Friday, June 20, 2003

Vegas wrap-up

NOTE: My blog on Vegas is lame. The wife is working up a more exhaustive and hopefully more entertaining account of our Vegas trip at her spanking-new Coffee Achiever blog.

By popular demand (meaning both of the two people who know about this blog asked me about it), I present the wrap-up of the trip my wife and I took to Vegas this past week. To set the context, we went out for the wedding of a friend of my wife's and stuck around a few days to visit with some college friends of the wife who live out there.

First off, it's great that AirTran is flying to Vegas now. Foolishly, I used the cheap AirTran rate to book a flight on AirTran rather than Delta, which is my usual m.o. The Airbus (not a name that inspires a feeling of comfort and joy) 320 flown by AirTran on this route featured seats so close together that I literally could not open my USA Today during the flight. After the 4-hour flight to Vegas, I had an impression in my left knee that resembled a lighting bolt. Not fun.

But with no movie or other entertainment on the flight, we were happy to be seated among the dozen or so 20-something guys heading out for a bachelor party. They were a good source of amusement, especially as they drank more - first buying drinks then pulling out their flasks to mix into their free Cokes.

Our first two nights there were at the Luxor, which is the Eqyptian-themed, pyramid-shaped casino with the big light on top of it. We had a room in the 4th floor of the pyramid, with an excellent view out onto the ass of the Sphyinx that guards the casino entrance. All in all, a pretty nice place.

Vegas, of course, has become America's leading family vacation destination, so there were plenty of rugrats hanging around the pool and lots of parents pushing strollers through the casino.

We got into town pretty early Friday, so we had time to hang by the pool and visit with our friends who live out there before heading over to the bachelor/bachelorette festivities kicking off the wedding weekend. The wedding party was staying at the Sahara, which is on the far north end of The Strip. The Luxor is at the far south end of The Strip. So we caught a ride up to the Sahara with the wife's friend from college and met up with the guys and gals in town for the wedding.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Before heading up to the Sahara, we checked with the bride about the dress code for the evening. She said it was casual ... shorts and a shirt (whenever possible in summertime Vegas, do not wear pants).

So we get to the Sahara - me in my shorts and polo shirt - to find all but two of the other guys wearing slacks and going-out clothes. After a few minutes, the best man gathered the dudes to explain the plans for the evening. We were to meet up at the swank dance club at The Palms casino before heading out to parts unknown. "Those of you wearing shorts will need to change," said the best man. "It's 8:30 now, let's meet there at 9. You really want to make sure you're there by 9, because after that the line gets real long and you probably won't get in."

The other two guys in shorts - both of whom were staying at The Sahara - went back to their rooms to change. I informed the wife that I was gonna head back to The Luxor, and if I had the time and inclination, try to meet up with the group at The Palms. A lovely time at the Sahara, indeed.

So I take a $15 cab ride back to The Luxor (cabs in Vegas are WAY expensive ... if you're going to be there long, rent a car. All the casinos have big parking garages with free parking), arriving there at about 8:50. A little quick math [10 minutes to change and get to The Palms, which is off the strip about a mile away + $10 or more in cab fare to hopefully meet up with 14 guys I don't know] and I decided to hang with Lady Luck at my own hotel.

Fortunately, a couple we are friends with were arriving late that evening and staying at The Luxor. They called the wife when they got in town, and she told them to call me. We hooked up in the casino, had some drinks at the margarita bar in The Luxor and then headed out to The Strip to find trouble.

Instead of trouble, however, we found an amusing Prince tribute band at the rundown Boardwalk casino. More drinks were had, followed by photos with "Prince" and the guy pretending to be Morris Day. About that time, the wife was getting back from the bachelorette party at The Thunder From Down Under (think Chippendale's on the Barbie) male strip show, and we met her back up at The Luxor.

She had not had nearly as much to drink as the three of us.

We hit House of Blues at Mandalay Bay in time to here the last 18 seconds of the house band's show before they shut down at 2 a.m. Then we had a late night dinner/breakfast at Mandalay's all-night restaurant before finally getting back to our room around 3:30.

More math ... Vegas is three hours behind Atlanta ... the wife had gotten up at 5 a.m. Atlanta time, I got up at 6. We got to sleep just before 4 a.m. Vegas time, which is really 7 a.m. our time. Nothing like staying up 24 hours to cure that jet lag.

So that was Day 1.

Day 2 featured the 1 p.m. Elvis wedding at the Viva Las Vegas Wedding Chapel, a good bit of rest between the wedding and the 6 p.m. Bellagio fancy-dress reception, lots of free drinks and food at the Bellagio, and a fairly early bedtime (jet lag or no, we were still running on very little sleep).

With most everybody heading back to Atlanta on Sunday, Day 3 was spent with our Vegas-resident friends. We checked out of The Luxor and checked in to The Flamingo, then tooled around with the friends. They've been out in Vegas for a few years, have a cool little daughter and a boy on the way, but still manage to be fun to hang out with. It was a pretty low-key day of hanging out, but that's what we were after following the wedding-dominated Friday and Saturday.

We hadn't actually gone up to our Flamingo room when we checked in, so we were pretty curious to see the place when we were dropped off that night. The Flamingo, of course, was Bugsy Siegel's hotel, the place that made The Strip famous. The original buildings were all torn down in the 1970s, but it's still got that old-school Vegas vibe.

When I checked in, I asked for a high room with a view of The Strip. We ended up on the 20th floor directly across from Caesar's Palace. The room had floor-to-ceiling windows with an amazing view out over The Strip. The Bellagio was to the left, and we had a great vantage point for the fountain shows, and we were high enough to have a view of the whole Vegas valley and the mountains beyond. And all for $60 a night!

Day 4 was spent at the pool and exploring The Strip. The Flamingo's pool as described on their site was the biggest selling point for me - 15 acres of tropical gardens surrounding 4 pools; one of Vegas' largest pool complexes. The pool was really nice, but all those damn tropical plants took up valuable sun-bathing space. And with the 1,000 or so people at the pool that morning, we were left without deck chairs and forced to actually GET IN the pool!

After pool time, we made our way down The Strip for lunch at Fatburger. Mmm ... Fatburger. You know a burger is big when the wife can't finish it, and I don't want her leftovers, either. We explored Caesar's Palace and its Forum Shops, which I hear is per square foot the highest-grossing retail space in the world.

In 104-degree heat, that made for plenty of daytime fun.

The wife went back over to hang with the friends that evening, but I had a bit of a backache, so I hung at the room and ordered a hooker.

Day 5 - the last full day in Vegas ... more pool time and hanging with one of the friends, who was off work. We went to the Ethyl M chocolate factory, but like the last time we went, they weren't making any damn chocolate! The wife ripped some poor woman there a new asshole, then we had some samples, bought a chocolate bar and left.

Dinner with the friends, followed by some more hanging out at their place, and we were back to the room by 11.

Day 6 was mostly a get up and go day. We got to the airport early to request exit-row seats (smart boy ... more legroom). Storms in Atlanta made our approach to Hartsfield interesting, but we got in pretty much on time.

Apparently some dillhole picked up one of my bags by mistake at baggage claim, so we waited 30 minutes before we noticed he had apparently slipped back in and swapped my bag for his. People suck.

And that was our trip to Vegas. It wasn't as lame as it may have sounded.

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