Now THAT was a Super Bowl

Bowling, Football, Gambling, Green Bay Packers, Las Vegas, My-Sugar-Na, NFL, Poker, Restaurants, Super Bowl, Television, Vacation

First, let me offer that I am appalled at my lack of a Super Bowl pick this year.  Shame on me.  However, this is who I had picked...

("What the heck was that!?!?" says you, the Dear Reader. "You went to Las Vegas to bet the Super Bowl and you didn't invite me?"

“Yeah, that’s unfortunate” I respond).  My 1-1 record this year lowers my overall record since I’ve been making picks to 10-7.

It all started in the halcyon days of yore... namely Thursday, January 15.  I remember it like it was just a couple of weeks ago.  Frontier Airlines ran a one day sale, $29 one-way tickets from about a dozen airports.  

On a whim, I noted O'Hare was one of the airports.  Continuing on, Las Vegas was one of the destinations. Further whimming revealed that Super Bowl Eve was available. Finally, a mid-week return trip redeye was $69, putting a 3-day impulse round trip at an impossible $98.  My poker buddy, Scott (who works with me) called his wife and jumped on it.  Knowing that My-Sugar-Na couldn't be away from work that long, I checked the cost of a redeye return on Sunday night, which was $109, making my round trip $140. 

Although I can be a goofball, and sometimes make questionable decisions, I am rarely too impulsive.  But the Vegas geek in me got caught up in how cool it would be to find a real bargain, and just say "What the Hell?" and do it like some college kids. I picked up the Bat-Emailer and contacted My-Sugar-Na, and the conversation went like this...

(SNH) - "Are we doing anything Super Bowl weekend? We could go to Las Vegas together."

M-S-N - "You and me together?"

(SNH) - "Sure.  Got $140?"

M-S-N - "Sigh, I don't have $140."

(SNH) - "OK, how about this…

Fly out at 9:30 Sat 1-31 PM, arrive at 11:30 PM.

Watch the Super Bowl

Leave at 1:00 AM on Monday morning (the redeye Sunday night) and get to O’Hare by 6:30 AM, home by 9:30.  You could either go to work in the PM, or take one day off.

We put the flight on our credit card, I’ll find a one-night comp room.  We eat at Caesers with our points.

Scott and his wife are planning on going, but they will come back later in the week."

M-S-N - "You're serious?" (Side note; Didja notice that she didn't say no?)

And with that, score another one for the good guys!

(All times are Pacific Standard Time, except where noted)

Saturday, January 31 @ 5:00 PM CST – I had just finished bowling a tournament, had hustled to the salon for a beauty treatment, and headed home to pack.  The snow was going to hit Chicago around 8:00 PM, and we wanted to beat it just in case it started snowing early and the roads would get stupid.  I had planned to leave for O’Hare at 6:00, but My-Sugar-Na hustled me along and we hit the road a little after 5:30.

7:00 PM CST – with no traffic (nor weather) at all, we got to O’Hare Blue Sky Parking and pulled in.  They are an off-site parking company that offered indoor parking for $8 per night.  Jumping ahead a touch, indoor parking was the most brilliant call I made for this weekend.  Their shuttle dropped us right off at the airport curb.

8:00 PM CST – We go into a security line, the agent points us to a different screening line one over from where we are.  We think nothing of it, walk over there, and pass through.  On the far side of the TSA area, we see the monitor with the gates.  "K8" the monitor says.  We walk over to K8.  Scott texts me, saying “We’re here”.  We get to the gate and don’t see him.  I just figure that “here” meant the parking lot, or maybe in the airport proper.

8:30 PM CST - You know, I am usually very good with this kind of stuff.  But…

Scott texts back “Where are you?”  I say “K8”.  He says “L3”.  I walk to look at the board again.  It says "K8".  The board at the gate also says Las Vegas leaving at 9:30.  “I wonder what Scott’s thinking?” I wonder aloud.  Then I notice the American Airlines logo.

9:00 PM CST – We arrive at gate L3 in plenty of time to board.  I also see a group of guys I know from bowling.  I don’t know if they saw my Facebook post about the $29 Frontier flight, or if they found it on their own.  But it was cool to see someone else I know on the plane.

9:30 PM CST – Scott’s wife, I’ll call her Ben’s Mom, keeps chanting “Vegas, Vegas, Vegas”.  And I thought I was excited.

Somewhere over flyover country – “Vegas, Vegas, Vegas”.

Sunday, February 1 @ 1:00 AM PST – We land, grab Scott’s bag from baggage claim, collect the rental car and arrive at the Downtown Grand, all without incident.  Because I thought you should know.

1:30 AM – As we’re checking in we all decide that we’re hungry.  We drop off our bags in the room and decide to go to Pizza Rock, one of the newest pizza places in Las Vegas, and already a winner of a couple of awards.  Their happy hour offers a personal pizza for $5 or $7 depending on toppings.  Boring ol’ Scott and My-Sugar-Na get the one-topping pizza, Ben’s Mom and I get the Cal Italia… Prosciutto, Asiago and bleu cheeses with a drizzle of fig sauce.

2:30 AM – Mixed reviews.  I liked mine, Scott liked his, Ben’s Mom not-so-much and My-Suger-Na said that she would have liked it more if she didn’t have to watch us eat while the kitchen unforgot to make hers.

3:30 AM – This is Vegas, so we have to gamble a little.  But translated to 5:30 AM in Milwaukee, the spirit is willing but the mind and body are just about asleep.

7:30 AM – This is Vegas, what am I going to do, sleep through my vacation?

9:30 AM – Scott and Ben’s Mom had beaten us to breakfast and had come and gone by this time.  My-Sugar-Na and I ate at S+O on a $20 food comp.  For everything I like about the Downtown Grand, breakfast in their main café isn’t one of them.  I go outside my comfort zone and order a bowl of the Oxtail Stew, while my wife has biscuits and gravy.  She raved out hers, mine was pretty good.  Oxtail Soup is a specialty at the California Hotel and Casino downtown, but I’ve never had it so I can’t compare to S+O.  By the way, the tail bone in the soup isn’t ox, its boring ol’ cow.

10:00 AM – My-Sugar-Na and Ben’s Mom had a little time in the morning so they took the rental car to the Mirage to see Siegfried & Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat, while Scott and I were left to fend for ourselves.  First we made our sports bets.

10:05 AM – The list of prop bets was almost overwhelming. There were ones that we were too late for (“Which would be higher, the number of rounds in the Anderson Silva vs Nick Diaz UFC fight held on January 31 or the number of total Super Bowl Turnovers?” and if you bet the UFC fight, you won) others that were pretty random (“Coin flip, heads or tails?”  “Color of Gatorade shower for the winning coach?”)  I concentrated on ones that supported my view of a low scoring game… for example, I bet that there would be a scoreless quarter (WINNER!) and that the second half would have more points than the first half (LOSER).  While I was doing that, Scott grabbed a special $5 parley card with a $100,000 prize… just select all 15 props correctly.  Then he handed it to me and told me to fill it out “and we’d split the prize”.  Talk about pressure…

10:30 AM – After TCB in the book, we played a little video poker before deciding to go to the Golden Nugget and think about playing a poker tournament.

11:00 AM – The tournament is $120, and instead we decide to play a 2/4 limit game.  The purpose of this trip wasn’t to blow through money, it was for betting on and watching the Super Bowl so we decided to play lower stakes and with less volatility.

1:00 PM – Mission accomplished.  After two hours I cashed out down only $28.  One doesn’t like to lose, and especially playing poker, but I had a good time for a low cost.  It was time to gather up my wife and head to the Super Bowl party.

1:15 PM – As we’re leaving the Golden Nugget, Scott mentions that he only got an hour or so of sleep “more like a nap” and that he’s already feeling the effects.  Some guys just can’t handle Vegas.

1:30 PM – We have chosen the Super Bowl party at the Downtown Events Center, which is owned and operated by the owners of The D casino.  It was a free party, with first-come seating to those who had RSVP’ed in advance.  The event is in a big, semi-permanent tent with about seven large screens, numerous bars, and food that could be purchased from American Coney and Marco’s Pizza.  There are not many people there at 1:30, so we get a very good seat.  Before leaving, we had discussed reserving seats in shifts, and My-Sugar-Na brought a book and said that I could leave for an hour or so.  Scott decides to hang back too. Ben’s Mom was already at the hotel napping, so I went off to gamble for a little while.

2:30 PM – Cost me $50 to gamble for that hour, which really isn’t too bad, considering. I get back to our seats and Scott leaves to get Ben’s Mom.

3:30 PM – Everyone is accounted for and waiting for the kickoff.  Seattle kicks off to New England.  The $100K Dream is dead.

5:15 PM – Seattle scores before halftime to tie the score at 14.  Down goes the first half under.  Down goes the prop bet of exactly 3 TDs in the game.  Down goes my mood.  At halftime, Scott concedes to the tired and decides to go back to the hotel with Ben’s Mom.  My-Sugar-Na comes back from her hour long bathroom trip.  I ignore Katy Perry while trying to catch up on Twitter.

6:00 PM – I get a text alert from Frontier Airlines saying that our 1:00 AM flight is cancelled due to the storm.  While my wife begins panicking about how we’re going to get home (Side note; My thoughts?  We’re in Vegas, dammit.  Better to be stranded here than in Wichita or Birmingham.)

6:45 PM – Sitting just in front of us in the party was a group of four guys from Edmonton who were all lifelong Packers fans.  One of them had travelled to Green Bay for his first ever game, and when New England scored to take a 28-24 lead this guy – likely fueled by liquid courage – told some Seattle fans what he thought of them because “Packers fans are true and through… we never leave the game until there are zeros on the scoreboard.”  I am not sure what that has to do with New England not putting Seattle away, but these Seattle fans weren’t pleased with him.  Seattle drives downfield in the last minute, and after a miraculous Seahawks catch the worm turned.  The ‘Hawks fans inside the tent turned on this guy and were merciless.  If Canadian was a race… there was certainly some anti-cannuckism at work.

Until Malcolm Butler intercepted Russell Wilson on the goal line in the last minute.  The tent exploded.  I jumped up and screamed because I had salvaged the last bet of roller coaster ride. While I was up, these four Edmontonianites grabbed me for a five-man group hug, and started singing “Ole, ole, ole, ole”.  By the time we had stopped singing, those Seahawks fans were gone.

7:15 PM – After the game, we called Frontier Airlines and took our spot on-hold as we walked back to the Downtown Grand to get cleaned up and changed for dinner.  We did a quick look on-line and saw no flights into Chicago on any airline that hadn’t been cancelled, so we assumed that we wouldn’t fly out and didn’t pack our stuff before going to dinner.

8:15 PM – Just as we pull into Paris, the recording on-hold indicates the wait would be another 50 minutes.  I decide to hang up, and we’d go right to the airport to talk to Frontier.  My-Sugar-Na had looked up Frontier’s terms and conditions on her iPad (Merry Christmas, Darlin’) and found that if a flight is cancelled for uncontrollable reasons, Frontier is only liable for a refund of the purchase price of the ticket.  We also check Kayak, and a one day advance, one way ticket on other airlines from Vegas to Chicago was in the $550-$650 range.  We didn’t have that much available room on the credit card, and Frontier’s flights were showing as sold out through Wednesday.  My-Sugar-Na says “Don’t worry about it.  We’re here for a nice dinner.  Let’s enjoy it and worry about it later”.

8:30 PM – We’re seated inside Gordon Ramsay Steak, and begin obsessing about the flight situation

8:50 PM – The bread tray comes.  We obsess about the flight situation while eating the bread.

9:15 PM – The bone-in ribeyes come to the table.  We take time from obsessing about the flight situation long enough to roll our eyes at how phenomenal the steaks are.

9:30 PM – The Sticky Toffee Pudding (which is neither sticky nor pudding) with Brown Butter Ice Cream was decadent… which was noted while we were obsessing about the flight situation.

10:00 PM – Dinner was wonderful.  Two ribeyes ($60 each), a side of potato puree ($12) spinach gratin ($12) a soda ($6) a beer ($10) and the dessert ($14) with tax and tip came to around $200.  Good thing we had Caesars Rewards Credits to pay for it.  I couldn’t afford that, what with a couple of $600 plane tickets that I was sure I was going to buy.

10:45 PM – I go into the airport while my wife drives rings around the airport campus to avoid paying for parking.  In short, we get the very last two seats on a flight to Washington DC with a morning connection to Chicago.  The punch line?  The flight that was scheduled for 10:30 but was delayed to 12:15.  I had 90 minutes to make the flight.  The agent tells me “If you’re back in an hour, you’ll be fine”.  Yeah.  She says.  As we finish up, the agent next to her is telling a passenger that there are no flights at all that night, and that Frontier would put them up in a Hampton Inn until a Wednesday morning redeye (or he could take a refund).  Had we taken the time to pack before going to dinner, we don’t get to dinner on time, we don’t get to the airport at 10:30 and we don’t get to go home that night.  Fate is kinda weird sometimes.

12:15 AM – Look what we did in 90 minutes…

  • Drive a million miles an hour to get from the airport to the Downtown Grand (Side note; I long-hauled myself through the tunnel.  But I liked my chances to go the 13 miles much more quickly than taking Paradise north... or even Tropicana to I-15)
  • My-Sugar-Na packed while I cashed in the winning Super Bowl tickets
  • Drive a million miles an hour to return the rental car (we didn’t get gas, I can only guess how much they are going to charge me for the 70 miles we drove)
  • Take the shuttle bus from the Return Center to the airport
  • Run to and through TSA screening
  • Run to the terminal train, glancing briefly at the gate number (it said D18, didn’t it)?
  • Off the train, I run ahead of My-Sugar-Na towards D18 and it is dark.  There is a plane waiting there, but there are no gate agents, no lights on and no signs of life.  As I drop my bags in frustration, here comes My-Sugar-Na waving at me “D19!!!  D19!!!”  Dammit.  Twice in two trips I got the gate wrong.  Kinda of surprised I actually got to the correct airport, a’ina?

We arrived at the gate right at 12:15 and the gate agent said that they were holding the plane for us.  We didn’t chat much, but I wonder how much longer they were going to wait.  We get the very last row of the plane, despite having paid for the stretch seating.  Beggers can’t be choosers.

Middle of the night AM ?ST – I can’t sleep.  My legs don’t fit in the plane, the seat can’t recline, I can’t get comfortable, and worst of all, the Chatty Cathy flight attendants won’t be quiet.  One other passenger even got up to ask them to be a little quieter, and they gave him some lip about how they need to stay awake and alert in case of a problem, and this is their best way of doing it. He returned to his seat, and they continued to giggle.

7:45 AM EST – When you think of it, 4-1/2 hours to fly from Las Vegas to Washington DC is pretty quick… unless you are awake in the middle of the night.  My wife and I – a pair of zombies – get off the plane into a packed terminal.  The gate for the Chicago flight was right next to where we got off the plane, and almost every seat was taken.  We leaned against a window and let it hold us upright.

8:30 AM EST – We are seated on our flight to Chicago.  I am sure I’m asleep before takeoff, but again, I couldn’t stay asleep.  Arriving in Chicago, I am not even sure of my name.

9:45 AM CST – The O’Hare Blue Sky Parking shuttle is waiting for us, and when we get back to the garage, my car has been brought to the front, and the car was running with the heat on.  I look around on a bright, sunny day, and wonder why my Facebook page was full of people complaining about the weather.  Better than the buddies who came back a couple of days later...

Epilogue CST – We took turns driving home without incident, took naps, had dinner then went separate ways for bowling in different centers. After we got home, I asked My-Sugar-Na to rate the trip on a scale of 1-6.

I am still waiting for a response.

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