Every day, WordPress posts a one-word writing prompt. Two/three/four days ago, that prompt was “compass,” so I decided to celebrate the opening of my friend Amanda’s Maestra del Mundo blog with a post of my own. Then CenturyLink decided to wonkify my home internet, so here I am coming at you at 5:20 a.m. from the Grand Junction Regional Airport. Let’s see if I can describe Las Vegas 2017 in 50 minutes or less.

Before I moved away from the Vega in 2013, I got a tattoo of a compass on the top of my left foot. Now that I live in Colorado, I realize that the compass is a very popular tattoo. I have seen compasses much more beautiful and ornate than my own. Once, a student asked, “Why do so many people in Colorado have compass tattoos?” My former boss (of loading-the-U-Haul fame) mocked, “Not all who wander are lost.” It’s true that that’s one of my top three all-time literary quotes, but I blandly informed everyone, “Well, I don’t know about everyone else, but I taught geography for four years. In Las Vegas.”

When I first got the tattoo, my friend Miss Gokey’s mother said that whenever I looked at my foot, I would remember that I needed to go in the right direction (true North). I was happy to be able to spend Thanksgiving Day 2017 with the Gokeys.

I drove to Las Vegas, a surprisingly short and easy drive from the Western Slope, via Green River, Utah, stopping off for dinner (here!) in Grand Junction with my former coworkers. Just like Kansas, Utah is full of Tesla charging stations. Here’s a shot of one with an actual Tesla attached to it!

tesla charger utah

In a failed attempt to find a car wash (the Wasatch mountains were a little hairy with weather), I walked past this charging Tesla, heard it buzzing, and thought to myself that this is where we are headed as a society: to a time when we will be surrounded by an eerie buzz meant to power our travels.

Soon enough, I was posted on the eastern edge of Las Vegas. A little over two years ago, I wrote about what to do with sevenish hours in Las Vegas. A week is much longer than seven hours, so I was able to do just a few of the things I thought about while I was riding the ridiculously expensive ferris wheel in 2015. Most notably, I got to go to Red Rock with Yishay. We had breakfast at Denny’s and decided that the Moenkopi Loop would take us just about the right amount of time to do. I will take this opportunity to put the rangers at Red Rock Canyon on very public blast for not giving us good directions. We started out well enough.

red rock trail

That’s a very easy-to-follow trail, right? We took a wrong turn somewhere (which can happen in the desert, just ask Bugs Bunny) and ended up standing very near a trio of teddy bear chollas. Whatever. We still got fresh air and sunshine. We returned to the visitor’s center, where I mentioned to the ranger that we had ended up in this bad spot, and he mocked us, saying that the particular trail is so worn that a child could follow it. Later, he was overheard harassing people near the restrooms. Bad ranger. Bad, bad ranger. We didn’t let him stop us from enjoying the visitor’s center experience.

The last time I went to Red Rock Canyon, there were not shiny educational displays, but there are now!

red rock ed display

red rock ed 2

The displays even include hippie quotes from poets! We had a splendid time despite the chollas.

One of my goals for my trip was to see the cross memorial erected after the recent mass shooting. So, the next day I dragged Hector to the Strip. There’s a whole parking situation at the Las Vegas sign these days, but passing it southbound, I was in the wrong lane, and Hector gets frustrated with my driving at any rate, so I decided to give up. I flipped the Subaru around and hoped for parking access on the northbound swing, to no avail. So, instead of seeing the memorial (which I assume will still be there when I next visit), I handed Hector my phone and instructed him to take photos of any and all #VegasStrong signs as we continued north looking for parking. Here’s a view of the skyline as seen from Bellagio’s garage.

Strip view from Bellagio garage

The fountain theme was patriotic, since it was a Monday (and, according to Hector, because of the shooting). We ate crepes at Paris like a couple of tourists. He played Pokemon Go.

Pokemon Go

It is nice when visiting a place that used to be your home but that you haven’t been to in a while to see that some things do not change. It’s comforting. We went to the Fashion Show Mall looking for the Build A Bear which has apparently been relocated. When we got there, it was done up for the holidays with the exact same giant-woman/ornaments it was decorated with the last time I entered it, in 2011.

fashion show mall


So…that answers that question about whether I could draft a blog post quickly.

Greetings from Hammond, Indiana. I had almost concluded talking about the first half of my trip. Really, the only thing left to say about those first few days was…we ate food like locals.


Yeah! I also watched Hector play video games like a local.

final fantasy


During the second part of my trip, we did other things like locals, too. As far as pizza chains go, Marco’s can’t be beat. We went to the drive-in for a double feature on a Tuesday night. We saw Geostorm and Thor: Ragnarok.


We binge watched Stranger Things 2. We made a lot of Thanksgiving food (Miss Gokey made most of it) and ate it at the Gokeys’ house, then watched Paint Your Wagon. Miss Gokey was dogsitting for our friend Megan’s dog, so we took many, many walks. Here’s a sunset view that I took during one of those.


Also geocaches.

Vegas geocache

^This geocache was retrieved from a parking lot that didn’t exist the last time I visited Las Vegas. As you remember from the “Sevenish-hours” post that you already re-read, I like to go places that didn’t exist the last time I was there.

We had to really force ourselves to stop watching Stranger Things 2 early enough to get up and make it to the Railroad Tunnels trail at 8:15 Friday morning. We chose a convenient time at which to stop.

Screen Shot 2017-12-22 at 3.57.48 PM

That’s right: Chapter 7.

Why would we be at the Railroad Tunnels so early? So that Miss Gokey and I could earn swag for our virtual races: Miss Gokey’s virtual 10k Turkey Trot, and my #OptOutside challenge. I don’t know whether Ms. Schwartz was doing a virtual race. Nonetheless, we persisted. Here’s our “before hike” photo. This one is the best because all three of us are in the sunlight.

before hike

In case you don’t know, the Railroad Tunnel trail was the path by which pieces of Hoover Dam were carted in for the construction of the dam from the 1930s-1960s (according to the NPS website). I’ll leave the photos below with minimal commentary. You know that I am intrigued by the “bathtub ring,” and I encourage you to look for it in the photos, although you will have to squint.

heat kills

Good thing it was November.

tunnel approach

tunnels 1

concrete plugs

^These are the Concrete Plugs.

tunnels 2

Then we went to Starbucks and drank up all of the calories we had just burned. For my 5ks worth of effort, I was rewarded with a challenge coin that looks suspiciously like both the trail that we walked and the town where I live, Glenwood Springs, CO. Maybe next time, I will make it all the way to the Dam. Either that or all the way up to Mary Jane Falls. One or the other.

challenge coin

Friday afternoon, we parked at the Paris casino and ran to the T-Mobile Arena for the Golden Knights game. I’ll leave those photos below as well, with minimal commentary. Here’s the one and only #VegasStrong photo for my loyal readers. I took it myself.

vegas strong t mobile

between periods

^This is the only 10 minute snippet of the Blue Man Group that I have ever seen in my entire life. It happened between periods at the game.



hockey victory

Many thanks to our hockey hosts, and to Miss Gokey for setting me up with lots of awesome things to do during my visit. Also thank you to Yishay and Hector for letting me drag you around doing things and having fun.

Blogging about a trip is always disappointing, because what ends up being a really long post still doesn’t do justice to the trip itself. During my almost-a-week (give or take 12 hours) visit, my heart was so filled with (nostalgia? regret? Noooooo.) love and affection that I was surly for an entire week after I left. Here’s me Leaving Las Vegas in much better shape than Nicolas Cage with 400 miles available until the next gas pump.


And here for your enjoyment is a montage of my surly Sunday, with my #VegasStrong shirt.

I smiled only once on Sunday. One of the benefits of the car (which has 7,000 miles on it now btw and tyvm) is that when you cross a state line, it yells, “Welcome to ____________!” as it did when I crossed this sign.

Welcome to COLO

Even though I live in Garfield County now, I also like to mutter, “Mesas, Monuments, and Memories!” when I pass the Mesa County sign. Despite those joyful moments, I was apparently still surly when I arrived back at the shack.


At the risk of offending/alienating my readers, I often sit in judgement of people who travel to the same place over and over again, since I personally prefer to visit new places. That said, I have already planned my next visit to Las Vegas. I can’t even wait an entire year. I am going to treat myself to a long weekend shortly after my 41st birthday so that I can feel that particular brand of love and affection again.

And do something that didn’t exist this time.

What do you, a loyal reader of this blog, have to look forward to in the coming weeks and months?

Well…when I packed for my holiday trip (the one I am currently on), I forgot two things: my high school logo sweatshirt, and

my jar of 2017 good things.

Therefore, you can look forward to the annual Year in Review/Resolved posts early next month/year.

Until then…

be well, stay warm, feel the love, and always point your two feet toward your own true north.















One thought on “Compass

  1. Beautiful writing! Amazing places! The wonderful opportunities you have! I can’t wait for your next adventure! Keep sharing, please.

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