Two weeks before the scheduled trip, we got a new CEO at work. Which we knew meant at least some restructuring and more layoffs. A week before the scheduled trip, our beloved VP announced she was leaving - unrelated to the new CEO, but we all knew that meant our group would definately get hit with layoffs and most likely have a management resturcture. Two days before the scheduled trip, I we got word that the majority of the department would be laid off in two weeks. I, personally, got a 6-week sentence since we need at least one writer around to clean up the mess after everyone else is gone, since we've still got a lot of projects in various stages that we need to complete. Or I guess I should get used to saying, I need to complete. Anyway, we decided to focus on the trip and just try to enjoy it as much as we could. We'd watch the spending on tacky Vegas gifts and food, which meant my much-anticipated trip to Enoteca San Marco was going to have to be pushed off. Thursday - August 16th The flight there was uneventful (Ted outta O'Hare). We did spot a Buddhist monk at the airport, which was kinda neat (sadly for the hubby, no wire-fu fights broke out). Hubby got stopped at security for the neck pillow in his bag -- oddly, as mine passed thru without notice RIGHT before his bag. Flight was a little bumpy, which was expected with all the storms in the midwest. Landed, and we finally found the Harrahs airport check in. Waited for a few minutes, and one of the clerks got us checked in. We asked for Strip view, she kinda made a face at first but then said there was a room that should be ready by the time we got to the Flamingo. Stopped for the usual trip to the slot machines to have a first go. Hubby put his usual five or ten bucks in to the machine. And got nothing. Not one winning spin. Huh. That's never happened before. Picked up some coffees, by then the bags were ready at the baggage claim, and we hopped a cab. At first I thought the cab driver was going to have to try really hard to get a tip outta us when he didn't even motion to put the bags in the trunk (hubby ended up doing it) but he ended up being charming and entertaining. On the cab radio right before we turned in to the Flamingo, we heard someone asking "Anyone know what the heck is going on at Harrahs? IT's a madhouse over there." At the Flamingo, walked to the info desk to get room keys, and headed up to the room to drop the bags. Not a true strip view... 11th floor, kinda on the side corner looking at the Bellagio shops. When I did see that the front Strip views still had that damned Toni Braxton sign on front, I was glad we didn't spring for any extra bucks for a full-on strip view. While I searched thru my bag for sunscreen, I found the hubby's "missing" slot cards. Um, that I apparently packed in my luggae two weeks ago. My bad!! Flipped on the TV for some noise, and landed on the local news. Found out what was happening at Harrahs... they had a report of someone with a gun in the parking garage and had apparently shut down the parking garage and it was a traffice nightmare around there. GREAT. Guess we weren't going to be headed in the direction of Harrahs anytime soon. Hungry, we decided we'd head down to Planet Hollywood to see if the Pink's was open. Hubby was very impressed with the new facade. Went on about what will apparently end up being multi-color LED lights (he's in the sign biz). We found the race & sportsbook, but no idea where Pink's was supposed to be. And every time I tried to ask a floorperson, they'd just walk past me. Walked the mall a little bit, was highly disappointed about the Bettie Page Clothing store... I'm a huge huge huge Bettie fan and was looking forward to the store. Um, yeah, they might try to keep more than small and medium sizes in stock. Sadly, none of the dresses I liked came in XL, and I also was not about to spend $27 for one of their tee shirts. That seems a little high, even for the Strip. Ended up going over to Fatburger to get a bite to eat. Started out good, but about halfway thru my burger, I unwrapped it a bit and found a very definate mold spot on my bun (that I luckily had not eaten yet). Ew. I've worked fast food and I know it can happen, but still, ew. But after altering the staff, the problem was taken care of and my money was refunded for the better part of my & hubby's meal (as he continued to chow down) and they offered me another burger or a shake or anything I wanted, but my appetite was kinda gone. But I did walk away impressed at how they've handled it, it's happened to me at other places in the past and I've never had it handled so well. Hit the auto collection at the IP for some browsing. Always neat. Back to the Flamingo, about two minutes of chilling in the room before we were down to hit the casino. I quickly blew thru $100 video poker. Hubby blew thru more than that less quickly but still fast at his favorite three card table. Tails between our legs, we headed up to the room to relax for a few minutes. We had some money in Lettuce Entertain You gift cards, so one place we wanted to go this trip was the new Stripburger at the Fashion Show Mall. The place was fairly empty, possibly because of its new-ness or just the fact we were eating kinda early. I got their "Signature" blue cheese burger with crispy onion strips and the hubby got a cheese and green chili burger, and and order of fries and fried pickles between us, with sodas. Burgers were good, the fried onions were just like Hackney's, a local joint. Bill was around $35, and we could have easily shared one side between us. Service was great and prompt. And it must be the "all outdoor" setup they have going... we were pleased to find out that you can actually smoke within the confines of the resteraunt, right at the same table you're eating at. Or at least no one yelled when we grabbed an ashtry and lit up. Back home to the Flamingo, in hopes the gambling gods would smile upon us a little better. Not so. I blew thru another hundy at the VP machines and hubby again enjoyed a few $100 beers before he was done at the three card poker table. I introduced the hubby to my favorite find from our last trip.... the little outside patio with the bar selling draft Lite for two bucks a cup. We did get to see one of the new Hertz Shelby GT-H Mustang Convertable drive past.... very nice. If it hadn't have been 107 degree August weather for this trip, we probably would have rented one. We spent some time having a few and people watching before finally getting a $17 six-pack from the gift shop to head off to bed. Friday - August 17th Started off the day at the pool, which was pretty uneventful. Not too crowded, fun in the water was had. We still had some Lettuce Entertain You money to burn, so we headed over to Mon Ami Gabi for lunch. Promptly seated, menu explained a little. I was kinda bummed at their wines by the glass selection... some nice stuff, but nothing that interested me that wasn't easily accesible at any liquor store around here. I ended up with iced tea, the hubby had a soda. He ordered the seafood crepes and liked them dispite the peas in there (he's not a fan of peas), I had the soup (cold corn chowder) and the sandwich du jour which was a wonderful "halibut burger"... halibut breaded in cornmeal, fried, and piled on a brioche bun with some tarragon mayo and frites. I could have eaten a gallon of the tarragon mayo, so it's probably good I only got a little cup of it, lol. For desert we split the Profiteroles, realllly good. I didn't see the bill, but I know the remainder of the $100 gift certs we had took care of it nicely and left a big fat tip for the servers. Now, my hubby is NOT a French or even "fancy" kinda food sorta guy, but he enjoyed the meal and would go back. Back to the room, then back down to the casino for some more gambling and quickly back up to the room again with empty pockets but at least a couple cocktails. They must have been doing some "visability" stuff after the Harrah's incidnet... there was security everywhere and some of them were introducing themselves to the players. Kinda odd, I was wondering what was happening with the security guards talking to everyone around me until a guard came and introducted herself to me and gave the speech, lol. The weather forcast from the previous night (with a weatherman with the oddest damned on-TV stance.... he either looked like he was ready to sprint off set or was standing to show off his "package" under the suit pants). We figured with the predicted "20%" chance, we wouldn't get to see rain. But sure enough, as we sat in the room, the clouds started to darken a little and eventually raindrops fell. We booked it downstairs to stand outside for a few minutes, watching the rain. It almost seemed like a lot of it evaporated before it even hit the ground. Headed back upstairs to chill for a few, then we decided to head down to Fremont to have dinner at MSS. Luckily the brewpub was empty, and we were seated right away. It's not gourmet, but it'd good pub food. Hubby had a burger and I had the Santa Fe Chicken, which was surprisingly juicey chicken under all the cheese. We each did the beer sampler, and enjoyed each one. After that some wandering of Fremont, but we realized we arrived way too early and didn't really want to wait around for a few hours for the fun to start and all the lights to twinkle in the dark. We did walk down and look at the Fremont East stuff which looks pretty neat, and looks like the area is shaping up nicely. Headed back to the Flamingo, and it was pretty neat that in the cab, we got to see and awesom rainbow that was basically over the city, from Fremont to Mandalay. Perhaps our luck was about to change. Back at the hotel, still early and still knowing how our luck was going, we decided to go try to catch a fountain show at the Bellagio. Parked ourselves at the fence, and within a few minutes, the "Viva Las Vegas" show started. We've wanted to catch that one but always seem to miss it. I was excited. A Vegas rainbow?? The Viva Las Vegas fountain show?? Our luck had to change!! Sadly, no. Back to some more $100 beers for the hubby, and at least some modest slot and VP wins for me, but nothing too exciting. I did discover that the slots back by the check in desk are WAY better than all the ones in the front of the casino, which are obviously designed to grab money from tired tourists who just park in a chair on the way from Harrahs to Bill's or something. Back to the outside patio bar and people watching, then back up to the room. Sans the $17 6-pack this night. Saturday - August 18th Up at a reasonable time, and we got some room service. Then some quick clean up, and we decided to walk down to the Luxor to see how all the "changes" were going. Huge mistake. Never realized, but that end of the strip is still largely blocktop, which makes the ground above it around a zillion degrees. Funny sight... some guys and their obvious plant trying to get stupid tourists involved in a three card monty game on the sidewalk. Very annoying since the sidewalk space is limited around the City Center construction. But, as we plowed past them, about 50 feet down was a dude selling bottled water who proclaimed "Those guys should be banned from the Strip... its such a rip-off!" I might find it ironic from a guy making a tidy profit off of selling water to me out of a cooler... but the "on-strip" prices are more competitive than the casino! Finally made it to Luxor, and it looks like, at least for now, they're just getting rid of the "over the top" egyptian touches. Still plenty of fake egypt to be seen, but it doesn't seem as forced. We also passed thru Mandalay, Excalibur and NYNY. Our direction got totally turned around in Exclaibur and it took us forever to find the bridge to NYNY (partly because of my husband's infamous bad sense of direction, but I won't go in to that right now ). We finally did make it back to the Flamingo, grabbed a couple of slices of pizza from the little carry-out counter at the Italian place. Back up to the room to relax a little more and put off the inevitable emptying of our wallets yet again. When we finally did head back down to the casino, I quickly turned $20 in to $40 at the penny slots by the check in counters, and then plopped myself in front of a VP machine for about two seconds before the hubby came over, already totally wiped out again. He just could not win. He'd pull a flush, dealer would get a straight, and so on. Again, out to the patio bar, which was rockin' with some great 80's hair-metal tunes. We were happy campers until the shift change and the new bartender with some really crappy techno pop junk (I like some techno, but this stuff was about to put me to sleep). Another $17 six pack from the gift shop, and up to relax, get mostly packed and just chill. We did discover that the phone was not working very well, which made it doubtful that our wake-up call would come thru, so we slep with the curtains open to get that wonderful "Vegas alarm clock" when the sun started to rise. Sunday - August 19 Yep. Wake-up call never came. Luckily the alarm went off, and the sunrise had already woken up a few minutes before 6am. We got ready, packed the last odds and ends. Again, turned on the TV to catch the local news, with the top story being about 3 guys who got shot during a fight outside Margaritaville at about 3am. GREAT. I turned to the hubby and said... "I just wanna go home!" But even that was not so easy. Got to the airport to find our flight was delayed. Security lines were unusually long. Hubby got pulled AGAIN for his neck pillow, again after mine made it thru without question. At least this time the head security dude explained that it was new people working security (in Vegas on a Sunday morning? That screams "bad idea") and although he knew exactly what the neck thing was, he stepped thru the procedures with the newbies. Finally got to the gate, more delays with the flight. The plane hadn't come in yet. Plane finally arrives, but we are told more delays due to some bad weather in Chicago. A quick call to the brother in law comfirms it is raining cats and dogs. GREAT. So, for our 8:50am flight, we finally take off two hours late for a bumpy flight all the way back, to land two hours later than we had planned. On our way to catch the El train out of the airport we encountered broken escaltors, elevators and some mis-labeled ticket machines that resulted in missing a train and having to wait another 15 minutes to get out of the damned airport. Needles to say.... glad to be home. I don't think the trip tarnishes my image of Vegas and its many charms. The big frustraition wasn't just loosing, it was loosing FAST. We still walked away with a couple hundred bucks in winning, it's just that there was a LOT of downtime when the gambling budget had been reached way too quickly. It's wasn't the best trip, but there were some fun moments and it was at least an escape from the crushing reality I've been dealing with the past couple weeks.