Sunset

Sunset

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

JAPAN

JAPAN

As full-time RV'ers we are always looking forward to our next adventures to explore and see what the city or area has to offer. When we arrive I get that feeling of excitement of finding out what's around the corner. When we take a break from the road and return to Ohio to see family I get the feeling of peace. 

I moved to Japan at age 19 to live on my own for the first time. Living on my own for the first time in a foreign country, not known the language, culture or history would be hard for anyone. I did not choice to live in Japan, Japan was assigned to me. Unknowingly at the time, the stars must have aligned and fate that brought me to Japan. Even though I worked on a Military base that spoke English I lived off base and experienced Japan like any other foreigner. I feel in love with Japan, it's history and culture. The ten years I lived in Japan taught me I could concur my fears and that nothing could stand in my way of dream and goals. I meet the woman of my dreams and married her, I had a successful 20 year Navy career, I retired at age 38, I now travel the US, Canada & Mexico in my RV. I could not have asked for a better life than this.

Twenty-six years latter I find myself back in Japan for seven weeks to visit family and explore. Leading up to my arrival to Japan I did not know how I would feel, excited or at peace? As I got off the plane and saw my father-in-law, I felt at peace and knew I was home. 

Friday, June 30, 2017

LAS VEGAS, NV

LAS VEGAS, NV

We first visited Las Vegas in 1995 over the next 22 years we would return seven more times. Every time we returned it would get less exciting and more expensive. Free entertainment, cheep food and free parking are things of the pass. We still like to get out and take in what Vegas has to offer if not just for the views at least the exercise of walking up and down The Strip. We still like getting out and trying to find something new. The next two months we are staying at Nellis AFB FAMCAMP where we'll explore Vegas to find the free and cheep experiences (with the occasionally splurge) that may not be well known to visitors. If there is no price in the description, then it was free.

When I first started this post I did not think it would be this long, but I assure you it will be a good read and maybe you'll get some great ideas for your next visit to Vegas.

Visit the Welcome to Las Vegas Sign first! Regardless of what happens next... the photo's you take here will be the beginning of your Vegas story. What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. This is your proof that it seemed like a good idea at the time. Now easier then ever to stop and take a picture there is a 12 car parking lot. There is parking space for bus or RV, but the entrance and exit is narrow. If coming into town you will have to make a U-turn to enter the parking.


Something I just started to do in the last few years is take pictures of survey markers in towns and cities we visit. As we walked along The Strip we found several survey makers with the Welcome to Vegas sign. This is by far the most unique marker I have found so far.

Hiromi used to work at Nirita Airport in Japan and there is just something about watching planes land. Along McCarran International Airport runs E Sunset RD where there is a pull-off to Airport Observation Parking. We found this by pure dumb luck. We pulled in and watched planes takeoff and land. You can even turn your radio to 101.1FM and listen to air traffic communication as you watch the planes.



Hiromi LOVES chocolate, we try to visit/ tour chocolate factories where ever we go. In Vegas we toured Ethal M chocolate factory and cactus garden. Since the last time we visited this factory, it has been remodeled and we had to visit it again. Added bounce we got free chocolate samples after the self guided tour along the widow viewing arrea. To top off the visit we took a walked in the Botanical Cactus Garden.



A few miles South of The Strip off of  I-15 we stopped at Silverton Hotel to see the Aquarium that sits in the middle of the Casino and lobby entrance. You can even have breakfast with a Silverton Mermaid. Sorry no pictures of the aquarium.     

Treasurer Island had a great Pirate Show in front of their hotel. We were lucky enough to see it on our first visit to Vegas. The Pirate show is now gone, only the boats remain.

The MGM had lions in their lobby behind glass cage where you could even walk under and see lions on either side of you. The lions are gone, now they have a boxing ring in the lobby promoting there next big fight.

The Rio had floating Mardi Gras over the casino floor where they would throw out beads. That is now gone. The last show was on 31 Mat 2013. However, you can still see the rails on the ceiling. For all you ladies Chippendales review show is here (FYI I did not go) and for all you rockers there is a KISS mini golf with band memorabilia.








The volcano show at the Mirage was under construction a few times when we visited in the past, but looks to be back and better then ever,
If you want to see the complete volcano show checkout my YouTube video CLICK HERE 

If you are not staying at the Mirage, after the volcano show make a trip inside to see the aquarium behind the reception desk.

The wildlife habitat is still full of flamingos and other animals along with waterfalls at The Flamingo.



The famous Fountains of Bellagio still runs (for now), but sometimes late. There is talk that the Bellagio is going to shut down the fountains and turn the area into an outdoors shopping area. I personally think it's a mistake. This might be one of the last times I ever get to see this iconic landmark in Vegas.
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We stopped at The Bellagio Conservatory Garden to see whats new. They have a different theme every few months.


Just behind the gardens, we found a Guinness World Record Chocolate Fountain. Measures 26' 3" tall and circulates 2 tons of chocolate at a rate of 120 quarts per minute.

                        

A few hours after we left, The Bellagio caught fire.The reports said it was caused by the faulty outside lights. Only thing we could see when we returned to check it out was construction barriers.

You can spend a whole day of fun at Circus Circus at not even know it. On the 2nd floor there is Adventuredome, a mini amusement park. Costing around $30 will get you unlimited ride all day. There are rides for all age groups and we were impressed how many rides were in such a small area with plenty of room for walking around and safety. There is even video games and circus carnival games where you win stuff animals. We saw kids walking around with large garbage bag full of stuff animals.



What makes Circus Circus? Of course a free Circus. Everyday from 11am - 11pm are show of high flying and daring acts.


We have been in Caesars Place mall several times, but never walked all the way to the back. Good thing we did as we were surprised with an aquarium and at the top of every hour a free show of the Fall of Atlantis.



On the first floor just outside the Palazzo Casino is the Palazzo Waterfall.

Venetian has the famous outside and 2nd floor mall gondola ride. Gondola ride is $116 a couple or share with another couple for $29 each. The ride itself is not very long, but that has not deterred other from waiting in long lines for the ride. We decided to just take a picture of us with the gondola in the background.


New York New York steak house age drys,then age wet their meat for a total of five weeks before serving it in their restaurant.


The tower at Paris is $10 day and $20 night a person with Military discount. It's free on your birthday (need drivers license for proof). Guess were I'm taking Hiromi on her birthday? When we arrived on Hiromi's Birthday, Paris was no longer offering free rides to the top on your Birthday. We went up before, so there was no nee to do it again.

We tried to beat the 116 degrees heat outside by going to Minus 5 degrees in Monte Carlo. This is a bar were everything is made from ice including the walls, chair, table and even the glass we drank from. We had to wear parkas and gloves just to stay some what warm. Not sure how we got in so cheap, but we did not complain. It might have been when I asked for Military discount (they did not have) and we were the only ones in the bar when we arrived. We could not take phones or cameras inside the bar, as people in the pass complained of their phones and cameras not working anymore. The heat from their phone sitting on ice table that froze to the table and battier life being shorter because of the cool temperatures. Sadly, for us there is no pictures for this BLOG or video for our VLOG. The only way to get pictures was to buy one from the bar. TOURIST TRAP, but it was Hiromi's Birthday and we wanted one. Usually $19 a person just to walk in with gloves and parka with drinks costing about $12 each. There are several package deals you can get with drinks included. We paid less than $40 (before tip) for the both of us with one drink apiece and the picture, better price than we expected.

On Memorial Day the High Roller Ferris wheel was free to active, retired and dependence with Military ID. Usually $22 a person during the days and $37 per person at night (with Military discounts) we jumped at the chance to take in The Strips view. Standing at 550' tall and taking 30 minutes to make one complete circle.We arrived just before sunset and in our cabin we had only one other couple. Good thing we went up when we did, because on our return the lines for the night view was super long and the cabins were packed full.




I remember buffets were cheep, not anymore. Most of the restaurants on The Strip will set you back $75- $90 for two. Also, most of the hotels now charge for parking. There are still a few hotels with free parking, but very few as more and more hotels are starting to charge now. As of this post these are the hotels we used with free parking Rio, Hard Rock, Circus Circus, Tropicana, Hooters and Planet Hollywood.

We found a few restaurants off The Strip that are more reasonable. Located in China Town Makino an all you can eat sushi restaurant for $18 (lunch).






Another place Gyu-Kaku a Japanese BBQ also located in China Town has a great prices for Happy Hour meals. We arrived shortly after 2pm and had the Happy Hour special for $45 with a draft Sapporo beer for only $2. The meal was large for two with at least ten piece set. Needless to say we were full and did not eat the rest of the day. The meal set we had is $61 at regular dinner price. We asked for military discount, but they had only local discount of 10%, and they gave us local discount instead.


We did not leave our exploring just to Vegas, we got out and explored Nevada (Arizona boarder) too.

Get to Hoover Dam early, we arrived shortly after 10am (weekday). We passed through security checkpoint and found free parking with easy. As we were leaving, traffic coming in was almost at a stand still as cars made there way to full garage parking and full free hill side park. It has really been a long time since we visited Hoover Dam. We did all the tours in the Dam the first time we visited, but now there is Mike O'Callaghan- Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge. Construction started on 14 Feb 2005 and ended on  14 Oct 2010 with a length of 1,900' connecting Arizona and Nevada along US 93. We walked out to the middle and looked towards the Dam. This is the first time we were ever able to see the Dam from this view straight on. Just remarkable!

   Looking out from Memorial Bridge                  Looking down from the top of the Dam
                         


Hoover Dam centers on the Arizona-Nevada boarder  

There is a major drought or water shortage as you can see form the pictures below. The white area is were the water level once stood.


We only walked around the Dam and took pictures, it was still hot. This day the temperature was in the high 90's, but the rest of the weeks forecast is 100-110. This was the best day of the week to go and we still need assistance to cool down.

Just a short drive across the boarder from the Hoover Dam into Arizona is Willow Beach. Part of Lake Mead NRA, and free to enter. We were going to take a hike and see Arizona Hot Springs that has a 20' high side canyon that you can only enter by climbing the ladder the National Park installed to get to the Hot Springs. Also, on another trail close by is the Liberty Bell Arch. Unfortunately, the National Parks had both trails closed during the summer months as temperatures reach well over 100. These trails are still on our "TO DO LIST", but we'll have to wait until winter/ fall months to check them off.

I was hopping to have a YouTube video completed to go along with this post, but with over 600 video files to go through and edit there is just no time. I still want to make one, but it will take some time.

HELPFUL HINT
1) As you can probably tell I'm not shy of asking for military (or any kind of) discount. Places have them, but do not advertise them. As my mother always said, "It doesn't hurt to ask".

2) The pedestrian deaths in Nevada is outrages. On average four pedestrians are hit a week over the last two months we have been in Vegas. Almost every night on the news someone gets hit (most died) by cars. I have seen first hand cars speeding on The Strip and people crossing the streets were there is no crosswalk or crossing on Don't Walk singles. Be safe and DON'T BE A VEGAS STATISTICS.