Friday, May 18, 2018

The Cottonwood Station Eatery & Other Vegas Restaurants


Today’s update to Vegas Girl’s restaurant listing includes a new cafe in Blue Diamond, plus other restaurants in the western part of the Las Vegas valley.

I almost hate to write about Cottonwood Station Eatery in Blue Diamond, not because anything was amiss, but because I don’t want this rural gem ruined by too many visitors. Chances are I’m too late to save this charming cafe from the ravages of popularity, however,  especially since the waitress told me Mothers’ Day was crazy for the little restaurant. (I bet they’ll be overflowing when Super Summer Theater gets going for the season at nearby Spring Mountain Ranch.)

My son and I drove out to Cottonwood Station on a weekday morning, when only a handful of people were there. The interior design is a nice mix of eccentric elements and a clean, modern style. I loved the finished particle board tables.

  

I had a breakfast sandwich, my son had a sausage roll, and we both had coffee. For dessert we split a coffee cake muffin, which I had no chance to photograph before we devoured it. I also had no opportunity to take a picture of my son’s food before he ate it. Everything was quite tasty.



I loved everything about Cottonwood Station. The drive through Red Rock to the cafe was beautiful. The food and coffee were yummy, the service was friendly and efficient, and I was able to stroll around Blue Diamond snapping pictures, something that generally arouses suspicion... unless there’s a fancy new cafe in town attracting city people like myself.



Blue Diamond is home to less than 300 people and its small-town ambiance is as genuine as it gets. Unfortunately, the threat of development on top of Blue Diamond Hill continues to loom as a possibility. The two-lane lifestyle may be on a count-down here. 

I suggest you visit the Cottonwood Station now, before all the other people find out about it.

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The Cottonwood Station is just one of four additions to the Vegas Girl’s Restaurant List in my latest update. I also recommend Salud, Buldogis, The Martini and Khoury’s Mediterranean.

Feel free to leave suggestions for restaurants I should check out in the comments!

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Don’t Be a Bunny Dumper


In February, about 50 dead rabbits were discovered on the grounds of a mental health facility where bunny dumping has been going on for years. Local rescue groups are still working to move any remaining rabbits off the grounds and are in need of animal carriers, water bottles, and donations.

 

With Easter coming up this weekend, it seems like the right time to talk about our rabbit problems.


Bunnies on the grounds of a local park
Bunny dumping has been a problem in Las Vegas for a long time. I’m not talking about the wild rabbits you see when you’re out hiking. The bunnies I’m talking about were once someone’s pet, right up until the point when their person decided to abandon them. These bunnies aren't able to fend for themselves. For some time now, volunteers have been feeding and caring for rabbits at dump sites throughout Las Vegas and doing their best to adopt them out when possible (a rigorous screening process is involved).

Volunteers with Bunnies Matter were shocked to discover the dead rabbits at the mental health facility last month. Poisoning initially was the suspected cause of death, but autopsies revealed it was brunt force trauma, enough to break ribs. Someone was unspeakably cruel to these bunnies, who were accustomed  to humans.

Two days before the dead rabbits were found on February 18, the mental health facility passed around notices that the Nevada Department of Health had declared the bunnies a health hazard. (During the autopsies, the bunnies tested negative for tularemia, one of the serious diseases the rabbits were alleged to have. Prior to this point, there were no concerns voiced about the rabbits carrying disease.) Further, the notice said people were barred from feeding the rabbits and that the state planned to relocate them. No one from Bunnies Matter had been told anything about these new developments.

Interestingly, the facility itself had originally released rabbits on the grounds, thinking it would be soothing for the residents. They neglected to spay or neuter the rabbits, and so they wound up with a rabbit problem, exacerbated by bunny dumpers. 

After the dead rabbits were found, bunny rescuers sprang into action, working diligently to move the remaining rabbits off the grounds. (At its peak population, this dumpsite had about 1,000 rabbits.) When I spoke to Stacey Taylor of Bunnies Matter a couple of weeks ago, her group was still working hard to get all of the rabbits moved from the area. She said that baby bunnies who had been in burrows waiting for their moms had started to come out, likely looking for food since Mom had not come back.

With Easter right around the corner, there are unfortunately a lot of bunnies who will wind up homeless after they become too big or too much of a bother. That’s when a bunch of them will wind up being dumped somewhere.

If you think a rabbit will make a fun Easter gift for the kids, please rethink. Bunnies requite a lot of attention and care. They like to chew on things. They get bored easily. If you’re thinking of getting a bunny, I urge you to do some research on what’s involved with caring for them. Better yet, I strongly urge you to reconsider and simply buy a stuffed animal instead.

Even better, visit some real bunnies at one of the adoption events Bunnies Matters hosts, and then make a donation. They're at the PetSmart on West Charleston every Saturday. Drop off a carrier and a water bottle. Click over to the Bunnies Matter Amazon Wish List, and send them something. Don't give bunnies as gifts this Easter--give the bunnies the gifts instead!


PETA is offering a$5,000 reward for the identification of the people responsible for the 50 rabbit deaths. The Nevada Capitol Police, a state agency, is also investigating the bunny killing.

Have you seen the dumped bunnies around Las Vegas? If you're not in Las Vegas, do you have a bunny dumping problem in your city? Unfortunately, many places do.
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All pictures by Terrisa Meeks

Friday, February 16, 2018

Flashback Friday: Vegas to St. Louis for the 2017 Eclipse

Last year, on August 21, 2017, North America got to see a total solar eclipse.


My son made his first solo trip from Las Vegas to St. Louis to be in the path of totality for this rare celestial occurrence. 

Photo by Roger Lee

Last summer my son announced he wanted to find a place to see the solar eclipse in full totality. Since last year’s eclipse was the first one in 38 years and another won’t occur in North America until 2024, I agreed this was a great idea. Here in Las Vegas, you could only see the eclipse with special glasses, but there was a swath across the middle of the country where the eclipse would briefly turn day into night.    

I  thought about what a fun trip it would be for the two of us, but August turned out to be a rotten time for me to travel. Instead, I helped him plan his first trip alone. I mean, it was time. He’s over 18, and the world awaits.

After checking on air fare to several cities in the path of full totality, we settled on St. Louis, Missouri.

Next, we had to deal with a few age-related issues. Although he’s over 18, he’s under 21.

For transportation, we quickly settled on a combination of public transportation and Uber. Car rental was out of the question because he doesn’t drive, and even if he did you need to be at least 21 to rent a car.

His first hotel choice was a place that required guests to be over 21 (no exceptions, he was told by a very unhelpful hotel manager), but we found a much better deal on Airbnb -- $100 less per night. I also liked the Airbnb because I thought it was better for him to have a homier place to stay since he was new to the city and traveling alone. Plus, he could get some insight from the hosts about St. Louis.  

I asked him to write about his first trip, and here’s what he had to say.


My flight left at 0045 and arrived at 0830, with an hour layover in Minneapolis. The first leg of the flight was miserable. For the first 30 minutes, I couldn’t figure out how to recline my chair, and I was afraid to move around too much and accidentally bump into anyone. After a while I was able to figure out how to get that extra two degrees I so desperately needed. However, reclining the back of the seat moved the seat bottom forward, making the situation worse. Essentially it felt like holding the iron chair position for three hours and forty-five minutes.

He was not impressed with the Minneapolis airport.

Low drop ceilings, unnaturally humid, whole place smelled strongly of eggs, not in a good way. Rubbery, unseasoned, microwaved eggs. The men's bathroom had not been cleaned in 81 days according to the counter next to the door.

Next, onward to St. Louis.

My flight into St. Louis wasn't much better. They had a guy with just a crescent wrench and a pair of pliers fixing something on the plane right before takeoff, and the intercoms only emitted static. Very comforting when you're supposed to be flying 10,000 feet up and right before you take off they have to send in someone who looks more equipped to fix toilets, not airplanes. However, I lived with only minimal spinal cord injuries.

Upon arrival in St. Louis, he walked for what felt like a very long distance before finding the MetroLink train he needed. After successfully boarding his first public transportation of any kind (in any city), he was underway.

As the train ran along right beside the freeway, I was feeling pretty good. Then we got to our fist stop. A toothless woman, who was either old or had a drug problem (I would guess the latter), covered in what looked like a lot of surgery scars sat down across from me. She immediately began talking loudly on a cell phone about how stressed she was because she was trying to sell a bottle to Sarah, but Sarah didn’t show up. Or something like that. During her conversation, she stood up and sat down repeatedly. After a few rounds of musical chairs, she settled into what I would call an ambush crouch. I was very happy to get off the train and find myself in a nice university campus with bike cops and “no smoking outside” signs.

His Airbnb was in a historic home, circa 1895, and he was excited to see it. The hosts had agreed to let him drop his bags off before check-in time so he could go see the eclipse without his backpack. 

I walked to my Airbnb to drop off my bags, but I couldn't get into the door for the floor with the storage closet. (Turns out it was actually a push door with a very strong return spring, not a pull door with a sh*tty handle like I thought. Apparently fire code regulations about which way doors open weren't around in 1895). I had to get going, so I just took my bag with me and called an Uber so I could go get some food before heading out to see the eclipse.

He had lunch at a place called Cafe Ventana, one of the restaurants recommended in his Airbnb’s house manual. Then it was off to Jefferson Barracks Park for the eclipse viewing party.

After a long walk from the Uber drop-off point, I got to the music and food trucks and found a hillside to sit on for a while. 


I eventually found a spot right next to the stage, where two photographer dudes (PMT Photographyfrom Boston were taking pictures of the sun. I asked one man about his camera and we talked for a minute before I went back to the tree I had staked out. I relaxed until the eclipse was at about 75% then I moved out into the clearing next to the photographer. A random group of people gathered--a dude with a lot of tattoos, a guy and his girlfriend, me, and the photographers. We all watched the eclipse together.

 Here’s Cameron’s video of the eclipse.


I headed back to Cafe Ventana for a cup of coffee and to contemplate what I was going to do next. I sat down in one of their giant, wonderfully comfortable leather chairs and looked down to discover I had no watch on my wrist. Immediately, I opened the Uber app and got a hold of the driver, who turned right back around and brought me my watch. That driver was one of the nicest people I’ve met.

After some deliberation, I decided to go to Pi Pizzaria. It was the best pizza I’ve had in my life. I looked out the front windows while I was eating, and I saw a sedan drive past with a dude sitting on the front passenger quarter panel, smoking a cigarette and pointing forwards. I wish I could have gotten a picture.

My room wasn’t quite ready yet, so I dropped off my left-over pizza at the Airbnb’s fridge and walked over to the Cathedral Basilica. I wandered around their mosaic museum for a while, then went back upstairs to take pictures of the mosaics on the ceiling, but mass started so I had to leave. Lucikly, my room was ready by the time I got back.


My modest room had a Murphy bed, a desk, and a wardrobe. It felt like I was in a Mark Twain novel.

Back at the Airbnb, he took a shower and watched some YouTube before falling hard asleep. I woke him up when I called at 8 p.m., and he was too groggy to chat for long.

His plans for the next day included renting a bike to explore Forest Park and spending some time at the St. Louis Arch before catching an afternoon flight back home. But, as happens when you travel, his plans changed.

I woke up at 0630 the next day to heavy rain. I was a little worried it might affect my flight back home, but the weather cleared up. It did screw up my bike rental plans, though. So, Plan B. I went to see the Arch.

At the ticket trailer outside the Arch, they told me the only tickets available were for 1700. I'd be long gone by then. Still cautiously optimistic, I went into the Arch’s underground visitor center/gift shop. A greeter asked me if I was there for a ride to the top. I explained that I couldn’t get a ticket, and he said since I was early, I might be able to still get on since I’d shown up right after they opened. So I talked to the ticket lady inside, who called the boss, who apparently said “no.” Plan C was to go to the Arch’s museum, but it was under construction. So I bought a horrendously overpriced umbrella in the gift shop and walked outside to see that the rain had stopped for the most part. For a moment I thought about throwing the umbrella in the Mississippi River, but decided against it since it was still raining a little bit.

Next, he returned to the comfy chairs at Cafe Ventana and came up with Plan D: visit the Missouri History Museum in Forest Park.

I took about 500 pictures there, so about 200 in focus. I hung out there as late as I could, and I still didn’t get to see everything in as much detail as I would have liked.




When it was time to leave, I walked around Forest Park for about fifteen minutes before attempting to call Uber. That’s when my phone decided to have no service, even after a restart. Luckily, public WiFi is everywhere now, so I was still able to get an Uber to the airport.   



When the hubby and I picked him up later that day, he was tired and happy to be home. Returning home after an adventure is one of the best parts of a trip. You’re tired but full of things to share. When you travel solo, you also feel a sense of victory at having successfully made it there and back. It’s one of my favorite feelings.

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Did you get to see the eclipse in 2017? Have you ever been to St. Louis?


Photos in St. Louis and video clip by Cameron

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Work Out Like a Mermaid

Trying to keep your New Year’s fitness resolution? AquaMermaid classes put you in a mermaid tail and are a fun way to get a killer workout.

Anna Yatsko, AquaMermaid Instructor and former Silverton Aquarium Mermaid, making mermaiding look easy

If you’re diligently trying to stick to a fitness plan for 2018, let me give you a suggestion for any flabby middle parts you’re working on: take AquaMermaid classes. Yes, you get to wear a tail (a.k.a stylish monofin), not only to stay true to being a mermaid, but also because that tail is the key to really working your core. Between the tail holding your legs together and the resistance of the water, your abdominal muscles are in for a wake-up call.

I got to see the AquaMermaids in action back in October, when their Las Vegas operation came online at the Municipal Pool on Bonanza in Downtown Las Vegas.

I had recruited a volunteer mermaid to come with me as my appointed Person in a Swimsuit, but she cancelled at the last minute. I briefly contemplated putting on the tail myself and getting in the water, then I remembered that I never appear in a swimsuit in public. (Also, it’s very difficult to take pictures while swimming and my Nikon isn’t waterproof. Any excuse will do to keep me out of the water, honestly.)

Although I have a strict no-swimwear policy, I’ll admit that when I met everyone at AquaMermaid, I wished I’d brought a suit. Their merpeople come in all shapes and sizes, and everyone was welcoming. 

A local vlogger, Jacob Orth of the YouTube channel Jacob’s Life in Las Vegas, was also at the class I attended. Unlike me, he was brave enough to put on the tail and get in the water. As it turned out, the biggest tail they had was bright pink, but Jacob was such a good sport that he appeared not to mind at all. Watching him get lessons really illustrated what a workout this is: he’s a very fit individual, and he was definitely working hard.
Jacob Orth getting instructions from AquaMermaid founder Marielle Chartier Henault

In an interview with the RJ, AquaMermaid’s founder, Marielle Chartier Henault, said that there’s a swim test before people can participate. Based on what I saw, that’s a good idea. The fun factor could easily convince you to overlook the physical demands of the class. While it becomes immediately obvious that mermaiding works your core, it’s worth noting that this activity will work your entire body plus provides what looked like butt-kicking cardio workout (or should I say tail kicking?).
AquaMermaids in action

Anna Yatsko, AquaMermaid Instructor 

Classes for kids and adults currently are offered on Saturdays, and you can sign up online. Single classes are listed on the website, but ask about monthly subscriptions if you’d like to make putting on the tail a regular thing. They also do parties for kids and adults.



Would you like to try swimming like a mermaid?
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All pictures by Terrisa Meeks. 

Friday, December 15, 2017

The Flight of the EB-66C

On September 26, 2017, the first RC model of a Vietnam Era EB-66C made its maiden flight on the dry lake bed in Eldorado Valley, Nevada. The model’s flight was the culmination of nearly two years of work by a volunteer team of 13 people, a labor of love created in tribute to the veterans who flew the actual planes in wartime.



The first thing you notice about the EB-66C model is its size. Second, it's incredibly detailed.

On launch day, I walked up to the model as Tony Accurso, John Morgan, and their team were busily working on last-minute preparations. This 1/8 scale model has a wing span close to ten feet and a body length of nine and half feet--it's big. Every part of the model is astonishingly detailed, especially the cockpit. The team had only photographs to go on and used them to make a 3D printing of the cockpit, which was then hand painted. It even includes tiny maps of Southeast Asia. Tony and John led the team who built the model, and they describe themselves as “a little obsessive.”


With the launch imminent, it was an all-hands-on-deck moment. While the team worked on the final adjustments, USAF pilot and retired Lt. Colonel Robert Stamm looked on. He flew reconnaissance missions in the EB-66C in Vietnam, and he and his wife were both there to see the model take flight. He commented on how accurate the model was.

When the model was ready, the team positioned it for takeoff on the lake bed. “Everybody step back,” Tony told the assembled group. “I don’t want to be distracted by the cameras clicking.” 
All of us dutifully retreated, and the EB-66C taxied along before lifting itself into the air. The desert mountains in the background had just started catching light, and the solar array in the distance almost looked like a lake.


***

Tony became fascinated with the EB-66C when he saw the 1988 movie “Bat*21,” which was based on actual events.  In the movie, the main character (Lt. Colonel Iceal "Gene" Hambleton, played by Gene Hackman) is the sole survivor when his plane is shot down in North Vietnamese territory. A massive operation takes place to rescue him. It was a film (and an airplane) that stuck with Tony as a young airman--and remained with him.

Years later, retired vets Tony and John discovered there were no RC models of the EB-66C. An 18-month project was born, and it was completed entirely with donated time and funds. The team decided not to accept corporate funding because it wasn’t in tune with the mission they’d given themselves: to honor the men who had flown the plane.

The entire model plane world followed the build, but they weren’t the only ones interested in the storied airplane. Tony contacted the B-66 Association and found Vietnam vets like Lt. Colonel Stamm. I heard about the flight from friends of mine, Diane Ciz and her husband, retired Major George Ciz, who flew 144 missions as an EWO (Electronic Warfare Officer).  
Retired Lt. Colonel Robert Stamm in background. He was an EB-66C pilot during Vietnam.
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“You lost a wheel,” someone said right after the takeoff, but Tony was too busy steering the plane through the sky to say anything.

Tony said he had to remember to fly the model just like the real plane, with a long, shallow climb. The real EB-66C was not a powerhouse of speed, and neither was the model. It was, however, an incredible sight.

The plane slowly circled around us twice, then bounced down in a touch and go, soared back up into the sky, and made one more loop before setting back down roughly, skidding a little before coming to a stop. After the dust settled, the team walked out to retrieve the plane, which was sitting slightly askew because of its missing wheel, but that was the only damage.


The flight was a success and truly met its mission to be a tribute to those who served on the EB-66C. 

 You can see the entire video of the flight here:

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Special thanks to Tony Accurso for allowing me to be there for the flight and to George and Diane Ciz for letting me know about the EB-66C model project.

Kudos to the team who put the EB-66C together: 
Tony Accurso, Evelyn Accurso, John Morgan, Brenda Morgan, Kirby Morgan, Wade Joos, Birger de la Pena, Scott Ramirez, James Klassen,  Chris Wolfe, Chad Veich, Gary Gioia, and Karen Gioia. 
  

All pictures by Terrisa Meeks. I'll be posting more pictures from the flight on my Flickr page soon.

Friday, October 27, 2017

The Newest Game in Las Vegas: O.J. Sightings

I’m surprised someone hasn’t created an app yet to track sightings of O.J. Simpson, who was recently released from prison and is now living near the Red Rock Country Club.


Allegedly, O.J. Simpson wants to move to Florida, but while he’s trying to get that figured out, he’s taken up residence in Summerlin. While I commend O.J. on his taste in neighborhoods, I have to say it was bizarre to see him strolling around the Tivoli Village Farmers Market last Saturday. I totally forgot to buy half the things I needed.

He’s just as gracious as you’ve heard. When I first saw him, I spotted him because of the small group of people standing around him taking pictures. I recognized O.J. immediately. While I could’ve easily walked right up to him and asked for a photo, I didn’t... because: a) I was raised not to bother celebrities in public, regardless of how infamous they might be; and b) it just felt wrong. 

Instead, I snapped a pic from a distance--but he had seen me and smiled and waved for my picture. And yes, I smiled and waved back. He’s charming, even from a distance and even if you know all about his history.

Now, the new game in town seems to be who can spot O.J. while he’s out and about. If I had spent nine years in a prison in Northern Nevada, I would be outside every chance I got, no matter how many people took pictures of me. Apparently O.J. feels the same way because social media and local news have had a steady stream of O.J. Sightings. Apparently he likes Grape Street up in DTS and Wahoo’s over at Boca Park. Considering how many great restaurants Summerlin has, I imagine he’ll find plenty of places to try.

I’ve heard from at least one person who plans to go out this weekend in pursuit of an O.J. Sighting. I don’t think he'll have to look too hard.

Summerlin and Brentwood could be cousins, ambiance-wise, which makes me wonder if that’s part of the reason O.J. seems to feels so comfortable here. We even have a Rockingham Drive. (Random Factoid: Simpson’s L.A. home on Rockingham Avenue--the house we all saw on TV--was demolished in 1998.)

While it’s incorrect that the Las Vegas jury or judge had any “payback” in mind with the robbery verdict, O.J.’s incarceration for robbery was related to the murders, if you think about it. While he was acquitted of the criminal charges, he was found liable in a civil lawsuit and was ordered to turn over assets to go toward the $33.5 million the Brown and Goldman families were awarded. O.J. and his pals hid his assets to avoid turning them over. He claimed the items he was “recovering” here in Vegas were stolen from him, which is obviously debatable considering his scheme to hide property. Pursuing legal actions to get the items back would have subjected them to the dreaded turnover order. Had he not been trying to avoid the order, he probably wouldn’t have had a reason to rob anyone. 

And if he would have taken the plea deal he was offered for the robbery, he would have been sentenced to about 30 months.

He could have been out working on his golf game a whole lot sooner.

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Would you take a picture with O.J? Leave your answer in the comments.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Restaurants List Updated

I've updated my list of local Las Vegas restaurants with ten new entries, including Andre's Bistro and Marche Bacchus. Check out my list of restaurants to see all of my current favorites.

Marche Bacchus at Desert Shores
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What are your favorite local Las Vegas restaurants? Leave your suggestion in the comments!

Photo by Terrisa Meeks