Sunday, June 23, 2013

Working Up in Vegas

Proving yet again that what happens in Vegas doesn't always stay in Vegas, here's the situation report on our second trip in less than a month.

Melch was attending a conference for work and I agreed to come along and work remotely so that she wouldn't need to be alone for the week.  I'm not a gambler, so for me Vegas just means more interesting locations for setting up my laptop, chances to try fancy foods and beers, and the occasional show.

Gulden Draak has become a favorite of mine.  You can find it at any fine establishment with a good Belgian beer list.

MGM, looking towards NYNY
We stayed in the MGM because it was the conference hotel.  I like it a bit better than some of the other places that I've stayed (Bally's, Treasure Island), but I'm not really a connoisseur of hotels.  The decor was less gaudy then is typical in Vegas and the sheets were clean.  Okay in my book.

I love the Vegas skyline.  I'd love to go flying around the city at night some time.

We had lunch at Emeril Lagasse's place.  The food was good and the beer was interesting.

Most of the celebrity chef places are a bit pricey at night, but those that offer lunch service can be an okay deal.  We stopped at Emeril's place in the MGM on our first day.

Flamingos at the Flamingo
When we weren't working or attending the conference, we took some time to walk around Las Vegas.  Melch wanted to check out the Flamingos, so we did that.  My ankle was unfortunately not quite 100% from my January fracture, so I think we exhausted most of my walking budget on the first day.  It was a good time at any rate.

I think I just fell in love
Vegas always seems to split its dining options for me - you can get all-you-can-eat for cheap, or $30/plate meals, but the in-between has always been tricky for me to find.  This trip offered me some time to look into just that.

One of the places that I found was a BrewPub called... the Pub.  It's located in the Monte Carlo, which was pretty close to where we were staying.  They had free wifi.  They had dozens of beers on tap and hundreds in bottles.  There was an afternoon happy hour with wings and sliders.  I may have gone there several times...

I like to pair my Belgian beers with jalepeño egg burgers.  A trick I learned at Eureka in SB
 So "The Pub" was the perfect Vegas office.  The "commute" wasn't too long, but I did decide to drive it one day due to my ankle being on fire.  Astute folks with knowledge of the Vegas skyline will note that the following photo was not taken on any route that would go from the MGM to the Monte Carlo.  I may or may not have used my lunch hour driving the strip with the top down and the system up.

I was pretty well on my own during the day, but in the evenings when Melch was out of the conference we were able to head out and enjoy some Vegas dining and entertainment.  One evening we walked to Mon Ami Gabi, a french restaurant located at the front of Paris and overlooking the Bellagio fountains. The food, service, prices, atmosphere and view were all great.  This restaurant is high on my list of Vegas recommandations (others include The Pub, Café Bellagio and the Bouchon brunch at the Venetian).
Mon Ami Gabi
 Our final day, the weather cooled off a bit (by Vegas standards), so I decided to work on the patio outside of The Pub rather than in the air-conditioned interior.  In addition to the fresh air, the patio had the advantage of being poolside at the Monte Carlo.  I'm told that there may have been attractive ladies in bikinis about, but I didn't notice because I was very busy working.

Once I was done being Very Busy Working and Melch's conference had wrapped up, she joined me for a drink before we went back to pack.  Then it was a sunset drive home through the desert.  Not a bad way to wrap up the week.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Hour 62

Yeah, I know I already posted hour 64, but I just got some pics from hour 62 and thought it was worth a brief mention.

The plan for hour 62 was a short flight with Tina and Emilio.  The forecast was clear, but we kind of wanted to keep it close because it was their first flight and because taking all four of us in the 172 meant that we had to take off with only half tanks for weight.

The weather was good all weekend, was forecasted to remain good, and seemed good when we got to the airport.

Based on the way I phrased that, you know what comes next: the clouds rolled in as we fueled.  The field was still clear though, so we resolved to get airborne and take a look - at least we'd be able to fly the pattern.  Tina and Emilio had been winded out the last time, so we wanted to at least get something in.
Pre-flight prep

We did indeed get airborne.  Tina took a bunch of (heavily-edited, by the looks of it) photos and you can see the marine layer pretty clearly as it looms along the coast.

To make matters worse, I had problems with my com as I climbed out.  Once I leveled off and turned downwind, I decided to call the flight due to 1) weather and 2) the radio.  I dialed in tower on the alternate radio and the controller was upset with me because he'd been trying to reach me for over a minute and didn't know what I was up to.

I explained the situation and requested clearance to land, which he immediately granted.  We had flown the pattern once, climbing to 1000 feet AGL and then coming in for a smooth landing on 25.  I paid for 0.2 hours of flight time, though most of it was actually taxiing and preflight.

The thing is - even 0.2 hours is a lot.  It's more than the Wright Brothers had on their first flight, and more than everyone before them ever had combined.  It's enough time to see our beautiful town from the air, and it was enough time for Tina and Emilio to see what it's like to have slipped the surly bonds of Earth.

We'll try for a longer flight some other time, but I'd still call it a success.  They seem to have had fun and everyone came back safe and sound.  That's good enough for me.

They look pretty happy, right?

Monday, June 3, 2013

Hour 64

After some trips in bigger and more powerful craft, hour 64 found me back in the trusty 152 in which I had flown my first solo and become a private pilot.

I really like 17L and not just for the nostalgia.  I enjoy the small cockpit and light weight for the same reason that I like driving small cars - I feel more connected to the outside world.  I also have more hours in it than any other plane and just feel more comfortable with the controls and the equipment.

Joining me for the adventure was Tony, a friend of mine from work who is interested in learning more about flying and even possibly getting his own license some day.  As a result, I took the time to explain everything that I was doing during pre-flight and throughout the trip.  I don't always geek with passengers out about how all the gauges work or the finer points of airspace rules, but for those who are interested, I'm happy to hold forth!

Our flight was a pretty short affair, heading along the coast past the harbor and Montecito, doing some maneuvers and heading back.  I demonstrated climbs, descents, turns and even slow flight.

I think that Tony had a good time and might be willing to come up with me on a longer trip.  It's been great being healed up again and finally getting the opportunity to take up friends like I hoped to do after getting my PPL last year.  The New Zealand trip and broken ankle kind of delayed all of that stuff.