Glamping

Cargo Trailer Glamping – Trip #2 – Musicland – Branson MO

Because we had to cancel our September camping trip to Ozark Outdoors because the hospital I work at mandated the jab and I wasn’t about to succumb to an experimental injectable for a disease that was little more than a severe respiratory infection and I wasn’t in the high category risk for it and I couldn’t justify taking it, I put my resignation in. My last day was supposed to be 9-29-21, however, my religious exemption was approved at the last minute and I agreed to weekly testing so I could keep my job. But we had canceled our trip because we didn’t want to forfeit our deposit – so we didn’t go camping in September. Once the dust settled, I looked to the next little vacation I had asked off for – Veteran’s Day weekend. We knew we would likely go camping but we didn’t really know where – we just knew it would be somewhere close to home. We settled on Branson but we still hesitated on making reservations because my working life is volatile right now and honestly, I’m taking one day at a time. Who knows what the environment will look like tomorrow.

Once the time arrived and the world continued to revolve and the sky didn’t fall on my head, again, we figured we were safe to go ahead and make reservations about two days before we were supposed to leave. We stayed at Musicland Kampground just off the 76 strip. For those familiar with the area, you know exactly what “the strip” is. Branson is a lot like Vegas – all of it’s attractions are all located on one strip of road. It’s a mini Vegas, truth be known. And the campground is right off the strip. We like this campground because you can literally go through a gate and walk up to the strip. This campground is always super clean and the people are very friendly. They also have someone that will show you to your campsite and help you back in which I always appreciate because that’s always the most stressful part for me – navigating Kevin into tight spots.

(That sounded ….. never mind).

I packed up the camper on Friday. We’re really getting packing down to a science so that the only thing I really have to pack is clothes and food – we keep a lot of stuff in the camper so that we don’t have to pack it again and again. We, (I), did forget to pack a few things – more on that later.

This was the first time we pulled the trailer with Kevin’s new F150 truck. By the way, if I didn’t mention it before now, the guy that bought Kevin’s F250 finally paid off the balance and they came and towed the truck away.

Kev was pretty sad to see it go. He got used to driving this monster, it was pretty powerful, so driving the F150 feels kind of weak in comparison.

The F150 did great, by the way. It was really windy when we drove to Branson so that was a complication, and Kevin was getting used to the brakes on the trailer, so there was a lot of bumping as he made adjustments, but once he got the hang of it, it seemed to pull it just fine. I would still like to take it somewhere to get weighed though – just to see how heavy this thing is. We had too much weight in the tongue of the trailer and it bounced quite a big. I think that worried Kevin a bit that the F150 wouldn’t be big enough for future trips, but we’ll see.

We arrived at the site at about 2:00 PM. The guy helped Kevin park it, (THANK GOODNESS), and we worked on setting everything up. The wind was bitterly cold and it was not fun to set up the outside, but I helped him as much as I could and I felt like it went pretty fast. Once we had the electricity hooked up, I uncovered the mini-split and turned the heat on. We’ve never tested the heater part of the mini-split before so I was holding my breath until we confirmed that it was working.

The only thing we really had to set up on the inside was to hang the TV on the mount on the wall and to lift the fridge up on it’s platform and plug it in. We take the fridge off the platform when we’re traveling so it won’t fall off and smash into a million pieces. In the meantime, we pack our perishable food in a cooler with ice packs to keep it cool and once the fridge cools down, (it takes about three hours), I will transfer the food to the fridge and put the cooler in the back of Kevin’s truck to get it out of the way. It works well. Once Kevin hooks up the water/sewer, we fill the toilet up with water so that it’s ready for those late-night pees.

As we were getting the trailer set up, I figured out what I forgot – our pillows. I also forgot to bring my jacket. Kevin had his but I forgot mine and it was simply way too cold to go without, so, we had to make a trip to Wal-Mart to buy pillows and a jacket. I was pretty annoyed with myself for forgetting stuff so important, but at least now we have pillows that we’ll keep in the trailer so I won’t forget them in the future. 

Once the trailer was set up, we rested for a bit and then we went out to eat at a BBQ place. Since it gets dark so early now and was dark when we finished eating, not to mention bitterly cold, we headed back to the trailer, changed into comfy clothes and watched “Stripes.” I had forgotten just how STUPID that movie really is. Gah.

The temps dropped to below freezing that night and the mini-split, though worked well, had trouble keeping up. In fact, we were actually a bit hot, but since I’m such a light sleeper, and never sleep well the first night we are away from home, I knew right away when the mini-split started sounding different. It sounded like it was freezing up and we shut it off for a bit so that it could thaw out. Kevin slept pretty well and he had his earplugs in so he couldn’t hear anything and didn’t notice there was anything wrong with the unit. (He has to wear earplugs because I SAW LOGS at night. By the way, he uses these these earplugs, they work REALLLY WELL in case you’re looking for good earplugs and/or you sleep with a partner that also SAWS LOGS).

Also – our water quit working so we assumed it had gotten so cold it froze. Nope. Our connection had fallen off and we hadn’t realized it.

We “slept” in Saturday and had a relaxing morning. We had chicken wraps for lunch, which were delicious and side note: we use coleslaw in a bag instead of lettuce – more crunch, more flavor and lasts way longer than normal lettuce. Afterward, we walked the strip. We really wanted to go to “Beyond the Lens” where you can take selfies in all sorts of fun backgrounds, like Bigfoot and on the moon, but it was like $35 PER PERSON and we’re too cheap to pay that price so we didn’t end up going. In fact, that was the theme of this trip – too cheap to have fun. We would love to do a lot of things in Branson, but like any touristy place, the prices are outlandish and we would prefer to spend our money on other things. Because I was so tired I had a hard time walking without tripping over my feet, we headed back to the trailer and I took a nap while Kevin watched the Discovery channel. (He hooked up the cable and took advantage of the shows he hasn’t watched in forever because we don’t have cable – remember the cheap part?)

After I woke up, (actually, I was woken up by our neighbor who knocked on our door because our water hook up was leaking and causing a puddle), we went out to eat at a Mexican restaurant. It was really good and Kevin commented that their refried beans were the best he’s ever tasted. After we ate, we walked around a few craft malls where Kevin found me a really cool leather purse for a reasonable price. (I’ve since been carrying the purse around and I love it – it has a side zipper pocket for my keys [I never have to take my keys out – it’s a fob and I just push the starter button in my car – not sure I really like that option], and a pocket on the side that is perfect for my eyeglass case).

After that, we headed back to the trailer and watched “The Mexican” with Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts. I had seen it before. Another stupid movie. This is why I don’t watch movies anymore – they are all so DUMB.

Sunday, after taking showers, (by the way, our trailer doesn’t have a shower, we use the showers at the campground. Which is really not that big of a deal, unless you forget to bring a bag to carry all of your stuff in, (another thing I forgot), TO the shower and then it’s a pain in the butt but since most of the rigs at the campgrounds have their own showers, we rarely encounter anyone in the showers, so that’s nice), we walked around another craft mall. After that, we drove to the lake and walked along a hiking trail for a bit and enjoyed the fresh air and sunshine. It was cold, but it was nice. We also realized that when we go camping in the future, we are going to focus more on secluded campgrounds by water as opposed to trendy campgrounds near a lot of things to do. We are both perfectly happy to sit around the site and read, nap, watch TV, go for walks and just enjoy the nature and the peace and quiet. That’s really WHY we like camping – to get away from everything and everyone and relax. The Musicland Campground was great, but it wasn’t really what we were looking for. We stayed at this campground a few times in the past with the boys and it was perfect then because it was in the middle of everything and we were near a bunch of attractions, which we did with the boys, but now that we’re older and just us, it’s just not something that we’re into anymore.

We headed back to the trailer when it started to get dark and we cooked pancakes, eggs and bacon for dinner. As part of my ten-year anniversary with the hospital, they sent me a brochure of things I could pick from and for my “gift” and I picked a two-skillet set to use in the camper. We used those skillets and we really liked them. We don’t have a stovetop in the trailer, but we used a single burner and Kevin had to wait for me to cook the pancakes before he could get started on the eggs, (he cooks eggs are WAY better than me), and it took a while. So, I will be buying a dual flat burner to keep in the trailer from now on. After dinner, we watched some more Discovery Channel shows.

Monday, we packed up and came home. The weather the whole weekend was nice and Monday was no exception. It was sunny and warm and Kevin didn’t have any trouble pulling the trailer back home. In fact, he made sure the majority of the weight was in the back of the trailer this time and the ride home was a lot less bouncy. Weight distribution really does make a huge difference.

Kevin parked in the driveway behind our house and I unloaded the trailer and caught up on laundry. Kevin had to go to his office to do some work.

We learn something every time we go camping. I have a list of things I want to buy and keep in the camper, and we are going to try and put a murphy table in as well. We don’t have a table now, though Kevin did build a “desk” of sorts just under where the TV sits so we’ve been using that, as well as our bench that we sit on at the desk, as a table. We likely won’t go camping again until the Spring as it’s getting a bit too cold for comfort but hopefully, by then, we’ll have a table to use. It wasn’t that big of a deal this time, but it would be more comfortable.

Our goal is to take a trip every other month in 2022. Kevin wants to take impromptu trips but I can’t really do that because I have to give my work at least two weeks notice whenever I ask for any time off and even then, it’s not a sure thing, so we have to make reservations at the last minute to avoid forfeiting our deposits and that can be a gamble because you’re assuming the campground has space. In addition, Kevin has a client that he does payroll for every week, on Thursdays, so he HAS to be in his office on Thursdays to take care of that so if we leave town, it has to be Friday afternoons, (because he delivers the checks on Friday mornings), and we have to be back by the following Tuesday to give him time to prepare for the upcoming week’s payroll. It sucks, but they pay the bills so we have to make due.

Overall, it was a fun, quick little trip and we’re looking forward to more trips in 2022. This trip was easier than the last trip and I’m sure we’ll get the whole process down to a science in no time. I do think I was more of a help to Kevin this time, though. I was able to help him set up and breakdown all of the outside stuff this go around.

Here are some pictures from our trip – starting from left to right:

This Italian restaurant is on the 76 strip in Branson. We didn’t eat there, but we passed it when we were walking down the strip. 

Kevin and I wanted to go to Beyond the Lens, this is the entrance, cool, right? But it was way too expensive for our cheap selves so we settled for looking at it with longing eyes as we walked by.

Kevin gained a little weight this trip. 

These next three pictures were taken in front of Ripley’s Believe it or not. Hulk is made entirely out of cars parts, King Kong is made from old tires and the werewolf is made from gears, nails, etc. Pretty cool.

We did eat at this chicken restaurant. I had chicken fried tenders rolled in an almond crust and the best sweet potato fries I’ve ever had. They were short staffed and it took a bit to get waited on and our food, but I’m glad we stuck it out because it was delicious. 

These next pictures were taken at Table Rock Lake. We were trying to capture the beautiful sunset as it shined through the trees, but I’m afraid we didn’t do it justice. It was magical. 

The last picture if our campsite. As you can see, there is a hotel behind us. Again, not the prettiest, or the most peaceful site, but it was super convenient as you literally walk through a gate and you’re on the 76 strip. So, if you’re looking to camp in Branson and want to be close to everything, the Musicland campground is the place to be. 

Thanks for reading!

 

Glamping

Maiden Voyage – Cargo Trailer Glamping – Trip #1 – Port of Kimberling Marina

After four long months, longer for Kevin because he was the one who actually did the work, we are finally using our camper. As I mentioned in my July Reflections post, I had no intention of going camping before our scheduled trip in September, but this past week was so traumatic for me (I sound so weak when I say that), that Kevin felt sorry for me and pretty much made me go camping. And he was right, I feel lighter and out here COVID doesn’t exist.

Our first camping trip together, (though technically this is not our camper’s first time going out, Kevin took LeRoy camping the third weekend of July), was to Port of Kimberling Marina just south of Branson, Missouri. We picked this campsite because it’s not far from where we live, about 90 minutes, and it’s located on a lake. We didn’t want to take it out too far our first time using it because we knew we would learn a lot from this experience and we didn’t want to be too far away from home in case something happened and we needed to cut our trip short.

We arrived at 3:30 PM on Saturday, July 31st and left at 10:00 AM on August 3rd. This was Kevin’s first time pulling the camper and though he has already pulled it twice, (when he bought it and brought it home and when he and LeRoy went camping), I was a nervous wreck. I was worried about cabinet doors flying open and I couldn’t help picturing shattered soup bowls on the floor when we parked it and opened it up.

Kevin did great pulling it though and there were no problems getting down here, at least, with the trailer. Kevin’s truck air conditioning though, not sure what is going on but his air emitted some sort of gas, or something, and it made my eyes water so much I literally had tears running down my face. I legit couldn’t see. It was burning Kevin’s eyes but he at least was able to still drive. We turned the air off and rolled the windows down and after a while, my eyes stopped watering. He said he had the air worked on but something is clearly still off and he will need to take it back in to figure out what’s going on. He also has a loud clanging, bumping sound from the front end as well so he’ll have to get that checked out. In fact, he really just needs to make sure the whole truck is in tip-top shape because we’ll be taking it cross country soon(ish) and we don’t want to break down anywhere.

Though, I suppose if we did, we would have someplace stay. Ha!

I booked the campsite and like a dumb ass, I forgot to print off the directions, or even an address, so we really had no idea where we were going. But we figured, it was a large(ish) campground, located at a marina, SURELY there would be signs, right??

Uh … sort of. There were signs, but somehow we missed the turn off and we nearly ended up in Arkansas before we realized we overshot our turn.

Note to self: Make sure to print off address along with the confirmation next time, dummy.

After turning on my phone data and using GPS, we found our campground. However, when we pulled in, we couldn’t tell where the office was so we pulled over to try and figure it out and a woman pulled up alongside us to direct us. She said she did the same thing when her family pulled in and we were grateful for the guidance. It was also nice to see there ARE still nice people out there somewhere. If you watch/listen to the news nowadays, you would think everyone is out for themselves and a total asshole. Not saying there aren’t some ugly people out there, but it’s nice to run across nice ones.

(Also – reminder – be nice to people).

It would have been too much of a hassle to turn our rig around and head toward the office, so we locked up the truck and walked to the office. We checked in, found our spot on the map they gave us and we found lot number 53.

Here comes the fun part – backing in.

I know this may come as a shock to some of you, but I’m not the best navigator when it comes to stuff like this. I’m one of those people who frantically wave for him to veer off to the left but forgets to make myself visible to him so he KNOWS to veer left. lol I think we need to start using our phones, maybe I can give better verbal instructions instead of visual instruction. After some maneuvering, Kevin gets the trailer into place, unhooks the trailer and takes out the cable to connect  the electricity. He made our electric connector more toward the front of the trailer, though wonders now if he should have made the connector more toward the back of the trailer, because when we went to hook up the cord, it wasn’t long enough to reach the site box. Oops! So, poor Kevin had to hook the trailer back up to his truck and back up another two feet for it to reach.

Note to self: have a longer cord on hand and don’t unhook the truck until we are sure our cords are going to reach.

After hooking up the electricity, water and sewer, it was time to open the trailer. I held my breath. Would it look like total destruction? Did the fridge fall over? Did everything from the cabinets spill out? Was the TV broken?

I’m happy to report, everything was just fine. Kevin had told me he put magnets on the cabinet doors and they held, everything was where it was supposed to be. I was really nervous though when we missed our turn off and had to turn around because we picked a pretty bumpy driveway to do it in and I was convinced it would be utter disaster but nope, everything was fine.

By the time we had gotten the outside hooked up and taken care of, we were DRIPPING sweat. Like, so much sweat I couldn’t see, again. (You can imagine how attractive I was after enduring faulty air conditioning and then enduring a sweat bath while setting up). I hadn’t eaten anything all day and it was 3:30 by the time we arrived, very little water so I was feeling faint. So was Kevin. So after we turned on the mini-split and cold air started coming out, we just collapsed on our chairs and waited to cool off for 10 minutes before we started getting the inside set up.

I had packed a cooler full of food and I’m glad I did. Our fridge took THREE hours before it cooled off enough for us to unpack the cooler.

Note to self: always pack cold stuff in a cooler and leave in cooler until fridge cools down.

It’s a great fridge, we bought a half fridge, not a dorm fridge. We needed something bigger but obviously not a full-size fridge and it really does work well. When you plug it in, the freezer gets cold pretty fast but I’m assuming it puts so much energy into getting the freezer cold that it takes a while for the rest of the fridge to cool down. It worked out okay though, we had put in frozen packs and we had saved two of the ice bags that came with our Hello Fresh boxes (back when we signed up for Hello Fresh – our discount code ran out and we’re not about to pay $60 bucks for two meals per week), so the cooler stayed pretty cold. I then moved the ice packs and the ice bags to the fridge and that helped cool the fridge down even faster.

After getting everything set up, it was time for dinner and I was STARVING, again, hadn’t eaten all day, and we had wraps, chips, water and banana bread. (I had baked some banana bread before we left). Kevin then hooked up the TV and using our PS3, we watched Blazing Saddles. I’ve seen that movie before but Kevin had not and in fact, one of the conservative talk show hosts that he listens to quotes from that movie and he was curious enough to want to watch it …. so we did.

If you haven’t seen Blazing Saddles, don’t. It’s BEYOND stupid and offensive, you could NEVER make that kind of movie nowadays. I don’t get offended very easily but there were so many N-words I just couldn’t stomach it.

Kevin also regretted watching it. And this was yet another reminder why we stopped watching movies – they are mostly garbage.

Our first night in the camper went well(ish). The mattresses were not as hard as I thought they would be but I had put a comforter down to try and make it softer. It may have made it softer but it also made it HOT. Our mini-split air conditioner works REALLY well, but the bed is at the back of the trailer, the mini-split at the front, so it gets a bit stuffy. I was hot/cold all night. We brought a fan and that helped push some air to the bed but laying on the comforter trapped my body heat and it was not fun.

Plus, I NEVER sleep very well the first night anywhere we go on vacation because it takes me a while to get used to my surroundings and I’m a light sleeper anyway so it doesn’t take much to wake me up.

Plus, we had some WICKED storms come through that night which kept me up.

(Side note: we also lost a limb back home – LeRoy took a picture of it and sent it to Kevin. It was too big for LeRoy to move on his own so guess what Kevin gets to do when we get home – where’s the chainsaw).

So no, our first night wasn’t the best.

Note to self: Don’t put a comforter on the mattress and then sleep on top of it in the summer months. Maybe in the winter …

Also, I wrote mattresses. Plural. That was not a typo. I bought two twin mattresses from Amazon. Actually, they are narrow twin mattresses. I bought two because we can not sleep together, largely because I’m a fish out of water whenever I sleep and I move around so much it wakes Kevin up. So I figured I would buy two mattresses and hopefully it wouldn’t disturb him too much. Newsflash – I didn’t disturb him. Much. 

Sunday, we stuck around the trailer, read and watched two movies: Quarantine and Wall Street (the second one). Quarantine was a horror movie and it’s about people who contract rabies but this virus is so fast moving that it consumes it’s victims in record time and they start turning on each other. Sort of like a zombie movie. It’s also told from a first-person perspective, sort of. It starts out with a reporter and her cameraman hanging out at a firehouse and assigned to two guys who will take them on their calls.

They arrive at a house to find out why a woman is screaming and acting funny. When they get to her apartment, it’s apparent something is not right with her and all hell breaks loose. The city locks them in this house and no one can leave. What’s cool about this story is the story is told from the cameraman’s perspective, he’s holding the camera and shooting the entire thing. You’re part of the story, only you see it through the cameraman’s eyes, or his camera, to be more precise. There is a lot of shaking and I felt sort of sick to my stomach from all the movement at one point, but you felt like you were right there, almost like a first-person shooter game, if you’ve ever played those before.

Wall Street was pretty good, too. I think Gecko is the perfect character for Michael Douglas. Sunday was super chill and it was exactly what we needed. No agenda, no plans, just relax and breathe.

Kevin grilled some hamburgers and we drove into Kimberling City and got ice cream at Sonic. The temperature cooled off quite a bit after the rain, too, so overall, it was a great day to just hang out around the campsite.

The second night was much better. I took the comforter off the bed, slept in a tank shirt and under a sheet and was quite comfortable. If fact, I slept so good I snored – a lot. So much so that Kevin had to get up and put in ear plugs.

Oops. I wish I could say I was too dainty and feminine to snore but nope, I snore so much it sounds like an out-of-control lumberjack waving his chainsaw around like he owns the world.

But I slept great, (thanks to taking a Benedryl as well), and I felt awake and ready to tackle Monday.

And we literally did nothing on Monday. Well, that’s not entirely true. We walked around the marina, took some pictures and relaxed by the lake to watch the boats come in / out. There was a swimming spot nearby so we listened to the kids yell and have a great time. The weather was perfect – sunny and warm, but not too warm. We read, talked and just zoned out for about three hours. It was balm to my soul and MUCH NEEDED. I could feel the stress just melting away. 

I know what you’re thinking – “But Karen, you’re literally camping right next to the water. Didn’t you and Kevin go on to the lake?” 

No, no we didn’t. Neither one of us are big water people. I am not opposed to hanging out on the lake but there is no way I will go swimming in the lake. It just creeps me out too much. The first time something brushes against my leg, I’m out. Though I have to admit, the water looked pretty clean. I feel the same way about the ocean, too. I will not swim in the ocean. The closest I get is walking along the beach. Never more than thigh deep. I’ll be honest, I’m not the best swimmer, which is probably the biggest reason I’m not a big water fan. 

Our last night, we drove into town and ate at a local BBQ place. It was pretty great. Had a pulled pork sandwich and we shared some fries.

So no, we didn’t spend any time ON the water. We simply sat around and enjoyed the scenery. We had no plans and we didn’t do anything. It was pretty great, honestly. It was a last minute trip to just get away and get some fresh air and that’s exactly what we did.

This is PRECISELY why we wanted to buy a trailer to begin with – to just get away for a bit. And I have to say, this was a great first trip out. We learned a lot about the trailer and I have a list of things I would like to improve. 

Such as:

Some kitchen utensils – can opener, spatula, knives, measuring cups, teaspoons, etc.
Salt and pepper shakers
Mixing bowl
Small skillet / griddle

Fly swatter
More hooks on the wall
Small towel rack for the kitchen towel and to hang our wet wash cloths on
TV mount
Black out curtains

We didn’t have any curtains for the windows but Kevin had cut a template for the windows out of Styrofoam and thought it would be a good idea to cut three more to use to stuff in the windows when it’s not in use and that’s what we used to cover the windows. But I would like to hang some black-out curtains at some point. Just little things like that to make it more homey. 

The toilet Kevin put in was a life saver. Especially Saturday morning when it POURED rain at 5:30 AM and I had to pee but didn’t have to put on shoes, grab an umbrella and trudge through the rain to the toilets. I was just able to use the toilet and go back to bed. 

BEST IDEA EVER TO INSTALL THAT THING. 

So that was our first trip in our cargo trailer. It was an impromptu, little planned trip, but we had a blast and I can’t wait to do it again. Which, by the way, we have two camping trips coming up in ONE WEEK sometime this Fall. We’re planning on vlogging the trip so that will be fun to take you guys along for the ride. I’m sure we will regret taking two camping trips in one week but with Kevin’s work schedule, it’s really the only way we can do it right now. He has a big client that demands all of his attention on Thursdays so … we have to get creative on the duration of our trips. The first trip will be four nights up north of us, and three days south of us. Stay tuned. 

For now, here are a few pictures from our first trip. 

Continue reading “Maiden Voyage – Cargo Trailer Glamping – Trip #1 – Port of Kimberling Marina”

Glamping

Long Awaited Cargo Trailer Conversion Update

Hey! Finally! It’s the long awaited update on our cargo trailer conversion!

Let me just say, at the outset, that I’ve been ZERO help. It’s all been Kevin. LeRoy has helped but the majority of work has been done by Kevin. He has though long and hard about how he wants to configure everything and I’m really impressed with him! This is the first time he’s really done any carpentry and he has customized the pieces he bought, for pennies on the dollar at places like thrift stores and Habitat for Humanity, and made it work for the space. He has spent a lot of time on the kitchen and I couldn’t be happier.

I can’t wait to take it on the road!

It’s not ready yet, obviously, but now that the kitchen is pretty much done, he feels like the rest of the work will go faster (famous last words?)

He is buying the air conditioner/heater unit to put in next and I’m on the hunt for a deal on our “half” fridge. He actually painted the cabinets under the bed, (you can see them in the thumbnail) today.

My “jack of all trades” never ceases to amaze me.

Good job, Kevin! I love you!

Trailer Travels

Trailer Update #One

So the trailer is coming along. Kevin has been making some great progress. I’ll admit, I’ve been useless. I haven’t helped him at all. I know that doesn’t paint me in a very good light admitting that, but I can’t take credit for something I didn’t do.

The first picture in the slideshow is where he insulated the ceiling. Then he painted the beams to blend in. Then it looks like he put up some beams to make it look cool. (Can you tell I’m totally winging this and have no idea what I’m talking about?)

The fourth picture is when he took the wood off the walls and painted the beams with some sort of rust protector because apparently, that wasn’t done when we bought it even though they told Kevin that it had been. Were they just not expecting him to look that closely?? Anyway, Kevin was disappointed by that and it made more work for him.

Next, he insulated the walls. Then he put the wood back up. “We” are going to eventually paint the walls a light gray, I think.

The seventh picture is when he bought some cabinets to put under the bed. The cabinets look blonde in some pictures but they are actually a reddish brown. “We” will eventually paint them white.

The thing I love the most about these cabinets is the 10th picture where one of the cabinets is open and you can see a wire basket. That’s where we’ll put our dirty clothes.

Because my top three pet peeves when we go camping is:

  1. Dirty clothes
  2. Where to put our shoes after coming in from outside
  3. Easy access to our clothes

I think we have the dirty clothes dilemma solved. And I think we have the “where to put our shoes” dilemma solved, too. Now, to come up with an organized way to access our clothes.

Kevin built our bed frame on top. Obviously, he will support it on the other side of the cabinets. I bought two narrow twin mattresses from Amazon for us to sleep on. I ordered two mattresses as opposed to just putting one mattress on there because I’m a fish out of water when I sleep and I don’t want to disturb him when I’m flopping around. This is how it’s set up on a cruise ship and we love it.

Kevin also built a back wall and put grey shiplap up. He plans on putting a toilet on the other side of that wall for our late-night pee breaks. (We’re old. We can’t go all night without peeing and neither one of us is thrilled with the idea of getting up, putting on shoes and then trekking to the campground bathrooms).

I think Kevin is going to start working on the kitchen next. He bought a sink at a home recycling center for $15 bucks. In fact, that’s where he has found most of the materials so far for the trailer – which works out great for us because we’re not wanting anything too fancy for this and we certainly don’t want to spend too much money on it.

We’ll eventually take a full video of the trailer so you can get a better idea of how it’s looking and where everything is.

More to come ..!

Florida 2020

Back from Florida

It’s a strange time to travel. Everyone is walking around with a face diaper, erhm, a face mask on and eyeing each other in anger or suspicion.

We were supposed to be cruising around Northern Europe right about now. But of course, 2020 (or China) had to be a bitch and ruin our plans.

Ruin a lot of people’s plans.

Actually, ruined a lot of people’s lives, let’s be honest.

We had booked this cruise last year. And I really thought, I was CONVINCED, in April that we would be able to go on our cruise by September because COME ON, this nightmare can’t last that long, right? RIGHT??

*SIGH* We had planned on flying to Amsterdam, driving to Rotterdam, catching the boat and cruising to Germany, Southampton, and France. We would have been gone nearly two weeks and I was looking forward to being gone for two weeks.

I was GUTTED when MSC canceled our cruise. Since the cruise line canceled, we opted to apply that money to another cruise with a $500 bonus (which means for us, specialty dinners on board which cost extra and something we would not pay for normally).  It sucks. And I’m trying not to be selfish and bitter about it, but I am feeling selfish and bitter. I’m optimistic we’ll be able to take this cruise next year, but with the way things are going, who knows.

So plan B. We wanted to do something. One, because we wanted to get away and have SOME sort of vacation, however selfish and trite that sounds considering a lot of people don’t even have jobs right now. But two, we wanted to prove to ourselves, and the world, that we were NOT going to allow COVID to run our lives. Not entirely. We’re already being forced to wear masks everywhere and not participate in certain activities anymore. I can’t take any more restrictions!!

We wanted to get away, but where?

My employer, at first, published travel restrictions – if you take a cruise, go to New York or leave the country, you’ll have to be tested for COVID when you return and self quarantine for 14 days when you get back. Which was a bummer because my first thought was Bermuda. We LOVE Bermuda and if you’ve never been, I highly recommend you go, if you get the chance. You will never find a more beautiful beach. Soft pink sands. It’s just gorgeous. But with my employer’s travel restrictions, we knew that was out of the question because one, there is no way in hell I’m getting tested for COVID. Ever. And two, who has the time to be off work for two straight weeks, and/or the paid time off to use for two straight weeks? (Again, I’m sorry if this sounds selfish to all of you that have been out of work – first world problems, I realize. But we all have problems that are uniquely our own).

So Bermuda was out.

We would have to pick something in the states, other than New York.

Kevin and I started talking about when the kids were younger and we would go to the Florida beaches every year. Then we discovered cruising and haven’t been back to the Florida beaches since. I started doing a little research and we decided on a short three-day stay in Clearwater Florida.

We opted not to stay a whole week for two reasons:

  1. Kevin really couldn’t be away from his work for a whole week
  2. The beach is great, but it gets a little boring after about three days.

We ended up staying at the Royal North Beach.

I wrote this next bit when we were actually in Florida.

Travel day –

I wasn’t very hungry before leaving for the airport so I ate half a doughnut and two pieces of toast, primarily because I wanted to coat my stomach before taking an Excedrin. I always take an Excedrin on travel days as it helps prevent travel/dehydration headaches and I tend to get a bit stressed on travel days. (Traveling is stressful, don’t deny it).  I don’t like to drink a lot on travel days because then I have to pee all day, hence, dehydration issues.

Besides, I would eat lunch, it would be fine. (Famous last words)

We got to the airport about 10:00 AM. We bought some coffee, put it in our thermos’s and waited for our plane to arrive, which was a few minutes late. If it had been any later, our whole day would have looked very different.

We got to Dallas just in time to make a mad dash to our next gate, which was boarding as we walked up. We didn’t have time to buy lunch or even water before we boarded the plane. We could have bought something, we technically had time as it was a full plane, however, the food lines were long and looking back, I’m glad we didn’t, because an airline person came on board as we were waiting to take off making note of empty seats and bringing standby people on. The plane was packed. So, if we hadn’t been in our seats they might have given our seats away. That would have sucked.

Which, side note, we absolutely did not social distance. However, it was mandatory that everyone wear a face mask – they wouldn’t allow you to fly, and they would bane you from future flights if you didn’t wear a face mask. Still – it was weird and uncomfortable to be that close to strangers as we have gotten used to NOT being around strangers.

So. We’re on the flight to Tampa, waiting to take off and neither one of us has eaten much since breakfast. No time for food. We were both fine, honestly. I’m used to fasting and Kevin seemed like he was fine. The no water thing though, that was what I missed the most. And the airlines are not serving any food or drinks during flights right now so … all we had was the coffee in our thermos.

But, shame on us for not having snacks. We’re seasoned travelers and we know better. But we just thought, meh, we don’t really eat snacks when we’re traveling and it’s just extra weight. Of course, the first time we DON’T take snacks is the time we NEED snacks.

Live and learn.

We noticed, as we’re taxiing in at Dallas and Tampa, that there are FLEETS of airplanes grounded on the sidelines. Kevin counted 37 American Airline planes grounded in Dallas. It was sad to see so many airplanes not being used. And that explains why they were packing us in like sardines on the flight out of Dallas – the airlines can’t afford to fly planes that are half full.

We get into Tampa around 6:30 PM. The manager of our hotel, (we stayed at the North Beach hotel in Clearwater), had called Kevin right as we were boarding our flight out of our hometown and told him, due to COVID, the office was closing. Kevin told him that was okay because we weren’t going to check in until around 8:00 PM anyway.

The manager then text us shortly after we landed in Tampa and gave us the key code to room 201 so that we could bypass the office and get into our room. We would then check in with him at 9:00 the next morning.

That took some pressure off us to hurry up and check in as again, we were pretty hungry when we landed in Tampa and we didn’t know if we would have time to get anything to eat before everything closed.

We navigated to the rental car desk, got our car and drove toward our hotel.

(Side note about the rental car. It’s a dark blue 2020 Chevy Malibu and I hate it. The headrests are too high up and every time the car jerks, my head would slam back into the headrests and the clip in my hair would loosen and dig into my scalp. Also, it has an “auto-start” feature. So every time we came to a stop light, the car would shut off! At first, it freaked me out, but it would easily start back up once Kevin pressed on the accelerator. I guess it’s suppose to save on gas, which I’m sure it does, and act more like a hybrid, but wouldn’t continuously shutting down and starting back up wear out the starter quicker? What do I know about cars. Anyway, that was a weird and scary experience, we thought we got a lemon at first. Kevin likes it; it freaks me out. I don’t care for that feature, at all).

We stopped at McDonald’s, grabbed a quick quarter pounder, then found a grocery store and picked up groceries for breakfast and lunch. (Our hotel room came with a kitchenette). We finally got to our hotel about 8:30 PM. It was Saturday night and there was a TON of traffic and lots of people walking around. We had to drive through downtown Clearwater to get to the north side of town to get to our hotel and it reminded me a bit of New Orleans – just the party atmosphere, the closeness of the shops, the number of people walking around.

Once we arrived at North Beach Hotel, we walked through the gate, walked up to our room, (which is a corner room), put in the passcode and voila, we were in!

I was a little worried when we arrived because there were some party goers in the pool and they were loud, but it quiet down about 11 and we both slept pretty good. I took some pictures of our hotel room.

 

Day One – Sunday

It’s raining. Tropical Storm Sally is blowing through – we’re on the western part of the storm, and though it’s not storming, it’s a steady rain. We are literally across the street from the beach but the weather is preventing us from truly enjoying it. Kevin went out this morning to check in and grab some coffees (we didn’t realize the kitchenette didn’t already have coffee or we would have bought some when we went grocery shopping last night). He said that he walked across the street to see the beach and nearly stepped in dog poop. People are so annoying and consideration is a lost art.

He said there were a few people on the beach and a couple was walking out with beach towels – they weren’t going to let a little water RAIN on their parade. (See what I did there?)

Since it was raining, and was due to rain all day, we stayed at our room for the morning and worked on our laptops.

It as a really relaxing day. Our hotel room was set up more like an apartment and it was very comfortable. After lunch, Kevin drove us up and down the coast. We didn’t have any plans, we just wanted to familiarize ourselves with the area and determine if this was somewhere we wanted to come back to on a yearly basis. Just long enough to separate ourselves from “real” life, recharge, regroup. We had to stop at a gas station and pay $1.50 for air (FOR AIR) to fill up a low tire. (It’s a rental … don’t they check that sort of stuff??) and then we stopped at Sand Key Park. We plopped on ball-caps and walked down the beach in a light rain. More of a sprinkle, really. But it was SO NICE. Very few people out. The temperature was pleasant.

I could be bummed that the weather was not cooperating, but what good would that do? The fact is, we’re not home, we’re staying in a very comfortable hotel room/apartment, right across the street from the beach (even though we can’t see the beach from our windows) and it’s quiet and soothing. Royal North Beach hotel is right on the outskirts of a residential area so it feels a bit like we’re part of the locals. We’re away from the mega hotels and it’s just … cozy. Did I mention it’s quiet??

After walking on the beach for a bit, we got back into our (lousy) car and located Pier 60, which was what we wanted to visit tomorrow and then went back to our room, watched Back to the Future two and three, ordered Domino’s pizza and just vegged out.

This is the kind of vacation we wanted. We didn’t want to have to be anywhere at a certain time. We didn’t want to have to get up at the asscrack of dawn, hurry and get ready, hurry out the door, to participate in an activity. (Like an excursion on a cruise). This place is awesome but the only thing to really do is the beach which again, is what we wanted. We just wanted a nice, relaxing, chill, do-what-we-want-when-we-want kind of vacation.

I am hoping for some sunshine at some point while we’re here.

I’m really glad we didn’t book the whole week because honestly, three days is about all we can handle – a whole week might have been a bit too much for both of us.

Day Two – Monday

Still rainy. Tropical storm Sally was determined to stick around. In fact, the Weather Channel made a lot of comments about how slow moving she was. We got off lucky though, it could have been pouring the entire time we were there. It did rain quite a bit, but there were periods of time when it either stopped entirely or just sprinkled. We took advantage of this to walk down to Pier 60. It was a little over a mile to get to the area. We got sprinkled on but it was actually nice and cool, until we left the coastline and started walking between buildings, then it got to be hot and humid. By the time we got back to the room I was dripping sweat. I get so annoyed with myself whenever we go any place tropical – I just can’t handle the humidity. It’s like it triggers my body and I just start perspiring like crazy.

We did stop to get some ice cream and it was nice to eat ice cream while looking at the ocean. Another check on the trip list.

When we got back to the hotel, it was still only sprinkling and was actually lightening up a bit so we donned our swim wear and headed to the beach. We spent a very relaxing two hours on the beach. You wouldn’t think sand is hard until you don’t have chairs and are forced to sit on the sand for a few hours. Kevin napped and I just sort of zoned out on the waves. It was so relaxing to just sit and veg out. I didn’t have to be anywhere, I didn’t have to worry about … anything. I was totally relaxed. It did sprinkle on us but again, it was nice. It was cloudy so we didn’t have to worry about being too hot.

Kevin and I walked the beach for a bit and he hunted Abalone shells – he wants to use them in a “project” though he doesn’t know what he wants to do yet.

We ordered pizza Sunday night and we made it last for three meals. So, we had pizza for dinner Monday night, too. Again, not exciting but very relaxing.

I’m quite sick of pizza.

Day Three – Tuesday

Another rainy day. Disappointing because once again, I was hoping for at least one sunny day but alas, Sally just wouldn’t move on and bother someone else. So. We slept in, had a relaxing morning at the hotel and then it started clearing up. We finished off our pizza (honestly, I can’t even stomach thinking about having any more pizza at this point – I’m so pizza’d out). We ended up spending the majority of the afternoon on the beach again. I tried to read but it sprinkled so I worried about that affecting my Kindle. Kevin went walking for Abalone again and when he got back to me he said he found a place where we could rent chairs and an umbrella. So I packed up our stuff and walked down to the pier (about a mile), rented chairs and we wanted an umbrella, but they were so slow that I think the guy thought he was doing us a favor by “upgrading” us to a cabana, though I wish he hadn’t. It stifled the air and we would have preferred an umbrella. But it was nice to actually have chairs to sit on and we enjoyed a solid two and half hours on the chairs before the skies started darkening again and we walked back to “our” section of the beach.

We got cleaned up but it was 5:00 PM by this time and I really didn’t want to put on a full face of makeup that late in the day so we Googled nearby taco places, found Taco Bus, went on to their website and ordered dinner.

We went and picked it up. It was a cool restaurant. It was made to look like you were ordering from a food truck from inside the building. Kevin got beef tacos, I got a chicken bowl and we got some rice, beans and chips/salsa. It only came to $21.00 but we had so much food we couldn’t finish it. It was delicious though.

We spent the remainder of the night watching “Storage Wars” and “Deadliest Catch.” We only watch those shows whenever we go on vacation because we’re too cheap to pay for cable. Actually, neither of us like watching much TV so it just doesn’t make sense to pay for something we’ll never use.

And that brings us to now and my final thoughts.

The hotel: We stayed at the Royal North Beach hotel and we really liked it overall. It was convenient, cheap, and more of an apartment than a hotel room. We had a full kitchen, complete with a kitchen. We bought groceries and were able to eat breakfast and lunch without having to stress where we were going to eat everyday. And of course, we bought enough pizza to last three meals. We saved a ton on food this trip.

I REALLY liked how housekeeping left us completely alone. They never came in to make our bed and we didn’t have to stress about getting out so they could do their thing. When we needed fresh towels, we put the dirty ones in a small clothes basket and put it outside our room. Housekeeping would then exchange fresh towels, a trash bag and toilet paper. So we never, not once, saw anyone from housekeeping. That may not be for everyone, but I LOVED IT and think more hotels need to implement something similar. It just took a lot of stress of being out of the room so they could do their thing.

I also really liked how we didn’t have a room key. We had an electronic keypad that we input a code for and that’s how we got in/out. So again, we didn’t have to stress about making sure we had a room key with us whenever we left the room and we didn’t have to worry about accidentally locking ourselves out of our room.

The only thing I really didn’t like about the room was that the floors were FILTHY. The whole apartment had tile floors, which was good, but they were so gritty and nasty that I had to literally wash my feet before getting into bed at night and/or wear flip flops to prevent having to wash my feet. I get that it’s probably really hard to keep the floors clean because of everyone tracking sand into the room, but this wasn’t just grit from the previous occupants, it was clear the floors haven’t been mopped in quite some time. I think I was especially sensitive to that because I have a thing about clean floors anyway.

But other than that, we really enjoyed staying there and would stay there again. There are four hotel complexes in a row near our North Beach hotel and I think we are going to try and stay at Hotel Cabana next time as we have decided that we are definitely going to stay in Clearwater again. We really enjoyed the area and how our hotel was just on the outskirts of the “busy” area so it was super quiet and we sort of felt like a native of the area given we were so close to residents.

We really want to find a place we can go to for a few days to enjoy the beach every year and Clearwater is definitely a contender.

It was really nice to see Kevin relax for a change. He’s the kind of person who NEVER relaxes, he’s always doing something. He’s one of the most productive people I know (I always joke that I married the female version of Heather, my doctor’s PA as she’s one of the most productive people I know of the female sort). He napped and was FORCED to do nothing but relax. In turn, that relaxed me. In fact, Kevin brought a little PS2 game console thing and he has spent a good portion of this trip just playing that. (And when we return home, he won’t touch it again until next vacation).

We had to air up our right front tire on our rental car several times. We came out one morning and it was 14 pounds of air! That was super annoying but I suppose that’s a risk you take when you rent a car. So, the low tire was always on our minds whenever we used it to go anywhere. (Which was only twice, the first day when we drove up and down the coast and when we drove to Taco Bus for food).

Now, we’re currently sitting in the Tampa airport waiting for our flight to Dallas to board. We have about a three-hour layover in Dallas so hopefully we don’t have to stress about getting off the flight and running to our gate in Dallas. But you never know how it will go, I suppose.

We’re being smart about this this go around and we bought water to put in our thermos’s, which was another smart thing to bring along with us, too.

I think we spent the perfect amount of time at the beach though Kevin says he wouldn’t have minded staying another few days. He really responds to the beach and feels like he could easily live on the beach. He used to CRAVE the beach when we were first married and the kids were younger but then we got hooked on cruising and we just sort of forgot about going to the beach. Now, because of COVID and who knows when the cruising industry will be up and running again, we’re back at it again. I have a feeling that this trip has re-awakened Kevin’s passion for the beach.

They are getting ready to call our flight so it’s time to wrap this up. I already miss it.

So that was our trip. It was short, sweet and wet. Again, the weather could have been so much worse so I feel like we were lucky to just get some sprinkles now and again. And the cloudy weather actually made the beach more comfortable than it would be if it was sunny the whole time.

We have so many frequent flyer miles built up that we’re talking about taking another small vacation in the spring. Maybe. It really all depends on what happens after the Election and this COVID nightmare.

But for now. It was fun to get away and thumb our nose a bit at the pandemic disaster.

Cruise 20

Sailing to Northern Europe

Kevin and I will have been married 30 years in May 2020. And since we love to take cruises every year, we’ve decided to do something really different this go around.

We’re going to Northern Europe.

The only cruise line, well, aside from Norwegian, which is too expensive, that sails to that area is MSC Cruises. We’ve never sailed on MSC before so this will be many firsts for us. We’re not going in May, but we’ll go later in 2020.

It took a lot of toggling windows back and forth between the MSC cruise website and American Airlines, but after running nearly every scenario we could think of, we opted to fly into Amsterdam and drive to Rotterdam, which is where the boat will sail from. It’s about a 50-minute drive and luckily, they drive on the right side. It’s a straight flight from Dallas to Amsterdam, granted, a nine-hour straight flight, but still, it’s better than the other options we tossed around. We’ll leave from Springfield, fly to Dallas and then to Amsterdam. We’ll get in to Amsterdam at about 9ish AM, rent a car and drive to Rotterdam. Turn the car in, stay the night in Rotterdam then sail out the next day.

We’ll sail to Hamburg Germany, have a sea day after that, then sail to Paris, London, Belgium then back to Rotterdam. We’ll then rent another car, drive back to Amsterdam, check into our hotel in Amsterdam and spend the rest of the day exploring Amsterdam. We’ll fly home the next day.

We had initially thought we would take a cruise to the Mediterranean and we will eventually do that, but Northern Europe caught our attention because Brandon recently flew to Belgium to meet some online friends, (I won’t even tell you how nervous I was for him to leave the country and meet virtual strangers. Though, he said he had been talking to them for nearly five years online, the most nerve wracking part of his trip was hoping that someone would pick him up from the airport and be a real, legit, normal person. I’m happy to report everything worked out great and he had a fantastic time).

We looked through Brandon’s pictures when he got back and it was GORGEOUS. The architecture, the history … just everything. And that is when we started looking at cruises to Northern Europe. We didn’t even know there WERE cruises to that region until Brandon’s trip.

I’m beyond excited though. I’ve always wanted to go to London/Paris and I can’t wait to explore. There are a TON of excursions to choose from and we’ll probably just stick to the excursions where we walk around the cities and learn about the history. We feel like that is the best way to see the sights.

We also booked a balcony room! Kevin surprised me by upgrading to a balcony room our last cruise and I’m afraid I’m spoiled now.

I can’t wait to take pictures!

We have a whole year to plan and narrow down details, but for now, it’s a done deal. We booked our cruise and reserved our flights.

Gah! I’m so excited!

Camp NaNoWriMo, Las Vegas

Las Vegas Trip – 2014

So the last time I updated you on our vacation experiences/pictures, was 2013. Wow. I’m really behind. I’ll try and work on this starting with our vacation in 2014.

We didn’t go on a cruise in 2014. I think part of the reason is because we didn’t have enough points built up on our credit card to cash in for a flight and we didn’t even think of driving to a port, back then, so we went to Las Vegas.

But I think the primary reason we went to Las Vegas that year was because Kevin needed CPE credits to maintain his CPA license and we thought it would be fun to go to Las Vegas and kill two birds with one stone.

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Kevin had his seminar until 2:00 every day and for the life of me, I don’t remember what I did while he was doing his thing. I think I just walked around the hotel because I KNOW I would have left the room so housekeeping could do their thing and I seem to recall reading my Kindle, (really, when am I not?) out by the pool a few times and I’m sure I would have taken my laptop … but it seems I could never find an outlet to plug the thing in to so I don’t really remember doing a lot with my laptop, sadly.

After Kevin finished his sessions, we walked around and took in the sights.

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This building was by far the coolest building I saw, or have ever seen since.

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Kevin was pretty big into Nascar at the time so he was pretty excited to see the M&M car.

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The night lights were incredible. The whole city transformed into magic.

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We went to the famous strip:

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And saw some people dressed up as various characters.

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They even had a zipline stretched from one end of the city block to the other and people would routinely fly above us. I wanted to try it but I couldn’t talk Kevin into it.

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We toured the Hoover Dam – it was like something out of a movie.

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We dressed up and went to see Shania Twain in concert.

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Kevin was in heaven because he LOVES Shania Twain. In fact, he told me the other day that she’s going to be back in Las Vegas with another concert. He wants to go. I wouldn’t mind going back to Las Vegas.

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The hotels are so impressive. We stayed at the Tropicana positioned more on one end of the strip.

Saw a few celebrities, no big deal.

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They weren’t very talkative and looked a bit waxy, but hey, it was still cool to see them.

Spiderman kept bugging me. Man, that guy hangs out everywhere.

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We have badges on here … I seem to recall we went on a tour and stopping at the Las Vegas sign was one stop. I think we also visited the famous Pawn Stars shop on this tour, too.

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Yep, here’s Chumley.

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And inside Pawn Stars.

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The rest of the trip? Well, let’s just say that story will stay in Las Vegas.

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Pretty sure we’ll go back to Las Vegas one of these days.

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