Friday - 05.04.01
We decided to take my new car on its first official road trip. Before leaving town, we stopped for gas and water to nurse us back to health after a long night with Larry and Auntie Mae’s. When we were finally ready for the road we discovered it was almost noon and we had a 2:30 PM flight! Time would be of the essence.
After fighting with the construction on I-70 (a normal thing between May and November), we tailed a car until the Lawrence exit. Right before Lawrence, we noticed a rather large dark cloud forming ahead and figured we’d hit some rain. Boy, did we!!! I noticed that the car we were following slowed suddenly. Wondering why, I did as well. Then out of nowhere, fat raindrops pelted down on us. For several minutes, it was difficult to see and we had to go about 30 MPH. The wipers could barely keep up. Thankfully we ran out of it quickly.
The rest of the trip to KCI was uneventful. We parked at the Parking Spot, a new lot right at the edge of the airport, as we had heard the airport-owned lots were raising their prices. The Parking Spot seemed liked a good deal at $6.00 a day. However, on the way to the terminal, we noticed that the satellite parking was still only $4.00 dollars a day. Oh well…
We arrived at the Southwest terminal in plenty of time to check in. We turned in our 4 bags, hoping we would see them in Las Vegas – they had all of our camping gear and were worth way more than the $500 standard coverage.
Kurt and I then headed to the counter at the gate to receive our boarding numbers – 61 and 62.
Next we headed to a KFC in the airport to grab a quick bite to eat. After that we headed back to the gate to discover we were just in time for last call! We headed down the jet way, hoping we would be able to sit together. When we got onboard the plane, the only two open seats together we saw were backward-facing seats, so we grabbed them. It was the first time I had ever flown backwards. It wasn't that much different, except I felt like everyone was watching me. On the other hand, it was interesting to see how many people sleep on planes. There were also two “interesting” guys who entertained us visually for a bit.
All we could manage was walking through a parking lot and taking a few pictures through a fence. Still the mountains were beautiful. Kurt even managed to get two slugbugs while we were there!
After weaving our way back inside, Kurt and I got in line for the plane and managed to obtain two normal seats by the window this time. Overall, the flight was uneventful.
As soon as our plane landed, Kurt couldn't stop singing, "Las Vegas!!! Viva Las Vegas!!!" Amazingly, all of our luggage showed up. Things were looking good...
Kurt and I grabbed a cab to the Stratosphere Hotel. As we were leaving the airport, we noticed we could see the strip – we were at the south end of it. During our ride, we learned that the cabbie was from California, although he told us that he was moving to Nebraska (on purpose) next year… poor guy.
He drove us down the freeway that runs parallel to the strip. Along the way, he explained that the strip was 6.5 miles long – and the Stratosphere was at the very northern end. Our hotel was also only a few miles from downtown and the cabbie explained it would be safe to walk there during the day but not at night. He also informed us that anywhere on the strip was safe no matter the time of day or night. In all – he was very informative. He even told us MTV Road Rules had bungee jumped from the top of the Stratosphere – over 1000ft above the Strip.
At the curb of the hotel, we gave our luggage to the bellhop and went inside to check in. After waiting in line we discovered that the AA vacation reservations we made over the Internet did indeed work. All we had to pay was $1.50 a day energy fee on top of the low rate we had already received.
Kurt and I stayed on the 17th floor complete with a view of downtown (and giant AC units below). After the bellhop brought our luggage to the room – we officially declared ourselves in Vegas.
After briefly freshening up, we set out for our first walk down the strip. Kurt declared that it was pretty much what he had expected – a vast array of ridiculous casinos and souvenirs. We walked past a few vacant lots and of course wedding chapels (there was a pool going at work so we couldn’t stop). The first major casino we passed was the Desert Inn. We noticed it was all fenced in and there weren't any cars in the parking lot… and there was smoke damage on the top floor of the South wing. We also thought it was strange that the main entrance was styled in a red oriental dragon theme – it seemed out of place with the rest of the hotel.
We kept walking and passed the Nascar Café which had tons of Dale Earnhardt memorabilia and even a car that appeared to be one of his actual race cars. A roller coaster also snaked its way forewards and backwards through the Sahara Casino and the Nascar Café.
We continued down the strip past the Riviera, Circus Circus, Slots-A-Fun, Westward Ho, Stardust and New Frontier. I tried to convince Kurt to go with me to see Wayne Newton (at the Stardust - his home) but he wouldn’t. I don’t understand why… We also had a good laugh at the Westward Ho. We had seen many package deals in the Kansas City Star before we left and were almost tempted to stay there – until we did little research on the Internet and found out it was a dive. If you are thinking of staying there don’t do it.
We went back outside to see what the Battle of Buccaneer Bay show was about, but it was another 45 minutes until show time. So we crossed over the strip to the Venetian. Kurt and I were completely impressed with the Venetian; all the shops were definitely high-class and the canals complete with gondolas were a nice touch. After wondering around for a bit we decided we were hungry. We found a nice “Pan-Asian” grill and sushi bar called “Tsunami” inside the Venetian. It was delicious! We had an appetizer of Pan Stickers with a wonderful chili soy sauce followed by a round of sushi – Tuna, Yellowtail, Salmon, Halibut, Shrimp, Octopus, Sweet Egg and Smelt Roe. It was yummy – complete with the wasabi and pickled ginger. We also split an order of beef and asparagus tips cooked Mongolian style. Tsing Tao beer and wine accompanied the meal of course.
We then continued on our trek to the next hotel. Once outside the Venetian, we watched the volcano show at the Mirage from a bridge over the strip. The “Volcano Eruption” was definitely Viva Las Vegas style.
Kurt and I then continued past Harrah’s, The Imperial Palace, The Flamingo and the Barbary Coast. When we reached Bally’s we decided to take a detour inside. Nothing too special - nice - but not outstanding. Somehow from Bally’s we ended up in Paris Las Vegas. This place was nice – we felt like we were in Paris walking down an extremely clean cobblestone street. We had noticed others walking around with beer both inside and outside on the strip. Being experts in drinking while walking up and down the street from our last trip we decided to get a beer and a glass of wine. With drinks in hand we wandered around the base of the ½ scale Eiffel tower.
Our trek then led us past the Aladdin and the MGM Grand where we noticed how similar to lemmings we were feeling. We were simply following the throngs of people in front of us. Then we noticed more – we were all moving exactly where the architects wanted us to go – past all the gift shops, through the casinos, and the restaurants, and always to the back of the hotels to see some attraction.
Anyway, we stopped to admire the lights at the MGM and then attempted to enter the Grand Canyon – no not yet. It was just a gift shop version of the big hole. However, a “Park Ranger” stopped us when he saw my drink. Guess you shouldn’t take alcohol into the Grand Canyon. Good thing we found out now!
Next we visited the Coca-Cola store. Inside we saw one of those new-fangled Aqua Massage machines. To our un-enjoyment, no one was using it at the time, so we continued onward. We crossed the street to the Excalibur. However before we could enter the hotel, we saw a tram. Being the curious creatures we both are we hopped on to see where it went (that lemming thing again). And I’m not going to mention the fact that the opportunity to sit down also seemed enticing. The tram took us to Mandalay Bay – the southern most hotel on the strip (currently). Like the good lemmings we are we went inside to investigate. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find the shark reef that’s supposedly there. OK, so we didn’t look that hard – we were tired. Not only that but it was undoubtedly the furthest point from the tram – a point somewhere beyond every slot machine and video poker machine in the hotel. Somewhere just beyond the shops and gift stores. So it was 12:15 Las Vegas time – 2:15 am our time - and we were tuckered out. We ventured back to the Excalibur via the tram and found a taxi – a very simple job in Vegas – and requested a ride back the 6.5 miles to our hotel. Should I mention the cabbie made fun of us for retiring so early on a Las Vegas Friday night? Nah…. (Day 2)