Mon June 30 (Day #1) SOUTHWEST Flight out of Nashville: On time and as alwaysâ€¦early into Vegas! Never had any problems with Southwest ever. And to make it even sweeter, the roundtrip ticket was FREE due to Southwest VISA card reward points. Iâ€™m $400+ ahead already! ALAMO Rental Car: Smooth check-in and due to no economy cars available, Iâ€™m upgraded to full size Chevy Malibu. $138.00 for 2 weeks (including taxes and NO facility charges) due to another Southwest discount which also provided triple reward points toward free flights. Love that Southwest Airlines! Itâ€™s around 11:30 a.m. and I could chew my arm off Iâ€™m so hungry. I donâ€™t want to face the Vegas Strip & traffic with an empty belly, so I swing a left and make my way to SOUTHPOINT CASINO. Never been there but heard their buffet was fair in taste and price. I stood in line with construction workers and locals based on the conversations I heard. Quick seating and the food was pretty much like you would get on a Blue Plate special. Nothing great but satisfying and under $8. Acquired a players card and dropped about $10 along the way back to the car. FLAMINGO: No fuss check-in and and I got a â€œregularâ€ room as it was $49 for the 1st night and FREE for the 2nd and 3rd nights. Upon the first glance around the room, which overlooked Flamingo Rd and Ballyâ€™s, my thoughts were, â€œThis reminds me of my grandmotherâ€™s house.â€ That was due to the inexpensive maple furniture with knocks and chips in them. The Motel-6 type bed and just a pretty basic room. I guess they thought the purple couch catapulted the room into a â€œretroâ€ category, but they were wrong. The room met my needs but I would not pay over $60 for that room if I were a paying guest. The rest of the evening was spent exploring the pool, spa and casino. The Flamingo spa was very dated in the cracked tiles, not so clean grout, and smallness of the facility. A couple of Jacuzzis were pretty much it was a very small exercise room in which all the wandering guests could peer into as wandered the hotel. The pool was not as big I imagined. The gardens including the pools could add up to a few acres, but not the pools themselves. I remember thinking how old the pool area looked as far as cracked concrete and rusted facilities were concerned. But folks were having a good time and thatâ€™s what matters. I played slots and roulette until 2:00 a.m. I broke even. And thatâ€™s not a bad thing. Tues July 1st (Day #2) I slept late and made my 10:00 a.m. appointment for the NEON GRAVEYARD/BONEYARD. It was searing hot but I was in a group of a dozen much younger people to make the tour. Our tour guide was a lady who had seen Vegas grow since the 60â€™s and had many personal recollections of the signs we observed. During this 1.5 hour tour, I wished I was a much better photographer than I am. Well, I just pretty much snap photos and thatâ€™s it but I really tried to take some at different angles. After looking at my photos Iâ€™m just gonna buy a coffee table book by REAL photographers. It was time well spent and Iâ€™m glad I went. Note: The lobby/office building of the 1961 LaConcha Motel was saved, preserved and is in the process of becoming the office/lobby for the Neon Graveyard. I thought that was very appropriate. Back to the Flamingo Pool and Spa for the afternoon. Back upstairs I dressed for my 5:30 date with my new Wisconsin friends at the Palace Station. Iâ€™ve already posted a very detailed report of that evening. You can search the Trip Report thread for â€œPartial TR-Yahhhâ€ Wed July 2nd (Day #3) Slept late again and woke up starving. I had a taste for nothing but the cranberry bread from the RIO Carnival Buffet. Into the Rio by 11:30 am and walked right through the buffet as there was no line. I satisfied the cranberry bread thing so back out into the Rio Casino I go. Played for about an hour on the slots and breaking even. I like playing and feed any moderate winning right back into the machine for extending my playing time. I did notice that there were hardly any people at the slots machines. I walked around and counted 27 people playing. Kinda slow I thought. The table were hopping though. I walk to see what the Rio pool is all about but you have to have a room key to enter so I exit. I see a huge flow of people heading in one direction. What can I say?â€¦Iâ€™m a sheep! So I go with the flow just really to see the rest of the hotel. The flow hits a traffic jam, so I pass on the left and walk towards the front of the jam to see what it is theyâ€™re all about. WSOP. Not a clue. I look around for more clues and I see the â€œpokerâ€ on many posters. O.K. Iâ€™m not THAT slow of a learner. Now Iâ€™m a person who knows nothing about poker except that you have to have cards to play itâ€¦or video machine (which Iâ€™ve tried but I didnâ€™t have a clue there either.) All of once the masses begin to move through some huge double doors. The usher/security looks at me and motions as he says, â€œThis wayâ€. I look back at the people whoâ€™ve been standing for 3-4 hours, I shrug and in I go! Baaaaaaa! I stop at the rope. What the hell am I looking for? There are t.v. cameras all around, press badges flying in the wind and hoards of media shifting from one table to another. And then I see the faces: Matt Damon and wife, Jason Alexander, Charles Barkley, Ben Affleck, Adam Sandler, Ray Ramono and lots more I didnâ€™t know but evidently the crowd did. And the crowd appeared to be really die-hard poker fans as they were more interested in acquiring photos of the poker professionals. Some lady poker player was on the cover of a current poker rag and was signing all around. Some guy that sported a mustache and gottee that looked more like a cowboy/poker player of the old west. I ended up staying for the whole thing. Poker has a vocabulary all its own. Ray Ramono played almost to the end as did Ben Affleck who was advising the guy who not only played but MCâ€™d the entire thing. Interesting no doubt, but I wonâ€™t spend my time doing it again in the future. Once was enough. Back into the casino to drop more cash. I end up doing supper at one of the fast food Chinese places just off the main floor at the RIO. Standard food and fair prices. Back to the Flamingo by Midnight and over to Ballyâ€™s to gamble until 2:00 a.m. and Iâ€™m done for the day! July 3-5 (Days #4, #5, #6) As the extended 4th of July weekend visitors begin to arriveâ€¦.I exit the city due to high prices and crowds. My annual pilgrimage to Death Valley is underway. Temps in the 120+ degrees and nobody in the pool but meâ€¦floating, floating, floating. No cel phone, no t.v. Just chilling and snacking on Wheat Thins, chunks of various cheeses and potted Spam. Iâ€™d been needing that time alone real bad. **I did sneak out of the Valley over the mountains to the tiny little town of Beatty for a few fireworks on the 4th of July. Open face roast beef plate at the StageCoach Casino/Restaurant and a winning of $55 on a nickel machine as I headed toward the doors. Subtle and quiet with a win. Thatâ€™s good. Sunday July 6 (Day #7) I hit the road around 5:00 a.m. to watch the sun rise as I travel through the Sand Dunes and Mustard Canyon of Death Valley. I come to a junction and for some reason I thinkâ€¦take the looooong way around. So I head back to Vegasâ€¦by way of San Bernadino, CA. Yep, 3 hours the OTHER way! Iâ€™m a road hog for sure. Baker, Barstow and San Bernadino. Took in parts of Route #66 and even took the tour of the first McDonaldâ€™s site in San Bernadino and I have the pictures to prove it! Back on the interstate to travel East to Vegas for check-in. Of course the highway heading West out of Vegas with all the 4th of July visitors made for miles and miles of traffic crawling if not standing still. I stop at Primm and hit a few Outlet stores. Mandalay Bay was my home for the next two nights. $99 night web page promo. I requested an upgrade but due to â€œoverbookingâ€ none were available. But my young lady receptionist made it up to me by offering a high strip view AND two days entry to the Mandalay Spa. Excellent!! After being on the road all day, I checked into my very, very nice modern â€œbasicâ€ room. Great furnishings especially for lounging and looking out over the strip and the airport. Now I have to mention that I love watching the planes taking off and coming inâ€¦especially at night. This room was perfect for me. I bounce down to the Mandalay Spa for 90 minutes of sweet nothing. Iâ€™ve been to a few spas in Vegas and this one trumps all the ones Iâ€™ve visited so far including the WYNN. Played roulette and slots until about 10:00 p.m and realized how hungry I was. THE NOODLE SHOP was really my only choice this late but it was an excellent choice. I ordered a bowl of noodle soup AND and order of bar-b-que meat. The little waitress tells me, â€œThatâ€™s too much!â€ ????? What? â€œThatâ€™s too much for you!â€ Itâ€™s for sure that this chick has never seen me eat. But she goes on to say that for only $5 she will have the chef add some meat to the soup. Okay, okay. Well, my little waitress was right. The soup bowl with noodles was more like a mixing bowl to you and me! And it was darn good! I even thought about going back the next day for lunch to get the same thing. It was that good. Good service, fair prices and enormous portions. I continued to gamble until 2:00 a.m. Won another $50 on a nickel machine. On to bed. Mon July 7 (Day #8) Slept till 8:00 a.m. Breakfast of Wheat Thins and cheese left over from the Valley. Down to the MANDALAY BAY POOL for the first time. I was in the gate by 10:30 a.m. WHOA! Crowded is an understatement. I stood over to the side to get my bearings and scope out the scene. Scores of families were circling the facility looking for chairs. Hardly any to be foundâ€¦especially 2 or more together. I walked for about 20 minutes and found 1 beside the Lazy River. The number of people in the Lazy River were elbow to elbow, and Iâ€™m not joking. I was starting to get irritated at the shear numbers that were allowed into the pool area. By noon, it was almost standing room only. I had given my chair to a family of four who looked so lost. The were truly grateful. As I watched the masses, it became clear to me. These people were having a great time! Kids were squealing and adults were laughing. I thought to myself, â€œThese are some really good memories being made for these families.â€ With that thought, I hit the lazy river myself and floated with the best of them. I then went on over to the WAVE POOL. Fun, fun, fun. People were spread out and head plenty of personal space although you might slam into someone else as the waved rushed you forward. At 1:00 p.m. my crackers and cheese are way gone. I head over to THE BORDER GRILL (Mexican grub). I had a very potent margarita along with chili releno stuffed with shrimp and sausage as well as guacamole and chips. The bill came to $43 for lunch. More than I usually spend but the food was really good and I was really hungry. And upon leaving, the margarita was really carrying a punch. Iâ€™m here to witnessâ€¦nothing like being 50 yrs old and drunk body surfing in the wave pool with scores of 9-yr olds. Yahhhhh! 5:30 p.m. has me crawling out of the Wave Pool and into the Mandalay Spa for an hour or so of sauna and whirlpools. Kicking back with the sound of waterfalls as the ceiling fades to various shades of pastels. I place iced cucumber slices over my eyes and think about how life is really good at this moment. The spa has everything under the sun available to you in order to clean up and get ready for an evening out. I do so and head to the room for a bit. Back to the Casino by 10:00 p.m. and play till 2:30 a.m. I leave $100 down. Not bad to play that long. I eat at RAFFLES CAFÃ‰, the 24-hr cafÃ© for MB. Iâ€™ve eaten here 3 times before and the food is always good, the services sucks big time. I sat there and tried to figure out why. And bingo!â€¦itâ€™s the layout of the facility. The servers have to walk 3-5 minutes away for drinks, condiments, check, etc. This slows down the service considerably. But thereâ€™s no other choice in the early hours at MB. Tues July 8 ( Day #9) Check out at MB was smoothâ€¦until I couldnâ€™t find my car keys. Everyone from security to housekeeping was very helpful and sympathetic. It took me an hour to backtrack and empty one of may deep, dark bags in which black key ring was hiding. One of the first things I did when I couldnâ€™t find the keys was go to the garage to see if the car was still there. It was and that was 90% of the scare in my mind. On to BELLAGIO HOTEL AND CASINO! I was to be checked in as invited guest with an early check-in due to my using the MGM VISA Card. â€œSorry, our system is down and we have no early check-in today.â€ Okay, Iâ€™ve been snubbed before. I head to the Bellagio Buffet. Short wait and as always the food is fresh and good. To me, itâ€™s the desserts that put this buffet in the top around town. The buffet was less than $20 for lunch but I would recommend to anyone to pay that amount and have a full-blown dessert tasting party. Service is excellent as usual. Back to the front desk by 12:00 noon. Still not ready. Come back at 1:00 Play roulette for an hour. Back to desk by 1:00. Still not ready, come back at 3:00. Back to the slots and roulette. Coming out even which was a good way to pass the time. Back to desk at 3:00. The system is JUST now coming back up. There appears to be more than 200 folks waiting to check in. The Bellagio hostesses are serving warm cookies and elegantly designed mini-cakes to the masses to keep them from storming the counters. It was amazing how taming a warm cookie could be. I had requested a Spa Tower standard room since itâ€™s so close to the pool than the main tower of rooms. The young man offered me a fountain view room which I accepted. This has always been the case at the Bellagio for me. A fountain view is offered without me asking or a $20 trick. The room is as I expected although the bedding was not near as plush as in previous visits. No matter. The view of the dancing fountains always calm me. I head to the Bellagio Spa. I guess you can see a pattern. This trip was all about spas and calm. I didnâ€™t care for this spa as much as I did MB. The Bellagio wet areas were quite hugeâ€¦but with a lot of wasted space. Very open and not near as relaxing as MBâ€¦but much more than Flamingo. One thing I did notice. The female spa users at Bellagio donâ€™t mind parading around in the nude at all. Now, there were nude ladies in the spas at MB, but they were discrete as they entered various areas. At the Bellagio, it was more like, â€œI look good, I feel good and Iâ€™m gonna darn well strut my stuff butt naked.â€ Good for them. After the spa, I head up to the room to catch the fountains a bit and then head to the casino. I play roulette and slots until 9:00. Eat supper at small cafÃ©-type NOODLES restaurant. Kind of a busy atmosphere. I ate at the counter rather than waiting for a table. It was like eating at the old Walgreens counter with busy staff all around. Pretty standard food. Nothing exceptional. I leave full. Back to the casino until 3:00 a.m. I leave even. Yeah! Wed. July 9 (Day #10) Iâ€™m up by 8:00 a.m. I click on the tube and watch the Weather Channelâ€¦just because I like the weather channel. Extreme Heat Warning. Records could be broken. You know what that means? Record highs in Death Valley!! I know, I know. But an hour later finds me at the Pharump Wal-Mart purchasing a digital thermometer. Off to Stovepipe Wells to float in the pool for 3 hours. I keep the digital thermometer on me. Itâ€™s hitting close to 130+ degrees. I know my little gadget is not the scientific gadget that registers the actual â€œtrueâ€ temp for the record books. But it satisfies my needs for the need for heat. And in the words of that criminial lying in the streets in the Dirty Harry movieâ€¦ â€œIâ€™s gots to know!â€ 4:00 p.m. at Badwater. The lowest point in the Western Hemisphere. I walk the salt flats. Now, I can only hold the thermometer with a wash cloth as the casing is too hot to handle. I lived to tell about it. My head is starting to hurt despite all the water Iâ€™m downing. The temp registers 2 more degrees as I walk to the car for 149.7 degrees! I head back to the Bellagio. I feel fulfilled. I gamble all night long until 4:00 a.m. Down $100. Thurs July 10 (Day #11) Iâ€™m starting to long for home a little bit. Iâ€™m supposed to stay until Sunday but I click on my phone and change my ticket to fly out on Friday morning. I love Southwest as if there is seating, thereâ€™s no charge for switching your ticket with the rapid rewards. I run down to the outlet malls and pick up a couple things that I had been wanting. Back to the Bellagio to pack up. Called to confirm my late check out at 3:00 p.m. I take my change of clothes to the spa, make an appointment for a massage and put my belongings in a locker. I walk down to check out but ask for a pool pass for the rest of the day. No problem. I check out at 3:00. Total bill for days hotel/spa/food = $8.12 I had $400 in VISA reward dollars to use toward my stay. Yahhhhh! Checked out, I head to the pool for a couple of hours and then for a massage before heading to the Stratosphere for my last night. **I have to note about the Bellagio spa services/facility. When you are in your robe, you are led down a very long corridor to a waiting room that is co-ed. The place reminds you of a hospital. No kidding. The therapists are dressed in scrubs and line the hallways as you walk by. When I mentioned that the whole area had a very â€œclinicalâ€ feeling about it, my massage therapists said they get those remarks all the time. But once I entered the therapy room, all that clinical feeling melted away. Perfect massage. Just perfect. Back to the wet area to clean up and get dressed. I drove right past the Stratosphere on into downtown and into the parking garage at the Golden Nugget. Once again, Iâ€™m starving and VIC & ANTHONYâ€™S Steak House is screaming my name. I love this little steak house. Food is always just the best and service is grand. I had the stuffed salmon, garlic mashed potatoes with asparagus with a spinach salad. I was a happy girl. Roulette had me a winner and I roamed the streets of downtown before hitting the Stratosphere at 11:00 p.m. A quick check in at the Stratosphere finds me upstairs re-arranging my luggage as such so airport check-in will be smooth. Uhhh, I overlooked the corkscrew/knife in my carry on. But no worry, the luggage police reminded me real quick as I checked in the next day!! Now, as always, Iâ€™m terrified to go to sleep the night before I leave because Iâ€™m afraid Iâ€™ll miss my plane. Thatâ€™s why I chose the Stratosphere, not only is it a fun place to do roulette with a single zeroâ€¦.itâ€™s a cheap place to throw my luggage and take a quick shower ($32) before heading back to the rental car complex & flight home. So my midnight, Iâ€™m downstairs doing the roulette thing and hitting the slots. I won over $200 on roulette but fed it back to the dealer and into the slots. Did that over and over for about 4 hours. Hit the showers and hit the strip. Pulled into the WYNN parking garage just steps from the casino. Cashed in three $25 chips I found in my purse from my last visit. Walking back to the carâ€¦I couldnâ€™t help it. Stopped at a dollar slot, slipped in a $10 and played back and forth for 30 minutes and left $50 ahead. That was the first time I had been in the WYNN this trip and I had sorta forgotten how much I liked playing at the WYNN. Mental note to myself..hit the Wynn first next trip. Friday July 11 (Day #12) French toast sticks and sausage at airport Burger King and a $30 win on the airport quarter slots. Yahhhh! I was asleep before we ever left the ground and I woke up as we were rolling into the Southwest depot in Nashville. 4 hours never went by so fast. I spend the weekend catching up on sleep and hanging with the toddler grandkids. I know whatâ€™s coming. I went to Vegas despite knowing what was coming. I needed the desert and the spas and non-stop nights and the carelessness of the slots. I had tests the day before I left for Vegas. And Monday after I came home from Vegas, I sat in the Drâ€™s office and the diagnosis came. I spent the next 3 days having biopsies, CT scans and referrals. Next week, I have surgery to meet cervical cancer head on. ***The only reason I mention this is: Donâ€™t put off going to Vegas! DO NOT let an extra $100-$150 on airfare stop you. Sell something out of the basement or take a job delivering pizzas for a couple of months. Just get there. The vibes of that city are so upliftingâ€¦your mental health NEEDS Vegas. I know mine did. Oh, just one more thing. My Alamo triple rewards points put me over the top for another FREE Roundtrip Southwest Airline Ticket! Yahhhh! Iâ€™m already looking at the calendar for my next trip after all this medical stuff is behind me because I LOVE standing under the VEGAS sign at night and looking up the Strip. I just do.