It all started back in 1972. My first trip to Vegas. Ah, to be 25 again. My friend and I spent many hours of practice, playing Blackjack and Solitaire, just like they did it in Vegas. Yes, Solitaire. Blackjack became an obsession for some reason, even at an early age. I could not have imagined how drastically different Vegas would become, some 45 years later. But, this report will NOT dwell on that. I’m guessing the differences are somewhat akin to the differences between what it must have been like during prohibition and $300 bottles of Vodka during table service in some Vegas club. In other words, worlds apart. As I sit here a week before my trip begins, all the planning is done. The weather doesn’t look like it will be ideal for a couple rounds of golf, but I rationalize that golfing in Vegas in the 50’s or 60’s sure beats looking out the window at home, gazing at the snow-covered turf in my yard. All of the MyVegas rewards have been secured. The rewards are: Ticket to Love, Mirage dinner buffet, MGM breakfast buffet, nighttime helicopter ride up and down the strip, and a free dessert at Wolfgang Puck’s MGM restaurant. I still have a couple hundred thousand LP’s, but nothing more interests me. Being a Blue Chip member, Thrifty will supply the full size car for me for only $104 all in. Here's the brief plan: I’ve double booked my arrival night. MGM and Orleans. Orleans offered two comped nights, food credit and FP, so I’ll stay at the Orleans until Thursday. I’ll check in there first and stow my belongings in the room. MGM offered two comped nights, but the strip has lost its appeal to me. Because their offer came with some resort credit and FP, I’ll actually stay there on Tuesday night, right after my helicopter ride. Thursday and Friday nights are comped with FP at the Gold Coast. Golf is planned for Wednesday at Chimera and Friday at Rhodes Ranch. Thursday night is the Beatles Love Show. Saturday afternoon return home. Reality vs. Plan: I’ve just returned home and have very mixed feelings about a future trip to Vegas. The things that used to appeal to me about Vegas just don’t exist anymore. I will not play 6:5 BJ, so that pretty much leaves out the strip hotels at my betting level. “Resort Fees” approaching $40 per night don’t provide any benefit to me. I always rent a car because I golf a couple times each trip and do coupon runs to the off strip hotels. Now there is a valet fee of nearly $20 per day for parking. Yes, free parking in the structure is available to me being an MLife pearl member, but those structures are not very convenient. My cost is now about $60 per day for a “comped” room on the strip if I choose to use valet parking. Is that too expensive for a room? NO. But it isn’t comped either. I’m not a big downtown guy. Downtown provides me with a fun couple of hours on a coupon run, and a bit of a circus side show for a few hours, but little else there appeals to me, since I’m not a big VP player. That leaves off strip choices like the Orleans, Gold Coast, Silverton, South Point, or the Henderson area. And when I analyze that, I conclude that staying in an off strip hotel in Vegas is similar to staying at a casino/hotel in Anywhere, USA. There’s nothing wrong with that at all, but to my point, maybe a different location would be better for me. Maybe Biloxi, maybe Tunica. We’ll let time go by and decide all that later. The Trip Summary: TUESDAY: Travel with SWA was flawless on the MKE – LAS trip. This is a solo trip, and the plane stopped at the LAS gate about 10 minutes early. Since my car reservation was for 1:30 pm, I was in no rush landing about 12:15. My first win of the trip was when I got down to the baggage carousel. I sat in a chair facing the carousel to wait for my bags. In front of that chair happened to be one of these slot machine things. A .25 cent wheel of fortune machine. Being somewhat familiar with this type of machine, something unusual was jumping out at me from the screen. Someone had left 337 credits in the machine before I sat down. I looked around in case that person realized their mistake and was headed back to retrieve their money. I waited about 10 minutes. No one approached me. I stuck $10 in the machine, hit spin a few times, actually hitting mixed bars once, and cashed out a ticket for $93. I stood nearby until my luggage arrived, willing to return $85 to anyone who claimed it, but no one showed up. Next on the agenda was a trip to the rental center to get into my Thrifty full sized car. Loss number one occurred when I tried to close the glove compartment of the first car they gave me. No luck. I drove the second car, a 2017 Camry to the checkout area and the attendant gave me a reservation record for someone else, and it was for $228. I told him of the mistake, and he gave me a receipt with my name, except it was for $186, not the $104 I had on my confirmation. Maybe the attendant was the one who left 337 credits in the slot, right? Well I decided to drive out and take up the issue with Thrifty on my phone, since the attendant was clueless. Check in at the Orleans was flawless, except room 611 was nearly as far from an elevator as one could get, but no big deal. I called Thrifty to correct the issue and was told by the CS rep that all was corrected, and I’ll only be billed $104. If you read this entire report, you’ll find out just how wrong that was when I write about the return of the car on Saturday. After figuring out where to insert my players card into the parking structure, check in at the MGM was also flawless. I was given 11-109, with a slight view of the NYNY and Monte Carlo out the filthy window. I guess the resort fees don’t cover Windex. I played a few slots at MGM, just checking around for something new. I basically held my own with one decent bonus game on the new Willy Wonka slot where the Oompa Loompas widen and lengthen the play area, while filling several entire columns with wild spaces. The background music and graphics made me chuckle a bit. I walked over to NYNY and played a few slots there, breaking even as well. NYNY really seems small to me now, with a fairly poor variety of slots. Feeling the need to play BJ, and use some ACG coupons, I walked over to Hooters. I made $20 on the free play, lost my match play, but won $40 while playing BJ. Hooters is not real high on my list of destinations in Vegas, but its location and 3:2 BJ was ideal for this trip. I had a reservation at Wolfgang Puck’s Bar & Grill for dinner. I was in the mood for a pizza, and ordered their pepperoni version. I’d rank it very high on my list of favorites for pizza. I also had a MyVegas reward for a free dessert there. I ordered the crème brulee. Their version, with mixed berries, was outstanding. I’d rate this meal as 4 fingers, forks, or spoons, whatever measurements you use. It was nearly time for my next journey. I stopped at the Las Vegas Harley dealership on the Blvd, across from Mandalay Bay. I’d visited the dealership when they were located on Sahara Ave, many years ago. This is a real dealership, with bikes for sale and on display, not just the clothing outlets you find in various strip hotels. The clerk noticed the Harley shirt I was wearing and asked where I was from. After telling her, Milwaukee, I became her long lost cousin I guess. It was humorous to me because I left Milwaukee this morning to come to Vegas, and she said it was her lifelong dream to visit Milwaukee. Yikes. But, being a Harley rider myself, I get it. After hanging around the store a while, it was time to go next door to Maverick Helicopter for their 8:30 strip view flight, courtesy of MyVegas. I was a little disappointed this year, having done the identical trip last year. The pilot was not very engaging, and chose to play a tour guide type of recording during the flight instead of interacting with the 6 passengers on board. It all seemed rather eh to me, and I doubt I’d ever do it again. I drove back to Hooters to play more BJ. The dealer was a whole lot of fun to play with. She showed off her employers name with a capital H. Beyond that, she was witty, liked to talk smack, and totally knew how to play BJ. It was a loss of $100 for me, but a fun loss, if that’s not an oxymoron. I went back to MGM to play slots for a short time, then went to the room for the night around 11 pm. WEDNESDAY: Got down to the MGM buffet for breakfast. I had considered the Café, but I couldn’t decide on what I was hungry for, so I chose the buffet. The MGM buffet is better than most, in my opinion. After breakfast, I lost $20 on couple slots, then checked out by paying my resort fee. On my way walking to the car, my BIL called me. I had planned on joining him and his wife for dinner that night, but he advised me he had been ill with the flu for three days, and we cancelled our dinner. I drove to the Orleans, my home for Wednesday night. It was sure an advantage to check in yesterday, so the room was available. As someone posted before, the new early check in fees for the Orleans are as follows: 9-11am $25, 11-1 $15. After 1pm $0. Those fees also apply to comped rooms. Additionally, resort fees are NOT charged for comped rooms at this time. I had a golf reservation at Chimera at noon, so I had a few hours to play slots and BJ at the Orleans. It was only about 65 degrees today, with the wind blowing at gusts to 51 mph. Perfect golf weather. I was able to shake off 4 months of rust and shot in the low 90’s. Considering the wind, I was happy. On a longer par 3, for those of you who golf, the wind was blowing across in a three club wind. I hit a 5 wood with a bit of a slice. The ball ended up more than 100 yards off line. I could only laugh at that one. I made it back to the Orleans for the night. It was senior day at the Orleans and more than 100,000 blue hairs wanted to have dinner in their buffet. Me being one of them. I waited until the line was more manageable at around 8 pm to eat. It was better than average, and a great value being comped. THURSDAY: I played BJ and PGP at the Orleans until about 9 am. I checked out and drove to EI for an ACG coupon run. I played through the required money and 3 hands of GJ. Plus $19 on the FP, lost the MP but was plus $20 on the three hands of BJ. I drove downtown and parked at the Downtown Grand valet. I had three ACG coupons. The players club told me that two were printed in error, so they gave me $20 in free play to make good on the two discontinued coupons. The one coupon I used was the free ace. I was only dealt s17 on that hand, drew an 8 and busted. I lost an additional $40 at their BJ table. I walked over to the D. I ended up with $35 MP and lost every one of those BJ bets. Overall I lost $50 at BJ. I had only $5 FP and hit the bonus on the very first spin of a slot that paid $69. I went upstairs to eat lunch in their café. After that, I walked over to the Golden Gate to play the $25 MP. I won that bet, and walked out up $50. I drove back to the Gold Coast and checked in for my two comped nights. It was only a bit after noon, but they did not charge or even mention the early check in fee that the Orleans has. I did not notice any signs like the Orleans posted about early check in fees. I got unpacked again, and went to their casino to explore. Same old 18 Baccarat tables on the floor, all filled. Opposite them are tables with a good selection of BJ limits. Most games are double deck pitch games, with great splitting and doubling rules. I played BJ and slots and went back to rest in the room for a while. I left Gold Coast about 5 and headed to the Mirage. I had a MyVegas comp for the buffet and the Love show. It had been more than 15 trips since I’ve seen any shows in Vegas and I was really looking forward to it. I played a few slots before dinner. This trip was the third time I’ve eaten at Cravings. The first time, I rated it way above average for a buffet. I was disappointed the second time, but I thought I’d give it another chance. I seriously doubt I’ll be back. Even for free. The highlight was the dessert selection, but the entree choices were only ok. The quality was above average, but roast turkey is not exactly what I had in mind for dinner. I played a few more slots after dinner and actually won at the Mirage for what I believe to be my first time ever. Nothing major, but a win never the less. I was told to join the line for Love about 6:45 for the 7:00 show. The line was about 5 deep and stretched the entire length of the casino. I wondered how in the world they’d herd everyone to their seats on time. There was one group of maybe 50 Chinese trying to stay together. The leader (Chairman Mau) had a paddle he would raise, and all the rest of the group would follow his unspoken direction like a flock/herd/gaggle of bumble bees chasing their queen. Everyone has a ticket with a seat number on it, so it’s not like its general admission. The poor members of the group that got somewhat separated panicked a bit and ran around trying to stay with the group. Eventually everyone made it to their seat in plenty of time. The Mirage does a wonderful job of getting everyone moving quickly to the correct area of their seat. Well, let me tell you, in my opinion, the show was SPECTACULAR! I was highly impressed with the crew, the lighting, the song selection, the performers, just everything about it. I would highly recommend this show to anyone of every age, Beatle fan or not. After the show, I went back to the Gold Coast for some BJ and slots. I went to bed about 11. FRIDAY: My last full day, plans for golf and a nice steak dinner at the Cornerstone in the Gold Coast. I started with breakfast at the MGM buffet compliments of MyVegas. Same review as on my Wednesday. After breakfast, I valeted at the Palms to use up my ACG MP coupon. I first lost on slots there, but won my MP. I went back to the Gold Coast, playing more slots and using MP and FP coupons there. I rested in the room before heading to Rhodes Ranch for my 1 pm tee time. Today was another cooler day, 55 for a high, but the winds were not bad. I played surprisingly well, 4 over after 7 holes. Then I began to feel very uncomfortable, winded and concerned. I actually quit after 9 holes and drove back to the Gold Coast. I laid down at about 4 pm. I woke up after a couple hours and cancelled my reservations at the Cornerstone for a nice steak dinner. I had no appetite. I knew I was down for the count and slept off and on until about 3 am. Nice last night in Vegas, right? A side note here, after getting home I got a clean bill of health from my doctor. I was careful not to overdo it, so I lazily got packed, and sorted through my bankroll. I tend to keep a container in my safe, filled with chips, slot tickets, change and my leftover bankroll each day. My job the last morning is to go to the cashier and color everything up into large denominations. It is only at this point I know how I fared during the trip. I still had 70% of my bankroll and several hours to kill. SATURDAY: After getting everything changed in at the cashier, I played some BJ. History has been kind to me on my departure day. Until this trip. I lost $150 on BJ. I played some PGP. I won 1 out of 8 hands, with only 3 ties. I lost more on the slots. It was time for breakfast, and my appetite had almost gotten back to normal. I had not eaten since Friday breakfast. I just had a donut and coffee at the Java Hut. I checked out with zero balance. I gassed up the car and went to the Silverton. I’ve done this the past several solo trips since it’s close to the car rental barn. I lost more at BJ and slots. I decided I’d had enough this trip and went to the car barn to return to Thrifty. This trip was the worst experience I’ve ever had with Thrifty. The return inspector gave me a receipt for $332 when my reservation confirmation was for $104. He told me to go in line at the hut in the building where you go to get your car. That person was of no help and sent me inside. As a BlueChip member, I do not expect to stand in line, least of all to correct Thrifty employee inadequacies. It took three tries with the person I talked with before he could get me the correct receipt. “Computers just do these things sometime” was his explanation. Oh. The flight home was timely with a friendly crew. I learned one thing on the flight. I had boarding pass A21. For those of you SWA flyers, that means that usually only a dozen or so people board before you. Well, I’m a taller guy, so I like the exit row. It seems one woman entered the exit row, placed her purse on the window seat, and stood, on the phone, with her back to the aisle at the aisle seat. I sat down across from her. After a minute or so I asked her which seat she was taking. She stated she expected two more people to join her. I told her that perhaps they should have purchased the early bird seats like I did. I was in no mood to push my point. Later in the flight, I was standing in back talking with the FA who heard my conversation with the woman. He told me that SWA does have a policy of not saving seats, but will NOT allow the FA’s to enforce the policy. Interesting concept there. Overall, the trip was disappointing. Plans I made didn’t pan out. Being ill sure sucks on vacation. The weather was cooler than normal. Overall, I spent about $800, so the cost was very acceptable. Till next time?