Sunday, December 7, 2008

Bright Lights, Big City

The saying goes ‘what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas’……. (not).

Obviously it has been a busy six days, which explains the lapse in blog postings! But Vegas has a way of turning any semblance of normality upside down. You accept that and go with it, recognizing it as a temporary state, and know that life will settle down once you’ve left the city behind you.

Here’s a recap of our time on ‘The Strip’:

We left Mesa, Arizona early on Monday, as we knew we it was a 6-hour drive, and we wanted to get into our RV park before dark.

The drive itself was relatively uneventful. Here’s a shot of the Joshua trees that lined both sides of the highway for a portion of our drive.

We stayed at the Oasis RV Park - situated outside of the strip, but within reasonable driving distance. It seemed like a nice place – good sites, beautiful pool/hot tub area, and a store and restaurant on site, but we never had an opportunity to spend much time in the park.

After settling in, we took a cab to Planet Hollywood, where Rod & Wendy Wiebe were staying. We had lent them the use of our Saturn to drive to Las Vegas from Mesa, and had the vehicle in valet parking.

Wendy had booked us tickets to see Cirque de Soleil’s ‘Love’, playing at the Mirage. After cabbing down to the Mirage, we killed time before the show by playing slots.

While Terry and Rod were impressed with ‘Love’, I was disappointed. The reality is I dozed through much of it. Both Wendy and I had been to see Cirque de Soleil’s performance of ‘Corteo’ in Calgary, and agreed that it was a much better show. Oh well.

We headed back to Planet Hollywood, and hit the gaming floor until the wee hours. Rather than drive (being the responsible ones), we took a cab home. Our cabbie was a lovely little Ethiopian lady who chatted non-stop about her plans to become a missionary, and she showed us an example of the purses she was knitting for recipient children in unnamed countries of need.

Tuesday saw us getting up later than our usual 7 a.m. When checking e-mail, I came across a strange Facebook message from Kathy, wondering if everything was okay. Turns out that Lyle and Agnes had received a phone call from Terry’s cell phone at around 1:00 in the morning and then another at 6:00 a.m., but the call was not from Terry. And, apparently, Wendy received a similar call at around 8:30 that morning.

The light bulb went on over Terry’s head, twigging a fuzzy recollection from the night before of being unable to locate his cell phone when he came to bed. Turns out that Terry lost his cell phone in the cab, and the lovely Ethiopian cabbie had tried dialing all of the recent calls made on his phone (Lyle and Agnes, Wendy). Rod and Wendy drove up with our Saturn and picked us up in the afternoon, and we made a stop to pick up Terry’s wayward cell phone before heading back to Planet Hollywood, where we were meeting Bill and Cathy Bennett. The Bennett’s had flown in on Sunday and were staying (at the Paris) until Thursday morning.

We enjoyed a lovely supper at P.F. Chang’s, and headed up the strip, stopping at various venues throughout the evening.

Wendy graced Las Vegas with a terrific karaoke performance at Bill’s Saloon, and Cathy, Terry and Rod tried their hands at the tables, playing ‘3 hand poker’.

Much to everyone’s surprise, Terry and Rod managed to beat the table (after frustrating the poor dealer with their complete lack of understanding of the game and the protocol associated with it), and walked away with about $200 and $350, respectively. Cathy was not as fortunate.

On Wednesday we had booked a helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon. It was a picture-perfect day for the ride – clear, sunny and warm.
The tour package included a limo ride from Planet Hollywood to the airport and back, and a champagne lunch after setting down in the Grand Canyon.

Our helicopter held six people – four in the back and two, plus pilot, in the front. We lifted off around 1:30-2:00 p.m.

The trip to the canyon took approximately 45 minutes, and took us over the Las Vegas strip, Las Vegas City, the four basins of Lake Mead, Hoover Dam, Boulder City, the Grand Canyon Skywalk, and of course, the amazing canyon itself.

It was an amazing experience. The views were absolutely incredible, and the helicopter ride was far more enjoyable than I anticipated.

Both Wendy and I were a little apprehensive about it, but any fears we had were immediately removed once we were airborne.

After landing in the canyon, we had some time to take in the incredible vistas of the canyon walls surrounding us, the Colorado River below us, and the amazing sunset.

We toasted the experience with our champagne, and then packed up to head back in time to view the second sunset we would experience on the flight home.

Protocol required the final helicopters to leave in pairs (there were a total of six helicopters on our tour), so in the event of a problem with one of them, there was another available to assist.

Our helicopter was one of the two last to leave the landing site. As luck would have it, the other helicopter had mechanicals problems. Our pilot had to assist in getting things functioning on the chopper. A little unnerving for the people in that helicopter, but all turned out well.

The trip back was just as incredible, and we ended it with a tour over the strip.

Highly recommended!

Once we were back in the strip, we caught up with Bill and Cathy, who had picked up our tickets for Penn & Teller for that evening’s performance.

We took a shuttle from the Paris over to the Rio, the venue for the show. While amusing, the show was not as impressive as I had anticipated.

After the show, we took the shuttle back to the Paris, and had prime rib supper at one of their restaurants.

As Bill and Cathy were leaving early in the morning (6 a.m.!), we called it a night.

Thursday was a lazy day for us – we didn’t meet Rod and Wendy until later in the afternoon. We hit the gaming floor at Planet Hollywood, and wandered up the strip, stopping to listen to a couple of ‘Motown’ singers who caught our ear. Wendy asked them for their business card, as she was interested in the possibility of booking them for an event back in Olds. We had a laugh when we realized that the business card they gave her was for their obvious ‘day job’ of cleaning!

Off to New York, New York, where we had a few drinks and enjoyed the music of the ‘dueling piano bar performers’ at one of the night clubs. With a little liquid courage under our belts, we tackled the rollercoaster – not just once, but twice! (Personally, my eyes were shut the entire first trip.) It was actually a lot of fun.

From there, we cabbed it down to Old Las Vegas, and to Fremont Street, which is the site of the largest big screen on the planet! The light/music show is unsurpassed.

Turns out the National Finals Rodeo was in town (Dec. 6-13th), and the town was full of cowboys/girls, and they seemed to all converge on Fremont Street!

After supper at Tony Roma’s, we called it a night.

On Friday, Terry picked Rod and Wendy up after they checked out of their hotel, and brought them back to our RV Park. We took in a little sunshine around the pool, and had a bite to eat at the restaurant. Since they had time to kill before their flight that evening, we headed to Mandalay Bay Resort, and took in the Shark Reef Aquarium exhibit. After some final gambling, we drove Rod and Wendy to the airport, dropped them off, and called it an early night for a change.

As Saturday was our last day in Vegas, we decided that we would make our way down the strip and see as many of the casinos as we could. First, however, we made our way back to Mandalay Bay, and toured through the ‘cowboy’ trade show that was affiliated with the National Finals Rodeo.

We didn’t realize that the Las Vegas Marathon/Half Marathon was happening on Sunday until we saw tons of people picking up their race package.

Here’s a picture of the start/finish line before the race.

From there, we walked south down the west side of the strip as far as the Wynn (very poshy), crossed over to Treasure Island, and stopped for supper at Margaritaville.

They had an excellent band for their Saturday night entertainment, so we stayed for a few sets. We were also entertained (yet disturbed) by the show put on by two gentlemen who danced flamboyantly together for most of the evening. With the large number of cowboys present in the restaurant, we were a little worried for their lives!

We continued walking back up the strip to the Excalibur, and then headed home.

Now a little about our gambling experience ….

Before we left for Vegas, our friend Janet filled us in on what she had learned from a ‘gambling secrets’ class she had attended recently. The instructor recommended that you come armed to the Casino with $5 bills only. You play the $5, and if the machine does not pay – move on. If the machine pays, you cash out – put the winnings into your other pocket, and plug another $5 into the machine. That way, you don’t stand to lose as much. Terry and I followed this advice most of the time, and it worked. When you strayed from that – you lost.

We both found machines that we liked playing and that would either pay out, or that would at least let you play for a good while before you lost. For me, it was certain penny or two-cent machines. For Terry, he played quarter machines called the ‘Quack Shot’, which turned out to be quite lucky for him on a number of occasions. I even won $125 on it! However, to attest to how weird gambling makes you, we ended up having our own little ceremony for playing this machine, which involved ‘quacking’ out loud whenever you hit the button …. How humiliating.
Nonetheless, we figure we were down a total of $200 total for the both of us. Not bad for six days.

So – now we’re in Lake Havasu – and more about that tomorrow.

No comments: