Sunday, July 01, 2007
Why Gamble With Your Money, When You Can Gamble With Your Life?
Norwegian girl cousin and I have traveled to about a dozen countries in Europe since I first visited her in Oslo a decade ago. For three weeks she took me around to all the Oslo sights such as Holmenkollen (the ski jump used in the 1952 Olympics), Vigeland Sculpture Park and lots of museums, including the Viking Ship Museum, the open air Norsk Folk Museum, Armed Forces Museum, even the Norwegian Museum of Architecture. This, when her idea of a vacation definitely does not include museums. We even took an overnight cruise to Denmark.
When she visited me the first time, we did all the SoCal touristy stuff, as well as San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle. And no, she did not want to go to a single museum here.
When it was her turn to plan a vacation, we stayed up until dawn partying every night for a week in Ibiza, Spain, dancing at foam parties, drinking waaaay too much vodka and Red Bull, flirting with a certain cute red-headed Scotsman (for me) and a blond Swede (for her), and hopping on an overnight ferry to Barcelona with only one change of clothes in our purses.
She joined us when my brother and I (actually he did almost all of the driving) road-tripped across Europe for two weeks. We drove from Paris, France to Debrecen, Hungary; stopping off in Budapest; Salzburg, Austria; Florence, Pisa, Rome, Sorrento, Pompeii, and Venice, Italy; to Vienna, Austria; and then back to Paris.
The next time I visited her in Hungary, we bathed in thermal hot springs in Debrecen and drank wine from cellars carved out of caves in Sirens Valley before taking off for a week to Corfu, Greece where I flirted with a blue-eyed Greek who didn't seem to mind that my only words of Greek were spanakopita, baklava, and moussaka. But then, I definitely didn't mind when his only words of English were, "Beautiful. Beautiful. Beautiful." ;) And a day trip to the ruins of Butrint, Albania because it was only 1.8 kilometers away and I got to add another stamp to my passport.
Phew! So how do I top all that? For two very, very different people we managed to have a lot of adventures together. I've already taken her up and down the West Coast. She did an East Coast trip on her own with friends years ago. So besides taking her to Canada and Mexico, and maybe Chicago at some point, what was I left to do? She always says I have way more fun when I visit her than when she visits me. But that's because she's in Europe! It's her location that makes the vacations so fun. That was definitely a challenge!
So I had to stop thinking horizontally (as if the earth were flat) and think vertically. Up! Up! Up! Skydiving!!!
"I don't want to die," Norwegian cousin said. "But I'll do it if you do it."
Uh, huh, that meant she really did want to do it.
Well, skydiving wasn't something I absolutely had to do right away. But a lot of my travels and adventures happen when the opportunity comes along. Carpe diem right? We went tandem because there was no way I'd trust myself to figure out how to pull the parachute when I'm up in the air. There were four people going at one time, strapped to four instructors. Tiny plane. And I was going first so the anxiety built as I watched the ground give way during take-off.
One of the instructors in the back dramatically declares, "I've lost the will to live. I wish I could just die." Ha!
And the scariest part was sitting on the side of the plane with my legs dangling over the edge waiting, waiting, for the jump. My instructor would tilt me out, then back in. Out. In. Out. In. Meanwhile, my legs are still flapping over the edge. Ack! Just do it already!
And then we did! Ahhhhhh! $#!^!!!!! I just jumped out of a plane!!!!!!!!!!! I'm supposed to keep my arms crossed in front of my chest until he taps me. And then I go into "banana" pose with my arms and legs raised up behind me. He even pointed out the Las Vegas Strip and Hoover Dam. The worst part was actually the queasy sensation in my belly when the parachute deployed. Coming in for a landing! I'm supposed to land on my butt. Good thing I've got lots of padding for that!
And of course, I had to get a souvenir T-shirt to commemorate the occasion.
But that's not enough to top all our adventures in Europe! I had to do better! The week-long preparations for the wedding and entertaining my cousin finally hit me that afternoon. She sunned herself by the pool while I slept in our air-conditioned hotel room. I don't need a tan to prove I went anywhere.
Late, late that night after she and her friend caught a show by The Platters, she roused me awake to grab something to eat. Really, I think I was probably still full from the Bellagio Buffet the day before. And we had a quick lunch at McDonald's after skydiving. It's actually one of our traveling traditions. I keep all my chicken nugget sauces from all the countries I've visited in all the different languages. You should see the Finnish sauces, the names are like 20 letters long. I wish we had curry sauce here! And actually, it's a bit of a treat for my cousin too. Did you know a six-piece chicken nugget costs about $13 in Norway? Crazy!
Anyway, no fine dining this night. We went ghetto. Late night specials at the Victorian Room at Bill's Gamblin' Hall & Saloon. (Formerly the Barbary Coast Hotel and Casino.) What? You thought I only ate good food? It was late, I was tired, it was near our hotel, OK? Steak and eggs is $8.95. But my cousin likes her steak well-done. Ugh! Well, cheap steak cooked to well-done means hard and rubbery. So I told her to get the $14.95 prime rib, which comes with a baked potato, salad, and dinner rolls. Actually, except for the big piece of fat in the middle, it wasn't half bad.
I opted for the $4.25 hash browns, 2 eggs, 2 bacon (or sausage), and toast.
Actually, my cousin and her friend wanted to order Chinese food from the menu but I steered them away from that. And does anyone else feel sad and slightly guilty when they see old Asian people working in the casinos late at night? I just wonder why their kids aren't taking care of them so they don't have to clear tables and sweep floors in a casino. :(
Skydive Las Vegas
1401 Airport Rd.
Boulder City, NV 89005
Bill's Gamblin' Hall & Saloon
3595 Las Vegas Blvd. S,
Las Vegas, NV 89109