Driving to Vegas from Chicago, leaving Aug 5th and returned the 12th, staying at the Sahara for 2 nights and the Tropicana for the other 2 nights. This was my 3rd trip to Vegas and we usually fly, but we thought it would be fun to see the country. It was originally planned with myself, my wife, my cousin and his friend driving the 1800 miles. A week before the trip my cousin's friend found out he couldn't get off work, so it was just the three of us.
Sat Aug 5th
We left Chicago at 4:15 AM on Sat the 12th, in my Dodge Caravan with 150,000 miles. Although the van has a lot of miles, it is in good shape and I didn't have any real concerns about it making the trip. That was until we reached the mountains. As we started reaching hotter weather and higher altitude, the van vapor locked and died out twice. It was really no big deal because it fired back up a minute or two after sitting, but it left me with an uneasy feeling the rest of the trip.
We reached Denver at 7:00 Chicago time, and stopped at Old Chicago Pizza for dinner. Big mistake, this pizza was nothing like Chicago pizza, it pretty much sucked. Hit the road again at 8:00 and started up the mountains. Although it was a bit sluggish the van made it up the mountains and before long we were on our way back down. This is where the real fun began. We had just excited a long tunnel, during which the van again began running poorly. Upon exciting the tunnel the road goes downhill steeply, and the van died out. Because of this, we were now traveling about 75 miles per hour down a mountain with no power brakes or power steering. The van quickly recovered however and we made it to an exit where a local explained to me that vapor lock is very common in the mountains.
We continued on to Vail, where we attempted to get a hotel room. No chance in hell, every room in the town was booked. I was told continue on to Grand Junction, another 150 miles, and they will have rooms. We followed a Semi for what seemed like the longest 150 miles in history. We reached Grand Junction at around midnight, 20 hours after leaving Chicago. Just our luck, there were no rooms in the entire town of Grand Junction. We decided to sleep in the van, and although it wasn't the greatest we were able to get about 8 hours sleep in a parking lot. We had made it though Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, and almost through Colorado.
Sun Aug 6th
Left Grand Junction about 8:00 CT, and it was a pretty uneventful 8 hours to Vegas. We drove out of Colorado, through Utah, Arizona, and finally to Nevada. The temp was 118, and the van handled it pretty well until we exited the interstate. It again vapor locked on the corner of Sahara and the Strip, right in front of our hotel. After 28 hours of driving, here we are broke down right in front of our damn hotel. After its usual 2 mins of rest, the van fired right back up and we were off to the parking garage.
Checked in to the Sahara at 2:00 Vegas time. In the past I have stayed at the MGM and the Luxor, but Sahara had $29 room rates, so I gave it a try. Lets just say the price was right. Our original rooms were I believe 406 and 407 in the Tunis tower. We had a wonderful view of the parking garage, it you are into parking garages. We're not. Although the rooms sucked, you get what you pay for and I was content with a place to sleep.
After showering up we were ready to experience Vegas, but I wanted to give the van some much-deserved rest so we decided to take the bus. We were planning to head south, but the northbound bus was sitting right in front so we jumped on. Unfortunately the air conditioning was broke in the bus, and it was blowing heat hotter then the 118 outside. We sweated it out to Freemont Street and walked to the Main Street Station for the buffet. The buffet was decent, and we left full. At that point we decided it was too early to have any fun on Freemont and took a cab to the MGM.
The bar in the dome of the MGM looked like a good place to have a drink, so we sat down and had a couple $3.50 beers. There was not an act on stage, so they continuously played MGM commercials on the big screen. After hearing the same lame Rita Rutner joke 20 or so times we had had enough and hit the strip. Then walked over to the Excalibur for one of those quick massages in the walkway to the Luxor. After 2 days in a minivan, it was very enjoyable. Night had fallen at this point, so we strolled down the strip taking in the Bellagio fountain show, the Volcano, and the Pirate ship battle. During the walk I decided to strip now officially ends for me at Treasure Island, because anything else it way too damn far to walk.
Returned to the room about 10:30 to hear kids in the room next to me screaming there heads off. Their Dad was just was bad, yelling and growling as he played with the kids. I knocked on the wall at first to let them know they were loud, but to no avail. After a few punches on the wall failed to get their attention I decided to change rooms. Sahara was very accommodating and moved us to rooms 1418 and 1419, now high enough to have decent views. My cousin's view was of the strip, while ours overlooked the Stratosphere, downtown, and that lovely land in between.
Ended the night listing to some Karaoke in the Sahara NASCAR café lounge. They had some regulars come up to keep things going, all of which were talented. All the others were really funny or really bad, but everyone was having a good time so it was cool.
Mon Aug 7th
Woke up late, about 11:15 or so and tried to get some breakfast. There was a diner in the Sahara so we sat down and waited to order. After about 10 or 15 mins of no service we got up and left. Decided to sit out by the pool and have a burger from the food stand outside. The pool was nothing fancy, but nice to relax in. It has a ledge to sit on along the wall of the entire pool, so we sat in the pool for about 3 hours watching the big-shot and the roller coaster on the Strat. We then relaxed in the rooms for a bit and headed downtown for the light show. Before the show we ate at the Freemont buffet. This buffet was great; a step up in class from most Vegas buffets, and the food was excellent. Caught the light show and some decent bands, then back to the strip for Legends at the IP. This was a pretty good show, although some of the acts were not my taste. Elton John, Shania Twain, the Temptations, and Elvis were good, but Bette Mittler? No thanks. We sat up front, and Elvis walked out onto our table and performed 'My Way' while standing on our table, which was a trip. After walking the strip some more we called it a night.
Tue Aug 8th
Checked out of the Sahara at 11, heading to the Trop. On Monday we were approached by a time-share ploy, which I usually turn away, but we fell for it this time. The offer was 3 tickets to the Rat Pack is Back, 3 buffet passes, and 3 drinks all for a 90 min presentation. At 11:30 AM we arrived at the Ramada behind the Imperial Palace for our presentation. They basically wanted between $17,500 and $20,000 for a one week a year timeshare in Vegas right behind the IP parking garage. No thanks. We flat out refused the offer, and after the salesman brought out his manager to give me the pitch we were off with our tickets. I would say it was worth it, a painless 90 mins for over $100 worth of show tickets. Before checking into the Trop, we headed over to a Carl's Jr. for lunch, (I love their food and we don't have them in Chicago), and checked out the Go-Karts on Rainbow north of Sahara.
Checked in to the Tropicana about 3:00, and this place was great. The room was on par with the MGM and Luxor, and it only cost me $49 a night. We were given rooms 1725 and 1726, our room had a great view of Excalibur, Luxor, and Mandalay Bay, while my cousin overlooked the strip to his left and out toward UNLV on his right. I highly recommend the Tropicana; the room was newly remodeled and very clean. We headed down to the pool area, which was much more elaborate then the Sahara. There were waterfalls, swim up blackjack, hot tubs, and a pool reserved just for adults. I was surprised and happy to see a woman in a thong bikini also, which is something you don't see every day. On the flip side of that coin, there was a heavy set woman laying on her stomach with baggy shorts and nothing underneath, which were shifted way over to the side exposing her butt. You could totally see her ass crack from a mile away, and it was a funny to watch the reactions of the people who walked by and caught an eyeful of that monstrosity.
Headed over to Sahara for the buffet prior to the Rat Pack. Attention- never eat at the Sahara buffet. It is the worst in Vegas, if not the worst I have ever been to. We then headed over to the Rat Pack, which was a really good show. All the performers were very entertaining and funny. After the show we shot down Paradise back to the Trop. On the way my cousin spotted the Tender Trap strip club and just had to check it out. I was beat, so my wife and I called it a night while he walked up the strip to Bally's and east to the Tender Trap. He said it was horrible, the girls were all cracked out and one barely stumbled to the stage. He quickly exited and caught a cab up to Cheetahs, where he had a great time. He highly recommends Cheetahs, if you are interested.
Wed Aug 9th
Woke up late ready for lunch, and headed over to the Excalibur because my cousin wanted to check out the Nitro Grill. It doesn't open until 4, so we walked over to In-N-Out Burger. Like everything else in Vegas, it looks closer then it is. Plus the traffic was pretty heavy to cross. After a decent double double, we walked over to NY NY and played some slots a bit to cool off. Lost a few bucks and headed over the walkway to MGM grand, where we watch Johnny Seaton play in the dome lounge. Johnny is kind of like an Elvis impersonator, but he doesn't go all out with it. More or less he seems to just borrow some of the Elvis style. He was good, but we only caught the last 2 or 3 songs of his set, and headed back to the Trop.
I hade been to the Luxor health spa, which really nice, and decided to take my wife to the Tropicana spa. This was my only bad experience with the Tropicana, as it seemed more like a high school locker room then the luxurious Luxor version. After about an hour there we relaxed at the room a bit before catching dinner at the Nitro Grill. Decent food, but don't go out of your way unless you are a big wrestling fan.
In the evening we took in RA at the Luxor. I don't go to club often so I don't really know how to rate the place, but it was fun. My wife does not dance much, but after 2 Kamikaze shots she was shaking it. Now I understand the music is supposed to be loud, but this place was ridiculous. There were times when people were even holding there ears to block our sirens and stuff mixed with the music. My cousin quickly met a young lady and was off dancing with her, so we did our own thing and left after a couple hours. She wound up back in his room, and after they had sex she tells him that she is 27 years old and married, out on a girls trip with some friends. They fell asleep and when he woke up she was gone, luckily his stuff was all still there. I would hate to be her husband.
Thu Aug 10th
Checked out of the Trop at 11, we decided to leave Vegas after sundown to avoid the heat. Basically just walked the strip, checked out the forum shops at Ceasers, ate lunch at a NY style deli in the shops area. At 3:30 we checked out the 'Stars of the Strip' show at lady luck, because it is free. Well, at least the price was right. The show was very cheesy, with bad impressions of Elvis, Dolly Parton, Cher, and others. But at the end they announced they have a special surprise for us. They said the person was a close friend of the drummer in the band, and introduced CARLOS SANTANA! Now, it sounded like him, and looked like him (maybe older, but he is old), and the crowd went nuts. HE played 'Black Magic Woman' and 'Smooth'. My wife and cousin think it was not the real Santana, but I think it was. If anyone has any idea if this was the real Carlos Santana or part of the show, please let me know and settle a bet. They did stress this was not part of the show and he was not an impersonator, and that he was in town for a fundraiser at Mandalay Bay. Any Ideas???
Wrapped up our trip by checking out the Wax museum at the Venetian. It was really neat, and they were giving out ½ price coupons by the door so it was only like 7 bucks. At least we should get some funny photos out of it. Left Vegas toward the Hoover Dam at 8:00 PM and headed for home.
Fri Aug 11th
After driving 24 hours and through Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, and Missouri, we stopped outside St. Louis for some rest. We stayed at an EconoLodge, which was ok but a far cry from the Vegas accommodations. And at 88 bucks almost double what we paid at the Trop and 3 times the Sahara, so we thought that was kind of funny.
Sat Aug 12th
5 more hours of driving and we were home, 29 driving hours and 1800 miles from Vegas. This will be the first and only time I will drive across country, and although it was long it was interesting to see other places. Now time to start saving up for our next trip!