Friday, March 29, 2024

A Great Time In Vegas - Heading Home

It was a fun week and a quick getaway!  We did just about everything from free shows to a lot of walking, picture taking, and my favorite, people-watching.

Free shows:

Volcano at Mirage
Fall of Atlantis at Caesar's Palace
Egyptian Exhibition at Luxor
Fremont Street 
The Fountains at Bellagio

We took in two shows.  We wanted to see Michael Jackson and Cirque du Soliel but not at $200 per ticket.  The Vegas Show is a history of Las Vegas through entertainment and casinos.  It was great recounting the Rat Pack, the build-up of casinos, and then the implosions one by one.  Singers, actors, and dancers.  We really enjoyed it.  It was at the V theater which is due for a makeover but the place was packed and we had a good time.  The other show, The Ultimate, had some good acts but not what we expected.

We did some touring and took a bus out to the sign next to the airport.  Everyone is trying to make a buck.  They had a line in front of the sign and a guy offered to take your picture with your phone or camera for a donation.  You can still do it on your own but good luck getting in front of the sign.  Every counter, every store, every every has a tip jar.  

Transportation isn't cheap.  Ubers are expensive although they are always minutes away.  The Deuce buses run along the Strip but they charge $4 for a single ride and $6 for a two hour pass.  We used RTC city buses that don't run on the strip.  A 24 hour pass is $5 but the secret is that the pass is good on the Deuce buses on the Strip as well.  It worked out well.   The Uber we took back to the airport was on $12.43 which was a bargain.

After Juan made his first post on Facebook, he received a message from our friend Clara.  She is an events manager for a major Mexican insurance company based in Monterrey.  They were a customer of our for many years when we still had the school.  She was at a hotel just two blocks from us.  We were able to have a long lunch together.  

We took the Deuce bus to Fairmont Street which is downtown by the Stratesphere Hotel.  That was a bit depressing.  Most of the area we saw on the bus (double decker) was rundown, abandoned with many homeless people.  I 've been watching a guy on YouTube, Nikc Johnson.  He has been traveling around the U.S. and documenting the depressed state of the country.  This looked just like one of his videos.  

These girls came up to me and started flirting.  I know what their job is but they were almost insistent on taking a picture with me.  The "full" dancer is from Uruguay.  She speaks perfect English and has little accent.  She was very nice and she and I made ourselves understood.  It was a nice conversation anyway.

As we walked down the mall area, a man came up to me and said, "interested in a hooker?".  I told him no thanks.  As I turned around to look back, there was a very tall and thin woman, dressed so very well with her hair coiffed, she looked like an actress from the early sixties.  She was waiting on the sideline.  Everyone is a hustler with something to sell.

We also took the bus to a Von's supermarket.  Wow!  Talk about expensive prices for food.  No wonder everyone is complaining.  A package of flour tortillas (10) for $4.99, avocados $1.50 each, half pound package of ground pork was $5.80.  We spent around $40 and that covered our meals for the week with the exception of one breakfast, a lunch and a dinner.  Not bad overall.  We found a good price on vodka and we had to leave some behind.  The maid I'm sure was happy to find that.   

Our trip home was uneventful.  Overall, we like to see the shows, the lights, and the people but I think if we were to go back it would be with the RV in tow.  I wouldn't want to stay there more than two days.

Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Las Vegas - Possible Near Miss? - How One Person Can Screw Up Travel Plans For Thousands

A belated anniversary and birthday trip to Las Vegas.  Years and years since we haven't been here and it was in our RV both times.  I planned it a couple of weeks ago.  We left Tuesday morning for the airport, it has been raining for the last three days.  Not good rain just drizzle and light showers but it's water and we need it. 

We reserved parking at the airport.  Taxis from home are ridiculously expensive and few Ubers circulate in Santiago.  Ubers are banned at the airport anyway and if they are stopped they tow the Uber and a fine of 50,000 pesos.  Talk about corruption and union control of taxi concessions.  Here is the gate, we arrived early.  Vivaaerbus, a discount airline, asks you to be there 3 hours early.  I had to check out of immigration first before getting my boarding pass.

Our crew preparing for the flight.  Very friendly flight attendants.  Viva Aerobus charges for everything from seats, first on first off, water, bags, carry-on, etc. so we didn't get seats until we were at the airport check-in.  Not complaining, we got two seats together and then an empty seat in between.

The flight was uneventful until we arrived in Las Vegas.  On approach and over the runway, we slowed down for landing, and then all of a sudden . . .  the aircraft shot straight up into the air.  I've never been in that situation before although through my years of flying, I have seen and experienced many things including a near miss, a broken wing, a dead engine, and more.  After a fly around, the pilot said it was unstable air.   After we landed,  a guy across the aisle was talking about it and it dawned on me that we didn't hear the landing gear on the first pass.  I'll check the NTSB website later this week.

Breakfast before take-off and a lot of memories from my working days doing the same thing almost on a weekly basis.

Here was the glitch in our arrival.  This is a partial shot of Biden's security detail.  As we walked out of the terminal to catch our Uber, the airport shut down for two hours.  Our Uber called and said he was stuck in another terminal with no in or out.  At the Las Vegas airport, they have a waiting area for Uber and Lyft.  Easily over 100 people waiting for their rides.  When it did open up it was chaos.

Our Airbnb for the week.  We go home on Saturday.  We found a supermarket nearby, a liquor store, and a bus line.  At the liquor store, we heard Hawaiian music and the guy behind the counter asked if we had been to Hawaii.  We told him we hade been several times over the years for work and pleasure and that my brother lived in Maui.  He told us he lost his aunt and uncle in the big fire last year.  They perished in their car trying to escape.  Nothing has been done and the locals are still suffering.  Sad.  Anyway, this is a great location and part of the MGM.  Very happy here.

Wednesday morning and we're ready to head out for the day.  The botanical garden and Caesar's Palace and tonight the water show at the Belaggio, the volcano at the Mirage followed by the pirates at Treasure Island.  Free things to do.  We also have a good friend here for a convention and we will meet this week for lunch. 

Now for a little reality.  I went to our post box in Monterrey last week to check our mail from the U.S.  This is what happens when you don't pay the bad guys every month.  In the states of Guerrero and Michoacan, tortillerias are forced to pay 10,000 per month, and the mom-and-pop taco stands are paying 5000 pesos a month.  The situation has become critical and it's not expected to get better any time soon.  They are so blatant now that on Monday of this week, they pulled into a major city in Veracruz, guns blazing, and threw the body parts of many people throughout the main plaza.  

Last but not least (the sandwich effect) , this may be our new tow vehicle.  It's not new by any means.  We will have it inspected on Monday and go from there.   It's time to retire the old one although it's been good to us.  475,000 km!

Saturday, March 9, 2024

A Hike Through The Canyon - El Charco

Back home again in Monterrey.  My allergies were really affected during this trip to SMA.  The altitude, the lack of rain, pollen at its highest, and the added 30C degree temperatures.  A lot of locals are affected as well.  You see men walking to work in the morning with a Kleenex waded up in their noses.   One of our friends had a bloody nose a couple of times during our visit.

Our friends Gail and Bill are also staying in San Miguel for a while right down the street from us.  Gail's nephew Jared came to visit for a week.  We invited him to go on a hike with us.  A young EMT with lots of energy but we were able to keep up with him.  

I had planned to go down to Jalpa where Les took us on our last trip.  I got to thinking though, and with a group of gringos and a Mexican all packed into a car and crossing farm fences we might run into cartel guys out in the middle of nowhere.  (Here in Monterrey last week they cut off a guy's hands for stealing from them and with the increase in tourist kidnappings I didn't want to be responsible for a Canadian getting into a mess).

We chose to go to El Charco del Ingenio the botanical garden on the road to Queretaro.  Once you get inside you can venture down past the dam and hike into the canyon.  Not easy in some parts, big boulders and a lot of space in between them.

Juan takes a short walk through the duck blind located on the edge of the reservoir.  A short video.

This is a blooming huizache tree.  More pollen in the air but Mother Nature is hard at work!

Approaching the edge of the canyon you can see just how immense it is although it is quite walkable down to the bottom.

Down in the canyon looking up at the dam that holds the water back in the reservoir. 

On the other side of the dam, there are a few abandoned structures.  I couldn't get this picture without the sun glaring on the camera.

Prince's plume is in bloom!  It's poisonous to cattle but local indigenous people use it for rheumatoid arthritis.  Not sure how they prepare the seeds but I assume it is a topical pomade.

Everyone likes to leave their mark.  Some of these are so old they can lo longer be read.

Lichens are a fungus but have a mutual relationship.  One is a fungus and the other an alga that by chance meet up and for this beautiful fungus-like spore.  So you probably see them everywhere on rocks and sometimes on trees telling us that the air is full of microscopic objects constantly floating around us.  It makes you think about viruses and the possibility that my allergy symptoms could actually be a variant of COVID-19. 

I spotted this golden-yellow lichen across the canyon and zoomed in on it.  It is so bright.

You can tell it hasn't rained for a very long time and when it has it didn't do much.  The water in the pools (charcos) is green and full of algae.

I wish I could figure this out.  I'm sure that there are some interesting things scrawled on here.

I mentioned before that we may move the rv to a Texas storage place temporarily.  I'm just not comfortable anymore driving it around rural areas and we're not that much into rv parks or staying at buggy beaches.  It will be cheaper to drive to the border not paying tolls for the rv, the long inspection times, extra fuel, and the storage is relatively cheap.  Time to enjoy other things besides just Mexico.