Elvis is alive and well in Vegas

My friend and I decided a trip to Vegas was definitely in need.  A break from the day to day, business as usual monotony of adult responsibility.  We booked our trip and off we went…go west my friend so we did.

We didn’t really have any sort of itinerary in mind just a few things each of us wanted to see and do while in Vegas.  For me, I wanted to drive to the Grand Canyon and see the most impressive hole in the world, and it did not disappoint.  The beautiful colors, the peaceful stillness and that view!  It is almost surreal, the view of this massive crater.  The canyon is ginormous, averaging 4,000 feet deep for its entire 277 miles. It is 6,000 feet deep at its deepest point and 18 miles at its widest.  If you are thinking about traveling out west any time in the future the canyon is definitely worth a visit.

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My friend wanted to ride the High Roller, play the slots and people watch.  The High Roller is one of Las Vegas’ most recent additions giving you a chance to view the entire landscape from above the strip while riding an observation wheel.  It stands at 550 feet and has enclosed air-conditioned pods that you and about 40 of your friends can ride in, one pod even has a bar if you would like to order up while viewing the city.  I would definitely recommend this to anyone vacationing in Vegas as a relaxing way to view the area, have a cocktail and take some fabulous photos!

The slots, well gambling is the real attraction for most in Vegas and as they say “you win some and you lose some”.  My friend broke even and we moved on to walking around taking in all of the sites and people watching.  People watching in Vegas, well there really is nothing like it and Fremont Street is the place to go.  From characters that dress up like the Kiss performers to street performers and everything in between, Fremont Street has it all!  Book a flight and if people watching is all you do here you will not be disappointed by the collection of folks that are walking around in this condensed area.  It truly is an experience.

The highlight of our trip was a bit of a surprise to both of us when we thought what we were hearing was Elvis singing.  Yes, you read that correctly, ELVIS!  During our many walks around town we saw an ad on the wall of the Piano Bar in Harrah’s casino for the Big Elvis show.  This we had to see and hear.  On our last day in Vegas we went to the bar around two in the afternoon and waited in line for what would be the highlight of our trip in the absolute Fun Department!  Big Elvis did not disappoint!

Pete “Big Elvis” Vallee has been performing at Harrah’s Casino for the past twenty years and as Elvis impersonators go, in my opinion, his voice is closely spot on!  He performs three days a week doing three sets per day…we stayed for all three sets and Mr. Vallee brought the house down!  He was honored with a star on the Las Vegas Walk of Stars in 2017 and much deserved by his incredible performances.  He sang Suspicious Mind, Folsom Prison Blues, It’s Now or Never and my personal favorite and one that we requested, Kentucky Rain and many more.  He includes the audience in a rockin’ rendition of Viva Las Vegas using volunteers from the audience as Little Big Elvis and the Elvettes and rocks the casino!  His talent as an Elvis impersonator is larger than life, and his performance was outstanding!  He was both professional and very approachable and I have to say for me ended our fun-filled trip with a BANG!!  If you are travelling to Vegas any time soon or in the future stop by Harrah’s Casino and see the Big Elvis show at the Piano Bar Monday, Wednesday and Fridays…Big Elvis does not disappoint.  Thank you Pete “Big Elvis” Vallee for a great end to our fantastic Vegas trip!

 

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Day in the Life of a School Bus Driver

In light of the most recent bus accident in Indiana I feel it necessary to explain what it’s like to be a school bus driver and the training required.  We have been referred to as the pre-dawn road warriors.  We arrive at work before the sun comes up and many return as the sun is setting.  We are licensed to drive large vehicles and are tested on everything from the parts of the engine to self-defense.  We are the people that choose to drive your child safely to and from school each day…we are school bus drivers.

Driving a school bus is like herding cats and the noise level on the bus, at times, is like an amplified rolling chicken coop.  Every day is different and every child has his/her own unique personality.  I accepted a position with the county I live in as a temporary gig until I decided what my next chapter in life would be.  Well, almost six years later, I am still driving a school bus!  I have been reminded by friends, family and former colleagues that I had a career in banking that lasted almost 30 years, have a Bachelor’s degree, and were honorably discharged from the military as a Sergeant… so why in the world would I ever consider driving a school bus? 

The day in the life of a school bus driver is as thankless as I could have ever imagined and as rewarding as anything I could have ever imagined.  One day a child screams and cries all the way home because she wants her brother to sit with her but her brother refuses; to the child that brings you homemade cookies from his Grandmother’s bakery just because he thought you might need one…

You are screamed at by irate upset parents and greeted by the parent that waits for you in the morning with a gift.  Each morning tests your patience with the person that is late for work and now has to sit staring angrily at the outstretched STOP sign on the bus as a child boards to the patient driver that waits for you with a smile as another student slowly drags themselves and their book bag behind them.  There are days when the weather is bad and the windows are fogged and your senses are on alert to possible high water on the road to wires down.  Calls are made via the two-way radio to our dispatch team, by far some of the calmest, kindest people ever, for both information and guidance to ensure that your child once again arrives safely.

happy new year zombies

It is the craziest job that I have ever had but one that I enjoy doing every day.

As school bus drivers the safety of your child is the number one concern and it is not something that is taken lightly.  We are required to take several written tests and a road test to include a pre-trip test.  We are trained in C.P.R., first aid, pupil management, self-defense, Positive Behavioral Intervention and support, signs of abuse and neglect, signs of suicidal thoughts and behavior, Active Shooter Civilian Response Training, defensive driving, route identification… and the list goes on and on.

As driver’s we privately joke about the student that did this or that or how ridiculous drivers on the road can be because we make them wait a lifetime of 30 seconds as a child boards our bus, but let me reassure you deep down and in the back of every school bus drivers mind is the terrifying thought that at any given moment your child’s safety could be compromised and we are the difference in the outcome of their safety.

Driving a school bus is not something any driver takes lightly and it is not a job without extensive training ensuring that your child arrives to and from school safely.  While on the bus your child becomes ours if only for a short time each and every day during the school year.  I have assisted students with bloody noses, cut fingers, headaches, loose teeth, moodiness, anxiety, anger and yes being too sassy for their own good all while transporting them to or from school.  And yes I am not perfect I have had moments where I have gotten very stern with your child reminding them that their parents have an expectation that every day I will transport them safely to wherever they are going and that their proper behavior on the bus is all part of arriving safely.

Over the course of my day having roughly 125 students, I politely greet each student by name and when time permits ask them about their day or what fun plans they may have for the weekend.  I have had children get on the bus very angry at a parent and complain to me about how mean the parent was only to calmly ask them if it was something maybe the child did or to say that the child might want to cut their parent a little slack they are doing the best they can and remember to try to be respectful.  I have been a medic, counselor, driver, disciplinarian, cheerleader and most importantly a great listener to try and make the students day a little better.  My goal and the goal of any bus driver in doing this job have always been to deliver the students safely wherever they may be going and to try and make their experience on the bus a good one.  I have never wanted any student that I have transported to leave my bus with a bad experience.

So please consider this the next time your child boards a school bus, the bus driver for a short period of time, is taking your place and for whatever reasons has decided to take on the HUGE responsibility of safely delivering your and our most precious cargo to and from school.  Please be kind and considerate to your pre-dawn warrior and please do not be too quick to judge the actions of the drivers.  The welfare and safety of your child is our number one concern.

Be kind out there,

K. Lentz – A School Bus Driver

You can read the published version of my piece here at the River City News Northern Kentucky

 

A Soldiers Pledge

This is why we serve and this is why we honor those that have served for this great nation, the United States of America.

Thank you to all that have served, all that are currently serving and to the soldiers that gave the ultimate sacrifice.  We honor your service today and every day for our freedom.

Veterans Day 2013.

Honor a Veteran November 11, 2013

Monday, November 11 is Veteran’s day, thank a Veteran.

This morning I participated in the DAV5K sponsored by the Disabled American Veterans in Cincinnati Ohio. The 5K run was the first of its kind in Cincinnati Ohio put together by the DAV foundation.  I had a great time and enjoyed the run and the after race celebration at the Cove.  And I may have set an age appropriate personal best today!  I can only hope.

The mission statement of DAV is A Legacy of Service, Hope for the Future. DAV is the most long-lasting veterans advocacy and assistance group in this country. We’ve watched this country change and grow, and we’ve grown along with it. However, DAV has never wavered in its core mission to fulfill our country’s promises to the men and women who served. We invite everyone, veterans and civilian, men and women, young and old, to join us as we stand up for those veterans who risked it all when they stood up for us, our country, and our ideals.

All branches of the military were present and there were runners, walkers and the Honor course.  The Harley-Davidson Veteran Tribute riders happily lined the street cheering and offering a high-five to all of the participants as we made our way to the finish line.  It was a great event and I look forward to participating again next year!

Here are some of the pictures I took after completing the run.

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If you would like to make a donation to the DAV foundation or would like to learn more about all of the great things DAV does for our Veterans, just click on the DAV link.

And remember on Veterans day to honor the memory of those that have given the ultimate sacrifice and gives thanks to all that have or are currently serving.  Our Freedom is not Free

Great Getaways Photo Contest

Yesterday I was notified that I was the winner of the Great Getaways Photo Contest sponsored by Cincinnati Magazine and Madison Indiana.  I have to tell you that when I had submitted the now winning photo, I never thought in a million years that I would actually win.

The now winning photo was taken at the Crazy Horse Memorial in October of 2010.  My sister, Kathy Witt, is a travel writer and was traveling to Rapid City South Dakota with the Midwest Travel Writer’s Association of which she is a member and invited me along.  The trip was absolutely amazing!  We toured Mt. Rushmore, the Badlands, Custer State Park, Deadwood, the Crazy Horse Memorial,  the Minutemen Missile Silo (very cool), Dahl Arts Center… the attractions in and around the city go on and on.

While at Mt. Rushmore, I met the last of the living legends that had help to carve the awesome monument and had a great time at the reception dinner for all of the writers. How often in life do you meet someone who has actually carved one or our monuments? I’d say that would be a Bucket List item, it was quite a night!

I also had the pleasure of touring the Badlands, gorgeous!  Which I must say, if you haven’t seen them in person, you don’t know what you’re missing.  The landscape is outstanding!

the Badlands
the Badlands

Just for fun, I got my picture taken with our late great 40th president, Ronald Reagan. Rapid City has bronze life-size statues of all of our presidents erected throughout the downtown area.  Very cool.

me and Ronald Reagan
me and Ronald Reagan

Something I thought that was very interesting in the city was Art Alley.  The alley is in the middle of Rapid City South Dakota and is an open platform for all artists to share their artwork. The artwork in the alley is continually being painted over by local artists, but as you can see from the photo below, the artwork is very captivating.

Art Alley
Art Alley

One day we took a jeep ride through Custer State Park and it was absolutely stunning! The buffalo, three thousand head or so, roam around the park as they did during the 1800’s.  If you’re a fan of western movies, as I am, this was quite a sight.  The city also has the set from the movie Dances with Wolves as one of the attractions.  Filming for much of the movie took place in and around the Badlands and Custer State Park.  And after seeing the movie, I can’t imagine any other film location!

There is so much to see, do and experience in Rapid City South Dakota and the surrounding area I can now understand why my photo won.  If you ever get the chance to head out west, try to make Rapid City South Dakota a stop and of course the Crazy Horse Memorial.  After all it’s a Winner!

"Crazy Horse - Reflected" winner of the  2013 Great Getaways Photo Contest
“Crazy Horse – Reflected” winner of the 2013 Great Getaways Photo Contest

Thanks again to the staff, judges, participants and of course the voters of the Cincinnati Magazine for selecting my photo as the winner.  Oh and one more note.  As the winner, I will receive round trip airfare for four aboard Ultimate Air Shuttle to New York City!!   I can’t wait to hop in that plane and head to the Big Apple along with my sister, of course, and check off another Bucket List Item.

Stencil Art – Things you can do with photographs

I have seen many pieces of artwork completed using the stencil process, but had never tried it myself and had no idea where to begin. So to the internet I went and found many informative tutorials on the process. Recently I completed these two pieces and am working on a third piece for a friend of mine.

boy pic before and after

Wedding picture before and after

 

Each piece took me about 3 hours not including the drying time between layers, but the time spent was very enjoyable.  I had a few minor glitches but overall I thought the finished pieces turned out pretty well.  This will definitely be added to my list of hobbies and hopefully will become a source of income as I am currently selling on Etsy.com.

Please feel free to comment on each, I would love to have your feedback and any suggestions you may have, thanks!

Rabbit Hash Kentucky, if you ain’t been you got to go

I’m not sure if this would classify for most as a must see destination, but the little town of Rabbit Hash, Kentucky is quite a site! To get there you take I-75 to Mt. Zion exit and go west.  Then drive to route 42, then to route 536.  Follow 536 down to Rabbit Hash hill road and from there you pretty much near drive until you drive into the Ohio river.  But just before you do, you veer slightly to the left, you’re there.

Here’s the famous general store.Rabbit Hash General Store

And last I had heard the Mayor of Rabbit Hash was Lucy Lou seen here after the 2008 elections, I guess she’s still Mayor.

2008 Candidate Lucy Lou
2008 Candidate
Lucy Lou

This dog was hanging around the General Store when I drove through town, must be the Sheriff.  He looks real busy.

This interesting building was yonder across the street from the General Store, but I’m not certain what actually goes on inside there…

The tours not over yet, if you cross the street you can eat at the

and git some pulled pork BBQ and baby back ribs, hoof lickin’ good!  Not sure why I’m writin’ with a southern drawl, but you git the picture.

It’s definitely an interesting town and has quite a history.  I enjoyed my drive to and from and if you’re ever in that neck of the woods stop by and check it out!  Oh and if you’re not sure how to git wherever your going when you leave, follow these signs.

Thanks for stopping by!!

Next up – the ride of a lifetime

It was the summer of 1990, I was stationed at Camp Atterbury in Indiana participating in my two-week training requirement for the Army Reserve.    At work one evening I met the pilot of a UH-1H Huey helicopter that also was there for his training.  While we were talking, he mentioned that in the morning the crew would be flying to a nearby airport to fuel up and asked if any of us would like to go.  Now I have to admit I was a bit hesitant at first, but I agreed along with a couple of friends to be there in the morning.  It’ll be fun, right?

We left work that morning and walked over to the clearing where the Huey was parked and met with the crew and climbed aboard.  If you’re not familiar with this type of aircraft, the Huey was the work horse during the Vietnam war.  During the war, the aircraft equipped with 2.75 rockets, one on each side and .30 caliber machine guns.  The aircraft had been used as a gunship to escort Army and Marine transport helicopters.

I picked the seat in the back referred to as the gunner seat and tightened down the Army issue green canvas strap.  Sitting in this seat, with the door open, my boot tips hanging over the edge I felt both exhilarated and terrified!  The Huey we were now sitting in had actually flown missions during the Vietnam war and several bullet holes could be seen in the cabin.  I was riding in a piece of history, how awesome!  The lift off was smooth and uniquely different from taking off in an airplane and the sound from the propellers was deafening!  Now if you have ever ridden in a Huey or have seen any Vietnam war movies, you surely will know what I am speaking of when I say the sound of the rotating propellers are certainly not mistaken. (see video)

Once in the air, the pilots decided to test our metal, so to speak and began banking back and forth just above the treetops.  I was sitting in the rear on the right and each time we would bank to the right, I would rise out of my seat just a bit, wind blowing in my hair and look over my boots at the treetops.  OoohRah!  Cruising at a speed of 110 knots or about 126 mph, I was shaking with excitement!  For the pilots this was just another day at the office, but for me it was fantastic!  The pilots were able to get one of the guys that had come with us to use the on-board barf bag and both seemed to enjoy watching him in agony as they continued banking back and forth above the trees.  Mission accomplished! UH-1H Huey

This exhilarating ride continued for about 45 minutes and I could not have been happier!  When we landed the crew invited us back for another flight tomorrow.  Excellent!  We had to go back the next day for another rush, minus one from our group, but it is a bucket list memory that has not been forgotten!  If you ever get a chance to ride in a Huey, go for it, there is nothing like it!

Bucket List item # 3 – surviving Basic Training

In honor of our Veterans, I thought I would take a look back at my experience in the Military.  I joined the United States Army Reserve in 1987 as a Private First Class and headed off to Fort Jackson, South Carolina on one very hot August day to begin Basic Training.

Ft. Jackson SC
Basic Training Photo

Now for any of you that have served you know what I’m talking about when I say it is quite a culture shock and very challenging!  Military life is unlike any other and there is only one way to do everything and I mean everything and that is the Military way.  Basic Training is up at 4:15 a.m. run a couple of miles, knock out an hour or so of physical training (PT) and then head to breakfast.  Then the day really begins.

You are trained in the Military way to clean, dress, speak, march, drill, salute, fire a weapon, exercise, teamwork…and a huge amount of time will be spent practicing standing around in formation.

Oh and don’t forget the enormous amount of hat brim to forehead in your face screaming, a Drill Sargent specialty.  Ah I remember it as if it were yesterday.

I have to admit I was not a fan of all of the cleaning, marching, screaming and endless standing around, but I did enjoy firing the many weapons.  I threw a couple of hand grenades, exhilarating and terrifying at the same time!  Fired a grenade launcher and hit a tank, excellent!  And climbed into a standing fox hole and got my hands on the M-50 machine gun.  What a thrill!  Of course there is a down side to combat training and with the Military what seems to be a blast one minute is surely agony the next especially when you are walked into a concrete building filled with CS gas and made to take off your gas mask.  This bit of training I know I could have done without!

Overall I did enjoy the challenge and rigors of basic training and after a while even began to enjoy the screaming and at times thought it was pretty comical.  Oh there were some that cried and some that left, but for those of us that graduated it is an experience that is never forgotten.  So for this Veterans day, I would like to say OOHRAH! to all of my fellow Veterans those here with us and for those that have given the ultimate sacrifice and those currently serving.  And to remind everyone that Freedom is not Free and acknowledge the sacrifice each of our service members have given past and present.

Thanks Again for your Service!

Bucket List items are different for everyone

As a graduation gift, my neighbor and close family friend, gave me a ticket to ride in a hot air balloon.  I was a bit anxious at first never having been off  of the ground, but I went and the ride was magnificent!

To anyone that has not left the ground, riding in a hot air balloon is literally up lifting.  The feeling is indescribable.  Standing in the basket waiting to lift off not knowing what to expect hearing the roar of the flame heating the air in the balloon and then…slowly the basket begins its climb.  Riding in a hot air balloon is not like riding in a plane or helicopter, it is something all together different.  The basket is open so the air brushes softly past your face and you are standing looking over the side to the ground below and see the perfectly laid out plats of land.  Slowly floating knowing that only the hot air from the flame keeps you airborne.  It is both exhilarating and serene.

Hot Air Balloon

It was quite an experience, one I have never forgotten.  I encourage anyone that has not had the opportunity to float in a hot air balloon to do so and  I look forward to reliving the experience.

Bucket List item #2 may be a rerun item.

I’ll keep you posted.