Tracy, Noah and Kahlil’s Excellent Adventures
Before I launch into the next few days of our experiences, I should probably address how I can afford to go to Las Vegas every few months.
VACATION TIP #3 While I understand the logic in looking for flights under the main airline websites (Southwest, Delta, US AIR, etc.), I now book my flights on www.CheapOair .com. I know it sounds nuts, but I can fly from Pittsburgh to Vegas for $158 round trip. These flights are on the main airlines (Southwest, Spirit), but are significantly cheaper. The rub? I fly out of Pittsburgh at 8 pm, it’s a 4.5-hour flight, and with the three-hour time zone difference, I’m there at 10 pm Vegas time. However, its 1 am here. This, my friends, is why people return from a three or four-day trip half dead. Likewise, I fly back on the red-eye that leaves Vegas at 8 pm and arrive back in Pittsburgh at 2 am the next morning. The flight times aren’t great, but on the drive to the airport, I’m heading against rush hour traffic, and on the drive from the airport home, I have the road to myself. Also, by arriving late night, I have the entire next day to enjoy, not half a day after travel, and by leaving late night, I have that entire day as well.
VEGAS TIP #3 If you are going to gamble at all, get a player’s card. Charge everything, and I mean everything to your room (meals, drinks, resort store purchases, spa services). For every dollar you spend, you get “points” and “points” get you freebies. You are going to spend that money anyway, but room charging allows the hotel to see how much you spent. Every resort/casino or grouping of casinos has a card. I have found the “Mlife” card to be the very best for me, as it is the MGM resorts product, and it includes eleven Vegas resorts. MGM, New York New York, Bellagio, Monte Carlo, Mirage, Excalibur, Luxor, Mandalay Bay, Aria, Vdara, and Circus Circus are all included, so dinner at the NY/NY? Room charged, got the points. In three trips I have moved up four “tiers” or levels on the player card. I now get four nights free, additional nights at $19 a night, $350 resort credit (first $350 worth of meals, drinks, coffee charged to my room are taken off my bill), and $250 in Freeplay at the slot machines. I also get about 20% off show tickets. If you think that through – I fly for under $200, stay free, eat free, and only need gambling money and to pay for show tickets. As I typed this, I got an email from MGM offering me FREE tickets to see Cher, Macklemore, and or Kevin Hart.
Back to the adventure: I have set my phone alarm for 9 am Sunday, as it would be too easy to sleep in. The alarm goes off at 9, but the hotel digital clock says 8. I am beyond confused, until I realize that for the second trip in a row, I am in Vegas during the “Spring forward/Fall back” time change. Grrr….
The guys and I had tickets for The World-Famous Gospel Buffet at The House of Blues. I had done this experience once before, and thought it was a fun daytime event. It’s kind of like going to church (they refer to it as “charch”), except there are Bloody Mary’s and they don’t pass the plate. The buffet is exquisite. It is southern themed, so there is an omelet station, a chicken and waffles station, a sausage gravy and biscuit station, a carving station (brisket this day), a full salad bar, a breakfast bar (eggs, bacon, fried potatoes) and the lunch bar, which had peel and eat shrimp, fried chicken, etc. The show is Southern gospel, and people really do stand up, hold their hands up. There is prayer. The guys agreed that the buffet was awesome, the sausage gravy and biscuits were the best we’d ever had, and the show was not something that they would pay money to do again. Fair enough.
I want to make sure that everyone understands that while I had planned lots of shows and events to keep the guys busy, there was also plenty of downtime for us all. Twenty-year-old guys don’t need their hands held, and Mama Cowles likes to gamble, which twenty-year-olds can’t be present for. Excalibur has an entire basement level arcade, complete with laser tag, 3D movies, and a games section that would rival the Rocky Grove Fair. The guys went to the arcade routinely to play pool, shoot hoops and play Skeeball. The boys hiked six blocks to the closest RiteAid. Remember I had given them money on arrival? I kept them stocked up throughout the trip. In addition, Noah had brought homework to study, and Kahlil was kind enough to be on his computer or watch TV while Noah hit the books for an hour.
After the Gospel Buffet, I bought the boys tickets to see the “Body Exhibition” at the Luxor. I had already seen it. The Body Exhibition is hard to explain. It is a walk-through exhibit of dead bodies, but they have been specially treated to show organs, blood supply, muscles, etc., without being gross and scary. They almost look like they have been laminated. It’s cool, and you can’t see it anywhere else unless it goes on tour.
Thirty minutes later I get a text from Noah. “Mum. Mummy. Ma. Mama. Mom. Mother. Where are you?” He’s doing Stewie from Family Guy, and I am once again laughing, all by myself.
We saw Chris Angel Mind Freak, the magic show that night, which was very good. We then hiked to New York New York, where we toured the three-story Hershey Chocolate store, and ate at 9 Fine Irishmen, one of my Vegas favorites.
When we returned to Excalibur, ready to call it a night, Noah said, “Hey mom, you know when you told us several times to have comfortable shoes, and several pair, and I laughed at you because I’m always on my feet? No joke, my Fitbit says we’ve done 30,000 steps two days in a row, when I normally do 12,000.” Yep. People should listen to me.
On Monday we hit the buffet for breakfast and taxied to Bally’s, as we had an afternoon show. (Yes, there are afternoon shows, and they are kid friendly). Naturally, we had time to kill, and quite frankly, I had seen about as many stores as I wanted to see. I assumed the guys felt the same way. Therefore, when a toothless man in a pirate costume stopped us and asked if we would take a survey to get paid, I stopped. Yes, I said toothless man in a pirate’s costume. Its Vegas. No need to make things up. I normally don’t stop for things like this.
The guys agree that they would rather make $20 bucks to watch an episode of TV, rather than walk another half mile of stores. We sign in, get seated before computer screens, and start the process. Questions about our viewing habits. Instructions to watch the beginning of the show, hit the space bar to indicate we would turn it off, green button in right hand to press when we were enjoying ourselves, red button in left hand to say we didn’t like something. Two minutes in, I’m completely absorbed.
An hour later we get handed twenty bucks each as we leave. I look at the guys and say, “Well?” Noah says, “I want to binge watch the whole thing!” Kahlil says, “Oh, I’m definitely watching that!” All three of us had rated it 6/7 and wanted to binge watch it from beginning to end.
The show is called “Reverie,” and will debut on NBC on June 26th. If involves sci-fi, medical technology, police investigation work, and a small group of regular characters who are as messed up as they get. Check it out!
Our afternoon show was “Paranormal Mind Reading,” and this guy read minds. I have no idea how he does it, but it was impressive and entertaining. We left Bally’s and walked to The Linq to get our tickets for the evening show. We then went to Harrah’s and had dinner at Ruth’s Chris Steak House. Filet Oscar. Oh my. Noah got a rack of lamb. Kahlil said it was the best meal he’d ever had.
We waddle our fat, full butts back over to the Linq, and get in line for our nighttime show, “Divas.” Divas is a female impersonator show, one of the top fifteen shows in Vegas. Something I have always wanted to see. As we stood in line, it became clear that we were surrounded by flamboyant gay people. Yay! Its yet another party in Vegas, for me. The boys were uncomfortable. In the line, there were female impersonators, specifically Dolly Parton, with her big bust, to take pictures with. The boys had no interest. Like I said, best travel companions ever. Didn’t whine, didn’t complain, didn’t try to get out of it…just stoically tried to maintain their dignity while we entered this show that I wanted to see.
Divas started out with the star doing a seriously good impression of Joan Rivers. She did 20 minutes of stand up and ripped on everyone from the Kardashians, to Paris Hilton to Donald Trump. It then went into the musical portion, where we saw “Cher,” “Patti La Belle”, “Dolly Parton,” “Pat Benetar,” “Whitney Houston,” and “Pink.” There were ten others. Pink and Patti La Belle were so good people came out of their chairs and gave a standing ovation.
When the show was over, and a thousand people were heading for the doors, Kahlil grabbed my arm. “Can I tell you something?” “Yeah!” “I didn’t think I’d like this show. I didn’t understand it. Turns out, even though we saw Grand Funk Railroad and Chris Angel and Lionel Ritchey, THIS is the show I’d pay money to see again. The guy that did Pink rocks.” And Noah agreed. This show they didn’t want to see turned out to be their favorite, thus far.
Divas ended at 11pm, and we strolled down to the High Roller, which is one of the tallest Ferris Wheels in the world. The “cars” are actually glass globes that can hold up to twenty-five people. We took our ride, and at the very top, I wrapped my arm around Noah’s waist and said, “This is an awesome moment.” He said “It is” and side-hugged me back. Nice!
Finally, exhausted, knowing we needed to be up the next morning, we taxied back to our hotel. Our taxi driver was a sweet Hispanic lady of about thirty, named Josepha. Typically, it is just small talk with a cabbie, and sometimes absolute silence, but we got stuck in traffic. The boys regaled Josepha with their most interesting adventure of the night, a man in the Linq bathroom with his pants down around his ankles talking to the soap dispenser. She laughed, thought it was cool that they brought me on Spring Break, said she hoped her kids would still want to hang with her at twenty. I only bring her up, because she comes back, later in the story, just when I needed her….