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Notes on the Bus

Discussion in 'Vegas Trip Reports' started by azlefty, Nov 20, 2018.

?

Would you take a bus between your home town and Vegas, or vice-versa?

  1. Absolutely

  2. Yes, if it was convenient and cheap

  3. Only if I gambled everything away including my cashed-in airline ticket

  4. No way

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  1. azlefty

    azlefty VIP Whale

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    My Trip Report

    This is a report of my annual boys' trip with a buddy from college and one of his friends; we have been meeting up for the last few years. I had originally planned for 3 nights but due to some personal issues, I cut the trip short and I ended up being in Vegas for about 33 hours, from a Friday night to early Sunday morning. I experienced a bit of Vegas lore by taking the bus home.

    I planned this trip about 8 months in advance - my hotel reservation anyway. Thanks to an extremely helpful posting on this very messaging board, I shanghaied a 2-night stay at the California hotel for the princely sum of $0.00. Since this was booked about a month before the Cal began imposing resort fees, I was exempt from that as well. I've been a little short of cash lately and probably would have canceled if this required any more out-of-pocket. I don't like staying downtown but at this price I will manage.

    I'm glossing over the trip highlights because you have read them many times before by other people who can probably explain in much more glamorous detail. It's the return trip taking the bus home where I really will go in deep.

    Friday Oct 26

    - Dined with my family in San Diego and was Lyfted to Lindbergh airport for an on-time 9pm departure. Arrived at McCarran a little ahead of schedule at 10 pm. Having played check-in whack-a-mole the day before, I was able to just make it into Boarding Group A and sat in row 3 so I could make a quick disembarkation. I did so, and was at the WAX bus stop by 10:10. Hopped on at 10:18 pm and was downtown by about 10:45. The bus ride was uneventful and probably a little slower than a car.

    Waded through thousands of tourists gawking upward at the Fremont experience as I navigated west to meet my friends who were waiting at the Omaha lounge in the Plaza. Despite the facts that the "No Dancing" policy had been relaxed for the last 20 or so years, and the band was quite groovy (but they alas were no Sunspots), my friends were not dancing. We were going to leave because service was incredibly slow but I seemed to have several coupons for 2-for-1 drinks at the Plaza so we stayed. I also had recently bought my friends each an ACG coupon book and realized that it had different coupons from my own which I had bought early in the year. That was a head scratcher.

    - First late night meal (about 1 am Friday night/Sat morning) at Magnolia's in the 4 queens. For the first time in my life in a restaurant, I ordered a pork chop and was glad I did. It was delicious. There were 3 of us and with my coupon (LVA or ACG? I can't remember which) the bill came to somewhere in the high $30s. Someone else paid and I was drunk and I'm typing this like 3 weeks later so the details are murky.
    - Stayed at the Cal. I had never stayed there before but I liked it a lot. I was perhaps the only non-Hawaiian guest in the hotel. The room was really nice. I liked the "Parlor" arrangement where they have some lounge chairs instead of a desk. I realized the morning after I arrived that I had a smoking room, which I don't think I asked for but I may have for the benefit of friends who planned to visit a dispensary. In any case, the room didn't smell bad at all. I only realized it was a smoking room because I noticed the ashtrays.

    The other thing I liked about the Cal was the sports book. We spent a fair amount of Saturday watching football games and I like the arrangement of couches so you could watch games and talk, and beers are about $3.

    On the downside, the location is lousy with the construction at the old LV Club site. You have to walk through Binions or cross Main and walk on the Plaza/Main Street Station side to get to Fremont.
     
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2018
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  2. azlefty

    azlefty VIP Whale

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    Saturday Oct 27, daytime

    I woke up early and did a little coupon running to try to generate some cash for the rest of my trip.
    My friends were staying at El Cortez so I met them at Siegel's for breakfast. The best thing on the menu there is the matzo ball soup and it wasn't ready yet. I asked. Breakfast was lousy: greasy eggs and toaster hash browns. Really? You know what Bugsy would have done with toaster hash browns and no matzo ball soup? It would not have been pretty. With my coupon, after tax and tip it was about $70 because my high-rolling friends got themselves bloody maries.

    Watched football and interspersed that with coupon running. I had the 2 books and even though this was my third trip of the year, I was with wife and/or family on previous trips and it hadn't been a priority. Also I was more flush with cash on the previous trips, and coupon runs are a way to make not much money take a long time to burn.

    We had a late lunch at the 2nd street grill at the Cal. Again used coupon. It was mediocre but edible. I don't recall exactly what I ordered but I think it was of Hawaiian extraction.

    More football. Won some bets, lost others, more or less broke even on the betting. More coupon grinding, hitting just about every place on Fremont. I ended up ahead almost $100 on the coupons.
     
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2018
  3. azlefty

    azlefty VIP Whale

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    Saturday Oct 27, evening

    We took a Lyft to the Cosmopolitan and saw Opium. This is the second time I have seen it and it was (mostly) even better than the first, and there were a few acts that were different, including a truly amazing bubble artist. In one of the simultaneously scariest and most cathartic moments of my life, one of my friends and I were dragged onto the stage to be part of the show. I'm not going to say what happened but it involved bubble gum and a couple of incredibly ripped dad bods. If you were there, permission to use my likeness is withheld so please black out my face on your instagram feed.

    Afterwards, we hightailed over to Merkato, a little Ethiopian restaurant about a block south of the Orleans, and happens to be one of my 2 or 3 favorite restaurants in Las Vegas. We feasted on the vegetarian platter and short ribs of both lamb and beef. We had only intended to order one of them but we were served both. It was fine, we were hungry and pardon my Swahili but they were defuckinglicious. Total for 3 of us and a few beers was like $45 or so and we were incredibly stuffed.

    After that we waddled out to another Lyft and went to Ellis Island because I wanted to do some more coupon running and the others didn't seem to mind. We sat in the Karaoke lounge and the backlog was 20 people deep so we never got to sing, but we used the 6 free drinks coupon from LVA so we were there a long time for free. (plus $10 tip) I didn't realize how late it was (midnight) and I missed the players' club booth by 5 minutes so I couldn't use any of the other coupons.

    The range of talent in Karaoke ranged from civilian to near-professional. One woman sang Someone to Love (the Queen song) and nailed every high note, with vibrato.
     
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2018
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  4. azlefty

    azlefty VIP Whale

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    With a change of plans about a week before my Vegas trip, I didn't want to spend 14,000 Southwest rapid reward points on a ticket home, since I could use that many miles to take my entire family somewhere. Making a reservation a week in advance, Flix bus offered a one-way ticket from Downtown Las Vegas to San Diego for $4.99 plus a $2 ticketing service charge. Sure, I'll bite. I decided that I didn't really care where I was sitting and declined the reserved seat charge, which I think was an extra $4 or so. The web site is pretty easy to navigate, with the exception that I wanted to know where else the bus stopped on the route and that was hard to figure out, and in fact I still don't know how many stops there will be even now that I'm on the bus. Also I realized after the fact that there are some FlixBus stops within San Diego that this bus does not go to.

    FlixBus offered 2 departures: one at 7:30 am, which arrives in San Diego at 1:55 pm, and another at 3:30 pm, which arrives around 10 pm. The particulars of my circumstances warranted that I take the morning bus. I realized after i booked the ticket that apparently there are multiple routes operated by two of FlixBus's local partners that don't all make the same stops within San Diego.

    I set a wake-up call at the California hotel as well as an alarm on my phone as backup for 6:15 am. Both worked, and having packed light, I was showered and out of the room with my backpack and in the Market Street Cafe by 6:40. Having eaten an enormous dinner the night before at 10:30 pm, I wasn't really hungry but knew that I wouldn't have a chance to eat an actual meal until I got home, so I opted for a bowl of Miso soup and a cup of coffee. My bill came to $9.18, excluding tip, which seems like a lot for a small bowl of soup and coffee but it actually hit the spot and I didn't have a lot of options.


    I was on my way by 7:00, and decided that walking to the bus stop would take about the same amount of time as waiting for a Lyft car and riding. The other alternative I had considered was a rent-a-bike from a station I had scouted on the internet, but I knew it could take me about 10 minutes just to get my account working.

    The walk was about a mile, without incline: easy and refreshing for an adult male in relatively decent health, and it took me about 13 minutes at a moderate pace. The bus was waiting on First Street just north of Bonneville Street, about 2 blocks south of the new City Hall building. I had packed a couple of protein bars from home as a snack, but as I walked I realized I had forgotten to stop for a bottle of water, which might be an issue at some point. Fortunately there is a Starbucks just across a vacant lot, so I quickly darted in for a bottle of water and a cup of coffee to go.

    IMG_20181028_071604469.jpg
    The bus driver greeted me and asked me my name, but did not ask to see the ticket I had printed out at home. He said I was welcome to bring my coffee on board, but asked me not to make a mess. When I boarded, there was only one other passenger. The seats are your standard executive motorcoach fare, about the size and comfort of an airplane seat, with foot rests, although without seat back tray tables. Each seat has a seat belt; mine was fairly snug against my larger-than-average-sized body. Each seat pair has 2 power outlets and 2 usb ports. As on an airplane, I'm too big to open my laptop directly in front of me, so I'm typing with my laptop positioned angularly on my leg leaning into the vacant seat area next to me. I had to put the shoulder strap of the seat belt behind me in order to angle my body to type, which is probably unsafe and not recommended, and I'll put it back over my chest as soon as I'm finished typing. There is wi-fi that seems to work pretty well for reading news and email. The connection page asks you not to stream Netflix, since that would impact everyone else's service. Instead, FlixBus offers a bunch of movies and TV shows you can watch for free from the connection page, several of which I would totally watch if I wasn't busy documenting this. There are luggage compartments overhead, and you can also give your bags to the driver in the cargo hold under the bus if you want to, but I am spread out over 2 seats with my backpack on the floor next to me.

    By the time the bus left the downtown stop promptly at 7:30, there were a total of 6 passengers on board, all sitting in the unreserved section.
    Around 7:40, the bus stopped at the Strip stop, located at Caesars Palace just outside the Colosseum theater. By the time it left at 8:00, I counted 24 people on board. The unreserved section - the rear half of the bus - was about 3/4 full and the front "reserved" half of the bus had only 3 passengers. Overall I count about 25 people in a bus that has a capacity of about 50.

    The driver made a brief announcement letting people know there is a restroom in the back and quite reasonably asked people to use it for "#1 emergencies only please" and the next stop would be San Bernardino, and we were on our way. The passengers are what I would call a cross section of people in Las Vegas. There were 2 families with young children and everyone else were adults.

    As part of my due diligence, I experienced a "#1 emergency". I was one of the first people, if not the first person, of the day to use the restroom, and I found it to be spotlessly clean. It is essentially a port-a-potty on a bus, without a flush mechanism, and there is a bottle of Purell in lieu of a sink. There was a graphic above the toilet that I realized after the fact was asking me to take care of my emergency while sitting, which is reasonable because the bus was jostling me around a bit, but in this case I dare say I had impeccable aim. Another sign asked me to put my toilet paper in the trash instead of in the toilet.

    I type this as we are approaching Barstow. (I typed the description of the above parts in Vegas a few weeks after this section.) The ride so far has been comfortable and uneventful and we seem to be moving at about the speed limit. The temperature is probably around 70 degrees, fine in a t-shirt if you run hot like me, or maybe a bit cool for others. I have a sweater with me but haven't used it. Everyone is quiet with one person snoring in an audible but unobtrusive way.

    I left my hotel in Downtown Las Vegas at 7:00 am, walking to the bus stop, waited about 5 minutes for a Lyft at 1:20 pm in Escondido, arriving at home about 20 minutes later, for a total door-to-door travel time of 6 1/2 hours. If I had driven myself, I would have stopped mid-trip for at least a half hour, but would have saved time on ground transportation and avoiding mid-trip bus stops, so I might have saved about an hour at the most. If I had stayed mid-strip, I could have shaved about a half-hour off the trip as well. Something to consider for the future. By comparison, flying requires me to leave my hotel 2 hours before my flight ETD and arrive at home at least an hour after ETA, taking a total of 4.5 to 5 hours if it's on time.

    Lessons learned:

    Traveling solo or with 1 other person, I would take this bus over driving almost anytime, unless I needed my car when in Vegas, and quite possibly over flying as well. The experience is a lot more relaxed than either driving or flying. The door-to-door travel time to San Diego is the same or a little bit longer than driving, and maybe 2.5 hours longer than flying, given the time it takes to get to the airport, pass through security, andNext time I'd probably splurge for a reserved seat, especially if I knew I wasn't getting on at the first stop. However I have read that long-distance charter buses like this one are pretty lightly regulated so I would prefer to travel during the day for safety, although it's easy to see how a nighttime bus ride instead of paying for a room in a hotel would be tempting.
     

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  5. vegasdev

    vegasdev VIP Whale

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    If it were close and cheap yes, but it's way too far for me.
     
  6. gs32794

    gs32794 VIP Whale

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    No way! I live in Virginia. However, given your circumstances seems like it was a good choice.
     
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  7. Joe

    Joe VIP Whale

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    In your case, doubtful, but maybe.
    In my case we did a non-stop drive to Vegas and it was around 32 hours. No way am I ever doing that again, or taking a bus.
     
    38th anniversary and keep taking advantage of the Companion Pass
  8. hammie

    hammie VIP Whale

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    That bus seems like a great alternative to driving in from San Diego. Philly? Not so much.
     
  9. Craps all day

    Craps all day Low-Roller

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    Very informative for those of us within 10 hours (drive time) to Vegas. Thanks for the thorough breakdown.
     
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  10. BlacklabberMike

    BlacklabberMike VIP Whale

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    um, isn't that in the fremont?

    let's see... 2600 miles in a bus? i don't think so
     
  11. MARK

    MARK Low-Roller

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    Are the seats in the front any better. More spacious or anything?
     
  12. azlefty

    azlefty VIP Whale

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    Probably. We ate in the restaurant at the Cal, whatever it was called. I tend to mix them all up.

    They are exactly the same, but because they cost an extra $3, they were mostly vacant while the back was pretty full. So you could spread out over 2 seats with much lower chance of having to yield one of them.
     
  13. deansrobinson

    deansrobinson VIP Whale

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    Very interesting summary on the bus business. It sounds like something I would have done in my younger days, traveling solo.
     
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  14. gr8whitenorth

    gr8whitenorth Low-Roller

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    A little far coming from Ontario. If it were closer I would opt for it hands down. I have done more flying in my life than I'd ever care to talk about. This just seems more relaxed to me.
     
  15. clovertown

    clovertown Tourist

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    What is coupon grinding?
     
  16. azlefty

    azlefty VIP Whale

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    Going to each casino to use match play, slot credit, and similar promo coupons with positive net expected-value, and stopping immediately without continuing to gamble. The most common coupon books are the American Casino guide (about $15) and Las Vegas Advisor rewards (about $40 including membership).

    I still enjoy the thrill of a finagle, but I find that this is a less exciting experience than it used to be. As I age, putting in this much effort for $100 isn't worth as much of my time as it was when I was a poor student.

    Kind of like seeing money in the street. Once upon a time, I would have bent over to pick up anything over a penny. Nowadays I have back pain so it usually isn't worth the trouble.
     
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  17. h0llywood

    h0llywood VIP Whale

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    Have you seen those bus drivers? They drive like mad max on the freeway. Most of the ones on the 15 from CA are going 90 MPH in the carpool lane. I do not trust that they even get adequate sleep. Its a no for me.
     
  18. azlefty

    azlefty VIP Whale

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    Yes, private buses are pretty lightly regulated. However I talked to Joe, the driver, and he seemed very alert and well rested. He told me he drives one way per day, from LV to SD, which usually takes less than 7 hours. Then he has the rest of the day off, and does the reverse trip the next day.
     
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