Friday, December 30, 2011

Four Days in the Desert - Day 4

Finally, I'm wrapping this thing up. Amazing that I got the trip report out before I found myself back in Vegas (that would be mid-January).

Day 4.  Of course, I don't request a late checkout even though I'm red-eyeing it back. So I have to be out by 11am, and I crashed sometime around 5.  Easy.

Up, shower, pack, and check out right on time.  Absinthetics was kind enough to offer his room up to keep my bags in. His mistake as I undoubtedly woke him up for it.  Lesson taught to another American - don't offer Canadians kindnesses, we'll assume you're sincere and take you up on them :).

Bags stowed, I made my way to the Aria sportsbook bar for some good ol' fashioned... umm... whatever is done at the bar by the sportsbook. See, I ain't much of a football fan, but I do like seeing people.  So I hung out, grabbed some quesadilla and wings and beer, and chatted a bit.

At some point, Jordan announced there was cake coming.  It showed up. It looked like this:


It turns out that Pokerist sponsored a whole bunch of stuff for our charming group of degenerates. An extra grand into the team last longer, a bar and food tab on Sunday, and this lovely cake that was about 5x more cake than was needed to feed our group. It was rather tasty to boot, and apparently made by the premiere Vegas cake-makers. I also hear it weighed about a ton.

Very cool of them.

People cheered and sweat and cried about their sportsball teams winning or losing or beating spreads or somesuch.  Myself and OhCaptain opted to wander a bit with cameras in hand.

Between Aria and Crystals is this sculpture:

Welcome to Crystals

The ol' refocus your eyes for 3D trick.

We made our way to The Bellagio to see their winter display.  We voted unanimously that it was last year's re-organized and therefore not all that impressive. I have pictures of the penguins and igloos and such, but the reality is that I'm not overly thrilled with most of what I grabbed.  Maybe I'll be able to edit them enough to find something interesting, but for now, there's this:

Kept a-Rollin'

Outside the Bellagio, we crossed the driveway to see what we could see. Turns out, you can see Paris.

Paris, But Not

From there, I didn't get too much, but the Cap'n kept snapping.  Hopefully he'll have those pictures posted somewhere at some point. We swung by M&M World, a stop I figured I wouldn't be making this trip, and of course picked up a bag of coconut M&Ms.

Can I mention that the street mascots are all a bit creepy? I can? Good, because they are.

Wandered back through Monte Carlo to Aria, a route that would come in handy later when I was schlepping my bag down the strip. It was determined that the Monte Carlo is about the most boring casino on the strip. Zero character, zero effort.  It was an excitement-sucking vortex of meh.

It was a good walk with another photographer. The last time Cap and I wandered around with our cameras (outside of the Neon Boneyard, but that's different) was Niagara Falls at Eh-Vegas a few years ago. I'm always intrigued by the pictures other people see and their attitudes towards photography.  One of the most fun ways to learn anything is from someone else.

Back at home base, I found myself with time to spare. The Sportsbook bar was dying down, the marathoners were warming up, and the bar was largely empty.  I decided to roll some dice.

Big mistake.

I was impressed Aria was running $10 tables, so I opted for them instead of the $15. Oops. The $15 table was cheering for hours. My table was ICE FUCKING COLD. I blew through my buy-in in around 30 minutes and was down for the trip because of it. Shit. The table was empty and stayed that way for at least an hour afterwards. Nobody was going near the cursed felt.

I, however, couldn't resist the siren call of the Blazing 7's machine. Which promptly handed me around $500 or so, easing my pain.  During this, April let me know that there was an entourage heading to Mandalay Bay to cheer on the marathoners.

Right, the runners. So a bunch of our group was running in a half marathon because they are insane I assume. By this point they'd been pounding the pavement for a while and were expected to hit the finish line in the not-too-distant future. The tale that ran beneath this whole trip was Dan training this group to run this thing, and the tragedies both major and minor that were befalling them in the final days.

Dan almost didn't make it to Vegas because of cancelled flights, but was saved by blogger hearts.

Much bigger was Otis. His father passed away days before, and it was widely expected that he wasn't going to make the trip so soon after the funeral. Nobody could possibly blame him for wanting to spend time with his family, grieving someone who sounds like a great dad. Our thoughts were all with him.

Then the note from him - he was coming after all. His family had convinced him that he couldn't abandon what he'd spent the better part of the year working towards. He needed this run. He needed the accomplishment. And he needed his friends. As word spread among our group, smiles went with it. Partly because we all wanted to see the guy, and largely because we here happy for him and his ability to complete this journey.

They all finished. Otis raising his hands in victory and creating a memory for everyone watching. Or so I hear.  Pauly sums it up well over here.

See, I had grabbed my bags and meandered towards Manadaly Bay (no easy feat with a stuffed check bag in tow). But by the time I got there, the group had already made it out to the street to cheer the runners. Cell service was crap out there, so tweets and texts looking for them went unheeded. I finally figured out where they were after a quick run-in with Garth, and realized there was no way I was getting to them with bag in tow.  The bell desk was a nightmare with all the runners and guests, so I found a spot, and kept an eye out, but saw nobody I knew. I eventually had to turn around find my way to a cab and my flight. I wish I'd been able to stay the extra day so I could have better participated in the festivities.

At least there was Twitter so I could send my congrats and follow along with the action from afar.

I joined the throngs of runners and their friends and family leaving Mandalay via tram. I wandered the bridge to the Tropicana, snapping shots along the way.


I feared the closures and increase in people would result in a taxi issue, so I had budgeted extra time for the airport trip. Turns out I either timed things well or was wrong.  The taxi stand at the Trop had a few people, but nothing tragic.  The first cab that pulled up took a couple people, and the next guy in line begged to come along, as it was an SUV and he was also going to the airport with his wife. The cabbie agreed and then asked if anyone else was going to the airport solo.  I raised my hand and skipped the line.

Immediately the driver was letting us know how pissed he was with the marathon. The shift to a night run (it had previously been in the afternoon) really screwed things up for the cab industry that night. Road closures, HUGE traffic jams, and a lot of pissed off tourists had made for a bad night. We were his first Tropicana pickup (a favourite spot of his) and first airport run of the night. Refreshing surliness aside, he was the best cabbie I'd had this trip.  He backroaded and shortcut to avoid traffic and we were there in no time. As we approached McCarran he pointed at the highway - backed up for miles as traffic hit the Strip, and we were all glad we had a guy who knew what he was doing.

I was the first drop, and he came out to grab my bags for me. I handed him double the total fare and wished him a better night. I figured after all the crappy cabs I'd had so far, this guy deserved my appreciation.  I have no idea what he got from the other two groups in there, but I hope they tipped well.

Airport was a breeze, no crowds, no lines. Leaving me with tons of time to spare.

Sadly, food options were severely limited, and after Jaleo, Raku, and Carnevino, I was forced to order from royalty, his highness, the Burger King. Talk about a long fall. Still, it was food-like, and it filled a hole.

Flight home was spent largely asleep, and all was well. Another trip over. Down cash, up far more in worth was the fun and memories.  I can't wait to do it all again next year.  By then I expect someone will have created a time dilation device so that we can all hang out a bit more.  There's never enough time.

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