Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A Knitty Last Few Months of the Year

My knitting has not abated; in fact, it's becoming a full-blown addiction!  Love the yarns!  Love to shop for them!  Love looking at what's new in pattern designs.  And my yarn stash has grown beyond the point of guilt!

The nice thing about knitting is how portable it is. I've taken a knitting project with me on nearly every trip this year.

The yarn for this sweater, called Julissa, came with me on my trip to WY-CO-NM and saw much of its time in my lap while I was in Santa Fe NM.


I had some of my favorite Cascade yarn in my stash, so immediately after finishing Julissa, I cast on and started knitting this beautiful long-sleeve version of Phryne.  I'd knitted a short-sleeve version of it in the spring, and really liked the fit and the pattern so modified it to add long sleeves.  The project came with me to Salt Lake City, where I ran the Big Cottonwood half marathon.  I finished it after I returned from a trip to Michigan for a wedding later that month.

Long-sleeve Phryne

My next race was in Kansas City, and another new project came along with me on that trip.  I eagerly jumped into this sweater, called Nanook, since I absolutely loved the design and the yarn!


I had a long 12-day trip planned to New England to run three half marathons, one in Hartford, one in Newport, and one in Lowell MA.  So a knitting project was definitely needed!  The yarn, needles, and pattern came with me in my checked suitcase and I put plenty of hours into this cardigan sweater, which has a pattern number, not a name, so I'm calling it my Cabled Gusset sweater.  I managed to nearly complete the entire sweater on this trip!

Cabled Gussets Cardigan

Sandwiched in between my trip to New England and a quick dash over to New Orleans to run a half marathon, I cast on and finished this beautiful wrap called Rose Garden!  The yarn is sumptuously soft baby merino and cashmere.  So cuddly!!  I can't wait to bring it with me on the cruise ship in February!

Rose Garden

I flew to Las Vegas for a race, brought some knitting with me, but never pulled it out and worked on it.  So when I returned, I spent the next three weeks furiously working on three different sweaters, two of which I'd started before that Las Vegas trip.  One is a beautiful cardigan that I'd had in my knitting queue for nearly a year and the yarn in my stash for at least 6 months.  It's called Grown Up Girl, and I adore the final product!

Grown Up Girl

The other sweater knitted up quickly in a beautiful bulky Peruvian natural wool yarn and is called Eased.  It came out great!  In fact, I love the yarn the sweater so much, I'm knitting another in a dyed version of this yarn.

Eased - comfy like a sweatshirt!

The third sweater is another that had been sitting in my queue for months and the yarn in my stash for nearly that long.  It's called Elliptical Pleated Cardigan and I chose a linen and merino wool yarn in a pretty gray-blue shade.  As I knitted it, I was having my doubts and nearly decided to quit on it a couple of times, but I am so glad that I hung in there, because once I got close to finishing it, the sweater finally began to take shape.  Some projects are like that...it's hard to envision the final product because of the method of knitting construction until it's nearly done.

Elliptical Pleated Cardigan

I wanted to make something for my daughter-in-law but since they live in San Diego, there's not much use for most sweaters, except at night time.  Although I may need to take another look a the possibilities for sweaters for their family.  But I knitted her that same Rose Garden wrap, only in a merino wool with a foil yarn wrap, which gives it just a little bit of sparkle when the light hits it the right way.  It's in black with black foil yarn wrap, and came out gorgeous!  She loves it!

Rose Garden wrap for daughter-in-law

this photo demonstrates the bit of foil wrap sparkle when the light
hits it just the right way.
A nice trip over to Panama City for the week before Christmas gave me plenty of time to knit this wonderful pullover sweater.  It's another project that I doubted I would like when done, but I am so glad that I kept at it, since I love it and have even purchased more yarn to make it again in a different color!  It's called Jasmine.  I made a minor modification to lengthen the sleeves and can't wait to wear it!

I now have another project cast onto my needles, another lightweight cardigan and have started my second Eased sweater.

Donna and her very first completed knitting project

A nice lunch before getting into knitting.  We stayed at it
for so long that we ordered in pizza for dinner!

Donna's fabulous holiday cookies!
My good friend Donna came over the Saturday after Christmas.  I made us lunch, she brought some of her fabulous homemade cookies, and we spent the rest of the day and well into the evening knitting together.  She's a new knitter and just completed her very first project, a scarf.   A couple of weeks earlier we had gotten together and I helped her order some yarn and needles to make her very own Eased sweater, so we spent this day helping her get it cast on and started.  It has some techniques she's never done before, so I got her started, and she's well on her way with it.

London Broil on the grill, with salad

Monday, December 29, 2014

A Sweet Re-Visit to Panama City

It is so ironic that I have high school friends living in Panama City.  You see, I went to high school in nearby Milton FL while my dad was an NAS flight instructor at Whiting Field.  We were transferred during my junior year, moving to Massachusetts. Here I made a few friends and finished out my high school career then went off to college.  I stayed in touch with my best friend Linda from that high school in Massachusetts until I moved away in the  mid-1980's.   I reconnected with her just 3 or 4 years ago, thanks to Facebook, only to learn that she and her two sisters Marcia and Sandy and her mom were now living, of all places,  in the panhandle of Florida, just 70 miles east of where I lived before moving to Massachusetts and meeting them.  Talk about weird!!

There's a very nice Marriott timeshare property on the bay between Panama City and Panama City Beach, and I like going back there, especially near Christmas.  I can visit my friends, get some good runs in, eat some of the best Apalachicola oysters, and relax in the off-season desertion of this town.

I went back there again the week before Christmas this year.  It's a good solid, full day's drive to get there, but I've driven across this stretch of I-10 so many times that I could do it in my figurative sleep.  There are two very nice grocery stores right near the resort - a Winn-Dixie and a Publix - so I stopped and did my week's grocery shopping before continuing on to the resort property and checking in.  As always, the units are plush, nicely furnished and giant.  About 1300 square feet with two bedrooms, two baths, washer-dryer in the unit, large well-appointed full kitchen, dining area, living area, and screened balcony.

It was a charming week!  Since my best friend Linda had moved back to New England the previous year, I didn't get to see her but did meet up with the other two sisters a few times during my visit.  But while I was in Lowell MA to run the Baystate Half Marathon last October, I was able to visit with Linda and have lunch with her.

I met one of the sisters - Marcia - for lunch at Hunt's Oyster Bar in the historic St. Andrews section of PC.  This is becoming a tradition for me.  Can't go to Panama City without going to Hunt's.  The local oysters are large and succulent and sweet.  Oh, my!
Hunt's Oyster Bar in historic St. Andrews

Six for an appetizer, a dozen for the main course!

Marcia is a very active volunteer for the local animal spay/neuter and feral cats programs, so before driving to Hunt's, I stopped at the grocery store and bought two 25-lb bags of Purina One Cat Chow and two large boxes of Fresh Step Extreme Kitty Litter.  It was a small investment on my part to a very large and worthwhile program on Panama City's part and more specifically on the worthwhile work that Marcia does, much of it supported out of her own pocket.

After lunch, Marcia suggested a coffee house nearby that I might enjoy, so we said our goodbyes with plans to meet up later in the week, and I strolled on down the little main street to Saint Andrews Coffee House for a wonderful cappuccino and a peppermint brownie.

Data from my GPS watch.  running some of the roads in Legend Point

The next morning I got a  nice little run in, in the rain, then stayed close to "home" for the afternoon keeping warm and dry.  Linda's daughter lives in PCB and has a son who turns 1 year old this week, so I did a little shopping for a gift to take to his birthday party later in the week.  A quick texting consult with my daughter-in-law regarding suggestions for gift items and I headed out to the store.

The "spoils," purchased at the nearby Publix grocery store.
The sippy cup and snack cup are staples in my son's family.
The soft vinyl squeezy bath toys are similar to those that my
granddaughter totally latched onto.  A bait bucket!! What a
perfect toddler "tote around!"  The hinged lid opens with an
easy squeeze of the latch, simple for a toddler to deal with.

Everything stuffed inside the bucket and wrapped loosely
for a toddler to tear into.

Wednesday the memory of those succulent oysters was weighing on my mind so I drove back over to St. Andrews and had a progressive lunch...a dozen raw oysters at Hunt's, and then a bowl of white bean and ham soup at St. Andrews Coffee House followed by one of their cream cheese brownies and a cappuccino.

The birthday party late that afternoon was everything you'd expect for a one-year old and then, afterward, Sandy took me to a very nice restaurant called Salt Water Grill for dinner.  Its biggest feature is the enormous salt water fish tank that occupies the central portion of the building.  We feasted on red snapper and enjoyed the live pianist.  Very pleasant!

Thursday was chili cheese dogs for lunch at the Wreck Room by the pool of the Marriott so I took advantage of it and brought two dogs back to my condo and ate them in front of movie.  I could tell those guests who were snowbirds.  They were the ones sitting by the pool in shorts and swimsuits while the rest of us huddled in our jackets and sweaters in our heated condos.

Data from my GPS watch.  running my favorite 5-mile route in Legends Point

Friday morning I went out for a longer, 5-mile run and as I was chugging along, I heard a car pull up behind me going slowly and then pull up along side me.  It was Marcia!!  She was in the area delivering a Christmas gift to an elderly friend of her late mom.  What a surprise!  She made the "call me" hand signal then pulled away.

I finished my run and once I got cleaned up and had lunch, I called Marcia and Sandy and we made a plan to meet for dinner that night at Carraba's.

While I waited for them to arrive, I looked around at the gorgeous poinsettias which were everywhere, I watched the other diners as they arrived, so festive and animated, some dressed for a party, and I thought about how this holiday, like no other, brings people together. The three of us ate ourselves to beyond fullness, enjoyed some wine - and one chocolate martini (!) - and then shared some dessert among us.
I wasn't sure if I would be staying until Sunday or if I would get up the next morning and leave a day early, so we said our goodbyes, not knowing when we'd see each other again.  But I enjoyed the time that I did have with these two friends.  I will miss them.

In the end, the fact that I still had enough groceries left for one more day and evening, ultimately made my decision to stay until Sunday morning.

Nyla immediately claimed her spot under the tree
Saturday night, I packed everything but the few items I'd need to get ready in the morning and loaded the car.  I had a few grocery items left, but I knew they'd travel well in the car. Now just one more night's sleep and I'd be heading for home.

It was a nice visit, sad that Linda couldn't be there with us, a little sad that their mom had passed away the previous winter, and sad that this trip wasn't heading toward San Diego to spend the holidays with  my son and his family.

I left PCB at 7:30 AM and arrived home at 6:30 PM to a happy cat.  I grabbed a quick dinner and then got to work setting up the Christmas tree and decorating it, eager to lend some cheer to the empty house.  Happy Holidays!!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

San Antonio Rock n Roll Half Marathon

What we runners won't do for extra bling!!

I decided that since I was in for a dime, I might as well be in for a dollar, might as well add the San Antonio RnR Half Marathon to my 2014 race calendar.  The Rock 'n Roll Marathon Series has a Heavy Metal challenge....run two different Rock 'n Roll Marathons or Half's in a year and get an additional medal.  Run a third one, get another medal.  And so on.  So I decided that since I already had Portland RnR Half Marathon done, and had also signed up to do the Las Vegas RnR Half Marathon, I'd go ahead and sign up for a third one for 2014, the San Antonio Half Marathon.

San Antonio is only 185 miles from my house, so I knew it would just be an easy and quick overnight trip.  Throw my running clothes into a tote bag, leave the house just before noon, be in San Antonio by mid-afternoon, check in at the hotel, walk next door to the convention center to get my race packet, get up Sunday morning and run the race, hop in the car and drive home.  Be home by dinner time.

Couldn't be any easier.  Except the traffic in downtown San Antonio on a beautiful Saturday afternoon was a nightmare!  Every intersection was gridlocked as cars tried to negotiate left and right turns through hordes of pedestrian tourists in the crosswalks.   I did manage to work my way to the entrance of the Grand Hyatt and gladly turned my car over to valet parking.

I checked in, chucked my bag into the room and then headed back down to the lobby, out the side door to the adjoining San Antonio Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center.  Out front was a Mazda test-drive canopy with a dozen different Mazda autos lined up.  Traffic was just too busy for them to conduct test drives, but if I gave a representative a few minutes of my time taking a tour of one of the cars, I'd get a $10 Starbucks gift card.  Heck!  I love my Mazda and always like to keep up with their new models, so I sat inside a 2015 Mazda 6 and let the rep give me the low-down.  Very nice car and would definitely consider it.  And I did get that $10 Starbucks card!

The Expo was enormous!  And so well-organized!  Within minutes I had my race bib in hand, despite this being their busiest time, and then through the chip check portal and into the race shirt and bag pickup area.  From there it was through another portal and into the larger exhibit area where I spent more money of course!  A nice Brooks half-zip fleece pullover with the San Antonio RnR logo embroidered on it.

On my way to San Antonio, I had stopped at a Subway sandwich shop, so I returned to my hotel room and pulled out that sandwich, a bag of chips, a Starbucks cappuccino and turned on the TV to watch college football.  Tomorrow morning:  race day!

My smartphone alarm went off at 6:00 AM.  I loitered in the room having breakfast, getting ready.  I've learned my lesson about these RnR races.  Don't rush to get to the start line, only to stand in the assigned corral forever!  I was in corral #27 out of 32 corrals.  Way in the back.  My hotel was nearby and I knew exactly where I was going since I've been to the Alamodome several times, which is where the race's start and finish lines will be.

I arrived at the venue at 7:35-7:40 AM, after the 7:30 race start.  There were no lines at the porta-potties so even though I really didn't need to go, I took advantage of it.  Then I moseyed on over to Cherry Street where the corrals were located and strolled along the sideline until I found the volunteer holding the Corral #27 sign.  Each corral is separated by a rope being held by two volunteers.  They move forward along the perimeter as each corral is released at the start line.  This is something I figured out too late at the Las Vegas race.

Just past the Alamo Plaza area

I crossed the start line at 8:09 AM and we were off running.  Just a little past the 1 mile marker, we ran through the Alamo plaza, right in front of the historic Alamo which was very cool!  The course took us north, zig-zagging across bridges that passed over the Riverwalk several times.  We eventually came to the San Antonio Zoo, where we found some really great support from their staff and volunteers, and then we headed up some steep hills toward Trinity University which was at the halfway point of the race.

Somewhere along the route, near the Riverwalk area

The streets were lined with university students cheering us up those hills.  This is where some of the best hand-made signs could be found.  The best was the one that said something like, "Trinity U. is hard to get into.  Congratulations!  You just got in!" Oh, but those hills!!

Race course, data from my Garmin watch (red).  By tagging
races in Runkeeper, it overlays the race route (in green).
Obviously the route was changed for this year's race.

We were then sent straight south into the downtown area, across the Riverwalk again, and then through a beautiful historic section on King William Street. Gorgeous mansions!  And finally 3 miles of ho-hum commercial/industrial areas and then back toward the Alamodome and the finish line.

Near the finish line

I was wearing my Half Fanatics singlet over a long-sleeve shirt and had several call-outs by other Fanatics along the way.  Early in the race I ran a bit with another Fanatic, but then pulled ahead of her at some point.  She caught up with me again at mile 11 and I was very grateful for her company as I was starting to flag a bit by then.

Crossing the finish line

Finally....the finish line!  It was visible ahead of us for more than a mile and seemed to take forever to get there.  But....it's done!  Excellent post-race village area, so well-organized!  This was by far the best RnR race I've done so far.

Lots of food at the finish line but I passed on the beer tent.  I needed to get back to the hotel and get checked out.  I knew I'd miss the 12 noon check-out time but didn't want to push it too far beyond that cut-off time.  I grabbed a quick shower, packed my things, got checked out and while waiting for my car to be delivered, I bought a Starbucks coffee for the road.

I already have the state of Texas many times over, so this race doesn't count toward my 50 states quest, but it does count toward by 100 Half Marathons quest.

Here's the finisher medal:

Half #61 is in the books!

Next:  A nice week spent in Panama City FL with old friends.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Las Vegas Hangover

Did I really do that???  I rolled over and looked at the clock....8:24 AM.  Where am I and was it all a bad dream?  Then I was fully awake.  It was not a bad dream.  It wasn't even a dream at all.  I did actually run the Las Vegas Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon last night. I dreaded it, I showed up for it, I did it, and now it's done.  And, other than the enormous crush of humanity at the start line, it wasn't as bad as I'd feared. Come to think of it, it was pretty damned cool!

I climbed out of bed, the old joints protesting a tiny bit until I'd taken a few steps and loosened things up a bit, and then contemplated what I'd done and what to do next.  One more day in Las Vegas before flying home on Tuesday morning, so the whole city was there for the "taking."

There's a great cafĂ© here at Signature and yet I've not even explored their menu, so once showered and dressed, I took the elevator down to the lobby, purchased a Starbucks vente cappuccino, then walked to the Signature tower 2 lobby and ordered myself a tasty brunch of smoked salmon on a bagel with cream cheese, capers, and fresh fruit cup.  The perfect treat after a night-time half marathon.

Salmon, cream cheese and capers on a bagel...yummm!!

My legs were begging me to get some walking in, so off I went, toward the MGM Grand lobby and casinos, easily a 1/2 mile walk through their covered pedestrian connector.  At first I thought I really ought to sit down at a slot machine just to say that I did it.  After all, I am in Las Vegas.  But after wandering through the maze of electronic machines, I just couldn't bring myself to choose one.  But I did see this great photo op, perfectly describing how I feel after running a race at night and not falling asleep until well past midnight.

Guess I'm just too logical and scientific to be lured into throwing my money away.  I could better "throw it away" on tangible items like post cards for the grandkids, a ridiculously cute 3-D refrigerator magnet for myself, and some decadent cupcakes at MGM Grande's Corner Cakes bake shop.

Really cool 3-D fridge magnet

Several months before leaving on this trip, I took advantage of special discounts offered to Rock 'n' Roll race participants and bought a ticket to see Million Dollar Quartet at Harrah's (click the link to see some outstanding video clips).  I chose the 5:30 PM show so that I could have a nice dinner afterward.  I dropped my cupcakes off in my room and then went back down to the MGM Grand lobby and took a cab to Harrah's.  I'd picked up my will-call ticket on Saturday and didn't even look to see my seat assignment.  I was pleasantly surprised to realize I was in the front row, near the center.  Wow!!

It's a small theater, with both theater-style and booth seating.  Since I was alone I'd chosen the theater-style seating.  There was a nice little bar inside the theater, so I bought myself a glass of wine to enjoy during the performance.

And what a performance it was!  It was so well-cast, it was startling, as each performer had significant resemblance to the character he was portraying.  And their singing voices!  Oh my!  Very entertaining and very well-done!!  The website synopsis:
  • Tony® Award-winning musical Million Dollar Quartet takes audiences back to December 4, 1956, when an extraordinary twist of fate brought Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins together in what became one of the most memorable nights in music. Based around that historical event, the musical recounts how the legends ended up in the same room at Sun Records in Memphis for one of the greatest impromptu rock ‘n’ roll jam sessions in history.

My toes were still tapping as I grabbed a taxi back to MGM Grand.  As I walked through this huge property, past the huge selection of restaurants, I tried to decide what I was in the mood for.  So many choices.  In the end, I chose to have dinner at Emeril's.  It wasn't crowded at all, in fact none of the restaurants were, this being a Monday.  The food was scrumptious and the service impeccable.  A very pleasant evening!

Time to pack, see if everything still fits into one suitcase (I did, after all, spend some money at the race expo), and then prepare to check out of the hotel in the morning, get a cab to the airport, and then fly home.  It was one of the very few times that I wished I were staying another day or two.  The Signature at MGM Grand was so perfect in every way, and the things to do, see, eat, visit at MGM Grand were so varied that I could easily stay there a week and never leave the property.  Until next time.....

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

I Ran the Las Vegas Strip at Night!!

Run a half marathon at night?  This was going to be a "first" for me.  While I've done plenty of training runs in the dark and have started a number of races in the predawn darkness, I've never run 13+ miles of a race completely in the dark before.

I also decided it best to run with my glasses on.  I've never done that before, either.  They are progressive lenses, correcting for reading in the lower part of the lens, and correcting major astigmatism in the upper part of the lens which helps my vision at night.  While I really don't need them to see while running, since I'm farsighted, I did feel I'd need them to see my Garmin watch in the dark and was also concerned about being able to negotiate the finishers chute and the streets in the dark afterward.

And then there's that whole "how do I plan my nutrition and hydration" thing when the race day is turned upside down.  Well...I was about to find out.

My first thoughts when I woke up race day morning were, "This is feeling very weird."  I know it's race day, but how to plan the day, what to do, what and when to eat,  Just about the time I should be relaxing post-race and getting ready to enjoy a nice celebratory dinner, I will instead be walking the mile or so to the start line of the Rock 'n Roll Las Vegas Marathon/Half Marathon.

As I always do on these destination race trips, I brought a Ziploc bag of Cheerios with me and made sure I sourced some bananas once at my destination.  So early on race day morning, I had my usual breakfast - nothing new or different on race days - and then after spending a couple of hours getting caught up with my blog, email, Facebook and whatever else I could do to kill time, I got dressed and ventured out for a Starbucks and then had a very tasty late lunch at The Grand Wok at MGM Grand - two pieces of nigiri and some beef lo mein - and it was excellent, with plenty of left-over food to take back to the room for a late night dinner after the race.

Before I knew it, it was time to get changed into my running clothes, gather everything I'd need for the race, and then start moving toward the door.  I began to see a trickle of other runners leaving The Signature hotel and working their way through the walkway to the MGM Grand lobby.  That trickle turned into a parade, as we all trooped through the casino, past gamblers and drinkers, headed for the exit at the Tropicana Blvd pedestrian overpass bridge.

Plenty of Elvis impersonators in the house!!

Las Vegas Blvd - the strip - had already been closed to traffic, thankfully, as the sheer number of runners heading toward the start line area completely filled the road and sidewalks.  I spotted at least a dozen runners dressed as Elvis as we made our way.  Another popular theme was "bride" and there were many women wearing white tutus and wedding veils.  A few other goofy costumes were spotted, as well, and I marveled at these runners' ability to actually run well while wearing some of this stuff.  Come to think of it, maybe they can't.

Several months earlier, I'd paid big bucks for the VIP package, thinking it would ease the pre-race experience.  Boy, was I ever wrong.  $200 totally wasted!  Here's why.  I was assigned to corral #43, pretty far back in the pack.  Even though the race starts at 4:30 PM, the Race Event Guide estimated that the start wave that my corral was in would reach the start line at approximately 5:30 PM.  My corral was pretty far back in that particular wave, so I estimated about a 6;00 PM start time. This meant I really didn't need to get to the runners village until 4:30 PM or so, still giving me plenty of time to chillax at the VIP reception.  But when I headed that way, they were herding all of the runners out of the runner village area and toward the corrals.  No more light snack in the VIP reception area, no more private VIP portapotty for a last minute pee.  Nothing.  I stood in line with the masses to make one last portapotty stop before getting trapped in my corral for the next 90 minutes.

I took this photo after our corral had shuffled its way around the corner
and onto Las Vegas Blvd....still a loooooong way away from the start line
which isn't even visible from this far back.
We slowly shuffled our way up toward the start line as the sun sank behind the mountains.  It was already a bit chilly but as the sun began to go down, so did the temperature.  They had heaters set up along the sidewalk to provide a bit of heat to everyone standing in the corrals, but as we shuffled along, we could tell when we were in between those heaters.  Brrr!

Each corral was released, one at a time, every 90 seconds.  It was agonizingly slow.  As we got to within 4 or 5 corrals of reaching the start line, one of the gals who was within earshot of me told her friend she really had to pee....bad!  Well, of course, there's nothing like the power of suggestion.  Every female within earshot of her agreed, including me!  My greatest fear: being trapped in a corral for an hour and a half with no portapotty in sight!

Getting closer to the start line.  Now it's visible, but still 5 or 6
corrals away from toeing the line.
And then with a count-down, a burst of pyrotechnics from the start line arch, and we were on our way.   We started next to The Mandalay and then headed south on Las Vegas Blvd for a mile, then made a u-turn and headed back north.  Thankfully there were a large number of portapotties right there at that u-turn!  I didn't lose too much time there and then was back on the course, running among the huge masses of other runners up toward the bright lights of the Vegas Strip.

At some of the key photogenic spots along the way, the organizers made sure that the professional photographers had positioned themselves for runner photo ops.  The first of these was at the iconic "welcome to Las Vegas" sign on the south approach road, near the airport.  I took a moment to step in front of that sign and have my picture taken.

Iconic Welcome to Las Vegas sign...
at mile 2 on the route

There was something just oh-so-cool about running up Las Vegas Blvd at night!  This whole, wide, multi-lane divided boulevard was completely closed down to traffic and we had it all to ourselves, which gave us unparalleled views of the Strip in all its brilliant glory.  As we got into the "thick of it" the spectators were several deep along the sidewalks and on the pedestrian overpasses cheering us on.

We continued north, out of the bright lights for a couple of miles, then ran through what I can only describe as "the wedding chapel" district.  There was a wedding party waiting in line outside of one of the chapels and all of the runners cheered them as we passed by.  Fun!

In the old fashioned motor court section
along the route, north of the strip, south of Fremont

Lots of old-school motels still glowed with neon as we continued on our route north and I could tell we were nearing the old downtown area.  But before we could get there, our route turned us east onto side streets for a couple of miles, running past churches and schools and tidy little houses before we were eventually brought up to the famed Fremont St.  Once we turned west onto Fremont St, the whole glitzy downtown lay ahead of us.  What a sight!!   We ran under the pretty Fremont East District arch near Container Park and continued toward the bright lights of the old, original downtown.  It was spectacular!

The race route...data from my Garmin GPS watch

Now the home stretch....the last 3 miles to the finish.  Back on Las Vegas Blvd heading south, back past the old motor court style motels, past the wedding chapels, back toward the modern era of Vegas on the Strip.  The Mirage hotel and its tall tower came into view but still seemed so far away!  But gradually it grew nearer and then a slight bend in the road and I could see the finish line a few tenths of a mile ahead.

Finisher... medal around my neck, chocolate milk in hand!

And then there it was...the finisher timing mat, the volunteers handing us water, giving out space blankets, handing us our finisher medals, bottles of chocolate milk, bananas.  I confess to being in a bit of a daze as I shuffled through the very long finisher chute.  I realized I'd passed a table with bags of pretzels and backtracked to grab one and then spotted the volunteers giving out Power Bars, so grabbed one of those, too.  I never did find the free beer.  I'd even taken the time to get my ID-checked wristband at the Expo a couple of days earlier.  Oh well....

As I walked through the very long finisher's chute, I could see Serendipity III, a cafe at Caesar's Palace and location of the VIP finisher party.  But for the life of me, I couldn't figure out how to get there from where I was.  I was starting to get cold and starting to shiver a bit by this time, and just didn't have enough left in me to figure it out.  I still had more than a mile walk to get back to MGM Grand and that's where I headed.

As I passed through the lobby and casino area of MGM Grand on my way to The Signature, I stopped along the way and bought a champagne split to take to my room.  Jumped in the shower, put my jammies on, and then heated up my leftover beef lo mein and enjoyed a late dinner and glass of champagne.

The finisher medal:

Here's what my 50 States map looks like now. Lots of blue!

46 states done...just 4 more to go!

Monday I'll relax, have a nice late breakfast at one of the cafe's then see Million Dollar Quartet at Harrah's before flying home on Tuesday.