Las Vegas, part 1 (The Trip West)

[Originally started on 2/28/08]
Las Vegas. The trip origins go back to the early fall, when the collective “we” (me, Mary Catherine, and her friend Melissa) had talked about taking a trip to New York. The timing didn’t work out to try and go to New York (before it would be to friggin’ cold for southerners to by in the City), and at the same time, there was the Stage Hand’s strike putting a damper on a lot of shows. So, I just randomly said, “What about Vegas?” and Mary Catherine was excited. She had never been before, and I had only been way back in a former life (for a conference when I was the manager for an ice cream franchise – but I pretty much stayed in the Bellagio the whole time – about 3-4 days – and didn’t explore too much).

So, I planned the trip around Thanksgiving, for a February travel window. Mary Catherine’s birthday is in February, and I figured it would be a great way to celebrate it. Go me. We went out for a week (through a travel agent, the pricing was very reasonable, and included tickets to a show), and we stayed at Treasure Island – what better place for two Pirate alumni to stay?

We drove out to Raleigh on Sunday (2/10/08), so we could relax, and actually sleep, before catching the flight out. There is also the added benefit of using the hotel’s “Park and Ride” service to make the return that much easier. After a visit to Waffle House (right down from the hotel at about 7-ish AM on Monday, we hung out in the lobby, waiting for our 8-ish shuttle. And we waited. And waited. We had signed up the evening before, when checking in, to make sure we would have plenty of time to get to the airport and through security before our flight. I finally talk to a person standing behind the desk to ask about the shuttle – and it turns out to be the shuttle driver. He claimed to have done the route – but we had arrived in the lobby about 5-10 minutes before 8am, and never saw the shuttle out front…

I digress, though, since we did get taken to the airport, and we did make it through everything with plenty of time to spare. In order to get a later flight out, we had to do a connecting flight, instead of non-stop. Our connector? Through Chicago! I had been a little nervous with the way the weather had been (cold, and lots of snow flurries), but everything was fine when we landed – but yes, there was snow on the ground, but the sky was clear while we were there. We had lunch from McDonald’s – after debating how much overpriced airport food we wanted to get for a somewhat reasonable price. And we ate our food, sitting in the airport terminal, and watching the weather forecast on a television, and waited for our plane to be ready. At this point, it was almost 12 o’clock – but that was now Chicago time.

We flew out of Chicago for Vegas, and settled in for a slightly longer flight. Again, the flight went rather smoothly, and we landed without any issues. Mary Catherine watched our arrival through the window of the plane, and commented on our arrival when talking to her folks later, “It was like it came out of nowhere. We were flying over lots of open desert, and then we were flying over Vegas.” Of course, I’m paraphrasing, but that’s basically what she said. As I am writing this, the trip was three months ago, and I think it’s pretty good that I’m remembering what I AM writing down, but I digress again.

An added benefit of going through a travel agent are some of the little “extras” that come with buying the packages through them. Our round-trip shuttle service from the airport was included, but I didn’t really realize it until we were standing in line, waiting for the shuttles. I saw a couple of people ahead of us in line with their forms, which prompted me to look closer at mine. We got our vouchers for the shuttle, “Just make sure to ask for return vouchers, and ask about scheduling the return trip” (call the day before to schedule, since it’s based on a timed route). The cool thing about riding the shuttle, since it was a multi-property run, was that we were able to see some of the “behind the scenes” areas – places that we otherwise wouldn’t have gone.

By the time we got to the hotel, checked in and settled, it was only about 4pm – but that is Vegas time! We had been up, easily, over 12 hours, and we were tired. We went downstairs for dinner, and ate at Pho, a Vietnamese restaurant inside the hotel. The food was great, and we tried Vietnemese tea (not so much… interesting flavor, but the tea itself was orange colored, and would definitely be an acquired taste). Over dinner, we talked about what we wanted to do during the week – during the days, anyway. After dinner, we went back up to the room, and slept. It was only about 7:30-ish, Vegas time, but after 10pm Eastern, and were easily beyond beat.

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