Las Vegas, Nevada! “Vegas Baby! Vegas!”

Las Vegas, Nevada!
“Vegas Baby! Vegas!”

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Back from Las Vegas.
A fun trip to “Sin City”
Happy to be Home!

JOSHWILLTRAVEL! And travel to Las Vegas last week is what we did.*

*well, it wasn’t last week…. more like last month. Tempus fugit!

We were invited (very last minute) to our friend Frank’s 65th Birthday Adventure:
(via a series of text messages)
– Come to Vegas if you want we have extra rooms
– We arrive Wed and lots of different rooms. Party on Saturday
– The party at Topgolf should be good even if you dont golf. Has a private pool for us
– Then we got a big cabana by our pool Friday Saturday and Sunday

So, let me think about it….. and Road Trip to Vegas!
Left the beautiful San Fernando Valley at 1:30am on Thursday morning.
Highways to Las Vegas: 101north-134west-210west-10west-15north
We drove a rental truck, a no-frills silver Nissan Frontier, with unlimited miles.
No traffic! Driving 285 miles at night with the truckers on I-15 north.

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“World’s Tallest Thermometer” in Baker, California

Stopped along the way in Baker, California, for gas and to see the “World’s Tallest Thermometer” once again lighting the side of the 15 freeway. It was “non-operational” for many years, but has been repaired and now it is again a beacon at night on the desert highway.
NOTE: Gas prices were “too f*ckin’ high” in Baker! 

Stateline! No stopping until we get to town.

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Stateline! Primm, Nevada

Arrived at South Point Hotel and Casino before 6am on Thursday.

We have always heard good things about the SouthPoint. People regularly recommend their buffet as being very good. They were also recently featured in the Showtime series “Action” about legal sports gambling, so as we rolled into town we decided to stop there.

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SouthPoint Hotel and Casino – Las Vegas, Nevada

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Self Parking at SouthPoint is FREE. We parked outside, instead of in the structure, and it was only a short walk to the Casino entrance. We had to go to the High Limit Slots counter to get a Player’s Card because the Club Desk doesn’t open until 7am. We played some blackjack and a little video poker and won a little money.

We also earned 300 club points which entitled us to “spin the wheel” and we won 5000 points (so we cashed them out for $15.00), wandered around the casino, and then headed for their Breakfast Buffet.

NOTE: Get the SouthPoint Player’s Card and the Breakfast Buffet is only $9.95 + tax
(Really nice breakfast buffet for ~$11.00 + $5.00 tip for our server/waitperson)

Breakfast Buffet Time! The Las Vegas “Buffet Experience”! And we were hungry…..

On The Menu: Everything. It was a Good Buffet!

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After breakfast we headed out and drove to the Wyndham Grand Desert Resort near the MGM Grand and across the street from TopGolf at the south end of the strip.
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Wyndham Grand Desert Resort

Parked near Tower 3, walked to registration at Tower 2 and Checked In.
Our friends had the rooms reserved and a quick phone call was made, our ID was checked, and we were handed a keycard and welcome instructions. We walked back to Tower 3 and met one of our friends in the lobby. She gave us the “nickel tour” of the resort property and showed us the adult pool and the cabana they had reserved for our party weekend. We walked back to Tower 3 and grabbed our luggage and weekend supplies out of the truck and rode the elevator upstairs.

The SMELL in the hall.
Okay, something died. rotting trash beyond rotting. it was terrible. really terrible.
FOR THE WHOLE TIME! It was disgusting. It reeked. It stank.
Yes, we complained. And they tried to mitigate the smell with deodorizers and sprays, but they should have called for sanitary cleanup immediately. They were really good about apologizing and they gave our hosts credit for the inconvenience.

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“It’s Kubrickian!”

The Sweet Suite!
Tower 3, Room 392 at the Wyndham Grand Desert Resort:

Happily, the smell was only in the hallway. Once inside the room, a “lock-out” connecting room, adjacent to the first room our hosts stayed in…. they moved to the Presidential Suite, and her brother moved into their room. More on that later.

Each room had a nice kitchen area, living room space and private bedroom and bath. Mine was a little smaller than the room next door which also had a bar and bar seating in the living room space. I was very happy with the accommodations and also the fact that it was FREE! My hosts were treated to drinks, gifts and other forms of thanks all week long in appreciation for the invitation.

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After the little tour of the resort the it was nappy time. Then once we were awake and active again, we joined our friends for a quick visit to the TopGolf mega-entertainment center across the street. We met our friends in the inside bar and had a cocktail while they finished their food (we were still full from the morning buffet).

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Our friend’s birthday party was scheduled for Saturday afternoon in the Chairman’s Suite, complete with private pool and lunch buffet, so they went to check it out.  More on that party later……
We wandered around and toured the massive four deck facility. There were lots of bar and seating areas, and a public pool area with lounges, private cabanas and a “swim-up” bar. There were televisions and monitors everywhere, and really big multi-screens by the pool and in the gathering and game areas. And there were a ton of people having fun at midday on Thursday! The Golf Area has private driving areas for rent, with computer monitoring, that tracks your ball and gives you distance, replay, and other fun golf info. And of course there is plenty of food and beverage service available everywhere.
Just mind the warning signs and watch for errant golf balls and clubs!
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And then back across the street to the resort.
Our friends moved their stuff to the Presidential Suite with a Private Veranda and we hung out there and waited for them to get settled in.
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We made a run to the local market and picked up provision for the week. And then later we went back across the street to TopGolf for a late dinner.

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TopGolf Photo Op!

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On The Menu: More cocktails
and Boneless BBQ Wings w/veggies & ranch dressing at one of the bars.
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FRIDAY at the Wyndham

Good morning! Cabana Time!
Our Large Private Party Cabana in the shade for Friday, Saturday and Sunday!

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Large Private Party Cabana in the shade for Friday, Saturday and Sunday!

Friday, Saturday and Sunday began the same way each day: Tiki drinks for brunch! And some kind of food from the resort kitchen, along with snacks we brought from the room.

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The cabana was equipped with a nice television and a noisy ceiling fan, and the public smoking area was right next door and there was a public cabana in that area. Most of the pool cabanas were positioned in the sun, and must have been really hot inside, while our cabana was on the other side and in the shade set back but facing the adult pool area.

 

Dinner time on Friday, and we had a meeting in the Presidential Suite to decide where to go to eat. There are many choices, so the group reviewed them, and eventually decided to go to Burger Bar (inside the Luxor Hotel, which we didn’t know at the time).

NOTE: Everything we did took a long time to get it together and actually do it. It wasn’t a problem, and we resolved to just ride along and see what happens (most of the time).

And then it started raining. A real Desert Storm! And a wet Friday night.
One of our new friends was the non-drinking designated driver, and he was a cool dude. But his driving was not cool. And it was dark and wet and it took a long time to get there. And then we toured the parking lot, for a long time, before finally parking.

We made our way into the Luxor and found the Burger Bar. Basically a $20 hamburger without anything else, so we decided to go spend our money at The Peppermill instead.

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MGM Grand Hotel and Casino on a Rainy Night in Las Vegas, Nevada

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And so, after another wild ride in the rain around Las Vegas, we arrived for Dinner and Drinks at The Peppermill Restaurant and Lounge!

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We had dinner and tiki drinks in the restaurant and then went into the lounge and had more drinks. The rain was really coming down and we were in no hurry to leave, so we rode out the storm in the lounge and met some fun new people.
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On The Menu: Tiki Cocktails!
A Lava Flow and a nice Beef Dip Sandwich with fries and extra au jus

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A good time was had by all! We enjoyed our dinner and drinks at The Peppermill. Frank had a big Scorpion drink (in a glass, not a bowl) and the rest of us had a few different drinks from their cocktail menu too.

One more drive around Vegas in the rain and back to the resort. We survived! We returned to the Presidential Suite and then back to our suite in the other tower. We decided to take a hot bath and then sleep in the next day.

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“Wanna take a bath?”

SATURDAY at the Wyndham and TopGolf

Cabana Time! Basically the same routine as Friday: tiki drinks, food, people hanging out and new friends stopping by until it was time to get it together and head over to TopGolf for the big shindig!

Frank’s 65th Birthday Party in the Chairman’s Suite at TopGolf – Saturday 2-5pm
Golf, balls, a buffet, more drinks and a private swimming pool just for us.

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Party at TopGolf in Las Vegas, Nevada!

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The Guest of Honor in the Private Pool in the Chairman’s Suite

On The Menu: Tacos (chicken, steak and pork), Sliders (cheeseburgers, battered fish and pulled pork), chips with salsa and guacamole, salads, and of course more tiki cocktails!

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The party was a lot of fun, we got out drink on, and there was too much food! We ended up taking a lot of it back to the resort afterwards. There was golfing (unlimited balls, or something like that) and swimming too. The pictures are just a sample before it got crazy wild.

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A beautiful day at TopGolf Las Vegas!

Saturday Night in Vegas!

And so we returned to the resort and hung out until it got dark. We decided our next destination would be (more) Tropical Cocktails at Frankie’s Tiki Room! 

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Saturday Night on the Strip in Las Vegas, Nevada

After the wild road trip on Friday night, we decided we would drive to Frankie’s and meet the crew there. We cruised past The Strip and downtown to the bar.

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More cocktails! Famous tiki drinks! And it was really dark inside.
Here are some pics:

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We enjoyed a Mai Tai and then there was a lot of conversation and more drinks. We moved around from our table in the cabana to a seat at the bar. Lots of kitsch and weird decor to see, even in the dark. Eventually, they decided to return to the resort and we decided to go back to The Strip and have some Las Vegas fun.

We drove to The Wynn, Las Vegas Hotel and Casino – FREE SELF PARKING!
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The Wynn is a beautiful property! And it was crowded, which was nice. We played a little and wandered around taking in the different areas of the casino and environs. We had some luck and cashed out and drove back to the resort and went to bed.

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SUNDAY (Mother’s Day) morning after waking up and getting ready, we walked over to the Presidential Suite for Breakfast/Brunch and more Cabana Time! It was a leisurely day of drinking and hanging out. There may have been an afternoon nap involved.

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So we were volunteered to cook and we grilled some steaks for dinner at 9:30pm on Sunday at the community BBQ Grills. There’s a curfew for cooking at 10pm, so we had to be quick! We took them upstairs and enjoyed a great meal on the private veranda (and of course, there were more cocktails).

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Then we went on a mission to The “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas Nevada” Sign!
It was designed by Nevada-born graphic designer Betty Willis (1923-2015) in 1959.
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“The rounded diamond shape of the sign was inspired by the Goodyear logo and the idea for the starburst came from the one in Disneyland’s emblem, which to her meant a happy destination. The seven silver dollars were a symbol of good luck for visitors entering the world’s gambling capital. (Betty) Willis’s design was never trademarked.”

The sign was built by a small local company Western Electric Displays Inc, aka Western Neon. Western Neon was bought by YESCO (Young Electric Sign Company) and they have maintained the sign ever since. The original sign has been rebuilt, restored, and recognized as a cultural and historic landmark for the City of Las Vegas over the years.

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Safe and legal public access to the sign was finally made possible in 2008, when parking spaces and a pedestrian walkway were finally constructed. Clark County and the Nevada State Historic Preservation Office had the sign listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2009.

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NOTE: It was “Helldorado Days” a big holiday in the State of Nevada. There was a parade on Saturday and the Rodeo and other events were happening all weekend in downtown Las Vegas and on Fremont Street. So, we didn’t go there.

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Old Vegas! Glitter Gulch!

We returned to the resort and stayed up until MONDAY morning!
“It’s HOT in the Hot Tub!” 
And sometime before dawn we hit the Jacuzzi and Pool! (the pool and jacuzzi at Tower 3 are open 24 hours) It was very Early AM, at Tower 3, after it was cleaned, before the crowd and we were almost alone.

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We had stayed up all night and after our adventures we finally decided to try out the 24 hour pool and jacuzzi in our Tower. The pool area was empty except for one couple, so we waited until they were out of the water and then we moved in. We spent about a half hour enjoying the warm, bubbly spa, and swam in the cool pool until the calm was interrupted by two small children and their mother….. as we left the pool area at 6am the mother was screaming at the children in the shallow end of the pool, “Get over here dammit, you pulled this sh*t all yesterday, I’m not gonna have it today!” 

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Went up to the room and took a hot shower, ate some leftover tacos, and went to bed.
Requested and was given a late checkout time of 12 noon via the telephone.

And then,
Housekeeping knocked on my door three different times between 9:30 and 11am!
AND THERE WAS A “DO NOT DISTURB” SIGN HANGING ON THE DOOR HANDLE!
They also started cleaning the other half of the “lockout suite” and made noise like they were doing construction next door, making it impossible to sleep.

NOTE: We complained and Dan, the resort manager, gave us a $50 credit to use at our choice of restaurants “off-property” at a Caesars Hotel (there was a list of restaurants to choose from at each hotel) for our inconvenience and also took care of our friends who invited us. That’s real good hospitality!

Checked out of the Wyndham and drove back over to the Wynn. FREE Self Parking again.

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We walked to the Palazzo and Venetian, then went outside, crossed Las Vegas Blvd and went over to the Mirage. It was a beautiful day, but it was too hot of course.

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We visited the MLife desk, and asked about a MyVegas room rate. They offered us a Monday night room for $63.00 + taxes and the ridiculous resort fee, so we passed.

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We walked through the Forum Shops to Caesars Palace and enjoyed the weirdness!

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Caesars Palace Hotel and Casino was once the best place to stay and play in Las Vegas. Then they turned it into “Disneyland”, and they threw away all the class and quality that made it great. And then they added RESORT FEES and PAID PARKING.

We went to Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill and got a seat a the bar, but when we looked at the menu there was nothing that we wanted to order…. so we thanked them and left. We wandered around Caesars enjoying the sights while trying to decide where to eat.

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The Bar and Sportsbook at Caesars Palace Las Vegas

Then we decided on dinner at Rao’s Italian Kitchen, Las Vegas at Caesars Palace!
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On The Menu: Good bread, an excellent Caesar salad and their tasty meat lasagna.
We ate the salad and half of the lasagna and bread, and had the other half packed “to go”.
No drinks or wine because we were driving later, so only ice water with dinner.

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It was getting dark after dinner, so we started walking back, watched the sunset behind Caesars Palace across the street, and then stopped at Harrah’s and the old Casino Royale on The Strip.

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Casino Royale!

 

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And then we walked back to the Wynn. We enjoyed our after dinner walk at night and took in the sights along The Strip on our way back. We returned to our car and hit the road. Destination: Los Angeles.

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LEAVING LAS VEGAS around 9:30pm on Monday.
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Stopped at the new Mega-Gas Station Terrible’s Road House on the way back to California and filled up the gas tank and emptied mine. They have 100 pumps for “rush hour”, but the place was almost empty when we stopped in around 10pm on Monday night.

It was a quick stop, with lots of light and easy highway access. After getting gas, we took some pics and then got back in the rental truck and made a non-stop, no traffic, night drive back to Los Angeles. Home again before 2am. Had a really fun trip!

SouthPoint Hotel and Casino

Wyndham Grand Desert Resort

TopGolf

Peppermill Restaurant and Lounge

Frankie’s Tiki Room

The Wynn Hotel & Casino Las Vegas

 

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Firestorm & Murder in Southern California!

Firestorm and Murder in Southern California!

The morning after the election…. are we any closer to saving our democracy? It wasn’t a “Blue Wave” but the gains were significant in the face of REPUBLICAN GERRYMANDERING. Now I’m waiting for Mueller and the indictments and someone to call for impeachment. Let the public see Trump’s tax returns. Investigate the many ethical violations of his cabinet members and staff. Have a real Congressional investigation into his campaign’s collusion with PUTIN and RUSSIA.

And the Twitter Troll is GUILTY of another crime today (Obstruction):
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And so the Midterm Elections are (almost) over. The Democrats gained many seats and reclaimed the House of Representatives! No more political ads! And a few of the scumbags who have been there too long are finally out of office! Wednesday’s TV news was a day of post-election coverage and political speculation as Donny couldn’t wait to fire Attorney General (and angry elf) Jeff Sessions, and now what will it mean for the FBI’s “Mueller Investigation”?

Wednesday ~11:30pm: News of another MASS SHOOTING in Thousand Oaks!

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A guy walks into a bar….. and kills 12 people. NO JOKE.
No one is safe. No place is safe. Live your life accordingly.

The Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks College Night is attacked by a lone gunman armed with a legally purchased semi-automatic handgun. Shooter kills 11 people at the nightclub and 1 first responder before killing himself (according to the news). 13 Dead, more injured.

12 HOURS LATER: The shooter was white. The shooter was an ex-Marine who served in Afghanistan as a machine gunner and lived with his mother in Newbury Park. The shooter was cleared after a mental health evaluation as NOT BEING A DANGER TO HIMSELF OR OTHERS….. He was a “quiet guy who kept to himself” and he killed 12 people without warning. Someone screwed up BIGTIME! Oh, and the media is having a non-stop coverage orgy of this tragedy in Los Angeles.

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13 HOURS LATER: Tribute to fallen hero, tribute to first responders, tribute to victims, father crying over news of dead son, eyewitness accounts and survivor stories, TV experts and grief counselors, and what you can do (give blood, vigil tonight, etc). Thoughts and Prayers again.

I never hung out at the Borderline during my time in Thousand Oaks. I was an El Torito guy. I know many people with ties to T.O. and today they are dealing with a mass murder in their town. Every local channel has had non-stop news coverage since midnight. Time for more “thoughts and prayers”.

Thursday Afternoon: And now there’s a fire in Newbury Park, and the 101 freeway is closed in both directions in Agoura, and the wind is really blowing……..

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“And we do want to warn you this video is graphic” = we are going to show it as many times as we can and you’re going to watch it. The ghouls at KTLA News have now gone 24 hours on “the Massacre” with a short break for Fire coverage and sports.

And the fire’s growing fast. Camarillo Springs is on fire too now. The embers are blowing and hitting homes and burning RVs now.

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And Oak Park is ON FIRE, homes are burning north of Kanan Rd and it could jump Kanan and burn many more. Winds blowing 40-50 mph in places and It could jump the 101 and burn all the way to the Pacific! The 101 is closed. They are now ordering everyone out South of the 101 all the way to Mulholland! The Paramount Ranch is in danger!

Friday 2:30am: They are now ordering everyone out South of the 101 all the way to Mulholland! The Paramount Ranch is in danger! Ventura County Fire Station 37 is ON FIRE at Kanan and Upper Ranch Rd north of Thousand Oaks. The fire is threatening homes in Agoura Hills.

Evacuations from Sunset Hills to Mulholland, Lindero Cyn to the 23 fwy north of the 101! Westlake blvd to Las Virgenes south of the 101! Homes are burning on E. Hillcrest Dr in Thousand Oaks. Power outages in Malibu. Morning winds coming too. It’s really really bad.

Friday 8am: And the fire jumped the 101 this morning and is burning through the canyons. Malibu now is under a mandatory evacuation order! *URGENT SAFETY MESSAGE* Fire has jumped the 101 fwy near Chesebro and is headed to Ocean Mandatory Evacuations, 101 Fwy to the coast between Las Virgenes Cyn /Malibu Cyn Rd. to the LA County line. Imminent threat! Malibu lakes residents must leave area immediately.

It’s a MAJOR DISASTER! The fires are out of control and still growing! Many homes and fantastic places have already been destroyed.

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NOTE: TIME FOR A RANT ABOUT LA COUNTY DISASTER PREPAREDNESS!
Good thing it wasn’t “The Big One”. The initial response was slow allowing it to spread quickly. Once it spread there weren’t enough resources to fight it. Homes were left to burn because they were protecting other structures. PCH and the 101 were jammed, showing there is no master plan for an emergency of this scale.

Emergency info was uncoordinated. Evacuation centers filled up quickly and Pepperdine University had students shelter in place (requiring resources to protect them and the campus). Large animal owners were unprepared to evacuate their animals! If you own a horse, you should be required to have a trailer for it and have an emergency plan! There should have been a real firebreak on both sides of the freeway to prevent the fire crossing into the canyons. Its not like this hasn’t happened before.

There are currently 5600 US troops sitting at the border waiting for the “Caravan Invasion” months away. The CA National Guard should be trained for fire fighting and available immediately for firestorm emergencies like this. The amount of dead and dry brush is also a problem since they don’t have an adequate budget or regular schedule for controlled burns, deforestation, or building proper firebreaks year-round.

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Paramount Ranch burned again today. Obviously, the Fire Management and Loss Prevention Programs (Federal, State, County and City) are a TOTAL FAIL. There are not enough resources and there wasn’t any planning for fighting this type of firestorm event.

Western Town at The Paramount Ranch in Agoura was destroyed around noon:

Fire is now south of Mulholland and heading for Malibu.

Mandatory Evacuations were ordered! “Get out of Malibu!”

And Pacific Coast Highway was jammed, all lanes going to Santa Monica, then closed.

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Evacuation Traffic on PCH between Malibu and Santa Monica (photo by KTLA) this morning.

Friday 5:45pm: Fire is moving into West Hills and towards Woodland Hills and the San Fernando Valley!

Saturday 1:20am There is an ominous quiet in the SFV tonight…. and there is no news after two days of non-stop murder and fire.

Saturday morning 8:30am: It’s cold and clear outside in the SFV. Here’s a pic from Zen Gesner in Malibu. He stayed with his father who refused the mandatory evacuation and fought the fire. Zen and a few friends stayed all night instead of evacuating, and they saved the house and a few of the neighbor’s houses from the flames!
Visit Malibu, where the fire meets the sea:

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Malibu Beach On Fire! (photo by Zen Gesner)

Saturday 5pm: The fire burned through the canyons yesterday afternoon and last night. the flames reached the Pacific Ocean after jumping Pacific Coast Highway fueled by high coastal winds and wind generated by the heat. Entire neighborhoods were destroyed in Westlake Village, Thousand Oaks, Oak Park, Agoura Hills, Agoura, Malibu, Topanga Cyn, and West Hills.

THE FIRES ARE STILL BURNING! It has grown to 70000 acres. The 101 Ventura Fwy remains closed between Calabasas Rd and Lindero Canyon. Kanan Rd and other canyon passes remain closed between the freeway and Pacific Coast Highway, which is also closed from Sunset Blvd to Las Posas Rd. as Malibu remains on fire.

The winds died down and then shifted, and now the air quality is UNHEALTHFUL TO DEADLY today. The Santa Susana radioactive storage site burned early on Thursday, so the air may actually be dangerous and toxic! Particle masks are recommended if you have to go outdoors. Everything smells like smoke and burned houses.

HIGH WIND RED FLAG WARNING! Strong wind is expected tomorrow through Tuesday when “the Santa Anas” return.

Originally Posted Saturday, November 10th, 2018 at 5:45pm
And now back to your regularly scheduled program……

AND THEN THIS TODAY FROM THE TWITTER TROLL OF THE UNITED STATES:
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California Professional Firefighters President Brian K. Rice issued the following statement following the President’s tweet.:
“The president’s message attacking California and threatening to withhold aid to the victims of the cataclysmic fires is Ill-informed, ill-timed and demeaning to those who are suffering as well as the men and women on the front lines.
“At a time when our every effort should be focused on vanquishing the destructive fires and helping the victims, the president has chosen instead to issue an uninformed political threat aimed squarely at the innocent victims of these cataclysmic fires.
“At this moment, thousands of our brother and sister firefighters are putting their lives on the line to protect the lives and property of thousands. Some of them are doing so even as their own homes lay in ruins. In my view, this shameful attack on California is an attack on all our courageous men and women on the front lines.
“The president’s assertion that California’s forest management policies are to blame for catastrophic wildfire is dangerously wrong. Wildfires are sparked and spread not only in forested areas but in populated areas and open fields fueled by parched vegetation, high winds, low humidity and geography. Moreover, nearly 60 percent of California forests are under federal management, and another two-thirds under private control. It is the federal government that has chosen to divert resources away from forest management, not California.
“Natural disasters are not “red” or “blue” – they destroy regardless of party. Right now, families are in mourning, thousands have lost homes, and a quarter-million Americans have been forced to flee. At this desperate time, we would encourage the president to offer support in word and deed, instead of recrimination and blame.”
California Professional Firefighters represents more than 30000 front line firefighters and paramedics in California.

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Read the Previous Blog Posts about the Paramount Ranch>

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ROAD TRIP to Ashland, Oregon!

ROAD TRIP to Ashland, Oregon! Ten Days “On The Road” and on a mission.

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Cold Rain and Snow! Ashland, Oregon 3-14-18

Los Angeles, California to Ashland, Oregon and now WE ARE BACK!

NOTE: The road trip happened in early March with the threat of winter weather in the north and in the Siskiyou Pass into Oregon, so we had to time our travel and hope for good weather on both sides.

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Monday Morning Road Trip! Los Angeles to Ashland (670 miles) in 10 hours! Instead of stopping, we decided to make a straight shot on Interstate 5 (via the 405 freeway) to stay ahead of the winter weather in the Siskiyou Pass…

A long, beautiful, uneventful drive north with the intent to get there as soon as possible while driving as safe as possible. “No tickets, no accidents, and no encounters with law enforcement” makes for a good trip. We stopped for gas and to stretch our legs (and other business) along the way, and arrived in Oregon in only 10 hours!

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Tejon Pass, California

NOTE: This Blog Post was delayed again because of technical issues. Our primary computer crashed recently and it had the transferred pics ready to upload.

 

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Mt. Shasta in the Siskiyou Pass, California (things start getting blurry)

670 miles and ten hours later we were in Ashland, Oregon!

WE LOVE ASHLAND!

There was beautiful weather all week long. It had snowed the week before, there was snow on the mountains, Mt. Ashland ski resort was open for business, and there was even still some snow on the ground the first day. It was cold and windy at night the first couple nights, and it was raining/snowing in the pass, but the weather stayed really nice during the day (sunny and in the 70s) from Ashland to Medford most of the time.

 

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Ashland Creek in Lithia Park – Ashland, Oregon

 

Scenes from the Ranch:

 

 

On The Menu in Ashland:

Lunch at Sesame Asian Kitchen in Ashland

Dinner at The Loft in Ashland
NY steak & prawns, fries, veggies, caesar salad, tuna tartare, bread & butter, an excellent 1993 Southing Sea Smoke pinot noir, and a coke
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Pizza (take-out) from Kaleidoscope Pizza in Medford
Lunch (take-out) from Arby’s
Lunch (take-out soups) from Olive Garden

BBQ Tri-Tip Sandwiches for Dinner at the Ranch
Pasta and Meatballs with cheesy bread and a coke for Dinner at the Ranch
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Pizza and Champagne Dinner at the Ranch with friends
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Ice Cream from Grater’s in Cincinnati, Ohio (via UPS)
pints of black raspberry chocolate chip, cherry chocolate chip,
salted caramel chocolate chip, and chocolate chocolate chip
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Girl Scout Cookies: Tagalongs and Samoas

Dinner (take-out) from La Tapatia in Phoenix (Oregon, not Arizona)
2 chicken street tacos with salsa

Dinner (take-out) from Harvey’s Place in Ashland
roast beef dip sandwich and fries
(Read our previous Blog Post about Harvey’s Place>
)

Sushi Lunch at Bonsai in Medford
sushi, sashimi and cut rolls

Dinner at Beasy’s on the Creek in Ashland
shrimp cocktail, clam chowder, grilled prawns (didn’t eat them, got them “to go”), bread & butter, red wine, a coke, and no dessert thank you

Hand-made Chocolates from Lillie Belle Farms in Central Point

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Oregon Sky 2

 

Walking in Lithia Park on Monday Afternoon (almost alone)
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Ashland Creek in Lithia Park

 

Heading South on Wednesday! Destination: Oakland and then Home!

There was rain and snow in Ashland, in the Siskiyou Pass, and even further south to the Bay Area. And more stormy weather was predicted for Thursday and through the weekend, so when the weather looked clear on Wednesday morning we headed south hoping to get through the pass without incident or chain requirements. It rained a little, it snowed a little, there was a little sleet and then it was clear and beautiful the whole way to Oakland.

We stopped for an hour at the Rolling Hills Casino in Corning, California on the I-5.

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Rolling Hills Casino – Corning, California

 

Going south, we had the choice to “stay on or get off?”: stay on and keep going south on the I-5 with Los Angeles as our destination or get off and take the 505 Winters cutoff to the Bay Area with an Oakland stopover as our destination. We almost kept going, but decided to detour west, get a hotel room, have dinner and rest for the night instead.

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San Leandro Bridge and Puffy Clouds 3-14-18

We were going to stay at a hotel in Emeryville where we got off the freeway because East Bay traffic was jammed, but found a good deal on a room at the LaQuinta Inn near the Oakland Airport online and made a same-day reservation through an internet site because it was easy and we were tired. We had Dinner at the Black Bear Diner in Emeryville on Pi Day and tried to connect with a friend who was local via telephone.

On the Menu: Breakfast for dinner.
2 eggs over medium. bacon (with extra bacon), biscuits & gravy, and iced coffee
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and then a small chocolate cream pie “to go”
We enjoyed it with some “free” coffee from the lobby in our hotel room.

 

 

After we ate, we drove over to the La Quinta Inn at the Oakland Airport via surface streets to avoid the freeway traffic and soon arrived at the hotel without too much trouble.
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We checked in, went to the room, unpacked, took a nice hot shower and shaved, and then got dressed to go and meet our friend. But it was too late (almost 8:30pm) so we got undressed and ate some of our pie and quickly fell asleep.

Thursday 7am: Leftover Pie and a Continental Breakfast!

On the Menu (a nice continental breakfast at the hotel): scrambled eggs, bagel with cream cheese, cornflakes and milk, and coffee. We also took a banana, an apple, 2 blueberry muffins, and a bagel with peanut butter and jelly for the road trip home. We also enjoyed the leftover chocolate cream pie and some canned pineapple juice before breakfast.

Thursday 11am: On The Road Again!
I-5 south (via 580) Oakland to Los Angeles

The LaQuinta loyalty program offers a late check-out to guests, so we could have stayed until 1pm. Instead we enjoyed the “free” breakfast, packed our bags, and loaded the car The early storm passed and morning Bay Area traffic cleared and we left at 11am to get on the road and get clear of the weather. From Oakland we had the choice to take the faster Interstate 5 (east route) or more scenic US highway 101 (west route) south to Los Angeles and so we chose the 5 south, again because of the stormy weather on the coast.

There was a little residual rain as we left the Bay Area at Livermore, but then it was blue skies all day and the whole way to L.A. and it only took 5 & 1/2 hours with one stop for gas.

 

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Los Angeles Again 3-15-18

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Oakland Sunrise 3-15-18

Party at Melisse Restaurant in Santa Monica

A Very Special Dinner Party at Melisse Restaurant in Santa Monica!

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“To receive a guest is to take charge of their happiness
during the entire time they are under your roof.”
– Fernand Point

SATURDAY NIGHT’S ALRIGHT FOR DINING! And a Birthday Party for my Mom!

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A fancy restaurant, a private dining room, 13 good friends and family, champagne, wine, great food, gifts, love, conversation and congratulation, and a good time was had by all!

Saturday evening, we had a 7:00pm reservation for a private dinner party at Melisse restaurant for my mother’s birthday. And it was “FABULOUS”!

We drove over the hill on the 405 freeway and down Wilshire boulevard to 11th Street in Santa Monica. Then we drove around for 15 minutes looking for a place to park before we finally gave up and valet parked in the lot behind the restaurant ($8.50 + tip).

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We were the last to arrive at 7:20pm, and because we were asked to take pictures, that was the first order of business after saying hello to everyone. The pictures of the party guests and the Guest of Honor, some pictures of the restaurant, and pictures of the excellent food came out pretty good. We were worried because it was dark in the private dining room and we chose to use the flash on our cheap LG phone even though we had brought our mini iPad camera.

“Melisse is both a two Michelin Star Award winning restaurant and the recipient of Zagats highly coveted top rated restaurant in Los Angeles since 2003.” – Open Table

“Simply superb in every way”, this “refined” “gastronomical wonder” in Santa Monica from Josiah Citrin “defines fine dining”with “inspired”“artful” French-American tasting menus and “spectacular” wine pairings – all “seamlessly” presented by an “intuitive”“world-class” staff in a “chic yet soothing” setting; prices are “not for the faint of heart”, but the “state of bliss” that ensues is “worth every penny.” – Zagat (4.8 out of 5)

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GOOGLE REVIEWS: 4.5 Stars! (141 reviews)
#38 on LA Times food critic Jonathan Gold’s 2017 “101 Best Restaurants” list.

Seasonal French-American cuisine!

We have eaten here before and it was one of the most amazing meals we have ever enjoyed! Read about in our Previous Blog post “Dinner at Melisse” (see the link below). And we were very excited about dining here for Mom’s “Big Birthday” party!
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On The Menu: 1993 Dom Perignon champagne, crab amuse bouche, egg caviar, Maine lobster, dry aged prime New York steak or Spanish turbot (fish), choice of fresh baked bread & butter, red & white wine, chocolate L’Opéra cake, lemon soufflé with fruit & vanilla ice cream and 4 different petit fors:

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A Vintage Vintage! 1993 Dom Perignon Champagne – Cheers!

Let’s begin with a Dom Perignon 1993 Champagne to toast the Guest of Honor!

We began with a champagne toast! Found a bottle of Dom Perignon vintage 1993 tucked away recently. Didn’t know if it would still be good after 25 years. Opened it for the party and it was excellent! So we toasted the Guest of Honor and then we made everyone pose for the “toast picture” (as seen above) taken by our Host.

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“On the nose, this wine opens with notes of red-fleshed peaches, rapidly evolving into cashew nuts and dried herbs. The aromatic experience finishes on a note of lightly toasted brioche. On the palate, it offers a host of well-orchestrated, precise and full-bodied tastes. The initial density becomes creamy, while the long finish ends on a note of glazed citrus fruit.” – Winemaker notes

The unique Dom Perignon style: a rich creamy mousse, fine bubbles, a spirited, crisp opening leading into a broad palette of aromas and tastes, the delicacy of substance itself. Each Cuvee Dom Perignon is cellar-aged for 6 to 8 years.

And then a bottle of fine Chardonnay (white wine) for the egg caviar and lobster courses.

NOTE: Melisse has a fantastic, world-class wine list, however the “Good Stuff” is very expensive (repeat, very expensive), so we brought our own bottles of wine and champagne and paid the corkage fee for each one we opened.

BIG THANKS TO CHEF JOSIE AND THE ENTIRE STAFF AT MELISSE! Everything was excellent. The food was 5 star quality and cooked perfectly. And the service was done with professional precision and attention to detail not found in most restaurants.

NOTE: The red wine, a Pra’ Amarone della Valpolicella (aka Amarone) is a rich Italian dry red wine made from the partially dried Corvina Rondinella grapes and other red grape varieties. Valpolicella is located in the province of Verona, in the Veneto region near Venice. Italy.

“Dark ruby. Very refined nose offers aromas and flavors of spicy dark plum, chocolate-covered cherry and minerals, lifted by strong floral accents (especially lavender and peony). Multilayered and very suave, boasting a long and tactile finish, leaving behind a strong impression of grace and refinement. A very elegant, smooth Amarone of noteworthy depth and complexity but also impeccable balance (you can’t tell this clocks in at 16.5% alcohol).” – Ian D’Agata, Vinous (scored a rating of 94)

Read our Previous Blog post “Dinner at Melisse”
(Right click and “Open in New Window”> https://joshwilltravel.wordpress.com/2013/08/27/dinner-at-melisse/

Melisse Restaurant1104 Wilshire Boulevard, Santa Monica, CA 90401 melisse.com

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Chef Josiah Citrin, in his Santa Monica restaurant Mélisse. Citrin is celebrating Mélisse’s 15 year anniversary in 2014 (photo by Don Kelsen / Los Angeles Times)

NOTE: A meal at Melisse is a real dining experience and it’s expensive! $$$$$
If you can afford it, we recommend this restaurant as a destination in Los Angeles. The menu changes constantly and they have different tasting and course menus available.

All photos copyright 2017 JoshWillTravel

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NOTE: The photo of Sammy Davis Jr. and Gregory Hines is a fantastic gift!

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405 Freeway north into the Sepulveda Pass at night

Sunday Brunch at Manhattan Beach Post in Manhattan Beach!

Sunday Brunch at Manhattan Beach Post in Manhattan Beach, California!

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Sunday Brunch at Manhattan Beach Post, a Social House

NOTE: BLOG IS STILL UNDER CONSTRUCTION! This Blog post isn’t finished… but we have to publish because we aren’t sure if wordpress is saving it and it’s 3:15am.

Forget Football, let’s have Sunday Brunch! Okay, so we watched the morning games and then hit the road after 1pm. The Jacksonville Jaguars had just tied the Los Angeles Chargers at the end of the fourth quarter and were headed for overtime, and we had to leave because we had “a long way to go and a short time to get there” with unknown traffic before arriving at lunch…

405 Freeway south to Manhattan Beach

It was cloudy, overcast and there was a lot of traffic, but it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. We made pretty good time, past the 101/405 intersection and up the hill, past West L.A., past the 405/10 intersection and LAX, past Venice and Marina del Rey, and down to the Manhattan Beach Blvd exit. And of course, Manhattan Beach Blvd was all torn up and under construction and only one lane, so the delay made us late. We got lucky and found metered parking in front of the restaurant, so we were only 15 minutes late.

CLICK ON ANY SMALL PIC TO SEE A LARGER PIC AND VIEW THE GALLERY
AND THEN CLICK AGAIN TO VIEW THE PIC AT FULL SIZE!

 

Manhattan Beach

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Sunday Afternoon at the Manhattan Beach Pier

 

 

Manhattan Beach Post  (a David LeFevre restaurant)

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Manhattan Beach Post (a David LeFevre restaurant)

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AND THEN CLICK AGAIN TO VIEW THE PIC AT FULL SIZE!

The Menu:

On The Menu: Cornbread biscuits with bacon & cheese, honey fried chicken with slaw, pork tacos, broccoliflower, burrata sandwich, lamb gyro, pickles & olives, fries, orange juice, a “Blood & Smoke” bloody mary and chocolate pudding with peanut butter mousse, bacon bits and banana for dessert!

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Sunday Brunch at Manhattan Beach Post  (a David Lefevre restaurant)

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Bad traffic on the 405 going north on the way home, so we got off and took Sepulveda Blvd through West L.A. to Mulholland over the hill to the San Fernando Valley.

 

And Jacksonville beat the L.A. Chargers 20-17 in overtime!
But then the Broncos lost the Sunday night game to the Patriots…..

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GBTA 2013 Convention in San Diego! (Global Business Travel Association)

GBTA 2013 Convention in San Diego! (Global Business Travel Association)

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NOTE: For ThrowbackThursday and FlashbackFriday we found this Blog draft. We laid out all the type and captions back in 2013 and never added the pics or details. So we went to the files for collateral from the convention, found old travel picture files on our other laptop for pictures that were never seen and also went hunting for the pics that we had already downloaded or posted, then we filled in all the details we could remember and constructed this Blog! And even though the event happened in 2013 we still hope you will enjoy this Blog for TravelTuesday in 2017!

We were invited to attend the GBTA 2013 Convention as a “Hosted Buyer”, but we had prior commitments and could only attend the first and second day of the event. So we made a one-night hotel reservation and arranged to attend the “preview day” on Sunday and the first day on Monday.

GBTA 2013 Convention Schedule for Sunday and Monday:
(Vendor Parties not shown) CLICK to SEE A LARGER PIC!

Road Trip to San Diego! – Ride along with me!

It was a foggy Sunday morning when we woke up very early and hit the road to San Diego. We left the San Fernando Valley at 7am to avoid traffic and drove south on the 405 and 5 freeways for about three hours. We were successful and drove fast (we also took pictures as we went) but other drivers were driving really fast! We were really amazed at the speed of some of the cars passing us at very high speeds like we were parked.

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GBTA 2013! – On The Road to San Diego (405 freeway south to 5 freeway south)

Ride along with me to San Diego, just click on the pics below:

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AND THEN CLICK AGAIN TO VIEW THE PIC AT FULL SIZE!

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GBTA 2013! – Downtown San Diego

Embassy Suites Hotel Downtown San Diego (A Hilton Hotel)

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GBTA 2013! – Embassy Suites Hotel Downtown San Diego

CLICK ON ANY SMALL PIC TO SEE A LARGER PIC AND VIEW THE GALLERY
AND THEN CLICK AGAIN TO VIEW THE PIC AT FULL SIZE!

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GBTA 2013! – Embassy Suites Hotel Downtown San Diego Atrium & Skylight

We arrived in San Diego and found our hotel, the Embassy Suites Downtown, sometime after 9am. We found metered street parking two blocks away from the hotel which was FREE and available because it was Sunday. We walked over to the hotel, had breakfast at the complimentary buffet and got an early check in.

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GBTA 2013! – Breakfast Buffet at the Embassy Suites Hotel Downtown San Diego

We went up to the room, checked it out and dropped our luggage. We set up the laptop, hooked into the hotel’s wi-fi and did our morning business via the internet and cell phone.

CLICK ON ANY SMALL PIC TO SEE A LARGER PIC AND VIEW THE GALLERY
AND THEN CLICK AGAIN TO VIEW THE PIC AT FULL SIZE!

After a short time in the room, we walked over to the Hyatt Regency and caught the Free Shuttle to the Convention Center.

Sunday was a “preview” day, so it was not very crowded, just busy. There were a lot of people checking in and the vendors and staff were making preparations for the week ahead. The Exhibition Hall didn’t open until Monday, but we were invited to the “First-Timers” lunch and the Welcome Party at the Hilton on Sunday evening.

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GBTA 2013! Global Business Travel Association Convention in San Diego

We rode the shuttle to the Convention Center, walked to Check-In, checked in and got our credentials, and then we walked to the “first timers” lunch in an adjacent meeting hall.

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GBTA 2013! – San Diego Convention Center

CLICK ON ANY SMALL PIC TO SEE A LARGER PIC AND VIEW THE GALLERY
AND THEN CLICK AGAIN TO VIEW THE PIC AT FULL SIZE!

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GBTA 2013! – “First Timers” Lunch, Orientation and Welcome

On The Menu: Turkey sandwich with mozzarella cheese balls, lettuce & tomato and a slice of apple pie with iced tea, water and coffee

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After lunch, we attended the “Going Global” session, walked around the Convention Center and then we walked to the shuttle pickup point, rode the shuttle back to the Hyatt and then walked back to our hotel. We cleaned up and enjoyed a free cocktail and complimentary appetizers at the Embassy Suites’ afternoon Happy Hour downstairs.

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GBTA 2013 Welcome Reception Party Buffet at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront

After the Happy Hour we drove over to the Hilton Bayfront Hotel and paid $15 to park for the Welcome Reception and Party on the Great Lawn which runs along the Marina.  An outdoor evening buffet for 7000 people or so, with beer/wine and magaritas at the bar.

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GBTA 2013! – Hilton Bayfront Hotel in San Diego

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GBTA 2013! – Hilton Bayfront Hotel in San Diego

NOTE: It was a huge convention! Every hotel in San Diego remotely close to the Convention Center was at capacity and filled with Travel Agents, Vendors, Travel Writers and other attendees from all over the United States and other parts of the world. We commented on the size of the crowd to a staff person at the Convention Center and they just laughed because Comic-Con had been in town the week before and the size of GBTA convention wasn’t even close to the overflow crowd for Comic-Con.

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GBTA 2013 Welcome Reception Party on the Great Lawn – the Hilton Bayfront Hotel in San Diego

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GBTA 2103 Welcome Reception Party on the Great Lawn – the Hilton Bayfront Hotel in San Diego

On The Menu at the Welcome Reception Party Buffet at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront:
Buffalo chicken meatballs, lamb meatballs in a tomato sauce, pasta in lobster sauce, pita chips and a bunch of types of hummus, prime rib sliders with cheese, chicken potstickers, veggie potstickers, pork potstickers, other stuff too, and then on to the dessert table! Nice truffle selection, chocolate covered strawberries, candy lollipops in a bunch of weird flavors and mini-pastries…

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GBTA 2013! – Sunset Over A Sea of Travel Industry at the Hilton Bayfront Hotel in San Diego

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We walked to over to Roy’s Hawaiian Fusion Restaurant for the next party. It was a long “Las Vegas” walk just after dark along the Marina and Bayfront to get to Roy’s, but it was worth it! We immediately regretted eating at the Welcome Party Buffet, because there was an amazing assortment of incredible food at Roy’s!

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GBTA 2013! – The Kitchen at Roy’s Hawaiian Fusion Restaurant in San Diego

There were all kinds of sushi and cut rolls, egg rolls, chicken and beef satay skewers, Hawaiian style ribs, other tasty appetizers and finger foods, fresh fruit and a lot of fancy desserts. We ate and drank and networked until it got too crowded inside the large restaurant and we didn’t take any pictures (except the one of the kitchen above). We left the party early and took a little food “to go” for later at the hotel. We didn’t want to do anymore walking or make the long dark walk back to the Hilton parking structure, so we negotiated with a pedal cab guy and survived a really fast and wild nighttime ride back to the hotel along the Bayfront for $10+tip.

We walked to our car and drove back to the Embassy Suites. We valet parked our car at the hotel and retired to our hotel room. We did some work, ate the “to go” food (ribs, sushi and little chocolate balls) after midnight and went to bed.

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Monday morning, we were up early and we enjoyed the Embassy Suites’ breakfast buffet again. We took the food up to the room, ate and did some more work, and then packed up our stuff, went downstairs and had a second breakfast. After eating again we got our stuff and checked out of the hotel. We picked up the car from the valet, drove to over the Convention Center and paid to park there. Parking was $15 for all day until midnight.

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GBTA 2013! – Embassy Suites Hotel Breakfast Buffet (in the room)

We arrived in time and got a pretty good seat for the Keynote Address and Lunch for 6000 people with a presentation and performance by singer/songwriter Jewel. All of the front area tables were “Reserved” so we took a seat at a forward table in the first section behind the front area. The hall at the Convention Center was massive! Lunch for 6000 is not an easy task!

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GBTA 2013 Keynote Lunch with Jewel at the San Diego Convention Center

Monday’s GBTA 2013 Keynote Speaker Jewel performs
“Who Will Save Your Soul” live at the San Diego Convention Center

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https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=703198789706690&set=vb.337421319696080&type=2&theater (facebook video)

On The Menu: iceberg lettuce salad, bread & butter, stuffed chicken breast with pesto sauce, vegetables, a fruit tart dessert and iced tea.

After lunch they opened the massive Exposition Hall which ran the entire length of the Convention Center and was filled with Vendors and Suppliers. There were also Vendor meetings scheduled for the afternoon. We walked a portion of the Exhibition Hall, collected brochures/information/swag and received invitations to events later on that evening and later in the week. It would have been impossible to cover the whole Exhibition Hall in one day, so we didn’t try. Instead we did what we could between 3-6pm and dropped all the promotional material in our car before beginning the evening activities.

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GBTA 2013! – The Gaslamp District Sign in San Diego

The Gaslamp District!
The Historic Heart of San Diego is located across the street and train tracks from the Convention Center. Bars, clubs, restaurants, hotels and plenty of gift shops are within easy walking distance (unless you’ve already walked all day).

Let’s get this party started!
We were invited to eight different parties happening at different locations around the Gaslamp District and the Bayfront near the Convention Center.

Monday Party # 1 – Sunset cocktails and dinner at the Altitude Lounge

Our first invitation was for a party at the Altitude Lounge on top of the Marriott Gaslamp Hotel. We walked over to the Marriott Hotel next door to the Convention Center, but it was the wrong Marriott. So then we walked over to the Gaslamp District and found the right hotel. We ate and drank and watched the sunset from the rooftop patio.

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Excellent view of San Diego and Mission Bay from the outdoor patio!