Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Vegas Baby!

It was Bonnie’s birthday this past weekend. As often as possible, we spend the weekend of her birthday in Las Vegas with our friends Leslie and Becky. To make it even more fun this year we were joined by our friends Kevin and Dane. Leslie’s sister and her husband (Lisa and Chuck) have a timeshare in Vegas, so they were able to join us as well. What a blast we had, the eight of us bring out the best (or worst) in each other. My sides are still hurting from laughing so hard all weekend!

So here are some highlights from the weekend. Thursday night we arrived and Bonnie, I, Leslie, Becky, Lisa and Chuck all met up at a seafood raw bar called AquaKnox. We spent several hours catching up. It was so good to see everybody again.

Friday we spent the day at tables in several different casinos including a couple that are going to be torn down soon. I like to bet on Black 17 on the roulette wheel, Bonnie, Chuck and Leslie like to play blackjack and we all LOVE to play craps. Back to the room for showers and a change into evening wear and then it was off to Paris (the hotel/casino) for where we were joined by Kevin and Dane (now there were 8 of us) for an amazing dinner at Mon Ami Gabi. From there it was back to the tables for an evening of gambling and laughter.

On Saturday, Chuck and Lisa had rented a cabana at the pool at the Las Vegas Hilton. The cabana was very nice with a big screen TV so we all watched football, drank and visited all afternoon. I will not try and explain what it was the Kevin did to earn $20.00 worth of tips from the folks around the pool. Some things that happen in Vegas need to stay there!

Saturday night, we all headed out to dinner at an Italian restaurant called Il Fornaio. Good food, good wine; good fun. After dinner Leslie, Becky, Chuck, Lisa, Bonnie and I at see a show called Zumanity, which was put on by Cirque ‘de Soleil. (Kevin and Dane had already seen it. The show was amazing and VERY racey (not the kind of thing that you would take your mother to see)!

Sunday was a relatively quiet day, we slept late and gambled the day away. Kevin and Dane had to head home Sunday, so we told them goodbye and we look forward to seeing them over Thanksgiving. That evening Leslie, Becky, Chuck, Lisa, Bonnie and I had a nice dinner at Café Ba Ba Reeba, a Spanish Tapas restaurant (I initially only agree to go because I thought they were saying topless, but the food ended up being very good anyway). After dinner it was off to the Stardust Casino. The star dust is another one of the great older (read seedy) hotels that is due to be torn down. In fact it demolition starts tomorrow. You can buy items from the stardust in an online auction; click here to find our more.

Monday was Bonnie’s actual birthday. We had a delightful breakfast with Leslie and Becky at Bouchon. From there it was off to the airport to head home.

I can’t remember a better trip to Vegas. We had so much fun; I can’t wait for Bonnie’s next Birthday!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

So Pretty It Hurts

Bonnie and I continued our Sunday hikes in an area called Denny Creek. We both agreed that it was the most beautiful hike we had ever been on.

The hike started out in a pretty flat and easy walk, and then we passed the part where the guide book said that most of the crowds turn back. The book, (which was a hand-me-down from our friend Iain), went on to say that the best part of the hike was up over the top of the ridge, a lake on a remote pass.

The trail ended up being a quite a bit steeper than we expected and we gave serious thought to turning back. However, as we were weighing our options, an older gentlemen came breezing past and talked us into going the rest of the way since we were so close to the top.

We finished the trail and ended up at a beautiful lake nestled in the cleft of the mountain. It was truly amazing. The hike down was just as tough as the hike up. By the time we got to the car our knees were aching. It is now Tuesday, two days later and we both are walking a bit slow, and wincing down the steps, but looking back, it was worth it!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Uncle Michael From Madison

We had our first family guest here in Washington. Uncle Michael (Bonnie’s Mom’s brother) was in town for a job interview. We really hope he gets the job, since he would be managing one of the biggest concert venues in the city of Seattle and I KNOW we would be plugged in for good seats (hint, hint).

Nice night out at Pasta Freska last night for dinner. Tonight we are having fresh salmon (from Pikes Market of course) and a good bottle of wine. We hope you get it Michael; the Northwest is an awesome place!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Rained In

It is Sunday, and Bonnie and I had planned a nice hike in an area of the Cascade Mountains called Denny Creek.

Alas, it has been raining all day, so we settled instead for a movie and a late lunch. We went to see the new Robin William movie, which we both quite enjoyed.

Home now for a leisurely Sunday afternoon:

Quiet weekends at home are nice…..

Monday, October 09, 2006

Hike Two - Getting Better

Our next trip out, Sunday Oct 8th went much better. We knew what to expect so we got an early start. First we stopped by one of our favorite weekend breakfast spots, the pancake corral. This was the only real mistake we made, way too many screaming kids at that hour, and we also decided we did not need a big meal close to hitting the trail. Next weekend it will be an egg McMuffin in the car on the way!

Bonnie and I both picked up new hiking shoes (on sale!) and we were keen to try them out. We also added a few more items to our day pack: a flashlight, a signal mirror our Garmin handheld GPS and some extra batteries. We also signed up to get an annual parks association pass ($30.00) for the car so that we did not have to mess with paying $5.00 for a day pass every weekend.

We headed north to the Cascade Mountains total drive time was about 1.5 hours. The drive in took us through an absolutely beautiful valley, we have both decided that Washington is one of the prettiest states we have ever been in. We stopped in a local store close to the trail head and bought some food for the trail. Found the ranger station that was our marker and then the trail head.

The hike was very nice; 6 miles in total, up and back a trail that ran along the Old Sauk River; very pretty. The weather was nice as well, about 55 degrees, started out cloudy, but cleared nicely toward the end. The new hiking shoes were the bees knees! They have excellent traction and sturdy bottoms. Having said all of that, it felt really good to take them off and slip into our tennis shoes when we got back to the car.

A nice drive back home and we were back for along hot shower by late afternoon. We both feel like we are getting the hang of this and are looking forward to next weekend!

Sunday Hikes- It Begins

Bonnie and I decided that we wanted to start hiking on Sundays; there are hundreds of trails all around Washington State. Our first outing was on Sunday October 1st. We got a bit of a late start and did a bit of shopping before we left, which made it even later.
We stopped by the Sports Authority and picked up a "day pack". To the day pack, we added a small first aid kit, a couple of disposable rain ponchos and some parachute chord. I also added my own Swiss army knife (a gift from the team that I worked with in Guatemala) and some toilet paper.

Our first hike was up in the Olympic Peninsula. We did not plan very well and after a late start we ended up driving almost three hours to get to the trail head. When we finally got to Lake Quinault, we hiked for about 2.5 hours. The trail was really nice and started out through some old growth trees. Being from the East Coast, I have never seen trees so large; they were amazing. The second half of the hike took us along the shore of a beautiful lake.

A couple of lessons learned on our first outing. We need to start earlier and we need to plan the drive better. Also going to have to do something about hiking shoes, our regular walking shoes (sneakers) are just not rugged enough for the trail.