Sin City

Sin City

Las Vegas, Nevada – July 30, 2014

I am not sure if we are just lucky (read unlucky) or if air travel has become a debacle for all passengers.
Leslie and I decided to take a side trip to Las Vegas before spending a month in the Washington, D. C. area for training. Our flight departing from Grand Junction was at a rather leisurely time of 08:25, much better than our 05:30 flights in the past.
We arrived, checked-in, and boarded the plane without encountering a single issue. Then the problems began.
The plane pushed back from the gate right at 08:25. Some 55 minutes later we finally began to taxi to the runway. At a couple of points during our delay, the captain reported there was some mechanical issue. We got more anxious by the minute since we only had about one hour from the time our flight landed in Phoenix until we were to take off for Las Vegas. The captain assured us that regardless of our delay, we would arrive in Phoenix nearly on time. I did not understand logistically how that was possible, but I did not worry about it since there was nothing I could do to change the circumstances.
Sure enough, we arrived at the gate in Phoenix about 30 minutes behind schedule. If we had been on a jumbo jet, we could have grabbed our carry-on bags from the overhead bin, dashed to the next gate, and probably boarded just in time. Unfortunately, we were on a CRJ700 series jet. That is a smaller regional jet. There is no room in the cabin overhead bin for standard-sized carry-on bags. One’s carry-on is taken as the boarding begins; the bags placed in the baggage hold and then reunited with the owner at the arrival point. Unfortunately, the reuniting takes several minutes while one loiters in the jet-way.
Our confidence unfazed, Leslie, and I strategized on how to get our carry-ons and still make our connection. We decided Leslie would go to the counter at the end of the jet-way in the terminal to determine our next gate. Meanwhile, I would patiently (not really) wait for the bags.
As soon as the door to the small jet opened, we put our plan into action. It seemed to take forever to get my hands on our bags. Once I did, I was up the jet-way like a shot. I met up with Leslie. She told me the gate was B50, so we were off. We were already in the B concourse. We thought we would make it; however, we saw nothing at B50, dashing our hopes.
There was not a plane, no waiting passengers, nor were there any agents from the airline. At a nearby desk, there were some agents. We shouted our request for directions, and they shouted back, the gate was A50. That news deflated us just a bit, actually a lot.
We began to backtrack to the newly identified gate. A lovely man driving an electric cart, fortunately, picked us up. He quickly got us to the portal. This time, we saw the plane as well as two agents at the counter. Much to our chagrin, they said they had completed boarding. They were not the most helpful pair of airline employees we encountered. They curtly directed us to the customer service desk. Thankfully, our electric cart driver was still there and drove us to the counter.
The much friendlier agent at the customer service desk was able to get us on a different flight that was leaving in 30 minutes. We no longer needed the cart driver since the gate was next to the customer service desk. I tipped the driver. Leslie and I walked around the corner and boarded the plane.
One more travel adventure under our belt!
We arrived in Las Vegas at about 12:30. Not bad given all of the hurdles we endured.

The welcome sign at the McCarran International Airport.

A taxi took us to our hotel, The Orleans. It is off the strip, recommended by our good friend, Barbara. A charming hotel and it was significantly less expensive than staying on The Strip. For three nights, they cost less than $300. Most hotels on the strip go for $300 per night. The only complaint I had was the smoke-filled casino, but that is true virtually anywhere in Vegas.

Sunset over the Las Vegas strip as seen from our hotel room.

The following day we took a trip to the Town Square Shopping Center. We arrived just a few minutes before 10:00. That gave us time to sit down and enjoy a cup of coffee at The Coffee Bean before the stores opened. The shopping area is just south of the airport, so our coffee was punctuated with one plane after another climbing overhead.
Even though it was relatively early in the morning, it was still around 100 degrees. Regardless, I did not think it was very uncomfortable; after all, it’s a dry heat…

We sat under some shade at Town Square before beginning some serious shopping.
The coffee was the fuel we needed to begin shopping.
A fountain at Town Square.

The shopping area was unique. It resembled the 1950s or 1960s town square, thus the name. Most of the stores in the area that we saw were the high-end stores. Too much shopping there and the credit card would surely have been smoking!
Close to noon, we stopped in the Brio Tuscan Grille for lunch. That was the best Italian food I have had in a very long time. We were there for about two hours. During lunch, we enjoyed an exquisite wine, Kaiken (Mendoza Argentina) Malbec 2011 Reserva. I highly recommend the wine.
Returning to the hotel, we spent several hours lounging by the pool.

The Orleans, our hotel of choice for this visit. Our good friend Barbara recommended the hotel.

While we were still living in Georgetown, Guyana, we purchased tickets to a Blue Man Group show. We cleaned up from the pool and went downstairs to get a taxi. The driver was an incredibly nice man. He took us to the world-famous Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign so I could get a picture. When we parked, he volunteered to take a photo of Leslie and me. The line waiting for a photograph was lengthy. We opted to step off to the side just a little. The picture turned out just beautiful. Walking back to the taxi, we caught sight of a white Lamborghini. When it sped off, the sound was enough to trigger small landslides.

There was quite a line to get a photograph made if one wanted to stand by the sign. We opted for the off-to-the-side shot as demonstrated to the left of the frame.
Our taxi driver was nice enough to make our photo in front of the iconic sign.
Another tourist in front of the sign.
A Lamborghini arrived at the famous Welcome to Las Vegas sign.
The Welcome to Las Vegas sign is across the street from the McCarran International Airport.

The driver took us to our final destination, the Monte Carlo Hotel and Casino, where the Blue Man Group performs. We picked up our tickets from the concierge. She kindly gave me a discount coupon for dinner at Brand Steakhouse in the Monte Carlo. We decided we would eat there after the show.

At the Monte Carlo Hotel and Casino to watch the Blue Man Group show.
A Blue Man Group display in the lobby was a popular photo stop. We would return for our photos after the show.

We found a bar in the casino very near the entrance to the theater. We enjoyed a couple of free drinks, the result of some other coupon I received from the concierge. While we sat there, a Blue Man Group parade wound its way through the casino. The performers were not part of the parade, just some very colorful and creatively designed light “thingys.” Regardless, it certainly drew the attention of everyone within ear and eyeshot.

Part of the colorful Blue Man Group pre-show parade through the casino.
A lot of people watched the parade wind through the casino.

We enjoyed the Blue Man Group performance. However, I do not believe I need to go back, once is enough. The tickets were $200 apiece or so; quite expensive, I thought. As the performance began, the announcer stated there were to be no photographs or videos until one saw the smoke rings. At that signal, one could take all the photos or videos one desired. When that happened, I took about 100 pictures (don’t worry, they are not all included here).

Before the show began, there were lots of different lights and objects in the theater to keep one occupied.
The floating eyeballs were popular.
Near the end of the show, the smoke rings were the cue that audience members were allowed to take photographs.
Part of a musical number.
…then it all turned to red…
Some of the props used in the show were quite unique.
A closer view of one of the unique props.
The audience direction to shake their backside.
Additional direction for the junk in the trunk.
The audience arose on command.
Shake the backside.
People rose up and got wild.
One of the performers raising his hands…which is mimicked by the audience.
Raising his hands and watching the audience.
Looking to the other side of the theater.
Striking a very large drum.
Then the balls began to drop from the ceiling.
The lighting caused different effects on the balls.
More balls in the air.
The group continued to perform.
An artfully blurred view of the balls during a blue sequence.
Suddenly the balls were joined by confetti.
Confetti draped the audience as the show continued.
The “Tweedle Dum” portion of the show…
By this time, everyone was up and participating.
The show nearing its finale.
The colors were vivid.
The audience shaking once again.
The large figures on the screen helped keep everyone doing the same action.
Another artfully blurred shot.
A blue figure on the screen.

After the show, we walked through the casino to the Brand Steakhouse. The dinner was excellent, one of the best steak dinners we could remember. Superb service helped make the meal memorable. Every bite of steak or a side dish seemed to melt in one’s mouth.

After the show, we had a wonderful steak dinner at the Monte Carlo Hotel and Casino.

On the way out of the casino, I could not resist the opportunity to take a photo at the Blue Man Group display. It is one of my favorite pictures of Leslie and me.

Leslie with her new buddies.
She looks happier than the guys.
My new-found drumming friend.
Our best Blue Man Group impersonation.

We hailed a taxi at the Monte Carlo. I asked the driver to take us to the Bellagio Las Vegas Hotel and Casino. I wanted Leslie to experience the Fountains of the Bellagio water show. Coincidentally, we arrived about five minutes before the show began. We found a place to stand and waited for the show to start.
The fountains are huge. The “pond” covers about eight acres. That is larger than Leslie’s mother’s five-acre property in Fruita, Colorado! Many of the water jets propel water as high as 240 feet (73 meters). A few water jets top that by driving water to 460 feet (140 meters). That is the height of a 46-story building!
The water show provides a unique view of some of the other casinos on the strip at night.

A panorama of the other casinos.
The Paris Las Vegas Hotel and Casino across the water, landscape view.
The Paris Las Vegas Hotel and Casino across the water.
Ballys and the Flamingo hotels and casinos.
The Planet Hollywood Hotel and Casino.
Looking across the water to other casinos on the strip.
Smoke emerged from the water just prior to some jets of water.
A closer view of the ring of smoke.
The water jets slowly begins to emerge.
The water jets alternate left and right.
The height reached by the water is truly amazing.
One of the circular fountains.
The water show at the Bellagio is really something to see.
At the Bellagio water show, the spray was flying and the cameras were snapping.
A similar view without the flash.

Back at our hotel, I took a few shots of the lights of the strip from our hotel room.

Painting with light from our hotel room.
Second attempt at painting with light.

The following morning we went to the Mob Museum: National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement. The old Federal Courthouse in Las Vegas now houses the museum. As an avid fan of The Godfather and The Godfather, Part II (I did not care for The Godfather, Part Ill ), I truly enjoyed the museum. Leslie thought it was rather gruesome.

The New York, New York Casino as seen from our hotel room in the morning.
The Mob Museum.
An exhibit on mob money.
A courtroom in the Mob Museum.
This wall is in the Mob Museum.

The museum is just a couple of blocks away from Fremont Street. We decided to walk over and see what was there. The first two sights to catch our eyes were the nearly naked woman and the nearly naked man. The best idea we could come up with was that they were there to pose for photographs with passersby, getting some cash tip in the process. We watched for about 30 minutes and did not see anyone take a picture with either. We left the area scratching our heads.

Walking toward Fremont Street.
The Nearly Naked Woman on Fremont Street.
The Nearly Naked Man on Fremont Street.
The start of the zip-line at the Fremont Street Experience.
The iconic Golden Nugget Casino on Fremont Street.
Pedestrians on Fremont Street.

Our next stop was Binion’s Casino to see a stack of $1,000,000. Someone had told us about the money earlier. Since we were right there, we went inside to take the photo. A casino employee there also took photos free of charge. Therefore, in addition to the picture of Leslie, we received one of both of us. While we waited for the photograph to print, we stopped in a casino restaurant for lunch. I had a chili cheese dog, something I had not had in a couple of years, delicious!

My $1,000,000 bride!!

Our dinner that night was simply and comfortably a pizza in our room.

The following morning we departed for the Washington, D. C. area.  Amazingly enough, we did not have any travel snafus!

Slot machines are available throughout the airport.
An American Airlines jet taking off from McCarran International Airport.
A US Airways jet taxiing.
Our plane arriving at our gate while a Southwest Airlines jet takes off in the distance.

We enjoyed a non-stop flight from Las Vegas to Reagan National in DC. Now we are ready for our training to begin.

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