After my plans to go to Latvia and Italy were canceled due to illness, I received an opportunity to travel to Las Vegas. Friends of mine, CL and GR were going out that way for CL's grandmother's 90th birthday and they made the offer to join them if I wanted to split a hotel room with them. I have never been to Las Vegas so I decided to jump at the chance to be able to finally see just what everyone is talking about. Besides that, it meant a flight on Southwest, and this trip plus a future trip will earn a free roundtrip, so it's a win-win situation all around.
The flight to Vegas went fine as usual, except for the stupidity that is Kansas City International Airport. To explain, KCI has a really screwy layout compared to most airports. Instead of passing through a central security area and walking to your gates, imagine the width of a building, then divide it in half, on one side is the outside area where you first walk in, on the other side is the gates. Now subdivide those gate areas into 5 gates each, and they each have their own security screening area. The gate areas are not connected to one another on the inside, you have to go outside and back through security if your gate changes and it's not in range of the five gates around you. Now I had taken an empty bottle of water with me and filled it at the drinking fountain in Baltimore before boarding the plane. When I got to KCI I had to leave the area where I deplaned and walk to another cluster of gates to board, which meant going through security again. I put my bag through security, and guess what, bag check. I had completely forgotten about the bottle of water I had filled up in Baltimore. So, I had to leave security, dump it out, and then go through security again. It was when I got through and was waiting at my gate that I realized that all the drinking fountains in the airport are on the outside of the gate. So I could not fill my water bottle at KCI, but I was certainly welcome to pay $3.00 for a bottle of water at the Wolfgang Puck kiosk that was conveniently located in each cluster. How about no, so in my mind KCI sucks and they're not getting a dime from me.
Flew to Vegas, and it turned out I got there ahead of CL and GR because their flight had been delayed in Atlanta. I waited at the airport for a few minutes before they arrived and got their things. CL's sister and her husband were also on the flight and they had rented a car, so we packed our things in there and made our way to the hotel. Traffic on the Vegas strip sucks during the afternoon and early evening BTW, whether you're in a car or on a bus. The problem is many of the roads have construction going on because Vegas is playing catch-up with their infrastructure due to the massive amount of people that have moved there in the last few years. The other big project is they've been taking down all the power line and burying them underground, so of course that means tearing up the roads and putting them back together. There would be many a time this weekend that it took a while to get up and down the strip, simply because of the traffic issues.
We were staying at Treasure Island, and we had some very nice rooms there. If you can score a deal on staying there like we did, I'd suggest you stay there. You're nearly in the middle of the strip, and there's a nearby bus stop on each side. If you know you're going to be traveling up and down the strip often, and especially if you want to go down to Fremont Street, where some of the old casinos still stand, take the Deuce bus, which is exclusively for the strip and downtown. It runs 24/7 and is $3 each ride, $7 for a 24 hr pass, or $15 for a 3 day pass. You'll probably use the 3 day pass if you're going out multiple times.
Anyway, so after getting settled we did go down to Fremont street for a late buffet dinner and a bit of gaming of course. To get it out of the way, I basically stuck to slot machines only, and primarily the penny machines. It's what I'm used to playing from being at the Indian casinos in Arizona. Did I win this weekend? Not really, I probably lost $100 overall, so I have no major complaints there. I did also learn quite a bit about many of the different machines there so I know which ones will drain your money fast, and which ones you can play for about an hour on $5. I definitely had fun with them though, a favorite machine being the gold fish machine since I tended to hit the bonuses pretty often. Also, I got one of the best deals on a beer while down at Fremont street. 44 oz of beer, served inside a football shaped glass. Football and beer, two things that most men love put together...there's a third thing that would make it absolutely perfect, but it can't be mentioned here ;-)
The other thing about this weekend is that Vegas can do a number on your schedules. I have probably lost weight because of how many meals that were missed from being out and about, and my sleeping schedule is definitely off. Hell, despite traveling all day on Thursday, I was up for about 22 hours. We'll see how quickly I get back on schedule.
Friday was primarily spent wandering around the various casinos in the area and doing a bit of shopping as well at the tackiest souvenir shops. Passing by Madame Tussauds, they had out the wax figure of Michael Jackson for people to pose with for pictures and leave cards and such. Harrah's offered a free picture with a showgirl so we got that done, and then she tried to steer us towards trying to get signed up to hear a timeshare pitch to get a gift of some tickets, however, the guy blew us off because they want single folks to be over 40 and he was turned off when he found out CL and GR were the ones together (same-sex couple). Later that afternoon it was just myself and another friend of CL and GR, MV. Her and I got along pretty well considering this weekend was really the first weekend we got to really meet. I got plenty of pictures of Vegas all weekend long as well. Towards the evening hours, CL and GR went to see CL's grandmother before coming back to pick us up to take us over to Arizona Charlies casino, which is off the strip, but grandma goes there to play bingo, plus it has various tables with low limits until late at night. It was a pretty good casino overall, definitely had the classic casino look about it.
Saturday we all wandered to a few places, including taking a ride to the top of the Eiffel Tower. I got some great pictures of the Vegas landscape, including the surrounding mountains. Later we came back to nap for a bit. I crashed the hardest with a 2 hour nap, then we went over to Fashion Square mall for some gelato. CL happened to drop by the half-price tickets place to see what they offered and found out there were tickets to Bette Midler at 7:30 available for $65. I thought about it, and then decided to go for it, though I was on my own for seeing the show. The twist was that the woman at the desk told me I had to be over at the box office at Caesars Palace by 6:30 to get my ticket, and no they will not refund my money if I don't make it. It was 6:10 so it was a matter of could I haul balls down to Caesars in time? Yes I can because quite frankly, I am either insane, a masochist, or both. The reason being that I was running down the strip in 100 degree weather to try and go nearly 1 mile within 20 minutes on a Saturday night when the sidewalks were crowded. I made it with 6 minutes to spare :-D The bonus was the guy at the box office upgraded me from nosebleed seats to rear orchestra seats, score!
Before the show started, the couple next to me asked where I had gotten my shirt (I am currently away from my desk) but since it was a gift from my parents, I have no clue at this point. It turned out they had seen me in the casino and thought it was clever, and it just happened I got a seat next to them. They were from Chicago and had brought their daughter and some of her friends to celebrate her 21st birthday. Nice people.
Bette's show was amazing of course. I had a great view of the stage and she basically was doing her acts of singing, dancing, and comedy, all while backed up by a live band, her trio of assisted dancers, and a chorus line of showgirls. You of course got to hear her perform "The Rose," "From A Distance," "Wind Beneath My Wings" "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy," and a few others. She did jokes about getting old, along with her mermaid act, and even did a burlesque act as Soph. I enjoyed every minute of her show. If you get to Vegas and she is performing, go, seriously, you will not regret it, especially if you score cheap tickets.
After the show I went back to the hotel and then MV and I took a cab over to Arizona Charlies again. The other folks wanted to go back there because they had done well playing craps the night before and wanted to try their luck again. I think everyone did well overall that evening. I probably lost $50, damn slots.
Sunday started out with breakfast, and then a bit of a long afternoon. We did agree to sit through a presentation of another timeshare place to score tickets to Jubilee. After the spiel was all said and done and they had us tour a property, now it came time to tell them No, repeatedly. It killed me that they tried to get all of us to fill out a credit application before we even saw the property or got prices to know if any of us could afford something like that. Quite frankly, I give the salesman credit for even trying, he went as far as to say that maybe we could all buy in together to be able to afford it. Here's the deal, even if they really did give me everything they claimed they would and didn't try to screw me on the fine print (fat chance) I think that paying my hospital bills are way more important right now than buying time at vacation properties :-) Eventually we did get our tickets.
Went back to Fremont street to do some last-minute shopping before heading to the hotel to change and head to watch Jubilee. Jubilee is basically your standard showgirls type of show, which there aren't many of anymore (Does Cirque de Soleil really need 5 different shows in Vegas...really?!). It was enjoyable, lots of singing, dancing, and some awesome sets. If you're in Vegas and want to see something classic, go see Jubilee, and there are coupons everywhere for it as well. If we had not done the free tickets, we would have done the half-price coupon I found in one of the guidebooks. Just don't bother with the Saturday show, since it's more "family-friendly" and not the true authentic Vegas style show ;-)
Hit the Victorian Room at Bill's Saloon and Casino for a very late dinner (midnight) and that is about where things went to hell for a bit. They were busy and we had to wait for 20 mins for a table, which wasn't so bad, but then the service wasn't as great. It was clear that the waitress was not happy about something, and it showed in her attitude, big time, we all noticed that. However, the icing on the cake came when our food finally arrived. After setting the tray on the rack and putting down two of the plates, the rack became unbalanced, and down went mine and GR's orders onto the floor.
By this point, I'm exhausted, and starving, it had been about 12 hours since my last meal. I believe my words to the table were "This is one of those moments where I need to either laugh, or lose my mind." I chose the former, though more in a "go to a happy place" kind of way. Eventually new food arrived and we were able to eat with the rest of the group. Then for me, I had to basically walk away from the group and go back to the hotel because as it was, I was looking at 4 hours of sleep before going to the airport. Got back to the hotel, packed my stuff up, and went to bed.
The flights back to Vegas were fine, though as usual I banked way too much time to get through check-in and security. The reason was that I was advised that you had better take the 2 hours at Vegas because most folks flying are tourists, and it's pretty well known that tourists and families tend to take a while. I got in line to check-in for my flight at 7:30, got through checking in, then went through security, and it was 7:52. 22 minutes to get through the lines, so now I had just under 2 hours to kill. Lesson learned, I might be able to get away with 90 minutes before my flight on a weekday at LAS.
Overall, my trip was a blast, and there is talk of making this a yearly thing. Since Vegas changes often enough, and there is still plenty for us to see, I could definitely swing something like that. Did I mention I also loved being back in the dry desert air? Seriously, it's hot, but it's dry, so you may sweat, but you don't end up with your clothes completely stuck to you, simply because your sweat evaporates too fast. The catch though is you have to be especially vigilant about your water intake because you will dry out fast.
Soon I will have pictures uploaded for your enjoyment, mostly of the outside sights of Vegas.