To the Valley of the Stun – pt. 2

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Finale

Sunday, December 31st

We woke up after a night of drinking to see just how lovely the hotel and area we were in actually was. Kind of that run-down big city depressed neighborhood near a freeway sort of feel. Needless to say, our plans were not to hang around the hotel much.

So, John made a run to the nearby McDonald’s for a tasty breakfast. I had my usual, sausage biscuit and 2 hash browns. I was more interested, however, in the large Dr. Pepper. I had that “hungover mouth” going pretty bad, especially after 5 hours in a poorly ventilated casino the night before .

All three of us were in the same room, simply to save cash. We’re all friends so it was no big deal. The highlight of that morning would be when Ilinda was in the shower and John went into the bathroom to do his morning “business”. Having spent a lot of time around John, if he had pulled such a stunt on me, I would have had to kill him. That is the toxicity we’re talking about here. Ahh… married life…

fiesta-bowl-trip015Also, John was quite proud of his latest addition. See left. I do know one thing… John, my man, you gotta get your ass to the gym. I know ’round’ is a shape, but that is ridiculous! Thus, the running joke for the weekend was John’s weight and lack of wind. I laughed pretty hard when he got winded rolling over in bed. I think when you break a sweat when you brush your teeth, that might be the sign for a lifestyle change…

Since we certainly weren’t going to hang around our hotel for the day, we decided to venture out and explore the area a bit. We wanted to head out to find the stadium just so we would know where we were going. Unfortunately, I forgot to take my camera with me for the day, which was a real bummer. Sorry for the lack of images.
fiesta-bowl-trip017University of Phoenix Stadium is literally built out in the middle of nowhere. As you can see from the pictures. I understand wanting to build where land is cheap and all, but man… there is NOTHING out there. They are building a big retail/entertainment complex next door to the stadium, but there is certainly no nightlife or vibe around that place. Which is too bad. As amazing as that stadium is, after talking to some people down there who have been to the Fiesta Bowl in Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, that is just much more fun. I can believe that.fiesta-bowl-trip018

The area of the stadium really reminded me of the area that the Idaho Center was built here at home. That was in the middle of farm land when they built it 10 years ago too. They have put a bunch of stuff around it now, but it is still out in the middle of nowhere. For my money, I would MUCH rather attend events on BSU campus or in Qwest Arena downtown before driving all the way out to Nampa. But that’s just me.

After a quick tour of the Stadium area we set out to find Tempe and the Mill Ave District where the New Years Block Party was going to happen that night. So we got back on the freeway and navigated the maze.

We found it easily, and since we were on the right side of town, John wanted to go back to the casino. Imagine that… John wanted to gamble some more! So, we headed over there at about 10 in the morning. I can tell you this, it was not as much fun in there in the morning. There were probably 70% fewer people, but some how there was 200% more cigarette smoke. That was the WORST ventilated casino I have ever been in. I dropped another hundred in no time and had to head outside to get some fresh air. By the time we left, maybe a little more than an hour after we got there, I felt like I had smoked about 20 packs of cigs. Ugh. I could hardly breathe. Absolutely disgusting.

One other thing about the casino I found strange. Both that morning and the night before, we had many many dealers as they migrated around. Of course, we were wearing Boise State gear as we were playing. Not one of the dealers had any clue about what was going on that weekend. They thought we were Denver Broncos. They asked why we were in town. They asked who we were playing. They asked where we were playing and what game it was. They had absolutely NO clue about the whole deal. And these weren’t female Filipino immigrants either. We are talking regular old white guys. I know, Phoenix is a big city and there are always lots of events going on, but shouldn’t your dealers know when and why people might be visiting your casino? How can NONE of them be college football fans? Amazing.

Another funny dealer story. You know how they will ask you where you’re from, what you do, etc. One dealer was asking John what he did, and John told him he ran a lumber mill. Dealer says, “well, you’ve got all your fingers so you must know what you’re doing.” To which John held up his left hand and said, “actually… I don’t…” See, John had his left index finger removed due to a bone tumor years ago. We found it hilarious, but the dealer was falling all over himself trying to apologize.

Ilinda wanted to do a little shopping for their boys at home, so we found a large outlet mall just off the freeway. Arizona Mills Mall was pretty impressive for an outlet mall. The strangest thing was the Neiman Marcus outlet store. I have never been in a legit Neiman Marcus. I don’t know what sorts of things they have. But, if this outlet store was any guide, I’ll never need to visit one. They had some of the most hideous 80’s style hip-hop brightly colors paisley shirts for sale… regular price $500, now on clearance for $230. What!?! I couldn’t believe the prices on what I was seeing. There was a sport coat that would have been right at home in the wardrobe of Sonny Crockett on Miami Vice for $3,500 dollars. The thing was, the store totally felt like an outlet store. Cheap fixtures and racks. Kinda grungy. “BLOW OUT CLEARANCE” signs. Combined with the prices, it was seriously like shopping on another planet.

We had plans to have lunch with some local people that Ilinda knew from the internet, so after shopping for a bit in the other stores, we were off to find this Mexican restaurant called Garcia’s. By this time I was pretty hungry, so that was just fine with me. We found the place and pulled into the parking lot. The strange thing was there were 2 buildings, both with “Garcia’s” signs on either end of the parking lot. We were quite confused how that was supposed to work. Apparently, one was just a take out sort of place, while the other was the sit down joint. Odd.

We were a bit early, so we sat in the bar to watch some playoff football and wait. We got a couple drinks (I had a coke as I was not feeling great from the smoke and the drinking last night) and some chips and salsa. I was starving so I dug in. After 20 minutes or so, Ilinda’s friend shows up with her husband and we got a table.

We sat down and had probably one of the worst waiters I’ve ever had. It took him 10 minutes to take our 5 orders. Let’s just say, English was not his first language. Now, there are 2 things in common to every Mexican restaurant on the planet. One, they serve food on scalding hot plates. Two, food always comes very quickly. Well, at this particular joint, only one of those axioms held. It was a full 45 minutes from the time we ordered until our food arrived. Unbelievable. You can sit down, order, eat, and be out the door in 45 minutes at any other Mexican place I’ve ever eaten at.
What was even worse than that was how I felt. I guess, the horrific smoke intake somehow rebelled against the salsa I ate and I had what was probably the worst heartburn I have ever had. My god, it was absolutely brutal. I ordered a water to try to douse the flames, but it was hopeless. By the time the food came, I was in such agony, I basically just pushed my enchiladas around the plate. Brutal.

Not to mention that I seriously felt like the 5th wheel on this car. Ilinda and her friend. The husband and John (had the vested interests in each other) but I really didn’t feel like talking much. Combined with the magma in my chest, those 2 and a half hours of lunch were practically unbearable. All I could think about was getting some antacid and lying down before the block party that night.

By the time we got out of there, the lying down part was out of the question. There was a Boise State pep rally to kick off the block party and I wanted to be there. We stopped at a local grocery store near our hotel to get me some meds. Lets just say that this place was where the ‘Hispanic food aisle’ was the whole store. All of the signs were in Spanish and English. I was the whitest person in that entire building. I kept expecting to run into an aisle of ‘honky’ food where they kept the hamburgers, french fries and Jell-o.

But, I got my Maalox and we finally got back to the hotel a little before 4. The pep rally was scheduled for 4:30 and was all the way over in Tempe. So, I had about 10 minutes to relax and try to douse the flames.

After a quick refresh, it was time to get back on the road and keep the party going. So, we did.

The story shall continue…

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