MUST DO activity in Vegas

I wrote a post the other day about my fun filled trip to Vegas but I also wanted to do a post just on our last excursion. Honestly, it was the best part of the trip for me, and I came away from it exhilarated, worn out, but all smiles. Before I tell you about it, know that the owners have no idea I am writing this, and I get no benefit for doing so other than sharing what made my trip to Vegas unique and amazing in my eyes. When we were initially planning our girls’ trip to Las Vegas, my friend handed me a list of excursions/shows etc we could do, for free, on her Chase points. I perused the list full of Cirque de Soleil shows (I recommend Ka, while I got a bit lost in the storyline the show itself was magnificent), some other options that weren’t really my thing, and then I saw it: UTV riding in the desert. I looked up excitedly and said “dune buggy things in the desert?” My friend’s head whipped around. “Would you DO that?” she asked, “because nobody else will do it with me and I want to!”. We booked it immediately. The company who runs it is OUI Experience https://www.ouiexperience.com/.

Fast forward to our trip to Vegas, and she got a text from Jake, who runs the operation. He explained that he would show to pick us up from the Uber lot at the hotel in a white unmarked van. He also warned us it might be a bit dusty (after all, we found out he and his wife live in the desert, so a little dust is normal). He gave us some flexibility as to when we wanted to be picked up, in case we wanted to bypass the sun’s strength a bit by going out earlier. He let us know the excursions were private, so it would be just us and him, no other people. We decided on 9 am as a meet time. My friend and I joked about the fact we were getting into a dusty unmarked white van with a stranger in a cowboy hat, and I mentioned it was a good thing my husband could locate my phone in an emergency to “find the body” (you all should know I have a dark, dry humor by now, but if not, you do after reading that).

9 am rolls around and we head to the Uber lot at the hotel. As promised, there is a large white van parked and a tan, smiling man in a cowboy hat chatting with someone. We walked up and he immediately introduced himself as Jake, and escorted us to the van. We hopped in and he turned the AC on which was certainly a welcome treat after the Vegas temps we’d had for the past few days. We headed out to the highway, with Jake filling us in on what we would be doing, how his company had special permits and permissions to go where other places couldn’t, and various other tidbits. Before long, I saw a sign indicating we were crossing into Arizona. The drive took about an hour or so, but it flew by with good conversation. You could tell immediately that Jake loves what he does, and his excitement became our excitement. I was staring out the window in awe at the landscape. I’ve been to Las Vegas once before but had never left the strip until that day. The views were beautiful but very different than anything I had ever seen. Next thing I knew, we turned off the paved road and onto a dirt road. I was laughing to myself how it reminded me of Breaking Bad when they are in the RV headed down dirt roads. I had always wondered how people found their way in the vast desert and here I was rambling down those very types of dirt roads.

Jake filled us in on how he met his wife, Ani, and his whole face lit up when he talked about her. As we pulled into their land, where they keep the vehicles, he beeped the horn, mentioning it was his way of always letting her know he was home, as well as a symbol of good luck. Ani comes out of the building where she does the paperwork and has the supplies and has a huge grin on her face. She helps us get equipped with helmets, does a quick introduction to the vehicle, and explains my friend and I will be riding together on this tour, which was fine with us. She handed us a GoPro to take videos with, and gave us a tutorial on that. Like a mother hen, she reminds us of the heat (honestly, no reminder was necessary…..116 degrees is not something you easily forget, trust me!) and tells us we must drink tons of water. We get bandanas to cover our noses and keep the dust out. Jake has a bag packed by Ani filled with ice cold water and anything we might need. She lets us know to be careful of rocks with the tires, as occasionally a rock, if caught the wrong way, can slash the sidewall. She also takes a moment to quickly quip about Jake, before assuring us we will be in good hands.

We set off. Jake leads the way and we follow. Slowly at first, as I learned to navigate the vehicle and the terrain. Before long we were going 50 mph down the dirt roads. Occasionally we would ride on little cliffs, and I had to go easier, being mindful of dips in the road so as not to launch us out. We hit a bumpy patch and my friend and I burst into hysterical laughter as boobs bounced mercilessly. Periodically Jake would stop and give us thumbs up to see if we were ok. We were feeling great.

It wasn’t lost upon me that this was an amazing adventure that I wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise. I shouted to my friend over the roar of the engine how grateful I was. She decided she didn’t want to drive and said she was quite happy to let me drive while she filmed videos on the GoPro and took pictures. When we passed wild donkeys with a baby in tow, her whole face lit up. Aside from the wild donkeys, we saw free range cattle, including babies, as well as jackrabbits, bunnies, and even a roadrunner (meep meep!).

We first headed off to an abandoned gold and quartz mine. It was partially boarded up, but other areas simply had a few pieces of metal wire around it. I suppose not too many folks would be out that way anyways. Jake told us you might get some unsavory wildlife in there, so I was quite content looking around at some of the beautful rocks around the mine. We jumped back in the UTV’s and headed out down to Lake Mohave. As we started our way down there, the water looked a bright, crystal blue. In the dry desert heat, it looked a picture of heaven.

As we got down towards the water, it only got more beautiful. Suddenly we were surprised to see a few Apache helicopters (I think that’s what they were) zooming effortlessly above the water, looking to be mere feet above the waves. It was such an unexpected site I had to pause to watch. We headed all the way to the lakefront where surprisingly there was a building housing a toilet. Jake told us we could go in and change into our swimsuits if we like (they had told us to bring them so we could swim). My friend looked panicked. She had left them back at the startpoint by mistake. We decided, due to the heat, we’d just go in our clothes. After all, Jake said we’d probably dry off within no time. I was in awe at a tree growing quite far in the water. Just one, lone tree amongst the beautiful crystal clear blue waters. Jake informed us the lake often recedes during drier months and the tree must have taken root. We headed a bit further down to another spot and jumped off a small rock into the water, clothes, sneakers and all. I will tell you that the water felt like all my hopes and dreams after being out in that heat all day!

After a long, leisurely swim, we hopped back in for our final stop, which was at a peak of one of the mountains. We hopped out to appreciate the view, which was stunningly beautiful. I had to pause for a moment to take it all in. As a farmgirl from the emerald green fields of England, to the green, tree lines streets of New England, USA, to the dry, dusty, yet picturesque desert in Arizona. This area was nothing like anything I had ever seen in real life before. I wondered at the cacti that were spotted around, looked for wildlife, and honestly wondered how people navigated the area. The mountains had a reddish, earthy tone, and while it was hot and dusty, the dryness of the land against the crystal waters of Lake Mohave below was just something you had to take a moment to absorb.

We headed back to where we had started, all in all doing about 100 miles or so that day in the UTV. Ani came out to greet us yet again, asking excitedly how we had liked our day. I couldn’t really put into words how much I had enjoyed myself. After handing over the helmets and bandanas, we were handed another ice cold drink before the ride back to Vegas. This time, Ani joined us for the trip. I found ourselves asking lots of questions, which she was eager to answer, filling us in on her version of how she and Jake met, how they live in the desert, and what their days are like. She told us she also works as an English teacher. They live full time in the desert on about 8-10 acres of land, in a large RV that has sides that expand. I sat fascinated as she described life in the desert, the beautiful amazing parts, and the challenges too. Her and Jake mentioned how many nights, they take their jeep down to the lake and go jetskiing or swimming to cool off and relax.

Now it may sound silly, but when they dropped us off, they gave us a huge farewell, and I was honestly sad to see them go. Not only had I had an amazing, fun filled, memorable day, but it felt like I had spent it with old friends. And, if I’m really honest, in a world where marriages often struggle to survive, it was a joy to see a couple who seemed to really love not only each other, but the life they have created together. I turned to my friend and said “I really wish I could follow along with their story, they were just so fun to be around”. I will be rooting for them.

We arrived back to the hotel, hungry, dusty, and surprisingly not too sunburned! (Thanks for the sunblock Ani!!!).

After showering, getting prettied up, and feeling relaxed and sleepy, we headed out for a good meal.

It’s not all too often I write reviews, and it’s even less often I’d ever blog about a company, but here’s my 2 cents…..if you head out to the Vegas area, look up https://www.ouiexperience.com/ Spend the cash, and go. It’s not super cheap but I guarantee it’s a lifetime memory and experience. The excursion is a full day. We left at 9 and got back at 5, but you can make it shorter etc if need be. You’ll be back early enough to do dinner and nighttime excitement in Vegas. Not only that, but you’ll put your money in the pockets of two really great people who will be a joy to hang out with. This is a MUST DO experience, and you won’t regret it.

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I’m Totally Not Ready

You know, there are moments in your life that seem to take forever to arrive, and then suddenly they are upon you and you think…”I’m totally not ready! How am I not ready? I had all the time to be ready!”. Yep, That’s pretty much where I am at on this cold, overcast day.

Last week I wrote about choosing joy, and doing things you WANT to do. As soon as I wrote it, I missed out on a party I wanted to go to because my back went out. The irony of it was that I had just told a friend how grateful I was that I’ve had very little back pain in a long time. It took me bending SLIGHTLY to get shampoo whilst in the shower, and next thing I know is searing pain up and down my back and hip. It hasn’t been quite right since. Now, I’d like to say that the reason that all the things has crept up on me this week is because I’ve been a little gimpy, but the fact is, I’ve been overtired, sore, but also pretty busy. Now my total procrastination is catching up to me.

Today was the last day of school. I picked up my little one from school only to have her jump in the car and burst into tears. I thought someone had hurt her, and I was ready to pounce. The truth was, she was sad to leave her teachers, school, and friends behind for the summer. This, coming from a child who in years past complained about how she disliked school. She always loved her teachers, but she never much enjoyed school. I think mostly because she found it a bit hard and challenging. This year, she moved forward quite a lot, and seemed to really enjoy herself. So much so that she was sad to leave. This made me happy. I’ve always felt education is key to more opportunities, and I had always hoped she would find her niche in school. Despite some hard changes this year, she did really well and I’m proud. The town recognized her efforts in helping me with the Closet project, which I thought was really awesome. I think it added to the positive feeling she felt about the year. We started the year with most of her old friends getting pulled out of school. She made some wonderful new friends. She also got bullied a couple of times. Surprisingly, she turned the situation around (despite hauling off and kicking one of the bullies) and even making good friends with them. I’m so proud of her, but I’m not ready for her to go up a grade. It feels like it’s going too fast.

Which leads to me to something off topic, but so be it. During the redistricting, I got into a debate with a gentleman who had an opposing view. We had a bit of a heated conversation. He wanted the redistricting, and I didn’t. So be it. He approached me at the end of year party to thank me for all I have done at the school. I told him that even though things didn’t swing as I had hoped, I wanted to make the very best of it for all of the kids. I also told him how impressed I had been by his and his wife’s frequent presence at the school. They had stepped up and stood by their word, and I admired it. We ended the year with a hug and a joined goal to continue to make the school the very best it could be. I wasn’t prepared for the sunshine and happiness moment, but I am sure am glad it happened. It ended the year on a really nice note. He’s even agreed to join in and help me next year, so that’s pretty awesome!

Aside from kids growing up (which I doubt I shall ever be quite prepared for), I’m also trying very hard to get used to continue my “free range” parenting idea. I am trying to loosen the reigns on the kids more and more. The boy child goes off with his friends more often than not, and he seems much happier. He has been great with checking in, being where he is supposed to be, and letting me know when he is going from place to place. I have a tracking app on his phone so I do periodically check it to make sure where he says he is. The better he does, the more freedom he gets. Even the little one is doing well. Both kids are enjoying added responsibility and freedom. They also know it can be taken away if they don’t follow the rules. It’s a work in progress. Compared to me hovering over them all the time, it’s been a positive experience to let them spread their wings. I notice they are much more street smart now as well. It’s not easy letting go and allowing them to go off on their own but as I remember from childhood, it’s SO important. I still remember when the little one went to her friend’s house and I thought I lost her. It was terrifying. Yet I remember the cops’ words to me “You are doing the right thing…you HAVE to let them roam and do things so they learn to be independent”, so that’s what I am trying to do. I’ve heard comments about it, sure, but I’m doing what’s best for us. As a child, I flew across the Atlantic by myself, navigated numerous airports, and never blinked an eye. I’m not at that point yet with the kids, but I remember the confidence and happiness that independence brought me as a kid. I felt so comfortable in my own skin knowing I could travel half way across the world and navigate the process by myself. I want that for my kids too.

Another thing I am not ready for, yet mentally so ready for? Vegas.

I have packed nothing. I have to do all the jobs around the house, prep father’s day gifts, mow the grass, and pack. Nothing has been done. I’m a slacker. I was going to come home from the year end beach party and do some jobs before heading out to another party, yet here I am, writing. I feel like I want to sleep for a week, yet I am gearing up for a week of very, very little sleep. I’m not ready for anything.

The nicest thing about the Vegas trip? Well, there’s a few things. The first is the daily countdown email I get from my friend each day. I haven’t told her, but it makes me laugh every day because I can FEEL her excitement about this trip, and I am just as excited. I will miss my husband and kids terribly. That being said, there is something so cool about being responsible for just myself for a few days. As a parent, I am constantly responsible for the health and well being of multiple people and animals in our household. To be able to just be responsible for myself temporarily is just a strange sort of luxury. I am excited for our planned events. These include, but are not limited to, a Cirque show, Riding dune buggies in the desert, ziplining, swimming through a shark tank, and one truly amazing fancy dinner. Doesn’t all of that sound amazing? I swear, I am so incredibly lucky to have such awesome friends. That being said, we are cramming tons of things into just a few days, and I’m struggling with the fact that I want to do ALL the things, but I am getting old and I love sleep. Look, 10pm you will usually find me laying in bed. I love bed. I love sleep. They are my favorites. You can’t go to Vegas and sleep it away though! I gotta be ready to hang. I did take the day after come back off work though. Wasn’t planning to, but I have the time and frankly, I am gonna need a recovery day.

I’ll fill y’all in on how things go, what I loved, what I liked a little less, and much more when I come back.

I think when I come back there will be some life changes going on. I’ve got that antsy feeling. Sometimes when that feeling hits, I make a small change or two, and sometimes it’s a huge change. Then again, I could spend a week away and come back feeling right as rain. I got the itch to shake things up.

I may get suddenly inspired to write before I go, but if not, see you all on the flip side.

Viva Las Vegas!

The other day, I was chatting with my bestie of probably 30 years. We met in school and have been firm friends ever since, even buying a house together when we were younger and before we each got married. We’ve done many an adventure together over the years. She was the one that came down to make the drive with me once I moved up north. We got each other through bad dates, bad boys, good time, the best of times, and the worst of times. Through it all, we’ve rarely had falling outs, and the friendship is an easy one. While we’re both married, I have kids, and she doesn’t, but she loves my kids and understands that my first priority is being their mom. That sometimes makes getting time to go adulting a bit difficult.

She was asking about what I’m up to, which basically revolves around marriage, kids, the project with the Kindness Closet, and all the usual mom things. She was telling me she’s itching to go on a trip to Vegas (she loves gambling, and if I’m honest, I do too, I just don’t have the extra funds these days), and asked me if I want to go. After all, we’ve talked about going to Vegas together for probably 25 years now, but we’ve never managed to go. I told her that of course I would love to go, but I can’t swing it now. After all, we have a family trip coming up that I am saving for, as well as a ton of expenses for camp etc that were all hitting at once. There was just no way I could swing it. “Do you WANT to go?” she asked? “Of course!” I replied. “Is it just finances?” “Well, yes, and coordinating with the kids.” “Ok, you coordinate the kids, I’ll pick up the flights, hotels and excursions” she said.

I blinked. “WHAT?”

She explained that since she goes out there quite a bit, she has a ton of points that she can use for free items. Miles, points, and other offers that she can take advantage of. She then went on to explain how my parents had always helped her out when we were younger, that I was always there to help her out, make meals when she had surgery, color her hair for her, and other stuff, plus I always help people. She said this was a way to turn the tables and help me. I’m stunned, floored, and honored.

And so, a girls’ trip has been planned, just the two of us. She handed me a list of things to do and said to pick a couple. When I squealed and said “They have DUNE BUGGIES?” she squealed “you’d do that? I’ve always wanted to and nobody would go with me!” Needless to say, we’re dune buggying it up! For her, this is a way for her to showcase a city she loves, and for me, it’s a chance to decompress and relax, while having some bestie time and seeing new things. I am GIDDY.

The other day, I was in the orthodontist office with the little and while trying to make an appointment, I started having chest pains. I won’t lie, it frightened me. A LOT. I made jokes about it, and the staff looked clearly panicked. I asked for some Tums, assuming it was just severe heartburn. Turns out that’s likely what it was because it eventually disappeared. When I recounted this to my husband he pointed out that I need to find ways to relax because I am always stressed and with a million things on my plate. I told him he was silly, and he just looked at me and started doing something he knows I do when I get very stressed. Ok, point taken.

I told my friend that while she goes gambling, there is a good chance I may wander around and people watch, or even better, park out by the pool for a while. I think the downtime is going to be amazing, but am excited to see all I can and do a few crazy things. Honestly, I have the best friends a girl could ask for. I simply cannot wait!

If you’ve been to Vegas, let me know your favorite things to do and see!