Just back from our annual winter trip to Vegas and our second Rodeo Vegas. The second attempt was much improved. It is always encouraging when a “do-over” accomplishes something, it shows we can grow and learn, even this late in life and in a place like Las Vegas. With this being our 11th trip overall, getting there is routine (that’s because this makes “do-over” number 10) and pretty much uneventful during the five hour flight from the east coast. Just a three night visit to give the Rodeo vibe in town another “go-round” (rodeo lingo) and a perfect opportunity to try out the new and improved “Linq” Hotel, for a first time stay. That is the name this week, isn’t it? Oh, what’s in a name? Not much you’d think…but read on. We arrived early in Vegas this Sunday morning and were standing at the reception desk at the Linq by 10:30 am with four or five host on the other side who had little or nothing to do. It was a no wait to a smooth check-in for a 10th floor, “High-Roller view” room which was understandably not ready this early. While conducting business there was no mention of the dreaded “resort fee”. Fearing that the RF was in automatic mode, I brought it up. “Did you charge us resort fee”, you know we’re Platinum and we booked before 11/10.” Taking a moment to ponder what road I was going down, the host replied, “There is no resort fee here”… “Oh yeah, that right, what was I thinking”? Just a few steps away we found the Bellmen and disposed of our luggage and headed for the nearest monorail station which we rode to the LV Convention Center for Cowboy Christmas experience. The short ride took us to our first “walking event”, which is synonymous with visits to Vegas. The positioning of the monorail stop in regards to the main entrance to the convention center is a design that no doubt was supported by the “shoe leather industry”, quite a walk, complete with stairs and a crossing guard. Once inside, we browsed the aisles of Western ware offered along with assorted bric-a-brac, all too familiar from last year during our inaugural visit here. A real sense of “been there, done that” came over me…but yet I remembered being more interested last year and being satisfied with the time spent and the few purchases that we made. As if to save myself from the shackles of boredom, I finally asked my “Vegas mate” about the various vendors that peaked our curiosity and caressed our credit card last year. “Oh they’re not here”, she replies, they are at the Mandalay Bay, (where they have their own version of Cowboy Christmas). We didn’t find anything here, the MB show is much better”. “Then why are we here?” I inquired. The ever popular “shoulder shrug” ended our conversation, more monorail riding was in our future. We did decide to get something to eat while we were there, least it be a wasted trip. Looking around we were drawn to the banners hailing the choices of chicken b-b-q dinner or the family favorite “loaded baked potato”, huge and bursting with condiments, as per the picture on the banner, we’re there! My five dollars was exchanged for a cardboard box bottom containing the sad “dwarf” stepchild of the “big Daddy” potato in the picture. As I stode looking at the banner and then into my hand, I had to think how desperate the “great potato famine” must have been, but conversely, how very special it is to be a tourist…the chicken plate was an oversell too. As always, it’s no problem, no wound in Vegas ever cuts me deep enough to leave permanent damage, just smile and move on. (Although, you’ll see how this theory is tested as you read further in this report). Now that we have re-energized for the re-walk to the monorail, we decided to ride the full length on our way to the MB event center, but wait, your phone is ringing, it’s the Linq, or the Quad, or Imperial Palace, one of those name is sure to fit. Whatever they call it…we’ll be stopping there first to settle in… Much in my life would end with a “palm to the head” ala the V-8 commercial if all my decisions we’re deemed final. Fortunately, someone (GF) is usually close-by to re-think or re-design the plan before execution, more often than not with a better outcome. This was the case as I stepped up to the monorail ticket vendor to purchase two $5 one way tickets. “Wait” slams against the back of my head, “That will be $10 each, round trip, get the 24 hr. pass for two dollars more, just in case we decide to ride somewhere else. This last minute “save” allowed us to work the plan of stopping by the Linq and securing our room, before traveling down to MB with no added expense. We did make it to the Mandalay Bay event center by mid-afternoon and enjoyed the browse much better…make a note for next year, MB only. Back at the Linq/Quad/IP. The location of the “High Roller” view room was a long walk from the elevator, manageable now, but how would this be after three days and thirty miles in cowboy boots. There is a sizeable tradeoff to be made with the long, lonely and dark corridor for the option looking out of the narrow window at the big wheel prodding along at a snail’s pace. Although the changing wheel colors at night was somewhat “eye-catching”, there is no other reason to book this style room other than the fact that it is an upgrade, and we always try to go at least one grade level up. We have never stayed in the building before the remodel, but looking around the space, one could easily image the area before the fix-up, paint-up came to this rectangle, cookie-cutter room. I found the room to be aquadite including the bathroom. It was clean, comfortable and evident of a true attempt to move this property ahead. A clock would have been nice and I suppose someday the sounds of “jackhammers” at 7:15 each morning will cease. All and all, staying at the Linq was successful and we would do it again if a decent offer comes our way. The location on the strip is super, and like the lady said…”We don’t have a Resort Fee here”… Cowboy style fun is coming…right after I vent… “Linq Hotel”…I am not invisible! I really think the establishment in Vegas must get word that I am arriving and then all get together to plot a practical joke, just to screw with me. This time, they all decided that they would act dumb whenever I mentioned the word “Linq”. If you have been reading closely, you have noticed I included all the names that apply to the property… why? Because from the time that we arrived till our last activity, we were constantly given the blank look just for reciting the phrase “Linq Hotel”. I can understand tourist not being up on the latest name change, but the people that work in the city, moving people around, come ‘on! This first started outside the airport when the shuttle driver asked, “Where are you folks headed”. “To the Linq,” (my good man). First blank, then “Where’s that…?” You know, by the big wheel, it was called The Quad for a while”. “Oh, the Quad, the old IP,…that’s called the Linq now?…I didn’t know that.” With the information clear now, he took us right to the door, and while retrieving the suitcases from the vehicle, the driver looked up at door overhang and the big red letters spelling out “Linq Hotel”. “I learned something today, this is the Linq now, how ‘bout that.” No harm done, just an isolated case…ya think? Next set of pranksters…the tour operators. Our schulded tour documents included the printed words…p/u at the Linq valet. The word “valet” also matched the word on the sign inside the lobby above the door of the Linq Hotel where people were being picked up and dropped off. This has to be the location…guess again! After a conversation with the doorman who told us “not here” and two phone calls to the tour company office, everyone involved concluded that the term “Linq Valet” meant the valet p/u “under the wheel”, where, as it turned out, the driver was waiting, who knew? …nobody knew,… because once again, most of the people in the equation didn’t know that the Quad, and the Quad valet were gone, producing a city with two “Linq valets”… what’s a coordinator to do?… this also concludes that it is reasonable to assume that when someone is staying at the Linq, that means that there’re sleeping in “roll-up” under the wheel…yes? You can’t make this stuff up! Oh yeah, there is still more… Pick up day for the return trip to airport. Now we’re “gun shy” and that caused us to pepper the 24 hour advance operator about the exact location of the pick-up. She assured us that the Linq p/u would be “exactly where the driver dropped you off when you arrived, “ok, got it”. While waiting outside at the same spot where we arrived, a friendly limo driver asked us what we were waiting for at this location, “Showtime shuttle”. Not here he says, “All airport shuttles for these hotels are at Harrahs”. Now wait a minute, this joke is getting old. I suppose he could sense my frustration as I offered my side of the story in that we were told to be “HERE”. “Ok, he said, I am just trying to help”, but you’ll see no shuttle bus arrive here, only over at Harrahs. After another phone call, and a different voice, it was confirmed that the limo driver was indeed correct, now we’re on a fast pace through Harrahs casino, suitcases in tow, which got us to where we needed to be just minutes before the shuttle. I swear, if the return shuttle driver asked me…what airport... I was gonna stomp on my cowboy hat! Ok enough about that, a minor glitch in an otherwise great trip. It’s just that it was such a reoccurring theme that I want to include it in my writing, no one was rude, just seemed to be caught unaware. In fact, if the doorman and the limo driver hadn’t stepped up and volunteer the information, things could have been a lot messier then just running through Harrah’s with suitcases or making others on the tour wait till they found us, or we them. Am sure that the identity situation will take care of itself over time, quicker if CET continues to make improvements on property that has potential to be a real player in the mid-range market. Location, Location, Location. Let’s talk about food, everybody’s favorite. We made a successful bid to get into Guy Fieri’s “Vegas Kitchen” this trip. Sunday pm the wait was only 10minues compared to the 1 hour plus during the summer. No matter the wait, the experience was certainly worth it. Wonderful greasy, spicy, oversized selections that would make any “health nut” cringe. The fries that come with every sandwich are combition of every style of fried potato you can image. Regular, skinny, curly, waffle style and tator tots too. All spiced up in a wire basket mounted on a wood block instead of the traditional plate, good stuff. Going to have to go to his location at Bally’s in AC, just to compare, research you know. Next would be the mid-week breakfast/lunch brunch at Bellagio. This was a BOGO through myVegas and it was outstanding. I stuffed in all that I could and still wanted to taste more, but the trunk was fill, hope there is a next time. One food disappointment came by our own hands when after three nights of limited sleep and rushing around to get as much “Vegas” as possible, we found ourselves in front of the MGM buffet where we had another BOGO reward from myVegas, without the paper with the confirmation number. We had left it back at the Linq on the desk in the room, each of us thought the other had picked it up…Damm. All options failed as we had to pass on the “Western flavor” buffet and just grab something quick. But, the night survived with cowboy fun till we found our self at the Hash House around 2 am, hungry because we missed the buffet. This turned out to be a good nightcap of waffles and Margaritas courtesy of the strangest waiter we ever come across, a super cool guy who acted like we stopped by his apartment rather than his workplace. Livin’ the Night, with friends in low places… After all this we finally get to the reason we came to Vegas, Rodeo Vegas. Last year was the first excursion to town during the big winter event and while there we took in lots of information that we used to plan better for RV 2014. Most notable was the fact that we didn’t know how to “country dance” and were relegated to just watching, not this year. With the help of instructional DVD’s and a large open area at home, many evenings were spent learning the “moves” in preparation for Vegas in December. Now we were by no means the stars of the dance floor, but we had the confidence to at least get out there and join in with a few spins here and there. We had a swell time at the Mirage on Monday night where, along with two country band, they provided $5 Margaritas. I didn’t bother to count the number of trips to the portable bars that were set-up, but I do remember how much smoother the dancing got as the trips were repeated again and again, there must be some connection! The CW dancing and fun continued on Tuesday night, this time at the MGM, where the Margarita were replaced with 32oz. beer mugs for 10 bucks. The MGM was a planned event for we were aware that the Swon Brothers (last year’s VOICE contestants) were scheduled to appear and we wanted to see them. We did, and they were fantastic. Great music and entertainment from two talented and humble guys. The Steel City band that performed before them filled the dance floor with spinning, twirling and stomping, a good time that greatly exceeded the price of the $10 beer. We were in the wrong location to catch one of the flying tee shirts or CDs that the Swon Brothers hurled into the crowd, but our luck changed when the “sweat towel” left the stage and came our way, a one handed grab made this part of our permanent “Vegas” collection. We were unable to get it autographed because nobody had a “sharpie”, but we did manage to cross paths with the Brothers as they left the stage. They pleasantly stop and posed with my GF and the now famous “sweat towel”, proof of authenticity. Monday afternoon we were able to find the time to take the Red Rock tour with Pink Jeep Tours. Now I know I mentioned early about the mix-up with the pick-up location, but that detail was made completely insignificant by the wonderful time we spent with Gary, our tour guide, in the beautiful landscape of Red Rock Canyon. Quiet and peaceful, informative and beautiful, our description of a well spent afternoon. On the gaming side of this Vegas trip, we made the usual slot contributions at various locations up and down the strip resulting in ups and downs in our bankroll, never exceeding $150 between us. Those who have read my reports before know that Vegas trips are not about gambling, it’s about everything else. Living on the east coast, finding a slot machine is not a problem. But finding the “Vegas life” one has to travel to the source. For example, Sunday evening we sat at the Blvd. pool at the Cosmo watching people ice skate in the glow of Planet Hollywood and the Eifel Tower drinking concoctions with flaming marshmallows while fake snow danced in the 50 degree air…nowhere else on earth! As always, thanks for reading and Viva Las Vegas!