2019 Vegas vacation

Normally Donna and I go on a fall motorcycle trip...or at least we try to. We haven't been a fall trip since 2016. Surgeries, house projects, and life have gotten in the way. A few months ago we found out that my brother Monty and his fiance, Nikki, had planned a Vegas wedding. They invited us to go, too. Donna had never been to Las Vegas or flown on an airplane so she was excited. I hate flying, and I've been to Las Vegas before, but Donna's excitement was infectious.

Monty & Nikki would be there September 11-17. Donna didn't want to fly on 9/11 or Friday the 13th so we decided to leave on Thursday and come back on Monday. Donna looked at the various hotels and liked the Flamingo. We also wanted direct flights with normal hours. I found package deal through Southwest Airlines that met all the criteria.

I normally only write trip reports for motorcycle trips. However, I was thinking back to a trip our young family took in 1968 to California and back that included a stop in Las Vegas. I thought it would be cool to have a trip report from way back then so I decided to do a report about our present day trip.

September 12

Travel day has arrived! We arrived at the Indianapolis airport about three hours before our 12:30pm flight. We parked a few spaces down from Monty's truck, and took the shuttle to the airport. We had one bag to check and Donna had a carry-on. It didn't take long to get our boarding passes or get through security. I failed to remove everything from my pockets so I got a pat down. I thought I just needed to remove all my metal objects. When we reached the terminal we found that our flight was delayed an hour. We had plenty of time to wait. Better to wait than to hurry, though.

Southwest doesn't have assigned seats. They have a boarding order based on when you register for your boarding pass. Don't really care for this arrangement. You can spend extra money and get a better boarding position. Everything is about money. Our boarding order kind of sucked but luckily the plane wasn't very full and we got decent seats together. Donna has heard me complain about people carrying on more luggage than they should and she got to see it firsthand.

Donna was a little apprehensive as the plane taxied to the runway and throttled up. She handled the takeoff like a champ. The flight itself was boring. Sitting for 3 1/2 hours listening to the droning of the engines. We both tried to sleep a little to pass the time. As we neared Las Vegas we could see the Grand Canyon and Lake Mead. As we descended the pilot made a couple quick turns and Donna's stomach did not like it. She also didn't like seeing the ground coming up to meet us or the jarring thump as we hit the pavement. I just smiled as she lost her flight virginity.

Now that we were on the ground we had to do our 'chores'. The first was to find the baggage carousel and get our luggage. It was a long walk and we followed the signs and the crowd. Eventually the carousel starts moving and the luggage starts flowing. We recovered our luggage without issue. The next task was finding the bus that takes us to the rental car agency. It is a couple miles from the airport. Again we followed the signs to the outdoor area where a shuttle picks you up. It didn't take very long to fill out the rental car paperwork and drive away in our Nissan Versa. I had researched the route to the hotel but it still took some exploration of the side streets. We parked in a circle dropoff zone near the rear of the hotel. It only took about ten minutes to check in. I guess while I was gone one of the valets gave Donna a hard time about parking there. She didn't care...in one ear and out the other.

The lady at check-in directed me to a parking garage that is connected to the hotel. Even though the parking garage was next door and we could throw a rock and hit it it was still a pain finding the entrance. They should invest in some signs to help out us tourists. We eventually found the entrance, got our parking ticket ($15 a day), parked the car, and headed to our room. The main floor is like a shopping mall on one side and a casino on the other. We hadn't reached the elevators yet when Donna was lured into a beauty salon selling $200/jar miracle cream. After a free makeover we left. It felt nice to fall onto the bed. Awwwww...we were here. Our room overlooked the strip.

We relaxed for awhile then got ahold of Monty & Nikki. Their hotel (Alara?) was a couple blocks south. They were out roaming around town and said they would meet us in front of our hotel. It took them awhile to work their way to our hotel via walking and the bus. We stood outside and watched the crowds. Tons of normal people and quite a few odd ones. Elvis impersonators, tweakers, and scantily-clad girls in costumes trying to get people to take pictures with them (for money, of course). I was surprised that most of those girls weren't really that good looking. I mean...it's Vegas. It was hot so we stood by a bar that had misters.

When Monty & Nikki arrived we started walking north checking out the casinos and sights. I watched the others gamble on the various machines. It was fun watching them win and lose. I don't gamble so it was free entertainment. We decided it was time for supper so at Nikki's suggestion we worked our way south to the Aria buffet.

I was here ten years ago and some things have changed since then. They've gotten rid of the thousands of solicators handing out cards for hookers. They've also built a lot of elevated pedestrian crossovers to avoid traffic. The ones with working escalators were nice. The others required some effort. We're getting our excercise. The route to Aria took us passed the Bellagio fountains. The Aria buffet had a huge selection of foods to try. Donna and I hadn't really eaten all day so it was extra good. After supper we worked our way back to the hotels for a good night's sleep. We stopped at Planet Hollywood where Nikki and Donna got margaritas in guitar-shaped glasses.

September 13

This morning Monty & Nikki were being fitted for their tux and wedding dress, so Donna and I were on our own for awhile. We headed south looking for lunch.

Donna is big Gordon Ramsay nerd and we happened upon one of his burger restaurants in the Planet Hollywood complex. It wasn't open yet so we killed some time in the casino. The food was good and not expensive like you'd expect. One negative for Donna was seeing one of the cooks eating food while he was cooking and not wearing gloves. Donna got a T-shirt.

After walking today and yesterday we decided to take the car and do some mobile exploring. We headed east to the normal part of town. Donna wanted to go to a drugstore to pick up some supplies. We needed some drinks for the room and Donna needed some glue for a broken fingernail. No drugstores were to be found so Donna looked on her phone. Eventually we found one. I miss my GPS.

We didn't know where Monty & Nikki's fitting was so Donna texted her. We thought if they were close we might pick them up. When Donna got ahold of her they were already headed back to their hotel, so we headed that way. That was an adventure unto itself. The roadways under their hotel was a confusing maze. Again, some signage would help. We couldn't find a normal place to park by their entrance so we hid out in a restricted spot where we could see them come out. When they got in we headed west for more exploration.

We cruised around just turning here and there and seeing where the road took us. Monty & Nikki hadn't eaten today so we were also looking for somewhere to eat. The girls did a phone search and found a place that sounded good. Donna used her phone for directions again. Since I had no clue where we were going several times I was in the wrong lane and missed a turn. Donna had fun teasing me about it. I wish this car had navigation. Eventually the phone led us back to the strip to a casino with no place to park. Foiled!

Since we were near our hotel we decided to park the car and search for food on foot. We explored the shops and walked through the Flamingo. At one of the many outdoor areas they had pink flamingos.

We ended up at Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville. Monty & Nikki finally got some food.

After lunch the girls got some huge margaritas. We spent the afternoon walking the strip and gambling and taking in the sights. Monty & Nikki had a 9pm show to attend so as the time neared we made our way to their hotel so they could get ready.

Donna and I continued on the strip. We made our way over and up the the west side. Tipsy Donna even took a picture with a couple showgirls. I bought some maps at a CVS and we watched the Bellagio fountain show. When we reached our hotel it was late and we were hungry so we stopped at the Johnny Rockets in the hotel for supper. We ate it in the room. The food was so-so. It was nice to relax after all the walking.

September 14

Today is Monty & Nikki's wedding day. It isn't until this evening so we had some time to run around. We walked to their hotel and met them there. We spent some time in a couple of the casinos.

We had lunch at the LVB Burger in the Mirage Hotel. Afterwards we walked around and hit some more casinos. At one point Donna was down to less than a dollar but came back to end up with over sixty dollars.

Donna bought several dresses for this trip so she could dress up. She looked so pretty in each of them.

As evening approached Donna and I made our way back to the Flamingo. Donna changed into another pretty dress. I drove her to Monty & Nikki's hotel where I swapped Donna for Monty. Donna would help Nikki get ready and Monty would hang with me until time for the ceremony. When we got back to our hotel I took a nap and Monty hit the casino. Later he came back and got dressed. As he was getting dressed he asked if the marriage license was there. We couldn't find it in the room. It had been in the car earlier that day, so I went to look. When I got to the parking garage where I thought the car was I couldn't find it. Hmmmmmmm. I looked around but couldn't find the car. I ended up using the panic button to find it, and even then it took awhile to finally track down the sound. The license wasn't there. Donna had it with her.

The limousine was supposed to pick us up at 9pm so we were at the pickup area at 8:45. We waited...and waited...and waited. Eventually Donna called and checked on us. Nikki called the wedding people who called the limousine driver who said he was waiting for us. Really...where? Eventually we asked one of the valets and we found out there was another pickup location on the side of the hotel nearer to the strip. Good information to know. We walked there and found the waiting limousine.

Traffic was horrible and the driver had a hard time getting out of there. There was more. The guy had just started driving a limousine a week before and no idea how to get anywhere. He was on the phone talking to the minister who told him how to get to the other hotel to pick up the girls and then the ceremony location. We arrived a little late but it was okay.

A traditional Vegas wedding presided over by an Elvis minister under the Las Vegas sign. It was a cute and fun ceremony.

The newly married couple.

My Precious and I.

When we went to leave the limo wouldn't start. The driver had left the lights on and the battery was too ran down. The people in charge of the wedding were there taking pictures and called another limousine. It was even nicer, and took us back to Monty & Nikki's hotel. They changed clothes and we headed up the strip. Later we called a taxi that took us to old Las Vegas. We walked around for awhile and had a late supper at the Claim Jumper restaurant. We didn't get back to the hotel until ~3am. That's 6am Indiana time. I was dead tired.

September 15

After a good night's sleep we were headed to pick up Monty & Nikki. We will be traditional tourists and visit the Hoover Dam. Monty and I have been here before but it was 51 years ago so our recollection is a little fuzzy. Today is the last day in Las Vegas for Donna and I.

Old married couple.

The forty mile drive was enjoyable. There were train tracks (but no trains) and plenty of western scenery. We parked in a parking garage and got a coke at the refreshment stand. It is pretty hot today. We made our way to the main building where we purchased our tour tickets and waited for the tour to begin.

We went outside and took some pictures. The water level is very low as can be seen by the white rocks on the shoreline.

The Wright brothers.

We took the deluxe tour which went to the turbine room and the tunnels inside the dam. It was an excellent tour. Full of facts and history. We walked across the dam to the Arizona side then hit the gift shop on the way back to the car. The air conditioning felt good.

I had forgotten to bring my phone so Donna was taking all the pictures. Her battery was dying so we were on a mission to get her a charger. At Henderson we stopped for gas and I also got her a charger. Next question...what is for lunch? A phone search revealed an Olive Garden down the road so we went there.

Where to go next? The girls wanted to go the Valley of Fire so Navigator Donna fired up her newly charged phone. 65 miles later we were there after a short break at the Moapa Paiute Travel Plaza. Along the way we passed the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. They were having a NASCAR race this afternoon.

The Valley of Fire was a neat place. Remote. Nice roads. Beautiful scenery. I kept thinking how nice this would be on motorcycles. The falling sun cast interesting shadows on the rocks and gave the rocks a red/orange glow.

We were time restricted because the park had to be vacated by sundown. The visitor center was already closed. The sun was disappearing as we left the park. We headed back to Las Vegas the same way we came. Traffic was leaving the motor speedway and causing some local congestion. The city looked cool at night from a distance. We took Monty & Nikki back to their hotel on now familiar roads. We filled up the rental car and stopped in a store in the hotel and bought some T-shirts and souveniors. Donna ate her Olive Garden leftovers. I had a calzone from one of the hotel restaurants, and didn't care much for it...too much cheese and not much meat.

September 16

Today is 'head home' day. We left the hotel early because we guessed the airlines would be busy because of the all the departing NASCAR fans. The hotel checkout and rental car return went quickly as did the terminal security line. We beat the crowds by about 30 minutes. By the time we passed through security there was a huge amount of people behind us. We had plenty of time before our flight so we had a nice breakfast and Donna played some slot machines.

I had paid $35 to upgrade our boarding position and I'm glad I did. Today's flight was full. Donna's stomach had been bothering her so we sat in the last row near the restroom. It would have been nice to have the extra seat to ourselves but it was not to be. At the last minute a guy took the window seat. He must have had a sinus problem or a cold because he kept snorting and clearing his throat about every fifteen seconds. It was grossing Donna out. He also kept overflowing his seat and bumping into her. She had a torturous flight. My seat was uncomfortable. We were both happy to feel the plane touch down on Hoosier soil. Donna now understands why I hate flying.

We had fun in Vegas but it also felt good to be back in Indiana. We collected our luggage and headed for the Jeep. It was a nice day so we skipped the shuttle and walked to the parking lot. On the way home we stopped at Donna's sister's house to pick up a quilt she had repaired for Donna. She has a very impressive quilting machine. When we got home Buford was howling his 'hello' and we got lots of kisses.

Trip note: The package I bought through Southwest Airlines saved about $200, but didn't include resort fees and such, so any savings were minimal. If I had to do it over again I would purchase the flight/hotel/rental car separately. You can customize each aspect and receive better documentation.

See you on the Highway!

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