Actually, this trip started a few days earlier with the pick up of a 16-foot Penske moving truck in Bloomington, IL. The first leg was hauling my daughter's stuff to Salt Lake City, where she will be living for the next three years while working on a doctorate in ed-pysch at University of Utah. On the 16th, my son and I left Salt Lake for Vegas, via I-15. Originally, we had planned to leave the truck in Salt Lake and fly down, but we had the truck for a full week, so why not. Well, one reason for the why not is gas expenses. It was over $300 just to get out to Utah. I did not realize these trucks only got about eight miles to the gallon. It would be another $100 or so to make it to Vegas. Oh well. We left Salt Lake about 7:30 a.m. and were in Vegas by 1:00. All told, we put close to 2,000 miles on the truck, all without turning the air conditioning once. Upon arrival, we checked into the New Frontier. Based upon my son's previous play at the crap tables, we had two free nights. For a Saturday arrival, we were satisfied, even though the New Frontier standard rooms leave a lot to be desired. On Sunday, we asked to be moved into an atrium suite and the NF obliged. The difference between standard rooms and atrium suites is like night and day. The suites were spacious and indeed were two seperate rooms. The entire time we stayed at the NF, there was air-conditioning problems throughout the casino and in the rooms. But, when you're staying for free, it hard to squawk about it. Later that evening, we took on the NF tables. The do have the 10X odds, but the tables were cold and the casino was warm. It just wasn't a good gambling vibe and the clientele was a bit shaky. After changing rooms on Sunday, we walked over to the Bellagio to play some serious craps. It is our favorite gambling joint. We both came out ahead and got a comp for their brunch. As always, excellent. I checked out the NF diamond-shaped pool area. I love that 12-foot deep end. I hate these newer pools (NY/NY comes to mind) that are only 4-5 feet deep. On the women-watching scale, it was below average, but you it could have been an off day. On Monday, we checked out and went to the Rio for the buffet and some craps. They only had one table going and it was packed. I think casinos hurt themselves by limiting action in the daytime. I know they have labor issues, but, there were atleast 5-6 of us milling around looking for some action. We gave up trying to get a spot and used the $5 coupon and went to the buffet at 10:50 am. That put us a few minutes before lunch, but only cost us breakfast price $12.99, minus the $5.00 each. That's the best deal in town - $7.99 for lunch. Not quite Bellagio standards, but pretty darn good. Love that Vietnamese soup bar. It was still crowded at the crap table, so we gave up and started the next leg of our trip - Death Valley. Traditionally, we spend a couple days there each summer in mid July. Instead of driving the gas-guzzling truck out, we got a compact rental car ($14.95) at Dollar. It was a zoo at Dollar with the lot completely empty. Even Fastlane members had to wait for cars to be returned, washed and put back on the lot. Not only that, but customers had to wait outside under a makeshift tent. People were not happy. Twenty minutes later, we were on Blue Diamond Highway, on our way to Death Valley. I was surprised how much growth has taken place on Blue Diamond since out last visit in 2004. It's definitely a real estate boon area. Our goal in going to Death Valley was to have extreme heat. We hit it just right, with the high of the summer (128 degrees) that same day. They have hotel-type lodging, but we've always opt to camp under the stars. The first order of business was to stop at Badwater Basin and hike well into it. We love that balming effect the intense dry heat has on one's body. Many of the attractions in Death Valley were closed. Unbeknowst to me, they had a serious flash flood in Aug, 2004 that wiped out roads and trails. As usual, most of the summer tourists in Death Valley were Europeans. Every time we're there, it's mainly folks from Europe. Before it got to late, I took long run along Highway 190. People driving by gave me some strange looks. I guess, though, when you see a barebacked guy jogging along without any water in 128-degree heat, you have to wonder about his sanity. Needless to say, I worked up a sweat and was happy we had ice back at the campsite. That root beer on the rocks was devine. It probably wasn't too smart to run without water, but sometimes you got to push the limits. The only part of the Daeth Valley experience I don't care for is the sleeping part. When the low temp is 100, you never cool down. The saving grace this time was having an air mattress with me. Before, I bunked down on the ground with only a sleeping bag. Interestingly, you always see people sleeping on picnic tables by there cars. Usually, these folks realize they don't have enough gas to get to the next town and have to spend the night and wait until a station opens that morning. They do have gas staions in Death Valley, but they aren't 24-hour. Upon waking up, we took the north route back (95) to Vegas. We got in in time to catch the tail end of the Orleans breakfast buffet (ACG 2-1). This is one of the most underated breakfasts in town. The chicken livers over polenta alone is worth the $6.49. They also had an outstanding mexican eggs hollandaise. A stay at the Hard Rock would wrap up our long trip. In previously speaking with a HR casino host, our stay would be comped, based upon previous play ($235 average crap bet for an hour). We stopped at VIP services about noon, but no one there had any record of our reservation and the host was nowhere to be found. They told us to check in and they would try to track down the host. The room was listed at $299, which began to concern me. What if this host was giving me a line of crap and would not honor the room comp. According to VIP services, the host's voice-mail was full and all they could do was send him an e-mail. Thus, we ended up checking into this $299 room without any guarantee it was comped, even though the HR told us not to sweat it. They must have had no idea they were dealing with the T2V moderator of the "Frugality" forum. The whole thing left a bad taste in my mouth and I told the host on sight the same. This was no way to do business. When we play craps, we like to be relaxed. Now, we felt under pressure to "earn" the room. That does affect your throwing. Plus, the general atmosphere of this place was not to my liking. Maybe, I'm too old for it, but I never felt the same comfort level I have at other casinos. That hip, cool, youthful attitude doesn't cut it with me. And, I'm talking both staff and clientele. The room was nice, but not worthy of $299. Again, maybe because I'm a 47 year-old, but it was too sleek and refined for my tastes. I don't need a big-ass, flat-screen TV. It did have a view of the pool and Strip. Nice, but give me the Stardust West Tower view any day. The big plus was the bed. It was the most comfortable I've slept on in Vegas, and we've stayed at tons of places. The rooms also had a little snack bar with food, beverage, CDs, DVDs and books for a fee. The book for sale was "150 sexual positions to please your lover", or something similar to that. I've got to admit the pool was fun. It had a water slide in the middle of it and various levels to it. Like other newer casino pools, there were multiple places to swim, some even with sand. That sand was a pain in the ass for the employees, though. They were constantly trying to keep it from clogging up the drains and shifting from parts of the water it didn't belong. Back to the business at hand - getting the room comped. The host never answered any messages and we were basically given the option of paying casino rate (about $100) or seeing if our play would comp it. We decided to give them some play, but they only had one table running and it was full. We hate a full table. Instead, we hoofed it over to the Bellagio. You never have to worry about finding a spot on a Bellagio table and we like the atmosphere better. Plus, the Hard Rock doesn't have a water show. That's my fave Vegas attraction. The tables couldn't have been better to us at the Bellagio and we walked back to the HR a few hundred dollars apiece richer. My son was up close to $2,500 alone at the Bellagio. We both lost money at the NF and still had the HR to try out. Finally, the next morning, it was dead at the HR table. Plenty of room to manuever around and throw the dice. Our total HR experience went from bad to worse. I dropped a quick $300 and my son $800 in just 15 minutes of play. That was enough. We called it a day and checked out. The dice were not going to be our friend at the HR. Since we took a hit at the tables, VIP Services did comp the room - small consolation. We still shouldn't have probably played. Going into play that morning, we just didn't feel good about the outcome. Lesson learned - make sure you have something in writing or a confirmation # before showing up for a comp room. Do not rely on a host's word, especially some guy you've never worked with before. We had the last plane out that day and weren't even in the mood to eat much, settling for the average Sam's Town buffet. We had to have the moving truck back by 4:00. We had it back before then and took the #108 bus from Paradise to McCarran. It was very depressing sitting in that airport, knowing you've just went out on a bad losing streak, one of you has a terrible sort throat and your much-anticipated experience at the Hard Rock was a learning one. Plus, it's four hours until depature.