Day 11 of our 21 day adventure

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I’m still laying here in bed contemplating the day. I am thoroughly exhausted after hiking all day yesterday and part of me just wants to stay here and lounge around for the remainder of the day. Brian looks like he could use a break as well. I know that I can’t waste my time here though. After all… we only have ten more days away from our simple life back home and I really want to relish every day that we have before the adventure ends. It’s not that I don’t have plenty of adventure back home, it’s just a different kind of adventure… one that involves two huge dogs, one small rat, two girls that tell me every day how happy they are that I’m their mom, a husband that works crazy hours for the Army and my job as: mother, teacher, and wife… and everything else that falls under these three categories.

IMG_1049I slowly drag myself out of bed and as soon as I finish getting ready, Brian starts to get ready too. After several attempts to leave the hotel, we are finally on our way. We’ve decided to go to Shark Reef today and then see a show at the Excalibur Casino called: Tournament of the Kings. After stopping for mochas to help us wake up, we take a wrong turn down Las Vegas Boulevard and find ourselves temporarily lost. Mandalay Bay is our first destination and I hope to win big; just like I did several years ago. Unfortunately, today is not my lucky day, and we head to the Luxor to see if our luck is better there. Still no luck… it appears that this trip is just not panning out for us and I feel foolish for wasting our money.

IMG_1045Back to Mandalay Bay we go after losing what should have been saved for future bills back home. Finding Shark Reef is next to impossible, since the crowds are still lurking about leftover from the 4th of July. We finally spot the ticket booth and make a beeline for the mile long line. As we scurry over, a young couple approaches us and asks us if we are planning to buy tickets for Shark Reef. Of course we tell them that we are, and they explain that they have two free tickets that they would like to give away and they ask us if we would like to have them. I look at Brian and he looks at me. I think we are both sharing the same thoughts about this. I wonder if this is for real or a joke. After all… who just comes up and gives someone free tickets that would otherwise cost $40? We end up graciously accepting the tickets and head for the entrance to Shark Reef.

IMG_1061As we stand here in line, I think both of us are wondering if the tickets are actually real. As we get closer to the entrance, I feel weird for not having to pay. When we finally reach the entrance, the tickets are well received and to my surprise, they actually work to get us in. I am still in disbelief by the whole encounter and I am feeling grateful that we were delayed and took that wrong turn earlier this morning.  I know that if we hadn’t taken that wrong turn, we would never have been in the pathway of the lovely couple that gave us these free tickets. This kind of thing seems to happen to us all the time, and I am always amazed at how God provides for us even when I make stupid decisions like foolishly gambling away money that I should have saved.

IMG_1038Shark Reef turns out to be kind of a letdown and I am relieved that it didn’t cost us $40 to get in. Isn’t that the way it always is though? The first time you visit a place it always seems more amazing and exciting than the second time you go. Why is that? Has the initial wow factor worn off? Or do things really just change that much? I can never really tell… It’s like eating sugary treats nowadays versus when I was a kid. For some reason, nothing seems to taste as good as it did when I was a little girl. Has the product changed or have I? I wonder if I will ever know…

IMG_1040It’s later in the day now and off to Tournament of the Kings we go! This is a dinner show and sounds like it will be a lot of fun. As we enter the arena, we are seated at a long banquet table near the front. Before long, the entire place is full and everyone is being served dinner. The fun part is… utensils are not allowed. Because of the medieval theme, we are required to eat everything with our hands, just like ladies and knights did back in medieval times. Not long after we receive our dinner, the games begin! Jousting is the chosen sport and we watch as the men are knocked off of their horses. The crowd is asked to take part in motivating the kings by yelling encouragements to spur them on. The show is exciting and ends all too soon.

IMG_1046Heading back to the car, we decide to try our luck one more time at the Luxor. Brian and I sit down at a Dungeons and Dragon game, which happens to sit two people at once. We agree that this is the final slot machine that we will play for the day, and we agree to gamble $5. The next thing we know, the machine awards us a winning ticket for $30! We’re so excited that we have finally won something!

IMG_1042With the night still young, we head back to the resort and check out the pool area which is on the fourth floor of the resort. We haven’t had a chance to see what the pool is like yet, and want to see the observation deck as well. Unfortunately, when they built the resort, they put the observation deck facing away from the strip and towards the airport instead. What a waste of a good view…

IMG_1070After enjoying the cooler night air for a little while, we head back to our room and watch a little bit of television. I am surprised to see that the only show that I really care to watch is actually on at the moment. So I plop myself down to watch the remainder of the Bachelorette. It’s Katelyn’s season and I am hoping that she picks Nick. It’s a nice way to unwind after a long day and the first normal thing I’ve done in the last eleven days.

Day 5 of our 21 day adventure

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I am so excited right now! Today is the day we head for Las Vegas; one of my favorite vacation destinations! We have been to Vegas twice now. The first time we went was in 2004, when we were celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary. We stayed at Treasure Island, which has the comfiest beds I have ever slept in. The first game I played at the casino was a poker game. I put 25¢ in the slot and out came $75. Fortunately my luck continued that way for the remainder of the week and we won enough money to pay for our entire trip. I loved our time there; we saw shows like “O” and “Jubilee” and stayed up all day and night going from one casino to the next. Everything was cheap, comps were amazing, and nothing ever closed. Out of the 4 days that we spent there, we only slept about 4 hours in all. We were completely exhausted on the plane ride home and slept the entire way back.

(My husband Brian is in the video above, wearing a red shirt. He was playing one of the beater positions)

The next time we visited Vegas, was in 2006. We attended a Harry Potter Conference called “Lumos.” I know… many of you don’t know this about me, but I am a huge Harry Potter fan. That was probably one of the most fun weeks that I have ever had. We dressed up in full Harry Potter attire, drank butter beer in an Irish pub, participated in potion classes, tested our wizardry knowledge in a scavenger hunt, played quidditch in the pool, got invited to secret parties, and totally geeked out for an entire week. So you can see why today is such an exciting day for me.
IMG_0581 copy for WPWe have a 6 hour drive to Vegas today. The hours are passing by fast and we are almost there. I can see the casinos rising up out of the desert in the far distance. The temperature is hovering around 115 degrees and it’s hard to get a clear view of anything off in the distance because of the hazy mirage that is covering the landscape. We finally arrive on the Las Vegas Strip and it’s bumper to bumper traffic the whole way. We are staying at the Luxor, which is shaped like a pyramid and has an Egyptian theme. I can see the Luxor up ahead and we are trying to determine where the parking area is. After a few wrong turns, we have finally reached our destination and are ready to get out of the suffocating heat.

Photo Credit:  blonde4ever.yuku.com
Photo Credit: blonde4ever.yuku.com

We are pleasantly surprised by what awaits us as we enter the hotel. The lobby reminds me of Gringotts from the Harry Potter books. Each clerk is sitting individually on a pedestal behind a desk, and each one is carefully checking people in and out in an orderly fashion. The lights are low and create an atmosphere that feels mysterious. Huge statues and pillars mark the entrance to the casino and the entire place is decorated in an abundance of rich eye-catching colors. It seems a little bit like I have stepped into another dimension; almost like I have stepped back in time and have entered into ancient Egypt. If it weren’t for the noise of the slot machines, I may actually believe that we had somehow been transported into another time and place!
IMG_0561 copy for WPAfter checking in with the goblins from Gringotts, we make it up to our room on the 11th floor. As we enter the room, we suddenly realize that the bedroom has a Jacuzzi tub that overlooks Las Vegas Boulevard and we also have a separate sitting room which overlooks Mandalay Bay. I am thinking to myself that this is probably the best $75 that I have ever spent on a hotel room. The view is absolutely stunning and I proceed to plop myself onto the couch and try to capture the memory of the sights outside the window. I am hoping that I will never forget the thrill of this moment. I feel like a princess way up high in a tower, overlooking the expanse of the kingdom below me. As amazing as all of this is though, we are only here for one night and then we will be heading out to a different hotel in the morning.IMG_0576 copy for WP

Eventually I pry myself off of the couch and we head down to the casino to look for a place to eat dinner. We finally settle on a place called the “Public House”. It’s pricey, but the food is wonderful and we picked a great time to eat, because the Women’s World Cup is playing on the large screen television. I am not much into sports, but even I can’t deny that this is fun. Everyone is so excited and having a great time and it gets even better when the U.S. eventually wins. We have had a great day, and I can’t wait to see more of Vegas tomorrow!