Monday, April 27, 2015

Las Vegas - Surprise Elopement and a Giant Ferris Wheel

At the last minute, Tori and I were invited to Las Vegas for Wayne and Lisa's Elopement. They still have a big wedding planned for November but due to Wayne's upcoming Navy orders to move to San Antonio, they decided to get married now to help with the transition. Due to the short time frame, Tori and I crossed our fingers and booked a mystery hotel through Hotwire for only $56 dollars a night. After paying, we found out that it was the Riviera Hotel which is closing May 4th, only 10 days after our trip. Opening the same year as the Stardust and used as the shooting location for Martin Scorsese's "Casino", the sixty year old hotel has been bought by the Las Vegas Convention Center for their expansion out onto the Strip.

Taking a half day off from work on Friday, we drove out to Las Vegas, stopping at the border to ride the roller coaster at Buffalo Bills. This was my third attempt for Tori to experience the fun ride but it wasn't operating due to high winds. We arrived in Vegas at 6:30pm but the Riviera didn't have our reservation. This was the first time this has ever happened to me and we spent two hours sitting in the lobby calling Hotwire and dealing with the Front Desk before we finally got our room. I am still not sure if it was Hotwire's fault or someone at the hotel who dropped the ball due to their upcoming closure. Since we had to get up early the next morning for the wedding, Tori and I just walked around the hotel and had a good meal at the Wicked Vicky Tavern before calling it a night.

At 8:30am, we drove over to the house Wayne and Lisa rented for the weekend so Tori could help the Bride get ready for the early ceremony at 11am. I met Lisa's family and Wayne's mother before the ladies drove over to the Riviera to catch the limousine to the Little Church of the West wedding chapel. The ceremony was officiated by the best Elvis impersonator that I have personally seen. He was a good singer and had a fun sense of humor. Nick was able to make it to the ceremony as well after his Trapeze class ended nearby. Afterward, we all went to the Encore for lunch at the Society Cafe.

After returning to the Riviera to change Tori's high heels, we rode the Monorail down to The Linq Hotel to ride the High Roller. The Ferris Wheel opened in March 2014 and at 550 feet it is still the tallest in the world, 107 feet higher than the iconic London Eye. It sits right next to the monorail station but in true Vegas fashion, we had to walk up through the casino and then back down the Promenade in order to reach it. Since it was daytime, we paid $25 for the tickets instead of $35 each for a nighttime view. If you are willing to pay extra, the Happy Hour Capsule has an Open Bar.

The giant observation wheel never stopped as we boarded our slowly moving capsule in the loading zone. When we realized we had the spacious 40 person capsule to ourselves, Tori suggested we practice our AcroYoga with the Vegas Strip spread out below us though the large encircling windows. It was fun performing our poses as the capsule made the 30 minute journey around the sky. Half way through our spin, the wheel's exterior lights turned on as the sky darkened and rain began to fall.

After overcast conditions all weekend, we woke up to bright blue skies on Sunday morning. Too bad since we were leaving in the morning to avoid the afternoon exodus. We walked past the bankrupt Fontainbleu tower next door to the Riviera for a quick breakfast at McDonald's before hitting the road. (It was strange seeing the second tallest building in Las Vegas sitting vacant.) With the bright sun, the 173,500 heliostat mirrors of the finished Ivanpah Solar Electric Plant caught our attention immediately after crossing the state border. I was surprised that we could actually see the visible pyramids of solar flux concentrated back towards the top of the boiler towers illuminated like three shining light bulbs in the desert. The plant was still being built the last time we drove out to Vegas. The thermal heat generates steam that powers turbines up to 392 MW.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

AcroYoga - Paschi Arm Balance
(Plus English Beat Concert)

Tori and I have started taking an AcroYoga class at Aerial Revolution on Thursday nights. Since my wife was already experienced with Flying Trapeze when I started, it is fun for us to learn something new together. In the first class we worked on our first form, transitioning through a series of beginner postures to help prepare us for the more advanced positions in the later forms. On Sunday, we went to the small park at Swami's Beach to practice with our friends. The picture below is of us in the last position of Form 1, the Paschi Arm Balance.

Tori and I have messed around with AcroYoga in the past but it is great to get formal instruction. Even simple tips like proper foot placement helped a lot. Trapeze and Pilates have really strengthened my core over the last three years. Back when we first started dating, I really struggled to base Tori in the simple Bird Mount. I hope we have enough experience by the end of the summer so we can participate more with it at Burning Man.

On Saturday night, we went to the English Beat concert at the Belly Up with our friends. We saw the band last year and we reserved the same loft seats as before. It is nice to have a place to sit during the opening act. The first time I saw English Beat in 2000, I danced the entire time but the floor at the Belly Up is so crowded that there is hardly enough room to move. Their songs are still great though.

My best friend, Chad, is going to India for six months so it was great to spend time with him at the concert before he leaves.

Saturday, April 04, 2015

Flying Trapeze - Catching Twisting Tricks and Floatation Spa Trip

On Saturday, I caught a flyer's twisting trick for the first time, a Half Turn Catch. Chris performed a turnaround at the front end of the swing and forced out over the board before swinging back into the set position where he performed a half twist at the peak of the swing. I had attempted to catch one months ago but I could not reach the flyer's second wrist as they turned. Chris had both wrists right there for me to grab. He is one our new club flyers who used to work for the two trapeze schools up in San Francisco. (He likes that ours is an outside rig.) I will have to get used to the twisting motion the flyer's momentum carries into my swing after I catch these type of tricks.

For our second catch, we tried the Cutaway Half that Chris was working on earlier in the class. It is a forward somersault with a half twist after performing a turnaround during the swing. He had been traveling it so I swung low for the catch attempt. He didn't get enough height so he still traveled but he did a good job of ducking away from me at the last moment to avoid a harder collision. I still have to convince Tori to throw me one since she does the trick so beautifully.

After our trapeze classes, Tori and I went for a 60-Minute Couple's Magnesium Salt Water Float Tank Session at A Quiet Place Floatation Spa. Tori likes to spray Magnesium Oil on her skin for its health benefits against muscle/joint soreness and inflammation so I thought it would be good for us to try a total immersion. Richard, the owner, offered us a cool green drink while we watched his short video on how the tanks work before he led us into our own private rooms with shower and float pod. After a rinsing shower, I put on the provided hair net and ear plugs and climbed into the warm salty water and lowered the pod door.

Like the conditions of the Dead Sea in Israel, the 1,000 pounds of magnesium salt in the 10 inches of water made me very buoyant and also created a slick oil-like texture to my skin if I touched it with my hands. I am 6'2" but I could float without touching the walls on either side unless I drifted into them. I had been worried that I would get bored lying in the darkness for an hour, but time really flies as you float weightless with soothing music piped through the water. Occasionally, I would place my hands behind my head and it provided the sensation of floating vertically in space. In contrast, if I let my head sink further back into the water it felt like I was floating upside down. It was very relaxing after the intense exercise of catching a full trapeze class. I did accidentally get a drip of salt water in one eye. It stung but I was able to use the provided spray bottle in the pod to rinse it out.