Monday, December 20, 2010

Trip Report Part 1: From the tundra to the desert #WPBT

There's nothing more challenging then waiting to leave for the blogger winter gathering. Well, except for maybe returning from one and merging back into normal society.

I had high hopes of starting these recaps right away when I got home, but mother nature and global climate change had bigger plans for me.

Besides the rapid decompression of going back to work on Tuesday, I've spent most of the week digging out my home. God bless my wife and neighbors, they did an excellent job of keeping things moving while I was away, but we've had almost 3 feet of snow this month, I needed to finish where they left off and finish cleaning up the butt load of snow still piled up where it shouldn't be. I think I've got things pretty much caught up. The fresh snow in forecast tomorrow is really not all that welcome. Sigh.

So...where were we? Oh, ya! The recap!

I had planned on heading to Las Vegas on Thursday. This USED to be the day that most of the bloggers headed to Sin City. For the love of Pete, how many of you were there on Wednesday or earlier this year?

For the first time in my trips to the Winter Gathering, I was flying solo from MSP. My first year, OhCountess joined me (for those that are curious, her interview went well). Last year, Drizz and I were cabin mates in coach.

Most of these photos were all shot from inside my plane. I've done enough travelling in my life to know how to stay comfy and relaxed on the three hour flight to McCarran airport. Note the bottle of Diet Pepsi purchased for some stupid price in MSP's terminal. The two ounces of diet Coke Delta serves is usually not enough. I mean, we are drying to get hydrated for the weekend. I also thought this was a perfect time to do a little reading of Lost Vegas: The Redneck Riviera, Existentialist Conversations with Strippers, and the World Series of Poker. You bought your copy yet? I bought several. They make great Christmas presents.

Moving on.

I have to share some love of the new ePass concept moving through some of the larger airlines. Delta has this app for the iPhone. I normally assume that major companies make apps for my phone with the misguided believe that slapping something together that's basically an ad will magically make me fall in love with their company. Delta's app on the other was actually quite useful. The first thing that totally rocked was it alerted me that I could check-in to my the earliest possible moment. Cha-ching! No worries about checking in too late and missing my flight! Next thing, the boarding pass is now in my phone. I can't begin to tell you how much this rocks. TSA has scanners now for smart phones that allows you to scan your phone when you hit their desk. You should have heard all the people when they saw me do this. "Hey! What's he doing?" TSA guy, "He's scanning his boarding pass off his phone." Dude behind me, "You can do that?"


If you know me, it's not like I go more the 5 feet in any direction without my phone.

As for TSA, this part of my trip always gets me nervous. The "Patriat Pat Downs" could be interesting, if the TSA agent was female, hot and the PA system suddenly started playing porn music, but since that's like me winning a hand of live limit hold 'em, I'm not holding my breath. MSP didn't seem to have the scanners everyone was complaining about. And the line? From the moment I entered the rope maze to me having everything back in place and my hoodie back on and zipped...4 minutes. Now some of that comes from the fact that I pack with speed in mind, but damn. I've never made it through a line that fast.

I didn't have a lot of time to mill about the terminals. I had taken a paid shuttle up to the Twin Cities and the freezing rain we hit on the way up were enough to shave almost hour of my wait. Thank goodness for the 4 minutes in TSA, huh?

I found my gate with enough time to take a leak and get the aforementioned Diet Pepsi. I boarded early since I was in lovely Zone 3, the 4th row from the back of the plane. First slot machine lemon. I got my window seat. I know, lots of people hate window seats...I'm curious, I like to look out. I was joined by two, very large Ukrainian gentleman that reeked of smoke. Oh boi. I looked across the aisle, and the guys on that side were as big as these two. I was, by far, the smallest guy in my row. I'm not huge, I'm not small, but it's rare that I'm the smallest guy. Second lemon. I spent the entire flight with my shoulder, cocked forward.

This next part made it all better though. Delta and Google teamed up to provide free wifi on the trip. I'll admit it. I'm a connected junkie.Tweeting from the plane while in flight was pretty cool. I was able to stay connected with other WPBTers, send some emails, read some blogs, all from the comfort (hehe) of my seat on my phone. Hell, I even checked into 4square up there. Don't ask me how it knows where I was. The one thing that did seem a bit odd, Netflix streaming didn't work. Either Netflix was down or Gogo is blocking it. Bummer.

Landing in McCarran airport in some strange way, always feels like home. While MSP is the airport closest to my house and the one I'm always flying in and out of, I land at McCarran most of the times I'm flying. Degenerate, I know.

I made through the aiirport to MGM Grand's check-in room. Seriously folks, find this place. More on that later. When I got there, there was no line. I walked in, checked-in to my room, got my key and headed to the shuttle. The shuttle was full of cowboys, most on their first Vegas get away. I was kind of cute watching the get all starry eyed about the city. Talking about what they want to see and do. I'm thinking, let's go. Enough talking, let's start doing.

At the MGM, the line to check in was enormous. Seriously folks, try the airport check in. Oh wait. On second thought, you stay in that line. The airport check in is for suckers. I headed straight to my room. Exchanging text messages with StB and Kat. They beat me to town and were "laying down a base" with Iggy at Outback Steakhouse. Man was I hungry. I had originally planned on eating at the airport, but he shuttle delay 86ed that idea. I slipped into something more comfortable and headed down the strip to join them.

#ATTSUCKS was full effect. Text messages were taking forever. By the time I got to the Imperial Palace (IP from here on out) Iggy was already back with the rest not far behind. Iggy's advice to lay down a good base on Thursday night is something everyone should head. We are about to embark on some serious drinking folks. You'll want the absorbing qualities of food to get you through it.

Since I missed eating with other humans, I figured Outback sounded good and I'd head there by myself. Nope. Didn't make it. The burger I planned for Outback was replaced by a burger from KGB's at Harrah's. This will be the first restaurant review from my trip. I had high hopes for this place. KGB...could it be a reference to the movie Rounders? Well, no. It's short for Kerry's Gourmet Burgers, but the theme of the interior is vintage communist Russia. I love me a gourmet burger. I order mine medium with egg, bacon and cheese. The cheese didn't make it to my table, but everything else did, even though I asked for it served with no vegetables (I'm a strict carnivore). The order came with root beer served in a mason jar and french fries. These were ordinary fries served in one of those stupid cone shaped wire things. Gawd I hate those. Maybe there's some aesthetic thing that's supposed to be cool, but I can't get the damn food out of them. Ugh. The fries were rather meh. They were just ordinary. The burger was cooked to a perfect medium, excellent, but the egg was cooked hard. I like a little run in my yolk. The bacon was extra crispy, good bacon on a burger should have a little chew to it and just crumble in my mouth to gritty bits. All in all, it was edible, but hardly worth the $22 they charged for it. Same meal here, cooked to perfection, will run me $10. I know that's here, but at least here it's cooked right.

I made my way back to the IP. Bloggers were starting to show up. I found Drizz, CK and Numbbono playing Pai Gow. I'd never played Pai Gow before so when Numb got up, I just had to sit between CK and Drizz. Who better to teach me?

We played, we drank, we played. I made $35 and moved on to more drinking and preparing for dinner. Peacecorn had invited me to join her, SSPablo, Garth, Kat, Drizz and AlCantHang for dinner at Picasso at Bellagio. Somewhere in here, I also lost $100 playing poker at the IP. Crap.

More on all of this later. It's late and I have work and more friggin' snow to clean up tomorrow.


BWoP said...

Hooray for only slightly tardy trip reports!

diverjoules said...

I know what you mean about feeling at home once you land in Vegas. For the first time that happened to me this Oct. when we went. Such a calm peace came over me like, seeing my oldest and dearest friend. Nice write up.

Memphis MOJO said...

Great write-up, photos, too.