Thursday, May 30, 2013

Road Trip and Third Anniversary: Part 2

Continuing where I left off....

After the unfortunate event that was "Sirens of TI", we bleached our eyeballs and headed back up the strip the way we'd come. Our last goal of the night was to eat dinner at Hard Rock Cafe.

By happy coincidence, we've eaten at a Hard Rock Cafe for each of our anniversaries so far.

First Anniversary: Hard Rock Cafe, Times Square, NYC.

Hard Rock Cafe-
Washington DC.

So we were really excited to continue the tradition and get dinner at Hard Rock Cafe Las Vegas Strip.

(There are actually two Hard Rock Cafe's in Vegas, because they also have a Hard Rock Hotel.)

Because we'd seen the "Pirates" show at 10, it took us almost until 11 to make it back to Hard Rock, which is across from New York New York. We were exhausted and sweaty by the time we arrived, and praying that there wouldn't be a long wait.

Again, Irish luck(?) or what-not, we were seated IMMEDIATELY. And in fact, a whole section was vacant! I guess it was a really slow night.

We got a cozy booth in a nice quiet section. It was fabulous! We also happened to have a wall across from us with an outlet in it, so I was able to charge our camera! Win!!

Our server, Ed, was excellent! He started off asking if we'd been to a Hard Rock before, and we were happy to tell him that we had, and explained about it being our anniversary dinner destination. :)

We LOVE Hard Rock Cafe! Not only do they have phenomenal food and drinks, but the atmosphere is so unique! The whole place is a memorial to great rock music and rock musicians, so the walls are lined with signed guitars, sheet music and famous costumes! It is really a once of a kind experience.

We were celebrating our third anniversary, so we didn't hold back on the menu! We both ordered fancy virgin drinks and full menu items!

Ed was wonderful and kept checking to make sure we were doing okay and that everything tasted good, which of course it did.

A little ways into our meal he asked if we were thinking of doing any dessert. Honestly, were were both filling up, and we told him so. But he said, "Well, we have something planned for you guys, so you should pick something." When we asked him what they had, he brought over the entire dessert platter for us to choose from! AMAZING!!

We picked out cheesecake and he agreed to bring it later when we were finished with our meal. 
We resumed stuffing our faces and thinking what a nice experience we were having.
As we were finishing up, Ed came back with the cheesecake, set it down and then announced that

THE ENTIRE MEAL was on the house for our anniversary!!


We were stunned! Never have we had a meal payed for! It was completely unexpected and we were blown away! I didn't even know what to say. We just sat their stammering things like, "Seriously? Whaaat?"

Our server was so nice about it!

A few minutes later as we were still sitting there stunned, (and I was trying to subtly wipe little tears away...haha) the manager came by to introduce himself and to congratulate us on our three years.

This place! Amazing!!

He then gave us a business card and told us to shoot him an email the next time we eat at a Hard Rock, that he has connections with several around the U.S. and would love to hook us up with some sweet private rooms.


So we were pretty dumb-founded and overwhelmed by the kindness. It was phenomenal. We couldn't have imagined a better dining experience! Everything about it was truly fantastic. The fact that we were so tired and sweaty, and they seated us right away. The big comfy booth, the ambiance and lighting, the amazing service, the free dessert...It was more than we could have ever hoped for!

Seeing as this trip was just a throw-together quick replacement for what we'd originally planned for our Anniversary, this experience was the perfect treat to make it special. :)

We wrote a long and glowing review for the team. I hope they all get raises!

After dinner we stumbled back out onto the strip and trekked back to Mandalay Bay to catch the last shuttle of the night back to our hotel.

The last shuttle was scheduled for 1am, and when we got to the pick-up spot it was completely deserted. haha. Super creepy! We sat on the curb and waited...and waited...
All of a sudden we hear this little, "Nurrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr" mechanical noise, and we look up and far across the parking lot there came one of those little motorized shopping carts with a little old man riding on it. 

Kinda like this, except imagine it being dark and ten times more terrifying.
Slowly, slowly he came whirring over towards us. And it was just so dark, so deserted and so empty in this parking lot, that this little man on his motorized shopping cart was the scariest thing of all time. haha! We were just eyeing him approaching and saying under our breaths, "Please don't come closer! Please go away!!" hahaha. It seems pretty stupid now, but it was just such a weird moment that it was so freaky! 

He got to the curb across the street from us, and then I guess he realized that he couldn't go straight off a curb without that little dip-thing, so he slowly backed up and drove away to the other side of the parking lot where there was a place he could get up. Then he drove past us straight into Mandalay Bay. LOL! So random! 

The shuttle finally arrived to take us "home" to the Residence around 1:15. We were EXHAUSTED. I took a picture of it, but Steven hates it so I can't post it. ;) haha. We look gross in it, so just imagine. 

It had been a fun and successful night. We did almost all of the things on our Vegas list, and the few that we didn't get too we planned to do Sunday on our way home. That night we finally crashed at about 2am. Yay Vegaaaas! 


Friday morning we were up and at em' bright and early! Ok, jk, it was noon. haha. 
But none-the-less we were ready to get back on the road and go see our new nephew! 

I wore my very best "Crazy Cat Lady" shirt. 
The next few days I REALLY sucked at taking pictures. (Remember how I have a problem with that?) And the few I took weren't that great, but I'll post a few anyway just to break up the text.

All 3 of my older sisters were pregnant this last year. One had a baby in February, one in March, and the last in April. During this trip we were able to meet the first two, both new nephews! 

My sister Jessica's little boy, their first, is named Colban. He'd had his shots the day before, so he was pretty cranky. We did our best to cheer him up, but we also enjoyed him singing the song of his people.

I wanted to add this one too because Miles' face is so funny.
Like, "Ughhh....babies." XD haha! 
Once Colban had fallen asleep,

We chatted with  Jess and Miles long into the night! Like ten o'clock! ;) hahaha. They were super tired because they usually go to bed early. We were tired too though, so we let them sleep and headed down the street to our hotel. 
In the morning it was off to San Diego to get our new car!! 

We had to drop off the rental on the way, and fortunately we barely made it in time before they closed. Since we were kind of in a hurry we forgot our CD sleeve in there though. Sad day!! They are supposed to be mailing it to us, but so far no such luck. 

My oldest sister, Jennifer, and her husband Matthew and their 3 boys were the ones selling us the car. They had been keeping it at Matt's parents house in Escondido, so that is where we dropped off the rental and they picked us up. 

Finally we saw our "new" car!


Matt even showed Steven how to rotate the tires, and we gave the cars a DIY car wash with our nephews. 
(***Again, sorry for the sucky lack of pictures***) 

After the car business was finished, we followed Jenn and Matt back to Santee California where they live. 
Longer story short, we spent the evening providing free babysitting while they hosted the local missionaries for dinner, we finally got to chat a bit once the boys went to bed, and then they went upstairs to sleep around ten and Steven and I crashed on an air mattress.
Maybe next time we visit the San Diego area we can arrive even earlier and actually get to see some of what Southern CA has to offer. 

Sunday it was time to hit the road and head back to Vegas. 
It was a hot day, but unlike our other car, this new car has AC! Wheee! We were super excited about that part. 

We were also happy that we split the drive half-way by staying in Vegas again. Good call, us! 

So to finish off the new car/anniversary/meeting babies/California trip, here are our final pictures Sunday night in Vegas. 

Actual picture of the Bellagio fountains...MUCH more impressive this night. 

The last things we'd wanted to see on our "Free thing in Vegas" list, were the Bellagio gardens and the indoor rainstorm at Miracle Mile shops. Fortunately we had time to see both before heading back to the Residence. :) 

Sorry I'm the person in most of these photos...I guess Steven didn't
have a strong desire to be photographed alongside a bunch of flowers. ;) 
They have this gorgeous butterfly greenhouse right in the center with hundreds of butterflies! 

Cala Lilies were our wedding flower. :) 
After the conservatory we just had enough time to browse through the Miracle Mile shops. We also found a little souvenir magnet to take home with us. We started collecting refrigerator magnets as souvenirs because they are small, cheap, practical, useful and we can see them every day and be reminded of our fun trips!

Miracle Mile Shops had a lot of these word pillars, which of course fascinated  Steven. :) 

There was this awesome sculpture shop...and Steven thought this was a good idea. haha.
We left after that because I was afraid the snippity sales lady would kick us out anyway. 

We made it to the middle of the shops just in time for the indoor rain storm,
and it is SO cool! I wish we'd gotten better pictures!
The lights dim and "lightning" flashes and you hear thunder,
and then little by little it begins sprinkling, then raining,
and then pouring!! It is beautiful and really impressively realistic. :) 
We were so grateful to have had time to do all of the fun Free things Vegas has to offer! Next time we go we'll probably check out the "Secret dolphin and tiger habitat" in the Mirage. I think you have to pay for it because it's like a zoo, but it's not that much. 

*Also, note to the reader, the Flamingo habitat inside of the Flamingo is not that great. Also you HAVE to walk through smoke-filled Casinos to get to it so you just feel gross and full of tobacco by the time you see the few flamingos they have in there. I recommend skipping it. 

At the end of the night we had a much-less creepy shuttle experience, and happily arrived back at our hotel around midnight instead of 2. haha. It was a wonderful and relaxing end to a great get-away. 

HOORAY FOR US! We've been married THREE YEARS!!! 
The end. Of this post, and this story. 

Friday, May 24, 2013

Road Trip and Third Anniversary: Part 1

Traditional Third Anniversary Present is leather, but Steven and I said, "Forget that! Let's buy a whole car!"

Happy Anniversary honey!

Ok, just kidding, I totally made that up because it was a catchy beginning. Except the leather part. That is actually true.

The reason we now own a second car is because my oldest sister Jennifer just had a third baby (wow, rule of threes in this post! Oh someone will die. 8-S) and she and her husband bought a van to accommodate their gianormous family. ;) haha.
So they had an extra car.
And since OUR car has been a constant source of stress (see post), they offered to sell us their old car for the amazingly generous and kind price of just 500 dollars.

Deal or No Deal?


All we had to do was get ourselves down to San Diego to pick it up.

The planning and logistics of this trip were a bit of a nightmare. From the beginning I had planned to do it as a girls get-away with my friend Katie, and so spend a couple days with my old roommate Lauren in LA on our way down. But, long story short, Katie couldn't get out of work and we had to modify the trip in the last week. Up-side to this was that the trip was going to fall on the weekend before me and Steven's anniversary anyway, so we decided to make it an anniversary/visit-family trip.


To summarize what would be a really long post, I'll mostly just post our pictures with descriptions. This will be relatively boring to those of you who already saw them on Facebook. My apologies.

Every road trip we've taken so far as a couple begins with a rental car.
As a little endorsement, we always rent from Hertz. They have the best base price, they offer a discount through Marriott and their office is located on our street so we can walk to it to pick up the car.

We LOVE driving rental cars. We feel so spoiled. Yeah it's expensive, but it's worth it for the feeling of safety, the ease of ignition and the working A/C. Especially on a drive across the Nevada desert.

Hot, dry and boring. 
To ease the long journey we always stock up on our favorite "Car-trip-snacks". Jerky, wheat thins,  fruit snacks, granola bars and/or trail mix and Gatorade. 

We also passed the time on this trip by reading Hunger Games to each other. :) Steven has been converted! We are both REALLY excited for Catching Fire!

Finally made it to the hotel! Just about 3pm Vegas time. 
In order to split up the drive, celebrate our anniversary and just enjoy the trip more, we stayed the night in Vegas on both the way down and the way back. Because of my AwESomE job, we got a suite at the Las Vegas Residence Inn South for just $40.00. J'yeah. My job. Is. Awesome.
We got to Vegas early enough that we had most of the day and evening to be there. :) We both agreed that all road trips should be like this: Leave Early, drive in the daytime. Driving at night SUCKS on a roadtrip. It makes it seem so much longer, and there is nothing to see. Every family road-trip that I remember growing up where we would drive through Vegas it was always night time. We never saw anything. In fact, besides my nanny-gig last summer in Vegas, I'd never really been to Vegas at all. Neither had Steven! We were excited to check it out together! 

After checking in and getting settled we decided to order pizza for lunch. It was very reminiscent of our Honeymoon when we got stranded in Chicago, spent the night at a Marriott and ordered pizza for dinner. :) 

Beautiful room!
Yum Pizza! 

After lunch we were ready to hit the town! I'd comprised a long list of all the free and/or cheap things that you can do in Vegas. Ps. There are a LOT!! Vegas is much more than just strippers and gambling! There are all kinds of shows, museums, shopping and animal exhibits! The official website even has recommendations to family-friendly things. (I still don't recommend taking kids to Vegas, but whatever.) 

Our hotel offered a free shuttle to Mandalay Bay every 30 minutes, and New York New York every hour. 
Perfect! Our first stop was Mandalay Bay to see the shark reef aquarium! 

On the free shuttle! 
On the way we saw this EXCELLENT advertisement. I didn't ever really consider getting a hooker before, but after I saw this, I was sorely tempted! 

"1000's of Beautiful Girls and 3 Ugly Ones"
Isn't that fantastic! Welcome to Vegas!!

The Shark Reef Aquarium isn't free, but as far as Vegas prices go it is very reasonable. I think it was just $18.00 a ticket. Compared to the cheapest show we found, which was 64.95 a ticket, we thought that was a great price and worth spending money on! 

The aquarium was awesome! 
Also, maybe because it was a Thursday, or because it was only like 5pm, there was hardly anyone around! We had Vegas to ourselves! We had plenty of time to meander through the aquarium and take picture and check out the cool fish, animals and sharks! 

Amazing giant octopus! 
Giant Sea turtle swimming over our heads! 
There was this one awesome room that was built to look like you were in an underwater ship-wreck! The glass aquarium was all around you, including the ceiling and panels in the floor. It was amazing! Like real life Finding Nemo. XD haha. 

After we'd wandered our way through the aquarium and torn ourselves away from all the cute turtle toys in the gift shop, we found our way back to the strip. 

Again, I don't know how we got so lucky, but there was no one around this evening! We pretty much had Vegas to ourselves. The next thing on our list that we for sure wanted to get to was THE ROLLER COASTER at New York New York. We made our way down there being sure to wander through and take pictures of everything on the way. 

Each of the themed hotels has elaborate entrances! Someday when I don't work for Marriott (or we are insanely rich) I'd definitely love to stay a night in one of these suckers. 

Mandalay Bay! 

We made it to the New York New York hotel and casino just as it was turning dusk! Amazing time to ride a roller coaster! 
The line was so short that we had to wait for enough people to run the ride. haha. 
Again, this isn't free, it's actually kinda ridiculously expensive ($14.00 a person), but we thought it would be a great one-time thing to do while we're still young and can handle it. haha. 

They don't let you take ANYTHING on the ride with you. Not cameras, phones, purses...anything. You have to pay for a little coin-locker to keep your stuff in. I guess it's because it goes upside-down. 

So...we couldn't get any pictures on the ride, so here are some from the WWW. ;) 

It's a surprisingly intense roller-coaster!
It starts up kinda behind the mini-empire state building,
crawls you up to the skyscrapers, and then drops you down through this mess! 
It was crazy ya'll! 
Also, I guess because it's really old, the whole ride kinda gives you the feeling like you're going to die at any second. Instead of having a big U-shaped harness to go over your body to hold you in, they just have these little shoulder pad things! What good is that going to do?? And then this little square thing comes up between your legs, but it's really thick, so you don't have anything good to grab onto. 

It's quite the experience! 
We enjoyed it. :D haha. 
Second rides are just $7.00, but there was more that we wanted to see, so we moved on. 

Fake Brooklyn bridge! Yay!!
yeah, we've walked on the real one. So...take that Vegas!
The only other thing on our "Definitely want to see" list for the night was the Treasure Island show. Treasure Island is the opposite side of the strip from Mandalay Bay, so it's about an hour or more walk away. We made it our goal to get there in time for their last show of the night-at 10pm. 

On the way we stopped at Pinkberry for the best frozen custard of life!! Man I wish they had these in Utah. 
We felt like a lot of fruit after that pizza. Lol! 
We were kinda clipping along at this point, so we didn't stop in and take as many pictures of places as before, which ended up being fine, because my camera died anyway. 

Bad news was that I think we saw Zach Galifianakis and we couldn't get a picture. 
It was either him or a look-alike hobo. We'll never know. 
 Here are the last couple pictures before my camera battery died. 

The Bellagio fountains did a dance to the Titanic Theme song.
Not very exciting. :S 

We still had some time to kill before the Pirates show, so we popped in to see what the Ceasar's palace forum shopping was like. 
We didn't know going into it that there is this massive and weird Atlantis animatronic puppet show inside. haha! So creepy! So we saw that...

I tried to find some good pictures of it on the internet, but they were all blurry and camera-phone-ish. Apparently Ceasar's palace doesn't advertise this weird thing either. 

Anyway, in a total otherwise normal looking part of the shops (I think it's even a food court or something!) there is this really gorgeous Greek-type fountain and columns display. But when this "show" starts, these huge life-sized animatronic puppets rise out of the columns and put on a weird little show. 

Like Disneyland, if Disneyland were creepy as hell. 

So anyway....that was interesting. Glad we saw that. .... ..... ....

Finally we made it to Treasure Island, and the thrills of the night continued with the show that is now called, "Sirens of TI". Yes. Yes, you read that right. Treasure Island has now been abbreviated to "TI". Because saying "Treasure Island" was too much of a mouthful? 

And instead of a cool pirates battling thing, it's now this. 

If you drop out of college, someday this could be you too!

Sexy?? ....????

Wait, wasn't this supposed to be about pirates?

All I can say about this is Thank Goodness it was free. :S 

I mean...WHAAAAAT???!?????

So...if you want a good laugh, head over to TI and watch this ridiculous display of women dancing in their underwear on a ship. 

Welcome to Vegas? 

Umm...this is a weird place to end this post, but it's getting really long so I just made the spontaneous decision to split this trip-story into separate posts. :) 

So this is the end of part one. 


"When did spazzing out qualify as a dance?"
Stay in school kids. 

STAY TUNED! PART 2 WILL COME....whenever I get around to it. ;)