Tuesday, December 27, 2016

#VegasHalloween (day 5 and 6): Flying solo

My group was leaving on Thursday, Nov. 3, and it was an anti-climatic day, as it should be.

Given I was up late on Wednesday night, I wasn't in a hurry to get up Thursday morning. We were all meeting about 11 a.m. to load up the SUV. I managed to wake up early enough to clean up, pack and load my bags before making a final appearance downtown. I needed to buy one of those ridiculously cheesy "women of Las Vegas" calendars for a buddy at one of the downtown souvenir stores. I had a simple contest for my Facebook connections, and the person who came closest, without going over, to guessing the total in the coin collection pictured on my Facebook page was to receive a tacky Vegas souvenir. Given the winner was Jared, the ridiculous, impractical calendar was a great gift. And since they were two for $4, I now have one, too.

I also had time that morning to play a $25 Plaza match play I had not made a point to use during our stay. I feel like I come up on the short end of match plays too often, but I owed it to myself to take a shot with the $25 match play. I chose roulette, and nobody was playing. I bought in for $25 and decided that rather than look at the previous spins and guess where the ball was going to drop, I'd let the clock on my cell phone decide. If it was an even minute, I bet red. An odd minute, I bet black. My play was on red.

Normally I don't watch the ball drop when I have a match play working, but I decided to change up my strategy. I stared the ball down as it dropped into the wheel, and it found its way into a red number. I won $50, putting me up a few bucks for the week. I tipped the croupier a $2 bill and went to cash out.

Our last meal as a group was at In-N_Out Burger, and not that ridiculously busy one at the freeway exit, just down from New York New York. I'm smarter than that. Following lunch we finally made an appearance at the Pinball Hall of Fame. We weren't there long, however, at least not all of us, as Mike was the first to depart. Since his flight was separate from the rest of the group I had to drop him off a couple of hours prior to the rest. I left Joe, Jon and Trista at the hall of fame and dropped Mike off. When I returned to the hall of fame everybody was ready to go somewhere else. Nowhere in particular, but an hour of pinball was enough, unfortunately.

We drove west and found our way to The Sci Fi Center. It's close to the Orleans, which stunned me when I read about it a year or so ago through an online list of ways to "geek out" in Vegas. I imagined a giant store full of comics, movie memorabilia, toys and other sci-fi goodness. I was disappointed.

The Sci Fi Center has comics and other stuff for sale, but it's not exactly a retail hotbed for the latest in sci-fi books, T-shirts, games or anything else. The inventory was far less than I imagined, and rather random. I couldn't help but wonder if anyone buys merchandise there on a recurrent basis.

Although the retail business was underwhelming, there's a very cool element of the Sci-Fi center. Part of it is a makeshift theater, with seating for 65-70 people. This small theater is used to show B movies double features, live cast performances of Rocky Horror Picture Show and other occasional entertainment, such as a burlesque review. If I lived in Vegas I suspect I'd find the entertainment and crowd that gathers for it to my liking. Unfortunately I'm unlikely to see any of their Rocky Horror presentations, which often have special themes, as they perform them on Saturday nights, and I'm rarely in Vegas on a Saturday night.

Following a brief stop at The Sci Fi Center we went down the street to Club De Soleil, a timeshare property west of the Orleans, and my home for the final night. Rates were more than I cared to pay for a night at the Orleans, and I found an online deal for a glorified hotel room at Club De Soleil.

I stayed at Club De Soleil several years earlier. They rent out their units when they don't have them booked by people who own timeshares. Every major property on the strip, downtown and close to the strip wanted $100 or more for that Thursday night since it was during a major convention. I found an online booking through Trip Advisor for less than $65. I planned to have a rental vehicle for the final night, so Club De Soleil worked for me.

Although we went to check in early, somehow they didn't have a room ready for me. But we killed a little time there, sitting by the pool. The fact the pool has a hot tub which is accessible 24 hours per day was enough to make my friend jealous.

From there we stopped in at the Orleans, so I could show my friends the pool area I use most often in Vegas. At this point we were killing time, and it wasn't very exciting. Nobody was interested in gambling or anything spectacular prior to their departure. When the time finally arrived to drop the gang off for their flight home, I made them go to the car rental center with me and take the shuttle bus to the terminal. Their flight on the prestigious Spirit Airlines was already delayed, so they had a little extra time to kill. We turned in the SUV, said our goodbyes and I went to pick up my Mustang convertible for the final night of my trip. It was about $5 more than a regular car, so I figured I should spoil myself.

I rent from Alamo, typically, and like the fact I get to pick my car and color. They had a bunch of mustangs, as well as a couple of Camaros. I have rented a Mustang before, so I considered trying a Camaro, but after sitting in one I didn't like the feel of it, so I opted for a Mustang. I didn't want a typical touristy color, so I chose a dark gray car.

I never took a photo of my convertible in the sunlight, or with the top down. I'm an idiot. 
My first stop was the Silverton Casino. I had never been there, and I had read about their mermaids over the years. Seeing the mermaids wasn't a priority in the past, but I learned this past summer that my nieces are fascinated by mermaids. So I went to see them, and connected with my nieces in Minnesota via Facetime. Once we had the connection set up with their iPad I walked back into the casino from outside the building, making sure they couldn't see what I was about to show them. I carefully delayed the reveal for a few seconds, and as soon as I turned my phone toward a swimming mermaid I could hear their excitement and amazement through the phone.

There were two mermaids performing at Silverton, although you wouldn't know it from any of my pictures. 

I took several selfies, and the look on my face was typically ridiculous. 
After spending time filming video and taking pictures of the mermaids I headed back to Club De Soleil, with a brief stop at a nearby grocery store. I had the basic mini-suite, or whatever they call it. It's a decent room with a nice bathroom, and it has a mini-kitchen. By mini-kitchen I mean a mini-refrigerator and a microwave. I knew this, given my previous stay, so I picked up a few snacks at the grocery store, including snack food for Friday's flight home. I also picked up a 25-ounce Bud Light for the hot tub at the end of the night.

I was getting hungry, and my final dinner of the week was going to be back at Ellis Island. I considered using my half-price Silverton buffet coupon from the Las Vegas Advisor book, but I had an extra coupon for the Ellis Island cafe. That meant a cheap prime rib dinner for me.

Unfortunately I had to wait about an hour for a table for one. But that gave me an excuse to play blackjack for only the second time all week. I didn't win big, but I won a few bucks while killing time, and that was good enough for me.

After dinner it was time for a night of gambling at the Orleans. I like their casino and try to make an appearance there even if I'm not staying there. Perhaps they'll get the hint that I'd like a room offer for a future trip, I figure.

I started by playing Ultimate Texas Hold 'Em, and didn't have much luck. It was a full table, and I won't soon forget the loud, annoying woman that sat down after I did. She'd yell out the cards she was looking for, and she'd get them often enough, prompting a celebration on her part. I'm all for being enthusiastic, but she was a bit too much to take.

I never had a good run of cards, and I don't think I hit a full house one time. After losing $100 I moved over to a $5 blackjack table, and proceeded to play for about four hours. I wasn't having much luck there, either.

A dude at my table lived in Vegas, and had lived in Minnesota for about 30 years prior to moving west. He had intended to move to California, but somehow he ended up not getting that far. He claimed he was finally going to move to California in a few months.

The dude was enjoyable to talk to, although he became increasingly distracted as the night progressed. The woman sitting next to me was not happy about it.

I started to think I was doomed to a long night of losses at the Orleans. I was near $200 down, which wasn't a big deal when looking at the big picture, but it was annoying. As I started to wonder when I had to give up and call it a night, I finally hit a nice run of cards. I started winning more often than I was losing, and I pressed my bets a bit.

At one point I was ready to call it a night and said that if I lost the $10 I set aside, I'd cash in and call it a night. I'd have still been in the hole, but by less than $100 at that point. Instead of having to cash out, however, the cards kept falling my way. So I rode it out and worked my way back to even with bets of $5 to $10. Approximately four hours of slowly burning my chip stacks were erased in 30 minutes or less. As it was rapidly approaching 3 a.m. I decided I had better be happy with not losing money. Did I want to try and win a fast $100 at that point? Sure, but had the cards turned on me, I'd have been rather pissed to walk away $75 or $100 in the hole after all that time. Breaking even for the night made me happy.

And technically I cashed out $2 ahead. All my tip money came from my chip stacks, and I tipped my final dealer several dollars in tip bets as I was winning my buy-in back. So it truly was a winning evening.

I retired to Club De Soleil, grabbed my beer and headed to the hot tub at 3 a.m., where I spent about 30 minutes under the stars drinking Bud Light and eating Pringles. I posted the following pic for my friends back home to see, noting it was 5 a.m. back home.

Not the best lighting for a 3 a.m. photo at the hot tub, but you get the idea. 
A short night of sleep gave way to my final few, uneventful hours in Vegas. I checked out of Club De Soleil at the 11 a.m. check out time, headed down to the Pinball Hall of Fame for a few hours of pinball action and headed for the car rental return center. I wish I had given myself more time to exploit the joy of driving that convertible on the open highway. I was tempted to drive back to Seven Magic Mountains simply for a chance to cruise with the top down, but pinball was more important. I didn't even have lunch before heading to the airport on Friday afternoon.

It wasn't the most exciting night of my life in Vegas, but I was glad I stayed one final night and was able to do things on my schedule. I wish I could do that more often.

For the week I finished up about $40 at the tables. I always tell myself I need to dedicate $20 or $40 to the slot machines so I'll have a chance of pocketing $1,000 during my week in Sin City, but I rarely pull that trigger. Maybe next time.

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