You may remember from a previous trip report that airline service had been sub-standard, but due to some calm and polite conversations with Customer Service, I was sent two First Class upgrade certificates. I made my reservations for this trip in advance; my EZ-trip (paperless ticket) itinerary and receipt arrived in the mail a few days later, with my name spelled wrong.
As per their directions to call within 24 hours of the flight, I called 23 hours and 56 minutes before the flight and asked to be "upgraded." Everything was in order and even though my name was spelled wrong, I was assured that there would be no problem, that my frequent flyer miles would be properly credited, that my First Class seats were assigned and that I would be the only one sitting in them.
On Monday, June 21st I took my anti-motion sickness Ginger root capsules with breakfast, took Barney to the kennel and then drove to work where a co-worker was kind enough to give me a ride to the airport on his way home, leaving my car in the relative safety of the workplace parking lot.
This was cutting it kind of close, but he dropped me at the curb at Terminal A at 11:13 a.m. Of course, everyone and his brother was strolling through the airport, 5 or 6 abreast, and of course, the gate for this flight was the farthest possible from the entrance but I arrived at Reno Air Gate A16 at 11:18 a.m., just two minutes before the deadline to be there "early."
After a short wait I showed my photo I.D. and upgrade certificate and was promptly assigned a different seat than I had been assured I would be given. But since it was First Class, it was fine. I gladly took my seat and then gladly changed from an aisle to a window seat so that an older couple could sit together.
The flight time was announced as one hour and two minutes. Since the plane was "full," we left a little late and arrived a little late at Mc Carran Field. It was 104 degrees in Las Vegas and we could feel the heat at we stepped from the plane to the jetway.
As I had already made car reservations, I stepped off the plane and walked directly to the Hertz counter with my confirmation number. There was no wait, I showed my driver's license and AAA card and the paperwork was processed promptly. Since the car type I had requested was not available, they had upgraded me to a luxury car at no extra cost. Wow! I boarded the Hertz bus and they dropped me next to a black car. It only took a couple of seconds for me to decide that a white car would be more logical in the high temperatures. After some discussion with the rental clerk, two car changes and more discussion, I drove away in a white 1999 Lincoln Town Car with grey interior at no extra charge.
I immediately set the car radio to KWNR 95.5 FM and since it was too early to check into the hotel, I headed out for some exploration. I especially wanted to investigate the tunnel under the airport runways. It takes you from Paradise Road to Interstate 215 and then you can get directly to I-15 so as to avoid having to drive on or across Las Vegas Boulevard ("The Strip").
However, I went east on I-215 to Eastern Avenue in search of the new location of Las Vegas Harley-Davidson. They had moved last March from Sahara Ave east of Eastern Avenue to 2605 South Eastern Avenue, just south of Sahara Avenue (right around the corner). The new store is huge, about 100,000 square feet, much larger that the old location, which was pretty big.
The store has plenty of room in the parking lot and plenty of motorcycle parking directly in front of the store, where you can keep watch on your bike while shopping. There were numerous new and used motorcycles for sale on the sales floor, including stock and custom cycles and many in between. The "Motorclothes" department has everything from leather jackets to jeans to halter tops to bandannas to baby clothes. I bought a baseball cap and a decal (big spender!). The Parts Department has everything imaginable, including almost any possible chrome doo-hickey you might want or need. The Service Department has possibly a dozen work stations, all behind glass, so you can watch. And there is a set of bleachers which may be for doing just that (watching them fix your bike) or possibly for meetings.
While putting my purchases into the trunk of the rental car, I checked the right side trunk hinge and found the security code for the keyless entry system. While Hertz did not provide a remote control unit with the car key, I could push the buttons on the driver's door and it worked just fine. This saved me time later in the trip.
I retraced my steps back to Interstate 215, through the tunnel under the runways, past the airport, continued north on Swenson and then north on Paradise Road to St. Louis to the Stratosphere Tower.
At the front desk they checked me into a (special offer) $19 a night non-smoking room on the 15th floor. While walking to the guest elevators, I noted a few minor changes to the floorplan of the casino; everything else looked pretty much the same. I inspected Room 31509, hung up my clothes and then headed back downstairs to rustle up some grub.
I drove over to Palace Station and went to the Promotions Center where they upgraded my "Boarding Pass" to be valid at their three other nearby properties. I did a little gambling, put away my winnings and went over to the Stardust Hotel Casino on a reconnaisance mission for my neighbors, who may stay there during an upcoming visit. The sign outside said "deluxe rooms $50 per night, Sunday through Thursday."
I stopped for a while at Caesar's Palace where I did not win a motorcycle, but I tried.
Then down The Strip to Mandalay Bay, where I got a Club Mandalay card. They don't have lanyards for their cards but when you put the card in the machine, the illuminated slot changes from red to green and then flashes to get your attention when you haven't pushed the button or pulled the handle for a while. By the time I left at 10:10 p.m., it was still 99 degrees outside.
I returned to the Stratosphere and did not win anything before going back upstairs to take a shower and go to bed.
On Tuesday, June 22 I was awake and down to breakfast at the Stratosphere Buffet at 8:15 a.m. Their "system" was down so they could not charge the meal to my room; I had to put it on my credit card. Breakfast was fine but not outstanding. I did a little gambling and put away my winnings before moving on.
I drove north on Rancho Drive to Texas Station, another of the Station Casinos. I wandered the property for a while and gambled a little, then put away my winnings and moved on.
The Southern Nevada Zoological-Botanical Park is right nearby on Rancho near Melody. They display numerous birds, mammals and reptiles on a very small piece of property. I donated a small amount of my winnings to help further their work.
Not far from there is the Nevada State Museum at Lorenzi Park, on Twin Lakes at Washington. They have a large collection of artifacts from the southern Nevada area, including many woven baskets and animal fossils.
Back to "The Strip," it was time to visit "The Secret Garden of Siegfried and Roy" at The Mirage Hotel and Casino. Unfortunately, the parking garage, while free, is a long walk from "The Secret Garden." You have to pass by the Front Desk, through the Rain Forest, through the casino, past the shops and past the guest swimming pools to get there, but it's well worth the $10 fee.
The tour starts at the Dolphin Habitat, which I'd seen before but was nevertheless still interesting. "The Secret Garden" is a self-guided tour. Each visitor is given an electronic audio wand so that they can move at their own pace and play whatever message they want, depending upon which animal interests them.
While most of the animals were resting and/or sleeping, some were up and moving around. The audio wands played back narrations by Mirage owner Steve Wynn, along with comments by Siegfried and Roy, making everything very interesting.
I got a Siegfried & Roy White Tiger t-shirt at the Secret Garden gift shop for $20.
Back to The Strip, I stopped at The Venetian but it is so huge and so spread out that I got tired walking from one end to the other. As I entered the casino there were bright flashing lights and loud noises, just like any other casino. It soon became apparent that this was a fire alarm system, but nobody seemed to notice or take any action. So much for patron safety. I saw some actors putting on a play in Piazza San Marco (St. Mark's Square) but the high ceiling frustrated any attempts to hear or understand the dialogue. I just missed one of the gondoliers singing "O Sole Mio" or some such song to the assembled masses near the canal. I was tired, so I went back to the car.
Next stop was Silver City, which I seem to recall as being "non-smoking" on a prior visit, but I'm not sure. While playing triple bonus poker, the machine ran out of money, so I used another machine next to it and managed to put away quite a bit of folding money before I was done with the both of them.
The Silver City also has a small restaurant with Prime Rib dinner for $3.99 after 4 p.m. So I ended up with salad, shrimp cocktail, baked potato, beef, carrots and milk for under ten dollars. My restaurant receipt earned me two free pulls to win a truck. I won a deck of cards, which wasn't too bad.
I visited the Harley-Davidson Cafe but didn't buy anything since I'd just eaten. The cafe features continuous pulsating rock music everywhere. I was suprised to see the employees wearing red knit shirts instead of something in the orange-and-black colors of Harley-Davidson. One of the features of the cafe is a series of motorcycles suspended from a track hanging from the ceiling that is constantly on the move.
Next stop - the World of Coke. The huge replica of a Coca-Cola bottle is a new landmark on The Strip; it contains an elevator which takes guests to the fourth floor of the Showcase Mall (after you buy a ticket). Guests are surrounded with Coca-Cola memorabilia (some of it for sale) and they give a little demonstration of how Coca-Cola was served in the early days. Then you go down to the third floor where you can drink Coke and Coca-Cola products (Mellow Yellow, etc.) to your heart's content. There is a small theater where they play excepts of old Coke commercials and other little time-killers. But the hit of the third floor is the Coke delivery system. In a stylized cooler filled with bottles of Coca-Cola, water dances to music. When you put your plastic cup under the spigot, the Coke is delivered by a futuristic, computer-controlled delivery system that words just can't quite explain. The kids will love it!
When you're up to your tonsils in Coke (and Coke products), you can go down to the 2nd and then 1st floor and purchase any number of Coca-Cola-related souvenirs: t-shirts, sweat shirts, baseball caps, coffee cups, pens, pencils, toys - everything you can imagine, and more.
Right next door is the Ethel M. Chocolates store. But ... right around the corner ... is the World of M&Ms! It's basically four stories of M&Ms-related souvenirs: t-shirts, sweat shirts, baseball caps, coffee cups, pens, pencils, toys - much more than you can possibly imagine! Plus you can buy bulk M&Ms in about 25 different varieties. And except for Tuesday and Wednesday, you can visit the M&M Academy. (It was closed the day I was there.)
Just down the street I caught the 7 p.m. battle in front of Treasure Island ("at the Mirage"). The sun had just gone behind the hotel but it was still quite warm outside. Nevetheless, you could feel the heat from the "explosions" during the 10-minute show. By the way, the British lost the battle.
I was back at the Stratosphere at 7:32 p.m., got a hot dog and a smoothie at Nathan's on the second floor, then was back in my room shortly after 8 p.m. Shortly thereafter I took a shower and went to bed.
On Wednesday, June 23 I was up and around shortly after 7 a.m., where I caught up on national and world events with CNN. I was dressed and downstairs at 8:20 a.m. I discovered that they "evaluate your play" between 5:00 and 5:30 a.m. on the day you're checking out. My play was good enough to "comp" any meals I might have put on my room tab, but if you'll remember, I was told at the buffet that their computer was down and they could not put it on my room tab. I didn't pursue the issue but put the second night on my American Express card and checked out of the Stratosphere. I asked that they leave a note for my favorite slot host (Susan) that I'm sorry I had missed her. I was back in the car at 9:00 a.m., it was 88 degrees outside.
I stopped at New York New York since I had been by it many times but had never stopped in. When you park in the garage behind the hotel, you can walk across to the Coney Island something (arcade) but the signage to the casino is inadequate. Even the signs in the elevator don't tell you that the Casino is on the same floor as the Hotel Lobby.
Their restaurant area left a lot to be desired. I could have had a very expensive hoity-toity breakfast at a sit-down restaurant or I could have munched on various types of foods at some walk-up store fronts designed to look like different neighborhoods in New York City, but there was no evidence of a breakfast buffet.
The only other thing I enjoyed was the artificial steam coming from artificial steam grates in the floor. The "steam" vaguely reminded me of vanilla-smelling artificial smoke I've seen in a demonstration of the Kids' Fire Safety houses used by San Jose Fire and Santa Clara County Fire.
I continued down The Strip to Russell Road and stopped at the Little Church but there were no weddings in progress and nobody waiting. Remind me to come back at a busier time.
I found a Pizza Hut Express and ordered a pizza and milk but it was more like a slow boat to China. The personal pizza was fine but it seemed to take 20 minutes to prepare.
There is a new condominium complex going in on Paradise Road across from and just north of the Hilton. I stopped in at the Turnberry Place Sales Office and suddenly felt I was under-dressed; it was very fancy. There was nothing to see that I haven't already seen in the brochures, so I didn't stay long.
I stopped at the Las Vegas Hilton, walked around a little, gambled a little, then left.
I managed to fit in a little "public service" activity, calling 911 to report a stalled vehicle with two ladies standing next to their car, wringing their hands, on Desert Inn Drive. The Sprint PCS phone worked just fine.
I stopped for a second visit at Las Vegas Harley-Davidson. Even though it had only been two days since my last visit, there were several additional motorcycles on the sales floor. I had a short chat with a sales person and then wandered the store again, stopping to watch some of the technicians through the windows. Nobody was able to explain to me what the "P" means in the "PHD" shoulder patches that some of the senior mechanics wear. (I later found out it stands for "professional.")
I drove over to the parking garage at the Palace Station. It was too early in the day for rooms to be ready but they did the paperwork, including having me sign my initials to acknowledge being told that phone calls are 75 cents, including local calls, 800 calls and collect calls. Seems kind of unfriendly. They told me to come back at 2:30 p.m. for a room key.
At 2:35 p.m. my room was not ready yet. At 3:30 p.m. it was. They assigned me a (special deal) $35 non-smoking room on the 8th floor. It was a very nice room; large, right near the elevator, with good coverage on the Sprint PCS phone and a view out the window to the south and west. Unfortunately the view was of the parking garage, but if it had been a little higher, the view of the city would have been fine. The room had a safe (daily charge!), a door to an adjoining room and two queen beds, as requested.
The bathroom area has a separate room for toilet, sink and shower/tub. Someone else can be at a second sink, adjacent to the clothes rack, while someone is bathing. Very nice set up.
The TV set (in the armoire) worked okay but did not get CNN. I discovered that it didn't get any channels above 13. After two calls to maintenance and a very long wait, the maintenance guy came and fixed the problem in about two shakes of a lamb's tail. Of course he didn't get the word that there was a problem until about 5 minutes before he got to the room. Oh well.
I confirmed my flight plans for the next day with Reno Air; they still had me sitting in First Class and everything was in order, she said.
I went down to the Iron Horse Cafe and had a nice dinner.
I did a little gambling and "finished" when I had twenty dollars left for incidentals on the way home the next day. I was back in the guest room about 6:30, took a shower and watched some television for a while, talked on the phone a little and went to bed shortly after 9 p.m.
Thursday, June 24. I did not sleep well, woke several times in the night, was up and packing my bag at 7:00 a.m.
Checking out of the hotel around 9:30, I put my bag in the car and started for the gas station. It was 90 degrees outside.
I had a wonderful Jack-in-the-Box breakfast, including more Ginger root capsules. The sign said that the ATM was down. (Hmmmm. We can't use ATMs at J-I-Bs around here.)
I drove south on The Strip to Silverado Ranch, a gravel road a couple miles south of the airport, then returned to the airport area to turn in the car.
At the Hertz Return area I was met by a young woman with a computer who noted the car number and mileage and gave me a receipt for 143 miles and $218.60 for the three days. Not a bad deal for a Town Car. The shuttle bus took me right to the Hertz drop-off point at 11:32 a.m. where I walked up the outside stairway, by Alejandro's, past security and out to the Reno Air gates.
I arrived at Gate A-17 way early. They were just finishing loading passengers on the previous flight. There were many late-comers and lots of last-minute maneuvering to get everyone on board. When they were done, I checked in for my flight; everything was in order.
Even after boarding our plane there was a lot of waiting and moving of people about. I got the sense that there were two or three off-duty flight attendants on board and there was some concern as to whether there was room for them to sit. One of the on-duty flight attendants spent an inordinate amount of time (and energy!) talking to one of the off-duty flight attendants in the row in front of me. It was quite annoying since it continued all the way to San Jose Airport.
We pushed back at 1:02 p.m., already several minutes late, then sat on the taxiway for over a half hour before leaving the ground at 1:39 p.m. Wheels on the ground in San Jose at 2:37 p.m., less than an hour flight but still nearly a half-hour late. I was again pleased that I had suffered absolutely no travel sickness symptoms.
Out of the terminal and to the V.T.A. bus stop to wait for the South Bay Flyer. The bus public address system must have been broken because the driver kept shouting information; very unsettling but very "New York." We got to Metro Light Rail Station in plenty of time for the next southbound train. I took it all the way to Curtner Light Rail and then started walking up the hill to work.
Since the plane was late, there was no chance of catching a ride with a person going to work at 4:00 p.m. But I was lucky, about half-way up the hill I got a ride with Phyllis and Bert, who were coming back from an off-site meeting.
I got to my car at exactly 4 p.m. and headed for the kennel. I picked up Barney, paid my bill, picked up the mail at the Willow Glen post office, put some money into the bank and pulled into the garage at exactly 5:05 p.m.
It was another fun - exciting - tiring - enjoyable trip to Las Vegas!