Tuesday, October 20, 2015

P3 Ventures West to Yellowstone

Before I shipped out to Vegas for six weeks, I was writing about my trip out west to end summer.  You may recall, the vacation began in Denver with the Mets - Rockies series (hey, how 'bout dem Mets!), and continued north east to Black Hills National Forrest and then on to Badlands.  That's where we left off . . .

It was mid afternoon by the time we left Badlands.  Needing to gas up, and being only human, of course, it was time to visit Wall Drug Store.  Wall Drug is advertised by billboard for literally hundreds of miles.  It's the biggest, best thing the area has to offer (if, of course, nature and, like, the Badlands are not your thing).  And, Wall Drug did NOT disappoint.  Largely because I had zero expectations.  Basically, it's a giant souvenir store.  100% tourist trap.  This, of course, did not stop me from taking some pictures:

From Wall, we made the four-plus hour to trip to Sheridan, Wyoming where we had a room booked another shitty hotel for the night.  Sheridan turned out to be somewhat more cosmopolitan than expected.  But, having come from Interior, South Dakota, this was not a high bar to leap.  We actually found a decent restaurant, and ate a civilized meal.  It would be our last for several days . . .

We awoke early morning, and set off for our final destination -- Yellowstone National Park.  The five hour drive would entail crossing the Bighorn National Forrest, driving through Cody, Wyoming, and on to the Park.  The trip got off to a rough start . . .

Just several miles before the climb up into Bighorn, we passed through a school zone in our rented Tahoe.  Apparently, we passed a bit too fast.  And got pulled over.  Meh.  But not the worst part.  After the sheriff (yes, I believe it was a sheriff) took the rental information, he came back and informed that the plates on the Tahoe were expired.  Um.  OK.  But, it got better.  In fact, the expired tags were from ANOTHER CAR.  After a solid 20 minutes, the poor sheriff finally came back, looking flustered, and told us: "I can't legally let you drive away in this car."  Um, what?  He continued, "so, here's what I'm gonna do.  I'm going to drive away.  If you want, once I do, perhaps you should drive away as well . . ."  Western justice!

After our brief encounter with the law, we were back on our way.  The drive through Bighorn was a delightful.  I believe it was the highest elevations of our trip.  Of course, photos could not do it justice . . .  A theme that would be repeated the remainder of the trip:

We arrived at Yellowstone mid-day:

We wasted no time finding our first hike of the trip.  A nice 2 mile, level hike to the shores of Lake Yellowstone

We encountered our first bear warning.  At the time, I took a picture and laughed it off.  However, several days later, I'd be hiking Lamar Valley with a can of spray all holstered up.

First hike, first carcass of the trip.  Nature is the real deal!  Some serious shit:

After another relatively non-desript hike by the Lake, we headed off to check in to the Canyon Lodge where we'd be staying for the next three days.  And saw our first bison of the park:

After checking in, it was off to explore the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone . . . a story for another time.


Monday, September 7, 2015

The Hex

I flew in to Vegas Friday night for a quick weekend, the main purpose of which was to bet some football season totals.   My flight out of Dulles was delayed over an hour, so by the time I landed in Vegas, it was just past 10pm.  The Diamond Registration at the Linq was closed for the night, and the regular check in process took another 30 minutes or so.  By the time I got to my room, I was pretty much done for the night. I went down to the Casino to say "hello" to [Vegas] Rob, who was playing the $1/1 game, went over to Yard House to grab dinner, and then basically called it.

Saturday was spent watching college football.  After dinner, I made my way over to Bally's to play some poker, and ended up cashing out up around $400 in two hours.  I returned to Bally's to play Sunday night.  Rob was kind enough to drive over and slum it with me.  My session started out well, particularly after turning my pocket sevens into quads, and taking down a decent pot plus a $50 high-hand bonus.  Rob send Lightning36 a text, telling him I was running good.  Of course, that's all I needed for my night to hit the tank.  It started with AA in early position.  UTG opened to $6 and I raised to $15.  Mr. $6 called, and I believe one other person came along. Flop was K high (I believe Q 4).  Dude checked to me and I bet $40. Late position folded and Mr. $6 called.  Turn was a 6.  Check. Check.  River put a third club on the board. Mr $6 bet $65 (I believe) and I called.  He flips 66.  OK.  Great call on the flop.  He was ahead of so much, and also had two whole outs.  Love poker.

Later, I raised pre and rivered top 2 with my AJ and lost to a flopped boat 88866.  I lost a few more hands (in similar style), and was eventually down $85 or so when I turned a straight with my 67.  I raised villain's river bet. He called and had also had the 7 for the straight.  Chop/chop. And, with that, I was feeling spewing and decided to call it a night.

Meanwhile, early on in the session, I got word that I'm going to be coming back to Vegas next week for work.  Trial starts Monday 9/14.  Not sure how long I'll be in town.  Trial is estimated to go 3 to 4 weeks.  But, it could always settle.  Also, the need for my presence could be eliminated prior to closing arguments.  So, I really don't know how long I'll be in town.  I figure, at best (or worst, depending on how things go), I'll be here at least through the 20th, giving me two weekends.  I also have no idea what my schedule will be.  I may have plenty of time to play in the evenings during the week after court ends.  Or, I might not.  Hell, I might be needed on the weekends to. I really have no clue. But, regardless, it should be interesting, and I'm sure I'll get some play time.

So, about to jet back to D.C. for 4 days, before turning around and heading back.  Hopefully I'll be seeing some folks soon.

Oh yeah and as for the purpose of this brief trip:  Washington UNDER 6 (+105) and Baltimore OVER 9 (-137), both to win $500.

Friday, September 4, 2015

The Badlands and Beyond -- Trip Report (Part 2)

It's Friday before Labor day.  1:00 pm.  I've got a 6:30 flight to Vegas tonight, and, in the meantime, I'm not feeling this work thing.  So, I figure it's the perfect time to post the second installment of my recent trip report.

Whence we last left off, it was Monday night, at a Fairfield Inn on the outskirts of Rapid "City," South Dakota, having just had a delightful meal at the local Appleby's.  Not quite ready to call it a night, I proceeded to the hotel bar, which was attached to an indoor water park, to grab another adult libation.  To my surprise, I entered and found a row of Video Poker machines.  Say what?  Hard as it was, I resisted their siren's call, determined to spend a week on the road sans gambling in any form (I'm not an addict, [yo]u see . . .).  Except, of course, for the three weekend bets I had placed on the Rockies simply as a "reverse hex" to ensure a Mets' sweep.  That doesn't count.  In any event, I ordered a tall Miller Lite to go, and headed back to my room to plan the morning's hikes.


The alarm went off at 5:30 am Tuesday.  By 6:00, we were downstairs "enjoying" the Fairfield free breakfast, which consisted of muffins, bagels, cereal, powdered eggs and what was purportedly described as sausage.  I don't eat carbs, so that left the powdered eggs and grayish links of . . . "pork."  Both proved to be inedible, so I settled for a Muscle Milk on the hour drive East to Interior, South Dakota, a town, population 96, which serves as an entrance to the badlands.

I believe the badlands is called the "Devils Playground," because of the geography.  Or, maybe I just made that up.  I'm not sure.  But, it is certainly a unique landscape.

We parked the car, grabbed some waters and protein bars, and set out into the park for a 6.5 mile hike.  The trail leading in is pictured below:

We tried scaling some of the cliffs, but the rock, or whatever it is, is like soft clay, and largely crumbles from beneath you, making any type of real accent treacherous.

The Badlands turned out to be a mix of grasslands and rocky terrain.

Wild life roamed about.  Here, we walked up on some goats . . . or long-horned sheep . . . or rams . . . or some shit.  Ahhh, Nature.

This was, perhaps, the most dramatic view of the Badlands:

Seemed an appropriate selfie spot (yes, I hate myself for having taken this shot).

After finishing the hike, we got back in the car, and drove to another area of the park, known as Sage Creek, which was accessible only down a dirt road.  We saw a lone buffalo (which was somewhat exciting . . . until, of course, we later hit yellowstone where bison nearly outnumber people . . .), and a shit-ton of prairie dogs.   Eventually, we found an area to park the car, and decided to get out and see the park on foot.

There were no trails in this area of Sage Creek.  Just open land.  But, the guide book we had purchased indicated the Park Service "encouraged visitors to hike off the trails."  Um.  Ok.  So, we decended down a hill and started walking.  

The landscape of Sage Creek was different than the previous areas of the park.

We explored for an hour or so, before heading back to the car. We were exhausted.  And there was other exciting shit to see in the area before making the 5 hour drive west to Sheridan, Wyoming, our stop for the night.

[Next up - The Road to Yellowstone]

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The End of Days -- Trip Report (Part 1)

It's the end of days summer, and I'm trying to close it out with a bang.  It's Tuesday afternoon as I take a break from work to start this write up of the past week or so.  In a word, it's been . . . fantastic.  It began two Friday's ago, with a Friday night concert, Zac Brown Band with the Avett Brothers, at Nationals Park, and ended three days ago, 6 miles deep down a trial in the middle of Yellowstone Park.   And I've got pictures of it all.  Like, lots of pictures.  Therefore, I plan to do this "trip report" in a series of blog posts.

As mentioned, the festivities began two Friday's ago with ZBB at Nationals Park.  It was the fourth time in three years that I had seen Zac Brown, and, as usual, he did not disappoint.   A great mix of originals and covers, from Metallica to Queen, over the course of a 2.5 hour set.  In addition, while I had never heard so much as a single song from the Avett Brothers, they were amazing.   Great songs and incredible energy.  The next morning, I downloaded a few of their live albums, which became the soundtrack for my later stay in Yellowstone. 

Saturday, I drove out to The Yard for what I thought would be my last two Orioles games of the year:

However, the Mets were in Baltimore Tuesday and Wednesday, and, as luck would have it, I was able to sneak out of work a bit early to Catch Thor throw the latter of the games:

Then, Friday, it was off to Denver to start my last real vacation of the year.  I arrived at DIA at 11:30 am, and waited around for my buddy Chris to arrive from Boston.  Then we headed over to Thrifty Rental to pick up a Chevy Tahoe, which we intended to abuse over the course of the following week. We arrived at our hotel in Denver around 3:00, grabbed some lunch, and headed over to Coors field for game 1 of the Mets / Rockies series:

Our buddy Jimmy was suppose to meet us just after first pitch, but he somehow missed his flight, and ended up arriving around 11:30.  He blamed Uber for fucking up his trip from Midtown Manhattan to Newark Airport.  Still not sure I believe him!  Anyway, once he arrived, we went out for a romantic late dinner at Tom's Urban (I believe they opened a location at NY, NY on the strip).  After some mediocre food and a single adult beverage, we called it a night.  Getting old sucks.

Saturday morning, I drove out to Boulder to see my nieces. We played some hide and seek, then went to the local pool to catch some rays, and had a late lunch. A solid, albeit brief, visit.

Saturday night, it was back to Coors Field for game 2.  The entire series could best be described as a shit-show.  The first two games were won by the mets 14-9.  I mean, come on.  Those aren't baseball scores.   Saturday night, we had the pleasure of sitting next to the "Seven-Line Army" -- a group of Mets fans that travel to away games, and sit together, raising hell.  It was pretty cool seeing an entire section of Coors field in Orange:

After the game Saturday night, we went for a late dinner at the Denver Chophouse.  While there, I ran into Mets Legend, Keith Hernandez.  Now, while I've had many such run-ins in the past, and I usually just leave these folks be, this time, I figured I'd at least say hello.   So, the exchange went down like this:

Pete: "Keith, how are you?"
Keith: [no eye contact] "good" [fleas the scene].

Yeah, maybe he was extra salty from broadcasting the nearly four hour game, but he was sort of a dick.  Afterwards, I wished I had kicked this one on him instead of my pleasant greeting: "Keith, loved you in those Just For Men commercials . . . your finest work yet!"  I mean, his response really would not have been any less pleasant.

Sunday was suppose to be "Harvey Day," but the Mets skipped his spot in the rotation, and threw a rookie.  Mets ended up winning 5-1 in the best pitched game of the series.

One of these three guys doesn't drink.  Can you pick him out?

Sunday night, we finished our stay in Denver in style with a trip to Sushi Den, perhaps the best sushi restaurant I've ever been to.   Afterwards, Jimmy and I hit up a Whiskey Bar, and drank local whiskey served by a big-breasted vixen.  It was delightful.  Ultimately, however, we were back at our hotel by midnight.  In fact, while the weekend was fun, it was very low key.  Not like the old days of these Mets trips.  No one made an ass of themselves.  No one puked.  We slept 7 hours a night.  I even worked out.  Old age.

Monday, Jimmy flew back home, and Chris and I set out on the second leg of the trip, which began with a 7 hour drive to Rapid City, South Dakota.  We stopped by Rushmore on the way:

Rushmore is sorta . . .  "meh."  I mean, it's iconic.  But, its mostly underwhelming.  We got out of the car.  Looked at it from the main viewing area; then "hiked" the Presidential Trial" which led to a closer viewing area, and looked at it again.  My favorite part was watching all the parents dragging their young kids through the trail.  The little brats appeared to complain to a person.  Some refused to move down the trail . . . their parents coaxing every step.  There were tears from some.  Then, when it was over, they begged for ice cream at the gift shop and, apparently, most of the parents relented.  I assume this was less reward for having navigated the trail and more just to shut them up for the drive out of the park.  Regardless, it felt liberating being kidless!  And, while Chris might never admit it, I think even he was happy to be away from his two kids for a few days!

Monday night, we rolled into Rapid City.  Although, I'd hesitate to call it a "city."  It appeared more like a giant, amorphous, truck stop -- just cheap hotels, gas stations and shitty restaurants spread over some square miles.  We checked into the Fairfield Inn, and I immediately hit the gym.  As I entered, some 20-year-old-ish chick in spandex pants and a tight tank top was sitting on a weight bench, apparently taking selfies.  I startled her, and she giggled.  It was awkward.  Apparently, she was not expecting any other guests of Rapid City to be work-out-inclined.  So, I start up on the treadmill, hoping she'd leave so I could use the bench to lift for a bit.  Instead, she continues taking selfies and pictures of herself in the mirror.  Like, posing . . . stretching . . . flipping her hair.  There was even an outfit change at one point.  The photo session lasted a full 25 minutes.  It was, in a word, "fuckenstrange."  Is this what young people think is acceptable these days?  Is this what Instagram and Tinder (TBC, if you are reading this, Tinder  is like your Grinder account) has done to the youth?

In any event, after a quick 4 miles, Chris and I headed out to Rapid City's finest restaurant.  A little place called Appleby's.  Chris had a burger.  I had the "chicken-n-shrimp." Simply grilled to perfection.  A delightful end to a long day.  While there, we asked the bartender were the "action" is in Rapid City.  He pointed us towards "downtown."  After diner, we took a drive to explore.  "Downtown" appeared to be a 3 or 4 block stretch of some shops and restaurants.  Perhaps a little park area as well.  We drove by it all in about 30 seconds.  It was fucken depressing.  I wondered what the hell people did for work/fun in Rapid City.  This, in fact, became a running theme for most of the places we'd see on this trip . . .

[Next Up --> Tuesday at The Badlands]

Monday, August 17, 2015

Poker is . . . Fun

Saturday and Sunday, I played my first sessions since Vegas in early June, in between Orioles games.  A total of 6 hours, for ($130). 

Saturday night's session, from about 12:00 to 3:00 am was a bore-fest.  I was card dead.  As a result, I think I butchered one hand, that cost me most of the $100 loss.  I had 55 and limped in middle position, 4 ways.  The flop was 4 6 7 all spades.  It checked to me, and I bet $15.  Late position called, and the other two folded.  The turn was a red 4, and I bet $25 or so.  Again, a call.  I missed the straight on the river -- a red 6, and gave up.  Villain shoved his remaining $35.  The board was 46746, with the flush on the flop.  There is absolutely nothing I'm beating.  There's $130 in the pot, so I am getting like 5-1.  But, there's nothing in the world my 55's beat.  Yet, after 8 miller lites at the Orioles game, (which cost like $70), donating another $35 seemed charitable.  So, I make the call, and villain flips 2 5 spades for the flopped straight flush.  Even though it was only $35, I was sort of pissed at myself for not letting the hand go on the river.  I could hear Poker Meister in my head yelling at me for donating . . .

Sunday I played another 3 hours or so post game.  This time, I got dealt JJ four times.  Three times, I opened to $15 and got 3 to 4 callers.  All three times, over cards hit.  Twice, multiple over cards hit, and I checked the flop and gave up to turn bets.  The 3rd time, only a queen hit the flop, so I took a crack at a  C-bet and was called in one spot.  I doubled barreled on the turn, and got called again, before giving up to a $75 lead on the river.  KQ / AQ good.

The fourth time, I opened my JJ to $15, got re-raised by the small blind to $55, and just let them go.  Of course, later on in the session, some dude opened with JJ, got repopped all in, and called.  Three-better had AA.  Jack hits the river and JJ rakes a huge pot.  Whatever.  Fun game.

I also got dealt KK somewhere in the midst of my run of pocket jacks.  Here too, I opened from middle position to $15.  This time, of course, it folds around and I make $5 from the blinds.  #Run_Good

At the three hour mark, I was up about $40, and had to leave soon.  Final hand played, I look down at JT.  Luck box, whose been rivering everybody,  opens to $10 and gets two callers. What the hell.  I come along.  Flop is A T 3.  Luckbox bets $10.  It folds to me.  I choose to see another card.  Turn is a J.  Checks to me, and I bet $40.  Luck box calls.  River is a 3.  It checks to me and I check back.  Luck box flips A 7.  Nice counterfeit.  Poker is a fun game.      

Monday, August 10, 2015

Capital Improvements

I spent this weekend Staycationing in D.C. . . . Watching baseball.  Being a tourist.  I was struck by how much the city has changed in the 15+ years I've lived here.  

I moved to D.C. in 1995, and spent three years at law school at George Washington University in "Foggy Bottom."  I lived in a studio apartment about 4 blocks from campus (interestingly, in a building across the street from my current office).  Back then, when one crossed Pennsylvania Avenue after, say, 7:00 pm, heading up New Hampshire towards the residential areas of the city, the streets were empty.  I could walk home from the library at night and barely see another soul.  I remember going out to the local bars on Thursday night (Buffalo Billiards . . . The Front Page, et cetera).  We had a friend -- we'll call him Eric (because, like, that was his name).  He lived on 15th and K Street.  When we left the bars late a night, he'd throw on his backpack and literally RUN the three blocks or so to his place, on the theory that no one would put the effort in to mugging him if they had to chase and catch him first.  And, god forbid you walked easterly down Pennsylvania avenue towards the capital.  At night, and especially on the weekends, anything east of, say, 15th street was a giant homeless shelter.  A good place to get hit over the head.  I can remember walking to the Macy's at Metro Center on the weekends and being virtually alone with the vagrants.  And Chinatown was no place for a reputable person to spend time.  And the area south of the capital, along the Anacostia river, was a barren and scary land.

Fast forward to 2015.  I feel like the entire city has pretty much transformed.  Eric would look like a fool running home from the bars to 15th/K Street nowadays.  Hell, the entire Mass Ave corridor has gentrified nearly down to Union Station.  And Chinatown is Disney Land, thanks, largely, to the Verizon Center which brought professional sports from Landover, Maryland to the center of the city, and, along with it, residences, businesses, restaurants, bars and everything else.  I grabbed dinner at around midnight, Saturday night, at a joint in the area, and walked back to the hotel afterwards without a care in the world.  That walk would have been a non-starter 15 years ago.  And the area south of the Capital, along the waterfront . . . thanks to National's park, the same type of redevelopment that transformed Chinatown is happening along the river.  What use to be industrial warehouses, dilapidated row homes and homeless is now new restaurants, $800,000 one-bedroom condos and parents pushing kids in strollers.   What use to be closed businesses and empty streets on the weekends is now bustling with sidewalks full of tourists and residents.   In short, this is not the same city I moved to in '95.

Anyway, I'll leave you with some photos of my weekend:

Friday Night Game

The W Hotel - my home base for the weekend

Doors of the Justice Department

National Gallery

Sculpture Garden

National Mall from afternoon run

Suprem Court from Capital Grounds

'86 World Series Hero (Ray Knight)

Rockies warming up

Great Night for a Ball Game

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Dry Spell

It recently occurred to me that I've played a mere hour of poker ("poker, . . . I hardly know her") since returning from Vegas the second week of June.  I drove up to the Shoe to play on a Saturday about a month ago, but wasn't feeling great; and, when I sat down, it turns out it was a table of maniacs.  I had two decent hands -- AJ and TT.  I raised both, and got three bet both times.  In fact, the TT was eventually 4-bet shoved before action got back around to me (incidentally, I would have rivered a Ten-high straight to take a $600+ pot, but, that's besides the point).  I was otherwise card dead, and, after an hour, I left.  I haven't played a hand since.

My free time has basically been consumed by a combination of (a) working and (b) following America's pastime.    Earlier in the week, I was tempted to get up to AC this weekend to throw some chips around.  But, then, last night, I arrived home and found a package from FedEx awaiting my arrival -- my 2015 Jets season tickets.  And, it hit me, baseball will soon be coming to an end.  Indeed, August is generally the last month I catch live games (post season bases, aside, of course).  I mean, once September comes, it's hard to justify spending a Saturday or Sunday at a baseball game, when there is delicious football to be consumed.  So, ultimately, I opted to stay in town and catch the Nats - Rockies series at Nationals Park.  And, next week, I'll be driving up to The Yard for what may, perhaps, be my last Orioles game of the season.  Finally, the following week, I'll be in Denver for the Mets - Rockies series (before beginning a 7-day road trip through the Badlands, Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons to get my mutha-fuck'n nature on!).  Anyhow, I'm sucking the life out of this bases season.  No regrets during the long winter off season.  And, of course, #LGM.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Month in Pictures

It's been a rough summer work-wise.  But, I've tried to make the most of my free time.  Since returning from Vegas 4th of July weekend, this has happened:

Weekend series at the Yard - Saturday night / Sunday games:

Followed by my first trip to Nats park this season.  Caught all of a three games series against the Dodgers.  Saw Kershaw, Grienke and Scherzer throw over the three days.

Then, Monday, the Mets game to town.  I sucked it up and scalped a ticket of Stubhub to get close to the action for "Harvey Day."

This weekend, it was back to Baltimore for Billy Joel at M&T Bank.  Got a room at the Hilton with a decent view:

Ended my run Saturday afternoon at an empty Camden Yards:

4th Row Field for Billy Joel Saturday night:

On the way back from Baltimore today, I stopped by Maryland Live! to cash out some free play.  I grinded the 100 hand machine and hit flopped quad 10's . . . twice!