Thunk... thunk... thunk.... thunk. Huh. Guess that's my somewhere-around-6:30AM toilet-thunk wakeup call. Pull a pillow over my head and go back to sleep. Mentally scratch Sahara off list of potential future Vegas trips.
Wake up about 8:30 or so, feeling that last-day-of-vacation mix of melancholy (aww, it's over...) and relief (getting a tad bit homesick, running out of cash...). I've always thought that when on vacation, the day that you achieve this conflicted feeling is the ideal day to leave. A day or so longer and I start to feel like I've been away too long and it becomes harder and harder to enjoy myself. A day or so less and I feel like I never quite hit vacation-time and relaxed completely, or that I just kind of short-changed myself.
Depending on the vacation and the circumstances, the time it takes for me to arrive at this "target" day can be anywhere from 2 days to a week. If I'm in a place that is basically laid-back, where there aren't a million things to do all the time, and I've got the whole family there with me, it can take at least a week before I start feeling the homeward pull. On the other hand, I've found that if I'm vacationing without my family and/or visiting a place that is fairly intense (like Vegas, or my recent New York City trip, or attending a round-the-clock party event like Dragon*Con with friends for example) I tend to reach the target day pretty fast: 2-3 days or so, after which I start getting a bit over stimulated. While I'm pretty damn outgoing and not what most folks would consider quiet or shy, I am by nature an introvert and a bit of a homebody. Being "on" for an extended period or away from home base for too long starts making me pretty edgy, and when I'm away from the kids and/or my wife I get even more so.
So anyway, this is a good sign. I'm ready to go, which means I won't be having any end-of-vacation depression. Well, perhaps just a touch of the blues, but that's cool.
Our flight doesn't leave until almost 3:00 this afternoon, so we decide to check out a bit early, leave our bags with the bell desk, and do a tad bit more exploring on foot. We hadn't managed to make our way to the Stratosphere yet, and since it's probably the closest thign of note to the Sahara, we head up that way.
On the way, I spot a partially-obscured "Obey Giant" sticker on a crossing signal.
These things fascinate me. I've seen them here in Austin as well as in NYC, Atlanta, Raleigh, and Orlando. It's gotten to the point that I actively seek them out when I'm walking around an urban area where stickering is prevalent, which is precisely the purpose of the "campaign." Propaganda without a goal, purpose or meaning outside of the image itself, designed to awaken/reawaken a sense of curiosity and wonder about one's environment. Fascinating stuff. I excitedly try to explain this to Christine, who gives me one of those "hmmm, interesting (geek)" sort of looks and moves on.
I get this look a lot. We've got one of those "as much alike as they are different" sort of relationships, which keeps things fun and interesting, although sometimes we simply do not connect on specifics. It's worked pretty well so far, and considering that "so far" a) includes 12 years of marriage and 10 years of dating and b) things with us are still damn fun and sexy and exciting it seems to be a pretty good recipe for success. For us at least. Your mileage may vary.
Anyway, off to the Stratosphere. Another older Vegas hotel, but much brighter and cleaner looking that the Sahara. Like so many of the newer, larger resorts down the Strip (Bellagio, Venetian) the Strat features an extensive array of shopping opportunities, although the look and feel of this one feels far more like a sanitized suburban shopping mall than anything resembling upscale or luxury. Anyway, we're not here to shop, we're here to eat and see the view, so we purchase tickets to go to the top of the tower ($10 a pop) and up we go.
The view is pretty amazing.
Once again, as with the Fremont Experience, the whole thing probably works way better when the lights are on at night. But still, quite impressive. Hey, I can see our hotel from here!
Yeah, it's pretty ugly from the air as well. Oh well, lesson's learned.
So, we do the observation deck for a bit and opt to not ride any of the thrill-rides at the top, (Christine's getting seriously freaked out: She's scared of heights) then head to the Top of the World restaurant for some brunch. It's cool: One of those revolving restaurants with nice picture windows all around.
However, the fact that the whole restaurant vibrates and shifts a bit when the roller coaster a couple of floors up rushes by isn't helping to settle Christine's nerves any. It's an odd sensation, that's for sure. I have a picture of her in the restaurant, but the less-than-settled look on her face isn't exactly something she'd like posted to the web, I think.
Anyway, brunch is consumed, views are enjoyed, events of the past few days are rehashed, and we head down to the street. We meet our shuttle a little later, and head to the airport.
At the airport, we are sad:
Ahh well, time to head home.
Anyway, a great vacation all in all. Perhaps a few too many "lessons learned" moments, but I suppose that's part and parcel of any first time in a new place. We'll make entirely new and different mistakes next time.
Final tally on cab fare came to around $275. Add that to the $300 I spent on our "bargain" hotel room and we could have stayed at Caesar's and not have had to take a cab anywhere (except for perhaps to the San Remo and certainly to downtown). Actually would probably have saved some cash, not to mention a bunch of time and about 36 layers of skin on our feet. We won't be staying at the north end of the Strip again. In fact, we won't be staying anywhere farther north than the Venetian. I mean, Casino Royale and Imperial Palace are both down there, they're both highly affordable (even on weekends), and while they're nothing to get excited about design- and features-wise, their location more than makes up for this.
We'll also NEVER come here on a holiday again. Not that Vegas is ever "not busy," but it's extraordinarily so on a 3-day weekend, not to mention that it is more expensive in every regard. Next time out it will be mid-week, when we can get a great rate on one of the high-end places and when the density of people isn't quite as high.
Now Playing: Patty Griffin, "Flaming Red"