Las Vegas and Death Valley

We took a trip to Las Vegas and Death Valley during Indigenous Day weekend. School has those days off but not work so I took two days of PTO on Friday and Monday. The question was where to go? We can fly for free but it is on standby so it had to be somewhere with plenty of flights out of the Bay. We settled on Las Vegas due to the number of flights but also because the hotels have large swimming pools. In addition we thought a day trip would be nice and settled on Death Valley since it would be cool for not only the kids but also the adults to say we’ve been there.

The adventure started on Friday morning and I had been stressing a lot over the availability of stand-by seats. What I learned is that Las Vegas seat availability is very hard to predict since there can be many empty seats even a few days before but then fill up quickly as people decide they want to get out of town. There were 20 open seats when I looked the week before and when it came down to it there was only one unsold seat. Fortunately there was a glimmer of hope as some of these last minute travelers might not even show up. This is strange to me because if I buy a ticket I’m going to take the trip but apparently this isn’t the case for everyone, especially to Las Vegas.

When everyone had boarded and it was crunch time I was told that only three of us could go so of course I chose my family and I would figure something out. I’ll always remember my youngest getting on the jet-way saying “bye bye Papa!” Not once but a few times. Once they boarded I quickly listed myself for the next flight but didn’t hold out much hope as all the standby passengers who couldn’t get on that flight would probably go to the next and any empty seats fill up. I had no other option so started to run to that gate which was on the other side of the airport. I was almost there when I heard my name called saying “RUN back to the gate!” I took off like a shot with my carry-on luggage in tow. I heard my name called again and was so nervous they would give up on me. Luckily I made it and would be in Las Vegas in 90 minutes along with my family instead of the 10+ hour trip it would have taken to drive there. When you non-rev there are risks you must live with any you have to be flexible. So although I was overjoyed I could get on the flight I was mentally prepared to enjoy a long drive all by myself.

Getting into Las Vegas we went to the National Rental Counter. I find it odd that I worked for a competitor for over six years but now find myself a National fan. The reason is because my employer has a corporate agreement with them and we also got status to boot! So I can choose a nice car from the Executive Aisle at an incredible rate and I love the app checkout feature.

What I didn’t realize is that the car had no license plates and I didn’t realize this until we got to Paris. Doing a quick internet search I learned that the reason is the car is brand new! The downside is you could get pulled over but the upside is the car is as new as can be.

Las Vegas was a surprise in how much was open and how much partying was going on. Most everyone wore their masks and there were no shows but for the most part it was open for fun. After we checked in we went out to eat and ended up at Nacho Daddy. This ended up being the best dining experience because the food being very good it is hugely popular and they also have a nice app where you can check in whenever/wherever and know your place in line.

After our meal it was off to Bellagio to catch the water show. The kids really enjoyed it and were recording it on their phones. I later learned that unfortunately the video didn’t save due to a setting in both phones. No matter, we went back the next night and got it with the appropriate Pavarotti song and not Cheryl Crow like the first night.


On Saturday we had a light breakfast and then it was straight to the pool. Due to social distancing requirements they only let half the usual number of people in at a time. We arrived 30 minutes early so were first in line. Both by boys really enjoyed it and I was glad to hear how much when my youngest said “This pool is epic!!!”

Paris Las Vegas

The pool was fantastic but had no food service so we thought we should get some lunch around 1:00. We settled on Katana-ya because my son loves ramen and this restaurant is very good in San Francisco. Unfortunately the ramen is not so good in Las Vegas.

After lunch we caught an Uber to Circus Circus to play games and my youngest ended up having the biggest victory of all! He won the horse racing game where you roll a ball to fall into a number of different colored holes over and over. I couldn’t believe he actually won and since I had bought three entries he got to choose one of the medium sized prizes. He chose the dog and has had it with him every since.

After Circus Circus we went to the Hershey store then walked back to the hotel for a break. It was then I had to plan our return and saw that there was no way we could hop on a plane Monday as all flights were full. I saw there were plenty of seats out of Burbank however, so thought we could just skip the last night in Paris and continue on to California after Death Valley. I paid for three nights in the Vegas hotel but at a deeply discounted T-Mobile rate so I wasn’t going to get any money back. That is OK because again, when you do standby you need to be flexible.

After our break we went for dinner and learned you must have reservations on a Saturday night! We wanted to eat at Battista’s Hole in the Wall but couldn’t without a reservation. So we went to Buca di Beppo’s and they told us they *may* be able to squeeze us in. They did but it wasn’t much of a squeeze as most tables were completely empty even after we finished. I had never been to Buca but had heard of it as it was a big deal in Columbus when they opened a location there. Yes, the food was bottomless but very mediocre. The quality is what you’d find at Costco, and I like Costco’s pasta but I expect a bit more if I’m going to be charged more than the Costco price for mediocre pasta.

After dinner we returned to the Bellagio water show so my boys could record it. This time we got our recordings. After that I met up with a childhood friend and his girlfriend for drinks off the strip and ended up getting home at midnight.

The next morning we were up early and on the road. Our first stop was to fill up for gas so we wouldn’t have to in Death Valley. It wasn’t hard to choose which gas station as there aren’t very many and there was only one Area 51 gift shop! When I saw that I knew we had to go in. As expected it was a little podunk place where tourists take pictures next to cheap, plastic aliens and buy overpriced Area 51 junk. But since nobody can actually go into Area 51 being an active Air Force base everyone has to settle for cheap gift shops. Even though it is overpriced it is cool to be able to say you’ve been close to Area 51 and have something to prove it.

After that we went to the ghost town of Rhyolite. It was a bit out of the way but my boys wanted to see an actual ghost town and this place has an outdoor museum with art that looks like actual ghosts!

Rhyolite Outdoor Museum

There were a few abandoned buildings that were interesting but I also inadvertently stumbled upon something even more interesting. There was a small plaque in the ground which didn’t quite make sense. I saw a website so thought I’d take a picture and figure it out later.


I had stumbled upon a worldwide art project that has placed over a hundred of these plaques in countries everywhere. In short, they describe some event which happened at the same spot but in a parallel universe. It took me a minute to try to get the idea and I still really don’t see the appeal. However, I do enjoy stumbling on something esoteric, something hidden. The website is here:

The next stop was the Death Valley welcome center. We were lucky because my son being in the fourth grade can receive a free pass through a National Park/school program. The museum was closed so we just got our parking pass and were on our way.

My wife has mapped out the route which I was thankful for because being in charge of the overall itinerary and flights is stressful enough. Our first stop was at the southern end of the valley in Badwater. The thing to see there is the salt flats. In order to get a really good picture you need to talk out on them for about 10 minutes and it can be very hot. My youngest didn’t like it so much and said “I don’t like Death Valley and I need to take a shower!” The rest of the trip was short jaunts out of the air conditioned car so not too bad.

After Badwater it was off to the Natural Bridge and then the Devil’s Golf Course. For me, the Devil’s Golf course is the best place to take a Death Valley picture. I had never seen the ground look like that before and it was fascinating.

Next it was to Artist’s Palate and then the long trek to Dante’s Peak. It took about 50 minutes to get there as we had to drive out of the valley, then all the way to the southern end and finally up to the top of the ridge. We did get a great overview of the entire valley and it was beautiful. However, there was a bit of haze and the sunset wasn’t too spectacular because it is still high up in the sky and just dips behind mountains so there isn’t any changing of colors. However, after dipping behind the mountains the sun’s rays no longer hit those dust particles in the air offering a clearer view.

Dante’s Peak

The final stop was to see the Milky Way. We were now at the southern end of the valley and had to backtrack to the northern part. It may have been better to catch the sunset at Zabriskie Point instead of going all the way to Dante’s Peak but this was our first time. If we had gone to Zabriskie instead we might have had some light for the Mesquite Sand Dunes where we planned to stargaze. But we didn’t and so it was completely dark by the time we arrived. Now that I think about it perhaps it was better because instead of watching the Milky Way appear gradually we could only look directly up when we got out of the car in the complete dark and it was amazing! We stayed there for about half an hour just looking up. I had never seen the Milky Way in my entire life and am so glad for that experience. I do want to note that it wasn’t as incredible as those beautiful pictures taken on expensive cameras but those are enhanced by light capturing camera capabilities. Instead what I saw was a long splash of white and more stars than I’d ever seen in my entire life. It was so easy to spot satellites and although I was hoping for a shooting star I didn’t see any. I did have my contacts in which I haven’t worn for a year so I could better see the stars as well as drive through a pitch black desert at night.

After that we got on the road for a two hour drive to Ridgecrest where we stayed at a Super 8. It was somewhat interesting to stay in a small desert town in the middle of nowhere but I do have to say I’m glad I live somewhere where there is more to do. The main employer there is the Air Force otherwise there wouldn’t be a reason for that town to exist.

We woke up at 3:30 AM so we could make the early Burbank flight. For the most part it was uneventful and I’d say my only surprise was how many cars are driving into LA even at 4:00 AM.



We took our very first day trip by plane yesterday and it was an adventure indeed. I work for an airline and the flight benefits are fantastic. They are standby but since we can see the loads of the plane know which flights will be full and which will not. The problem however, does not have anything to do with the flight benefits but rather our own schedules. During the normal part of the year my kids have Japanese class on Saturday which leaves only Sunday open.

Sunday is also often spoken for with social activities but even if it isn’t, the amount of Japanese homework is atrocious and much of it done on Sunday. This leaves no time for adventures at all which is actually kind of sad. Sometimes I really don’t understand Japanese thinking. Study, study, study and after that study some more so you can get a good job. Then work, work work until you commit suicide or life passes you buy until you’re forced into early retirement. This is why I sometimes override the wife and buy my kids things even though it isn’t a birthday or Christmas.

However, yesterday was Labor Day and Japanese school hasn’t resumed yet which meant we had two full free days on Sunday and Monday (still had karate on Saturday). We decided to jump at the opportunity and go somewhere using the flight benefits. Our first though was Seattle but the return flights were full. Portland flights had plenty of open seats though so that is where we went.

Another motivator to do it is I now have the travel process down like a pro. I have an employee sticker for airport parking, I have TSA Precheck so we glide right through security, I have status at the rental car company so we get a good rate and a nice car. And finally, my phone is packed with apps that give me all the necessary information and ability to change plans on the fly should that be needed. With all of these things the trip goes very smoothly with minimal hassle.


The first fun thing we did in Portland was actually pick out the rental car. I’ve never had elite status before and so going to the Executive Aisle and getting to choose between a large number of very good cars/SUVs was a treat for us.

We got in around 8:30 so the first stop was for breakfast. We had done our research and mapped out the trip but my wife made a small mistake on the breakfast place as it wasn’t open on Monday. She had another one in mind though and so we found ourselves at the delightfully strange Cameo Cafe. It is typical American fare “with a Korean twist.” The decor has a lot of antiques and makes for a delightfully unique atmosphere.

As I will always pick the house specialty I went with kimchi flavored ramen with bulgogi meat and a fried egg. It wasn’t what I would consider breakfast food but it was one of the unique items on the menu and it was very good.

The morning was still early by the time we finished breakfast and we had an hour before the Japanese Tea Garden opened up. Luckily I had starred a few other places that might be interesting on my Google Maps and saw that The Grotto, which didn’t make our original plan, was just down the street and so we went.

I’m very glad we had time for this place as it is very peaceful with an atmosphere which encourages a calm mind and reflection. You’re surrounded by a forest of very large pine trees and a beautiful rock wall of a mountain to the right side while you walk along a paved path. There are a few speakers hidden away which give off the faint sound of Gregorian chant that compliment the sound of a small stream appearing out of the bottom of that rock wall. Here is link to the picture I took of it.

It was then off to the Japanese Tea Garden. The Tea Garden in Portland is much better and larger than the one in San Francisco. I had thought that the famous picture of the Portland skyline with Mount Hood in the background was from the tea garden but I was wrong. There is no view of the skyline from there as it looks like this

View of Portland from the Japanese Tea Garden (No view!)

Next it was to the Pittock Mansion. I always enjoy walking through the former homes of the aristocracy in America. I love history and it helps give me a very intimate sense of what life was like back then for these captains of industry as well as what the world was like at that time. My foremost thoughts were as follows.

There is a picture of Henry Pittock on the beach in Hawaii. Back in the early 1900s travel like that would have been limited to the very rich. Now here we are in 2019 and my family and I were on a day trip to a place 533 miles away from where we live. And we just came back from a trip to Japan, which of course is across a vast ocean! The age of the jet-plane is an amazing one indeed. We become so used to modern comforts that we no longer realize just how amazing they really are and do not appreciate what they allow us to do in the modern age.

The second main thought came when looking at memorabilia from the World’s Fair – Lewis and Clark Centennial Exhibition held in 1905. A World’s Fair must have been such an exciting event. The title is appropriate as it did bring people (the rich) together from all over the world to show the achievements of nations. Perhaps another function was simply to bring people together and evoke a sense of unity? What an amazing event it must have been!

However, behind all that excitement there were dark clouds forming and before long World Wars I and II would happen where it must have seemed all was lost and the progress of humankind set back hundreds of years. We build, we celebrate the achievements showcased by World’s Fairs and then we have raging infernos, a hell on earth, where we destroy everything. By looking at those souvenirs from 1905 I reflect on when the next major world war will happen. The international order is built on a house of cards that throughout history has been toppled over time and time again. Things have been relatively quiet for a long time and I wonder when next humanity will decide to destroy a good portion of itself. I imagine someone like me, who far in the future will look at a few souvenirs of events going on in 2019 thinking, wow and nobody knew of the great disaster which would happen in 2025, 2030 or whenever we decide to start mass killing again for the stupidest of reasons.

Well, on with the day in Portland. After the Pittock mansion it was time for lunch and we went to Killer Burger. Yes the burger was good, there was a crowd, but I would have preferred somewhere better. After lunch it was to Pioneer Square which is 40% more boring than our very own Union Square. Nothing really to see at Pioneer Square other than beggars and the general weirdos you find in Portland.

Now there is a sign in Portland that they seem very proud of as I’ve seen it on T-shirts and various advertisements. It says “Stay Weird Portland.” And yes, Portland definitely is weird. I’ve never seen so many, um “colorful” people, even in San Francisco! The hair colors, the tattoos, the body piercing, the body odor, the strange clothing or absence of it, all of this was found on every block! The people of Portland are weird indeed! Yes, we have weirdos in San Francisco but not like Portland.

Let me give you a few examples of things I saw in Portland that I’ve not seen in San Francisco. Now don’t get me wrong, San Francisco is an absolute dumpster fire these days. We have drug addicts pooping on the street everywhere. We have weirdos galore but not like Portland in my opinion.

  1. Old guy with no shirt or shoes in “Bib” jeans playing the banjo on the corner surrounded by all his belongings. We have homeless surrounded by their belongings but not playing a banjo in bibs.
  2. A shoplifter punky looking guy getting arrested outside Nordstrom Rack. I had thought it was a fist fight and my adrenaline spiked as I was with my family. But no, it was just a punk getting arrested by Nordstrom Rack security. I’ve never seen someone getting arrested like that in San Francisco mind you.
  3. The lady in TSA Precheck pulling out bags and bags of who-knows-what before the scanning machine. Essential oils? Marijuana? Marijuana oil?? From the looks of it she had a veritable pharmacy in her bag and was really holding up the line which is supposed to be very quick!

I cannot tell you how many times I mentioned to my wife “Portland” when seeing yet another very strange person in Portland. Yes, we have “colorful” people in San Francisco but much of them have become mainstream and so really do not stand out to us locals. Some gay guy in ass-less chaps walking down the street? Someone yelling at the lamp post? All par for the course. But in Portland it seems something is off about the entire population, not just a few radical subsets like you see in San Francisco.

We have a homeless epidemic in San Francisco and I learned that so does Portland. My wife had wanted to take a picture of an elephant statue in the North Park Blocks but it was surrounded by sleeping homeless and upon entering that block we realized that the entire block was full of homeless so we quickened the pace.

But let me back up a bit. After lunch we went to The Fields Park which one of our friends helped design. The kids played a bit and we of course did a lot of Pokemon.

We got back in the car on our way to Powell’s City of Books when my wife noticed there was an art festival going on in the North Blocks. So we went to that festival, had a walk around and my sons got to play in the excellent park there.

It was then to Powell’s City of Books where I was hoping to find a nice leather bound Don Quixote or Lord of the Rings for my collection but no luck.

Then it was to the airport and we finally got home at 10:00 PM and are now all a bit tired today.

That concludes our first day trip by airplane and I hope we’ll have many more of them.

I almost forgot to mention one thing I enjoy doing when I go on trips these days which in brief is simply creating data for Google Maps/Street View. I love travel and I love Google Maps and so I take a lot of pictures as well as 360 pictures and upload them to Google Maps / Street View. I am a data creator! I imagine the very distant future where my descendants with the use of their sophisticated technology can pull up the 360 photos I took and see what things looked like there in the year 2019. I’m leaving a trail of data for myself to look back upon as well as my descendants in the future.

The only downside is I wonder if by taking all these pictures and being so concerned with creating this data I’ve lessened the enjoyment of the experience itself. Oh well, I like looking at the places I’ve visited in VR as it helps me remember the experience. I think I’ll really appreciate that when I’m an old man and want to reflect on my life.


Nashville, Tennessee Part 2

The time is 11:11 and I’m back at the hotel. We had training all day and then an excellent party at a venue called 12th and Porter where there was a buffet, drinks and fabulous live music. I introduced myself to many new colleagues and we all had a good time.

But it was after I left that things got interesting. I left by myself intending to check out the souvenir shops for my boys and stopped by the Exxon station just north of the bar to get a beverage.

As I came out there were some young people by a pickup truck and they were looking in my direction saying “What’s up?” I ignored them and continued on my way. One of them followed me saying “What’s up?” It was then my heart started racing and if I had turned around I thought I might be in for a fight.

Now I was in a company t-shirt and I have a family. I could see the kid out of the corner of my eye and it would have been a very short fight turning out very badly for him. But I’m now 41 years old, have a family and responsibilities. If this kid had wanted to fight, he would have been in for a very big surprise and lost very quickly but here is what went through my mind. He could have had a knife. I could lose my job. I could lose the ability to care for my family. In the moment of a fight I could toss him over the bridge and he would be dead.

So I kept my mouth shut and just continued walking. He had a look at me close up, stopped, spit off the bridge and didn’t continue pestering me any further.

And so I continued on my way, bought some gifts for my boys, responded to a text from a colleague at a bar and then came back to the hotel.

Isn’t it interesting that the original thoughts going through my head were of my relatives that could live in this very city but those thoughts were quickly dashed by a couple of thugs that could have completely changed the course of my life. This was my experience in Tennessee. Thoughts of family being quickly erased and the course of my life being changed as well! No. Keep my mouth shut, keep walking and now when I think of Tennessee I no longer think of my relatives but of a couple of thugs in a parking lot at a gas station.

How I would have liked to walk straight towards them and ask them “What’s up?” No. Just keep walking and continue on with my life and providing for my family.


Nashville Tennessee

I’m writing from the Sheraton Grand Hotel here downtown where we’re having our national sales meeting. Coming from San Francisco there weren’t any direct flights where we would make it to the 1:00 start on time so us West Coasters flew in yesterday afternoon.

I’ve been to Tennessee once in my life and that was to visit my Grandmother Mary Rhodes when I was 10 or so. She was born and raised in Tennessee but upon meeting my Grandfather (In D.C. I think) she moved to Ohio and spent most of her life in Bellaire, Ohio. Upon my Grandfather’s death she moved back to Tennessee and bought a small yellow house in Greeneville which we visited.

I remember a few things about that trip. She had a small little yellow house with a garden out back. We visited the pool and upon returning a stranger passing us said “Y’all visit the pool?” This type of warm greeting wasn’t something I was used to and from that interaction learned about southern hospitality and general warmth. We also visited my relatives whom I’ve only met once. I remember the boys calling me a Yankee and how I had slid in the “sewer” out back. I was looking over my shoulder to catch a football and then all of a sudden slipped in a sort of nasty mud. I asked my cousin what it was and he looked aghast and said “That’s the sewer!” Apparently they didn’t have sewage infrastructure that far out in the countryside so it just went into a puddle out back. That was indeed a nasty experience.

I also remember an ambulance went by and as they were unaccustomed to seeing many ambulances go by we all had to hurry, get in the car and go see where it was going. Some other relatives had gone it the same direction a few minutes earlier and they were concerned. That was the first and only time I’ve ever followed an ambulance in my life.

So being here in Nashville I’m thinking a lot about my Grandmother and the relatives, some of which might be in this very city as I write these words. I do have one old friend from my study abroad in Spain who is here (Amina) but I haven’t made contact as we have a packed schedule right up until our flights leave.

Since we got in last night and everyone is arriving this morning, Pete and I took the opportunity to go walk around the city a bit. I took a picture of the statehouse, a statue at the war museum, the Ryman Auditorium and a few other pictures with statues around the downtown.

As for the War Museum I had looked at a few pictures on Google and there was one display of WWII Japanese weapons along with a poster showing a Japanese soldier as the enemy. This really struck me as my life is intertwined with Japan and when in Japan some of my in-laws relatives have pictures of their ancestors in the WWII Japanese military uniforms who never returned from the war.

When looking at a display like that in the museum I have different emotions than most and am thankful that I’ve been able to travel and can understand the human experience from two very distinct points of view. My reactions to such a display would be very different from most who visit it.

Well, it is now noon and our meeting starts at 1:00 so I think I’ll take a short power nap as we’ve got a full schedule ahead with the meeting and then after meeting activities.

Journal Karate Travel

LA Trip – Red Carpet

It is 6:27 AM and I’m at the gate in Oakland Airport for my flight to Burbank.  These past few weeks have been a daze and I haven’t had time to write.  I’m so busy with the new job that time marches by in a blur and I have to catch myself and take a moment to be mindful and appreciate life and all the small moments that make up our experiences.

Aside from work karate has also been at the forefront so let’s start there.

We had our karate promotion test last Sunday and it had me stressed out for a couple of weeks.  It was the first time my son and I would do the test with Saiko Shihan.  He holds a yearly clinic and afterwards is the advanced belt promotion test.  Shihan had also said that I would fight a knockdown champion, then Shihan himself as well as Senpai Takasan.  I told him I was pretty nervous about that with the reason being I had expected it to be like Fighter’s Cup.  I can do one all out fight against a good opponent but then my energy is completely spent.  I had thought that I would have to go all out for five or six times which I wouldn’t be able to do!

So yes, I was extremely nervous, a bit scared and had tons of anxiety for over the two weeks leading up to last Sunday.

On Sunday I woke early and headed over to the dojo to help transport the mats to Pomeroy Center where the event was being held.  The loading up of the mats was quick and we were at Pomeroy in no time.  I walked into the gym and remembered very clearly how much I hate the smell of gymnasiums.  They remind me of high school and the enormous shock when I experienced the difference between the level of training in high school sports vs grade school.  Grade school training is relatively easy but then without warning it seems like you’re doing suicides for days and just want to die.

I think about all the late practices on the wrestling team where it is cold and dark outside with sweat dripping down the windows.  Everyone else has gone home but you remain with the team becoming completely exhausted doing something that isn’t very fun, and you have to keep it up for five months.

So walking into the gym on Sunday and having those memories flood into my consciousness then coupled with my anxiety about what I was soon going to face was not pleasant.

The clinic started and as usual it was a great one and Saiko Shihan taught us many things that we usually do not hear during regular practice.  I paid attention, tried very hard and before I knew it the clinic was over.  I still had plenty of energy and was glad I’d gotten through the first part but now the test was going to begin and that is what I was scared of.

In short, it turned out to not be too bad at all!  I had to only fight two black belts and it was not all out because there is an understanding.  If you go hard the other will go hard and then there will probably be injuries.  Everyone did try hard but it wasn’t full on fighters cup style except for one brown belt.  Saiko Shihan saw this and his reward was to fight Shihan who beat the tar out of him.  Shihan is such a nice guy but turns into a beast when it is time to fight.

It was over before I knew it and I was in shock that I only had to do two fights!  I was so happy and during the after practice stretches wondered if it were only a break and then suddenly I’d be called to fight a whole gang of people.  I was so nervous for so long that I’m still glowing three days later at the test being done.

The really cool thing about that test was Saiko Shihan himself stepped in while the kids were fighting the black belts and sparred with my son!  That was the only time Saiko Shihan did that and we got it on video.  He threw my son down a couple of times but Kai was a champ and kept going at Saiko Shihan.  I told Kai how much he was going to appreciate being able to say he sparred with Saiko Shihan and that the video we took will be an absolute treasure to him later on.  I also mustered the courage to ask for a photo which will go on the wall of our gym.

So why am I at the airport?   Well, Saiko Shihan made a movie called Take a Chance which we saw along with the entire dojo a year or so ago.

Well, I got a notice from the dojo that there was going to be an exclusive screening and red carpet event in LA for the film and everyone was invited.  I thought the idea of being on the red carpet would be a once in a lifetime event and as it happened my boss asked that I spend some time riding along with my colleagues to learn from them.  I could kill two birds with one stone by heading down to LA to ride along with my colleague during the day and then go to the red carpet event at night.  So here I am, and the boarding is about to begin.