Thursday, November 19, 2015

2015 Las Vegas Marathon Trip Recap

Yours truly standing outside the Mirage


Half the fun of going to a different city to run a marathon is the process of having fun before and after running the race.  Las Vegas is a city I know pretty well and one I always enjoy visiting.

Mostly this account is something for me -- something that I can look back a year or two down the road and remember all the little things I did while visiting Vegas.  

Friday November 13

The plan for Friday was to make it to Cedar City, UT.  Cedar City is about 3.25 hours south of us on the I-15.  

I got off of work at my normal time and even managed to squeeze in a very short shake out run.  Upon getting back home, I finished the last of my packing, ate and then jumped in the car just shy of 7 PM.  I had checked the traffic and it looked heavy -- particularly through the point of the mountain where SLC county and Utah county connect.

I got on the freeway and it war largely smooth sailing -- for a whopping three miles before it came to crawl.  As far as nightmarish traffic goes, this was relatively short-lived and after getting into Utah county it was largely smooth sailing.  Unfortunately, it take about 30 minutes more than usual.

Around 10:30 we made it to the Cedar City Super 8.  It didn't look like much from the outside, but it sufficed for a quick night and it was only like $60. We slept pretty well, with the exception of a knock on our wall and a random hang-up on our motel phone... perhaps the walls were thin and our neighbor heard us talking.  Either way it was creepy.

Saturday November 14

We got up pretty early and our first destination for the morning was to hit Mesquite, Nevada.  I am a fan of the Virgin River Casino Buffet.  It is cheap and good (as far as cheap buffets go).  It would also serve as a fuel stop.  I did grab a quick snack at the Super 8 breakfast, but I was clearly saving room for the "real" meal.

It was really nice to only drive a few hours and hit up the casino.  We were there for the tail-end of breakfast, whereupon they shut down the buffet for an hour for lunch.  We ALWAYS run into this problem and I never get the hours straight.

Luckily we dodged the Saturday morning breakfast lunch (which included the entire Elko football team) and we ate for $15.  Delicious.

The Virgin River Casino hasn't updated many of their slot machines since the last time I was there.  I played a little bit and wound up winning a tiny bit on Wonder Woman.  Virgin River had been sending us free buffet passes and free play vouchers all summer, but we had nothing so we didn't stick around very long.

We drove the final hour to Vegas and I got my bib / t-shirt for the Vegas Marathon:

I made the arduous trip to the Linq Hotel, using my trusty phone's navigator to make my way to the parking garage.  The Linq Hotel's parking lot is the absolutely worst.  They have these huge, load bearing poles in the middle of their lot which makes parking a total pain.  They were marked up with previous victims and I was super careful not to wreck my car on one.

The hotel was nice though.  The room was a bit cramped, but a lot better than I thought it was going to be.  The front desk was also super cool in getting us to a quiet room.  At first we were over the outdoor band's stage but they moved us to a much quieter room.  Props to them. In fact, I am happy to report that I slept great every day I was there.

Shari and I then wandered around.  I was not impressed with the Linq's Casino.  It was obnoxiously loud and I noticed a lot of the familiar machines that I like to play didn't have progressive jackpots on them.  They were all stuck at the minimal jackpot payout.  To me that is a sign of a super tight casino.  I didn't gamble more than a few bucks there (on video blackjack) and took my business across the street to the Mirage.

I discovered that Bally's had another game similar to Fu Dao Le called Dragon Spin.  I actually win a nominal amount each time I played this and the mini jackpot seemed to trigger quite frequently.  Fu Dao Le, my favorite slot machine was a total bust the entire trip.  I really need to find another machine.

For dinner, we had a 2-for-1 pass at the Mirage Buffet.  We met my friend Dennis, who is a runner friend of mine from Illinios.  The Mirage buffet was decent but needs help.  They cheaped out on the crab legs -- they were thin and required some work.  The food was lukewarm at times and for the money, it seemed barely worth it.  I did eat quite a bit though.

Afterwards we headed over to the Bellagio to see the fall garden.  Normally this is incredible, but this year it seemed ho-hum.  Still, it is free and interesting:

 Dennis, Shari and I then went to Dennis's place.  He lives over at the Veer and we were treated to some amazing views of the strip from the 37th floor:

Imagine this being your view from your treadmill

Sunday November 15

I woke up fairly early, fully intending to eat a mild breakfast in preparation for the marathon.  We both wanted to try the legendary Hash House a go go.  However, it was a solid hour wait.

We decided to make our way over to the Harrah's Buffet. Normally, I don't eat a buffet before a marathon.  I know better to eat a massive meal even 8 hours before racing.  However, the buffet had zero line and I told myself I'd eat a solid breakfast but not kill myself there (I normally don't leave a buffet until I am stuffed).  I certainly didn't eat $25 worth of food but it was convenient.

We killed some more time around the area.  Around noon we started our journey to Mandalay Bay, where the race would start at 4:30.

I wound up gambling a bit at Monte Carlo. I dumped $20 into Fu Dao Le and lost it fairly quickly, but again, had a nice run on a Dragon Spin.  

Upon arriving at Mandalay Bay, I sat in the sports book while Shari did some shopping.  We eventually gambled a bit and I couldn't win for the life of me.  Shari, however, found a Fred Flintstone game that she had massive paydirt on.  In total, over the course of an hour or more, we managed to pull nearly a $1000 out of it.

A little twenty dollar bill decided to have babies
At 4:30, I ran the marathon, which you can read here.

After the race, I cleaned up.  I used to be pretty decimated after a marathon, but I think the mega-miles I've been running enable me to at least walk around without limping after a race.  While I was certainly chilled, a hot shower helped.  We decided to try the Hash House a-go-go and only had a 20 minute wait.

Their selection for vegetarian stuff is pretty limited, but they have HUGE portions.  I was finally stymied by a Las Vegas restaurant portion sizes.  I had a pumpkin pancake which was the size of my head.  To be honest, it was a bit too much and normally after a marathon my appetite is completely shot.  I was only able to eat about 50% of it...

We wandered around a bit more before turning in for the night.

Monday November 16

In the morning, I woke up and we had plans to eat at the Bellagio buffet.  We had another two-for-one pass.  Best of all, the comps desk said we had a $50 food credit coming our way (we aren't sure how we got this) and we could use the VIP line.  Very nice.  

The Bellagio buffet was delicious, as usual.  Their buffet seems more like fine dining then a hog fest and I really enjoyed their food.  We also discovered they serve Douwe Eggbert Coffee.  I don't normally drink it, but this stuff was smooth.

I gambled a bit more in the Bellagio and had zero luck.  

We returned to the Linq and grabbed the car and headed out to Summerlin.  We have a few casinos we like to hit and we had another 2-for-1 dinner pass for the Red Rock Resort in west Summerlin.

After some initial traffic we arrived at the Suncoast.  They have a huge casino and it had been about a year since we had last stepped foot in the place.  Not much had changed and I found one of my favorite slot machines: Leonidas, which I managed to eek a very small profit out of.

I finally did get a long run of action on a Multi-Strike Video Poker game.  I managed to hit 4 deuces several times on high pay lines.  At one point, I had nearly $200 in the machine.  I did cash out with a solid $100 profit.  I swiped my card before leaving and found out they had given me a free lunch buffet due to my play.  Ugh, so tempted.

By the time we took off it was dark.  Luckily, we weren't far from the Red Rock Resort.  This hotel is absolutely stunning and high-class.  Neither of us were hungry, so we killed nearly two hours in there circling the casino.

I managed to make some money playing video black jack.  In fact, most of the trip I was pretty successful in sticking money in and making a few bucks in profit.

I also let my hair down and played a Britney Spears slot machine.  We had witnessed a guy who started with $20 cash out with over $500 playing it.  It seemed to be popping the bonus round a lot.  After he left, I jumped on it and actually had a lot of fun playing it.  The bonus round did come up for me quite a bit, but I never made very much profit.  As goofy as it looked, I would play it again.

Around 8 o'clock we sauntered up to the buffet.  It wasn't too bad and it was quiet.  The food was hit and miss but mostly hits.  They had an excellent made-to-order spaghetti station and the desserts were good too.  The place is just stunning too.

Like I died and went to heaven
Sporting my Vegas Marathon shirt

After getting back to the hotel, I killed some time in the Flamingo, winning a few bucks at video blackjack.  Like a typical Caesar's casino though, the machines didn't allow splits or double-downs, so I gave them very little play.  I really liked what they did to the Linq Park.  They did a great job:

I wasn't happy with what they did to O'Sheas.  O'Sheas used to be kind of a hole-in-the-wall casino that was dated.  Sure it was a dive, but it had its own sense of charm.  

Now it is an Irish bar with insanely loud music.  I don't know how one would interact with the dealers that work there.  I guess I am too older now.  It was also filled with beer pong players...  I wonder how the beer tastes after the ball has fallen to the ground a dozen times:

Tuesday November 17

We were planning on eating at the Virgin River casino again, but since we had $50 in resort credit to use, we decided to go to Mandalay Bay.  Their buffet is often overlooked and we had zero line when we got there at the prime time.

Their buffet was good although to be honest I wasn't terribly hungry. I think I was totally "buffet'd" out.  For free, though, it was a good meal and they had some unique items included dried fruit and some deep fried french toast sticks that were oh so yum.

I tried my luck on Shari's lucky Fred Flintstone game, but I got zero on it. Frustrated, we decided to head on our after wandering through the Luxor and doing a tiny bit of window shopping.

We also saw that they were promoting an upcoming boxing match.  I know next to nothing about this sort of stuff, but it was sort of nice to see some of the hoopla:

We made a quick pit stop in Mesquite to see if we had any free play on our cards.  We didn't but I managed to get on a semi-hot Wonder Woman slot machine and made out with a small profit.  Not wishing to press my luck further and leave on a high note, we took off and made it back to SLC by 8:30 PM.


Well, Shari came back a big winner.  She left with about $100 and came back with just shy of a thousand.  I didn't fare as well.  I made some small profits, but I took a bath playing fu dao le and trying to get Fred Flintstone to hit.  I think I've had my run on Fu Dao Le and it is time to switch.

We ate most of our meals at a discount too.  We both play a lot of MyVegas on Facebook and if you are willing to invest a few minutes, it can save you a lot of money on your trip to Vegas.  Best of all, we still have points to eat for cheap next time we go.

It is still amazing to me to see the transformation of Vegas.  It is definitely geared for a younger crowd.  The gambling is a lot tighter and a lot of the casinos have started to cheap out on the food without lowering the price.  

We still had fun though and look forward to returning on New Years Eve!

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