Archives for posts with tag: Las Vegas

As I traveled through the middle of northern Oklahoma’s wheat fields into the lush mountains and valleys of northeastern New Mexico to finally stop in the arid terrain of Santa Fe in such a short period of time, is always exciting and underlines why I do what I do…the backroads of our wonderful, diverse country.

As an amateur geologist, I LOVE to see the result of millions of years of erosion which  emphatically defines the dynamics behind the peak formations of mountains…striations of different rocks forced in vertical, instead of horizontal positions. The drive from Albuquerque to Las Vegas is one of the finest areas to experience this natural phenomina.

The driver from Las Vegas to Los Angeles, however, defines a vastly different natural occurrence of underwater ocean beds of the dryest terrain varying from vast salt beds and desert to arid mountains and valleys.

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This what greeted me as I left the desert of Nevada and crossed over into California!

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And this is when I knew LA was near!

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I knew I was getting close to LA when a pack of about thirty motorcycle gangers went whizzing between lanes on the expressway going about 90 MPH! That, and the insane expressway traffic of $200,000 cars pulling Speed Racer tricks in and out of lanes to get five feet closer to an exit lane confirmed (as if there was any doubt) that I was approaching LA.

As I neared my destination (45 miles outside LA), I was abducted by aliens. I’m sure that could be the only reason why my phone stopped working, my Bluetooth didn’t recognize  my phone, my GPS (Tom) sent me around in circles telling me to go in a direction only to have me immediately exit to go back from when I came and never got any closer than that same 45 miles to Rachel (my LA daughter-by-another-mother)! Tom never adjusted the distance to Rachel nor did my gas gauge change from a quarter of a tank during this time warp.

In all fairness to Tom (my GPS) has taken me close to 150,000 miles of backroads and interstates since I started in 2009 and this is a first. Finally, after being on every interstate, state road and street between me and Rachel for over an hour, I called her to find out what roads I needed to take. I admit to surprising the urge to throw Tom (my GPS) out the window. But remembering that he has a 99.9% success rate and I do love Tom, I realized his malfunction wasn’t his fault at all but the result of an alien abduction. After I told on him to Rachel, he straightened right up and got us on the right road.

When I finally got on the right road (I-10 W), Tom kept saying, literally every miles and a half, “stay in the left lane” over and over and over again like I was the one who screwed up! Humph!

I got to Rachel’s and my phone worked but my Bluetooth never recovered but I certainly did the minute I saw my special angel, Rachel. I’ve loved her from the first moment I met her at age eleven. I walked into her home full of angels! Rachel, her wonderful husband and baby are very special people to me. It’s a safe haven of acceptance, love and respect.

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Rachel, Noah and Itty Bit

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A loving daddy!

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My angels! See us in the mirror?

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The three of us!

I am truly blessed! Thank you, my loves, for being you!

Next? I go back to Vegas, Baby to pick up the Queen of Electra Brass (Jenni Lee) to take our annual trip to new and exciting places!

HAPPY TAILS, TALES OR TRAILS…YOUR PICK!

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Talk about sticking your finger into a light socket! I always got amazing electrical charges from Manhattan but nothing is like the energy in Vegas Baby! Part of it is, naturally, because Ava lived, loved and was loved here but even that part has finally tempered into not as many “triggers” for me. They’re not bolts of shock waves as I drive down familiar streets any more but more like little tingles of shock. Praise God and all those who live here who I love and who love me and Ava!

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These next pictures are the views that let me know I’m getting close to Vegas, Baby!

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Can’t get enough!

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Jenni Lee dreamt of this moment where she and other equally talented genius performing multifaceted ELECTRIFYING women came together. She named her group ELECTRA BRASS even before it congealed into this cohesive group of synchronicity and magic! I’m so blessed to have had and now have these women in my life! I’m in love!

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Vegas Babies Rehearsals

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How incredibly talented these Wonder Women are! WOW

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ELECTRA BRASS! YAY!

Tonight? Me, Photo shoot, video promo recording, these powerful women! INCREDIBLE!

More from Vegas, Baby tomorrow!

HAPPY TAILS, TALES and/or TRAILS…YOUR PICK!

Wow! I had to go into hybernati0n to get back up to speed to even write about the last two days of my trip home! I didn’t feel like I was all that exhausted until I stopped! It’s like the old joke about the guy who keeps hitting his head against the wall and won’t stop. A fellow asks him why he doesn’t quit it and his reply is, “It doesn’t hurt until I stop!”

I knew I had a great deal to process once I got home and I understood I’d be tired but what caught me unawares was how mentally wiped out I’d become from all the hard work I’d done in pushing my way to a new level of grief healing. Don’t get me wrong! I loved every minute of my 2016 Great Adventure (except for the Lebanese LA restaurant thang and a couple of others) because I was focused, determined and motivated to my quest of how I wanted to live the rest of my life…or the third chapter. I’m still not sure of all the details as I’m still processing but going west annually is definitely in my future!

As this journey has been about contrasts…before and after Ava’s death; before and after my journey; west vs. east; desert mountains vs. Smokey Mountains; water vs. drought…I thought I’d post a couple of photos that struck me from my last day on the road that focus on the differences between the far west and the near east of US.

On the back roads in the west, I witnessed a great deal of drought; a great deal of wasted water irrigating to artificially stimulate growth with more moisture lost in evaporation than plants benefited in extreme arid climates; dry creek beds; river and lake levels atrociously low (Walker Lake in NV is 181 feet below normal per Wikipedia and Lake Mead is at a record low) yet Las Vegas continues to pump millions of gallons of water into artificial lakes, fountains and entertainment venues causing the drought to worsen; more strip mining than you’d ever think; outrageous heat (triple digits); very dry air; no green vegetation save cacti and succulents; 75 MPH speed limits and California’s aggressive drivers.

Walker Lake, NV

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Outside of Tonapah, NV

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On the back roads in the east, I found Tennessee to have the most aggressive drivers (mostly between Memphis and Nashville); not as much evidence of strip mining as I’d seen before; full rivers, creeks and lakes; moist air and normal temps (high 80’s) and lots of vegetation. I was even glad to see the Kudzu!

NC mountains close to home!

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My father raised us all to be very mindful of the earth and our need to protect it. I’m sad to say that my generation hasn’t appeared to do a very good job of that and it’s only going to get worse because society has moved into the instant gratification mindset and I’m afraid the new generation doesn’t care or understand  about the long term ramifications of such a lifestyle not only on them but on our precious earth.

As my children are gone and I have no grandchildren, it’s really up to those of you who do have them to teach the next generation to love Mother Earth and help resuscitate her back to a healthy normal!

HAPPY TAILS!

 

The road we took coming from Auburn, CA to cross the state was Hwy. 299 which was gorgeous but had some road construction delays which were 45 minutes to an hour in 97 degree heat. However, the pay off before and after the wait was well worth it as you can see for yourself in my blog from last week.

Leaving started out well…but…

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And please note that after this point, there are no pictures of us on Hwy. 36 because it was a hundred times more challenging than how I started this trip on The Tail of the Dragon, for those of you who have followed me from the beginning. This wonderful, beautiful road turned into a double-fisted, gut wrenching, switchback road from hell with all the familiar names of rivers, etc. on Hwy. 299 but n0ne of the views! There was a house or two, a ranch or two and nothing else for 138 miles but curve after curve to the point we were ALL sick! No joke! Even Montana!

When we reached Auburn, we were most happy to be with a loving friend who took us in, made jokes, gave us great lodgings and helped us recover our humor before going to bed. It was rough and I’ve driven many a back road but this one ain’t driving that one again!

Today was another nine hour driving day. It was hot and tough but we made it back to 113 degrees outside and 96 inside! Jenni’s A/C kicked the bucket while we were gone! Ain’t that just the way it is!

I’ll keep washing and packing; she’ll keep doing all her stuff; Montana will still be Montana; Boo will still be Boo; and there promises to be a Southern Comfort Cabin in my near future and A/C in hers!

HAPPY TAILS!

 

It was quite an exciting Saturday night! Murray Sawchuck (the Vegas Magician) invited me and two others to see Gordie Brown (impersonator) at the Golden Nugget. It was one of the funniest comedy impersonator shows I’ve ever seen! To say it was irreverent is an understatement because I guffawed so hard through his whole show that he told me he loved hearing my laugh…and that ain’t a bad thang to be known by!

If you love to laugh, you just gotta go see him!

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After the show Murray took us all over the bar across the parking lot from the Rick Harrison’s Gold and Silver Pawn (of Pawn Stars fame) to have drinks with Rick! Going to the Rollin’ Smoke BBQ and Tavern is a MUST if you like to feel like family and have a great time with good people and great music and some of the BEST RIBS I’ve ever tasted! Wow! What a night! Oh…and this time it ain’t a cut out of Rick!

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We partied until 1:00 AM (or later) and still headed for Auburn, CA (east of Sacramento) as planned…just a tad bit later than expected! I chose to drive through Nevada all the way on the back roads through Tonopah, NV and up to Reno, NV and west toward Auburn as the drive has some spectacular surprises!

Jenni Lee (my photo journalist on this trip of Electra Brass fame) took some great pictures with her phone! I hope to be able to download some exciting video footage from today’s wild ride!

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Joshua Trees! Know why they’re called that? Because it reminded the settlers of Joshua raising his hands up toward the Lord! Cool, huh? I love word/saying origins!

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Goldfield, NV Courthouse

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And the contrasting architecture in Goldfield is stunning!

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And, as we got closer to Tonapah, the desert mountain ranges changed into a painted desert landscape. Colors changing with every blink of the eye to add or subtract green foliage, iron deposits, limestone with the brightest, clearest blue blue sky for a backdrop. Magnificent!

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Then BOOM Mother nature throws in some snow peaks seemingly suspended in mid-air over this desert land!

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Drive more in the desert, turn a corner and BAM a HUGE blue lake in the middle of the driest, rockiest desolate area you’ve ever seen! Walker Lake.

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Sleeping babies! So darn cute!

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Then we are past Reno and into California just an hour outside of Auburn!

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It’s a wonderful nine hour drive that really didn’t feel like that long because of all of the wonderful views and surprises along the way on the back roads of this great country of ours!

HAPPY TAILS!

My nights and days are running together with all the excitement of the last days in Vegas Baby, witnessing incredible entertainment and so glad that we have such great venues for all these super talented musicians, singers, dancers, magicians, etc. to do what they love to do. Thanks Las Vegas!

Thursday night, I witnessed some of the finest performers I’ve had the pleasure of seeing. Lon Bronson’s All-Star Band is an outstanding combo of talent. Their musicality is impeccable, their love of the music undeniable and ability to infect the whole audience with their magic from the stage!

If you’re in Vegas, make sure you’re here when they are performing! Check out their website: http://lonbronsonband.com

Lon Bronson’s All-Star Band, featuring the finest musicians and vocalists around was performing last night and he gave up the stage to help introduce Electra Brass!

I was BLOWN AWAY! Usually when I hear a song performed so well the first time, I tend to be a bit irritated to hear a different version of that song unless there’s a spin, twist, sound which transports me. I had that experience last night with Tony. You just gotta check out this man’s website and listen to his audios but ESPECIALLY “Tobacco Road!” http://www.tonydavich.com/

It was then that I “met” a performer by the name of Tony Davich who took swagger, Joe Cocker, collard greens and southern fried chicken to sing his version of “Tobacco Road!”

Jenni Lee is my hostess with the mostest while I’m in Vegas Baby. She is/was a very close friend with my daughter, Ava, and it’s been through that common denominator that we’ve  bonded. I’m as proud of her newest endeavors as any Mom would be!

And, last night, her group called ELECTRA BRASS had its debut performance at the Sunset Station Hotel & Casino in Henderson, NV (next door to Vegas Baby). And, although their website isn’t up and running yet, doesn’t mean they aren’t stage ready because…believe you me…I saw them KILL it on stage last night! Watch for these talented women to take you to a whole new level of excitement with their brass!

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HAPPY TAILS!

If you can stand the heat and the desert, Vegas Baby is where you want to be for some of the most diverse, incredible talent anywhere! The Rat Pack should be proud because they set the standard and it’s only gotten better…if possible!
Last night, thanks to Murray SawChuck (Murray the Magician), I was entertained, again, like a rock star by a group called “Human Nature” who performs at the Venetian. Check them out!

They were the No. 1 Boy Bank in Australia! They’re still number one to me after witnessing how they rocked it out last night! Whoa! Complicated choreography coupled with great Jukebox singing and awesome audience participation like I’ve not seen before! They’re energetic, dynamic and a bunch of really nice guys!

Check them out on their website! http://www.humannaturelive.com

Thanks Human Nature for doing what you love and doing it so well! It made a memory I’ll keep enjoying for years to come!

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If it weren’t for my Georgia BFF who LOVES Pawn Stars, I wouldn’t have driven the entire Strip (Las Vegas Blvd) all the way into town to go there. Not that I can’t or don’t appreciate their niche, I don’t have cable TV so never watch any traditional shows…intentionally…to diminish my exposure to things that trigger my PTSD. Granted, Pawn Stars probably wouldn’t but I don’t watch Antique Roadshow either! She loves that one too. So, this one’s for you, Jackie, thanks to Murray SawChuck The Magician who got me past the line and directly into the store!

Sorry, Rick, but I’m busy tonight. Maybe Saturday?

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Got a Pawn Stars shirt with a picture of Jackie’s favorite Pawn Star!

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Next, we went to Freemont Street. To hose of you who aren’t familiar with Vegas Baby, this is OLD Vegas now under a dome. Old signs (which I love), old casinos (they’re cool too) and some strange entertainers! Just saying. If you go down there, be prepared to see just about anything…and not all of it is entertainment! Some of it is just plain shock factor!

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HAPPY TAILS!

This past ten plus days has been most awesome! It’s been jam packed with excitement, meltdowns and memories.

My daughter, Ava, lived here in her happiest and saddest days here. She found her tribes (she had no less than four all at once) who gave this amazing woman the love and support she needed to stay with us a little longer. But it was the bullying at work and at home that done her in.

In driving around this town she dearly loved, I have serious brain jerking going on with being here for the first time over three years. It’s a constant arm wrestle in my brain with  trying to stay in the moment and not get triggered into the past…which, I believe, is the cause of PTSD…Post Traumatic Stress Disorder…more aptly named Past Trauma Disorder.

However, this is totally what this whole trip is about…my healing through driving the back roads, soul searching and seeing my Vegas Chirrens!

I’m blessed to have a close, loving relationship with Ava’s BFF, Jenni Lee. She’s not only a master French Horn performer but an entrepreneur who is putting together an all female brass quartet called ELECTRA BRASS! Check them out!

Montana and I are hold up in her lovely home and in our safe place for when things get tough. They got tough the other day at Costco in Summerlin and I won’t be going back to that store. Got way too many looks like that woman in the Lebanese restaurant in LA but Montana took charge as she’s supposed to do and got me right out of there without my having a total meltdown.

In contrast, I’ve had some amazing reconnections with Ava’s friends who are local performers like Penny Wiggins (comedian who performs in Vegas before the Chris Angel Show) and Kelly Vohnn (multi-talented tribute artist and comedian) at a brunch. Saw old friends and made new ones!

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Last night Montana and I got the VIP treatment by Murray SawChuck at his magic show at the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino in Vegas!

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Today, I get to see a newborn baby of another one of Ava’s remarkable, talented BFFs who is the new mommy married to an incredible gentle man. Can’t wait to get some neck sugar from Ellie!

This week? Going to see my Jenni’s ELECTRA BRASS practice tomorrow after lunch with Murray (sounds like a movie) and to their first formal performance on Thursday!

HAPPY TAILS!

Las Vegas is sometimes referred to as a bowl because its location in the center of an ever  circling memory a mountain range of underwater existence tens of thousands of years ago. To my mind, it’s not just a bowl…any bowl…but a myriad of bowls…a fish bowl, a soup bowl and, in some parts, a toilet bowl.

This stark contrast to my own existence in the lush green forests of northeast Georgia where we get more rainfall per year than any other county in the state; where waterfalls, lakes and rivers abound; where rural living is normal (less than five acres is mostly found in the cities…what few we have) makes my mind rumble like thunder with differentiating distinctions.

Why does it remind me of a fish bowl? Think of a clear, round environment where the air, temperature and liquids change only upon some seemingly arbitrary action. You scoop out the fish, pour out the water, put in new water, put back the fish and their environment is changed. Here, the mountains create a bowl where the environment seems only to be changed by drastic acts of Mother Nature herself with intolerable heat (temperatures will be mostly in the 108 degree range this week), winds (which magically appear in the early morning hours) and the occasional flooding…no…deluge of pounding, unforgiving liquid. The humans living in the fish bowl are mostly confined to their homes and routines governed by all these drastic natural occurrences by none other than Mother Nature “changing the water.”

Why a soup bowl? Mainly this comes into play because of all the varying types of people who choose to live in this bowl…from the notorious yesteryear gangster types to the famous performer types; from the starving homeless to the mega rich and famous; from the unheralded geniuses behind the performers (musicians, technicians, producers, etc.) to the incredible talent like the ones I saw at The Wynn in “Show Stoppers.” One of my Chirrens (daughter-by-another mother) performs with the orchestra most nights there and with whom Montana and I are staying hooked me up with a ticket so I could see mah gurl perform front and almost center!

Toilet bowl? Some are going to get incensed, angry, block me, send me hate mail but take a deep breath and think about all the crazy things that go on in Vegas and “stay” in Vegas…so “they” say. Only the locals who work in the heart of the entertainment core of this desert existence know what all the rest don’t know…the nastiness that did stay in Vegas…and probably can only leave with the help of Mother Nature’s drastic measures mentioned above.

However, there’s a lot to say about the magic of the desert. I see clearly why my paternal grandmother was drawn here. Why her daughter followed her west and lived the majority of their lives in this dry, painted dirt they call desert.

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at overlook

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Cliff Dwellers, Arizona (the town) on Hwy. 89 before Hwy. 160

The first time I came west, I immediately fell in love. Mom and Dad traveled west every summer in their RV in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s when the it wasn’t as manic as it seems now. They would take my son, Carl, with them so he could experience the wild west and work his “gold mine” in Nevada. Carl had “discovered” gold on the side of the road before I’d met them in Phoenix, Arizona…fools gold. I rode the back roads with them for ten days ending up in the “old” Las Vegas in 1971.

Our first stop was Tonopah, Nevada where my dad owned property. A retired trick rider-turned-miner lived on the property and who had wonderful stories of yesteryear he shared by the campfire which captured Carl’s vivid imagination. That was the year Dad staked a claim called “Monk’s Mine” on his property. It was  Carl’s  (a/k/a Monk) gold mine.

That first night, Carl and I slept on a WWII Army issue cot under the stars. We were all giggly over how VAST the sky was and just how many stars and constellations could be seen in FULL view…totally unobstructed by mountains, hills and trees! We barely slept at all…waking to re-discover a new world with every blink.

Carl got up at the crack of dawn dressed in his cowboy boots and hat with pick ax and shovel ready to find gold every single morning! He was sure it was there and he’d find it. My grandmother salted Carl’s mine one year and I thought the child was going to dig to China trying to find the rest of the “gold.” He made friends with a wild burro so he’d have a way to bring his gold back to the campsite!

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Dad is responsible for my loving the back roads. I traveled with him as a child all over the only roads (now called back roads) of Georgia in his work as  Public Relations photographer for the Governors for about twenty years. So, it was the back roads (the only roads of yesteryear) that we took on this trip. And, much to Mom’s dismay, Dad wanted to drive through Death Valley. My recollection is that we did it in spite of her  protests. It was my first taste of 114 degrees in the shade and a hundred miles of NOTHINGNESS. Along the way, we rescued a sweet  Australian Shepherd, found her a new home, bathed in roadside hot springs respite (now sadly dry) and saw desolate lands.

The starkest contrast of all was of my 1971 home of deep south gloved, primped for church  Atlanta with the bawdy, bright, brash, bustling, colorful, loud, dirty 1971 Fremont Street of Las Vegas. This poor ole southern girl didn’t know what had hit her! Carl caught a glimpse of a man winning the jackpot and was sure THAT was the way to get gold…not by all that hard work digging. Dad tried to explain to Carl that someone had have been feeding that machine for there to even be a jackpot.

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Vegas-Baby circa 1950’s

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What strange looking show girl

And, although I do love my home, I’m drawn back to those I love who live West and to the places which will call me back forever…and I will come as long as this ole girl can drive the back roads!

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Colorado or bust!

HAPPY TAILS!