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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Vegas, Zion, Bryce Canyon Vacation Recap; Day 1-We have liftoff.

June has found me in between jobs and a pre-planned trip to Utah has now become an open ended vacation. I have vowed that I will blog daily about the trip from start to finish unlike the blogging of my maui trip which ended on Day 3 of 7 with the heading “Day 3; I am beaten senseless by the local Shaman.” But new lap top in tow and all of the tools of trade by my side I pledge this time to follow this through.

We left OC only 45 minutes late of our schedule and a trip on the toll road to the 91 saw only mild traffic congestion which by 91 standards may as well have been wide open driving. Making matters better yet; the 15 freeway saw absoulutely no traffic at all which mean the trip has started on a very positive note. As a matter of fact the free flowing traffic actually put us ahead of schedule which meant a mind numbing 30 minutes to kill at the outlet center which I always enjoy, since the prices at the outlet center always seem to be no better then the prices locally which always begets the question-if the prices are the same why battle the 100 degree heat? It also served as a great reminder on why I love my wife with the comment of “I just dont like shopping.” I always knew I had a great lady on my hands but having managed to find the one japanese girl who doesnt like shopping is really the gift that keeps on giving-if only she had ultra wealthy parents she would have been the girl of my dreams.

The real highlight of the opening salvo of our trip was our visit to the legendary Barstow Del Taco. I had heard good things for years but never managed to make the trip either opting for something in Baker or not making it past Big Boy or Tommys off of Linwood Ave. But family in Tow I was eager to see if there was truth to the matter and whether or not the 4.5 Yelp rating was warranted. Yelpers are typically brutal in the harshness of their reviews so to see positive reviews for a fast food place was an eye opener. RinkRat has swore to me about this place for years so I was certainly looking forward to seeing what was in store.

From the outside it looked no different then you cookie cutter Del Taco on anycorner of anytown USA. Even inside it looked the same sans every table sporting condiments packets and napkin dispensers. I could mention how the person taking the order also spoke perfect english, and actually suggested I upgrade the chili fries to the deluxe model since it was only 20 cents more-in 40 plus years of So Cal living I think this is the first time I have ever been upsold by a fast food worker. We settled on a couple of combo meals so the kids could get some fries and a couple of drinks. We ended up with some big fat soft tacos, the aforementioned chili fries, and a couple of bean and cheese burritos. And while the prices were a bit higher then your local Del Taco it was very apparent the portion sizes and the preparation of the food were far different then the Del Tacos I was used to. The Cheese actually seemed like real chedder cheese...as a matter of fact I noticed it was a different size grade then the thin sliced cheese I was accustomed to. The size of the chicken chunks as well as the freshness of the fat taco soft shell/pita was a far cry from what I was accustomed to....it was kind of like of ordering a 99 Cent double Cheeseburger from McDonalds and being served a double double Animal Style. All in all I can agree with the hoopla in spite of the somewhat higher prices. Even the bean and cheese burritos were better with an over abundance of cheese and the temperature of the beans melting the cheese into a 1/2bean 1/2 cheese gooey mess of goodness. I even got 3 year old Dustin to take a couple of bites which speaks volumes.

We made our way back into the minivan and as we approached Baker I encouraged the kids to play the “Guess the Temperature” game on the worlds biggest thermometer. The excitement soon proved anti-climatic as we neared the thermometer it either wasnt functioning or the angle of the sun made getting any type of accurate reading impossible. I will go on record as saying there was something wrong it-Ive been past this thing hundreds of times and dont ever recall it being as dim or faint as it was today. Explaining to the kids why the thermometer didnt work after getting them hyped was like a less brutal version of explaining that Santa Claus had been murdered on Christmas Eve. I had the wife bust out some Capri Suns and Otter Pops from the cooler and the matter was soon resolved.

We made our way to the 1st stop at Buffalo Bills. I dont really care too much about gambling, especially that of the trashy variety that is the Buffalo Bills staple but given the room was $16 bucks I figured it was an easy option and the log rides and other kiddie attractions would give the kids something to do in the evening. We let them do a couple of rides and walk around a bit. The place was deserted to what I was used to and the amount of smoke in the casino was about 1/2 of the normal amount which meant that it only took 45 minutes to acquire Black Lung Disease as opposed to the normal time of 15 minutes. All of the food shops were closed as well which is certainly a sign of the economic times. Overall I didnt care-I wasn’t gambling, wasnt drinking, and only used the casino as a neon version of Motel 6.

The Room itself was surprisingly nice. It was much much cleaner then I had expected and the bathroom was a far cry from the vegas trip I stayed at the Four Queens or even the Tropicana back in the Frozen Fury Pre-Season Hockey Games of years past pre-wife pre-kids. I literally had expected the worse and while the carpet has certainly seen better days for $16 bucks I wasn’t expecting crushed velvet.

I was hoping to get a good sleep as tomorrow would see us driving through Nevada, a blip of Arizona, towards Springdale Arizona. It would only be about 4 or 5 hours in real time but counting the amount of pee breaks, “Im Bored” comments, begging for snacks, arguing, bickering, motiong sickness-I would say the over/under would be more like 6 hours or the entire DVD Box Set of Planet Earth(the UK version, not the Sigourney Weaver version.) Was almost enough to have me seeking an online divorce the first moment I was able to pull into a wifi hot spot.

And alas as I finish typing this I am lucky to catch a weather report and good news is on the way! Tomorrows high is only expected to hit 105 degrees! I guess I should have brought a parka and stocking cap. The first day come and gone though has me summating with a so far so good attitude....I have yet to have a Clark Griswold style emotional outburst, I still have money in my wallet, ice and a few cold ichibans still in the cooler. This beats me old record of my trip to Walt Disney World which saw me penniless and using an asian travelers cell phones to call American Express Customer Service line begging for a raise in my credit limits-all before reaching El Segundo.....much less LAX. To be fair though-downtown Linwood seemed like a natural shortcut and the locals in town seemed friendly enough in spite of the name of the favorite band they all had tattooed on their back-I have never heard of the pop act known as the “19th St Crazy Boyz”, but I am pretty sure they must be the hispanic version of the Jonas brothers only instead of joe, nick, and paul there is Lil’ Chewie, Wolfie & Joker. Anyhow tomorrow sees us hitting up Zion National Monument and should also be the first blog entry with some pics.

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