Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Day 5 - Friends and Family

On our 5th day in Vegas, December 15th, 2013, Mike and I enjoyed our last day with family and friends before the gang left and we started our little Vegas honeymoon. I am so grateful that we were able to bring along a few loved ones to celebrate with us. Above is a picture of three generations in front of the Nike statue at Caesars Palace. I am a sucker for family history.

We got everyone up very early to go to breakfast at Hash House A Go Go. We read about it in our trusty guidebook. Mike and I loved walking the Strip first thing in the morning. At night it is so flooded with people it's claustrophobic, but in the morning it is quiet and peaceful, and you can see all the crazy architecture and sites of the world. Vegas is so peculiar and wonderful.

Tips for Hash House A Go Go: Split your meal. The portions are obscene. Also, the jam is the yummiest thing ever.

In the evening we went to Fremont Street. This is the part of the city you see in old movies on Turner Classics. It was a little underwhelming after the grandeur of the Strip, but the atmosphere was cozy. At the end of the street there was a DJ and dancers. Mom had great time grooving to the tunes; a group of black ladies cheered her on yelling, "Go mama!"

We ended the night at the Stratosphere where we met up with Meghann and Tristin. Along with Mom, Best, and Lee, we had a very fancy farewell dinner on the Top of the World. The restaurant slowly rotates 360 degrees, and you can see all of Vegas. Intermittently, you also see bungee jumpers fling themselves off the top of the casino hearing their screams in Doppler effect. Only in Vegas!

Thank you to everyone who flew out to Sin City for our wanderlust wedding! Along with our Stratosphere group we had Steph Lyons, William Mabery, Aneliese Apala, and my little brother and his girlfriend. Saying goodbye to everyone was more emotional than I expected; I was just so happy for everyone who was there. Y'all made us feel so special, and we love you all so very much!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Day 4 - Dam It!!!

On day four we woke up and headed over to meet William in the New York casino. He had been raving yesterday about the breakfast buffet at Chin-Chin, a restaurant in his hotel. There were fresh eggs benedict, fluffy french toast with warm syrup, pastries a' plenty, and enough bacon to burst an artery. After sufficiently stuffing ourselves, we waddled our way back to the valet where we scanned the ticket for our car. "Pew pew PEW PEW!" went the valet kiosk, to the delight of William and I. Even the valet kiosks here are a blast. After our car arrived we picked up Katheryn's sister, Best, and made our way to the Hoover Dam.

Once we got out of Vegas we were treated to multicolored hills of gray, brown, and red. A slow climb over a hill revealed a sweeping view of Lake Mead, the largest man-made lake in the US. We even saw some mountain goats along the way! Before we knew it, we were there at the Hoover Dam. The Hoover Dam, originally the Boulder Dam, is a structure of cold hard concrete mixed with stunning art deco detail. Just take a look at some of the photos near the end to see for yourself. Enough yappin', here's some of my snappin' :)

It's hard to believe the Hoover Dam was built in 4 years... 2 years ahead of schedule!

Winged Figures of the Republic

Winged Figures of the Republic

Kathryn with the Dam and intake towers in the background.

"They died to make the desert bloom"

Kathryn and Best rubbing the feet of the winged statues for good luck. Apparently... it's a thing.

My best man, William, snapping away!

The new Spillway House Events Center (left) and one of the four water intake towers (right).

Best and Kathryn posing along the edge of the dam.
And now, photos from the best dam tour we've ever taken (you hear variations on this pun constantly at the dam).

One of the twenty-six penstocks of the Dam that feeds water into the generator turbines after it has entered through the intake towers.
A diagram of the Hoover Dam. Kathryn and I are such nerds we are going to print and frame a copy of this when we get back home :)

Kathryn in front of one of the massive generators. The power generators are actually the secondary purpose of the dam: the primary purpose is distributing water from the Colorado River.

A solid aluminum art-deco ceiling light circa 1935. This was inside one of the tunnels we toured inside the dam itself.

Our tour guide, Chris, talking to a fellow tour attendee. The tunnel is used for inspecting the concrete for cracks.

The vertical shaft went so far down I couldn't see the bottom... kind of freaky!

Kathryn at the grate at the end of the inspection tunnel.

Pictured above is the Hoover Dam from halfway down looking up. I had to stick my arm, camera in hand, out the grate in the previous picture to get this photo!

Go to the light...
A very long halfway that connects the inspection tunnels.

Chris the tour-guide reminded us of James Cameron, director of Titanic and my personal favorite, Avatar.

I can't help but find this humorous :)

This sign is a testament to the overall pride the workers took in constructing the Hoover Dam. We love the beautiful typography.

As we exited the tour, there were a massive pair of copper and bronze doors bearing this iconic art-deco detail. The dam is as much art as it is engineering marvel.
Hope you enjoyed our day at the Hoover Dam!
- Mike

Day 3 - Get'n Hitched

Mike and Kathryn Underwood

Married December 13, 2013
Little Church of the West
Las Vegas, Nevada

The new Mr. & Mrs. Underwood.

More photos to come :)

Friday, December 13, 2013

Day 2 - Valley of Fire

Yesterday morning Kathryn and I woke up and headed out the Valley of Fire State Park. I'll let the pictures do the talking.

After a slow and winding 13 miles through the desolate Paiute tribal lands we arrived.
Fire Canyon / Silica Dome Panorama
"Just look at all this!"

My wife-to-be looking strong and beautiful just like the Valley of Fire.
Dr. Mom and Kathryn with their beautiful smiles. I see where Kathryn gets her beauty!
Kathryn and Mom overlooking the Rainbow Vista.
Who are those crazy fools on top of that mountain?!
Oh it's just Lee and Will. I think Alyssa is somewhere in there too, she's just too small to see.
Stopping for smooch-break along the White Domes trail loop.
She always knows how to pose for the camera :)

We had an amazing time at Valley of Fire Start Park. If you're ever visiting Vegas, don't miss this serene gem. The isolation, beauty, and sheer magnitude of the formations is worth the hour drive. That's it for this post. I have to go get ready, I'm getting married in a few hours!

- Mike

Thursday, December 12, 2013

First Day in Vegas!

LAS VEGAS! Mike and I were absolutely giddy as we drove our Ford Fusion down the highway to the Strip. Catching a glimpse of the Statue of Liberty, the Sphinx, and the Eiffel Tower, it occurred to me that Vegas might be a better way to see the world than Epcot!

We left our house at 6am with the help of the lovely Sarah Badders. I am so thankful to have a wonderful friend like her. Our drive to the airport was so lively with catching up! The words that came to mind for our flights were happy and peaceful. Even going through the security was easy, and  we made it fun! I was carrying my wedding dress in a big white bag with "David's Bridal" blazoned on the front; a cheerful business woman helped me with my security bins and then congratulated us. She ended up sitting next to us on the plane! The David's Bridal bag was such a conversation piece! Faces lighted up on sight as strangers offered their best wishes. The flight attendant taking our tickets in Atlanta grinned, showing big white teeth through her brown lips, swayed her voluptuous hips, and sang us down the walkway to the plane: "Going to the chapel and we're gonna get married!"

Any fatigue that we felt on getting to our hotel completely melted away when we met up with William Mabery. His free-spirited energy is so contagious. We giggled and joked our way through the most fabulous meal at Wolfgang Puck Bar and Grill. Sure, Mike and I hadn't had a meal since 7am that morning, but the Truffled Potato Chips with Maytag Blue Cheese Sauce, Wood Oven Roasted Mushroom Pizza with Broccolini, Leeks, Thyme, Taleggio, and the Spicy Tuna Tartare with Avocado, Pickled Ginger, Cucumber, and Crisp Sesame Wontons - absolutely heavenly!

We ended the night with an amazing Cirque du Soleil show, Ka. Mom and my brothers joined us, and we sat in the third row! The theater was stacked with steampunk-esque columns, ladders, and catwalks. Fireballs erupted from the abyss where the should have been a stage. Every scene in this show was amazing with the rotating and tilting stage platforms. One of our favorites was the beach scene. A huge dune of sand appeared before our eyes, crabs and cute sea creatures wiggled out of the sand, and the transition to the next scene included an avalanche of grain as the entire stage tilted 90 degrees towards the audience.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

How We Planned Our Runaway Wedding

Hi everyone it's Mike here. As most of you know, I'm big on technology as a tool to make life easier. We have accomplished all of our wedding planning in under 60 days and I want to share with you a few of the technology tools, tips, and tricks that made this possible.

Google Drive -
There was a lot of collaboration between Kathryn and I while planning our Vegas wedding. Running back and forth to each others computers can become very tedious and annoying though, so to solve this problem we kept all of our documents online in Google Drive. Google Drive lets you create text documents, spreadsheets, drawings, and more all online. Think of Microsoft Office, but free and much easier to share. In our case, we kept our wedding budget, itinerary, and guest list online using this fantastic tool. You can use Google Drive from the browser on your PC or on most iOS and Andriod mobile phones (perfect for brainstorming wedding plans over dinner). Google drive is free only requires a Google account.

Moo -
Moo is simply the best company online for ordering printed cards. They have excellent customer service, high quality prints, and fast turn-around times on orders. We used Moo for our wedding announcement / invite postcards and they arrived ahead of schedule and looking beautiful. The best part, less than a dollar per postcard!

Travelocity, Priceline, Kayak, etc.
Most of us already know how to buy our flights online. What I want to share though is how I got our flights at such great rates. Most websites advise you to avoid flying on weekends and book in advance. Booking on Tuesdays and Wednesdays seems to help as well. These tips do make a difference and they should be your starting point, but I have found that the key to scoring cheap flights is to check fares all the time. I don't just mean once a day, I mean checking flights fanatically. About to go to bed... check fares! On the toilet... check em! Waking up at 5am to take the dog out... gimme those fares! All in all, I did this for a week. I saw fares as high as $500 and as low as $200. Checking often gave me a good sense of what a  good "deal" was. When I finally booked our tickets for $225, I did it at 4am on a Wednesday morning. I was so high from the rush of savings that I jumped into the bed to wake up Kathryn!

My Maps in Google Maps -
Here is another technology most are familiar with, Google Maps. One of the often missed features of Google Maps is the ability to create your own customized maps. You can drop in "pins" to note points of interest such as hotels, restaurants, parks, etc. It's an extremely useful tool and fun as well.

To tech or not to tech, that is the question...
While technology did make the majority of our planning easier, there were a few times when it wasn't the right tool for the job. Such us....

  • When you have a bunch of questions to ask somebody. It's easier to just give them a call! I know, making calls from my mobile phone scares me too. I just thought this thing was a mobile internet machine!? Kathryn found out more about our wedding chapel in 5 minutes on the phone than she could in an hour of web-surfing.
  • When you need to book show tickets for Vegas, don't waste time online. Usually, you can't pick exact seats. I spent an hour hoping to get good seats for Cirque du Soleil but was foiled by the seemingly random seat assignments I kept getting. I gave up and after a 10 minute phone call, I had the best seats in the house AND cheaper than what I could buy them for online. Score one for human interaction!!!
  • When you need to make special requests for a hotel room. I called the MGM Signature Grand, chatted with an extremely helpful woman, and had all of my questions answered and problems solved in 15 minutes.
I hope this post can be helpful to someone out there. I have barely scratched the surface of all the tools that are online to help you plan a wedding. These are just a few that have helped us! Finally, to all the friends and family reading this, I will not fix your computer!


Sunday, December 1, 2013

Holiday Traditions

Sunflowers on Thanksgiving
Mike and I took a break from wedding plans to host Thanksgiving dinner this year at my mom's beach condo. We had so much fun cooking all day together Wednesday, transporting an entire car full of food at around midnight, decorating early Thursday morning, and dancing around a very stringent oven schedule Thursday afternoon. We both love the holidays dearly.

Homemade pecan pie.
Making our own holiday traditions as couple and a new family is going to take time, but right now we're enjoying sharing personal traditions like Mike's very strict custom of no Christmas music until the day after Thanksgiving upon it shall play constantly.

One of my favorite Thanksgiving rituals.
Between holidays, finals, and our wedding I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed, but I am so grateful I have such a wonderful partner by my side to keep me steady.

Chilly beach day.

<3, K