Just got back from four nights in Vegas, here's my report: Six of us met up in Vegas to celebrate a friend's 40th birthday. What a better place to go to celebrate a milestone occasion? I turned 30 there a few too many years ago...

One couple stayed at the Paris, one couple at the TI, and one of us at the Imperial Palace. This was my eighth trip to Sin City, at least the second for everyone else, except the birthday boy who was a Vegas Virgin. This is my second post, and I hope this is as much fun to read as the last one.

I love flying into Vegas at night: the Strip lights glittering in the desert sky, wow, always a great sight to see. I was one of the folks staying at the IP; my play there in November allowed me to get a casino rate. Folks, the IP is fine - it's a great value for the location. Don't believe everything you read; not all of it is true... Check in was a breeze. Not realizing I could use the V-IP line, I waited a few moments in the check-in line. We were assigned a standard room, and dropped off our luggage. My friend wanted to crash, and I wanted to hit the slot machines. Yes, it's a long walk from the main bank of elevators to some of the rooms. That is true of so many Vegas hotels. For those who have heard about the slow elevators, two suggestions: When heading down to the main level at a busy period, go up to the top floor then down on that same elevator. No more long waits. If staying at one of the rooms near the 'back elevator' bank, always take those elevators. Once you've figured out the labyrinth-like path from the second floor elevator exit to the casino, you're good to go, and you'll never have to wait more than a few moments for the back elevator.

Our room was quiet, clean, and the a.c. worked fine. Decor was similar to a Holiday Inn: floral bedspreaks, wicker dresser/table/two chairs, amble closet space. The chambermaid did a great job of keeping the room spotless. The only comments I'd say are that the double beds are small, my 5'10" friend had to sleep diagonally in bed, and that the bathroom fan took a long time to dehumidify the room. But it's the desert, a little humidity is a good thing. Every staff member we encountered was professional and helpful, casino drink service was prompt and plentiful, and the food was a great value for the price. We ate two breakfasts at the Teahouse, and the omelette was one of the best I've had. The casino still has a great variety of machines and the dealertainers are a fun gimmick. Lost about $40 Wednesday night. At 1:00am local time, I realized I was awake for 21 hours and decided to call it a morning. Being 'Vegas Tired' strikes again.

Thursday morning, we met one of the other couples at the Paris and went to the Creperie for breakfast. The crepes were good, but either the sauce was too rich or the egg in the Soleil wasn't cooked well enough. Let's just say that the reaction was quick and violent, and worse than eating a Ho Dog and food from the Boardwalk Buffet combined. We had time to kill before meeting the third couple, so we walked around the Bellagio conservatory and the Forum shops. The tulips, daffodils, and other spring flowers were in bloom and were beautiful. The Forum Shops' spiral escalator is really neat! We met the other couple and headed for the Monorail. (Group chant, 'Monorail, Monorail, Monorail, Monorail!') The monorail is easy to use, runs frequently, provides nice views, and is well worth taking to avoid Strip traffic, both motor and foot. Two of us went to the Hilton, the other four to the Strat. I signed up for the Hilton card to add it to my collection and to play Supernova for that chance at a million dollars. Not realizing that Supernova started at noon, we later went to the Strat to meet up with the others plus a local friend of Birthday Boy. The five of them went to the Top of the Strat; not this cowboy. While waiting, I played some nickel video poker. Normally, I'm a slots player, but thought 'what the heck.' A few hands in, I was dealt a ten, queen, king and ace of spades. I counted to ten, prayed, and hit 'deal.' Up pops the jack of spades. Yes! My first Royal Straight Flush! Cashed out, then played Shrimpmania Sally, and hit a great bonus round on a Spam machine. The VP hits, Shrimpmania bonus rounds, and Rings of Spam Bonus well made up for the loss Wednesday night.

We went to Roxy's Diner for lunch, but I didn't want to chance eating anything. Everyone said that the food was pretty mediocre. After lunch, we walked back to the Hilton via the Sahara. Played Supernova and won a t-shirt. If I lost my shirt in Vegas, at least I'd have one to replace it with ... Three people did the Star Trek Experience, three of us played slots. During our play, two friends hit $100 on one of the giant slot machines. I put in a twenty and lost it faster than you can imagine. We all had better luck on a bank of Monopoly machines. After meeting the Trekkers and playing a few more machines, we all took the monorail back to the IP. Since I was a little hungry, I grabbed a hot pretzel, coke, and, in honor of my late mother, a Krispy Kreme at Betty's Cyber Café (formerly Betty's Diner). Mom loved Krispy Kremes almost as much as she loved slot machines, and she would have appreciated my eating a donut for her in Vegas. I got ready for tonight's show: Gladys Knight at the Flamingo. She is incredible. Gladys Knight is a true diva: great voice, great entertainer, great show. The closing number, 'Midnight Train to Georgia,' had everyone singing and swaying. We ate dinner at the Pink Ginger -- fantastic pan-Asian cuisine and large servings. Played some slots at the IP and ended the day down another $30, even with the Royal. When will I ever learn? (Down $70 so far).

Friday morning, after breakfast at the Teahouse, we picked up a mini-van for a day trip to Red Rocks. Great hiking, a beautiful day, and we were all impressed with the visit. Well worth it. If going, plan on arriving early in the day before the heat is too unbearable. We had lunch at the nearby Old Nevada Hotel and Wild West Towne. A guy wanted to charge us seven bucks to park there. When the driver protested and told him we were just going there for lunch, the guy said, 'But you get to see hangings and people getting blown away.' I replied, 'I'm from Baltimore. I get to see people blown away all the time.' 'And there's no charge,' I thought. He let us park for free. Food wasn't bad, but I wouldn't eat off the floor. Drove back to town and played a few more machines. Not a great finish to the afternoon. Got showered and ready for tonight's show, KA, at the MGM. Prior to the show, I played one of my favorite machines, Super Cherry. Hit five Sassy Strawberries on a payline for a $50.00 hit. Not bad for 75 cents. KA's set and staging are phenomenal. I'm not a real Cirque du Puree' fan, but it was still pretty impressive. Had a post-show snack at the MGM's Studio Café. Huge, huge servings and not that expensive. A definite recommendation. Walked my friend back to the IP, then headed back to the Aladdin to play the Dilbert machine that was so generous to me in November. Not this time. Between that and a Rodney Dangerfield machine, I lost $80 very quickly. And Rodney thinks he gets no respect... (Down $140 for three days.)

Saturday was my 'me time' for the trip. Wandered over to the Ex and met a friend of a friend who's a blackjack dealer. Did everything right and lost twenty five bucks for the session. I played blackjack in honor of my late father; dad was a champion tournament blackjack player and bragged that he once got escorted out of an Atlantic City casino for counting cards. Headed over to the San Remo to get a slot card before Hooters takes over. Managed to hit a bonus round on a Tabasco machine and broke even for the visit. Dodged the legions of porn slappers and spring breakers en route back to the IP. Passed the Elvis impersonator on the Strip somewhere between the Trop and the MGM. I noticed something about him ... his new nickname is 'Commando Elvis.' (I could be wrong about this, maybe the polyester jumpsuit was just a little too tight.) Played a few more machines at the IP before tonight's show, the Vegas classic Jubilee. Great 'old school' Vegas fun. Before the show, I hit a nice bonus round on a Bally's Cleopatra machine; once again, Miss Cleo comes to the rescue. Three of us had a snack at Bally's Nosh (good, hearty rolls, good sandwiches, but the desserts were unimpressive) before heading to the TI to catch Sirens. I miss the pirates. What can I say? TI is too bland and corporate. Bring back the pirates! We want the pirates! Played a few more machines before saying goodbye to my friends (the human ones). I packed (the most depressing part of any trip) and went to sleep way too late once again. (Down $210 so far.)

Sunday: Grabbed a quick bite at Betty's Cyber Café (formerly Betty's Diner) before playing a few last machines, checking out, and heading to the Mac. (Down $200 total for the trip.) Said goodbye to my friends (the non-human ones).

Final thoughts: Will be back again in the fall and will definitely stay at the IP. I wish the machines were kinder to me, but the bloodletting could have been worse. It was a thrill hitting my first Royal! Temps were starting to get warm in April, though the nights are nice and cool. There were lots of spring breakers and other young, trendy hipsters having some good clean, and not so clean, fun in a very packed Sin City; but they seemed to get along well with the families, us older folk, the even older folk, and everyone in between. Being in Vegas with friends kept me out of the casinos all day long. A fun time was had by all.