Tuesday, August 25, 2015


Mardi Gras beads hanging from the trees
Monday morning came and we both woke up feeling refreshed after having gotten a good night's sleep.  We decided to walk to a nearby cafe for breakfast and asked the concierge about the best route to get there.  After first suggesting that we take our car instead of walking, he gave us directions that would take us by Lafayette Cemetery #1.  One of the nice things about the location of our resort is that it sits right on the edge of the Garden District, which is an area of New Orleans in which many wealthy folks live in some beautiful historic mansions.  Residents and homeowners in this community include the author Ann Rice, and former football player Archie Manning.  Along with these beautiful mansions, the Garden District is also the home of one of New Orleans' famous cemeteries where the dead are laid to rest above ground in crypts due to the fact that much of New Orleans is below sea level and when if floods there, bodies would tend to float up if buried below ground.  So our walk to Another Broken Egg Cafe in the Garden District took us by some of these beautiful mansions as well as Lafayette Cemetery #1.  Today, we had decided, was the day that we were going to take a swamp tour and a haunted history walking tour in the French Quarter in the evening, leaving exploration of the cemetery until tomorrow.

We had a wonderful breakfast at the cafe, which included some delicious Mediterranean potatoes, and geared up for our day.  Along with visiting the cemeteries here, the thing that is highest on Megan's list of things to do is to get into the abandoned Six Flags amusement park to take photos.  I have been trying to get in touch with someone, anyone, to see if it is possible to get permission to go into the park so that we don't run the risk of getting arrested for trespassing.  I did make a phone call to someone in the City of New Orleans permit office who directed to me to call someone else in an effort to see if this is at all possible.  I leave a voice mail for the person I have been led to believe can help me best while we were waiting for our food.  I also noticed, while we were sitting there, that the two gentleman sitting a couple of tables away from us are New Orleans police officers, so I decide to see what they can tell me about exploring the Six Flags as well as asking them some questions about exploring the cemetery on our own.  I had read somewhere that it may not be safe to explore the cemeteries on your own, that you should go in with a tour guide, because would often target those that were not part of a group.

The officers were quite helpful.  They said that there shouldn't be any issue exploring Lafayette Cemetery as long as you went in the daytime and were aware of your surroundings.  As far as Six Flags,  they said that yes, security did patrol there, but it would be more likely that trespassers would be asked to leave rather than arrested.  One of the officers said that he would be more afraid of the wildlife in the area than of security.  (Wildlife meaning alligators, wild pigs, and snakes,,,,,oh my!!) They also said that if their was any kind of movie production going on there, we wouldn't stand a chance of getting in.  Well, we'll see what happens!!

The walk back to the resort included a stop at the Starbuck's for some iced chai.  It is already smoking' hot and it isn't even noon!!  Once back at the resort, we get the car and drive down to the French Quarter to find out where we can get our New Orleans City Passes that I had purchased when I bought our airline tickets.  These passes allow one to take advantage of many of the city's attractions at a discounted price and we could use it for both of the activities that we were planning on doing today.  Once we got our passes, I called one of the swamp tour places and booked us for a 2pm tour.  We had about 45 minutes to get there so we went ahead and made our way to the boat dock that our tour would begin from.  Shortly after we arrived the group that had just been out on the tour on the airboat came in and they all had mud all over them, making me VERY glad that we chose to take the covered flat boat rather than the airboat because I really didn't want to end up covered in mud. We bought a couple of bottles of cold water to take with us on the boat because we knew it was going to be hot out there and boarded the boat.
We saw some interesting wildlife on our tour including this egret, a cormorant, a blue heron, and of course, alligators!!   These guys are pretty used to the boats coming
and going and associate them with food, mostly marshmallows (who knew?) and come up to the boats when they hear them if they are hungry.  Our tour guide told us that the gators are really more afraid of us than we are of them, but I have to say that this is kind of hard to believe when you look at those eyes and those teeth.  YIKES!!  Once we were done with our tour we went back to the resort for some rest and a swim at the pool to help us cool off. The woman at the gift shop for the boat tours had suggested an Italian restaurant near downtown and after our rest we decided to give it a try.  After polishing off some delicious spaghetti and meatballs (me) and parmesan chicken and pasta (Megan) we made our way to the French Quarter to take a Haunted History tour.

We were on the tour with about 10 other people and our guide was an elderly gentleman who had grown up in New Orleans and seemed quite knowledgeable about the city.  The tour lasted about two hours and we walked all around the French Quarter and while he told us many stories of people seeing ghosts, we didn't see any ourselves. However, I did get a couple of pictures that I found to be somwhat interesting at what our guide calls "the most haunted house in America"  This is a home that is located in the French Quarter and apparently has a history of death and mystery associated with it.  Nicolas Cage owned the property for a while but never actually spent the night in the house (according to our guide) because he experienced too many strange and disturbing things when in the house during the day.  Things like beds that had just been straightened by maids, looking as if someone has just been sitting on them only moments after the maid left the room and the feeling of a "presence" in many of the rooms.  The interesting thing about the pictures is the presence of multiple orbs in one of them while another one taken just moments before of nearly the identical scene has NO orbs.  Many believers in ghosts state that these orbs in photographs represent the presence of spirits.  I don't really buy into this, but here are the photos so you can take a look and decide for yourself!

The top one is the one WITH orbs and the bottom one is the one without.  And there are A LOT of orbs in that top one.

While the tour was interesting, Megan and I were a bit disappointed because we didn't actually go into any of the reportedly haunted buildings in addition to the fact that it was still about 90 degrees at 10pm when we finished the tour.

Once back in the room, Megan insisted on returning to the cheesecake restaurant for another round of cheesecake since she enjoyed her piece from the night before so much.  I passed on this round, but we did walk down and get her a piece,

Off to bed with plans to visit Lafayette Cemetery and Blaine Kerr's Mardi Gras World tomorrow and to make another attempt to get a beignet from Cafe du Monde.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Girls Trip to New Orleans with Megan, August 2015

Megan has been wanting to go to New Orleans for quite some time.  There is something darkly alluring about the city that is fascinating,   Its Cities of the Dead (as they call their cemeteries in New Orleans), its connection to VooDoo, and of course, its partying spirit.  So, a trip to New Orleans was planned.  Originally this trip was going to include Tom, too, but when I was awarded a trip to Hawaii through my job, Tom had only enough vacation time to choose one.  He chose Hawaii, so New Orleans became a mother/daughter trip.  Since she is going off to Eugene in September to attend the University of Oregon, I know that I will cherish this one on one time that I will get to spend with her in a city that she finds so fascinating.

This is the story of our adventures in this unique and intriguing city.

We're here!!!
We flew out of Portland at midnight on Saturday, August 1, with a layover in Houston.  We arrived in New Orleans around 8:30 am, collected our luggage and headed off to the car rental building.  While we were in the middle of taking care of the business required to rent a car, an alarm went off in the building and a voice announced that we were to evacuate the building because and "incident" had been reported.  Well, that was kind of freaky, because nothing was said about exactly where we were supposed to go once we were outside of the building and the person helping us at the Avis counter just picked up her purse and walked away, without giving us any kind of direction at all.  Megan and I went outside of the building hoping to find some kind of guidance as to where to go but there was none.  In fact, most of the other people that were in the building, stayed in the building as if nothing was happening at all.  Turns out it was a false alarm, but what if it hadn't been?? Weird.

So we got our car, a cute little Chevy Sonic, Google mapped our directions to the World Mark and headed into town.  Check in time at the World Mark wasn't until 4 pm and we arrived at around 10:30am, so we had quite a bit of time to kill before we could get into our room.  We left our bags we the bell hop and had the valet park the car.  We were hoping to receive a call fairly soon telling us that our room was ready early, but in the meantime, we decided to use public transportation and go to the French Quarter.  Unfortunately, many of the trolley cars were not running because of all the construction projects on the streets of the city.  Believe it or not, 10 years after Hurricane Katrina, there is still of reconstruction taking place.  Under normal circumstances, the trolley cars have a stop right in front of our resort, but not at this time.  So we hopped on a bus for part of the trip, then transferred to a trolley car, then transferred again to another bus before arriving in the French Quarter.  

Just a couple of notes I want to insert here.  It is now around 11am and we have not slept since we got up Saturday morning, so we have both been up approximately 28 hours.  It is 93 degrees here with about 50% humidity.  It is HOT!!!!  Nevertheless we are going exploring.

Our first thought was to get beignets at Cafe Du Monde, because one HAS to do that at least once while in New Orleans, but the line was monstrous.  Worse than anything I have seen at VooDoo donuts in Portland, so we decided to skip out on that for now and come back and revisit on another day,  Instead we just start wandering around the French Quarter.  We were both pretty hungry by now so we start looking for somewhere else that we can have breakfast since Cafe Du Monde was a bust.  We end up at a place called John's PoBoys, where we each ordered up a breakfast sandwich of egg and cheese on an English muffin along with some chocolate milk.  Our stomachs were full, but neither one of us thought much of the food.  We will definitely NOT be going back there while we are here.  We walked around the Quarter for hours, wandering in and out of various shops, stopping to listen to some street musicians.  By now I have begun to get a bit of a headache, the heat is getting to both of us and we are both pretty tired.  We decide to go ahead and get back to the resort and hang out in the air conditioned lobby until our room is ready.  Once we arrive back at the resort, we are told that our room is still not ready (it is still only about 2pm and official check in isn't until 4pm), so Meg pulls a deck of cards out of her camera bag and we play a couple of games of Speed, but I am having a very difficult time keeping my eyes open at this point and my head is pounding.  We move into the garden room where there are some comfortable couches and a TV and I lay down and am nearly asleep, when one of the staff members comes to tell us that our room is ready. Finally!!   At this point, not only does my head hurt, but I feel sick to my stomach, too.  We get our luggage up to the room and I tell Megan that I have to lay down for a while and try to sleep of this headache.  While I sleep, Megan goes down to the pool for a while.  I wake up around 9pm and Meg comes and tells me that she is starving.  In our welcome packet we were given upon check-in, there was a list of nearby restaurants.  We look it over and decide to give Cheesecake Bistro a try.

 The menu looks good and it's only a block or so away.  We walk down there and have a delicious meal along with getting a couple of pieces of cheesecake for dessert.  Back to the room and tuck into bed for a good night's sleep.  The plan for tomorrow is a swamp boat tour and a "haunted history" tour of the French Quarter.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Around Town

Monday, December 17

Today, we ventured into the “old” downtown, which differs from the Golden Zone in many ways.  The Golden Zone consists mainly of hotels, shops, and restaurants and caters almost entirely to the tourist crowd.  The old downtown area, while it still has many shops and restaurants, also appears to more residential, with more locals going about their daily lives.  There are historic buildings in this area and, walking the streets, one can see many examples of the local architecture. 

We got off the bus at the city market, which was overflowing with people, locals and tourists alike.  This market reminded me, somewhat of, Pike’s Place Market in Seattle, because of the wide variety of items offered.  Everything from fresh, local produce, to handcrafted items.  There were also many meat vendors displaying freshly butchered meat, including pigs heads, hooves and skin.  That was a site I could have lived without seeing!

From the market, we moved on to exploring some of the shops nearby.  The sidewalks were very narrow and most had big, vinyl signs hanging down on the curb side in an effort to provide some shade for those walking as well as for the street vendors that spilled out onto the sidewalks.  With the crowds this made a leisurely shopping experience difficult.  We did step into a few stores and we found the combination shoe store/music store to be a bit comical.                            

The cathedral is mentioned often in anything one reads about old Mazatlan so we found our way to it and stepped inside.  There was a mass going on, so we couldn’t wander around and explore too much.  We did snap a couple of photos before seeing the sign asking that no cameras be used in the sanctuary.  It truly is a beautiful building.


We realized that we were all hungry so we headed in the direction of the ocean, where we knew we would find a place to eat as well as cool breezes.  We landed at the Shrimp Bucket, where Megan and I each got salads, Joe got shrimp prepared in a butter, garlic sauce and Tom ordered up shrimp tacos, which he declared his best meal so far since we got here.


 While eating we were serenaded by a gentleman walking around the streets stopping to sing to those seated outside.  This is one of the experiences that you so often see depicted in movies, but you seldomly see happen in reality.  After singing us his version of Feliz Navidad, we handed him a tip and he went on his way.

There is a waterfront promenade in old town that stretches along 4 miles of the ocean and features statues depicting some of the history of the area.  There is also a tower in the stretch from which cliff divers will dive many feet into the water below.  We were approached by one of these divers as we drew close to the tower from which they dive.  For some reason, I actually thought that the cliff divers were like surfers, in that they came out a dove off the cliffs purely for the joy and the sport of it, so I was a bit taken aback when the diver came to us and said he would dive for us, for a charge. 
It just never occurred to me that this is probably what puts meals on the table for this guy and his family.  We declined his offer, but looking back on it now, I regret that decision and wish that we would have paid him.

The walk along the promenade provided many photo opportunities which we took advantage of on our way to the nearest bus stop.  We were all feeling pretty full, hot and a bit tired and were ready to go back to go back to the condo and rest and do a little water time (Joe and Meg in the ocean, and Tom and I poolside.)

                                                                                                                                                        Another beautiful sunset and another peaceful, relaxing evening listening to the ocean from our windows.

Until, tomorrow......adios.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Waking up in Mazatlan

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Waking up to the sound of the ocean and cool ocean breezes blowing in through the open window.  Not a bad way to start the day.  Apparently, one not only gets lovely sunsets here in Mazatlan, but sunrises are a beautiful gift, too.

Tom was the first one up and took this photo from our deck, then went for a walk on the beach.  I got up shortly after he left and watched him down on the beach as well as some locals doing some fishing.  Not sure what they were fishing for but I did notice that the fisherman grouped together on shore to throw out a line parallel to where the pelicans had chosen to land out in the water.  Makes sense because I am sure that the pelicans are gathering wherever the fish are.

Tom was kind enough to bring me a coffee from the little coffee stand down by the pool to help me get going while I browsed the internet.  Once Joe and Megan got up and we all got showered we walked out to the bus stop that is right in front of the resort on the main road that goes into town.  We decided to start with the "Golden Zone" on our first adventure out to take a look at the local shops.
waiting at the bus stop

We didn't have to wait too long for the bus and it was only about a 15 minute ride to the "Golden Zone".  The Golden Zone is the newer downtown Mazatlan where there are many hotels, restaurants and shops. We walked around for about an hour or so and wandered in and out of many shops.  We quickly learned that the favorite phrase of those working in the shops is:  "it's almost free today".  I have to say that the shopping experience in Mexico is not at all like shopping back home in the States.  These people are ALL hard core salespeople and they are relentless in their pursuit of a sale.  They follow you and chatter to you about price and size and quality and whatever else they can think of in an effort to get you to part with your money.  If you touch something or pick something up to take a closer look at it, they act as if they have a definite impending sale.  It makes me quite uncomfortable and, for me, at least, takes all the pleasure out of shopping.  While there were some pretty items that I liked, some jewelry, some pottery, there was nothing I felt that I just HAD to go home with and I found the whole shopping experience kind of exhausting and, I have to admit, a bit disappointing.  Most of the shops were full of cheesy, crummy, cheap touristy items and not worth the experience of feeling pressured to buy.  We decided to head back to the condo for some beach/pool/hot tub time as well as having thoughts about eating.

Before catching the bus, however, Tom was drawn to Rico's cafe thinking that a coffee sounded good and we all agreed.  I ordered my favorite drink, a peppermint-laced soy mocha and I must say it was far tastier and smoother than the Starbuck's version.

Back on the bus we went and home to the condo.  Joe and Megan went down to the beach and played in the water for a bit.

Once they came back in and changed clothes we walked down the beach a little way and went to a restaurant for dinner.  The food here, so far, has been delicious and all tastes very fresh.  Megan, who is not the most adventuresome eater, has stuck to her favorite, chicken strips even here in Mexico.  She had them last night for dinner and was a bit disappointed because she said they tasted like fish.  I had some steak that I gave here that she found quite tasty.  One of my goals for this trip will be to try and expand Megan's palate a little bit.  I love that you can sit outside for a meal here and see and hear the ocean, yet still be warm and comfortable.  The Oregon beach is often cold and windy and it is seldomly possible to sit comfortably outside and enjoy a leisurely meal.

Once again, we spent the evening in the room, watching some TV.  We did not rent a car for this trip so we are a bit constrained in our options for going out in the evenings.  The buses only run until 9 p.m. or so and we are unsure of what there would be to do in town so we have, so far, chosen to just hang out in the condo.  Tom and Joe did head down to the bar here at the condo to watch the football game there, allowing Megan and I to have the TV in the room.  After flipping through channels and finding nothing to watch, she and I ended up watching a couple of original "Twilight Zone" episodes on the computer.  After Megan went to bed, I decided to go out and take a walk around the resort and snapped a picture of the tree they have decorated here for Christmas.  Very unique and quite lovely.

Tomorrow we plan to visit "old town" Mazatlan.  Until then......................

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Going to Mazatlan!!

Friday, December 14th.

Tom and I both worked a full today, then went home put the finishing touches on our packing, loaded up the Mazda and drove up to Portland.  We spent the night at my favorite pre-flight hotel, the airport Hampton Inn (big, fluffy pillowtop mattresses!), with a wake-up call at 2:45 am to catch our 5:30 am flight to Mexico.  Tucker chose not to come with us on this trip and will be staying home in rainy, chilly Oregon, while we are in sunny, warm Mexico.  He just got in from Las Vegas this morning and is ready to hang out with his Oregon buddies.  He did ride up to Portland with us, however, so that we don't have to pay for long term parking.  This ride also gave us a chance to catch up with what's been going on with him over the past couple of months.  He seems to be enjoying his time at Kairos in Las Vegas, although he has come to the conclusion that he is not totally in tune with their philosophy of ministry there.  I think he will finish the year out there, then end up coming back home to Oregon.

Once in the hotel room, Tom turned on the TV (of course) to catch a basketball game.  I turned in pretty early knowing that 2:45 a.m. would be arriving WAY too soon!!

Mazatlan, here we come!!

Saturday, December 15th

We have arrived, safe and sound without any glitches in our flights.  Our layover was in Phoenix and was very, very short.  Tom was hungry and went in search of food.  While he did this, we discovered that we needed to show our passports and boarding passes at the gate before boarding.  Joe, Megan and I stepped up to the customer service desk to do so and we were treated to an upgrade to FIRST CLASS seats for the flight from Phoenix to Mazatlan, at no additional charge.  HOW SWEET IS THAT???   Unfortunately, there were only 3 first class seats available and Tom wasn't with us so he missed out.  Sorry, honey, better luck next time.

Upon arrival in Mazatlan, we were shuffled through customs where they checked our immigration documents and actually stamped our passports!!  This will be the third time we have used our passports (first time was for our Disney Cruise to the Bahamas, the second time was our road trip to Canada), but the first time they have actually been stamped.  While waiting for our luggage to come off the plane, there was a man with what we decided was a drug-sniffing dog wandering amongst all of us allowing the dog to sniff all of our carry-on bags.  Once the bags started going around on the luggage carousel,  the dog just climbed right up on the carousel and on top of the bags to continue his sniffing.  It was very interesting to watch, and fortunately, it appeared that the dog found nothing of interest.

We then had to put our bags through an x-ray machine upon leaving the luggage pick up area.  There was a young woman seated behind the screen to view what was being x-rayed as it passed through the machine, but she was busy texting on her phone and didn't appear to look at the screen even once while we were observing her.

While on the plane I overheard a young man in the row in front of me, who has been here many times, telling someone in the row in front of him to stay away from the people inside the airport offering free taxi rides.  While there is no money required for the taxi rides these folks offer, if you accept their generosity, you are obligated to listen to a time share/resort spiel, so, unless one is willing to commit some of one's valuable vacation time to such a presentation, these folks are to be avoided.  I mentioned this to Tom as we were going through customs, but he almost fell prey to it anyway.  We did escape, however, without making any such mistake and paid the $35 for a cab to our destination resort, Torres Mazatlan.

We attempted some conversation with our cab driver, but quickly figured out that he did not speak much English, so we mostly just conversed amongst ourselves on the 30 minute drive from the airport to the resort.  The ride took us through some areas that were very much what I had pictured in my mind about much of Mexico.  Poverty, graffiti, lots of people out and about everywhere.  But there is also a lot of beauty, too.  Murals painted on walls that line the road.  Lovely flowering plants, trees and bushes.  And the taxi ride, itself......Wow!!  Taxi drivers all seem to be very similar wherever one goes. They drive fast, they change lanes like crazy and seems to have no patience.  It seemed to me that there were no real "lanes" marked in the road as there are back in the states and people on motorcycles just drive in between cars, creating their own lane.  Tom even saw a family of THREE on a motorcycle, kid  in the very front, Dad, driving,  behind the child and Mom in the rear.   YIKES!!!!

The cab driver does, however, deliver us safely to our condo, where we are able to check in and move into the room, despite being a bit earlier than the 4 pm check in time.  We are very pleased with the condo.  Two nice, spacious bedrooms, one with 2 double beds in it that Megan and Joe will share, then the master for Tom and I.  There is a deck off of the living room as well as one off of the master bedroom, and both overlook the ocean.  Beautiful.  The weather, while quite windy, is what I consider to be nearly perfect.  It feels like it is right around 80 degrees and the humidity is much lower than a typical summer day in Indiana.  We wander around the resort a bit, check out the Christmas decorations (it is just so weird to see Christmas decorations in a warm, tropical place!), the pool (which has nice warm water) and the beach.  We were all a bit surprised that there are many local vendors selling their wares down on the beach, although, once I give it some thought, I guess I shouldn't be surprised at all.  One gentleman selling hats also had an interesting mask for sale that Joe decided he MUST try on.

This mask reminds me Chewbacca, the Wookie, in the Star Wars movies, although I do think that Joe looks quite remarkable in it!  Joe is seriously considering buying this thing to use in some secret rituals at his fraternity at Oregon State University.  Whatever floats your boat, I guess!

Since none of us, but Tom, has eaten anything since breakfast, we decide that it is time to have our first authentic Mexican meal.  Well, all of us but Megan, who chose to have chicken strips, which she said tasted like fish.  Sorry, Megan.  Tom, Joe and I also decided to have authentic Mexican beer and each ordered a Corona.  We sat outside, nearly on the beach and listened to the ocean while we filled our tummies.
This is the life!

Once back in the room, Joe and I both decided that it was nap time and off to the bedrooms we went to catch a little sleep.  While we were napping, Tom and Megan went down to the beach and took a little walk and a few sunset photos.
We then all settled in for the rest of the evening to rest up for the rest of our trip.  We plan on heading into town for a while tomorrow for some shopping.  So, for now, Buenas Noches!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Move In Day!!

So, today is the big day!!  Tuck and I both got up around 8 ish and got ready for our 10 am meeting with Darius.  We each grabbed a last cup of coffee from "Barista", the coffee place in Circus, Circus, then packed up our stuff and checked out.  We got to the church a little early and kind of drove around the building trying to guess where the house might be since Darius said that it was "right behind the church".  We discovered that behind a fence on the back side of the church, there are, indeed some homes, and figured that it must be one of these.  Darius showed up right at 10 am and we followed him out of the church parking lot, through a locked gate (yes, the house is in a "gated" community) and to the house, which does sit just on the other side of that fence as we suspected.  Now I have to confess that I was kind of expecting some sort of hovel and found myself very pleasantly surprised.  This is a 4 bedroom home, fully furnished and it looks relatively new.
He will be sharing the house with 4 other guys, 3 of whom are on the pastoral staff at the church and my first impression of all of them are that they are great guys.  The 4th guy will be a student at the Bible College, just like Tuck, and he and Tucker will share the master bedroom.  Tucker is the youngest of the group and I feel secure that the other guys will make great mentors.  Tucker's roommate, Joseph, is from Washington state and had played college basketball before coming here.  How perfect is that??

After seeing the house and meeting the guys, I feel much more at peace about leaving him here.  I feel God's presence and His work in this move and think that this is a great opportunity for Tucker.

After getting a tour of the house and unloading Tucker's stuff out of my suitcase, we headed to the nearest grocery store (Vonn's) to load up on some groceries.  Joseph joined us which gave us an opportunity to get to know him a little better.  He loves to cook and was intrigued by Tucker's PKU and wants to cook some for him.  Gotta love that!!  Once back at the house, I took a pic of all the guys.
From left to right, we have Darius (associate pastor and director of the school), Cardiff, Tucker, Jake, and Joseph.  I think he is in good hands.

I hugged him tight, shed a few tears, said goodbye and left my boy in God's hands.  I think he's gonna be ok.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Las Vegas

Wow!!  Haven't posted anything here in a while!  But this weekend is a momentous enough occasion to warrant a little something here.

I am sitting in a room at the Circus, Circus hotel and casino with Tucker as I prepare to leave him here to go to the Kairos School of Ministry at the International Church of Las Vegas.  Sounds weird doesn't it?  Coming to Las Vegas to drop your kid off at a Bible College??  Yet that is exactly what I am doing.

We arrived Saturday evening around 8:30pm at the Las Vegas airport where we were met by Tucker's girlfriend Shannon (who attends UNLV) and her aunt Robyn.  Shannon wanted to spend the evening with us and, of course, Tucker wanted her to.  After standing in line for an hour or so at the car rental place, we finally loaded up our stuff into our Honda Accord and headed for Circus, Circus.  Turns out that Circus, Circus is at the complete OPPOSITE end of the strip from where we exited the airport so we had to drive all the way down the Las Vegas strip to get to the hotel.  Being Saturday night, this took us about an hour due to all the traffic.  The fountains at the Bellagio exploded into their dance as we were slowly driving by there so we got to enjoy that show along the way.  There are times when the water appears to shoot up as high as the building.  Quite impressive and very beautiful.  Upon arriving at the hotel, I had to stand in yet another line to get checked in and we finally opened the door to our room at about 11:30pm.  Whew!!!
This is the view from our room.  Since we are nearly at the end of the strip, we don't look over all of the  "cool" hotels, but you can see the Stratosphere from here.  The original plan was that we would all hang out together here for a while, eat at the buffet, then take Shannon back to her aunt's (where she lives during the school year).  Turns out the buffet was closed and I had absolutely NO desire to get back in the car and drive some more, so we got food from the Westside Deli (the only restaurant still open in the hotel at this hour), and Shannon ended up staying in the room with us.  We watched some TV (the end of Mission Impossible 3) and I dropped off to sleep.  Tucker and Shannon walked around the hotel a bit before turning in.

Sunday morning we woke up to a beautiful sunny day, got some coffee, showered up and headed to the International Church of Las Vegas for the 11 am service.  BIG church!  The main church can seat 3100 people and there are 3 other physical campuses, as well as on-line church.  Quite impressive.  I was hoping to connect with Darius Hughes, who is the associate pastor, as well as the leader/director of the school, but he was attending a service at one of the other locations.  After about 30 minutes of worship, the pastor of the church, Paul Goulet, came out to do the sermon.  I LOVED it!  He is a very powerful and passionate speaker and I loved his message.  In addition, the people of the church were all very warm and friendly and, true to its name, multicultural.  Something that Salem, for that matter, all of Oregon, is lacking.

After the service, we returned to the hotel to take a trip through the buffet, which was incredibly disappointing.  Tucker came to the table with a plate of white rice with teriyaki sauce.  Period.  Are you kidding me???  No way was I going to settle for paying $15 for him to get a plate full of rice.  After searching through all the choices laid out, I finally ended up speaking with the chef who prepared some stir-fried vegies for him.  Even the salad bar was sadly lacking in vegetable choices.  I was trying to figure out how a vegetarian would fare at this buffet.  The ONLY vegetable dish that I saw that didn't have meat or cheese mixed into it was carrots.  Sad.

After eating (sort of), we came back to the room for a bit of a rest.....well Shannon and Tucker napped while I downloaded Megan's picture with Demi Lovato that had been taken the day before at the Demi Lovato concert.  Yes, while Tucker and I were in Vegas, Megan had an exciting adventure of her own.  Front row seats at the concert as well as a meet and greet and photo.

Naptime over, we had to get Shannon back to her aunt's house because she had a meeting that she needed to attend for school and Tucker and I needed to do some shopping to get him outfitted for his stay here and get him a bus pass for the month so he can get around.  After accomplishing that mission we attempted, once again, to connect with Darius and failed again, but we did get a chance to talk with Samuel Goulet, the pastor's son who is also involved with ministry in some capacity with the church and found out that he heads up a round of basketball every Sunday evening.  Sounds like something right up Tucker's alley, don't you think?  So Tuck and I head back to the hotel where I drop Tucker off to go in and get some food while I circle the parking lot for a good 1/2 hour to 45 minutes trying to find a parking spot...........AAAAAAHHHHHHHHhhhh!!!!  We meet up in the room where I pretty much dig in for the evening.  I thought about walking up the strip a way and checking out some of the cool stuff at some of the casinos, but decided that I really didn't feel like it.  Tucker cruised the hotel a bit before calling it a night and settling in to watch Oceans 11 on the TV (how appropriate!!)  We have a 10 am meeting time set with Darius tomorrow morning to get Tucker set up in his home away from home.