Beware the Ides of Smarch, Days 7-9: Full Circle

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Thursday, March 7

The Vegas trip had come to an end, but we still needed to hit up my favorite breakfast place on our way out.  That, of course, was the breakfast buffet at the Gold Coast casino.  It is still the best dollar for dollar value buffet in Vegas.  For about $10, you get a lot of wonderful breakfast foods and they were in especially fine form this day.  Their legendary French Toast was in fairly fine fettle and they also had some great chicken fried steak and an excellent corned beef hash as well.

Properly fueled we began the long drive back to Phoenix.  Dave and I once again waged battle in Super Mario Party where he managed to get the duke over me.

We got back into town about 4:30pm and just relaxed until Carolyn came home from work.  Then we went to dinner at Venezia’s Pizzeria which specializes in New York style slices of pizza.  I had never had a proper New York slice before and my Buffalo Chicken slice hit the spot.

When we got back to the house, Dave, Mat, and I took a little walk around the area to work off the meal before settling in to watch the latest episode of The Orville before turning in for the night.

Friday, March 8

This was definitely an easy day for us.  Mat had a doctor’s appointment so Dave and I were left to our devices for an hour or so.  Mat came back with doughnuts from The Hurts Donut Company which are still the greatest doughnuts on the planet and I very much look forward to the branch coming to Omaha.  I savored an Andes Mint doughnut while Mat introduced us to the web series, Cobra Kai, which continues the story of Daniel LaRusso and his rivalry with Johnny Lawrence from the movie The Karate Kid.

It’s actually a very entertaining and interesting series.  The focus is mostly on the character of Johnny Lawrence and it’s nice to see William Zabka get to show some depth with a character as his heyday as an actor in the 80s pretty much had him playing one dimensional bullies.

When we watched half the series, I suggested we go out and play some mini golf to get some exercise and enjoy the weather.

So we hopped into the car and made our way to Golfland Sunsplash were we once again dueled on the links.  In some ways, it was the most entertaining round of mini golf I’ve played as I shot video footage of some of our toughest holes.  In some ways it was the worst round as I shot pathetically average.  In one sign of the apocalypse, I finished last to Dave. . .again.  In another sign of the apocalypse, Dave won the ace award (most holes in one).  This left me in a fog where I muttered over and over, “Dave?  Ace Award?”

We returned to the house and did our own thing for an hour or so until Carolyn came back from work.  For dinner we went to Rubio’s which is famed for its fish tacos.  I had a Wild Alaskan salmon taco with a side of fresh greens and it really hit the spot.

From dinner, we went to the movies to watch Captain Marvel, the latest blockbuster from Marvel.  I found it to be a decent film buoyed by strong performances from Brie Larson as the title character and Ben Mendelsohn as a sympathetic war victim.  I gave it a 7 out of 10 and was especially impressed at how Marvel altered the traditional origin story formula.

But it was back to homestead and bed as we readied ourselves for the final day.

Saturday, March 9

This was it.  The last full day of fun with Mat and Carolyn.

Mat and Carolyn slept in.  I rose at my usual early hour and was surprised to find Dave up and about already as he watched the news on his phone.  I ate a banana and the last 2 pieces of bacon from the batch Mat had prepared the previous Sunday.  After eating, I decided I wanted to go for a long walk and persuaded Dave to join me.

Except for the little nighttime excursion taken a few nights prior, I had never really walked around this neighborhood as I was under the mistaken belief that the area was just a few lanes of houses buttressed up against a business area.

How wrong I was.

Once you cross the street, there are actually quite a large number of houses, schools, and neighborhoods to enjoy.  Dave and I ambled for about an hour before returning to the house.

As each member of our group held a victory in Super Mario Party, we decided to crown a winner.  We played an abbreviated version where Carolyn decimated us.  I mean it wasn’t even close.  But I did finish in second place.

Carolyn left for the afternoon to visit her brother while the three of us finished Cobra Kai and noshed on some sausage sandwiches Mat prepared.  The sausage was tasty, but I could have eaten a sandwich consisting solely of the delectable vegetable concoction prepared by Mat.

About 4pm we headed to Scottsdale where we would close the adventure as it started:  with an escape room.

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We visited Escape Room 101 where our group was joined by Mat’s old friend, Rod, and his new girlfriend, Lisa.  In this room, we would be assuming the role of Baker Street detectives who were contacted by Oliver Byron, son of Lord Byron, the painter.  Oliver Byron had been approached by a cousin who held a will saying that he was the sole heir to Lord Byron’s fortune.  Oliver stated his father would never cut his children from the will and needed us to locate the real will before the reading of the fake.

The puzzles in this room were awesome and really required you to think.  The downside is that some of the devices activated by our solutions didn’t work as they should.  For example, Mat and I solved a symbols puzzles and nothing happened.  Mat unsolved and resolved it later which finally caused a hidden compartment to activate.

This one went down to the wire, but we managed to find the will with about 3 minutes remaining.  I would have combined the two rooms we had done as Blaine’s Basement had better presentation and pageantry while The Baker Street had better puzzles.

After another victory, we visited Carlos O’Brien’s for dinner which was a fusion of Mexican food and Irish pub fare.  I enjoyed a chicken and beef quesadilla while we conversed about various items.

Back at Mat and Carolyn’s we decided to have one final, all out battle at maximum turns on Super Mario Party.  It seemed as if Carolyn would crush us again, but we managed to start mounting a comeback.  However, my two “friends” decided to unfairly target me for purely their own amusement instead of focusing on the greater threat of Carolyn.  Dave stole a star while Mat stole my money to keep me from buying stars.  Due to their chicanery, Dave ended up winning and I vowed eternal warfare on both of them in all future games.

And so the end had finally come.  Having the old team back together added that x factor that made this trip quite a bit more fun.  Sadly, it will be a while before I see Mat and Carolyn again.  I may try a trip this summer or possibly even at Christmas as my family will be celebrating the holiday early.  Mat mentioned the possibility of road tripping to San Diego next time and that is a most intriguing idea indeed.

I see our first flight home has been delayed, so this trip really has come full circle.

Till the next adventure.

Beware the Ides of Smarch, Days 4-6: Vegas Time is Here Again

The destination for our little troupe:  Las Vegas.

Monday, March 4

I admit I was a little surprised by the announcement as Dave isn’t into gambling at all.  On the other hand, Dave had never really experienced Las Vegas aside from a brief overnight trip he took with Mat before the two of them headed off to Japan for the series I entitled “A Journey Beyond Imagination”.  With several days, Dave could get the full experience to appreciate the artistry and architecture of the casinos, take in a show, and possibly even join me for a few sites I had wanted to visit, but had not got around to doing.

Monday morning found us piling into Mat’s Nissan and heading off to Sin City after having a quick bite to eat at Jack in the Box.  Mat was recording our journey with time lapse photography with his Go Pro 4 camera while Dave and I killed the first hour or so of the drive playing a round of Super Mario Party.  I finally got the victory, but it wasn’t quite the same without getting to drive Mat into the dirt.

We arrived at the Linq about 3pm and had a pretty decent room on the 10th floor with a view of the pool.  Mat and Dave claimed the beds while I took the couch.  We puttered around for a couple of hours before heading to dinner over at the Bacchanal Buffet over at Caesar’s Palace.

Bacchanal Buffet is the biggest buffet in Vegas.  If you can think of it, they’ve got it.  We all enjoyed a good meal of whatever we felt like sampling before heading back to the Linq.  I lost $30 playing Dracula and Ghostbusters slot machines while Mat came out ahead on Casino Royale.  Then all 3 of us headed back up to the room for the night.

Tuesday, March 5

I rose early on Tuesday and did a little reconnaissance of the hotel while Mat and Dave slept until about 9am.

Today we were going for a hike.  So we got some breakfast at a nearby McDonald’s before getting some water at a convenience store to fill our camel packs.

Mat drove us out to Red Rock Canyon where we would be doing a loop through the La Madre mountains.  It was a perfect day for hiking as the temperature was moderate and the sky was slightly overcast.  We enjoyed quite a bit of God’s splendor as we gazed upon the mountains and found La Madre Falls and La Madre Spring.

We ended up hiking nearly 8.5 miles as Mat unintentionally led us on a more scenic route than intended.  But it was well worth it for a view of the falls and spring.  After our 3+ hours of hiking, we headed back to the Linq where we cleaned up and/or rested before heading to Hash House A Go Go for dinner.

For those of you not familiar with it, Hash House a Go Go is known for “Farm Food Done Freaky” and huge portions.  I was able to get a smaller meal of the HH Downsized Burger which was quite juicy and loaded with vegetables while Mat and Dave enjoyed wings and Mat indulged in a pork tenderloin sandwich and Dave supped on chicken and waffles.

We returned to our room where I caught a brief catnap while Mat and Dave watched some TV.  At 9:30pm, we headed across the street to Caesar’s Palace to watch Absinthe.

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Absinthe at Caesar’s Palace

Absinthe is one of the most original shows I have seen in Vegas.  The theme of the show is that it’s an illegal, underground circus financed and produced by a man known only as the Gazillionaire.  The show is actually held in a tent with a bunch of mismatched chairs to suggest they were salvaged or stolen.

The show has a collection of impressive circus acts which change from show to show.  Our show consisted of a variety of acrobatics and trapeze artists with an intentionally bad ballet act thrown in.  For my money, the two best acts of the show were a group of jugglers called Water on Mars which did some phenomenal team juggling, sometimes from across the room and Shawn and John, an impressive pair of tap dancers that had the crowd roaring.

Acts are introduced by the Gazillionaire, who is a foul mouthed comic, and his assistant, Wanda Widdles, a sex obsessed woman with enough energy to light the Strip.  Largely due to the blue language utilized by these two, one must be 18 years old to attend the show.

After the show, we returned to our room and collapsed into bed.

Wednesday, March 6

I slept quite late today, at least for me, not awakening until 8:30am.

Today would be kind of an alone day for us.  Dave hadn’t seen Mat in over 2 years, so I made an appointment at the spa so they could spend a little time together.

For my regular readers, you know that I normally attend Qua Baths over at Caesar’s Palace.  For a change of pace, I visited The Spa at the Linq as I wanted to try a unique treatment.

The Spa at the Linq is a good spa.  It doesn’t have a lot of amenities as it only boasts a gym, jacuzzi, and steam room, but that’s enough to relax for a few hours.  For booking a treatment at least $50, I was also allowed to book a session in the Himalayan Salt Cave room for free.

The Salt Cave treatment is simply sitting in a room for 45 minutes while finely ground salt is sprayed inside.  The salt helps improve breathing and clears congestion from colds, asthma, allergens, and other toxins like secondhand smoke.  The salt also helps to detoxify the skin.  It was an interesting experiment and I do think I was breathing a bit more fully after the session.

From there, I went straight to my massage appointment with Theresa who released knots in my neck and shoulders and pepped up my tired feet which were a little sore from yesterday’s walking.

With my treatments completed, I returned to the room where Dave was watching TV and told me Mat was downstairs playing blackjack.  Mat had enjoyed a great run for the past six hours and was essentially playing at the casino’s expense.  When a new dealer showed up, the table left the game and Mat and I returned to the hotel room where we collected Dave and headed over to Planet Hollywood so Mat could pick up a gift card he had earned.

We wandered around the Miracle Mile Shops where Mat spent his card on a Bruce Lee T-shirt.  Then we made our way to Bally’s where I got whipped in a round of mini golf at Twilight Zone mini golf.  For losing, I won a free round of golf which never expires.

After my helping of humble pie, we went to the Flavors Buffet at Harrah’s for dinner and enjoyed another good meal before heading back to the room for the night.

Tomorrow it’s back to Phoenix.

The Arizona Chronicles, Vol. 3, Night 3-Day 8: Arizona Mat and the Voodoo Blue (Woo Woo!)

After our escape from Schulte and the traitorous Johnny V, Arizona Mat zipped through the interstate traffic and we found ourselves in Las Vegas in slightly less than 2 hours.  We arrived at the Rio where we checked in under a pair of assumed names:  Drs. Alvin Koholic and Sy Schwardo.

“Which of us is which?” I asked.

“Does it really matter?” countered an exasperated Arizona Mat.

I shrugged my shoulders and we made our way to the 19th floor with a good view of the pool and mountains.  Believing we had shaken off the Oatmeal Gang, Arizona Mat suggested we go downstairs for some dinner and make some plans.

We chose the All American Grille.  Arizona Mat enjoyed fish and chips with a beer while I settled for French Dip.  The food tasted great and felt good after the long day of driving, escaping, and not eating.  As we dined, Arizona Mat laid out the scheme.

“There’s a fan fest for the Final Fantasy series of video games going on this weekend.  I have a contact attending who has the clues I need to ferret out the location of the Voodoo Blue (Woo woo!).”

“Would you stop that?”

“I try, but I can’t.  In any event, I’ll attend the fest tomorrow to meet my contact.  I suggest while I’m investigating, that you just relax and enjoy yourself.”

That sounded agreeable and I wandered around the Rio while Arizona Mat registered for the fan fest.  Upon completion we wandered across the street to the Palms where John Fogerty was playing a concert.  I found a new slot machine based on the 1960s Batman TV series and Arizona Mat and I tested our luck on it.  I dropped $20, but it was the most fun I had losing money in quite a while.  The machine was true to the spirit of the TV series, complete with campy fun and bonuses with narration done by Adam West.

After spending some time there, we went back across the street to wander through the Gold Coast.  Arizona Mat found a Wylund machine that treated him fairly well.  Upon winning a bit of cash, we returned to the Rio for a good night’s rest.

The next morning we had a quick breakfast at the BK Whopper Bar.  We agreed to meet at our room in the evening.  Arizona Mat headed off to the fan fest while I returned to the Gold Coast where I considered playing a little Bingo.  As I walked past the Port O’Calls buffet, I froze.  Walking out of the exit were Robert Schulte and Johnny V.

I decided to follow them to see if I could find their base of operations and discover if they were any closer than Arizona Mat to discovering the Voodoo Blue.  I trailed them to Bally’s where I joined the Total Rewards club in order to better blend into the background.  As a new member I was gifted with some slot free play which I utilized while I kept my eyes on the dangerous duo.

I seated myself at a Goldfish slot machine where I hit a bonus almost immediately and ended up banking $40 in profit.  As I pocketed my winnings, I saw my quarries leave Bally’s and begin heading across the street to the Cromwell.

Since my last visit to Vegas, the area had undergone some massive renovations.  The area around the High Roller (the world’s largest ferris wheel) had been completely redone.  One of the changes was the Cromwell (formerly Bill’s Gambling Hall).  The outside looked brand new; like a 5 star resort.  The inside matched the outside.  Very classy and elegant.  I slipped over to a Jurassic Park machine where I promptly lost the $10 in free play.

I glanced over my shoulder and saw that Schulte and Johnny V were no longer in the casino.  I quickly swept  the Cromwell and wondered if they might not have headed over to the Quad (formerly the Imperial Palace).  I was unable to find the Oatmeal Gang, but did find a Phantom of the Opera machine.  I hit a Music of the Night bonus which earned me a bit more money.

Thanks to the bonus I was able to earn enough Tier Credits to earn a pull on the Million Dollar Slot Machine at the front of the building.  I didn’t win a million dollars, but I did win a buy one, get one free buffet at most of the buffets owned by the Las Vegas Harrah’s properties.

From there, I investigated the Linq (which is where the High Roller is housed).  I was still unable to relocate Schulte and Johnny V, so I returned to the Rio where I relaxed in my room and worked on Professor Layton vs Phoenix Wright, a puzzle/mystery game Arizona Mat had brought along on his 3DS.

Late in the afternoon, Arizona Mat came into our room all excited.

“I’ve found the Voodoo Blue (woo woo!)!”

“Where?”

“Based on the clues I’ve received from my contact, I’ve concluded that the Voodoo Blue (woo woo!) is somewhere in the vicinity of the Voodoo Lounge at the top of the Rio.  When the club opens later tonight, we’ll go and obtain it.  For now, let’s eat.”

Arizona Mat and I went downstairs to the Seafood Buffet where we supped on salmon, seafood gumbo, sushi, and other delicacies.  After a very filling meal, I told Arizona Mat I would walk off the meal and would meet him in the room later.  I took a shuttle over to Harrah’s where I walked over to the Bellagio to watch one of their famed water shows.

As the show reached to its climax, a man next to me said, “Beautiful sight, isn’t it?”

“Yes, it is,” I agreed as I turned to face the man.

I felt the blood rush from my head as I stared into the hard, cruel eyes of Robert Schulte.  I felt the barrel of a revolver press against my ribs.

“How did you find me?”

“Find you?” replied Schulte.  “I’ve been trailing you. . .for hours.  For an amateur, you’re not a bad tracker.  It actually took me until the Cromwell for me to notice you.”

“So that’s why I couldn’t find you.”

“Correct.  I saw you over at the Jurassic Park machine.  Johnny V and I slipped outdoors and into the crowd and began following you.”

“Now what?”

“Now we return to the Rio and you and Arizona Mat lead us to the Voodoo Blue.”

Keeping his gun pressed to my back, Schulte forced me into the Rio shuttle at Bally’s and made me lead him to our room.  As I unlocked the door, I saw Arizona Mat sitting on the couch.

“Arizona, I’ve got some bad news.  They found me,” I said sheepishly.

“Don’t feel too bad.  They found me, too.”

As Schulte and I came further into the room, we saw a grinning Johnny V seated on one of the beds, his German Luger pointed directly at Arizona Mat.

“All right, Arizona Mat,” said Schulte, comfortably seating himself in a chair.  “Where’s the Voodoo Blue?”

“Woo woo!” cried Arizona Mat.

“If you do that one more time, I’m going to yank your tongue so hard that your ears will flip like window shades!” I snapped.

“Sorry,” said Arizona Mat.  “It’s somewhere on the roof around the Voodoo Lounge.”

“Excellent,” said Schulte.  “Let’s go and retrieve it.”

Schulte and Johnny V forced us into the elevator leading to the Voodoo Lounge.  Within a matter of moments, we were whisked up to the 52nd floor and we entered the rooftop nightclub.  As we weaved our way through the dancing partygoers, Schulte began to get impatient.

“Where is it?” he snarled.

“I don’t know, precisely.  I just know it’s somewhere up here,” said Arizona Mat.  “It’s going to take a bit of time to search for it with all of these people here.”

Despite having my life threatened, I had to admit that the view was pretty good.  I scanned in all directions, trying to enjoy the sparkling lights and awesome vista of the city.  I happened to glance down towards the Voodoo Zipline, a zipline that stretched from the top of the Masquerade Tower and went down to the Ipanema Tower.  Towards the end of the zipline, I saw a curious blue flash shining in the light.

“Arizona Mat, look!” I shouted, pointing towards the glow.

“It’s the Voodoo Blue (woo woo!)” said Arizona Mat.

Upon seeing the legendary stone, Arizona Mat broke out into a spastic dance out of sheer excitement or so I thought until he gave Schulte a hard shove into Johnny V.  Grabbing my sleeve, Arizona Mat pulled me down the stairs towards the Voodoo Zipline.  Shoving his way past the attendants, he bolted the door shut behind him.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“You’ll see,” said Arizona Mat, pulling out his trusty foam noodle.

Flinging it over the zipline, he motioned for me to grab one end of it.

“Are you crazy?” I yelled.

A shot from Schulte’s revolver whizzed over my head and I immediately grabbed one end of the noodle.  Arizona Mat and I screamed bloody murder as we slid towards the Ipanema Tower.  Bullets flew over our heads and the wire began to saw through the noodle.  It fell into two pieces just as we reached the Ipanema Tower.  I crossed myself in sheer relief as I peered over the edge of the building.  It was a long way down.

Triumphantly, Arizona Mat climbed the pole and removed the Voodoo Blue from its perch.

“I’ve done it!  I’ve found the Voodoo Blue (woo woo!)” crowed Arizona Mat.

“SHUT UP!!!” I thundered.

“Simmer down, friend.  Let’s get out of here before the goon platoon catches up with us,” said Arizona Mat.

We found a service ladder and made our way down to street level.  In order to stay hidden from the Oatmeal Gang, Arzona Mat and I spent the night in a dumpster where I used a rat for a pillow.

The next morning, Arizona Mat and I slipped into the Gold Coast where he picked the lock of a, thankfully, empty room where we were able to get cleaned up.  We chanced a Sunday brunch at the Port O’Calls Buffet, hoping that the Oatmeal Gang wouldn’t suspect us of remaining so close to the Rio.  Luckily our gamble paid off.

We spent the day wandering the streets of the Strip, slipping in and out of casinos.  Towards the evening, we sneaked into Planet Hollywood where we “borrowed” an unoccupied room.  Starving, Arizona Mat and I went to BURGR for a meal.  Arizona Mat once again feasted upon the Farm Burger while I savored the Gordon Burger (a pork patty with duck breast bacon, a relish, tomatoes, and butter lettuce).  Slipping into our room, we managed to get a good night’s sleep and I hoped against hope that we had finally managed to elude the Oatmeal Gang.

Arizona Mat insisted that we spend the day at Qua Baths and Spa in Caesar’s Palace, arguing that the Oatmeal Gang would never look for us in there.  I reluctantly agreed.  Amazingly, Arizona Mat was right.  We truly seem to have evaded them.  I enjoyed a hard workout on their updated equipment and began to relax.

After a Thai massage I found myself relaxing on one of the heated lounge chairs in the Roman Baths, a towel draped over my face.  Arizona Mat brought me a bottle of water which I thirstily drank.  After a day of relaxation, we headed over to Harrah’s to get some supper.

Arizona Mat stopped at a food court where we ordered some ramen.  Shortly after ordering, a wave of nausea passed over me and I began sweating profusely.  I sat down in a chair and Arizona Mat asked if I were tired and I said I just felt very flush.  We took our ramen and sat at a table.  I could only manage a few bites.

To make matters worse, two very unwelcome guests sat at our table:  Johnny V and Robert Schulte.

“Give me the stone!” demanded Schulte.

The last thing I remembered was losing my few bites of food as everything went black.

I awoke a few hours later back in my room at the Rio.  A cold compress was pressed to my forehead and I saw a concerned Johnny V looking down at me.  I weakly tried to shove him away, but lacked any strength.

“Take it easy,” said Johnny V.   “It’s OK.  He’s awake.”

Arizona Mat came around the corner of the vanity area.

“Welcome back to the land of the living,” said Arizona Mat.

“What happened?  What’s going on?”

“It was all part of Arizona Mat’s plan,” said Johnny V.

“What plan?” I asked.

“A plan to retrieve the Voodoo Blue (woo woo!) and capture Robert Schulte.  Johnny V was really a triple agent.  I used him to get close to Schulte to keep an eye on him and keep me apprised of his movements.  We were never in danger at any point.”

“But then why did we go through the motions of being pursued?”

“To lull Schulte into a false sense of security.  I told Johnny V to bring Schulte to the food court.  Your spell of nausea got Schulte off his guard.  After you purged, Johnny V managed to karate chop Schulte at the base of the neck and knock him out.  Then the police officers waiting in the wings came out and arrested him.  Johnny V will take the Voodoo Blue (woo woo!) back with him to Omaha and place it in a museum,” said Arizona Mat.

“Kind of chancy.  What would have happened had I not fallen ill?”

“That was part of the plan.  The water I gave you was spiked.”

“It was what?”

“It was spiked.  I needed you to be genuinely sick to throw Schulte off balance.”

“I see,” I said, my hands balling into fists.  “And what happened after Schulte’s arrest?”

“Well, we brought you back here and Johnny V and I went and rode the High Roller and then watched people do the jump off the Stratosphere.”

“So you not only poisoned me, you had fun without me?” I asked.

“I suppose that’s one way of putting it,” admitted Arizona Mat.

I felt my right eyeball begin to violently twitch as I spied a foam noodle on Arizona Mat’s bed.  It was quite a strange sight that night as I chased Arizona Mat throughout the casino swinging the noodle like a baseball bat.

By the next morning I had forgiven Arizona Mat and he, Johnny V, and myself had a final breakfast at the Port O’Calls buffet where we enjoyed fruit, corned beef hash, French Toast, chicken fried steak, biscuits & gravy, bacon, O’Brien potatoes, sausages, coffee, and juice.  We checked out of the Rio and began the long drive back to Gilbert, Arizona.  A drive made longer still by road work which tacked an additional 90 minutes onto the drive.

After returning to Arizona Mat’s home, we stretched our legs a bit and then walked over to Café Rio where Arizona Mat and Johnny V partook of steak and taco salad respectively and I ate the most delicious chicken quesadilla I had ever tasted.  We returned to Arizona Mat’s and gathered around his fire pit sharing stories of the adventure we had just shared while sipping Blue Moon Pumpkin Ales.

Today Arizona Mat dropped me off at the airport.  We shook hands and I knew I was fated to join him in another adventure at some point in the future.  As I headed towards my gate, I saw a nearly emaciated Tall Square still squeezing the dummy’s hand with all his might.

“Submit!!  Submit!!” he grunted.

“Open your eyes, son,” I said as I patted him on the back as I passed him.

I saw him open his eyes and freeze in shock as he stared at the mannequin’s appendage he was holding.

“5. . .4. . .3. ..2. . .1,” I counted down.

“MATTTTT!!!!!!!!!!!!!” bellowed Tall Square.

Well, the more things change the more they stay the same.

The Arizona Chronicles, Vol 3, Days 2 & 3: Lazy Days and Betrayals

One strange thing I’ve noticed about Arizona Mat. . .OK, one of the many strange things I’ve noticed about Arizona Mat is that he always takes the day before an exploration to do absolutely nothing.  He calls it getting into a state of “exploring zen”.  I’m not sure if I believe it or not, but I’m certainly glad he does this because I need that 24 hours to readjust my body clock to the new time zone.

I spent my morning eating a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios Medley Crunch, taking a long bath, rescheduling my viewing of Giraffealanche, and organizing my belongings while Arizona Mat made plans with Johnny V.  Arizona Mat’s behavior around Johnny V was truly astonishing.  In past chronicles, I have presented Arizona Mat as an arrogant, pushy, egocentric boor.  And believe me, that’s an apt description.  However, Johnny V seemed to bring out Arizona Mat’s better qualities.  He treated Johnny V like his father.  He was respectful, jokey. . . almost likable.

After a morning of puttering around, we took a walk to Jack in the Box for a bit of lunch.  Johnny V settled for a soda.  Arizona Mat enjoyed two Southwest tacos and a cinnamon-sugar doughnut.  I enjoyed a Bacon Sriracha Burger.  Afterwards I asked to stop at an FYE store so I could peruse their DVD selection.  Arizona Mat decided he would head for home while Johnny V offered to keep me company.

FYE didn’t have much of a selection so Johnny V and I left the store and walked to Fry’s to pick up some pumpkin ale and chips.  As we walked, Johnny V told me how he had been a friend of Arizona Mat’s father for many years and that he considered Arizona Mat a son.  I was really touched by this story and found myself really liking Johnny V.

Upon buying the liquor, we returned to the house.  Arizona Mat and Johnny V caught up on old times while I went to rest in my room for a couple of hours.  Afterwards, Arizona Mat introduced me to an anime series called Attack on Titan while Johnny V went for a swim in the pool.

Eventually, Arizona Mat wanted to go out on the town.  So we piled into his car and went bowling.  Arizona Mat was on a roll as he broke 200 again.  In fact, he surpassed the game he had bowled during my last visit.  I started off very strong, slipped in my next two games, readjusted my style, and finished strong.  Johnny V had a rather unique bowling style.  Yet it seemed to work, as he usually had good rolls.  In fact, he had the roll of the night when he picked up a 6-7 split.  It was really a fun night and I felt loose and relaxed.

The next morning, we found ourselves on the road at about 8:30am.  Johnny V had requested that Arizona Mat make a stop in Kingman, AZ so he could visit an old friend.  Arizona Mat agreed to the request and we made good time, arriving in Kingman shortly before noon.

We pulled into the driveway of a trailer home and Johnny V told us to make ourselves at home while he went to find his friend.

“OK, Chris.  Once we get into Vegas, we’ll start looking for the Voodoo Blue (Woo woo!) right away,” said Arizona Mat.

“And then, you’ll be giving it right to me,” said a voice.

Arizona Mat and I looked up and saw an elderly man wearing a cap with a closely cropped beard.  Arizona Mat’s eyes narrowed as he said, “You!” huskily.

“Who is that?” I asked.

“This is my best enemy,” said Arizona Mat.  “His name is Robert Schulte (pronounced Ro-bear Shull-tay).  And he’s the leader of Le Gang De La Farine D’avoine.”

“The Oatmeal Gang???” I said disbelievingly.

“Don’t let the moniker throw you.  They’re a deadly gang of elderly adventurers who specialize in stealing rare artifacts.  We’ve met on several occasions,” said Arizona Mat.

“And once more, something you have discovered will belong to me,” said Schulte with a sinister smile.

“I don’t think so, Robert,” said Arizona Mat with a chuckle.  “The odds are slightly against you.  Three to one.”

“I wouldn’t be too sure about that, Arizona,” said Johnny V, reappearing in the room with a Luger leveled at us.

“Johnny??” said a stunned Arizona Mat.

“Johnny has been one of my most trusted operatives for years,” said Robert Schulte smugly.

“A double agent!” I said.

“Very good,” said Johnny V.

“But what about all that stuff about Arizona Mat being like a second son?” I asked.

“Oh, that was all true.  But this is about money,” said Johnny V.

“Do you have any friends who don’t try to stab you in the back?” I asked Arizona Mat.

“Just you,” said Arizona Mat.

“I’m more of an acquaintance than a friend and I don’t like you that much.”

“Eh.  I take what I can get,” said Arizona Mat, as he reached a hand into his jacket.

In a blur of motion, Arizona Mat withdrew a foam noodle and slapped the gun out of Johnny V’s hands.  I threw a chair into the path of the two men and Arizona Mat and I bolted through the door.  We dove into his car while Arizona Mat revved the engine and burned rubber out of there.

So there we were.  Making a desperate rush to Las Vegas to keep the Voodoo Blue out of the hands of a dangerous gang who had no qualms about eliminating the two of us.  My blood froze as I began to realize the stakes of this particular bet.

The Arizona Chronicles, Vol 3, Day 1: Dope Springs Eternal

It started off as such a lovely day.

The birds were singing.  The sky was sunny.  And there was nary a cloud in the sky.  Yes, it truly was a good day for travel.

Once again I was flying to Arizona.  For my regular readers, you may recall that that the last time I traveled to Arizona, I was working on a deal with the SyFy Network to produce my script, Giraffealanche, as their latest original movie.  Regrettably, I was a bit sidetracked when I was reunited with an unwelcome acquaintance.

In the ensuing months since those escapades, I had ironed out a deal and was now returning to Arizona to watch a rough cut of the film.  This time, I felt certain I would not be bumping into certain individuals who shall remain nameless.

I arrived at the airport and hopped aboard my Southwest Airlines flight.  I found myself seated to a pleasant, elderly gent named John.  He was slightly below average height, had a short crew cut of gray hair, had a stocky build, and dressed very casually.  I found him to be a likable guy and we shot the breeze on many subjects.  I found that also was heading to Arizona to visit family and would be on the same connecting flight as I.

This was one of the smoothest flights I had taken in quite a while.  We left early and made it to Denver, CO in almost precisely an hour.  I had an hour layover between flights so I made a quick visit to Xpress Spa inside the Denver airport for a 20 minute neck and shoulder massage to relieve the tightness in my shoulders and right arm (the unfortunate curse of working at a keyboard all day).

Soon I was flying through the air on another smooth flight and arrived in Phoenix a little early.  As I grabbed my luggage from the carousel, John told me he had a car waiting for him and offered to give me a lift to my hotel.  I readily agreed and we stepped into a waiting limo.

I continued chatting with John as we rode down the interstate.  I happened to glance out the window and I noticed that we were passing Golfland in Mesa, AZ.  I then realized that this route seemed awfully familiar.

“John?” I asked.  “Where are we going?”

Suddenly the driver pressed a button on the dashboard and some distinctive music began to play.  To my mounting horror, John began to sing lyrics with the music.

“He’s Arizona!!  Arizona Mat!!  Arizona!!!  Arizona Mat!!”

The driver removed his hat and shades and turned to look at the both of us, an impish grin playing over his face.  I slowly turned my head to glare at John.  Suppressing my urge to throttle him, I buried my face in my hands and began to weep.  It was Arizona Mat.

For those of you new to this website, I refer you to the archives section for the stories entitled The Arizona Chronicles and The Arizona Chronicles, Vol 2 where I met a supposed explorer named Arizona Mat and his Neanderthal sidekick, Tall Square.  Arizona Mat was so full of himself that I’m surprised he didn’t refer to himself in the third person.  He had a strange love-hate relationship with his lackey, Tall Square.  By that I mean they loved to hate each other.  In fact, the last time I had seen the two of them, Tall Square was chasing Arizona Mat through the Sky Harbor airport.

“There, there,” said Arizona Mat.  “It’s nice to see you again, too.  No need to shed tears of joy.”

Resigning myself to the inevitable, I asked Arizona Mat how he managed to know that I was coming into town.  He explained that Johnny V, indicating John, was an old family friend based out of Omaha, NE.  He had Johnny V keep tabs on me until he knew I would be returning to Arizona.

“Why?” I asked.

“I’m about to make another epic discovery and I need my biographer to document my greatness,” replied Arizona Mat.

I rolled my eyes and asked what had happened to Tall Square.

“As you may recall, that Nordic gorilla was chasing me through the airport.  I tried to duck into a store to escape him, but plowed into some mannequins.  Applying my brilliant brain to the dilemma, I grabbed one of the mannequin arms and persuaded Tall Square to stop.  I told him that I knew he was only upset because he had lost the handshake duel.  I therefore offered him a rematch, but with the caveat that we both have our eyes closed because that allowed one to execute more force.  He agreed and I stuck the mannequin hand into his and made my daring escape.”

“Are you saying. . .” I began.

“Yep,” said Arizona Mat.  “As far as I know, that dummy is still trying to make a dummy submit.”

I rubbed my face and asked why he had “borrowed” me.

“Later, my Boswell.  Later.  Let’s enjoy ourselves for now,” said Arizona Mat.

After settling into his home, Arizona Mat, Johnny V, and myself walked the short distance to the Flaming Kebab for dinner.  I enjoyed a gyro sandwich with a cup of lentil soup and some water.  Arizona Mat feasted on Chicken Kafka, rice, Greek Salad, and iced tea.  Johnny V supped on a gyro platter with rice, Greek Salad, and raspberry tea.  Johnny V, a rather generous sort, paid for our meals.

After the meal we returned to Arizona Mat’s home where we sat around his new fire pit, drinking home brewed root beer, and listening to Arizona Mat regale us with some of his “legendary” adventures.  After finishing up the tale of his rescuing me from a homicidal ex-associate (read The Arizona Chronicles, Vol 2 to find out what really happened), Arizona Mat rubbed his hands with glee and announced it was time to get down to business.

“Have you ever heard of the Voodoo Blue (Woo woo!)?” asked Arizona Mat.

“What on earth is the Voodoo Blue Woo Woo?” I asked.

“I didn’t say the Voodoo Blue (Woo woo!) Woo woo.  I said the Voodoo Blue (Woo woo!)”

“You just did it again.  You keep making this high pitched sound after you say Voodoo Blue.”

“Woo woo!  I’m sorry.  It’s just that I get excited whenever I say or hear the words Voodoo Blue (Woo woo!)  It’s a rare blue diamond that was supposedly forged by a houngan (voodoo priest).  I’ve been researching its history and certain clues have led me to its discovery.  It’s somewhere in Las Vegas, NV.  On Friday, the three of us will drive over there, I’ll discover it, and your masterful writing will make me even more famous than I already am.”

“Have you ever read any of my articles about you?” I asked.

“No.  I’m modest in that way.  But you’re writing about wonderful me, so I’m sure they’re stunning pieces of work.”

“Yes they are,” I said.

So once more I would be joining Arizona Mat on an adventure.  I knew not what the future would bring, but I knew trouble and hilarity probably were not far behind.

Last Exit To Vegas (For Now), Day 3: Escape

I was ready for a break from the real world, so Thursday I got my workout gear together and made my way over to Caesar’s Palace where I could relax the day away at Qua Baths and Spa.

Upon entering the gymnasium, it appeared that everyone had decided this would be a good day for a workout.  It was packed!!  Qua had upgraded some of its equipment which I felt had been a bit overdue.  When I worked out there in October, I did battle with an exercise bike with an attitude problem.  In the last 5 minutes of my “ride”, the machine suddenly cranked itself to the maximum tension level and I felt like I was pedaling through glue.  However, I’m proud to say that I did win that battle of man vs. machine.

This time around there were no malfunctions and I did a much harder workout than normal to test my fitness and was quite pleased with how well I did.  I grabbed a banana and headed back into the spa to begin the long process of cooling down.  After utilizing the Roman Baths, I took a long rest on one of the heated chairs and actually began to feel a little philosophical.

I was composing ideas for a few future articles and then I began to reflect on this most recent journey.  While I was having fun, I realized that I was missing one key element and that was my friends.  This trip just wasn’t quite the same without the banter I normally shared with my traveling companions.  And that’s when I realized just how much I’ve changed over the years.

At one point in my life, I was kind of a loner.  At the time, I almost seemed to prefer it that way.  Once I entered college that slowly began to change.  I began to get more involved in things.  I joined an honor society and even served in all of the offices at one point or another.  It helped me to open up and blossom.

Theatre helped me still more.  I was able to meet more people, socialize more often, have an outlet for my creativity, and gained confidence as my abilities as a performer increased.  Without knowing it, I stopped being a loner somewhere along the line.  I’m more comfortable being me.  Heck, at one point I wouldn’t have dreamed of sharing my thoughts like this.  Now I relish it whenever I can sit at my keyboard and share a review with you, recount an amazing adventure, or even share a humorous misadventure.

Yes, I can still have fun my own.  But the addition of friends on the journey always makes the fun exponentially better.

At about that point, I came out of my philosophical meanderings and began enjoying the arctic room, inhalation room, and steam bath.

At 3pm, I was called in for my massage.  This time around I went back to basics and had a traditional Swedish massage and I think it was just what the doctor prescribed.  I enjoyed 90 minutes of peaceful bliss as Gayle Allen expertly worked out my kinks and soothed my sore muscles.  As always, I felt I could be squeegeed off the floor when the massage was completed.

I returned to the Rio and went to enjoy the Seafood Buffet.  As always the food was top notch.  Aside from their enjoying their amazing Seafood Gumbo, they were serving up a delicious blackened tilapia which you should try if you ever enjoy a meal there.  After walking my meal off, I headed back to my room for a quiet evening.

Short of any surprises, this brings an end to my Vegas tales.  Now I only need to figure out how to occupy myself today.  I had been hoping that my friend, Mat, would join me on this trip, so I booked a really late flight home to essentially squeeze an extra day out of this trip.  Since that didn’t happen, I now need to find a way to spend about 7 hours of time after I check out of the hotel at 11am.  I may explore the other end of the Strip, hang out at the pool for a while, or simply meander.

While I work out this dilemma, I bid you a fond farewell and look forward to when I write you again.

Last Exit To Vegas (For Now), Day 1: The Dynamic Uno

After nearly a decade of annual visits, I have begun what will be my final visit to Las Vegas for the foreseeable future.  For the first time ever, I am alone in this burg as my normal traveling companions, Mat and John, were unable to join me.  Mat is rebuilding his P.T.O. and John has simply wearied of coming here.  So my goal is to squeeze as much fun as I can out of this trip and prepare myself to explore new vistas in the future.

Now this trip started off right due to the fact that I was using Southwest Airlines.  This airline ranks at the top of my list when it comes to traveling and they routinely rank #1 in customer satisfaction each year.  Unlike nearly every other airline, Southwest still lets you check your bag for free (your first two, as a matter of fact).  You can also sit wherever you feel like on the plane without being charged an additional fee.  Even better, one can actually get a free beverage and snack on this flight instead of being nickeled and dimed to death.

Due to terrible winds, my flight out to Vegas ended up being delayed by 20 minutes. This ended up being negligible as those same winds gave the flight to Vegas a bit of an added boost and we ended up arriving at about the same time as originally promised.  The only two difficulties of the flight were that I realized I didn’t have my Kindle with me and there was a woman on the flight who sounded like she was well on her way to being three sheets to the wind.  She was quite obnoxious and spent most of the flight pestering some poor college student who was studying anatomy so she could have some time for fun while in Vegas.  I truly admired her patience.

Upon landing, my fabled luck appeared as I was able to immediately grab a shuttle for the Rio.  Though, if you haven’t driven through rush hour traffic on the Las Vegas Strip, let me assure you that it’s quite an experience.  It took nearly an hour to get from the airport to the hotel with all the stops and traffic, but I was able to sit back and enjoy the ride and have a chat with my best friend, Josh.

Once I reached the Rio, my luck remained as I was able to check in without a wait in line.  I’d also like to take a moment to thank Luis who checked me into the Rio and upgraded me to a Sambia Suite free of charge.  Because of that, I am now sitting on the 37th floor of the Rio enjoying a beautiful pool view and an amazing view of the city.

After I deposited my gear in my room, I wandered around the hotel a bit to see what had changed and what hadn’t.  The hotel still doesn’t seem as plentiful with guests as it once did, yet I must still assume that business must be up as their famed Seafood Buffet is now open every day and the Rio recently opened a Hash House a Go Go on the property.

Hash House a Go Go is known for “Farm Food done Freaky”.  The portions are humongous and will probably keep you full for a day or soon as the restaurant is known for serving one pound sandwiches, deep dish skillets, and pancakes the size of a garbage can lid.  However, one thing I did notice is that the prices are pretty high at this location, nearly double what you would pay at the restaurant’s location on Sahara.  While I would recommend a breakfast here, try to get to the Sahara restaurant to make use of the lower prices.

After wandering about a bit (and losing a couple bucks), I caught the shuttle to Bally’s so I could make the quick jaunt to Planet Hollywood and have another meal at Gordon Ramsay’s BURGR restaurant.  As a solo guest, I was able to get seated at the bar right away.  This time around, I enjoyed the American Burger (a more traditional hamburger, topped with butter lettuce, red onions, American cheese, pickles, and a thick slice of tomato).  As before, the presentation and taste were top notch.

Once I had finished my meal, I walked across the street to the Bellagio.  I had seen their fountain show on numerous occasions, but had never actually stepped inside of the casino.  It is quite elegant and I spent a while in there playing slot machines based on Clue, The Phantom of the Opera, and Back to the Future.

As of yet, my nearly mystical luck has only manifested itself in a great room, good seating, and good timing.  I couldn’t get any good runs going on any machine, though my luck did start to heat up towards the end of the night.  The day had taken it’s toll on me as I began to develop a whanging headache.  So I cut my evening short and returned to the Rio where I am getting ready to rest up for another adventurous day tomorrow.

Overcoming Rejection (Now with Bonus Material)

AUTHOR’S NOTE:  For those of you wondering how my audition went, I am sorry to report that I did not get cast in Boeing, Boeing.  A year ago, I would have really taken this defeat to heart, but thanks to Leaving Iowa, that is no longer the case.  My only real regret is that I missed out on my final chance to work with Carl Beck.  But I would like to take a moment to thank him for the opportunities he gave me in my early days when I was. . .less than good ;).  I wrote the following article shortly before my casting in Leaving Iowa about a year ago and thought it would be good for any actors who read my blog who may be having their own struggles with theatre.

Auditions.  I think that word has the same effect on actors the way crosses affect vampires.  Yet all performers must endure them in order to be able to do a show.

Personally, I don’t mind auditions as I view it as the one brief moment where I can showcase my craft.  It’s the aftermath of the audition that can be depressing when I meet the dreaded beast known as REJECTION.

What is so peculiar about the audition process is that an actor actually has very little control over it.  The only control an actor has is over his or her acting, singing, and dancing and that actually counts for very little in getting cast.  Uncontrollable factors such as weight, sound, look, chemistry, director’s vision,  and other items play a much greater role in getting cast.  It will NEVER be purely about talent.

I learned that lesson in the most brutal way imaginable.  A short time into my career, my dream show, The Elephant Man, was going to be produced.  I prepared like I had never prepared before.  By the time I walked into the audition, I was thinking, speaking, and being John Merrick.  And it was a fabulous audition.  In fact, I rank my read as Merrick, as my absolute finest.  Three weeks later I received notification that I was not cast in the show and to say I was crushed would be the understatement of a lifetime.  I was CRRRRUSHHHEDDDD!!!!!!  Imagine how flabbergasted I was to later discover that the reason I wasn’t cast was because the director thought I had worked too hard on the role.  That was how I learned about the power of uncontrollable factors.

I have been in this business for nearly 18 years and after all this time I still get terribly disappointed when I do not get cast in a show.  As actors, we put ourselves on the line and lay bare our souls for judgment in the hopes that our talent, in conjunction with those uncontrollable factors, is enough to land roles.  If I didn’t feel bad about not getting cast, I would think I wasn’t caring enough.

There are only 2 types of auditions that do not bother me when I don’t get cast.  The first is if I simply didn’t do a good job.  If I had a poor audition, I have nothing to feel bad about because I know I didn’t present myself in my best light.  I have a “Darn it!” moment and move on to the next audition.  The other type is if I know I was simply outclassed on that particular audition.  Nearly two years ago, I auditioned for a show called Becky’s New Car and I had a really great audition.  I was proud of it.  But there was another gent there whose audition was clearly superior to mine.  When he was done reading, I wanted to stand up and say, “We have a winner!!  Give him the role.”

After many years of hard work, I have evolved into a decent actor so those types of auditions occur very infrequently today.  Most of my defeats in recent years have occurred simply because of factors outside of my control.  And it is very humbling to know you have done good work and to not have that work rewarded.  The only blow more difficult is to know you did not have a chance to show your absolute best and that blow is downright devastating.

With very rare exceptions, I go into every audition thoroughly prepared.  By that I mean, I’ve read the play, selected the characters I’ve liked, and put some practice into those roles so I can be seen in the best possible light.  Back in 2008, I auditioned for Twelve Angry Men and I dutifully prepared the role of Juror 8 (played by Henry Fonda in the film version).  I was in the first group called up and I was asked to read the role of Juror 2 (played by John Fiedler in the film) for that scene.  Juror 2 had 3 very short sentences in that scene, so all I could really do was listen to the others as a very nervous man would.  After several more rounds with other actors, the director said she would start dismissing people and I was the first person eliminated.  I was stunned, but refused to go down without a fight.  I asked if I could read for Juror 8 and the director thought for a moment before looking at me and saying, “I don’t see you as Juror 8.”  I felt like I had just been punched in the gut with a gauntlet.  Losing is one thing, but to lose without being able to go down swinging is another.

I share these anecdotes with you so you know that rejection happens to every actor.  It’s a guarantee. It’s also OK to feel bad about being rejected.  It’s natural.  It’s understandable.  Just remember to keep it in perspective.

Remember that being rejected is not personal.  A director never feels good about making an actor feel bad and he or she does not WANT to make an actor feel bad.  Heck, the directors in my first and third anecdotes went out of their way to console me after I swallowed the bitter pills.  Neither one was saying I was a bad actor.  All they were really saying was that I just didn’t suit their vision of the characters.  A director sees the whole of a show and makes casting decisions to ensure the artistic integrity of the project.  Those decisions are impersonal and you should never take a rejection as a slight on your talent.  One rejection or a string of rejections does not mean you are not a well rounded performer.  All a rejection means is that you didn’t suit the particular needs of that particular director for that particular project.  And remember casting is very, very hard.  I just assisted with the biggest audition in Omaha history.  350 people showed up to audition for Les Miserables.  Regrettably, 300+ talented people aren’t going to make it in and that will not be a reflection on their abilities.

Recently, I read a wonderful article on handling audition rejection and that is what inspired me to write this article.  The author pointed out that after a bad audition experience, NEVER DWELL ON THE NEGATIVES.  Consider them in terms of improvement for the next audition, but do not DWELL on them.  Instead, FOCUS on the things that went well for you and remember them in terms of good solid audition technique as well as the strengths you possess as a performer.

Most importantly, NEVER DEFINE YOURSELF BY THE AUDITION.  Just because your unique styles and strengths weren’t needed for this particular project doesn’t mean they won’t be vital for the next project.

ALWAYS BELIEVE IN YOUR TALENT.  Talent cannot be stopped.  Eventually, it does prove itself whether it takes 8 auditions or 800 auditions.

COMING SOON:  I will be returning to Las Vegas for another series of stories in March.  I will also be reviewing the Prairie Creek Bed and Breakfast in a little under two weeks.  In the meantime, if you need a fix of traveling stories, please visit my brother’s travel blog at http://thatoneguywhotravels.wordpress.com.

Viva Las Vegas, Day 3 or A Day of Relaxation

Another day has ended here in Las Vegas and, as always, it was most enjoyable.

The day started off right as the sun decided to show its face again.  Today’s agenda was a pretty simple one:  a trip to Qua Baths and Spa at Caesar’s Palace.

I love going to the spa.  Do you know what’s even better than going to the spa?  Going to the spa and having the casino pay for it.  BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!

For the third straight time, I used my winnings to pay for my spa day.  And Qua Baths gets my highest recommendation for a visit.  I will warn you that it’s not cheap.  But just remember that the couple hundred dollars you pay for your treatment also gets you into the spa for the entire day as well as the use of all of its facilities.  So if you make a day out of it, it becomes a bit more economical.

Qua Baths and Spa has routinely been voted the best spa in Las Vegas and is one of the best spas in the country.  Luxurious doesn’t even begin to describe this place.  From the moment you enter, you will be treated like royalty.  The spa is deceptively big.  Almost a city unto itself.

As always, I always begin my day with a brisk workout.  After using the gymnasium, I proceeded to use the Roman Rituals (traditional Roman baths (hot, cold, and moderate), Inhalation and shaving room, herbal steam bath, Jacuzzi, and Arctic Room).

Arctic room?  What the heck is that, you say?

The Arctic room is one of the hallmarks of Qua Baths.  It is a room where it snows, but don’t worry the seats are heated.

So what, you may think?

The room is actually based on the scientific principle that watching snow fall actually reduces stress and relaxes you and believe me it is the truth.  It also serves as a dandy cool down after a hard workout.

After a few hours of relaxing, it was time for my deep tissue massage.  Now I have enjoyed many a massage in my life, but this was the first time I had tried the deep tissue variety.  It truly isn’t your typical massage and, at points, was a bit intense as Sara worked me over with elbows and knuckles, but it was well worth it as after 80 minutes, you could have mopped me off the floor.

From there it was back to the Roman Rituals for another half hour and then back to the Rio.

John treated us to the Rio’s famed Seafood Buffet and it was delicious.  Expect to pay $45 per person if you want to eat here, but it is excellent.  I’d highly recommend a bowl of the Seafood Gumbo.  I’m a pretty lightweight eater, but even I indulged a little more than intended this time.

And that wrapped it up for the night.  Tomorrow is back to reality and then I will begin to plan my next adventure.

Until the next time. . .

Viva Las Vegas, Day 2 or Where Does He Get His Luck?

Another day in Las Vegas and it was actually quite chilly today.  But it’s not going to stand in the way of this adventure.

I was feeling in a particularly good mood, so I bought breakfast for my companions at the Port O’Calls Buffet at the Gold Coast Hotel & Casino.  This is a very reasonably priced buffet and the food tastes great, especially the French Toast which is the most delicious I have enjoyed.  There is actually a story behind this delicacy.

The second time I ever went to Vegas with Mat and John (and a third friend, Matt Haynie), Haynie, John, and I enjoyed the French Toast, but Mat was too full to enjoy a piece.  The three of us raved about how wonderful it was and Mat thought we were jerking his chain as this raving continued for the next year.

Mat and I returned to Vegas a year later where we again ate at Gold Coast and I asked Mat if he were going to eat the French Toast.  He said he would just to get me off his back.  I saw him slice off a bite and pop it into his mouth.  Immediately, his eyes popped open and revealed the truth of the incredible taste.  Mat’s expression said he didn’t want to admit how good it was, but he finally grunted, “D–n it!!  It is good.”

After a hearty meal, we returned to the Rio where my legendary luck surfaced again.  I am not much of a gambler, but 9 times out of 10 I am unusually lucky.  We found a Lord of the Rings slot machine where I did decently, ending $40 ahead.  Then I attempted to play a Judge Judy machine and wasn’t having much luck and I decided to take one more spin.

BOOM!  9,000 penny jackpot.

From there, with the aid of good spins and bonuses, I ran it up to being $250 ahead.

After my profitable morning, Mat and I headed over to Harrah’s where we enjoyed the Mac King Comedy Magic Show.  This has been voted the best afternoon show in Vegas for a number of years and is well deserved.  Mr. King is an excellent magician with an easygoing, likable manner.  Even better, he’s clean.  This is a very family friendly show and one of the most affordable shows in Vegas.  Top tickets only cost about $50, plus tax.

After the show, Mat and I ran to the Mirage so I could try to find the Ghostbusters machine that was so generous to me last year.  I found it and, this time, it wasn’t quite so giving and it ate some of my winnings.  A Superman machine managed to dig me out of the loss a little.  I then decided to give the other Ghostbusters machine one last chance.  KA-POW!!  Started earning some more profits.

After I felt I had bled the luck out of the machine, we returned to the Rio where Mat took a break and I proceeded to have a little bad luck and lost a portion of my winnings back to Judge Judy (and blackjack and Spider-Man).

That evening, I finally got to go to downtown Las Vegas for the first time.  It was truly a unique experience.  I enjoyed the Fremont Street Experience (a massive light show), saw a street magician, and proceeded to lose some more money on a Godzilla slot machine and a The Price is Right machine at the legendary 4 Queens Hotel & Casino.

From there, my cohorts and I traveled to Binions where Mat spied a Superman II slot machine and I felt I had to play it.  I hit a bonus where I won 3 2,000 penny jackpots in a row, so now I had recouped all the money I had lost and then some.

After a tiring, but fulfilling day, we returned to the Rio for a well deserved rest.