Las Vegas Trip Report

June 12-15, 1998

Day Two - Saturday, June 13, 1998

Today is Dan's 36th birthday. He woke up way too early and decided to take a run down to the 7-11 on the other end of Fremont Street to get some chapstick (the one thing I always forget to pack). Unfortunately, the very squeaky door woke me up when he left.

Vegas being such unusual place, I like to do the unusual when I am there. I m not normally a jogger, so for me jogging is unusual. And what more unusual place can there be for a jog than Glitter Gulch in downtown Las Vegas: Fremont Street!

Those of you who have been to Fremont Street during the past few years know that Fremont Street has been transformed from a seedy scary casino row to a safe and clean pedestrian mall. Vegas Vic, Sassy Sally and the Coin Castle are still there, but looking around you think you're in a sanitized museum replica of Fremont Street. Then you remind yourself that this the REAL Fremont Street.

At 8:30 in the morning, Fremont Street as the same feel as a suburban shopping mall that opens its doors to senior citizens who just want to walk around, except that the doors lining the street are open and have slot machines just inside, and some of the people walking around are carrying beers.

The 7-11 on Fremont street just past Las Vegas Blvd. is your standard 7-11, except for the pair of video poker machines by the door. . It is best appreciated at night, with its glittery 7-11 sign conforming to the local signage customs.

I purchased a chapstick and a small orange juice and started my run back. After seeing the film Vegas Vacation, I thought it would be fun to win a car for a couple of coins. I stopped at Fitzgeralds and the Fremont Hotel and noted that I could win either a new VW Beetle or a Lexus for 50 cents. I didn't make it back there to try though. -Dan

Dan came back before I could fall back to sleep. He was going to go get Krispy Kreme donuts, but we decided to try the buffet instead.

We used out 2 for 1 coupon from the Las Vegas Advisor for the Main Street Garden Buffet's Champagne Brunch. The total came to $8.55 and a $2 tip for both of us.

We're not really "buffet people" but this was a good one. The room is bright and beautiful and the selection of food was good. Dan had coffee, ham and eggs (scrambled together), bacon, fruit, orange juice and champagne and some sort of breakfast burrito thing. I had the scrambled eggs with ham, one "eggs benedict", fresh fruit and a croissant. The drink server was right there when we sat down again. I asked for a large apple juice. Just a minute or two later he returned with a huge glass (probably 16-20 ounces)! Wow!

The food quality was good. I thought the scrambled eggs were a bit wet for my taste, but I am really picky about my eggs and I like them really, REALLY dry. Dan said they were perfect. Overall I'd give the buffet an 8 out of 10 for food quality, ambiance and service.

While I was in the shower, Dan had called "Escape the City Streets" and arranged a mountain bike ride for this afternoon. We were to meet them at the Rio at 1pm. WE both wanted to see The Reserve, so we headed out there... way out there.

I really liked the look of The Reserve from the road. It's small, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. We joined the slot club and sat down at a $0.25 triple play video poker machine. We didn't do very well at the Reserve. Over the course of about an hour, we lost around $45 on video poker and slots. However, the staff here is really exceptional. Everyone we talked to was very courteous and friendly. That goes a long way in my book. I wouldn't hesitate to stay here, even though it is really far out of town.

At 12:00 we had to head out to the Rio. Dan grabbed a fruit drink and a muffin at the coffee stand there in The Reserve. I drove us to the Rio while he ate.

Dan dropped the last of our quarters from the Reserve into one of those "win this car" slots machines while I checked the status of our slot club cards. We found where to meet the bike guys and sat down at some Bonus Video Poker machines by the front door. We dropped $40 in no time at all! It was scary how fast it went.

WE went outside and met the van. I waved good-bye to Dan and went back inside. I found the Megabucks machines and decided this was as good a time as any to give it a try. I sat down at a RWB machine and it promptly sucked $80 out of my wallet. It was really bad! I only hit "any three bars" twice during that $80 of play.

I shrugged my shoulders and gave up on the $17 million and moved on to my favorite machines at the Rio.... The Sneaky Queens video poker machines. I found some right by the stage area and waited for the 2pm show. I won back a little bit of the money I had lost, but not enough in my opinion.

After the show, I got the car and took the strip back downtown. So much is changing! It looks so different after only 8 months!

I got back to Main Street and dropped my stuff in the room. I had intended on going to the Brew Pub for a bite to eat, but it was really crowded. I sat down at the $0.05 Triple Play VP machines and played a long time on $5. When the credits were gone, I had two scratch off cards. Both were for $1.00.

I moved to the $0.25 machines after watching craps for awhile. I'm still to intimidated to give it a try for some reason.

I put my last $20.00 in the Video Poker machine and eventually cashed out (not at my highest, when will I learn to quit when I'm really ahead) at $55.00 plus two scratch off cards for $5.00 each.

Now, here's something I wonder about. When I played on the nickel machines, all of my scratch off cards with 4 of a kind were for $1.00. When I moved to quarter machines, all my scratch off cards were $5.00. Coincidence? Or rigged?

The Web site for Escape the City Streets said that they would pick you up at your hotel, but this time it meant the other guy's Hotel which happened to be the Rio. The Driver and guide was Rich from New Zealand. His "down-under" accent was so thick that I could understand only about 40 percent of what he said. The other rider was a computer programmer who works for IBM in South Carolina.

Our first stop was at the "Escape the City Streets" bike shop on Charleston in West Las Vegas, far, far from the strip. The package I signed up for included a rental mountain bike, transportation to the trails in the Red Rock Canyon area, a guide to show us the good stuff and prevent us from getting lost, a water bottle frozen solid and all the leftover mountain bike magazines I could stuff in my bag. The bike they gave me to ride was a Gary Fisher Joshua (one of those radical dual suspension bikes you may have seen). The price for this package was about $70, and they even made sure the bike was equipped with my preferred style of pedals. For $60, you can get the same package with a front-suspension only bike.

Our fearless guide drove us up past Red Rock Canyon to Blue Diamond, a quiet hamlet nestled in the dry hills near the base of the Spring Mountains, west of Las Vegas. We parked next to a baseball field. As we unloaded the bikes, Rich told us that the big bi-annual event in Blue Diamond was when vendors at the Interbike trade show (held once every two years in Vegas) offered mountain bike demo rides in the hills surrounding Blue Diamond, on the very trails we were about to ride.

I used to live in the desert and ride there often, and I had been looking forward to mountain biking in the desert again. I was not disappointed. This 15-mile loop had all of the elements of a classic mountain bike ride: rocks, sand, lots of singletrack (narrow trails), fast downhills through rolling terrain (my favorite), even a couple of stream crossings.

I was thankful for the frozen solid water bottle. As the hot afternoon wore on, I had cold water to drink for most of the ride.

Escape the City Streets also offers road bike tours in the Red Rock/Mt. Charleston areas, as well as multi-day wilderness outings in Utah and the Colorado Rockies. They can be found on the Web at - Dan

At 5:30pm, I met Dan back at the room. He told me about his ride and I told him what I did while he took a shower. It was 6pm when I first thought about dinner reservations. We had the Las Vegas Advisor coupons we wanted to use, so I called the Pullman Grille. Their first available table was at 9pm. I called Benihanna's at Las Vegas Hilton, their first available was 8:45pm. We decided to dress casually and walk down Fremont Street to find something. I was sure we could get in at the Second Street Grill, nope... 8:30pm.

We were going to try for the Italian place at Fitzgerald's, but decided on Tony Roma's at Fremont instead. Tony Roma's is pretty consistent everywhere I go. There's a little bit of variation, but the margin for error is typically pretty small. This was no exception. It was exactly what I had expected.

We had potato skins for an appetizer. Dan had a Samuel Adams and I had a coke. He ordered the Babyback ribs and shrimp combo and I had the seafood special, a grilled salmon with dill sauce. The service was pretty good and the food was better than average. The price was $43.91 with tip.

After dinner we went back to Main Street Station to get the car. Our plan was to drive out to Caesar's, valet park and enjoy Everest at the Omnimax Theater. Guess again!

We would have had plenty of time except for the fact that the valets (Omnimax and main check-in area) were full. We had to drive all over hell and back trying to find the garage and then it was grid lock and impossible to find a space. We finally found one on the third floor and started the sprint for the box office with 5 minutes until showtime.

We got out tickets for the 9pm show and went inside. We sat just off to the right of the "projector area". A few seconds after we sat down, the movie began.

The story is compelling, but I can't help but think that those people are insane! I just don't possess whatever gene it is that makes these people want to climb those mountains. One element of the story featured a couple on their honeymoon. He went for the summit and she stayed at base camp, sending him encouraging words on the radio and watching videos he would send down. Not my idea of a good time. Dan would have to buy me a really big diamond to get me to agree to something like that.

The cinematography is beautiful and those with acrophobia will not enjoy the scenes where they cross the crevasses and the ice fall! I think that the movie is worth the money to say you have seen it.

After the movie, we headed into the Forum Shops to find a place to get a coffee. Finally, we found an open one near the Fountain rotunda on the side of a restaurant. You can also get gelatto there... I made note of that.

We sat down by the fountain to rest and drink our coffees. There were too many people trying to be beautiful and seen, so we decided to leave. We found our car and headed back to MSS. We got some drinks and snacks in the gift shop and headed up to our room to watch the Saturday Night Live tribute to Phil Hartman. Dan was asleep before it was over.

I left the shutters open for awhile and amused myself with the Big Shot on top of the Stratosphere. Every time it went up, you could see the flashbulbs go off to take the picture. I said "wheee!" each time and Dan would grunt in his sleep. I thought it was amusing just long enough to realize I must be really tired to find it amusing.

End of Day Two