Okay, so were back and finally returning to a normal schedule, so I'am going to attempt to fill you in with a trip report. The week passed by too quickly and we had some fun but I have to say'a bit disappointed in my overall impressions of Las Vegas as it is now.

Players: Me (aka Slotqueen or in this report 'SQ'), Lawgiver, 'LG' and later in the week we will be joined by our friend 'T' from Austin and another friend from Phoenix (since she's also a T were going to call her 'PH' for this trip)

SUNDAY, AUG 19th
Having booked our flight and hotel back in Feb and March with a T time of t-200+, I didn't think departure day would ever arrive but finally it was here. Woke up at about 6 am, got dressed and loaded the car. Our friend that offered to drive us to the airport, so we didn't have to pay for parking, was already here when we opened the door. We left the house right on time at 7:30 for our flight. We were booked on SW flight 129 departure time 8.55 am. Flight left on time and arrived in Vegas a almost 20 minutes early, 9:35 Vegas time. Have to say this was one of the smoothest landings I've ever experienced. Not a single bump, wasn't even sure when the tires touched the pavement. One moment we were in the air and the next we were slowing down to taxi to the gate.

Wait a few minutes for the scooter to be brought up, then it's off to baggage claim to get the bags. When we arrive, bags are already coming down the chute onto the carousel. Yep, there's one, and just a couple of minutes later bag number 2.

Okay, out the doors, and onto the shuttle for the rent-a-car. Great handicap access, even if it is a little tight turning the scooter around on the bus so that it faces forward during the ride. We used Dollar express and had a full size reserved for $142.00 (including all taxes and fees) for the 6 days. Was able to use the coupon from BJ's for an upgrade to a minivan. This really makes things easier with the scooter and later in the week we were being joined by 2 of our friends, so with 4 people, the scooter and luggage for all of us to return to the airport on Friday, the minivan was just what we needed. As we are pulling out of the car lot, I realize that I left something at home - my handicap parking placard. Okay, a quick cell call home to make arrangements to have T bring it with her on Tuesday and that problem is solved.

Meanwhile, LG has found his way from the rental lot to the strip. We're here! Grab the camera and start taking some pictures as we make our way down the strip and on to downtown. We pull into the Valet at Golden Nugget, unload our bags, check them with the bell and proceed into the lobby where there are people everywhere! There wasn't a time when I went by the lobby the entire week we were here that there wasn't a line of at least 2-5 people. We spend about 15-20 minutes in line and just before we are next LG asks me for the Valet ticket. I didn't get it; all I have is the luggage claim. OOPS! LG thought that the bell person was the valet. Okay so we get up to the counter, where Elaine checks us in. She refuses our $20.00 as she can only move us from the south tower to the 2nd floor of the North Tower, says that she could move us higher up but doesn't want us disturbed by the construction noise. Not a problem, 2nd floor is fine. I ask about getting a late check out, but am told I have to call the morning of check out and ask. She gives us a fun book and also notes on our friend's reservations that they should be moved closer to us when they check in. Because she took the time to note this and moved us to the north tower, I push the $20.00 towards her again. This time she accepts it. LG goes out to the Valet to retrieve the Valet ticket and all is well.

Our room, #214, is about half way down the hallway. It's roomy enough for the two of us. (Although I preferred the décor of the room we had in the south tower a few years ago - much 'richer' looking in brown, gold and beige, than the big flowers and green and gold stripes and green/crème carpet of this room). Our 'view' out the window is a brick wall. That's not a big issue as we normally keep the curtains closed anyway since we will only be using the room to clean up, change clothes, bathe and sleep.

Unpack and now we're hungry. Off to the GN Buffet, now on the 2nd floor. We are stopped on our way to the short line and checked through the VIP line (no waiting). That will be $36.61 please. Wow they've gone up on their buffet prices! Oh wait this is Sunday - Champagne Brunch. We're seated at a table overlooking the pool. Food was okay, nothing great...LG didn't like the sausage patty and I thought the Roast beef and Turkey from the carving station was a bit dry. Dessert selections offered a nice variety. Tried the carrot cake - nice and moist, the pecan pie - pretty good and I really liked the chocolate mousse on top, very rich chocolate flavor without being dry or bitter. Normally I don't care too much for champagne, but we tried this and it was pretty good.

After 'Brunch' we went back to the room to get our suits and back down to the pool. We found the robes in the closet and decided to wear them down to the pool as neither of us had a cover up and we knew that coming back into the building, especially while wet, would be like walking into a freezer! While waiting for our towels, I overhear some guy in the pool commenting to his friends 'Look, it's Jesus! He's in a white robe, sandals and everything!' I think his girlfriend/wife (not sure) is ready to kill him. She's telling him to shush, getting the elbow digs in and giving him that look! I start laughing and tell LG who didn't hear it. He pops off with a remark about not having the scars in the palms of his hands and the guy turns a little red and the girl just rolls her eyes. The water was a bit chilly at first, but not freezing like other pools we've been to. LG tried the slide and said it was cool but when you go through the clear tube through the shark tank, between the water that is splashed up and your speed, you really don't get to see the sharks as you pass through. It was pretty windy so as long as we were in the water everything was fine. We played around in the pool for about 1.5 hours and then headed back up to the room to get ready for the evening.

Tonight we are going to see Jay White as Neil Diamond at the Riviera. Get there a bit early planning to play some slots and maybe goof off a bit in the promo area. The Promo area had been redone or should I say stripped down. Not as big a variety of prizes, the 'free' pull machine is gone and instead of a deck of cards or a mug you get this tiny little key chain. Well I don't see any 'prizes' that'interested in spending my $20.00 on so we'll check out the slots. My favorite nickel machine is gone... The whole bank of machines has been replaced by multi line penny TITO machines. DANG IT! We saw a guy who had just hit $5000.00 on quarters so okay I'll play a quarter machine; $20.00 in and 0 out (this was to become a pattern). I didn't hit even a single 3 coin 'win'. Ouch. Well'not going to do that again . . . at least not here.

We still have nearly an hour to kill before they open the doors for the show. LG plays some VP. It didn't take long for his money to disappear as well, though he did play quite a bit longer than I did. Line is starting to form for the show so I go ahead and take my place as well. Earlier, when we went to pick up our tickets as the box office, we were told that they would be at the door and to line up on the right side, (which is VIP seating) so that is what I did. We were first up in that line. Show the receipt for the tickets and in we go. Parked the scooter to the side and were seated center front, 2nd row from the stage. The theater is small enough that you will have a good view from nearly all of the seats.

Jay White does a phenomenal job! He looks, sounds and moves like Neil Diamond! We were thoroughly impressed and entertained. LG was more impressed with Jay than he was with Carlini as Elvis and that's a tough act to follow. After the show, Jay sticks around for a meet-and-greet where he signs autographs, lets you take pictures and chats with members of the audience. Overall this show rates A+++

After the show we head back downtown and over to Fitzgerald's for some BJ. We find seats 4&5 open at a 3/2, $5.00 min, 8 deck shoe, automatic shuffle table. Rules are a little tighter than we are used to but not bad...Only a single split on A's and only 1 card per A's. We bought in for $80.00 each. Shortly after sitting down, we are joined by 4 others, we offer to move over as seat 6 is now open so they can all sit together. Bill says no way, as he wants 3rd base. Okay, fine. Bill is a loud, obnoxious drunk. He tries to tip the pit boss as they have 20 rooms there so his friends who just got married should have a comped room. Pit boss explains that he can't accept the tip. Later on, Bill orders a round of drinks for the table and tips the CW $100.00 so that she will keep drinks coming to the table. She brought him his drink, but not a round for the table and we saw her 1x after that. Bill tried again to tip the pit boss to get the CW back over. Bill tries to make side bets on his hands, thinks every time the dealer bust its due to his playing (regardless how the of the rest of the table plays) gets pissy when we don't kiss ass and thank him for our wins. Pit boss has changed and he tries to tip this one to get a CW over, and on it goes till finally he gets up and leaves. Even his friends were relieved to see him go. We played for about 2 hours, lost $50.00 each and decided to leave the table. LG had 8 Black Jacks and I got 3. It's just after midnight, we've been up since early am, had a full day so it's back to the room and off to bed for us.

MONDAY, AUG. 20th
I can't believe I woke up at 5:30 am! I lay there trying to go back to sleep as it's way too early to be awake...no such luck. Finally give in and get up at 6:30 (okay so it's 8:30 back home).

We were eating at the Original Pancake House on Charleston this morning. Get the car from valet, head down the strip to Sahara, turn right and keep going till you get to Charleston. 'Uhhhm Baby, I don't remember it being this far down. I thought it was up by Decatur.' Stop, get map out. OH, there's the problem!. . . Charleston and Sahara run parallel to each other. Take Decatur over to Charleston and there's the Pancake house. We decide to share an Apple Pancake and an omelet - ham and Gouda cheese. Portions are HUGE and we have plenty to eat. Bill was $29.00 plus tip. Used our $10.00 certificate from Restaurants.com

We had finally found an address for this lingerie shop, Bare Essentials, which had been featured on the Travel Channel several years ago. It was on Sahara just down from Decatur towards the strip. We got there about 10 minutes before it opened and then had to wait anther 10 minutes after that before anyone showed up to open the store. It wasn't as impressive in person as it had been on TV, being a lot smaller than I expected and not as large a selection. Lucky for me I had seen another shop on our way to the Pancake House so we turned around to go back that way and it was practically across the street from Bare Essentials. This place had a nice selection and I purchased a cute little orchid number that I would wear later.

As LG writes a summary of the ratings for one of the boards, Rate Las Vegas, and has been doing so for a several years now we thought it might be interesting to meet up with Frank and Gene (Webmasters of the LVTALK boards, and the Rate Las Vegas boards) and had arranged to do so at the Gold Coast. Our shopping had not taken as long as we had expected so we were about 1.5 hours early so we had some time to kill before our meeting. We spent most of that time wandering around as once again I put $20.00 into a .25 machine and was slurped dry in just a few minutes. Tables didn't look too favorable for Black Jack either as we only saw 6/5 tables, mostly $10.00 min and either continuous shuffle or automatic shuffle machines. YECH!!!

Since LG was meeting up with the guys, I had made arrangements to meet with an internet friend, from another board, 'Bertircesmall.com'(for those of you not familiar with the name, Bertrice Small writes erotic historical romance books). TumblingTeacher, who lives in Henderson, drove over to the Gold Coast so we could meet in person. We chatted for quite awhile and I really enjoyed meeting her. LG dubbed Gene and Frank 'Penn and Teller' of the Talk board, for their looks and personalities. They were wonderful hosts, treating us all to ice cream, as we were still too full from breakfast to join them for lunch. Thanks!!!! Before I knew it, it was after 3 and we still had several more stops to make before our 7:30 show at Mandalay Bay.

Knowing how much I enjoy gambling at Excalibur, LG parks there so we will be close to the car when we decide to leave. Walk in to Excal and imagine my disappointment and surprise to find the big Dragon GONE! That is just so sad! Having never been in the Tropicana before, we decided to check it out. We take the walk way over only to find that the elevator is closed, So it's back to Excal, across to NYNY, down the elevator, around to the next walkway, up the elevator, over to MGM, inside, take another elevator, go around, up another elevator, across the walkway and finally at TROP. WHEW! Sign up for the players cards (which we never used). Get 3 decks of cards instead of two. Yeah! And then wander around for a bit. Don't see anything that really calls out to us. Figured out that the smell that everybody talks about is a combination of several things: Old building (old buildings always have a musty smell), Stale cigarettes and cigars (these odors penetrate the carpet, drywall, and duct work and no matter how much you clean they will always be there) as well as the perfumed cleaners used on the carpets, polishes and air fresheners. It wasn't as overpowering as I expected but it was there all the same.

We took the LO-O-O-O-O-O-O-O-G walk back over to Excal, reversing the ups and downs from before, and then took the tram to MB. Find the ticket booth with no problems. Get tickets, and then go look for a place to pick up a snack. We were directed over to the Sportsbook snack bar/deli. We ordered 2 teas and nachos, for $15.50. Nachos completely filled one of the large square take out containers. Nachos were covered in 2 kinds of cheese, olives, tomato, onion, chili, refried beans and black beans. We had asked for the peppers and sour cream on the side and if I had known about the olives those would have been on the side as well. But I was able to pick them off as I ate and LG loves them so it worked out. We were both still thirsty so another round of tea! While we were eating we noticed a little bird kept hopping on the back of the chair at the empty table across from us and swooping down to the floor. Took a couple of pictures of it and wondered aloud if this was a sign that MB is already going to the birds? Okay bad joke... We're still a bit early to go to the show so I put a 20 in the slot machine...yep slurpy, slurpy... (although not quite as fast as at 4Q)

Got in line for Mama Mia, where I was entertained by ushers William and Mark. William obviously enjoys his job and went out of his way to make us feel special. He even tried to upgrade our seats but they were sold out. Our seats were fine. We had a great view of the stage and really enjoyed the show. They really did a good job of adapting the music to fit the play. This is defiantly a 'chick flick' type story. And the theater is pretty chilly. I had forgotten my jacket this morning when we left the Nugget but as hot as it was I didn't figure I would need it. WRONG. During intermission, I went to the restroom, being directed to the one in the hallway that connects to 'THE HOTEL' rather than the one just outside the theater, whose line was pretty long. Anyway when I got back to my seat, my hand brushed across LG's arm and he accused me of being a cadaver, as I was that cold!

When the show was over, rather than take the tram we walked back through the hallway connecting MB to Luxor. Renovations everywhere and personally they do not appeal to us, and then on over to Excal. Stopped and took a look at the guess your age/weight booth as a couple of years ago got some really cool 'prizes'. This time the prizes were either too tacky or cheap for our taste so we passed up this game. Found the machine that I like to play and again, . . . Slurp, Slurp and my money is gone. Thought about playing BJ here as we've always had fair luck and a good time, but this was not to be this trip. The size of the Pit has been reduced, with a section of tables being removed and replaced with video slots, over 1/3 of the BJ tables were 6/5 payouts, mostly $10-$25.00 minimums and over half of those tables had those nasty continuous shuffle machines which neither of us will play. Therefore we decided to head back to the room where I am pleasantly surprised to see that my $5.00 tip has garnered me not 1 but 2 extra pillows, 4 extra towels, and 3 bottles each of shampoo, conditioner and lotion. Sweet. As we were getting ready for bed we heard interesting noises from the couple in the next room. At that point I proceeded to model my new lingerie and we blotted out the sounds from the next room with some noise of our own. Vacations are HOT!

TUESDAY, AUG. 21st
Another early morning for me - oh why can't I sleep late?!? Up at 7:45 this am so it's better than yesterday but I'd like to sleep later. We're meeting T at the Peppermill for breakfast as her plane arrives at 10 this morning. We get there just before she calls to tell us she's waiting on her bag and about 30 minutes later her taxi pulls in. We have a good breakfast, large portions and good service. I ordered a side dish of 1 pancake and it was the size of the plate! Show the Fireside lounge to T, take some pictures and it's back downtown to get her checked in. T is not feeling well as her allergies attacked just before she left TX and she's running a slight fever on top of being all stuffed up. Poor T, to be sick on vacation has to be the pits! The lobby is packed again today. We wait with her for a bit, but it is so noisy we can barely have a conversation so we let her know about the upgrade note on her reservation, and then take her bag up to our room so she doesn't have to hang on to it. LG & I decide its time for the hot tub out by the pool so we get ready to go to the pool and then wait on T. She gets to the room about 45 minutes later. She's been put in the South Tower because she refused to pay $26.00 a night to be moved to the north one. WHAT? So I call down to the front desk and explained that it was my Hubby's birthday and that the 4 of us wanted to be closer together, that it was noted on her reservation to put her as close to us as possible etc. Ask if she can be moved and'told that they are booked up so no upgrades available...but for an additional charge, she can be moved to the north or they will be happy to change us to the south tower. (HMMMM .. . . . Let me get this straight, you can't upgrade her because there are no rooms available but if she wants to pay more money then you have the room? THAT SUCKED! And she didn't qualify for a fun book either. Apparently they are only given out on certain types of reservations. I guess that means Elaine shouldn't have given us one when we checked in.)

T is feeling crappy so she grabs her bag and heads over to her room for a nap. Hopefully some rest and the meds will do the trick. LG and I head down to the pool and Hot Tub. We spend about 2 hrs there, mainly in the hot tub as the pool is just too cold. I don't care if they say the water is 82 degrees...it put chill bumps on me! We head back up to the room to shower and change. Call over to T's and wake her up. She meets us at the entrance to the pool and we head out for the car.

Head over the Pinball Hall of Fame. This place was so cool. We were there for about an hour and a half and between the 3 of us spent about $7.50...and we had fun! Some of the machines haven't been seen in years and it's neat to compare them to the modern machines of today. We will probably go back on our next visit as well.

Trying to find some souvenirs for the kids back home, we decided to stop at the Hawaiian Market. This place SUCKED - it's just a big patio with some 8-10 grass-topped kiosks selling overpriced, cheap crap. What a waste of time. Trying to get out of the parking lot next door took nearly 20 minutes. Bad location, bad parking and bad shopping, needless to say, I won't go back! So we move at a snail's pace, wondering if the car is going to overheat before we make it down the strip and over to TI. We have tickets for Mystere! (got these on the $50.00 Summer of Cirque special - thanks for the post!). Get there and the line is pretty long, with people trying to purchase tickets, redeem vouchers and will-call all being put in the same line.

Although Mystere didn't really appeal to me, LG and T really wanted to see it so with the ticket special we decided to give it a try. I was really surprised and think I spent most of the night with my mouth hanging open. I have to admit it was much more enjoyable live than on TV, but I still don't think that it is the type of show that I would see over again. PH was flying in tonight and her plane was scheduled to arrive while we were in the show. The plan was that we would meet outside the theater as she was going to catch the shuttle from the Airport to TI. After the show we hung around the theater for a bit waiting on PH but she wasn't there. After a few minutes I tried to call her, but no answer. Then just as I was going to put my phone away, it rings and PH is at the airport, just getting her bag. It took longer than expected because her bag got to LAS before her and had been put in the Luggage claim office when she didn't pick it up. She waited at the carousels for 2 more planes coming in from Phoenix after hers, before she went to report the lost bag. Okay we wait a bit longer and finally she's there! Get the car and over to Batista's for dinner. Portions are large enough that PH and I split a lasagna. They charge an $8.00 set up for splitting but bring another salad or soup, wine and cappuccino for the 2nd person. Not a bad deal, although I had gone to the restroom when they came by for the soup/salad order and they never did offer me one. Other than feeling a bit rushed, (we got there just after 9:30 and they close at 11) our food was good, the wine fair and everybody enjoyed their meals. Total for the 4 of us $79.19 plus tip.

Left Batista's and headed back downtown to let T and PH call it a night, while LG and I went to find some BJ. Made a quick run through 4Q's again finding lots of 6/5 payout on $10-$15.00 min with shuffle machines, so back to Fitz's where we played for a bit with little success. We think LG lost $100.00 and I walked away close to even, with 7 BJ's for me and 5 for him, (I wrote down the BJ's but not our win/loss) we just couldn't get ahead so we headed back to the room to get some shut eye ourselves.

WEDNESDAY. AUG 22nd
I actually slept till about 8:00 this morning, got up, showered, dressed and was just finishing getting ready when LG woke up. He was in the shower when I called T & PH (woke them up as well). Everyone got ready and met up for breakfast at the GN buffet. With 2/1 coupons out of the fun book, we each ended up paying about $5.50 for breakfast. Food was good, nice variety and our server kept our drinks full.

After breakfast, we had planned on using the pool again but it was still a bit cool this a.m. and neither T or PH brought suits so we skipped that and headed out to Freemont street for some shopping. We stopped into La Bayou just for some fun and played a couple of machines. For the 1st time I walked away with more money than I put in. While we were there we ended up cheering 'Ken' on as he had put $20.00 in a quarter Elvis machine and kept racking up the wins. He was up over 2000 credits ($500.00) when we convinced him to not let it drop below 2000 and cash out. He cashed out while we were there and it was fun to see a winner! He then put another $20.00 in the machine while waiting for his wife to come back from the restroom. Sure enough Elvis started singing again. I don't know how long he played after we left but I sure hope that he didn't put all of his money back in. (I don't think his wife would have let him) While we were there PH had her ticket # called and won $2.00 so we all walked away feeling pretty good.

After purchases were made, we headed back to GN to get the car and over to the Gift Store Bonanza at the corner of LV Blvd and Sahara. Found a few more items there, including a nice leather photo album, embossed with representations of several of the hotels, with space for 200 4x6 photos and it was only $15.00 so I grabbed one to keep this trips pictures in. Then we headed across the street to Sahara so that LG could ride the roller coaster, SPEED. PH had never ridden a coaster (mid 30's and NEVER been on a Coaster!) so she decided to join him. T and I stayed inside on the ground! We saw their pictures pop up and then while we were waiting for the photo key chains that T purchased for them as keepsakes of their ride, up pop more pictures. Since there were no lines, LG and PH had gotten to ride a 2nd time, and turned down the offer of a 3rd run. Both enjoyed their rides!

I found a nickel slot machine that actually took coins! Pulled out a $10.00 and proceeded to play for a SHORT while. Another tight slot and soon that $$ was gone too.

Got the car and drove down to Venetian where we ended up having to park in the Canal shops valet. Unless you are checking in to the hotel, visitors cannot use the front valet. And just like last visit, the valet was rude and made no offer to help LG with unloading or loading of the scooter. Again another long trek through the canal shops, down to casino level, outside, down to the corner and across to get to Madame Tussauds. Enjoyed the statues, took lots of goofy pictures, including me as a PB BUNNY with Hugh Hefner, LG playing Ball with Shaq, me getting 'married' to George Clooney, and then to my favorite picture place - down front where you can get on the bike from Ghost Rider with Nick Cage in the background (who cares about Nick, I was there for the Bike) I had to sit Side saddle for my picture but LG got on and looked great - probably the only time I will ever be able to claim that my hubby is a sexy biker!

Since one of the other trip reports had mentioned that you could have a video made of yourself riding a bike through LV, I had decided it was just the kitschy vacation thing to do this trip so we trekked down to Harrah's. Sure enough we find the booth out in Carnival Court. At first I thought it was a bit high at $53.00 for the video but I relented. Onto the bike and the guys were very helpful getting me up there. Then LG slides on behind me. Yep it was silly fun but the video is cute. Afterward got up to the check out and was told that the price was$ 90+ WHAT? I was told $53.00! The gal explained that the video is $53.00 plus tax but if you want the photos as well that's another $40.00 (four wallets and a 'framed' 5x7) but she would give us a discount and sell us the set for $69.00 which came to $80.00 after tax (16% sales tax? - I think I got ripped off). It was more than I had intended to pay, but we're on vacation so what the hell! While waiting for our package to be ready, we went over to the Ghirardelli chocolate shop. I was just going to get 1 small chocolate square, when I was given samples of their milk chocolate caramel, dark chocolate caramel, plus the girl gave me a cup of ice at no charge and then the kicker: Dark Chocolate raspberry. That was my downfall and I had to purchase a bag of them. She wrapped it up and even packed it on ice packs for us. Back to get our bike video and then walk back to the Venetian to get the car.

By this time all of us were getting a bit hungry and so we decide to wait till after dinner to visit Hard Rock and Terribles. We headed for Marrakesh, where I had forgotten that my reservations were at 7:30. Marrakesh is a Moroccan place where you are served a 6 course meal for $34.99 a person. They had no problem seating us at 6:00 instead of 7:30. You are seated on either low chairs, a low couch or padded stools around a small round table. Right after being seated we were presented with a Wine list. LG ordered a glass of Moroccan wine, and PH ordered a Moroccan Mai Tai. Then a waiter brings us towels, and places a large silver bowl on the table. Instructing us to place our hands over the bowl he pours warm rose water over our hands. In just a few minutes, our first course arrives. Shrimp scampi cooked in a lemon wine and garlic sauce and a loaf of bread. YUMMMMM. And that is just the beginning, followed by lentil and tomato soup, then a 'salad', which consisted of chilled roasted vegetables, (carrots, cucumber, beets, tomato, olives, and roasted peppers) with a hummus dip. That was followed by Filet Mignon k-bobs. This was probably the best course of the entire meal. I drank most of LG's glass of wine during this course so he ordered another one and PH ordered a second Mai Tai. The main course was roasted Cornish game hen on a bed of couscous. That course was just a bit bland but by this time we were getting full anyway. While we were eating, the belly dancer came out and entertained us. After we finished the main course, we were brought our dessert, complete with a candle and 'Happy Birthday' being sung by the wait staff. Dessert was a philo pastry filled with walnuts, brown sugar, cinnamon, apples and peaches, covered in powered sugar. Simply Divine! After his birthday song, LG was told to blow out the candle, which he did, not having noticed the powdered sugar. I think more sugar ended up on T and PH than on the pastry! The meal was great, service impeccable and we thoroughly stuffed ourselves. Dinner for 4 with 2 teas (imported), 2 Mai Tai's, 2 glasses of wine was about $175.00 including tax after the $25.00 certificate from restaurant.com was deducted; a bit more than we expected but well worth it. We also left a nice tip as service was superb.

Well, the Mai Tai's kicked PH's butt and T was still feeling rotten from her allergies so instead of going to Hard Rock and Terrible's we headed back to the GN. Let the girls head up to their room and we dumped the day's purchases in ours and then headed out to find some more BJ.

Tonight we headed towards the Plaza, stopping at Las Vegas Club, and Golden Gate. At Golden Gate, we did see some$5.00, 3/2 tables but they were full with people waiting so we kept looking. Finally found some reasonable play at Plaza. Seats 5 & 6 were open at a $5.00, 3/2 double deck shoe dealt, hand shuffle table. Just what we were looking for! Single split on A's and hit soft 17 and no mid shoe entry (even if you started the shoe and left to go to the restroom you had to wait for next shoe to join back in - since the table was full this wasn't a very long wait, maybe 2 or 3 hands so it didn't bother me).

I'd have to say playing at this table was the most fun we had the entire trip! We had some good players at the table and I think I broke my evil cut curse. I had been forbidden to cut the cards ever since our trip in 2001, when at the insistence of all the guys at
the table, me being the only female, I cut the cards. We told them repeatedly that this was not a good idea but they insisted and all 3 times I cut - everyone LOST money and I got yelled at. I have refused to cut cards since. Now fast forward to the present. I was offered the cut. We explained that this wasn't a good idea and I passed. A couple of shoes later I was again offered the cut and I started to refuse again when the table decided that I needed to cut. Okay...and they promised not to yell at me so cut I did. The 1st two players received BJ's on the first deal. Later on the guy next to me received his first black jack of the night (and he'd been playing for 5 hours). We won most of our hands and were doing well. LG received several blackjacks over the course of the evening and as usual he got his lucky kisses. The guy sitting next to me, John B, said that if that is what it took he'd start kissing me too! Well a couple of shoes later I was again offered the cut, John B was down to his last few chips when low and behold he put all of his money out and proceeded to get a BJ. YEAH, then next hand he's dealt another blackjack and the next thing I know,'getting kissed on the cheeks. We played for about 3 hours, leaving the table up $95.00 for LG and $155.00 for me. LG received 13 Black Jacks in that time while I only got 5.

THURSDAY, AUG 23rd
HAPPY BIRTHDAY LG! Started the day early, wanting to be at Paris for the breakfast buffet by 9 am. We were down at the valet by 8:45 but didn't arrive at Paris till closer to 9:30. This is where things started to go wrong. As we were getting out of the car I realized that I left LG's birthday present back in the room. Then when we get up to the cashier we find out my buffet coupon was a fake! I was totally embarrassed, not only to have a fake coupon but also because I had told my friends that we had $5.00 off per person and now they were going to have to pay full price. The hostess told us we could get the coupon by signing up at the Rewards desk so PH went over as she didn't already have a card. While we are waiting another hostess comes over, we explain why we are waiting and she asks to see the coupon and thinks it's okay, so she goes and gets a manager. He brings a 'real' coupon over and points out the differences.'not sure why they did this as we weren't arguing or anything, just waiting for PH to return. PH comes back and lets us know they are out of the books. This is JUST GREAT! (not) This is not the way I had planned things to go for LG's birthday. We make the best of things and get seated. Breakfast is good but as several reports have noted, selections are being trimmed down, and notably missing were some of the fresh cheese selections, the chocolate croissants, the coconut macaroons and other desserts that are now only offered for lunch and dinner but not at breakfast. We all enjoyed our meal but it just wasn't as good or special as we remembered from past trips.

We have decided to spend most of the day in this area to keep from getting the car out of Valet and then having to return for our 5:30 queue time for the Fab Four show. We walk through Paris, over to Bally's, out to the overhead crosswalk to Bellagio. On the way over, PH comments that she's never been in Caesars. While stopped to use the facilities, I made the suggestion that we go to Caesars first so that we didn't spend as much time backtracking. The others agree so we turn around and head over. A quick walk around and through the casino and shopping, viewing some of the statues and spiral escalator, snapping pictures and then stopping for a break to let T get her breath back and it's outside for more rest time. Its now starting to warm up a bit (in other words its getting HOT outside) so I purchase a frozen Lemon Daiquiri for $8.50 that is almost half full of rum. Stout and Cool. MMMM! I sipped on this for a couple of hours!

We walk back over to the Bellagio to take pictures of the conservatory but I got side tracked by the slot machines. Couldn't find my favorite machines but did find a quarter Balloon Bars machine. I put a $20.00 in and played on this for about 15-20 minutes before all my money was gone. While I was on the machine, my cell phone rings and since we are all together (we'd gotten spilt up from each other earlier while looking for the machine) I was a bit concerned when I looked at my phone and saw that it was a call from home. It was my daughter, calling to tell me that she knew exactly what we were going to do for her birthday (a week away) as she had just won tickets to the Def Leppard, Foreigner, Styx concert and that she and I were going on her birthday. Sweet! Oh yeah, she also wanted to talk to her Daddy and wish him a happy birthday too!

We finally make it over to the conservatory, where we take pictures of the display and then head out planning to walk to Monte Carlo, then deciding that it is too hot to walk that far so we just head on over to Planet Hollywood. Construction is a nightmare, and because'on my scooter we are forced to walk down the block, past all the construction to the South Entrance. We decide that we do not like the cold sterile, Ultra modern feel of the new décor in the Miracle Mile shopping area where they have replaced the desert passage décor with black tile on the floors, silver facings with red accents on the store fronts and silver almost mirrored ceilings. YUCK.

We headed over to pick up our tickets and were told that the doors open at 5:45 for seating, that general admission was first come first serve, to line up by the cardboard bus for 'VIP' seating since I was on the scooter and that the lines started forming up at about 5:30.

We spent some time shopping, as I had been asked to make a couple of purchases at the Betty Paige store. One of the guys had given me money to get him a T shirt, to replace his that had worn out, and my other daughter has just started Burlesque and wanted 'anything' from Betty Paige. We got her the book of artwork for her birthday present.

Also had to get another pearl, for some reason I just can't resist these! Got a nice 7mm crème pearl (just larger than average) and had it set on a dolphin necklace. T decided to do the same and she got a large white pearl just over 8mm. Nice big pearl. She had hers set as a present for her mom. We both used coupons from the coupon book we had received from the information desk, which gave us our pearl for free with the purchase of any setting $19.99 and up (without the coupon the pearls are $14.99 each plus the purchase of your setting so it's a pretty good savings).

Went over to La Salsa for a snack and decided to split an order of nachos between the four of us. We were all starting to get just a little hungry but didn't want to eat big and spoil our dinner. Plans were to eat at Mon Ami Gabi after the show. We order soft drinks and tea plus the nachos. The nachos were NASTY...a plate of chips with a bit of melted cheese and some black bean paste plus about 8 bits of grilled steak. I've had better at football games. Bill was right at $25.00 with tip.

It's now a little before 4:00 so LG and I head up to view the changes to the casino. It's a bit darker than I expected and'not impressed. Do the free pull and head over for the free tourney. I didn't score enough to even get the freebie prize. Head back to meet up with T & PH as it is now right at 5:15. Walk over to the show and the lines are already forming. Get in the line I was instructed to earlier and after a while, someone comes by and looks at our tickets and now tells us that we're in the wrong line and we now have to move to the end of the other line. I explained that we were instructed to pull up to the bus but because of the amount of people I was unable to get any closer. She says 'Well you need to move to the other line' I reply, 'Excuse me, I've been in line, following the instructions I was given and now you want me to move to the back of another line' She says hang on and goes to check with someone else and never comes back so we stayed where we were. When they started seating us, I was trying to find out where to park the scooter and I had 3 different people trying to give me different instructions, one gal even asked if I was parking the scooter or staying seated and when she was told that I would be getting off of the scooter for the show, she started moving chairs around on the BACK ROW to have me sit on the scooter there. I was trying to tell the gal that I wanted to park the scooter, while one usher was trying to show me where to park and another was giving instructions for me to drive up to my seat and they would park it. It was rather irritating and I ended up snapping at them. We ended up with fair seats and I think the theater could be arranged a bit better, so that people aren't sitting up against the walls. As for the show, you are allowed to take photos and recordings but the lighting is horrible so you don't get good shots with most cameras. The show is fun, starting with the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show and continuing through the Sgt. Pepper era. The guys put on a good show, with 'Paul' even playing left handed bass.

After the show we headed over to Mon Ami Gabi and after taking a look at the menu decided we really didn't want to splurge that much on dinner especially since LG and I were in the mood for STEAK. Two expensive meals in a row put a rather big dent in the pocketbook and we needed to consider T and Ph's wallets as well. After watching a fountain show we got the car and headed downtown. After several suggestions we decided on Magnolia's at 4Q's. We headed over to the promotions desk so that LG could pick up his 2/1 voucher. 4Q's has a birthday special where you get a free voucher if you visit during the month of your birthday. I then gave our 2/1 coupon to T and PH making this meal much more affordable for all of us. PH also signed up for a card so she could get the free gift which was a really nice metal card holder and a deck of cards. I wanted one too but I already had a player's card (pout, pout).

LG ordered the Sirloin with mushrooms, I ordered the rib-eye, PH got the BBQ chicken and T ordered a ham sandwich. All of the food was good, I ended up with the larger Sirloin (at no extra charge and lots of apologies - it was fine as I only ordered the rib-eye because it was smaller). We got separate checks and our bill was about $20.00 plus the tip (after the voucher) not sure what T and PH's came too but I know it was less than ours.

After dinner we headed back down to the Plaza. At first the only table that was open was one with an automatic shuffle machine. We sat down, bought in for $100.00 each, but left after a couple of shoes as no matter what we had, the dealer got 19, 20, or 21 almost every hand and we were down $25.00 or $ 30.00 each. Seats opened up at another table, hand shuffle and we sat down in seats 3 & 4. Played for a good while, winning our losses back and finally leaving the table up $55.00 each. LG had 2 black jacks and I had 3. Drink service was pretty quick and consistent both nights we were there.

Back to the room where we got ready for bed and I gave LG both of his birthday presents, one which was wrapped in royal blue lace and tied with a big satin bow.

FRIDAY, AUG 24th
I'm sad. Today is our final day. I wake up about 8:30 this morning. Get up and shower, get dressed and call the front desk for a late checkout since our plane doesn't leave till 8 pm.. Nope, can't have one. So we get everything packed (good thing I brought an extra bag - didn't think I'd need it but we did) and make arrangements to check the bags with the bell desk until we are ready to go. Meet up with T and PH about 10:30 and head over for breakfast...well it started as breakfast but by the time I made it over to the pancakes and waffles, they were gone and not going to be refilled as they were changing over to lunch.

Decide to do some more shopping on Freemont and I ended up hurting my toes pretty bad in one of the shops. They had a rack of T-shirts on a ramp and as I tried to go up the ramp into the store, a bar on the bottom of the clothing rack rammed up into my foot and caught on my sandal strap. I had to slowly back the scooter down to remove it. At first I thought I had broken the next to last toe but I only scraped it and bruised 3 of them. OUCH! IT HURT! And the workers didn't even ask me if I was okay. Talk about adding insult to injury! Finish shopping and head over to the Plaza for more BJ. When we sat down at the table there were several people already playing but they were soon gone. The pit boss raised the min to $10.00 and then we get the dealer who couldn't be beat! We walked away before he sucked down all of our money but it wasn't the happy ending we had hoped for.

Decided to get the car and head over to Mandalay Bay, as I had seen several of my Triple Play slots there. Again LG uses the Excalibur Valet, as PH wants to see NYNY. Get there a little after 2:00 so we have about 2 hours to play before we have to meet back up and go to lunch. LG and I head over to MB and find my machine. Sit down, put $50.00 in and about 4 spins later I have $160.00. LG takes my ticket and goes to cash it in. So I put another $40.00 in the machine. That is gone in a matter of minutes so I put in another $100.00. Lost that too! Off to find another machine. Find a quarter 3 coin one. This should make my money last longer...WRONG! In less than 5 minutes my money is gone and I've only 'won' twice at 6 coins each. OH boy I got 2 extra spins! So, off to find another machine. Even though this one gave me a little bit of play it wasn't long before my money was all gone here as well. By now it's nearly 4:00 so we head back over to Excal to meet up with T & PH. Over to Fatburgers - again bogus coupons. Oh well, we try their burgers and yeah they were good but I don't understand what all of the raves are about. And their fries had no flavor at all. Guess next time we'll have to try 'In and Out' for a comparison.

Get through eating, go find a station to gas up the car (which was a logistical mess in 5:00 traffic, but we got back where we needed to be) turn the car in, up on the bus and off to the airport. Spend some time visiting with PH before she has to head off to her gate and then it's time to start loading onto the plane. We get the front seats on the left side of the plane and lucky for us no one else sits in the 3rd seat. I can't believe how tired I suddenly got. Must be something in the air on the plane LOL! So once the seatbelt sign comes off, I put my head in LG's lap and stretch out in the seats. We hit some mild turbulence, which they had said was possible because of storms, so sit up, seatbelt on and lean on LG. I never really went to sleep, but at least I was able to relax and then suddenly we are back in Austin.. Have to wait for the plane to empty out before they bring me my scooter but by the time we make it to baggage, the first bags are dropping onto the carousel. We get our bags and call our ride and we're loading the car to come home.

So my final thoughts on Vegas: Slots have really tightened up...no more 98%, 99% payback signs anywhere and most of the time I saw bank after bank of empty machines. With more and more Black Jack going to $10.00/25.00 minimums with 6/5 payouts and/ or continuous shuffle machines it doesn't look promising for the low budget players. Vegas is on the verge of pricing herself out of a customer base that has always supported her. Not all of us are interested in flashy night clubs, bottle service at $200.00 for something I can pick up in the liquor store for under $50.00, fancy meals with things I can't even pronounce much less want to put in my mouth for $150-$250.00 a plate and luxury rooms, bigger than the house I live in for $2-300.00 a night. I used to love Vegas but the warmth and excitement just isn't there anymore. I didn't mind loosing when it was a slow process, when I got some fun and excitement for my money. I think it will probably be a couple of years before I go back.

Expenses:
Flight and Hotel $677.00 for 6 days and 5 nights, 2 RT tickets from Austin to Vegas.
Gambling: LG down $50.00, SQ Down $385.00 (mostly due to $300.00 I lost at MB)
Food: About $400.00 for the 2 of us
Tips: About $120.00
Car Rental 1$42.00 (for 6 days)

EFF U's:
Golden nugget for not moving T & PH closer to our room.
GN for only giving the fun book out to 'qualified' guests.
All of the casinos for tightening up slots.
To bad BJ rules.
To the guy at the souvenir store for not inquiring if I was okay.
To the ushers at Fab Four...Get your shit together and figure things out.
To Airport security for busting the locks off our suitcases (when there were rings that could be removed) and tearing the tissue paper off the book I had purchased when the ends were open and you could see what it was and generally trashing my packing!

Kudos:
To Jay White for putting on an awesome show.
To Frank and Gene for this wonderful board and taking time to meet with us.
To TumblingTeacher for taking the time to meet with me.
To Golden Nuggets' new pool and buffet.
To William and Mark, ushers at Mama Mia for making the time pass quickly and for enjoying their job and spreading that joy.
To Ken for walking away a winner.
To the guys at the table at the Plaza on Wednesday night for making things FUN!

A few of our pictures can be viewed at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jsfelix/
(You will probably have to copy and paste this address)