the Backpack ~ Strange and Unexpected
when I post something from the archives, it involves bringing
back an essay or article or such that had appeared on the In My
Backpack web site and was removed during one of the updates or
computer issues over the years.
entry is a bit different though… in addition to appearing on the
site, it was part of the Travel
Trilogy project… or, more specifically, Strange
and Unexpected: Backpack on the Road – Volume Three: Las Vegas.
that means a couple of versions exist… somewhat specific, almost
definitive versions if you will… the work that was on the site,
and the chapter that was edited and potentially revised from that
piece and used for the book.
material was originally posted on December 30, 2004. It was later
published in April 2013. Some minor proofreading edits and adjustments
may have been made while bringing the material back to the site
in this posting.
~ ~ ~
Day three, Sunday, December 12, 2004
it 9 o’clock there? It’s 12 o’clock here.”
was the observation... from Tigg’s mom... that woke us up this
well over 14 hours on the strip last night ended at about 1am,
along with a couple of shows on television when we got home to
unwind before heading to sleep… a 9am wake-up call from Terry’s
have to be honest, I never expected to get a wake-up call in Vegas.
I don’t think they even offer such a service at any of the hotels
will give her credit though. When she calls us, it’s usually 9am
on a Sunday morning. At least she recognized the time change and
didn’t wake us at 6am.
news about sports that I offer for a strange reason… I’m completely
cut off from the world I know at home. Tigg… Richard… Ellen… none
of them really has much of an attention span for sports. (I know...
and I don’t understand it either.) Now… expand that concept into
Vegas and the possibilities of a sports book. I’m looking for
places to sit down for the game and they’re walking past every
television, lounge, or sports betting location as if it’s in the
way, just taking up space (if they notice it at all). The end
result is that with the exception of perhaps five minutes of television
late at night or when I first got up, I wasn’t getting much news.
missing the sports packages of home. The only game on as Tigg
gets ready is Minnesota-Seattle. See? Most of you are nodding
with me in sympathy. Out of Tigg, Richard and Ellen, I don’t think
any of them know Seattle’s team is called the Seahawks.
meet up with Ellen and Richard, and find out that they are having
more fun with their room. Evidently the thermostat is broken.
It’s been about ninety degrees in their room for most of the night.
They were delayed while waiting to get in touch with maintenance.
to catch the shuttle to the Rio.
we finished off this day, Tigg, Richard and Ellen felt that the
Rio was the most fun casino they had been to… ever… and felt that
same way at the end of the trip. Overall I would agree. Between
the parade in the sky (we saw the Christmas Holiday Show in the
Sky) and the staff interacting with guests, the Rio easily went
beyond what we saw from any other casino property.
ate lunch at the Sao Paulo Cafe. It was alright. Nothing outstanding.
Out of six lunches we ate in Vegas, it probably would rank no
higher than sixth. I do notice one thing though… our waiter deliberately
went to the ladies at our table first. I hadn’t been paying attention
at the other restaurants so far, though I do recall seeing them
served first before. But here our waiter took their orders, served
their drinks, and placed their food on the table first. And now
that I am watching, it is a practice that continues at every place
for the rest of the trip.
was distracted. There wasn’t much room at the blackjack tables,
and I wasn’t in the mood for roulette. What I was in the mood
for was football. So, after lunch we split up and, with the sports
book packed and no seats open at all, I took off for the keno
lounge. I played a few games over the course of the next ninety
minutes, watching three different games on three televisions located
in the lounge.
have reservations for dinner at 7:30pm. Those are at the MGM Grand,
for a restaurant called Fiamma. With the parade in the sky taking
place at 4pm, we are planning to watch it, catch the shuttle so
we can head back to our rooms to change, and then head over to
dinner. There’s plenty of time to do that, but not enough time
to waste much.
parade was pretty good. Continuing the Mardi Gras approach to
things, the performers give out beads. They have about five floats
suspended from the ceiling. They are on tracks, and they come
out of a section of the wall and then move around above one of
the gaming zones. They also put on a short stage show. And this
is where it gets interesting…
the show ends, it becomes evident that they are going to have
a photo session on the stage. There’s a shirtless man with a few
beads, and also two beautiful girls. Ellen and Richard are standing
near me, and while I may be wrong I am almost positive I heard
her say to him: “If you want to go have your picture taken with
the girls, go.” He didn’t. I on the other hand asked Tigg if she
wanted to have her picture taken. Once she said no, she told me
to go ahead. And I did.
is the case with so many places today… theme parks come to mind
as the best example… Las Vegas is filled with “have your photo
with” opportunities. And, the picture taken of me with two lovely
ladies does come at a cost… plus, unfortunately, it won’t be ready
to look at for about 45-minutes to an hour. Yikes… no time!
though they ask people not to take any other pictures, I had Tigg
and Richard ready to snap some shots when I was on the stage.
Richard got a decent shot, but it’s from a distance and I can’t
tell how good it might be. (Ellen and Richard have never used
our digital camera before.) So… trust in Tigg to have some great
shots, or buy the pictures? I trust Tigg very much... and I also
want to buy them.
there’s no time right now.
check in the store and find out that they hold the shots for 24-hours.
So, I have until about 4pm on Monday to get back to the Rio and
pick them up.
head back to the hotel and change, then catch a cab over to the
MGM Grand. We arrived just after 6pm. Tigg checks our reservations
at Fiamma and then I head over to claim my two winning NFL wagers.
I made five. I’m seriously considering killing my planned article
on football bets for the web site. 2 out of 5 is not exactly the
record to go with for that. But hey… an even record would work
if I could reach it. Seeing the combined over for Kansas City
and Tennessee above 50 points, I placed a bet on the under for
Monday night’s game.
to Fiamma for dinner.
waiter’s name was Aaron, and he was absolutely fantastic. The
menu was a bit different… more formal… based on three courses,
not including dessert. He talked with us about wine selections.
He ran through the menu with us, and when we ordered he made some
suggestions about possible alterations and options. There were
a couple of mistakes made… a wrong entrée for Richard,
a lost drink for me… but Aaron very quickly and efficiently took
care of them. Here’s a thought that sums up his fabulous service…
when there are a couple of problems with the meal and you still
come out of the restaurant thinking you’ve had a terrific dinner
with extraordinary food, then you can just about always bet the
service was outstanding.
the food was too. Here are some notes about our meals…
~ I had a bresaola, which was a thinly sliced and cured beef
tenderloin served with arugula, parmigiano, pine nuts and olive
oil. It was alright, but I should have gone with my first impulse…
mozzarella. The trouble was, Ellen, Richard and Terry all expressed
their interest in the mozzarella appetizer too. I made the mistake
of thinking they would share… which the greedy bastards really
didn’t… and I wound up just tasting a small smidgen of Tigg’s
(no… I’m not really mad… and they aren’t greedy bastards… I
just know now, having had a small taste, that theirs was much,
much, much better).
~ I have always wanted to try Kobe beef. So, with Kobe beef
meatballs on the menu, there was nothing to debate here. Ellen
and Richard felt the same and went that way. They were very
good, served on a bed of delicious fresh pasta.
not going to mention anything more about the menu or our specific
orders for the secondi course, since the mozzarella and Kobe beef
were the two big things and everything else was good enough that
I feel comfortable recommending it no matter what you select.
I do want to mention two final things though. First, Tigg and
I decided on a single side dish… mascarpone polenta. It was great.
We made a mistake once years ago, in a restaurant that offered
several dishes a la carte, of ordering two or three similar ones
and leaving most of the orders behind. Well, here we ordered just
one and it was more than enough for all four of us to taste and
have decent portions from. (Well, go figure, I shared my side
dish with all three of the greedy bastards. But again, I’m not
bitter.) Second, save room for dessert.
walked out of the restaurant and passed by the lion habitat. Every
time we were in MGM during this trip, we found we were too late
to have our pictures taken with lion cubs. The habitat opens in
the late morning and stays open until later in the evening. It
seemed to us that the picture with the cubs opportunity was held
when it first opened and in the very early afternoon. Can’t say
anything more about it… we missed it, but wished we hadn’t.
the street to New York – New York.
didn’t stay here too long. I happen to love the real New York
City. I find it pretty easy to get around once you orient yourself.
I found this casino version to be uncomfortable and cramped. We
were in and out of the property in about 20 minutes or so and
never returned during our stay to find out if that first impression
was wrong. One very neat thing about this property though… there
is no mistaking it. Between the Empire State Building, Chrysler
Building, Statue of Liberty, and even the Brooklyn Bridge, it
is very easy to recognize.
actually not one of the oldest properties in Las Vegas, having
opened in 1990, but it sure feels older. Nestled between the Luxor
and New York – New York, the Excalibur does not present the flash
and glamour found in many of the newer properties. I was very
surprised to learn that it cost $290 million to construct. That
seems low to me for a 1990 property such as this.
and I sat down at a roulette table. Nick was the dealer and he
was very good. I was sitting at the far end of the table, and
he quickly picked up on my bets around the area of the first twelve
numbers and within three spins was placing them for me. I didn’t
win a lot, but we left the table ahead when Nick hit a break.
(I can get uncomfortable if I’m playing roulette, winning a little
bit, and the dealer I’ve been playing with reaches a break. I
don’t know why. This is especially true when I’m only planning
on staying at a property for a short time. I either change my
bets completely or leave the table. I also have to have a drink
with ice cubes in it. But… umm… I’m not superstitious or anything.)
So Tigg and I left and moved on to play some single-deck blackjack.
Trouble was, it was a full table. Completely full. So, we were
only seeing one or two hands per shuffle though the table minimum
was higher as a premium for the single-deck option. Tigg and I
were both up about $10 when we decided to call it a night.
last thought about the Excalibur. For the first time on this trip,
I saw a coin redemption machine at a cashier window. Up until
now, every slot machine I’d seen… playing and just watching… paid
out with tickets.
four, Monday, December 13, 2004
get to the Rio by 4pm...
get to the Rio by 4pm…
get to the Rio by 4pm…
our third morning in the Fairchild Resort, and we are soon three
for three in morning problems. First it was the open door. Then
it was the thermostat. This time, it’s in our room and the first
of our fires.
put an English muffin in the toaster and then went off to dry
her hair (or something… I rarely pay attention to her morning
make-up, hair drying routine… in any event, she’s in the bathroom).
I’m looking for a glass so I can get some juice. I look down at
the toaster… and…
see a flame!
I’ll grant you… it’s not a big one. Not a stop-in-your-tracks,
get-out-of-the-room, call-911 fire!
a burning muffin.
I ask you -- How many hotels have you stayed in over the course
of traveling in your life? And the total number of fires you have
encountered… big or burning-muffin-small… would be?
back to our story.
you started a fire.”
around corner) “You’re too calm for a real fire.”
your muffin.” (Pulling it from toaster)
guess I’ll have a donut.”
of emergency. Back to the day.
have an interesting problem ahead of us… if you want to call it
a problem. Because of show tickets we already have, our only two
free nights remaining are today and Thursday. Not wanting to make
specific plans for the last night, we have decided to head over
to Fremont Street tonight. So, between getting to the Rio and
then heading over to Fremont Street early but after dark (somewhere
between 5pm and 6pm), we aren’t sure exactly where we want to
head for the afternoon or what we want to do to eat. Also, after
ripping apart our plan of visiting sections by walking the main
part of the strip virtually top to bottom on Saturday, there are
lots of places we want to go, but nothing that we haven’t already
seen a bit of, that we really want to do, and that will also work
in a three or four hour window.
plan is finally made based on the Adequatefield Resort shuttle.
We plan to go to the Rio for my souvenir pictures, and then get
dropped off near Harrah’s. (Side note… our resort runs a shuttle
that goes to the Rio and to Harrah’s, and there’s also another
shuttle running between those two properties. There are shuttles
and connections between properties all over the place. Learn them…
find them… huge help once you understand them, especially when
the new monorail isn’t running, which I’ll get to.) Once we get
dropped off at Harrah’s, we are going to walk through The Mirage,
and then go see Treasure Island and The Venetian.
too eventful happens until we get to Harrah’s. (I did get my picture…
and it is fabulous.) A restroom break leaves me wandering around
an area of shops, and I start looking at some jewelry. A pair
of earrings with a matching necklace catches my eye. Tigg likes
longer chains, and I’m not sure if she’ll like the earrings. So,
when she comes out I show them to her.
let’s get over to The Mirage,” I say as Ellen and Richard join
Terry agrees, “because you have to win me $150 so you can by me
is dealing blackjack at a $5 table when Tigg, Richard and I sit
down. I’m pretty sure he’s been dealing blackjack since before
I was born. In about an hour, Tigg and I are up enough combined
to buy the necklace and earrings, along with our lunch. I like
side note about Tigg and I gambling on this trip... which you
can use to occupy your time while the two of us go back across
the street to buy the necklace. I don’t know exactly how much
we won in Las Vegas, but we were up on our gambling. And here’s
how I know…
winning at the Monte Carlo on Saturday night, Tigg and I started
paying for most of our meals in cash. Ellen, Richard, Terry and
I had exchanged some thoughts about not wanting to go to an ATM
and pay outrageous fees to withdraw money. We also wanted to try
and keep our losses controlled. So, we talked about which of us
would pick up which check so things stayed balanced between the
couples on shared expenses, and planned to use credit cards for
purchases in the gift stores and at restaurants. On Saturday night,
as we ended day two, I had about $250 in my pocket. Tigg wasn’t
using any of her money really, and that total didn’t include the
money we had brought but saved as a backup. It was just what I
had after the first full day in Vegas. The next day… after paying
for lunch and our portion of the Fiamma bill in cash (again… great
restaurant… but expensive)… I went back to the room and ended
the second full day with about $250 in my pocket. It made some
sort of funny mental note in my mind… I hadn’t planned on deliberately
not using credit cards, still I hadn’t used them, and look at
that… still at $250!
two hours out of the hotel room on the fourth day of the trip,
I have my pictures from the Rio, Tigg has a necklace and earrings,
and -- as I put away my change from buying the jewelry -- I have
over $250 in cash in my pocket. Between meals and tips, and t-shirts
and pictures, and cab fares and gratuities, Tigg and I have been
using cash and haven’t been charging much. We aren’t earning thousands,
but every time I take out my wallet… it seems to have $250 in
cash when I put it back. We are definitely holding our own so
necklace and earrings in hand… Tigg and I were back with Ellen
and Richard at the White Tiger Habitat. The tigers are pretty
active right now, and three of them are playing. There has been
some fruit and vegetables placed around the pen, and there is
a watermelon floating in the water. With a quick lunge, one tiger
tears a chunk out of the watermelon. Another swipes at it with
its paw. We spend a good twenty minutes taking pictures, videos
and just watching them.
to Treasure Island for lunch.
I’m going to save you some trouble. Treasure Island likes to abbreviate
its name as “TI.” Get it? Treasure Island. T-reasure
I-sland. I know, I know. Seems pretty simple actually.
But… (1) I have spoken with friends about Vegas, and they have
never, ever, referred to Treasure Island as “TI.” Never. It’s
always the full name. (2) There is a huge sign out front, and
while MGM, Caesars, Paris and Bellagio have interesting things
on theirs, Treasure Island has this almost cartoon-like “TI” logo.
I hated it. A friend of mine and I were talking about it in the
past few days, and he agreed with me, but had a possible explanation.
He pointed out that Treasure Island was one of the first of the
“new” properties. And as such, that kind of tacky presentation
was still in. The formal glamour was still a few years away. (3)
In any event, it would still be two more days before
I realized that the “TI” in the Sirens of TI (the pirate
show in the lagoon with the sinking ship) meant the sirens from
Treasure Island. And when I did realize it, I thought the whole
thing was pretty dumb.
to Treasure Island. The whole pirate thing is a good theme. But
this “TI” abbreviation idea? I say drop it. It doesn’t sound as
warm, swashbuckling and exciting at “Treasure Island.” And I don’t
know anyone in Vegas regularly that uses it. Go with the full
name. Ok? (I have absolutely no illusions of this happening. Chances
are good that it’s hip and stylish and the young money-spending
party goers love saying TI. Oh well.)
to eat. And we are at Kahunaville. Lunch is alright, and in reality
nothing so special as to bring us back to this place again, or
to direct you to it in the future. Except for one thing…
at Disney World perhaps a decade ago, I found Tonga Toast. I believe
it was at the Kona Café in the Polynesian Resort. (They
started serving it around the property at other places. Doesn’t
matter where they serve it, you must get it at the Kona Café.)
It’s French toast stuffed with bananas. Served hot and fresh it’s
not delicious… it’s something beyond that, in words of delight
and satisfaction and pleasure that are hard to express with your
mouth full, eyes glazed over, and mind swimming in a hazy paradise.
again… lunch at Kahunaville is nothing more than ok. They advertise
some great entertainment for the evenings… performing bartenders
and such… which we later see on Wednesday night while waiting
to attend Mystere. But, realistically, it’s nothing you
couldn’t find in some fashion at every other resort. I’ve said
it before… it seems as though if one resort has something that
works, every resort has a version of it. (Different names. Same
girls with large chests wearing little fabric.) Ah… but I just
made a Disney reference. And the reason I did involves why Tigg
and Ellen start discussing breakfast before we can even order
they’ve spotted the Kahunaville version of Tonga Toast… French
toast stuffed with strawberries, cream cheese and somehow involving
a custard. There’s no vote that will be taken, we’re all so curious
and tempted we already know we’ll be coming back for breakfast
at some point.
stay for a little while longer at Treasure Island. Then we cross
the street and head into The Venetian. And… we don’t like it.
as a complex it is incredibly beautiful. Bordering on indescribably
beautiful. The casino floor is spacious. The shops are wonderful.
(I actually found them to be more inviting and interesting than
those at Caesars.) There is a river, with gondolas. You can get
a gondola ride inside the building or outside. It’s expensive,
it doesn’t run quite as long as you might think, but it is different
and looks like a lot of fun. Absolutely one of the most beautiful
buildings, and most of the staff we encountered were more than
had a friendly promotions associate work with me at the player’s
club desk, and she hooked me up with all sorts of slot play and
match play coupons. Ellen, Richard and Terry felt as though they
were inconveniencing their associates when they registered for
their cards, and more to the point, noticed they didn’t get the
same offers I got. Terry had been near me and knew to ask, so
she was given the promotions before leaving the desk. We learned
that Ellen and Richard didn’t receive the same offers only after
we had left the property.
ok… what was the real problem?
place smelled funny.
use a fragrance. It’s a subtle perfume. It is every-where.
And it gave both Tigg and I headaches. Other than briefly walking
around the shops, we stayed long enough to win about $15 on the
slot machines and perhaps $25 on two hands of blackjack while
using some free coin and match play promotions, and then we left.
of you know the Mom Bag story. (Which involves the bag that holds
everything.) And of course, I brought the backpack with me to
Vegas. The friend from home -- that I have mentioned a few times
so far and that knows Vegas -- warned me about a few things in
the desert. One was the temperature drop at night. We had days
that were about 65-70 degrees and absolutely gorgeous. Like a
scene from the movie Defending Your Life, every day the
weather was very good and about as close to exactly the same as
it could be. But at night the temperature bottomed out. So, I
carried along the bag and had two light coats, cameras, film,
gum and other odds and ends in it. It became the home of everything
I picked up for the scrapbooks and from the gift shops. Well,
between the pictures from the Rio, some great things we found
on sale at the gift store for Mystere, and a couple of
other items… it was full. We decide to head back to the Fairground
to leave stuff in our room before going to Fremont Street.
phone in our room rings. It’s Richard. He asks us to turn over
our room key. Evidently they have a message, and the operator
told them that the instructions for retrieving it were on the
back of the key.
Just some information on how to insert it in the lock of the door.
we walk over to their room, Richard calls the desk again, gets
referred to the room key again at first, but finally gets someone
to understand that he doesn’t have the instructions and needs
someone to just tell him what to do instead of repeatedly telling
him to check the room key. And the message is from? Maintenance.
They want to make sure the thermostat is working.
are off to Fremont Street, and Terry is mere moments away from
meeting her favorite dealer in the whole, wide world… Ana at Binion’s
Street is an interesting place. I think I mentioned my theory
about how the big casinos came in over the past ten years or so
and just took over the strip. Well, some classic properties, such
as Binion’s, were left downtown and away from the new action in
the deal and needed to garner some attention. So they built the
Fremont Street Experience… an overhead video screen that stretches
for about four city blocks. They rotate a schedule of some different
presentations on it, and the shows last perhaps five to ten minutes.
Add in street carts, special events, and other performers, and
the area is pretty cool.
general, I found the overhead display a bit less than what I had
been expecting to see. That said… it is an impressive sight. The
sheer size of the screens is incredible. And the area works much
better as a collection of properties, since the size of each one
and the distance between them is more easily manageable than the
mega-resorts. But before that first show happens during our stay,
we have about twenty-five minutes to gamble.
get dropped off just after 6:30pm, and find out that the next
show will be at 7pm. We decide to head in to Binion’s. After walking
around, Terry and I sit down at an empty roulette table and I
buy in for about $30. We start talking to Ana, the dealer at the
table. An attractive young lady, Ana is quite pleasant and friendly.
While she starts a fairly impressive run of hitting the numbers
I’m betting on, she and Tigg are having a great conversation and
the three of us seem to be having a fantastic time. Now… I mentioned
when I was at the Excalibur in Sunday’s section that I don’t feel
comfortable staying at a roulette table when I’m winning and the
dealer goes on break. Just seconds before 7pm, Ellen and Richard
tell us they’re heading to the street for the show. Ana gets tapped
out. Tigg finds out she is on until 3am… so we cash in our chips
planning to head out to the street and see the show. Turns out
in under a half hour Ana did very well for us… my $30 buy-in is
now comfortably over $300.
meet up with Ellen and Richard and watch the show. I have since
learned that this particular one was called “American Freedom.”
I liked it, but as I just mentioned, I can’t say it floored me.
It was very large… the entire scope of it is hard to put into
perspective… perhaps because it is so large that they actually
break the screens into sections showing similar clips. This show
and the other shows are good, not really great.
head in to the Golden Nugget.
walk around the property and, frankly, it’s nothing more than
a casino to me. It’s well lit, and a few tables are just being
opened. It’s nice and all… clean… but…
while our blackjack dealer was fine... not too friendly, but not
too grumpy... Tigg has decided that she misses Ana. We lose about
$60 between the two of us, and when Ellen and Richard show up
at our table... fresh from an experience with a rude dealer...
we decide the Golden Nugget isn’t worth staying in and head back
out to the main street.
want Ana,” Tigg cries.
know you do.”
where are you taking me?”
Ana’s there until 3. Promise we can go see her again.”
for some Fremont Street surprises.
the notes on their web site are accurate, it was a “Holiday in
Motion” show taking place on a main stage area out on the street.
And it was very good. Several years ago, back in 1999, Ellen,
Richard, Terry and I went to see La Nouba… a Cirque du
Soleil show that plays at Disney World. Since then, we’ve encountered
many performers working with poles, sheets and other apparatus
styles, and this performance reminds me of a Cirque-style show
as well. And, it’s really pretty good. (We’ll get back to La
Nouba in Wednesday’s section.)
is a row of stands and booths extending down an outdoor walkway,
featuring German arts and crafts with holiday themes. Tigg and
I buy a few ornaments and a glass vase that we watched being made
(yes… the vase miraculously made it home intact, as did all of
the other glass items we purchased). We spend perhaps $100 on
items along this street… including a fantastic incense burner.
(It’s a figure of someone shopping for fruit with a pipe in his
mouth. And, with the incense burning inside of it, the smoke comes
out of his mouth. Should have bought more of them.)
had seen a sign for Tony Roma’s. It’s not a place I would normally
have been excited about eating at because I knew the name but
not the menu. (There aren’t any near us… the closest ones are
pretty much in Maryland or Ohio, with one in Amherst, New York.)
We decided it was worth a try, and we loved it. Tigg
found a steak and lobster combo plate, and I got a steak as well.
Delicious. For some reason it was a very good meal at just the
went out onto the casino floor, and I had some time to waste.
I bought a special keno ticket during dinner… five $1 games for
$4… and they had only gone through two games. I saw a Kenny Rogers
brand Gambler machine and decided to sit down. It happened to
be a 1-cent machine, so I started playing five lines on it, and
for $2 I managed to be incredibly entertained for about twenty
minutes. I can’t really explain it. I normally hate video-style
slot machines. Video blackjack and poker are fine… regular slot
machines can be ok too… but not video slots for me. With five
or more rows and multiple lines in play, they can be confusing
and the screens/machines rarely explain payoffs that well. But
this one was pretty cool. I have to say, the Fremont was a pleasant
surprise. Not a do-not-miss, but not bad.
I’m out $2 and didn’t win at keno. Ellen is playing her video
poker, and Richard has sat down next to her. Tigg and I find them
and decide to play there as well. We win a few dollars playing
video blackjack, but the time has come…
we go back to Ana?” Tigg asks.
Let’s go to Ana.”
is at her table, and we settle in. Richard joins us this time,
and while I’m winning a few small things… corner bets and a few
other split wagers… he drops out and goes to find Ellen. It’s
almost midnight now, and one of the supervisors tells Ana that
when we leave he’s going to close the table down. Ana’s relief
comes, and Tigg and I decide to take a walk. With the table closed,
we never find Ana again… and Tigg’s favorite dealer is about to
become a memory. We’re up again during our stay at her. It’s not
enough to retire with… but we like Ana.
bags of German ornaments in hand that were paid for in cash, dinner
paid for in cash, more film for the camera… cash again… and we
are ready to head back to the Passablefield Resort. When we got
there, Tigg takes $100 in cash from me to reset her stash.
well… you probably already know.
find myself once again with more than $250 in cash on hand.
bad as day four draws to a close.
but before we arrive at that discovery, first we had to get to
walked to the Casino Center Boulevard side of Binion’s and got
in a mini-van style cab… number 2632 for a company called Ace.
I’ve been sitting up front so far this trip when we pile into
a cab, and this time was no exception. As the driver puts the
vehicle in gear, it shows that he has it in drive, but it feels
we going to make it?” comes a cry from the back, offered in jest.
the driver responds, but I feel there is an obvious discomfort
in his voice.
order to bring us to the hotel, we have to head back toward the
main area of the strip. The cab was facing… I think… south on
Casino Center (might be closer to southwest if we investigated
it closely). The on-ramp for interstate 15 is a few blocks behind
us. So, in order to get there, our driver is going across Fremont
Street and then into a series of three left-hand turns. And in
that route lies a problem.
even though it was a tension-breaking joke about his transmission,
I thought there was more to his response, and as the cab began
to move every one of us felt something was wrong. As in… we knew
something was wrong. But, we had no idea if it was serious, and
no clue where we were once we got past Fremont Street itself.
And, in the dark, the surrounding neighborhood was unfamiliar
enough to us that… even if it was the safest area in Nevada… it
sure looked like we had gone into the wrong section of town.
as he coasted past pedestrians, weaved from lane to lane, and
stopped for traffic signals… we couldn’t tell if it definitely
was the vehicle having troubles or just a questionable driver.
Either way, the on-ramp was finally approaching, and the streets
scared us enough to keep quiet and think positive thoughts...
even while our questions about the vehicle were about to be definitively
his skills weren’t that hot. But as we charged up the on-ramp
at a blistering pace of just under 5 miles per hour… hey, it was
an uphill ramp, he was doing pretty good… we learned that the
vehicle was definitely shot. And, as this realization struck us
with no room left for doubt, we topped 10 miles an hour and began
a merge onto the highway.
could go to Vegas a thousand times in my life… I could win a million
dollars gambling there… and I don’t think there is any way that
I will be quite as happy as I was when I saw the Rio and knew
the cab was getting off of route 15. Taking a huge, deep breath
of relief, the thought racing through my head was that as long
as he made a turn… toward the Rio… toward Las Vegas Boulevard…
didn’t matter… we had a chance to come to a stop in a place where
all of us would feel safe while abandoning the vehicle. (And…
I kid you not… I was not thinking about any chances of making
it to the hotel. I was only considering where we would be safest
drivers on the whole are an amazing source of information, and
I generally find them to be pretty personable. If you want to
know about a town, talk to the cab driver taking you around. They
hear it all… the excitement... the disappointments… the ins and
outs of what is happening on any given day. And over time, probably
as a way of keeping conversation going and offering some sort
of amusement, many of them can be incredible sources of trivia
and details. On one cab ride during our trip, a driver told us
that the intersection of Flamingo Road and Las Vegas Boulevard
South is the busiest intersection in the world. And considering
the constant flow of traffic around the clock, even without researching
it, there wasn’t much of a reason to doubt him.
which way our cab driver with the nearing death transmission goes
East on Flamingo, heading between Caesars and Bellagio for the
main strip... and thanks to moving along in such a fashion that
he didn’t need to brake and had just enough momentum… directly
into the busiest intersection in the world.
turns right onto the boulevard and coasts… yes, coasts, there
is nothing left from the engine… to a stop about two-thirds of
the way thru the intersection. He has managed to get into the
left lane. And stops. 2632 is dead in the road.
get out of the cab.
you ever have one of those moments when you had no clue what to
do? I mean, the cab was dead. Transmission shot. It wasn’t going
any place without help, and we weren’t close to our destination.
We had to endure the journey to the site of its demise, pretty
much knowing from the very beginning of this ride that is was
headed toward trouble. And there is no chance this driver didn’t
know his vehicle was a rolling problem when he picked us up. Seems
like a free ride should be in order. Right?
his night was about to be worse than ours. I looked at the meter
and quickly paid for the fare.
managed to get over to a cab stand near the Aladdin and took another
one back to the Decentfield Resort.
were safely home. Our night was done.