Vegas, Spring 2017

Because I go to Las Vegas so much, it’s almost easier to do these posts just by when I go.

As it usually goes with us, we were originally only planning one Las Vegas trip this year – in September, post-IM Santa Cruz 70.3 as we drive back home. However, we know we need to try to stay Pearl (MLife reward level) and since B needed to drive his car out to L.A. anyway … why don’t we just turn it into a mini Vegas trip?

We left town on Tuesday, May 23, and drove straight through to Las Vegas. We took a bit of a circuitous route as I needed to drop my car off at the airport so I could find a way home. As we were taking B’s car … I didn’t actually drive at all, which is a rarity for me on road trips, but I don’t particularly like driving his car, so that’s why. We stopped for lunch at Jimmy John’s in Utah and then, because we were too tired to care otherwise, dinner was at Scooter’s Pub in the parking lot of our hotel.

The next morning, we got up, ate hotel breakfast, and headed off to Red Rock Canyon to get in a trail run.

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Afterward, we grabbed some coffee, showered, packed up, and then headed to a nail salon for mani/pedis. We got word our hotel room was ready soon after, so we drove over to the MGM Grand and got checked in. We dumped off our bags and then headed across the street to America in New York New York for lunch.

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We both had a lunch special chicken sandwich. It was pretty good. The fries? Were not.

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They had a giant 3D map of the country inside. This is Colorado.

We headed back across the street to actually get settled in a bit in our dungeon room with Swiss cheese on the walls.

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See?

Word of advice: if you’re going to stay at the MGM, DO NOT STAY IN THE WEST WING. Ground floor, low ceilings … it was one of the worst hotel experiences we’ve had in Vegas. I put it only above the Pyramid at the Luxor, and that’s only because those diagonal elevators make me nauseous. Blah.

Later that afternoon, after gambling some at the MGM, we headed up to Fremont Street since we hadn’t checked out that part of the city in several years and B wanted to check out the Sigma Derby game at the D. He played the horsies for a little bit while I wasted some money in a slot machine. I also grabbed a lobster roll at the Cousins Maine Lobster food truck. I was going to get one while in town (either there or at Lobster Me in the Venetian) and since the truck was there, I took the opportunity. I think it ended up being cheaper, too, which is always nice.

Dinner was back at America since B really didn’t eat a solid breakfast that morning and he wanted breakfast food. I’d been having a really weird potato skin craving, so that’s what I had.

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They were okay. The sour cream drizzle was a bit odd.

We woke up fairly early the next morning in order to get to the pool as it opened, but also with enough time so we could eat breakfast first, too. We had some free buffets due to playing myVEGAS slots on Facebook, so the MGM buffet was our stop. Not the best buffet, not the worst.

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Pool time.

After hanging out at the pool for about 90 minutes, we went back to the room to get dressed to wander around. We walked up the Strip as far as the Venetian, snagging some drinks at Margaritaville in the process.

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Sign in the Park Las Vegas (what the Monte Carlo is being rebranded to).

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New In-N-Out Burger on the Strip on the Linq Promenade. We did not go in.

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B doing his thing and riding the moving sidewalk.

While we didn’t stop at In-N-Out, we did stop at Wahlburgers in the Grand Bazaar Shops outside of Bally’s. I almost tried them when I was in Boston at the beginning of the month, but didn’t due to … reasons.

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It was pretty delicious, actually. Not comparable to In-N-Out or, say, a Five Guys, but good in its own way. We also tried the frappes (coffee and chocolate) and they were the best I’ve had since Boston.

(NOTE: a TRUE frappe is 100% TOTALLY DIFFERENT than a Frappuccino. Not even close. And so much more delicious.)

A little more gambling and chilling out back at the hotel before venturing back out for dessert (profiteroles!) and some mussels (slightly spur of the moment decision) and drinks at Mon Ami Gabi in Paris. Perfect way to end the trip.

Of course, the next day was an adventure and a half for me getting home … B dropped me off at McCarran before continuing on to Los Angeles. I was able to get out of Las Vegas just fine, but getting back to Denver? I’m just thankful we had some miles so that I could book myself a ticket home out of Salt Lake City. Needless to say, I got back to my car about five hours later than we had planned. Silly non-rev travel …

Dining in Tucson: Spring 2017 Edition

I’m pretty sure I’ve done a “Tucson dining post” but I may have just thrown in my food in past Tucson posts. Not sure.

Tuesday, April 4:

Leaving town, we snagged standard breakfast – Waffle House and Starbucks.

For lunch, though, we decided to try something a bit more … local … in New Mexico fast food chain Blake’s Lotaburger.

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We stopped here in Socorro, N.M., and weren’t that impressed. Slow (even for cooked-to-order), scatter-brained … and truthfully, really pretty mediocre.

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We will probably not be eating there again. Mostly because we don’t like eating much fast food, but yeah. No.

Dinner was our standard round-up of an eegee’s, fries from Wienerschnitzel, and fried shrimp for me and steak fingers for B from Tucson institution, Lucky Wishbone.

Wednesday, April 5:

We originally thought we’d get some sort of breakfast at the hotel, but apparently we weren’t fancy enough for it. So, quick google search later, and we found Oink right down the street from our hotel on Broadway.

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(I think he wanted to die.)

Oink was FABULOUS. Plus our server, Michelle, knew her shit. Great server in that she got us to buy more than we probably wanted. This place does flights of bacon (they have eight different flavors of bacon), and we were iffy about it, but finally did a half-flight, getting Applewood Smoked, Chef’s Choice, Honey Cured, and Sugar Cured. The latter two were the best by far.

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(Bacon flight, my food with a side of tomatoes, B’s omelet).

I love eggs Benedict but I rarely get it because really, it’s not good for you, and it’s super hard to find a good one. For some reason, I decided to try theirs (traditional), and it was DELICIOUS. B couldn’t decide what he wanted to do, so Michelle asked him if he trusted her and ordered for him. The amount of food that poor guy got …

He got the above omelet, the Oink Omelet (“A massive FIVE egg omelet, with bacon, sausage, ham and cheddar cheese.”), and a side of pancake. But not just your regular old buttermilk pancake. Oh no. Strawberry Cheesecake pancakes.

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“Our delicious pancakes drizzled with homemade strawberry sauce and cheesecake sauce.” They were way too sugary for me.

After that INSANE(ly delicious) breakfast, we did a later, light lunch at Choice Greens on Speedway.

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Choice is basically your standard choose-your-own chopped salad type of place (nothing all that special), but for us? It was just what we needed.

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B’s salad.

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My salad.

Dinner was at Casa Molina Del Norte on Campbell, pretty much only for the cheese crisp.

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Mmmm, cheesy.

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And the green corn tamales, my favorite. I also had a bean burrito while B got a chicken burrito. Delish.

Thursday, April 6:

Breakfast was purposefully early on Thursday so we could hit up the early bird special at Franks, on Pima just off of Alvernon.

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Franks is awesome because of ‘Don’t Worry, Be Happy,’ the “If you are here before 9am, Monday-Friday Special” (holidays excluded). For $1.75, you get two eggs, home fries or hash browns, and a biscuit, slice of toast, or tortilla. We each got the special and then added on drinks and a side of bacon, because bacon.

Lunch was the all-you-can-eat sushi at Sushi Garden on Broadway. I had greatly enjoyed it when I was doing Tucson solo back in November, so decided to bring B there. As is fairly standard with all-you-can-eat sushi (with all-you-can-eat lunch buffet added) … we pretty much rolled out of there.

As a result … dinner … wasn’t much of a thing. We did stumble on a brand new gem on the U of A campus (Campbell and Speedway) in Desert Dream Ice Cream.

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In that day’s edition of “it’s a small world,” the owners used to (well, still technically; in the process of selling) own an ice cream shop in the small town of Boothbay Harbor, Maine. My family and I vacationed there way the heck back in the day and, when shown the picture of the ice cream shop, I’m pretty sure I ate there, too. Because our family always ate ice cream on (summer) vacations.

They’d apparently just been open for a few weeks and are still trying to grow the business. For their sake, I hope they do well, because that Mud Pie ice cream I got? On point. I’ve mentioned here several times how we prefer more “traditional” ice cream places, and this place hit that. So good.

Since the ice cream kind of settled our stomachs from the sushi disaster, we also grabbed a quick snack at Wienerschnitzel just for some protein. Mmm, corn dogs.

Friday, April 7:

While we weren’t able to manage climbing Mt. Lemmon on this trip, we hit the Lemmon climber’s coffee shop for breakfast in Le Buzz Caffe off Tanque Verde.

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Brandon got a bit more of your standard breakfast in the Two by Two by Two (two buttermilk pancakes, two eggs, two strips of bacon).

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I got orange juice (because most places in Tucson have fresh-squeezed and it is SO good) as well as the ham and cheddar quiche. The coffee was great – I’ll mention that first off – and so was the OJ, but the food? B thought his was mediocre and I felt there were too many herbs in my quiche. We’re not sure we’d come back for an actual meal. For some caffeine and a sugary snack (they had some divine looking pastries)? Absolutely.

We couldn’t be in In-N-Out territory without stopping at least once, so that was lunch.

Dinner that night was at Pinnacle Peak, part of Trail Dust Town off Tanque Verde and Kolb.

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We sort of felt like steak (mmm, mesquite) and wanted to avoid whatever place we went to down near the airport a few visits ago, so decided to hit up Pinnacle Peak. B had one of their regular steaks (mediocre) and I had their ribs (pretty tasty, actually). It was what it was – slightly kitschy, not fancy … it worked. I also grabbed a scoop of ice cream from one of the other shops in Trail Dust Town afterward.

Saturday, April 8:

We were planning on hitting up Omar’s Hi-Way Chef Restaurant for breakfast at the Triple T truck stop since we knew it was good … but apparently they are no longer 24 hours. Since we had no other options for breakfast on that side of town … we decided to go try and find a place in Benson. And we did.

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We stumbled upon the Farm House Restaurant (no web site) off the main drag (4th Street) in Benson, Ariz. Technically they weren’t even open when we showed up, but the guy (from Pueblo, Colo., originally, in that day’s edition of “it’s a small world”) says that if he’s up early, he just goes in and opens up early. Ahh, small towns.

It was a fairly standard breakfast – eggs and bacon and hashbrowns. Neither of us was impressed with the carb side – B did not like his biscuits and gravy and my banana nut muffin was super dry – but it did the trick.

Lunch we took a huge gamble and stopped at a Furr’s in Albuquerque. I hadn’t eaten at a Furr’s in … 25?ish? years? … back when they were still a cafeteria. Apparently they’re a buffet now … and they’re terrible. The two redeeming parts of my meal? The fact that the “servers” asked you if you wanted lemon for your water (yes please!) … so the water, and the cottage cheese. That was tasty. The rest of it? Never going again. Don’t go there. Urp.

Dinner was at our house … but no way was I cooking after being in the car that long (and we didn’t really have food in the house), so pizza it was. Hooray for Domino’s.

SoCal 2016, Day One

About a week or so ago, Brandon and I decided we needed to get the hell out of dodge (that is, Denver) and go on vacation. Okay, truthfully, we decided that quite a ways back, but we actually only managed it in late February. Brandon had some days off so I just decided to take them as well. We also figured, hell, we have the airline benefits, we may as well use them!

My criteria were as follows:
– warm
– no more than one time zone away (sorry, east coast/alaska/hawaii/world)
– flight preferably no longer than two, two and a half hours.

We ended up narrowing it down to northern California, southern California, San Antonio, Las Vegas, and Arizona (probably Tucson). We really didn’t want to do the latter two, as we always go there. About a week out, Brandon started keeping an eye on flights and we decided on SoCal.

Early Wednesday the 24th, we hopped a flight to LAX and started a mini vacation.

Our first stop, since we were kind of hungry? LA icon, Randy’s Donuts.

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We split two doughnuts – a glazed twist and a chocolate frosted.

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Super sugary and super delicious. We’re still partial to Donut Maker here in town, but they were definitely tasty.

After Randy’s, I remarked that I’d never actually seen the Hollywood sign live (or close enough to get a picture of it), so we decided to go somewhere we could see it. The internet said a great viewing spot was actually on Hollywood Blvd, so off to play tourist it was.

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The old 7-Up machine caught our eye; loved this old motel.

We found a meter off Hollywood Boulevard and then it was off to explore some. As we’re not the most hip when it comes to pop culture, we completely spaced that the Oscars were that Sunday, so a good chunk of the Walk of Fame was blocked off for show setup.

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We were still able to access Graumann’s Chinese Theatre and see the hand/foot prints in cement, though, which was totally awesome.

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Theatre.

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Harry Potter!

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Concrete panels. Plus Bogey’s message is hysterical.

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R2D2 and C-3PO’s “foot prints” cracked me up.

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The “Rocky” nerds in us enjoyed Sly’s message.

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I chose to unrealistically put myself in Donald’s webbed prints …

The internet was also accurate in that the shopping center there did have a great vantage point for viewing the Hollywood(land) sign.

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After that, it was looking at all the stars and finding some of our favorites.

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Not a star, but loved the sign.

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Best. Graffiti. Ever.

I’m not sharing all my star photos, but the ones I snagged were Sylvester Stallone (Rocky!), Harrison Ford (Indiana Jones is my spirit animal), Alex Trebek (Jeopardy! for life), and Al Michaels (Do you believe in miracles? YES!).

At that point, we were pretty hungry, so off to In-N-Out it was. I think the dinosaurs were more excited for it, though …

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After lunch, we decided on something slightly more high-brow and headed to the La Brea tar pits. Thanks to our Denver Museum of Nature and Science membership, we were able to get in for free (much like the Natural History Museum in Vegas we go visit). Hooray for reciprocity!

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Flowers in bloom near the pits.

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For some reason, “Asphalt and People” cracked me up. However, this also shows an atlatl, which are freaking cool as hell.

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Husband pulling up metal rods through the asphalt.

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Cross-section of the pit.

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Active dig site.

After La Brea, we made Santa Monica our next stop.

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There was a tiny, cheap aquarium at the pier, so we stopped in.

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If it’s on a pier, is it really the last burger *on land*?

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After that, it was off to the Pacific Coast Highway and Santa Barbara for the night.

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Sunset in Santa Barbara.

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On the pier.

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Not dinner, but loved this place aesthetically.

We did end up eating at a place called Longboard’s Grill, also on the pier. It … was okay. The clam chowder just reaffirmed my decision to not eat it outside of New England (or maaaaaaaybe San Francisco/Seattle). Brandon’s swordfish
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was over peppered. Really, good swordfish just needs a bit of lemon (and perhaps a dash of butter) to be delicious. My lobster roll, well …
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… I’m realizing how important the proper bun really is for the enjoyment of a good lobster roll. Longboard’s? Did not have it.

After that long day, back to the hotel …

(day two coming soon.)

November Vegas Trip: Part One

A few weeks ago, Brandon and I went to Las Vegas, N.V. to run the Rock ‘N Roll Las Vegas Half-Marathon. Well, that was the official reason for the trip. Unofficially, we wanted to make it an awesome vacation since our last few trips to Vegas had been fairly meh. We were out there for a few days – and I didn’t take super fun pictures every day.

But I took enough.

The race was Sunday; we came in on Thursday. We also rented a car (convertible!), a Vegas first for us.

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Brandon driving.

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Convertible selfie.

Our first stop post-airport (besides a quick stop at a grocery store for a snack) was Red Rock Canyon. We were originally planning on running there, but ended up having too much fun hiking around instead.

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Outside the visitor’s center.

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I am like fire.

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Brandon’s like the wind.

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“In Red Rock Canyon the elements of Earth, Fire, Air, and Water weave together to create a dynamic tapestry of life to which you belong. Your thoughtful respect for these lands, the plants and animals that live on them helps hold these threads together.”

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Surfing (or swimming?) on a lizard.

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Brandon on top the rocks.

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Dinosaurs staring at rocks.

After Red Rock, we were STARVING, so we grabbed food at probably the most logical place for us:
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Mmm. In-N-Out.

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Ocean’s 11 Lounge. Proof that Vegas off-strip can be quite sketchy.

For dinner that night, we went to a place known for being “old Vegas,” Bob Taylor’s Original Ranch House.

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It was a non-fancy (but still pricey … and tasty) steakhouse. Definitely from a bygone era, but it was cool nonetheless.

On April in Tucson

In mid-April, we chose to drive down to Tucson to buy new tri bicycles, something I discussed on our tri blog. However, it was also a nice mini-vacation, getting away from the snow in Denver … but sadly not avoiding the wind. I won’t get into the triathlon-side of things here – you can click the link above for that – but I will tell the story of the trip through some of the photos I took.

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We left in snow.

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Crossing the border into New Mexico.

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Breakfast at Frank’s/Francisco’s. So good. All this food also cost us less than $20.

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With my Lucky Wishbone and eegee’s for lunch.

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B and B Cactus Farm. Essentially a free desert botanic gardens. This was also one of the first times I’ve been able to see cacti in bloom, which was unbelievably awesome.

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Brandon enjoyed the cactus.

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Gustave enjoying driving around the city.

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Brandon and In-N-Out.

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The old Swan location, still standing, but no longer in use.

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We are not mature.

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I *heart* Lucky Wishbone.

We visited my “Aunt” Maxine after this, an old friend of my family who has known me since I was a baby. She’s … I think 99? 98? but in any case, nearing 100-years-old … and is still quite sharp.

We headed out of town after two short days, driving up to Scottsdale to visit some of Brandon’s family (Aunt Judy and Uncle Bernie, whom we stayed with in November) and then back down south so we could hit up Hatch for some chile stuff for my brother.

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The desert on our way out of town.

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Water mirage on the road ahead.

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Chile shop.

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The not-so-impressive Rio Grande.

After Hatch, we stopped in Truth or Consequences, N.M., for lunch at K-Bob’s steakhouse.
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We were a bit exhausted at this point.

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Food perked us up.

We slogged home, not reaching our beds until midnight, but one last thing of note: a bit before reaching the New Mexico/Colorado border, Fiona the Rav hit a milestone:
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IMAZ Trip

In November, Brandon and I also drove down to Tempe, Ariz., to volunteer and ultimately sign up for Ironman Arizona.

I recapped the volunteer experience on our tri blog, but I wanted to share the basic trip here.

We left late Wednesday night after I got off work, planning to do most of the drive overnight. We made it into New Mexico and to a rest stop not too far out of Las Vegas, N.M. where we stopped to crash for a few hours. After about three hours of sleep (and the two of us shared driving/napping duties), we woke up and continued on, stopping in Socorro for a breakfast sandwich from a gas station, where I saw this across the way.
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We got back on the road and save for gas, didn’t stop again until we hit Arizona and The Thing.
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The Thing is a piece of roadside Americana (if you will) that has been around as long as I can remember. We’d drive down to Tucson for Christmas when¬†I was a kid and always pass it by. My brother and I would always want to stop (you see billboards for it for at least 50 miles, if not more) but we never did … well, at least until a few years back. I can’t remember now whether it was high school or college, but we finally saw it. I’m not going to ruin the surprise, but it probably wasn’t worth the stop. Luckily, it was only around $5 for the three of us (dad, brother and I; mom stayed in the car) to see it.

So, as Brandon and I did this, our second desert drive, I talked him into stopping. I figured we needed a break (we needed food anyway) and this kitschy roadside crap is worth seeing at least once, right?

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After The Thing, we powered on to Tucson for lunch. The standard stops ensued – eegee’s for a slushy, Wienerschnitzel for fries, Lucky Wishbone for fried shrimp and garlic toast (for me) and then on to In-N-Out for a double double protein style (for Brandon). This delicious (but bad for you) food is the reason why we’re going to Tucson AFTER we do IMAZ next year.

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Lunch (and then gas) and then on to Phoenix (well, Scottsdale) to Brandon’s (great) aunt and uncle’s house which would be our home for the weekend. It was great to see Bernie and Judy and meet their dachshund, Sophie.
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We had a meet up with some of our fellow MX12 VIPers on Friday, so we headed down to Mill Ave./Tempe Town Lake.

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Mill Ave.

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Meet up.

After, we met up with one of Brandon’s friends from college who owns a Trek bike shop in West Phoenix and then some more In-N-Out (mainly for me).
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Saturday, we checked in for the four different areas we were volunteering for and then worked bike check-in, which was fun and informative.
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When we were done, we met back up with Uncle Bernie and Aunt Judy, who took us up to Greasewood Flats, a really cool restaurant up in the foothills.
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After a fun night, it was time to sleep, for we had an early wake-up call since we had to be at Tempe Beach Park at about the same time as the athletes.

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Pre-race.

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Athletes on their way.

We stripped/peeled wetsuits, took a break, and then it was off to sunscreening.
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After sunscreening and another break, we volunteered at the TriSports.com-run run aid station, which had a disco theme.
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After that shift ended, it was off to the park again to camp out so we could be (first!) in line to register for next year.
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Given that online registration sold out in 40 seconds this year, this ended up being a great idea.

We took the rest of Monday pretty easy and then hit the road early Tuesday, taking the northern route out of the Phoenix area and Arizona and back to I-25 off of I-40, something I’d never done before.
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(right near the 25/40 interchange)

Then back home with plenty of time to enjoy Thanksgiving.