Reprinted from LVA with the express consent of the author: Rio: Checked in Monday afternoon, e-mail confirmation in hand, yet was told by the clerk who was told by the computer that we arrived the day we were to depart. Like I said, letâ€™s not let the little matter of my e-mail confirmation stating Iâ€™m in the right cut through that 15 minute process whereby I cool my heels standing at the check-in counter. Rio pioneered the huge standard room. Too bad no one bothered to keep the look fresh, current and on par with whatâ€™s appeared in recent years, leaving the big boxes in their wake. Stardust: Who woulda thunk this dinosaur had rooms so tastefully decorated? Standard room, not necessarily large or draped in cool amenities, but the fact that someone thought enough to freshen the look says a lot. Wow, a whole lotta lousy VP in this place. But I found playable BP at a bar serving real Michelob. Kudos to the â€˜Dust for realizing that Ultra is not Michelob, whatever the ads say. Thanks for the coupie, LVA. Flamingo Laughlin: We spent a good hunk of our three days in Laughlin trying to convince yours truly that we really are best served sticking with the PinkBird, and I guess we are. I just wish someone would give some thought to fixing the food lineup. Alta Villa is killer and the Beef Barron is good for the price, but thatâ€™s it. Come on, itâ€™s been 14 years since opening and is the Laughlin demographic so unchanging? In a town where truly standard defines the standard accommodation, the small couch and the wall of glass overlooking river and calico-hued mountains, coupled with the rest of the package, still gives this place the edge. IMO Played a lot of VP at the RiverWalk â€¦ great ventilation, huge windows and instantaneous cocktail service. Now if only those single-malt names werenâ€™t so hard for the servers to conquer. Laughlin Lowlights: We ventured down to Harrahâ€™s Laughlin one afternoon â€“ our former home in Rivertown â€“ and were floored by the pall of smoke that permeated the entire place. Iâ€™m serious, this isnâ€™t just another standard anti-Harrahticâ€™s tirade. Think worse-than-El Cortez air quality, and the â€œnonsmokingâ€ area offered little respite, and even less worth playing. With the Evil Empire set to take over Caesars we thought about going ahead and getting re-established (such as it is with our level of play) at Harrahâ€™s but the conditions within the casino turned both of us away (and weâ€™re not of the anti-smoking persuasion). Rio Secco Golf Club. Kudos, big time kudos: During several previous plays I was greeted with lousy service and so-so to deplorable course conditions. The new super has now had two-plus years to overcome the previous neglect and the place was immaculate. The greens were like glass yet easy to hold and nice lies abounded everywhere they should. The seventh green will always give them some trouble but like a few landing areas where play is confined, itâ€™s a function of topography more than anything else. And from the bag-drop attendant to the starter, smiles and true hospitality abounded. I played it from the back this time (not Tigerâ€™s way back) and at 7,000 yards even with the slight advantage from altitude thatâ€™s a lotta ground to cover. My game was a typical morass of easy trips and easy pars. Fairâ€™s fair: Midweek, shoulder season, late morn starting time, and wind and wind chill respectively up and down â€¦ and it took us 4:55 to play. That is wholly inexcusable. Wholly. And after a number of plays at Rio Secco, Iâ€™m afraid THAT remains the one constant. That and a potentially phenomenal golf course held back a bit by a few weak holes in the routing. Center Stage: The Good: Price, but only when using the POV, view, historic/pop cultural value, Terriâ€™s filet, Caesar salad (though it should be noted that it is tossed tableside, not made). The Bad: My shoe leather strip steak (I have come to the conclusion that the more fervent I am when ordering a steak rare the more inclined someone is to ruin it), telephone-pole-width asparagus and nothing approaching a suitable glass for the Silver Oak Cab we brought for the occasion. The Ugly (but nonetheless entertaining): The patron who went nose-first into the carpet right behind Terriâ€™s chair; thinking it was the big one the guy next to us, an EMT, assured us that the guy was totally potted because only drunks auger in without attempting to break the fall. The Indifferent: For a â€œgourmetâ€ restaurant, this place sure seems to quickly move people through the dining experience, which might not be the fault of management and servers as Americans seem to be very impatient at the table. Also, our server took a long time to get to us, though once on the job he was diligent (if not ready for a gig at Le Cirque) and very friendly. And he forgot to charge us corkage, which had been quoted as $5 and $10 by various restaurant personnel. (But lacking proper stemware we wouldnâ€™t have been inclined to pay it.) All in all, Terri is insistent on going back, if the coupie returns, and Iâ€™m game for another try. An Evening at the Riv: Saw the Jay White Show. Not worth the nearly $60 face value and a short show at only an hour, but worth seeing with the two-fer. He has Diamond wired. Dead crowd took a lot of the fun out of the program, though our â€œsideâ€ clearly won. Had dinner at Kadyâ€™s using the daily coupon. Perfectly Vegas diner food â€“ fried shrimp, hamburger steak, and all washed down with a few brews. As I learned during one of my infamous stays at the Roachera, Kadyâ€™s is the real deal. Other Food: Caveat â€¦ this was not a fine-dining tour. Great Turkey Day chow at grandmaâ€™s, and she turned us on to a fantastic Mex place in Ft. Mojave (Casa Serrano, part of a river-valley chain, including the restaurant in the newish annex to the Riverside). My carne asada was grilled with jalapenos and pico â€¦ Iâ€™d never thought to do such a thing. Nice touch. First crack at buffets at the Palms (breakfast) and Fiesta H (lunch, on the way to Laughlin â€¦ we wanted Guadalajara at SS but it wasnâ€™t open for lunch). The former gets kudos for build-your-own Eggs Benny and the latter for a representative spread. No matter how many times they remodel the Flamingo L buffet (and it does look a lot better), it will always be so-so, at best. But no matter what, a buffet is still a buffet. Now the Connection Club deals in the diner are killer. Highlights: #1. Having a week-plus on the road and at home with Terri. #2. Finally meeting the Cat and Rosemarie. Outstanding, funny, vibrant people. #3. Being paired at Rio Secco with the wine guy for Rosemaryâ€™s (restaurant, not baby or our LVA bud with her name misspelled). Did we ever have a blast talking Vegas food and trends, overkill, overrated eateries and chefs, and an interesting tale as to why Rosemaryâ€™s Part Deux didnâ€™t survive all that long at Rio. #4. Every time I use Frank Sinatra Drive the more I like it. #5. The $50 POV perk at the Palms, which Terri again used at the spa. #6. Pilsner Urquell at the River Palms. #7. Getting the scoop on the latest chapel changes and pending closures to ensure that the coming book is as current as possible.