Got the kids off to their normal weekday morning locations and hit the road. Entertained ourselves by watching the “outside temp” display slowly click its way up from 72 to 115. I understand how people can live in that heat in Vegas, but what is the possible excuse for living in Victorville or Barstow?? Vacation started off on the right foot this time with No speeding ticket! Checked in at Mandalay Bay mid afternoon. No Strip view rooms with a King bed available....bummer, but not the end of the world. Got situated in our room and decided we had better eat. We were eager to get at it, so we decided to just hit the buffet at MB. Perhaps I’m spoiled by Bellagio and Paris, but this buffet just really wasn’t that great....it wasn’t bad, but nothing grabbed us being outstanding, which, at $45 for two of us, we kind of expected. Fully nourished, it’s time to gamble..... walked the casino floor and found one five dollar black jack table, which of course was jammed and had people waiting for openings. I don’t understand the theory of letting 10 BJ dealers stand at empty $10 and $25 tables when you could fill three or four tables with $5 bettors... I’m sure there’s a reason. Grabbed the tram to Luxor and played BJ for a while.... had an annoying dealer who would Not shut up!! Endlessly droning about computer technology and it’s use in defense..... hey! I’m on vacation here!! When he told us he had three web sites that netted him $240k a month, my bullshit threshold was exceeded, and it was time to go. We decide to get the car and head to the Mirage, which is my wife’s favorite. For the sake of brevity, let me point out that any time we were getting in or out of our car, it was at the valet station....not even Thinking of walking in that heat. So, we sit down at a BJ table and I promptly loose $50. Hmmmm..... time for some video poker! I’ve been practicing on the Bob Dancer software, so I feel much more prepared than last time. I find a bank of machines that have a payout similar to what I am used to seeing on the computer, have a seat, order a corona, and let the vacation begin. Actually had to make myself go slow, drink a beer, look around.....after about 15 minutes, I feel the stress leaving and vacation mode kicking in...outstanding. In about an hour I turn my $20 into $100... that’s more like it. Took my house money and went off to play some Pai Gow Poker. Played for a couple of hours and left even money...good enough. Off to find the wife and play BJ for a couple of hours.... we both leave with a few extra dollars in our pocket. We head back to MB and call it a night. I decide to sleep in Tuesday morning with the wife...we lounge around and don’t leave the room until almost 11:00..... sacrilege, I know, but a month of sixty hour weeks has weakened me. My wife drops me off at the Calaway Center so I can hit some balls while she goes to the Belz outlet mall. I notice that no one is on the course, so I convince the starter to give me the resident rate, and opt to just hit a small bucket and then play 9. By the time I get to the tee, three other knuckleheads....eeerrr....golfers are there. We all join up and play together. Had a really good time despite the 115 temperature. The sensation is similar to what I imagine playing on the surface of the Sun would be like. I’ve got my SPF50 on, so I’m good to go. After one cold beer I had to switch back to water....if one beer is giving me that much of a buzz, perhaps I should wait until the round is over. Had a great time playing, had a beer with the fellas afterward, and the wife picked me up right on time. Somewhat embarrassing to walk through the hotel entrance all sweaty, but what are you gonna do? Hit the shower, put on fresh clothes, and we head out for dinner. We went to the Border Grille at MB. I can honestly say this is one of the best restaurants I have eaten at. Fresh chips with three different salsas, and we order some guacamole...cold corona completes the picture. We are indoors, but the walls are all glass looking out to the beach and pool area. We order shrimp seveche off the specials menu, and it is spectacular. I order the “Gaucho steak”, which is a pepper stuffed steak...it comes with spicy onion rings on a bed of....I guess you would call them nachos. This is the spiciest food I have ever eaten in a restaurant....no “middle ground” here....it’s mexican food and it’s spicy dammit! Truly outstanding. We head out to take a tour of the pool area....really great. The sign says it closes at 7:00... it’s now about 6:30, and almost about the time I would want to enjoy the pool.... I don’t mind the heat, but my white-boy skin does not need to bake in the direct Mojave sunlight. This pool should be open 24/7, or at least until midnight....what a great place to hang out. I guess they want to herd everyone back into the casino.... what a shame. We head back to Center Strip to pick up tickets for the 10:30 Improv show at Harrah’s. Get the tickets and head over to the Mirage to gamble. I try my hand at VP again and double my money.....check on the wife, cruise around a little and play some more VP....double up again. Play some BJ with the wife and head over to the show. All three comedians were funny, and the Pina Coladas were big and tasty. After the show we walk over to Casino Royale to play at the mini-craps table. The dealer is very nice and remembers us from our trip in February. We play for a good three hours and leave with more money than we started with. Excellent. Back to the Mirage for BJ, Pai Gow Poker, and more of that free VP money. Call it a night around 2am, note that it is still 100 degrees. Sleep in again Wednesday morning and lounge the morning away...I could get used to this vacation thing. I ask my wife if she’s up for trying something different, and she is, so we head over to the Palms. Not much to look at driving up, but the casino is a nice mix of upscale contemporary and local / comfortable. They play really good music, and it’s loud enough to hear without being too loud. We decide to eat first, and just head back to the buffet. The buffet is actually quite large and varied.... but the food was just not very good. Definitely a quantity over quality thing going on, but for $7 each we couldn’t really complain (although we wouldn’t eat there again). It looked like most of the people there were locals on there lunch break, which I’m sure is their target audience. Plenty of $5 BJ, so the wife is happy. I want some more of that free VP money, and again turn $20 into $40 fairly quickly.....it’s just too easy....I’m gonna move up to dollar VP and make some real cash.....at $5 a pop it takes about 15 minutes to burn through $40... damn. Ok, reality check. Play a little BJ with the wife and then I decide to check out the poker room. Very nice little room, lots of locals. I’m pretty sure I was the only non-local at the $1-$5 seven stud table. It’s kind of intimidating playing with people who play “casino poker” all the time, but for $60, I’ll test myself. I surprised myself and actually won five or six hands within a couple of hours. Left with $15 more than I bought in for, and felt pretty good about that. Back to the wife’s BJ table, and end up playing for like four hours....nice people at the table and great dealers...very cool. We would definitely go back to the palms. There is a little food court thing in the back where I grabbed a couple of ice-coffe-shake things....never had one before, and they were Good! A great pick-me-up while playing....I took a lot of pain for not bringing them for the whole table...very fun. Back to the Mirage to gamble while we decide where to eat dinner. I drop my wife off at the tables and take my new poker confidence to the Mirage Poker Room. Mecca. I get my name on the waiting list for $1 - $5 seven stud, and soon they open a new table. My half of the table is all tourists, and the other half are all locals....all over the age of 70, dressed to the 9’s, and ready to play! The personalities on these “old timers” was worth the price of admission. There were two women and two men, and Man did they hate to lose!! Hahahaha towards the end of my playing time I had a big showdown with one of the women....I had aces and kings after four cards....three chances to pull the full house... she was trying for a flush, and IT WAS ON!!! Hahahahaa she pulled it and I didn’t but what a blast.... you should have seen the look of disbelief on her face when I was laughing and happy for her when she won! Very fun night. The poker room is non-smoking, which is great. It’s like a fish bowl....people hanging over the railings to watch you play. Lots of energy in that room. The smack was tremendous.... the guy next to me through out a five dollar bet early in the hand with “anybody want some o’ that?” followed quickly from down the table with “yeah, I’ll take some of that!” .... hahahahaa Very cool. Next thing I knew, someone was saying it was midnight..... uhhh... how did that happen?! I guess dinner’s looking kind of sketchy! I quit at 12:30 only down $30 after about five hours of play (most of that went on hand where the woman kicked my ass with her flush). I find my wife and we are both hungry. We decide to go to the Caribe Cafe, which we have never been to. When I see “cafe”, I think small portions for too much money. I couldn’t have been more wrong. We ordered a chicken casadilla and cobb salads..... the casadilla was excellent, as were the salads.....I must come clean and admit that the salad beat me...I couldn’t finish it, which is a rare feat indeed. If you are ever looking for a late night spot to eat, I heartily recommend the Caribe Cafe. Hit the road Thursday morning, and were back in Santa Barbara by mid afternoon....it was an almost chilly 76 degrees. One ironic note: I had a tee time with a buddy of mine to play 18 Friday morning.....we ended up playing 36, and after a week in the Mojave, I got my first sunburn!! Hahahahaa I was still in vacation mode, so we threw a few beers (ok, they were those huge Foster’s, but it was technically only a few) on the second round. Over lunch we hatched a scheme to make a quick roady in early August to play golf and “relax” in LV.... we’ll see if we can pull it off. We’re considering it a recon for the October trip. All in all, a really good trip. Not sure if I would stay at MB again unless I got a really good rate (like I did this time....can’t beat $69 a night)....we spent most of our time Center Strip, so we might as well stay there. If the pool was open later, I would stay there in a heartbeat.