(Note - I wrote this as a blog entry for a sub-site of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, with dozens of links to photos and articles. To see the entire piece with links, go to http://www.greenfieldnow.com/blogs/communityblogs/sponsors_name_here.html) ---------------------------------------------------------------------

Another spring, another trip to the USBC Open Championships in the books. Won't you join me and my wife in reliving the first week in May?


The prelude - Who can't luv Southwest Airlines? One of the most underrated benefits of Southwest is that once you purchase an itinerary, if you notice a lower fare for your trip, you can book the lower fare online with no penalty. Other airlines charge up to $100 for this... and airfare never drops THAT much (unless you made a truly stupid purchase on the upfront). The round trip from Milwaukee to Las Vegas ended up costing $238 each, and the round trip from Las Vegas to Reno cost $150 each. Not a bad price for two, two, two vacations in one.

Caesers Entertainment remembers my four-day trip to Reno in 2010, and they allowed me to stay at the Rio, Harrah's Reno and the Flamingo for all six days, completely free of charge. Throw in redonkulously cheap car rentals ($6 a day for the first rental of three days, $13 a day for the rest of the trip) found on carrentalsavers and all I could say is "How could we afford NOT to go"?

Other "touristy crap to avoid spending all day and night in a casino" things purchased to save a few bucks included admission to the CSI Experience from the USBC Rewards Center, a Groupon to the Atomic Testing Museum and tickets to a minor league baseball game from a scalper at half price.

So on with the trip.....

Saturday, April 30 - Our flights left later in the day (due to a long story - that even I, the master of the long version of the long story - don't feel like typing, my wife and I took separate flights to Las Vegas on separate airlines about three hours apart) so we were able to spend most of the day preparing. We dropped off our pomeranian at a friend's house, treated my brother, his wife and their kids to lunch at Jake's Deli (in exchange for letting my brother use our car all week... not sure how my wife negotiated that one), and took expired medicine to Miller Park in exchange for a bag of Milorganite (which, for you non-Wisconsinites, is fertilizer made from human sewage) which my brother left in our car all week.

Each of us report that our flight was completely uneventful, which when you get right down to it, are how flights are SUPPOSED to be. My wife didn't have anyone sit next to her, and I had a window seat next to a skinny lady. We were winners before we left Milwaukee. Also on my wife's flight were two bowling buddies. Upon landing in Las Vegas, they got the car, dropped my wife off at Rio, checked themselves into their hotel, and got back to the airport to pick me up. I dropped them back off and went to meet my wife. (Side note; Speaking of the long version of a long story, notice how I managed to expand "we arrived in Las Vegas" into an entire paragraph? My specialty!)

At this point it was 9:00 PMish and we hadn't eaten in about 12 hours so the hunt for dinner is on. See the thing about Las Vegas is there are so few places to eat. Luckily, for the past few months the internet had been burning up about the secret pizza place at the newly-opened Cosmopolitan, so I figured that a few slices would hold us over.

We take the elevator to the third floor and hunt for the record-covered hallway and the goodness found within. The pizza was very good. I think we were too hungry and a little too amped up about being in Vegas to give a proper review, but it was everything the internet said it was. No signage, no menu, no seating, just really good New York style pizza and (careful) $3.25 sodas (well, at least they gave free refills). During our hunt for the secret entrance, and our walkthrough the Cosmopolitan, we notice that this is now the place for The Beautiful People on a Saturday night in Vegas. No woman in the building (except for my wife) weighed over 104 pounds (methinks the bathrooms near the pizza place have chest-high toilets for post-pizza-purging to maintain weight without having to crinkle the black dress that almost gets below the butt cheeks).

We spend some time in the casino, which is nice, but in the end is a casino. I prefer table games, but all craps games were $25 minimum and the lowest blackjack I found was $50 minimum, so we both played some slots for a while and cashed out a little ahead before heading back to the Rio.

I had been wearing a Green Bay Packers polo shirt, only because most of my wardrobe had been packed in advance and it nicely matched the khaki shorts that I chose to wear. What I didn't realize is what a conversation starter it was. Sitting at a video poker machine at the Rio, some guy from Los Angeles came up to me and started a conversation about how he lived on Milwaukee's east side for awhile, and loved the Packers so much that he went to the Super Bowl in Dallas, but the tickets on the street never got below $4,000 each so they paid $500 to watch the game from the tent in the parking lot. Then his plus-one came over and started telling the same story. They were nice people, but they cut their story cold turkey when their group caught up with them and took them to the club.

The room at Rio - which calls itself an all-suite hotel - was large, although I wouldn't call it a suite. It certainly would fit the bill for two folks needing a place to store clothes and shower.


Sunday, May 1 - My aunt and uncle (also bowlers) had driven from Milwaukee, spent time in Phoenix, and then had spent a week in Las Vegas. They were on their way out of town for the drive to Reno (the California route), so we met up for breakfast at Terrible's coffee shop. For as many times as I've been to Las Vegas, I had known that the Terrible's name was attached to some locals casinos, but didn't realize there was a casino less than a mile from The Strip, right on Flamingo Blvd. But sumofagun, there it was!

A few minutes of video poker and craps, a nice grilled cheese sandwich for breakfast (I don't like eggs, and I was going to have lots of chances to eat pancakes on the trip, so I knew I would have to be creative) and a tour of their brand new car later, my aunt and uncle were on their way. I was headed towards the cashier to settle up, and walked past a Press Your Luck slot machine that called my name. My-Sugar-Na sat at a Planet GO Monopoly game. I got a bonus round, cashed out ahead on that game (but a little down overall at Terrible's) and my wife got a bonus game. Then free spins, which got her a bonus game within the bonus game. And so on, and so on. I kid you not, I think this bonus game lasted about 15 minutes. And you wanna know how much she won? About $36. Granted, it was a penny slot an a low number of credits per line, but sheesh, that was a long time to wait for such a little reward.

We went to pick-up my bowling buddies and headed over to Cashman Field for the Las Vegas 51s AAA team hosting the Sacramento River Cats. A scalper was offering $10 seats for $5, so I treated. Having scalped Packers games in a previous life (and with the four of us dressed like tourists, we had "suckers" written all over us) I grilled the guy to make sure the seats were all together and for the correct game. The guy laughed and said "What does it matter? You can sit anywhere". Touche. We went in and sat anywhere. Another win!

The game itself was not too exciting, save for former Brewers centerfielder Scott Podsednik leading off for Las Vegas, and former Brewers prospect Brett Lawrie batting second. Podsednik was signed to a minor league contract with the Toronto Blue Jays farm team as he worked his way back from a foot injury last season. Podsednik has since been released, which tells you how it must be going. Lawrie, on the other hand, went 4-6 with a single, double, triple, some runs scored and a bunch of RBIs. He'd make a nice Brewers first baseman next season. Too bad they traded him this past winter.

After the game and after dropping the buddies off at the casino of their choice, my wife and I went to the MGM Grand to CSI: The Experience. And what an experience it was. I guess. It was worth the money we paid, but not for full price... if that makes sense. We arrive at the crime scene, record our findings, then head to ballistics, trace, DNA testing etc. In the end, if you determine the suspect (and the way the exhibit works, you can't not figure it out) you get a diploma E-mailed to you.

Celebrating our new careers as CSIers, we headed over to the Hard Rock Hotel to eat dinner at Johnny Smalls. This place is an all-tapas restaurant. For the non-foodies, tapas are small portions, and the idea is that a party can select a number of dishes and share them. However for a promotional period, Johnny Smalls is running an all-you-can-eat tapas dinner for $20. Although I found out about Johnny Smalls in a review on Vegas Tripping (which was not a positive review) I was very happy with the meal. We went both inside and outside our comfort zones, shared our selections, and in the end tried 13 different things, ranging from lettuce cups (which was actually my favorite) and lobster taquitos (my second favorite) to my wife's favorite, Cowpie sliders. We walked away full and happy.

As we waited at the Hard Rock Hotel valet, we heard from a police office speaking to another that we had gotten Osama bin Laden. He had no details (the President hadn't yet spoken) but its one of those "I'll always remember where I was when..." moments.

From dinner it was onto the a tour bus. My wife, having enjoyed the double-decker night tour of Manhattan and Brooklyn, found a similar tour in Las Vegas and booked it for us. One of the pick-up locations was the Sahara, and since its dimise was iminent, we decided we could get on the bus there.

The bus tour can be remembered for one thing. Cold. The daytime temperature never got above 75 (though you'd never know by how badly we had gotten sunburn from the baseball game) but at night in the desert in that open-top bus... frizzhery. Once I figured out the proper settings on our new digital camera, I did get some nice photos. The bus driver offered to take photos at the iconic Welcome to Las Vegas sign, and oblige him we did. I recommend the trip, but maybe on a little bit warmer evening.

We got back to the Sahara, and it was a sad, sad sight. Granted it was a Sunday evening, the place was deserted. Only a couple of blackjack tables, one craps table, one roulette table and maybe a Let It Ride table were open. And there were not a lot of people playing slots. As a matter of fact, we walked down towards the poker room, and I counted three people playing slots in that entire wing. It was actually too depressing to stay and play there (and we had been running around for the better part of 15 hours) so we headed back to the Rio and hit the hay.


Monday, May 2 - Ah, the best laid plans. My wife and I found an Original Pancake House (yes, I know it is a chain with a location in suburban-Milwaukee, but every time I try to go there is a line out the door.) The Swedish pancakes with lingonberry preserves was a big hit. After breakfast we had our day planned. Until the bowling buddies called and asked for a ride to the Fox car rental agency. We did it gladly, but we were northwest of the Strip, and the car rental place was a few miles south of the airport. We dropped them off, but audibled our plan. We saw the M Resort in the distance, and the result was an insanely rapid loss (the new hotel wing breaks ground next week) at the craps table. Licking my wounds, I found a very helpful dealer and did learn mini-baccarat. So there's that...

Other than lost time (and that hotel wing we donated) we picked up our day where he had left off with a trip to the aforementioned Atomic Testing Museum. This actually was a leftover from the last time my wife and I (and parents and sister and friends) were in Las Vegas in 2009... we just never did get around to it then. It was interesting, if not a little too complete. For one (like me) who didn't know how extensive the atomic testing was in Nevada, the museum started off great. But it went on and on and on like that. You needed an aptitude for the politics and the cold war, or a focused interest in the kinds of testing and the types of operations ran during the period. We were there for about two hours and breezed through the last half of the museum without much more than an extended nod. Though picture taking was not allowed for the bulk of the museum, they were allowed right at the end as a section of a beam from the World Trade Center was on display. I don't know how that tied into atomic testing, but I went from bored to attentive in nothing flat. It kind of picked up the end of the museum.

Another casualty of that previous trip was the Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat at the Mirage. As a matter of fact, in that trip we had purchased the tickets in advance but never actually found the time to get there. Well, with the trip to M Resort (and the soon-to-be-opened Michael James tower) and the pending dinner reservations, that same tourist trap became a casualty a second time (Side note; that doesn't hold a record). With a couple of ours to kill - and with the realization that Caesers was comping our rooms but in two days we had barely gambled at their properties - we decided to stop at Bally's for an hour or so before dinner. No new towers at Bally's, but I heard the carpeting sample guy had an appointment for the next day.

We get to the MGM Grand with the taste of Pucks (but hopefully not the hockey kind) on our minds, and when we pull up to the valet, security asked me to pop the trunk for a search. Apparently fat, white tourists in a Chevy Impala rental car are being profiled as retaliating against Las Vegas for the capture and death of Osama bin Laden. I felt my civil rights were being violated, but my wife was hungry so I stood down. Just let it be known that if I had made that call to the Nevada ACLU, the bottom half of this trip report would be way, WAY different.

Still upset about The Man, we get to Wolfgang Puck Bar and Grill and have a fantastic meal, including a $12 apple and pear salad appetizer to go with my wife's nummy meatloaf entree, and a perfect flat iron steak with a $12 macaroni and cheese side dish. The total bill cost less than a trip to the M Resort.

From there, we hit the portion of the trip called "Separate Activities". For my wife, it was the use of a Groupon for the Haunted Vegas Tour. For me it was another baseball game, this time watching the Las Vegas 51s battle the Reno Aces. When I was in Reno last year I attended an Aces game at their home park, and I had heard of almost nobody. This year's Aces team featured a bunch of washed up Major Leaguers (like Wily Mo Pena and Sean Burroughs). The game was more interesting - and colder - than the day before, as Reno scored 10 runs in the fifth inning, but Las Vegas scored a bunch in the bottom of the inning to keep it close.

While at the game, my wife was texting me with the trivails of her tour. The Groupon had said to make a reservation in advance (which she did in both E-mail, and when not acknowledged, over the phone). When she got to the location, they had no record of the reservation and gave her a hard time. She eventually got on the tour, but it was the same Mickey Mouse tour group that runs the Vegas Mob Tour that we took previously... it was a disjointed rambling of stories that didn't match the location of the parking lot they were sitting in, and only got off the bus at the same spot at the Flamingo that the Vegas Mob Tour stopped (again, for a cigarette for the driver). Going to the baseball game, I clearly got the better of the separate activities.


Tuesday, May 3 - The third full day of the trip would be the first travel day (Side note, the vacation within the vacation was a much better idea on paper than in practice). First a quick breakfast at the Rio coffee shop then onto the airport. The bowling buddies were driving to Reno (the Nevada route). They anticipated being there around 9:00 PM.

Having never taken a mid-morning flight from Las Vegas, we didn't know how much time to allow and ended up getting to our gate kinda early. However there wasn't a lot of available seating at the gate, so I felt compelled to sit at a video poker machine (that couldn't be intentional, could it?) After just a little while, I hit my first ever Royal Flush! Unfortunately, I was at a $0.25 machine playing only a few credits so I didn't get the huge payoff that I'd like to see, but after cashing out, I was only down $600 for the first leg of the trip (Side note; I've read many message boards and trip report forums in which nobody likes to post losses. Seems like everybody wins a fortune with every vacation. I am proud to stand up and proclaim "Not me!")

After another perfectly uneventful flight, we land in Reno at Noon, checked into Harrahs Reno and then went right to the Nugget diner for an Awful Awful, winner of the Travel Channel's Food Wars. Awful Big and Awful Good and awful filling. I then left my wife at Harrahs (right across the street from the Nugget) while I picked up another bowler at the airport then drove to Yellow Roadway freight depot to get our bowling balls. After dropping the friends and bowling balls off, my wife and I headed to Virginia City (but not before hitting a slot for $300 profit while waiting for my wife to get the camera from our room).

The problem was that after we drove the 25 miles up, around, more around and more up the mountain, we got to Virginia City just before 5:00 PM and the town rolls up it's wooden sidewalks at that time, so we mostly just walked up both sides of the street and window shopped. We did go into the Washoe Club (the Washoe Club was featured on Ghost Hunters in 2008, and they certified the club as haunted) and paid the $2 each to go the haunted tour. It was worth the $2 to watch my wife (who believes in that garbage) freak out when we went onto the crypt.

We then went into Carson City to hit casinos for my $1 chip/coin collection and played $1 craps at the Carson City Nugget. My wife played for a buck while I played for my normal $5. The dice got in her hands and by the time she was done I was up $150. Then across the street from there to Cactus Jacks. They only use chips for poker (and there was no game that night) but the cashier as nice enough to open the safe and sell one to me.

Upon getting back to Reno we ate at Men Wielding Fire (have the deep fried cornbread drizzled with honey and thank me later) and then the wife went to bed. I went to the Eldorado poker room with a bowling buddy and got caught in the crossfire of three aggressive players at the No Limit game... I guess I played OK (once I stopped betting and just folded every hand).


Wednesday, May 4 - We didn't do too much, as I was scheduled to bowl the USBC Open Championship Team event that afternoon. Went to a sort-of-team brunch at the Eldorado Buffet - not bad. They had lots and lots of non-egg-type stuff to fill me up. Then went to Silver Legacy for some losing Pai Gow Poker (my wife isn't a big fan of table games, but to her, Pai Gow Poker is non-threatening. She likes craps, but will only play it if there are only one or two other people at the table.)

We bowled at the National Bowling Stadium at 2:30 PM, and I am quite happy with my performance. Based on the recommendation of former exempt pro (and West Allis resident) Chad Kloss and ball driller (and noted bowling ball reviewer) Joe Cerar, I had a Track 715T drilled up for Nationals. I had bowled on a local version of "the USBC shot" for eight weeks in league at a local bowling center and hit nowhere near a 200 average, but for the Team event I bowled a 658 three-game series. However my teammates didn't exactly light 'em up so our overall score isn't much, but it felt really good to have a strong series in the event in which I traditionally struggle.

For our annual team dinner, eight of the bowlers plus three wives went back to Brew Brothers at the Eldorado for dinner (this is the second year that I've had most of my hotel stays comped at Harrahs but spent a lot of time at the Eldorado). My luck kept on, as I ordered the 22 oz hefewiess beer, and the bartender screwed up and poured two of them (as Charlie Sheen would say "WINNING!"). I had the reuben sandwich and it was pretty good. The beer was great. Got a little choked up, however, when we drank a toast to a bowling buddy (who bowled with us for most of the past 15 years) who has cancer. Last year, he came to Reno with us - he didn't bowl - but did some bucket-list things. All winter his cancer was in remission and he was planning on coming along again this year, however about two weeks before we planned to leave, they found three lesions in his brain. Not only could he not come along, but he doesn't want to know the prognosis... he says he's just keeping up the fight. What started as a "To Grap!" toast, became a few grown men shedding tears.

All the bowling guys split up after dinner and my wife and I walked from the Cal Neva back to Eldorado with the video portion of the digital camera. Not quite sure its Smithsonian quality, but there seemed to be a lot more foot traffic on the streets (and not just panhandlers) than last May.

We got back to Harrahs and decided to play a little more Pai Gow Poker, and if you know that game, you know that heaters are non-existent. But I got on one. I bought in for $50 and played the minimum $10 for a few hands and won all of them. Pressed to $15, won a few, up to $20, then $25. After 30 minutes of play, I cashed out for $205... a $155 win at a table that I walked up to just to kill time. Then - in a turn of events heretofore never considered - my wife made me go to bed. At 11:00 PM. In Nevada. She can be so mean sometimes.


Thursday, May 5th - Having bowled well in the team event, I was looking forward to the six-game Doubles and Singles portion of the National tournament. We weren't on fresh oil, but figured the shot at 9:20 AM would be what we saw early in the third game... where I started a six-bagger. I know you need to keep an open mind, but you also have to start somewhere. Unfortunately, the shot we inhereted wasn't optimal and I had lots and lots of single pins. For the nine-game tournament, I converted my first 30 single pin spares, but that doesn't win a lot tournaments. I ended up with 196 average for my nine games (which upset me since I averaged 219 for the first three games).

After bowling, a quick shower and check out of Harrahs, then back to the freight depot to send the bowling balls back and a trip to the airport to drop off one of the bowling buddies (and also said "see ya later" to the two bowling buddies that were driving back to Las Vegas), my wife and I went to Hash House A Go-Go for lunch around 2:00 PM. I had been to the Sahara Ave. location in Las Vegas twice prior, but both trips were for dinner. Their lunch menu wasn't nearly as varied, mostly some sandwiches and burgers. The sandwich sizes remained wastefully large, so quantity of food wasn't the issue. Could have used more options, though.

My wife had the Hand Hammered pork tenderloin sandwich (of which she finished maybe half). I had had the pork tenderloin for dinner previously, and I was going to try something new, so I had the 1 pound roasted red pepper and grilled mozzarella cheese burger... and I finished it! Maybe not my biggest accomplishment of my life, but certainly one of my proudest!

Then it was onto the Nevada Historical Society for a $4 walk through their museum, and it was really a nice way to kill 90 minutes or so. It took a little while, though, to get my mind straight... I was in Reno, and much of the beginning stuff was southern-Nevada related, like A-bomb testing (which I had experienced two days earlier in amazing detail), Hoover Dam, etc. The stuff was good, and once I got it out of my head that it wasn't a Reno-only museum, I was fine. I kind a glazed over the Paiute and Asian influences (truth in reporting reveals that I don't give a hoot about Native American or Asian influence in Milwaukee, either).

The last quarter of the museum building was a history of Reno that was also very interesting, but I would have expected far, far more photos, exhibits and memerobilia of casinos. (Let's be honest, to an outsider with even an open mind, what do we think of in Nevada? Gambling, "sinning", marriage and divorce, and if you stretch it, Hoover Dam to the south and mining in the north. And desert. So why such little focus on the stuff that gave the rest of the world the impression on them?) One other noticement, not a mention of the National Bowling Stadium. Is it a big deal? Not really, but they do have artifacts on Reno Air, Hot August Nights and the Reno Aces, wouldn't you think that something that takes up two acres in the middle of downtown which is allowing Reno Sparks Convention and Visitors Bureau to fork over millions of dollars to keep the casinos full of bowlers for the next few years would merit some photo or something?

The last paragraph may make it look like I am complaining, but I am really not. It was a good museum, and definitely a good something to do to get away from the casinos and bowling for a little while. I just noticed myself waiting for - then missing - what wasn't there.

With only a couple of hours before needing to get to the airport, we didn't have time for a proper coupon run as we had considered, so we just headed to the Peppermill as my wife had never been there, and it was also close to the airport. We sat down at a Pai Gow poker table. At one point, I decided to bank and was dealt a six heart K-high flush with a 7 of diamonds. and I set it wrong. I should have played the 7h and 7d on top, but instead I whiffed and played the Q-high flush and the Kh and 7d on top. I pushed all hands instead of a clean sweep.

But the gambling gods were fair to me, as on the way out we used a blackjack match play coupon (that I received for being a bowler) for a $5 to $25 bet. I am not a big blackjack player, but I found an empty double-deck table and laid out a $25 chip (I can still hear my wife gasp). I was dealt a K3 and felt my heart sink until I saw a dealer 6. I immediately stuck my cards under that green chip and did a prayer. The dealer flipped a 6, a 4 then another 6. Quick math... 6, 12, 16, OHMIGOSH 22! I took my $75 off the table, toked the dealer a red chip and danced out of there. For the Reno portion of the trip, I won over $400, bringing the five day gambling total to just around -$200.

Our 8:00 PM flight was mostly on time, and once we got back to Las Vegas and got the rental car, we had time to get to the Mirage for the 11:00 PM volcano eruption (and the last of the night). This is the fourth trip to Las Vegas that my wife and I have taken as a couple since 2005, and we never seemed to see that volcano. But this was going to be the night! We arrived around 10:45 PM, pull up in the port cochere and drop off the car. They don't take it right away. File that for a second. I ask at the bell desk where the best viewing spot would be, and he said that the last show of the night has been cancelled. I go back to My-Sugar-Na and tell her, and as her crest falls I decide that I will go inside and try to get confirmation. By the time I do get that confirmation and make it out, they had just parked our car. That meant we had to stand and not watch the volcano erupt for ten minutes while we waited for our car.

We find a quick dinner at the Ellis Island casino (their steak special with a beer is still only $7.99) and by the time we are done it is almost Midnight, so we go to our hotel for the night (the Flamingo) and check in. I know that the Flamingo is mid-Strip, but I was absolutely amazed at the traffic through that place at Midnight... and there were about a dozen people in line in front of us to check in (it was the weekend of the Pacquio/Mosely fight, as well as Kentucky Derby weekend, but still...) We finally get to the front of the line, and the clerk does her thing. She says "since you are here for only one night, I've given you a one-time upgrade" then blah-blah-blah. I was thinking we will just get a nicer room... maybe due to my overall gambling play, maybe because of my handsomeness. Who knows. She says its on the 6th floor (how nice could that be?)

We open the door, turn on the light and see a table and chair. The next light reveals a couple more chairs. The more lights we turn on, the bigger the room is. The lady gave us an apartment! It almost seemed a shame to go to sleep. Even the bedroom was huge, as it had a king sized bed, another love seat and a couple of chairs. But being our last night in Las Vegas, we decided that we should go down to the casino and pay for the suite.

The casino is way too busy and table limits higher than I prefer, so I played slots and video poker for awhile. My wife sits at a penny slot, I bop around. One particular slot calls my name, so I plunk in a $20 and press "PLAY MAX". Before the wheels even spin, I get a bonus game (sweet) and win $76. I cash out without ever risking a penny. That is my kind of machine!

Emboldened, I head to the High Limit suite and play some $5 slots.... and I hit for $400. I cash out, go show (read: brag) to my wife. She is properly impressed and also ticked that it wasn't her, so I go back into the High Limit suite and promptly lose $100 of my winnings trying to get another hit. That was my cue to go to bed.


Friday, May 6 - The bowling buddies have made it back to Las Vegas, and I've agreed to pick them up from the Fox car rental agency. In return, they are going to buy breakfast for me and my wife. I wake up a little earlier than I want, sneak a quick shower in the bathroom that is off the living room (why risk waking her up using the shower in the bedroom?) and get the car. It is 9:00 AM and as I wait for the valet, I notice that the line for the Flamingo's adult-only pool is already stretching around the grounds. It is much warmer than our first few days in Las Vegas, but I can't believe a line to get into a pool at 9:00 AM.

The boys and I get back to the Flamingo, and they worry about waking up my wife. "Ha!", I exclaimed. We enter the apartment and I turn on the big screen TV for them while I wake up my wife. She showers in the bathroom in the bedroom and soon we are ready to leave. It was so hard to leave that place. I am sure we only got it because the desk clerk knew we'd be out in less than 10 hours, but still...

We have breakfast (at 11:00 AM) at the cafe in Bill's Gamblin' Hall, then we all head towards downtown as the guys were staying at the Golden Nugget. I decide to park the car there, and my wife and I separate from boys and we wish each other a safe trip home.

The Las Vegas Club has been blitzing the area about how they are setting their slot machines looser, so since I know my wife likes to play slots, I decide that we can play together. Those slots are so loose that it only cost me about $140 to sit and watch my wife lose over $100. I guess loose is just a random number generator away. We walk through downtown to Mermaids where we spend another combined $50 for a $0.99 Nathans Famous hotdog, $0.99 chocolate frozen banana and a $0.99 deep fried twinkie.

Thinking slot play might not be the answer, we go down the block to Binions because they always have good dealers and a Pai Gow Poker game. But first, we get our free photo taken with the Million Dollar Display. We got the picture two years earlier, but the picture taker told us to hug the case of money (and I wasn't thrilled with how it looked). This time, we just posed behind the case and it turned out much better.

Around 3:30, we decided that it was time to find somewhere decent for dinner so that we could get to the airport for our 7:00 flight. My wife and I first thought about a high end buffet (like the Bellagio or the Wynn) but knowing how busy the mid-strip was, we were concerned about how long it would take to get there, and how much time we might lose in line. We decided to go all the way down to South Point for Primarily Prime Rib (an outstanding dinner from a previous trip). We got there by 4:30, but they didn't open until 5:00. We didn't want to have to plow through dinner just to make our flight, so we instead chose their seafood buffet. It was very good, including the crab legs (that were pre-slit for our convenience [Side note; Well, my convenience at least, as my wife is not a seafooder]).

While eating, we each got a call on our cell phones that our flight was delayed by approximately an hour. This was good in that we didn't have to race to return to the airport. Bad because in hindsight, we could have eaten at the Bellagio, Wynn, or Primarily Prime Rib anyway.

So, we're stranded in a casino with an extra hour in Las Vegas. What's a couple to do? Got it!

Remember waaaaaay back in the second paragraph? About the $238 round trip flight? The 40 extra minutes that we spent at the South Point made my flight $378. Sigh. How can it be that Las Vegas took $600 in three days, Reno gave back $400, then Vegas took $100 back? That $400 in the High Limit suite at the Flamingo was all given back. Sigh again.

The return flight home was uneventful (four for four... a great average!). For the trip my total gambling losses were just under $300... an average of $50 a day. And if you consider I gave away $150 just betting on the Milwaukee Brewers (because they couldn't lose every game while we're on vacation, could they?) I did pretty good. My wife? Not as good. She lost her share of the mortgage payment, so she needs to sleep in the garage until she makes it up.


My next trip to Las Vegas will be in mid-October with the poker boys.