If you ask anyone, last year, by and large, was a write off. It was one of the toughest years for everyone I’ve spoken to. We are no different.
It was filled with trials and tribulations, ups and downs. Friendships were ended and people moved on. We moved on. Literally. We moved from an apartment to a house (#robodog has a yard!) in a completely new neighbourhood. We’ve benefited greatly from this change. Our mental health & general wellbeing have improved tenfold and we are more at peace than ever before. You don’t know how toxic certain people are until they are no longer in your life. The neighbourhood we live in is ridiculously clean and crazy quiet, and Jacke is in love with how many new squirrel friends he has now.
Absolutely every travel goal we had for 2016 did not come to fruition. We aim to remedy this by taking more time for ourselves, both as individuals and as a couple. (A couple of what, I don’t know.)
While I could sit here and point my finger at a singular catalyst that turned our year upside down, I’m not one to dwell on the past and I definitely don’t let it dictate my future. I’m grateful for the healthy changes we’ve made and I look forward to moving on.
We hadn’t planned on dropping off the face of the earth but we’re definitely back, up and running.
I had left SLC heading south to warmer weather and to a few other places AND surprises. At about 9:30am I hit a gas station for a fill up and was texting a friend about how warm it was outside. She was telling me it was raining back home so of course, being the douche that I am, I FB some photos of the sunny weather I was having and tagged her in them.
Not even one hour later karma was out for me. Driving down the highway from SLC to Vegas I noticed my car shake in a weird fashion then all of a sudden, BOOM, my back passenger tire explodes!! All over the highway is tire “guts” from my car. The car swerves left then right, I’m on the e-brake trying to get it under control. I manage to get the car off the NOT AT ALL busy highway. I flick on my hazards and start looking in my wallet for my AAA card… not there… I’m looking in my glove box when I hear a honk behind me. It’s a flatbed tow truck! YAY! I’ve been saved!
This little old man with an oxygen tank strapped to his back gets out of the truck and wanders over to me. “Seems you need some help, ma’am.” Uh, duh! ☺ I explain I don’t know where I am and DO need the help. It turns out Kevin, old dude’s name, has a shop in the next town over so we get Smelly car up and on the flatbed and off we go. 10 minutes down the road, we hit the town and his gas station/shop.
My car is put up on a lift and his shop hand, a lovely dude named Bruce, gets working. Bruce was an older guy, probably my dad’s age; he had 2 rescue dogs that I played with until the damn POM (with no teeth) bit me. The best part of this story is I had ordered a new credit card before I left for my trip that I had originally planned with a friend and of course it didn’t come in time. I ended up calling my friend Rhonda and she helped me out. I have kickass friends, yo!!! I found out when I got home my new credit card arrived that Wednesday afternoon… go figure!
Bruce and I exchanged road stories while he was fixing my car up. Sometimes you hear of women getting taken advantage of in these situations but Kevin and Bruce were AMAZING! Not only did they fix my car, they fixed a couple other potential issues for free, filled up my gas and when I asked what town I was in, gave me 2 free t-shirts saying where… BEAVER, UTAH!
So if you’re ever in Beaver Utah, stop by the Conoco and say hi to Kevin and Bruce, tell them Devon, the tattooed Canadian, sent you.
And also… NEVER EVER tease your friends about the weather and your travels or you’ll end up with karma hitting you back, sorry Ashley.
Sometimes the road provides, well actually it always provides! Recently I was given the opportunity to go on a solo trip. I had been wanting to go on one for sometime…
Time was ticking away, where are you going people asked, you should go here or there they’d say. Immediately I took those suggestions and put them on the back burner. I don’t like being told what to do. Everyone around me asked if I was excited yet, nope was my usual reply. I had been too busy planning Jade’s surprise party (princess themed) with friends to even think about my trip.
The day before my trip was Jade’s birthday, we spent the day with friends and family celebrating the big 38. I would leave the next morning still with no clue where to go. We got home late from dinner and I threw a couple clothes in my backpack, grabbed some essential camping gear and went to bed. Packing literally took me all of 10 minutes.
Tried, tested & true, the following life hacks are used by us when we travel.
You’ll find most of these quite common but you’d be surprised to know that most people who travel feel the “vacation” experience is enhanced by “all inclusive”. That somehow their vacation isn’t real unless someone is waiting on them hand and foot. For me, I’m happy being thrifty on the road. Saving a buck wherever I can makes my trip worth while. If I can cut a corner somewhere, save a few dollars in my lodging to be able to spend it on a bigger, fancier meal or something I really want, then that’s what I’ll do, every time.
When we travel, we try to stick to the west coast or the southwest. Rest areas dot the highways along the way. These are the ultimate places for us to stay. Why? They’re free. They have bathrooms. Some even have showers. The key word here is free. I save one hundred percent when we stay at one. They are bright, clean and safe. I’ve never had an issue staying at a rest stop. However, it is illegal to stay overnight, so make sure that you grab four hours of sleep before moving on. After all, the state troopers would rather you stay at one than drive fatigued.
If you insist on staying somewhere, try a motel over a hotel. They’re more cost effective. They have free WiFi, free coffee and in some cases, they have a continental breakfast. I love me a free breakfast. My personal favourite is Motel 6. The WiFi is decent, and they have swimming pools and more importantly hot tubs (spas). These are great for weary travellers with sore bodies. I could sit in one for an unhealthy length of time and shrivel up like a prune. Also, after a certain hour, some are kid free.
Even better than a motel are certain types of camping spots that come with showers and laundry facilities. These are the hidden jewels of the road. Some state parks have coin operated showers, which is a bonus when you’ve been in a car for way too long. Some RV/camping sites not only have free clean showers, but laundry too. That’s the ultimate find when you’re travelling. Of course, the laundry is coin operated, but I’ll spend a few bucks to save my nose from an unhappy confined space situation.
Rest areas are the biggest money saver on the open road. But you can save big money by stopping at small mom ’n’ pop grocery stores and buy fresh fruits and vegetables to keep in a cooler in your car. You don’t need to stop once or twice a day and eat at a restaurant. It’s expensive and usually unhealthy. I like to control the kind of nourishment I consume. By buying fruits and vegetables, you save on money, ensure that you’re eating well and you can buy in small quantities to make sure nothing spoils while you’re travelling. Do we eat out on the road? Of course. We usually stop once a day at an eatery. We’re a little picky about our food, so we take our time finding spots to stop at.
However, after reading this, if you still feel like you’re happier staying in expensive hotels and eating at potentially unhealthy restaurants, have at ‘er. But if you’re looking to save big money, give our technique a try. We not only save money, more often than not, we come home with cash in hand.
With these tips and tricks, we have managed to go on two or three vacations a year without breaking the bank. I love travelling, but I love saving a few bucks even more. It’s awesome when you can do both at the same time.
Then came the event that I was waiting for, the mob museum. Located in old Vegas, the museum is housed in an old courthouse that looks as though it was restored. An older building with parking right beside it, the mob museum is rather unassuming. If you didn’t know it was there, you’d probably miss it. Upon entering the building you are immediately transported back into the 1920s, into what looks like a post office, or a bank vault. There are three floors of informative, interactive displays and movies, all about the birth of the mafia in America, the rise and fall of the legends and the decline in the early 2000s. After purchasing our tickets we go up to the third floor and start the self guided tour.
You walk through each exhibit and read all about the big names in mafia history; Al Capone, Meyer Lansky, Lucky Luciano, John Gotti. You learn about the five families, the commission, the mafia in Chicago and Las Vegas. Each floor is laid out like a winding tour, some exhibits are graphic, some are benign. First up, a guide ushers you into a line-up room where you grab a number and wait your turn to take mugshots. You have the option of doing it alone or with a group. The guide even takes your picture. Holding up the number against your chest, you see your reflection in the glass and it’s hard not to crack up while you try to look serious. Then you turn to the left, hold up the number and take another photo. The whole thing was very amusing. Walking around the top floor, you get to see artifacts from famous mob hits, like the brick wall from the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. I was surprised to learn that a man from my home town purchased the wall and had it installed brick by brick at his nightclub in the washroom. The micro movies show you how the g-men where trying to close the noose around the mob and their hold on the illegal liquor racket. You learn about J. Edgar Hoover and his belief that there was no such thing as the mafia, to him, it simply did not exist. You also learn that Sam Giancana, the boss in Chicago won the 1960 presidential election for JFK. Then when his brother RFK turns on organized crime, they did away with both brothers… allegedly.
Devon clicked on an interactive screen and ended up joined the mafia by going through their secret initiation rite. I listened in on FBI wiretaps trying to trap made men with their illegal activities. You even get to shoot a replica tommy gun and sit in a retired electric chair from Sing Sing prison that zapped over 9000 lost souls into oblivion. The second floor has the courtroom where you sit in on a deposition about mob activity led by Senator Estes Kefauver. Very interesting stuff. After that, you continue on the tour and see a barber chair where Albert Anastasia was gunned down in. Purchased and donated to the museum by the “king of one-liners”, comedian Henny Youngman, the chair had been wiped clean. A part of me wishes that they left it blood stained. You can enter a room with stacks of millions of dollars, literally my dream room. From there, it’s down to the first floor where you are met with more listening devices from the FBI and tons of mug shots. You are shown a series of surveillance photos and you get to try and match those with their mug shots. A much harder task than it sounds.
There is a booth that you can enter and make a confession video and watch the playback. There’s also a long hallway with every famous mobster, their photo and a brief bio. At the end of the hall there is one of John Gotti’s suits that he wore during one of his many trials. From this hall, you enter a lounge type room where you watch Nicholas Pileggi talk about the many movies he has made on the mafia. You’re told some very interesting facts about the movies, including one about the movie Casino where a “consultant” on the film was actually a mob guy. He was helping Martin Scorsese set up a scene when he complained that it was not the actual way that the hit went down. As it turns out, the consultant was a retired mafia hit man. He ended up filming the scene himself and recreating an actual hit he did. How crazy is that?!?
You finally end up in the mob museum’s gift shop where they have tons of posters, books, t-shirts and mugs. An impressive array of all things stamped with mafia logos. I had my eye on a deck of mafia boss playing cards but I settled on a penny that I stamped with Al Capone’s likeness.
After leaving the museum I found out that I missed a room where you could shoot replica guns, which totally bummed me out. I would have loved shooting a replica. Ah well. Gives me a reason to go back, right?
This was by far the best day there, for me anyway. I learned some interesting things and really liked the displays. Everyone seemed to enjoy the museum, even Devon. I think she liked the gore, the electric chair and the tommy gun. Once done with the museum, we walked down the street further into old Vegas, checked out an old pawn shop and hit up the El Cortez casino for some gambling. Incidentally, the El Cortez is one of the oldest establishments in Vegas. One of the original stake holders was none other than Benjamin Siegel.
As I mentioned earlier, I am a huge mafia buff. This trip satiated that itch for me. It will also keep me going back. There is still tons of exploring to do in old Vegas and I could always check out the museum again. I know I missed a bunch of stuff and I’ll never get tired of learning about the mob.
If you’ve been to Vegas before and it’s losing it’s sheen, it’s luster for you, may I suggest old Vegas and the mob museum. Even if you’re not a mafia fan, after visiting the museum, you just might be.
Until next time, keep on keepin’ on. And try not to get caught.
I’ve been to Vegas four or five times. I’m not a gambler, I simply don’t understand the lure of it. I have no interest in drinking my face off and I don’t trust any buffet that’s only a dollar. So what keeps me going back to Sin City? Besides the ideal climate, it’s the desert. Also, I’m a huge mafia buff. Vegas is steeped with a rich history of mob run businesses and casinos. In organized crime’s heyday of the 20s-80s, Las Vegas was where they would bring their ill gotten gains to launder and legitimize their wealth. It started back in the early 1940s with Bugsy Siegel being given the task to establish the mafia in Vegas by building a casino. From there, every faction sent at least one person to represent each family and stake claim to their own turf. It was a mobster’s dream to run a place in a state with little to no rules.
On our last trip to Las Vegas, we each had one thing we wanted to do. Since it was Devon’s birthday, she got to choose the all of the activities on her special day. Everybody else got to choose one activity. This trip was planned well in advance of her actual day of birth and we invited two close friends to join us. The trip itself was actually really fun. We spent a week exploring Vegas, walking up and down the strip for an entire day.
We mixed it up a bit by flying down instead of driving. After arriving we picked up our rental SUV and drove down the highway to our hotel. Devon picked the place. She had been there on another trip and enjoyed her stay. We pulled into the Red Rock Casino & Hotel and checked in at the front desk. I honestly don’t think I’ve been in a bigger hotel. Nor have I seen one with nine pools before. With a casino floor and seven different restaurants to choose from, we really didn’t need to leave our hotel at all. There was also a keno lounge and a bingo hall.
Once checked in, we went down to the casino floor and walked around. After all the travel, sitting on a plane, driving to the hotel & settling in, the only thing on our minds was food. Since Devon had been there before, she knew which restaurants had the good eats. We settled on the Yard House, a draft beer pub with gourmet food. We ate probably the best nachos there. The portions were more than enough and we were sufficiently stuffed. After eating it was off to do a little gaming. We spent about an hour playing some games then we went back up to our room to relax for the night.
The next couple of days were spent walking around old Vegas and shopping at one of the large outlet malls. I’m actually impressed with Devon on this. She’s not a fan of shopping and an even bigger non fan of malls, yet she managed to hang in there for three hours of insanity. Our friends had never been to Vegas and they enjoy shopping. A part of me thinks that they think it’s a sport. All I know is they have black belts in retail therapy. We walked up and down each side of the mall, stopping at what seemed like every other store. Finding a few things we needed and a handful of stuff we didn’t, it was back to the hotel to rest for a bit before heading off to dinner and a little gambling before calling it a day.
On Devon’s birthday she wanted to go to Red Rock Canyon Conservation Area. Driving up to the park is nothing special but driving down into it you can visibly watch the scenery change before your eyes. The crazy hues of yellows, oranges & reds saturate your vision and everything seems crisp, vivid. We walked down into the canyon a bit and took some pictures. There were a few people around so we decided to move to another less populated area. Driving further into the park, we found a nice area with huge rocks jutting out from the rock face. It was there that we went for a short walk. There was some primitive art of hand prints along the wall and we stopped to take a few photos. The park had a feeling, very hard to describe. I felt an energy present, that’s all I know.
After that, we drove 128km (1hr & 35 minutes) to Valley of Fire State Park to look for rock formations. We ended up at Elephant Rock which, not surprisingly, looks just like an elephant. We hung out on top of the rock face for a bit, watching the sun set in the distance. As the sun went down, so did the temperature. The desert is famous for it’s heat. During the day it can get blazing hot but at night the temperature drops so drastically that it plummets into subzero weather. There is a harsh beauty to such an unforgiving environment. With the temperature down to an uncomfortable level, it was back on the road and back to our hotel.
The next day it was back into Vegas for a day of walking the world famous Las Vegas strip. Devon & I have been there several times before and we’ve walked the strip a few times. But every time we go with someone who’s never been there, the strip is still pretty fun to check out. We went from hotel to casino, up and down the strip, checking out all of the sights. We had lunch at Pink’s hot dog stand and continued on walking. You never really know how long or how far you walk, but I have a pedometer. I use it daily, and on this day it told me that we had walked over twenty-five thousand steps. So long as you keep moving, everything is fine. But the second we got back to our hotel room it seemed like everything ached with pain. For me, it was my knees. I felt my heartbeat in them. It was still a fun day and we saw a ton of what Vegas has to offer.
The next day would be the one item I really wanted.