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Corpus Christi Splashdown

If you have ever been in Texas in August, you know it is crazy hot down here then and living here is crazy. Unfortunately, I have to be here because this is where my work is. I try to make it through this time every year by taking a week vacation I call my Annual Splashdown. For that week I spend most of my time at Schlitterbahn waterpark and the beach or rivers. In other words, I stay wet and cool for an entire week (and sunburned), completely oblivious to the heat. I usually go to my favorite Texas city, New Braunfels. This year I decided to change it up by going to a Schlitterbahn in a different city I have never been to before, Corpus Christi. It is a large city with way too much traffic which I generally would avoid but it serves the purpose and I can handle it for a few days. I wouldn’t care to live there.

I chose a very inexpensive Howard Johnson motel on the eastern side of Corpus 20 miles away from Schlitterbahn due to the high cost of closer motels and an expensive cruise I am going on later this year. I was a little concerned about a $35/night booking but the reviews were pretty good so I took a chance. Sooo glad I did! The room was very clean and nice. Bed was fine, TV was huge and got HBO, there was a small fridge as well as a stove and kitchen sink, parking was easy, breakfast was average but fine, and the pool was clean and warm. There is also a Mexican restaurant next door.

I got a chance to try out my new full-face snorkeling mask for cruising in the motel pool and purposely kept it on for half an hour. It works! Breathing is easy and does not require anything in my mouth. The view is very wide with no issues at all with fogging. Very little water got in the mask and it stayed away from my face then was expelled by the mask. Diving was a little weird because it puts a lot of pressure on the face and the breathing tube immediately plugs up blocking all air and water from getting in. Of course, snorkeling does not actually involve diving so that is okay. You just need to be sure to take a breath before going under water.

Full face snorkel mask

Off to Schlitterbahn my first full day off. As usual, I got a yearly pass and thankfully they had just changed them to cover the rest of 2017 and all of 2018 so I am good for next summer too. The lockers are interesting as they are completely computer controlled with no keys needed. They are also very expensive at $10/day for small and $14 for large!!! Ouch! After having my things taken last time by some git who didn’t check to see they had the right bag (they later turned it in to Lost and Found), I paid the piper anyway. Rackas frackas frickas frackas!

The way this park is designed is terrible. To get from one side to the other you can walk a very long distance through a maze or ride the longest and slowest chute over. At one point, everyone hops out of their tubes and walks through the chute. The two best attractions were broken that day so that was a bummer. The wave river which is always lots of fun is rather hidden back there. You have to get out of that long chute and walk around till you find the not very obvious entrance to a wide beach to get into the wave river. They were smart enough to put bathrooms down there but the refreshment stand there has no refreshments or food despite its signs. You have to go back to the front entrance to eat. On the good side, parking was very easy nearby and the park is not at all crowded. That I liked a lot! I also liked the one roller coaster-like ride they have and rode that several times. The twin buttilators (they call them aquaveyers) were cool too as they kept the line moving to haul us back up to the upper lazy river. This park is nowhere near as good as the New Braunfels park but I did enjoy not having to wait in lines at all. Unfortunately, I accidentally left my wet bathing suit in one of their bathroom stalls when I changed to leave and some disgusting criminal stole it rather than turning it in. Seriously? A wet, worn bathing suit?! Aargh! I had to find a cheap pair of swimming shorts at Walmart and since they had no decent tops left at season end I wore my black sports bra and a Tshirt for my next visit.

Schlitterbahn surfingSchlitterbahn AquaveyersSchlitterbahn slide

Schlitterbahn lifeguardSchlitterBar?Schlitterbahn burger

Aside from all the usual shopping I do on vacation since I rarely get into a big town, I took time to drive over to the Padre Island National Seashore. They have a nice interpretive center next to the dunes. For fun, I opted to do the Junior Ranger program which also included volunteering for beach cleanup. I picked up plenty of plastic bottles, bottle wrappers, bottle caps, cigarette butts, and even the water bobber from a toilet! I also answered questions on a sheet of tasks they gave me. I saw black clouds headed my way but I just had to get those two last eyesores off the beach. Stupid me. The skies opened up with buckets of rain and soaked me thoroughly before I could get back. At least I got to help out and earned both a ranger badge and a cleanup patch while enjoying a walk on the beach. I also got my National Parks Passport stamped and bought the Padre Island sticker for it.

I'm a ranger!Padre Island National Seashore

One good thing about the motel location is it is near North Beach and the USS Lexington museum. I just can’t stay off ships, especially aircraft carriers. They were kind enough to give me a veteran discount too. This museum uses smartphones and QR code technology to conduct a virtual tour. Nice! They have lots of hands on photo opportunities for some cool pictures for you. They have a flight simulator that is only $5 and sure takes you for a ride alright. As usual, I made one silly comment and got thrown in the brig. Dang! I had to walk the plank too. LOL. I would have preferred eating a home cooked meal in the officer’s mess like I did on another carrier but the food at the snack bar on the Lexington is still pretty good for lunch. BTW, the Lexington was majorly involved in the search for Amelia Earhart and several other big times in history. I checked out every inch of it I could until the last minute before closing. They were having some kind of fancy dinner onboard that night and there was a group of people, possibly scouts, staying onboard for the night. Others can pay to stay too.

USS Lexington aircraft carrierCarier deckMine!

USS Lexington brigWalking the plank

After the Lexington, a walked next door to play on the beach and wade for a bit. As usual, I had no bathing suit with me and got my clothes wet. Nothing stops me from having fun when an opportunity presents itself. I got a picture of a couple burying a guy in the sand and creating sand boobies on his chest like my family and I used to do at the beach. Some things never change. The water is so warm there it is like taking a bath. You can’t really cool off in it unless there is a breeze. It is so different from the Pacific Ocean where I was raised. Not freezing your butt off in the water is kind of nice though. With lots of oil refineries in the area, I wouldn’t suggest spending a lot of time in that water or swallowing it.

North Beach, Corpus ChristiBeach burying

For my last day in Corpus Christi, I went back to Schlitterbahn again and spent all day until around 4pm before I went grocery shopping then headed back to my gate. Driving high speed 2 lane roads for 3 hours in the dark with stop signs thrown in for fun a couple places is no fun at all. I’ll have to leave earlier next summer but I sure had a good time.

For more pics click here.

Trade Show in Las Vegas

I got the opportunity to attend my first trade show in March in Las Vegas for my new online seller business. To sell, you actually have to have items to sell and the trade show was a chance to meet hundreds of wholesalers as well as attend numerous seminars on the business. I knew the educational opportunities alone would be worth the trip so I hired a sub to guard my gate and hopped a plane. Las Vegas is one expensive place but I managed to find a reasonable hotel, The Mardi Gras, within walking distance of the convention center. I expected it to be a dump but it turned out to be very nice and the room was both clean and huge. A small convenience store, McDonald’s, and the monorail station were all within walking distance as well.

Mardis Gras Hotel

The first day of the trade show I spent getting my badge, collecting the free business magazines, getting oriented to the layout of the different buildings, and attending very informative seminars. The seminars must have been good because I have been helping others with what I learned ever since. LOL. At the end of the day, I had a networking get-together to go to which included light food. I got to meet one of my mentors and do a lot of shop talk with others I have only spoken to online. Afterward, I bought a multi-day pass for the monorail and hopped it to ride back and forth just taking in the views and exploring the different hotels it stops at. I could have just ridden the train all night.

Awesome seminarLas Vegas Monorail

The next day with schedule in hand (or rather on phone with their own tradeshow app), I walked back over to the convention center and got breakfast right there in a cafeteria they run. It was a busy day with more seminars, visits with credit card vendors hawking their business credit cards, and darting in and out of the sales floor between classes. There was lots of opportunity on display there and as a first-timer, I grabbed lots of catalogs. They get pretty heavy by the end of the day but I made sure to pack a folding cart to put them in and that really paid off big time! I did get a complement from one vendor on my business card. He said it looked good and stood out from the others. That was the point when I created it so score! That night, after dropping off the catalogs at my room, I hopped the train again for more exploring. So much to see! I got dinner at a hotel restaurant and stumbled on a bakery with delicious goodies. I walked the sky bridge and the boulevard till I couldn’t walk no more.

Las Vegas Ferris wheelLas Vegas traffic and hotelsLas Vegas Eiffel Tower?

Day 3, I took the monorail over to a discount ticket place. My birthday was coming up and what better place to celebrate than Las Vegas! I bought a ticket to see the Blueman Group perform at the Luxor Hotel then headed back to the convention center for a breakfast at a nearby hotel with one of my business groups to do some more networking. Having completely walked myself out now at the convention and all over Las Vegas, I opted to rent a scooter for the day. They have a coupe of rental offices in the convention center at the Fedex areas. That sure made the day fly by and really speeded up my sourcing. I was able to zoom down the aisles to visit most of the booths and chat with those I was interested in.

Networking breakfast

Not every vendor was warm to me. Some won’t do business with Amazon or Ebay sellers while others felt they already had enough sellers. Most didn’t care though so there were still lots of possibilities for me. While you can make deals there, you can’t buy samples until the last day per the tradeshow’s rules except in one area. While normally you want to make the deal before you leave, I didn’t because this was my first one and I’m still learning. My next one I’ll be loaded and ready for bear. I did pickup some business supplies, though.

That night, I was running late so I called Uber to get me over to the Luxor for the show. Another fine ride from them. After arriving, they made me check my backpack in at the hotel desk. They don’t allow bags at the show. The Blueman Group were wonderful and everything I expected! It was very entertaining and funny. Who knew plastic pipes could sound so good? I particularly liked them playing with paint on their drums. I love the way it splashes and splatters. You should also see what they can do with marshmallows. Wow! OK, been there, seen that, got the Tshirt. Really, I bought their Tshirt! Ha ha! Afterward, I explored the Titanic gift shop. I visited the museum in Branson, MO so I skipped the one here. I wandered over to the boulevard again, toured the M&Ms store, and rode the elevator up and down in the Coke bottle before heading back to the motel. I gave away my monorail pass that still had one day left on it to a nice couple from England.

Hanging with Blue ManTitanic Museum in the Luxor HotelMy new M&Ms friends

Back at the hotel, I started packing. OMG! Catalogs are very heavy and take up a lot of space. Thank goodness I had my folding cart bag which I squeezed two sample bamboo pillows and some clothes into while carrying the rest of my clothes and the heavy catalogs in my small carryon suitcase. I came in just half a pound under the weight limit. Whew! The hotel shuttle took me to the airport the next morning. As soon as I entered the airport doors, a lady came running up to me and suggested STRONGLY that I use a wheelchair to get to the gate. All that walking had taken its toll. I declined at first but when she told me the gate was a very long walk away I caved. Getting through security with a wheelchair and a metal cane is a bit of a pain but the ride was kind of fun with a nice young man pushing me around. Tee hee. BTW, even Burger King is ridiculously expensive in the airport in Las Vegas! Glad to be home.

For more pics click here.

Quartzsite 2017

After getting off the cruise ship and picking up Irene’s car, she drove me to a liquidation business nearby. I signed up with them as a reseller and we got a tour of their warehouse. I could have signed up online but business is about relationships so I wanted meet the account rep they would assign me and get a better feel for what kind of items you can find through them and how the items are handled.  It was well worth the trip. There were several flea market vendors there picking up pallets of goods as well as small Mom and Pop stores picking up. I get how that works now and see how many of the Quartzsite vendors are getting their wares. These lots are from major stores as customer returns, overstocked items, and shelf-pulls to clear space for new items or eliminate slow sellers. The warehouse had all kinds of goods, anything you could want. I did have to laugh a little when the rep proudly showed me a pallet of shoes and when I opened one box, there was an old worn out pair of boots in it. Obviously, an unscrupulous customer had done a fraudulent return and it had not been caught at the store. Some people! I couldn’t buy anything at the time since I had flown out and would not be home for over a week but the trip there was definitely worth it.

After a quick stop for groceries, my friend dropped me off at CruiseAmerica to pick up my rented motorhome. I had checked out other RV rental companies but despite having badly designed RVs, they still have the best deal in town. Before long, I was on the road (or rather in the Los Angeles traffic) to Quartzsite, AZ.

It was late at night when I pulled into Mayflower County Park in Blythe, CA to see old friends and get the park gossip before heading on. As it so happened, the spot I chose to park in was right next to one of my friends and she came out to help me park. She was surprised to see me after 4 years and unannounced! She helped me out with a sleeping bag and pillow since I wouldn’t have those until I met up with my sister the next day. I took my time the next day to visit several of my old friends and take a walk around the park. They finally got new bathrooms built and closed the old ones. The park was fairly full but still had plenty of sites for us wanderers. It felt good to be back. I used to winter there and always found them very friendly and fun.

In the afternoon, I left and headed on over the state line to Quartzsite to meet up with my family for a week of fun, shopping, and pranks. I also had serious reporting to do for my other website, RVQuartzsite.com . I found them at the La Posa West LTVA behind the Big Tent and we circled our wagons. I did goof and forget to bring exact change for the LTVA permit. I had to borrow $5 from my brother-in-law to pay for my campsite. Thanks, bro!

My Quartzsite Family

We had a good week in Quartzsite. I found some goodies to buy, tried Silly Al’s pizza (very good!), had ice cream every day, enjoyed the campfires, played lots of cards and dominoes, and got plenty of exercise walking around. There were some open booth spaces which I hope is not going to be a trend for the future of Quartzsite. The Progressive Insurance booth did not have their golf game this year but was still giving away great prizes so we hit them up every day. My insurance agent whom I met at Quartzsite was there again this year so I stopped by her booth to tease her a bit and get a hug. I managed to get another hug at the Escapees booth. Hey, single people take them where they can get them! I enjoyed the pretzels at the dip booth again this year and finally gave in to buy the grater dish and garlic roller you see there every year. The food booths were good though expensive as always. In the evenings, the local radio station was playing a perfect 1970’s mix for us old fogies. It was delightful.

Quartzsite Big TentProgressive Insurance Quartzsite boothMy cool wood carving

Quartzite RV show food boothSilly Al's pizza

One day, I stopped in at the Chamber of Commerce to meet the person I had been speaking to for so long about Quartzsite activities and to get information on current local changes. It helps to put the face with the name and voice. Very nice woman and while short, the meeting was helpful.

Getting out of town to return the RV to Los Angeles and hop another plane at LAX was not fun at all due to traffic. Aargh! I’m glad I left a day early to get closer to L.A. to be sure I didn’t miss my flight. It also gave me a chance to camp at Fisherman’s Retreat in Redlands, CA. Very nice campground I will probably stay at again. The food in their restaurant was very good and they have a nice clubhouse and store.

Fisherman's Retreat lakeFisherman's Retreat poolFisherman's Retreat play area

Fun on the High Seas

Time for another cruise and being able to combine it with both business and a trip to Quartzsite for the annual RV and Sportsman’s Show was too much to pass up. This time I sailed on the Carnival Imagination out of Long Beach with my childhood pal, Irene, who lives near there. This was her first cruise so we opted for a 3 night quickie to see if she likes it.

I broke my own first rule of cruising and flew in the same day of the cruise. Please don’t follow my example. Flying the day of a cruise is very risky. Your car could break down on the way to the airport or the flight could be delayed or even cancelled. Fly in a day ahead of time. I broke the rule because every day I don’t work it costs me a lot of money and I was already going to be gone for two weeks. To me the gamble was worth it even if I missed an inexpensive cruise. I still had business in the area and Quartzsite to go to.

After picking me up at LAX airport, we drove down to the pier in Long Beach. The terminal area is actually rather pretty and there is a restroom located away from the main building which makes it easier to use. Once we got in line, we felt like royalty as we were immediately ushered past the rest of the line thanks to purchasing Faster to the Fun. Talk about fast check in! They rushed us through and got us on the ship within minutes. Woohoo!

We dropped off our carryon luggage in our interior room and headed out to explore. The Imagination is the smallest ship I have been on yet and a little bit of a disappointment. The ship itself was fine but it has fewer pools and hot tubs than I am used to and not as much to explore. There is a small water slide area at the back of the ship and it does have a Serenity adult only area though it is very well hidden.

Carnival Imagination shipCarnival Imagination waterslide

The food did not disappoint though traveling with a vegetarian was certainly a new and interesting experience for me. Thank goodness my carnivore nature did not bother Irene but she did have a harder time finding food she could eat. She never complained though. We did both enjoy the mushrooms and carmelized onions at Guy’s Burgers and raided them a couple times during the trip. For the Main Dining Room, we did anytime dining and the food was good there as well though a bit different again from what I am used to due to changes in the menu fleet wide. We did make a point of going to the Dr. Seuss breakfast to eat green eggs and ham with the Cat in the Hat, Thing 1, and Thing 2, and George. Of course, Irene did not eat ham and I chose steak instead of the ham but we ate green eggs! Sam I Am!

Me and the Cat in the HatMe and George ThingsGreen eggs and steak at Dr. Seuss breakfast

Our cabin was great! I wanted Irene to have an excellent first experience so rather than reserving “just” an interior room, I got us a porthole room for only a few bucks more. We got sunlight in through the windows to lighten the room up and could see out a little. It was cheaper than an oceanview room and still gave us the main benefits of one. I recommend them highly. It was smaller than oceanview with no couch but it was fine for us.

Porthole room

While waiting to test drive the pizza shop on board late one night, we ran into the piano player from the Piano Bar. He was an interesting young man who had been called in quickly to replace someone and had a big world tour gig coming up with another cruiseline. We joined him in the Piano Bar for the rest of the evening for some fine music and every night after. Oh, the pizza was pretty good this time. Better than on previous ships though Dominoes and Pizza Hut have nothing to worry about.

The Piano Man

There was a very large group on board of radio station fans of a particular Tejano music band. They partied every night and the music was terrific! One night the band performed by the pool on Lido while everyone danced and another night they performed in the theater. That was a nice unexpected perk.

Tejano band and fans

Our first stop was at Catalina Island. I was a teenager many moons ago when I was last there. It has certainly changed a lot since then but it is still a nice place for a weekend getaway from Los Angeles. We rented a golf cart to tour the island on our own and took turns driving. You can easily tour it in 2-3 hours as it is a very small island. We made it more fun by geocaching along the way with my phone. We found several caches. Couldn’t find one. After dropping off the golf cart, we hit the shops and found a cruise ship and a sail boat charms. I had hoped to find a charm of the Sea Smoke catamarran I sailed on with the Girl Scouts the last time I was on Catalina but struck out. I knew it would be a long shot after so many years. It was a a beautiful day on the island, though, and I look forward to going back again.

Avalon Harbor, Catalina, CACatalina IslandKissing a Catalina seal

Our next stop was Ensenada, Mexico. We went on the tour to La Bufadora Blowhole. It’s an area where the waves enter a gully, crash on the rocks, and explode up into the air. It was worth seeing once. This is also a huge tourist attraction with numerous shops along the path to the blowhole. While they promote the shopping a lot with coupons, there is no time to do any shopping while there. They really need to add more time to this excursion. We had just enough time to see the blowhole, use the restroom, and quickly eat some excellent fish tacos before being shuffled back on the bus. They could at least eliminate the wine tasting at a historic building on the way there. I liked the building and once upon a time many famous people went there to enjoy it as a casino but it is not a big deal now.

Ensenada, MexicoLa BufadoraLa Bufadora market

I know I enjoyed the cruise very much. Any cruise is a good cruise. I still don’t know how Irene feels about cruising but hopefully I can convince her to go again. We did discover that we are both gimps. We both had issues with our legs onboard. Like an idiot, I failed to bring my cane since I have been working out and walking so much better. Um, that does not matter when one is walking all over a ship, an island, and a blowhole. Lesson learned. I bought another one as soon as we got back to Long Beach for the rest of the trip.