Friday, February 23rd: First trip of 2018. I turn 60 this year so hopefully many more to go. February is not usually a Vegas time of the year for us, but I am playing in the Las Vegas World Amateur Golf Tournament ($615) so we are mixing it up this year. After much deliberation, we are spending 2 nights @ the new Park MGM ($312), 4 nights @ Linq ($136) and 4 nights @ Excalibur ($397). With airfare, the total fixed costs are at an all-time high of $2,767. In addition to the rental car ($383), we are seeing Nickelback at Hard Rock and a David Bowie Tribute Band at the Brooklyn Bowl. So, using my $210 daily variable total budget set at $5,077. Let the fun (and golf anxiety) begin. Using some of our IHG points, we spent the night before at the Little Rock Airport Holiday Inn. It’s a no brainer because 1) being Platinum members, we get free snacks/dinner in the Concierge Lounge. 2) it saves us $100 in parking because they take us to the airport, 3) full breakfast for $3.95 each. We were happy to get out of Arkansas because it has been raining for 5 days. Then we get to Las Vegas and it was 42 degrees---it was in the high 70’s 2 weeks ago. Going to be COLD all week so gotta suck it up. I was a little concerned at Thrifty Car rental when they gave us a Chevy Malibu that only had 215 miles on it, but never had any “dent” issues the whole time. First was the beer run and on to Park MGM. We had spent a lot of nights when it was Monte Carlo and had interest in the changes. First observations??? At this time, I am withholding judgement since it was clear that the remodel was still being branded. I had a list of misgivings, but my judgment may be clouded. We always loved their fabulous pools, the food court, the Pub, Andre’s, large casino floor…. I understand what and why they want to accomplish and I hope they achieve what they set out to do. (I said that rather nicely). Anyway, nothing much to report the first night. We used a My Vegas Rewards for dinner @ Nine Fine Irishmen. I drank a bunch of beer while she was “donating to the cause”. People watching was great tonight. Vancouver playing the Golden Nights on property and excitement was in the air. I’m sure the NHL has impacted Las Vegas by exceeding all expectations. I am embarrassed to say were back in room for the night @9:30. Day 1 Variable: $247 Saturday, February 24th: Awoke after extremely long 9 hours sleep feeling better than I deserved to. Despite any negatives we came up with about the property in its current state, the bed was comfy and the room was dark. We are glad we decided to stay here only the first 2 nights. Today we start earning our badges from Total Rewards. A multi-month promotion for prizes. What we like best is that there is a limit in the number of badges that can be be earned. This way the bulk of the entries are not gobbled up by those with more opportunities. On to PH. Of course, I forgot to turn down Harmon so I dropped her off in the street and valeted at Paris. Did I walk away with the keys in my pocket? Yep. I’m glad I realized it before the valet did!!! Upon entering Planet Hollywood, I was relieved to see that my picture was not on their “Wall of Shame”. During Trip #51, in a highly inebriated state, I dropped my full drink all over the bathroom floor and ran away. NOT one of my finest moments!!! After a quick breakfast at Earl of Sandwich (and a quick look at Ernie Shavers who was there to sign autographs), I played a one-hour session of blackjack to earn a table badge, then my slot badge, while she earned her slot badge. I had not sat at a table for more than 5 minutes in probably 10 years. After the initial anxiety passed, I actually had a very good time. I kept every bet the $10 table minimum and walked away an $81 winner…and a nice lady kept bringing me beer. Mission accomplished at PH so, on to Paris. While she earned her badge (and then some), After I earned my badge, I hung in sportsbook and sat outside watching the masses go by and wishing it was 30 degrees warmer. Left Paris and drove down to the Linq. We move here for 4 nights tomorrow but plan for tonight was dinner with Igor (VMB’s own casinokid68). He and his girlfriend Irina had been in town all week and we were lucky enough to be able to connect. We had a great dinner @ Chayo (thanks, Igor). It was such a memorable time and hope to be able to repeat the experience down the road. They stayed next door at the Flamingo and Igor also was able to take Irina’s son to a Golden Knights game earlier in the week. After dinner, we hung at Aria and The Park. I had bet the Razorback basketball game and came away a winner. I am absolutely amazed at how the books set their lines. The over/under on the game was 148.5 and final score was 149. It sometimes troubles me that there are people in this world that are more intelligent than I am. Day 2 variable: $85 Sunday, February 25th: Up before 6:00 so I could watch the sunrise over the mountains. Just one of the multitude of things I do. It was lovely! The whole Park MGM scenario got more palatable when at checkout Laurel negotiated the final bill down to $78 from $312 fixed. There was a discrepancy on the website reservation and they gave us the benefit of the doubt. Just had to pay the resort fee. Good girl. Today starts the festivities for the LVWAHC golf tournament. The next 4 days will suspend most of my usual Vegas activities. Our initial plan was to spend 4 nights at Santa Fe Station out near where the golf courses are. But, we receive no benefits staying at a Station property. I also know she really did not want to stay there for 4 days, so switched to the Linq. After checking out of Park, we made the drive out to the Paiute Indian Reservation and got all registered. What beautiful scenery out here. Other than a trip to Red Rock Canyon a couple years back, we never take the time for things like this. Spied a Macaroni Grill on the drive out so we stopped and had lunch. They had closed our one in Little Rock and the one on Sahara closed too. We also heard rumors of a bunch of IHOP and Applebee’s are about to close too. I guess it is just the product of the times. I’m sure someone will blame Donald Trump (my only political editorial). On to Linq. Been staying here a lot recently. We love the location and the room layout. In pool season it is an adult only pool. I really love the spa too and their Salt Cave—even though I did not use it this trip. The room also comes with a refrigerator. We set up the room and watched NASCAR. She had $10 on Kevin Harvick, I had Kyle Busch. Harvick won so she was very happy with her $40 win. 5:00 found us at Orleans. I had a Welcome Reception at the Irish Pub across the street. If it had been anywhere else, I might not have gone. When I do these occasional tournaments, I am always by myself and “mingling” is a concept I am not comfortable doing. However, after a beer or 2, I spied some others who looked “single” and actually turned out to be a very good time (it always does). I ended up being one of the last to leave. In the meantime, she lost $98.00 at Orleans so time to go home. Earned my Harrah’s and Linq badges, and at nights’ end, we split a sandwich inside Harrah’s Fulton St. Market. The did a nice job converting their coffee shop into a fancy little food court. Day 3 variable: $141 Monday, February 26th: Start of 3 days of golf. Stress level high but has been worse. Don’t know why I do this to myself----not the first time I have asked myself that question. Maybe that is why I do this once every 3 years or so. I will try not to bore everyone with golf minutia. Conditions today were brutal! Weather cold and winds at 30 MPH. Conditions we don’t experience in Arkansas. The scores reflected such. After a respectful start (parred 2 of first 4 holes), I spent the whole time trying to prevent real bad things from happening. Mostly successful. Made a 10-foot putt on the last hole to shoot the best 99 of my life! How did my other half do??? She held her own all day. She got her badge at Linq and Cromwell today. She also qualified and played in Harrah’s daily slot tournament, but we never made it back to see if she won anything. I turned a little crabby because I had to drive all the way back into town, pick her up (at Linq valet), and drive out to Bonefish Grill on Charleston for 6:00 dinner with our Las Vegas “family”. Laurel understands that “chop-chop” doesn’t suit me very well and we had no real issues. We had a nice dinner. Mindy’s daughter and granddaughter just moved here from New Jersey so this completed her entire family migration. Went to their house afterward. Weather tomorrow is supposed to be colder and rainy so I rummaged through Bill’s golf stuff and grabbed an umbrella, thick jacket and most importantly a 3 & a 4 iron. I carry nothing lower than a 6 iron and I needed a weapon to try to keep the ball low. Today’s wind had its way with all my high shots. Day 4 Variable: $137 Tuesday, February 27th: Got a solid 6 hours sleep. Few regrets from yesterday’s less than stellar results. I always try to keep low expectations and sometimes I exceed them. Today’s forecast was cold-rain-wind and dammit, I was ready. Except the wind never blew hard, the sun came out, and the day was rather pleasant. Did the scores reflect the weather? Sure did. I shot 85 and vaulted from 7th to 4th place. I used Bill’s 4 iron most of the day and kept it the ball in play. Only one other person in my flight beat my NET score. My finest accomplishment was making a par on an island green--I had never played one before. I flew the water, hit the green and 2 putted from 99 feet. I guy in my group played it last year and carded a 15!!! What did Laurel do? One thing she did was meet Karen our housekeeper. Laurel makes jewelry and we always leave some for waitresses and housekeepers. Yesterday, the maid took the money out of the bag and left the jewelry. It turns out to be Linq’s policy that they are not allowed to take anything but money. So. Laurel handed her a handful of bracelets and earrings. What made me happy is that Karen called out room “tidy.” Laurel played again in Harrah’s daily slot tournament, had lunch at Hash House A-Go-Go, but her biggest accomplishment was that she placed her first ever sports bet by herself (I usually do it for her). She put $10 on Arkansas (-1). Of course, I told her it should have been $11. Quick earned our Flamingo badges as tonight, we saw a David Bowie Tribute band at Brooklyn Bowl in the Linq complex. I was so happy that it was right in our backyard. If we had been staying at Santa Fe Station, it would have been a tough ride back. It was supposed to start @ 8:00 but was almost 9:00 when it started. This was our 2nd concert at this venue so we knew what to expect. It is Standing Room Only with a small handicap area. Lucky we got there early, because it filled up quickly and the staff had to figure out a way to accommodate all us old folk. Our foresight gave us front row seats and the concert was excellent! Different singers sang all the favorites and the band was fantastic. It brought back a bunch of memories. We saw David Bowie back in 1976—Wow, that was a long time ago!! Day 5 Variable: $132 Wednesday, February 28th: Last day of golf. Top 3 from each flight advance to the Championship Round but I felt no pressure because even though I was 4th, barring anyone’s disaster, I was too far away to catch them. That’s OK. I had my swansong yesterday and exorcised a bunch of demons. How did I do? When I was warming up on the driving range, I felt a twinge in my forearm. After 11 holes it became a full-fledged pulled muscle and was difficult to swing the club. I triple bogeyed 3 of the last 5 holes and shot 96. It was still good enough to tie for 4th place. Final Golf Observations -It was fun playing with the leaders and watching how they handled the pressure -Paiute was Fabulous. Beautiful mountains, and I got to see F-15 fighters doing their maneuvers nearby -Started strong on all 3 rounds. Nothing higher that a triple bogey. No rules infractions. -Proud I only hit 1 ball into the desert and I somehow managed to win 2 skins for $66.00. -Will I put myself (and her) through this again? I don’t know. I just like trying to add to “Life’s Resume” Laurel drove me out this morning and with 6 hours to kill she did her best to lose the family fortune at Santa Fe Station. She also attended the awards dinner with me to finish off the festivities then we went to Rio to get our badges. We don’t get to Rio very often and it was a nice visit. They even have a “KISS” mini golf course in the back and people were playing it. Eventually made it back to Linq for our normal evening activities. I went to Cromwell to earn my badge and then the plan was having dinner at Toby Keith’s (Harrah’s) but they stopped serving food @ 10:00. So, McDonalds it is!! She was fine with that because she was able to recoup a good portion of the money she lost at Santa Fe. Day 6 Variable: $106 Thursday, March 1st: 4 full days to go. With golf complete, it is time to resume a normal Las Vegas vacation. And.., what a day it was!!! Today we move from the Linq for the last 4 nights at Excalibur. Took a while to pack everything up, but, there were no issues and the hotel bill was perfect—we will be back. Plan for the morning is to earn our badges at Bally’s and have lunch at Paris before checking in down the street. While hanging together at Bally’s we were very pleasantly surprised when she had a $100 bonus round on a 50-cent bet on Hot Rocks. 20 minutes later she won a $307 “major” bonus on another 50-cent bet on The Bachelor. Couldn’t happen to a nicer girl. Time for lunch. Even though the day started out quite cold, it warmed up enough for a fabulous lunch at Mon Ami Gabi. We had to eat here or at the Eiffel Tower because our Lettuce Entertain You $25 bonus card was going to expire. It came with the $100 gift card we bought here last November. After lunch she wanted to go to Caesars’s to earn the last of our badges. I put my foot down and said no. With her wins and the great lunch, we had spent too much time here. So, we drove the ½ mile down the strip to Excalibur, valet parked, used the bellman for all our crap, unpacked and setup the room. Then we took a nap for 2 hours. What a perfect afternoon. When we woke, the sun was already down. I opened the drapes and then realized that the strip was shut down by the police and no traffic was moving. Was there a terrorist attack? Nope, 5 minutes later a huge semi rolled by sporting a “Monster” Logo. Then, about 20 more humongous semis drive by. It was all the NASCAR teams’ cars with the sponsor’s logos adorning the side of the trucks. What an incredible sight it was and how very lucky we were to be there at the exact moment to experience it! Could the night get any better? When I got downstairs, NASCAR champ Brad Keselowski was doing a meet and greet over by the sportsbook. I am not too much of a Brad fan, but I was definitely in the minority. I did take some pictures though. We had dinner upstairs at Buca Di Beppo. I don’t remember it being that expensive, but she dug up an archived email with a $15.00 off coupon and after splitting an entrée, it turned out to be a value for $28.00. Anything else? Before dinner, with Brad Keselowski in the background, I bet a $20 two-team puck line parlay that hit and for some reason paid me $174! Sometimes it seems so easy!! How did Laurel do tonight? After losing earlier in the evening, she spent 2 hours on some frog game while I did my business. She won back all that she had lost. We uncharacteristically got to bed after 1:00. Last thing she said before bed was “If I had any more fun, I think I would explode”. Day 7 Variable ($377)!!!! Friday, March 2nd: Awoke this morning to the realization that my budgeted $210 daily variable is at only $67 per day. Outstanding. We had a BOGO My Vegas at Excalibur so had their uninspired buffet. I guess my big issue was that it wasn’t Wicked Spoon. That is the gold standard for me. So, I guess I had low expectations from the start. Place was busy and people were happy, so who am I to say. Just a quick word about our accommodations. We spend a lot of nights at Excalibur and always decline the free upgrade to the Royal Tower. We like the Resort Tower because we are pool people and the pool is on this side of the property. This not being a pool time of the year, we accepted the upgrade. Don’t see any real difference in the room but we did discover it was closer for Laurel to get wherever she needed to go. After breakfast we hung here for quite a while and then to Caesar’s to get out last badges. I got to take a picture of the new “Hell’s Kitchen” that has opened where Serendipity use to be. Best thing is that we only lost $26 earning our Caesar’s badges. While at Caesar’s, I also placed our futures on The Masters, Cavaliers (me), Milwaukee Bucks (her), Packers and the Brewers. Always nice to have some action going on. 6:00 found us at Palazzo’s Grand Lux happy hour. Didn’t even know they had one. We got our all-time favorite food, Asian Nachos, along with 2 draft beers and some guacamole/cheese dip. Laurel got a comp for $25 and was a bit miffed when we only spent $20.00. What is on this evenings agenda? We are seeing Nickelback @ Hard Rock. Even though we are nearing 60, we still are seeing shows. In the past couple of years, we have seen Linkin Park, Five Finger Death Punch, 30 Seconds to Mars, Slipknot, Green Day, Breaking Benjamins, Avenged Sevenfold, Blue October, Dropkick Murphy’s, Rush, and Barry Manilow. Next month we are headed to Shreveport to see Queens of the Stone Age. Needless to say, we were among the oldest people at most of these events. Anyway, Nickelback was excellent and they played for 2 hours. The Joint is a great concert venue. We always try to sit in the upper deck at all the shows we see. Handicap sections are mostly empty. We plop, take out the binoculars and end up with the best seats in the house! We dragged our butts back home @ 12:30. I was just happy that there was still room at the valet. I’ve been shut out in the past. Day 8 Variable: $251 Saturday, March 3rd: The weather was a little warmer yesterday, so I had some outside hopes for a little pool time today. But cloudy and windy so I shelved that thought. The shorts that I brought sit forlorn in the drawer. Laurel a little tough to get up this morning so just had a lazy one. Did not even leave the room until 11:30. After one of our legendary debates, we ended up at Ellis Island for lunch. This is always a once a trip dinner location at their BBQ restaurant, but today it is Village Pub and Café. She is happy because it is a new place for us, I was happy because a decision was made. 3 craft beers, fried pickles, and a Kickin’ Grilled Cheese sandwich later, we were on our way to Bellagio. It is the “Year of The Dog” and she wanted to see the flowers, fine by me. We actually ended up hanging here for 4 hours. She kept texting me with mid-range $20 to $40 wins, I drank beer and watched the Razorbacks (+3.5) lose to Missouri. Even though I lost $57 here, she ended up winning $60. 6:00 pm found us at Silverton for dinner with our Vegas friends. When we walked in, there was a wedding ready to start--IN THE FISH TANK! All the guests were seated outside and eventually the bride and groom showed up inside. What in theory was romantic was in reality a hoot. The groom initially was flailing away like he was panicking. He also must have had hair plugs because every follicle was standing straight up. WHAT WERE YOU THINKING??? Anyway, we four had a good dinner at Mi Casa. We eat here with them quite often. It is an easy in/out for the locals and it is easy for me to take Dean Martin Blvd. back to the strip… Nothing much to report the rest of the night. Being a Saturday evening, the bimbos with short skirts were plentiful and we both had a great time just taking in the sights and sounds. Day 9 Variable: $185 Sunday, March 4th: Woke up still feeling a little miffed as to why I took Arkansas yesterday when I knew they would not cover. But, Laurel wanted to take them so…. Suck It Up! Last full day, so once I got her up, we prepacked for the trip home and by 11:30 we were back at the Excalibur Buffet (BOGO) that I tried not to vilify the other day. This time, I was prepared. I brought 2 small bottles of Bailey’s along so it made everything more palatable. I did heist 3 cookies too. After breakfast we hung here for a while. NASCAR in town so we bet our usual Kevin Harvick (7/2) and Kyle Busch (10/1). She is usually the former and I am the latter. But today she wanted to split them. Betting NASCAR is a bit like betting basketball. Nothing matters much until it is close to the end with all the back and forth that transpires. Anyway, we left Excalibur about ½ through the race and headed down to M Resort. This is the 3rd trip in a row, after not coming here for years. They keep sending us $10 free play and Laurel likes the variety of games. I am always amazed at how busy the place despite the fact it is so far away from everything. Once here, I retired to the sportsbook and had the race on one TV and golf on the other with a large Modelo Negro in the middle. Phil Michelson won in a playoff at just about the same time Kevin Harvick edged out Kyle Busch. It was a lot of fun and I got to claim ½ of my wife’s win. We stayed at M for a while. I get frustrated sometimes when I sit with her for a spell and even though I see them in the distance, no cocktail waitress shows up. I find it easier in recent trips to just go buy one. If this was a Caesar’s property, I could get a 24 oz. Miller for $2.45. I ended up winning $23 here and she broke even so it was a successful venture. On to Orleans. She wanted to try Bailiwick for dinner. Plan was to meet there at 7:00 and when the time arrived we found out there was a 45-minute wait. If I would have even fathomed that would happen, I would have put our name in a while ago. All I had been doing was watching hockey. Laurel not too happy. The occasional minor squabble arose, but calmer heads prevailed and we ended up each getting a double-double at In ‘N Out burger. We spent the rest of the night at Luxor and Excalibur. It turned out to be a wonderful evening. I actually won a bit tonight to offset her losses to wind down the vacation. Day 10 Variable: $71 Monday, March 5th: Time to go back to Arkansas. 1 week ago was the start of the golf tournament. Not sure if I am going to do that to myself again, but glad I did it. My arm that I hurt on the driving range last Wednesday is still hurting and has even turned a little black and blue. I’m just trying to ignore it. We mostly packed yesterday so this morning wasn’t too bad. Staying 10 nights for us means 2 big suitcases, 1 small suitcase, backpack, shoulder bag, and this trip a set of golf clubs!! We don’t fly out til 2:00 so after checkout we drove to Paris for a baguette at JJ’s Boulangerie. I was holding out for Il Fornaio at NYNY but was outvoted 1-0. My vote ended up not counting. No problem, JJ’s is one of our favorite places to people watch and we had not been there this trip. After while she played I went outside and enjoyed the view for a bit and then thought, “see you again in 11 weeks”. Before we left for good though, I sat at an instant spin machine penny machine (max coin) and it kept giving me bonus after bonus. I thought it was broken. I walked away a $75 winner for last gamble of the trip. Day 11 Variable: ($32)!!! Final Wrap-up: - Total Budget was $5,077, Actual total was $3,714, came in $1,363 under budget! - Back home, too much crap taped on the DVR, do we watch too much tv? - Was going to lose weight between Nov. trip & this one, I’ll say it again for between now and next trip - Driving 382 miles (thanks, Paiute!) made the car only cost $1.03 per mile this time! - Withholding judgment on Park MGM because still all construction & they honored email price they sent - Royal Tower at Excalibur preferable if not pool season - Traveling with golf clubs is a huge pain! - The NASCAR parade was unique and cool-glad we woke up from our nap to see it - Trip 51 & 52 got us to within 10,000 points of MLife Gold (free valet!) May trip should put us over the top - Don’t get married inside a fish tank!