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Category: 2009
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This was my first trip of 2009. I had been checking airline rates and hotel rates for several weeks, and the time was right. It's pretty lengthy, so hope you don't get too bored by it.

Flight: Allegiant Air out of Springfield, Missouri. Efficient as usual, on time both directions. $202.00 round trip fare.

Hotel: I usually stay somewhere on the strip, but an excellent room rate of only $20 per might for the Tuscany Suites through Expedia.com caught my eye. The online virtual tour of the hotel looked promising. I was a little apprehensive about the distance from the strip (a long 2 blocks), but decided to give it a try. On arrival at the airport, I decided on the Bell Trans shuttle bus as the mode of transportation for getting to the hotel. The cost for a round-trip ticket on the shuttle was $13.00. I immediately boarded the shuttle. The driver was very friendly and talkative. As it turns out, my hotel was the first stop for the shuttle, so it was a very brief ride...great!

Upon arrival at the hotel, I went into the lobby and got into line to check in. There were about 5 or 6 people ahead of me. My wait was about 15 minutes, which seemed about right I guess. The registration clerk was very cheerful and gave detailed, accurate instructions on how to get to my room, as well as handing me a coupon book for the casino and restaurants. There is an $11.50 resort fee for each booking (not each night), which isn't bad, plus a $100 deposit on credit card for any incidental expenses that might be incurred.

The hotel grounds were very appealing. The property is nicely landscaped. There is a moderate size, very beautiful pool located behind the hotel lobby building. The housing accommodations are divided up among probably 9 or 10 buildings (I think there are 3 stories to each building). Mine (building O ), was in the middle of the complex, and the room was on the first floor. The room itself was fairly large at 645 sq ft. It was modestly furnished, certainly nothing luxurious, but comfortable. King size bed, separate seating area with couch and chair, small kitchen area with table, chairs, counter, sink, microwave, fridge, two burner electric stove, and coffee maker. The bathroom had separate sink/vanity, shower stall, bath tub, and toilet areas. The TV has not been upgraded to flat panel, and it received about 10 channels. The bed was moderately comfortable, pillows on the small size, and there was a flat sheet, instead of a fitted sheet, over the mattress....which I found odd.

The worst thing about the room was the obvious thinness of the walls. Unless you kept the fan running constantly, you could hear everything happening around you in every direction. That was a bit aggravating in the wee hours of the morning when you're trying to sleep.

The casino is on the small to medium size. All the standard games seemed to be there, but it was never crowded. All the staff were friendly and helpful. Cocktail service was good. One very nice surprise was the diner/coffee shop called "Marilyn's". I ate dinner there my first evening (2 for 1 coupon redeemed). My chicken fried steak (and club sandwich to go for later) were both very good and large portioned. The outstanding feature was the waitress. She was probably one of the very best, if not the best, server that I've ever been waited on. I wish I could remember her name to give her credit. She was very friendly, talkative, and patient with all her customers, including me. She checked on me frequently, and I really felt appreciated as a paying customer.

On my first venture to the strip on foot, I quickly realized that the distance is farther than I imagined, particularly in the heat of the day. It's quite a hike along Flamingo Road. If you're walking at night, it's kind of creepy too. I saw at least 4 or 5 bums passed out on the sidewalk, in the gravel, or at the bus stops that you have to walk past. I also had to walk past a group of 7 or 8 guys who were smoking weed, which was distressing. I guess they kick these people off the strip, so the move down along Flamingo and the other side streets.

I decided to head North on the strip my first night. I stopped at almost every casino and deposited some cash into either a slot machine or video poker. Talk about machines being tight. I couldn't hit anything at all. Cocktail service was all but non-existent in the slot areas (Bill's, Bellagio, Flamingo, Harrahs). I was finally offered a drink at the Venetian, but the waitress never returned with it. I sat there for a long, long time waiting and then left. I actually received my first complimentary beverage at the Riviera, which was offered immediately when I sat down at the machine, same as my last experience there. Thanks Riviera! My final destination of the evening was the Sahara, which was also spot on, for once, with drink service. I played video poker for about 2 hours there, then decided to take the monorail back to Ballys for the walk back to the Tuscany. I must say that the "working girls" seemed to be congregating at the Sahara that night. They were everywhere, and a couple of them were pretty aggressive too. I guess times are tough for them, I dunno. Purchased the 3 day monorail pass for $28 and was on my way.

Day two began with a relaxing couple of hours sitting by the pool, then headed out again toward the strip on foot. Made a detour on Koval Rd to head down to Ellis Island for their sirloin steak special. This was my first time there, and I really enjoyed the meal and the microbrew that came with it. In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I went back again the next day for lunch. The afternoon was spent in the Bellagio, Caesar's Palace, the Mirage, and Treasure Island (again, no wins, couldn't even break even.....machines are tight). For some reason, I decided to walk all the way down to the Sahara again, after stopping by Slots of Fun for a $2 Heineken. I finally won a meager $50 on a video poker machine at Sahara.

The evening was spent downtown on Fremont Street. I decided to try the deuce this time rather than take a taxi. I've never been on the deuce before. The ride downtown was perfectly satisfactory. I had a good seat, and it wasn't crowded. $3 sure beats $20++ for a taxi ride. First stop as always was the Golden Gate to get my shrimp cocktail and to play roulette (was even after 45 minutes and left). Dinner tonight was at the Market Street Cafe in the California Hotel. I've heard a lot of good comments about this place, so I wanted to check it out. The wait was long (8pm) and the line moved slowly. Once inside, however, I saw many empty tables. I had the prime rib ($7.95). It comes with choice of potato, vegetable, soup or salad bar, and cherries jubilee desert. The meat was very tender, flavorful, and juicy. It was far better than the $25 prime rib at a restaurant here at home. Service was inconsistent and not up to par. Never got a drink refill or the offer of one, but the food was very good. Stopped by every casino downtown and left them a few of my hard earned dollar. The only exceptions were the Plaza ($180 win on roulette, and Binions $38 win on nickel video poker). The ride back on the deuce was the complete opposite from the ride downtown. On the return trip, there must have been 4 or 5 times more people on board that the bus should have been able to accommodate. We were packed in like sardines. It took forever to get back to my stop. We stopped at every single stop along the route to let people on or off. Would have spent the money for a taxi had I known it would be like that.

My last day was spent going South on the strip from Bally's. Won 1,000 nickels on a slot machine at Paris, but nothing else all day. Cocktail service was best at Planet Hollywood and Tropicana, no good elsewhere. Decided to try the Bayside Buffet at Mandalay Bay for dinner, as I hadn't been here before. It was pretty good ($26 for dinner), but nothing stood out as being great. I think I like the Bellagio buffet better. Back to the Tuscany fairly early due to an early flight back this morning. Bell Trans was about 12 minutes late in picking me up. I was starting to get worried, but they finally showed and got me there in plenty of time.

Going back in September. I just love that city.