Route 66 travelogue #11
Or “Viva lost wages!”
On arriving in Vegas we unpacked, got showered, shaved and went to find some food.
There was a forty five minute wait for a table in the Hotel’s Italian restaurant so we got a drink and hit the slots for a while before sitting down for dinner. Got to say that I was less than impressed with my pan seared sea bass. Despite being the most expensive main course I’ve ordered ($36) it was dry, flavourless and the veg was bland and greasy , Mick’s king prawn linguini and Mike’ sea food linguini with squid were apparently solid 9/10, mine was a 3 if that.
Within an hour of arrival, Mick (“Recon”) had a plan formulated. Beers in Vegas are $7 each, BUT, if you play the slots you get them free as long as you tip the drinks girls a couple of bucks. The cheapest slots are 1 cent a play, so, play the cheap slots and buy cheap beers there. Simples! We tested this technique, then double checked it and just for good measure tried it one more time and sure enough it was a winner! I earmarked $20 dollars as my ‘get cheap beer fund’ and off we went.
There was a really good rock covers band playing requests in the lounge area of the casino and we stopped to watch them play a couple of tunes and then take a break. They seemed to be trying to make a 45 minute set last for 2 hours as they’d play a couple then sit down. This might have been at the hotels direction as if they’d have played a full set wed have gotten comfy and stayed there, not playing the slots in the process!
Vegas is all abut keeping you in the Casino. If you stayed at the MGM Grand, you could eat at the finest restaurants, watch the most fantastic shows, enjoy the most lavish suites, bet alongside the highest rollers, and all this while never leaving the hotel. You will find whatever you are looking for there and in that way it’s kind of all things to all men.
That said we wanted to see what Vegas was really like so after another tickle on the slots Mick and I headed out for wander.
The storm front had followed us from the Canyon and though it was dry now, the ground was wet with rain.
While we were eating the sun had gone down and the city had come to life .
First stop was some pizza for me, not only was my dinner bland, it was also tiny and I was famished. Most places on the strip in Vegas were open 24 hours and this pizza joint was no exception. There are walkways across the main roads all the way down strip, these bridges are full of buskers, beggars and the occasional pimp.
It’s nothing like CSI!
Since leaving the hotel we had only walked a couple of blocks to the pizza place, in that time we had been propositioned by at least half a dozen guys touting strip clubs with a free limo ride and no cover charge. They were handing out x-rated business cards with their name on the back. We had clearly arrived in Sin City!
I heard what might very well be the finest sales line from one of these strip club touts;
Tout: “Hey guys, you wanna got to a strip club, free limo ride there, no cover charge?”
Me: “No thanks man, we’re all good”
Tout: “All good? How good can you be? You’d be better if you could see some tits! right?”
Against logic like that weaker men would have buckled but the boys of The Regiment are made from sterner stuff so we jogged on.
It’s hard to get across how little shame and how brash these touts are.
I saw a married couple walking down the strip (in daylight) and one of these touts actually reached across the lady, blocking her path to hand the man a strip club card!
As we continued our walk, one of the bridge beggars had a sign saying “Shitty advice given for cash!”. You can’t really say fairer than that kind of honesty.
As we passed him he shouted after Mick, “Hey, Sammy Hagar, where you been man?”. When I’d finished laughing, that guy got a couple of bucks from me and rightly so!
We walked a mile or so to Caesar’s Palace, so many of these places are familiar from TV and the movies the I ended up walking around gawping at the scenery.
Looking around Vegas is like looking at HD video for the first time, you’ve seen it all before, but never so clearly and crisply.
The chandeliers that adorn the lofty, vaulted ceiling of every casino, the celebratory noise of the clinking bandits, the smartly dressed dealers, the lush colours, the green of the gaming tables, the marble figures, the gold leaf details of every ornate, turned table leg all say “there’s money here, come and get it!”.
Outside is a jungle of the strangest collection of buildings ever assembled. Where else can you see the Eiffel Tower, A fairy castle, a 50 foot Gibson Les Paul, The Statue of Liberty and a pyramid, each straining to reach higher and shine brighter than the next. It’s a needy attention contest on a massive scale, each casino shining like a blossom, attracting swarms of buzzing punters bringing with them their sweet nectar of dollar bills.
It’s a dazzling party for your senses and you have to keep your wits about you. Every little detail has been poured over by designers, there are no accidents here. You walk past 100 slot machines to get breakfast or visit the pool, leave the hotel and you’ve passed another 200 slots and the gaming tables. It’s also not an accident that there are hundreds of slots where you can gamble but only one machine to cash out! (excuse my cynicism).
After Caesar’s palace we headed back to the tropicana past the Bellagio and hit the hay with a big day ahead.
After an excellent breakfast in the hotel, Mike and I headed of for our treat! Everyone thinks of different things when they think of Vegas. Most think of the gambling, some the shows, some the boxing and I know one or two of you have even competed and performed there, but when I think of Vegas, I think about… Machine Guns!
Nevada is one of the few places where you can go to a gun range and fire a fully automatic machine gun, Vegas is in Nevada, I’m in Vegas, the stars have aligned!
Mike and I headed to The Gun Store where they offer lots of interesting firearms for you to experience. You choose your weapons, pick your target (Mike chose a terrorist, I chose zombies!) and que up waiting for an instructor.
I was first up with a Heckler & Koch MP5.
Eye protectors and ear defenders on!
The instructor takes us through to our own firing range (just like in Lethal Weapon!) and goes through some safety advice (“point the noisy end at the people you want to go away ” etc..) and we’re good to go.
I’ve fired handguns and a pump action shotgun with Mike in Florida before on a couple of occasions but this was altogether next level.
There’s something odd about handling a tool that is specifically designed with the sole purpose of putting holes in other people… But it’s cool!
I leaned over the bench, leaned into the rifle butt, lined up the holographic laser sight and squeezed of a round into a creepy looking zombie clown target. There’s not a lot of kickback from these modern rifles and its clear to see why they are the weapon of choice among the armed forces.
When the clip is nearing empty the instructor taps my shoulder and yells “run her out!” Which is my signal to go full auto until the clip is out, and I did, and it rocked. If ever you are attacked by a creepy paper zombie clown, I’m you’re man!
Mike was up next with the classic Uzi 9mm (whenever I think “Uzi 9mm”, it’s always in Arnie’s voice from terminator), same script with the safety chat and He’s good to go. The Uzi has an interesting safety feature which is you have to have pressure on the back of the pistol grip, and the trigger, simultaneously to fire.
This was tricky to get the hang of but soon Mike was making Swiss cheese of his target-orist, the instructor shouted “run her out!” And with a loud ” BRRRAAAAAP” the clip was empty and Mike was grinning like a Cheshire Cat (a Cheshire cat that had just fired an Uzi at a paper Talibaddie!!).
I was up last firing another classic. The AK47 assault rifle! The difference between this and the mp5 is huge! No holographic targeting system here, line the pin up with the slot to target. I fired 2 rounds then started giggling. The kickback was much greater, the noise was deafening, and the target was not having a good day!
All too soon our full auto experience was over and we headed out of the range and through a corridor with assault weapons hung up on display and posters for movies that the gun store had provided replica weapons for. We thanked our instructor and headed to the gift shop. Mike asked the store guy exactly what you can own in Nevada and we were told in simple terms that you can own a fully automatic machine gun like we had just fired for hunting or home defence (what the hell are these guys expecting to find while out hunting, armour plated elk?!)
So, suitably shook up we headed back to the hotel for a chill before heading out for food. After the poor offerings (IMHO) from the hotel the previous night we hopped on the free monorail to the Mandalay Bay Casino and headed to the House of Blues. Half the price of the previous night and a marked improvement in food and service. A chap was playing an acoustic guitar through what appear to be a Jodrell Bank worthy array of gadgets, loopers, pedals and an Apple laptop! He was good though its hard to know how much was him and how much was Steve Jobs!
Suitably entertained and full we had a bimble about the slots, found a drinks waitress and settled down for a bit of a post prandile flutter. Another night of wanton abandon on the penny slots behind us we staggered home to bed. As a spectacle, seeing Vegas first hand is awesome. The lavish architecture and obnoxiously glitzy buildings are a sight to behold. Vegas is essentially a giant 24 hour playground for adults. You can literally have whatever your heart (or any other organ for that matter) desires, but, there’s something about it I don’t like and I can’t put my finger on it. It’s like you’re wagging school, you’re somewhere you shouldn’t be doing something you shouldn’t be doing but no one seems to mind. It’s a bit too seedy for me, and I’m not just saying that to be a good boy. It’s probably the weirdest I’ve felt about anywhere on the trip so far BUT my family has a history of gambling abuse so while I could probably visit a shrink and feel better about the place, I think I’ll stick with my gut feeling which is anywhere that lets you bet the farm on the turn of a card or the roll of a dice should be met with a healthy amount of caution.
Mick is the only one of us who won in Vegas although i spent less on slots and tips than i would of done buying the beers i drank at full price so thats a win as far as i’m concerned. We had fun, got some cheap beers, played the penny slots, had some nice food and saw some crazy sights. Whatever you do, don’t let me put you off, it might be that Vegas is your idea of paradise and you love it. I honestly hope it is.
My advice would be to plan ahead and get some show tickets booked before you fly, stick to the monorail and have a really good idea where you’re going before you start wandering around the strip at night.
Next stop… LA!
J W “know when to fold em” Doyle