Tuesday, December 24, 2013

back from Reno: a trip of many firsts

"Looks like shit is about to get serious!" -- me, as Dad went to try the $1 slots

I just got back from a three-day trip to Reno with my parents. The reason for this visit is that Mom had recently found some new attractions in the area. It was one of our best vacations ever!

Day 1

The trip started late because packing up took longer than expected. On the other hand, the traffic was fairly light. The first stop was an antique store in Vacaville so my mother could shop for fine china. Our stay was short as there wasn't anything impressive. Vacaville is also home to a WinCo Foods store, but we decided to save that for the end of the trip.

Up next were Sacramento and Auburn. The stores in those places had better items, some of which we bought before continuing on to Reno. Speaking of which, Dad missed our exit as we arrived in Verdi. Oops. I'm glad I noticed it before we got too far.

Because it was rather late, my parents and I had dinner after checking into Boomtown Reno. It was then time to check out the slots. Our earnings reached $10 at one point but soon dropped back to zero - which wasn't too surprising. I then tried my hand at video poker for the first time. Unlike most casino games, video poker has an element of skill. I found it pretty enjoyable despite not winning anything.

The evening ended on a scary note: my parents saw a guy passed out on the casino floor just as I finished playing video poker. That really freaked us out. I hope he'll be all right.

Day 2

All of us somehow had trouble sleeping and got out of bed around 7 a.m. The upside of getting up early is that it allows us to do more. I wanted to check out the nearby Cabela's store after having seen their ads in Field & Stream countless times. Given that the store wasn't open yet, my parents and I decided to visit other places first.

The day began with a drive around the area. There was a spot where steam was rising out of the ground. The steam turned out to be from a geothermal field; the hot springs were on private property and closed to the public, but we still got some pictures from the outside. If only we had a drone...

The gas station we stopped at also had slot machines. Mom suggested trying our luck at them; this wasn't a bad idea because I was up $1 a short time later. I figured it was best to cash out before it went back to the house. ^_^

The next point of interest was the Pyramid Lake Paiute Museum & Visitor Center in Nixon. The museum was fairly small but had lots of Native American artifacts. Considering that I've always been fascinated by Native American culture, this was the perfect place to donate the $1 we just won.

Dad then took us for a drive along Pyramid Lake. The geology of the area was among the most unique I've ever seen. The pyramid-shaped formation that gave the lake its name was sadly no longer open to the public; one of the locals told us this was because someone had spray-painted graffiti on it. Fuck the idiots that ruin things for everyone. >:(

Another cool thing about Pyramid Lake is that fireworks are legal here. I'd have bought some if they weren't sold out. Looks like we'll have to come back here in the future.

Back in Reno, my father found some more antique stores for our shopping pleasure. He also took us to Gold Dust West and Sands Regency as Mom wanted to try their slots, although our luck wasn't extraordinary at either casino. The next stop was a family diner in Reno as we were all starving. The food was somewhat salty but otherwise delicious.

It was finally time to see what Cabela's had to offer. The store was huge and had tons of stuff. I had a great time looking around even though there was nothing we needed. All of us were a little exhausted after being out for 12 hours. But the fun wasn't over just yet.

Upon returning to the hotel, my parents noticed that our room hadn't been cleaned. Dad and I reported this to management and were told they would send someone up. However, they only put a "do not disturb" sign on our door. Lazy jerks. Only after I complained to the front desk again did housekeeping clean our room. On the bright side, the guy gave us lots of coffee packets. :-)

The three of us had some rest before trying our luck at the slots again. Speaking of which, Dad won $50 after a few minutes at the quarter slots. I'd say that was the highlight of the trip. He then suggested playing the $1 slots for shits and giggles. This was thrilling at first but soon turned anticlimactic as we blew $10 without any gains.

Day 3

Taking a break from gambling, my family went to look for more antiques. Our journey took us past Auburn again; one thing I've always wanted to do was try the food in the Old Town, and this was the perfect opportunity to do so. Out of all the restaurants there, Auburn Alehouse seemed like the best choice. The food was all right but wasn't anything to write home about.

Dad found several more antique stores on the way back to the Bay Area. We also revisited a few others to check for new items. Though a couple of the stores were closed, my mother bought some more china at those that were open. The final stop was WinCo Foods in Vacaville for groceries and snacks - no doubt a fitting end to a great trip.

We came home to find goodies on our doorstep: some See's candies and wine from our neighbor Bob and a holiday gift basket from our financial adviser Kris. It's so nice to receive presents upon returning from a vacation. :-)


I had no idea Reno had so many nearby attractions. Despite being only three days long, this vacation was so much fun that we're already planning our next one. The best part of this trip was winning $50 on the slots. Pyramid Lake was another highlight and is definitely a place I'd like to revisit. You can go here for pictures from the trip.

Currently listening to: "Payphone" by Maroon 5

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

a longer Christmas vacation...

I'm taking the rest of December off. The good news is that I received the full three floating holidays for 2013 due to having worked the entire year. Because some vacation days don't carry over, I figured it would be best to use them up. That means I get a longer Christmas break this time. Woohoo!

I've delegated my duties to a colleague and will probably check in at the end of the month to make sure everything is running smoothly. Other than that, I'm free for the next two weeks. It's so nice to get some well-deserved rest. :-)

Currently playing: Angry Birds Seasons HD

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Thanksgiving long weekend report

Things were a bit different this year as we didn't have a Thanksgiving gathering. Although Mom extended a dinner invitation to Min, my former supervisor at Cisco, she had to tend to her mother's heart surgery in Taiwan and couldn't come. Having said that, the long weekend was amazing.


Happy Thanksgiving!

The plan was to go hiking in Rancho San Antonio County Park as we hadn't been there in a while. But after seeing the parking lots were all full, my family went to Stevens Creek County Park instead. This is another place we hadn't been to in ages. The most shocking thing is that Stevens Creek Reservoir was almost completely dry due to the drought. I could hardly believe my eyes.

We went to Target after dinner as my father wanted to get an iPad Air at the early Black Friday sale. However, the lines were extremely long. It also looked like the store was going to run out of stock soon. Dad figured it wasn't worth the wait.


The first stop of the day was an antique store as Mom wanted to shop for fine china. The three of us then went to Costco and another store before going to Santa Cruz to explore a new part of town. Because it was almost 2 p.m. when we arrived, the first thing we did was have lunch at the Crow's Nest Restaurant. Everything was delicious!

It was then time to find out what this part of Santa Cruz had to offer. The stroll was the perfect opportunity to work off the calories. Dad also found three thrift shops in the area. However, one was only a Goodwill donation center while another only sold books. Our last stop before heading home was the local Costco.


Having done so much in the past two days, I spent the morning helping out in the yard and listening to online lectures. The rest of the day was uneventful, although I watched The Bourne Supremacy on DVD and the Red Dawn remake on Amazon Instant Video. I actually liked Red Dawn despite the critical reviews.


The nice weather allowed us to go hiking again, this time on the Stevens Creek trail. I also watched The Bourne Ultimatum on DVD in the evening. On the whole, the break wasn't too bad. :-)

Currently watching: The Bourne Ultimatum