Another fall, another week in Vegas, Baby! As we did last year, Jen and I flew on Southwest from BWI to Vegas on the Friday after Thanksgiving. Our flight was on-time, filled to capacity, and had very friendly flight attendants. Arrived at the Mac, picked up our rental car and headed to Laughlin listening to 'the Highway' on Sirius XM. Jen made the very wise decision of getting a car with satellite radio. As Zac Brown sings in "Toes," 'life is good today, life is good today.'

Checked in at the Best Western Bullhead City across the river in Arizona. Upon entering the room, Jen said 'it's small but adequate.' 'How many times have I heard that before?' I thought. After a not-so-good dinner at the Black Bear Diner, we played the 'Indian Style Bingo' at Don Laughlin's Riverside Resort. A much more subdued crowd than last year, but still a fun two hours. Ended quite late (for us) since we were on east-coast time; no winners, not even close.

We were going to play more bingo Saturday in Laughlin but decided to return to Sin City in time for lunch at LBS Burgers and 'Colossal Bingo' at Red Rock. Nineteen games and no winners. At least the veggie burger with jack cheese and shoestring fries were as great as I remembered last year. After losing more $$$ at the Red Rock, we checked in to our Vegas home-away-from home, the Gold Coast. Between the Mega Bingo room discount, two free nights and various bconnected offers, the room averaged $35 a night. Not bad in this or any economy. Dinner was at the Rio Carnival Court buffet. Free with Total Rewards points, but very disappointing. With the exception of the 'money' gelato and the sushi, nothing had any flavor. A huge assortment of bland food. Why bother? More bingo Saturday night at the Poker Palace where I hit my first jackpot of the trip: five dollars. Ooooh, aaaah, five whole dollars! Made a quick stop at Frankie's Tiki Room which is a very happening place and tiki-heaven! Too tired for a drink; next time for sure!

Sunday morning started with this year's Christmas Card shot: standing in front of the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign, geared up with my Roethlisberger jersey, holding a Terrible Towel. Sunday was our 'splurge' meal: brunch at Simon at Palm Place. Almost fifty bucks with tip but the best meal of the trip. The Simon French Toast is awesome and the sushi is superb. The eggs benedict (sans meat) and pastries were also outstanding. Definitely did not need lunch after putting away all the fantastic food! We visited several casinos Sunday and I had mixed luck. The best hit was an amazing $80 bonus round on a Star Trek machine at the Tuscany! My luck didn't last that long; went to J.C. Wooloughan's at the Rampart and watched my beloved Steelers lose in overtime to the dreaded Rodents. But I'm now a proud, card carrying member of the Terrible Towel Club! Steelers Pride Vegas, Baby!

Started Monday with a great breakfast at Jamm's. A bit off the Strip, but worth the drive to this local's joint. One of the best omelets I've ever had. Monday was our first session of the Coast $500,000 Mega Bingo. Was one number away from hitting bingo several times, though the man sitting next to me won one of the $10,000 games. It was exciting and a lot of different, unusual games were played. Dinner Monday was a below average meal at the Hofbrauhaus. Good beer, but I wouldn't go back for the food. Played bingo at Terribles and I hit a $110 jackpot! That was a nice momentum shift.

Tuesday was Mega Bingo session two. While waiting for the event to start, I won $100 on one of the new Jeopardy machines. 'I'll take slot machines for $100, please Alex.' Oh, I just did. Again, was close on various games, but no winner. Would we play Mega Bingo again? Between the buy-in and the mandatory preliminary games/electronic machine rental, we spent a lot more than we would for the same time playing regular sessions, but without the guaranteed pay-outs. One lucky person won the final $100,000 Cover-All. Hmm, a chance to win a life-altering sum? I could be convinced to return. We played at various other casinos including the Santa Fe Station (another great Star Trek bonus round) and Terribles where I won another $110 bingo jackpot! Dinner was at the Ellis Island restaurant. After an hour (!) wait, we were finally seated. The maitre d' lied about calling our number. She never did. Had we not been persistent about being seated, we might still be waiting. All of the food is home-made and quite tasty. The bleu cheese dressing was outstanding. The not-so-secret 'secret' steak special was a little on the tough side, but one doesn't expect Ruth's Chris for $6.99. The special includes a decent sized salad, 10 ounce steak, a baked potato, green beans, and either root beer or beer. Not a small glass, but a pretty sizable glass of fresh, home brewed golden goodness. Mmmmmm, tasty beer. I'd be willing to order the special just for the salad, spud and suds.

The Mega Bingo packet included free meals at the Gold Coast's Ports Of Call Buffet. Although the selections were pretty much the same each morning, and the Omelet 'caller' was more like the Omelet Nazi, it's definitely a cheap and filling meal. The fried eggs were cooked to perfection. The coffee was pretty rancid; I had to get a cup of Seattle's Best. If staying at the Gold Coast, it's a good choice for breakfast.

Wednesday morning we visited the Vdara Hotel. Very beautiful all-suite rooms with contemporary furnishings, and killer views. When leaving, I found two twenty dollar bills on the ground (jackpot!) and we decided to put this 'voodoo money' to good cause: morning bingo at Terribles. Would the third time be even luckier? Nope, no winners. After spending time at a trade show, the 'real' purpose of the trip, we headed downtown. Dinner was at 777 at the Main Street Station. Great beer and well recommended. The beer sampler alone is worth the drive. One of the most friendly and efficient servers we've ever encountered. Emerson Drive kicked off the NFR at the FSE. Great 75 minute set attended by over 1500 fans. For those unfamiliar with The Drive, their hit songs include 'Fall Into Me,' 'I Should Be Sleeping,' and the very inspirational 'Moments.' This is the second time I've seen The Drive in Vegas and they put on a very entertaining show.

Thursday we did something we've wanted to do on numerous visits and finally saw: the Atomic Testing Museum. This is one of the best museums in Las Vegas and presents a very good, balanced view of the Nevada Test Site. Well worth a stop! Next we headed to The M. Had a great lunch at the Red Cup Café, they have the best fries in Vegas, and played some of the fun, new machines including the Airplane! Machine. Very fun bonus round if you're lucky enough to get it. We think that The M 'test drives' the newest machines. Which also seem to be set tighter than at any other casino. Thursday afternoon we toured the new Aria Hotel. The public spaces are fantastic but we think the rooms are an afterthought. They are small, filled with the 'latest technology' which not everyone loves, and have a very unusual shower/bath configuration in the bathroom. Definitely not for everyone. Jen headed back to the room and I walked around the new Crystals Mall. Very inefficient use of space - beautiful from the outside but lacking on the inside. The whole City Center concept, though, is a very unique one - almost like a vision of the future where people live, shop, and dine. I would include 'work,' but I doubt that the employees will be able to afford to live at the Veer or Cosmopolitan once these open. Spent a good hour walking up and down The Strip, people watching, and enjoying the Vegas vibe. Thursday night we dined at Primarily Prime Rib. One of the better steakhouses in Vegas; limited menu but a very romantic setting.

Friday morning and my flight home came too soon. The tale of the tape: gained six pounds and lost around $150.00. That's practically a win for a week in Nevada. I do get gambling-saturated a few days in and lay low the latter part of the trip. Walking The Strip on a brisk fall evening is satisfying enough for me. Since the NFR was in town, the city was, for the most part, packed. One clear exception: Monday afternoon I walked around the Rio and it was practically deserted. It was like Home Depot on Super Bowl Sunday. With the excitement of City Center opening and the Rodeo, Vegas was wall-to-wall.

Thanks for reading - have a happy, safe, and prosperous 2010, the year we make contact. Cheers.