Rockin’ Ramen

Part II of the Slotsisters’ adventure started when we stepped off the ship.  Well, Marie did.  I rolled off in a wheelchair because Marie was afraid I would fall again.  I was still pretty sore from my less than graceful fall.  So she insisted I ride in a wheelchair which I must say was a relief.  It is a long walk from the dock to Customs and on to Baggage Claim and then to board the shuttle and after our rude awakening that morning, I was a little shaky.   But we made it and took the shuttle to LAX in order to catch another shuttle to Fox Car Rental off-site at LAX.  These are complicated logistics but there is a reason to this madness.   Yes it’s that time again when Albertson’s Monopoly Game is winding down and we wanted to make one last push for game tickets.  And we wanted to spend what little time we had to concentrate on the southern California area.  We were super excited about this part of our adventure, not only for our travels but also because we were flying high with the prospect of winning a big money prize.  We felt like we had a lot of people pulling for us including the fine people at WeirdUniverse.net.  If you haven’t already checked Weird Universe out, you should.  It is a riot.

Our cruise wound up on April 30 and we didn’t fly back to Texas until May 4 so we had three full days to collect and donate as much as possible.  The game was over on May 3 so we had to work fast.  The shuttle dropped us off at LAX.  We found where we were to wait to catch the rental car shuttle.  I sat down to wait next to a young man talking loudly on his cell phone.  I couldn’t help but overhear his conversation that his girlfriend was mad because she caught him making out with her sister.   We were to catch a shuttle to Fox Car Rental. When we arrived at Fox the line waiting for assistance snaked around the waiting room.  Marie found me a seat and she stood in line for a car.  An hour and a half later we drove off in a Jeep Compass.   Marie was tired from basically standing still for so long, but I made good use of my time.  The people watching was exceptional.  There were people who spoke no English, people in skimpy outfits – some who were justified and some who weren’t, lots and lots of tattoos and piercing and strange haircuts.  You have to remember Marie and I both live in small towns and have to get our kicks where we can.  I was sitting next to a really nice elderly lady with loads of luggage.  Her husband was in line for them waiting for a car.  She began to tell me that they were in California to visit their son and grandchildren.  She said that they had to come to California to visit because their son refused to fly.  I asked her why and she said he thinks it violates his Fourth Amendment rights.  I guess my face was blank because she said. “You know, freedom from search and seizure.”  I had no answer to that and just said something intelligent like “Huh”.  I figured he either was mentally imbalanced or had something to hide from TSA and hated to point out to her the obvious – that maybe it was better that her son stayed off of airplanes. My husband worries about me talking to strangers, but how else are you going to learn.  I say hello to everyone – adults, children and dogs.  Everyone has a story to tell and can impact your life, hopefully for the good, but you won’t know unless you talk to them.  And I really think I was safer talking to the nice lady than I would have been had I talked to her son.

Since it was early afternoon, we headed to our first Albertson’s in Calabasas where we exchanged 100 tickets and received 200 tickets back.  I was running low on some toiletries so while I took the time to restock, Marie bought several flats of Ramen noodles.  We got in the car and I proceeded to go to work opening tickets.  On to the next stops in Semi Valley and Santa Monica Mountain Range where we only exchanged tickets. We hadn’t had much to eat that day and decided to find a place to eat.  We found Casa Escobar in Westlake Village because it was time to refuel on Mexican food.  I am not a diehard fan of the Kardashians, but occasionally I tune in and the Kardashians went to Café Escobar to eat during one episode.  We figured if it was good enough for them it was good enough for us.  The waitress brought to our table chips and three different salsas.  The chips at Mexican restaurants in California are very different from what we eat in Texas restaurants.  Ours are very thin and light where in California (or at least the ones we have had) are thicker and a lot of the time are flour tortilla chips.  But hey, who’s complaining.  We had Mexican food and it was pretty good.   I had fish tacos and Marie had beef tacos.

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We enjoyed our meal and left in search of a place to stay.  We checked in to a Sheraton Agoura Hills in Westlake Village.  We stayed up for awhile opening tickets and got a good night’s sleep.

On May 1 we had an exciting day planned.  Seeing the beauty of California, our Albertson’s Monopoly game adventure, and checking into Harrah’s Valley Center for a little fun.  We were staying two nights and looking forward to settling into our temporary home.  At our first Albertson’s we exchanged tickets and bought donuts and two more flats of Ramens.  We were waiting to get to the San Diego area to donate to the food bank there.  Early in the afternoon we drove through McDonald’s for Egg McMuffins and Frappuccinos.  So good and so many calories.  We planned to grab something to eat at Harrahs later.

We did several drive-bys (where I sat in the car and opened tickets and Marie went in to exchange tickets).  We had lots of stops to make and it was much quicker for Marie to go in and take care of business.  We did drive-bys in Long Beach and Temecula and then took the scenic route to Harrahs.  I really think all routes in California are scenic, but this one with orange trees as far as we could see in any direction was beautiful.

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We arrived at Harrahs and it was very nice.  After we checked in we went downstairs to check out the Diamond Lounge.  We immediately went up to the bar and ordered a drink and thinking it was complementary, we were surprised when we found out it wasn’t which was after the bartender set them in front of us..  We were informed that because we were in an Indian casino, California state law requires the casino charges for alcohol, this from one of the two states that legalized marijuana.  As if that wasn’t bad enough, there were no snacks out, no chips and dips, no nothing.  So then the bartender asked if we would like to have a plate of meat pies and we asked if it was complementary and he told us it was.  They were good, but all in all it was a strange experience.

We headed to the casino, Marie to see what machines they had, me to the Hot Shots we had seen on the way to the Diamond Lounge.  I hit a few bonuses and got a little play money.  I played Crazy Money which was fun and again I hit a few bonus games and played for awhile.  Then on to Buffalo Stampede and hit a few bonus games and barely kept my head above water.  There is a lot to be said for familiarity and at this point I was missing the Horseshoe in Bossier City, Louisiana, but we can’t resist seeing what’s out there.  Marie decided to go to the room and work on game tickets.  I stayed a while longer to play tables, all for nothing.  I should have gone to the room.

The next morning of May 2, we headed out for Ramens and ticket exchange.  We decided to head toward San Diego so that when we were through buying noodles we could drop them off at the food  bank.  Plus our luggage was in our room at Harrahs so we had room to spare in the Jeep.   We came back through Temecula, Escondido, and then to San Diego.  We had a hard time finding one Albertson’s in San Diego.  Our GPS took us to downtown San Diego.  So odd because all the others were in wide open spaces with lots of palm trees, flowering shrubs and parking lots.  Now we were in a spot with concrete, cars and high rises.  We drove around and around looking for a parking space, nothing on the street, and finally found a parking garage that we thought was for Albertson’s shoppers and we were right.  So odd to think about shopping for groceries there and pushing out a cart full of groceries into a parking garage.  Marie took our 400 more tickets and got 2,000.  The manager was very generous. More work to do.

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By this time we were hungry.  I had seen a show called Food Paradise on the Travel Channel and it featured a restaurant in San Diego called Café Coyote which was voted one of the top ten Mexican restaurants in California.  We had less trouble finding it than the last Albertson’s.  It was in Old Town San Diego, a really picturesque area with shops, restaurants and hotels, reminiscent of many tourist towns in Mexico.  We loved the area and put it on our list of places to take our husbands.  Café Coyote was fabulous, the food, drinks, and ambience were great.

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We would have loved to spend more time in Old Town, but not this trip.  We needed to get back to Harrahs and decided to stop at the Western Eagle Food Bank in Temecula.  We unloaded our Ramen noodles and were on our way back to Harrah’s.

It was pretty much a replay of the previous night, less the Diamond Lounge, been there, done that.  Slots, tables and back to the room to open tickets.  I did play a slot called Zodiac Signs which turned out to be pretty fun and cashed out more than I had put in.  But I was through gambling for this trip and would have to wait until I was back in Texas to head to Louisiana for more.

The next morning we checked out and headed to Los Angeles to turn in our rental and spend one last night in California.  This was the last day of the Monopoly Game and the last day tickets would be handed out.  We went to Oceanside, Huntington Beach, Long Beach and one Albertson’s in Los Angeles.  We would not be able to receive tickets on May 4th or exchange any for more tickets after our last stop so we were almost through.  We would still be able to enter codes online to check to see if we were instant winners until May 25.  Marie had been entering ticket codes since the contest started and other than winning two more tickets numerous times, we hadn’t won anything online.

We decided to have one more adventure when we got to Los Angeles.  We went in search of Pink’s Hot Dogs, Hollywood.  Pink’s is famous with Hollywood celebrities.  Still looking for a celebrity, we went and all we got was a hot dog.  Marie reminded me that Guy Fieri loves a weiner that has a “snap” to it when you stick a fork in it.  In other words, a tough casing.  I’m so glad I got to experience that and I can cross it off of my bucket list.  I would so much rather have a Coney Island hot dog.  Much more appetizing, cleaner, and less “weiner snap”.

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We decided we were through for the day with everything but sleeping so we turned our rental in to Fox Rental and took their shuttle to our hotel. Marie booked us into the Sheraton LAX and we felt like we were in a luxury hotel.  It was very nice.  Our room was large, clean, quiet and lovely.  We opened the last of the Albertson’s Monopoly Game tickets and were glad of it.  To recap our Albertson’s Monopoly Game adventure, we collected 18,500 tickets, entered 15,500 tickets online (basically non-winners) received $246.46 worth of free products, and $40 in gift cards.  Last year we collected 40,000 tickets and this year we received roughly 1/3 of what we received last year.  It looks like on the list of Albertson’s winners that the $1,000,000 has not been given away since 2012.

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I remember when I was grown and Marie was a pre-teen, our parents and Marie took a trip to Gatlinberg, Tennessee by car.  Exxon (at the time was called either Humble or Enco) had a contest giving away prizes and our dad won a color television, RCA if I remember right, during the trip.  I think that memory gives us hope that maybe we will be lucky in our travels also, so until that time or until next year, we will be giving it a shot again.

 

 

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