Viva Las Vegas!

August 2011 took us to Las Vegas, NV for the 66th annual Blinded Veterans Association Convention.A highly anticipated trip for us.  Sadly, several of our close friends weren’t able to attend this year, but we met many new wonderful friends!

We stayed at the fabulous Golden Nugget on historic Fremont Street.  We had excellent accomodations and were within walking distance of anything we wanted or needed.  The hotel had several wonderful restaurants and bars, two pools (where they sell the worst $9 margarita EVER), a peaceful spa, and plenty of slots!

We spent one evening on The Strip where we watched the Sirens of TI perform their nightly pirate show at Treasure Island.  Our good friend, Tom Z. and his wife Ginger, and their daughter Jazmin spent the evening with us walking along the strip (avoiding the prostitute flyers) and wandering through the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace.  We found a spot for supper at the Cheesecake factory where Sean got to sit right behind his very own (and very large) drag queen!

The next day we went with Tom and his family to MGM Grand and participated in CSI:  The Experince.  That by far was my favorite activity of the trip!  I watched CSI religiously from the beginning of the series, until Gil Grissom left.  We had to study a crime scene, mark the evidence we found, and travel to different stations in the lab to analyze the evidence and identify the killer.  From the MGM we made our way to M&M’s World for four floors of M&M products!  We also took a walk through The World of Coca Cola before heading back to Fremont Street.  It was 107 degrees and sunny.  It felt like the soles of my shoes were melting to the sidewalk as we trekked along.

I met Spiderman on the Strip
The convention started with a meet and greet for Operation Peer Support members and BVA board members.  We caught up with friends from past conventions, and met newcomers.  OPS members shared their experiences that have brought them to where they are now in their lives.  It is so encouraging to hear Sean talk about where he is now compared to our first convention two years ago.  It is hard for me to see progress day by day, but he has grown greatly and accomplished much from where he was in 2009. 
We ventured out to Fremont Street to take in Absolutely 80s summer.  The lights from the casinos that line the street are so cool!!  There were three bands playing 80s music and on the hour the lights from the casinos would shut down for a video show on the gigantic overhead screen that must stretch four or five blocks!  It was like one enormous party up and down the street complete with freak shows on the side. 
Spongbob and Sean

On Fremont Street

E.T. phone home

Fremont Street Canopy

The canopy over Fremont Street
 Secretary Shinseki spoke at the BVA Opening Business Session.
I participated in a caregiver panel with the Auxillary.  We shared our experiences as caregivers and tried to address common questions of those caring for a loved one. I also met with our OPS caregivers and discussed the new caregiver program at the VA and brainstormed what we can do to keep this group together during the year since we live all around the country.
Once again, the convention offered a wealth of information and allowed us to make excellent contacts.  We were able to spend a lot of time with our dear friends Christina and Tom.  Most nights we went down to Fremont Street or checked out the hospitality room.  On the final night of the convention, we were chased out of the hospitality room by hotel security around midnight.  After returning to our rooms, many of us texted for a while, not wanting to tell our friends goodnight and goodbye.

J.C., George, Sean, Travis, and Christina in the hotel casino. 
Sean’s big win was $8.

Melissa, Cate, and Steven at the Grotto where we ate most
of our meals–ravioli to *die* for!
Melissa and Christina (and random man)

Sunday was a relaxing day spend at the Spa Tower with Christina.  We sat in the jacuzzi and sauna, then lounged around reading and rehydrating.  We walked around just off Fremont Street to see the vintage neon signs now part of the Fremont Street Gallery of the Neon Museum.

It was a fantastic trip!  My only regret is we did not see Elvis.  However, there was a young couple in the group who got married by Elvis, so that will have to count.
We are already looking forward to Galveston, TX in 2012.   

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