Monday, February 27, 2006

Vegas TR!

MGM Feb 15-20, 2006

Pre-trip Feb 14
I suppose I should’ve known actually getting to and from Vegas would be an issue judging by how things started on February 14. Maybe it was a full moon or my chakras weren’t aligned or something. My plan was to leave on Amtrak from DC area to Philly after work on the 14th, as my sisters live in Philly and I always just meet up with them there and we fly out the next day.

I called a cab from my apartment at 5:45 PM. My train was to leave at 7:21 and the station is only 15 minutes away. By 6:10, no one had shown up.

I called again – “OK we’ll send someone.” “Uh…no you were supposed to send someone BEFORE.” “Oh, right, yeah they’re on their way…10 or 15 minutes.” Uh huh. Right.

Since I’m a nice person, I waited until 6:30 to call them back. “Yeah hi remember me? Person with suitcase? Needing a cab?” “Your cab came already – there was no one there.” “Pardon me if I’m wrong, but isn’t your company policy to CALL when the cab arrives?” “Yes – it says here that’s what the policy is.” “Right, so, why didn’t I get a call?” “Well, it says here the driver should have called.” “Yes he should have. So why didn’t he?” “Do you want another cab?” “Well I’m still here, aren’t I? What do you think? And could ya hurry it? You people are making me late.”

So this time I go outside. In the cold. In the dark. With a big azz suitcase. Wishing they would drive by me so I can have a choice conversation with them. 6:50. No cab. “Yeah. Hi. Cab?” “Oh.” “Oh? Where’s my cab?” “Well it says here they made a drop off at 6:43 and left at 6:46. Someone must have taken your cab.” “AUGHHHHH!” “We’ll send out another cab.” “Really. I’ll believe that when I see it.”

Apparently the fourth time’s the charm as this cab actually showed up. And that’s all it did. I understand this is 2006 and women are empowered and all, but would it KILL the driver to get out and HELP me with my suitcase? All he did was pop the trunk and grunt and point.

At any rate, I finally got to the train station where I had to wait for an hour and a half for the next (and final) train to Philly. Seeing as though I’d missed the 7:21 by 10 minutes. I love the cabs here – they’re all independently owned by people who make you wonder if they have a valid license (my guess is “NO”).

Feb 15
We have a fourth person going with us this trip. A Vegas virgin. Which amuses us immensely as we like to corru…ah…teach new people. Being smart, we’d arranged an airport shuttle to take us to the airport. We were due out at 7:45 AM on a US Air flight, so of course the man called at 3:00 to say he’d be there in a few. Uh no you won’t. Especially since you’re not due here until 5:15. Just thought you’d like to know. He apparently reads his instructions – ah yes yes 5:15. Uh huh right thanks. I guess being a driver for a shuttle does not entail actually needing to know how to get around the city. Since he called my sister and she was on the phone with him for 20 minutes directing him to their apartment. He finally got there more or less on time. We make the fun trek with two bags a piece down the stairs (3rd floor walkup) to the front (two sets of stairs). Keep in mind; this part of the East Coast had just had a foot of snow, which makes for great fun at 5 in the morning in the dark. After my sister fell on a solid sheet of black ice, got stared at by the man who eventually decided to help her, we were on our merry way…. after telling him how to get to the next pick up spot. We made a special note to not ever use that transport service again.

We finally got to the airport, did curbside check-in, made it through security in 15 minutes or so, got to the gate, didn’t have to wait long, and we were on our way. I mean, until we apparently got stuck behind a Southwest plane and had to decrease our speed. So said the pilot. I don’t think he was too fond of Southwest. Anyway we finally get to Vegas. Late. Around 10:55 Pacific Time. But only a half an hour, which is better than the hour last trip. Two of us go to check in at the MGM airport desk and the other two go to find the baggage and the limo driver (whoo-hoo Presidential!). We got checked in (rooms not ready, though), met up with everyone else, and we were on our merry way to MGM in the limo w/the Vegas virgin in tow. I was just happy to be back in my happy place again. Sure it had only been 5 months, but dammit those 5 months were LONG.

Since we had eleventy-seven (heavy) bags and a now useless collection of winter coats, we let the bellhop take our stuff and store it for us, got our claim ticket (oh so that’s how that works), and went off to Rainforest Café to eat. We must eat there once a trip (no I don’t know why – we just do). The line took forever to get through, we were ready to gnaw an arm off (no time to eat before the flight, and I made a mistake of buying food from the plane a few trips ago – mmmm foil flavored biscuit), but bacon cheeseburgers make all right in the world. Or bacon cheeseburgers in Vegas, at least.

The rest of the day consisted of going to the castle to pick up Thunder From Down Under tickets (yes I mention them in every TR and yes we go multiple times every trip – sue me) and signing our Vegas virgin friend up for the MGM and The One Club players club cards. If I remember correctly, we may have paid Luxor and Mandalay a visit that day, too. Since we were already over there. And we were in VEGAS baby! Whoo! We finally got to our rooms, had our bags delivered, and then were dead to the world until 7 or so. Naps – the East Coaster’s secret weapon. Heh.

We eventually got ourselves together and got back to the Castle in time for the 10:30 Thunder show (which I’ll skip details of for the sake of the men on the board – see, aren’t I sweet?). But I will mention that my sister Ms. Butterfingers did manage to fling her strawberry daiquiri on the Vegas virgin’s white shirt at the show. This was only to be the first of three drink mishaps. I’m not sitting near her anymore. By the time the show ended at midnight, we’d been up pretty much 24 hours. But we weren’t tired and we were determined not to go to bed like a bunch of old women. Like the last three trips. * hangs head in shame *

In the last three trips, we’d never been off Strip. So we decided to pay a visit to Palms. It was rather…dead, actually. I suppose that was due to the fact it was the middle of the week in winter. Eh oh well. Least we could say we’d been there. We played a little, lost a little, got the Vegas virgin hooked on WOF, remembered we hadn’t eaten since 11-ish and went to eat at 24/7. Or whatever that was. Something. As you’ll see in the pictures I’ll be posting (after my sister finishes the uploads), sometimes fish and chips can be…obscene.

Feb 16-20
Because things get hazy and run together, I’ll just lump everything else together here. The next day I was awake by 6 freakin’ 45. No I don’t know why. My sister and I amused ourselves by texting back and forth between our rooms. The Vegas virgin was also awake reading “Angels and Demons” (apt, no?). My other sister was…asleep. Or would have been if I didn’t keep whispering annoying things to her. Heh. I think that was the day we decided on going off-Strip again – this time to Rio for lunch (by the time we finally got going). 11 stations are perfect for greedy people like me. Of course I saved most of my room for dessert. Sugar is heaven. And heaven is Vegas. So does that mean sugar is Vegas? Hmm.

Anyway, we cabbed over to TI from Rio and went to the Tix4Tonight booth at Fashion Show Mall to get tickets for the Star Trek Experience. Yes we’re all big nerds. But the Vegas virgin hadn’t been yet, so who were we to say no? While we were at that end of the Strip, we decided to cross over to Wynn, since we’d somehow not made it there on the previous trip. Well I do see what all the excitement’s about. Gorgeous place. Didn’t go in any of the stores, as none of us can afford to buy the clothes we’d need just to go in. Somehow four black chicks in sneakers and jeans, no matter how nice, just didn’t feel right. Oooh Manolo! But moving on, yes a beautiful place and somewhere I’d stay just once (of course I said “just once” about Vegas, too, so….). We signed up for the Red Card, and yes they’re still running the 50 points for a buffet deal. Which we didn’t take advantage of because we only played a little bit that day (not sure how I feel about the casino, yet).

After gawking at Wynn, we cabbed over to the LV Hilton to do the Star Trek Experience. On the way, we signed up for the Resorts card (Why not? Didn’t have that one yet, either.). We did the Borg whatsit first followed by the Klingon Encounter (gotta love the half price ticket – it gets you admission to both). Afterwards, we headed over to Quark’s for the express purpose of getting the Warpcore Breach again. The waiter told us there was also a new one out, the Borg Sphere. Which comes in a fishbowl as well, but is a noxious green. You’ll see from the pictures – when I post them. He somehow talked us into getting two – one for each pair of people. Why we listened to him, I’ll never know. Let’s just say that by the end of that experience, we’d been picked on by a Klingon, discovered that there was apparently more alcohol in that drink than one would think, and been convinced to take our ice cream toppings back with us to our rooms (hey, it seemed like a good idea at the time). We took Monorail back (Vegas virgin needed to experience these things, we felt) to MGM, stumbled back to the 15th floor and took the ever-present nap.

That night we headed to Riviera to go to the American Storm show and meet up w/some people we know who live in Vegas. That’s also where my sister knocked over her second drink of the trip. This time she flung a Jack and Coke that, thankfully ended up on no one. Unfortunately the showroom Storm performs in turns into Syn City after the show. Oh. My. GOD. I’ll never get that hour and a half of my life after the show back. We were so depressed after seeing that
* ahem * club we just headed back to MGM, past Tabu (oh look there are all the people), and went to bed.

The following day we contemplated Aladdin or Paris for breakfast but laziness availed and we went to House of Blues, instead. I finally got to try stuffed French toast. My stomach is STILL happy. That might actually inspire me to actually make breakfast once in a while. The waitress gave us some tickets to something they have on Friday nights. We didn’t make it there, but free is free. I believe we spent time in Luxor and Mandalay Place people watching. And still didn’t make it to damn Burger Bar. Oh well. There’s always next time.

That night was again a Thunder night (yes again – told you, multiple times). Then we decided to try out Peppermill (yes, I know, FINALLY). That décor would be tacky anywhere else, but I loved the atmosphere and the food.

From there we went over to Riviera to get a cab. Which drove past us and picked up some other people. Bastards. So we went through Riviera, which for some reason, was filled with some of the creepiest losers I’ve ever come across. We got out of there quickly and decided that was perhaps not the place to be at that time of night. Still no cab, so we went over to Stardust. Which we’d meant to check out, anyway, before it’s gone. That was pretty full, it took a year to find the front, and we got out there in time to get the one lone cab sitting there. Which we hailed over ourselves since there was no door person.

The following day, the Vegas virgin was tired and wanted to stay in. We all slept in and then my sisters and myself decided to cab over to Bellagio to look at the Conservatory. Yes we missed the Conservatory the other trips, too. And what? I have to say, that was really quite beautiful to see. It was decorated for the Chinese New Year with the Year of the Dog. Although I wasn’t too keen on the animatronic dog – too much like that creepy Teddy Ruxpin thing – only GIANT. As you’ll see in the pictures (eventually) we liked it very much and got pictures from all angles. After B, we paid a visit to Bally’s since one sister had never been there (this was her second trip). We played a little there then made the mistake of eating at the café there. Won’t be doing that again. The food was passable, but really not worth the time of stopping. From there we headed straight through to Paris and wandered around a bit. We always like looking at the lobby of Paris (yes we notice odd things). After that, we headed back to MGM to get ready for (you guessed it) another Thunder show. After that, there was something we’ll just leave alone and refer to as “The Chase”. Then we headed over to NYNY for the sole purpose that we’d ignored it our last two trips. We ended up at Studio Café at MGM for our usual 1 or 2 AM “dinner”. I swear we saw Marc Sommers from Food Network’s “Unwrapped” (or Nickelodeon’s “Double Dare” for those who grew up when I did). We enjoyed our meal there while studiously avoiding the stares of the creepy man to our right and the very cute but naughty man in front of us whose girlfriend had gone to the bathroom.

Our last full day, the depression set in, since we would be going home tomorrow. We spent most of the day hanging around MGM. Then we went to The Venetian. The Vegas virgin has a thing for Grand Luxe café, since she’d been to one of the few around the country. We took some pictures in the hotel, played a little, and headed to Grand Luxe. I was rather impressed. It’s on par, I’d say with The Cheesecake Factory (same company) or maybe half a step up. Some folks probably wouldn’t like it, but it’s not bad for just wanting to get something to eat. The portions were huge, though. That night was, of course, another, and our last, Thunder show. And this is where my sister got me good with the third flung drink of the trip. A nice 151 and Coke dead in my lap. I did learn that it is possible to run from the Castle to MGM in 4” heels without killing yourself or anyone else. Even though I did miss the first 15 minutes of the show. We went to bed shortly after the show since we knew we had to drag ourselves reluctantly out of the hotel to catch our flight for 12:30 the next day.

The next day arrives. Everyone is WAY down. And we’re already plotting for our next trip (July 15-21 tentatively lol). We get the bell desk to get our luggage, bypass the cab line, and get to the airport in a reasonable amount of time. Now if you’ll think back to the beginning of this admittedly long azz TR, you’ll remember my comments about getting there and back. Here we go.

We go to do curbside check-in with US Air. We’re asked where we’re going – Philly w/a connecting in Pittsburgh. Silence. Then – I heard that flight’s delayed – you need to go inside to the desk. Um. OK. Sure. As we stand in line, we start to look around. There’s an inordinate amount of distinctly unhappy people. Interesting. Being nosy, I start looking at the self-check-in kiosks beside us. Oh look – hers says “Your flight has been cancelled. There are no more flights today.” She looks thrilled. And theirs says “Your flight has been delayed. This will cause you to miss your connecting flight.” Lovely. Look over to the left – there’s someone who can’t seem to get to New York – we’re sorry sir, there’s nothing we can do right now. Uh-oh. It seems that anything coming to or from the East Coast is either delayed or not coming at all. We all call various East Coasters to see what the hell is going on. Nothing that they know of. O….kay. We watch as people continue to try to check in at the kiosks, only to be turned away. We gather that flight status is still being listed as on time and you don’t find out that it’s not on time until you actually get to the airport. That’s a great way to operate and keep your customers happy, dontcha think? I’m sure you’ve noticed that we made a lot of observations. That’s because we hadn’t moved in that line for a good half hour. Ah finally our tu…OH HELL NO. One of those little green vested men just cut in front of us with not a word or glance our way so that two people with him could go first. THEY WEREN’T EVEN IN THE LINE. He refuses to look at us, so we go up to him and have a nice conversation with him. He mutters something and turns his back. Oh I see how it’s going to be. 20 minutes LATER the line cutters are finished and they get multiple pairs of evil eyes at their backs since they cut off everyone else, too. We make sure to mention to the ticket agent that we’re not particularly appreciative at the moment. So can we get moving and just get us our new ticket or whatever. So he looks. And looks. Clears his throat. Looks some more. Um. Well THAT’S not good. After searching US Air, America West (apparently they’re not fully merged as of yet), and all the other airlines, the best he can get us is a 10:59 PM flight on America West. Arriving in Philly at 6 AM. We just look at him. Surely you jest. There’s nothing? No Southwest? No Delta? Ya can’t fly us to LAX and out of there? Nothing connecting in Phoenix? Salt Lake City? Cincinnati? Hm – apparently not. So yes…it is 11 AM….we won’t be leaving for another 12 hours.

He points us to a direction to turn in our itinerary vouchers. Did you know you can’t check in your luggage until 4 hours before the flight? I didn’t. I do now. The lady is like hm…you can’t even go through security. Oh and you have bags. Wow, that’s too bad. Ooh YA THINK?! We contemplate going back into town, but we’re also hoping that mayyyyyybe something else will come up. Which of course it doesn’t, but fools can always hope. I’m now keeping a running tally of things to put in my letter to US Air.

Did you know that there’s not ONE restaurant before security? So we enjoyed a meal of gummy worms, oriental mix and water in between sleeping, reading, moving to warmer chairs, sleeping, buying a new book because I finished the one I had, sleeping, and growing increasingly exponentially disgruntled. I also make a mental note to watch that movie “Terminal”.

At 6:59 PM on the dot, we make our way to the desk we’d been pointed to. Only to be told that was the wrong desk and we needed to get in line at the America West counter. Thanks US Air. So we get in line. They ask us where the rest of the papers are. Blank stares and WTF are you talking about? Apparently the US Air agent failed to give us…something (good customer service, maybe?). They talk to us slowly like we’re the idiots. We talk to them slowly back. No. We. Did. Not.Get. Anyyyyything. Else. This. Is. What. We. Got. After that exchange they head over to the US Air counter to get some paperwork that they weren’t provided with. They give us their phony Chiclet smiles and say oh well we’re not fully merged and thanks for your patience, to which the Vegas virgin replies, “Don’t thank us ‘til we’re done with you.” Eventually they get whatever it was they needed and give us our tickets. For all middle seats (oh joy, but at least we got a flight out). They all had “Lane 9” written on them in red Sharpie. I also failed to notice the letters “SSSS” printed on the ticket.

For those of you uninformed, let me tell you about Lane 9. It’s…interesting. I must thank TSA and America West for giving me yet another brand new experience. Lane 9 is one of those special security lanes. The kind where they let one person through a little waist high gate at a time. However, you don’t have to remove your shoes. OK. I go through the gate (after walking down a glass-walled “lane”), they snatch my ID, boarding pass and bags before giving me the staredown and point me to this…thing. It sounds like an MRI machine, looks like a transporter from Star Trek, and blows puffs of air at you. I felt violated and wondered who was looking at my goodies. From there you’re directed to a standard metal detector. OK fine moving on. You’re then barked at to sit down right there. Where a nice gloved TSA agent proceeds to look at your ticket an ID they’ve snatched, give you the once over and then opens all your carry on stuff in front of you and paws through it. At which point I got the giggles. I couldn’t help it - as I wondered what could possibly be in my ceramic curling iron or my makeup case and I was quite thankful I hadn’t put any dirty underwear in there or something. I almost completely lost it when they swabbed my cell phone (at least he put it back where he found it), struggled to look through my purse (what? I’m female. Serves you right, nosy.), and finally sent all of us on our way (yes, all 4 of us got Lane 9 status). At this point I was of the mind of what else could go wrong, this is unbelievable, this is going in my TR.

We eventually get on the (overbooked) flight. I get in my seat. That’s a middle seat. In the very back row. Across from the bathroom. All I have to say about this flight is that apparently middle of the night flights in a cramped back row in a middle seat give me claustrophobia I never knew I had. Oh and the lady on my left had a farting problem (until she finally decided to go to the bathroom) and the man on my left was doing something with his hand in his lap and making occasional “Ohhhugghhhh!” sounds. Philly NEVER looked so good. And we got in on time. Unfortunately, the lovely transport service did not and they sent us the same map-challenged man who arrived an hour late at 7 AM.

Things I’ve learned on this trip? I hate USAir and America West. With a passion. Use a different transport service. Call the cab an hour ahead. Staying up late is GREAT! And I must thank everyone for the suggestions of visiting Peppermill, using Earplanes (LIFESAVERS!), and using Airborne (whether psychosomatic or not, I didn’t get sick this time).

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Your Hair Should Be Blue
Wild, brilliant, and out of control.You're a risk taker with an eye to the future.