21 Hours in Vegas This was one of those trips that just came about at the last minute. I made a promise to myself of no more Vegas until April so the bankroll and funds would be more substantial, but then I get a call from my brother: â€œMe, Dad, and Uncle are heading to Vegas and staying at Monte Carlo for a night. You down?â€ I really wanted to say yes, but I knew it would put a major dent into the April tripâ€™s budget. Then I started thinking about the last time I had actually gone to Vegas with my brother and that was in 2003, before I was even legal! Okay, itâ€™s on. No splurging for me this trip. One night at Monte Carlo, cheap meals, and $100 to gamble. The company of my brother will more than make up for the $1900 decrease in the usual bankroll. Itâ€™s about 5pm when we load up my brotherâ€™s car and take off. I decide to try and get some sleep on the way so I can stay up as late as possible while there, but the excitement of the moment wonâ€™t let me so I decide to send a text message to Hunter and rub my last minute stint in: â€œHeading to Vegas right now!â€ I write and my cell almost immediately rings back with his text: â€œHave fun!â€ It seemed like too plain of a response to my jealousy-inducing message, but I smile and put the phone back in my pocket as sleep starts to naturally take over. Just as I begin to doze off, Hunter startles me with one last text: â€œBastard.â€ After a good laugh, Iâ€™m finally able to sleep for about an hour and wake up starving as is everyone else in the car. We decide to stop at Gold Strike in Jean, about a half hour before reaching Vegas. Try not to laugh. Despite its questionable exterior, rows and rows of semis in the parking lot, and location in the middle of freakinâ€™ nowhere, itâ€™s actually a surprisingly clean place. The 24-hour cafÃ© has good eats, too. Of course, anytime Iâ€™ve got the option of having breakfast for dinner, then thatâ€™s what Iâ€™m going to order. After $3 plates of huge pancakes and several cups of coffee between the four of us, weâ€™re out the door and back on the road. Thereâ€™s something special about driving into Vegas at nightâ€”something I actually havenâ€™t done in a while. Pretty much after crossing the California/Nevada border, you can see a faint glow of light above the mountains from the city thatâ€™s still some fifty miles away. Then as the I-15 veers North for the last time and leads its way through that one final valley, Las Vegas reveals itself slowly, almost one hotel at a timeâ€”I still get a little giddy seeing that after all these years. We arrive at Monte Carlo and check in to our two separate rooms, each reserved with two queens. Sure, it was nearly 11pm, but the cold receptionist couldnâ€™t care less about our first impressions of the resort and gives us two lovely rooms, each with a king bed, on the third floor. Great. Iâ€™m in a good mood so I call from the room and ask if I could be changed to two rooms with two queens each. They tell me to come down and grab a new set of keys for our newly assigned rooms. Most hotels can reactivate the keys youâ€™ve already got, but I guess they canâ€™t. I go down, wait in line, and get our new keys which happen to be for rooms that are still on the third floor. Weâ€™re pretty low-maintenance guys and we donâ€™t mind until we realize that now only one of the keys actually works. So by now Iâ€™m a little aggravated, but itâ€™s really hard to piss me off while Iâ€™m in Vegas. I wasnâ€™t in the mood to wait in line a third time so I head for â€œinvited guestsâ€ and explain the whole situation. The girl working there tells me that we must have placed our keys near our credit cards which can sometimes deactivate them. Thanks for correcting the customer. Iâ€™m sure she felt stupid when we gave the keys back in the original booklets given to us and not from our wallets. Once the room situation is finally squared away, my uncle and dad hit the casino while my brother and I get ready to head to MIX. We both have a Red Bull, but by the time I take my last sip, I realize that I had already had two cups of coffee with dinner. Ouch. Itâ€™s about 11:45pm when my brother and I start driving towards Mandalay Bay and Iâ€™m wired out of my mind. The front is charging cover, but Iâ€™ve got my little trick of taking the guest elevators up to the restaurant and crossing over to the lounge free of charge. Tonight isnâ€™t going to be so easy, though. The elevator is locked from going up to the restaurant so I get the brilliant (or so it seemed at the time) idea of going up to the penthouse floor and taking the stairs the rest of the way. Dress shoes and metal staircases donâ€™t mix (no pun intended) when youâ€™re trying to be as quiet as possible. I sneak my way to the top, brother close behind, and find a lone door that says â€œAuthorized Personnel Onlyâ€. Iâ€™m praying that an alarm doesnâ€™t sound as I gently turn the doorknob. I let out a big sigh of relief, but as the door opens, I see what I think is some sort of control room which would naturally have someone there ready to bust me. â€œLetâ€™s get the hell outtaâ€™ here!â€ I yell to my brother and we dart down the stairs, cursing our loud dress shoes. In our rush to get down, I canâ€™t even tell if we are being chased or not. Looking back, I highly doubt we were, but I wasnâ€™t risking anything. We make our way back to the penthouse floor, run to the guest elevators, and mash the close button several times. Once on the first floor, we head towards the â€œlegalâ€ entrance of MIX where there is no line. Looks like the coast is clear and the coverâ€™s actually dropped down to just $10 a person so all that effort to sneak in was stupid on my part. We head up and my brother is blown away as we enjoy martinis on the balconyâ€”vodka for him, gin for meâ€”and catch up on things. He hasnâ€™t done something like this since he got married and had a kid so Iâ€™m glad I can do this with him and take him to one of my favorite spots in Vegas. We agree to head to Wynn afterward because my brother wants my take on the place. He had walked through on a previous trip and said he was unimpressed. I give him the whole â€œdesigned from the guestâ€™s point-of-viewâ€ spiel and prove it to him by giving him the grand tour, including the Tower Suites/VIP sections (I brought one of my old keys for full access). We even go up one of the floors so I could show him the short length of the hallways. In the end, heâ€™s thoroughly converted and says to me, â€œMikeâ€¦â€ and Iâ€™m expecting him to say something like, â€œâ€¦we have to stay here next time!â€ Instead he says, â€œâ€¦you either need to work for Steve or need to a get a life.â€ Thanks bro! Inside the Tower Suites lobby, I run into Jacky, my â€œdedicatedâ€ receptionist from when I had a Fairway Villa. We talk for a bit and I just have to bring up my interest in reserving one of the Apartment Villasâ€”10,000 square foot, â€œhigh roller onlyâ€ mansions with private pools (did anyone say March Madness 4 ?). Iâ€™m dropping names left and right and tell her how Iâ€™ve been in talks with Richard Cotter (the Vice President of Wynn) about reserving one (Iâ€™ll spare you guys the details of that conversation), but Jacky tells me that I might be able to get a tour if I want. Iâ€™m stoked as she goes back and talks to one of the managers. He comes out and I explain the situation. He says, â€œHave Richard give me approval and Iâ€™ll be more than happy to show you one when youâ€™re back here in three weeks.â€ Thatâ€™s something Iâ€™ll have to get working onâ€¦ I go check out the pai gow action and some of the pit and dealers recognize me. That actually sucked because I wanted to play, but you canâ€™t when the minimum bet is your entire bankroll. Oh well. I make a promise that Iâ€™ll be back with guns blazing in three weeks. We get the idea to head to Stardust, collect a chip, and see the place before they blow it up. Yes, please blow it up. I donâ€™t think Iâ€™ve ever seen such a depressing place. Between the popcorn ceilings just two feet above my head and the clientele playing with/for the rent money, I run to a pai gow table for a chip, one quick hand, and then Iâ€™m out. I buy in for $20, keep a red, and place a $10 bet. I always put all my hands in order before setting them to make sure I catch straights and flushes. The dealer does the same, only it takes her about three times longer and then what seems like forever to compare the hands. Had I not put my hand in order, I think she may have had to call the pit boss. Anyway, I win the hand, throw her a tip, and cash out of there. By now itâ€™s around 3:30am and my brother is passing out so we head back to Monte Carlo. I say goodnight as I make my way to the pai gow tables. The minimums are $10 so I just buy-in with my whole bankroll and proceed to play casually. Thereâ€™s a really drunk guy sitting next to me who was hilarious. Heâ€™s saying things to the dealer like, â€œDidnâ€™t want to be the one to tell you, but youâ€™re the worst dealer Iâ€™ve ever seen with all those pai gows. They need to demote you to war. No, you need to start dealing slots,â€ and all the while Iâ€™m cracking up, practically spewing martini through my nose. Later some girls walk by and overlook the action. Now, normally Iâ€™m pretty shy, but Iâ€™m slightly buzzed and ask if one of them has a sister named Marissa because she looks very familiar. She says, â€œNo, but I know how you know meâ€¦ I just canâ€™t tell you. You figure it out.â€ This leaves me bewildered, but her friend leans over and whispers in my ear, â€œYou saw her tits in Playboy.â€ That actually wasnâ€™t the reason she looked familiar, but I accepted the answer. Ms. Playboy scolds her friend for telling me and they leave wishing me goodnight and good luck. I ask one of the pit bosses if I can get a line pass for the buffet in the morning. He says itâ€™s no problem and to just ask him or whoever is working the pit for one when Iâ€™m ready to leave. After getting wiped out about two hours later, I ask the scariest pit boss on the face of this earth if a pass would be possible. She gives me a straightforward â€œNoâ€ and that was it. I tell her that the guy working earlier said it would be no problem, but she says they havenâ€™t had line passes in years. Sureâ€¦ Just tell me when youâ€™re not in a good mood and donâ€™t feel like giving me something, thanks. I head up to the room and crash for the night. There was a faint hum of a shower while sleeping and Iâ€™m thinking to myself that youâ€™ve got to be a real priss to complain about something so minor (since plumbing noises appear again and again in reviews of Monte Carlo). But then one of the rooms next to me flushes a toilet and in my half-asleep state, it seemed like the ceiling was about to come down. Okay, so maybe the complaints are justified. Morning finally breaks and Iâ€™m able to extend check out for both rooms to 12pm. We pack our stuff, load it in the car, and head over to the buffet. It was just okay all aroundâ€”I wasnâ€™t expecting more for $12. After the buffet, we decide to walk up the strip to Caesars and then make our way back to Monte Carlo for some detox at the spa. Despite the cold plunge and jacuzzi being under renovation, the spa is Monte Carloâ€™s highlight. Itâ€™s not the biggest facility, but the space is really well done and the staff is superb. My brother and I decide to go see the car collection at Imperial Palace while we drop my dad and uncle off a few doors down at Barbary Coast. I tell my brother to park at the Coast and weâ€™ll walk the rest of the way as itâ€™s starting to rain and Imperial Palaceâ€™s infamous parking garage is not where you want to be when itâ€™s pouring. Now, Iâ€™ve been in Barbary Coast several times before, but this time around itâ€™s totally packed and thereâ€™s just a great vibe. Donâ€™t know what it is, but I really take a liking to the place. My brother and I catch a few songs during Big Elvisâ€™ set and then I head over to see the pai gow action. $5 pai gow is like a way of life here. Every seat is taken and during the five or so minutes of overlooking the action, I donâ€™t see a single bet over $5. So my brother and I walk to Imperial Palace and I try to find another pai gow table to pull the same thing I did at Stardust. I know they wonâ€™t be around much longer and I want a chip, but I canâ€™t find a table and the thought of waiting in line at the cage isnâ€™t very intriguing. Iâ€™m sure Iâ€™ll walk in again some other time before itâ€™s rubble so we finally head to the car collection. Itâ€™s a pretty nice display and although I follow new cars closely, the collection is mostly classics and that really isnâ€™t my thing. Almost all were for sale and the most expensive was an original Maybach for a mere 2.5 million. We walk back over to Barbary Coast and now the rain is just pouring. We head to the car and load up, take one last tour of the entire strip, and head home. Itâ€™s raining pretty hard and weâ€™re starving so we stop again at the cafÃ© inside Gold Strike. We even sit in the same place; it was as though the trip was starting over again. Now, normally I donâ€™t write much about the drive home, but not once in my 29 trips (26 of which have been by car) have I seen weather that crazy. I donâ€™t think we drove faster than sixty as it was raining cats and dogs up until Barstow. Once we get through that, I see some signs around Victorville that say, â€œWatch for fog next ten miles.â€ These signs have almost always been wrong or are left from the night before, but in reality, they should have read, â€œConsider pulling over if you want to live.â€ Once we hit the Cajon Pass, I start praying for my life. Visibility drops down to zero and the only way you can faintly see a car ahead is when theyâ€™re braking and the rear lights are more vividâ€”and all this on a very steep down grade. On the one hand, you want to keep your distance from the car in front, but on the other hand, you have to be close enough so that their lights give you guidance. It takes a while for everyone to cooperate, but we all hit our emergency blinkers and crawl down the hill at a snails pace while keeping a close distance from one another. It works like a charm, although it takes us a half hour just to make it through the pass. We safely make it home and my cheap, 21-hour stint proves to be a lot of fun. April 19th canâ€™t come soon enough. Some final thoughts and updates: I want to get a room at Wynn and watch them implode Stardust. Barbary Coast is freakinâ€™ awesome. Wynn has put up a few railing here and there in the main lobby because I guess people have been running into the trees and flower displays. Theyâ€™ve also closed the art gallery and put some of the works throughout the resort and without much protection, eitherâ€”itâ€™s easy to walk by them and not notice their significance. Among a few exceptions is Picassoâ€™s Le Reve behind the front desk and let me just say, it makes for a stunning first impression. I hope the art stays scattered throughout the public spaces. Monte Carlo is a very well designed hotel. The pool, spa, front desk, shops, and casino are all a very short distance from the elevator. In my faint recollection of stays pre-Mandalay Bay, their service was great, but itâ€™s been overshadowed and things have definitely changed since then. Hope you enjoyed the read!