Walt TR - Part 1 of 4
- From: Walt <none@xxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Mon, 14 Jul 2008 04:44:52 -0400
Walt TR - Part 1 of 4
(New and improved! Now with poor-quality digicam video clips!)
This report covers my trip of June 4-18, including Matt's Big Empire
Soiree weekend. I'll cover things by category rather than in
FLIGHT & CAR PICKUP
June 4th was a windy, gusty day in Vegas. We experienced some
turbulence over Lake Mead, and the landing at McCarran was rather dicey
with the crosswinds. About 20-30 feet above the runway, the pilot was
fighting to keep the wingtips level. We touched down hard, and then
the pilot still had his hands full trying to maintain a straight line.
The plane veered left, then right. It started to feel like we were
fishtailing. Finally we slowed enough for the pilot to regain full
control and taxi to the gate. This was easily my most exciting landing
During the flight I sat next to a 30ish Vegas newbie who said he
doesn't like to fly. He told me he had 3 stiff drinks at the airport
bar before we took off, and he had a couple more during the flight.
His boss had sent him to a conference, putting him up at the Mirage for
two nights. He wondered if he would like the hotel. I said he would.
His conference was scheduled for the evening of our arrival, so he
would have the next two days free. He said he planned to drink the
entire time until he went home. I said he had come to the right place
for that. He also said he's getting married in July.
For perhaps the first time ever, my checked bag actually beat me to the
On the way to the rental-car facility, the shuttle driver sang a verse
and chorus of the ballad "Wildflower" by Skylark (1972). He wasn't
I had reserved a Hertz compact car via Hotwire at $244 total for two
weeks. The clerk offered me the choice of a Chevy Cobalt or a Ford
Focus. The Cobalt they gave me last time was a base model with
all-manual windows, door locks, no remote key fob, etc. So I tried the
Focus this time. While the mileage was high at 27K, the car at least
had the electrical conveniences missing from the Cobalt. There was a
small ding in the windshield on the passenger side which I noted on the
inspection form. The car ran fine during two weeks of local driving
and I had no complaints.
The bulk of my stay was at Vegas Club in a North Tower room that I got
for 9 nights at the cheaper South Tower price, courtesy of a snafu in
the hotel's online booking system. It still wasn't a "Deluxe" room as
promised in the booking, but it was fine at the price. The view to the
north featured Main Street Station, the California hotel and swimming
pool, and the mountains in the distance.
* A Friday dinner buffet at the Orleans (half-off with ACG coupon)
meant crab legs and other seafood items like almond-encrusted cod and,
well, that was about it for the seafood once I finished two heaping
plates of crab legs. I did manage to down a few token side selections
like yellow corn and garlic bread before enjoying two kinds of cake for
* On Belmont Saturday I went to the Silverton for their weekend seafood
& steak buffet. The crab legs were a little salty and waterlogged this
time, merely okay instead of very good. Other stuff like thin-crust
pizza, stuffed crab and garlic bread were good. The New York steak was
again disappointingly chewy. Hand-dipped ice cream was flavorful but a
little too soft. The young guy serving drinks and clearing the table
wasn't really into his work. He'd get you something if you asked for
it, but he didn't check up on his customers the way the middle-aged
ladies there do. Overall the buffet wasn't up to its previous
standards, but I'll try it again next time and would still recommend it
with the 2-fer ACG coupon, which is valid all the time.
On the way out I grabbed a digicam clip of the aquarium outside the
Bass Pro Shop...
* I drove across Bonanza Rd. to the Wildfire casino on Rancho Drive for
the free 1/4-lb. burger & fries with paid drink (ACG coupon). It was
cooked to order and good with lettuce, tomato and a thick slice of red
* I again had the beef fajitas at Don Miguel's in the Orleans. Four
flour or corn tortillas accompanied by a hot iron plate of sizzling
beef strips, red and green peppers, onions, plus another plate of diced
tomatoes & onions, rice and refried beans, plus a bowl of corn chips
and 3 different dips. Lemonade to drink. All for about 8 bucks plus
tip using the half-off ACG coupon. Very nice. The coupon also allows
for chicken in lieu of beef. I had the fajitas as an early dinner and
they kept me going until the next day. Split them with a friend if
you're lacking a big appetite.
Later in the trip I took a break between poker sessions at Imperial
Palace to drive over here for another half-off fajita dinner. This
time I ordered the chicken variety, which include the same big spread
of accompaniments. I like the chicken but prefer the beef.
* After a late-night poker session, I needed to eat before going to
bed, so I stopped at Palace Station to see if their coffee shop had any
graveyard specials. Not really, apart from AYCE pancakes which didn't
interest me. I opted for the breakfast skillet, which is served in an
actual iron skillet and includes 3 eggs, ham steak, bacon, sausage,
hash browns and toast for $8.99. I couldn't quite finish it all. It
was okay but not quite good enough to go back for.
* I went to the Suncoast for their free Thursday afternoon show "The
Hit Parade." Let's just say I took a bullet for the team here. The
hits were mostly from the 1940's and 50's and were greatly appreciated
by the packed house of blue hairs and oxygen suckers. The promised
"Strip" performers were a cast member of "Hats!" (a now-closed musical
about "growing old") and Kathleen Dunbar, a middle-aged comic who
reminded me of a milder version of Catherine O'Hara's "Dusty Towne"
character from "SCTV." I didn't think Dunbar was all that funny, but
the rest of the audience whooped it up and let out an occasional "Ain't
it the truth!" Luckily the show only ran about an hour and I was able
to escape before developing osteoporosis and a penchant for driving 30
miles an hour in the fast lane. This is one free show you'd do well to
* To cleanse my musical palate of the "Hit Parade" horrors, I drove to
the Hilton for a free show by the local band Phoenix. These guys do
excellent covers of songs by the likes of Aerosmith, Boston, AC/DC and
others, not surprising since the band includes Jimmy Crespo, former
lead guitarist for Aerosmith and Rod Stewart. All the musicians are
very talented, particularly the keyboard player who is also a decent
vocalist and proficient on violin and flute (the latter of which came
in handy on Jethro Tull's "Locomotive Breath").
The show runs 90 minutes and is absolutely free every Thursday at 8 PM.
The large Hilton Theater looks pretty empty with maybe 80-100 people in
the seats. If loud, wailing rock 'n' roll is your thing, check these
guys out. They do it really well, maybe better than Yellow Brick Road.
I don't have any crummy digicam footage of them, but you'll find
several video and mp3 links on their website...
* Friday, June 6th brought a rare opportunity to catch the Lon Bronson
All-Star Band, this time in the Railhead showroom at Boulder Station.
The guest vocalist was Tony Davich, lead singer from the band Phoenix.
Bronson's band seemed especially hot this evening. Perhaps they were
inspired by someone in the audience. No, not me, but rather Eddie
Brigati, co-founder and lead singer of the 1960's Young Rascals.
Brigati and Felix Cavaliere wrote such hits as "Good Lovin'," "How Can
I Be Sure?", and "I've Been Lonely Too Long." Brigati was coaxed
onstage and treated the Railhead audience to a soulful rendition of the
Rascals' biggest hit, "Groovin'," with the band improvising an
authentic-sounding arrangement behind him.
The rest of the show was outstanding as well. The entire band really
shined while performing the complete overture to The Who's "Tommy."
Vocalist Lisa Mayer ably channeled Janis Joplin and Grace Slick, while
Rick Friedman brought his Everyman rock-and-roller enthusiasm to the
proceedings. As a bonus attraction, Friedman sang Randy Newman's "You
Can Leave Your Hat On" accompanied by a helpful visual aid.
This trip I played eight sessions of 2-4 Holdem at Imperial Palace.
* The first session, following the Phoenix show at the Hilton, was
remarkably passive over 3+ hours even as different players came and
went. Nobody was really aggressive. Raises were uncommon, especially
pre-flop. Sometimes the entire table would check around once or even
twice during a hand. I just waited for good cards and then played
them, and with marginal hands I was able to see flops cheaply before
folding. Around 2 AM, players began dropping out. When we had just
five players remaining, I cashed out with a $69 profit.
* My next poker session at the I.P. came the following night after the
Lon Bronson show. This table was playing more conservatively. Fewer
players paid to see the flop and pots were consequently smaller. I was
able to win a few hands over about 2.5 hours and came away with a $38
* One evening I walked over to the Gold Spike. Half the casino was
still walled off for renovations. Then I went to the Fremont Street
Experience, where a good chunk of the pedestrian promenade was fenced
off for a corporate party.
The event's organizers had hired "Legends in Concert" to perform on the
3rd Street stage. "Tina Turner" was pretty good; "Tom Jones" not as
much. From my vantage point about 90 feet away, "Shakira" looked like
any young woman wearing a blonde fright wig and a belly-dancing
costume. "Prince" was quite lame -- he didn't perform a single song
straight through and couldn't play the guitar he was holding. The
stars of the evening were the ersatz "Temptations". Their singing and
choreography blew the canopy off Fremont Street! Okay, maybe not, but
the crowd was into them, dancing and singing along with the great hits
like "Papa Was a Rolling Stone" and "I Wish It Would Rain."
Between sets of Legends I went to the Golden Gate for the new 99-cent
shrimp cocktail (with players card). The shrimp are now regular-sized
instead of the miniature bay shrimp they used to have. I'm not sure if
that's a good thing. I found a bit of shell in my serving, something
that never happened with those bay shrimp.
During another break in the music I went to the California's coffee
shop for the $7.95 prime rib special, a deal I hadn't tried in a few
years. It comes with green beans, choice of potato, salad bar and a
small dessert of cherries jubilee. The prime rib was tender, though
there was not a lot of it after cutting off some fat and other waste.
The meal was okay for the price, but there are better deals available
elsewhere such as the steak special at Ellis Island.
By 10 PM it was downright chilly on Fremont Street with the wind
blowing. The last thing I thought I'd need in Vegas in June was a
jacket, but it would've come in handy tonight.
Where was this photo taken?
Tomorrow: more meals, shows, gambling, and the Pickadillos...
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