Las Vegas has been a quintessential guy’s trip destination for decades. There is so much to do, and it’s all within walking or taxi distance. It seemed like the obvious choice for one of my really good friend’s birthday parties. Four of us went on this trip; me, Jim, Nick, and Grant. It was my first trip to Las Vegas.
Our flight stopped in Spokane, Washington on our way to Vegas. It was the cheapest flight, and none of us were brimming with cash. We grabbed a drink and waxed philosophical while we waited. This was a rather witty bunch, especially the birthday boy, Jim, so our conversations were always entertaining.
We arrived and eventually found our bags on the checked luggage conveyor. I’ve since learned to pack the smallest bag possible and avoid checking a bag at all costs. After waiting in the taxi line for a bit, we were on our way to the hotel.
When I booked the hotel, it was only a half-inch or so from everything on the Strip. Plus, it was really cheap, so it seemed like a no-brainer. It turns out the “The Stratosphere” hotel was appropriately named for the distance you were from everything you want to do on the Strip. This ended up meaning a lot more taxi rides than expected.
That first night was an exploration night. We had reservations at a restaurant, which was our only planned event. Dinner was at an American food restaurant that had really good steaks. Our buddy, Nick, opted for the pizza, which was the first meal of the trip to showcase his sophisticated palate…but not his last. The rest was just wandering, drinking, and laughing.
We eventually hopped into a cab for the centimeter ride to the hotel and crashed.
First, saving money on the hotel meant one room, four guys, and two queen beds (i.e. cozy). Second, I’m a pretty light sleeper. Third, drinking alcohol tends to make people snore. Our two-to-a-bed sleeping arrangement suddenly seemed like a terrible idea. While the other three passed out and slept like three active chainsaws in a Weyerhaeuser forest, I struggled. It was so loud. I spent most of the first night trying to find ways of blocking the noise out. Why didn’t I bring earplugs?
After a few hours of half sleeping and plotting against my roomies, I got up and went downstairs. It was around 5am, so not a lot was happening. I grabbed a cup of coffee and a Danish while I read the paper. Jim, surprisingly, arrived shortly after. We hung out for a bit, and then headed back up to the room to coax the other two out of bed.
Four showers later, everybody was dressed and ready for the day. Breakfast was at some diner style place, which is always a delicious way to tame headaches and hangovers.
Fun with guns
The goal for that day was to shoot guns at The Gun Store. It’s a shooting range off the strip that lets you shoot all the guns from your favorite video games. We hopped in a cab and arrived about 15 minutes later.
It was a cornucopia of guns to choose from. You basically choose a gun, a target, and how many magazines of ammo you want to shoot. We got to choose from various paper terrorists and paper bad guy targets. They bring you back to the range and show you the basics of the gun. Shoot, smile, laugh, repeat.
I was there to shoot everything I could (afford). The first few guns I chose were popular guns at that time in Tom Clancy games: HK MP5, Colt M4, and HK G36. Full auto, three-round burst, semi-auto…Paper Saddam Hussein didn’t stand a chance.
With the first few guns checked off the list, it was time to try something a bit different. I moved to the Tommy Gun, a Sten, and an MP40. These were popular guns in Call of Duty, all of which I had to shoot. This round was Paper bin Laden, who I can confidently say did not survive.
There were still so many guns on the shelf, so I asked our range guy what pistols I couldn’t buy and shoot normally. He pointed me to the FN FiveSeven, which hadn’t been released as a civilian pistol, yet. It was such an interesting pistol to shoot. The sound was more like a rifle, quite loud and snappy, but the recoil was negligible. It became my favorite pistol, which Tom Clancy eventually made mainstream with Splinter Cell.
No list would be complete without shooting a belt-fed machine gun. Enter, the M249. I bought the strip of bullets and headed back to the range to stop a paper hostage situation. Our range guy game me the option to set the tripod on the ground or the range shelf. I chose the ground, got on my belly, pulled the rifle into my shoulder, and pulled the trigger.
The first few rounds were single-shots to get a feel for things. My aim was spot on, and the paper hostage taker was a goner. It was time to spray-and-pray. I pulled the trigger and held it. Like that, every bullet was down range, and the entire paper target looked like swiss cheese.
Unfortunately, the paper hostage got as much as the hostage taker this time. It wasn’t enough to stop the perma-smile that only a fully automatic belt-fed machine gun can provide. All my friends were laughing, because just being near it creates perma-smile. Our mission was complete, time for drinks.
We decided to walk the half-inch back to the strip rather than wait 15 minutes for a cab. Terrible idea. Will we never learn? Those city blocks are ridiculous, and it was hot as hades. When we got closer to the strip, we walked to the first hotel we saw and grabbed a cab in their taxi line.
Our room had a bottle of rum and some coke in it, a birthday treat from Jim’s wife. She called ahead and paid to have it brought to our room. We had a drink or two in the room while we did a photo shoot with our paper targets from the range. Once everyone was changed into their night clothes, we headed out.
Dinner and a show
Again, we only had dinner reservations, so the evening and night were pretty wide open. We hopped a cab to the heart of the Strip and went to a bar to make plans. Food, drinks, and a show. That is what we came up with.
We grabbed some lunch and went off in search of a show. Jim wanted to see a cabaret show, which proved to be more challenging to find than we originally thought. It didn’t help that we stopped every 20 to 30 minutes to have a drink, but we needed our energy, so it was necessary.
Eventually, it was dinner time, and we hopped in a cab to get to our restaurant. I’m pretty sure dinner was at the Hard Rock that night. Nick got pizza…again. He was lucky we didn’t go to India or China for the trip, as I think he would have starved to death.
Re-energized from dinner, we set back out in our quest for a show. As fate would have it, there was somebody passing out coupons for a show in one of the hotels we wandered into. We found where the show was, bought tickets, and grabbed a pitcher of beer nearby while we waited.
Despite my expectations that it would be a bunch of dancing and singing, the show ended up being a lot of fun. Part way through, they needed a volunteer from the crowd. We instantly nominated the birthday boy, and they pulled him up to the stage. He sat on a recliner before the dancers spun him around and wheeled him backstage.
The show continued for a minute or two. Then a big, round curtain on wheels rolled out. They pulled the curtain back, and he was sitting there, shirt off, surrounded by a half-dozen dancing girls. Mind you, this was a dance show, not a strip club, so everyone was in costume. Only Jim was shirtless. We laughed and cheered as he came back to his seat, now having to put his shirt back on.
For Vegas, the night was still young when the show was over. So, we decided we needed to see some sites, with Caesar’s Palace winning the popular vote. We walked there, stopping to take pictures with all the statues out front. Typical drunk and stupid stuff.
We finished the night there, hitting up one of the clubs, drinking even more, and touring the giant mall in Caesar’s Palace. Another cab ride back to home base, and we hit the beds. I slept a bit more that night, as I basically passed out for a few hours. Once, again, though, the snoring would wake me up around 4am.
This time, though, I just sat there, listening to them synchronize their snores into a musical masterpiece. I grabbed my phone and started recording them, which doesn’t capture the moment well, but does support my claims of their snoring savagery. As I recorded it, I thought of the term snorchestra. I was loopy, and couldn’t stop laughing. It was time to get up.
More coffee and carbs to start my day. Jim joined me, again, within 20 minutes of getting downstairs. It was Sunday morning, so we hung out for a while watching football while the other two guys slept. Grant came downstairs next, leaving Nick to sleep even more.
Once we had our fill of football and coffee, we went up to drag Nick out of bed and prep for the day. First order of business was to get food and figure out our evening plans. We decided we would hit a club, do some gambling, drink, and turn in when we all faded, again.
I didn’t gamble, but I was more than happy to watch Nick throw down on some blackjack for a bit. After gambling, we headed off for more drinks. There were no dinner reservations, but after exploring the MGM Grand, we found a place with no wait and a good menu; Fiamma Trattoria.
All the pasta was made in-house, and the gnocchi was calling my name. Hodoor. It was so good. The only downside to this place was their lack of pizza, which devastated Nick. He stared at the menu like a lost puppy. After a bit of contemplating, he chose the “pizza” of Italian pasta; spaghetti with meatballs. Don’t get me wrong, it looked really good. It was just a fitting choice from Nick. He couldn’t help it, his Italian-ish DNA demanded red sauce, and his German-ish DNA chose not to explore the more interesting side of Italian cooking.
NFL Sunday Night Football was on, so we headed to a sports bar to watch the game and have a drink. When that was over, we set out to explore some more, but the idea of wandering around the Strip didn’t have the same allure it did the two nights before. The night was at risk of ending early, and we decided to get some drinks at a little Jazz club to see if that would reinvigorate us. As we settled in, I got a phone call. It was one of my younger sister’s school friends that now lived in Vegas. It was always a possibility that she would call, but I didn’t expect her to drop her busy life to connect with me.
The phone call was just what we needed. She worked at a club in Vegas, and had arranged a limo to pick us up and bring us there. We arrived and came in through the VIP entrance. As we walked in, the music was loud, and I had no idea where to go. I got a tap on the shoulder and a big hug as I turned around. The limo was just the start. We also had bottle service at a private table in the back, which was about as high-roller as I’ve ever been.
With new life sparked into the night, we set out to kill the first bottle. The staff came by our tables often, helping us mix drinks and sitting down for a bit to keep us entertained. It wasn’t long before the bottle was empty and we needed a second. The second bottle ended up being our undoing.
Grant somehow lost his belt that night. No funny business there, he just lost his damn belt. Maybe he was trying to change into his pajamas, because he kept falling asleep in our booth. We learned that the bouncers don’t like sleepers. They kept coming over and telling us he had to leave if he was going to sleep. We woke him up and promised each time that he was good.
Jim and I were still at full strength, talking it up with each other and the roaming waitresses. In the middle of talking to a couple of the waitresses, Nick jumps out of the booth, pushing everybody in his path out of the way. He disappears around the corner, and we continue our conversation after a few odd looks and a laugh.
It turns out that Nick had to puke. He later tells us he ran into the bathroom, but all the stalls were in use. As he waited somewhat patiently for somebody to wrap it up, one of the stall doors unlocked. Nick nearly ripped the door off the hinges to get to the toilet. The guy that came out was dancing slightly to the music playing, and strutted out slowly from the stall. Nick pushed him out of the way, already started to puke, splashing some on the floor and this guy’s shoes.
Something like 20 minutes passes, and the bouncer comes over to tell us that our boy was laid out in the bathroom and needed to leave. With sleeping beauty in the booth and puke nasty in the bathroom, Jim and I decided it was, indeed, time to leave.
We dragged the two of them out front, making it maybe ten feet before Nick is puking, again. The bouncer out front came over and kindly asked us to bring him to the street side. He, understandably, didn’t want him puking around the Ferraris and Bentleys out front.
I called a cab and we waited while Nick painted the street in front of the club. Once Nick was in the car, the driver could see what bad shape he was in. Not wanting puke in his cab, he shifted the car into ludicrous speed, and got us to the hotel in record time. We held Nick’s head out the window the entire ride, so it would have painted the outside of the cab, anyhow. Every other cab ride before that was slow and costly. Life hack: if you’re in a cab and need to get somewhere fast, act like you have to throw up.
We all slept like logs that night, waking up to the sun this time, and all needing a diner breakfast, some Tums, and an Excedrin. After checking all three of those off our list, it was time to fly home. Even with all the drinking the night before, we still had a ceremonious drink on our stopover in Spokane. What a fun trip.