Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Cardinals 2013-2014 Season: Of Birds and Beers

It was only a matter of time before Philip's two favorite things would be combined.  No, not vodka and cranberry juice.  No, not bicycling and texting.  It's the CARDINALS and the LUCKY CHARM!

Philip and his buddy Jim Miller have had Cardinals tickets since 1993, in the days when rooting for a losing team also required sweating your ass off in metal bleachers in Sun Devil Stadium.  It was a joyous move to Cardinals Stadium in Glendale.

And although tailgating on their "Great Lawn" is fun, it is also a tremendous amount of work.  Once you have jammed your tents, chairs, tables, awnings, BBQ grill, coolers, boxes and everything else into your car, THEN you have to unpack all that stuff when you arrive in your parking lot, load it all onto a dolly, haul it over searing hot asphalt and non-dolly friendly curbs, arrive at the Great Lawn, set everything up .... and then do the whole thing in reverse when you are done. Whew!

Enter the tailgating method of choice for lazy middle-agers .... 
roll up in the RV and avoid all that manual labor!

Within moments, you are on your way to having fun .... like these crazy critters!

But before we could start Lucky Charm tailgating, Philip screwed up his courage and found the guts to have "THE TALK" with me.  The talk about how the RV bedroom was decorated in such a way that it was a bit of an embarrassment to manly-men who pound their chests and do shots of tequila to hydrate themselves.

I immediately saw the error of my ways, and now the bedroom is much more acceptable:

But tailgating is all about FOOD.  We have a lot of variety in our tailgating menus, which this season has included such delicacies as marinated lamb chops, teriyaki tri-tip steak sandwiches, BBQ baby back ribs, and jumbo bacon-wrapped hot dogs; with sides like pesto tortellini salad, corn on the cob, deviled eggs, cheese potatoes, and much more yumminess!

But the one item that MUST be included at EVERY tailgate party, is my famous lucky coleslaw.  Did you notice how the Cardinals are having a winning season this year?  That is because of the lucky coleslaw!!!  Here is how you make it!

1 large package prepared shredded cabbage/carrot mix (approx. 8 cups/16 oz)
             **I sometimes add extra shredded carrot or purple cabbage if the prepared 
                 mix is mostly green cabbage**
Chopped cilantro to taste – about 1/4 volume of cabbage
Chopped peanuts or cashews to taste
Couple handsful of Craisins (dried cranberries) to taste
Fresh corn cut off the cob to taste (optional)
1 jar Lighthouse brand coleslaw dressing – in refrigerated produce section of grocery store

The RV has a TV on the outside so nobody misses a single sports moment.  We were 
very happy to discover that we get great game reception simply from the rooftop antenna, 
and did not need to buy a satellite dish or any other special fancy equipment!  Hip hip hurray!

There is lots of fun to be had in the RV Parking Lot or the grassy-green field right next door.
For one thing, the RV Lot has lots of rowdy groups that show up.  For instance, this past
week a trolley proudly advertising "Cheetahs Gentlemen's Strip Club" rolled in, filled with 
scantily clad women in high heels!  I am quite certain that those girls had a deep working 
knowledge of football and a dedicated interest in the National Football League!  Right?

But for more innocent fun, you can throw a football or a frisbee or just hang out with fun people.

Like these dudes.

Or these chicks.

The RV Lot is located to the south and east of the stadium .... lower right starred green area on this map.
Even if you park in another lot, it is a short and easy walk to get there! 

We have only one more tailgating party planned for the 2013 regular Cardinals season, 
on Sunday December 29 (vs. the San Francisco 49'ers).  We will be tailgating from 12:00-1:45'ish 
and would love to see you out there, because after all ... THE GOAL IS FUN!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Las Vegas, NV: Drunks, Police Escorts, Stripper Nurses ... It Must Be "Viva Bike Vegas"!

What do you get when you combine a 104-mile bike race that starts with dodging cheering drunks stepping onto the race course, that requires a police escort for the first 17 miles, and that ends with a stripper dressed as a nurse helping you up off the asphalt?  Well, it could only be "VIVA BIKE VEGAS"!

This is one of Philip's favorite bike races each year because the terrain is beautiful, through all of the desert mountains that surround Vegas, and it is one of the FEW bike races that is harder in the first half than the second half.  Most races, for whatever evil reason, are flat and easy right about until the point when you get really tired ... THEN the uphill climbs appear.  You can almost picture the people who plan the routes  .... "muhhh haaaah haaaah <that was an evil laugh>, here comes a bunch of weak, exhausted, sweaty, sunburned riders who have already ridden 70 miles .... NOW let's see them REALLY work" .... but this ride is the opposite and so Philip loves it!

But before he could ride the race, we had to get there.  We extracted Max from school early on Friday and headed to Vegas.  It took approximately 2.5 minutes for him, his Ipad, and his tunes to get happily tucked away in his "NEST", the area above the driver's seat in the R.V., where he would remain for the five-hour drive.

We checked in to the Oasis Las Vegas RV Park, which is on the strip about 3 miles south of Mandalay Bay, a very convenient location to the start of the race.  First order of business ... Max must be initiated into RV setup!  He was a sewer-line virgin, but now he's a pro!

We then went to registration headquarters, where (among other things) Philip was required to sign a form that indicated if he saw a desert tortoise on the race course, he would not harm it.  What about desert hares? Condors? Mexican gray wolves? All the other species who would also prefer not to be harmed?  The tortoises must have a really good lobbyist and legal team to get this special treatment.

Philip had convinced his friend Ryan (in a moment of weakness) to do the Viva Bike Vegas ride with him, so we met Ryan and his wife Erin for dinner.  We are in Vegas on business at least every other week so have eaten at many restaurants, and Lemongrass at The Aria is one of our favorites for Thai food ... delicious and (by Vegas standards, anyway) reasonably priced.  The boys "carbed up"  (more rice! more noodles!) and then it was an early bedtime.

At 5:15 AM the prep began.  Getting ready for a long race is no quick task.  Attach numbers in three places ... helmet, jersey and bike. Attach timing chip. Appy butt butter. (Don't ask.)  Apply mist sunscreen.  Disable screeching carbon monoxide alarm in RV, which goes off when mist sunscreen is applied.  Four large bottles of ice water with electrolyte powder.  Energy bars. Goo (energy stuff disguised as flavored snot).  Sweat towel.  Ipod, preloaded by wife with 8-9 hours of rocking music. Gloves. Headband. Helmet. Review mirror on helmet. New cleats on shoes. Charged GPS gadget. Route map. Bracelet with emergency contact info. Aero bars. Air in tires. Spare tube. CO2 to inflate spare tube. Camera that blog-writing wife begs you to use along the route.  Whew!

This race starts on the south end of the Las Vegas Strip and the first five miles or so go right up the center of the Strip.  It is always fun because at 6:00 AM there are still the random groups of drunk guys bellowing to each other, and girls in teeny tiny clothes clutching yardstick cocktails, wandering down the sidewalk and not wanting the night to end (or maybe just getting started early).  They tend to step out into the street and try to hand the riders beers as they zip by, which makes it interesting but also dangerous.  Motorcycle cops escort riders for the first 17 or so miles, then it is out into the mountains where they do a huge route around the circumference of the Vegas Valley for the next 7-8 hours.

Philip may have had his mission, but Max and I had one of our own.  While dining at Fogo de Chao, a Brazilian steakhouse in Scottsdale, we had fallen in love with Guarana soda, a Brazilian import that is similar to ginger ale, but a little sweeter with a hint of cherry flavor.  We couldn't find anywhere in AZ to purchase it, and the online sellers wanted to demand ransom prices PLUS ridiculous shipping costs.  In a rare moment of inspiration, however, I thought there might be a place in Vegas that we could buy it.  Indeed, there was ... "Brazil Store Las Vegas"!  While Philip was racing, we went and cleaned out their stock.  Max was a very happy boy!

 Philip was expecting they would end the race around 2:00 PM.  However, the news reports for the night before were full of "HAZARDOUS WIND WARNINGS" and they were not joking!  During the day of the race, Vegas had sustained winds of 40 MPH with gusts up to 55 MPH.  The riders had to literally lean INTO the wind if it was at their side, just to stay upright ... and if it was at their front (which, of course, it almost always is ... there is NEVER a tailwind in biking! hah!) it slowed their pace considerably.  At 2:45 they still hadn't arrived.  3:15 ... still hadn't arrived.  3:45 .... still hadn't arrived.  Max and Erin were stumped ... "Where could they be? .......

Finally, at 4:15 ... the triumphant warriors returned.  There had been an injury stop for Crash Miller, whose bike had gone down on a crossways railroad track.  He was pitched into the street and heard the squeal of car brakes but luckily did not feel a subsequent thump of car metal.  The driver jumped out and came running over.  Wouldn't you know it ... she was a nurse!  Oh, lucky day!  Wait a minute.  Hmmmm.  Smoking an electronic cigarette.  Wearing a lot of makeup and high heels.  OHHHHH, not a real nurse, a stripper whose act includes dressing like a nurse.  Philip was not technically sure which type of nurse he would have preferred!  Only in Vegas.  At any rate, he got back on the bike and finished the race despite flesh wounds to the leg and worse wounds to the ego.

The boys were exhausted but jubilant!  104 miles in 40 MPH winds = warriors!
Great job, Philip and Ryan!

We returned to the Lucky Charm for a quick cheeseburger dinner ...........

Then off to see a show --- "Jabbawockeez Prism."  The Jabbawockeez is an eight-member, all-male, hip-hop dance crew who won the first season of America's Best Dance Crew.  They are amazingly talented and the music was loud, rockin' and totally fun!  The show also had a lot of comedic elements to it, which was entertaining as well.  We loved it! 

Alas, the 48 hour Viva Bike Vegas adventure came to an end on Sunday.  Max and I would drive the Lucky Charm back to Phoenix, while Philip remained in Vegas through Tuesday night for work.  It was strange driving off and leaving him behind (don't worry, he had a rental car) but we were glad to have witnessed his epic Viva Bike Vegas success!  Most importantly, we added another state to our RV Adventure Map!

There are no more big trips planned in the Lucky Charm until after the holidays, though we are taking her out to tailgate at all of the Arizona Cardinals home games this season!  Please come join us if you are heading to a game at Cardinals Stadium!  We are eagerly planning trips to Bisbee, Tombstone and southern Arizona; as well as a long summer trip to Yosemite or Yellowstone in 2014.  Future adventures await!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Springfield, IL; Santa Rosa, NM; Show Low and Scottsdale, AZ ... THE FINAL 4 S's! (Days 13-16)

The memorable stops on the way back all started with "S":  Springfield; Santa Rosa; Show Low; and of course, the final, final stop:  Scottsdale! The last four days of our journey home were slow ... and made slower by my toxic meltdown after a 10-hour day of nonstop driving in high winds and heavy traffic.  We "recalibrated" our path (that's nice-talk for "Philip decided to see things my way") to include routes that would require no more than seven total hours of driving a day, making for a much more pleasant journey and therefore a much more pleasant marriage.

The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum was our primary interest in Springfield, and it was truly one of the coolest museums we've ever been to!  It wasn't too big, wasn't too small, and really brought Lincoln's life, to life!  It was super interesting that there were at least as many foreign visitors, speaking foreign languages, in this museum as there were Americans!  We had to wonder whether we would bother to visit a Vladimir Putin, or Nicolas Sarkozy museum, if we were traveling abroad.

The entire museum was multi-media and highly interactive, including amazing 3D movies and performances. For instance, if order to understand how volative were all of the many dissenting opinions surrounding the Civil War and slavery, visitors went through a corridor that was filled with multiple layers of fun-house style mirrors, and on each of the 40+ mirrors was a hologram face of a person that looked 100% real, shouting their opinions at you, all at once.  We loved, loved, loved this museum!

Driving from Illinois through Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas and down to New Mexico was a continuation of beautiful scenery, and yet Missouri took the cake for interesting small town names.  Pilot Knob. Evening Shade. Licking. Success. Cabool. Eminence. Fruitland. Bland. Clever. Climax Springs. Fair Play.  They clearly have a sense of humor in Missouri!

We stayed Night 14 in Santa Rosa, New Mexico, which was a largely abandoned, formerly-thriving town on Historic Route 66.  They are known, however, for the "Blue Hole" which is one of the most popular scuba-diving destinations in the U.S. Scuba diving?  In the scrubby desert in the middle of New Mexico?  Huh, how about that!  It maintains a constant temperature of 64 degrees and a constant inflow of 3,000 gallons of water per minute, meaning the water recycles completely every six hours! 

We did not have any scuba tanks in the RV (dang! I knew I forgot to pack something!) but did ride our bikes to dinner at the famous Comet II Mexican Restaurant, which has been in continuous operation and owned by the same family since 1927.  It reminded me a lot of Phoenix's Tee-Pee Restaurant ... very dive-y with awesome food. 

We asked about a particular sauce mentioned on the menu and the waitress disappeared into the back and came out with samples of each of their five world-renowned sauces ... each one hotter than the next!  Eeek! But all equally delicious!

After dinner, we enjoyed our final "Theatre Under The Stars" of the trip, sitting outside and enjoying a movie. This is one of our favorite features of the RV and we have done this a lot!

Between Santa Rosa and Show Low, we traveled through the Il Malpais National Monument Area and were treated to some amazing scenery!  This is literally the middle-of-nowhere, partially on the Indian Reservation of New Mexico, and we saw very few other vehicles during the 1.5 hours on this road.  It was amazingly tranquil and we couldn't believe the beauty.

Show Low would be the last stop of this 16-day journey, and we ended on a familiar note as Philip's cousins Jean and Nancy, who live there during the summer, hosted us for a home-cooked lasagna dinner.  Of course, it was a delight to eat something that had not been prepared over a tiny propane cooktop!

Happy cousin reunion!  Can you tell we are related?

No matter how much fun we had on this trip, of course we were also eager to get back home.  Philip threw it into gear, revved the engine, and floored it for the final leg to Scottsdale.  This road sign was made specifically for someone like him ... taking corners at 80 miles an hour in his excited rush to return to the motherland!

The 16-day "RAGBRAI or Bust Tour" was everything we could have hoped for ... fun ... educational ... recreational ... and inspiring.  We now have seven of the states on our Happy Trails map filled in.  We went more than 3,200 miles and lived to tell the tale.  We agreed with a bumper sticker we saw on another RV, "Home is Where You Park It."  Most importantly, we learned that we can live happily and simply together in less than 250 square feet for multiple days on end, and still love each other at the end of it all!  

Our next planned adventure in the Lucky Charm will be next month, when we go to Las Vegas for the 103- mile "Viva Bike Vegas" ride.  This is one of Philip's favorites, because the ride starts at 6:00 AM and goes smack-dab down the center of the Las Vegas Strip, where still-awake-still-drunk-still-wandering-the-streets people cheer them on and try to hand them those tall yardstick drinks as they set out.  Stay tuned for our next Charming Adventure!

Pontiac, IL: PLACES WE LOVED (Day 12)

Our four-day journey back to Scottsdale included stops at places that were deemed by the Diversions Committee (President, Philip Miller) to be important or memorable, and (most importantly) were directly on the route home.  One such city was Pontiac, Illinois (, home of the National Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum.  A majority of our travels both east and west were on Route 66, so we were interested!

Pontiac is a small, old-fashioned town with lots of charm, and even though it is small, it houses four great museums:

Livingston County War Museum (honoring members of the Armed Forces); 
Pontiac & Oakland Automobile Museum (all things related to Pontiac and Oakland cars); 
Walldog Mural and Signart Museum (history of outdoor mural & advertising painting); 
National Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum (memorabilia from the glory days of the "Mother Road").

Pontiac had old-fashioned bakeries, toy stores, boutiques, and the town's "coffee shop" was actually just the downstairs garage of one building, where they threw open the garage door each day and had lots of little bistro tables in there.  It was adorable!

We only had time for one museum (gotta stay on schedule, don'tcha know!), so we chose a converted 3-story building housing the Route 66 Museum, full of memorabilia and stories of the people who helped shape the first national byway.  Outside was this funky bus that actually ferried schoolchildren along Route 66 in Illinois.  It had (obviously) been converted and modified in lots of fun ways!

The famous Bob Waldmire orange 1972 VW bus is housed here.  Bob Waldmire was a famous artist who died in 2009, but during his life he traveled Route 66 constantly and lived in this bus.  He was a well-known snowbird, who actually spent his winter months in Arizona's Chiricahua Mountains.  This bus was the inspiration for the character of Fillmore in the "Cars" movie (they actually wanted to call it Waldmire, but Bob was unwilling to sell the marketing rights to Disney for the toy series that would be in McDonalds Happy Meals).  Seeing all the junk inside reminded us of how our RV is starting to look after two weeks on the road!

The Campanelli Route 66 Photo Journal Exhibit was cool because each room was of a specific state (the Kansas Room; the Illinois Room; the Arizona Room; etc.) and had amazingly beautiful and vibrant photos.  We had never heard of some of the cities listed under some of the Arizona photos, and had to wonder if they no longer exist, or we are just woefully uneducated and self-absorbed.

But what was really amaze-balls about Pontiac, Illinois was the town's collection of huge wall murals painted on 23 different buildings.  Can you believe these are painted and not real?

Many of them were "advertisements" from a long-gone era. 

Of course, we liked the one featuring Sprinkles the best!!!!

Our travels continue through Springfield, Illinois ... next stop, Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum, where we will indulge my love of history, tour guides, multimedia presentations and gift shops, all in one stop!