I've never been known for my brevity, so here goes...
Travel - My-Sugar-Na's and my flight to Las Vegas was relatively uneventful, especially compared to (Sponsor's Name Here)'s Official Parents. Their flight from Milwaukee was delayed continuously due to weather affecting their inbound plane. When they finally got on, they sat on the tarmac for at least an hour while a fuel gage problem was checked. This caused them to miss their connection in Denver. Their new flight - which was also held up with mechanical problems - got them to Las Vegas a full five hours late. My pops was a none-to-pleasant soul at 1:00 AM Vegas time. My sister and her friends, Jendy Wo, Revvy Al and the Slot Jockey came in Monday morning... their flight was to leave Milwaukee only three hours after my parents arrived. It was kind of cool talking to my sister as she was getting ready to leave - her after waking up and me not having gone to bed yet.
I have been to Vegas now four times in four years, and I still am amazed at how L - O - N - G the stoplights are all over Vegas. I'd bet that in the six days I was there, I lost eight hours to waiting at lights. Being part of a large group, consensus was needed on what to do at what points, so there was a lot of criss-crossing town. Getting from Brown Deer to Franklin is easier at 5:00 PM than it is getting from downtown Las Vegas to the south end of the Strip.
Bowling – The reason for going out to Las Vegas in the first place. I had posted in a thread on the USBC Tournament Forum that I had so many other vacation activities going on that I’d bowl if I had time. Little did I know how true that was. In going to Las Vegas with my wife, parents, sister and her three friends, not only was there no time for bowling side events, my chauffer duties prevented me from arriving at the Cashman Center more than 45 minutes before Team event (we bowled Thursday 4-30 at 2:30PM). I don’t believe that it affected my performance, but it probably didn't help.
In the Team event, I bowled 203 - 230 - 170 for a 603 series. In the third game, my line changed drastically and had a couple of opens, and by the time I found it again I couldn't put any doubles together to salvage a good game.
Later that evening in the Doubles event, the four of us on that pair were handicapped by the lower averaged players on the pair that had bowled prior to us. Instead of creating a "track" in the oil pattern to guide the ball to the pocket, the collection of ten that preceded us just splashed the oil around. The four of us managed only six strikes the first game of doubles. I didn’t strike at all en route to a disappointing 153 game. I changed my angle and by bowling ball and finished doubles with 212-240 and salvaged 605 and hopes of 1800 for all nine games.
We moved to a different pair for the singles event which had a similar line, but I had no carry at all. I made little adjustments, but just couldn’t double for two games and started 161-188. They finally started falling the last game for 223, but with a 572 in singles I missed my all events goal and ended with 1780. In taking my yearly crack at this, I thought that I was more prepared than past years. I bought two new bowling balls and I had a game plan based on what I read here and here. All of that for 1780... I can take some solace in the fact that I made 27 of 28 single pins, but when Ron Vokes has a 30-bagger, my 28 single pins in 9 games looks quite weak in comparison. What this does is just illustrate how good some of these other guys are. I’ve never doubted their ability, but it is a bogey I keep striving for, and which makes me want to come back each year. It also makes me wonder how the hell I had 2027 for nine games in Salt Lake City in 1996.
I am already gearing up for Reno next year. I had the best of intentions, but wait till next year…
Hotels – We stayed at the Excalibur for three nights (starting Sunday 4-26) and everything was fine. I had no complaints. The room was nice enough (and had two nights taken off based on our gambling); nothing fancy but nothing wrong. Until I found a side entrance with self parking (that apparently very few knew about), I wasn’t crazy about walking through the casino and having to dodge not one, but two timeshare booths. But that side entrance was by the elevators and bypassed both of them. In terms of the casino itself, it was annoyingly noisy in the evening. Dick’s Last Resort bar played music at ear-splitting levels, and there was a bar in front of the casino with Beer Pong that had their own music. Both bar’s music was competing with the casino’s piped in music and the din of the crowd… it was distracting.
On Wednesday morning 4-29, we moved across the street to the Tropicana for our last two nights. I liked the room much better; it had a cabana look, bamboo furniture, a love seat, mirrors on the ceiling and a bathtub built for two. Unfortunately, the Trop had its own problems. We had been comped in the Paradise tower (facing the strip and right off the casino). But the entire tower was shut down (the bellman said that it wasn’t up to plumbing code, but I can’t find any verification of it). The Island tower was way back there… right next to the Hooters Hotels and was a hella walk from the front desk, lined with the gauntlet of kiosks offering ring cleaners, computerized face analysis, purses that look like stuffed dogs, etc. I found “Entrance 4” which, similar to the side entrance at the Excalibur was right by our elevators and with self parking, but most of that area was blocked off because they were installing some air conditioners and had caution tape up. It was a pain in the arse each time we left or came back to the Tropicana, and they didn’t seem too concerned about my inconvenience. Had I known about this, we would have stayed at the Excalibur for all five nights.
Restaurants – Ate Sunday dinner at Gonzalez Y Gonzalez in the New York-New York. It was decent Mexican food, but nothing to write home about. Was not happy with the Round Table Buffet or the Sherwood Café at Excalibur. Had a great dinner at South Pointe’s Primarily Prime Rib – a 20 oz prime rib on the bone with salad and bread for $20. Outstanding! Had a dinner at Hash House A Go Go (about 5 miles west of the strip on Sahara). We had seen it on Rachel Ray and also had a certificate from Restaurant.com. Another outstanding call, but the meals can easily feed two. As a matter of fact, my dad, bless his little soul, tried to get in the stuffed meatloaf, but got barely a quarter of the way through. If you have a problem wasting food or don’t have a monster appetite, order one meal and split it. We also had a Restaurant.com certificate for Pampas, which is a Brazilian Churrascaria in the Miracle Mile shops at the Planet Hollywood and was very good. To me, it was on par with other churrascaria I've been to in Milwaukee, Albuquerque and Las Vegas. On our final day, My-Sugar-Na and I had a great bargain that I had heard of, the steak special at Ellis Island. A 10 ounce steak with baked potato, garlic green beans and a microbrewed beer (or root beer) for $6.99. It isn’t on the menu, but just ask for it. The beer alone would be almost $4, and the steak was really good.
Doin’s – I highly recommend The Rat Pack is Back show at the Plaza. I ordered VIP seating on-line through the USBC Rewards Center (and I don't think you need to be a bowler to sign up) and it included a free dinner. We arrived a little early and were seated at the front table that butts the stage, right next to the stage stairs. My wife made the mistake of not laughing at one of Joey Bishop’s jokes, and he harassed her mercilessly for most of the rest of his set. The steak dinner was served in the show room prior to the show, and was pretty darned good. It wasn't hard to imagine being in Vegas in 1962 while in that room.
I also recommend a tour of the Neon Graveyard. If you get weak-kneed at looking at the old Vegas signs (like the Golden Nugget, Stardust or Desert Inn) you need to go there. Baldies be warned; wear a hat or you will get sunburned. Wonder how I know?
Although a little bit hokey, my wife and I actually enjoyed the Price is Right stage show at Bally’s. The show is quite like the TV show (without the cameras) and is hosted by Todd Newton (from Hollywood Showdown and the Whammy! Press Your Luck remake). Warning, though, if you are called on for the showcase, do not overbid! They offer a car as part of the showcase, but it is a Nissan Versa worth maybe – maybe – 10 grand. The total of this showcase was a little over $12K, and both bidders were almost 20.
We attended the Tournament of Kings at the Excalibur. My wife and I had seen it in 2005 and it was the same… if you like the King Arthur thing, then you’d love it (as most of our group did). Me? Meh.
I would not recommend the Vegas Mob bus tour. I trashed this on this “What NOT to do” thread, but to summarize, we sat for three hours squished into a minivan, only saw two or three sites, and only got out once so the van operator could have a cigeratte. I think the main reason that I was disappointed was that I was expecting so much more.
Gambling – The first thing that came to mind was… “What recession”? The strip casinos were all at quite reasonable levels – not so busy at 10:00 AM, but remarkably busy in the evenings. On Friday night, as we got one last gamble in prior to leaving for the airport, we tried to find a quiet casino so we went to the Gold Coast… and that was elbow to elbow people. The Plaza during the day was pretty empty, and Binions at 3:00 AM wasn’t too busy. Planet Hollywood, however was really hopping on a Friday night. I was expecting dead for six days and I didn’t get it.
Overall, my wife and I almost won enough to pay for our trip. I had two separate $700 wins at the crap table, and a lot of little wins on video poker and Pai Gow Poker (a big win for me was one in which I banked the hand and was dealt A-2-3-4-5 Q-Q, which is a monster hand for that game). Details of my crap-ventures are here.
I didn’t feel like I gambled as much as I would have liked, and still managed to get two nights and two meals comped at the Excalibur.
Overall I had an expectedly wonderful time. I want to go back in July and bowl again under an assumed name, but I don’t know if I am better than 1780 anyway. As I said above, though, wait till next year…