Day One - December 20, 1998
San Jose to Las Vegas
We got up, got showered and dressed and packed the car before even opening our eyes it seems. We got all the way out of the driveway before having to turn around. I had forgotten our slot club cards. If we had gotten further away I wouldn't have bothered, but since we were still in the neighborhood
We drove to a nearby coffee shop so Dan could get a coffee for the road and pick up a juice for me and my sore throat. Coming around the corner we could see snow dusted all over the Santa Cruz Mountains. Now, anyone who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area knows what a rare event this is, so we tried to take pictures. Unfortunately, the clouds were not very cooperative. We did manage to get one shot of snow on the mountains in the eastern edge of the valley. While waiting for Dan, I saw a massive accident on the street by the coffee shop. Snow and accidents? Hopefully this was not a warning of what was to come!
Driving was slow as it was raining pretty hard most of the way down 101 to Gilroy. We stopped for a brief potty stop at the Romero Visitor Center at San Luis Reservoir on highway 152. Dan likes to call this "The World's Most Boring Visitor Center" as the entire place is dedicated to the engineering of the dam. Not exactly thrilling but clean bathrooms right off the highway about a cup of coffee away from home.
***Dan Writes*** The visitor center is named after a well-known film director for the zombie-like appearance of visitors after viewing the comprehensive water project exhibits at the Center. Once we reached the equally fascinating Interstate 5, we popped in a book on tape to accompany us on the very long drive.
The rain was slowing us down, so we just grabbed lunch at Carl's Jr. in Kettleman City to eat in the car ($10.30). We gassed up in Lost Hills before getting off I-5 onto Highway 46. ($8.31 - go ahead and make fun of my Geo what is your gasoline budget on your trips?)
It was snowing pretty hard going over Tehachipi but it wasn't sticking anywhere except for on the very top. It was a little icy, but there wasn't any need for chains, you just had to drive slowly.
The drive is terribly long and boring and I have no idea how we would have survived except that I had recently discovered the magic of books on tape. We listened to "Tick Tock" by Dean Koontz almost the entire way to Las Vegas. It was a lifesaver as we could just float along with the gripping story, as we couldn't go much over the speed limit because of the weather.
We gassed up again in Baker ($8.03) and decided not to get any food. We were so close to our destination and it was still fairly early. We just snacked on some of the things I brought in the car (pretzels and apples).
The book on tape ended as we were passing the Tropicana Avenue exit on I-15. Dan wanted to tell me all about the mini-market by Primm where you can buy California lottery tickets, but I was more worried about the scary story than hearing about lotto tickets. I think he was irritated... oh well, he'd forget as soon as we arrived at our hotel.
*** Dan Writes *** Little did we know, the book ends in a Las Vegas wedding and reception at the Mirage. Unlike the couple in the book, Sonya is not the product of a three-way sexual encounter between a professional poker player, a race car driver, and a space alien.
(And --- again --- there is no wedding on this trip! - Sonya)
On the way into Nevada, Sonya had her first view of the Desperado at Buffalo Bills, just on this side of the Nevada border off of I-15. I tried pointing that out to her, along with the Lotto-mini mart just a few yards away on the California side, but she was too tired from the drive and wrapped up in the climatic ending of Tick Tock to appreciate it.
We arrived at Main Street Station just before 7pm, a mere 9.5 hours after we left our apartment (groan!). I had received a letter offering two nights free at the hotel and couldn't pass it up. Main Street Station is probably my favorite hotel in Las Vegas. I love the location because it is so close to the freeway and Fremont Street. The employees are wonderful there. I've never been treated rudely by anyone. The restaurants are great and the gambling is better than most places I know. More on all that later.
I dragged my weary body to the check-in and asked for a high floor with a view of Fremont Street. I told the clerk that we had room 711 last trip and she said that the only thing she had available was a room on the 15th floor that was a Handicapped room. We took it room 1519.
We stopped at the Pullman Grille on our way to the elevators and asked if they could fit us in for dinner. They had availability at 7:45 and we snatched it up even if we'd have to rush a bit. We had tried to eat there last trip, but weren't able to get a reservation at the last minute (we never can manage to plan ahead in Las Vegas).
We lugged all of our things up to the room and found it to be similar to the room we had before. The only difference was an armoire in the hallway instead of a closet. And the bathroom door opened outward to allow wheelchair access. (And of course, there were bars on the walls and in the shower as well).
We unpacked as quickly as we could and changed into our "nice clothes" to get ready for dinner. We got back downstairs to the Pullman Grille at exactly 7:45pm and I asked the hostess if she was shocked that we made it back in 45 minutes. She said, "I never doubted you for a minute."
We were seated at a table for four about halfway into the restaurant. This place is gorgeous with wood paneling and wood details everywhere. We promptly met our waiter, Hooch, who filled us in on the specials and took our drink orders.
Problem number one - Dan is a HUGE fan of the beers at the microbrewery in Main St. Station. In fact, I sometimes think it is the primary reason he goes there. They comp it to you at the tables/machines, but, as we found out tonight, you cannot get it in the Pullman Grille. They have three different brews available on tap, but they do not offer the full line. They can get one for you, but you will have to wait for someone to go over to the brewpub and it might be awhile. Dan settled for the Brewmaster Special, an unfiltered Rye. I just had some water.
Our soup/salad arrived quickly. I had the Caesar salad and Dan had the soup of the day, a cream of broccoli. Both were excellent, even though I thought the salad was a bit large for a starter salad. In addition, we had fresh bread on the table.
Our dinners arrived just as we finished our soup/salad. Dan ordered the Filet Mignon with rosemary potatoes. I had the Petit Filet (just a smaller portion) with a baked potato. The servings are generous and delicious. I had them butterfly my filet and I probably shouldn't have. It was just a little too dry for my tastes. I'm almost always torn between ordering medium and medium well. I like the steak to be moist, but not bloody. I like it just a little pink inside. My steak was ordered medium well and there wasn't any pink inside and it was just a little dry. Probably perfect for medium well, but not exactly what I was hoping for. Still excellent though.
The baked potato was HUGE, more than 1.5 times the size of my 8 oz steak!. It was served with butter, sour cream and chives on the side. Dan assured me the rosemary potatoes were excellent.
We passed on coffee and dessert as we still had to get settled in and Dan was anxious to see something on television at 9pm. We had used our LVA coupon for 50% off (not including drinks). Our $36.97 dinner bill became 19.95. Plus $8.05 tip, for a grand total of $28.00. Not too bad for a steak dinner for two.
We went back up to the room to watch 20/20 and finish unpacking. The room guidebook thing assured us that there was a safe in the room, but I couldn't find it. If it was there, they hid it really well. I even looked under the bed for it. We also called housekeeping for some hangars (our armoire didn't have any) and a couple of extra pillows. Housekeeping didn't show up, so we left at 10pm.
We drove down The Strip. It was extremely windy and cold. There were people and garbage blowing down Fremont Street as we drove past. Half of the lights were off on the Christmas Tree. I hope they get that fixed by the time I get there to take pictures.
We drove past the Venetian, Paris and Aladdin construction sites. Wow! They are going up fast and are going to be spectacular. I was completely impressed with the look of Paris. I think it is going to be beautiful.
We stopped at Bellagio. We pulled in and the valet parking was backed up almost to the street. We swung over to the self-parking garage and ended up at the South Parking Garage. You drive up a hill on one side of the garage and enter each level. Also, each level has a sign that says, "Level XX - There are XX spaces available". This is a wonderful idea! We pulled into level 2 where there were 7 spaces available. Well, maybe not such a wonderful idea as the counters didn't seem to be very accurate. We did find a space in section 2B (or not 2B) and bundled up for the short walk to the elevators.
Now I have been waiting patiently for this moment. I have read every message about the Bellagio on alt.vacation.las-vegas and felt that I was really going to be amazed. I got to the elevators and saw the sign saying that no minors will be admitted unless they are guests, and to be prepared to show a room key, etc. I pointed it out to Dan and did a little dance of joy.
The elevator opened and some biker looking couple walked out with their bucket of quarters. Okay, not exactly what I expected to see, but whatever. Then a family of about 8 (2 adults, 6 kids, two strollers) crowded into the elevator in front of us. We decided to wait for the next one. We arrived at the doors to Bellagio just as they did. You could have knocked me over with a feather when they walked right past security. Two guards were standing by another "no minors" sign, talking to each other. One glanced at the family as they walked past. I couldn't believe it! In fact, I stood there, off to the side to watch and see if it was a fluke. Nope, it wasn't. Just a few minutes later, another family walked right past without even a glance. Oh well don't let it bother you.
We went into the Conservatory and it was gorgeous. The smell of the flowers is wonderful and the topiaries are beautiful. But it was crowded. People were everywhere. Some people were looking for a place to sit (there doesn't appear to be one) and an entire section of the conservatory was blocked off because a bride and groom were having their pictures taken on the staircase to one side of the area.
We managed to escape out of the room and make it back to the lobby area. This is nice. The tile is very pretty on the floor and the chandelier (although I wouldn't call it that) is beautiful. There was a man playing piano off of the lobby, filling the area with music. I would have loved to stop and enjoy it for a moment, but people were sprawled out all over the sofas and chairs. Some were sleeping, some kids were playing on the floor, and other people were storing their luggage on the seats. Oh well.
We went out the revolving doors (which Dan hasn't figured out how to do without making them stop!) just as the fountain show was going on. I can't identify the song, but I did hear it a few more times over the week we were in Las Vegas. It's a Betty Boop sounding song about Santa. Can't give you much more info about it. Maybe someone can fill me in. (June 21, 99 - Thanks a lot to John H. who tells me "the Betty Boop type song you heard someone singing has to be 'Santa Baby'. This song was made popular by Eartha Kitt in the 50s and has been remade countless times." Thanks John!)
We dashed across valet parking to the area that overlooks the lake to catch the show. I was surprised that there weren't more people standing there. Maybe just another half dozen people off to the sides. We quickly discovered the reason. Did I mention it was windy outside? We walked up to catch a big burst of the fountains and a gust of freezing wind blowing that burst into our faces! YIKES!! We made a quick get away without seeing any of the fountain show. Oh well.
Back inside to check out the casino. (Of course, the revolving door had to tell Dan to move his butt again!) Dan was pleased to see vast sections of nickel and quarter machines and a number of $5 blackjack tables, but we didn't see any place we wanted to play. The pay tables on Video Poker was terrible. I'm not talking about 8/5, but 7/5 VP. Not good at all. I can convince myself to play 8/5 sometimes, but sheesh! Oh well.
We did find a bar that had a pretty good swing band. We watched some people dancing for a few minutes and then I needed a restroom break. I wandered in and managed to get lost yes, in the bathroom. It's set up like an "S" you go in the door, down to the end, turn, down to the end, turn the other way and then I found an open stall. I did my thing and came out, only to go the wrong way and end up at a dead end with a woman who was following me out. I said, "Eeek! I'm lost!" and she said, "I was following you." We found someone much more sober than we were and she guided us to safety. I sent Dan into the men's room because I was anxious to find out if they had gold fixtures too. Pretty classy! And, the cleaning ladies were busy in there. They kept it clean, paper towels in stacks by the sinks and there was something that smelled like cinnamon that they sprayed in the bathroom.
After Dan was unable to get lost in the men's room, we left. We drove down the strip to Mandalay Bay to see how that was progressing. It still looks like Treasure Island outside to me.
Back down the strip to Downtown. There were papers all over the streets downtown. We even saw an awning that had come off of one of the buildings lying in the street. Exciting!
Back at Main Street Station we started gambling. Dan picked the Treasure Chest Video Poker and quickly lost $20. I cashed out even.
Dan played some blackjack, losing about $35. I moved to Triple Play Video Poker and promptly lost $60 while the lady next to me got about seven different four-of-a-kinds. Main Street Station is still giving out the scratch cards for any four-of-a-kind or jackpot over 300 coins. I left and moved to Bonus poker. I cashed out with 200 coins and two scratch cards at 1:30 am. We were down about $60 total including tips for drinks.
I was lying fully clothed, face down on the bed and Dan was lying perpendicular to me, using the small of my back as a pillow. We didnt say anything for awhile; just rested our brains. Finally Dan said, "Do you know what your butt smells like?" and a myriad of possible answers rushed through my mind. After a moment he said, "Cigarettes", not any of the answers I had in my brain.
Went to bed at 2:30 am.