Epic Seattle Mariners Trip

My “summer to remember” continued this week as I spent Monday through most of today in Seattle, Washington. My brother and I drove over to watch the Mariners-Braves series. Before I get too far ahead of myself, let me say that the Mariners got swept by the Braves. An anemic offensive output by the Mariners negated great starting pitching by Erik Bedard, Michael Pineda, and Felix Hernandez. Despite the three losses, Glen and I had an awesome time watching our favorite team play and just an overall great time in Seattle.
We left for Seattle on Monday morning. Glen and I were both a little tired at the onset of the trip as he had just finished playing on two teams for Hoopfest over the weekend and I had had a long weekend serving as a court monitor for Hoopfest and had celebrated my friend’s birthday on Sunday night/early Monday morning.  Once we drove over the mountains though, any sign of fatigue escaped us as we started to get excited for what laid ahead. We got to Seattle and checked into the Silver Cloud Broadway hotel located in the Capitol Hill district of Seattle. After unpacking and  getting settled, we took a shuttle right out to Safeco Field. After walking down Royal Brougham and enjoying the great atmosphere that is always generated by all of the vendors selling their various food items on the street, we entered the ballpark. Glen and I went to “The Pen”, the newly installed area in Safeco Field that gives fans the opportunity to watch the pitchers warm up in a very up close and personal manner. In  this area, there is also a bunch of brand new concession stands and a happy hour that runs from when the gates open to an hour before the game. The happy hour consists of $5 draft beers which is actually a great bargain as beers regularly push the $10 mark. Glen and I were in heaven as we watched the people we watch on TV every single night from just a few feet away while eating peanuts and downing beers like it was going out of style.
Cool Story: We were watching batting practice in The Pen when a ball was hit out of the park and into the actual bullpen area. The ball landed right in front of where I was standing but the ball was about 8 feet under me and there was a fence separating The Pen area from the bullpen. All of a sudden, this 18 year old kid taps me on that back and says “Hey, will you let me take your spot for one minute and I will get that ball and give it to you?” I look at the kid and he has this contraption that consisted of a glove hung onto a rope. Having seen these types of things before, I immediately changed places with the kid. He lowered the glove into the bullpen and tried to retrieve the ball. He had no luck his first couple attempts. After struggling, we noticed  that one of the Seattle Metro Policemen assigned to the bullpen area was coming over to retrieve the ball himself. Credit the kid cause he worked well under pressure and was able to scoop the ball as the police guy was just about 5 feet away from it. The kid was true to his word and flipped me the ball. I thought that was really cool and I let him know by rewarding him with a nice tip. We need more young, smart minds like his in this world.

                             This young lad used his contraption to get me my ball

Glen and I went to our seats in time for the first pitch of the game. Our seats were amazing as we sat right at the first base bag, seventeen rows up. It was a little bit of a unique situation for me as the roof at Safeco Field was closed. I had never seen a game played under a closed roof at Safeco until Monday night. It was nice though as we did not have to battle any sun and did not have  to worry about getting rained on. Erik Bedard started the game for the Mariners and pitched great but could not get any run support as the Mariners lost 3-1.  A crowd of 26,000 watched the game, a pretty good number considering it was a Monday night and the Mariners have not drawn well at all this year.
After the game, Glen and I went back to the hotel and one of Glen’s friends came over to meet us. We then went to the Capitol Hill bar district where we bar hopped for the rest of the night going to very eccentric and quirky bars. Sometimes, it is so nice to get away from the predictability/normalcy of your hometown bar scene and go to totally new places. This past weekend (Spokane) and Monday and Tuesday night in Seattle really allowed me to do this and it was so refreshing. 
Tuesday morning came quickly and it did not take long for Glen and I to find ourselves at Pike Place. I love Pike Place, it is exotic and exciting and no matter how many times I have been there over my lifetime I still always find something new. We had a great time watching a street magician, witnessing the fish throwers make the day of a few young girls who needed to catch a fish for a scavenger hunt, sampling bizarre sodas we had never heard of, and just walking around the craziness of the shops and various markets. We ate at The Pike, a brewery with great beer and great food. Since we were in Seattle I got fish and chips and Glen and I split their beer sampler that gave us the opportunity to try six of their beers. After lunch we walked to the waterfront and hit up the shops lined around the area before going to  Sluggers, a sports bar right in the vicinity of Qwest Field and Safeco to pre-game a little before entering the stadium. Once we finished at Sluggers we hit up the vendors outside the stadium and got hot dogs! We then entered the stadium and set up shop once again in The Pen, eating peanuts and drinking beer. For Tuesday night’s game, the Mariners coveted rookie pitcher, Michael Pineda, got the start. This guy is a phenom and he is also gigantic. You think he looks big on TV? Just wait until you see him standing two feet away from you. It is a special feeling when the starting pitcher walks out to the bullpen to toss his warmup pitches because everyone in The Pen area cheers as the starter enters through the gate with his entourage of the pitching coach and bullpen coach following him. It is hard to explain that moment in this blog, you just have to experience it. Trust me, it will give you an adrenaline kick.

                                    Pineda during the National Anthem

After watching Pineda warm up, Glen and I went to our seats. For tonight’s game, Glen had bought our tickets for us and they were amazing. We were on the left field line, three rows back! It was as if we were actually on the field. The roof was open for the game and it was a gorgeous night for baseball. Again, atmosphere was at a premium. Sitting behind us was a group of people probably around our age who all decided to get bombed for the game. One of the people in the party accidently dropped her popcorn all over me. I gave her a free pass because I am a nice guy….even though she was a Braves fan!! The Mariners started off hot as Ichiro hit a lead off home run and even Jack Cust managed to hit one out. However, the Braves rallied to defeat Seattle 5-4.
After the game we went back to the hotel and one of my friends from Missoula who spends the summers in Mercer Island (right next to Seattle) visited us. We spent some time in the hotel bar and then went to a place called the Canterberry. Another good night in Seattle.

                                  Glen and I enjoying the bar.

This morning, we awoke and packed everything up and checked out of the hotel. Good lodging definitely does not come cheap as I learned at check out. We drove around aimlessly trying to find a parking spot somewhat close to the stadium before opting to just cough up the $20 and park in the Qwest Field parking garage. Parking fees are the ultimate “gift that keeps on giving” for teams/cities. If you think about it, the Mariners play 81 home games a year. Parking is always packed with people paying the $20 to $40 fee. Do the math. That is a lot of money just based on parking spaces.
Enough of that tangent, if you can tell by my writing, I am a little tired. Glen and I got into the stadium and as you can guess, we went back to The Pen. Felix Hernandez was on the mound today so we did not want to miss seeing him warm up. Before the game, the Mariners brought in a professional group of softball home run hitters to put on an exhibition for the crowd. It was pretty cool as they consistently launched home run after home run into the second deck. After they finished, Felix started to warm up. I had never seen anyone throw as fast in person as I saw Felix throw today. It was very cool to see. For the game today, Glen and I just bought left field bleacher tickets because we knew we did not want to be sitting. Instead, we watched the game from several different places in the stadium. At Safeco it is really nice because they have all of these walkup areas where you can just stand and watch the game. We went from center field to left field to third baseline to behind home plate during the game.  Unfortunately, wherever we watched the game from did not help out the Mariners much. Felix pitched 8 innings but did not have his best stuff as the Mariners lost 5-3. After the game we got in my car and had a very smooth exit from the Seattle area and hit the road going east.

                                Felix just about to start his warmup session

I am once again in Spokane at my parent’s house. Tomorrow I will be getting up at 5am and then hitting the road for Missoula where I will go straight to work. Fun, huh? The state of Washington treated me so well over the past six days. Hoopfest was such an amazing time and Seattle was a blast. Thank you so much to all the great people I met over this time period. It is now time to go back to Big Sky Country and once again have another cruel reality check. Tomorrow I will post to this blog to wrap up the great month of June I had. I truly believe it was the shortest and longest month I have ever lived through. Until then, Don’t Blink.

Over to Sea-Town for Mariners

Time to travel some more.
In just about an hour, my brother and I will be traveling to the west side of Washington to invade Seattle. We are going over to watch the Seattle Mariners vs. Atlanta Braves series that starts tonight and runs through Wednesday afternoon. I can’t wait to watch three Major League Baseball games over the next few days. To make the deal even sweeter, the Mariners are actually in contention to make the playoffs this year. As of this morning, they are just 1.5 games out of first place in the A.L. West. Also, how cool is it going to be watching Atlanta play? I have never seen the Braves play in person. I grew up watching their games on TBS so to finally catch them live is going to be pretty neat.
By now, most of you know what I am going to say….since I will be traveling and will have little access to a computer, I will not be posting here until either Wednesday or Thursday night. You can bet that when I do, I will be back and better than ever. Have a great first half of your week everyone and GO MARINERS! Don’t Blink.

Hoopfest 2011: A Great Experience

I am right now comfortably sitting in the nicely air conditioned house of my parents in Spokane after completing my fourth year as a court monitor for Hoopfest. This year was unique for several reasons. Overall, it was a wonderful experience.
Let me start off by detailing to you what a court monitor is. For most of the 400+ courts at Hoopfest, there is a court monitor who basically administers the game for the whole bracket. He/she is NOT a referee. The players at Hoopfest call their own fouls along with other basic violations. The court monitor’s role is to make sure the score is being kept accurately, complete all the paperwork that comes with the beginning and ending of each game, keep the clock, get the games started, clarify all rules for the participants, settle disputes, and KEEP THE PEACE. Court monitors oversee over 30 games over the course of the tournament, with 20 alone just on Saturday.
This year I was assigned to the Hot 96.9 court on Washington and Main right by Auntie’s Bookstore. It was your typical 18-24 year old male recreational bracket. However, this year was a little different in that I was with another court monitor over the weekend. I had the pleasure of being paired with Carissa, a very nice software trainer with a great attitude. She requested that she have someone with her during the tournament and our court marshal paired me with her. We had great rapport throughout the whole tournament and gave everyone in our bracket a good experience. It was kind of funny, Carissa’s birthday was coincidently today. During the team  briefing before many of the games, I quizzed the players on how old they thought Carissa was by baiting them with free ice cream for the team that came the closest. Most said either 24 or 25….she turned 34 today. Yeah, she looks pretty good.

                                          Carissa and I during one of the games

Another unique aspect of this year’s Hoopfest was that I had a bracket with no assholes in it (for the most part). Hoopfest attracts everyone, and I mean everyone. Usually, it is not uncommon to get a team of gang bangers, a team of white trash, a team that cheats, a team with loud and classless parents/fans, and a team that is only registered in the tournament to  get into fights. This year, my bracket had serious players in it who played hard and were respectful. The quality of basketball was also quite high. A small scuffle broke out in the consolation championship game but we took care of that like nobody’s business and had no further problems. That is pretty incredible to go through a tournament so smoothly. I definitely want to send a big thank you out to all of the players on the Hot 96.9 court, you guys were awesome.

                                         Pre-game meeting with two of our teams.

Maybe this next anomaly is not too much of a stretch considering the weather we have had in this part of the country this year but this Hoopfest weekend was very mild. Usually it is very warm for Hoopfest. On Saturday, the high temperature barely pushed 70 degrees and for much of the afternoon it was overcast and breezy. On Sunday, temperatures warmed up about five to seven degrees and the sun did show a little more but there were still several periods where it was overcast and the temperature was still much milder than normal. This of course was welcomed by the players who did not have to worry about battling the heat, blistering hot pavement, and dehydration. I am a sun guy, so I would not have minded hotter temperatures but there really was nothing to complain about, it was definitely comfortable.
So how did my bracket end up? In the championip game, the team that came through the winner’s bracket was MFI All Stars. They were a team made up of two players from the Tri-Cities and two players from Spokane. Coming out the loser’s bracket was a team named Four Locos. They came from the west side of Washington out of Maple Valley. In the championship game, Four Locos defeated MFI in a great game by a score of 20-18. As Hoopfest is a double elimination tournament, the victory by Four Locos made a second championship game necessary. Twenty minutes after the 20-18 nail biter, the second game started. Four Locos used the momentum they gained from their first victory to win by a wider margin in the second game, 20-13. For anyone who has ever played in a 3-on-3 basketball tournament or is familiar with the structure of one, coming out of the loser’s bracket to win such a tournament is an amazing achievement. Four Locos played SIX games today! They definitely earned the t-shirts they received for winning the tournament.

                     If you can distinguish between one-point and two-point baskets, you can court monitor

Needless to say, it was a fabulous weekend. I had a great time in the city I grew up in! It was nice to be with my parents and to hit up downtown Spokane with my brother and his Hoopfest teammates….crazy times. On the basketball side, it was so enjoyable to have a great bracket with great basketball. In addition, I met a new friend! Thanks a lot Hoopfest 2011. Can’t wait until next year. Don’t Blink.

Hoopfest Tomorrow!!

My crazy summer continued today as after work I made the trip west to Spokane – no speeding tickets this time. I am back in Spokane for Hoopfest, the largest 3-on-3 basketball tournament in the world. The tournament runs on Saturday and Sunday and is one of my favorite weekends of the whole year.
Hoopfest attracts over 6,700 teams. Imagine that. That is over 400 courts spanning 40 blocks of downtown Spokane. If you have never made a Hoopfest in your life, you must put it on your bucket list…sports fan or not. It truly is a spectacle. Growing up in Spokane, I routinely played in the tournament. When I moved to Missoula for school, I would still come back and play in the tournament. Four years ago, I realized I was no longer good at basketball. Because I loved the event so much, I decided to volunteer. I am really excited for my 4th year as a court monitor. Rest assured, I will blog about this experience as I will have plenty of stories to share with you.
If you are in Spokane this weekend, please come say hi to me at my court. I am the court monitor at the Larry H. Miller Honda court in the Convention Center parking lot. Don’t Blink.

My Love For Missoula Osprey Minor League Baseball

Last night marked the home opener for the Missoula Osprey. In a game played on a beautiful summer night in front of a little over 3,000 people, the Osprey rallied from a 4-0 deficit to defeat the Helena Brewers by a score of 5-4. It was amazing to be at the ballpark again as Osprey games are one of my favorite things to do during the summer.

                                              Ogren Park – Missoula’s field of dreams.

The Missoula Osprey are a Class-A Short Season Rookie League level team. In other words, they are the lowest of the low on the tall totem pole that leads to the Major Leagues. It is certainly a steep climb for all the players who start at this level. In reality, 90% of the players on the Missoula Osprey will never play a game in the Major Leagues. Despite this sobering fact, the level of play has absolutely no bearing on my enjoyment of the game. I should actually say that if anything, the level of play is superb. These ball players are still professionals and they are getting paid to play. Many of them were standouts on their NCAA teams and many of them are bright young talents from latin America.
But as I said above, good or bad, the quality of baseball is not the reason why I enjoy going to Missoula Osprey games. Rather, I attend because of my love for the game of baseball, the atmosphere at the games, and the relaxation I attain while watching.
I am a baseball nut. I love, appreciate, and respect the game. I avidly follow the Seattle Mariners, often watching their games in entirety on Root Sports. During my brother’s collegiate seasons (he is a gold glove winning/all-first team player for the Central Washington Wildcats), I make as many trips as possible to watch him play. I make my best effort to attend every home game that the University of Montana club baseball team plays in during the spring. I catch as many legion games as possible. “Baseball Tonight” is my favorite show during the summer and each morning I study the Major League box scores and standings in the paper. By the end of this summer, I will have made trips to three different Major League ballparks to watch a total of seven games in person. I have a passion for baseball. The fact that a minor league team stages a season right in the heart of Missoula in a beautiful ballpark obviously proves irresistible to me. Over the past two summers, I have made around 80% of the home games that the Osprey play. Summer travel always makes it so I miss some games…and that hurts. This summer I will miss even more. My love for America’s Pastime causes me to run out of the office every day at 5pm, workout as fast as possible, and then haul out to the ballpark in time to watch the first pitch at 7:05pm. Small price for something you love.
Another big draw for me when it comes to attending the games is the atmosphere. Last night when I walked into the ballpark of the Missoula Osprey, Ogren Park at Allegiance Field, I immediately felt the infectious buzz that fills the stadium every summer night there is a game. Contributing to this buzz is always the variety of people walking around, good music playing over the PA, ball players warming up while the grounds crew preps the field for the last time, and the amalgam of sweet smells generated by the concession stands that hit your nose right when you walk through the gate. From the moment this initial buzz greets you, it stays with you for most of the game. During the game, I half pay attention to what is going on in the field and half pay attention to the people sitting around me. The Osprey organization does a great job of keeping the fans involved in the game. Between innings they do a variety of different promotions. They have season long mainstays such as the Ollie base running race, the changing of the bases challenge, and the peanut inning (the one I could do without) while also adding in different promotions throughout the season. When you go to as many games as I do, you start to make friends with the ushers, concession stand workers, and general fans. This makes the experience all the better when you have a relationship with the people who are making the game possible. Besides making new friends, another great part of the Osprey games is seeing all of your old friends! Ogren Field is definitely a place to see and be seen. Just standing out on the concourse for two minutes you are going to see people you know. Osprey games are definitely social events, and when you have a good social scene you are going to have a good atmosphere.

                                            Talk about atmosphere!

Probably my favorite part of Osprey games though is the deep feeling of relaxation that I attain each time I visit the ballpark. Really, any sporting event I attend is usually relaxing because I am so used to staging Griz games in high stress situations that being able to observe any game as a fan is a real treat. However, Osprey games are even more relaxing than your typical sporting contest. These games are laid back, low key affairs. It is not like an NFL game where you are going to spend every ounce of energy you got cheering on your team while getting smashed. At the Osprey games I love to just chill out in my seat and on the concourse while sipping cold beer. This season, the ballpark has a great selection of Montana microbrews and at $5 a cup it sure beats any Major League park’s price. But back to the relaxation part of it. There is something just so nice and peaceful about being at the game when it is still day out and then watching as the sun sets and the darkness rolls in. Really nothing like it. I definitely escape at the games and distance myself from any professional or personal stress. I really would recommend an Osprey game over yoga.
Well I got to get going because the Osprey are about to take on the Helena Brewers once again tonight. I am off to the ballpark! PLAY BALL! Don’t Blink.

NBA Finals Wrap Up

I want to apologize for how late this post is. With my Vegas trip kicking off right after the NBA Finals concluded, I did not have the time to post in a timely manner. So I hope all of you are not too sick of the subject already to hear my meaningless two cents on the series.
First off, I am ashamed at how badly I predicted the 2011 NBA Finals. If you want the full post on my disastrous pick, click here. If you want to save yourself some time, let me just tell you that my prediction was pretty brutal. I made no reservations whatsoever in saying that the Heat would trample all over the Mavericks and embarrass them in five games, ultimately winning the championship on the home court of Dallas. Little did I know that the Mavericks would do pretty much the exact opposite to the Heat. Yes, I was wrong. I should have given the Mavericks a whole lot more credit.
How happy are you for Dirk Nowitzki? Very hard to have any bitter feelings about this guy winning a title. You win points from me if you work hard, don’t complain, and excel at your trade. Dirk has been with the Mavs his whole career and never gave anything less than 100%. I will be honest, I am not a very big fan of foreign players….but I am a fan of Dirk. I think it is fitting that he had an unreal Finals series, a great showcase for him in front of a huge national audience. By just about averaging a double-double during the championship series (26.0 points, 9.7 rebounds), Dirk left no question about being named the Finals MVP. By winning this championship, he really elevated the status of his legacy. Agree with it or not, all the great athletes are defined by whether they win a title or not.
It is just not Dirk who I am happy for though. I felt a championship was a great reward for Jason Kidd, a player who I remember watching when I first started getting into sports in the second grade. I idolized him and Grant Hill when they came into the league together as hot shot rookies. Jason Terry? How cool of a story is that? The guy gets the championship trophy tattooed on his arm before the season starts and then pledges to remove it if the Mavs do not win it all. Well Jason, your tattoo is safe. Not only is it safe, you also played a great series. Then there is Mark Cuban, a real owner in every sense of the word. I am glad he got a ring and I am praying to God that Major League Baseball allows him to buy the Dodgers. I think it would be great. Bottom line, I am just happy for the team as a whole. Colin Cowherd said on his show that the Dallas Mavericks are one of the nicest teams in sports. He said they have the most welcoming and respectful locker room in the business. You got to respect that. Congrats Mavs.
Okay, onto Lebron James. For anyone who follows my Twitter account or talks to me on a regular basis, you know I am not a Lebron fan. He thinks he is bigger than the game and committed the cardinal sin of not treating the game with respect when he staged “The Decision” last summer. I must say that my respect for Lebron did elevate a little during the playoffs. The King was phenomenal. He was clutch. He was saying the right things. Coming into the playoffs I always thought he was overrated. But he really impressed me during the playoffs….until the finals. Throughout the whole series, the media made a big deal over what was going on in Lebron’s personal life that was causing him to play so bad. Who knows what it was…if anything. I do support the notion though that no matter how tough you are, if you have serious issues in your personal life, it is hard to perform at 100% at your day job. So I do sympathize a little with Lebron if that was the case. With that said, no matter what was going on in his personal life, there is no way there should have been that big of a drop off in his play. Dude just did not show up. Yeah, I feel Lebron got what was coming to him. However, I can’t laugh that hard because I know he will probably end up with his fair share of championships. I predict the Heat to win it all next year (if there is a season).
A common question on sports talk radio and ESPN was whether this year was a failure or success for the Miami Heat. I say for the Heat it was a success. They improved drastically and made the NBA Finals. They won the Eastern Conference Championship. However, I say the season was a failure for Lebron. When you did what he did on the national stage (“The Decision”), it is pretty much championship or bust. Besides, Lebron was in the NBA Finals just a few years ago. He had already accomplished that. The comments and  the tweet James sent after game six were bunk. What a conceded, arrogant, bush league athlete. Drawing attention specifically to his tweet about “the guy upstairs” not thinking “it was time” for him to win a championship really rubbed me the wrong way. I am pretty sure God has many more things to worry about than a basketball game. And while we are at it, that tweet was sent out at 1am on the east coast. Have a clue Lebron. Again though, I know I need to tone down my rage because I do expect James to be hoisting the championship trophy next year (if there is a season).
So there are my rambling thoughts on the NBA Finals. It was a tremendous NBA season. Playoff ratings were through the roof. Fans who had been away from the game came back this year. Kudos to the players, organizations, and league officials who made this season great. NOW DO SOMETHING TO MAKE SURE THERE IS NO LOCKOUT NEXT SEASON. Don’t Blink.

Transitioning Back to Reality

I am not looking forward to work tomorrow.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my job with a passion. It is just tough to go back to work after a wonderful vacation. In fact, it was not just a wonderful vacation, it was an absolute escape from reality.
If you have been to Vegas before then you know what I am talking about. If you have not been to Vegas before, I am sure you have heard people tell you about this phenomenon. It is a culture shock coming back from the City of Lights, especially if you are coming back to a relatively small city. The transition is so tough because Vegas is simply so “out there” and really an illusion in itself.  Vegas is straight up a fantasy land. A lot of people will say that they are glad to be returning home but it still takes some getting used to.
My Vegas vacation is not the only reason why it is going to be hard to enter the Adams Center tomorrow morning and pick up my job just like any other regular day. Vegas was just the middle part of events that gave me a prolonged break from my regular job. As I blogged about here, on Thursday and Friday of June 9th and June 10th, we had Huddles and Heels and our GSA Golf Tournament. As I was helping out at both of those events, I never made it to my desk. Although I spent several hours at the office on both that Saturday and Sunday preparing for my absence for the following week, I was limited on what I could do.
Did I do anything this weekend to catch up on my work so that maybe Monday would not be such a shocker? No. On Saturday, just several  hours removed from landing in Missoula from Vegas, I drove to Kalispell for Dan’s 25th birthday party. I had an absolute blast as I got to see a lot of my Kalispell friends and celebrate a quarter century of excellence for my good amigo. As plenty of alcohol was served, it also helped to extend my Vegas haze as well as deprive me of more sleep.
I spent the night in Kalispell on Saturday and then drove back to Missoula this morning. As I was driving, I realized that the joy ride was pretty much over. It was time to focus back up a little. When I got home I did laundry, got caught up on my journaling, and made evening mass. I did my weekly grocery shopping and watched the Sunday Night Baseball game. I finally inserted some normalcy back into my life after pretty much 10 days of craziness. I am a very structured and detailed person so getting back into a routine was definitely good for me.
However, nothing is going to quite prepare me for tomorrow morning. I am already anticipating the overload I am going to feel when I see how many e-mails and voicemails I have waiting for me at my desk. After answering those, I have several projects I need to get started on plus the plethora of duties I do at the beginning of the week. To make this week of catch up even more intense, I will be out of town at the beginning of next week as I travel to Seattle. So basically in the next five days I will be getting caught up from last week, completing the necessary tasks I have on my plate for this week, and getting a jump start on my work for next week.
Probably the biggest challenge I have regarding the time I took off to vacation in the desert is effectively getting back on my workout plan. As I write this, I am very discouraged about the shape my body is in. After working my ass off to get into swimsuit shape for Vegas, I let one too many beers and plenty of greasy food take me a few steps back. Tomorrow in the gym is going to be brutal. My goal is to put 5 great days in and try to regain some of the gains I made over the past several months.
Tomorrow is going to be a tough day for me. I feel if I give it my all both work wise and gym wise, it will set the tone for the rest of the week. A good week is crucial for me. Time to prove that I am capable of taking time off without it effecting me negatively in the long run. Don’t Blink.

Memorable Vegas Vacation

This past week I was in Las Vegas for a few days of partying with friends. I went with my friend Dan and we met my brother and his friends Fran and Colton. It was an amazing time and it will surely go down as one of the major highlights of my summer.
I was in Vegas from Monday at noon to 6am on Friday. That is a pretty long trip. With a long trip comes lots of happenings, experiences, and memories. Because of that, I am not going to go hour-by-hour/day-by-day explaining our crazy trip. Instead, I am just going to center around five themes that really defined our Vegas vacation and elaborate on those.
5. Pool/Heat – We stayed at the Flamingo during our stay. We had a pretty sweet room that was complete with a flat screen TV, floor to ceiling windows, luxurious shower, and a TV embedded in the bathroom mirror. But the room was not the best part of the hotel. The best part was most definitely the swimming pool. The pool at the Flamingo is humongous and beautiful. It is also a very happening place. Add in lots of alcohol and it is pretty much the best time ever. Every morning we were in Vegas, Dan and I would go down to the pool at 8am and stay until around 2pm.  The first day we were there we met a group of moms and their daughters. Both moms and daughters were attractive and a lot fun. Second and third mornings we hung out with a couple of really cool sorority girls who just graduated from Oregon State. We got to know them pretty well and even met up with them at a club later. The pool was very necessary as the first few days we were in Vegas the thermometer read over 100 degrees. It was extremely hot but let me tell you, it was way better there than the cold,  rainy weather I was greeted to when I got back to Missoula.
4. Meeting New People – One of the best parts of Vegas is that there are so many cool and different kinds of people partying it up on vacation. The atmosphere and the endless streams of alcohol make it very easy to meet and talk with new people. The first day we were there, Dan and I met some cool girls from Jersey. It is always easy to make conversation after you buy someone a drink and then accidently spill half of it all over her (not one of my brighter moments). We had a fun time with them as we tried to lump them in with every Jersey Shore stereotype we knew. We even met cool locals. Dan and I went to this dive bar a little off the strip called Stage Coach. We struck up a conversation with a hot bartender and she loved our lives, giving us free drinks and posing for pictures with us. As I mentioned above, we also met a couple of girls from Oregon State. Both of them were very sweet and we kept in touch throughout the whole trip, even meeting up at the Ghost Bar. Because of the quick thinking of Fran, we also met some English girls. We met them at the Excalibur food court and later that night they came clubbing with us. Accents are the hottest things ever. In addition to these specific examples, we also met people from New York, various places in California, Florida, Helena, Houston, and even Spokane!! (I did not know them previously).
3. Clubs – We got to experience the clubs of Vegas. On Tuesday night, Dan, Glen, Fran, Colton, and myself went to the VooDoo Lounge on top of the Rio. We got V.I.P. bottle service and believe me, they make you feel V.I.P. The view was breathtaking and the club was fun. We spent the night dancing like crazy as we overlooked the Vegas strip. On Wednesday night, Dan and I went to the Ghost Bar at the Palms. This is another club where you are 51 stories above the Vegas strip. We felt a little out of place at first just because there are so many incredibly rich people there but that feeling went away and we had a good time. I met the most beautiful 46 year old in my life while we were standing on the glass that lets you see straight down to the ground. On Thursday night, Glen, Fran, Dan, and our English friends went to Coyote Ugly. We had so much fun and the cover and drinks were much cheaper than anywhere else we went. We danced hard at this place as well and it was a great way to cap off our last night in Vegas.

                                           VIP experience at VooDoo

2. NO SLEEP – Believe it or not, I did not sleep once the 90 hours we were there. The only exceptions of me shutting my eyes came for about 15 minutes at the pool one day. You see, we would be up partying/gambling/visiting until at least 6:30am and then I would need to go down to the pool and stand in line at about 7:30am so I could make sure that we would get a good spot at the pool when it opened at 8am (yes, it is that intense at the Flamingo pool).
1. Craziness – Las Vegas was very crazy. I am just going to leave it at that.
As of right now, I am still adjusting back to Missoula life. Hard to imagine what work is going to feel like on Monday. Once again, I just want to thank Glen, Dan, and Fran for a  great trip. We did Vegas right. Don’t Blink.

Vegas Vacation

I am just about to get on a plane and head to Las Vegas for the week. As I alluded to in my previous post, Vegas is one of my favorite places to go. This trip we have some things planned and then we are going to wing it on others. The forecast is supposed to be 100 degrees the whole week so once again I will be skipping out on the cold, rainy, dark Missoula weather for a much more preferable climate.
What’s really going to make this trip is the people I am going to be with. Dan and I went together the first time we ever went and three years later we are going again as a trouble-making duo. Once there, we will be meeting up with my brother and four of his friends. My brother and I have about as strong of a bond that brothers can have so I am really looking forward to it. The two of us went to Vegas last December right after Glen turned 21 and had an absolute blast. Time for a repeat.
Because of these next several days of incredible fun, I will not be blogging for most of this week. I get back into Missoula early Friday morning. I might blog on Friday. I do not know what my state will be yet. I want to thank everyone for reading my blog. Each post I put up gets more and more views and I am nearing the 1,000 mark. Thanks.
Have a great week everyone! Don’t Blink.

Cause You’re A Sucker Bro!!!

Tomorrow my road trip summer continues as I take off to Las Vegas. My friend Dan and I will be departing from Missoula and we will meet up with my brother and his four friends who are flying into Sin City via Seattle. I am a Vegas fanatic. Since I have turned 21, I have already made four trips there. Tomorrow will mark my fifth. Some people get tired of Vegas and one trip is enough for them. Not me. In my opinion, Las Vegas is the ultimate adrenaline rush. You do whatever you want to do, whenever you want to do it. I swear the hangover gods look down on everyone in the city because while I am there, I go all day and all night long and never feel any ill effects. No hang overs/grogginess/sick feeling at all. I don’t know how to explain it. The minute I get on the plane my body shuts down.
So as I mentioned, this is my fifth time going to Vegas in the past three years. I feel I know the city well enough now. Vegas is the type of city that really will chew you up and spit you out. Besides obviously the gambling, everywhere around you there are gimmicks, schemes, and rip offs ready to take advantage of you and possibly ruin your vacation. Luckily, I feel I know how to protect myself. Yes, I have made several bad mistakes in Vegas over the past three years. My head does not always think straight. My mom will not even talk to me through phone or text while I am down there because she says “Only bad things happen to you down there.” Well, she exaggerates. However, one really bad thing did happen to me down there when I was a dumb rookie in Vegas and had no idea about the inner-workings of the city. I learned a lesson I will never forget. Here is  the story.

                                            Dan and I in Vegas for the first time

It was exactly 3 years ago. I was a fresh 21 year old who was celebrating the end of the school year by going to Vegas. Coincidently, I went with Dan as well on this trip (the guy I am traveling with this time around). It was our first night in Las Vegas. Of course, we hit it as hard as anyone could hit it. We had never really experienced anything like what the adult playground of Las Vegas actually is. We were on top of the world. It was approaching 4am and we were going back to the Excalibur to gamble for the last couple of dark hours. There was a huge street in front of us. The street had 4 lanes going each way and it was divided by medians and a small fence. To get across the street they had a walkway bridge type deal. You walk up stairs and then there is a sidewalk area that takes you across. Once you get across, you take the opposite flight of stairs  that takes you back down to street level. Instead of acting like a human and using the bridge, I decided to run across the street, using my athletic skills and liquid courage to jump the median and the fence. Mistake #1.
Dan was smart and crossed the street the proper way by using the stairs. Because of this, he was about two minutes behind me. So the minute I make it to the other side of the street, a car is coming full speed right at me. For a second my mind cleared and I realized I might get ran over. Luckily, the brakes slam and the car stops right at my feet. The window opens.
“Hey baby, what are you up to? Want to hang out with us?”
Two African-american females, a few years older than me, are in this car. Not hot, not ugly, just girls. The one in the passenger seat was doing all the talking. “How long you in Vegas for? Get in the car. Come on, it will be fun.” I kept trying to get a hold of Dan to hurry up and come assess the situation with me. I keep telling the girl that I have to wait for my friend. She is starting to get impatient. Suddenly, Dan calls my phone. The girl grabs the phone from my hand and puts it to her ear and yells, “Get the f!@# over here and let’s hang out.” Dan finally finds us and the two of us look at each other with a ‘why not’ type of look and we tell the girls we will roll with them. The girl in the passenger seat gets in the backseat with me and Dan takes shotgun next to the other girl. To this day, Dan and I still say it was the scariest time we have ever been in a car before. Sadly, these girls were high on who knows what drugs. We were weaving in and out of lanes, speeding at a dangerous rate, braking hard at the most random times. The girl must have owned the streets of Las Vegas. We drove around a while, got to know them a little bit. They claimed to be from Atlanta and they came out to Vegas for some marketing thing. At a point in the ride, we stopped at an ATM cause we made a stop at a 7/11. I used my card to withdraw some money. I remember pulling out a bunch of cards to get to my debit card because back then I rarely ever used it. My cards were all over the seat. Daylight started to creep in, and the girls dropped us off at our hotel. The girl with me in the backseat made sure I put all my cards back in my wallet and we said goodbye. Dan and I thought it was a pretty good first night in Vegas.
Fast forward 72 hours. It is 5:30am and Dan and I are in the airport waiting to board our plane. There is no worst flight in the world. It is awful. Allegiant Air, the airline we travel for service from Missoula to/from Vegas, has had this flight time forever (6am). Something really needs to be done about it. Anyways, we are hating out lives dreading the plane ride when I decide to open my wallet and go to where all of my cards are because I needed to find my card I had written our arrival information on. I immediately realize that my debit card is missing. Again, three years ago, I never used my debit card on a regular basis. I would just take out sums of cash and use it for all of my transactions. So this is how I never really knew it was missing in the first place. I had around $3,000 in my checking account at the time. I frantically used my phone to dial U.S. Bank to hear my account balance. Whenever I would do this in the past I could always anticipate the automated voice saying my balance of around $3,000. This time, it was way different. I listen in to the automated voice: “Your account balance for June ____, 2008 is….OVERDRAWN.” I freaked out. I broke out into a sweat. I yelled at some belligerently drunk girl who was making a scene at the gate and decided to sit on my lap. (Side story: After that episode, the flight officials denied her boarding onto the plane while her other five friends had to leave her behind. Dan told me I was a jerk but honestly, control yourself at the airport. I was glad she got kicked off). I called my mom and she was able to cancel the account right away. Actually, after the card had been overdrawn $500, it was immediately suspended.
I was crushed. To a 21 year old college student, $3,000 is a lot of money. It was all the money I had saved up from working road construction and from working long hours on campus as a resident assistant. It was a very long plane trip home.
On the trip back, I kept thinking of all the possibilities for how my card could have been taken. I knew in the back of my mind who had took it, but I was exhausting all options. Bottom line is, to make purchases these days with debit cards, many places require you to type in your pin. In my wallet, I had a piece of paper with my pin number on it. Stupid, I know. But again, when you don’t use your card a lot, you do things like that. I came to terms with who took it.
In the following hours after I got off the plane and I hauled my ass to a U.S. Bank, it became very clear that it was my “friend” from the first night who took my card. On my account history statement, there were 13 different transactions on it. All of them were either 7/11 or Wal-Mart. The stores alternated and the locations were all different yet they were all to either 7/11 or Wal-Mart.  Purchases made ranged from $60 up to $500. The dates and times of the transactions all took place during the 24 hours after we met the “Atlanta Girls.” One funny story before I get to the lesson I learned. I told you how we stopped at an ATM to get cash so we could stop at 7/11, right? Well after we got to the ATM and arrived at the 7/11, the girl insisted she would buy. I thought that was pretty weird but whatever. She went in and got all of us drinks and food while we waited. We thought she was being nice. Nope, it turned out I was treating everyone and did not even know it.
Believe it or not, I got every cent credited back to my account. It was a long process, but the investigation that U.S. Bank did left absolutely no doubt that the charges were fraudulent. It should also be noted that  I had a wonderful time in Vegas. I had no idea my card was missing so I got to enjoy my time down there. However, I did learn to be very  weary of the people. I was robbed blind and there is no way in hell that is ever going to happen again. That was probably the only time in my life that I violated my life motto…Don’t Blink.