TR -- 40 Hours in Las Vegas, and the two biggest dumbasses in Vegas A trip report By Andrew in Alabama NOTE TO READERS: This TR was composed primarily to entertain the readers of an Internet Usenet discussion group called alt.vacation.las-vegas, or AVLV. Reference is made to several posters there, so if you donâ€™t recognize the names, itâ€™s probably because you donâ€™t read AVLV. Donâ€™t worry, weâ€™re not all perfect. I just returned from my hastily arranged, whirlwind 40 hour stay in Las Vegas, and looking back I am amazed at how much I was able to pack into one evening and one full day. Thatâ€™s one of the great things about Vegasâ€¦ if you have the will and the desire to deprive yourself of sleep, you can fill every minute of every day. The quickie version: Flew Southwest from Birmingham, non-stop. Very nice flights, both arrived early. Rented car from Hertz, excellent as usual. Stayed at Suncoast, great rooms but baited and switched me on the rate, and Las Vegas Clubâ€¦ room was $25 and worth about that. Ate at Sushi on Tropicana (slipping); Makino (outstanding) and Fiesta Henderson Coffee Shop (very good.) Saw a band called Richard Cheese and Lounge Against the Machine (highly recommended.) Interestingly, I never even got near the strip until driving to the airport on Monday morning. The long play version: This trip materialized out of nowhere about 2 weeks ago, when I realized that I had about $275 credit on Southwest that would expire in February. Mrs. Andrew in Alabama gave her blessing, and I was on the web in nanoseconds arranging a trip that would have me arriving in Las Vegas at 6PM on a Saturday night and leaving at 10 AM that Monday morning. As I was planning it, I began referring to it as â€œ40 hours in Las Vegas.â€ But what a 40 hours it was! I flew the daily nonstop that Southwest has (my ticket came out to $14 less than the credit I had, so it was a â€œfreeâ€ flight) from Birmingham. Southwest is fast becoming my favorite airline. The employees are friendly, the planes arrive on time and safely, and the pilots actually still tell you about points of interest along the way. On the flight out, I had what I refer to as â€œSouthwest Airlines First Class,â€ meaning there was no person occupying the middle seat. I chatted with my seatmate and bought her a drink with some coupons I had. No, itâ€™s not what you are thinking, she was a grandma traveling back to California after visiting her grandchildren, and was a different race than I am. But she was an ideal and pleasant seatmate and when she ordered a drink, I paid with one of my coupons. You can relax now. There was a couple two rows in front of me that were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. The flight attendant gave them a bottle of champagne. I thought that was a nice touch. As is my custom when traveling without women, I had only one bag, which fits easily overhead, and a computer bag which fits easily under the seat and still leaves room for my size 10 Â½ feet. In this case, it fit easily under the middle seat. I opened up the laptop and watched the first half of the movie â€œGo,â€ which I highly recommend, BTW, and before I knew it, we were descending into the inky black desert. The flight arrived 20 minutes ahead of schedule, I breezed through the airport and did not have to wait for checked bags, found a Hertz van right outside, and rode directly to my car. Because I am a member of their #1 Club Gold, I simply had to look on a board for my name and go directly to my car, and be checked out at the gate. I have rented from others (Dollar, Alamo) on the last few trips because Hertz was too expensive, but I used a coupon for a double upgrade and ended up paying $51 total (includes all taxes and fees for two days) for a Chevy Malibu. By the end of the trip, I had put exactly 80 miles on it, so I definitely got around. Hertz is definitely the cream of the crop when it comes to car rental companies. Usually more expensive, but worth it in some circumstances. In keeping with tradition, my first stop was at Sushi on Tropicana, which I have written about before as being my favorite place in Las Vegas for sushi (which is my favorite food.) I must report, regretfully, that Sushi on Tropicana seems to be on a decline. This trip the rice was gummy and overcooked, kind of tasteless, and the fish, while fresh, was not as high quality as before. Fortunately, I have another sushi place that I ate at this trip which will more than fill the void left by Sushi on Trop. After dinner I climbed back into the Chevy Malibu. After taking a right turn onto Tropicana, I got on US 95 towards Downtown on my way to the Suncoast in Summerlin. I had never approached Downtown from this direction before, and I must say I prefer the view to the one from I-15 North. But for now, I was to drive by downtown on the way to Suncoast. I arrived there to find no wait for check-in, and a nice room, although it was odd having to trudge through the center of the casino with my bags to get to the elevator. The room was very very nice, and if it were on the strip would probably go for top prices. I was brought in at the casino rate ($75) because of some previous play there, and told by the host (Alex) that if I played $4000 coin-in on the VP, that he would comp me. I proceeded to play over $4000 coin OUT on the 9/6 Jacks or Better at the various bars. When I asked for my comp, I was told that the $4000 play needed to be on one day, and mine was spread out between Saturday night and Sunday morning. That made no sense to me, and was not what I was told, so I made my displeasure known. All they would do was shrug their shoulders. I donâ€™t think Iâ€™ll be going back there to stay anytime soon, as I believe I was baited and switched. I spent that night playing the various games, and began the freefall that I was to experience the whole trip. I could not win at anything. Occasionally I would find a VP machine that would let me play for a little while, but would soon go back to vacuum cleaner mode. At least I drank a ton of Baileyâ€™s while I was playing. I surprised myself by how tired I felt, so I decided to go back to the room for a few hours of sleep. I got to bed about 12:30 AM. The bed was very comfortable, and the room quiet. At 6:30 I woke up, opened up the curtains on the floor to ceiling windows and enjoyed a sunrise over the golf courses and mountains of Summerlin. I watched a little of the local news (for some reason I am fascinated by local news in other cities,) showered, and headed down to the casino for some decaf with Baileyâ€™s and VP. The gambling fates were no kinder this morning, either at VP or at blackjack. After the room rate controversy, I decided that I no longer wanted to gamble at the Suncoast, so I went on a mini-coupon run to Fiesta Rancho. The Las Vegas Advisor Pocketbook of Values had a $5 match play and a 3-1 blackjack that I intended to use. I won the match play, then lost $100 chasing my first blackjack. It never came. I played a (very) little video poker, and it was time to go meet David and Roz Berman for lunch at Makino restaurant. Let me just say this: I am not upset at all about the decline of Sushi on Tropicana, because Makino is an even better value. Anyone who has been to Vegas with me will tell you that I am not a great fan of buffets, but this one is simply outstanding. The selection, quality, and sheer quantity of the food available is breathtaking. Another advantage is the ability to sample many different rolls without having to eat a whole roll, like at Sushi on Trop. I think that the marinated raw tuna salad they have there may be my favorite food, anywhere. The only weaknesses I have found is the poor quality of the desserts, and the lack of a teppan option like they have at Todai. They did have a chef there making crepes which I did not try, but that looked tasty. The conversation was as good as the food, with the topics ranging from politics to religion and back again. David and Roz are great to be around and I told them several times how I envy their life. After lunch, I went to the second hotel of my two-night stay, the Las Vegas Club. I parked in the self-park deck and took note of the bizarre and perplexing footprints on the walls and ceiling, and arrived at the check in desk to find a line of people ahead of me. I hate lines, and this one did not seem to be moving at all. â€œHell,â€ I thought to myself, â€œif I wanted to stand in lines for check-in, Iâ€™d stay on the freaking Strip.â€ Finally the line moved and it turned out that all five of the people in front of me had booked together, so suddenly I was first in line. Bonus. I had a special deal through Billhereâ€™s newsletter http://www.billhere.com/ for $25 per night for a North Tower (newer and nicer than the South) room. The elevators are hard to find, and I am not a fan of the casino, but the room was perfectly fine for $25. The view looked at a cement wall (the â€œSouthâ€ tower) but I didnâ€™t give a shit. I walked around downtown playing and losing at the Plaza (lost on a match-play and the next 3-4 hands in a row); Binionâ€™s; the El Cortez (at the $1 craps table with 10X odds.) I decided to save the Golden Gate 2-1 blackjack coupon for a time when my luck is running better, and head to my home away from home, Main Street Station. I get into a groove with a 9/6 Jacks machine at the bar, and the bartender gets me into a groove with a stream of Patron tequilas and bottled waters. I actually win a little money ($60 or so) at this machine, but play for a long time, building up sufficient points that the offers will keep coming. During this time, I am talking on the cell phone and watching the Pro Bowl, just having a great time. I was meeting Steve Harder-Kucera at 10:00 at Sunset Station to catch a show, so I went over the Fiesta in Henderson to use another couple of coupons from the POV, and to have dinner in the coffee shop, as I have heard good things about the Feel Good Wonton Soup there. Gambling went as I had come to expect, I lost a match play plus about $25. I was surprised to find a $1 craps table with 10X odds, so I played for a few minutes, losing $1. I headed to the coffee shop and sat at the counter. I decided upon a combination that included the aforementioned wonton soup (in a smaller portion, of course) along with an egg roll and my favorite Chinese entrÃ©e, Mongolian beef. The food was very good, and the price was around $11 before tip. After I ate, I went up to Sunset Station around ten to meet Steve and see the show. He spotted me and waved me over to his table, where we proceeded to laugh our asses off at Richard Cheese and Lounge Against the Machine www.richardcheese.com This band really swings, baby. They will be appearing at Sunset Station for the next few Sunday nights, and at least this night they were not charging cover. If you are going to be in town, I highly recommend it for a free show. Also, Sunset Station might be the most beautiful casino I have ever been in. After the show and a nice visit with Steve, I headed back downtown for more of the same abuse, ending the night about 2 AM at the bar at Main Street Station. Hereâ€™s where I tell about one of the worldâ€™s biggest dumbasses. Itâ€™s me. At some point in playing, I switched machines. I didnâ€™t realize for about ten minutes that the game I was playing on the multi-game machine was something called Double Bonus Deluxe Supreme, or something like that. The good news is that the way I found out was by hitting four of a kind that paid 400 coins instead of 125. Wow. I played there until about 2:30 AM. I ignored the chuckle at the other end of the line when I called the Las Vegas Club operator at 3 AM asking for a 6 AM wake up call, and fell into bed around 3. Seconds later, my 6:00 wake up call shook the room. I sprang into action, with the three â€œsâ€ words in the bathroom (email me if you really want to know) and found that I had some extra time. I moseyed around downtown a little, going into the Golden Gate, and deciding I really didnâ€™t want a shrimp cocktail just then, and went to the Golden Nugget where I eked out a $10 win at a blackjack tableâ€¦ my only BJ win of the whole trip. Some nimrod was cashing about $1000 in $50 travelerâ€™s checks at the cage, and there was only one person working, so it took a while to get my money out. If I wanted to stand in lines Iâ€™d gamble on the freaking strip. I used the Hertz Neverlost Navigation system to get back to Hertz to return the car, then ignored it when it told me to turn left on Sahara because I felt like driving down the strip. It was very helpful with the last few turns near the airport, though. On the Hertz airport shuttle, I saw the second of the worldâ€™s biggest dumbasses, and this one is not me. The shuttle driver was reminding everyone as they boarded to think if they had left anything in the cars. One guy stops short, says â€œholy shit!â€ and literally SPRINTS back to his car. Seems the old boy had left his WEDDING RING in the car! He came back to the driver and said â€œyou donâ€™t realize it, but you just literally saved my life.â€ All the passengers on the shuttle were men, and one other commented, â€œHell, sonâ€¦ just leave it on next time. The hookers donâ€™t care if you are wearing a wedding ring.â€ We had a jolly old time at ring-boyâ€™s expense, and, inwardly, I shuddered slightly at what the consequences would be for me if I came home from a solo trip to Vegas sans wedding ring. There was no line, I mean NO line at the Southwest counter, so I walked right up and got my boarding pass. Southwest tip: You can get your boarding pass at the check-in counter 2 hours before boarding, but at the gate only one hour before boarding. If you want to virtually ensure yourself boarding within the first group, get there 2 hours ahead and check in at the main counter. Security was tight but moved along very fast, only held up by the idiot in front of me who couldnâ€™t understand why his gold jewelry was setting off the metal detectors. Security took a total of less than ten minutes from the end of the line to the back of security. I am pleasantly surprised to find the TSA people doing a much better job with airport security than I had thought they would. Once again Southwest was right on time, and thanks to a nice tailwind we were home about Â½ hour ahead of schedule. No SWA first class this time, but the woman in the center seat was not of the larger variety. I had great views of the strip, downtown, Lake Mead, and the Grand Canyon from my seat on the left side of the plane. Zipped off the plane in Birmingham and rented a car for the drive back home (Mrs. Andrew in Alabama had dropped me off, but something came up and she could not drive to the airport to get me.) Arrived home with no incident and to a happy family. Fell into bed at 8:30 last night and slept straight through until 6:30, and will probably do the same tonight. It was a great trip. I welcome any comments at [email protected] Andrew ÃŸ is it JUNE yet?