Las Vegas…here we come!!!…Gambling?

Often, we see motorbikes loaded with products being delivered to a variety of the tiny shops in the neighborhood which sell candy, soda, cigarettes and snacks.

“Sightings on the Beach in Bali”

Colorful fishing boat with crew at the end of a long night.

We don’t gamble, not in casinos.  One could say we gamble with the quality of our lives every single day.  We’ll agree with that.  However, we have no interest in sitting at a slot machine or card table, giving away money we’ve carefully budgeted for many more interesting events in our lives.

Many people love gambling in casinos.  Their occasional wins interspersed with more losses keep them engaged in the concept that its a worthwhile pleasurable activity.  If one can do so without serious consequences in their lives, have at it! 

Decorative hand carved door in the neighborhood.

If we gambled and lost US $300, IDR $4,001,250 at a poker table that would be groceries for two weeks outside the US or 10 separate day trips with a driver in Bali or the cost of excess luggage fees on Qantas airlines for a flight to Sydney from wherever. 

Tom used to enjoy playing blackjack.  Years ago, he gave it up when one day it dawned on him that his losses were greater than his wins and it just wasn’t a logical way to spend hard earned money. 

Even I had my days, way back when, of playing on occasion at one of the American Indian owned casinos in Minnesota or in Las Vegas when visiting eldest son Richard, a successful real estate agent, who’s lived in Henderson, Nevada (a suburban city near Las Vegas) for almost 30 years. 

Local gathering place and temple.

For the past 20 years neither of us has played a single casino game…not in casinos, not on cruise ships and not at a single slot machine at the airport in Nevada.  Nada. None. That’s not to say we wouldn’t play a friendly game of cards or dice with family or friends.  We’re OK losing a few bucks to people to love.  That’s different.

Why are we discussing gambling?  After yesterday’s posting of our plans for visiting Minnesota for six weeks beginning next May, we’d be amiss not to mention where we’ll be spending our remaining three weeks during the 2017 trips to the US. 

Statues to be mounted in front yard temple at house construction site in the neighborhood.

Its hard to be in Las Vegas and not visit some of the new hotels we’ve yet to see while wandering through casino after casino.  We’re confident we won’t have any trouble avoiding the tables and slot machines.

By the time we arrive in Las Vegas on July 7, 2017, we won’t have been there since December, 2012 when we rented a vacation home in Henderson not far from Richard during which time three of Tom’s sisters and two brothers-in-law came to stay with us. 

Also, members of my family visited for Tom’s birthday on December 23rd and for Christmas a few days later.  It was a memorable time spent together especially when we were only days away from leaving the US to begin our world journey.

If cows can be pretty, we thought this is quite lovely.

(By the way, when we count how long we’ve actually been gone, we consider the day we left Minnesota on Halloween, October 31, 2012.  We spent two more months in both Scottsdale, Arizona and Henderson, Nevada making final preparations to leave the US. 

On January 3, 2013, (here’s the post from that date) after driving to San Diego, California we sailed on our first ever cruise which fulfilled one of Tom’s dreams of traversing the Panama Canal.  Son Richard and sister Julie said goodbye at the pier which meant so much to us).

This road we walk in the neighborhood has a fair amount of motorbike traffic.

Next July after we’ve completed the six weeks in Minnesota we’ll be visiting son Richard in Henderson, sister Susan in Las Vegas and seeing sister Julie, who’ll fly in from Los Angeles for a visit while we’re there.  During the three week  stay (until we fly to Costa Rica to our next vacation home in our itinerary on July 31, 2017), we’ll stay with Richard at his home in Henderson. 

Three weeks is a long time to stay in the home of others.  Many have offered that we stay with them during these past years but we’ve always turned them down politely, appreciating the kind offer. 

There are several factors that make staying with Richard easier for all of us:

1. He doesn’t have a cat. I’m allergic.  I can spend a few hours in a home with cats but never overnight when allergies are always worse.
2. He has room for us.  We refuse to ever allow any family member to vacate their room, their personal space for us.  Its simply not fair especially for extended periods.
3. He doesn’t cook and doesn’t expect or want us to prepare food.  We’ll either bring in something or eat out, hoping he’ll join us when it works for him.
4. He has a pool.  We love pools.
5. He has a weekly cleaning person.  There’s no expectation that we’ll be “earning our keep” by cleaning.
6. He’s gone all day working and we’ll have the house to ourselves with less time for us to annoy him with our daily routine.
7.  He has a hysterical pug, Monty, whom we adore.  It will be enjoyable taking him for walks and hanging out with him.  We wonder if he’ll remember us from almost five years ago.

Elaborate front yard temple.

For these above reasons, staying with Richard will be relatively easy.  No doubt, its never easy to stay with anyone in their home for three weeks.  I’ve heard nightmarish stories from friends when family came to stay for extended periods.  However, we’ve stayed with him in past visits and its worked out well.

So, there it is folks, our US visit wrapped up in two neat little bundles with a goal to spend most of our time with family and also to spend a some of our time with our dearest friends, many of whom we’ve stayed in close touch over this long period. 

We hope you’ll spend quality time with those you love, especially on Father’s Day in the US tomorrow.  Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there!

______________________________________


Photo from one year ago today, June 19, 2015:

Trinity Beach, Australia has a lot to offer; ocean, mountains and plains with gorgeous scenery.  We enjoyed our three months in the lovely, relatively serene area.  For more photos, please click here.
 

We survived it all..December 21 and MIFI rental for world travel…

As Tom’s three sisters and two brothers-in-law walked out the door yesterday, the day after Christmas, they asked us of we were getting excited. 

Tom, not giving me a chance to answer, chimed in, “You know what?  Jess planned all of our world travels.  And I just went along with it, figuring that the world was gonna’ end on December 21st and it wouldn’t matter.  So now, it does matter, and it’s time to start getting excited.”

We all roared with loud bursts of laughter. I had nothing more to say after that.  They were all headed back to their winter homes in Apache Junction, Arizona, and us, today back to our awaiting vacation home in Scottsdale to hook up with them again on December 30th for final goodbyes and sister Colleen’s birthday party.

Yesterday morning, we met up with my dear sister Julie and her significant other at son Richard‘s office in Henderson to have our wills and health care directives witnessed and notarized which will be secured in the family member’s hands while we travel. Yes, it was morbid doing this, but a necessary element of our travels and life itself.

Handing Julie our complete medical files put our minds at ease that should we ever need anything she’ll have it readily available. Julie like me, embroils herself in the details, making her a logical choice.  Of course, she would immediately notify all of our children if anything happened to us.

In addition, we have designated Julie as our contact person.  We will report to her with the contact information, phone numbers, and email for property owners prior to departure and arrival at each location. For instance, if we are due to arrive in France on a certain date and Julie doesn’t hear from us within 24 hours, she will immediately notify our adult children and begin the process of finding out what has transpired.  This is important.

We’ve all heard stories of travelers being kidnapped, lost in a jungle, or any other possible scenarios. It’s unlikely any of this will occur to us. In the event, an unforeseen situation does occur Julie will be highly diligent in tracking us down.

This provides all of our families with a sense of security. Although a little time consuming, it’s also a comfort to Tom and me to know that a nearly immediate effort would be instituted to “find us” if we’re missing. Julie, a TV producer, is an experienced world traveler with many worldwide contacts.  It’s logical for her to be assigned this task.  Thanks, sis!

Yesterday, we ordered our MIFI from XCOM GLOBAL that provides us with global wireless Internet access for up to five devices from a small wallet-sized device.  I’ve mentioned this many times on this blog finally placing our first order.  Pricier than we anticipated at $538 for the first month, we bit the bullet. 

The usual cost for using the device in one country is $399 a month plus shipping which may be as much as $100 each time it is shipped to us, with the high cost of international shipping.  We refused the $3.95 a month insurance for the device, at another $120 a month. 

The reason this particular first month’s rental was so high is due to the fact that we chose to try the device while cruising through the Panama Canal, which including it being set to work not only in Panama but also Mexico, Columbia, and the US while we’re in ports of call.  While at sea, it won’t work being too far from a cell tower. 

During those periods of time, we’ll use the ship’s Internet access at $395 which provides us each with one hour online per day for each of the 15 days for this first cruise.  This is expensive at $26.33 at roughly $13.17 apiece per day. 

MIFI from XCOM GLOBALalthough represented on their website that they offer unlimited access, will not allow more than 750 megabytes in any three day period.  If we do, they will turn off the system.  This allows us each 100’s of email messages per day, many more than either of us currently receive. 

We had decided that this would not be sufficient online usage for us.  We have personal business to conduct, ongoing travel research and arrangements, and of course, email messages from family and friends.  Thus, when Internet access if of poor quality or unavailable, we will order the device to be sent to us.  At this point, we anticipate using the MIFI approximately six months of the year since many vacation homes will have high-speed Internet access.

We are asking everyone to please continue to send us an email with text only beginning January 1, 2013, while we’re using the MIFI.  Receiving text-only email messages will mean “the world” to us being so far removed from everyone we know and love. Please keep the communication coming minus the videos and multiple photos.  Posting those videos and photos on Facebook will enable us to see them when we aren’t monitoring our usage.  We love hearing from you.

Today we’re heading back to Scottsdale, after more sorrowful goodbyes, for our final four days before our trip to San Diego for two more days before boarding our cruise to the Panama Canal, taking us away at long last. It’s hard to believe it’s finally only one week away. 

We have to repack all of our bags, clean our condo, finish our insurance planning, go to a birthday party, and brace ourselves for what is yet to come.                                                                                                                     

Green Valley Ranch, Henderson, Nevada check in…

Yesterday afternoon we arrived in Henderson, Nevada, a suburb of Las Vegas, to our vacation rental in Green Valley Ranch, a newer community with massive amounts of stores, restaurants, gated communities, and a  mere sprinkling of casinos. 

It doesn’t feel like Las Vegas with its slot machines in every gas station or public building.  Instead, it feels welcoming, safe, and low on tourists.

Entering the single-family home for the eight days we reserved over Tom’s birthday and Christmas, we knew immediately that we were “home.” A fresh smell wafted through the air (love that word!), welcoming us as we maneuvered through the door arms laden with “stuff.”

Unloading my arms onto the living room floor, I ran about from room to room squealing with delight. Each room had its own surprise to behold. 

From the stack of perfectly folded crisp white towels and washcloths in each of three bedrooms, two baths, and an ample linen closet, to the full-size bars of new soaps atop each stack, no stone was left unturned.  

The kitchen, fully stocked with every amenity, had a “working” ice machine, ground coffee, cream, some basic ingredients along with every small appliance we could possibly use.  Three flat-screen TVs, a pool table, stereo, and old fashioned boxed games were available for our entertainment.

The pool, although not heated and an extra $100 a day to heat (it’s too cold here now in the 30s!) has a free-use hot tub (forgot my suit) in a well-equipped yard with high top table, chairs, and a huge newer grill. Too bad it’s not 90 degrees!

The rent for the eight days, although much more than we’ll pay outside the US for most houses, was fair at $1500 which included a $250 cleaning deposit which we expect to get back.  We did the math.  Most likely we would have paid $165 a night for a hotel (including taxes) during the holidays, plus tips, valet parking, plus all meals in a restaurant, and how much lost with easy access to gambling.  Surely we would have spent at least $400 a day for an estimate of $3200.

Staying in this lovely home, cooking for Tom’s party, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day including our guests, our grocery and dining out budget is $1050, leaving us with a total of $2300 saving us $900 or more depending on how much we’d have lost gambling (we don’t usually gamble but when it’s at hand, it’s hard to resist). 

This is the first Christmas in my adult life that I won’t be shopping in a frenzy, wrapping gifts with elaborate hand made bows, baking a wide array of delectable cookies, and of course, decorating every corner of the house. In an odd way, it’s liberating.  We’ll miss family back in Minnesota and we’ll revel in family and friends here in Nevada.  Life is filled with trade-offs.

Soon, we’ll head to our two dentist appointments for our final cleanings, then off to the travel clinic for Tom’s final Twinrix vaccine.  Then, to the grocery store for the ingredients for the lesser amount of baking, I’ll do this year. 

It won’t be gluten-free, low carb, sugar-free, grain-free, starch-free.  It will be delicious, fattening, gooey, filling up this lovely home with smells that remind us of “home.”  I won’t take a taste.  Tom will take off a few days for this special time, his 60th birthday, and some of his favorite treats.

Hum. There’s no rolling pin. What shall I use in its place?

P.S. After writing the above this morning, then rushing out the door to the dentist’s office, I had yet to post it. Upon returning a few minutes ago, it was imperative that I amend it.  We just had the most amazing dental appointment in our lives, a referral from son Richard at Dr.Patrick Simone’s office in Henderson, Nevada.

Walking into his plush, well-appointed office puts me, a dental phobic, instantly at ease. From the elegant, upscale furnishings to the artwork to the well-equipped beverage bar and, the service, impeccable!  Even the restroom was a sight to behold with every imaginable accouterment. 

It almost felt as if we should tip not only the receptionist, but also Terry, the knowledgeable, personable, and thoughtful hygienist.  Instead of the usual hand performed cleaning, scraping away at our gums and teeth, Terry used a laser implement as an adjunct to the traditional cleaning. She used “before and after” photos that were shocking. 

After the cleaning, she performed what she referred to as “sandblasting” the surface of our teeth with a high powered baking soda spray.  The taste was awful.  The result, mind-blowing. My teeth hadn’t been this white since I was a toddler. We couldn’t be happier. 

As we paid our reasonable bill of $226 (for both of us), they thanked us profusely handing us a giant apple pie! Who gets an apple pie from the dentist?  I was thrilled with the bag of dental supplies Terry loaded up for our travel. And then, this giant pie. Wow! 

Need I say that we were impressed?  If you live near or around Henderson or are visiting Las Vegas and a dental situation arises, Dr. Simone’s office is the place to call.

Gee, for the eight days we’re, here in Henderson over the holidays, this does feel like home, minus the grandkids, the grown kids, the friends, the beautifully decorated tree, the elegantly wrapped gifts, the oversized glass jars filled with home-baked cookies, the Santa Bears adorning every corner and on and on.

Life will be different going forward.  Good, but, different.

Photos of upcoming vacation home in Nevada!…

 

Pool and Spa
Pool and hot tub in Nevada house.

 

Living room
Living room.

Below are the photos of the Henderson, Nevada vacation rental we’ll be moving into this upcoming Wednesday after a five-hour drive across the desert. We posted these photos many months ago, doing so again today for our newer readers.

Master bedroom.

Second of three bedrooms.

A charming house with great reviews in VRBO.com located in the fabulous Green Valley Ranch area in Henderson, a suburb of Las Vegas, will definitely serve our needs for eight days over the holidays with family and friends coming to visit for the three days between Tom’s 60th birthday on the 23rd and Christmas.  We couldn’t be more thrilled.

3rd bedroom
Third bedroom.

Over the next two days, we’ll busily pack for the eight days in Nevada, finish the balance of our paperwork, pack the food and cooking supplies we’ve accumulated while in Scottsdale, and the hardest part of all, decide what we’re leaving behind in one final bin we’ll leave at son Richard‘s house.

Kitchen, dining area.

This is the hardest part.  Once we leave the vacation house in Henderson on the 27th, we return to the vacation house in Scottsdale for our final packing before leaving on January 1st for San Diego to ultimately sail away on January 3rd.  Any items we don’t bring to Henderson now become a part of our luggage, an impossible scenario.

2nd Living room
Casual dining and lounge area off of the kitchen.

We have warm clothes that we aren’t bringing (Good thing we brought them along for the cold weather we’ve experienced lately), piles of papers to pass off to my sister Julie who’ll spend Tom’s birthday and Christmas with us as well. 

Pool Table
Pool table in the living area.

Julie will keep our medical files with test results, our health care directives, and stacks of legal documents that we completed on Friday.  We’ll leave our tax prep receipts in a banker’s box with Richard

Kitchen
The kitchen is dated, but serves our needs.

Oh, it goes on and on.  There’s so much to remember much of which I listed on a Nevada “to do” and others that require me walking around and “looking” at everything to further remind me. Thank goodness, my memory is serving me well. 

Living room
Main living room.

Not only will we move into the house below, but we’ll get ready for Christmas, baking (for guests), decorating (just a little), and go to our dentist appointments for final cleanings.  After the dentist, Tom has an appointment at a local travel clinic for his last TwinRix vaccine. 

Spa
Hot tub as part of the pool.

Plus, we’ll complete the arrangements for the sale of Tom’s car (prospective buyer in the works), hopefully, to transpire while we’re in San Diego over the last two days.  If that doesn’t work out for any reason, of course, we have a Plan B. 

On January 2, we’ll take the SUV to a local dealer and sell it for whatever they’ll give us.  Apparently, there’s a shortage of clean used vehicles. After pricing it at Edmunds, we feel confident that we will sell it for close to the dealer’s wholesale price. It’s a 2010 model and in perfect condition.  We’re already prepared for a low offer accepting this reality as part of the process, especially after doing so poorly at our estate sale. Ouch!  Nobody cares to pay what we feel “our stuff” is worth.  

Here’s the link to the details and photos about the Henderson home.  (Please excuse the formatting issues. It’s rather tricky copying and pasting photos from other web sites.  As I’ve mentioned in the past, web design is not my forte).
http://www.vrbo.com/301335

 

Our new residency…State of Nevada

It feels different living away from Minnesota, not better, not worse.  Just different. No snow, no cold, predictably warm and sunny days and a mad excess of shopping and restaurants.

Yesterday afternoon, while driving the five hours to Las Vegas from Scottsdale for the weekend, we stopped for gas in the desert town of Kingsman, Arizona, a familiar stopping point for a travelers along their way to California or Nevada.

Getting low on gas with another hour plus to go, Tom pulled in to a busy gas station, right off the highway.  Lo and behold, they didn’t accept credit cards, only cash a customer may have on hand or, from their cash machine conveniently positioned on the gas pump island, in order to collect a $2.75 “processing fee” from the machine for every transaction. 

By avoiding paying standard credit card fees by allowing only debit cards, the gas station was allowed to line their coffers with the excess revenues they were generating  from the cash machines!

What a rip off!  Customers were furious as they were sucked in by this scam grumbling as they begrudgingly complied.

Not my guy!  He whipped out of there so fast that his SUV’s tires were squealing,  We proceeded a quarter mile down the road to pump gas at a station with no such policies.  As he was filling the tank he realized that the gas he was pumping was $.50 more per gallon!  Oh good grief! 

Everyone had warned us about getting ripped off outside the US! Ha!  It was a good reminder to be suspicious; not paranoid, to be mindful; not obsessive, wherever we may be. So we shall.

So today, situated in to our comfortable family member’s home in Henderson for the weekend, located in an ideal area, we prepared ourselves for several tasks today:

1.  Go to MailLink in Las Vegas and pick up all of our accumulated forwarded mail from the past two weeks.
2.  Go to a CVS or Walgreen’s pharmacy to have take additional passport photos necessary to apply for our second passports (will explain this soon) and also as required when applying for certain visas around the world.
3.  Apply for Nevada driver’s licenses and voter’s registration. (We’ve been warned that the wait is horrifying.  More on that in a moment.)
4.  Find a good restaurant for breakfast.
5.  Find our bank in order to deposit some checks that had arrived in the mail.
6.  Locate a Target  store to  purchase a new FitBit pedometer after the most recent device fell apart.  (I must get back to tracking those 10,000 daily steps, severely lacking over the past two weeks.)

OK.  The Nevada DMV, a pure nightmare, we heard.  We had talked to several residents warning us to be prepared for hours spent waiting in line.  Of course, we had a plan.  Showing up 15 minutes before they were to open at 8:00 am and getting in the growing line outside the building seemed like a reasonable solution. 

Upon arriving at 7:43, we cringed as we witnessed no less than 40 people in line while a light rain was falling on a chilly morning in the low 50’s.  Unprepared, arriving without jackets or rain gear we decided to tough it out.  We were tempted to drive away and come back at a later time, anticipating that the line might lighten up later in the day. 

Let’s stay, I coaxed Tom, he too in a lightweight long sleeved shirt.  In line we went. At 7:55 they started letting us inside. Much to our surprise, there were no less than 25 stations utilizing a sophisticated numbering system, reminiscent of a computerized female voice moving the cattle-like crowd in sci-fi movie we watched years ago. 

In no time at all, we were both seated in front of a DMV “officer” providing our copious documents to satisfy the state’s requirements.  We were well armed.

An hour later, we were out the door with our Nevada residency in tact, former Minnesota residents (Tom, a lifelong fifth generation Minnesotan, that predates Minnesota statehood) and me, having enjoyed the frozen tundra and Minnesota nice (to be missed) for the past 40 years.  Thank you Minnesota.  Hello, Nevada.

And, soon, my friends…48 days…hello, world.

 

Our Las Vegas vacation home! Photos included…

After searching the various vacation home websites for several hours, we found this house in the Green Valley Ranch area in Henderson Nevada, a highly desirable location, about 20 minutes (10.5 miles) to the Las Vegas strip and about 10 minutes (5.6 miles) to the airport.  

Based on requesting a rental for this prime season dates, December 21 to December 28, 2012 (our “vacation within a vacation” since we’ll still have the Scottsdale condo, soon to be posted), we didn’t make any effort to negotiate the price.

Why did we choose a vacation home as opposed to a hotel room on the strip? Cost was the major motivator.  Also, its more conveniently located to our family and friends, great shopping at The District (.4 miles), restaurants and theaters, all of which we will particularly enjoy during the holiday week.   

There were few affordable homes available in this prime area during the holiday week due to the fact that many owners preferring to spend their holidays in their own vacation property. 

Although not as exciting as many of our future rentals, this house will serve our needs, provide room for our visiting family members and keep us from the necessity of dining in restaurants each day.

Here are the estimated costs for one week, house verses hotel, assuming the nightly rates are the same:
     Vacation Home____                    __________Hotel___________
Rent:            $1,330.00                   Rate:                      $1,330.00
Groceries:          600.00                   Hotel Taxes & Tips:       332.50
Dining Out:        275.00                   Valet Parking:               280.00

Total:          $2,205.00                   Dining, Tax, Tips:       1,820.00
                                                      Total:                    $3,762.50   

Total Potential Savings:      $1,557.50  

Having calculated dining out for two dinners for the two of us, we factored in the cost of groceries for five of us (or more) including the additional expense of Christmas Eve (traditionally, steak and lobster) and a special (yet to be determined) Christmas Day dinner.

Yes, there is the ease of staying in a hotel with the prospect of feeling pampered. As we plan for the future, our desire to be pampered has “wafted” away as we look forward to our world travels over the next number of years.  

Both Tom and I have thoroughly enjoyed pampering one another over these many years together and this, I assure you, we’ll continue to do so wherever we’ll live.

Did I mention the $1000’s we’ll save without easy access to the gambling tables and slot machines???

Charming House with Pool, Spa, Bbq, Wireless InternetGreen Valley, Henderson, Nevada Vacation Rental by Owner Listing 301335http://www.vrbo.com/301335

 

What?…Booking Las Vegas?…

Las Vegas has never been my first choice for a vacation.  We are not skilled gamblers, our feeble attempts often resulting in angst producing losses.  


However, Las Vegas does possess a draw for us with a son, a highly experienced real estate professional and a sister in Boulder City. Plus, my dear cousin Phyllis, from Boston will be visiting Las Vegas with her two adult daughters during this upcoming Christmas season.  

We’ve planned a “mini” family reunion before ultimately leaving the US only a week later, departing on our first cruise from San Diego on January 3, 2013 to the Panama Canal.
Planning our future travels these past months with the first two months beginning in Scottsdale, Arizona, arriving on November 4, 2012, ending on January 3, 2013, it appeared logical to drive to Nevada during the holidays, not only to see family members but, also our funny pug “granddog,” Mont d’Willy d’Honk, aka Monty.

Granddog, Monty.

This trip will be a “vacation within a vacation” due to our commitment to pay rent in Scottsdale until January 3rd, while we’ll either stay in a hotel or rent another vacation home, this time in Las Vegas.  

It was poor planning on my part by not anticipating this leg of the trip well enough in advance to avoid the additional one week cost. This overlapping may occur from time to time, as the “unknowns” present themselves. We need to be flexible and accept this reality. 
Now the goal is to find a good price on a vacation home in Las Vegas, roomy enough to accommodate family members as well, to hopefully make up for this loss (which we will post here as soon as we lock in a house). We sure won’t make it up the difference at the poker table!