Dates: August 11-15, 2013 Players: me (44), Mr Goldil (53) We flew Southwest out of Flint on their inaugural non-stop flight to Las Vegas. Big doings at the Bishop -- a radio station and a couple of TV stations (WJRT and WNEM) were there to record the festivities. Somebody -- Southwest or Bishop -- laid out a nice spread of breakfast pastries, shrimp cocktail fixins, candy, and soft beverages to celebrate. There were a couple of Vegas showgirls there, posing for pictures with passengers, and they also had them on the tarmac bringing the plane up to the gate, which was kind of cool. Passengers also received a deck of cards when they boarded. The flight was packed full -- not an empty seat to be found. I reserved an economy car with Payless for $73 for the entire trip. We had to wait about a half-hour for a car to become available. We were told we were being given a free upgrade for the wait, and the car we got was a Nissan Versa. I don't know if that's an upgrade from an economy car, but that's the car we were given. Usually when we rent cars we're told to pick a car from whatever row of cars, but this time we were given the keys to a specific car. Weird. Mr Goldil just bought a new GPS so we we brought that with us. Payless in LV gets crappy reviews on Yelp, but they were okay by us except for the wait. I'm a member of their little perks club, so they didn't try to upsell me on nonsense I didn't need. We're not loyal to any particular rental company; we just want them to be at the rental car center and priced low. I play the game using Expedia to compare prices as soon as we get our travel dates set, pricing cars and canceling/re-reserving every time the price drops. This rental started at $140 and ended at $74. I probably canceled and re-reserved four times to get to that price. We stayed downtown at the Golden Gate. This trip was to celebrate Mr Goldil's birthday on 8/14 and to celebrate my better-late-than-never graduation from college. We think it's been about two years since our last visit so the casino renovations were new to us. The place looks nice. Music is still too damn loud though. But hey, you have to cater to the people you wish were spending money in your casino instead of to the people who are actually sitting at the tables spending money and complaining that the music is too damn loud. The casino bathroom is a big improvement, even though the sinks suck. That was obviously a case of somebody saying "Hey, those sinks look swanky! Let's buy those!" without actually testing them to see how well they work. I've lamented before about everything in bathrooms being automated now, but these sinks were a special kind of suck. It didn't matter where your hands were, the sensors just didn't pick up on it and the water never stayed running. It's kind of funny seeing the bathrooms now compared to what they used to be -- I think the old one had three stalls and the new one has probably 12. It's kind of sad that the deli and the piano player is gone, but change isn't always a bad thing. We got two rooms because even with all of the improvements to the hotel, the rooms are still very small. Plus one of us snores like a damned freight train after an evening of drinking and one of us doesn't function well and becomes increasingly less pleasant on no sleep... this whole two rooms thing is the way to go. We were on the third floor, and the A/C was less than adequate. It wasn't horribly hot, but it just could have stood to be about 10 degrees cooler in the room. It's nice that the rooms have safes now, even though the front desk said they didn't when we checked in. The front desk staff needs to be educated on what their hotel offers. When we checked out and asked if our play could be evaluated, the front desk chippie looked at us like we had three heads. She had no idea what we were talking about. Then she had to call somebody else over to ask them if that was possible, and this snatch barked at us that she wasn't a casino host and if we wanted our play evaluated we should have come down the night before. Seriously, she was a bitch. We went armed with our ACG and LVA coupon books. We always use the 2/1 buffets for breakfast; after an evening of drinking we need to rehydrate, and it's cheaper to get a buffet with unlimited drinks than to get a so-called breakfast "special" where they charge $2-3 for a beverage. We did the Fremont, Main Street, and Golden Nugget twice. GN is another buffet that doesn't get great reviews, but it's just breakfast and kind of hard to screw up. We used the $30-off coupon for The Flame at the ElCo the first night, so we got our money's worth from the LVA book. It was a good trip for us gambling-wise. I came home with $30 more than I took out there, so success! We played most of our blackjack at the Golden Gate and the El Cortez this trip, and our last night in town we spent a few hours at a table at the D. It was not cold in the D! It's amazing how well one does when they're at a table with players who know how to play the game! Speaking of the D, that's another place that looks really nice after the renovations, plus SIGMA DERBY! It's so nice having that there; we'd always take a trip to MGM just to lose a roll of quarters really slowly. It was funny that on our last trip, the bimbo dealers at the Golden Gate were the same ones whose pictures are plastered all over the building and on their chips; I doubt those dealers are even there anymore. Mr Goldil had fun stacking his chips into piles by bimbo and making up little stories about each one. I placed a couple of sports bets at the Golden Nugget sportsbook and they're still just as pleasant as ever. Apparently the minimum bet for a free drink ticket is now $100. Placing three $10 bets just isn't good enough for a Bud Light. I think I've placed my last bet there. We did the Mob Museum, which was a nice diversion and worth the price of admission. We took Mr Goldil's picture in the line-up and sent it to his mom with no message, just the picture. We were able to walk right up and get tickets, but when we left there was a line almost out the door. We spent a morning driving out to Red Rock, which is something we like to do whenever we rent a car. It's nice to get away from the lights and sounds for a while. We hit the Strip early one morning, first stopping at Circus Circus, because for as many times as we've been to Las Vegas, we've never stopped there. It wasn't as horrible as I was expecting, but it was early, like around 9:00am, so the munchkins weren't out in force yet. Then we went to the opposite end of the spectrum and stopped in at Wynn. I needed to make a couple of bets that apparently I could only make at Wynn -- I needed to bet on the Detroit Lions to make the playoffs. I can bet on them to win the NFC North anywhere, but that doesn't take wildcards into account, and that's usually the Lions' only realistic hope of playing football in January. The Wynn sportsbook is amazing. Too bad we didn't have a game to watch! Those chairs are crazy comfortable! We were very disappointed to discover that horse-face and the rest of the butterface girls are no longer with us on the big screen at Glitter Gulch. Like every other downtown regular, ZOUNDS! and YIKES! and ADZOOKS! will always hold a special place in our hearts. We also did the Ethel M factory tour. I think it takes longer to walk through my house, but whatever. We'd never been there before and now we can cross that one off the list. Now, I've read a bit about the panhandlers downtown, and I have to say this is the worst we've ever seen it and we've been staying downtown for almost 15 years. It was ri-goddamn-diculous. There were easily eight or more parked just on the 4 Queens/Fremont block every night we were there. And I'm not talking about people who *sort of* have something to offer, like the freak dude who poses like Stevie Wonder or the marionette guy -- I mean people with handwritten cardboard signs who are doing nothing but standing (or sitting) there and begging for money. Just as bad as the panhandlers are the timeshare hawkers, who are now stationed outside, all up and down the FSE, and are coming dangerously close to assaulting passers-by. Asking if I want to see a show as I'm walking into a casino is one thing, but running up to people from behind and waving a fistful of tickets in their faces and following them for 40 or 50 feet while harassing them to take whatever they're hawking is a recipe for disaster. Somebody is going to take the wrong person by surprise and get their face broken. Why is this being allowed? The flight back home was uneventful. We bought the Early Bird Check-in for the flight back and had A30-31 boarding. This flight continues to Baltimore after Flint, and again was packed, at least to Flint. The free (for now) TV helped make both flights go by much quicker. I watched 30 Rock re-runs on the way out and Law and Order on the way back. It looks like this non-stop flight is available five days a week. I don't know how much it will affect any non-stops out of Detroit, but I predict this flight will bury the Allegiant flight out of Grand Rapids, especially if the flight times stay the same. The flight there left at 10:50am and the return flight was at 11:35am. It was nice being able to take our time in the morning instead of having to pack the night before and wake up early enough to get to the airport at 5-6am for a 7am flight home.