Our trip from December 5th to 12th was the most time we have ever spent in Vegas for one continuous stretch. I am happy to report that the entire time was enjoyable and in the end, as always, we were sad to be leaving and wondering when we might be able to return again.

Highlights of this trip included a combined meet with OV and LasVegas4Ever members and re-connecting with an old college buddy who has moved to Vegas.

I don't normally expand on the traveling portion of a trip, but when we left St. Louis Saturday morning, December 5th, I was a little apprehensive because we had less than an hour make our connecting flight in LA. Our original reservation on American Airlines was for a direct flight, but they cut their flights out of STL after we booked, and our direct flight became a connecting one through Los Angeles. As we were backing out of the gate, the pilot came on and stated that we would have to pull back in and de-ice as they noticed some frost on the wings. I am all for safety, but this plane had been sitting at the gate for two hours prior to departure. I would have thought someone might have noticed the frost/ice prior to boarding all of the passengers and backing away from the gate. The result was a take-off about 30 minutes late. So, now I spent the flight time between STL and LA wondering if we would make our connection. Luckily, our arrival gate was close to our departure gate for LAS and we walked straight from one plane and on to the other. I guess in hind sight, it was perfect timing, but a little too close for my comfort.

Our return flights were on time and the leg between LA and STL was only about half full which allowed for everyone to have plenty of room to stretch out and relax.

I will fly SW exclusively from now on for my Vegas trips as they are the only carrier now offering non-stops from St. Louis to Las Vegas.

Arriving in Vegas, we hopped on the shuttle to the car rental facility, and using my recently acquired Alamo QuickSilver account, we checked in at the kiosk, went to the garage and drove away in our compact car in about 5 minutes total time. I found a great rate for the week made better by using an Entertainment Book coupon which brought the weekly total with all taxes fees to $120.00. I used to be dead-set against renting a car in Vegas, but I am now familiar enough with the city to feel comfortable getting around. I have most of the side streets and short cuts figured out, and at rates like above, it is much cheaper than taking cabs and/or the bus from both a financial and time perspective.

We pulled out of the renal facility at approximately 2:30 and headed north up the Strip directly to the Peppermill. The meager breakfast we had at home at 5:30 a.m. Central time and the apples we brought to snack on had long since ceased to sustain us and we did not have time to grab anything in LA. I ordered a Ruben with potato salad and my wife had the Philly Cheese with onion rings. Both were awesome and while I managed to put all of my food away, my wife could not seem to finish hers. I tried to help her out, but we wound up leaving some of hers which amounted to a typical Peppermill experience.

Off to check in at the Flamingo for our seven night reservation. I had 5 nights comped, having to pay $50 for the first and $40 for the last. We also double booked for two nights Monday and Tuesday at Planet Hollywood. They sent me an offer a couple weeks before we left for two free nights and some free play, so I thought this would be a good opportunity to check the property out. I know I will go against standard thinking here, but I thought our regular room at the Flamingo was nicer. The Flamingo room was much larger than the PH room, and the small window in the PH room made it very dark. The advantage of the PH room was the view we had looking out over the Bellagio fountains and the Eifel Tower at Paris.

Checking in at the Flamingo, we were offered an upgrade to a 'Go Room' for $30 per night which I passed on. We were given room 15006 in the main tower which overlooked Bill's parking garage and Flamingo Road. We also had a partial view of the Bellagio fountains. The room was fine and as I said, it was much larger and brighter than the room at PH. One thing which was a minor inconvenience was that there did not appear to be any way to get heat into the room. The thermostat only seemed to offer cooling, and with the weather in Vegas last week, a little heat in the room would have been nice on a couple of the mornings. It wasn't even enough of an inconvenience to ask about. I like a room cooler anyway for sleeping.

After settling in the room, we spent the rest of Saturday afternoon/evening patrolling our usual haunts mid-Strip: Bill's, Imperial Palace, Casino Royale and the Mirage. I held my own at craps and blackjack ending up slightly, wile my wife donated about as much as I won back to video poker. We had a good first day and made it 'til bout 11:30 p.m. Not bad for a couple of Midwestern 49 year-olds on their first night in Vegas!

We woke at about 6:30 Sunday morning, and after turning on the television, were reminded that today was the day for the Las Vegas Marathon. It had started at about 6 a.m., and looking out our window, we could see the stream of runners making their way north on the Strip. Quite an impressive site, and with the staggered start for the thousands of runners, the stream was steady for the next couple of hours. I believe the Strip was closed from Charleston all the way down to Mandalay Bay for most of the morning.

We got out of the room around 7:30. I stopped by the sports book and placed a bet on the Rams/Bears game, taking the Rams and the 9 points. They lost by 8, so I won that bet. We walked over to Bill's for breakfast in the Victorian Room. The meal was very good and reasonably priced.

We had arranged to meet up with my college buddy at 1 p.m. downtown, so we once again made the rounds of our regular casinos until it was time to head to Fremont Street.

We started off at the MSS Boar's Head Bar playing video poker. I love this place and it seems like I hit more good hands there than any place else in Vegas. I would bet that during the course of the week, my wife and I got 15 to 20 scratch-offs for hitting four-of-a-kinds. My wife also hit for two straight flushes at the Boar's Head during the week. The bartenders are also great and every one of them is genuinely friendly and seems glad that you are there.

After meeting up with my friend, we grabbed a late lunch at the MSS Brew Pub. I had fish and chips which were lightly battered and delicious. We took a stroll down Fremont, ending at the El Cortez for a short blackjack session. My friend quickly lost $60, and not being much of a gambler, was ready to find a sports bar to watch the end of the late football games. We made our way back to the Four Queens and caught the last half of the Cowboys/Giants game in their sports bar. After the game, we parted ways with plans to meet up again later in the week for an outing to Valley of Fire State Park.

Back to the Strip for us, as it was time to park the car and do some serious drinking and gambling. We wound up the evening a couple hundred on the plus side for the day when it was all said and done.

Monday was the day for the OV/LasVegas4ever meets with the OV meet scheduled for 2 p.m. and the LV4E meet at 3 p.m. Prior to the meets, we checked in to Planet Hollywood, bringing an overnight bag with us in case we decided to stay there. We also made reservations at Casa Di Amore for Monday evening so we could take advantage of a $25 certificate I purchased from restaurant.com.

The meets were held at the Garden Bar in the Flamingo. Nice place to gather and the drink prices are reasonable compared to other Vegas bars. Thanks for the recommendation Rhonda!

My wife and I were the first to arrive. From OV, missymo46 and her husband Clive, Vegas_runner and Rhonda were expected. Vegas_runner wound up being MIA, but missymo46, Clive and Rhonda showed up. Klk1 was actually the organizer of this meet, but she was planning on running in the marathon and suffered an injury, so she canceled her trip. Hope you are feeling better.

From LV4E, attendees were VegasSun and husband, breanna61and husband and kydds. Sorry, I have forgotten the spouses' names. I believe there was another attendee from LV4E towards the end, but I never got to introduce myself. Sorry for the oversight. I am sure it will be duly noted in someone else's report!

It was great to meet everyone! Special thanks to VegasSun for the coupons she left at the meet. We took advantage of the Ellis Island and some of the downtown ones. Thanks as well to Rhonda for taking the time to brave the cold and rain to make it down to the Strip. I know it was a bit of a pain getting there, but we truly enjoyed your company.

If anyone has the opportunity, be sure to ask Rhonda about her experience with Moose's and cold Monkey Bars! That's all I'm going to say about that! Life should have some mystery!

We excused ourselves from the meet around 5:45 p.m. as we had 7 p.m. reservations at Casa Di Amore. The drive to the restaurant proved interesting due in part to the rain and the hordes of cowboys making their way to the Thomas and Mack center for the rodeo. The NFR was in full swing during the week and Stetsons and country music were plentiful! They all seemed to be good people having a great time.

Dinner at Casa Di Amore was great as usual. We are making it a point to dine here every trip. Sundays and Mondays offer bottles of wine for half off, so we had a bottle of Pinot Noir with dinner. Our meals consisted of Shrimp Scampi for my wife and a shrimp/pasta dish in a vodka sauce for me. Both meals were excellent, and with our certificate, only $79 including tip. We have never been disappointed in our meals here and the quality is top notch without the pretentiousness of some of the Strip restaurants.

One complaint: No Spumoni ice cream! How can an Italian restaurant not offer Spumoni ice cream for dessert?

We decided to give PH a try for the night, so I parked the car there on the way back from Casa Di Amore. My wife hit the wall early, and went to bed. I proceeded to the 'Pleasure Pit' for a session of blackjack. I was surprised to find fairly good rules here, with blackjack paying 3:2. I spent a couple of hours at a $15 table, eventually losing my $100 buy in but enjoying the company and entertainment.

Off to bed relatively early.

Tuesday morning's breakfast was at Ellis Island, using a 2 for 1 ACG coupon. Even at full price, the ham steak and eggs is a deal at $5.99, but to get two for that price is unbelievable. Best ham steak I have ever had and big enough for two or three people!

The rest of Tuesday seems to escape me. I do know that it was probably my worst day of gambling. We decided to move back to the Flamingo for the night as we preferred that room to PH.

Wednesday was planned as an outing day with my college buddy and his wife. We started the day off taking a tour of the house they are in the process of buying. He is an insurance inspector, and his territory includes southern and central California. After checking out their house, we had breakfast at a place which is at the intersection of Charleston and Apache. I can't remember the name of the restaurant, but the food was excellent. They are known for their home made muffins, and they were delicious! I had smoked salmon eggs Benedict which was very good, but very rich.

After breakfast, we headed out to the Valley of Fire for the day. We chose a great day for our excursion, as Wednesday was probably the pick day of the week featuring sunny skies and a temperature of around 50 degrees. This was perfect weather for getting out and taking short hikes in the park. The highlight of the day was coming up on a heard of big horn sheep roaming near the visitor's center. At first, we only saw a group of three or four females, but after a while, a good sized male came sauntering up. He had a huge set of horns and I was lucky to get a few pictures if him.

For dinner Wednesday evening, we took a suggestion from Rhonda from Open Vegas and tried a local place called Bob Taylor's Ranch House. This is a steak place on the outskirts of Vegas which is housed in a very rustic building and has been around for years. It is in a location that suggests it once sat by itself in the middle of nowhere, but Vegas has slowly but surely grown up around it. Great steaks! I had a 16 ounce rib eye and my wife had the 8 ounce fillet. The meat was cooked perfectly with a great loaded baked potato on the side. A couple of beers with our meal and the bill came to a little over $70.00. Again, a great bargain compared to a steak place on the Strip and the meal could not have been any better!

With all the fresh air and a good steak in our bellies, we headed back to the Flamingo and were in bed by 10:30.

Thursday and Friday are a bit of a blur. I know we went back downtown both days and this is when my wife hit her straight flushes at MSS. There was nothing terribly memorable for me gambling-wise as I basically broke even both days.

We went to Ellis Island for dinner Thursday evening, and using another ACG 2 for 1 coupon, had their barbecue. We each had the combo platter with chicken and ribs and it was some of the best barbecue I have ever had. Sides of corn on the cob, slaw, baked beans and bread come with the meal. With the coupon, the cost for both meals before tip was less than $10.00! Unbelievable!

We had breakfast at Denny's Saturday morning before heading to the airport for our flight. On the walk back to the Flamingo to pick up the car, my wife made about $60 on a Wheel of Fortune machine at Casino Royale and I stopped in at the IP for one last blackjack session and won $120.00 before it was time to leave. A good way to end the trip!

As always, we had a great time in our favorite place and are already looking for an excuse to make plans for our next visit, hopefully late spring or early summer next year.