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Last week and the Grand Canyon trip

September 2nd, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

So last week was a very busy week for me. Especially considering I’m unemployed, and not going to school. Speaking of school, I actually almost went back to school again just to take a couple certification classes, but ended up not going.

I probably should of signed up for classes at CCSF to get a few certifications in computer related topics, but I just got too lazy to reapply and register. Now its been a couple weeks since school started and I suppose its too late, plus I’m not all that motivated. The only class I was realistically motivated to do was the ethical hacker class, because although I think I’d enjoy the class about Windows 7 for the MCTS/MCITP or whatever the entry level Microsoft certification is called these days, I don’t really think it would add much to my resume. I’d rather go for ethical hacker or CCNA. I actually tried a CCNA class once halfassedly, but ended up doing nothing and going to Japan halfway through the class. I got a really good book for CCNA and will do it self-study instead, as I feel that will be just as good as taking the class (for me).

But really, no certifications are a big priority for me right now. Instead, a masters is more realistically a help in my career. Certs are nice but are very specialized and never can be as valuable as bachelors and above degrees. Even Associates (2 year) degrees I feel hold a better value than a lot of entry level certs like the A+ (easy computer technician certification).

Other than school, I did go to the Grand Canyon last week, which was clearly the highlight of the week. It was a super low budget trip split by 3 other good friends of mine. We decided enough people on the trip wanted it to be a low expenditure trip, so we shared a rental car AND a low cost room in Flagstaff. Since I used to work at a hotel, my expertise was called upon to book a hotel, and I ended up choosing a Travelodge which I feel was a good choice for the price. It wasn’t exceptional or anything, but more than enough considering it was $51 + taxes and fees per night, which is really low. It was roomy enough, and super clean and new. Apparently the room was recently remodeled.

I had actually been to the Grand Canyon 10 or so years ago, but that didn’t take away from what I believed to be one of the most memorable spots I have been to. The sheer scale of the canyon really makes you realize how small a single human being is compared to the entire earth. In some angles, the canyon looks smaller than it really is, so if you can, I’d recommend to do a little research and try to get your first glimpse of the canyon to be the full canyon. Every single person I have been with that saw it for the first time exclaimed something along the lines of “holy shit!” or “oh my goodness!”. Its really that awe inspiring, especially on first glance. If you’re asking me, I’d recommend the north rim, and go to Angellic peak to get a REALLY good panorama of the canyon. Hopefully you’re not too afraid of heights, since at some parts the path is only about 2 meters wide and falls off on both sides.

Although it was the highlight of the trip, we made short pit stops both on the way, and on the way back to the canyon.

On the way there, we stopped in Los Angeles. Actually we went to check out a ramen place called Orochon. I don’t know who said it was good or how we found out about it, but before we knew it, we were in Jtown LA. The temperature was shockingly hot to someone who is used to SF weather (90 fahrenheit compared to 65 typical in SF). No matter, we wouldn’t be there long, although there was a long line to get in (or out, as half the restaurant was actually a bunch of tables outside under big table-umbrellas (tablebrellas?)). The ramen, we all agreed, was an enormous letdown the likes of which have not been seen since the last airbender movie. I actually haven’t seen that movie, but I hear that some audiences booed and threw garbage at the screen when the credits started rolling. Thats sort of what I felt like doing after tasting this ramen. On the way out we stopped by Marukai and I bought a big bottle of Calpis and a swiss roll cake (Japanese style). I would later eat only a quarter of this cake before forgetting it in the fridge of our hotel room on the way back. I don’t know why, but whenever I am on a trip and I see Calpis, I often buy a bottle. Back in 2008, when I went to Japan with my best friend, I bought Calpis at almost every vending machine I saw that had a bottle of Calpis to offer (which, admittedly, was not as many as you would think). After Marukai, we switched drivers and went merrily on our way. We also made a stop to Las Vegas on our way back.

On the way back, we decided to stop at Las Vegas. We decided to see how much of a time detour it would be to go by Vegas, and it turned out that stopping by vegas would only add one hour of driving time on the way home (plus the time we actually STAYED in Vegas). We decided to go to the buffet at the Wynn, which was recommended by a sibling of one of my friends. My dad had also stayed at the Wynn once for business, and said it was a really upscale place. It was down to the Wynn or the Bellagio buffet, and the Wynn won out. It was about $25 + tip. 3 of us payed exactly $28 by creditcard. I did it first, and 2 of my friends whom payed directly after me apparently copied me. I didn’t even know until one of my friends asked us if we tipped, to which we all replied that we did (you prepay before you get in, and we all prepaid tip, except one of my friends). My friend didn’t believe us, so we all took out our receipt with a “boo-yeah!” and showed our untipping friend. Thats when I realized everyone payed exactly $28 except for the untipping friend. Hey, I’m not criticizing ok, I’m just pointing it out because its interesting! While we were paying and patiently waiting to be seated, there was a group of about 3 girls also paying and waiting, and I later found out all my friends thought one of them was cute. I actually thought so too, and although I haven’t told them, she looked at me several times while in line, and I talked to her VERY briefly when we saw each other again later on inside the buffet. As for the buffet, it was pretty good and a recommended meal for those who want to ‘treat themselves’, but nonetheless slightly pricey at $28. I actually got the meal for $9 though, and I’ll explain how in a minute.

After the buffet, we decided to walk around a bit. The Wynn is really nice, and there were plenty of the high end stores like ..uhm, Dior, Luis Vuitton, and Brioni. Most people don’t know Brioni, but they are considered a super duper high end brand and can be found at Neiman Marcus, for example. I like them for their quality, although styling is average IMHO. I saw signs for the ‘esplanade’ and decided to find out what it is. This lead us outside into an area with an artificial waterfall and 105 degree weather. OUCH. We walked across a bridge to a neighboring casino, but quickly turned back when one of us had to use the bathroom due to our familiarily with the Wynn and it was also clearly nicer than whatever neighboring casino we stepped into. I noticed one guy on the bridge between the casinos in the 105 degree heat selling ice cold bottles of water from a water chest. I assume he bought a big case for roughly 20 cents a bottle and was reselling trying to make a buck. While I don’t know and don’t think this was legal, I give him props for working hard earning money. I totally support it, although I didn’t buy a bottle.

This is where we went to the bathroom back at the Wynn. One of us went straight in, while I discussed among the remaining 3 of us if we should walk around a bit while we wait for everyone to finish. I checked if everyone had reception, which we did, and we went in, totally heterosexually, one at a time… One friend stayed outside and waited. I was the first to come out, so I offered the waiting friend to walk around. This turns out to not be the best idea in the world, as we ended up going further than I had originally planned, all the while waiting for phone calls from the friends that came out. One of the friends had earlier spent a good 20 minutes or so at the buffet bathroom, so I had assumed he had a stomach ache and would be another 20 minutes. I also assumed he had heard me discuss we may walk around a bit, forgetting to realize he rushed in first and didn’t hear that discussion. We didn’t get a call for a while as we walked around, but I didn’t find it particularly strange as I had expected the last friend to take a while. What sucked what when they came out, none of them decided to call us. The one that heard our discussion decided not to call, and instead enjoy himself at the slot machines. The one that didn’t hear our discussion thought we ditched him…which we effectively did. After we called around and met up with one friend, we called the other and told him to head to the Ferrari store and give us a call once he got there. While we waited, we decided to gamble to kill the time.

I got peer pressured into playing $1 slots and gambled in roulette as well. I later realized that because it was the Wynn, a 5 star casino, bet prices were a bit higher than usual. I actually don’t like slots, as I find them neither entertaining or fair, as you are totally at the mercy of the machine. I preferred roulette among all the games at the casino, since in roulette there are options to place bets on items that give you almost a 50% chance of doubling your bet. After quickly losing my dollar at slots, we walked around looking for a roulette table, which turned out to be right in front of us. I sat down and asked the ‘dealer’ a couple questions, as it was my first time. Turns out the minimum bet for betting “outside” or on one of the ‘high odds of win’ areas was $10. So I got $20 worth of chips and bet $10 on black. First roll landed on black, and I won $10. I was ready to take my winnings and run, but without a phone call and my friends looking on, I felt peer pressured to play another. In the end though, of course it was my own choice and I put another $10 but this time on red. The second roll landed on red and I was up $20 when the phone rang. Our friend decided to go to the parking lot where our car was parked, just 3 minutes walking from the Ferrari store, so I sent my friends off to meet him as soon as possible while I went to the cashier. With $1 lost on slots and $20 won on roulette, I was up $19 overall, and effectively got the buffet for $28 – $19 = $9. Ahahaha, I was happy with the small winnings.

We finally met up at the car and drove a long, long drive home. This concluded our trip. The trip total was about low $200’s for everyone.

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