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Summer 2012 in Las Vegas and San Diego

So, as you may have heard last week, I went on a road trip with my aunt, sister, mother, and a friend of mine to Las Vegas and San Diego, and I am happy to share with you the highlights of my wonderful four-day experience. As an aside, I ended up taking over 1,700 photos throughout the trip, and I covered over 1,500 miles using twenty-one (yes, I mean it) highways and freeways in California and Nevada to make the trip possible, not to mention endless cups of hot chocolate in the process.

In a diary format, I will describe the highlights of my trip using the highways covered, and the attractions we ended up visiting during the trip.

Day 1: Leaving for Las Vegas

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Left my place at 3:45am, headed down US-101 and I-580 through the Richmond Bridge, breezing through the East Bay and Livermore Valley before crossing the Altamont Pass and heading down toward I-5 south towards Los Angeles. Had breakfast at a Starbucks in Patterson, close to where a bus driver from Golden Gate Transit lives on the weekend (in Newman). Continued along I-5 through the sunrise with relatively light traffic. Instead of heading east from I-5 to CA-99 via CA-46 in Wasco, directed through CA-58 east instead that went straight to Bakersfield before joining CA-99 for a short while and then exiting to CA-58 again heading east. Stopped again at another Starbucks, this time in Tehachapi near the Mojave Airport, and trudged along the barren landscape all the way to I-15 in Barstow. Noticeably hotter than the Bay Area, the wind was also very warm, reminding of the humid climate in Manila. Stopped over in Baker for gas and snacks, changed seats, and finally left CA for NV. Lunch was at Five Guys at the southern part of Las Vegas near the airport where Cajun fries and tasty burgers were the order of the day before heading for a little stroll at the Premium Outlets right next door. Finally arrived at the Palazzo Hotel after a horrible mess along the Strip, and lounged a bit before a nice buffet dinner at the Wynn.

Day 2: Pure Las Vegas, Day and Night

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Started the day with a delicious (and simply one of the best) breakfasts at the Wynn again, followed by shopping and a walk along the Strip to find souvenirs. Went back to the room and pampered to a simple spa-ish treatment before heading out on a taxi ride (yes, I haven’t been on a taxi for many months) to the stylish and chic Cosmopolitan Hotel where a cashier noted my family name and told a story about a neighbor who knows a close relative of mine. Really wonderful dinner of Osso Bucco, baked beans, and four kinds of dessert, washed down with unlimited Coke, and toured around Crystals, the new mall that connects Aria, The Cosmopolitan, and Mandarin Oriental (of course filled with high-end shops). Walked along the Strip, in which we ended up walking south towards New York New York and MGM Grand. Before that though, we were treated to a fountain show from nearby Bellagio, viewed from the Cosmopolitan overpass along Las Vegas Blvd. Went through Planet Hollywood to check out the casino floor when we saw a parade of ladies walking in a single file to amuse gamblers and visitors — not to mention seeing interesting chandeliers. Nighttime fell when we finally entered New York New York, but not with hundreds of shots taken from almost all angles, as well as getting the souvenirs we wanted. Hopped on a taxi from MGM Grand and relaxed for the next day’s long adventure.

Day 3: San Diego, Here We Go

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Woke up early, took a shower, and left the hotel at 7am for the road yet again. Breakfast was in Primm, at the state line of Nevada and California, at… surprise, Starbucks again! Filled up with my favorite combo of a Bacon Artisan Sandwich and a cup of Peppermint Hot Chocolate with whip, and it’s off to SoCal once again. This time, instead of heading back on CA-58, continued along I-15 through San Bernardino where we cut through Riverside, Moreno Valley, Menifee, and Murrietta to get into San Diego County. Stopped by in Escondido for lunch at… you guessed it, Five Guys, with the free peanuts and Cajun fries galore, before heading further south. Two rest stops were made in the process: first in La Jolla to savor the beach views, another in Chula Vista to visit a long-time friend of my mother seen for the first time after 30+ years. A side bonus: we used a Toll Road (yes, SoCal has them), that is CA-125, in which FasTrak was used to speed through the tollway… and yes, it worked as it should. Another reason indeed to keep FasTrak in the car indeed. Went through a lot of manicured lawns and beautiful (despite nearly barren) landscapes near the Mexican border before heading deep into Otay Lakes and Chula Vista (right next to each other apparently). Dinner was at one of my favorite Filipino fast-food chains, Chowking, with a bowl of Beef Noodle Soup and an order of Sesame Balls (a.k.a. Buchi) for dessert before heading along I-805 and CA-94 to the Courtyard Marriott in Downtown San Diego.

Day 4: Back North Again, But…

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Surprises come along the way. First, a morning walk along the Gaslamp Quarter and Horton Plaza to see the sights before the crowds flock in for another day of business. Once hitting the Puma store, my aunt liked a pair of purple shoes, she wanted to get it right before leaving San Diego. Breakfast was at the hotel where I met another one of my mom’s long-time friends who were reunit
ed for the first time since 1976 after my grandma died. Good to see him face to face, talked a little bit while eating a French toast and an omelet with ham and bacon, and went upstairs and read the route heading home. Lounging in the room a bit, I watched the Today Show on NBC, along with the local news which covered the opening day at the Del Mar Racecourse. When my mom, aunt, and my aunt’s friend finally came, bags were brought down to the lobby and waited for them to get the shoes at Puma around six blocks away from the Courtyard. The car was retrieved from the valet lot, and after 10 minutes, left heading back to the Bay Area, bypassing Los Angeles proper by using CA-57 and I-210 (known locally as the Orange Freeway and the Foothill Freeway, respectively) that brought us straight to the Grapevine. Lunch was at In-n-Out (yes, breaking the Five Guys streak) in Santa Clarita before continuing further north. Instead of heading straight home, we brought my aunt’s friend straight to Los Altos Hills which meant using CA-152, US-101, and I-280 instead of I-580, I-880, and CA-92 heading to the Peninsula, bypassed San Jose (and no tolls!) in the process, and went through some large mansions that line Page Mill Road heading south from Palo Alto. Loved the mansion in itself, and just liked the privacy it offers. Dinner was at Serramonte Shopping Center in Daly City for a Filipino fare of squid and rice before arriving home around 9:30pm.

More photos and maps of where we stayed are shown below:
Note:¬†for mobile phone users or for anyone who can’t see the slideshow on the left, click on this link to view the album.
The Palazzo Hotel
Las Vegas, NV
Courtyard by Marriott San Diego Downtown San Diego, CA

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