Austin

May 28, 2015
Frank will be working non-stop until mid-July. So, we decided to squeeze in one last trip before we're grounded for much of the summer. Two years ago, we visited Austin very briefly. We only stayed one night before moving on to San Antonio. We've been eager to get back since. When I saw Allegiant offered $65 one way fares from McCarran it was the perfect excuse to return. Even after paying for bags and our seats, it was only $90 per person. We flew Southwest home, Frank had a travel credit to use and I had enough points for a free flight.

I booked a rental car from Dollar so we could drive out to Lockhart and seek out other BBQ joints.

Our flight to Austin was flawless; no waiting at McCarran, then, a quick up and down. We were boggled when the car rental counter was across from baggage claim. It doesn't get more convenient. We were concerned what this meant for us. Nothing is ever this smooth. When we went up to claim our rental, signage was poor and we wandered a bit to locate our car. We knew it couldn't be so easy, but still we were on our way in no time.

When it came to accommodations, I priced the hotels and Airbnb. Airbnb was a better fit and we've had such good experiences, we were pleased when we secured a studio in the Zilker neighborhood. It had a king sized bed, it was close to downtown and there were plenty of bars and restaurants nearby.

We were happy to see the studio looked just as it did online and it was even bigger than I had imagined. It was perfect home base. Our host was fantastic, she'll really paid attention to the details. Little touches make all the difference, such as the welcome sign, wine, beer and water chilled in the fridge, and a night light in the bathroom. We felt right at home.

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We had a parking spot right out front so it was a breeze to come and go. We also used Lyft and Uber to get around. A car was never more than two minutes from the house and fares were less than ten bucks to/from downtown. We used ride sharing when bar hopping and one night when we were too lazy to walk back from Barley Swine. We had some really great drivers, two questionable ones (new drivers), but still better than most taxi drivers.

The city was booming last time and it's still going strong. We were in awe of the development. Honestly, I'm a bit nervous for them, I remember not long ago our skyline was filled with cranes and now we're left with skeletons of broken dreams. It's crushing, I don't wish that on anyone. There seems to be no end in sight for Austin. I wish them all the best.

When we visited Austin two years ago, they were in a serious drought. That is no longer the case. It rained off and on each day. We had major storms twice. The ground was well saturated and there were signs of flash flooding, then, and it's pretty much rained non-stop since. As I understand it, Lake Travis has risen 25 feet since we were there. Then, it was 50 feet from full. That is insanity. Seeing the footage on TV of the Central Texas floods makes my heartache for those affected. Many have lost homes and loved ones. The destruction is numbing. Especially since we drove all around hill country and crossed the Blanco and San Marcos Rivers a number of times, those neighborhoods are full charm under all that water, dirt and debris.

Inyo Asian Variety Restaurant

May 27, 2015
Inyo has been on my radar for a few months, it sounded a lot like Raku at a fraction of the price. I work nearby, I sought it out for lunch, but at the time they were only serving dinner - They are now open at noon. I had to settle for Nanay Gloria, next door. When making dinner plans with a friend I suggested we meet at Inyo. It was a Friday evening, I thought we might need a reservation, but there were only a few diners so we were seated immediately.

Banchan got us started, while we perused the menu. It is tapas style with great price points, so it's hard not to go overboard when everything sounded so good. We started with three plates and a few skewers, we figured we could add more, if necessary. It ended up being perfect for two.

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The Mix Tempura ($6.95) was yummy. The veggies still had bite, the tempura batter was light and crisp without being greasy.



The Crab Fried Rice ($7.95) did not disappoint. It had great flavor and a nice portion of crab considering the reasonable price. We had plenty to share.



We tried three skewers: Asparagus bacon ($2.95), mushroom ($1.50), and eggplant ($1.95). They each had nice flavor from the grill. Light and tasty.



I heard many praises for wings so they were a must, even if I'm not fond of chicken on the bone. We opted for the mild version since my friend has an aversion to heat. The Japanese Tebasaki Chicken Wings ($4.95) were delicious. Perfectly crisp and juicy. I'm eager to try the Korean and Thai varieties.



Service was friendly and attentive. I don't think it'll be long before word gets out about this gem. Now, I must try it for lunch.

Inyo Asian Variety Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Shake, Rattle and... Wave?

May 22, 2015
Today, I finally felt my first earthquake. Just before noon today a 5.4 magnitude quake hit just outside Caliente, which is about 2.5 hours from Las Vegas. I was sitting at my desk at work and there was a loud boom - almost like when thunder rattles a house, followed by creaking of the walls. I wondered if a truck hit our building. We often have semi-trailers dropping off materials or I thought, maybe a fork-lift plowed through the wall? At my last job that happened, and it feels similar. The major difference though was how disoriented I felt. It's like a woozy-dizziness comes over you. The oddest part was seeing my metal four drawer lateral file cabinets bend in a wave like motion. Just bizarre. Before I realized what had occurred it was over and Frank was texting to see if I felt it too.

I've been wanting to experience an earthquake forever. This seems to be under the right conditions. I haven't heard of injuries or major damage. It seems the only known damage is to US-95 southbound to I-15 ramps. Rush hour will be a disaster, and folks might be inconvenienced for a bit, but thank goodness no one was hurt.

La Gloria

May 18, 2015
I've already sung praises for the frozen prickly pear margarita at La Gloria in the Forum food court at Caesars Palace. I've had quite a few since and I'm happy to report, they are still delicious! I'm pretty sure I've got my sister hooked on them too. I've tried it on the rocks, but the frozen is better. Recently, they reduced the prices so you can save a few bucks. Even better!!

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After a few stops solely for margaritas, we finally had an appetite so we were eager to try more of the menu. La Gloria hails from San Antonio and specializes in Mexican street foods, expect smaller portions, but there is value (considering you're center strip). You get three tacos to an order for just under $10. We weren't able to resist the chips and guacamole, dorados de pollo or baja fish tacos.

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The guacamole is fresh and flavorful, we enjoyed it. Just a quick tip, don't bother with the chips & salsa, since you can try the salsas from the bar. The dorados tacos were filled with seasoned chicken and fried crisp, and then topped with robust tomatillo sauce and crema, we gobbled those up. The fish tacos were less exciting, I found them a bit bland even with the chipotle crema. I wouldn't get them again, but there's plenty else to choose from. I hear the ceviches are quite good so I'll have to try those in the future.

The eats didn't knock my socks off like the margaritas do, but it's a fine choice. It's quick bite, that's also affordable and tasty.

La Gloria on Urbanspoon

Vampires - They Bite!

May 15, 2015
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There is nothing sexy about vampire bites. They hurt. Bad. OK, so I wasn't actually bitten by a vampire. A couple months ago, I had a Cervical Transforaminal Epidural Steroid Injection. I never thought I'd subject myself to such a thing, but it's amazing what you'll convince yourself of doing in the name of feeling better. Chronic pain blows. It affects my every day and it's begun to drive me mad. Simple tasks like blow drying my hair have become unbearable. Taking out the trash is a huge chore. I can't exercise. I haven't slept a full night in ages. Sitting in a desk chair feels like a torture device. I haven't even considered a ride in the RZR, speed bumps alone, cause me grief.

I've been in and out of doctor's offices. I tried 10 weeks of Physical Therapy and only my range of motion improved. I've had Nerve Conduction and Electromyography studies done because of numbness down to my hands and fingers. What a joy that was being shocked and having needles jabbed into various arm muscles. At least, Carpal Tunnel was ruled out. Next, I followed up with a pain management doctor. Which seems to be my last resort. That was fantastic too, I was forced to give a urine sample for drug testing - My first ever. Apparently, it's a requirement of PM patients. Too many abusers of pain killers, I suppose. Ironically, enough, I've never taken anything stronger than Ibuprofen. Anyhow, the PM Dr. agreed with the Ortho that ESI would be my next course of action. It is believed that the Anti-inflammatory of the steroid will reduce the inflammation caused by the bulging discs in my cervical spine. This inflammation is responsible for my pain, discomfort and numbness. Some doctors will administer these injections in a series of three. My doctor will typically only do two, because too few benefit from the third. Half feel improvement with the first, and about 75% do after the second. There is no change for approx 25%.

I was extremely nervous about the procedure. Initially, I was convinced I wouldn't do it. I felt it was too much risk without any guarantee. I hate needles. PERIOD. A giant needle inserted into my neck did nothing to ease my fears. Even if it is guided by Xray - they were still only using the best guess for the proper location. But I wanted my life back. I'm tired of the burden, the depression and not being me.

The procedure was done in a surgery center. I had to stop my Ibuprofen days before, no food or drink eight hours before. From check in to discharge, it took about two hours. First, I was given a gown and hair net. I only had to undress from the waist up. I had to give a urine sample to test for pregnancy. Once we got the negative result, an IV was started with fluids. I was asked a bunch of questions and then I was led into a waiting room. The staff was incredibly kind and patient with me, knowing it was my first time and that I was pretty nervous. I was excited that this could be a turning point of making me well; but I also feared it could make me worse or without change. I tried not to focus on the latter.

They turn these injections over like clock work. My name was called, batter up! I was given instructions to lie on my back with square pressed between my shoulders. I took a deep breath, tightened up my big girl panties and saddled up. The Xray was in my vision, but I chose to keep my eyes closed tight. My doctor said, "hello" and they went to work, setting me up with oxygen, O2 meter and blood pressure cuff. Then, they secured me to the table with straps to prevent movement. They pulled down my gown, cleaned me with iodine, positioned sterile towels across my chest and face. Meanwhile, twilight anesthesia was administered. This kept me sedated, but able to perform commands. It's supposed to provide an amnesia effect and I was woozy. However, I recall an uncomfortable pinch followed by a second that was much more painful and it caused me to buck. Had I not been sedated, I'm sure I would've passed out then and there. From there, I remember being extremely dizzy. I wasn't able to move without assistance. They wheeled me to recovery. I recall dressing with the aid of a nurse. The dizziness lessened a bit but it was replaced with a blaring headache. My pain had only increased. The injection site was terribly sore, my neck and shoulders ached and this headache grew more and more intense. They gave me a snack and drink, measured vitals one last time and I was discharged. Frank got me home and into bed. I was given a pain diary; I was told to journal the next four hours, every 15 minutes. There was never a change. I just hurt.

The headache lasted two days. Ibuprofen didn't touch it. I was miserable. I was able to remove the bandage and shower the following day. The adhesive from the bandage burned by skin and made it even more uncomfortable. My neck remained tender for days. Sneezing was positively the worst. A week later, I still felt like I had been clotheslined, tenderness remained near the injection site down to my collarbone. Hand/arm numbness comes and goes. I tried to remain positive and hoped that relief was near.

At my follow up appointment the doctor believed the injection is helping, because the occurrence of numbness in my arm/hands has decreased significantly. I do still have localized pain in neck & shoulders. He suggests cervical facet radiofrequency neurotomy to help with the pain. However, relief is not guaranteed and the likelihood is that is only temporary and would need to be repeated in the future. It also requires medial branch nerve blocks before the procedure could be done. It's pretty invasive and I did not bounce back quickly from the steroid injection so I'm extremely reluctant. I would only need to repeat the cervical injection if numbness returns.

As the weeks passed, the pain improved. Stretches and exercises I learned in PT build strength and maintain range of motion. The pain/discomfort is manageable with ibuprofen, and flexeril when it's really tight. The hand numbness happens less frequently. I cannot tell you how ecstatic I was the first full night of rest I got. It has been months since I slept thru the night. I had forgotten what it was like to dream. I'm still working toward recovery, but at least hope has been renewed.

Cruisin' Lake Mead

May 11, 2015
The weather was beautiful last Sunday. We decided to take the new toy out for a drive. We found ourselves at Lake Mead. It's been years since we've entered the park. It's so sad to see how much more the bath ring has grown and the Lake continues to shrink. It doesn't seem like that long ago, you were able to launch boats in Overton. I guess its been about eleven years, but it has been more than few that's it's been dry as a bone and it seems the pace at which is dries up grows more and more rapid. We took Lake Mead Blvd up to Lake Mead Pkwy, with a side trip around the lake to the Boulder fee area. Las Vegas Bay was looking mighty dry.

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JINYA Ramen Bar

May 7, 2015
JINYA gained popularity in Los Angeles and is now in a few select cities, including Las Vegas. It's located near Flamingo/Decatur. The interior is really lovely, it's so sleek and modern you'd never guess it used to be a fast food restaurant. JINYA offers a $12 lunch special. My brother and I felt it was a good way to sample a few things since we've never been to a ramen bar before. Initially, we were a little puzzled with what actually came with the combo, but we were pleasantly surprised when we learned we didn't have to choose between ramen or the rice dish. We were given half orders of each, gyoza and almond tofu dessert. We chose Tonkotsu Spicy, Spicy Chicken ramen, and we each had the pork bowl.

Both broths were nicely developed and perfectly seasoned. However, I enjoyed the chewiness of the thick noddles in the Tonkotsu a bit more than the thinner version in the spicy chicken. I'm not a big fan of eggs in general, and the seasoned egg in the pork bowl did nothing to woo me. The pork though was succulent and rich with flavor. The gyozas were addictive and some of the best I had, I return for those alone. Dessert was light and refreshing, a nice end to a filling lunch.

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Jinya Ramen Bar on Urbanspoon

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