Arrived from Chicago Midway on Saturday. Pick up $99/week Dollar rental and off for first leg of trip - Death Valley. Prior to leaving Vegas, a stop is made at a great used CD shop (Mr. B's or Big B's?) on Maryland just north of airport for some listening material. Next stop is Silverton's on the way out of town on Hwy 160 for a buffet (our last substantial meal until getting back to town two days later). A lot of hiking and camping in Death Valley. In the summer, you have the place to yourself. In the 135-site campground, only one other site taken besides ours. Personally, I don't think it gets that much hotter than Vegas, but when your're sleeping outside on the ground, it it very uncomfortable at night. Fortunately, neither scorpions or snakes were out. Broke camp Monday a.m. and headed back to Vegas. We arrived at the Plaza ($30 first night/free second night through LVA) at 9:00 a.m. and we're able to check in immediately. Thank heavens! Their pool on top of 5th floor was very relaxing, though, not the place to go for eye candy. An older crowd here and in casino, as well. Then it's off to public library a few blocks north to use the internet. After filing a Death Valley hiking story with an Illinois regional newspaper that I freelance for, it time for some craps. The downtown is an excellent place to roll the dice. A lot of action at various joints. We had the added entertainment option of watching the Golden Gate picketers across the street. I got to give them credit. They kept up their verbal barrages and marching until things were finally settled on Tuesday night. After getting re-energized with Vegas food, lodging and gambling, it off to the wilderness again for a couple of nights. This time, southern Utah for more hiking, canyoning and rappelling. Some beautiful scenery along the way and lots of heat. We return to Vegas on Friday about 11:00 a.m. for a 3-night stay at the Riveira. We caught a break just like at the Plaza, and were allowed to check in at 11:30. We needed that. The remote-type camping and hiking we do takes a lot out of you. It could have been a lot worse. Sunday afternoon, the place was a madhouse with check-in. One couple told me it took them 2 1/2 hours. Even when we checked in, with very few people in line, the process was slow. The hotel needs to work on that. I don't know whether it was because we had been away from civilization for long, or what, but we really enjoyed the Riviera. I know a lot of people knock it, but it was perfect for us. It kind of gave me a 70's-ish feeling. Just felt right at home there. For the $29 a night weekend rate, you couldn't beat it. Since I play the majority of my craps at Sahara, the location was perfect. I also like to play at Stardust, but that place seems to be dying. On Friday night, several table games had covers on them and on the other games, the employees seemed less then enthusiastic about being there. Is the Stardust on its way out? The dining highlight of the trip was lunch at the Bellagio on Friday. You knew it was going to be great when you walk in a see such a varied and unique selection from just the salads. For $16/head, it can't be beat. It surpassed my expectations. Most other meals were from the 2-1 coupons in the Las Vegas Advisor coupon book. For those that don't subscribe to LVA, I'd highly recomend paying the $50 yearly fee to do so. The monthly newsletter is chockful of information and the coupon book will easily save you well over $50. Of all the times I have been to Vegas, I've never been to the Stratosphere . Just never had any reason to. Had some free time Saturday, so decided to walk up from Riviera and check it out. The closer I got, I knew something was wrong. Police were all over and the yellow tape was up. Just 1/2 hour before I got there, someone had jumped from the top of the Strat. The body was still in front of the hotel with a white sheet over it. It still appeared to be mostly intact Officials walked about with little plastic bags picking up body parts. The victim's shoes flew off on impact and laid about 30 feet away. After they took the sheet off to move it, you couldn't tell if it was a man or woman. It looked like they must have landed head first. In a situation like that, you always wonder what causes someone to take such drastic action. Fortunately, no one on the ground was hurt. Imagine the shock if you were walking by at the same time it happened. To be honest with you, I was intrigued by the whole affair. Some may consider that morbid, but I found myself fascinated by seeing a crumpled up human body that had just fallen over 1,000 feet. The rest of the trip was uneventful, ending with the traditional last day of eating at the Sahara brunch and then playing craps there before catching the plane home.