September 2 - 5

September 1, 1999

T-minus one days and I am all a-twitter. This trip will be a little more focused than my last outings, I hope. On the other hand, I seem to say that before each trip and wind up running around like a headless chicken regardless.

This will be my first solo trip staying downtown and I am looking forward to the experience. I hope to do most of my running around on the first day and enjoy staying put on Saturday and Sunday for the most part. My plan is to combine a one-day funbook run with a chance to glimpse the new places I haven't seen yet. I also hope to get plenty of exercise and rest on this trip. As I dictate my trip reports as I go along, please excuse tense shifts along the way.

September 2, 1999

The big day arrived and between pretending to work I assembled my gear. I try to travel a little lighter now after so many trips, but I still required my small portable CD player and computer speakers for tunes in the room when I arrived. I also use the CD player with an adapter in the rental car. The weather forecast looked great through the Labor Day weekend and I reviewed my proposed itinerary more times than I want to count.

After looking at all the various offers, it looks as though I may be able to cut my food bill for the entire trip to around twenty bucks. I am not a skimper here, but I plan to make the most of what is out there. I landed a great deal on a rental car through National that should has me riding for three days for seventy-five bucks including all taxes.

Finally I got on my way from Columbia to Charlotte at about 6:30 which put me on the plane just after the first boarding call. The flight was uneventful; the movie bad: Instinct with Anthony Hopkins and Cuba Gooding Jr. Everything about this flick screams tired. Soon enough, we were at the gate and I hustled down to the National Car Rental counter. Except for an agonizing delay (which was probably no more than ten minutes), everything went fine and I was on my way in my Chevy Cavalier in short order. I must admit I missed the Gold Card treatment at Hertz.

It was fairly quiet this Thursday night in Vegas. I hopped on the interstate and went straight to the Nugget. Check-in was a breeze, my two spa passes were actually two spa passes (and not one pass for two people), and I was told that any food charges I made to the room would be applied toward my twenty-five dollar credit. I guess I should say that the impetus for this trip was a three night offer, good any time, with the above bonuses.

The room was fine with a view toward Boulder Highway. I was in the South Tower this time and was pleased to see there was an in room safe, something my North Tower room lacked this summer.

I dropped my bags and headed out quickly to the Golden Gate where I played a brief bit of single-deck blackjack. I then crossed the street to Binion's for the obligatory late-night three dollar steak special. This time I ordered fries; mistake. They were shoestring style and while hot just not very good. The steak was a little disappointing this time as well, but for three bucks who dares complain. Service was attentive and friendly as usual, if a bit rushed.

I played another half hour of blackjack finishing up ten dollars for the night. As I popped into the Nugget I played a few hands of $1 Jacks, finished up five bucks, cashed out and headed toward the room. Of course I wound up dumping my winnings plus thirty more into a dollar slot on the way to bed leaving me down thirty dollars for the day. Twenty-two straight spins without one win; why do I do such stupid things?

After about a five hour nap, I cleaned up and got ready for my big assault day.

Friday, September 2

Carson Street Cafe, the Nugget's Coffee Shop, looked pleasant but was a little pricey; I passed and headed over toward the buffet. Breakfast was $5.75 but there was a line, I bailed once again for Binion's Coffee Shop. And once again, friendly service, great food at a great price (I had the Natural - big ham steak, two (2) eggs, hash browns, toast, and coffee at $3.75 including tax), no problem. Restored and having made some sort of game plan, I returned to the room and loaded my vehicle for points of south.

First stop was Palace Station for the revised fun book. This is still a strong play as it contains a $20/10 match play coupon, but that is the only coupon I used and I lost. I did get my points from my various Station accounts consolidated, but I had no need for additional Palace Station T-Shirts. Zipped down I-15 South to Blue Diamond Drive, then left up the south Strip to Vacation Village. This in one I have not yet missed on all of my trips. I never stay long, but having won $100 on the wheel once, I am drawn by its power. This time proved the winner too; I spun for $20. I played the match plays and came out a small loser on those, but I walked out with a big free glass of cranberry juice and $17 more than when I walked in.

Last stop of the morning was the Rio. I had never signed up for their slot club and as promised, was comped a buffet when I signed up and showed my Harrah's card. I jumped at the chance to try the Carnival World Buffet. After all, this is the granddaddy of the mega buffs. I wished I had been more selective. There was a Sushi bar that looked good as well as a Japanese grill, and I think that fare was probably better than the steam table concoctions I picked up among their eleven (11) serving stations. The Mexican was great; the seafood, very disappointing all around. The fantastic desserts I had read so much about were indeed impressive and I enjoyed two (2) small ones. I played some quarter slots after lunch and cashed out $10 bucks ahead. Walgreen's was an easy stop on the way home. It's located at the intersection of the strip and Charleston Boulevard. I picked up diet Cokes and snacks for cheap.

A nice afternoon nap followed by a dip in the pool and the most passing of glances at a workout in the spa, I was ready for the evening. And then, out of the blue, a nice bit of luck. I walked across the street to Binion's and plopped down at a single deck blackjack table. After about an hour, I had racked up a nice win and had a win and heard someone bragging on the mean soup at the snack bar. Still logy from the Carnival Buffet, I thought this might be a nice light meal for the evening. Boy, was I wrong. Had only $3.75 for ham and beans, cornbread, and a coke, I didn't pay much but I ate exceedingly well. To cap off the excursion, I played the don't the craps table (except for a nice run has a right better while I was shooting) and padded my win even more. I cashed out, ambled across back to the Nugget, stuck a franklin into the one dollar 9/6 jacks and managed to pull a four of a kind within ten minutes. I cashed out there $50 ahead as well.

Buoyed by a nice win, I went back to the room to plot some strategy for the rest of the evening.

I decided to make a quick run and give a little play to Las Vegas Club, the California and Main Street Station. And what a run! My big hit of this run came at Las Vegas Club when I hit a four of a kind on the jacks machine. I had not realized, however, that I was playing 50ยข jacks, so the resulting payout was twice as high as I thought. I took my winnings and found a 9/6 quarter at the Cal and hit in for about 20 bucks before moving on to Main Street Station. I played the jacks there for about half an hour before hitting a four of a kind which resulting in a scratch card for $5. For the run I picked up over a $100 with a minimum of play. The result was typical for this great first day. I finished the day up over $200 and counted my blessing while drifting to sleep that night.

Saturday, September 4

The dawned bright and clear, maybe a little less hazy and I pretty much decided to chuck any more running around. I'm sure Paris is pretty, but it ain't going anywhere anytime soon. I am slowly (very slowly) learning to make these jaunts more relaxing and less stressful. So, a little more sleep, a little more exercise, a little less heavy food. It really is a lot more fun in the long run.

I decided to try to be a good boy at the buffet with reasonably good results. Some grits (a rarity almost las Vegas Buffets I found), a poached egg, and two cheese blintzes (okay, okay, so I wasn't that good). Coffee. Cantaloupe. On the way to the buffet, I stopped by the dollar jacks and was rewarded with a $30 win. I gave back $20 after breakfast to the BP gods but still felt great having racked up quite a few more points along the way. I dropped in to the sports book and made a couple of bets on my home town teams (South Carolina and Clemson) and decided to take a drive on this nice morning. I wanted to see a little bit more of the city now that all the shiny new stuff has worn off. What a education! I cruised down the Valley on Fremont Street. I think it would be fascinating to live the semi-vagrant life in a $100 per week room for about a month. While it would get old pretty quickly, it is easy to see why even the most down-and-out migrate here. It is also a stark testimony to the 250-plus suicides in Clark County last year.

Thus cheered, I cruised by to the Nugget where my room had been made up as requested. The room was gorgeous by the way. I am actively planning the first trip with the kids next summer and while there are some disadvantages to staying downtown, I am convinced the Nugget will be our home. The bottom line is the bottom line. Even without one comp, I can get two rooms here for a total of $90 dollars a night. I can feed my family of five in any one of the half dozen places for under $25 per meal and have everyone rave about the food. There is a nice pool, parking access is easy, and we ca be anywhere in town in 15 minutes. I think I have found my permanent home in Las Vegas.

I trudged to the Lady Luck to use an old LVA coupon and pick up the funbook. This little detour turned into probably the highlight of the trip. I played my match play and the three in the coupon book everyone of them hit and I walked out with $32. Or at least I nearly did. Because you see, I stopped along the way and made the $50 bet for a Steve Wyrick ticket. One bet win or lose wins the ticket which retails for $20. As they would have it, the dealer busted, and I walked out with $82 plus the ticket. Knowing full well that this kind of streak could not continue, I aborted my trip south to the El Cortez and headed back to the Nugget. The wind felt so good I decided to luxuriate in it for a while.

And so I did. Saturday afternoon was consumed by the pool, spa, and a long nap. Full of plans for the evening, I instead sat in my room and watched South Carolina get beat - good thing I bet against them. My other sport bets lost, leaving me a $1 down for my sports wagering. Along the way I hit the Golden Nugget Buffet and the quality this night was especially good. Has some nice rare roast beef. Delicious California rolls with pickled ginger and wasabe. And of course, too much bread pudding. I gave about $100 back to Binion's after the game then blew off my Steve Wyrick comp and was in bed by 9:30.

Sunday, September 5

Up early this morning and decided to take a quick look at Paris while it was quite, so I zipped over to Caesar's, cashed my credit card rebate check for $5, and probably dropped a Franklin playing their $1 jacks. Such is Las Vegas logic. I hate a beastly retreat and sped off toward gay Paris.

And I got to give those froggies credit. The place looked great, the costumes were entertainment in themselves, and I thought the concept was very well executed in just about every way. the public bathrooms, for example, had fancy appointments including pedestal washstands and beautiful ceramic throughout. It's this kind of attention to detail that sets this place apart. I have to say, however, that it was all a bit eerie. When you first descend from the self-park area into the shopping promenade and emerge into France... I don't know. It's cold down there for one thing, made even colder by the cobblestone streets. The music is too loud, and too french. Certainty worth a look, but I don't think I could play for any length of time.

I scooted on back to the Nug and decided it was time to chow. I didn't want to fool with the buffet so I sat out in search of some different downtown eatery. But the coffee shops at both Las Vegas Club and California were busy, so I headed back to the Nugget thinking I would try their coffee shop. It too was packed, so I finally gave in and got in line for the Nugget Buffet. And as usual, this proved to be a good choice. A little rare roast beef, some fresh mashed potatoes, a omelet, and delicious desserts including a light, lemony strawberry cake. The service here has always been excellent and while I like having the buffet comped than paying for it, it's still is a excellent value for dining downtown.

After brunch I played about an hour of blackjack and video poker and booked a small win. And this point I'm about even for the trip with all my food paid for out of pocket or with $25 comp that came with my package. It had been a good trip and decided to ease off back into relaxation mode. I headed then to the room for a nap for my afternoon workout and massage session.

A note here about the Nugget Spa. While not a large as the similar facility at Treasure Island, the spa is just right for me. There is a room with weight training equipment and a separate area with aerobic machines. The aerobic area is a little too small but the machines and amenities are first-class. The dressing area boast nice lockers, lots of fluffy towels and robes, a wonderful steam room with eucalyptus wash cloths provided. The steam room boasts a nice feature I had not seen in other facilities: a large head cold water shower with an old-fashioned handle right in the middle of the steam room. The facility also has dry heat, sauna, and a jacuzzi. Attendants are pleasant, if maybe a little too helpful sometimes, and will happily provide juices, cokes, or gatorade on request. At $15 this is a bargain; one can even get a even better deal by booking a massage ($60 per hour) and use of the facility is free. It sure is cheaper than playing $25 black for a few hours.

And my trip closed nicely. I luxuriated in the spa and got my massage Sunday afternoon. The masseuse was a Polish immigrant named, of all things, Jim. Jim was obviously very bright and had much to say, which was fine for the first five minutes or so, but I kept hoping he would shut up. He never did. The massage was fine if a bit on heavy the mineral oil and I figured if a talkative masseuse is the worst thing I faced this trip, I did okay.

Winding down now I loaded the car and wondered about going by the front desk to quibble over the half day rate. On my trip this summer, I was quoted a half day rate of $25 which seemed very reasonable. This allowed me to stay in the room until 7 p.m., where as late check out from the 24 Karat Club stops at 3 p.m. I wanted the extra time and thought $25 was more than fair. When I called this Sunday morning, however, I was informed that the rate this time would be $44. I did not question it at the time, but then began to start thinking about it. The casino rate is supposed to be $45 weekdays, $65 weekends for 24 Karat Club members. I let it go by simply not checking by the front desk when I checked out. I wait and see what the final bill says when they mail it to me.

I loaded the car, and I walked across the street to the poker room sandwich stand in Binion's. I ordered a matzo ball soup and a diet coke. This was my first stab at matzo ball soup, and unfortunately this was WAY too salty. Shot craps even for about an hour, then finished my meal at the Golden Gate with a french dip sandwich, shrimp cocktail, and a raspberry snapple ice tea. I are leisurely and listened to the jazz trio who had just started up; they were terrific.

One last stop on the way home: the Hard Rock Casino. Picked up my funbook at the Slot Club desk, got my free playing cards and played the 10/20 match play coupon at the black jack table. I wound up splitting a pair of aces and winning both hands for profit of $30. I then sat for a bit at a full-pay triple play $.25 machine and hit a four of a kind all the way to a $30 profit. A few minutes let, I ambled back to the black jack table with the nice dealer who gave me the $30 earlier. And there, another nice run with a half-hour win of $40 and a smile on my face.

Checking the car in was a breeze at National as it has been everywhere. I always allow too much time to get to this airport. Uneventful flight home, hugs and $20 to the kids, kisses and a Franklin for the wife, and me sleeping the day away on Labor Day. Viva indeed.

Hope you enjoyed. Please email me with comments/questions.