amusement park rides in a very, very long time.)

We woke up early on Monday, February 12, so we could get in a quick run. Breakfast was at aforementioned schmancy lounge in the Marriott. Brandon got coffee at Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf while I decided to wait for Starbucks until we got in the park … not realizing that the ‘Bux I wanted to hit up was actually in Downtown Disney. Oops. As a result, I didn’t caffeinate myself until late morning (when I found the licensed store on Main Street).

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We met up with my brother and his family as soon as we entered the park. We all agreed to buy FastPasses for Space Mountain, but first, we went on Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage.

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Amelia and Jax.

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Amelia loves Nemo.

I vaguely remember this ride from way back in the day when it was 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea-themed and it had the scary squid of doom try to eat the Nautilus. I think I liked it better then, too. The loose “plot” of this ride … didn’t work.

Post-ride, we hit up Space Mountain (otherwise known as the first test of the Dramamine).

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B and I went on it first – no nausea! woo! dizziness, though … – and then watched Jax while Amelia and the parents rode.

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… I’m pushing around a stroller. This will never be my future. Unless I’m borrowing other people’s kids. Like I am here.

Afterward, Stefan and Nicole took Jax over to Toontown to get in line for characters because Amelia wanted to ride with B on Autopia.

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In line. Someone behind us was like, “your daughter has her shoes on the wrong feet.” B was right on it – “she’s not my daughter, she’s my niece.” “Well your niece has her shoes on the wrong feet.” Meh. She said her feet didn’t hurt so whatever. (I did tell mom later though.)

Autopia was okay. Would have been better without other people (that is, the other idiots on the road/track). We walked Amelia to Toontown to dump her off with her parents and then wandered off to find me some coffee.

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Saw the Mad Tea Party (i.e. Tea Cups) on the way. Did not ride. Did not want to test the limits of the Dramamine. They looked pretty, though.

Stopped at the Market House (which has a licensed Starbucks inside) for some much needed caffeine (that is, iced coffee) and a cheese danish. I think B got extra coffee too. We then stopped at the Jolly Holiday Bakery Cafe for more food. It was technically past 10:30 (like 10:37) and therefore officially lunchtime, but they still had bacon, egg, and cheese croissants on display, so we bought one and split it. It was food. That’s all I’ll say about that.

Our next FastPass was for the Haunted Mansion, but I’m pretty sure we walked through Tarzan’s Treehouse on the way there (another thing I vaguely remember from back in the day … when it was Swiss Family Robinson themed and WAY COOLER). Haunted Mansion was much like I remembered it.

Pirates of the Caribbean didn’t have a FastPass, but we decided to wait in the line for it anyway. It has been redone to be heavy on the Jack Sparrow, but there’s still some “questionableness” to it with the wench/wife auction bit. Makes me happy they didn’t completely overhaul it.

At that point, our FastPass for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad was just about ready, so we walked over there and met up with Nicole who was sitting with Jax waiting for Stefan and Amelia to ride. While chatting, B got a Mickey Bar.

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Damn things are frozen solid.

Ride wasn’t bad. Kind of disappointed there were no cameras to take pictures on it. We knew we needed more food, so we wandered around looking for it … stopping at Frontierland Shootin’ Exposition on the way. It’s one of those cheesy shooting gallery things that costs 50 cents … but we enjoy them (and I’m actually pretty good at it), so we stopped and spent the dollar.

We split (okay, B more ate) a hot dog and chips from the Refreshment Corner and then a root beer float (one of the best deals at any theme park) from the Gibson Girl Ice Cream Parlor. We also took this opportunity to sit for a moment.

Food eaten, we finally did B’s favorite ride ever, Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters. When he visited with his parents back in 2009, he kept emailing me photos from the ride. I crushed it (and him), beating him by like 30,000 points. He was stunned. And happy, yet annoyed. I think his parents were secretly happy about this.

Since I didn’t get to really see Mickey’s Toontown earlier, we walked up that way next to explore it, walking through Chip ‘n Dale Treehouse and then wander around a bit until our next FastPass was ready.

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In front of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle.

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B wanted to meet Moana, so we met Moana.

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It’s A Small World.

Our next FastPass was for the Matterhorn Bobsleds. Fun ride … yetis inside the mountain were definitely creepy … and it broke down on us, right before the finish. It was actually nice to just chill for a second, we were right near the waterfall, good ambiance … it wasn’t bad.

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Being stopped meant I could take pictures of us.

Thanks to the ride breaking down, we got another FastPass to use at almost any ride, so we decided to use it for Indiana Jones Adventure (so ride it at 5pmish as opposed to our 8pm scheduled FP time). we quickly saw the family and learned that poor Nicole was dying, so they skipped their dinner reservations and made it an earlier night so they could get in a second day okay. We got in line … and right afterward … the ride breaks down. We had the option to hang out and wait for it to reopen, so we decided to do that. I was checking the Beanpot score while I had reception and B decided to do some yogic legs up the wall to stretch out.

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We ended up averaging about 28,500 steps each day, so this was a lifesaver for him.

The ride was actually really fun and I do love me some Indy.

Afterward, we went on the Jungle Cruise (which is apparently better at night) … it was okay. So many one-liners. I hear Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is in talks to redo it and I’m excited to see what it will turn into.

At this point, we really wanted actual food (not just snacks) and I wanted to try to watch the final bit of the Beanpot (despite BU sucking), so we exited the park and went to the ESPNZone in Downtown Disney (and saw the two Starbucks). I couldn’t get the Beanpot on TV (fail. but given how it went …), but got a beer and ACTUAL FOOD OMG (cobb salad). We finished, walked outside … and lo and behold, it was raining. We weren’t quite finished yet, so we hopped the Monorail back into the park pretty much just so I could ride It’s A Small World. Mostly the same as I remember it, except it’s been updated with actual Disney characters tossed in when appropriate (like Lilo and Stitch in the Polynesian area). It also had a creepy Mountie, which was hysterical. It wasn’t as crappy as I remembered, but this could also be because we made snarky comments about everything? Who knows.

I’ll end this here, and come back next time with day two … which was a touch of Disneyland and a lot of California Adventure!

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!