Main purpose of this trip was to compete in a 100-mile race near Mesquite and also hang out in Vegas for a few days of R&R. Arrived at McCarran to a long line at rental car shuttle. After 20-minute wait, made it to Thrifty, got my vehicle and headed north on I-15 towards Mesquite. Checked into Virgin River Casino, asking for a quiet room in the back, as I had to get up early for the run. The clerk obliged and I had the perfect set-up; that was until the ATV crowd began arriving. Seems there was a huge weekend gathering and most would be staying in same building. Their drinking started early and continued for most of the evening, with the noise level increasing by the hour. Any hopes of an early bedtime went out the window. As an ex drinker myself, I get where these folks are coming from. They're having a blast and though I wish they weren't so loud, I need to be tolerant. I remember how much fun it was when the booze, music and conversation flowed. I don't want to be the guy telling them to pipe down. Eventually, I got to sleep and was able to make it to the start line the next morning. The race would be two 50-mile loops through the beautiful desert country of far northwestern Arizona, even touching the 3-corners of Utah, Nevada and Arizona. Compared to snow, rain and cold a few days earlier, we got lucky - mid 30s at night and 60s and sun in the daytime. My time was 26 hours, 10 minutes, good for 5th overall among 30 finishers, Apparently, the ATV partiers didn't bother too much, as I had no problem staying awake the entire time, though there were some slight hallucinations. Oher than toes swelling up and toenails turning black from constant pounding on desert floor, felt halfway decent. Afterwards, drove back to Virgin River to see about an early Saturday check in. Since Vegas uses the $20 trick for matters such as these, I figured $10 was probably going rate for Mesquite. It worked and what a simple pleasure to soak my legs in a hot bath and lay down in a bed. Room rates were $29 for Thur and $52 on Saturday, with no resort fees. Another difference between Mesquite and Vegas casinos was the availability of buffets. Virgin River has one at lunch and dinner every day. After a steady diet of granola bars, pretzels, PB&J sandwiches, etc. at the race, my body craved real food. From the prime rib, to hot and cold crab legs (albeit small), oysters Rockefeller, roasted potatoes, salad bar, fresh fruit and desserts, the Virgin River spread was a true delight for $16.99. Several plates later, I waddled back to room and crashed. It was back to Vegas for Super Bowl Sunday, with a stay at the Mardi Gras hotel ($45/nite) on Paradise Rd, directly east of the Wynn golf course. Besides the price, other selling points were an outdoor hot tub and a comfortable bed. If you are a Vegas tourist, this older property wouldn't be for you, with a few sketchy characters roaming about and rooms that face outside. For my needs and comfort level, the Mardi Gras was fine. Still worn out from my race, any desire I had to experience the Vegas Super Bowl vibe quickly left me upon settling into my room. Was content to watch game alone in a surpringly spacious suite, complete with living room, kitchen area and bedroom. Every trip, I usually play a few hands of blackjack and craps, but not this time as the plastic partitions were too much of a turn-off. My gambling spirits were renewed a bit by a hot hand at video poker, with Deuces Wild leading the way. I can't offer pics of the winnings, as I still use a 2G flip phone. Same with food porn, though I didn't do much formal dining in Vegas. Hard to make a reservation when you don't have online access. Settled for a walk-in Chinese buffet one day and then Ellis Island for a prime rib dinner and salmon dinner all in one sitting with LVA 2-1 coupon. In neighborhood by hotel, I stumbled upon a Mexican grocery with good fruit and pastries. When I come back out in March, will also have to try India Palace restaurant next to it. As usual, met up with long-time friends and shared spiritual fellowship, something that I've had pleasure to do for 20 years. To me, that has become more fulfilling than time on the Strip or DT. When I did get out and about, there was noticeable difference in crowd size. Foot and casino traffic is down, though the airport was substantially busier. The good weather continued throught the week and I regret not extending my stay a couple days. With airlines not charging change fees, it would have been simple enough to do and given me a reprieve from the sub-zero conditions in northern Illinois. One final note - great idea with the clothing recyling bins at rental car return. It's a good way to lighten your load on the return while helping out the needy.