So, I've been neglecting this blog terribly. Why?
I still haven't written up the Vegas trip. OK, well, before I forget completely, here goes:
Flew in Saturday around noon or so and went for lunch in the Venetian. Some Mexican joint on the canal. It was OK, and it was nice to sit and observe the people who paid for gondola rides. Some of the gondoliers were good singers, some sucked. We watched a couple get married on a gondola, which was mostly funny because the groom was smacking on gum the entire time.
After lunch, we grabbed some Guinness at the store since all the bars were serving crap like Budweiser and Coors, and proceeded to our hotel, The Imperial Palace.
This place is cool because you get to stay right in the middle of the strip without paying the $300+ per night, or more, that the other central strip hotels cost. How much time do you really spend in your room anyway? How MANY flat screen TV's do you REALLY need in your room? (Wynn) Do you actually need a sunken living room? (Venetian) Are you planning to invite fifty people to a party in your gigantic bathroom? (Bellagio)
The Imperial Palace is no worse than a Days Inn or something, once you get to the elevators. (you have to walk through a loud smokey casino, surprise, surprise) And it cost $168 for two nights on a weekend, while being right in the middle of everything.
GOOD things about the Imperial Palace?
1.) The hotel is old enough that the windows actually OPEN, and even onto balconies (new hotels aren't allowed, you're just sealed in) Paul took advantage of this by making paper airplanes of the magazines, and flying Siegfried and Roy around in the courtyard.
2.) The Imperial Palace is home to a pit of DEALERTAINERS. I don't gamble, so I don't know or care whether this was a good place to gamble or whatever, but I got some wonderful free Vegas Bullshit. The dealers in this pit are all celebrity "impersonators." I use that term loosely because they were terrible, and half the time you couldn't tell who they were supposed to be until they got up (which they did every few minutes) and started belting out a song by their victim celebrity. I mean, so what if your a short black dude? You can still be a Brittany Spears impersonator if you want, apparently.
It was really cool.
After getting my drink on in the hotel, we started out to wander the strip and make our way to the Orleans. Snaked a ride on the free shuttle and found ourselves off the strip. The Orleans has an "Irish Pub" (everything in Vegas deserves airquotes, since everything is so fucking surreal and fake) so we settled in for Guinness and pizza while we waited. It took forever, but we got good and drunk, thankfully, because all the arena had for us was Budweiser again.
And then, SUNDAY SUNDAY SUNDAY, we were there!
OK, really, it was Saturday Saturday Saturday, but it doesn't sound the same.
I bought tickets for the whole seat, but I only needed the edge. Well, and the cup holder.
The track was INSANE. Sitting there waiting for the lights to go down, I'm like, uhhh, this CANNOT work.
OH, but it did. Top riders from many different places, many different types of races (supercross riders, motocross riders, trials riders, etc) competed on a track they had been given no practice time on, a track that had GIANT logs, woops, a water crossing, a rock section, a monster truck tire "jump," horizontal tires, parallel logs, and, um, rubber duckies.
Well, I know, and I asked folks if they wanted to go, they didn't show interest. You all missed the fuck out. This was SO GODDAM FUN.
It seemed like every rider crashed in every single lap. A race like this is cool because you never know what is going to happen. The front guy will become the back guy, and then back to front again and then crash three feet from finish. So much fun to watch.
There was regular occurrence of multi-bike pile-ups in the giant log section which was right in front of us. Here, even without wrecking into other riders, most guys would lose their shit and have to get off the bike (if they hadn't already ended up off) and coax their machines over the "logs" while standing next to them feathering the clutch. Sometimes they would get hit from behind while doing this.
The winner was from Isle of Man, and appeared to have quite nice teeth for a Manx-man.
I took about a million pictures, and even some crap video, which is cool to see how the track really ran. I got my drink on and yelled. It was a great time.
We snuck onto the shuttle again and enjoyed some really wonderful drunk farm boy entertainment. Again, FREE. Fuck you, vegas, I don't need to drop $$$$ to have laughs and smiles.
Endurocross was THE BEST RACE I HAVE EVER SEEN.
More farting around on the strip. I think this is Saturday, standing at the Bellagio, looking over the water towards Paris.
I'm old and turned into a pumpkin before 2:00 sometime. I don't know. I drink.
Sunday we had to ourselves. We attempted Bellagio buffet, but ended up at the cafe instead. Which was nice. Mimosas were WAY expensive there.
Sunday we decided to wander the strip, going toward Mandalay Bay. I had a place I wanted to show off there (I travel to Vegas occasionally for work, and am getting to know a few "spots" worth seeing)
Drinking in Vegas is over-rated. Unless you're a gambler, you have to buy your drinks. (and if you're putting money in the slots, you're just paying a different way) And the drinks SUCK. Overwhelmingly, they are watered down and way way overpriced. Next time I go for fun, I'm bringing a flask and a bottle of rum or vodka. And possibly picking up a bunch of Guinness on the way in to stash in my hotel and carry around. Because when the mixed drink situation sucks, the beer is a real problem. Budweiser and Coors all around. Something called "Miller?" I don't know, none of it looked beer-like to me. That said, there is a store near the Imperial Palace (where the sidewalk turns in to a cul-de-sack) that sells cans of Guinness. Also, there is a brewpub in the Monte Carlo, a hotel otherwise not notable, except for the INCREDIBLE people watching. We had to sit on the bench and consume our beers so we could get another to go, knowing it would be a long time before we saw dark-brown beer again, and in that time caught some of the most amazing sights of the whole trip.
At New York, we paused to take pictures in front of some meat (I love the fake shit in Vegas. Whose idea was it to put in a fake display of meat?) A few years back, I waited for my friends to get ripped off and ride that roller coaster. I remember it being overpriced and too long a wait. Vegas is lame like that. There is a lot of spectacle to be had for free. So save your money for drinking.
I believe there is also a pub in New York, which I can only assume would have decent beer as well (you gotta map these things out as you plan your day, or risk sobriety)
Finally, we reached my goal: Mandalay Bay, which I'd hoped would have a tiki bar (I wasn't able to find one) But the real thing I wanted to take Paul to was upstairs at MIX. It's a little hard to find from the ground floor, but if you are standing facing the House of Blues (notice the various acts on the marquee in the picture) and turn around to about your 7:00, it is that way. You'll walk into a high-ceilinged room with a back wall of black, with a hostess at a little stand. You'll breeze past her without pause, so she doesn't try to weed out who you are and if you are cool enough, and duck into a small room on the left in the corner, where you'll catch the outside glass elevator (a great view in and of itself) to the top floor. Get here EARLY, and snag a bed/table outside on the patio to watch the lights come up as the sun goes down. Drinks are EXPENSIVE, but there's actually liquor in them so it really isn't worse than what you threw your money away on down in the casinos. Try it Sunday-Wednesday night for the most quiet and least chance of being bumped in favor of some hipster trash who are willing to pay some bottle charge. This is a great spot. Really.
After winding down up at MIX (dinner at the adjoining restaurant is overpriced, in my opinion. I think it was like $30 for nine gnocchi! Thankfully, that was another trip, on the company tab.) we headed down to check out the rest of the Mandalay Bay. I like the restaurant interiors down here. We poked our heads into the various restaurants. Check out Aureole (very cool to see when they are actually getting wine out of the vault) and Red Square, and definitely talk a walk-through of Rum Jungle. Don't miss the bathrooms, but be prepared to tell the bathroom attendants you're just lost. (am I the only one who hates bathroom attendants?) Shanghai Lily is pretty but it was closed, and you can just peek into Fleur de Lys to see the wall treatments with the hostess asking you what you want.
...a nd we hiked back, eventually finding our way to the aquarium at Ceasar's. All the way at the end of the mall. The fish are really neat to watch, and, yes, it's been pointed out to me that those fish don't all belong in the same water, so some or all of them are probably not that happy. The puffer fish was definitely giving off moody airs. The stingray just smiled.
Sunday we had a few hours to kill before leaving. We missed breakfast hour at the Venetian. If you can make it, the Grande Luxe Cafe there has a really good plate of chilaquiles. We did not make it (late by about 4 minutes), so we went for the buffet, which was a total disaster. Don't do it! By the way, on my previous trip, I discovered that the Wynn has a REALLY good buffet. So if you're looking for a good one, that one has little cupcakes and gelato and cheese and all kinds of crap. Cheap, no, but good, yes.
Puttered around the Venetian canal shops, gelato in the "St. Mark's Square" did not live up to my tainted expectations (I've been to St. Marks, and I've had the "best gelato in the world" in San Giminiano) Some opera singers belted out the Fifth Element song (They didn't hold a candle to Marisa.) , which surprised the hell out of me, as I thought they were going for the traditionals, and some other songs. I resisted the temptation to toss gelato on the wedding gondola below, and we left without an escort by security.
Last stop (I think?) was a bar called, I think, Kahunaville? It's probably a chain or something. It smelled a bit like fermenting juice, but they had drinks with big puffy things in them (not quite umbrellas, but there were still eye injuries to be had) and a bartendress who twirled and threw the bottles while she made drinks. She did all of this, behind her back, over her head, into the shakers, into my glass, without really much of a smile. I got a little buzz, and we watched her drop a few bottles before moving on.
Somewhere else, we found a cab and headed to the airport. And home. Where the beer is dark, and the drinks have liquor, and it doesn't cost a million dollars to just enjoy things.
Vegas is kind of lame. It just costs too much. But there is plenty to do even if your a relative cheapskate like me.