Final expenses for 25 days in Nevada…Back out “to the world tomorrow!”….A new normal…

Mountain view on a rare cloudy day.

This morning I packed my one suitcase of clothing and collected items for our supplies bag. My bag weighs well under the 50 lb maximum (23 kg). Indeed today, I’ll find odds and ends to get me up to the 23 kg maximum allowed by the airlines.

In a way, it’s bittersweet, packing and leaving the US once again for the next two years when once again we’ll return to visit family. Next time, we won’t stay quite as long, most likely for a total of one month between Minnesota and Nevada, giving us plenty of time to be with family and friends.

Here are our total expenses for the 25 nights in Henderson, Nevada:

 Expense   US Dollar 
Housing (Richard’s home)   $                         
 Gifts & Misc.   $                  299.00
 Airfare    $               1,137.00
 Rental Car & Fuel  $                  926.00
 Groceries   $               1,245.30
 Dining Out   $                  402.52
 Supplies & Pharmacy   $                  609.32
 Entertainment   $                  310.25
 Total   $               4,929.39
 Avg Daily Cost 25 days   $                  197.18

Now, as we pack and make the necessary preparations to continue our world journey, we’ve further discovered that this nomadic life we live is our “new normal.” 

There’s no way we can envision living in one place, renting a condo somewhere, and returning to a life of owning “stuff,” shopping among the crowds, waiting in traffic, and considering times to go out based on when “rush hour” ends. That’s no longer who we are.

We ask ourselves, “Was that ever us anyway?”

Two Mallards are sharing a rock in the pond at the Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve.

As we’ve melded into life in the convenient Henderson, Nevada location, over these past 25 days, we’ve realized how far removed this easy life is from our reality. Living in constant temperature-controlled comfort, with nary an insect in sight, little wildlife, and nature surrounding us, we’re starving to be living in a challenging environment.

To be surrounded by nature, including the good and not so good, and the occasional discomforts that remind us of our humanness and vulnerability, is where we long to be.

One of eight ponds in the preserve.

That’s not to say that living in a luxury villa in Costa Rica will be tough. It will be easy in most ways. But, we’ll be surrounded by expansive views, varying temperatures and climate, and some of the finest wildlife in the world. 

Costa Rica is a country rich in unique and colorful inhabitants, both human and animal. Yes, modern conveniences will be enjoyed and appreciated but never taken for granted. Our goals will still be to focus on that which always appeals to us the most.

Is this a weather ball I shot from a distance?

We have a plethora of tasks to complete while in Costa Rica, including tax stuff, visa extensions, trips to a dentist (we’ve both lost a few fillings), other financial “paperwork,” and beginning the process of preparing for the Antarctica cruise which requires medical certifications and tons of forms to complete.

We hope to get as much of this “work” completed shortly after we arrive to leave us ample time to focus on our interests in culture and take photos of the extraordinary scenery and wildlife that Costa Rica offers in abundance.

Today, we’ll complete the packing, make a quick trip to the market to replace any paper products and supplies we used while living in Richard’s home (he doesn’t expect this but, that’s just us), and fill the little white car with fuel. 

Mountains surround the Las Vegas valley.

Tonight, we’ll all dine on the leftover pizza which I made yesterday with a new salad I’ll make today.  Overall, with as much as we’ve already completed, the day won’t be much busier than most. Thanks, Richard, for an excellent stay in your beautiful home!

Tomorrow, we’ll post from the airport while we await our flight. We’re leaving for the airport at 8:30 am, although our flight isn’t until 11:25 am. Returning the rental car is far from the airport and requires a 10 minute or more ride in a shuttle to return to the airport where I’ll be waiting for Tom.

Tom feels more comfortable leaving for the airport earlier rather than later. I’m OK with that since it is an international flight after all, and I’ll have more time to upload a new post while we’re waiting.

We’ll be back tomorrow with some favorite Nevada photos and our goodbyes once again to the USA as we continue on our “new normal.” We can’t stop smiling.

May your day bring many smiles!

Photo from one year ago today, July 31, 2016:

One of two long piers in Chalong Bay. At that time, I was still recovering from the spine injury in Bali occurring on June 1, 2016, and I couldn’t make the long walk on the pier. Now, I wouldn’t have thought about it twice.  For more photos, please click here.

Last night at the Las Vegas Strip…Dinner and movie…Two days and counting…

Tom, walking toward the Palms entrance, one of the less exciting casinos in Las Vegas located off the Strip near the Rio.

Last night, we joined Richard and friends for one last night at the Las Vegas Strip. Since most likely we won’t have access to English-speaking movies in theatres for some time, we all decided to see the famous war epic, Dunkirk would be a good choice.

Choosing to see it in an IMAX theater may not have been the perfect decision. The sound was ear-splitting, and although we sat a distance from the massive screen, it felt as if we were too close.

We walked through the casino after dinner to the IMAX Theatre to see Dunkirk.

As for the movie itself, I probably liked it the most. Tom’s not a fan of movies that ‘jump around” from one segment to another and this movie, although visually stunning in many ways, did precisely that. 

Nonetheless, Dunkirk was worth seeing and was, for us, most likely, the last movie we’d see in a theatre until we return to the US in 2019 for another visit. With Costa Rica, Argentina, and Africa on the horizon over the next few years, going to movie theatres won’t be on our agenda.

The Sports Book at the Palms.

Of course, we often watch movies on Amazon Prime and those we download using Graboid (monthly payment of $19.99) that we’ve continued to use over these past many years of world travel. By using this app and others, we’re able to see most US and British TV shows and movies.

The IMAX theatre is located in The Palms, a lower-priced resort, hotel, and casino located off the Strip near the Rio. We were disappointed by the dining options available prior to the movie but its didn’t make sense to go to another casino for dinner. As a result, we dined in the casual and somewhat mediocre spot not far from the theatre.

McDonald’s bright lights in the food court.

In any case, we had an enjoyable evening, our last time out and about in Las Vegas. Yesterday, during the day, I visited with my dear sister Susan for most of the day, saying our final emotional and tearful goodbyes.  The many times we spent together over these past 23 days will remain in my heart until I see her again during our next visit to Nevada.

Using Skype, Susan and I speak often, and we never feel quite so far away. Once we’re settled in Costa Rica, I’ll call her, and once again, we’ll catch up as we always have, which means so much to both of us.

The large oval bar was found upon entering the Palms.

Today, we’re staying in, packing a few odds and ends. But tomorrow will be our packing day when we’ll organize, fold and put together our “stuff” before leaving early on Tuesday morning.

Also, today, we’ll make one more round of our favorite pizza. Once we leave the US, it’s never quite the same when we can’t find authentic spicy Italian sausage. We’ve asked in every country we’ve visited, and even in Italy, it wasn’t comparable to the sausage we’ve used in the US. We’ll continue to make our favorite low-carb, grain/starch/sugar-free pizza using whatever sausage we’re able to find.

Tom’s Reuben sandwich with fries.

With only two days remaining until we leave the USA once again, we’re grateful for the quality time we’ve been able to spend with family and friends but, we’re incredibly excited to return to our nomadic lives of world travel. 

Enjoy your Sunday or Monday if you’re on the other side of the International Dateline, where we’d spent almost the last two years before returning to the US.

The bright light from the Luxor Sky Beam with 42.3 billion candelas, as we entered Highway I215 to return to Richard’s home after the evening ended. The light is visible by aircraft from a cruising altitude of 275 miles (443 km).

Photo from one year ago today, July 30, 2016:

Although we were in Phuket one year ago today, we continued to share photos from our Vietnam/Cambodia river cruise. Kong, our tour guide, encouraged kissing in front of the Huynh Thuy Le Ancient House, where the movie, The Lover, was filmed in Sa Dec, Vietnam, in 1992. We had no trouble cooperating!  Please click here for more photos.

Our cell phone’s SIM cards ran out…No more phone calls, maps or data on our phones…Three days and counting…

See below for details on this cactus. I shot all of today’s photos at the Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve, including the blooms on this cactus.

As it turned out, the T-Mobile SIM cards for our phones with calling and data ended a few days ago. At that point, with only four days remaining until we leave the US, we saw no reason to add more calling or data at the cost of $80 for one more month.

As a result, we used our Skype account to make the multiple calls we needed to handle yesterday. With no charge using our Nevada phone number on Skype ($5 a month), we could make all the calls on my computer at no additional cost because all the calls were to toll-free numbers.

Opuntia pinkavae, common name Bulrush Canyon Prickly-pear is a species of cactus that originated in northern Arizona and southern Utah.

When making calls to non-toll-free numbers, we pay a minimal charge of $.023 per minute and can call any phone number, cell phone, or business anywhere in the world. 

If we talk for 60 minutes, the entire cost is $1.38, and fees are subtracted from funds we prepay into the account as needed.  If we run out of funds, Skype reminds us to add more money to the account. Thus, we don’t get a “bill” in the usual sense.
Of course, if we call another Skype account, there’s no per-minute charge. All Skype to Skype calls are free from anywhere in the world. Only the calls directly to cell phone numbers or landlines result in the $.023 per minute rate. (As an aside…if Skype is installed as an app on a smartphone, free calls may be sent and received using the app if both parties are using Skype).

What a lovely spot to stop and enjoy the views.

Without a working SIM card in our phones, we no longer have “maps” or any driving navigation when we’re away from Richard’s home. While inside the house, we can use the house’s Wi-Fi on our phones for a connection. It’s only when we leave that we no longer have a connection.

This may seem complicated for some world travelers who insist on having a cell phone contract. Our rationale? Why pay $100 to $200 per month or more for US phone contracts for both our phones and data when we can purchase SIM cards in any country, never paying more than about $20 a month?

Mountains are surrounding the entire Las Vegas valley.

In reality, who do we need to call? When we don’t have a rental car, we need SIM cards to contact our driver to pick us up and deliver us back to our vacation home or other locations. It’s not as if we’re calling Dominoes for “pizza to go” or calling family and friends talking for extended periods. We save those conversations for free Skype-to-Skype calls or when using our $5 a month Skype phone number to call phones at $1.38 an hour.

If Tom and I separate for a few hours while we are shopping or run an errand, we can call one another on our respective phones using the appropriate SIM cards installed. 

There’s nothing quite as stunning as water and mountains to create an astounding scene.

Also, we’ve found that using SIM cards prevents us from potentially spending huge sums when calling friends and family members from our phones while utilizing a cell phone contract or using data on our phones. It causes us to be mindful of how we use our SIM cards and how easily we can chat with anyone from our computers.

In most cases, we have a decent Wi-Fi signal that allows for an apparent conversation. In most cases, we find the person to whom we’re speaking having signal issues when they’re out of range, not us. 

Who knew the desert so close to Las Vegas could be so beautiful?

For example, I tried to speak to my friend Chere last night using our Skype number to her cell number. She and her husband were driving to Wisconsin, and the signal was so poor on her end we had to cut the call short until such a time as she’d be able to get a good signal. Even in the US, cell service is yet to be perfect.

Yesterday, having postponed my visit to sister Susan until today, once I upload this post, I took off on a few errands, one to pick up VSL3 Probiotics (in pill form) when a kindly pharmacist at a Smith’s Market agreed to special order them for me. 

I prefer the powdered product, which has a much larger number of bacteria at 450 billion, but he could not get this high dose in the US (on this over-the-counter product) compared to the pills at a paltry 120 billion. Based on this dose, I’ll take a minimum of two capsules per day. 

These two Mallards found rocks on which to stand close to each other.

I have enough pills in my possession to last for the next four months with my current supply. Once we’re settled in Costa Rica, I’ll check and see if I can find more for when we head to Africa in less than seven months. Certain products aren’t available in some countries.

That’s it for today, folks. We’ll be back tomorrow with more.  Today, I’ll say goodbye to my dear sister Susan which no doubt will be emotional. Tonight, we’re heading out to a movie and dinner on the Las Vegas Strip with Richard and friends, our final night out on “the town.” 

Enjoy your evening wherever you may be! We’ll be thinking of you!

Photo from one year ago today, July 28, 2016:

Check out the size of the fish and steak portions from the groceries we purchased in Phuket, Thailand, at a warehouse-type market. The brats in the bottom right of the photo are gluten, grain, and sugar-free.  Using this app to convert the Thai baht (THB) to 3,803.25, we discovered we’d only spent US $109.38 for all this!  In the US, this much food would have been at least twice as much. For more details, please click here.

Figuring out the numbers…Outrageous outlay of cash over these next months…Four days and counting…

This pond in the Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve was filled with a variety of birds.

Yesterday, after we uploaded the post, we decided to review our expenses through January 2018. With several cruises upcoming, including the pricey Antarctica cruise, which begins on January 23, 2018, and ends on February 8th, we’ve had to be extra frugal this past year.

Once the Antarctica cruise ends and, after we pay approximately $4600 for our two airline tickets from Buenos Aires, Argentina to Mpumalanga Nelspruit, South Africa (with a layover in Johannesburg), we can breathe a sigh of relief that several huge expenses are behind us.

The border of trees along the edge of this pond provides additional habitat for the birds.

Fortunately, living in Africa, which is less costly than many other parts of the world, we’ll have plenty of time to regroup and “lick our wounds” over the outrageous expenses of the prior 12 months or more. 

Also, our final months in Australia were costly, followed by two cruises, including the 24-night cruise back to the US, followed by the Alaskan cruise, and then the nine weeks we spent in the USA, six of which we stayed in a hotel, dining out for most meals. Also, during the six weeks in Minnesota, we replenished our wardrobes (no sales tax on clothing in MN) along with many of our dwindling supplies.

This pretty duck was paddling at full speed when I took this photo.

We’ve paid down the pricey Antarctica cruise, which started at $34,500 (for two) and is now down to a balance of $13,875, which is due in full by October 16th, 80 days from today.

By September 18th, we have to pay off the back-to-back South America cruises beginning on November 23rd (Thanksgiving Day in the US), totaling $7,988, on which we’ll embark before the Antarctica sailing on January 23, 2018.

One of the smaller of the eight ponds.

In addition to the above, we have yet to book the one-month gap in Buenos Aires between December 23, 2017, to January 23, 2018, which we’ll put together once we’re settled in Costa Rica in the next few weeks. 

On top of all of these, we’ll have monthly living expenses, including a few one-night hotel stays, transportation, groceries, tours, and miscellaneous. When we add all of these expenses, it’s a daunting number.

By figuring out all of these totals, we’ve determined this is all doable over these next six months if we really continue to tighten our belts. We must add all of these numbers to our anticipated living costs over the next six months, most of which we’re paying in advance.

No doubt, the cloudy day had an impact on the quality of our photos.

When living in a permanent home instead of our constant lives of world travel, typically, one doesn’t pay their mortgage payment, rent, or any other expenses six months or longer in advance. 

Typically, the only pay-as-we-go expenses are groceries, tours, and local transportation (if we aren’t using a rental car which always requires advance payment in full, often for three months or more upon picking up the vehicle).

In each case, when renting a vacation home, we must pay good-sized deposits well in advance. To book cruises, deposits are required even if they’re booked two years in advance.  However, over this past almost five years of world travel, we’ve become more comfortable waiting to book certain situations.

These two birds were too busy preening to look up as we passed their habitat in the utility vehicle.

When we’re often asked how we manage money, it’s always through careful frequent analysis and planning to determine we’re staying within the range of our overall annual budget. 

What’s thrown us off this year has been the Antarctica cruise which, once completed, leaves us with no costly plans for the future, certainly not to this magnitude. 

Why did we stretch ourselves for this cruise? This cruise may not be suitable for some as they age.  It requires medical certification months in advance (which we’ll handle in Costa Rica) and a certain degree of physical stamina and endurance. We have no guaranty, as hard as we may try, that we’ll be in such a position in the next five to ten years. 

I saw several Grebes during my tour of the facility.

This particular cruise is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience, especially for us with our strict budget and obviously advancing age. For us, it may be a now-or-never situation. We chose to take it on to enhance our world travel experiences further.

When we began our travels, we’d made a list of a few special experiences we wanted to ensure we’d experience;  the Panama Canal (done, with another transit upcoming in November); Africa (done, with more coming beginning in February 2018) and of course, Antarctica (where we’ll be getting off the ship onto the Zodiac boats to step foot on ice floes and glaciers with thousands of Emperor Penguins and more).

I’d planned to visit Susan today, but as it turns out, we have several calls to make to complete some necessary tasks before leaving the US in four days, all of which require weekday calls. Today is the only logical day to complete these tasks. As a result, I’ll visit Susan tomorrow, Saturday, for the last time before we leave on Tuesday.

We’ll be back with more tomorrow as we wind down these last few days in the USA. Please check back! Have a fabulous weekend wherever you may be!

Photo from one year ago today, July 27, 2016:

We rented this car from the property owner. It was a little rough but served our purposes over the remaining days until we left Thailand. For more details, please click here.

An unexpected oasis in the desert with wildlife…Five days and counting…

Impressive clouds over the mountains while I toured the Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve.

With both of us having visited Nevada many times in our old lives, we had already been to many popular sightseeing venues throughout the state. With many tasks to accomplish before leaving the US until our next family visit in a few years, we had much to do with little interest in traveling around the state in the excessive heat.

The Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve entrance is secure to avoid trespassers entering during hours the facility is closed.

At this point, we’ve almost completed everything we needed to do. Today, we’ll make the final visit to our mailing service to pick up the last of our mail and drop off a few items we’ll store in our oversized mailbox for future shipment.

Also, we’ll make a quick stop at the pharmacy and Smith’s Market, which will see us through until we leave for the airport on Tuesday morning to fly to Costa Rica for the upcoming three and a half month stay.

Too distant for close-up photos, we spotted these two Cormorants sitting on a rock in a pond.

Two days ago, when I decided to head out on my own, leaving Tom behind to have some time to himself, I headed to the Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve with few expectations, hoping to see a few birds.

There is a total of eight distinct ponds within the facility.

On many occasions, we’d attempted to take photos of the few birds we’d seen here and there, including some in the yard by the pool.  In most cases, they’ve flown away before I could grab the camera.  While out and about, we’ve seen a few birds and virtually no wildlife.

Each pond had a distinct look with a variety of birds and vegetation.

As our long-time readers know, wildlife is the single most exciting aspect of our travels. Without the opportunity to see Mother Nature’s treasures, we try to focus on culture, scenery, and vegetation. 

Unfortunately, where we’ve been located in Henderson with a population slightly under 300,000 (bordering Las Vegas, which has a population of over 632,000), there have been few opportunities to see desert wildlife in the metropolitan area. 

There are fewer birds at the facility in the summer, but I was surprised to see as many as I had.

Even if we’d ventured deep into the desert (as we’ve done in the past), it would be unlikely we’d see much in the way of wildlife. The heat and the sun keep most animals under cover during daylight hours.

Arriving at the Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve at 11:10 am, I had no idea the facility closes at noon during the summer months. A kindly staff member explained they’d be closing soon, and the gates would be locked. 

Duck on a rock.

When I explained about our website and the fact I’d hoped to prepare a story on the facility, I was not only welcomed with open arms but was offered a private tour through the entire facility on their utility vehicle; I couldn’t have been more appreciative. 

Oddly, the typically sunny sky this time of year was overcast and not ideal for taking photos, but the unseasonable cool temperature at 75F (24C) was perfect weather for the tour. I was determined to do my best and take as many photos as possible to share here with our worldwide readers. It proved to be a perfect tour.

This bird is a vulture.

As for the Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve, here are a few facts from their site:

The Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve (HBVP) is one of the best places in southern Nevada to watch birds and dragonflies. Marsh and stream-side habitat in the nearby Las Vegas Wash, combined with open ponds and trees in the HBVP ponds, attracts birds of all kinds to water in this otherwise parched land. Desert species, waterbirds, wading birds, migrant songbirds, and shorebirds can be abundant here. Paved (fully accessible) and dirt (mostly accessible) walkways run on dikes that divide the area into nine brush-lined ponds and provide many vantage points. An elevated platform gives good views over much of the site. Access to the area is free, but it closes early, especially during summer.

The HBVP began as part of the Henderson city sewage treatment system, but with changes in the treatment process, the HBVP now uses reclaimed water, and the odor is gone. Even so, the staff still ask people to remain on the trails and stay out of the mud and water.”

More information may be found on their site, including year-round hours of operation and the remarkable fact that there are no fees required to visit this particular spot. 

Please keep in mind a liability waiver must be signed upon entrance into the facility via the visitors center. However, staying on the trails is safe for people of all ages, although the roads are rough in spots and may not suit those with disabilities.  

In the usual heat of the desert, certain plants bloom pretty and colorful flowers.

The walk through the facility may take several hours, and it’s imperative to dress for the weather and bring plenty of water.  Cooler days definitely would be more suitable for those interested in walking the entire distance. Binoculars and/or a camera are a must. 

Shortly after Barbara, who’d volunteered to give me the tour, we were joined on the utility vehicle by Anthony, a biologist. He plays a significant role in overseeing the wildlife in the preserve. 

During and after the tour, I had an opportunity to speak to Anthony at length as we shared beautiful stories of nature and wildlife. He, too, was originally from the Midwest with an innate passion for nature, so much so that it had become his dedicated lifelong career.

Las Vegas/Henderson is located in a valley surrounded by mountains.
Over the next several days, we’ll continue sharing more photos from my visit to the Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve, although the stories included may not necessarily be relevant to the images.

So, folks, we’re winding down our visit to the USA. On August 1st, “travel day,” we’ll include all of our expenses and a recap of our favorite photos from the 24 days we’ll have spent in Nevada.

Have a pleasant day filled with beautiful surprises!

Photo from one year ago today, July 27, 2016:

One year ago, the second bedroom in the Phuket house, which we never used, included an en suite bathroom with a Jacuzzi tub. For more photos, please click here.

Safari luck prevails once again…A visit to the unique Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve….

Ducks and other varieties of birds in one of the many ponds in Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve. I visited the preserve on a cool, cloudy day, but the scenery was still beautiful.

Over the next several days, we’ll be posting many photos from the awe-inspiring Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve located about 15 minutes from our current location in Green Valley Ranch.

In the interim, I had to share what turned out to be a solution for my unfortunate fender bender, which occurred on Monday while I was visiting a possible assisted living facility for my sister located in North Las Vegas, beyond the Summerlin area.

Visiting this venue provided me with an entirely different perspective of the Henderson area.

As shared in Monday’s post (click here for details), I bumped into a square pillar in the parking lot of the facility, leaving a dreadful situation in the left front of the white rental car that could easily have cost us hundreds of dollars in expenses with Avis handling the repairs, after returning the vehicle on August 1st.

With considerable angst, I showed Tom what had transpired in the parking lot. With only a week remaining until we leave Nevada, we decided to wait and see how it would roll out when we return the vehicle next Tuesday before our flight to Costa Rica.

Two Mallards are sitting on rocks in one of the eight ponds in the Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve.

Yesterday morning after visiting the Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve, which I’d done on a whim when on my way to the grocery store (more on that shortly), the most peculiar thing happened.

After buying the groceries to make last night’s dinner, loading the groceries into the trunk in the insulated bags I had with me, I was approached by two men who commented about the situation on the left front bumper. They explained they could fix it right there in the parking lot for $100 if I had 10 to 15 minutes to spare while they worked. 

Car before we wiped off the residue this morning.
Here’s the white rental car after repairs were made in Smith’s Market parking lot. A tiny spot remains but is barely visible. We’re satisfied with the work.  Below is the before photo.

At first, I hesitated. Was this some scam? The two men in their 30’s seemed OK. They had a nice pickup truck, were dressed in clean white tee shirts and jeans, and didn’t appear to be anything other than two guys trying to make some extra cash doing small bodywork jobs from Smith’s parking lot.

They assured me I didn’t have to pay until they completed the work to my satisfaction. They explained I’d need to let the paint dry overnight and could wipe off the residue in the morning with a damp towel. Another car owner was standing nearby, listening to the conversation. He, too, was considering that they work on his car also.

The little white rental car before the repairs were done in Smith’s parking lot.

What did I have to lose? The only risk would be if they exacerbated the damage by working on it. For $100, it seemed worth taking the risk. I told them I’d walk over to Wells Fargo ATM across the parking lot to get the rest of the cash when I didn’t have $100 in cash on me. 

I locked the car and walked to the ATM while they worked on the vehicle. The bystander watched with intense curiosity and decided that he, too, would go for their “deal” and could work on his car as soon as they were done with mine. 

In no time at all, I was satisfied with the work they were doing and told them I’d give them a mention in today’s post for a reasonably priced job well done. How handy could this be?

As described here, this bird is a Grebe: “Grebes are a widely distributed order of freshwater diving birds, some of which visit the sea when migrating and in winter. This order contains only a single family, the Podicipedidae, containing 22 species in 6 extant genera.”

This morning Tom and I  wiped off the car to find it in considerably improved condition, most likely not detectable by the rental car company. The 2016 model with 30,000 miles on the odometer had several similar small spots when we took the car, typical for rental vehicles over a year old.

If you live in the Las Vegas/Henderson area, they’ll come to your home or place of business or any other designated location to repair dings such as mine. Of course, the price is subject to the extensive nature of your “dings” or dents. You can reach Sean at 702-972-2495.

Today, I’m off to see Susan. With today and Friday’s upcoming visit, this may be the last of the two times I see my dear sister. These past weeks I visited her every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. With this next upcoming Monday designated as packing day, I may not make the long drive that day and say goodbye on Friday.

In tomorrow’s post, I’ll share the details of my excellent visit to the breathtaking Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve with many more stunning and surprising photos.

Please check back then!

Photo from one year ago today, July 26, 2016:

The pouring rain in Phuket continued for many days during our six-week stay. For more photos, please click here.

Oh, oh, stuff happens… I dinged the rental car!… See below for damage… Seven days and counting…

This is the separation of the fender that transpired from the “ding.”

I’ve never claimed to be a good driver. Overall, I’m OK on the highway, paying strict attention to my driving. But, I’m a nightmare in a parking lot, parking ramp, or other such areas where there are posts or obstacles of any type.

In my 50 plus years of driving, I’ve probably caused a dozen or more “dings” in parking lots, some more serious than others. Why?  I don’t know. Perhaps my judgment as to how close I am to obstacles is impeded in some manner by my depth perception.

There’s no doubt that at some point, I’ll give up driving may be earlier than some seniors. But, in countries where we have a rental car, it’s been nice to give Tom a break from sitting in the car waiting for me while I shop. He despises shopping, but he’s an excellent driver.

Also, it’s good to give him time alone while I head out to shop for groceries. I can easily spend a few hours dawdling in a larger market when I’m not familiar with the inventory placement.  Learning a grocery store each time we move can take several trips.

The little white rental car after I’d caused the ding in the left front bumper.

In the smaller markets such as Belize, Kenya, Fiji, and others, I’d be done shopping in less than 10 minutes with only three or four aisles. We anticipate more of these types of markets in the future.

But it wasn’t at a market that I dinged the white rental car yesterday. I entered a parking spot at an assisted living facility not far from where my sister Susan currently lives. I was investigating the prospect of her moving into such a facility sometime in the near future.

As I pulled into a shaded parking spot, I thought I was paying attention. However, a square post was located at the end of the space defining the position of two spaces and acting as a support for the shaded overhead canopy. I barely tapped the post.

I tapped it so lightly; I wasn’t even going to look at it, figuring I hadn’t done a thing to the vehicle. When I decided I’d better take a look, with the utmost angst, I realized I had displaced a portion of the left front bumper which appears to have become disconnected from its joining points. 

The pea-sized bit of paint came off the car.

I tried to push it back in place with my hands to no avail. It needed a rubber mallet or some other type of device to put it back in place.  When I arrived at Susan’s an hour later, I couldn’t get my fender bender out of my mind. How could I be so careless?

I also wondered how the bumper could feel so soft and more like tin or plastic than the metal on cars made years ago. I had no idea it was so soft and pliable, seemingly responding to even the slightest ding.

Today, I’ll call the credit card company on which we charged the rental car. We have rental car insurance that covers such incidents. Hopefully, that will work out, or we’ll be paying for the repairs out of pocket, and there’s no doubt the rental car company will gouge us. Once we know what transpires, we’ll report back here.

So it goes…stuff happens. In the realm of things, it’s a minor incident. As we always say, if we have our health and we’re safe, we have no reason to complain. 

It doesn’t appear to be that much damage, but who knows how it will go.

When I returned to Henderson around 4:00 pm, I was a little apprehensive about telling Tom what I’d done. The minute I walked in the door, he asked me what was wrong based on the look on my face.

In his usual style, he wasn’t angry at me for my carelessness and reassured me not to stress about it. At no time, we were our usual cheerful selves, enjoying the evening with a good meal shared with Richard as we began to wind down our final week in the USA.

By the way, right now, after 10:00 am, it’s overcast and rainy at a cool 75F (24C). Go figure.

May you have a stress-free day!

Photo from one year ago today, July 25, 2016:

Kong, our fabulous tour guide with Viking Cruise Line, took this photo of Tom and a tarantula served at dinner.  He didn’t eat it. I would have tried it, but it was batter fried.  For more photos, please click here.

When do we plan to return to the USA?…How much truth is there to “home is where the heart is?”…

Many homes in the desert have tiny lots and are stacked one atop another. With the fast-growing population of Las Vegas, these types of houses are selling quickly.

On and off over the past almost five years of travel, we’ve entered the US a few times for brief periods. Once was for three days in September 2014 when a cruise ended in Boston. We stayed for three nights to visit with my then 95-year-old Uncle Bernie and Cousin Phyllis. Hopefully, we’ll see them again when he turned 100 in 2019.

On a few other occasions, we boarded a few cruises out of Florida,  staying over only one night, which will again occur in these next few years based on upcoming bookings we already have in place.

The long drive to Susan’s finds me in remote desert locations.

Stopping in the US for these few nights over a multi-year period isn’t quite the same as for those who may come and go from the US or their home country, stopping to take care of a home, an apartment, or a condo providing an opportunity to repack, regroup and “take care of business.”

For us, the journey is contiguous. We have no storage, no clothing anywhere, to which we can return and attain that sense of regrouping that many travelers undertake when traveling the world. 

“Cookie Cutter” homes behind the noise-reducing wall of Highway 215 in Las Vegas.

Of course, that’s not to say that their experiences while traveling the world are diminished in any manner or less significant than anyone else maybe. The difference is purely one of convenience and a psychological impact. Long ago, we accepted that we have no home or no such place to stop to regroup.

Even staying in Richard’s home (the first private home where we’ve parked ourselves since early 2013 when we stayed with friend Carol in Boca Raton, Florida for a few nights), although ideal, in its myriad comforts and easy conveniences, it’s still his home. 

The heat and dust create a haze over the desert, often impeding views of the mountains.
We don’t have a stored item in a closet, a plate in the cupboard, and now, no tax records and photos in bins in his garage.  It’s his home, and we’ve treated it with the same regard and respect as when staying in vacation homes throughout the world; turning off lights, cleaning up after ourselves, cooking meals (sharing with him, of course), and treading lightly in the use of his “stuff.”

Now, with only eight days until we depart Nevada, we find ourselves switching mental gears to a degree but not as much as one may surmise after these two months in the US. The foray into visiting family and friends never really felt like we were “home.”

Oddly, the barrenness of the desert has a certain appeal.

During these past months, many have asked, “How does it feel to be home?” Quickly and without a lot of explanation, we’ve said, “Great!  It’s wonderful to see everyone!” 

But on each occasion when we’ve been asked this question in each other’s presence, Tom and I have locked eyes, if only for a second, with the mutual understanding that “home” for us is another place, wherever that place may be at the moment.

Don’t we humans usually refer to “home” as the place where we’re settled at any given time with our most immediate family, whether it be a spouse or significant other, children living at home? 

Red Rock Casino and Hotel I pass on my way to visit sister Susan three times a week.

I often cringe when I hear partners in meaningful relationships refer to “home” as some distance location where they grew up, as opposed to where their most immediate family resides at present.

If we had a condo in Scottsdale, Arizona, or Palm Beach, Florida, living in a “55 and over” neighborhood, wouldn’t that be our home? Oh, I suppose for most, it’s merely a matter of semantics, but for us, it’s a powerful message.

It’s unusual how the rock is terraced to created navigable lots for the expensive homes with views of the Las Vegas Strip.

That message is clear to us to feel rooted and at peace wherever we may live…” home” is where we are living at any given moment, together as a team, as we continue to travel the world with ease, joy and simplicity” as clearly stated in the heading on our home page, basically our slogan, our mission, our intent.

The concept of “home is where the heart is” doesn’t negate or diminish the love and powerful emotions we feel for those that live in places that we don’t. That love follows along with us wherever we may be at any given time. It resides in our hearts, not within the walls of any property we may occupy throughout the world.

Homes in the terraced hills in Henderson.

As so, as the time approaches for us to be on our way, we do so with peace of mind and contentment over the nine weeks we’ll have spent in the US in 2017. 

This period was a step along the way, a stopping point in our world journey, leaving us with an enhanced sense of “home is where the heart is,” which always will remain with us along with the memories we gleaned during these nine weeks, as we continue. 

May you find fulfillment wherever your home may be

Photo from one year ago today, July 24, 2016:

One year ago, this was our private vacation home in Rawai, Phuket, Thailand. For more photos, please click here.

A fabulous and fun evening on the Las Vegas Strip… Including a laugh fest…

The lights on the Strip at night are always impressive.

When Richard suggested we all head to the Las Vegas Strip to see comedian Brad Garrett from the famous and long-running TV show, Everybody Loves Raymond; we couldn’t say yes quickly enough. 

Valet parking in front of the MGM Grand was packed.

The Brad Garrett Comedy Club has been a big hit attracted to comedy club fans worldwide who find themselves in the Las Vegas playground anxious for a few hours of hilarious entertainment away from the gaming tables.

We couldn’t believe the size of the line where guests were checking in to the MGM Grand. It appeared the wait could be hours long.

We’ve both always enjoyed comedy shows but over these past years of world travel visiting and living in many non-English speaking countries, seeing comedy shows became a thing of our long-ago past, among other things we’d chosen to forfeit in this nomadic lifestyle.

The Sports Book.

After Richard quickly and easily booked our tickets on his phone, he suggested I research to find a befitting-for-my-diet restaurant at the MGM where we could dine before the show.

The Minnesota Twins game was playing.  They ended up with a win.

Immediately, I got to work online researching each of the many options located in the massive hotel (over 5000 rooms) and casino.  With over two dozen options situated in the giant resort, the possibilities were many.

Guacamole made tableside at the Hecho en Vegas Restaurant where we dined last night.

First, I narrowed it down by price, knowing we had no interest in spending $100’s on our meals at some of the more upscale dining establishments, which were listed as “$$$$.” Those listed at “$” including Subway and fast food type venues, none of which would appeal to us. 

Tom’s Margarita was the jumbo version, a total of 16 ounces.

Even the designated “$$$” restaurant’s menu options were priced over $50 per entree or more. Thus, I narrowed it down to the obvious “$$,” which appeared to fit within an acceptable price range. Richard purchased the tickets at $65 per person, and we offered to buy the meal, which worked out well.

The guacamole was outstanding.  I put some on a plate and ate it with a fork since I don’t eat tortilla chips.

Once again, I chose a Mexican restaurant, Hecho En Vegas, Mexican Grill and Cantina, which proved to have excellent food, suitable for my restrictive diet when once again, I could savor an ideal chopped-type salad with romaine lettuce, shredded beef, cheese, avocado, olives, and tomatoes. See our included photos of our respective meals.

Richard’s Chicken Fajitas with warm tortillas wrapped in foil.

After dinner, we walked to the comedy club, and much to our delight, we were seated at a comfortable booth with a clear and unobstructed view of the stage. With excellent acoustics, we didn’t miss a word, or in this case, a laugh in this adults-only production.

Tom’s taco salad is made in this giant tortilla.

This show was not suitable for those offended by less-than-politically correct innuendos and an abundance of sexually orientated humor. 

The names of the drinks on the menu in Brad Garrett’s Comedy Club made us laugh.

At the beginning of the show Brad Garrett, (who only performs on specific nights but has an ongoing flow of other skilled comedians) made it clear that the show wasn’t suitable for the faint of heart or those easily offended. In no time at all, this became exceedingly clear as to why he pointed to the door for those who’d be inclined to complain when “exposed” to such type of humor.

The High Roller Ferris Wheel at the Linq Hotel and Casino.

For us, who had the perception after being outside the US for so long, that humor had been “tempered” to comply with political correctness, we were right in there, laughing uproariously loud along with the others in attendance. It was a hilarious show with Garrett who’s performance was the best of the evening, along with two other comedians, Carl Labove and Landry, each of which left us in stitches.

When the 8:00 pm show ended around 10:00 pm, we made our way out to the self-serve parking lot when we’d left the white rental car.  Heading outdoors at this hour felt like walking into an oven. It was still close to 100F (38C), and we gasped when the hot air hit us at the late hour.  

The newer Cosmopolitan Hotel and Casino on the Strip.

The self-serve parking fee was $12 instead of valet parking which would have been $20 for four or more hours (plus a tip). The savings was worth the long walk back to the car at the end of the evening.   

We’d considered stopping to see some of the newer casinos on the strip, but surely we’ll return to Las Vegas many times in the future and can see more next time we visit. Back at Richard’s by 11:00 pm, we feasted on a low-carb dessert I’d made earlier in the day and headed to bed for another good night’s sleep after a delightful evening.

Today, we’ll spend more time in Richard’s pool, sunning for our token 20-minute dose of Vitamin D. I’ll make a special dinner, and we’ll all enjoy an otherwise lazy Sunday in Henderson, Nevada.

May you have a lovely day as well!

Photo from one year ago today, July 23, 2016:

Tom sits at the table in a meeting room bunker in the Cu Chi Tunnel in Vietnam with several mannequins and two other passengers standing behind him. For more photos, please click here.

Keeping it real…How are we feeling about movin’ on?…Are we worried?

Leialoha and Mark from Minnesota were a delight to see last night at our Meet & Greet!

After almost two months in the USA, we’re ready to move on. We’ve spent quality time with family and friends, rebuilding and enhancing relationships, catching up, and filling our hearts and minds with loving thoughts to carry into this next phase of our travels.

As always, we had a great evening at The Elephant Bar with friends.

Are we at all apprehensive? As Tom and I are sitting together this Saturday morning in air-conditioned comfort in Henderson, Nevada with literally every amenity we could need or want, with nary a scary insect or snake at our feet, I asked Tom, “Do you have any apprehension about continuing in our world travels?”

The Elephant Bar in The District in Henderson is a great meeting place.  Prices are reasonable, especially during happy hour.

After all, we have some substantial challenges ahead of us, we’re not getting any younger, and we’ll be forfeiting this easy and comfortable life we’ve experienced while in the US over these past two months.

He picked up his head from his computer, contemplated my question, made a goofy smirk, and said, “No, not at all. On the contrary, I’m looking forward to it!”

The Elephant Bar has a rewards program. By signing up, each new member receives a free appetizer even on the same day as registering. We did this before heading out yesterday and enjoyed our two complimentary appetizers for both of our temporary US phone numbers. Click this link to sign up for free.

At times, we can all overthink our lives, cringing with a bit of apprehension over that which we don’t know for sure…what the future holds. Is it a matter of destiny or luck that propels us into the next phase of our lives, or is it predicated by our design, tinged with a bit of good fortune?

For us, good fortune revolves around good health and safety. If we have these two, coupled with our mutual love and compatibility, we’re content. However, we often ask ourselves how much we can control these two areas when so much about safety can be a matter of being at “the wrong place at the wrong time.” Do we have control over this?

The food coming out of the Elephant’s Bar kitchen was fresh, hot, and delicious.

To an extent, we do. But aren’t we placing ourselves into situations where risks may be considerably higher than sitting here in Henderson, Nevada, in air-conditioned comfort? 

Yes, we are exposing ourselves to certain risks, but that’s not only the nature of leaving the safety of one’s surroundings, but it’s also the nature of travel in itself; the airports, the flights, the seas; the trains, the buses, the rickety taxi rides, and the outdoor cafes, all present some risks.

The decor is pleasing and comfortable. However, it has changed considerably since the last time we were there in 2009.

Although mindful of these possibly risky scenarios, we don’t allow ourselves to contemplate the potentiality of the worst happening.  Doing so would hinder or prevent a traveler from the all-encompassing joy of their experiences.

As for health, here again, we can’t allow ourselves to spend time worrying about “what if?” Instead, as our regular readers well know, we try to stay fit and healthy to the best of our ability through a nutritious diet, visiting mobile and active, and avoiding stress-inducing scenarios.

Having healthy relationships and a positive attitude is also a significant aspect of maintaining good health and a state of wellness. Worry and stress have no place in attempting to achieve such a scenario. Instead, joyful anticipation, enthusiasm, and hopefulness for a safe and healthy future somehow seem to propel us to our next awaiting experience.

Tom and Mark, old buddies from the railroad in Minnesota, were happy to catch up at our Meet & Greet last night.

As for last night, we had a small turnout for the Nevada Meet & Greet at The Elephant Bar in The District. Nonetheless, we had a delightful evening. Several readers contacted us via email apologizing for being unable to attend last night, and if time allows, we may meet with them before we leave in 10 days. So we’ll see how it goes.

Tonight, we plan to head to the strip to check out a few new hotels and have dinner at a famous Brazilian barbecue. We plan to return with many new photos of the Las Vegas Strip, which we’ll begin sharing in tomorrow’s post.

Have a blissful day!

Photo from one year ago today, July 22, 2016:

One year ago today, we made it to Phuket, Thailand, where we stayed for six weeks. Photo showing businesses, one after another, in tight spaces. For more photos, please click here.