This was our annual girls' pilgrimage to Vegas and the cast is always rotating with the exception of the core group, which consists of my aunt (58), my sister (39), my cousin (41), and me (41). This trip we also had a couple of my girlfriends, also around 40, and my cousin's 22 year old daughter and her friend along. To adequately explain each person's personality I have given each one a nickname:

My friend M just completed an Iron Man, so she's 'Crazy'
My friend E likes to stay indoors and be white, so she is 'Polar Bear'
My sister J likes to drink lots of beer, so I call her 'Bud'
My aunt and cousin are the inseparable slot junkies, who got us free rooms at the Mirage, so we affectionately call them 'Frick and Frack'
My cousin's daughter T and her friend K are young and gorgeous, so we hate them :) - I will call them the 'Whippersnappers'. My aunt and cousin got us 2 comped rooms for 3 nights based on their slot play last year. We love them! It was 4 people in each room, but we're pretty low maintenance, so it wasn't a problem.

No problems with flights - Alaska 6:30am non-stop 'nuf said.
My aunt Frick is a 'baby' orange pusher, I don't know if she gets a kickback for every Clementine or Satsuma but she always has at least 4 in her purse, so even though Alaska only served us some godawful tropical pretzel mix, we had a healthy snack to tide us over until we landed in beautiful Las Vegas. This was also Frick and Frack's main food source for the duration of our trip.

SATURDAY
We landed around 9 am and since there were 8 of us we decided to take a limo to the Mirage - it was $55 and very comfortable. The limo seats 6 normal humans, but see above - subsisting on baby oranges makes one skinny.

The rooms were not ready, so we got pool passes. Crazy, Polar Bear, Bud, and I like to eat more than the rest of our crew, so we headed to the Caribe Café to work up a good bloat for the pool. Crazy and I had huevos rancheros, Polar and Bud had the American breakfast - both were yummy. I think each dish was $13. Expensive to some, fine for us.

We then headed to the pool, but Crazy decided she needed some exercise - told ya, she's crazy - so she headed out to walk the strip. Bud and I changed into our suits, but Polar didn't want to so she sat on the edge of the pool in her street clothes - hot. It was after 11am, so there were no chairs to be had, but I am fine sitting by the pool or staying in the water. Good people watching as usual. Frick and Frack had found a slot machine and the Whippersnappers had to shave their legs first, so they had not yet joined us. About an hour into our pool time, we heard a big boom, which I thought was the volcano going off. Not so. A chlorine canister had burst over by the small pool, so everyone was evacuated from the pool area and it was closed the rest of the day.

It was around 1pm or so and our rooms were ready, so we headed up to shower and change. I am not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, and my aunt got these rooms for free, but we were on a smoking floor (19th) and it smelled awful. Even my aunt, who is a smoker thought it was terrible. On the plus side, the Mirage beds were the best I've ever slept on and we had a great view of the pools. Quick showers all around and we were off to lose our money. I like bar top video poker and I really enjoy the Mirage sports bar, so we went here first. Crazy, Polar, Bud, and I are low budget gamblers, so after losing a quick $40 bucks or so at the bar, we ventured over to the Race Book. I love to watch the ponies, and I have an incredible system for picking the 3rd place finisher. I go by name, friskiness, and color. Yes, I am a true savant. I bet $5 to show on most races and it's a fun way to kill a few hours and get free drink tickets. People leaving the race book were giving us their drink tickets, so we were awash in beer, vodka crans, and wine. Good, cheap times, people!

Meanwhile, Frick, Frack, and the Whippersnappers were getting some sort of appetizers at Kokomos. The funny story, as Frack tells it, is they have these beautiful big plates that are sitting there and Frack had put a little bit of her appetizer on one of these plates. The waiter came by and started to take her plate, upon which she was still eating. She told him she wasn't finished, and he told her he had to take it anyway. 'But, I'm still eating' she said, 'sorry, the plate is just for decoration' he said. 'But my food is on it' she said, 'sorry, gotta take the plate' She thought he was joking, but no sir, those plates are for looking at. She had to move her food off of it.

Our group of 4 and my aunt's group always seemed to be on different schedules for eating. Of course, the 4 of us really like to eat and they don't, so while we'd have at least 2 meals a day, plus late night snacking and they would have baby oranges or split a sandwich. Anyway, we were all happy with our food choices and that's what matters.

Back at the race book, we were getting hungry so we decided to cab it up to the Peppermill. I have always wanted to go here and, yay, I finally made it. I love this place!
I had the nachos and they were huge and came with a side of cheesy beans - just lovely. I don't remember what anyone else had because I was focused on my nachos. They all seemed to enjoy their whatchamacallits. Our waitress was absolutely great and I would recommend this for a good diner experience.

After eating, we ventured into the lounge and Frick, Frack and the Whippersnappers joined us. We all sat around the circular fire pit and it was a great 70's vibe. Loved the ambience. I could have sat here much longer, but downtown was calling the group, so we grabbed a cab and head down to Fremont Street.

I love the Summer of 69 stuff going on down there. I thought the cover band was great, but the light show with the moon landing footage was a little disjointed and not as entertaining as I thought it could be. I played a little blackjack at the Golden Gate with Frick and Frack while the rest of the peeps looked at trinkets and drank cheap beer. Unfortunately, I started getting really headachy and tired. It was only 11pm, but we'd been up since 4am for our 6am flight. I urged everyone else to stay downtown and whoop it up, but Bud, Polar Bear and Crazy elected to go back to the Mirage with me. We grabbed fries at Carnegie's to go and headed up to the room to call it a night. Frick, Frack and the Whippersnappers came back shortly after and the young ones went off to bed. Frick and Frack found a slot machine and played until 3am.

SUNDAY
Leaving those Mirage beds is so hard, but we wanted to get down to the pool in time to get a chair, so Bud and I headed down around 9am. Crazy was leaving today and wanted to get a final workout in, so she headed to the spa and exercise area. Polar Bear opted to stay in the room and watch tv until we came back. We saw Frick in the hall and she said she'd meet us down by the pool. We like the little pool off to the left as it is quieter and somewhat shady. We lucked out and found 4 seats right away in the shade, since my cousin (Frack) would probably be joining us as well. I should mention that Frick and Frack have lizard blood in them and enjoy full sun, but hey we were there first and we like the shade. Of course, as soon as my aunt gets down there, she's like 'oh bummer, it's in the shade' but there were no other seats, so she sucked it up. As soon as chairs in the sun opened up, she abandoned us. The Whippersnappers and Frack came down a little while later. The girls, being 22 and all, wandered over to the big pool and escaped us fogies. Bud and I enjoyed a bucket of beer and people-watched, my favorite thing. Frick and Frack's favorite thing is to complain about kids in Vegas. I am totally fine with kids in the pool; I think they look so cute in their little waterwings and they make me miss my 2-1/2 year - not enough to ever bring him with me, of course

Anyhoo, Crazy joined us a couple hours later and was hungry, so we went back up to the room and got ready, so we could go eat. Of course, it was just the 4 of us again. We headed over to the Grand Lux at the Venetian because I had read so many great things on other peoples' trip reports. I am so glad I did. I had the double stuffed potato spring rolls, Polar Bear had the chicken and waffles, Crazy and Bud both got the tortilla soup. Loved, loved, loved my appetizer. How can you go wrong with bacon, mashed potatoes, cheese, and sour cream? Polar's chicken and waffle was also excellent. We liked this place so much we went back for breakfast a couple days later.

I really like the layout of the Venetian and I would stay there if they would get rid of that perfume they pipe in. It's just overwhelming to me. Anyway, after lunch we wandered through to the Palazzo. I found my favorite slot, Star Wars, and proceeded to win $200 - yay me!

Frick and Frack were done sunning themselves at the pool, so we decided to meet them at Caesar's Palace in the keno lounge. Aaargh! That mall is soooo long and the entrance to the casino is practically hidden, so, needless to say, we got lost and by the time we got to the keno area I was not feeling the love for this place. I do like the location and there are parts of the casino that I really like, so maybe bypassing the mall and walking around the outside would have been better for me. We played a little keno and I played some video poker in the same area, but the vp was not kind to me this trip. The keno waitress was nowhere to be found, so we just took our drink tickets to the bar and they honored them. We spent about an hour here and then the 4 of us left Frick and Frack to the slots so they could try and get us free rooms from HET for next year. My aunt has always wanted to stay at the Flamingo for the pool.

We then headed over to Casino Royale for the $1 beers and I found my favorite Star Wars slots, so life was good. I won every time I played these machines at this casino. Everyone would laugh because I would say I was running low on money, so I needed to hit the Star Wars. Crazy had to leave for her flight, so we bid her adieu.

The Whippersnappers are poor 22 year olds and they discovered 2 pitchers of beer for $12 at the Carnaval Court at Harrah's, so we met them there. Since they were Vegas Virgins, I had to get them a terrifically tacky yard long drink to share. They loved it!
The band was good, the people watching out of this world, and the beer was cheap - life is good in our America. The only downside was it was really, really warm in there.

Feeling flush from my big Star Wars slot win, I decided to go into the casino and try 3 card poker. The dealer was really friendly and Polar Bear and I were having a great time for the first ten minutes, then friendly dealer went on a break and the cooler took over. No expression, no banter, no fun. We lost $60 each in about 5 minutes and walked away.
If you are a dealer and reading this, I'm sure you are aware that you will attract more people and have people stay longer if you smile and show a little personality. I walked through the Dealertainer area at IP and it's just so obvious. The popular tables had the friendliest, chattiest dealers. The ones who looked crabby were all alone. Don't they want tips?

After our losing streak, Bud, Polar Bear, and I opted for the cooler environs of the Piano Bar. Crikey! Talk about going from one extreme to the other - it was freezing in there! Luckily, I always bring a cardigan for the cooler casinos. The piano playing twins were great and the guy they had sub in for them was great too. The rest of our group joined us here for a little while, but they got too cold and opted to seek out cheap beer again.

The 3 of us decided we needed to eat, so we headed back to the Mirage and ate at BLT Burger. I had the waffle fries with cheese and bacon - yummy!! Can you tell I'm into fried potato products? Bud had mozzarella sticks and Polar Bear had a turkey burger. I thought the appetizers were reasonably priced and I would eat here again. It was around 12:30 by the time we were done, so we called it a night. The rest of our crew stayed out until 3am, but I really enjoyed getting a good night's sleep and not being hung over the next day.

MONDAY

Up again around 9am. Frick and Frack called to let us know they had snagged chairs by the small pool. Bud and I headed down, but Polar Bear once again opted to stay in the room. The Whippersnappers were at the pool too, but they were splitting their time between our pool and the main pool. The chairs were in the full sun, of course, as my aunt and cousin did the choosing, but another lady who wanted to tan traded me her seat in the shade. It was nice to just lounge around and read my book. Of course, I also had my bucket of beer and the nice cool water - it was just great!

After a couple hours, Bud and I headed back to the room and by then Polar Bear was up and ready, so we showered and went down to the race book for a little while. As I mentioned, the floor we were on was smoking. There was a little more in the air each night than cigarettes by one of the rooms. We dubbed the people in this room the Doobie Brothers. Well, there just happened to be horse that was racing that day named Well Stoned, so my sister and I decided we had to bet on this horse. We had a couple beers and then Frick and Frack and the girls joined us.

The Whippersnappers headed off to McDonalds and the rest of us decided to go to my aunt and my sister's favorite lunch spot - the Outback! I should mention that I had just finished chemotherapy for breast cancer back in May, so as a gift for helping get me to my appts., I gave my aunt and sister Outback gift cards, as they were raving about their steamed broccoli when they ate there last year. Yes, we have an Outback where we live, but if it gets Frick and Frack to actually sit down and eat a meal, I am happy. The food was very good as usual.

After lunch, we decided to walk down to the New York, New York, Excalibur, and Mandalay Bay, but we opted to go down the side opposite City Center as I hate that sidewalk tunnel. It wasn't a bad walk. Whenever we got too hot we'd just duck into a casino or stop by a mister. It was also nice to have the $1 bottled water guys on each corner. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.

We made it to New York, New York, where we had stayed last year. I loved the Super Slotto game when we were here before, but this time it did not love me back. I didn't get a single chorus of 'Celebration'. Oh well. While we were there, we checked at the race book on our horse Well Stoned and, son of a gun, he actually showed! My sister and I won $35 on a $5 bet - woo hoo! The rest of the time, while Frick and Frack played more slots, we played video poker at the new circular bar. I think this is a really nice addition to the casino. I was lamenting the lack of bar top poker here last year and this fixed it. They also have a nice little seating area, with a nice view of the casino floor.

After a while, we decided to head over to Mandalay Bay as I had promised to get a Blues Brothers shirt for a friend. We had fun in the House of Blues shop trying on the silly sunglasses. My sister decided she would ask at the tattoo place how much two little Mickey Mouse silhouettes would be. She and I both heard the cashier say $75, so she filled out all the paperwork and then the cashier asked for $175. We both must be deaf. Anyway, that was too much so Bud walked away. My cousin's daughter ended up getting her tongue pierced and her friend got her inner ear done. What happens in Vegas comes home with you sometimes!

Bud, Polar Bear, and I left Mandalay before the piercing excitement, but we got to see the results later that night. We were getting hungry and of course that group of 4 doesn't eat, so we cabbed back to the Mirage. I was craving Mexican, so we ended up taking the tram to Treasure Island and eating at Isla. It is a really nice looking restaurant and even though the guacamole is $9, the rest of the meal was really reasonable. The chips came with 3 different salsas and the dishes we had were between $8 and $13. I would recommend this place.

After eating, we dropped Polar Bear off at our room, as she is a wimp and was done for the night by 9pm. We were supposed to meet Frick, Frack and the Whippersnappers at the Rock Bar at the IP for some good old fashioned beer pong, but first I needed some cash. So, I headed to my favorite Star Wars slot at Casino Royale, plunked in $40 and came out with $135. Enough to buy beer pong supplies, at least. We ran into my aunt and cousin getting $1 beers. They had taken the City Center side back from Mandalay and ended up going through the slow torture of the covered sidewalk. My aunt was not a happy camper, but a couple beers soon put her right.

We then proceeded on to the IP where there was a gaggle of drunk girls (not the Whippersnappers - they can hold their liquor!) having a grand old time at the beer pong table. I got a look at T's new tongue piercing and K's new earring and then bought the $24 Bottle of Bud and the cups for our game. That Bud Bottle was huge and T took it home for a souvenir. T and I played against K and Frack. We won - woo hoo! I can only take so much twentysomething girl drunkenness, you know that high pitched scream/laughing, which was a prevalent thing at the RockBar, so Bud and I headed into the IP for a gander at the Dealertainers. I liked the Jake Blues guy the best. He looked like he was having a great time. We just played a few slots and then headed back to the Mirage. It was our last night, so we played a little more video poker and plunked $5 in my aunt's favorite slot machine and called it a night. Losing makes one tired.

TUESDAY

Bud, Polar Bear, and I were on the 2pm flight home to Seattle. I think this is a great time to leave Vegas. You have enough time to get packed and check out, plus grab breakfast and maybe a last beer. All of which we did. We went back to the Grand Lux and once again the food was great. I had the breakfast sandwich, which I highly recommend. It was buttery goodness. I also stopped at the Star Wars slot at the Venetian, but it rejected me. Oh well, I still went home with a tiny bit of money.

Final Thoughts:

Traveling with a large group is not for everybody, but I really enjoyed it. It really helps that no one felt obligated to do everything together, so there was no 'have to' resentment. During the planning of this trip, I stressed this over and over: If you don't like the plan, do your own thing. The plan I came up with was very detailed, but it was mainly to eliminate the 'I don't know, what do you want to do?' moments. Can't wait to come back next year.

FAVES:
Mirage Race Book
Mirage Beds
Mirage Pools
Peppermill
Casino Royale Star Wars and $1 Michelob Lights
Grand Lux

NOT SO FAVE:
Smoking Floor at Mirage
Crabby, Stonefaced Bartenders and Dealers
Freezing casinos
The scent of the Venetian