Thursday, May 28, 2009

Mandalay Bay!! Las Vegas, NV May 25-27, 2009

Yeah, I've been to Las Vegas a few times - I have family there - but this time was different.   I got to stay at the Mandalay Bay hotel!     It was pretty cool because it's a GORGEOUS hotel and I got a really good rate for 2 nights plus tickets to the Lion King Show.

My room at the Mandalay Bay was great.   I had a great view of the Las Vegas Strip.

The view was even better at night!

I spent a couple of hours out at the "Lazy River" in a raft, just floating around.   It was a blast, but you've got to watch out for those waterfalls!
I went out for dinner before the Lion King show to Mix, a bar/restaurant at the top of the hotel.   The restaurant is really cool - all white, with just red water glasses on the table.   And there's a curtain of glass bubbles that goes around the center of the room.

Naturally, I had to have my picture taken by the famous "Welcome to Las Vegas" sign - it's a lot easier to get there now - they've built a parking lot right in front of it - so you don't have to run across 4 lanes of traffic anymore!

I headed over to the Bellagio to see the Conservatory, which is always gorgeous

And I had to check out the water show out front:

The water show was set to the song "God Bless the USA" by Lee Greenwood in honor of Memorial Day weekend.   Very cool.    And I want to take this moment to say Thank You to all our troops who have stood up and defended our freedom.    You guys are awesome.    And your families too - who go through a lot of tough times while you are away.

Thank you for all you do.

Later that evening, I headed over to Firefly, a Tapas restaurant on Paradise for some of the best Tapas I've ever had.    I ordered a pitcher of white wine sangria (YUM!) which they make in the restaurant.   And of course, had to have the gazpacho, which is the best I've had anywhere.

I finished off the meal with the Chorizo Clams - wow!  I wouldn't have thought those 2 things would go so well together, but yum yum yum!
After dinner, I headed over to the Foundation Room - you know, the exclusive Members Only club at the Mandalay Bay.   Yeah, I have contacts......   (Thanks Danny!)

Important note:   On Tuesday nights, they close around 11 PM.     I only barely just made it up for one drink.  Who knew Vegas closes early these days??    Maybe it's turning middle-aged.....

Oh, and check out who I ran into at the Venetian!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

100 Miles of Nowhere - Part 1 - May 16, 2009

I went and did a crazy thing - I signed up for "100 Miles of Nowhere" which is basically an unofficial unorganized ride to raise money for the Lance Armstrong Foundation.  It was thought up by one of my favorite bloggers, FatCyclist.   The whole idea is to ride for 100 miles on your trainer (stationary bike) or in the smallest possible area you can - so that you can have a GPS track that looks like this:   (note the scale):

Now, I will freely admit....    I want to help raise money for cancer, and I like the idea of doing it in such a completely silly way....   and part of me just really wants the t-shirt:

But seriously, I'm also doing it for the challenge.   I've only been riding bikes with Mel for about a year, and I've never gone more than 40 miles in a ride (and that was an organized ride with rest stops every 15 miles).    I know I couldn't ride 100 miles in a day, so I set myself up with a goal to do it in 2 weekends.  And I really don't think I could do it on a trainer or by riding loops around my neighborhood without going seriously nutty...   So I nixed those requirements and just decided to go as far as I can in the straightest possible line, and then turn around and come back.

Mel and I headed out yesterday morning from her friend Nica's house.    Nica lives really close to the beach, so it worked out great as a safe place to park the car, and a way to add a few miles to the ride.   We headed out towards Channel Islands Harbor and then Ventura Harbor.

Look - Boats!

It was a pretty gray day - but it was great for riding.   I got going pretty fast and wasn't baking in the sun - Gnomads sunburn so easily, you know.    I rode from Oxnard, through Channel Islands, past Ventura Harbor until I got to the start of the Omer Rains trail.    This is a wonderful 8-mile long trail that runs along the coast in Ventura.   
You go right under the Ventura pier and along the boardwalk by the beach.     There are lots of people walking their dogs, roller blading, getting ready to surf, and just generally taking in the sun (which we didn't have much of today).    I can handle most of those people, but then there are these:
There are a bunch of places where these can be rented at any beach, but I have never ever seen people actually in control of one of these things!    Usually it's full of people, half hanging out, screaming and careening all over the road/trail and anything in front or behind is in danger....   I've actually seen kids fall out of them, seen people jump out while it's still going...   They're a menace!   (I keep trying to tell myself, "At least they're peddling," but it doesn't work....)

In spite of the cool, gray day, there were lots of surfers out....

You can't actually see them in this picture, but they're there behind me.....

One of my favorite spots on this trail is the estuary.   The trail turns right to follow the river for a little way, but I like to stop right there where the river meets the ocean and watch the birds and people playing in the water.

Keep riding and the trail takes you through Emma Woods State Beach and then ends up at Old Rincon Highway - there's a scary place where you have to cross the highway and hope no one is coming around the corner (Whew!  Made it!) and then you go over this hill to a spectacular view of the coast:
Ok, the view's a little better just a few yards farther down, but I was in the way and didn't want to endanger any other bikers.....

I kept riding until I ran out of trail....   Right at 22.5 miles.   I had some choices - turn around and make my ride 5 miles shorter than I planned, or ride a few laps around the harbor until I added up those 5 more miles (see the beginning of this post to see my feelings about riding short laps), OR, I could actually keep going, which meant riding on the 101 freeway until I hit 25 miles, finding the closest off-ramp to that, and turning around.

And that's what I did....

Have no doubt - I do not like riding on the freeway!   I've done it before, always with someone riding with me, and I hated it then.   I've never done it by myself!   But doggone if I was going to turn around 2.5 miles from my goal!

So here I am at Rincon State Park - 25.52 miles.

From there, I turned around and headed back - another 3 miles on the freeway - and no, I still don't like riding on the freeway!
I am fascinated though, by this island - there's a long bridge leading out to it, and it looks really pretty with palm trees and everything, but the public isn't allowed to go out there.   What is it?  Does anyone know?

I stopped on the way back to take in some Sports Beans (those are nutrition, right?) and thought I'd show that the view on the other side of the highway is pretty too - although foggy today.   I got to thinking about how lucky I am to live where I do - I have all this prettiness (even on a gray foggy day) within minutes of my home.

And here are some wildflowers I saw.....

And then I stopped snapping pictures because I was getting tired and very focused on not quitting before I hit my 50 mile mark....   And I made it!    Woo Hoo!!

And I've got to send out a big Thank You to FatCyclist for giving me a challenge I didn't think I could do - and a darn good reason to try it.

If you're looking for a good cause, head over to and look for links to the Livestrong Ride and Team Fatty.

I am currently at mile 95, and planning to finish the last 5 miles tomorrow morning!   Woo Hoo!   I didn't really think I'd get all 100 miles done in 2 weeks, and right now I'm actually on target to get them done in 1 week!   I'm very excited about this.    No more pictures, unless I take some tomorrow morning, as the last 50 miles have pretty much been around home, most of them on what I call the "Tour de Cul de Sac", which means I'm riding in and out of all the cul de sacs that surround my neighborhood.    And Yes, after about the 5th loop, the guy washing his car does start to look at you funny......

I finished those last 5 miles this morning - it was a sprint to the finish, but I won my division!   Woo Hoo!!!!     (Never mind that it's the Newbury Park Cul-de-Sac Division for Women ages 40-45.   And I was the only one in it - I won!!!!)