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2009 Trip report - Apr 26-29 Excalibur, Apr 29-May 2 Tropicana

Discussion in 'Vegas Trip Reports' started by mjames1229, Mar 25, 2020.

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  1. mjames1229

    mjames1229 # of visits includes only trips w/ hotel stays

    Mar 5, 2011
    Milwaukee, WI
    Trips to Las Vegas:

    My Trip Report

    Getting in the spirit of old trip reports, here is the first Las Vegas report that I had ever written for WestAllisNOW.com (a sub-site of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel). Actually, there are two entries, a pre-trip report before we left, and the proper report upon return. I linked these old reports so that you can see that the text hasn't changed... My style was - shall we say - raw and undefined. And my grammar was worse than ever.

    When I started my personal blog in 2007, I had promised my wife that I would never "out" her or the family, so I developed nicknames that held throughout the run of the blog through 2016. The only character that you may know is my wife Melissa, known below as "My-Sugar-Na"... kinda of a riff on "mashugana", which is Yiddish for crazy or senseless. We were married in 2005, you can feel the true love, no?

    Though I promise that I didn't touch the text, I did remove any links that are dead (it has been almost 11 years) and I've added many photographs that I didn't know how to include on my blog, but that I've since found and put on my laptop. Do note that camera phone technology has really improved in 11 years, but that any photos that look halfway decent were taken by my parents with their digital camera.

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    Shall we begin with the pre-trip report?

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    Not to bore you and not to rub it in (you still want me to try Peter Luger's?) but my go-round for bowling the USBC Open Championships (aka Nationals) is about a week away, and is it my fault that the tournament is in Las Vegas this year? And Reno in each of the next two years?

    Unfortunately for those traveling with me, I am a planner... once I get going, I can't stop. I started researching airfare before Christmas. I bet that I had most of our itinerary set before the Super Bowl. And now with T-7 days, I am improving just about everything I touch. (Side note; Come to think of it, I don't know what I will do on May 2 when I am home.) Adding to the challenge of overplanning is the fact that (Sponsor's Name Here)'s Official Parents along with Jendy Wo, Revvy Al,my sister (whom I believe I've named, but I don't remember it and I don't feel like looking for it) and her friend the Slot Jockey are all coming along.

    My-Sugar-Na's children's father lives in Central Iowa, so we are driving them there, then driving to Des Moines for the flight to Las Vegas. The perfect flight for us leaves at 3:00 PM and gets to Las Vegas around 7:00 PM (conveniently about 5 minutes after my parent's flight arrives from Milwaukee). But American Airlines had that particular flight about double the price of one that leaves (and arrives) 90 minutes later. So I set up YAPTA.COM (short for "Your Amazing Personal Travel Assistant") to trigger an E-mail alert when that price dropped. It worked to perfection, and for one day only, my fare was $228 RT for the flights that I wanted. Cool beans. Now that D-Day is approaching, I see that the 3:00 flight is already sold out. Methinks (or maybe more appropriately Mehopes) they will be looking for volunteers to be bumped. If the offer
    is right (a travel voucher to cover next year's trip to Reno and guaranteed seats on the next flight), I'd take that bump. That's like a Vegas win before I ever get there! Besides, the car is in my dad's name... he and my mom can sight see for a few minutes before going back to the airport to pick us up.

    Now let's talk hotel. I don't know how this happened, but a consensus was reached to stay at the Excalibur. In February, we found a "early bird" deal, in which rooms were $36. Then I called a casino host, and based on my play in Reno two years ago, we were offered a limo ride from the airport, and some buffet comps. A couple of weeks ago, Jendy Wo found a new promotion, one that keeps the room rates about the same, but throws in a 2-for-1 ticket to the Tournament of Kings show for each room. Considering that show was on our to-do list, we all jumped on it and adjusted our reservation accordingly. Then last week, I get a letter from the Tropicana, which is right across the street from the Excalibur. (Long side note; On the way back from Reno two years ago, when I was changing planes in Las Vegas, I was bumped from my Frontier flight. In addition to the voucher for free air travel, they booked me on a Midwest flight direct to Milwaukee that left six hours later. One short cab ride later I was at the Tropicana - the closest low-roller casino to the airport - rollin' them
    . I played craps and a little blackjack for four hours and went back to the airport for my flight.) This letter from the Tropicana bemoans the fact that I haven't been there for awhile, and they are offering two nights at no charge. Luckily for me, the available nights are while I am already in Vegas, so I contacted both hotels and made the arrangements. So now for My-Sugar-Na and I to lodge for five days will cost about $120... total. In other words, flight and hotel for five days is $288 each.

    Car rental was admittedly a little tough. My parents and My-Sugar-Na and I are splitting the cost of a mini-van, and that is about $225 tax included. We get E-mail all the time from Hotwire and Travelocity and the like with $15 a day deals in Vegas. but somehow our dates were never included. $225 is not bad, but usually car rentals don't match airfare.

    Three of the eight of us are Vegas Virgins - my parents and Revvy Al. So we tried to come up with an itinerary that would cover those of us who long for; Old Vegas (the Rat Pack Tribute Show at The Plaza and the Neon Museum), Themed Vegas (Tournament of Kings show at the Excalibur), Free Vegas (the Fremont St. Experience, the Bellagio Fountains, the Mirage Volcano, the Siren Show at TI), Not What You'd Think of Vegas (Atomic Testing Museum), Fad Vegas (various poker tournaments) and Dammit, This Looks Cool Vegas (the Vegas Mob tour and Haunted Vegas tour). The average age of our group is about 45-50, so one thing that is NOT on our to-do list is to wait in line for 90 minutes at a club on a Tuesday evening to buy $400 bottles of wine.

    And the food! Restaurant.com was selling $25 gift certificates for only $4, so we snagged one for the Hash House a Go-Go (as seen on Rachel Ray's Vacation show) and one for Pampas Churrascaria. Throw in an unadvertised steak special at the Ellis Island Casino, the unadvertised steak and shrimp at the Hard Rock Casino's cafe and the Burger Bar at the Mandalay Bay, and I've got a vacation fit for a king.

    Now, to find time for the actual bowling...

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    And now for the Main Event, the actual trip report (as mentioned above, the photos were not part of the original blog, therefore neither were the captions... those are new)

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    I've never been known for my brevity, so here goes...

    Travel - My-Sugar-Na's and my flight to Las Vegas was relatively uneventful, especially compared to (Sponsor's Name Here)'s Official Parents. Their flight from Milwaukee was delayed continuously due to weather affecting their inbound plane. When they finally got on, they sat on the tarmac for at least an hour while a fuel gauge problem was checked. This caused them to miss their connection in Denver. Their new flight - which was also held up with mechanical problems - got them to Las Vegas a full five hours late. My pops was a none-to-pleasant soul at 1:00 AM Vegas time. My sister and her friends, Jendy Wo, Revvy Al and the Slot Jockey came in Monday morning... their flight was to leave Milwaukee only three hours after my parents arrived. It was kind of cool talking to my sister as she was getting ready to leave - her after waking up and me not having gone to bed yet.

    I have been to Vegas now four times in four years, and I still am amazed at how L - O - N - G the stoplights are all over Vegas. I'd bet that in the six days I was there, I lost eight hours to waiting at lights. Being part of a large group, consensus was needed on what to do at what points, so there was a lot of criss-crossing town. Getting from Brown Deer to Franklin is easier at 5:00 PM than it is getting from downtown Las Vegas to the south end of the Strip.

    Bowling – The reason for going out to Las Vegas in the first place. I had posted in a thread on the USBC Tournament Forum that I had so many other vacation activities going on that I’d bowl if I had time. Little did I know how true that was. In going to Las Vegas with my wife, parents, sister and her three friends, not only was there no time for bowling side events, my chauffeur duties prevented me from arriving at the Cashman Center more than 45 minutes before Team event (we bowled Thursday 4-30 at 2:30PM). I don’t believe that it affected my performance, but it probably didn't help.

    You don't know any of these guys, but man, I was on a shitty team that year.

    In the Team event, I bowled 203 - 230 - 170 for a 603 series. In the third game, my line changed drastically and had a couple of opens, and by the time I found it again I couldn't put any doubles together to salvage a good game.

    I started with two strikes. My parents said they will leave after I don't strike. I am surprised they stayed long enough to take this picture.

    Later that evening in the Doubles event, the four of us on that pair were handicapped by the lower averaged players on the pair that had bowled prior to us. Instead of creating a "track" in the oil pattern to guide the ball to the pocket, the collection of ten that preceded us just splashed the oil around. The four of us managed only six strikes the first game of doubles. I didn’t strike at all en route to a disappointing 153 game. I changed my angle and by bowling ball and finished doubles with 212-240 and salvaged 605 and hopes of 1800 for all nine games.

    We moved to a different pair for the singles event which had a similar line, but I had no carry at all. I made little adjustments, but just couldn’t double for two games and started 161-188. They finally started falling the last game for 223, but with a 572 in singles I missed my all events goal and ended with 1780. In taking my yearly crack at this, I thought that I was more prepared than past years. I bought two new bowling balls and I had a game plan based on what I read on the internet. All of that for 1780... I can take some solace in the fact that I made 27 of 28 single pins, but when Ron Vokes has a 30-bagger, my 28 single pins in 9 games looks quite weak in comparison. What this does is just illustrate how good some of these other guys are. I’ve never doubted their ability, but it is a bogey I keep striving for, and which makes me want to come back each year. It also makes me wonder how the hell I had 2027 for nine games in Salt Lake City in 1996.

    I am already gearing up for Reno next year. I had the best of intentions, but wait till next year…

    Hotels – We stayed at the Excalibur for three nights (starting Sunday 4-26) and everything was fine. I had no complaints. The room was nice enough (and had two nights taken off based on our gambling); nothing fancy but nothing wrong. Until I found a side entrance with self parking (that apparently very few knew about), I wasn’t crazy about walking through the casino and having to dodge not one, but two timeshare booths. But that side entrance was by the elevators and bypassed both of them. In terms of the casino itself, it was annoyingly noisy in the evening. Dick’s Last Resort bar played music at ear-splitting levels, and there was a bar in front of the casino with Beer Pong that had their own music. Both bar’s music was competing with the casino’s piped in music and the din of the crowd… it was distracting.


    On Wednesday morning 4-29, we moved across the street to the Tropicana for our last two nights. I liked the room much better; it had a cabana look, bamboo furniture, a love seat, mirrors on the ceiling and a bathtub built for two. Unfortunately, the Trop had its own problems. We had been comped in the Paradise tower (facing the strip and right off the casino). But the entire tower was shut down (the bellman said that it wasn’t up to plumbing code, but I can’t find any verification of it). The Island tower was way back there… right next to the Hooters Hotel and was a hella walk from the front desk, lined with the gauntlet of kiosks offering ring cleaners, computerized face analysis, purses that look like stuffed dogs, etc. I found “Entrance 4” which, similar to the side entrance at the Excalibur was right by our elevators and with self parking, but most of that area was blocked off because they were installing some air conditioners and had caution tape up. It was a pain in the arse each time we left or came back to the Tropicana, and they didn’t seem too concerned about my inconvenience. Had I known about this, we would have stayed at the Excalibur for all five nights.

    The room at the Tropicana was delightfully tacky in that 1970s kinda way.

    Restaurants – Ate Sunday dinner at Gonzalez Y Gonzalez in the New York-New York. It was decent Mexican food, but nothing to write home about. Was not happy with the Round Table Buffet or the Sherwood Café at Excalibur. Had a great dinner at South Point’s Primarily Prime Rib – a 20 oz prime rib on the bone with salad and bread for $20 was outstanding! Had a dinner at Hash House A Go Go (about 5 miles west of the strip on Sahara ). We had seen it on Rachel Ray and also had a certificate from Restaurant.com. Another outstanding call, but the meals can easily feed two. As a matter of fact, my dad, bless his little soul, tried to get in the stuffed meatloaf, but got barely a quarter of the way through. If you have a problem wasting food or don’t have a monster appetite, order one meal and split it. We also had a Restaurant.com certificate for Pampas, which is a Brazilian Churrascaria in the Miracle Mile shops at the Planet Hollywood and was very good. To me, it was on par with other churrascaria I've been to in Milwaukee, Albuquerque and Las Vegas. On our final day, My-Sugar-Na and I had a great bargain that I had heard of, the steak special at Ellis Island. A 10 ounce steak with baked potato, garlic green beans and a microbrewed beer (or root beer) for $6.99. It isn’t on the menu, but just ask for it. The beer alone would be almost $4, and the steak was really good.

    Doin’s – I highly recommend The Rat Pack is Back show at the Plaza. I ordered VIP seating on-line through the USBC Rewards Center (and I don't think you need to be a bowler to sign up) and it included a free dinner. We arrived a little early and were seated at the front table that butts the stage, right next to the stage stairs. My wife made the mistake of not laughing at one of Joey Bishop’s jokes, and he harassed her mercilessly for most of the rest of his set. The steak dinner was served in the show room prior to the show, and was pretty darned good. It wasn't hard to imagine being in Vegas in 1962 while in that room.





    I also recommend a tour of the Neon Graveyard. If you get weak-kneed at looking at the old Vegas signs (like the Golden Nugget, Stardust or Desert Inn) you need to go there. Baldies be warned; wear a hat or you will get sunburned. Wonder how I know?

    They had just had the La Concha motel lobby brought over within the previous month or so.

    It really was a boneyard in 2009... not a well-executed tour as its currently offered as the Neon Museum.




    (Sponsor's Name Here)'s Official Mother posing for this photo.

    Although a little bit hokey, my wife and I actually enjoyed the Price is Right stage show at Bally’s. The show is quite like the TV show (without the cameras) and is hosted by Todd Newton (from Hollywood Showdown and the Whammy! Press Your Luck remake). Warning, though, if you are called on for the showcase, do not overbid! They offer a car as part of the showcase, but it is a Nissan Versa worth maybe – maybe – 10 grand. The total of this showcase was a little over $12K, and both bidders were almost 20.

    We attended the Tournament of Kings at the Excalibur. My wife and I had seen it in 2005 and it was the same… if you like the King Arthur thing, then you’d love it (as most of our group did). Me? Meh.

    I would not recommend the Vegas Mob bus tour. I trashed this on this “What NOT to do” thread, but to summarize, we sat for three hours squished into a minivan, only saw two or three sites, and only got out once so the van operator could have a cigarette. I think the main reason that I was disappointed was that I was expecting so much more.

    Gambling – The first thing that came to mind was… “What recession”? The strip casinos were all at quite reasonable levels – not so busy at 10:00 AM, but remarkably busy in the evenings. On Friday night, as we got one last gamble in prior to leaving for the airport, we tried to find a quiet casino so we went to the Gold Coast… and that was elbow to elbow people. The Plaza during the day was pretty empty, and Binions at 3:00 AM wasn’t too busy. Planet Hollywood, however was really hopping on a Friday night. I was expecting dead for six days and I didn’t get it.

    Overall, my wife and I almost won enough to pay for our trip. I had two separate $700 wins at the craps table, and a lot of little wins on video poker and Pai Gow Poker (a big win for me was one in which I banked the hand and was dealt A-2-3-4-5 Q-Q, which is a monster hand for that game). Details of my crap-ventures are here.

    This is a truly horrible picture of me holding my first ever purple chip.

    I didn’t feel like I gambled as much as I would have liked, and still managed to get two nights and two meals comped at the Excalibur.

    Overall I had an expectedly wonderful time. I want to go back in July and bowl again under an assumed name, but I don’t know if I am better than 1780 anyway. As I said above, though, wait till next year…
    Super Bowl / Poker Trip Combo Platter
    Bowling the USBC National tournament, I hope.
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  2. cvkelz

    cvkelz Extremely Low Roller- like, I barely roll at all.

    Jun 17, 2016
    Monterey, CA
    Trips to Las Vegas:
    Thanks for the report and all the pics!!!
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  3. LASLover

    LASLover Tourist

    Oct 12, 2018
    Trips to Las Vegas:
    thanks for sharing your report.
    • Like Like x 1
  4. Valgal

    Valgal VIP Whale

    Aug 10, 2014
    Trips to Las Vegas:
    Thanks for sharing. I may try to bring back from memory our first trip. It was short and sweet but got us hooked.
    Belated 40th Anniversary Trip
    • Like Like x 1
  5. tringlomane

    tringlomane STP Addicted Beer Snob

    Jan 21, 2013
    Trips to Las Vegas:
    Nice report!

    M and I also went to "The Price Is Right Live!" at Bally's on our first trip in Sept. 2011. Our host was Mark L. Whalberg (Antiques Roadshow). And when we went, you were supposed to bid on the showcase without the car, and if you were within $100 without being over you got the car. They both forgot to exclude the car and went over!!

    Best of all M got up on stage!!!! She was last to bid, bidding on an electric guitar, and was closest on the first bid, but they all overbid. She didn't win on the 2nd bid (ARP: $223), but she did get a free t-shirt at least.
    • Like Like x 1
  6. Vegasworm

    Vegasworm Finger Clicker Extraordinaire

    May 5, 2014
    Trips to Las Vegas:
    Really enjoyed reading this! So interesting seeing the Neon Museum back then as compared to today. I always enjoy reading yours and Melissa's adventures! Thanks for sharing. It inspired me to dig for an older Las Vegas visit I had never done a trip report on.

    • Like Like x 1
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