Saturday, March 8, 2014

What Happens in Vegas ...

... doesn't necessarily stay in Vegas, especially when things don't happen like the Hangover movies. Having a few days off from work, I was finally able to make it to Sin City, thanks to a timely invitation from my Uncle and Aunt, which coincided with a visit by a cousin from Canada whom I haven't seen since 1989. Wait...I've been off all day every day since the first week of October 2013 so any time is a good time for me! Unemployment does have its advantages in the form of being available to go anywhere albeit on someone else's dime. You know I don't get out much and since this is my first time to make it to Las Vegas, which is a reasonable progression after having gone to Pechanga in early January, I just had to share it with you. I'm sorry that I'll have to defy the oft quoted TV ad slogan "what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. First things first. No, I don't mean the gambling but how I got the invitation. My uncle and aunt won a raffle for a 2 day/2 night stay at Wyndham Grand Desert Resort which is a time share, and my Uncle decided to take advantage of it while my Canadian cousin was in town with his son. The roster included Uncle Oscar, Auntie Ditas, Uncle Ed, Auntie Beth, cousin Harold, a.k.a. Jojo, his son Paolo, and I. We were a group who communicated in English, Tagalog, and Tausug, and sometimes a combination of all three at once, and not to forget Paolo who also speaks a little French.
Barstow Rest Stop
We departed Cerritos about 9:00 a.m. Sunday and pretty soon we hit our first rest stop...a mile away from home to have breakfast at McDonalds. Then we settled in the van and the real road trip began. In a couple of hours, we arrived at the next rest stop which was Barstow, where we saw a lot of people also on their way to Nevada or going back home after a weekend of sin and debauchery. Jojo bought some souvenirs and Auntie Ditas bought a funny t-shirt which said: RETIRED -  NO PHONE, NO ADDRESS, NO BUSINESS,NO MONEY, TOO OLD TO STEAL, TOO LAZY TO WORK. Wow, kinda sounds like me! We also contributed $2.00 each to buy lottery tickets perchance to win big in the Mega Millions or Super Lotto. It was the last opportunity to play the lottery in California before we crossed over to Nevada.
Pretty soon we were on the road again surrounded by desert, but in a little while we could see Las Vegas in the distance. The van exited the freeway upon reaching the city and we began looking for our hotel. Uncle Oscar likes to fly off the seat of his pants so he didn't exactly get definitive directions and to add to that, the GPS he had wasn't working well. Cousin Jojo managed to get it up and running and in a few short blocks we made it to the hotel. While Uncle Oscar and Auntie Ditas checked in, I turned on my tablet PC to look for a wi-fi connection. There was one but I couldn't connect. We were later able to do so after asking for the password. The Wyndham Grand Desert resort comprised of 3 buildings and we drove a few hundred feet away to find ours, then went up to our room on the 12th floor. Our living room quarters had 2 rooms but I immediately had first dibs on the living room couch. We settled in and hung around the room, then had a late lunch/early dinner.
Outside Bellagio

Bellagio Lobby
Then it was time to finally cruise the famous Las Vegas Strip. Down the street we went, made a u-turn and proceeded the opposite way, until we reached the Bellagio and parked there. We entered the building, took a few pictures in the lobby, then went outside to watch the dancing fountains. Afterwards we went to the casino where things became more interesting. As I said before after our Pechanga trip with the same group minus the Canadians, I am not a gambler, but it's nice to try playing the slots and video poker especially now that I know what to expect, having been oriented by my Uncle and his daughter to the games while in Pechanga. We went our separate ways sitting at our own machines of choice. I first played penny slots but was having no luck, so I switched from one machine to the next. I stayed put at one which was making me lose lesser, and pretty soon was joined at the next machine by a very attractive young woman. I acknowledged her presence but we didn't talk and just kept on playing. She left shortly and Uncle Ed came by and told me she might have been a hooker looking for a customer. Due to my naivete, I never even thought about that possibility even though I knew that hookers abound the city, Nevada being a state with legalized prostitution. My question is: why a possible hooker would be scouting me on the slot machine or perhaps it was a slut machine, and not only that but why she would do that to someone playing penny slots instead of someone playing bigger stakes, thus possibly having more moolah to spend, even perhaps for her services. It defies logic, thus the reason why there is a doubt that she was really a lady of the night. And if she was, then I'm flattered that she even thought of me as a possible "john". After an hour or so of gambling, we returned to the hotel minus the very attractive young woman.
The next morning, I was up bright and early ready to explore the strip with cousin Jojo. Unfortunately he had a trying night because Paolo was coughing so he was catching up on sleep. I bid Auntie Ditas goodbye and told her I would be back in about an hour. I started jogging towards the strip and reached it in about 6 minutes, so I estimated to distance from the hotel to be about 6/10ths of a mile (I later found out via car GPS that it was 1/2 mile, so close enough). I turned left from Harmon Street and jogged all the way to Mandalay Bay then turned back. Little did I know until I checked the map while writing this blog that I had reached the end of the strip on that side. That made for a 40 minute turnaround which was not bad for someone who doesn't run anymore. I actually tacked on another 5 minutes at the end.
We had breakfast upon my return then went looking for a Filipino grocery store at another part of the city to buy food. We searched for the store on the GPS and failed to find it, so we resorted to a paper map and made it there. After shopping, we again relied on the GPS to guide us back to the hotel and this is where another misadventure happened. The GPS sent us down the street where the University of Nevada - Las Vegas was located which happened to have a lot of traffic, then proceeded to send us to Duke Ellington Way. When we turned left on that street, we ended up right smack-dab in front of... wait for it... HOOTERS! The GPS with the female voice must have had a male mind! Not that the men in the van minded it too much, but the situation was too funny. least four letters matched. What a hoot! At least the GPS didn't take us here: (beware: adults only link), which Google says is only about an hour away from Las Vegas. Maybe I should check that device to make sure it didn't miss by a letter: HPS (Hooters Positioning System). Anyway, we made it back to the hotel after recognizing a street without the benefit of the GPS. Aunties Ditas and Beth stayed behind with Paolo, while the guys headed for Hooters, well actually the Las Vegas Outlet Mall, but on the drive there and back, we again passed Hooters. We scouted the mall, went back to the hotel to have lunch of freshly cooked tinola soup, then all of us went back to the Outlet Mall so Jojo could shop for pasalubong (gifts) to bring back to Canada.

After all the shopping, we drove back to the Las Vegas Strip and went to Hooters, no, I meant Harrah's Casino. No time to waste as Auntie Ditas had been itching all day to hit the slot machines where she apparently had a history of doing quite well in that particular casino. We claimed our own machines while Jojo went searching for the baccarat tables which he also played the previous night at the Bellagio with much luck. More on that later. I took a few spins at slots betting quarters but was having no luck so I switched to video poker in which I did better. After a bet of a dollar made it all the way up to $15, I walked away because as Kenny Rogers said "you gotta know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em". I went exploring inside the casino then went outside where I saw the minions from the movie Despicable Me. Paolo happened to have seen them the night before and was asking about them. I looked for Jojo to tell him about it and saw him at a baccarat table, but I let him be, not wanting to spoil his luck. When I saw him again later, I told him about the minions and he was able to take photos of Paolo with them (for tips of course), thus making the kid's  trip memorable (in addition to finding a black car from the movie CARS which he wanted to have so much, in the Disney Store at the outlet mall). I played more poker and subsequently gave $5 back to the casino. By the time we left Harrah's that evening , no misguided hooker had seated herself beside me. Maybe the one from the night before passed it along to her social network (Assbook), that I wasn't a potential customer. Back at the hotel, we had a late dinner of kulma, rice, and toast.
Gambling at Harrah's Casino

Early next morning, Jojo and I made our way to the compact hotel gym. We both mounted treadmills but mine didn't work so I settled for the recumbent bike. After 20 minutes I found a working treadmill and did another 30 minutes there. Wow, that's 2 days in a row of running! Then it was back to the room to shower, change, and check out, but not before learning some sad news that a relative had passed away suddenly the night before. So with utter disbelief and heavy hearts, we headed back to L.A. and after a brief stop at Whiskey Pete's for a last chance at winning (or losing for that matter),where I bet a whole dollar on slots instead of the usual penny but no dice as usual, we were back in Cerritos about 3:30 p.m. Thus ended three wonderful first time days in Sin City. No riches in winnings, but brought back some wealth of experience.
Final gambling stop at Whiskey Pete's

Since this is too long already: EPILOGUE TO FOLLOW.

As promised, here is the second part of this post:

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