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Category: travel

going places!

Travelled out

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I would have told you it was impossible for me to get tired of traveling, but I think it has finally happened.

In the past 12 months, we have been to Idaho (wedding!), Orlando (Disney!), DC 3 times, Houston 9 times, Ireland, Utah (wedding! and BFFs!) and Vegas. And then I went on two knitting retreats and to a knitting conference. And Josh had a guys weekend.

The crazy thing is, we didn’t even really intend for this to be a year in which we saw all the things in all the places. And ensured our cat sitter could pay all her bills.

First up, we suddenly had a wedding to attend! Mormons tend to have short engagements, and the sister did not disappoint on that front. So to Idaho we went. A welcome reprieve from the brutal San Antonio summer and also a wedding! A quick but lovely trip.

And then, Disney World. A friend had called up that spring to ask if we’d like to go to Disney with them, and at first I was all, meh, we were just there last year and we were thinking about going to Ireland anyway. And then she said they’d be staying in a Polynesian Bungalow, and I was like, oh, keep talking, and then I googled it and said OMG we are THERE. If anybody ever invites you to stay in a Polynesian Bungalow with them you say YES. And then you become BFFs for life. With matching Mickey tattoos. (Just kidding. We stayed at the Polynesian, have you been paying attention? She got a Lilo tattoo, mine’s a Stitch.)

And then DC – should be exciting, but that was just for work. Staying in a hotel, working long days, no site seeing. Nothing to report there.

And all the Houston! The husband’s mother moved to Kuala Lumpur earlier this year, so we had a few trips to see her before she left. Kuala Lumpur, MALAYSIA. Like on the other side of the world. And then the husband’s sister had a baby! So there were baby showers and a false alarm and the real alarm to attend to. Yay for babies!

And Ireland!! We’d been thinking about it for awhile and just took the plunge one day and booked the trip, before we’d had allll the other things on our schedule. An amazing trip, for sure, but it ended up being crammed in the middle of a year of utter madness. 10/10 would recommend Ireland. Muuuuch better food than their English neighbors.

And then b3 got engaged! With another short engagement! So to Utah we went, which had the added benefit of letting us hang out with our BFFs who left us. Not the Disney ones, but our crazy nerdy gaming ones who introduced us to a whole new world of games and then MOVED out of the STATE so now we have NO ONE to play with. Ok, so maybe that’s an exaggeration, but in any event, it was fun to see them and introduce THEM to Mysterium. And we played another Time Stories expansion! And also there was a wedding, blah blah, it was beautiful, one of the best I’ve been to, blah blah, mazel tov! (Just kidding, I adore my new sister in law, I’ve had to stop myself from inviting them to visit San Antonio over and over again, I mean I’ve already issued an open invitation and I don’t want her to know I’m a crazy person just yet. Hmm, it just dawned on me that she’s a professor, she’s not stupid, she probably already knows I’m a crazy person … )

And then Vegas. The 30th anniversary of Star Trek TNG was a big draw, of course, but the clincher was that there’s a DS9 documentary in the works. Aaand the husband indiegogo funded it and we got tickets to the convention as part of his ‘donation’. So to Vegas we went, and it was awesome!

But now, for the first time in maybe forever, I just kinda want to stay at home. While I plan my trip to Malaysia, of course.

Eating Las Vegas!

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Hash House Scramble. Yup, that’s a tiny tree.

Vegas is well known as a foodie paradise, but it is also a fast-foodie paradise. For those of us who aren’t quite foodies.

First up, Smash Burger. Now, I know there are Smash Burgers in San Antonio, but they are … less than impressive. If you’re gonna try Smash Burger, try one in Vegas. Even the kids smash is good, which can be hard to do with a kid-sized burger. Many restaurants end up with too much bread and too little meat when they down-size their burger. Ask me how I know. Oh: get the peanut butter shake. If you, uh, like peanut butter. And shakes.

Next up, In-N-Out Burger. The Vegas establishments aren’t as good as the California ones, but if you’ve only ever eaten a Utah In-N-Out Burger and you got two bites into it before chucking it in the trash, then give it another try. In Vegas, I mean. Not Utah. (Shudder.)

Ok, here’s a place an actual foodie might like: Hash House a go go. It’s not cheap, but the portions are huge! Waffles and French toast are both ah-may-zing.

And last up, what would life be without dessert? Carlos Bakery, at the Venetian. Though he’s famous for the Lobster Tails (which are delicious), my favorites are the Chocolate Strawberry Mousse Tower or the Dark Chocolate Mousse. You’re welcome.

Bon Apetit!

 

Viva Las Vegas!

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Engage!

San Antonio reached an unheard of 105 degrees, so the husband and I decided to find someplace even hotter to spend a few days. You know, to make San Antonio seem downright tolerable.

 

Or maybe it was the 30th anniversary of Star Trek TNG and we bought tickets months in advance to the big Star Trek convention?

Either way, Vegas in August is hot, y’all. Do not go outside. You may spontaneously combust.

Luckily, there was not much venturing outside for us as we stayed at the Rio, where the massive Trek party was held. That’s right, 5 days of insane introvert fun! We met no people and made no new friends, despite the fact that we spent 5 days with thousands of likeminded people! Introvert mission accomplished!

5 days of Trek is … a lot of Trek. The casual fan may wonder, what can you possibly do for 5 days?

Well, there’s panels! Panels with TOS actors. And with TNG actors. And with DS9 actors. And with Voyager actors. And with Enterprise actors. And with Discovery actors. And with the movie actors. And with the NEW movie actors. And with writers.

So … that’s a lot of panels.

And then there’s the autographs! Which means lots of waiting in line for autographs.

And then there’s the photo ops! Which means lots of waiting in line for photo ops.

And then there’s all the people that are dressed up! Which means a lot of people watching.

And then there’s the vendors room! With that one toy you wanted when you were a kid but couldn’t afford because, well, you were a kid. Still in the package, even.

And then there’s the trivia challenges and auctions and tv and movie prop displays.

It’s a little hard to believe, but … we didn’t even do all the things. Turns out maybe 5 days isn’t quite enough, after all.

 

5 years?!

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I meant to just take a little break to get settled into the new Texas life … but, uh, then 5 years went by.

So what happened?

Facebook. Facebook happened. Well, really, Facebook + Smart Phones. It’s just so easy to post my inane thoughts to the computer in my pocket! And I get instant likes! From my captive audience of 300 friends!

(Well, not my captive audience. But a captive audience. Because they are all checking their like counts on their … slightly less inane posts.)

So, quick 5-year recap:

  • I look like a legit grown up now! Many of my earlier posts are so whiny about how people never take me seriously because they don’t think I’m an adult, but my face has finally arrived at adulthood! I had suspected it would happen around 40, and that’s about right. I’m not quite there, but … almost. As much as I hate to admit it, I’m almost there.
  • We had a house built! In Texas, where land is abundant and materials and labor are cheap. So there’s acres of wood floors! And the largest granite island known to mankind. Like you can see it from space big. Except for we do have a roof, so you can’t really.
  • I’m obsessed with knitting now. Beyond obsessed, really, if that’s a thing. I’m in a real live knitting guild. And then like 2 other local San Antonio groups. And then … I started my own group. And I go to knitting retreats. And knitting conferences! Like comic cons, but for knitting.
  • The husband launched his writing career! He’ll be a famous writer any day now, I just know it. Or, perhaps, any day after he finishes his novel. Which has 7 really awesome chapters! And a whole bunch of chapters that are still rattling around in his head. That are probably also awesome, I just can’t vouch for them yet.
  • We’ve travelled to a billion awesome places!
  • B2, B3 and the sister are all married! B2 even has some babies!

I know that’s not it (5 years is kind of a long time), but that’s all the things that popped into my head just now. Hopefully the next update won’t take 5 years, but, uh, no promises. 🙂

After all the madness, Sunday was a much needed day of rest. We slept in, and had a nice lunch of fancy sandwiches! In preparation for the parents’ arrival, I had bought adorable little sandwich rolls and deli meats and cheeses. I didn’t think they’d last till Sunday, but we’d been so busy, there hadn’t been a chance to eat them yet.

After lunch, we went to church where we said a few goodbyes. It’s been a mad-rush of a move, so I expect that in a few months, there’ll be some folks at church wondering what exactly happened to us.

We had a breakfast-for-dinner of bacon and biscuits and gravy. It was a little difficult to eat as we had already given away our dining room table in anticipation of the move. Oops. But we managed.

We drove up to the Mormon temple, and saw the artwork at the visitor center there. The Sunday show was an orchestral concert, and as none of us apparently like orchestras, we headed home before the show.

Which gave us enough time to watch Rise of the Planet of the Apes! Neither of the parents had seen it, so the husband decided that’s the show they should see. They enjoyed the monkeys (apes! I mean apes!), but who wouldn’t? Andy Serkis is a motion capture genius.

The Maryland Renaissance Festival is always a much anticipated event in our household, so we were delighted when the BFF and her gang invited us to go with them this year. The parents were up for the adventure, even if they didn’t quite know what they were getting into.

We met the 495 on-ramp at a dead stop, so after a few minutes, we decided to try a different route. The husband asked Siri for a non-495 way to the festival, and soon we were on our way – through – the dreaded city.

We took some wrong turns in the city, but the husband managed to find a route that got us to the festival. We were still nice and early, so we got half-decent parking, and we got to enjoy a few hours at the faire before it got too crowded.

We met up with the BFF and her 2 and a half boys (husband+baby+about-to-be-a-baby), and got started on the festivities. And by ‘festivities’, I mean food! Because that’s what the ren fest is all about! Turkey legs and sausage on a stick and fried stuff and cheesecake on a stick and more fried stuff and ice cream cannolis and some more fried stuff!

And then we got busy with the shopping festivities! There is so much stuff to buy! From chain mail bikinis to hand-carved wooden goblets, and wooden swords to blown glass ornaments, there’s a little bit of something for everyone.

And of course, through the whole time, there is always the costume watching! Some costumes are impressive, some are confusing, and a few even have something to do with the renaissance. There seemed to be an influx of ladies with weird baby-hands in their overflowing bosoms, I’m not quite sure what that’s all about. Who wants to think about suffocating babies?

We watched some shows – a comedic, 30 minute version of Henry the V, and the parents watched the first 2 acts of a Midsummer Night’s Dream. The BFF and crew tried a go at the sword swallowing show, but didn’t stick around long. Which is about what I did the first time I watched the sword-swallowing show. It’s not for the faint of heart – it sounds cool in theory, but it’s mostly just disturbing to actually watch.

After the festival, we hurried to Leesburg to shop at the Virginia store downtown. The parents wanted some Virginia-y souvenirs, and that’s the perfect place to find them.

After a day of eating junk, we topped it all off with a stop at Windy City Red Hots for dinner. It’s a small place, but luckily it was pretty empty when we stopped by, so we were able to snag one of their 2 tables. And we got hot dogs! Not just any hot dogs, they definitely have a superior dog. And it comes with a pickle! What could be better than that?

farewell tour: dc

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The parents were able to drag themselves out of bed a little earlier on day 2, so we headed downtown. I don’t drive downtown (unless I get stuck on a bridge), so we headed to the metro, and rode the train in to the metro center.

We bought tickets on a hop-on-hop-off bus, then rode it around to the Capitol. We walked around to the back side to get to the Library of Congress, as the dad wanted to see it on the recommendation from a friend. Visiting the nation’s library doesn’t sound terribly exciting, especially if you don’t plan to check out any books, but the building is quite impressive.

Besides all the architecture, mosaic work, and artwork, there are several exhibits. We got a chance to see the most influential American books, maps (they used to think California was an island!), and Jefferson’s original collection. I’ve been to Monticello, it’s hard to imagine how Jefferson fit all those books in his library. Perhaps Mrs. Jefferson really made the book donation …

For lunch, we made a stop at the American Indian Museum cafe and ate food from the great plains: indian tacos and a buffalo burger. Overpriced, yes, but at least the food there has a fun theme to it!

We tried to hop back on the bus, but waited for 30 minutes for a bus that was too full for us. And our 30 new friends. 10 minutes later they sent us an empty bus for us all, but it was frustrating, as time was ticking! We had things to see!

We rode the bus around for the rest of the tour, and got all the city highlights. We jumped on the green loop to tour georgetown and other non-mall areas, but that was a mistake. We did get the see the National Cathedral covered with scaffolding to fix the earthquake damage, but the traffic was bad and the driver drove as fast as he could in clear stretches to stay on schedule. It was quite a bumpy ride, I had difficulty staying in my seat. I would have reported the driver to the company, but he mentioned that he was leaving the job in 3 days, so perhaps he had already been reported.

Before heading home, we hit the gift shops at the Spy Museum and the Crime Museum. They are both excellent museums, but there are only so many hours in the day. But, you know, there’s always time for shopping! The dad picked up an NCIS hat for himself, and a few other trinkets.

We walked to the metro, rode the metro to the car, and took the car home, where we filled the husband in on our day. (It was so much fun! There was no working! We just spent bunches of your money!)

Dinner was Cheeburger, a local burger joint that we won’t have in Texas. The dad had a salmon burger, which he was a little disappointed in because he lives in the Pacific Northwest. Where if you order a salmon burger for dinner, that salmon was swimming in the river that morning. I had my standard BLT, the husband his standard semi-serious burger, and the mom had a tiny classic burger. The waitress forgot to put the husband’s order in, however, so he got to sit and watch us eat our yummy food. The manager comped his burger, though, so that sort of made up for the fact that he had to scarf his burger down when it finally arrived.

All in all, an exhausting day, but that’s what being a tourist is all about!

On account of all the jet lag, the parents slept in on their first full day in town. I had a leisurely morning, and figured I should let them sleep on account of they were on vacation and all.

Since we got a late start, we headed to Harper’s Ferry, since it’s a short drive. We stopped at a fabric store in Purcelville on the way. Because the mom has discovered the internet, y’all! And she found out you can find fabric stores on it! I found a book to buy in case, you know, I ever take up sewing like I keep thinking I might.

We made it Harper’s Ferry, and took the Park Ranger tour, and learned all about the Civil War Battle of Harper’s Ferry. Having grown up in the Pacific Northwest, I always got a very different perspective of the Civil War than is presented in the more southerly parts of the country. It is a little strange to hear about the genius and bravery and courage of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. And the ineptitude of the Union forces. I suppose in moving to Texas, I will have to get used to it. Not in a ‘the South will rise again’ kind of way, but a Southern pride sort of way.

It was an excellent tour, done by a Park Ranger who looked all of 18 years old. He really knew his stuff, though, and there weren’t any questions that stumped him. I would recommend the tour for anyone, no matter what side of the country they happen to fall on.

After the tour, we took the bus down to the lower town, where they’ve reconstructed many of the buildings and put in exhibits. We learned all about John Brown, as well as the history of industry and flooding and whatnot. We ate a ridiculously overpriced lunch on High Street, but it kept us from starving to death. Which, as we all know, Americans are at very high risk of.

We made it home in good time, and the parents watched the traffic in the opposite direction with surprise. But that’s how you get it all! A big house AND a job! You live in West Virginia, but work in the DC area. And then you sit. in. traffic. But we were moving in the opposite direction, so there were no hurdles in our way.

The husband and I treated the parents to none other than tater tot casserole. I don’t know if they were impressed or not, but it was much yummier than the chewy steaks we’d had the night before.

farewell tour

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A week before the husband decided we should move, the parents decided they should visit. Alaska had just opened up a non-stop flight from Portland to DC, and, at least to start off with, they were offering really low fares. And so a trip was booked.

Since I quit my job and all, that freed up some serious time for sight-seeing! And also since I’m leaving this place I have lived for the last 10 years, I made sure to take my parents to all my favorite places … oh, and maybe a thing or two they might have been interested in. 🙂

On account of having driven my car to Texas, I rented a car for the parents’ visit. And since I picked it up at 8 pm, they were all out of the small suv class of vehicle that I had reserved. So would I like to take a nicer car? Like a fully loaded Ford Edge? At no extra cost? Darn tootin, I would!

So, I picked up the parents at DCA during the evening rush hour and managed to stay out of DC! While this may sound like an easy task, let me assure you, it is not. There are a multitude of major intersections in the Alexandria/Arlington area, and it is easy to accidentally get yourself on a bridge into DC. I lived in Arlington for 6 months. I hate the Arlington Memorial bridge. You’d think it’d be easy to, um, oh, NOT DRIVE ON ANY BRIDGES. And to stay in Virginia. But it can be a tricky task, what with 395 and 66 and 50 and the GW Parkway and 1 and 110 all merging and splitting and exiting on the left sometimes and on the right sometimes.

But, anyway, I got the parents home without taking a detour through DC. I drove all expert-like, just like someone who has, oh, maybe lived here for 10 years.

And to celebrate, we went out to the sister’s favorite ‘DC’ restaurant: Logan’s. It was a bust, though, as the bread was overcooked, and all our steaks were from a rather tough batch of beef. In general, Logan’s serves the best $10 steak around, but from our meal, the parents certainly weren’t convinced. But, the mom had fun throwing peanut shells on the floor, so I suppose maybe it wasn’t a complete loss.

The sister had one day of fun before she had to head back home, so we went downtown to see the Alamo and the River Walk. She wanted to see the Alamo because, come on! It’s the Alamo! And the River Walk because of something about Cloak and Dagger. Which makes me wonder, why has she even seen that movie?? She was born in 1990. I’ve seen the movie about a thousand times because it was somebody’s favorite (maybe b2?), but I don’t even remember anything about it.

Even though my new home is in the boonies, we made it downtown and found a place to park in less than 30 minutes. Yay for 70 mile an hour speed limits through the heart of a city! Unless you don’t know where you’re going, then good luck to you. Just keep moving!

We wandered through the Alamo, and I recounted the story as best as I could remember. William B. Travis! Santa Anna! All the women and children hiding in one room! Nobody came to help! Everybody died! But, they slowed the Mexicans down long enough for Sam Houston to get into place and then he wiped out Santa Anna! Texas independence!!

It was early, so the river walk was pretty dead, but we found a place to eat lunch. The sister doesn’t like Mexican food, but I doubt whether she’s ever had Tex-mex. The parents were raised on Arizonan-mex, which is not the same kind of food you find in Texas at all. For one thing, Tex-mex isn’t ever a man-vs-food style heat challenge like Sonoran food often is. And another thing, Tex-mex includes chili! As someone who grew up with Sonoran-mex, that’s just blasphemous and silly. But, it is what it is. And, it’s yummy!

So, suffice it to say, we ate at the Rainforest Cafe. Because what says San Antonio like the Rainforest Cafe?! We were seated by the animatronic pandas, and decided to split the chicken parmesan. Which worked out well, as we are both tiny people with tiny appetites. Ok, so she’s a tiny person, I’m just a small one. 🙂 And I never get to split anything!

Given the fact that the Rainforest Cafe isn’t an Italian place, the chicken parmesan was surprisingly good. And we still didn’t clean our split plates! I was closer than the sister, as I’ve got 6 inches and 40 pounds on her, but it was still more food than I could eat. And I can put down an 8″ Deli like nobody’s business, so it was definitely a generous portion. No wonder America is fat.

After lunch, we hit the mall to do some shopping, and caught Batman at the IMAX theater. I had already seen it (duh), but the sister hadn’t, and she doesn’t live near any IMAX screens. So Batman it was! She liked it better than the husband did, but she, too, was bothered by the Ra’s al Ghul story not adding up. Because she reads comics. All of them. While I am conversant with many of the major characters in the major comics, she actually reads the things. It sure does make a geek girl proud. /sniff

We grabbed some Yummi Japanese on the way home, and the sister introduced me to Ramune. Which is just soda in a glass bottle. With a marble in it. And also tamago. Not only does my sister out-nerd me, she out-japaneses me, despite the fact that I have the Japanese name. Just goes to show, you can’t judge a book by it’s cover.

After our gyoza and sushi, we slept in the new house on air mattresses that Amazon left on the front porch for us. Despite the fact that they are 4-in-1 mattresses, they clearly only have 3 configurations: 2 twins, 1 twin, or 1 king. I guess maybe math isn’t a requirement for marketing majors?

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