Wednesday, October 21, 2009

October Blues

October is a sad month in Seattle. Phrases like, "I can't believe it's still this dark at 9AM," or "I come to work in the dark and I leave for home in the dark," are common conversation starters and stoppers at this time of year. A gloom begins to settle over the city and her people, replacing the radiant glow that was another long and lovely Seattle summer.

As dreary and as long as Seattle's winters are, October is the worst of it. Although the weather in October does begin to deteriorate, getting colder, wetter and darker, it's the fact that this weather trend is just beginning, coupled with the anticipation of the long, dark winter ahead, that makes October so unbearable. 

When we first moved to Seattle the dreariness of the Seattle winters didn't affect us, not until our 3rd year. Once the winters started to have a negative affect on us we decided "Winter Sun" vacations were in order. In the winter of 2003 we initiated what we had hoped would be an annual tradition of chasing the sun.

Unfortunately, though our initial trip to Zihuatenejo, Mexico was amazing, this idea hasn't happened regularly enough to be a reliable defense against Seattle's winters.

Next, we tried to work with the elements rather than against them and took up snowboarding. Although she lived in Salt Lake City, UT for 21 years, Desi had never learned how to ski or snowboard. Starting from scratch, she took lessons at Mount Baker and we both got fully outfitted. Unfortunately, perhaps due to the minimum 2 hour one way drive to decent snow or to the high ski lift ticket prices, snowboarding has not become the escape we initially predicted nor the distraction we require.

Now, in 2009, with the idea that this may be our last winter in Seattle, we need to develop a new strategy for getting through these next few months. Winter doesn't end in Seattle until May. Though there may be some nice days, and even some warm ones, beginning in February, those respites are surrounded by dreariness until near the end of May and sometimes into June.

With some "Winter Sun" trips already planned, and one trip dedicated to snowboarding, we hope this season will pass quickly. However, when it eventually does pass, we'll undoubtedly become sentimental about the passing of our last winter in Seattle, regardless of how miserable it actually was.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Couples Weekend, Vegas-style

After months of planning, and with the planets in alignment, this past Friday found us flying to Las Vegas to meet up with Luis & Alysha. We arrived at Las Vegas airport around 9:30PM and took the $15 (round trip) Bell Trans shuttle to our hotel.

We had selected the Golden Nugget as our hotel about a month earlier, which was a difficult decision. The hotel you choose in Vegas is often the most important decision when planning a Vegas vacation because it alone can dictate your experience. The deciding factor for us proved to be the hotel's pool, The Tank. With a shark tank at the center of the pool and a three-story tall water slide passing through it, The Tank was recently noted as one of the top 10 hotel pools in the world.
But, the Golden Nugget is located in downtown Vegas, rather than The Strip, otherwise known as the ubiquitous Vegas experience. The downtown area is about 6 miles away from the action on The Strip and we had some trepidation about staying that far away. But, since both couples have traveled to Vegas plenty of times, we decided we wouldn't be missing anything by staying in the downtown area. In fact, since we hadn't spent much time in the downtown area on previous trips, this might prove to be an entirely new and different experience.

The Tank did prove awesome, and we wound up spending many hours just lounging around it, but downtown Vegas did not. First of all, Fremont Street is lame. So lame, in fact, around 2AM we encountered a few casinos on it which had actually closed. Seriously. The Fremont Street Experience is also not worth the cab fare from The Strip, although it is pretty cool if you happen to be downtown anyway.

Additionally, and Luis made this observation, since downtown Vegas is where the locals tend to go for the cheaper gambling, better odds, etc., the overall vibe tended to be more "down and out" rather than "What Happens in Vegas." The general demeanor of the people we encountered was depressing, plus they were older, fatter, and uglier, and generally seemed sadder, than what we encountered on The Strip. Overall, The Tank was not worth a stay in downtown Las Vegas. But, at least we know that now. For the future, though, it's going to be Bill's Gamblin' Hall & Saloon or bust. That place is awesome!

Our Vegas trip with Luis & Alysha consisted of pool time, drinking, eating, Strip walking, late night gambling and donut eating, and cheap drink hunting. Alysha and Desi were denied their $1 daiquiris twice, though they did encounter many $1 margaritas, Mike had many helpings of $1 and $2 beers and Luis had a football sized pina colada, which we determined to be 46 ounces.

One of the more memorable events of the weekend was staying up until 4AM on Saturday night/Sunday morning. We had gotten back to the hotel from The Strip after midnight and decided to hit the hot tub, which was open until 2AM. After which, Luis wanted to go gambling. So, we rallied and joined him, which is when we encountered some of the aforementioned closed casinos. Around 2:45AM, Desi started craving donuts and we all walked to the Dunkin Donuts which didn't have any donuts because they don't make them onsite and delivery wasn't expected until between 3 and 4AM. After finding that the Krispy Kreme down the street was closed, we walked back to the Dunkin Donuts and waited for delivery. Luckily, the delivery was made around 3:15AM and we had our donuts and coffee by 3:30AM. Luis & Alysha headed back to Salt Lake on Sunday afternoon, leaving us until Tuesday morning to entertain ourselves. One of the best moments from Sunday was dining at the Fontana Bar at the Bellagio. We had headed back to The Strip but didn't want to walk around too much, so we walked through the Bellagio and found the Fontana Bar, which would provide us with a beautiful resting spot.

We had a wonderful seat on the outdoor patio, overlooking the Bellagio pond, drank sangria and scotch, had oysters and cheese, and got to see the magical Bellagio fountains dance at least 4 times. The rest of our trip was spent at the pool and relaxing. Desi lost $40 playing craps, but had fun doing it, and we watched a couple Fremont Experience light shows. After a lovely 4 day trip, we flew home Tuesday morning.

Luis & Alysha went through a lot to make this trip happen and we really appreciate their efforts. They coordinated Luis' mom's trip out to Salt Lake to watch their kids so that we could have an adults only weekend and sacrificed a weekend alone to spend it with us. We had a wonderful time with them and hope to do it again, hopefully sooner rather than later.
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