if you see it once…

Posted On July 31, 2009

Filed under travel

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…you’ll never be the same again

My trip to Vegas was planned for months and months.  For a while I was nervous.  Really, really nervous.  What would I do for a whole week in Las Vegas by myself?  Until one night when I said, “Hey Julie, want to go to Vegas with me??”  and later that week she bought her ticket. 

Then I was excited!  What would we do for a whole week in Vegas???  The sky was the limit, and the more I researched, the more I was confused as to what was actually fun and safe and worth seeing.  So I gave up the search and decided we could figure it out once we got there.  But there were certain things that I HAD to do when I was there, no excuses.  They were:

1.  Get our picture taken in front of the famous Welcome to Las Vegas sign.

2.  Meet Elvis.

3.  Be in/witness a Las Vegas wedding.

I’ll be honest, I was starting to fear the third wouldn’t happen.  And even more honestly, after we traveled for an hour in the wrong direction looking for the sign, but instead finding the end of the world, I started to fear we may not even see the sign. 

But we did not give up.  The concierge, after he stopped laughing at us, told us to take the Deuce (no, now you stop laughing, that’s what it’s called) to Mandalay Bay, and it was a short walk from there to the sign.  He lied his pants off.  After a monster long walk in the rain, a stop at McDonald’s for some liquid energy (AKA sweet tea), and a daring dash across the highway (something we got pretty good at) we saw IT.  In all of it’s Las Vegas lights glory, the sign sat in the median of the aforementioned highway with a small astroturf section built in to stand on and make ridiculous poses. 

In front of that sign, everyone feels fabulous. 

One thing we could’ve learned a bit more quickly is that, in the desert, everything is closer than it appears.  Just because you can see it doesn’t necessarily mean you could walk to it (learned that lesson while crossing approximately 17 highways trying to get to In-N-Out).  But the sign was in our sights and we starting running/walking quickly/skipping towards it, and that’s when I saw her. 

Julie!  That girl is wearing a white dres!  Is that a wedding party??”

Cue ohmygoodnessohmygoodness squeals and skipping higher until:

“Meg!  It’s Elvis and Marilyn Monroe!!”

We had (finally) made it to the sign and there in all their sequined glory stood Marilyn Monroe, with darker, bushier eyebrows than I would’ve imagined, and Elvis Presley with foam hair. 

This is when we became concerned.  Would we have to pay them to take a picture with us?  Is this their job? 

No, no, we reasoned.  The two guys in suits standing around them didn’t fit into that formula.  OK so why were they here?  And what the crap is the Suit #1 taking pictures of?  (And then I briefly entertained the thought of moving to Las Vegas, investing in a floaty white dress, and standing in front of that sign to charge a dollar per picture.  Like I said, it was a brief thought, but it was a definite thought.)

So we kept our distance as Elvis, Marilyn, and Suit #2 seemed to be engaged in a deep conversation in a foreign language, and a small family of Midwesterners posed their children and attempted self-timed pictures.  Why you would bring your children to Las Vegas, I still don’t know.

And then.  It happened.  Looking back it feels like slow motion.  The family packed into their rented minivan and Elvis and Marilyn took their place on the astroturf and Suit #2 joined them.


Had I been still drinking my McDonald’s sweet tea, I would have spit it out of my nose.  But I left my cup in front of a wedding chapel we stopped at during our Journey to The Sign.  Julie was first to realize that Suit #1 was the photographer, and Suit #2 was the minister. 

Julie and I were left standing there, in the middle of that desert highway, as witnesses to their wedding.  Julie dressed in black and I in white, we made the perfect wedding party.  We were silent as they vowed their love in a foreign tongue, and we yelled and hooted for joy when they were prounounced man and wife.  Suit #1 continued to take pictures, and included us, as well. 

We said our goodbyes to Elvis, Marilyn, and the Suits (I’m assuming that’s what they said), and as a large tour bus unloaded its passengers all around us, Julie and I stood in front of that sign amazed at our good Las Vegas fortune.  We stayed for a while longer, visibly elated, and then cursed the time change that wouldn’t allow us to call any of our friends back home.  About halfway home, we stopped and took this picture:

vegas! 055








This is our “holy crap, that just happened!” face.

All that to say, set almost unattainable goals.  You never know what you might walk into.


the way i’m running has got me down on my knees…

Posted On July 28, 2009

Filed under favorite things, travel

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…but next stop, VEGAS PLEASE!

I prayed more on my first day in Vegas than I have in a really long time.  I prayed when stepping onto the plane.  I prayed when the pilot came on and said, “this desert air is going to make for a bumpy ride.”  And I prayed anytime I walked by someone in a wheelchair playing blackjack or someone with an oxygen tank playing the slots.  I worried that sights like those would depress me through the week and by the end of the week I would be begging to get me out of this town.  (Begging to get back to western PA?  who knew?)

That first day in Vegas was a long one – waking up at 4am Eastern time and not going to bed until about midnight Pacific time can really mess a person up.  But at about hour 20 of that long day, something happened.  Something inside of me just snapped.

I fell in LOVE with Las Vegas. 

Julie and I like to say that there is a certain “spirit” to the people of Las Vegas.  No one is from there, but it’s home for everyone.  They have absolutely no shame, and it was refreshing.  I didn’t feel concern when Bizarro Mike Rowe came and sat at our booth during dinner and I laughed when people made comments about what two single girls in Vegas could get into. 

We didn’t drink, we didn’t go to a single club, and between the two of us, we gambled away a total of $4. And that’s only because neither of us knew how to use a slot machine.   But we had the time of our lives.  Proof that Vegas is so much more than what you may think.  

I kept praying for those people at the slot machines throughout the week.  It broke my heart to think that those people may be pinning their hopes on something so temporary.  But I also prayed and thanked God that he allowed me to have these experiences – to spend a week with a great friend making memories we won’t ever forget. 

Like that time Elvis and Marilyn Monroe got married in front of the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign, and we were in the wedding. 

vegas! 046







But that’s a story for another time.

you see i’ve been through the desert…

Posted On July 17, 2009

Filed under my town, travel

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…on a horse with no name

I’m seeing a trend now.  When I should be packing, I blog.  For a while I just thought that packing worked me up into such a tizzy that I needed an outlet to express my packing rage, and so I blogged.  Now I’m thinking it’s more of an excuse to NOT pack. 

This week has been a full one – and has left me with dark circles under my eyes, but a great excitement for the future.  God has answered prayers, faithfully, again.  And I, once again, am surprised at how, well, surprised I was by that. 

Dustin has moved into his cabin in the woods for the rest of the summer, and I’m loving having a place outside of my small town where I can go and enjoy the sounds of trees and water and birds and not hear the trains rolling through or my neighbors yelling at their kids to come inside before they have to start counting to three.  I’m also enjoying have people to cook for, and am slowing finding out that I do actually like the challenge of creating a meal, I just don’t like doing it for myself.   I like listening to Dustin playing the guitar and am dealing with all the dude movies I watch when he and Clinton are around.  One of these days maybe I’ll get them to watch You’ve Got Mail. 

And with that said, I’ll leave you with this quote from that movie, a quote that resonates with me at times like these.

Sometimes I wonder about my life. I lead a small life. Well, not small, but valuable. And sometimes I wonder, do I do it because I like it, or because I haven’t been brave? So much of what I see reminds me of something I read in a book, when shouldn’t it be the other way around? I don’t really want an answer. I just want to send this cosmic question out into the void. So good night, dear void.

PS I’ll be in Vegas all next week, so follow my trip on twitter 🙂  http://twitter.com/mchochola

we’re the best of friends insisting that the world be turnin our way…

Posted On July 10, 2009

Filed under favorite things, travel

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…and our way is on the road again

I am sorry that I haven’t been posting much.  I have so many ideas in my head of the things that I want to say and creative ways to say them, but it seems my life currently is a mess of packing, unpacking, laundry, repeat.

The title for this blog “venture beneath the skies” comes from a quote in one of my very favorite books – On The Road by Jack Kerouac.  I fell in love with it my freshman year of college when I had to read it and write a paper comparing it to Huck Finn.  I fell in love with the idea of life on the road – driving wherever you darn well please and meeting characters and life-long friends along the way.  The quote is below:

“What is that feeling when you’re driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing?- it’s the too-huge world vaulting us, and it’s good-by. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.”

It is a running theme of my life – saying goodbye and leaning forward to what’s next.  I love this quote, I really, really love it.

All that to say, Monday is a new adventure – driving to DC and back in one day with my best friend and college roommate (all 4 years).  Why we’re doing this is a long story, but needless to say I’m excited to spend some time with Kim, and I’m excited to see what kind of trouble we can stir up in a day.  I’m sure there will be pictures, and I’ll be sure to share when I’m home.  And I’ll also be sure to be a consistent blogger.  Promise.

ice up that old igloo…

Posted On July 2, 2009

Filed under cooking, travel

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…drive until the map turns blue

I’ve blogged about this before, but honestly, it’s so true.  Here again I find myself on the eve of a weekend trip writing letters on my hand in hopes that in 4 hours I’ll remember what they stand for.  This is precisely why I wanted an iPhone…so that I wouldn’t be scribbling notes on receipts and stuffing them in my purse or accidently tattooing myself with the words “cell charger” in Sharpie on the back of my hand.  Old habits die hard, I suppose.

In other news, try this recipe, I know you’ll love it.  I made it up this week and am still enjoying the rewards 🙂

Tiramisu Cheesecake

Either buy a graham crust premade or make your own (I crushed Stella Doro cookies and melted butter and threw some Kahlua in there for good measure…it kind of worked – tasted good, but I think more butter would’ve helped it set up.)

3 8 oz. cream cheese packages
1 cup whipping cream
2 eggs
4 tbs flour
1 cup sugar
Kahlua ( to taste! – i probably added more than i should’ve 🙂

The filling will make enough for either a 9×13 pan or 2 pie pans.   then drizzle melted chocolate all over the top and enjoy!

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