July 15, 2006

Vegas Baby! (part 1)

On July 11th, Liz and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary. As a special treat to ourselves, we planned a trip to the neon desert out in Nevada.

I've been to Las Vegas before. Liz has been to Las Vegas before. But we never had been at the same time. I'm going to post this is sections, because I've got plenty to talk about.

The first day was an odd series of minor annoyances that edged right to the brink of pissing me off, and then somehow, someone would manage to completely defuse my temper. Our daughter Robyn stayed at the house for the week, taking care of the dogs (Fred went to a bunny-sitter because Robyn's allergies won't let her deal with him) and she dropped us off at the airport.

Outside the terminal, you check your bags before you even go in, and it costs $2.00 a bag. I don't know what the deal is, but the line for that was way shorter than the ones inside, so I consider it two bucks well spent. On top of that, the guy gave us the goofiest directions I'd ever heard for what we should do once in the terminal. I asked him to repeat them twice, because he had a helluva accent, and they just didn't make sense. Lucky for us, I listened to the guy and we found ourselves checked in after another brief wait in some out of the way desk with an almost non-existent line.

By the time we got to our gate, Liz was hobbling pretty badly because of her hip. I let the airline desk folks know so that we got to slide in near the beginning because Liz was slow. On top of that, one of the stewardesses got our info so that there would be a wheelchair waiting for us in Vegas. Good deal.

The flight was a non-stop, from Ted, which is United's economy service, on an Airbus 319. I'll tell you now, I'd fly them again, the folks were great in every way. They also did something I'd never seen before. Once we took off and got to cruising altitude, the Captain came on the intercom and announced a game that everyone could play. Pretty silly, I know. Except that the prize was a pair of tickets to see the Blue Man Group, which runs a couple hundred bucks. The game was simple, the Captain gave some clues to consider, and everyone wrote down their guess as to how much our aircraft weighed at takeoff (pounds and ounces). Some of the clues were pretty specific, like:

"We loaded 1,655 gallons of fuel."
"Fuel weighs about 6.71 pounds per gallon."
"Total baggage weight was 1,280 pounds."

Some were a little less specific:

"There are 151 passengers on the flight."
"There are 7 crew members on this flight."

And then the real curve ball:

"A typical short-hop plane that holds 50 people weighs about 120,000 pounds at take off."
"A 747 weighs about 830,000 pounds at take off."

All those numbers are more or less pulled out of thin air, I don't remember specifics. So everyone calculated and guessed and turned their cards into the flight crew. Just before landing, someone way up front was named the winner, missing the real weight by less than 70 pounds I think.

When we got to the Vegas airport, there was no chair waiting. The ground staff claimed they never got the word, and the air crew called BS. After 10 minutes I asked the ground staff to call again, and again 10 minutes later. By now I'm doing a slow simmer, and after 30 minutes on the ground and not seeing the promised wheelchair we decided that we'd just walk to the baggage claim and our shuttle bus to the hotel. As we made our way slowly along, one of the stewardesses from our flight caught up to us and got pissed because the chair never showed up. She snagged someone from the airport staff and made him call directly and let them know where we were. Me, I'm appreciating all the assistance, but would more appreciate some actual results. Liz's hip is just hurting badly. We waited another few minutes and I saw a lady pushing an empty wheelchair go by. I called her over and asked if she was looking for us, but nope. I told her what was going on and she let her supervisor know that she was going to give us a hand. This lady was a joy, and twenty minutes later we'd collected our bag and were sitting at the front of the line for the shuttle bus.

We stayed at the Luxor, the giant pyramidal Egyptian-themed hotel on the strip. Once inside, our first stop was the bell desk to pick up Liz's scooter. We rented a power-chair for the week, because it would make things so much easier for her. It was supposed to be waiting for us at the hotel. When they claimed they didn't have any record of it Liz was trying to calm me down while not losing her own cool. After a short wait, they found the scooter, under the correct name. Turns out the bell clerk had given the wrong name to the people who fetch the chairs which is why they couldn't find it.

First Vegas Tip: If you have any kind of mobility problem, rent an electric wheelchair or scooter. This will be the best spent money during your stay because you'll be doing a *lot* of walking, and there's no point in being miserable while getting around.

At check in, there was a line which was long but moving along nicely. Before we knew it, the floor manager was taking down ropes and signalling Liz to come on through. We were given a little perk because of Liz and the chair and headed right towards the next available clerk.

A word about the Luxor. The lobby is magnificent, with enourmous "stone" obelisks and sphinxes and other statues. Very "Egyptian". I was very much looking forward to our room in the pyramid, with the slanted window wall looking out over the city. One drawback was that the Luxor rooms only have showers, not bathtubs. Very big showers. We figured we'd ask for a shower stool for Liz and call it problem solved. Instead, the check in clerk offered us a free upgrade to the a "handicap equipped" room with a bath and shower, plus it's bigger too (more room for the scooter to get around in). The downside was that the upgrade was in one of the towers. That seemed well worth it to me, trading the slanted window for the tub for Liz. Once in the room though, we quickly discovered that there wasn't a tub, just a built-in shower stool and lots of handicapped bars all over the bathroom. That's ok though, because it was still a big room with a nice view.

Second Vegas Tip: Relax and enjoy the cheesiness. I had been to the lobby and casino areas of the Luxor before. All of the various casinos on the Vegas strip are pretty much alike, but the lobby and shopping areas are where each resort expresses it's "theme". The lobby area of the Luxor is stunning, and I guess I expected the hotel areas to be done up in understated colonial elegance from early-20th century Egypt. Instead you get everything except Tut-on-black-velvet in the rooms.

An hour later, I was trying to figure out what this one handle on Liz's chair did, because it was just hanging there at an odd angle. It came off in my hand, and Liz called the wheelchair place to find out what to do. It turned out to be the locking mechanism for the seat and was supposed to keep it from rotating freely, and had nothing to do with the mobility. I later found another piece of the handle mechanism on the floor of the room. When everyone understood what the problem was, it was agreed all around that the chair was usable as is. Liz and I just wanted to make sure that they were notified so that there wouldn't be any later problems. Once again my temper was defused by common sense and folks who cared about making things right.

I won't talk about the gambling, because I don't gamble. Liz did, mostly the slots, but I personally didn't spend a single cent on games of chance. That's just me.

So if you don't gamble, what the hell are you doing in Vegas? I'll cover that in part 2.

Posted by Ted at July 15, 2006 02:30 PM
Category: Square Pegs

Congratulations on 25 years. I hope the next 25 are just as good.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at July 15, 2006 03:40 PM

Ted flies Ted? But of course.

Posted by: CGHill at July 15, 2006 08:23 PM

Fascinating. I haven't been in downtown Vegas in 22 years. Never stayed at a hotel... Was too busy keeping my dorm room clean. ;)

I presume Mr. G's is still defunct. Is Texas Pete's Pizza still there?

Posted by: Tuning Spork at July 15, 2006 10:11 PM

Congrats & Happy Anniversary. Welcome back! Thanks for the info. One of the places I plan to visit before I can secure my seat in hell.

Posted by: Michele at July 15, 2006 11:56 PM

The tower rooms are way better than the slanty rooms. The slanty rooms are smaller and after a while give the impression the walls are literally closing in on you.

In addition, the elevators, called by Luxor "inclinators" go up sideways and the amusement wears thin after a few times. We call them "incinerators" because we were sure we would die in one.

The tower rooms rock. So does the Luxor steakhouse.

Posted by: Paul at July 16, 2006 10:35 AM

Happy Anniversary! Glad you had a good trip.

Posted by: nic at July 16, 2006 07:49 PM

Not much of a gambler either (Hub is into craps, but he's good at odds/math). But I love Vegas. Kinda the same thing you guys went for, you know: Shows, shop, eat (but add the gourmet part in addition to the non-gourmet part -- I like both), walk the strip and watch people and reject the proffered prawn pamphlets and later say loudly in a lobby teeming with a busload of freshly-arrived first-timer tourists, "HEY! Where's my prawn?!" We've stayed at most of the big strip hotels, including the Luxor (tower). Dang we had some good nachos there once, ages ago.

Posted by: dogette at July 17, 2006 08:50 AM

I'm a big Vegas vacation fan; and I think I've probably gambled a total of three dollars in the umteen times I've been there in recent years. And I only did it to get 'free' drinks. I usually waste my Vegas cash on shooting high-powered machine guns, renting exotic cars for wild rides through Red Rock Canyon and the like.

Posted by: shank at July 17, 2006 10:38 AM
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