October 22 - November 5, 2016 When does a vacation begin is a question that I have pondered into the wee hours of the night. Is it when one begins the planning process? Steps outside the door on the way to the airport or on arriving at his/her/their final destination? In my case, and this is the only case that matters at this moment, it is when I book the flight, in this case early May. Also in this case it was flights, numbering 3 on 2 different carriers. The planning process also included a pair of 1 week car reservations and a pair of 1 week hotel, actually timeshare, reservations though in actuality I only figuratively booked the latter which is another story best left untold. Confused? Uncork a bottle of wine, read on and your confusion will dissipate by the 3rd glass. October 22 Our nonstop flight on Southwest Airlines (SWA) was scheduled to depart at 3PM so we exited our home at around 10:30 AM – huh? Ann had completed Brody’s application for part time employment at Beaverbrook Animal Hospital the night prior, but we figured the interview and paperwork would take a long time, but the owners were immediately impressed by his laid back demeanor, friendliness and experience so he was hired on the spot leaving us with more than ample time to get to Bradley International Airport. We looked for a place for lunch near the airport and spotted Skooters Diner. http://www.skootersrestaurants.com/ Most of the customers, the place was busy, were having breakfast, but we opted for grilled cheeseburgers that were cooked on a grill that was used for everything from French toast, burgers and very likely liver. Our overcooked burgers included grilled onions, very good, the onions not the burgers, and were accompanied by previously frozen French fries, not so good. As they say, and who are we to disagree, you get what you pay for. ($9.70, 2 Forks out of a possible 5) Our nonstop flight on SWA were on the house, or in this case the airline, but first we had to drop off our car at Executive Valet Parking where I used a LAZ FLY coupon good for an all in cost of $50 for unlimited parking. I am a member of the Express Club, membership does have its privileges, so I was credited with 15 days parking. The 5 hour and 30 plus or minus minute flight to Las Vegas was uneventful other than a measure of discomfort attributed to sitting for 5 hours and 30 plus or minus minutes in a seat designed for a 10 year old. On exiting the plane we found the appropriate luggage carousel and waited for way too long for our luggage to arrive. We caught the shuttle to the remote parking facility and proceeded to the Budget counter where I held a reservation (thank you COSTCO) for a one week rental of a full size car at an all in price of $173, but hold the phone, you say you do not have a full size car? Oh, you are going to upgrade me to a premium car, a.k.a a Toyota Avalon, with just over 14,000 in mileage? Yes, that is acceptable. Next stop was the Grandview, located 7 miles south of Mandalay Bay, but only a few steps from the South Point Casino, where we were assigned a 2nd floor room in Iris Tower, overlooking the driveway. I was not too worried about window peepers, it would serve them right if they peaked in our window and witnessed a pair of seventy year olds romping around in their birthday suits. After tossing the luggage on the bed, we headed off for dinner at Stephano’s Greek and Mediterranean Grill on Fort Apache Road. http://stephanoslv.com/ On our last trip we dined at this local restaurant’s Henderson location and were disappointed so the owner reached out in a meaningful way, $20 coupon, that we gratefully accepted. This time we ordered gyro, say yee-row, plates that included a Greek salad, pita bread, rice, tzatziki sauce and hummus. The lamb and beef yee-row, if you will, was freshly sliced, bountiful and juicy. ($10.70, 3.5 Forks) Before giving each other a goodnight kiss in front of the window, Ann & I stopped at a Walgreens for some incidentals including 2 cases of water. October 23 It was shortly after 2AM when I found myself awake and almost raring to go, so go I went to Green Valley Ranch Resort (GVR). Over the course of the following 4 hours, minus a multitude of bathroom breaks, I managed to lose a small fortune. I converted my final Benjamin ($100) into twenties and played the first one, hitting a number of wild royals and 5OAKS (five of a kind), cashing out at $100. I tried repeating this performance with another $20 and sure enough I cashed out again at $100. Would this work with yet another $20? Yes – my #1 quad deuces of the trip, cashed out again. Lost the next $20 in a heart beat, but on my final $20 I got a lot of play before being dealt a 2nd quad deuces. Station Casinos was running another of its low value promotions on weekends in October so prior to departing I swiped our cards, netting Ann $3 in freeplay and 1,500 points ($1.50 value) on mine. I also swiped our cards so we each received 3 x points for this morning’s play. Prior to returning to the room I stopped in an Albertson’s for some fruit and walked over to the South Point where I picked up a Review Journal. Sunday morning brunch was at Rosallie – Le French Cafe on Rainbow Blvd. http://rosallie.com/ We started off sharing a canele. Ann again ordered the quiche chevre salad – spinach, goat cheese and tomatoes that we have enjoyed a few times in the past. I ordered chevre chaud, but in a communication error ended up with the nord sandwich – smoked salmon, cucumber, sweet onions and capers on a crusty roll. I could have sent it back, but decided, and I am so glad I did, to try something different. Both dishes were excellent. ($25.64, 4.5 Forks) Prior to returning to the room, we stopped in a CVS for a box of Lipton tea and postcards. In the afternoon, after reading the newspaper, Ann walked to the South Point for her first video poker (VP) (lost) session while I drove over to a Sprouts for some granola, fruit and mixed nuts. On returning to the room I watched most of the Patriots versus Steelers game. In the late afternoon with the appropriate Las Vegas Advisor coupon (3 rounds of drinks for 2) in hand plus a slot card, we arrived at Ellis Island Casino for our personal happy hour. The casino was busy with people watching football, but we managed to score 2 stools at the main bar where we ordered glasses of Robert Mondavi merlot. After 2 rounds of wine, we departed carrying our customary bottles of water. Dinner was at Siamese Bistro (Thai) on Rainbow, a fairly large and nicely decorated restaurant though pretty empty on this Sunday evening. New owners took over in late August, renaming the former Pin Kaow, but retaining both the chef and servers. The restaurant came up on my radar when I checked for new restaurants on Restaurant.com (R.com). https://www.restaurant.com/ We started with an order of shrimp rolls that were largely devoid of shrimp. For entrees we shared orders of spicy basil shrimp and catfish. I was disappointed by the catfish that was not at all crispy while the spicy basil shrimp was merely okay. ($26.39, R.com, 2 Forks) We walked around the South Point Casino before retiring for the evening. October 24 I lost during this morning’s VP session at GVR, giving back 50% of yesterday’s win. Double points were offered on either Mondays or Tuesdays in October so today I played on Ann’s card. It was early when I returned to the Grandview so I headed over to the South Point and purchased a newspaper that I read in the Grandview Lounge while nursing a $1 bloody Mary. I finally woke Ann up at 7:30AM, but she did not sleep well so I walked over to computer room in the pouring rain and killed sometime on the internet. I had promised myself that I would spend less time on the internet, totally avoiding Facebook including the MyVegas game, on this trip. The upside of this decision is I managed to start and finish 2 excellent novels, John Sandford’s “Escape Clause” and Steve Hamilton’s “The Second Life of Nick Mason”. Typically I bring one book with me, reading about 1/3rd on the outgoing flight, 5-10 pages while in Las Vegas and another 1/3rd on the return flight. Ann was showering when I returned to the room so it was not long before we departed for lunch (in the rain) at Frijoles and Frescas Grilled Tacos (Mexican) on W Charleston Blvd. http://frijolesandfrescas.com/ On entering I realized we had been previously dined at this location when it was another Mexican eatery. This is another fast casual restaurant where you order at the counter and servers bring the food to you. Ann ordered a (large) soft taco that was filled with chicken, beans, cilantro, guacamole, and pico de gallo. I chose a pair of mini (street) tacos with al pastor, cilantro, pineapple and onion. The quantity of meat was above average, but the flavor was lacking. I also noticed that although an al pastor was on an upright spit, the meat for my taco had not been sliced to order. ($11.05, 2.5 Forks) It was still raining so on our return I dropped Ann off under the South Point’s portico and returned to the room to read and take a short nap. In our absence, the housekeeper dropped off additional towels, a pillow and some soap. I had planned to go to the South Point’s box office to purchase show tickets, but it was raining even harder so I returned to the room. After Ann returned from her losing VP session, we headed off to Ellis Island for drinks, demonstrating our flexibility by switching to BV merlot after learning the casino was out of Robert Mondavi. Dinner tonight was at Hachi – Japanese Yakitori Izakaya on Jones Blvd. http://hachilv.com/ We settled on a series of small plates that included: cucumber salad w/seaweed & yam (3.5 Forks), bok choy ohitashi (2.5 Forks), garlic edamame (4 Forks), chicken thigh steak (4.5 Forks), enoki mushroom wrapped w/bacon (3 Forks), shishito pepper (2 Forks), tsukune (4.5 Forks), age nasu & mochi oroshini and a small rice (2.5 Forks). ($37.36, 3.5 Forks) cucumber salad chicken thigh steak bacon wrapped enoki mushroom On returning to the room we made Whoopie! October 25 I played on my card this morning in order to earn double points, managing to break even thanks to my #3 quad deuces. On my return we had breakfast in the room before departing for the north Premium Outlets. As usual, Ann headed to Chico’s while I walked around landing in the Jockey outlet where I purchased a total of 9 pairs of unmentionables. In addition, I picked up a couple of T’s at Van Heusen. Ann had gotten a little disoriented, no doubt after venturing too far from Chico’s, so she was several minutes late returning to our designated meeting spot. I was shocked to discover she could not find anything for herself so I checked her vitals which seemed fine. We planned on lunch at Tacos el Gordo on Charleston, but I spotted Cornish Pasty Company across from the Arts Factory so we decided to give it a try. http://www.cornishpastyco.com/ The restaurant had reopened at this location the day prior and it was obvious the move was a work-in-progress. A wide variety of pasties are offered with us deciding to share one filled with lamb, mint, potatoes, rutabaga, and onion that was accompanied by a side of red wine gravy. The pastry was flaky with an ample filling. ($12.81, 4 Forks) The remainder of the afternoon was devoted to reading/napping (me) and playing/losing (Ann). Had the prize patrol from Publishers Clearing House been looking for us between 5PM and 6PM this evening, they would have found us at the center bar at Ellis Island Casino sipping on glasses of BV merlot. Thank you LVA. Dinner was at Il Chianti on Horizon Ridge in Henderson. http://www.ilchianti-italian.com/home.html This is a small Italian restaurant that opened this past May. Chef Rudy previously served as executive chef at the long standing Ventano’s where we have enjoyed a number of meals in the distant past. Warm garlic rolls were served which were largely ignored. We decided to share the chef’s eponymous salad, but what arrived at our table 20 minutes after ordering was the frisee classica (frisee, cherry tomatoes, caramelized walnuts and apple wood bacon dressing) which was light and delicious. The restaurant was busy for a Tuesday evening and Rudy had only a sous chef in the kitchen so it was a full 45 minutes after ordering that we received our entrees. Had Rudy stayed in the kitchen instead of schmoozing, we might have been served a little sooner. I had hitched my wagon, or at least my waistline, once again to the chef by ordering Chef Rudy’s Adobo Nation (chicken Adobo, pork tenderloin, soy, red wine vinegar) that was served with a side of creamy asperagus (sic) risoto (sic). This dish was very good with kudos extended to the the excellent risotto. Ann was not as fortunate with her chicken Marsala entree that came with pasta awash in Marsala sauce. ($62.12, 2.5 Forks) Chef Rudy’s Adobo Nation chicken Marsala We made our customary walk around the casino, stopping by the western gift show where I scored a can of Outlaw energy drink before retiring for the night. ($0, 3 Sips) October 26 This morning’s VP session was called a draw. After some fruit and OJ in the room, we headed north toward the Spring Mountains, stopping at Lulu’s Bread and Breakfast for sustenance. http://lulusonthemove.com/ This is a fast casual restaurant where orders are taken at the counter. Ann chose the stuffed French toast which was okay, but nothing to write home about, though I am mentioning it now. I chose benecio del porko (grilled cornbread topped with a generous portion of BBQ pulled pork, Hollandaise sauce, easy over eggs, charred corn, cotija cheese and cilantro) that you should only order if you are or want to be a porko. ($24.28, 3 Oinks) stuffed French toast benecio del porko I was ready for a nap, but our mission was the Spring Mountains Scenic drive. http://www.exploringnevada.com/scenic-drives/spring-mountains-scenic-drive.php We followed 95 north before taking a left on route 157 where we immediately began to gain altitude, ultimately traveling from around 3,000 feet to just shy of 8,500. I also noted the temperature dropped from 73 degrees to a blustery 59. Part way up we made an extended stop at the visitors center that opened last year. There were several interesting exhibits with the highlight being Austine Wood Commarow’s 70’ window installation made up of 25 individual panels. To the unaided eye the panels look like frosted glass, but when seen through polarized viewers, each panel offers colorful images of native flora and fauna. http://austine.com/ ($0, 4 Claps) We also walked the grounds that include access to a few hiking trails, a memorial to the Silent Heroes of the Cold War and Seven Stones Plaza, a tribute to the seven southern Paiute tribes. We continued on to Kyle Canyon ski area before completing the loop via routes 158 and 156. ($1, 4 Claps) On our return we picked up tickets for Thursday afternoon’s Dennis Bono show at the South Point. I returned to the room while Ann put in a VP session, hitting her first quad deuces of the trip. It was back to Ellis for drinks, but Ann’s stomach began doing flip flops so we canceled plans to dine at Lola’s in favor the Coronado Cafe in the South Point. http://southpointcasino.com/dining/coronado-cafe Ann’s had her go to meal when feeling under the weather of scrambled eggs with bacon and toast. My stomach, other than being extended, was doing just fine so I chose a nightly special, western chicken salad bowl. Mine was a nice mix of greens, chicken and dressing while hers was merely okay. ($4, points, 2.5 Forks). October 27 My VP session resulted in a small loss so I am now dead even for this trip. We had breakfast in the room before heading off for Elements Massage. Ann had an appointment at an agreed price equal to the current Groupon offer. ($69, Four Hands) After retrieving her, we headed to Target to burn off an expiring $10 gift card on some beauty product for you know who or is whom? We then proceeded to Blaze Pizza on Eastern Avenue where we shared a personal sized simple pie (tomato sauce, mozzarella, oregano and Parmesan). The pizza was awash in a bland tomato sauce so we will not be rushing back. http://www.blazepizza.com/ ($5.78, 2.5 Forks) I then dropped Ann off at Green Turtle Salon on Horizon Ridge where Melissa washed and blow dried her hair. http://gtsalon.com/ ($50, 4 Curls) In the meantime, I made a quick jaunt to the nearby Sprouts Farmers Market for some granola and nuts. We made it back just in time for the Dennis Bono afternoon show that featured performers we have seen in the past: Tyrone Fox (singer @ the Tropicana in both Las Vegas and Atlantic City), Corrie Sachs (singer on Dennis Bono show and Country Superstars), Niki Scalera (singer seen on Dennis Bono show), Rich Little (impersonator at some charity show), members of the Phatt Pack (showroom at the Plaza) and James P. Conway (comedian on Dennis Bono show). ($0, 3 Claps) Dianna, our new favorite server at Ellis Island, spotted us as we approached the center bar and pulled out a bottle of BV merlot and 2 glasses. She may not know our names, but she does know what we drink. She also handed us 2 bottles of water without asking shortly before we exited. (5 Claps for the service, 3 sips for the wine) Dinner tonight was at Lola’s - A Louisiana Kitchen (Creole) on Charleston Blvd. We have previously dined at both this location and its sister restaurant in Summerlin so we barely looked at the menu before ordering bronzed catfish and Gouda grits entrees along with a side of rainbow coleslaw. There may not have been as much catfish as in the past, but the generous portion of Gouda grits more than compensated. ($46.98. 4.5 Forks) Prior to calling it a night, we walked around the South Point Casino.