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Everything I Never Wanted to do in Vegas Family Trip Report

Discussion in 'Vegas Trip Reports' started by JFO, Sep 26, 2018.

  1. nancyf

    nancyf Low-Roller

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    wonderful report - I never read a family trip report like this with so many activities/attractions and coupon use... I think your organization skills are tremendous! and it sounds like you all were on the go all day long...
     
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  2. JFO

    JFO Low-Roller

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    Thanks! Well, I had never done a family trip to Vegas, and haven't done many attractions in Vegas other than gaming and drinking. Fortunately the rest of the trip (which I am getting ready to post) wasn't as "on-the-go" as the LV Pass portion of the trip.
     
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  3. JFO

    JFO Low-Roller

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    Ok, after reading all the really good trip reports here, I had been wanting to edit this final section before re-posting, but I might never find time to, so I am going to post it almost exactly as I posted it a couple months ago in the LVA forum (which has become a complete graveyard compared to these forums, or what it used to be.) This final section has a lot of rants and opinions about Las Vegas and its continuing devaluations, but since joining VMB, all my opinions are evolving, so I am just going to leave it as I wrote it a couple months ago:

    --

    Day 5:

    After 3 days of touring, we finally all got to sleep in. I had secured today in advance with my family so that I could go to the casino and try to earn our comped stay or maybe another comped stay. Everyone I know has different things they like to do when they come to Las Vegas, which is exactly why I usually come alone when I come. But my family understands very well the unwritten contract when receiving a room comp, and there was plenty for them to do in this resort. I woke up first, and when I couldn’t go back to sleep, I left the room quietly letting everyone else sleep in.

    Wynn/Encore Casinos: The Wynn/Encore were the first casinos in Vegas to not give free drinks at the video poker bars (followed only by Park MGM I believe.) There are also reports that the casino has a threshold where they will stop giving comps and offers to VP players. This has discouraged me from playing here. But I was here on a comp, and I would really be shocked if they found my play a threat to them. The casinos actually have both NSUD and 9/6 jacks, but these machines earn points at a substantially reduced rate. If you search the casinos hard, you can find 9/7 DB, 15/9 DW44, and 9/5 jacks that aren’t reduced rate. There is also 7/5 BP all over the casinos.

    These two casinos are also known for their chocolate martinis and their espresso martinis. I had a bunch of both of these as my breakfast. I was surprised that an initial $2 tip resulted in very prompt repeat service by the cocktail waitresses here. Or maybe it was just early.

    The players club has 4 tiers; red card, gold card, diamond, and at the top tier chairman, but I have not found anything published anywhere explaining what it takes to achieve tiers. If any readers have any clue how their club works, please PM me. What is published is that only their very top tier (chairman) gets free parking in their garages.

    The Encore casino has a swanky poker room that takes a max rake of $5/pot (tied for the highest in Vegas) and offers $1.50/hour in comps. I wouldn’t have time for poker today. It’s been said that when it comes to comps, poker players are treated one tier above sports betters while one tier below rabbit droppings. But here is a free tip for reading if you don't already know: The poker desk has been giving away free parking just for asking, even to people who haven’t sat down in a poker game. That’s right, a comp reserved only to their highest tier is also given to poker players…. (Please be discreet if you’re going to take this without actually playing poker, there is free parking next door at the Palazzo.)

    The two casinos are separated by a long hallway, and at the Wynn end of the hallway is a polished up stainless-steel statue of Popeye the Sailor Man, with a shiny purple shirt and shiny copper skin. Maybe I don’t get art, but I certainly don’t get this thing. I grew up liking Popeye, and I still do. I read Steve Wynn paid $28 million for this statue. I personally find it an abomination to this legendary sailor’s legacy.

    While I was playing, I get texts back and forth from my wife. They actually had a small bite to eat at a coffee shop early. They then spent some time at the resort's pools in the morning, and both kids I understand enjoyed them, although guests under 18 require an adult escort to enter the pool areas (no such rule at the Orleans pool.) After their swim they went across to the fashion mall where my wife found some good deals on dresses. They sent me a text that they got back to their room, so I came up. They said they just wanted to hang there and chill for a bit, so I went back down to the casino.

    Wynn Buffet: I understand the top 3 buffets in Las Vegas are Bacchanal Buffet at Caesars, Wicked Spoon at the Cosmopolitan, and this one. I haven’t been to the other two, but I had two comps for this one, and the other two were $50 each, making it $100 to feed the 4 of us here with the comp. I hadn’t eaten since the previous day, and the rest only had the light coffee shop breakfast. We all actually dressed up for this buffet, and most of the other patrons were also. And it was pretty fancy. I was glad the boy finally learned he didn’t need to load his first plate with chicken fried steak and pizza.

    After the buffet, they all wanted to go back to the room, watch tv, and relax. I would play a little more before I came back and reclaimed my membership in the family.

    Day 6:

    Wynn Checkout: This morning all of us slept in. One last farewell to our tower room, and we packed our bags and headed down.

    We weren’t very hungry, but we wanted to get something light to eat. Our GPS showed a McDonalds less than 3 minutes away, and we decided we would just head there. I don’t think I have ever eaten at a McDonalds in Vegas before. We found the McDonalds between Slots-A-Fun and a large construction lot, and suddenly I knew exactly where I was…

    The Late Westward Ho Casino: This large construction lot was where the former Westward Ho Casino stood, considered the filthiest casino in Las Vegas. Any gambler with any loose change in their pocket willing to play in their dirty machines could quickly earn a free room comp in their trailer park they called their hotel. I still remember a gambler telling me their food was so awful, the only healthy options were the free popcorn they could get at that Slots-A-Fun, and this McDonalds. For the health conscious among you, I don’t believe you can still get free popcorn at Slots-A-Fun.

    The McDonalds was surrounded by homeless people, but none of the homeless were blocking the doors. It was clean inside and very busy with lots of locals and tourists. However, all the free condiments were kept behind the counter, and the bathrooms had the doors locked and were reserved for customers only. I suppose I could have used the McDonalds app here to save a few dollars, but I am not millennial enough or have the patience to figure out how those things works.

    Venetian: We come back south on the strip and take the free parking at the Venetian again. We leave the kids in the canal shoppes as we head down to use our 2nd pair of UA $25 freeplay coupons, testing what we had been told about their policy that they can be repeated every 5 days. The Grazie agent sees we redeemed the same coupons 5 days earlier and wasn’t sure what to do. I explain that if we don’t count the first day, then today is the 5th day, or if we do count the first day, today is the 6th day, but she still isn’t sure if 5 days means “5 days”, or “5 days in between”, she asks other Grazie hosts but they don’t know either, she calls a manager, and the manager approves us to use our 2nd coupons today, and she finally loads our cards. Many of the UA gift packs have 2 of these coupons, but I think the new packs just have just 1 coupon. I expect it won’t be long until they tighten up further on repeat redemption of these coupons.

    Mac King at Harrah’s: We were now running late for the 1:00 PM Mac King show. We return to the parking elevator, take it to the bottom, and the walkway goes straight from the Venetian parking garage to the Harrah’s parking garage. We pass the sign from Harrah’s telling patrons how they regret cancelling their shuttle to and from the Rio, but not stating the real reason that it had become a parking shuttle since CET strip casinos started charging for parking. Then into the Harrah’s casino, to their ticket booth, where between LVA and ACG we had a ton of up to 2 free Mac King tickets with purchase of one drink per ticket. My wife had never had a CET card before, so she signs up, and as a new member promotion they gave her even more free ‘Mac King for a drink’ coupons, a $10 matchplay, and free spin on some million-dollar wheel. So, we have to buy 4 drink coupons for $15 each to get our 4 tickets to the show.

    We arrive about a minute after the show’s start time, but it hadn’t started. The back of the theater is completely empty, while the rows up front are scattered with people. The usher shows us seats in the last available row. I ask about several open sets of 4 seats together we saw closer to the front, but he tells us those are VIP seats. I think to myself that’s BS, this is a general seating theater, and he just wants to give us the easiest seats he can. I go back to the bar with the drink coupons we paid $15 each for, take a photo of the drink menu, and send it to my wife. My daughter just wanted a ginger ale. I ask the bartender when we pay $15 for a ginger-ale, do we get any free refills? The bartender responds “absolutely no refills on any drinks.”

    We all did enjoy the one-man comedy/magic show. It had some similarities to the Adam London show downtown, but they were both their own unique shows. We can’t really compare the shows as to which was better, but the drinks were sure a lot more expensive here.

    CET Million Dollar Wheel: After the show, we now have nothing we need to do. We have a nice walk to the Mirage across the street. We return to Harrah’s; my wife plays her $10 match play at a craps table. We then look for the free spin wheel and discover its next door at the Linq, so we head there. We then learn the wheel is on the opposite side of the casino from Harrah’s, so we walk through the casino and finally find the computerized slot machine that they call their million-dollar wheel. My wife hands the lady in front of the machine her ticket, players card, and ID, the lady pushes a button, the reel inside the machine spins, it stops, and the lady says to us “Congratulations, you have won a buy-one-get-one-free pass for the High Roller ride!”

    All I could think about was at the El Cortez wheel, everyone was at least guaranteed $10. We mentioned we had just ridden the high roller the previous day. She told us that was all we could get and asked if we still wanted the ticket. We declined.

    CET: Ok, if I can jump off the trip report again, I know a lot of you like CET resorts, but I don’t get why. They are the leader in 6-5 blackjack tables. I remember recently looking at the VP pay-tables of one of their multi-game machines, and the only difference between their 6/5 jacks and a 6/5 BP, was that the 6/5 BP paid 30x on all quads as opposed to 6/5 jacks that paid 25x. A VP bartender could be doing nothing, but won’t get you a glass of warm tap water if he hasn’t seen you playing max credits for a period of time. They have among the highest resort fees in Vegas. When MGM started charging for parking, they were upset they didn’t think of that first. Earlier this year they sent me an email that I received a special birthday gift. Out of curiosity I opened it up, and my gift was a free drink in their casino. Wow, I guess if they charge $15 for a cup of soda, they must consider that a super-comp.

    The CET poker rooms have a max rate of $5/pot, tied for the highest of Nevada poker rooms, and give players $1/hour in comps, the lowest among poker rooms that give comps. Now players who put in tons of hours over weeks get invited to freerolls and can achieve diamond status where they can get their meals from the diamond lounges, but at the expense of visitors who pay the rake but can’t achieve those types of hours. (Please note that rake and comps aren’t always important for poker, and even with all the perks for locals, at least the player pools in CET poker rooms are generally soft. I do know some very strong locals who play in these games, but they are few and far between. Earlier this year the Flamingo started spreading a 1-1 Omaha game, I played on an earlier visit, and I thought it was extremely soft and profitable.)

    If I ever did actually want diamond status at CET, I would probably get their credit card (the one they send their players about 30 email advertisements per month for), for 10K points and then spend 5K on the card to get to 15K points and diamond status, and then lose the card forever, and without playing a nickel in their casinos. However, this past year CET increased their threshold for diamond lounge from 15K to 25K points, just another CET devaluation. The one thing I found in the diamond status that took my interest was the complimentary stay at the Atlantis in the Bahamas, a potential family vacation destination. But I learned with the CET offer, the Atlantis will charge an additional $50/per person per night just to stay with you in the free room they give you, food is $80/person/night unless you can figure out how to bring in your own, and the free stay does not cover resort fee, taxes, or automatic gratuities they charge in advance… I’d be interested if anyone found value in this offer. But for now, it seems to me CET diamond status isn’t even worth a hard pull on my credit report.

    (October Edit: That last paragraph was in error, you actually don’t get any CET tier credits with the CET credit card, just slot points. The MLIFE credit card gives MLIFE tier credits, but their tiers also don't give much.)

    End of CET Rant, back to trip report

    Venation Canal Shoppes Again: On the way back to our car, my wife and daughter who share the same shoe size wanted to check the price of a pair of shoes they saw at Sketchers in the Canal Shoppes. It was $60 and they both really wanted them. I checked our canal shoppes coupon book and found a $20 off coupon for a purchase of $100 or more. I asked them if they could find another pair of shoes they both liked for $40, and they found another pair at that price that they both liked in less than one minute.

    Main Street Station: As much as I like this place, this may not have been the best place to take the family. The hotel, lobby, and casino are very clean, and loaded with very real artifacts, antiques, and artwork, not modern stuff manufactured to look like old stuff. The casino has double deck blackjack that pays 3-2, 9/6 jacks that can be played at the bar. They even have several 10/7 DB machines, a game with more than 100% payback if played correctly, that you can also earn comps on. Hotel guests are allowed to use the rooftop pool at the Cal, as the hotels connected by a pedestrian bridge over main street. The reason this may have been a bad choice for us was to get to the Fremont Street Experience, it is either a 5-minute walk up Main Street where there is construction and lots of homeless people living on the sidewalks, or a 7-8-minute walk through the Cal and then through Binion’s, and I really wanted to take them to the Fremont light show and see the bands.

    Market Street Café at the Cal: We were going to do the MSS buffet for dinner, but they were having a special seafood night that couldn’t be used with the coupons. So instead we went to Market Cafe at the Cal. We had the LVA 2-for-1 coupons. The staff was extremely friendly. This place had lots of dinners for 8.99. For 9.99 you could get a complete prime rib dinner with baked potato, vegetable, salad bar, and desert. The salad bar was not bad, not super fancy, but interesting as it had a section with nothing but mayonnaise-based salads. The 2-for-1 coupons made this place an extremely good value.

    Four Queens: The family didn’t want to go to the Fremont Street after dinner, but preferred to go up to the room to rest and watch TV. I went to the Four Queens to play the ACG double points coupon, a coupon that can only be used once a year, on some 9/6 jacks that was very refreshing after those games on the strip.

    The Golden Nugget downtown has a 1-2 NLH with no buy-in cap, and plays very deep. The game has a max rake of $4/pot and gives players $2/hour in comps, one of the highest poker comp rakes in Vegas. I was strongly considering playing here tonight, but I realized I could easily have played 6-8 hours or more and lose complete track of time, and decided I really shouldn’t on this trip.

    I returned to the hotel room and asked the family again if they wanted to see the Fremont light show, and they all declined again, they were perfectly happy watching TV and playing on their electronics. I then head down to the MSS casino and run some play for our room comp. While playing I did get approached by a homeless woman who started talking to me and asked for bus fare. I felt too much pity to call anyone, but I let her know I couldn’t help, and when she realized I wasn’t giving her anything she left the casino quickly. The bartender told me later he wished I let him know right away, because they do not allow that at all here, and reaffirmed that giving to panhandlers perpetuates the problem. The homeless issue is a very serious problem here. There is a Las Vegas Rescue Mission within one mile of downtown that provides shelter, beds, and food for homeless people who are willing to stay off drugs. Maybe after we get the kids through college I will give more to places like this. Or maybe I’ll get voted out of the family before then, and be looking for a bed in such a place myself.

    Day 7, Final Day

    MSS Buffet: I woke up first again, and with everyone else wanting to sleep in again, I decided to head down to the Cal to put in a little play. When they were ready, we met in-between at the MSS buffet, where they were serving brunch, and we used our LVA 2-for-1 buffet coupons for yet another cheap meal.

    Downtown Parking: Because we were checking out of MSS, I decided I would save my family some steps and park at the Plaza. I used to always park at the Plaza for downtown parking when the casino gave free validations. They stopped that a couple years back, but I would still use their valet parking, as they always had lots of valets very busy working for tips. I pulled in but didn’t see any valets... Then we saw the new sign for Plaza valet parking; up to 4 hours was now $12, then it would go to $15/day. Et tu Plaza? Apparently, this Vegas devaluation had just happened a couple months ago. We parked on the other side of Main Street at the Golden Gate which still has free valet.

    Fremont Street: The ACG and LVA coupon books have very good gaming value downtown. But we wanted to take it slow, and we would only hit the casinos on Fremont between the Plaza and the D. My daughter mentioned she wanted to see “the people in the circles”. We went to 4Q, where from the comp dollars I earned the previous night, my wife was able to get an embroidered t-shirt and a couple haagen daz bars from their gift store. We went to Golden Nugget to see their big gold rock. We were shocked that getting a photograph at the Binion’s million-dollar table was strictly for ages 21 and up. But kids can get pictures with the $22 million-dollar purple Popeye on the strip with no age limit....

    Departure: After finishing our gambling coupons, seeing the sites, we tipped the kind valet at Golden Gate for getting our rental car, refilled it with gas, returned it to the Swenson street lot, took our Lyft to the airport, and this vacation is done.

    Overall, I thought this worked out well as a family vacation adventure. Even with all the devaluations, the costs of hotel and food were still a lot cheaper than most other tourist destinations, and the comps I had and coupon books helped a great deal. While many of the attractions were pricey, the LV pass gave us pretty good additional value. There are still a lot of shows and other attractions we could do if we ever went back. But I think my next trip will be without the family.

    End of Trip Report

    --

    That’s it is, my first ever trip report, and maybe my first ever trip with anything worth reporting. Please feel free to comment, criticize, question, either on this thread or by PM direct. Thanks very much for reading, and thanks for all the Likes!
     
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  4. tallsamoan

    tallsamoan Low-Roller

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    Great report, thanks a ton for putting the effort in. You've done your title justice, indeed!
    I find the most shocking part of your report being Wynn's $19.99 day internet charge PER DEVICE?? Holy smokes!
     
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  5. La$Vega$

    La$Vega$ High-Roller

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    Great Report! I'm exhausted :clap:

    The Red part cracked me up of your TR
    Siegfried and Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat: For an extra fee, they would allow visitors to swim with the dolphins, but they had no offers to allow visitors to pet the tigers.
     
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  6. nancyf

    nancyf Low-Roller

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    I loved this report --- you did an awesome job writing it! $15 for a soda at the show and no refill-- omg, ridiculous! this certainly will be a family trip that has made many memories for your children.
    glad you had many opportunities to gamble
     
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  7. tringlomane

    tringlomane STP Addicted Beer Snob

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    Great report! Thanks for taking the time to write it up!
     
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  8. JFO

    JFO Low-Roller

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    Thanks! Yes, that was very real, and shocking enough that I thought was worth reporting. But if you go to their website and just look at the menus of their restaurants, you can see everything is ridiculously expensive there. I was with a friend in a CET room earlier this year, he paid a resort fee that covered WiFi, but exactly 2 devices and they would charge for a 3rd device, and he kept checking with me that I was only using it on one device....

    All in all, I am glad I could use that room comp on my family, it would have been a total waste on myself.

    Thanks! :)
    I tried to put a few of those in there...

    Thanks!!!!
    Well, for each "free ticket" to the show, at the ticket booth you had to pay $15 for a drink coupon. And that was the cost of every drink at the bar in the back of the auditorium... Free show with a drink purchase. Free room with a resort fee. We knew going in....

    This wasn't going to be a gambling trip except for a little time at each casino I was getting comped at. But when everyone was doing fine, I could get away for a little more...

    And thank you for reading!
    I would be very interested if any other of the gambling/playing type ever try pulling off a family vacation this way...
     
  9. casinokid68

    casinokid68 High-Roller

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    Wow, what a report. After reading it, I need to go lay down!! I am beat:snore:
     
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  10. SASMAN

    SASMAN Tourist

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    Excellent trip report, I especially liked the LV Pass coverage and the exterious escape reviews. thanks very much.
     
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  11. JFO

    JFO Low-Roller

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    Thanks! I trust that was a complement! My wife was quite concerned I would spend the whole trip playing games and leaving them with no activities. Its actually amazing how once they were all beat, that I somehow found energy to hit the casinos.

    Thanks! I am not sure what the demographic is for Escape Rooms (High School or College Students?) but they were definitely a fun activity for our family. Escape Rooms run around $30 per person per room, and I really though Xterious added a lot of value to the LV Pass, even though Escape Rooms aren't unique to Las Vegas.
     
  12. chef

    chef Resident Buffetologist

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    You're my type of Dad.
     
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  13. JFO

    JFO Low-Roller

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    Thanks!

    My wife doesn't always think so, especially when its my turn to watch the kids, and I just tell them they can make themselves some nachos for dinner while I run out to the local poker game....
     
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  14. Mrazzo

    Mrazzo Low-Roller

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    Let me start by saying that I've done a few trip reports and I appreciate the effort and time you have put into this one. I REALLY enjoyed this one. Your detail and insight made this refreshing. I encourage you to do more and I would even read a non-Vegas one in the other trip reports section. KUDOS!!
     
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  15. JFO

    JFO Low-Roller

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    Thanks very much Mrazzo!
    When our family does a theme park, beach, or a city, we usually research ahead and try to get the most for our time and money, so I will keep what you said in mind if anything comes up worth reporting on.
    My solo trips are usually heavy in poker and table games without much adventure...

    On that note, I finally finished setting up my next trip to Vegas (a solo trip for early December), where I will try to seed some new places, as Boyd made it quite clear after their they don't like me that much, and Wynn also made it clear that the offer I got was absolutely a teaser.

    Does anyone know how I get one of those VMB bracelets I had been reading about in other TRs?
     
  16. 93 Octane

    93 Octane Chief bottle washer

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    Contact @Sonya for your bracelet(s)
     
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  17. irishdave

    irishdave VIP Whale

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    I'm really late to the party, but great TR! Lots of good info
     
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  18. PartTimeDegen

    PartTimeDegen Tourist

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    Wow. People usually give me a hard time for how much research and planning I do for our vacations, but you sir are the master. I also really enjoy the process and do my best to make each vacation as memorable as possible while trying to get the best value with travel hacking, coupons, etc.

    I'm looking forward to your solo trip as I'm also a poker player but would echo what others have said about being very interested in reading trip reports for your family trips to non-Vegas destinations.
     
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  19. JFO

    JFO Low-Roller

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    Thanks 93 Octane! I did, I donated, and I now have an official wristband!

    Dave, very belated thank you!!!

    Well, there hasn't been too much planning for this next one... I depart very early tomorrow morning and I haven't even begun to pack....:eek:
     
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