Each year the South Bay Champions hold their annual dinner and donation drawing. I usually buy several tickets to the event because I believe that Canine Companions is a very worthwhile organization.
On the day after the dinner, I was surprised when Kathy B. called to say that I had won the Grand Prize. When I had purchased the tickets this year, the prizes were dinners at local restaurants, so I was pleased. But I was surprised again to find that the Grand Prize was actually two round-trip tickets from San Jose to Las Vegas on Southwest Airlines!
So I arranged a couple days off work and looked forward to the trip with my friend Glenn on June 2-3-4.
We got to the Park-and-Service Chevron in plenty of time to get onto the (National Car Rental) shuttle and got to the airport terminal with time to spare. We ran into an old ham friend in the boarding lounge and talked to him and his girlfriend until boarding time.
(When flying Southwest, one must be there an hour early to get boarding passes so that you can get your choice of a good seat. We got good seats.)
As a long-time motion-sickness sufferer, I tried "natural" ginger root tablets on this trip instead of Bonine®, which works fine but causes drowsiness. It was a little touchy during final approach to McCarran Airport, because there was some turbulence, but I didn't get sick on the flight.
When we landed, we rode one of several competing charter-bus lines to the downtown area. The trip seemed like it took a long time, although part of that was because we had to stop at other hotels and part of it is that there is a lot more traffic in LV than my last trip four years ago. Lots of idiot drivers doing dumb things don't help. Plus, there were two conventions in town: laundry people (?) and jewelers.
We got to the Stratosphere Hotel and Casino and everything was in order. Glenn had arranged two nights stay, two show tickets and four meal tickets, all complimentary. (Later he arranged another meal, two more show tickets and a trip up to The Tower, all complimentary.)
We found slot machines we liked and that treated us well. We were able to get some special help at the roulette wheel from one of the employees, who explained to us (in Vietnamese-accented English) how to play. We did pretty well there for a while.
We rode with three different cab drivers while going to different hotels, and while talking with them, we discovered that they are frustrated by all the traffic as well. In two of our trips, the drivers took us onto Interstate 15 for a couple off-ramps to avoid the stop-and-go traffic on Las Vegas Boulevard (commonly called "The Strip").
We went over to Treasure Island to see the pirate battle. It was hard to see because of the size of the crowd, but we did get a good idea of what it's supposed to look like. We also went to the Luxor to look around, but they still don't let you go up in the Inclinators (non-vertical elevators) unless you are a hotel guest. Too bad.
Atop the Stratosphere Hotel are a revolving restaurant and a cocktail lounge (Floors 106 & 107), conference rooms, a gift shop (duh!) and two thrill rides. I am not, of course, a "thrill ride" person, so I rode neither "The Let It Ride High Roller" nor "The Big Shot" (Floors 108 through 113).
But we did enjoy looking out the windows from the "Indoor Observation Platform" (Floor 108) and looking over the fence from the "Outdoor Observation Platform" (Floor 109). I narrowly avoided calling someone from one of several pay phones (!) and asked them if they could guess where I was calling from.
On Wednesday morning we wandered over to McDonald's (inside the hotel) and then met the Gray Line bus for the ride to the airport. On the return trip I took the same ginger root tablets (although I increased the "dosage" from 3 to 4 for the return trip) and the flight was just great. It was the same 57 minutes of flight time as the trip over. We got back to the airport just before 1 p.m., took the National shuttle over to Park-and-Ride, where the Explorer was parked right up front. I took Glenn home, then stopped at the post office to pick up the mail, stopped at the bank to make a deposit (!) and then home to greet Barney and get back to "real life."