I continue to monitor travel expenditures, knowing that $1000/day continues to be our exorbitant standard. (See Post #320). This is on top of day-to-day living expenses that do not vary much when you’re not at home, with the exception of food. Regardless, of where you are, you still have to eat, and it’s usually more costly on the road. In our case, the $1000/day rule includes transportation (airfare, rental cars, Uber, and gas), lodging, parking, gifts, dog sitting, souvenirs, food/beverage, gifts, side excursions, entertainment admissions, and tips. Our eight-day Las Vegas adventure was no exception, although we got away without airfare (miles), hotels (points), dog sitting (daughter), and parking (public transportation). We even took some of our own wine. At $650 per day including gambling losses, this trip was a relative bargain. However, if we had paid full-price for all these basic elements of travel, it would have added up to $350 daily, or right at that grand-a-day expectation.
In our upcoming trip to Arizona, I’ve already “paid” for Spring Training tickets/parking, airfare (Alaska points), and 3-nights hotel (Marriott Bonvoy points). Our friends have a car and we’ll stay at their house in Tucson the remaining 4-nights. We’ll still have to pay about $500 a week for pet sitting, but somehow we’ll find a way to get to the $7000, 7-day level through exorbitant dining and shopping, It always seems to work-out to $1,000 a day. Same thing for our split-trips to Dallas (boys only) and Savannah/Hilton Head (girls only). It will easily be $500/day for each of us. Then it will be the two of us together for San Francisco in April and Bali in May, in each case utilizing Marriott Vacation Club timeshares that are “pre-paid” through mortgage and maintenance fees. This is a whole separate part of the travel budget that figures out to be about $540 weekly, whether we are staying at a Marriott property or not. As you can see, traveling is our biggest expense in retirement. But, it’s worth it.
Traveling together to Las Vegas was our Valentine’s gift to each other this year. Here’s a poem to summarize our fabulous week:
My Vegas Valentine
I left “The Strip,”
Without a buck.
After a week of,
No gambling luck.
We saw the Canyon,
Walked a glass plank.
After I.U. hopes,
Came back to life.
We celebrated love,
As husband and wife.
A return to the Chapel,
At the Bellagio,
Before we enjoyed,
Joel’s rolls and,
Joe’s Stone Crabs.
Two dining highlights,
But hefty tabs.
A rose from Hugo’s,
Mobsters and Neon,
Made for sore feet.
Edge a first.
Two cases from Guy,
To quench your thirst.
Sushi in Paris,
Trevi in Rome,
Palaces and Castles,
It’s “no place like home.”
In dry, dusty land.
Since vows were said.
“So Happy Together,”
To share a love bed.
Our stay at Westgate,
Did not endear!
A Grand Chateau awaits,
For our twentieth year.
Copyright 2020 johnstonwrites.com
I’ve been in Vegas at the Westgate Resort and Casino for over 12 hours and haven’t lost a dime. In fact, I’m ahead, even though a bar fountain Diet Pepsi just cost me $8. My wife is still asleep, so I can continue these written ramblings about my retirement life. I’ve used the last two posts to expound on bladder problems and butt-crack to give you an idea of how educational and enlightening my thoughts can sometimes be. Currently, I’m sitting on my butt in a dark hotel room at the computer keyboard, trying not to disturb her. I did, however, get a three-mile run in already and checked-out the Sports Book. The Hoosiers play the Boilermakers in about two hours on the big screen, with the rumored possibility of Bobby Knight in attendance. It will be a good indication of how my luck stands.
It’s the 21st anniversary of my love relationship in the city where we got married nearly 19 years ago. We celebrate the 8th of every month – this being the 252nd. Even though 10 has always been my lucky number, dating back to the playing days of Sherm Lollar, 8 could be even luckier. Our room number ends in an 8, but the digits add up to 10, as I continue to look for signs of good fortune. Even that $8 Diet Pepsi might have meaning, despite my favoritism to Diet Coke that they apparently don’t serve in this hotel. They did, however, give us plenty of great chocolate chip cookies and a case of free water thanks to our personal concierge, Guy. I gave him a $10 tip, sticking to the numbers, and agreed to have lunch with him in a few days. We’ll meet again at the Elvis statue in the lobby where he will certainly try to sell us on something. We already are timeshare owners, so they apparently want our feedback and willing to pay $100 in addition to the free lunch. This is why I can momentarily say that I’m ahead at this point in our week-long stay.
We used Alaska miles for the flights, paid only $300 total for the room, $18 for an Uber, and put-down a $25 refundable deposit to make sure we show up for lunch with Guy. He sent me a friendly text this morning offering to go to Wal-Mart for us if we needed anything. What a Guy! I also just made arrangements and paid the $350 remaining balance for our Grand Canyon tour on Monday. Fortunately, Guy won’t go with us, but I’m sure he would if we asked. All in all, I guess I’m really not winning after all, am I? There’s the cost of tickets for our show reservations that we pre-paid as well as admission tickets for the Titanic, Neon Graveyard, and Tim Burton exhibits. It’s starting to add up, and I’ve barely left the room. So much for a winning moment in Vegas!
It’s seems like a long time has passed since we’ve traveled somewhere, when in reality it’s only been four weeks. On one hand, it feels like the days go by in the blink of an eye, but the pace has been slow. The rain has kept us indoors, while movies and television series have been the sole forms of entertainment. Other than my daily run and taking the dogs out, I rarely leave the cramped apartment. “Leadership Meetings” have been sporadic and my wife’s foot injury has limited her activity. We didn’t even have or go out for a Superbowl party. In fact, the only visitors we’ve entertained are my wife’s daughter and her dog. “We Gotta Get Out of this Place.”
I’m sure I’ll feel the same about Las Vegas after a full week there, although I can hardly wait to get on z’plane in a few days. It’s one of those cities where four days is typically more than enough, like unwanted overnight guests. I’ve never stayed this long in “Sin City,” but we have a good deal on a time share. As a result, we’ve tried to schedule numerous activities to keep us out of the casinos. A Grand Canyon day-trip, two shows, pool time, the monorail, dinners and the Neon Boneyard museums are the foundation of our non-gambling plan. There will undoubtedly be some gambling and probably many hours in the Westgate Sports Book watching basketball games. I.U. plays Purdue the morning after we arrive and Iowa the day before we leave. I just hope we, including I.U., can limit our losses, otherwise it will be a very long week.
I’ve had some winning moments in Vegas but honestly have never taken any of it home with me. I even hit a slot machine jackpot that nearly caused me to be late for our Bellagio wedding nearly nineteen years ago. My wife and I have many good memories of The Strip, but as is the custom, they will stay there. There’s always a great sense of anticipation when you arrive, but the crowds, noise, bright lights, heat, rich food, alcohol, tempting stores, and related expense quickly take their exhaustive toll. This is especially true for a couple of retired old farts in a city designed around youthful enthusiasm. Hopefully, we won’t be singing this song halfway through our trip:
“We gotta get out of this place
If it’s the last thing we ever do
We gotta get out of this place
’cause girl, there’s a better life for me and you.”
Source: LyricFind The Animals
Songwriters: Barry Mann / Cynthia Weil
We Gotta Get out of This Place lyrics © EMI Music Publishing
I hope to get a few paragraphs in before the I.U. vs. Ohio State basketball game starts this morning. I’d like to have Buckeyes for Breakfast but I’m sure they will be a tough nut to crack. As I.U. goes into another of their notorious scoring droughts, I’m sure my anger will start to flair and hands will start to shake. Our poor pup Tally will cower in fear as the sound of my voice starts to express anger and frustration. In the meantime, I’ll spend some peaceful minutes recounting my daily thoughts.
We had a great dinner at Morton’s this past week, taking advantage of a steak and lobster special topped off with their legendary Hot Chocolate Cake and ice cream. We were there early before the Broadway Series presentation of Dear Evan Hanson, a Tony Award winner that we saw a few years ago in New York City. My wife is such a fan of the theater so I was surprised when she wanted to leave at intermission. It was a good show but still a replay of something we’d already seen on a bigger stage. It’s the second-straight show where we’ve left early. This is a clear sign of old age.
Intermission and bed time arrive about the same time any more. A big dinner and a couple drinks followed by a dark room often leads to nodding-off, with no disrespect to the performers. Sometimes it doesn’t even take the lights-off to result in eyes-closed. This happened at the Old Timer’s Baseball Banquet the other evening. It certainly didn’t help that there were four windy speakers. Last month, it was Fiddler on the Roof that caused an early exit. At least, it’s been a long time since I fell asleep in the middle of a movie, but most of those have been in the afternoon.
I’ve never been a fan of the intermission. In my option, if something is too long to need a break then it’s probably not worth seeing. I do, however, understand the need to bolster concessions, network with fellow theater-goers, use the bathroom, and perhaps make a fashion statement. I just don’t have the attention span to handle all these interruptions. It seems to get worse as I get older. To me, intermission is interruption! Even a basketball halftime is tough for me to handle. Let’s just get it over with and all go home!
In retirement, we may have to limit our live theater experiences to matinees so we can see the whole show. When we’re in New York we do two shows a day without a nap. However, we’ve always come from an earlier time zone. While living in Portland, New York shows often end at 8 p.m our time. I’m usually still awake, but when the clock strikes ten here at home after an intermission, I’m ready for bed. It’s also a big waste of money to walk-out halfway through a show. Maybe intermission should extend into the next day? That way we could rest and come back tomorrow for the rest of the show.
I traveled to Eugene, Oregon yesterday morning and by the time I got there, life had taken some bad twists. In perspective, of least significance was probably the Indiana Basketball loss to Maryland. I started watching it at a friend’s house and early-on had written it off in my mind as a loss. However, in the two-hour drive the Hoosier rallied and looked like they might pull it off. Instead, a late turnover led to a Terp three and eventually a disastrous one-point home loss. It was quickly overshadowed by the shocking announcement of the passing of basketball legend Kobe Bryant and his young daughter.
Both Kobe and Gianna were supporters of the #4 ranked Oregon women’s basketball program. The team was playing rival #7 Oregon State just down the road in Corvallis and sadly got the word just before tip-off. We watched sections of that game in the hospitality suite before the Duck men battled conference foe U.C.L.A. It was a double-win for both top-rated Duck squads on a day that will be forever remembered.
No one can really think of a comparable tragic loss of a sports legend. There have been plane crashes that have claimed entire teams, but none of the players were as well-known and worldly respected as Kobe. In fact, he’s in that class of super stars that are recognized by their first names alone. I was never a Lakers’ fan but indeed a basketball fan, and am still struggling with his death. It has as much or more impact for me than JFK, MLK, or Princess Diane. In each case, they left close family members behind to pick up the pieces. John Lennon and Michael Jackson were also deaths where the world stood still. Sports figures die every day, but most get to live-out their years. Kobe was only 41.
I woke up this morning with a heavy heart. Even without the news of Kobe, I would have been in a bad mood with the I.U. loss. I met-up with the same two I.U. friends to help haul grape vines to the dump. I cut my morning run short to make our 9 a.m. start. Two hours later I was tired and muddy from loading and unloading, as discussion continued about basketball in general. Our friendships are longer than Kobe’s life, stretching back to high school. Sadly, with all his money and fame he will never have what we have – over 50 years of friendship.
As I run every morning through the streets of downtown Portland, it’s hard to ignore those sleeping on the ground, rooting through trashcans, and staring off in space. It’s in my nature to try to do something nice – to make their day a little better. We’ve tried leaving leftovers on a nearby park bench, making donations to the local shelters, and passing out cash. With the latter, you never know if you’ve given to a worthy cause or if they’re headed directly to the liquor store. However, if it makes you feel good it’s certainly worth the chance.
Last night was “Date Night,” moved from its traditional Wednesday slot to Thursday, just as “Matinee Monday” was also rearranged. We tried to do both on Thursday night since my wife was finally feeling up to going out after injuring her foot last weekend. We went to see Little Women at the theater via streetcar but then barely had enough time to let our schnauzer Tally out before a dinner reservation at Montesario Pinseria. Public transportation was running behind because of the rainy weather, and after a long wait we finally called an Uber. In the meantime, I’m monitoring a key I.U. basketball game against Michigan State, as update messages come flooding into my phone from friends. My wife, of course, hates it when I’m paying attention to my phone at the dinner table, especially on “Date Night.” Dinner included pizza, one of my favorites, but I was forced to pick-off the broccolini that in my opinion was a strange topping. Going along with my wife’s choice seemed like a small sacrifice considering that I was cheating on her with the phone. It was a close game but the Hoosiers prevailed, otherwise I could have been in a bad mood and ruined the evening. Just to emphasize, broccolini does not belong on pizza nor does anything else healthy!
After dinner, my wife slowly limps along beside me in a boot designed to stabilize her injured foot, as we once again patiently wait for a streetcar in the rain. Out of nowhere a guy pulls up in a wheelchair wearing a Veteran’s cap and begins to commiserate with her injury. She replies that “it’s only temporary” and he nods sadly and bemoans that “he will never get out of the chair from the injuries that he suffered overseas.” He’s puffing on a cigarette, and politely “out of respect” wheels slightly away and into the rain so as “to not subject us to the smoke.” I thank him for his service and pull $20 out of my wallet, as he goes on to tell me that he needs laundry money to get out of the filthy sweatpants that he’s worn for 11 weeks. As the streetcar begins to pull up, he suspiciously pushes off with both feet and heads in the opposite direction. As we climb aboard, I see him actually running full speed behind the wheelchair across the street directly in front of us. I’m doubting that he was rushing to the laundromat! I guess we should have known better after just watching the second season of Better Call Saal.
The scam actually made me feel better after the guilt every morning of not being able to help everyone in need. Just the other day, there was another guy that stopped me in need of a couple bucks to assist in getting his life back in order. It’s a day-to-day occurrence here in Portland, home of the homeless. I will think twice the next time I’m asked for a handout, with the vision of them laughing behind my back about the success of their little scam. Too bad for all of those that really need it!