Spring Break Tour 2007

Southwest Airlines Blows

I almost always fly United (insert key notes from Rhapsody in Blue now). I flew out on Southwest because it was comped for me and I’m never one to turn down something free (ok, technically it wasn’t free…but it was free-r). I’ve never flown on Southwest before I, so it was a completely new experience. There’s no first class, in fact, there are no seating assignments at all. There are boarding classes (A, B, and C) and that’s it. A’s board first, then B’s and finally C’s. You can sit wherever you want.

Here’s my gripe. I arrived and got checked through earlier enough where I could have caught the earlier flight to Denver. I went up and asked and they wanted a $121 to catch the earlier flight. A $121!

Apparently, this was due to the fact that I got such a good deal on the flight and the difference would have been the difference between my flight and a “regular” flight.

On United, I can standby for any flight I want on the day I’m flying for free. I just let them know I want to try and catch the flight on standby and they put me on the list. Simple.

My other gripe, who was a heart in their logo?!

[tags]southwest, southwest airlines, united, united airlines[/tags]


Vegas Photos: Uploaded, Sorted, and Tagged

It took some time, I had over a gig of photos, but I finally was able to get all my Las Vegas photos up on Flickr, sorted, and tagged (including geotags!)

I also took advantage of Flickr’s new “Collections” feature, so you can peruse the Las Vegas Collection.

You also might check out the map of where my Vegas photos were taken: Check out the awesometastic map of photos

I have two (maybe three) more Vegas related posts, so expect those all to be published by Monday.


How Vegas Says Bang

The fact that I even heard that the Stardust was going to be demolished was, as usual, by shear luck. Bailey and her boyfriend, Shaun, were going to be in Vegas for a few days and we were going to go grab something to eat. She sent me a text message:

Do you know they are leveling a casino tonight


No! Really?!? Which one? We should go watch!


I know! The stardust at 230 am. We were warned we might lose our windows

That’s how I found out about the Stardust.

I headed out early so I get finish shooting some other lights on the strip before I headed up north to the Stardust. A funny thing happens when you walk around by yourself with a nicer looking camera and a nicer looking tripod: people ask you questions. Here I was, not even 3 days in Vegas and people already thought I wasn’t a tourist.

DSC_8777I started heading towards the Stardust around 1 am. I wanted to find a good spot. As I got closer, I could see the building lit up with fancy lights that moved around and changed colors. They were the kind of lights you might see in sets of three at the opening of a new store that shine a tower of light into the night sky.DSC_8789

I scoped out an area south of the building. All the media was setup there and people were all setup, lawns chairs and all. I continued walking north trying to find a few point that would be well lit, aesthetically pleasing, and unobstructed. I finally found a spot right in front of the Denny’s across from the Stardust.

There was an older gentleman next to be with somewhat curly flowing black hair. He wore jeans and a wool trench coat. He spent the entire time talking to his mom, who was standing next to him, recounting stories about such-and-such a party in this room, this-girlfriend in that room, who’s friends stayed in what suite, on and on. Did I mention he was drinking Miller Genuine Draft? He was. Quite a character.

About five minutes prior to 2:30am, a single firework went up.
Everybody grew silent. It was a test, just to make sure the prevailing winds wouldn’t blow the fireworks right into our faces. There was an ever-so-slight breeze blowing toward us; other than that, it was pretty calm.

A few minutes after 2:30 am, the something that sounded like an air raid siren went of. The time was here at last! Glorious destruction!


First, an exquisite fireworks show.





The question I kept asking myself the entire time was, “How are they going to signify the start of the actual destruction?”

This was Vegas though, such foolish questions should not be asked.

After the main fireworks ended, a box of fireworks began to appear…

…and then it all made sense!
Despite the fact that it was past 2:30 in morning, the people started chanting. Seven! Six! The crowd became louder as the numbers became smaller. Five! Four! Three! Two!
Everyone started screaming. It was loud, but it was about to get louder.

Like the lightning before the thunder, bright shimmers of red light flickered on each floor. Then the most deafening sound I’ve ever heard. We weren’t that far away to begin with, only a mere 200 meters or so. My best guess is that the sound wave was in excess of 140dB at the point I was standing.

And then she began to fall back to the ground from which she was erected

Ashes to ashes, Stardust to dust. (I never promised no horrible puns)

DSC_8876The real excitement was when the dust started coming towards us. Everyone decided they didn’t want to stick around for that and cleared out pretty quickly. It turned my camera around, snapped a quick shot and then zipped everything up. As I walked back towards Caesars, the dust cloud kept growing more dense. Everything became covered with a rather thick layer of dust. As I walked, my shoes left marks in dust. I thought about Mount Saint Helens exploding, walking on the Moon, or the destruction of the World Trade Centers. As I neared the Fashion Show Mall, horns were blaring. I wonder what the people who hadn’t know about the implosion were thinking?

I drew a bath and soaked for a while, listening to the latest headlines on CNN. Then I went to bed.

Update: Some of my photos were published.


A Trip to In-N-Out Burger

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The last time I was In-N-Out Burger was August 14th, 2004. I know this because I have a photo of Charlie Wyman standing in front of the In-N-Out burger in Redding, California:

(Photo credit: Andy Collins)

Little did I know that it would be an entire 2 years and 7 months until I would lay mine eyes upon an In-N-Out Burger again. I really only had two “must-do” goals of Vegas: Star Trek: The Experience, check; and In-N-Out Burger. Getting there wasn’t going to be easy though.

I knew there was at least one In-N-Out Burger in Las Vegas, but I didn’t know where it was. From my hotel room, I started my quest. The ever so helpful In-N-Out Burger website listed seven joints in Vegas. The two nearest me were on Sahara Avenue and Maryland Parkway.

While I was walking the strip, I contemplated walking to In-N-Out Burger. It would have only been an extra 2.1 kilometers or so, on top of the 3.4 km I had already walked: 11 clicks total. I decided against that. I was tired and my feet hurt. As I gazed off towards my Holy Grail, I felt uneasy. From what I recalled about the map, I had to cross I-15 and I wasn’t sure what the state of the sidewalks were, if any. I nixed walking.

I also thought about taking a taxi, $3.25 for the first 1/8 mile, and then $0.25 cents a 1/8 thereafter: probably somewhere around $10 bucks total, somewhere around twice the cost of my meal I guessed. I ended up deciding against that, not because of cost because I was worried I might not be able to get a ride back (some of the taxi’s had signs on them restricting them to only working the strip and I wasn’t sure how the rules worked pertaining to that). I nixed the taxi.

I also had a time constraint to work with, Jacqueline would be calling shortly I didn’t know how much time I would have eating. I wanted to savor my In-N-Out experience. I nixed In-N-Out Burger for Sunday.

I woke up Tuesday, just a bit after 9am (and only 4 hours of sleep). After getting all packed up, my first order of business was to find something to eat. In-N-Out Burger seemed to be the perfect solution. Seeing as this was my last day, this would be last chance for some In-N-Out Burger for…a while.

One of the many cool things I found about Vegas was The Deuce and the $5 24-hour bus pass. The Deuce is a double decker bus that runs up and down the strip, with pickups every 8 minutes (or so the schedule says). The 24-hour pass lets you ride on The Deuce, plus the RTC, CAT and MAX Line. In short, a really cheap way to get around not only the Strip, but also all of Vegas.

Even better, the RTC has website with a trip planner! I keyed in Caesars Palace and the two In-N-Out Burger’s I had found earlier. As it turned out, the In-N-Out Burger on Maryland Parkway was a better location; it was also next to the UNLV campus, which seemed appealing for some reason. I scribbled down some notes in hastily made up shorthand: walk down to Flamingo street, catch a bus, ride it to Maryland Parkway, get off and walk diagonally to catch another bus, get on the bus and wait for it to get to In-N-Out Burger. To get back home, I just needed to reverse the procedure. Forty-five minutes each way; not something I’d do everyday, but every couple years…I could manage that.

In-N-Out Burger

And so I was off. The ride was more or less uneventful. I was mostly focused on not missing my stop. Once there, I ordered a Double-Double Animal Style with a lemonade and chocolate shake. The total trip took about two hours.

I just hope I don’t have to wait another two years again.


Walking the Strip

One of the first things I like to do in a new place is get my bearings. Figure out where everything is and how to how to get around. Walking up and down The Strip seemed a good way to do this and to also visit all the casinos. So I started out, walking North.

The day was hot, so I tried to keep inside as much as possible.

I started in Caesars Palace, walking through the Forum Shops…

Caesars Palace Registration Lobby
Caesars Palace Registration Lobby

Fake Clouds 2
The fake clouds in the Forum Shop

Live Model
A real person modeling, almost creepy

$9000 Zebra
A $9000 Zebra-style rocking horse at FAO Schwarz

"Baby Nursery"
Adopt a baby doll from the nursery

Big Piano
Like in Big!

Trojan FAO Schwarz
The entrance to FAO Schwarz

Siegfried and Roy's Royal White Tiger
One of Siegfried and Roy’s Royal White Tiger at The Mirage

The Revolution Bar by Circq du Solei

Intriguing toy found at a kiosk in the Fashion Show Mall

Giant grabber game at Circus Circus

Roller coaster ride inside Circus Circus

…all the way up to the Stratosphere and back down to Sahara before I was picked up to go to Star Trek: The Experience. I figured I walked at least 16 kilometers there and then another 4 later that evening.

By time I was I the Sahara, my feet were killing me and my left knee was sore. But the was not yet over, not by a long shot.


The Eleven Girls of Kappa Delta

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas…whatever. This is a pretty kick ass story if you ask me and that’s why it gets blogged. This is also the story I promised in Vegas, a Town for Those with ADD (VTTADD)when I went to bed at 8am.

One of my goals for Vegas was to walk up and down the strip and photograph all the things that had pretty lights. As I mentioned in VTTADD, it was not unusual to be up at all hours of the night. There are also some benefits, such as the lack of kids, pedestrian traffic and, of course, the pretty lights are on. There are also some downsides, mainly that all the drunk people are also out.

I started as Caesars Palace and started making my way south on the strip: Bellagio, Monte Carlo, New York – New York, Excalibur. I was on the pedestrian overpass, between NY-NY and Excalibur. There’s not a ton of people out, not like during the day, but people walk by quite frequently and so I try to setup and take my pictures as quick as possible to avoid holding up people.

I wave a few people on and then group comes up and one of them asks if I want to take her picture (for later reference, this is Amy…although I kept spelling it Aimee in my head all I night…I have no idea why).
I say, “Sure.” Why not?
After a second thought, Amy decides she doesn’t want her picture on the Internet.

Amy, as well as the other ten girls of ΚΔ, are graduating seniors at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. Not that it would happen (let alone the technical feasible), but she was worried about potential employers would finding pictures of her Vegas exploits. Certainly a valid concern, but not in this instance.

I finished my photos of the Excalibur towers and walked over the tram to get to my next photo shoot destination. While waiting for tram to arrive, the girls were point and gesturing toward me with some comments about the guy who puts pictures on the Internet. I assured them that I wasn’t that creepy guy with the camera.

The tram arrived and just as I was was about to get on, Amy invited me to ride with them. So I did.

The tram took us to Mandalay Bay. In the way, I posed for some pictures with them. Amy offered to let me tag along with them. Not wanting to be that creepy guy with the camera, I tucked mine away; confident I wouldn’t be using it anytime soon (unfortunately).

We arrived at Mandalay Bay, some of the girls wanted to play slots. I talked with Amy and some of the others, franticly trying to remember even some of their names (by the end of our excursion, I had remembered who Amy, Rachel, Jen, Sierra, Beth and Christine [aka Spooky] were). Jen was the “natural” leader of the group, constantly performing head counts. As I previously mentioned, they were all Κ&Delta’s, on Spring Break. They had flown in that night and couldn’t check in until 9am, so they planned to stay up all night.

We stopped at the bar. Amy decided to inform me that I would not be “getting any from her.” She then added that she felt kind of weird about relaying that fact to me. I understood. Only two of the girls did not have boyfriends; Amy said I could hit on her.

After a stop at the bar, we were off to Forty Deuce. I had wait outside, since I was wearing (gasp) shorts. I wasn’t terribly disappointed. I whipped out one of the books Jacqueline loaned me. After 10 minutes, the bouncer started to feel some pity for me and assured me that they were closing”my friends” would be out soon. He gave me his card, worth a free entry. I shook his hand and thanked him.

Sure enough, they came out and we moved on to the Tropicana. It was pushing 4am at this point. More gambling, mostly slots; although I suggested that they play Video Poker as it offers a higher rate of return. With the gambling came the free drinks. I accompanied Sierra to the ATM/Ticket Redemption machine to redeem her ticket. We finally moved on to the Blackjack tables. This is where I met the two guys from Mines.

MGM was the final stop. Everyone was tired by this point and it was starting to show. A few more quick plays on the slots and it was finally decided that food was needed (it had been at least 8 hours since I last ate). Not wanting to walk anywhere, we decided the overpriced in-hotel-casino restaurant. I don’t think I’ve ever paid that much for Buttermilk pancakes. We talked more and after paying, parted ways just before 7 am.

That’s how I met The Eleven Girls of Kappa Delta.

I started making my way back up the strip, snapping a few photos of the sunrise along the way. I made it back and was in bed (alone, mom) by 8 am.

P.S. If any of the girls from Kappa Delta are reading this, I’d love to see the photos you took. My contact information is on the upper right of my site. Amy should also have my contact information.


A Dream Come True

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Ever since I heard about Star Trek: The Experience, I’ve wanted to go on it. Wil Wheaton also says that, “Star Trek: The Experience should be visited by every Trekkie in the world, at least once.” I respect Mr. Wheaton very much (no, not because he was on Star Trek; I have better reasons then that…I’ll write about that someday), so this only made me want to see Star Trek: The Experience even more.

I really won’t go into explaining what the ride is, because that would spoil it. Besides, if you really want to know, you can just read the Wikipedia article linked above.

As I wrote earlier, I was pretty giddy. The Klingon Encounter is based on The Next Generation (TNG). I grew up watching TNG and have many fond memories of watching it on Saturday evenings with Dad, eating pizza. I also own two Star Trek encyclopedias, the complete set of blueprints for the Enterprise D, technical manuals, ….and I’ve probably already said too much. In short, it was more or less, a dream come true to finally be able to stand on the bridge of the Enterprise and pretty much made my day/month/year.

I’ve also always wondered what being transported might feel like. I got my answer: it’s more or less like when you stand up and all the blood rushes from your head. Although when you’re transported, it goes completely black and you also feel very chilled for a brief moment.

One day, when I’m rich and potentially famous, I want to build my own bridge replica. I think that would be pretty spiffy. And yes, all the buttons will work!


Vegas, a Town for Those with ADD

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One of the things Jacqueline mentioned about Vegas is that it’s a perfect place for people with ADD. Boy, was she right. There is always something to do. Always. Doesn’t matter what time: day or night, there is always something to do.

And then there’s the lights and the sounds. Walk around a casino and enjoy the people, the plink-plink-plink-doo-woop-wop of the slots, the music, the girls. I went into just about every major hotel-casino and walked around the entire gambling establishment, just looking and listening (no photos, because that’s apparently illegal…although I didn’t find that out the hard way, fortunately).

However, there is an unfortunate side effect to all the excitement: when do I sleep? I never went to bed before 5am the entire time I was here. 5am! The first night I was able to manage 7 hours of sleep, the minimum I need for a full sleep cycle (i.e. no need to catch up sleep the next day).

The next night morning, I went to bed circa 8am (there’s a pretty cool story behind this that I’m saving for later) and got up at 1pm: 5 hours of sleep…functioning for most/all of the day, but a nap or increased sleep the next night is needed. I never did get a nap.

I also didn’t get any extra sleep. My last night I rolled into bed around 5am again and got up 9. Starting to see a trend here? A whole 4 hours of sleep (plus a couple of snooze button hits).

That makes the total for the trip 16 hours of sleep. That averages out to about 22% of my trip sleeping. This may seem like a big number, but it’s not. An average of 5 hours and 16 minutes of sleep a night.


Almost Done in Vegas

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I’m almost done in Vegas. My flight leaves at 9:10pm Pacific Time, Southwest Airlines #839…feel free to track it. I get in just before midnight Mountain Time.

I’m going to start writing up all my stories and have them autopost every once-in-a-while.