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The Las Vegas Chronicles…AGAIN!

It was only six short weeks since my last visit to Las Vegas. The good news is…not much has changed. It’s still one of the greatest places on the planet. The biggest difference this time was my travelling partner (my best friend Liz). I’ve been to Vegas several times (for roller hockey nationals when I was in junior high, bachelor parties, etc.), but this is the first time I made a solo trek with a woman. It was a totally different experience (there was a lot of window shopping), but it was awesome (and I’m not just saying that because I know she’ll read this)!

Our adventure started on Thursday. We rolled into Las Vegas around 9:30pm and went right to Bally’s to check-in. I never thought that I would stay at Bally’s in my life, but I couldn’t turn down a couple of free nights from the fine folks at Harrah’s. The hotel/casino turned out to be much better than I expected. I’ll explain it like this: If I were comped a room at Bally’s again, I’d definitely stay there. If I had to pay to stay there, I’d look elsewhere. Hopefully that gives you a better idea. 

Liz had never been to Las Vegas before, so we decided to head out on the strip. I wanted her to get a glimpse of all the lights and comotion. We wandered over to Paris, Bellagio, and Planet Hollywood. While we were walking through Bellagio we saw Ian from Taking the Stage on MTV. I honestly have no idea who or what that is, but Liz definitely does (and she says she’s embarrassed to admit it). We also walked past my homey Rene Angelil (read my last Vegas blog for all the details).

We decided to do some gambling at Planet Hollywood. We messed around with a slot machine for a while and actually won some money, but that cash didn’t last long at the craps table. I didn’t play there for long before we decided to head back to Bally’s. Liz and I posted up at a blackjack table and we wound up being there for hours. We won some of our money back, but were mainly entertained for a better part of the night/early morning. Liz had never played blackjack before (she thought we were actually playing poker), but she did really well. Everyone we played with was very patient with her and most of the dealers were too. At one point though, a dealer and a pit boss started blatantly poking fun at Liz. That sucked. She was just trying to have a good time and they started to spoil it. I don’t think that would have happened at a “nicer” casino.

Needless to say, we went to bed when the sun was making a pretty solid appearance on Saturday morning.

The weather in Las Vegas was as hot as I’ve ever felt. A local person even told us that the heat wave was typical for July, but not for June. It was so bad that Liz and I lasted for all of twenty minutes at the pool on Saturday morning (it was only 11am too). Instead of soaking in our own sweat at the pool, we decided to hit the streets again.

One of Liz’s friends usually stays at Wynn when she is in Vegas, so Liz wanted to go check it out. It was so hot outside, the strip was as quite as I’ve ever seen it. We even avoided the heat as much as possible by going indoors as much as we could (you have to LOVE air conditioning in Las Vegas). That made the walk much more interesting, because I was able to investigate places I had never been before. We strolled through Flamingo, O’Sheas (a serious dive), The Venetian, and Palazzo, just to name a few. 

One of the best pit stops was Madame Tussauds, a wax museum at The Venetian. Trust me, I wouldn’t have checked it out if I wasn’t with Liz. I’m so glad we did though. It proved to be one of the highlights of the trip. It’s an interactive wax museum. That means you can pretty much do whatever you want with the figures (aside from destroy them). We definitely made the most of it. Brad Pitt’s statue (or whatever you call it) was the best. In the words of Liz, it looked so much like him it was “creepy”. It’s a costly ($50 for two adults), cheesy, touristy thing to do, but we had a blast!

That was just during the day…the night was yet to come. My brother was visiting a friend (the one he met on our last trip…again READ MY LAST VEGAS BLOG) while Liz and I were down there as well. All of us hooked up at Mesa Grill inside Caesars Palace (Bobby Flay’s restaurant) for dinner and drinks that night. I had the highly recommended pork tenderloin and I’m glad I did. Everyone enjoyed their food and the service was great as well. I would recommend Mesa Grill to anyone who is planning a trip to Las Vegas. It’s the best meal I had on the trip.

We decided to stroll over to Paris for some craps after dinner. The $25 tables at Caesars just seemed a little too steep at that point (I guess I didn’t have enough booze with my food). We stayed afloat for a little while, but lost money in the end. The gambling didn’t last long before I was pulled off the strip for karaoke. No, I’m not kidding (again…not something I would do if I wasn’t with a woman). My brother, his friend, Liz and I meandered to a joint called Ellis Island (located about two blocks behind Bally’s). There were only about 15 people in the place (and I think that’s even a stretch). For only the fourth time in my life I actually got on stage to sing. I totally destroyed Sublime’s What I Got. Maybe I’m just easy to please, but I actually had a great time there as well (I think it was the company more than anything).

Saturday brought more excitement. Liz and I started the day back at the Bally’s pool. It was a completely different atmosphere than the day before. There were beats blaring, people dancing, and even more people drinking. The first song we heard when we walked in was Shots by LMFAO (I had to google the song to figure out what it was…I promise). Yeah, it was that kind of party. While we avoided shots, we did enjoy a beer or three with our feet in a smaller side people (to avoid too much of the party scene). We actually lasted a couple of hours (plenty of time for Liz to get burned) before we ventured inside to watch the Belmont Stakes in the sports book.

I wasn’t sure what the scene was going to be like, but it was crazy (maybe even nuttier than the pool). People were screaming and yelling before the race seven started. I put my money on Ice Box and Stately Victor, while Liz liked Uptowncharlybrown and Make Music For Me. Obviously, that means you should never take betting advice from us. Drosselmeyer took down the field at 13-1. The best finisher of our four choices took seventh place (out of 12 horses). Despite the outcome, the experience of being in a sports book for a major event was pretty cool.

More than anything, Liz wanted to see a Las Vegas show. She’d heard some really great things from her friends about Zumanity at New York-New York, so that’s what I bought tickets for. Just so you know, Zumanity is ”the sensual side of Cirque du Soleil.” You have to be 18-years-old to even see the show. That’s because there’s nudity. All you see are some women’s boo…uh…breasts (I never says breasts, but I’m trying to keep this as PC as possible). There are no other lady or dude parts revealed though. Honestly, once the show got started I didn’t really pay attention to the nudity, I was just in awe of the things taking place on stage. There was actually a good mix of comedy and stunts. The coolest part is at the very beginning when two women (described as contortionists) are swimming around a waterbowl (that’s what it’s called on the website) and doing stunts around it. They’d start outside of the bowl, swoosh to the other side, and pop out in some crazy handstand. I obviously can’t explain it very well and the picture on the internet is a little too explicit to attach on here, so you’ll just have to take my word for it. Just in case you are planning on seeing Zumanity at some point, keep in mind that many of the topics are probably too much for some people to handle. If you sit close enough, you may also be asked to participate in the show. Luckily, I knew that before I bought the tickets, so I made sure we were a safe distance away. Apparently it wasn’t far enough though. We weren’t asked to participate on stage, but before the show started, one of the characters felt up Liz’s legs. The only thing she said after that, “Good thing I shaved.” On a scale of 1-to-10…I’d give Zumanity a 7.

After the show, Liz and I strolled over to Emeril’s at MGM Grand (it’s obviously one of Emeril Leggase’s restaurants). The food there was great. One of our two waiters (that’s right TWO waiters) recommended the ribeye (even though it was a fish house). I see why he suggested it. The steak was great. Even better than the meat was the potatoes, literally. My dinner came with the creamiest smashed (not mashed) potatoes on the planet. The key ingredient is a European butter (I don’t remember the name of it) that’s high in fat (great for a guy who was just kicking butt on his diet) and low in water, according to our server. Speaking of the service, it was the best we had in Las Vegas. I have to give a shout-out to VJ. He took great care of us. One last thing I want to point out about Emeril’s…their wine list is as big as a dictionary. It was too much for Liz to handle.

I actually enjoyed what MGM Grand had to offer. After dinner, Liz and I hit a fairly hot craps table. Liz was a big reason for that. She went on a mini heater. I won back some of the money (and I put an emphasis on “some”) I lost the first two nights. The other players at our table were awesome (a couple of them were Washington State grads), but the workers at the table were great as well. They were very friendly and helpful. The crowd away from the table seemed pretty cool as well. There were lots of young people roaming around. I don’t know what the rooms are like, but I’d definitely give MGM Grand another look for my next trip to Las Vegas.

The table finally cooled down enough that we walked away and started back down the strip toward Bally’s. On our way back, we decided to make a stop at Planet Hollywood again. The craps table there was a joke. Everyone who was playing seemed clueless and the employees weren’t very nice at all. I’ve been to that casino three times and nothing good has ever come out of it. I’ll never step foot inside Planet Hollywood again. There is no reason to.

We secured a late checkout on Sunday, so most of our final day was spent asleep. There were a few hours to burn after check-out and before our flight, so Liz and I cabbed it to Mandalay Bay. Liz has a friend who is a bartender at Border Grill. I wasn’t very hungry because I devoured a leftover quesadilla from lunch right before bed, so I didn’t order anything. I still picked on some of Liz’s brunch. Of the few bites that I had, the food was really good.

It’s hard not to admire the pool at Mandalay Bay as well. They have sandy beaches, a wave pool, and a lazy river. That’s pretty unique.

We had one last celebrity sighting before we left Las Vegas. Tracy Morgan was with us in the security lines at the airport and all the way to the gates. It seemed like he was trying to keep to himself by rocking out with headphones, but he seemed like a cool guy once someone called him out. He was joking around with everyone who was talking to him and he took pictures with the people who asked. I like him on 30 Rock, so I was glad to see he wasn’t a jerk.

There is one last story I want to share (even though I probably shouldn’t). It happened on my flight from Seattle to Spokane. There were two seats to an aisle, but the woman in front of us was sitting alone in the aisle seat. She had the arm rest pushed in between the seats, but it started making this crazy vibrating/buzzing noise. She looked back at me and the guy sitting next to me with this dumbfounded look on her face. The first thing that came out of my mouth was, “Hey, what are you doing up there?” She looked at me stunned and embarrassed, while the guy next to me started cracking up. I could see the blood rush into her cheeks. I’m sure she could see the blood rush into mine. It didn’t help when the guy next to me blurted out, “Dude, you’re not in Las Vegas anymore.” Oops!

Without any other embarrassment to myself and others, I made it home safe. It was the first time in a long time that I really wanted an extra day in Las Vegas. I’m usually ready to get out of that city as soon as possible, but that wasn’t the case this time. I guess that will just leaving me starved for another trip back soon.

As my friend @thirdstreet621 said on Twitter: “Vegas is a candy coated alternate universe of relaxation.” I don’t think there’s a better way to sum the place up.

That’s all I have for you. I’m heading to Phoenix in a few days to play golf with friends. I’ll be tweeting from the road again @TLKREM2, so be sure to follow me for updates. I’ll also have all the details right here when I get back. 

P.S. For anyone who was following my fitness quest over the last month and a half, I have good news and I have bad news. I’ll start with the bad news. I totally cut loose on my vacation. I ate anything and everything I could. I don’t regret it at all. You also do so much walking around in Vegas, that it’s like you get a workout every day. The good news is that I fell back on track when I returned. I went to the gym right after I got home from the airport and have done something active (golf or gym) every day since. I’ve also gone back to eating better. Unfortunately, I’m going to cut loose on my next trip as well. I have confidence that I’ll bounce right back into the groove when I get home. I’ll let you know how it goes.

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