Saturday, February 1, 2020

Never Homevember - Jamaica

Spending time out of the country during Thanksgiving has been our tradition since 1997.  This year we chose to go to visit one of our favorite places - Jamaica.  This was our 18th visit to Jamaica and tenth visit to Sandals Royal Plantation in Ocho Rios.   We’ve visited this small hotel (74 rooms) off-and-on since 2001 and have seen many changes over the years as it converted from the Royal flag, Beaches Flag, and Sandals flag.    We’ve seen staff come-and-go and watched friends move up the corporate ladder over the years.  It’s one of those places they remember you, even after a 5 year absence. 

Our original plans were to go to another Sandals this year, but we landed a sale price cheaper than we paid in 2001.   If only we could say the same about the airfare.

This year we had nearly perfect weather.  Rain interrupted maybe one hour of the whole trip - a first for Ochi this time of year.    Mornings and afternoons were spent on the beach, sunset in the hot tub on the terrace deck, and dinners were spent at 2 of the three restaurants most nights.  Thanksgiving night we dined at the neighboring Sandals Ocho Rios (guest of Royal Plantation can take advantage of all they have to offer but their guests can’t come to Royal) at the Japanese restaurant.   Another evening we attended the Returning Guest Dinner - a weekly affair at Sandals where you dine banquet style with management and other guests.

One fun new activity for this trip was going to the main Sandals newish speakeasy called The Rabbit Hole.   You needed a password to get in (obtained by asking a butler).   The decor inside was a mix of Alice in Wonderland meets Al Capone.  Each night there’s a short cabaret show before the venue turns into a disco.    We saw Mama perform and she did not disappoint. 

We did not take too many pictures since we’ve done this trip many times.   We also had intentions of leaving the resort but ended up lazy and enjoying the rain/cloud free days on the beach.

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Never Homevember 2019 - Las Vegas

Not spending weekends at home in November meant no Christmas decorating.   Full Christmas decorating is an 8-10 hour process and tear down slightly less.   This year we went with our 2’ prelit tree and 2 star showers on the lawn.   Cleanup will be easy.   

We decided to take the first flight out to Las Vegas since we didn’t really want to waste a portion of a day off from work at home.  We landed around 9am.  Our reason for taking this trip was to run some of the Rock & Roll races on The Strip at night and to spend time with friends Tom and Maggie (father and daughter).    

We were able to check into our room at The Linq early.  When we visited in May we thought the hotel was a good choice based on location, the number of eateries, a good beer selection at a couple bars, and they had the horse racing game where the horsies go around the track.  Our rate was pretty reasonable too for an event weekend.   Before heading to the race expo via Monorail we grabbed a burger at In-n-Out.   This was our second time at the chain and we still don’t understand what all the fuss is about.   Holly was thrilled to be doing the half instead of the full marathon this weekend, but out of habit she went to the wrong check-in tables.  Dave ended up getting Corral 1 for the 10K, which meant if he stayed in that corral race day he would likely be trampled.  

After dropping Expo stuff back in our room we made our way south towards Mandalay Bay with a few stops beforehand.  The monorail took us to MGM Grand, which we toured around a bit before crossing over to New York, New York.   We made our way to a little park that was home of the Hello Kitty CafĂ©.  This is basically a semi-permanent trailer/food truck selling snacks and coffee.   Some items are shaped like Hello Kitty characters.   

After snacking we got some walk-around beers at a nearby bar and headed towards Excalibur.   We enjoyed the continuity of theme throughout the casino (Sherwood Forest Bar and suits of armor lining an entryway).    The MGM casino monorail took us over to Mandalay Bay, which we thoroughly walked through.   We were disappointed to find the Shark Reef required admission and the pool had been closed (it’s a nice pool to look at).  We were hungry and decided to eat at Noodle Shop in the hotel.   We decided we’d eat a lot of Asian food this trip since the Asian restaurants in our town are awful.  Our final stop was at Luxor to take a look at their Egyptian theming.

Our evening activity was Cirque to Soleil’s Beatles' Love.   We’ve never been to a Cirque show and figured having music we are familiar with would help us ease into the experience.   We were surprised that the show was more of a dance show vs. people hanging from the ceiling or balancing on each other.   We ran into Tom and Maggie after the show and we decided to meet up again in the morning for a trip to the Hoover Dam.  We went back to The Linq for dinner at Virgil’s BBQ before calling it a day.

Saturday morning we ate the most expensive Starbuck’s breakfast in Harrah’s (you thought airports were overpriced) before meeting Tom and Maggie at Mirage.   Tom rented a mini van to take us on the hour trip to The Hoover Dam.   We spent time walking around the dam, making every “dam” joke you could imagine, before taking one of the shorter tours offered by the Bureau of Reclamation.   Although the dam is big, it was actually smaller than we thought it would be.   It’s worth the trip to see the dam, but an added benefit is the beauty of the area.  There were some great desertscapes intermixed with the river and Lake Meade.   We stopped for lunch in Boulder City, a town created to house the builders of the dam.   The town was very cute, but our lunch location was lackluster.    On the way back to town we stopped in Henderson and enjoyed some beers at LoveLady Brewing

Back in Las Vegas we split up since Tom and Maggie were running the 5K race that evening.   We walked down to the Fashion Mall to visit the ABC Store – a Walgreen’s sized convenient store from Hawaii.   They have good snacks from Hawaii.   We stocked up on macadamia nuts, Hi-Chews, and Kona beer for the room.   We toured around our hotel area visiting Flamingo, Cromwell, and Caesar’s Palace.   We discovered a great craft cocktail bar in The Cromwell – Bound.  We ate dinner at Beijing Noodle No.9 and gambled a bit before calling it an evening.

Sunday: Race day. Afternoon/evening races are not our favorites since it is hard to judge what to eat and when. We had an early breakfast at the hotel and then tried to figure out how to kill time. We headed to The Venetian and just sat on the steps enjoying the sun and watching gondolas go by. Dave had to leave around 2pm for his race and Holly could walk to her start line a little later. Dave would start the 10K 45 minutes before Holly would start the half.

Dave’s 10K Comments

I had too much time to kill. I exited the Monorail at the Sahara (nice casino) and crossed through the casino with many other runners. A Plinko type machine caught my eye so I gave it $5. Our staging area was the fairgrounds, which is just a vacant lot when there’s no fair.  Many of us chose to soak up the sun on the artificial turf while waiting to corral up.   We had access to real bathrooms, a plus.     When it was time to get to the corrals I decided to go to the back of Corral 1 so I could avoid getting in the real runners’ way (I actually do not run but can walk fast).  Unfortunately we did not have a wave start as advertised so I ended up moving really fast to try to get to the side and out of the way.  Spacing on the course really didn’t open up until Mile 2.   I probably ended up with my fastest single miles ever in a race.  I ended up finishing at 1:22, better than expected.

It was fun getting to see a part of The Strip I’d normally never go near:  The old wedding chapels, biker bars, run-down dispensaries, and urban decay.  Some bars near Fremont looked fun though and the casino lights on the way back were pretty.   I was hoping for a margarita to cross the finish with but the race barriers kept me from reaching the stand.  The light show at the finish was decent and course entertainment was adequate.   The process to go through the finish chute and cross streets to get back to the sidewalk was underwhelming.     I figured Holly was going to be coming to my area soon so I grabbed a beer from Sin City Brewing.   I videoed her running by before heading back to Linq for a shower.

Holly’s Half Marathon Comments

I was excited to run on the Vegas strip.  I wasn’t excited to start running at 4:45pm.   I usually eat very little before any race so I wasn’t sure what to do.  I had a big breakfast and then just had a Lunchable as a snack around 1 because I was starving.  It worked out well.   The start area was much more chaotic for me.  It took forever to get from the staging area to the corrals.  You had to funnel thousands of people into a small alleyway.  Not fun.   After I got to the start corral it was fine.  I enjoyed running up and down the strip and it was great to see old Vegas.   I’m glad I did the race.  It did kill the whole day though.   By the time I was done running and got through the finish and got a shower, it was probably 8:30.

Video from the Race – mostly from the 10K

After the race we were hoping to meet up with Tom and Maggie for dinner but someone ran into Maggie while running the half and she was icing down.   We had burgers and beers at Black Tap in the Venetian, played a few games, then went back to our hotel for drinks and some live music.     While it was fun to do the races, afternoon/evening races really kill the whole day.


Monday, time to head home.  We had a late-afternoon flight so there was still time to play.    Breakfast was in the hotel at Hash House a Go-Go.  We started the morning with mimosas and obscene amounts of food.   We left our luggage with bell services and played a few games.  We were down around $220 for the weekend and decided we should stop soon.  Holly wanted to try the Jurassic Park 3D machine so we gave it our last $30.   She ended up winning around $250!  Hot dog, back in black!  We played a few more games and maybe left the town $30 up.   

To celebrate we took a lift to China Town (nice area) and had drinks at The Golden Tiki.   This place was fantastic!   The good thing about going to tiki bars early is they tend to be empty.   The bartender was super friendly and told us about how the place was designed by former Disney Imagineers.   Many Disney references and props all around the bar.  They had two replica Tiki Room birds that had raunchy banter from time-to-time.   Back on The Strip we had one more Asian meal at Noodle Asia in the Venetian.  

Another fun weekend in the books!  Next stop, Jamaica.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Charities of the Quarter - Q4 2019

Charity of the Month is a way Team Tizzel is helping to support some very worthy organizations. As part of this program, we will dedicate a post to a charity that we will sponsor through the month by donating Holly's training run money.

Dave’s been slacking big time at keeping up-to-date with posts so we’ll have three charities featured today.  It’s overall more efficient for you the reader.

The last charity we featured was Sandals Foundation - Hurricane Dorian Relief to aid hurricane relief in the Bahamas.    We also gave another donation while in Jamaica at a Sandal’s resort.

Q4 Charities

Toys For Tots

Adam’s Army:  We learned about this charity over the holiday’s on The Today Show.  Adam, the charity’s founder, was interviewed about being a former St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital patient and his work helping to raise funds for the hospital.  The next big challenge for Adam was to run his first marathon on December 7th.  He completed the marathon and got his organization to the $1 million donation milestone.  From their website:

The mission of Adam’s Army is to support the efforts of St. Jude by helping to be the “Voice for the Voiceless”.

The founder, Adam Cruthirds, diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia at age 16 in 2014, created Adam’s Army to help carry on the legacies of friends who have died and help the little ones that can’t speak up. His grueling 2 and 1/2 year treatment plan that concluded in February 2017 was beyond tough, but it has made him realize that childhood cancer can and must end with us supporting St. Jude.

We seek to spread this message of faith and hope throughout the world and do our part to help realize Danny Thomas’ belief that “no child should die in the dawn of their life.” We are making every day count.
Sheldrick Wildlife Trust:  A friend of ours picked this organization as her Facebook Birthday Charity of choice.  We are fans of any group that helps to protect Africa’s wildlife.   The organization cares for and rehabilitates elephants, rhinos, giraffes, and other animals rescued from all around Africa.  From their website:

Toys for Tots:  We kept the tradition alive by braving Walmart on a Saturday to fill the cart with toys and drop them off at a local brewery.   Since it’s too late to donate toys the organization can use cash for wrapping supplies and other logistical expenses.  There is still time to help out this season.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Tizzel’s Christmas Countdown 2019 - Christmas Day

Merry Christmas!   We close out this year’s countdown with some military homecoming videos.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Tizzel’s Christmas Countdown 2019 - Day 10

Today Tizzel is featuring a “Choose Your Own Adventure”.  He’s offering up Christmas fails and a multi-denominational choir singing a Bob Marley song in several languages.   It’s not a Christmas video, but the message fits with the season. 

Monday, December 23, 2019

Tizzel’s Christmas Countdown 2019 - Day 9

Elves have been working hard this year to create advertisements with heart.   Here’s another example from Toyota.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Tizzel’s Christmas Countdown 2019 — Day 8

Tizzel has spent many hours watching old Christmas specials and has learned one thing.... Mask technology has come a long way.   The dancing Santas in this segment are scary!