Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A Surf City Chrismukkah

Bolsa Chica Beach complete with pelicans

On December 15, we headed for Huntington Beach, where we would be for 11 days during the holidays. In 2007, we were on the East Coast, and checked into The Great Outdoors on Christmas Eve. Not this year! We decided that we would spend the holidays with family this year. My sister recommended Bolsa Chica State Beach, and, a few months back, we checked with ReserveAmerica to see if any sites were available. Amazingly, there were openings, but we could only get an 11 day stint, and our rig was backed up to PCH (Pacific Coast Highway). The sites there are narrow, and are really built for RV's up to 40', so we were tight! We actually backed up over the curb until the tag wheels hit so that we would fit and still be able to park the car in front of the coach. Our first neighbors were from Germany, and they told us to park our Jeep on their site. "You Americans have too many rules!" they joked.

A side note: back in the 50's and 60's, Bolsa Chica was known as "Tin Can Beach". From PCH to the water, the beach was covered in cans. I'm not sure when it got cleaned up, but it's beautiful now. There is still stuff (flotsam or jetsam?) on the beach, but now it's whatever the tide brings in, not out of control litter.

Emma testing out the sand

Emma got to experience her first time on sand at the beach. What a hoot! After about 10 seconds of walking gingerly, she took off running and didn't stop until she was tired. Running on the beach became a favorite pastime while we were there.

Go Emma!

As always, Donna's sister Cheryl and her husband John hosted a Hanukkah party for the family. Every year it gets larger, as more relatives, extended family, and friends show up. They had about 60 people this year. For us, it was great, as Todd and Victoria flew in from Colorado, and Josh, Jenna, Bea, and Olivia drove down from San Jose. T, V, J, J, B & O even took in Disneyland. My Dad even came to the party!

HB locals Gary and Jill came over to visit and see the coach. Gary was my boss when I was at Edison. It was great catching up on each other's families and finding out what was going on at Edison. We had a great Mexican dinner in Huntington Beach.

Jim, Yvonne (aka Marie) and Dad

My sister Yvonne (aka Marie) and her husband Jim had reservations at Bolsa Chica, and came into the park a few days after we got there. Jim is very recently retired (firefighter), and is settling into the retired life. We all told him it would take a few months to sink in. They hosted a Christmas Eve dinner attended by us, my Dad, and Jim's side of the family. Another great meal with great company! Jim and I also managed a bike ride down to the Huntington Beach pier. The weather during our stay can be described as rainy, windy (OK, very windy), and sunny, sometimes all on the same day!

Sunset at Bolsa Chica

Our reservation was through December 26, but the park hosts told us to get on the waiting list the day before, and maybe we could extend. When I signed up, I was second on the list. True to one of Murphy's Laws, on the 26th there was only one opening. We were forced to leave, and, after goodbyes to Yvonne and Jim, headed for El Centro, CA, for the night. It was time to head east to warmer climates!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Leaving Las Vegas

We took the short 48 mile jog from Pahrump down to Las Vegas...the city where we got married so many years ago! Wow, it's really changed. As we drove down the Strip, the mega-hotels are adding on even higher towers. Amazing. It's getting to be a bit much, we think. And with economy, those casinos had better do real good!

We had a reservation at the Oasis RV Park on the south side of the strip. Back in 2000 or 2001, we stayed there in our little 24' travel trailer, and thought it was a great park. Like everything else, things have changed. It's a little older now, and unless you want to spend $50 a night (we don't), they put out in the back of the park, two rigs to a driveway. Yuck. Well we were there on one of our campground memberships, so it was about $11 a night. No ambiance, but the price was right.

Since we were to be there a week, we sent for our mail, which all goes to our Texas address. It comes to the local post office as "General Delivery". When we went to pick it up, there was a surprise for us - the post office we specified doesn't accept general delivery. Doh! Another lesson the post office before shipping. Our mail bounced around for about 4 days before it showed up at the only PO in Las Vegas that accepts general delivery.

We did a little casino hopping, and checked out The Palms, which is over near the Rio. Donna tells me that it's the "in" place, and the stars hang out there. Believe it or not, we didn't see anyone of any notoriety. It is a very nice place though.

In one of the tourist books that are everywhere, we found an ad for 1/2 price show tickets. We went to one of their locations, and found that there were discounts of up to 50% for selected shows. Donna really wanted to see Mama Mia, which was playing at the Mandalay Bay. The performance was sold out in the section we wanted (this was Friday). We thought we'd try back on Monday to see what was available then. While looking through the Sunday paper, Donna found a 2-4-1 coupon for Mama Mia, directly through the hotel. We zipped over to the box office, and got 2 tickets, center, row 13...not bad! I have to admit, the show was very good, in spite of all those ABBA songs that I tried to forget over the past few decades!

There was a big rodeo in town while we were there, and, again at the Mandalay Bay, there was a "Cowboy Marketplace". We thought it would be fun to wander around and check out boots, belts, hats, jewelry, and clothes...and tack...and horse trailers...and mega-trucks. We learned something - some of those big horse trailers are partitioned. There is the horse area, and the people area. The people areas have an interior that rivals many motor homes!! We had no idea.

Directly across I-15 from our resort is the Silverton Casino & Hotel. They were advertising 2-4-1 prices in all of their restaurants, so we thought we'd check out the place. Attached to the casino is a Bass Pro Shop. A very interesting combination! Upon entering the main door to the casino, you are confronted with a giant salt water aquarium. Lots of sharks and exotic fish swimming around. We quickly joined the Players Club, and headed off to the buffet for 1/2 price dining! After dinner, we toured Bass Pro, and then headed back to the casino for about an hour.

The weather was cold the entire week, with daytime temps in the 50's, and very breezy.

Now that we've been to Vegas again, we probably won't be back for quite a while. Maybe it's our lifestyle, but Tinseltown just seems to be getting, well, too gaudy. And the tourists seem to all be trying to impress each other.

We're spending 5 days back in Desert Hot Springs, California, before heading over to Huntington Beach for the holidays. After that, it will be 2009, and the adventure will continue!