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Monday, July 6, 2015

Laughlin, NV - My first try in a card room

I don't believe in luck. Things just happen - or they don't. I do understand the statistics of chance however. If I throw a quarter in the air, the probability is that 50% of the time, it will land and show heads. So why is it that I always pick heads and I usually win? Would you call that luck?

You can affect change by using skill and knowledge. With a coin toss, I can affect the results, to alter them slightly. If I have control of the coin, and I start it in a position with the head up, I increase my odds by 1%. On the flip side, it's been found that if you use a penny, tails will come up 80% of the time because the head side is slightly heavier. Casinos make sure they come out the big winner, in the end, by putting the odds on their side. In effect, they weight things so that they will come out the winner more times than not.

In a card room, it's different. Casinos take a percentage of the winnings instead of putting the odds on their side. It means that they don't make as much as they do on machines and other table games. For this reason, in the early 2000's casinos were removing card rooms, but public demand for poker has forced some casinos to put them back in to be competitive.

Last year, when we were in Laughlin, I couldn't lose. I just kept winning. It started with the $50 door prize I won at the Golden Nugget casino, and just kept going. We're not big gamblers, and we just stuck to the video poker machines that visit, but it was great fun sitting there, drinking free drinks all night, and leaving each casino with yet more money than when we started. After our four days there, free drinks, meals out, and some shopping, we left town with $100 more than we came with. Not a huge life changing amount, but it felt good. Like a "haha We win Laughlin!"

My stepfather is a really good card player. He loves it, and he's very skilled. At home he plays Texas Holdem everyday online, and when they come to Laughlin, he likes to visit and play in the card rooms. We consider him to be our resident card savant. I've played pretty much all the table games in Vegas, and I've played Holdem at home with family, but I've never played in a card room before. I just haven't had the guts or self-confidence. You ever take a look in a card room? Those guys look scary serious.

This trip I told Fernie I'd like to get enough confidence to visit a card room. So he spent time with me, teaching and playing, to get me up to speed. Our second day in Laughlin, he visited the card room at the Colorado Belle and had a good time, cleaning up and winning. I was hesitant, but agreed to go with him the next afternoon.

Walking across the parking lot, I felt my apprehension gurgling in my stomach. Walking up to the desk, it got even worse. I could feel the fear in my nerves, as the muscles in my arms and shoulders tightened up. I felt myself taking long breaths in to try to steady things out. I seriously felt like I was going to my own slaughter.

At the desk, we had to choose what level of table we wanted to join, and buy our chips. I left this up to Fernie and just handed over my cash when asked. There were only 4 tables playing at this time. The woman directed us to the same table in the back. I was seated near one end of the table and Fernie was at the other end.

I looked around the table. There were ten seats, and we'd just taken the last two. The dealer was a young Asian woman. There was a young, smug guy to her right, and the rest of the table was all really old and very serious looking. The woman beside me nodded, then went back to talking to her friend.

My stepfather never drinks when gambling. He doesn't want anything to mess with his thinking. I, on the other hand, consider it to be part of the experience. Give up a free drink? Are you freaking kidding me?

"Drinks? Anyone want a drink?" called out the cocktail waitress.

For the first time in my life, I heard myself say, "I'll have a bottle of water please."

I was a bundle of nerves and in hindsight, a drink probably would have helped settle me down. But I had decided to play it Fernie's way and keep my mind on the game. This wasn't my usual fool around and see how it all ends up sort of thing. This was serious business.

Fernie had told me it was important not to admit to anyone that I was new to this, but I don't think it was necessary for me to tell anyone - it was that obvious. It was like everything I knew about the game left me and the noise in my head kept playing over and over again. My nerves were a mess and I kept overthinking everything.  I couldn't concentrate. There was a hiss in my ears, a fog in front of my eyes, a feeling of not really even being there. Voices came to me as if from down a long tunnel. My perception was being completely overshadowed by fear - fear of messing up and looking like an idiot. After every mistake, I mentally assaulted myself.

"Be cool, don't show you don't know what you're doing!"

"Oh my god! Did you seriously just throw that hand away?!"

"You're playing like an idiot!"

I was such a ball of stress, I couldn't even make the decisions I knew I should. I was throwing in hands regardless of whether they were good or bad, and making stupid errors. Then, as others clued in to my naivete and newness to the game, it was as if they both salivated over easy pickings and sneered at my lack of panache. I was miserable, pathetic and losing money hand after hand. A couple of times I was close to tears.

Most of the people at the table were old but they were sharp. This one young guy at the end of the table was greasy and snide. He thought he was King of the table. I noticed him watching what I was doing and snickering when the dealer had to tell me what to do. I wanted to punch him right in his fat, slimy face. I wanted to get my crap together and show that table of geriatrics and that one slime-bucket that I could play. I wanted to beat that table so badly.

I did eventually start to get things together a bit, and played some hands through. I even won a few and was starting to feel better. Then I got a great hand and stayed in. I felt my nerves grow more tense, when Fernie stayed in as well. As he toyed with me, I wanted to yell at him "Hey! Help me out here!" But this was cards and I was just another adversary to beat. As we flipped our cards to show, and I realized he'd just beat me, I felt defeated. "Et tu Fernie?" He told me later that he'd resisted raising too much because he was playing against me. That helped a bit. At the time, I wanted to slip beneath the table and disappear.

If this were fiction, this is the part of the story where I'd tell you how I took back control, used my superior brain and skills to obliterate that table. I'd leave them all crying, and go up to my comped penthouse hotel room where I'd throw the cash all over the bed and roll around in it.

Unfortunately, this isn't that kind of story. Eventually, I had to call it quits. I'd lost not only the money I'd planned to lose, but also some more. This was too much stress for me. It's not the loss, although, of course, nobody likes to lose, but I always plan to lose when I gamble. This disappointment was the way I'd lost - the way I'd played. I was doing this for fun? This was not fun. I was too green for this. I was too nervous for this. I ordered a drink (finally!) and left the table in defeat. I watched Fernie play from the sidelines. The one consolation was seeing him score big and leave King Slime-bucket sputtering in his wake. Then he left the table.

So what did I learn from this experience? Never play cards without a free drink, or three. I'm not espousing getting stinking drunk while you gamble, although I do have a great anecdote I could share about raking in a bunch of money in Binions while being pie-eyed, obnoxiously drunk. I think that story is better left for another time, or completely left in Vegas. Nobody I know even saw it happen. I think though, this time, a drink would have quelled the overthinking going on in my head and allowed me to relax enough to at least enjoy the play. C'est la vie. It was one hell of a learning experience.

Overnight spot: Pioneer Laughlin
Price: $0.00 must register inside, 3 night limit. After that, they rate your play.
Includes: A parking spot
Dump/Water: Tropicana - we didn't use it.
Garbage: We took our garbage with us and dumped it at gas stations.
Cell & Wifi: Verizon - 4 bars of 4G LTE

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Graze Restaurant & the Twilight Drive-in - Vancouver

For our second vegan restaurant foray, Harold and I met my parents at the Graze Restaurant on Fraser street, in Vancouver. I had high expectations for this place, after seeing the photos of the food online. Downstairs, they have a more formal dining area where they serve three course meals, and upstairs is an indoor park where they serve casual food, recreating their menu every 6-8 weeks. We were too early for the park, and besides, since it was our first time here, we wanted to try some of the amazing creations we'd viewed on their web site.

Macaroni with smoky
coconut cheese sauce

My stepfather had Macaroni with smoky coconut cheese sauce. We all sampled it and comparing it to the simply amazing macaroni we'd tasted at Meet on Main last month, we found it to be no contest. It was just bland.

Wild mushroom purse

My mother had the Wild mushroom purse, which was beautifully presented, but again, bland. Also, because it wasn't paired with anything like pasta, or lentils, or rice, she was hungry again an hour after dinner.

Yam and eggplant perogies

Harold had the Yam and eggplant perogies, and even though regular perogies are naturally pretty bland, these were more so.

Sage and chickpea crepes

I had the Sage and chickpea crepes, what I considered to be the most tasty and imaginatively presented of all four dishes, but again, there just wasn't enough flavour.

The food was amazingly beautiful but we all agreed, it lacked in flavour. We were disappointed in this restaurant. It was pricey, with very beautiful food, and a nice decor to the restaurant, and if the flavour had been as good, we wouldn't have minded the price. But I just can't bring myself to enjoy the food for purely aesthetic reasons. It needs flavour.

After dinner, Harold and I said goodbye to my parents and drove out to Abbotsford, to theTwilight Drive-In. We had to stop in at home, on the way, because as we were having dinner, my mother brought up a story of how years back they had gone to the drive-in and been looking for the sound boxes you used to pull into the car. They had been surprised to find it now went over the radio airwaves. A big *DONG* went off in my head - we'd forgotten the face plate for the car stereo at home! It was so lucky that the subject had come up or we'd have been kicking ourselves with no way to hear the movies.

It's weird that while I stay up regularly until 3am, I typically fall asleep at the drive-in on the early side. So last night, I decided to try one of those "5-hour Energy" shots I see at the gas station all the time. I'd never tried these before. I chose the pink lemonade flavour and it turned out to be seriously disgusting - way, way worse than the few horrible sips I've had of the energy drinks Cairo used to imbibe. It's kinda like the fluoride treatments you get at the dentist, where the flavour is just a really bad cover-up for something truly putrid. Actually the fluoride taste is much better than this stuff. This stuff is super sweet and super sour at the same time. Thankfully, it's a really small bottle. I gagged down the 2oz in 2 quick glugs (OMG! I just used one of the words my mother has tormented me with all my life! I'm truly turning into her. Should I delete that word or just accept my fate?) as my system screamed out in revulsion.

The last time I tried using something to keep me up, other than coffee, was in college. The caffeine pills made me all jittery and anxious, as if I'd been up all night drinking 6 pots of coffee. I figured the energy shots would be similar, but in actuality, I didn't feel different at all. I did, however, stay awake the whole time at the drive-in and then at home through all of my recording of SNL. I fell asleep about 4:30 am. I'm sure these things probably fall into the negatives on the health scale, but it worked as promised. I'd call that a success.

The movies we went to see were:

1) Mad Max: Fury Road - Loved it! An excellent movie! Imperator Furiosa is my new favourite hero!
2) Hot Pursuit - Embarrassingly bad! How can two good and funny actors like Reese Witherspoon and Sofia Vergara not realize that the humour in this movie is seriously stupid and beneath them?? I wanted to reach in and wring both their necks.
3) Run All Night - I used to enjoy Liam Neeson. Now he's a bore. We stayed to watch half the movie to give my daughter time to clean up after her party, but it wasn't worth staying until the end. We came home to a nice, clean place, so it was worth staying for that first half.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Cairo turns 20!

Wow! 20 years ago - 2 decades ago - I did the most amazing thing I'll ever do in my life. I gave birth to my daughter, Cairo. Every year she asks me "So I'm 10,13,17,18,19 now, does that make you feel old?" And every year I answer "Nope, I'm exactly as old as I'm supposed to be to have a 10,13,17,18,19 year old." This year feels a little different. I don't feel old, I feel nostalgic.
One of my favourite memories is when Cairo was 3 years old. I had painted a mural of a landscape in her first bedroom and she was very upset that we'd made her move away from there. She was angry with me, and decided she was going to run away. She got out her suitcase, one I had from my own childhood that she now used as a barbie case, and packed it with her most important toys. It was after dark already so I watched her as she left the house, and followed her, wondering where she was going to end up and when she'd decide to give up.
We lived in a brand new neighbourhood and the main street, two doors down from us, still had a sales centre and 3 show homes. The sales centre garage had been made into a kids play area that few kids could resist. Quite understandably, she figured this was the best new home for her. She walked up to the door and knocked, but there was no answer. She knocked again. Nothing. She didn't understand that the nice sales people didn't actually live there. It was after hours, they'd all gone home, and there was nobody there to answer. She knocked a few more times, before her small shoulders slumped in defeat and she turned around and trudged back home.
"You decided to come back to live with us?"
"Yes." she mumbled, sliding past me into the house.
"Want to play some Sims with me?" I cajoled, and her whole face lit up.
"Yes! Yes! Yes!" she cried out, dumping her suitcase at the door and scrambling up the stairs to my office.
Sims, the answer to all life's problems. She's still playing that game and she's never run away again.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Meet on Main - Vancouver

My Mother and I have made a deal that when we're both in town we will make plans to visit one vegan restaurant per month. First up was Meet on Main, which caters to burgers, fries and comfort food. I'd seen photos of it on a friend's Facebook status and it really appealed to me to go there for my birthday dinner.

If you go, make sure to order the Sweet Chili Cauliflower to start. We never order appetizers but it had been suggested to me and it was fantastic.  The cauliflower is beer-battered with a tamarind chili-ginger glaze. We've tried recreating them at home and come close, but we don't deep fry so we'll never get them quite as good. 

For mains, the veggie burgers and fries were great but the show stopper was the Mac n' Cheese. My stepfather opted to have his with Italian vegan sausage and my daughter, the Mac n' Cheese purist, had it without. They smother the elbow macaroni pasta in a vegan cashew cheese sauce, that is so rich and yummy, and finish it off with a sprinkle of smoked salt. They were both fantastic! I have never, in my life, ordered Mac n' Cheese at a restaurant but I'm dreaming of going back for this dish alone! 

Meet on Main has a great, laid back, industrial sort of look. The clientele is eclectic, hipster cool, as can be expected from it's location on Main street.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Laughlin, NV - Blowing in the wind

The last time we came to Laughlin, we parked at the very top of the hill overlooking the strip.

I'd been told, in the winter, this place can get so packed in, like sardines, one beside the next but this was April, well past Snowbird season, and we were the only RV up there. We parked ourselves lengthwise, taking up at least 3 spots with our truck and trailer, so we paralleled the front of the lot.

With our chairs placed right outside our door, we had the most gorgeous views of Laughlin, the hotels, the river, and across to Bullhead City. It felt like we were living up amongst the clouds. The nights were even better, with all the flashing neon below us.

The upside and downside was the wind. The temperature was quite hot but if we opened our windows we'd get a cross wind coming through that kept everything cool. One night, however, the winds got so strong, I swore we were going to be pushed right down the hill that laid out our front door. We looked at the weather warnings where we saw the speed rated at 30-35 mph constant with gusts up to 55 mph.

At the top of the hill where we were it felt much worse. We were lucky we faced into the wind, and the truck was in front of us, shielding us some, but every so often a gust would change direction suddenly and we'd rock back and forth so hard, I was sure we were about to roll right down the steep sloped hill beside us. I now wished we'd parked further back from the hill, or down below at one of the more sheltered lots. That was the kicker to me - that we were right on the precipice. If we were pushed too hard, I could imagine us rolling over and over all the way down to the road far below. Kinda like Humpty Dumpty.

This was the first time I'd experienced wind this hard. A year later, having experienced winds with higher rated mph, I have to say, I think it was stronger up there on the hill than the warnings stated. I furiously googled sentences like "rv wind danger", "rv flip wind mph", "how much wind is safe for an rv?" and a ton of others. Nothing made me feel better. Even calling my mother, who has vastly more experience with RVs and wind than I do, didn't really calm my nerves. If she'd been there with us, and was feeling what we were that would have helped. Yes, I did just admit to needing my Mommy. I was almost that afraid.

The wind didn't die down all night and I really didn't sleep well, but we lived through the night, we didn't roll down the hill, and I now had an experience I could chalk up so I could relate to future wind storms. I find myself saying, all the time, "Well, it's not as bad as that night we had in Laughlin!"

That was April 2014. This time we were meeting up with my parents. They wanted to stay up at that top lot where they always like to stay. We wanted to stay down below. Mostly so we could just walk to the casinos, but also because that hill had scarred me. I didn't want to experience that again.

We decided to stay out behind the Tropicana for the same price, $7 per night. As we drove into town, we passed my parents going the other way. The River Palms has been sold, it's now called The Laughlin River Lodge, and part of their massive renovation is that the RV lot  on the top of the hill is being repurposed for timeshare condos.

So that was that. My parents now had to come down off the hill. They went looking for alternatives while we pulled the trailer off the truck and leveled it. I was on my way into the casino to pay when my Mother called. Across the road at the Pioneer, we could park right in the front lot, steps from the casinos and river walk for the grand old price of absolutely nothing. So that's where we ended up.

2014 Overnight spot: River Palms (now The Laughlin River Lodge)
Price: $7.00 per day
Includes: A parking spot
Dump/Water: Tropicana - we didn't use it.
Garbage: We took our garbage with us and dumped it at gas stations.
Cell & Wifi: Verizon - 4 bars of 4G LTE

2015 Overnight spot: Pioneer Laughlin
Price: $0.00 must register inside, 3 night limit. After that, they rate your play.
Includes: A parking spot
Dump/Water: Tropicana - we didn't use it.
Garbage: We took our garbage with us and dumped it at gas stations.
Cell & Wifi: Verizon - 4 bars of 4G LTE

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Lake Havasu, AZ

Craggy Wash BLM
We've passed lake Havasu by a bunch of times, driving just north or just south of it, but never managing to fit it in. I had heard differing opinions about it, and I hadn't felt in a hurry to get there, but I have a desire to see everywhere so it had to be experienced, and it fit into our plans on the way from Phoenix to Laughlin.

Coming up highway 95, along the Colorado River is a contrast of dry harsh desert and turquoise oases along the water. There are marinas, RV parks and other businesses along the river, all the way up to the parker Dam, then the river turns northwest and you come upon a number of state parks and BLM land. Every so often you see an outcropping of RVs on the right hand side boondocking on the public lands. Just before Lake Havasu city came into view, we came across an area that was completely overrun with RVs, one on top of another. There seemed to be some sort of derby or OHV motorsports event going on there.
London Bridge, Lake Havasu City, Arizona (3227888290)
London bridge, Lake Havasu, AZ

Driving into Lake Havasu, I got Harold to turn off and head into the east part of town up on the hill and then down towards the lake. This area looked to be a has-been area, now taken over by gun ranges, massage shops, nails, and guns shops, the lower retail rent area.  When we got down to the bottom we crossed over the London Bridge.

I began to sing. "London bridge is falling down, falling down, falling down. London bridge is falling down, my fair lady!"

Harold looked over at me questioningly. "Huh? What?"

"We just went over London bridge! Wasn't it exciting?" I responded, rolling my eyes.

"Oh! This is where they put the London bridge? You never told me that was here."

So we drove around the island that is pretty much just some expensive RV resorts with a very touristy restaurant and shop area near the bridge. We got out and walked around a bit, but we just weren't feeling it. We decided to head up to the BLM lands north of the city instead.

Up at the very north end of town, just past the Walmart on the west side, and the airport on the east side, is the turn-off to the Craggy Wash BLM Campground. We drove up the winding gravel road in a narrow cavern between some pretty high desert hills. I suppose they call them mountains, but being from BC, where mountains are huge, I hesitate to call them that.

The canyon opened up into a slightly larger expanse where an RV was parked and two men stood outside talking. A big sign told us to "STOP AND REGISTER!" So we stopped and got out.

"We're closed!" Yelled the old man from the doorway of his RV. He wore a big white cowboy hat, and his skinny, grizzled face was covered in snow white hair.

I was confused. Do BLMs close? I stood there, rooted, trying to figure out what to say.

"Come back tomorrow!" He yelled again, waving his hand at us dismissively, sounding even more grumpy.

"What do you mean? We can't camp here?" I finally came up with some adequate words.

The other man laughed. I looked over at him more closely. Dark where the other was so white. Dark hair, moustache and beard, tinged with grey, about our age, friendly and jovial, a big smile lit up his face. He was as friendly as the camp host wasn't. "Just go find yourself a spot to camp and come back tomorrow to register."

It finally clicked in my head. Duh! The camp host wasn't working today, on Sunday. It didn't mean the BLM was closed. That had made no sense to me. Of course it hadn't. It was nonsensical. He didn't have to be so grumpy about it.

Climbing up
I had read that Craggy Wash had been getting a name for itself as a very rough area with some dangerous people. We had some friends tell us they had stopped staying there after more than one run-in, but my parents had told us they loved the place, so we felt we had to give it a try. Their advice was to not just pull into the big area at the front where everyone else does but to go back to the empty spots. We followed their advice and came to an empty enough space that gave us room to breathe, in a very pretty area, that wasn't too far up. We were staying only one night after all.

We loved Craggy Wash. We stayed up late into the night around the campfire, drinking Blackberry Jalapeno Margaritas (recipe here!), looking up at the stars in the gorgeous clear black desert sky. I'm not sure if I can still call them Margaritas - we were all out of tequila so I had to sub in vodka, but whatever you'd call them, they were great!

The next day we hiked all over the hills and down into canyons. The temperature was just perfect. I could feel the warmth of the sun on my head and back and a breeze through my hair. I used to think the desert was a barren wasteland, but the more time we spend here, the more beauty I see. I was enjoying myself so much climbing up one of the craggy hills, and didn't pay attention to the tough downhill until we were all the way on the other side.
The climb down was very rocky with lots of loose gravel.

I grew most worried for the dogs, especially Toonie (our chihuahua), but I let her go and she was down in no time, without an issue. We've found in the past, that she really is amazingly good going up and down very steep hills. I guess, being so small and lightweight (just under 5lbs) has it's perks.

Teddy was a little more hesitant and didn't like it when the gravel started rolling down under his feet. Once Toonie was down the hill with Harold, I took Teddy around the hill on a less steep descent and we made it down without a problem. The only one of us injured at all was my pants - I ended up with a hole in the butt where I'd had to slide down like a 3 year old at one point. We came back dirty, dusty, and hot, but it was a ton of fun.

There's the reason we were getting such good wifi!

The Verizon reception out here was fantastic and it made no sense to us. Our Net10 phone couldn't even find a signal. We were parked in a narrow canyon so how could we be getting 4G access? Once we started climbing we saw why. There was a cell tower in direct line of sight of where we parked. We had chosen an almost perfect location for data, if not voice. Go us!

In the end, Lake Havasu City just isn't our sort of place. I expect it could be if we had a boat or were meeting people there. We'd definitely stay down below along the Colorado river and we enjoyed our too short stay at Craggy Wash. We'll come back again and spend more time.

Toonie & Teddy
Overnight spot: Craggy Wash
Price: $0.00 14-day limit
Includes: Nothing
Dump: Lake Havasu State Park
Lake Havasu State Park
Garbage: We took our garbage with us to the gas station up the highway.
Cell & Wifi: Verizon - 4 bars of 4G LTE due to being in line of sight of cell tower. Net10 - Nothing.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Phoenix, AZ

Fountain in Old Scottsdale
It seems that Phoenix is turning into our way station in the southwest. We like to spend most of our time boondocking, but it's nice to have a place where we can plugin, do laundry, shop and dine out. That is what Phoenix is to us, a place to recharge, and restock.

We returned to the same RV park we'd been at last year. Palm Gardens RV Resort, in Mesa. We're still not technically old enough for the place, but this time I didn't even bring up age. The woman checking us in, looked a little hard at me, but didn't ask for ID.

"Woohoo!!! We're in!", I thought, like a teenager who had just conned their way into a bar with a fake ID. "Be cool. Be cool.", my inner voice told me. "You don't want to give it away."

We were, once again, meeting up with my parents. They had been here since the day before, placed just down the road from us, across from the laundry.

Staying five days allowed us to get into a pattern of shopping, meeting up for cocktails and then dinner. Our favourite late afternoon place is still the Postino Wine Cafe. They have four locations in the Greater Phoenix area.

We'd previously been to the Gilbert and Scottsdale locations, and this time we also visited the Tempe location, which is on the campus of Arizona State University. The trick is to get there before 5pm so you can enjoy a great glass of wine or pitcher of beer for $5. Their food menu isn't extensive, but that's not important. The only thing we ever want to order is the Bruschetta. You can choose 4 of 12 selections, and they are all just amazing.

Most Americans don't understand the level of intoxication we Canadians get when we shop in the US. Our population is so tiny in contrast and while we do get a lot of similar and same stores, we can't support the level of commercialism available in the US. We don't get as many, or as big, and our selection is much smaller - in pretty much everything:  band-aids, restaurants, clothes, housewares, food - everything.

The first time I walked into a Bevmo!, in Bellingham, WA, I thought I'd died and gone to heaven. A liquor superstore? Who would have thought? So then visiting Total Wine in Las Vegas was like another jolt. This place was even bigger!

Nothing had ever prepared me for the overwhelming shock, awe, and sheer amazement I felt when we went through the doors to the Total Wine in south Tempe. It was actually too much for me. We wandered the aisles and I felt way too overwhelmed. Thankfully, I had a list, or I'd have never bought anything. I went looking for my new favourite boxed wine, and found every single style and brand you could ever think of. I went looking for beer and it was a football field length aisle of every type of beer I would ever want. I couldn't focus on anything in that aisle and didn't buy anything.

The one thing I couldn't find, was the main reason I'd come: Prickly Pear Syrup - for cocktails. We'd seen it being sold in the souvenir shop at Kartchner Caverns just a few days before. I'd wanted to buy it but couldn't get past the exorbitant price. Googling it showed me that it was available in Total Wines. What's more Arizona than a cactus cocktail? So how is it, that with everything they have in there, I couldn't find something they showed on the web site, that is so ubiquitous to the landscape there?

"Nobody bought the stuff so we stopped selling it." said the clerk when I asked her about it.

So I guess it's just one of those touristy things. Bummer.

We asked for directions to Bevmo! and they happily obliged. Nice of them, considering they are the competition, but what else could they do? Refuse and look like jerks? Walking through the doors of Bevmo! I felt more relaxed. It was tiny in comparison - still humongous to us, but this felt safer, easier, and I found my Prickly Pear Syrup! I found some other great flavours too. I think really that Total Wines store in Tempe is just too big for me, for my senses to handle. I'd go back, if I were looking for something specific, but for browsing, I'll take a Bevmo! any day.

I never did get a photo of it while we were on the road.
Prickly Pear Margaritas - it's supposed to make 4 drinks, but we call it 2 and a half.

6 oz. Tequila
4 oz. Triple Sec
4 oz. Lime Juice
2 oz. Prickly Pear Cactus Syrup
1 oz. Orange Juice

Directions: Mix ingredients and pour over ice.

I tried making this Margarita with Jose Cuervo Gold first, then Silver, and finally Patron Silver. The two Cuervo's were very similar, but the Patron was so smooth it was dangerous to drink.

River walk area in Old Scottsdale
On Thursday, we went to the Art Walk in Old Scottsdale. For 40 years, the art galleries here have opened for night visitors 7-9pm, Thursdays only. My parents told us there were many less places open than when they'd previously visited, but it was an interesting evening in a beautiful location.

Some of the art was very commercial, while other pieces were downright hokey, and then there were the ones that were just right. There was nothing I was prepared to buy, but lots I enjoyed looking at. That's what life is to me, these days, for the most part. It's part of minimizing life - limit things, and maximize experiences. We had already dined that evening, so next time we visit, we will make sure to come down to one of the gorgeous places here along the river.

For Harold's birthday, he'd chosen Mexican, so I googled "Best Mexican in Phoenix" and came up with a long list of candidates. I eventually zoomed the list down to 4 and then down to the final selection, "Comedor Guadalajara". From the outside, this place looked like a dump. It was right beside the highway and had absolutely no charm. But once inside, it was quite nice, very Mexican looking and quite full already, even though we were on the early side. Our meals were delicious. Their specialty is seafood but they did have some vegetarian options as well. They did not disappoint at all. On our way out, we passed a long line of people waiting to get in. We would definitely go back.

We visited the Phoenix Park 'n Swap for the first time and, just like in Total Wines, I was overwhelmed by the sheer size of it. After awhile, it starts to feel repetitive as well, so after two aisles we had made our purchases and decided to get out of the crowds.

The one thing I had wanted to purchase was one of the metal geckos I have seen people put up on the walls of their (more stationary) RVs and home patios. Yeah I know, I just spoke up above about minimizing things, but well, every rule needs to be broken sometimes. After viewing the selections, we decided the best option was this one, the wine bottles and glasses. It's quintessentially who we are - winos wine afficionados.

Overnight spot: Palm Gardens RV Resort, Mesa, ZA
Price: $40.00/night ($19/night with Passport America) Full hookups
Includes: A back-in space, garbage, water, sewer, power, pretty bad Wifi Garbage: individual garbage cans for every site.
Cell & Wifi: Verizon - 4 bars of 4G LTE.
Antenna tv reception: Great!