Trip to the Strip

We drove in and walked around a bit.

I wonder if I would get the friends and family discount here?

Lots of bright lights! And one difference from when I was last here… pot is legal here now, and a LOT of people were enjoying a smoke as they strolled along. I can’t say I enjoy that… although saying so makes me feel old and crotchety.

Lake Las Vegas

For this week’s HL7 meeting we’re in Henderson NV, about half an hour from the Las Vegas Strip. That half hour equates to a $60 round trip to do much of anything off the resort. And the resort is mostly shuttered because it’s the deep off-season. So let’s go for a walk…

Those bighorn sheep adorn a roundabout… it’s a helluva roundabout for being basically in the middle of nowhere.

Insert housing development here.

Across the road from the resort is this pretty rushing river. It turns out not to actually be a river, but rather something called the Las Vegas Wash. Go figure. Still, very pleasant spot with pretty trails, lots of birds and desert plants.

The resort tries to channel the Ponte Vecchio in Florence.

These coyotes, who were just exiting the resort proper when I saw them, looked pretty well fed. Later, I saw a manicured lawn teeming with bunnies and quail. That made me think the coyotes have plenty to hunt. But on reflection I’m betting the coyotes eat even better by raiding the dumpsters.

Our group’s planners made a conscious decision to not be on the Strip, and I get that. But being captive on the property may not be an improvement… can’t please everybody, that’s for sure!!

So close and yet

Here I am in the middle of the desert, but it’s not that there’s no water. Lake Las Vegas literally laps at the faux-Italian foundation of my hotel.

But it’s off-season, so the water activities are all closed. But that’s OK, I don’t need a crowd to go in for a morning dip. But I do need some minimum amount of body heat in order to not drown, and that water ain’t warm enough. So, lovely as it looks, the lake is off limits.

But that’s ok because I’m at a massive resort where people will want a place to cool off… of course there’s a big beautiful pool.

Aaauuggghhhh!!!

Qué rico sabor

On the one hand, a perfectly ordinary meal at a neighborhood Mexican restaurant (La Paloma in San Bruno, CA).

On the other, a wonderful superlative orgasmic delicacy because you just can’t have it in New Zealand.

A hard case

International rules for carry-on baggage are tougher than they are on 🇺🇸 flights, and the trips are longer, so now I’m a person who checks a big roller suitcase. It feels a little weak compared to being a true road warrior, but it’s nice to have plenty of room and space to mule back a few things from Walgreens etc.

For my jet lag recovery day I’m in San Francisco, and I figured — correctly — that all they had to do was put the bag on and off one plane. Very little risk of it getting lost.

But the gremlins got me anyway! After clearing customs, about half the plane’s baggage made it out before the conveyor jammed leaving the rest of us standing around for most of an hour. It was pointed out to me that Bruce Willis would have just slid down the chute to get his own damn bag.

Tomorrow morning it’s on to the outskirts of Las Vegas for a week of standards-setting with my HL7 whānau. In this case, what happens in Vegas will stay in Vegas simply because all our friends and families are reeeaaaalllly tired of hearing about the committee meetings and keynote speeches and 3-year roadmap updates.

Oriental Bay

Traveling for work can be tough on one’s workout routine, especially if that routine requires a lot of gear. This has meant that my frequent Wellington trips have kept me in the pool, because cold and/or stormy water make me want a wetsuit and a group of swimmers I know and trust. And traveling with a wet wetsuit in your carry-on bag is tricky.

But now that the weather is warming up I’ve been able to take a few open water swims at Wellington’s Oriental Bay. By 7 AM there are a couple dozen ‘serious’ swimmers in the water, and a surprisingly large number of people who just go in and splash around for a few minutes. I’ve been able to buddy up with other swimmers and —apart from one day where I turned back early after coming onto a veritable cloud of jellyfish creatures that might or might not have been the stinging kind— had some lovely morning moments.

Thar she blows

Alternate title: Conventioneer mugs for camera.

That’s me at the Te Puia geyser, which was part of the big social evening at last week’s Digital Health Week celebration in Rotorua.

The geyser is probably more interesting than we learned from 10 minutes of staring at it before being herded back onto the little golf cart train.

Everything you need for a fun night in Maramarua

On the way back from hot water beach, we stopped off for lunch at the pub in Maramarua, which is really just a wide spot in the road.

It’s been a while since I’ve seen one of these men’s room vending machines, but I thought this one seemed particularly thoughtful… cologne, a toothpaste and toothbrush combo, and of course a condom. Six bucks invested and you’re ready to make an impressive entrance at the Met Gala or wherever life takes you… hello ladies!

Aura Hotel Wellington

Last week was busy in Wellington, such that none of the hotels on the Ministry’s approved list were available. Not wanting to cancel the trip, I pushed a bit and got them to approve a stay at the Aura.

Fantastic location, cheap price, but many bad reviews…

Above is the nice-enough view from my window on an early drizzly morning. Well, not my room exactly, but the common area shared by my pod of six rooms, whose only windows gave onto the corridor and were therefore worse than useless… they let in unwanted noise and light and for what?

The Aura lives inside the James Smith Corner building, which was a big department store for most of its life. There were still some original 1930s details here and there.

So why and how does the Aura exist? There were too many little problems and weirdnesses to list here, but I can see why they had vacancy when all the other places were full. I’m glad I got to make the trip as planned, and nothing actually bad happened at the hotel, but I wouldn’t choose to stay there again.

Commonwealth Walkway Wellington

Although it’s the unexpected flair seen on manhole covers and other kinds of ‘utilitarian’ street furniture that first caught my eye, I’m not immune to the more intentional charms of plaques like this one.

It’s part of the Commonwealth Walkway project, which hopes to get people out walking more by commemorating important sites around Wellington and other cities, installing some plaques, and infusing the whole thing with a spritz of royal patronage. Although I’m generally in favor of this sort of feel-good project , I know that one of the many reasons political life doesn’t appeal to me is the thought of so many such efforts, all needing (and deserving to whatever extent) to be Taken Quite Seriously.

Not where you’d expect it

We’ve been taught to believe, thanks to our exposure to Hollywood movies, that in order to find platform 9 3/4 you have to bash yourself into a brick post and hope that the magic works for you.

But in the Wellington train station, things are slightly easier. There’s a big sign. You still have to pay attention, because platform 9 3/4 is not where you expect it, but rather tucked somewhere between platforms six and seven. Even so, I find it quite generous of the Wellington Wizarding community to be so helpful.

Anniversary weekend

It’s the 171st anniversary of the founding of Auckland, which is mostly important because it’s a long weekend.

We had a quick road trip to Tom’s place in Tutukaka with Astrid before the gravitational pull of her Massachusetts home place pulls her away from all this NZ ease and beauty.

We started the trip with a pie, which is becoming a ritual. Pioneer Pies is a very good pie shop but not as good as the one in Kumeu we’ve been to before.

Next stop, also comfortingly familiar, Eutopia Café and the Dutch cheese shop.

Then on to Whangarei Falls, where they’ve added a grove of trees commemorating the lives of the Christchurch shooting victims since our last visit.

And then to the bach (that’s Kiwi for beach house). We made a quick jaunt to a nearby beach, then cooked supper and watched a spectacular moonrise.

On Saturday we did the Perfect Day charter out to the Poor Knights islands. After a ride out that the skipper described as “sporty” and which had half the boat puking into the little emergency bags, the clouds cleared and we enjoyed a few hours of snorkeling and other activities. The shot of me on the paddle board is a marvel of journalism, because I spent about one second standing up and the rest falling off.

We capped the whole day with a soak in the new cedar hot tub overlooking the ocean… very nice… and another moonrise and stargazing session.

On the way home we took the scenic route to Langs Beach and passed through Waipu, which was having its big summer market and festival. Ate mussel fritters and ice cream cones.

Home and unpacked, we drove down to the foot of our own road to watch the Harbour Bridge light show and of course the Anniversary Day fireworks.

And there’s still a Monday holiday left!!

More From Sydney

What a difference a day makes… look at that sky. Some rain came through, cooled things off and cleared the air.

This cool statue guards my hotel.

The Opera House at night.

Their lunar festival lanterns are way bigger than Auckland’s.

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