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. While we don't visit Reno that often, Mom had recently found some new attractions in the area, hence this vacation. It was one of our best adventures ever!

Day 1

The trip started late because packing up took longer than expected. On the other hand, the traffic was fairly smooth. Our first stop was Vacaville as Mom wanted to look for fine china at local antique shops. Upon finding nothing terribly impressive, my family took off for Reno after lunch in the car. 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 the Biggest Little City in the World. Due to entering the wrong address into the GPS, Dad missed the exit leading to our hotel in Verdi. Oops. I'm glad I noticed it as the extra drive would have been annoying.

Seeing that it was rather late when we checked into Boomtown Reno, the first thing we did after unpacking was have dinner. The slots awaited us in the evening; the three of us were up a total of $10 at one point but soon lost it all again - 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 certainly 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 tufa 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. I guess we'll have to come back here in the future.

Back in Reno, my father found some more antique stores for our shopping pleasure. We also went 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 away from the hotel for 12 hours. But the fun wasn't over just yet.

We returned to Boomtown to find that our room hadn't been cleaned. Dad and I reported this to management and were told they would send someone up. However, all we got was a "do not disturb" sign on our door. Lazy jerks. I complained to the front desk again, and only then 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 casinos, 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've decided take the rest of December off after finding out I had lots of PTO saved up. The good news is that I was able to receive the full three floating holidays for 2013 due to having worked the entire year. Seeing that these and some vacation days don't carry over, I figured it would be best to use them up. That means I get to enjoy a longer Christmas break this time. Woohoo!

I'll probably check in at the end of the month to make sure everything is running smoothly as I've delegated my tasks to a colleague. Other than that, I'm free for the next two weeks. It's so nice to relax after working so hard!

Currently playing: Angry Birds Seasons HD

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Thanksgiving long weekend report

This Thanksgiving break was a bit different in that my family didn't have anyone over or vice versa. Although Mom extended a dinner invitation to Min, my old supervisor at Cisco, she was unable to come due to having to tend to her mother's heart surgery in Taiwan. That said, the long weekend was overall pretty good.


Happy Thanksgiving!

Kicking off the weekend, the original 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, Dad took us to Stevens Creek County Park instead. This was another place we hadn't visited in ages, and what shocked us was that Stevens Creek Reservoir was almost completely dry due to the drought. The lake bed could have easily passed for Death Valley.

We went to Target in the evening as my father wanted to get an iPad Air at the early Black Friday sale. The lines were extremely long - which wasn't exactly surprising. There also didn't seem like enough supplies for everyone. Dad figured it wasn't worth the wait.


The morning began with a stop at an antique store as Mom was interested in collecting fine china. The three of us then went to Costco and another used goods store before going to Santa Cruz to explore a new part of town. The first thing we did there was have lunch at the Crow's Nest Restaurant as it was almost 2 p.m. The dishes were damn good; the lunch was undoubtedly the highlight of the long weekend.

All of us then went for a stroll around the area. Considering that the food had lots of calories, this was the perfect time to get some exercise. Dad later found three nearby antique shops that we went to check out. One turned out to be only a Goodwill donation center while another only sold books. That left lots of free time, during which we visited the local Costco. This was the busiest day of the long weekend.


Having done so much in the past two days, I spent the morning helping my father with yard work and listening to online lectures. Other than that, I got to watch the 2012 remake of Red Dawn on Amazon Instant Video and The Bourne Supremacy on DVD.


Given that the weather was quite nice, my parents and I decided to go hiking again, this time on the Stevens Creek trail. Aside from watching The Bourne Ultimatum on DVD in the evening, the rest of the day wasn't too crazy as I have work tomorrow. If only my break was longer!

Currently watching: The Bourne Ultimatum