Category Archives: travel

“I’m Going on an Adventure” – Bilbo Baggins

Song Lyric of the Day:

What was before, we see once more / Is our kingdom, a distant light / Fiery mountain beneath the moon / The words unspoken, we’ll be there soon / For home a song that echoes on / And all who find us will know the tune

Neil Finn / “Song of the Lonely Mountain

I’ve mentioned my friend Nan in assorted posts over the years. We’ve seen each other through thick and thin, and she is someone I feel like I was meant to meet and get to know. She’s been a wonderful friend to Rich and I over the years, and Coraline is her #1 fan (she calls her Miss Nan). So when I heard about the Hobbit Fan Fellowship contest — with the grand prize being a trip to New Zealand — I told Nan she needed to enter. Because for as long as I’ve known her (8+ years now), I’ve known of her deep and abiding love for The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, and all things J.R.R. Tolkien. The woman is basically a hobbit at heart, in the best way possible. It was a multiphase contest, beginning with entrants creating a postcard and then ending with the creation and submission of a short movie. Everyone who’s seen Nan’s movie has loved it. Behold:

I am so proud of her for creating such a beautiful and heartfelt short movie. And I was touched and honored when she said that if she won, she’d take me to New Zealand with her. Well, guess what? SHE WON!!!! Nan is one of the lucky winners from the United States — there are multiple international winners, too — and I am beyond thrilled that she is letting me tag along with her halfway across the world. Contest winners — and us lucky plus-ones — will get to visit filming sites for the LOTR and Hobbit movies and, best of all, get to watch the new movie, The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies, with none other than the series’ phenomenal director, Sir Peter Jackson.

To say this is surreal is an understatement. This will be the farthest I’ve ever traveled in my life (New Zealand is 17 hours ahead of our time zone), and it will be to visit filming locations for one of my favorite-ever movie series. Basically, I’m still trying to wrap my head around it. This will also be only my second time away from Coraline, but I’m pretty sure once she knows I’ll be going somewhere with Miss Nan, she’ll be OK with it. That and when she sees the movies someday — she’ll really appreciate it then.

Did I mention how wonderful Nan is and how grateful I am to her for letting me tag along to FREAKING NEW ZEALAND? Because let me tell you, if she ever needs a kidney, part of my liver, a lung — whatever — I’ve got her covered.


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The Year of Living Dangerously … Close to Home

Song Lyric of the Day:

Come away with me / Come, let’s go away to be / On a new adventure for two / We can fly across the ocean / Or take a train together / I don’t care as long as it’s beside you

Tim McMorris / “You’ve Got My Heart

I’ve been fortunate in my life in that I’ve traveled a decent amount. My freshman year of high school, my mom scrimped and saved to send me to Europe with my French class (six countries in 16 days). For my honeymoon Rich and I took a Caribbean cruise. We made several trips to New York City over the years. In 2008 we met up with our friends Richard and Donna in Uruguay. In 2009 I took a solo vacation to the Toronto International Film Festival. In 2010 Rich and I visited Caren in Colorado right after learning we were pregnant with Coraline. In 2011 we took Coraline to Iowa to visit Rich’s extended family. In 2012 we took a long weekend in Asheville, N.C., exploring the city and visiting Biltmore (twice, but that’s a story for another day). Last year we took a long overdue visit to see friends in Ohio.

This year? Well, it’s already mid-May, and I have zero travel plans for the year. That’s right — nada. I’ve got nowhere to go and nothin’ to do. Travel-wise, that is. Due to various issues that have arisen and others that will need to be dealt with in the near future, traveling to, well, pretty much anywhere seems like more of an extravagance than ever. And I admit, it’s a bit depressing. It’s undoubtedly a first-world problem — boo hoo, poor me, I can’t take a vacation — but I’ll be honest and admit that yes, it’s got me down a bit.

One of the many beautiful, exotic vacation destinations which I will not be visiting this year.

One of the many beautiful, exotic vacation destinations which I will not be visiting this year.

A couple of months ago, Rich was encouraging me to go back to Toronto for this year’s festival, but I’m pretty sure that’s not going to happen now. Which sucks if for no other reason than I got my hopes up. I’ve written before about how being optimistic, as opposed to my naturally pessimistic self, is something I have to work at. So getting the shit kicked out of my excitement at the mere thought of going back to Toronto has not been fun. Maybe next year. We’ll see.

I’m trying to be optimistic (what can I say? I’m a dumbass who never learns.) that maybe we can at least take Coraline to New York City this year. I haven’t been since 2006(!) so that is definitely on my shortlist of places to go whenever we can afford it. And no matter what we can afford right now, I’m just scared to spend money on things — vacations — we don’t need, because who knows what other things will need to be dealt with. See? That’s me being pessimistic. And practical.

Still, I do have things to look forward to this year: a new baby niece on the way, a nephew starting preschool, Coraline’s 4th birthday, a nephew starting 1st grade, time spent with family we are fortunate enough to live close to, a new X-Men movie. (Hey, if I can’t travel, you can bet your ass I’ll at least be drooling over Hugh Jackman on the big screen.) So despite not having any international or domestic adventures on the horizon, there are still good things happening this year.

Staycation, anyone?


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Photoblogging: A Chilly Day in the Park

While in Columbus last week, Rich, Coraline, our friend Chris, and I did a bit of sightseeing and ended up in the lovely Topiary Park near where Rich and Chris used to live while in college. Here are a few shots from that cold, windy, fun day (2/11/13). I can’t wait to see it in warmer weather when everything is in bloom.


The plaque describing Georges Seurat's famous painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte

A shot of the park mirroring the image etched on the plaque


The reeds along the shore of the partially frozen lake

Coraline and her poppa in the park

Coraline stands on the "magic" square to the left of the plaque, which supposedly provides the best view of the park as depicted on the plaque. She would have run around all day there if we'd let her.

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Road Tripping With Abuelo

Song Lyric of the Day:

You show the lights that stop me turn to stone / You shine It when I’m alone / And so I tell myself that I’ll be strong / And dreaming when they’re gone

Ellie Goulding / “Lights

On Saturday, Coraline and I drove with my dad, her abuelo, down to Alabama so she and I could finally meet Miranda, her new cousin and my new (and first) niece. Cora and I got up at the same time we do on weekdays, got to my parents’ house at 8:30AM, and were on the road by 9AM. Three hours of salsa music later (¡Ay caramba! — it all sounds the same to me. Guess who picked the radio station?), we pulled into Ken and Vanessa’s driveway, where my nephew Elliott ran out shouting, “Auntie Pattie, I missed you!” before hurling himself into my arms. Not too shabby a greeting. Then he hopped into the backseat of my car to say hi to Coraline, who was groggy as she was just waking up from a two-hour nap. We made our way inside, where I finally got to meet and hold Miranda, who is 10 weeks old today. And if I do say so — in my completely unbiased opinion, of course — she’s a little beauty. See?

Happy Miranda (4/28/12)

Not only was Coraline giddy to see and hang out with her cousin Elliott, she fell in love with Miranda. Coraline loves babies, and her new cousin was no exception. She kissed her so many times while we were there she reminded me of one of those little glass drinking bird thingies, constantly standing up then bending over to kiss Miranda.

Coraline kisses her new cousin, Miranda, for the hundredth time.

While there, we enjoyed lunch at a Mexican restaurant, a trip to Barnes & Noble where I picked out books from me and Rich to Elliott and Miranda (Elliott’s unexpected selection was Angry Birds Space), and a fruitless-for-me visit to DSW. After hanging out another couple of hours back at their house, it was time for me, Dad, and Coraline to head back home. For the return drive, I selected The Airborne Toxic Event on my iPod, my preemptive strike against more salsa music. We stopped for dinner at a Quiznos, where Coraline wasted time playing with olives and cucumber slices before deigning to eat any of the turkey and cheddar slider I got her. Dad took over driving from there, so it was back to the salsa music. Sigh.

Even though this was just a day trip, it meant a  lot to me, not only because I got to see my sister and her family, who we’ve missed since they moved, but because — believe it or not — this was my first-ever road trip with my dad. And despite having fears of not knowing what to talk about (Dad’s not a chatter), it was actually fun for me and Dad and I did have some nice talks. Coraline won’t remember this trip, but it made a big impression on her: Saturday night was the first night she slept with her little baby doll, who Rich took great care to tuck in under the blanket next to her.


Filed under family, travel

Tuesday 10: Places I Would Rather Be Right Now

  1. Italy
  2. Spain
  3. England
  4. France
  5. Australia
  6. Hawaii
  7. Switzerland
  8. Belgium
  9. New York City
  10. Las Vegas

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The ABCs of My OCD

Song Lyric of the Day:

High Anxiety / It’s always the same / High Anxiety / It’s you that I blame / It’s very clear to me / I’ve to give in / High Anxiety / You win

Mel Brooks / “High Anxiety

In case you’re new to my blog or haven’t popped by in a while or are just really good at tuning me out when I get all repetitive-like (I’m looking at you, dear), I’m heading off to Toronto tomorrow for the Toronto International Film Festival. It’s pretty much all I’ve talked about lately. And to say I have ants-in-the-pantsitis is a complete understatement. I’m basically bouncing off the walls since the last vacation I enjoyed was our amazing trip to Uruguay last March. After that trip, Rich and I stayed much closer to home, and this year we’ve only gone away together for a grand total of two nights, once to Chattanooga for Valentine’s Day and then to the amazing Creekwalk Inn for our 9th wedding anniversary in April. So am I ready for a vacation? You bet your ass I am.

As I wrote the other day, it’s something of a tradition for me to freak out a bit before going out of town, whether it’s for an overnighter or for a longer trip. I blame it on my selective OCD. I say selective because, while I don’t need to tap the lightswitch 18 times before leaving a room or, say, blink three times and spin in a circle every hour on the hour, I do have my quirks. One of those quirks is making list after list of things to prepare for vacation, things to take on vacation, things that need to be taken care of around the house, bills that need to be paid, etc. And I have a thing about taking extra underwear on a trip. I’m not talking the recommended extra pair or two, but almost a whole week’s worth of extra undies. Rich likes to tease me about that hypothetical underwear dilemma/nightmare, the one that’s hovered in the back of my mind for every trip over the last dozen years or so, that will lead me to need all those extra undies. I shudder to think what that might be, should that particular catastrophe ever strike.

Pre-trip freakout rituals aside, my day-to-day OCD quirks are limited to two things: my alarm clock and the front and back door locks (okay, three things). I have to check my alarm clock several times before I can rest assured that I set if for (1) the correct time and (2) the correct time of day. As in AM instead of PM. That little mistake has made for a few bad days over the years. I won’t get started on how I used to obsess over the volume of my alarm, but ask Rich how many mornings he’s had a heart attack as a wake-up call and you’ll get the answer to that. As for the locks, Rich knows how much of a trigger this is for me. All he has to do as I’m, say, drifting off to sleep, is casually whisper, “Goodnight, and are you sure the front door/back door is locked?” knowing full well I’ll hop out of bed to go check right that very moment. I think he — and the dogs — think it’s funny.

My packing is about 85% complete, so all I have to do tonight (besides freak out and inadvertently annoy the spouse) is double- then triple- then quadruple-check everything*, amass all my electronics (laptop, DSLR, digital camera for shooting video, and iPod), finish rewatching Being Human (ahem), and make sure my earplugs and sleep mask are at the ready for when I’m settled in on my flights. Because for me, flying is a time for sleeping. I’m not there to socialize with my seatmate(s). So I swaddle myself in a blanket — covering my neck, of course — pop in my earplugs and put my mask on. Sure, if the plane — God forbid — starts to go down, I’ll hold my seatmate’s hand and be their best friend to the bitter end, but until then? I’m napping.

*Underwear counting included.

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There’s No Place Like Home

Song Lyric of the Day:

I’m Leaving Las Vegas / Lights so bright / Palm sweat, blackjack / On a Saturday night / Leaving Las Vegas

Sheryl Crow / “Leaving Las Vegas”

While at Mandalay Bay, we had a nice lunch at the House of Blues. We hit a few more hotel casinos, and ended up at Paris Las Vegas to go up on the Eiffel Tower, a half-size replica of the original in France. While up there, I got some great shots of The Strip all lit up, including a couple of shots of the Bellagio’s fountain show. We met up with Dan again and went to The Harley Davidson Cafe for a late dinner. Then it was back to the hotel for the night.

When I last updated, I was still in Vegas. Brent, Dan, and I were getting ready to go see “La Femme,” the French cabaret show at my hotel, the MGM Grand. I’m happy to report it was very tastefully done and I actually enjoyed it. Of course, the guys enjoyed it. Nice choreography and kicky French music to boot. There was even a very attractive male magician thrown in for good measure, as well as a group called “The Quiddlers,” who did a hilarious routine involving Michael Jackson and his late pet chimp, Bubbles. Sounds outdated, I know, but it was classic–one of those “you had to be there” things. The show lasted about an hour and twenty minutes total, during which time we each consumed some tasty cocktails. After, we walked right over to a hotel bar to come up with a game plan for the next day. Long story short, I drank a Cosmopolitan on top of the drink I’d had at the show, all on a relatively empty stomach. Bada bing, bada boom, next thing I know, I’m in my hotel room being fed Saltines to try and make the room stop spinning. After the guys made sure I was safely ensconced in my room, they headed home, and I watched the end of “A Nightmare on Elm Street” before falling into a deep, dreamless sleep.

Tuesday morning, Dan drove Brent and I up to Hoover Dam. Tickets were half off because the elevator down to the power plant wasn’t working. So while I got some great photos up top, I didn’t get the chance to see the inner workings of the dam. Brent and I ended up getting a souvenir photo, which entitled us to some free buttons that say “Hoover Dam Proud American.” Very patriotic.

Once Brent and I were dropped off on The Strip, we were off to explore more hotel casinos. Over the next several hours, we hit Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, Luxor Las Vegas, and Excalibur Hotel/Casino, which were connected by a tram. Very handy, what with Brent’s foot being fractured.

We set off early in the morning so I could get a few more things done before I had to catch my flight. Basically, the only thing we ended up having time to do was ride the Manhattan Express Roller Coaster at New York-New York Hotel & Casino. It was a blast and really kicked our butts. After that, it was off to the airport for the long journey home.

I slept a couple of hours on the flight to Charlotte, made the connecting flight to Newport News, and passed out again once on that plane. Once I deplaned, I called Rich to let him know I was there. Then I called Brent to let him and Dan know I got home safe. Time to start planning the next trip out there to do some of the things I didn’t have time for this time around…

It was wonderful seeing my handsome hubby’s face after 6 days away, and even more wonderful getting that first big hug welcoming me home. After some delirious recapping on my part, we got my luggage and headed home. A little more delirious recapping, and then it was time to get to bed (since it was 1:30AM at this point) and get some sleep before going to work Thursday morning.

Dreamless sleep with my husband at my side, my own pillow under my head, and my cat, Yum Yum, in my lap.

It’s great to be home.

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My Excellent Vegas Adventure

Song Lyric of the Day:
Coldplay / “A Rush of Blood to the Head”

So I’m gonna buy a gun and start a war / If you can tell me something worth fighting for / I’m gonna buy this place is what I said / Blame it upon a rush of blood to the head / Oh to the head

Monday 6:10PM. I’m exhausted. Brent and I walked all over today. We started out at my hotel, the MGM Grand, and went over to New York New York to have authentic New York-style pizza for lunch. Then we went over to the Monte Carlo. Then we went to Caesar’s Palace. We ended up walking around Caesar’s for, I don’t know, 4 days or so. That’s one thing about the hotels here–they’re virtually cities in themselves. If you felt, you wouldn’t even have to leave your hotel to shop or eat or watch shows, unless you were motivated to explore the city.

In just a little while we are going to see a typical Las Vegas girlie show. We are going to see “La Femme,” in the La Femme Theater downstairs here in my hotel. It’s direct from France’s Crazy Horse nightclub. Brent is just thrilled that he’ll get to see some nudity. Here’s our conversation from my first day here, when we thought we’d see “Jubilee” over at Bally’s:

Dan: You really want to see one of those nudie shows? You do know you’ll be seeing boobs, right?

Me: I know. But it’s one of those Vegas-type shows everyone should see. You know, when in Vegas… So, yeah, I’d like to see one.

Brent: I love you, Pattie.

More from Vegas tomorrow…

I’m still on sensory overload. I saw all the fancy, upscale designer stores where I would love to be able to buy even one luxury item. Unless my losing streak is reversed soon, that’s not going to happen, on this trip at least.

P.S.–I now have a f***ing cold thanks to the cold weather here. Desert air clears up allergies my a$$.

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Vegas, Part Deux

Song Lyric of the Day:

Let the stormy clouds chase / Everyone from the place / Come on with the rain / I’ve a smile on my face / I walk down the lane / With a happy refrain / Just singin’, / Singin’ in the rainGene Kelly / “Singin’ In the Rain”

Popcorn and Coke at “O” – $11.40

Program of “O” – $10.00

Late, Late Fast Food Dinner – $4.00

Losing $38.00 my first night gambling – crappy

Dan took Brent and I to see Red Rock in the mountains Saturday afternoon. I took a ton of photos so Rich can not only see how beautiful desert mountains are, but he can hopefully get some inspiration for another series of pastels. It was very beautiful and peaceful out there. And there were wild donkeys! Wild donkeys! Too bad I got carsick during the twisty drive out.

“O” was amazing. I can honestly say I’ve never seen anything quite like it. I really, really, really wish Rich had been here to see it. Since he wasn’t, though, I bought a program to show him some photos of it. From the moment the red curtain fell from the top and was vacummed back into the dark recesses of the far stage, I was captivated. The stage was water–there was a pool that was either open, shallow, or covered depending on the performance going on at the time. The show was a combination of acrobatics, Olympic-caliber diving, trapeze artistry, and contortion. At one point, 3 performers dived simultaneously from about 150 feet above the stage. There was a lot of oohing and ahhing from the audience, including a lot of thrilled gasps–some of it was quite nerve-wracking to watch. There were also a couple of clowns thrown in for good measure. At the end of the performance, after all the performers bowed, the stage begin to sink, and they were all lowered back into the pool. Very impressive. Although I still have no idea why it’s called “O.”

After the show, we caught the fountain show in front of the Bellagio. Then we were off to gamble!

The old adage is true–quit while you’re ahead. If I’d done that, I wouldn’t have blown through $38 in 3 casinos. After deciding to stop casino hopping, we hit In ‘N Out Burger for some grub. I can’t remember the last time I had dinner at 12:15AM. Fortunately, the food was such good quality I didn’t get sick. Unlike my companions.

I went back to the Yons’ house a little older, wiser, poorer, full, and ready for some good sleep.


Sunday was a dismal, rainy, cold day. Not only is Vegas weather not what I’d imagined it would be, but my allergies are going haywire. Thanks again to Rich for letting me bring the Flonase. I’d be suffocating without it.

We got a late start today. Our first stop was the buffet at the Suncoast Hotel and Casino. It cost $15 per person, but you got to choose from Mongolian, Chinese, Mexican, Italian, and American cuisines. Plus a salad bar, dessert bar, and a breakfast food bar. I had some turkey with gravy, penne pasta bolognese, Mongolian chicken and beef, Lei Honey chicken, rice, stuffing, fried chicken, and some chocolate mousse. I really should have stopped before the chocolate mousse, because I felt like popping afterwards. Recovering quickly, we were off to gamble. Again. Lucky for us, that was maybe 6 feet away from the restaurant.

My initial investment of $3 turned into $15.00 playing Mr. Lucky’s Chinese Restaurant slots. I took the $15.00 and turned it into $40.00 on a fire engine-themed slot machine. I took the $40.00 and turned it into $75 on the Bewitched slot machine. Of course, I had to call Rich and tell him about each win. I lost $10 after calling him, but still came out $65 ahead.

I left the Yons’ house and checked into the MGM Grand around 4PM. It’s a beautiful, massively large hotel. I was supposed to have a room with a king-sized bed, but the only one available was a smoking room. So I am now ensconced in my lovely, non-smoking room with two queen-sized beds. So much for sleeping diagonally in the middle of a king-sized bed. On the other hand, I’ve already covered the second queen-sized bed with a lot of crap.

After a light dinner, I proceeded to lose $40 of my $65 in winnings in my own hotel’s casino. I retreated to said lovely, non-smoking hotel room, and after some pouting and number-crunching, decided to try my luck again. This time I hit New York New York Hotel and Casino, where I got lucky again. I used my $25 remaining winnings from earlier in the day and came out with $41. Good enough to call it a night.


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Vegas, Baby, Vegas

Song Lyric of the Day:

Who says you can’t have it all / Cause baby nothing for free / No money don’t grow on trees / Golddigger

Supreme Beings of Leisure / “Golddigger”

3:05 PM Friday: Touched down here in Charlotte about 40 minutes ago. After about 15 minutes of just walking to get to my gate for the connecting flight to Las Vegas, I decided to go ahead and have lunch. The plane is now charging for food, so who knows how much and how good it will? So being in North Carolina, I opted for a genuine, Carolina-style, pit-BBQ pork sandwich. Granted, it cost $9.20 for the sandwich, one side, and a small Coke, but was it worth it? Absof###inglutely.

I did most of my packing last night, leaving incidentals for this morning. By this I mean I ran around all morning, rounding up my laptop, digital camera, stuffing my carry-on bag with lots of books and magazines, and generally freaking out worrying that I may forget something. I also bombarded the hubby with questions about having any questions about any what to do while I’m gone. I also warned him to be very, very careful around the VCR in our bedroom. I programmed it to record about 6 shows while I’m gone, and I’d like to be able to watch them next weekend after I get home.

I’m so excited to be going on this trip. Not only have I not seen my friend, Brent, since he, my sister, Vanessa, and I went to New York City in January to watch the Knicks play and win in Madison Square Garden, but this is my first time to Las Vegas and out west in general. True, I’ve been to Europe twice in my life, even throwing up on the Eiffel Tower during my second trip to Paris, but I’ve never been farther west than the Texas. And even that was by default, since we lived in Houston for about 7 years.

I am hoping the connecting flight to Las Vegas goes a bit smoother than the flight from Newport News to here. It wasn’t bad, but it’s so windy today that the plane felt more like an amusement park ride, minus a track underneath and the peace of mind knowing that you are no more than maybe 100 feet above the ground at any given time. Once we reached 10,000 feet the ride smoothed out significantly. Landing was a bit scary, since the pilot hit the brakes so hard we were all pitched forward towards the seats in front of us. I have faith that the next flight will be much better as it will be a much bigger plane. Also, the in-flight movie might be “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy,” which I missed when it played in theaters. You gotta love Will Ferrell–the man has no shame, a truly great quality for a comedian to have.

11:40 AM Saturday: The flight from Charlotte to Las Vegas last night took off late. We were supposed to leave at 4:25PM, but ended up not leaving until 5:00PM. The flight was much better than the first one was, and the movie ended up being “The Manchurian Candidate” with Denzel Washington. I opted not to pay the $5.00 they wanted for headsets and instead tried the headphones I brought to use with my laptop. Eureka! Free movie! After the movie, I dozed off and on for a little, in between talking with my seatmate, a woman from Pasadena, CA, named Barbara.

Upon landing, Barbara and I said our goodbyes, I called the hubby to let him know I landed, and I made my way to Baggage Claim to find my friends, Brent and Dan. We loaded up the car, dropped Brent’s luggage off at Dan’s house, and then swung by Dan’s parents’ house, where I’m staying a couple of nights. After saying hi to his mom and leaving my luggage, we went to Quizno’s to grab a quick dinner. Then we watched a pirated copy of “Team America,” which was actually quite funny. At least what I saw of it. After travelling all day, I basically dozed off maybe halfway into the movie. I stayed up for a little while talking to Mr. and Mrs. Yon, then went off to bed at 12:30AM local time. Of course, I was crawling by then, since I’m still on Eastern time, and I haven’t gone to bed at 3:30AM in a long, long, long time.

Woke up at 7:30 in the exact same position in which I fell asleep, so I feel great after sleeping like the dead. Fell back asleep and got up at 10:00, hopped in the shower, and had breakfast. Now I’m waiting for Brent and Dan to come pick me up so we can go explore the city. Here’s hoping they don’t slow me down too much. Brent’s got a fractured foot and Dan is recovering from gallbladder surgery he had on Wednesday. Tonight will be fun–we’re seeing Cirque du Soleil’s “O” at the Bellagio.

More from Vegas later…..

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