Vegas trip 2001:

Thursday 3/8/01: 4:15 a.m! Groggily we woke, dressed, ate, and drove the ’88 Mazda 323 up to the Park Express off of 170. Shuttle to the airport. As we stood in line, our next-door neighbor walks up behind us with her boyfriend! This is a woman who prefers to turn in at this hour, so I certainly didn’t expect to find her anywhere at this hour, much less on our flight.

Anyway, we checked our bags, got seat assignments, and waited. When the Cinnabon shop opened, we had a bun and coffee.

MLT charters used a Champion Air 727 with seats packed in 6 across. These are narrower than the standard seats. They were packed in so tightly that even with my short legs, my knees bumped the seat in front of me. And I was so tired that I actually dozed a couple of times on the flight.

Okay, so we arrive in Las Vegas at 8:20 a.m, got the checked bags back, and wheeled our way to the hotel vans. In LV, they charge $9 to get you to where everyone is going. Westward Ho, in our case.

Plus a coupla bucks because the driver touches your bags. Plus a coupla bucks to check the bags at the Hotel, in to which we may not check for 7 hours. Then a coupla bucks to get the bags back. And a coupla bucks to the driver of the in-hotel van, which drove us across their sprawling acreage to our motel room.

But, enough about tipping. Since we couldn’t get into our room, we decided to have lunch. By 9:30 we were at the snack bar, where they advertised a "Mega-Dog" for $0.75. We figured that to be a decent price for a hot dog. We ordered 2. The woman behind the counter opens a steam tray, and with tongs pulls out a truly amazing hot dog. John Holmes. This improbable comestible was18" long, and almost 2" thick. It stuck out 3" on either end of the foot-long bun. I ate the whole thing. I couldn’t face hot dogs for the rest of the trip.

So, we finished this hearty (heart-stopping?) lunch by 9:30. We then indecided to walk. (My spell checker doesn’t like "indecided", but how would you predicate action based on indecision?) We walked in meandering mode to the Mirage and Treasure Island. The weather was great. The weekday pedestrian load is light. We found a spot out of the Muzac by the waterfall near the entrance of Sigfried and Roy’s Secret Garden®. We rested in the sun, and then the shade.

We wandered back toward the Ho at 1:30ish. No, we couldn’t get into the room early. We went next door to Circus-Circus and watched some acrobats. At 2, we couldn’t get to our room. We looked over the Casino. At 2:30, they let us have our room. Tired feet and just plain tired. Nap before dinner.

Now, at early dinner time, my belly was still chewing on that mega dog. However, we shared a $6 prime rib dinner, which seemed to act as an antidote to whatever was in that dog. We looked at the lights, briefly, and turned in early.

Friday 3/9/01: Vegas Day 2: 4:00 a.m. I woke early. Karen woke up at 4:30. We slowly got up and going. We walked to the Treasure Island buffet and waited for it to open at 7:00. The food was good, and too plentiful. At 8:30, we caught a bus to the new Mandalay Bay casino. Indian theme. Elephant fountains, beach and wave pool, concrete river. We tried to see the glass tunnel beneath the sharks, but it didn’t open till 10, would cost $14 each, and we didn’t feel like waiting.  It was a bit frustrating that a town with a reputation for being open all night, also sleeps in. The Mandalay has plenty of art throughout. Some was a bit risqué from the post-Victorian protestant perspective, but fun.

We then walked and bussed back to the Mirage, had cappuccino at the Roasted Bean, and went out to Sigfried and Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Preserve. At opening time, 11:00, the line was long. We sat on a bench in the shade and listened to the waterfall while waiting for the line to reduce. Finally, we entered and took the casual dolphin tour. Then we went on the Behind the Scenes tour of the piping and filters and the aquarium system, which maintains the spectacular saltwater fish tank in the lobby. Finally, we went into the albino feline zoo to see the white tigers, and lions, and leopards. Instead of detailed signs at the individual cages (excuse me, "habitats"), each visitor carries a sound wand, which plays descriptions on request, in your choice of language recited by Sigfried or Roy (who are no longer romantically involved, but still business partners). I wished it had a speed control, since my mind wandered in the time it took for each clearly-enunciated, Germanically-accented word to come out.

After the Secret Garden, we had hot pretzels at the snack stand out by one of the dolphin pools. It was peaceful, and pleasantly warm in the sun.

Finally, at around 3, we decided to head back. We were foot tired, but it seemed a such a nice day that we walked the miles back to the Ho.

Now, Karen had in mind that there was an outdoor hot tub in the motel complex. We had not come prepared for public bathing, so we stopped in a few of the little tourist outlets to find swimwear. We found nothing good, but did finally procure acceptable substitutes. Unfortunately, the exertion of the hunt wore us out. We simply collapsed in our room for a nap.

We got up again at 7ish, and went to the same snack bar that had injured us yesterday with its Mega-Dogs. $0.99 shrimp cocktails were our dinner. Then we wandered out the front to look at the lights, we sat and watched a couple of circus shows next door at Circus-Circus, and we each spent a dollar in nickel slots at the few nearby casinos. Well, Karen went through her dollar in an hour. Mine grew to $5 and change, so I stopped playing.

In spite of our experience with the lifelessness of early mornings here, we went to bed before 10 (midnight central time).

Saturday 3/10/01: Vegas Day 3: We managed to sleep in till after 6. We moseyed out into the cooler, morning at 8. It was breezy, and drizzling pleasantly. We walked South, cutting through the Frontier to stay out of the wind, to the Stardust for brunch. More good food. One problem I have in Vegas is that I eat well, but not wisely. So, bellies full, we returned to our hotel for a nap until Vegas really opened.

After 10, we took the trolley up to the Paris, where we had cappuccino and a snack at an "ouside" table at the Boulongerie across the twilit rue from the buffet. We checked into rides up the ½ scale Eiffel Tower, and got the tip to come at dinnertime, around 7, to avoid the long lines. Then we walked next door to the Aladdin. This place has nothing to do with the Disney version. It is in a middle-Eastern theme like the Paris is done up as Paris. The interior outdoor areas are always in twilight. The prayer towers are convincingly tall, and the architectural styles well done.

Like Circus-Circus, these theme places have live performers moonlighting from the big production shows. At the Aladdin, we saw belly dancers with live bands, and a male contortionist. At the Paris there are mimes, and the Venetian has strolling minstrels and living statues.

Now, the street scenes are mostly lined with shops selling theme compatible wares. At the Aladdin, we wandered into an Indian Import store. I was looking at a bronze Ganesha (A Ganesh site, in case you’re curious: ) when the little Hindu proprietor approached and started trying to explain the rudiments of Hinduism (which I already know) and very insistently teaching me about the essential word: "Om". I listened patiently for a while, but when a group entered the other end of the shop, Karen deflected him. I mention all this because I was amused at this little man earnestly explaining to me the benefits of anti-consumer culture, while trying to sell me his wares!

So, at dusk we crossed the street to the lake in front of the Bellagio, which has musically choreographed water shows every half hour till dusk, then every 15 minutes. Magnificent water displays from a flat lake. We got a good spot at the railing. The Eiffel tower was reflected before us with the real sky orangey twilit much like inside the Paris. The show began with a fog boiling from the center of the lake. Then the music began, and the fountains shot up, and swirled and bounced, and ran from one end of the lake to the other, adding percussion. You see, the jets shoot up over 100 feet. This takes quite a bit of power, and you can hear the mild but powerful "pop" as each jet exhausts and its propelling air escapes, much like the sound of conventional air-guns. Anyway, the music comes from speakers placed in pillars along the railing every 10 feet or so. Therefore it is quite clear, and never too loud. I think the tune was "Singing in the Rain" sung by Gene Kelly, or maybe something from Marilyn Monroe. A different tune and choreography for each show, and we heard a few.

After the fountains, we went to see the supposedly fabulous atrium conservatory in the Bellagio. Those of you who have see the St Louis Jewel Box in Forest park might understand: This place is what the Jewel Box should have been. Magnificent living flower arrangements are planted in a greenhouse atrium off of the lobby. The paths are an intricate hand-laid mosaic of flowers and insects. Very impressive.

Speaking of floors: The Mandalay floors are patterned with cut marble paisley. Obviously hand set, real marble. If nothing else, the gambling proceeds are keeping skilled artisans and craftsmen of dying genres in practice. The architects and designers of these casinos obviously are allowed to have fun and exercise their imaginations.

So, after the Bellagio, we went back across Las Vegas Blvd to the Paris, got tickets, and up the escalators to the line for the tower. Just as we were about to get on the elevator, they said the ride is closed because of rain, and refunds are available. Karen doesn’t let little things like that get in her way. We hung around until they admitted that there wasn’t much rain. We rode up the glass elevator with a few others, rising above the carpet of neon which is the strip. At the top, there was the mildest drizzle. We stayed up there until the next Bellagio fountain show. Now, from several hundred feet up, we could hear the music just fine! Those of you who know calculus will understand why. The tower is the third highest point in Vegas. The Stratosphere at the North end toward town is twice as high, but is away from the action. The cupola on top of the Bellagio hotel is barely higher than the observation deck, but not apparently accessible. Also, only from this tower can you look straight down. There are small drainage slots in the floor through which you can look if you get down on your knees. But, what adult would do that? Um, guilty.

So, we went back down for another warm drink at the Boulongerie (decaf cap), and then walked through the Saturday night crowd all the way back to the Ho (about 3 miles). It was actually a nice evening. Tired feet.

Sunday 3/11/01: Vegas Day 4, last day: We crossed Las Vegas Boulevard to the Riviera to check out their buffet, which didn’t impress Karen, so we walked South to the Stardust again. Back to our room to rest. Then pack, and check our bags at the hotel. We walked to the Venetian, which has the indoor twilit canal system. The echoes in there bothered me. So, we walked to the Mirage and had cappuccino and a large brownie. We decided to each blow $5 on quarter slots. Karen ran out, and I had $1.50 by 3, when we walked back to the Ho, bought our bags back, and took the shuttle to the airport. We had an hour to kill. I figured that I’d blow the rest of my fin. I had a run of meager luck. I had it back up to the original 5, by simply playing a machine until it paid something, and moving to another. Then, I hit a triple star, which paid 200:1. $50.00. I don’t like the casino pleasing clanking of the coin collector tray, so I caught quarters in my hand as they spewed forth. I cashed out, declaring myself the winner. Karen was doing well on nickels, and pretty much played out around boarding time.
So, near the rear of the cramped 727, a plane likely my own age. Karen had the window, I sat in the middle, and a wall of a man sat on the aisle. He was a pleasant fellow, and this charter was his first commercial flying experience. He had to wedge himself into the seat. He overflowed the armrests. I assured him that most flights didn’t have seats this small, or so close together.

(That's all I wrote. I leave it to your imagination whether we ever got back).