Friday, December 31, 2010

Review: Neon Museum @ The Neon Boneyard

The Neon Museum (The Neon Boneyard)

Thanks to my friend Claire, I was able to venture off-Strip for once and check out the Neon Museum (also known as the Neon Boneyard) with her and some of my other Vegas friends on a nice Saturday morning in October. I was so happy to be able to take my Canon and get some good photos for my personal collection!

Claire was nice enough to arrange limo transportation for six of us to and from the Palazzo Hotel & Casino, and the trip to the museum took about 20 minutes with traffic. We were dropped off at the museum office - which sits across the street from the actual "museum" - to pay the entrance fee of $15 and sign waivers stating we would NOT use any photos we took for anything other than personal use. Absolutely!

Paul was our guide for the day, and he took our tour group across to the museum area from the office area. He kept up a running dialogue of interesting facts about the signs found outside the museum property along Las Vegas Boulevard and what the museum owners were planning to do with the additional signage they were acquiring from hotels when ownership changed hands as we made our way up to the gates of the boneyard.

Before we were allowed inside the museum grounds, we were given strict instructions to look, but don't touch; not because the signs in the area are necessarily fragile, but because they are old, sharp, and could fall on us if we attempted to get too close to them or pose around them. He invited us to take our time and take as many photos as we wanted, and he proceeded to lead our group from area to area, giving background information on the signs and answering questions as he went. The walking tour took about an hour, and it was a beautiful day for a stroll amidst all that Vegas history.

Claire and I being the avid photographers of our group (along with a couple of other equally avid photographers in the tour group) tended to stray behind a little and didn't hear all the descriptions, details and history because we were too busy framing shots at every opportunity. Even so, we were extremely happy because we were able to photograph to our hearts' content the historic and interesting signage out on display in the boneyard. Getting an up-close and personal look at the classic signs from The Dunes, Stardust, Binions, Moulin Rouge and other famous or long-gone hotels was fantastic, and I'm so glad I got the opportunity to see them all up close. I was surprised that there were so many other signs in the collection from hotels I'd never even heard of. I guess I shouldn't be surprised, though, since I've only been vacationing in Vegas for about 13 years, and some of the signs are well over 50 years old.

In the end we DID manage to catch up with our group at the end of the tour, and a limo was waiting to pick us up and return us to the Palazzo. It was a fantastic way to spend a Saturday morning in Vegas. On a scale of 1 to 10 for Vegas attractions, I rate it as a 9.

If you plan on visiting the museum, be sure to make reservations for you and your party as far in advance as possible, as they only have two tours available on any given day. There is no penalty if you should need to cancel, but reservations are required because of the limited number of spaces available. Also be aware that closed-toed shoes and long pants are strongly recommended by the organizer, and you could be refused entry into the boneyard if you are wearing sandals or flip-flops because of the danger and risk that may be involved walking so closely to some of the ancient signs.

For more information or to schedule a tour, go to their website for the link to the request:

Tour times and days:
Tuesday - Friday, 12:00 p.m. and 2:00 p.m.
Saturday, 9:30 a.m. and 11:00 a.m.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Restaurant Review: Max Brenner's Las Vegas

Crispy Chocolate Eggrolls

S'mores Concoction

Max Brenner Las Vegas
This is a more extensive review of Max Brenner's restaurant in the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace. A shorter review was included in my previously posted October 2010 trip report.

I planned on meeting my friend Claire for dinner on our first night in Vegas, and after a failed attempt to get into Mesa Grill (it was packed and there were no reservations until 10:30 p.m.), she suggested we just walk through Caesars Palace and see what we found. After passing a couple of other crowded and/or expensive places, she suggested Max Brenner’s, and I’m glad she did! It was DELICIOUS!

Located about halfway through the Forum Shops - across from where the old FAO Schwarz store was located - is the newly opened Max Brenner's. While this restaurant is part of a chain, it is certainly worth a visit, and not just for chocolate, which Max Brenner is famous for. We managed to try sweet and savory concoctions during this trip.

The restaurant has a bar area and casual dining area up front and a separate dining room upstairs, but we chose to eat downstairs near the bar. Music played in the background and never overpowered us during the entire meal, so we were able to chat and catch up while we dined. I really appreciate that in a restaurant; I don't want to have to yell, but I also don't want to feel like I have to whisper in order to keep the neighbors from overhearing everything I say.

Our server was a great help to us during the entire meal, and he was cute and funny to boot. We were more interested in trying several different things rather than just filling up on one item, so his suggestion to get individual servings versus full orders was great for our needs. We shared the “Really Cheesy – Really Crunchy Mac n Cheese” appetizer with marinara, fresh tomatoes and bacon baked in. It was a fantastic blend of cheese and savory bits that could make it a meal in itself. We also shared an individual serving of the “Chicken Bacon Cheddar Rolls” with maple glaze and buttermilk dressing. The rolls were four bite-sized portions of chicken breast, wrapped in bacon and cheddar cheese and served with a buttermilk dressing on the side for dipping. Delicious! Even with the individual portions, there was too much for us to finish, and we had to have room for dessert if we were dining at Max Brenner’s!

For dessert, Claire ordered the “S’mores Concoction”, which was served on a plate that looked like graph paper from high school and included some sort of chocolate mousse and what looked like a deconstructed s'more next to the REAL s'more. I had a bite of the 'real' s'more and found it to taste like a...s'more. Not much you could really do with that to make it different, but it WAS good.

I had the “Crispy Chocolate Eggrolls” - served in a Chinese takeout container and looking like regular, savory eggrolls, they were accompanied by two dipping sauces: creamy milk chocolate and a sea salt caramel sauce. They were fantastic, and the ‘banana fudge chocolate filling’ starting oozing out as soon as I bit into one. Again, there were 4 of them in the order, and that was too much for me. I finished one and a half, and took the other 2 to go. This was my second experience with sea salt caramel sauce, and I have to say that I really enjoy the sweet/salty taste combo. It makes the sweetness of chocolate a little less overwhelming, and I think you can actually eat MORE if you have a sweet sauce that includes salt in it. But that's my opinion.

I don't know the price of the entire meal because Claire picked up the tab for my birthday (which she didn't have to do, but I appreciate her sweetness all the same).

For the entire meal and experience, I rate Max Brenner's as a 9 on a scale of 1 to 10. I would love to go again and try some different sweet AND savory items - they are just too good to pass up!

Max Brenner's hours of operation:
Sunday - Thursday from 10:00 a.m.-11:00 p.m.
Friday - Saturday from 10:00 a.m.-12:30 a.m.
Brunch is served from 10:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays
For reservations call (702)462-8790

Check out their menus at

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

October 2010 Trip Report

Claire and I posing with some old sign in the Neon Boneyard - love it!

Once again, I am behind getting my full trip report posted. I will have a couple of the restaurant/attraction/show reviews posted separately with more details in the next couple of days, I swear!

A Very Harrah's Trip Report - Oct. 22-25, 2010

Friday, October 22nd

I scheduled this trip almost immediately after my April trip, and my LasVegas4Ever founder/friend Bonnie followed suit pretty quickly. After that, more LV4E people started booking their trips, and the Mega Meet III trip plan was born.

Using the $10 Early Bird check-in on SWA and getting boarding pass A19, I was ready to go. We landed in Vegas at 11:35 on Friday, and it was a beautiful 65 degrees. Coming from 90-degree Texas weather (weird even by Texas standards for late October), it was a welcome relief. The taxi line took about 20 minutes to get through, as the line snaked around and around and all the way back to the exit door near baggage claim. I had to wait for my bag about 10 minutes, and I have a feeling if I’d taken carry-on luggage only I would’ve missed most of that line, but who knows? I’ve come to love my checked baggage when staying more than my usual two nights, so I check it for anything more than a 2 night stay. Arriving at Harrah’s revealed an even longer queue for check in that snaked back almost to the Diamond Check In entrance (trust me, it's not that close), but it took less than half an hour waiting to get my Carnaval tower room (#1417) by 1:00 p.m. Still not too bad, since I had a feeling I’d be waiting for a room due to my arrival time and was pleasantly surprised when I was told I could go up immediately.

I brought my big Canon along for this trip, but I decided to skip the camera bag and just pack my lenses in my carry-on purse/bag/satchel and store them in my suitcase when I wasn’t using them. I really didn’t like carrying my camera bag around during my April trip, so I was determined to travel lighter.

After unpacking and calling home to check in, I decided a snack was in order, since the cup of coffee I’d had at home at 7 a.m. and the little bag of 100 Calorie Mini Cinnamon Rolls from SWA weren’t doing it for me anymore. A quick trip down to Harrah’s Café called for large amounts of soda and a bowl of soup.

I was eager to do a little gambling because my mom and my aunt Ruthie would be joining me on Saturday morning. I knew that once my aunt was in town, there was no guarantee of a quiet, steady gambling session. Unfortunately, I was unable to get anything to produce more than a couple of hits, including VP, Gold Fish, Wizard of Oz and Ruby Slippers. The crappy play on Ruby Slippers further solidified my low opinion of the game, and I decided to head down toward Bill’s for the 5:00 p.m. meet a little early.

I headed into Flamingo instead of using the sidewalk and decided to give Gold Fish 2 another try. I didn’t really care for it in April, but I was willing to see what I could do. Surprisingly I was able to play for quite awhile and actually cashed out $75 in the good. I was almost back to even. Take that, Harrah’s! Oh, yeah…same ownership…*sigh*…they’re still getting my money.

I walked into Bill’s and saw my board friends Mike, Pete and Dave already waiting there. What a nice surprise! Unfortunately for all of us, the seats were all taken for Big Elvis’ next show, so there was nowhere to sit, and the music was hard to talk over. We waited for a few more minutes and were soon joined by our friends Helen and Julie. After waiting a little while longer, we determined that we were the only meet attendees and decided to head back over to Flamingo and the much quieter Garden Bar.

We had a nice little meet in some very comfy chairs at the Garden Bar (located at the back of the casino, near the sports book and the buffet). Just so you know, it would be a great location to have another mini-meet if anyone wants a good, quiet area mid-Strip. And it was so nice to finally put faces to names for Dave and Helen, and get to meet Pete in the flesh after talking to him for almost 5 years online (yes, it’s true)! I’m so glad all of you took the time to make the mini-meet. I really wanted to meet Dave before he left town on Saturday morning, and I think he’s a really funny guy. Thank you, Pete, for not letting him drive over from The Orleans!

We all parted ways at about 6:30; Pete and Dave were hungry, and I was planning on meeting Claire for a small dinner or snack at Mesa Grill in Caesars. It turned out that Mesa Grill – like just about everywhere else in Vegas that weekend – was PACKED and/or BOOKED, and we hadn’t made a reservation because we hadn’t known we were going to do this. The earliest reservation they had was 10:30 p.m., and there was no way we were waiting that long to eat. Claire suggested we just walk through CP and see what we found. After passing a couple of other crowded and/or expensive places, she suggested Max Brenner’s, and I’m glad she did! It was DELICIOUS! We shared the “Really Cheesy – Really Crunchy Mac n Cheese” appetizer (with marinara, fresh tomatoes and bacon) and the individual serving of the “Chicken Bacon Cheddar Rolls” (with maple glaze and buttermilk) first. Our server was a great help to us and was cute and funny to boot, and his suggestion to get the individual serving (4 pieces) versus a larger portion was a good one. The food portions were too large for us to finish, anyway, and we had to have room for dessert if we were dining at Max Brenner’s! Claire ordered the “S’mores Concoction” and I had the “Crispy Chocolate Egg rolls”. They were served in a Chinese takeout container and looked like regular egg rolls, and they were accompanied by two dipping sauces: creamy milk chocolate and a sea salt caramel sauce. They were fantastic, and the ‘banana fudge chocolate filling’ starting oozing out as soon as I bit into one. Again, there were 4 of them in the order, and that was too much for me. I finished one and a half, and took the other 2 to go. Claire, thank you again for treating me to dinner – it was fantastic!

After dinner I took my camera back to my room and headed out on a trek to Palazzo. My plan was to do a little gambling there - because I usually bypass it due to bad luck at the slots – and wait for Bonnie and her son, Mike, to arrive later that evening. I took a walk around first so I could familiarize myself with the area and not get lost when I tried to meet up with Claire and the rest of the group that was heading to the Neon Boneyard at 9:00 a.m. the next morning.

I took a few random pictures and finally settled in to play some Gold Fish 2, since it was being nice to me. I met a nice guy playing next to me – I believe his name was Sumter – and we chatted for awhile before he finally ran out of funds. He left and I finally ran out my $20 and moved over to Star Trek. Boy, am I glad I did! I used “KIRK1234” and settled in, and I proceeded to get the machine up to $170 during the two hours I sat there, texting Bonnie as they made their way from the airport to Palazzo on the shuttle. I reluctantly cashed out, but I was tired and I planned on saying hello and heading back to Harrah’s and up to bed.

Young Mike is just as adorable in person, and he is such a nice guy, too! Bonnie raised a good boy there. I walked up to see their room at Bonnie’s invitation, and I must say I am very jealous of her freebies. I could LIVE in that bathroom, and you know that’s saying something coming from me! It was nice to get a little look-see around the suite in person, because I’m sure I’ll probably never see the inside of one again, LOL!

I gave my remaining dessert egg rolls to Bonnie, and they devoured them on the spot. I guess they didn’t get much food on the plane! (I had planned on giving them to Bonnie when I got them to go, so don’t think she grabbed them out of my hands or anything.) She quickly changed her purse and we headed back downstairs together. They were intending to only gamble for an hour or so due to our early trip to the boneyard, and I left them there to head back to Harrah’s and to bed. And, yeah, they didn’t go to bed after an hour, either.l

Saturday, October 23rd

I set my phone alarm for 7 a.m. so that I could be at Palazzo by 8:30 for the limo to the Neon Boneyard. I did not want to miss this – it’s the whole reason I brought my Canon along! I was out the door faster than I thought, so I had time to sit and gamble while I was waiting for the text from Claire.

I ordered a Bailey’s and hot chocolate from the cocktail waitress while I played more Star Trek (not winning like last night), and I was SHOCKED when she brought me a 32-oz. to go cup filled with the lovely beverage! I had the feeling that I’d be drunk by the time we got to the boneyard if I didn’t watch it, but it was delicious and I sipped and sipped on it until it was gone and we were already in the limo and on the way to our early morning tour.

Claire’s little party consisted of her, me, Bonnie, her son, Diana and Terri. Each of the ladies got a single red rose – so nice! We were dropped off across the street at the meeting place, paid our $15 entrance fee, and signed waivers stating we would only post our photos for personal use.

I didn’t know what to expect from the Neon Boneyard, but it was certainly worth the $15 admission. Our tour guide’s name was Paul, and he led a group of about 15 of us over to the museum area and went over all the safety precautions and warnings before he even let us in the gate. He gave us history on almost every sign in the collection, and there were many from places I’d never heard of. A few people asked questions as he guided us around, but a few of us die-hard photographers hung back to get some great shots while the others kept with the group and actually HEARD everything Paul had to say! We didn’t lag too far behind, but it was certainly worth not hanging on every word he said in order to get the good photos like we did. The tour took a little over an hour, and as Paul was wrapping up his spiel near the gate, I noticed a limo parked right outside (we knew we’d be getting a different limo and driver for the trip back) and asked Claire, “Is that ours?” I think we had the cutest limo driver in the world! And that accent! Diana got a good photo of him standing next to the limo. I was tempted, but I resisted. He opened the champagne for us and we all toasted our great morning. I only had one glass, since I was putting it on top of the 32 ounces of Bailey’s and hot chocolate I’d already consumed without eating anything.

My mom had already called to say they were at Harrah’s, and they decided to wait for me to eat. I walked as fast as I could using the secret parking lot walkway between Venetian and Harrah’s to meet them outside Harrah’s Café, and I was STARVING! Hugs from my aunt, who was taking this trip as her last vacation before back surgery in early November, and I dove into my club sandwich and fries as soon as I got it. Mom mentioned that they were the last plane to land before the airspace was closed and President Obama left Vegas, and she was glad because she didn’t want to have to shoot someone for not letting them land in Vegas on time.

Mom and Aunt Ruthie were ready to walk, so we headed out immediately afterwards. We headed over to The Mirage, Caesars and Bellagio, gambling, sightseeing and chatting as we went. If anyone remembers my trip report from October ’08 (when I went with my mom, 3 aunts and 2 cousins), you’ll know that my aunt has what I call “Gambling ADD”. I swear, the woman cannot sit at any single machine for more than 5 or 6 spins before she’s ready to move on! I’m glad I got some photos of the Bellagio Conservatory at that time, because I didn’t get back over there again for the rest of the trip with all her ‘flitting around’. I left mom and Aunt Ruthie at Bellagio at 3:45 in order to make it to MMIII by 4:00, and I was barely on time.

Much to my chagrin, I found a group of people waiting for me OUTSIDE Napoleon’s; a private party was underway inside, and we weren’t allowed in. This made me mad. Diana had called the week before to ask a question, and nothing about a private party was mentioned to her then. I had called to see if they had an updated hors d’oveurs menu two weeks before, and nothing was mentioned to me, either. Julie made a quick check to see if the Le Cabaret lounge (right off the casino floor) was open, and it was. By that time, all but two of our group had arrived, and we left a note on the sign outside the door and sent text messages to guide our missing members to the new location. (FYI, the private party was cleared out by 6:30 when I met my mom and aunt for dinner at Le Buffet. The timing sucks.)

I’m so glad we had quick-thinking board members there! We were able to make Le Cabaret work, although it was a bit dark and the table-and-chair configuration didn’t allow us to get close enough to talk to each other while seated. Most of us got up to mingle, and I was happy to put even MORE faces to names I feel I’ve known forever! There were 23 meet attendees in all - quite a turnout! I think we have the most successful meets of any online message board, considering there are only around 500 total members on the board (and they're not all active members, either). I still didn’t get around to everyone in turn, and I really wanted to talk to everyone. I’d finish talking to someone and get ready to find someone else, but I didn’t get to them all. I’m so sorry! It wasn’t my intention to ignore anyone.

NEWS FLASH: I think I am done with the meet planning. I say this because every time I’ve tried to plan one (other than the Jasmine Brunch), something goes wrong. The best meet we’ve had so far was MMII, organized and staged in Steve’s Palms suite by multiple people. I’ll be happy to attend if I’m in town, but I’m not even going to suggest a location anymore. It’s been very frustrating for me, and I’m so over it. I take it very personally when something goes wrong or doesn’t turn out the way I intend for it to, and I don’t like having things I organize turn out half-assed because that’s the OCD way I am. ‘Nuff said. I just want to put that out there because it’s been bothering me all week.

Back to the meet: Most of us stayed until 6 p.m., when people started peeling off to go to their dinner and show reservations. The last ones there at almost 6:30 were me, Claire, Terri, Diana and her husband, and Mike, and we finally broke up to go our separate ways. I was glad I didn’t have to walk too far to get to Le Buffet. I had done a lot more walking than my mom and my aunt, and they were already pooped, too!

We decided to get the 24-hour buffet pass and use it for our breakfast and dinner the next day, as well. My aunt quickly discovered that she was allergic to the plastic they used to make the wristbands, and we had to go back and get it removed before her wrist swelled up. Luckily there was no harm done, and the hostess wrote a note on her ticket and attached the wristband to it for the other buffet hostesses to call if there were any questions. After that, we were more than happy to take our time at the buffet and just enjoy the atmosphere, as none of us had ever been in Le Buffet before. I also spotted my friend Mike getting desserts near our table. He claims he was put in the back room where the “bad kids” are, and it's probably true.

As far as buffets go, it’s my second favorite HET buffet so far. I haven’t tried RIO or Caesars, but I still like Harrah’s the best. The way the buffet is laid out in Harrah’s is open and easy to navigate (Paris seems too crowded with the tables up close to the buffet serving area), and I generally like the food selections at Harrah’s more than Paris only because Paris had a lot of duck and pork dishes that I don’t care for. However, Paris does have the crepe station, and my banana crepe with nuts and caramel sauce on top was the highlight of my dinner. I don’t know how I finished it all, but I did. I bypassed the last of the main dishes and the dessert section altogether after I got that crepe; there was no way I was going to be able to eat anything else. It was SO worth it! The only thing that any of us had that was gross or inedible on the Paris buffet: the bread pudding. I don’t know WHAT they put in their spices, but it tasted weird, and not like bread pudding at all. Not like anything edible, either! Ugh, it was so disgusting!

To say we waddled back to Harrah’s would be an understatement. I think it took us over an hour and a half to walk from Paris, and I think we could’ve slowed down even more than we did. We decided to stick around Harrah’s for the rest of the evening because no one wanted to decide on anything. My mom and aunt were tired from their early morning flight, and I was just tired from all the walking, talking and food! I was more than happy to park myself at a slot machine for the remainder of the evening, and that’s what I planned to do. I lurked the people playing the Lord Of The Rings (LOTR) slots over and over, and I finally gave up trying to get an open seat. I think that the people who play LOTR at Harrah’s have a signal for their cohorts when they’re done playing a machine, and they get there at just the right time (which was never the right time for me). I finally gave up and played other things, instead. I ended up down a little for the day.

Sunday, October 24th

I stayed in bed until 7 a.m., just dozing, but I was hoping to get up and get some REAL gambling in before my aunt was ready to hit the Strip and start flitting about. I managed to get about 30 minutes of gambling in before they were ready to head over to Flamingo for the Champagne Brunch Buffet.

Mike had mentioned that he got a mini bottle of Skyy vodka at the buffet a couple of days before, and we got them, too. I found out later that these were for the Bloody Mary bar, but we had no clue at the time and no one told us WHAT they were for. My aunt doesn’t drink due to all her medical conditions, and my mom only drinks wine, so I put all three mini bottles in my purse to take home. Waste not, want not! My aunt ordered champagne and gave it to me, which she didn’t really need to do since I had my own, and I ended up having three mimosas with breakfast. Apparently I was going to drink more than I do when traveling by myself whether I liked it or not!

After breakfast we headed to Bally’s so that mom could get her 2-4-1 tickets to Jubilee for the evening. She didn’t have any 2-4-1’s in her offers when we looked at her account online before we left, but Harrah’s gave her one on her coupon sheet at check-in – be sure to check yours for good offers! They ended up with VIP tickets in the 2nd row of regular seats, and they paid $104 for the pair. My aunt was happy with that, because she REALLY wanted to take my Cher ticket. I tried to find another ticket for her, but they were sold out by the time I booked their flights at the beginning of October.

We continued down to some of the casinos that my aunt hadn’t seen or flitted through on previous trips and mixed in some others she liked, too: Planet Hollywood, Monte Carlo, NY/NY, MGM, Tropicana and Excalibur. I have to agree with others about Tropicana’s transformation – it is so much brighter and nicer! The whole property just seems so much more inviting than it did before, when it was dark, dingy and kind of depressing. I will be back again to do a little more investigating…and gambling. With my aunt’s bouncing around, you can see why she doesn’t bother getting a player’s card anywhere – there’s no point when she can’t even sit still long enough to EARN a point!

She did manage to play for more than a few minutes on one machine: Deal or No Deal at Monte Carlo. She hit the bonus right off the bat, and she agonized about every ‘Deal’ offered to her, asking me, “What do I do? What do I do?” over and over. I kept telling her “No Deal!” ‘cause it wasn’t my money! She ended up with a really good bonus of $194 for her 40-cent investment, and she was a happy camper for the rest of the day.

Her gambling habits crack me up at times; she will talk lovingly to a machine (say, Gold Fish 2) when it’s being nice to her and giving her a bonus, but if it gives her a small bonus or stops paying her immediately, she will literally SMACK the machine and tell it she doesn’t like it anymore. Ah, that’s my Vegas entertainment!

A cab was in order to get back to Harrah’s from Excalibur; my poor mom’s legs were really hurting her. She got some sort of rash from who knows where, and her legs were painful to touch. She wanted to put her feet up for a bit before going to the show, and I was all for getting them back quickly and safely. I walked them up to their room and went back down to gamble a bit before I got ready to meet them for dinner at Harrah’s buffet. The LOTR slots were still busy, dammit! Okay, I give up.

We met for dinner at 5:30 to finish our 24-hour passes, and we enjoyed some yummy seafood dishes on the Saturday evening buffet. Okay, mom and I enjoyed them, but my aunt stuck to beef. She’s not a fan of seafood. The only bad thing on the buffet was some grilled chicken my mom got – it literally bounced off the plate, and she couldn’t cut it at all. Everything else was good, and I enjoyed some coconut macaroons for dessert. No alcohol for me, thanks. We separated for our shows: them to Jubilee at Bally’s, me to Cher at Caesars.

Cher put on a really good show. I used the 40% off link that my LV4E friend Frank posted, and I got one of the single seats up in the 2nd mezzanine (they should just call it a balcony, because that’s what it is) – Section 407, Row D, I believe, for $61. The show was completely sold out. I will say that those seats are a little high for performers who use the big screen behind them because their heads are cut off from view and the lights come up just about to that row and BLIND you when they’re trying to see the audience. She put on a good show, even though her extreme costume changes between every song left me wishing she’d pick a couple of similar songs and wear the same costume for awhile so she’d keep singing instead of letting all of her backup dancers take up the slack. I did appreciate the trip down memory lane with the video clips from “The Sonny and Cher Show” – they certainly made me laugh and recall good times. All in all, it was a good show, and I don’t know that this is truly her ‘final’ concert like she says it is; she likes being a Diva.

Speaking of Divas, I saw a billboard for Celine Dion – her first concert back at Caesars will be on March 15, 2011. I am determined that I will get to see her some time before she disappears again, but I don’t know when. No plans as of yet.

Lucky for me the others (read: Aunt Ruthie) wanted to stay at Harrah’s again, so I could sit and do some gambling without having to RUN to the next casino. I ordered another Bailey’s and hot chocolate and found myself extremely disappointed when it was delivered to me in a small, wrapped glass. *Sigh*…another 32 ounce sipper from Palazzo would’ve been a perfect way to end the night.

I ran into Julie twice during my wanderings around the casino. We chatted for a bit near the High Limit slots, and she cheered me on while I played Gold Fish and lost my last $20 before I finally gave up and headed to bed after a disappointing day of gambling.

Monday, October 25th

Breakfast was back at Harrah’s Café. The best thing about breakfast on Monday morning? We played Keno as usual, and I hit my birthday numbers for $42 on the first game. For a $1 investment, I’ll take it! It’s always nice to start the day out with a win.

I wanted to head to Imperial Palace to check out the King’s Ransom Museum, but when we walked over we found out it had closed at the end of September. Bummer! Not only had I missed my chance to see the collection, but I had to carry my camera around for the rest of the day until we headed back to pick up our luggage and leave for the airport. We decided to go back to Caesars because it was the one place that all three of us had luck on Saturday. No problem for me! I love gambling there, and it’s been good to me on my past few trips, so I’m all for crossing the Strip.

I was helping my aunt find some interesting slots she’d missed on our previous visit when suddenly I saw it: an empty seat at LOTR. Surely it was a mirage! I practically RAN across the casino to get to that empty spot before someone realized they hadn’t alerted their cohorts. FINALLY I was going to get some LOTR time!

First off I couldn’t remember the sign-in I’d created on the website, so that was a bummer. I had to create a whole new sign-in, which is probably better because it’s easy to remember (no, it’s not Hayley’s Mom). I soon realized why you can never find an empty seat at these machines: they are ADDICTING! I had several different people sit down next to me to play the other machine, but I just kept playing away, taking photos of bonuses and chatting with whoever stopped by. My mom and aunt both came by several times to see how I was doing, and they added their cheers to mine. Both of them knew I’d been itching to get on those machines all weekend, and they weren’t about to say, “Let’s go somewhere else.” I like that. I was even down to my last 40 cents at one point early on and thought I’d have to get out another $20 (I wasn’t about to give up my seat THAT easily!) when I hit a nice bonus that kept me playing. I hit bonus after bonus, exclaiming gleefully every time something new would pop up on the screen. My $20 gambling money was well invested on my minimum 40-cent bet: I played that machine for almost 4 hours before we had to go pick up our bags and head to the airport, and even then I *reluctantly* cashed out a $10 ticket. I think I‘ve found LOTR heaven!

We decided to eat at the airport so we wouldn’t be rushed, and Subway was just the thing. As we were ordering our food, all three of our cell phones rang at the same time. SWA calling to say our flight had been delayed from 3:50 until 4:35. That’s the first time SWA has ever called me about a flight delay, but it’s also the first time I’ve ever had a delay of more than 10 minutes. Even so, the pilot made up all but 10 minutes in the air, and we landed back in sweaty, 90-degree San Antonio before 9 p.m. as the pilot advised us that Tony Romo had just broken his collar bone in the Cowboys game. I’m glad I didn’t put money on that game, after all.

I came back from Vegas only $300 down, and I think part of that was breakfast cash, the Neon boneyard fee and taxis. Not a winning trip, but I have no problem losing so little money in Vegas.

Oh, I forgot to mention that my mom and aunt were both selected to go through the scanner at McCarran, and my mom was also given an additional pat-down by a female TSA agent including having her hands wiped with some sort of antibacterial cloth. They told her “she had a lot going on up here”, indicating her chest, and she was kind of freaked out. I didn’t see her get held back until they were already doing the pat-down, and she had a ‘deer in the headlights’ look on her face. She was convinced they saw something bad in the X-ray, and they were just doing a pat-down to make sure she wasn’t ‘packing’ anything, I guess. I guess a two-time breast cancer survivor has a lot of thoughts the rest of us don’t.

Meeting new friends (and old ones) at the Mini Meet and Mega Meet
Neon Boneyard tour (thanks again, Claire!)
LOTR slots at Caesars
Star Trek slots at Palazzo
GRANDE Baileys and hot chocolate at Palazzo
Spending time with my mom and favorite aunt
Beautiful October weather in Vegas!

Not getting to eat at Mesa Grill
Having to move the meets to alternate locations at the very last minute