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For Christmas, my parents got us a free three night hotel stay through Breakaway Incentives. Quite a nice gift indeed! After some discussion, we decided it would be best used over the three day Valentine's Day weekend so Treese wouldn't have to take off work. Then we had to decide where to use it. We wanted somewhere close enough to drive to, but not somewhere so close that we've already been there a bunch of times... so we finally decided on Reno, Nevada. Well, that three day weekend finally arrived!

We didn't really prepare too much, so I spent a lot of the day trying to get ready. The weather report for the upcoming drive was far from optimal, so Treese picked up some snow chains after she got off work. Neither of us had used them before, and we hoped we wouldn't have to. It was almost evening before we finally got on the road, and we did eventually hit some snow covered road, but it was very thin and we had no problem with traction thanks to our 4-wheel-drive and the ECT/SNOW button. Thus, so the snow chains stayed in the case... for now. And the fog lights helped with visibility, seeing as how there were basically no lights anywhere and the road looked all white.

It was after 10:00PM by the time we finally got to Reno. And thanks to the crappy Google Maps driving directions which told us to take an exit which apparently does not exists, we drove through the entire town and had to turn around. Thankfully, Circus Circus is one of the really tall hotels, so it wasn't too hard to track it down just by looking around. When we arrived, it was time to check in. There was nobody else in line, so that was nice. But then the lady tried to charge us for something! Hello, we're not supposed to be charged here! Thankfully, a guy who was doing something in the next stall came over to help her out. We showed him our Breakaway Incentives, he typed some stuff into the computer, and said we were good to go.

Now it was time to eat. We were both quite hungry, ans neither of us had eaten much since breakfast. We headed out looking for food, but since we didn't know our way around it seemed like we kept turing down the wrong roads, as in streets without food. We finally found a McDonalds, and though that was not a first choice for either of us, it had to suffice. The next day we would realize that we were actually close to a bunch of other places.

The room wasn't bad, but definitely wasn't impressive. The television was small, there was no internet access, no microwave, and no fridge. I've seen more impressive Motel 6 rooms. It was a bit of a surprise seeing as how this is a famous major hotel and casino. But I guess it makes sense that they'd want to make the room as crappy as possible so you wouldn't want to spend any time there and would go downstairs to gamble.

Sidenote: I had to replace a really nice picture of the Circus Circus buildings with the current photo seen above (which is still a good photo) because the wonderful folks at destination360.com licensed the photo and coldly demanded that it be removed.

Our 2009 Reno Vacation: Day 2

Our first task this day (after sleeping in) was to get some real food... and so we sought out Denny's! Thanks to the giant phonebook I borrowed from our hotel room, this turned out to be a relatively simple task. Afterwards, we knew exactly where we wanted to go... and that was to the only 3D equipped theater in the area. We assumed it was the Century 16, but since none of the numbers in the phonebook worked for any of the theaters listed, this was just a guess. Thankfully, it was a correct guess. We were way bummed, however, to find that My Bloody Valentine was no longer playing. C'mon! It's Valentine's Day for crying out loud! But at least they had one 3D movie playing, Coraline, so we went to see that. The movie was good, a little slow getting started, but 3D was just awesome!

The whole 3D fad seems to be coming back, and rightly so now that theaters are getting the technology that uses the polarized glasses because that 3D is just exceptional, but what I don't understand is the resurgence of the home 3D with the blue and red glasses. I have tried and tried, but just have never been able to get a 3D experience with those things. I tried it on the Journey to the Center of the Earth DVD and that recent episode of Chuck... and nothing jumped out of the screen. Not one thing looked 3D. And I know it's not just me, because my wife was saying the same thing. They just don't work! It's time for something better, so lets get to it you braniacs! Chop-chop!

Anyway, after the movie, I opened the phonebook to one of the maps, and looked to see what else was around town. After spotting a planetarium, we decided to head over and check that out. Finding it was a tad more difficult than we thought, but we finally located the building. Unfortunately, the little road that led over to it was chained off. Seems strange that it would be closed on Saturday, but oh well. So we turned around to head back to the hotel, but made a quick stop for gas along the way at a gas station called Golden Bear Gas that had Regular Unleaded for $2.25, Plus for ARM, and Supreme for LEG. We got a laugh out of that.

Back at the hotel, we picked up some of those pamphlets showing things to do in the town. Circus Circus actually had a free show about every hour, so we went to check that out. It takes place on the second floor which is set up to emulate a carnival. The area was pretty crowded, filled with people playing all the various carnival games that were set up. We walked around once, then took up a position near the center stage to wait for the show to begin. When it was time, two acrobats came out and did a little comedy tumbling routing. The whole thing lasted about five minutes. Then the announcer said that more entertainment would come in "moments"... and after about 20 minutes of waiting, we just decided to leave. We learned later that "moments" means "about 55 minutes".

Now in our room, we looked over all the material we picked up earlier, and decided to the Toxic Audio dinner and a show at the Eldorado. So we called up and got tickets. We were told that they didn't have any more tickets for the regular dinner, only the buffet dinner, but hey, buffets are good too. Sometimes even better! Of course, that's assuming you actually get to EAT. What we weren't told was that the buffet line was so long that there was no way we could have made it through the line, eaten, and then get to the 9:30PM showtime. We waited in that damn line for over 30 minutes, and when we finally got to where we thought was the end, we saw that it actually curved around for about another 45 minutes of waiting. Oh, and none of the other restaurants in the hotel had seating either. So we just had to sit at an empty slot machine for 40 minutes while waiting for them to start seating for the show.

The show was good... I don't know, it might have been great, but it's kind of hard to tell when you're stomach keeps bugging you for some substance. They were definitely talented, and there was some funny skits. We didn't stick around afterwards to meet them, as we just wanted to eat. So it was back to the room where we had our Denny's's leftovers. Cold, because the room had no microwave. Or should I say room-temperature, because the room had no fridge either. But hey, when your hungry, almost anything tastes good.

Our 2009 Reno Vacation: Day 3

The following morning, we were both looking forward to a good breakfast using the two buffet tickets that we were unable to use the previous night for dinner. Unfortunately, they were gone; either lost or stolen. Treese was sure she had put them right on top of the used Toxic Audio ticket stubs, but when we got to the car the next morning only the old Toxic Audio ticket stubs were there. We looked everywhere, but they were nowhere to be found. Talk about disappointment after disappointment.

After coming to the realization that the tickets were gone, we were both totally bummed and really needed something to cheer us up, so we headed over to the Century 16 theater to see what we could see today. The best option was Taken, since we both wanted to see it and there was a matinee showing that still gave us time to go somewhere and eat breakfast. So we got out one of the Reno entertainment magazine/pamphlet to see what restaurant coupons it had. We decided on the Circus Circus buffet.

We headed back to the hotel, but before we could make our way to the buffet we first had to go get a Circus Circus Club One card, because the coupon required it. We saw a bunch of signs encouraging us to get the card, but no signs that actually told where to get it. So we hiked to the front desk to ask, then followed his directions, which were not quite correct and took us a bit past the booth, but eventually we made it and stood in line and got our card.

Now it was time to head over to the buffet and get some much needed grub. So after some more walking, we arrived, and our jaws dropped, as the line was about as long as the line the previous night at the Eldorado. We both said "screw that" and went to another nearby restaurant. The food wasn't anything special, but at least it was food. And now we could go see Taken without being hungry.

Taken was pretty good. If you haven't seen the previews, it's about a father who has to put all his special CIA operative skills to use when his daughter gets kidnapped. Unlike other movies when a mother's child gets kidnapped and she spends the whole movie begging, pleading, and whining to get them back, this guy took the total badass route. He was deadly focused, busting heads, torturing baddies, and killing whomever he had to in order to get closer to his daughter. No wussiness here!

After the film was over, we felt a little better. Now we had to decide what else to do. At first we decided on trying to check out the planetarium again, but then we remembered that Treese had wanted to go to Virginia City to visit the beef jerky store that was closed last time we tried to visit (our 2008 venture to Lake Tahoe with my parents), so we changed direction and headed over there. It got kind of snowy on the way over, but it still wasn't bad enough to necessitate putting chains on. And of course when we finally arrived we found that the store was closed.

On the way back, we decided we wanted to stop at a Krispy Kreme Doughnuts that we had looked up in the phone book earlier that day. This turned out to be a little adventure in itself as we were driving back and forth on the street (while it was snowing pretty good) trying to look at addresses to find which shopping center it was in. After finding address that came right before and right after the one listed for Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, we finally just gave up and headed into P.F. Chang's to have some dinner. When we asked our waitress about it, she said that it had closed down.

Imperial Chinese Acrobats After dinner, we were trying to decide what we should do for entertainment that evening. We were thinking maybe a stand up comedy show we read about the previous night, but decided we were tired of shelling out money for disappointments, so instead we opted to check out some more of the free Circus Circus acts. The first act was Chinese acrobats, about five or six very cute, very petite Chinese girls that would twirl and throw some kind of spinning spool on a string. It was definitely impressive, but it also only lasted about five minutes.

The next show was about 40 minutes away, so we walked around and Treese played the camel racing derby carnival game a couple times. When the next act started, it also featured the Chinese acrobats, but this time they were on unicycles and were flipping little metal bowls onto their heads. Again, it was impressive. And again, it lasted about five minutes. Since it was then about 10 minutes to midnight, we headed back to the room.

Our 2009 Reno Vacation: Day 4

We were now on our last day in Reno, and we were pretty much ready to leave. Plus, the weather report for our drive to Sacramento called for snow, so we wanted to get on the road as soon as possible before it got to be too bad. But first we had to check out of the hotel. Normally, this is a simple process of turning in the door keys to the front desk. But nope, not this time. Not on this vacation! When we went up there and turned over our key cards, the lady said that our credit card was being charged. We were all like "Uh, no!", this is supposed to be all free. So the first problem, we found out, was that they had us down as staying for four nights, Friday through Monday, which was obviously wrong. Removing the fourth day reduced the charged amount, but didn't eliminate it. Now they wanted $24. So she got a manager.

We explained to her how I had called Friday morning wanting to shift our reservations up by one day if it wouldn't cost any more than our existing reservation, thinking that perhaps that reservation lady made a mistake about how changing it to Friday through Sunday would actually be cheaper than Saturday through Monday. The manager said that it was the same price... which means the reservation lady was wrong, but still doesn't explain the extra charge. We also told her about checking in, and the guy that said we were all good. She tried contacting the lady that checked us in, to no avail, and didn't know who the guy was since she had been the manager on duty that Friday night. She was also unable to get a hold of Breakaway Incentives.

After going round and round trying to figure this out, she finally just agreed to comp us the $24 charge, but then came back saying it would only allow her to comp us in $20 increments, so we would still be charged $4. By this point it didn't look like we were going to get better than that, and we really wanted to get going, so we accepted it and left. Oh yeah, and we still hadn't eaten anything yet either, which was just lovely. But we really anxious to get on the road, so food would have to wait.

So now we're off, heading to Sacramento so we could visit Treese's mom before heading home. It was cold out, and snowing pretty good. It wasn't too long before we got to a point where they were requiring chains on vehicles, even though it didn't really look like they were needed yet. There was a lot of snow off the roads, but on the road you could still the the black of the asphalt and the snow was more of a slush than sold snow. But we pulled over and put them on anyway. It wasn't too difficult, but still not exactly a pleasant experience seeing as how it was quite cold and we didn't have gloves.

Driving home in the slush. Driving on the chains definitely felt weird. And the sounds they made were quite disturbing, at least at first. When we finally saw signs for a place to pull over to remove the chains, we didn't hesitate. Unfortunately, getting the chains off proved to be much more difficult than putting them on. For the type of chains we had, we were supposed to just be able to unhook the hooks and pull them loose, without ever having to get behind the tires, but this proved not to be the case.

After unhooking everything and pulling, both chains got stuck on something. On the passenger side, I had to reach behind the tire and fiddle with it for several until it came loose, all the while having clumps of dirty snow from under the car fall on my hands and sleeves. On the passenger side, I messed with it for like 15-20 minutes, and I finally had to just break down and lay flat on my back, sliding under the vehicle so I could use both hands and my eyes to get the thing loose. I laid on a sunvisor which we had in the car, but wet, dirty snow-covered ground still got all over my sleeves and pant legs.

The entire trip from Reno to Sacramento took about six or seven hours, because a lot of the way we were moving at a snail's pace... or not moving at all. Besides the two snow chain stops, we only made one other stop for a bathroom break, and apparently everyone else was doing the same because there were lines for using the restrooms. The men's wasn't so bad, but the women's line was insane, like 30 minutes long. Some of the girls just gave up and went to the men's area. But, eventually we did make it to Sacramento. We picked up her mom and headed on over to Red Lobster.

I'm not much of a seafood fan, but they had a new item on the menu called Honey BBQ Grilled Chicken and Shrimp, which sounded delicious. Unfortunately, it wasn't. The Honey BBQ sauce didn't taste anything like honey, BBQ, or honey BBQ. In fact, the sauce didn't taste like anything at all. It was completely flavorless! You think it's just my tastebuds acting up? Both my wife and her mom tasted the sauce, and they both agreed, it had zero taste. How is that even possible? I mean, c'mon Red Lobster, how do you screw up honey BBQ? Take some honey, take some BBQ sauce, and mix. Not rocket science here. Hm, now that I think about it, maybe it was just the chef that screwed up... perhaps I'll write to Red Lobster and ask if the sauce is supposed to be ultra-bland.

Anyway, after dinner, we dropped off her mom and headed home. We were both looking forward to getting back and putting an end to this little trip. It had its up moments, and it had its down moments, but one thing's for sure, it was definitely an adventure and I'm glad we went. Because good or bad, we could always use more stories to tell.

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