Vegas - the retro diary: part 1

As most of you know (yes, all two of you reading this… and even that’s ambitious), my mate Dave and I just got back from a USA extravaganza.  We travelled from the west coast to the east coast and from the north to the south with one simple goal – have a kick ass time.

Did we succeed?  Oh yeah – we succeeded.  Everywhere we went we met amazing people.  Everywhere we went, you were guaranteed that, at some point, we would be treated like royalty.  It was the best trip either of us has ever taken.

However, a question I’ve been asked on more than 50 occasions is “What was the best part?” 

Now, any of you who read my Cambodia column will know that I don’t have very good form answering questions of this ilk.  So I decided what any reasonable human being would do – I’d write a column.

I didn’t want it to be just another travel recap though.  Honestly, does anybody ever read those group emails from people with their travelling updates?  They’re always way too long and are guaranteed to be found interesting by the traveller’s mother and few others.

Well, in keeping with the theme of this website (a homeless man’s Bill Simmons) I thought I’d do a Vegas retro-diary because, what happens in Vegas doesn’t really stay in Vegas... Here’s how it played out.

Wednesday 24 March, 8am – Dave, Glen (the guy we were staying with) and I are driving aimlessly throughout San Diego’s airport trying to find our hire car place.  Basically, we have no idea where we’re going because the booking sheet is incomprehensible.  The only information we can decipher is that the car we’re meant to hire is somewhere in San Diego International Airport.  By the way, San Diego Airport isn’t exactly small.  We decide to pull into a vacant parking lot to try and find out a) where we are, b) what hire car company we’re booked with and c) where the hell we are!

8:30 – Things are getting desperate now.  Not only did we get kicked out of the parking lot because it was about to be filled with trucks (yes, filled with trucks), but we still have no answers to any of the above questions.  We pull into a Budget Car Rental hoping against hope that we’re booked through them.


They do tell me though that we’re booked through ‘Dollar’.  What the heck kind of a name is that??  Another problem, nobody at Budget knows where Dollar is.  Bad times.

8:45 – Found it!!  It was hidden away in the middle of an intersection.

Ok, it wasn’t hidden at all; we were just too stupid to notice it.  Sensing our luck is about to change, we pull in and I thrust the booking form in the attendant’s face.  Not only does the attendant find this hilarious, but he promptly informs me that since there is no Chrysler Sebring available, he’s going to have to upgrade us to a convertible Mustang.

8:46 – pause

8:47 – Dave and I are celebrating like we’ve just won the lottery.  You know it!!!  Suddenly our woeful investigative skills are long forgotten. 

8:55 – The car turns up and it is a sight to behold.  Ferrari red with a smooth leather interior and an engine that is illegal in 72 countries.  Not only will this thing accelerate so fast that we may actually travel through time, but it is the most un-environmentally friendly convertible on the market. 


9:15 – Well, after taking too many photos, trying to drive out the entrance, being accosted by an attendant lady who I’m sure just got released from prison for murder and stopping more than once, we’re on the freeway.

Driving in America is, I must say, a little odd.  Firstly, you’re on the opposite side of the car which throws off your bearings straight away.  Secondly, you’re on the opposite side of the road which is just downright confusing.  Thirdly, the speedometer is in miles per hour which leads to you wondering why you haven’t reached 90 yet until you realise you’re doing about 140kph.  And fourthly, you’re surrounded by 4x4’s that are bigger than downtown Sydney and sound louder than a construction site.  In other words – this is awesome.

9:30 – Dave informs me for the 50th time in 3 minutes that I’m ‘drifting into the next lane’.  This whole ‘position the car in your own lane’ thing is proving harder than I thought.

10:07 – Having finally mastered staying in my own lane, we hit the freeway – all 6 lanes on either side of the road.  I decide this is an appropriate time to unleash the car’s engine.

10:08 – POWER!!!!

11:30 – We’re getting seriously hungry now but I’m determined to make it to Barstow – the ultimate refuelling destination.  Dave’s putting on a brave face but I can tell he’s one more passed McDonalds away from killing me, burying my corpse in the desert (aptly named Death Valley) and driving straight to the next fast food outlet.

Do I care?  No way!  We’re going to Barstow, baby, and that’s all there is to it.

1:00pm – We finally make it to Barstow and pull into Subway.  A footlong?  Yes thanks.  Price?  $5.


Dave and I devour the footlongs faster than Mischa Barton’s acting career disappeared, while managing to have some decidedly playful banter with our servers.  This was our first indication as to the power of the Australian accent on American females.  It’s like some sort of nitrus oxide that seeps into their system and no matter what you look like, they’re now genetically incapable of being anything other than lovely to you.  Good times.

1:30 – Back on the road now with Downtown Dave Brown behind the wheel.  He mastered the art of staying in his own lane within the first 3 seconds of being behind the wheel.  Screw you, Dave.

2:25 – We’re in the middle of the desert and all we’ve passed is sand, dirt and the occasional trailer park.  I’m more sunburnt that a lobster and we only have bad highway music to listen to. 

Still, there is a silver lining.  We’re starting to see Vegas mile markers.  Only 100 miles to go. 

This starts the following events.  Every we time we pass a Vegas mile marker I scream out “VEEEEEEHHHHHHGGAAAAAAASSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” at the top of my lungs.  Dave finds it much less amusing than me but I don’t care.  We’re nearly in Vegas, baby!


3:25 – We just caught our first glimpse of the Vegas skyline.  Suddenly I’m not the only one screaming.  Dave’s joined in too.  This is our first glimpse of the power of Vegas.

3:40 – Driving down Las Vegas Blvd is quite an experience.  Everything, and I mean everything is larger than life.  We just passed an Egyptian pyramid made out of glass.  We just drove past the Statue of Liberty and the Eiffel Tower less than 30 seconds apart.  This, of course, leads to about 50 proclamations from both Dave and myself of “This is awesome!”

3:44 – We catch our first sighting of our hotel – the Bellagio.  The fountains are swaying, the music is blaring and we’re driving a convertible Mustang.  Yes, my friends – life is good.

The Bellagio was our hotel of choice for a few reasons.  1) It’s famous – very famous.  2) It was cheaper than we expected for a 5 star hotel.  Much cheaper than Caesar’s.  3) It led to the following conversation between my Dad and I just before I flew out of Australia:

Me: Guess where we’re staying in Vegas?

Dad: Hmmmm.... well you wouldn’t do the Bellagio...

Me: *grinning* Yep!

Dad: *he lets out a deep sigh and says in a resigned manner* “Sheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeet”

High comedy.

3:50 – We park in the Bellagio driveway and casually toss our keys to the valet who immediately thinks to himself “Where did these schmucks get a car like this?”  After checking in at reception, we’re told the premium retail outlets (home to Nike, Burberry, Calvin Klein etc) are open till 9pm and we should go and spend lots of money there. 

Well, we don’t need to be told twice.  We make a dinner booking for 9:30pm (!) and head up to our room.

3:55 – All Dave can say as he enters the room is “Holy S*&t!”

Yep, this room is awesome.  The view looks over about 60,000 pools and our beds look like they cost more than I make in a year.  Dave and I look at each other and promptly conclude that staying at the Bellagio was a very good decision.

There’s no time to rest though, we’re in Vegas!  We quickly drop our gear and head back to the car (somehow forgetting to tip the Valet… oops) and drive off to the premium outlets.

4:50 – We’ve been shopping for 10 minutes but we’ve both spent over $100 each already.  Vegas, baby!

8:00 – Oh the humanity!  I think we both spent over $400 each.  Thankfully, we now have so many clothes and shoes that we won’t need to go shopping again for the next 70 years.  The problem is everything is so cheap!  I won’t go into the specifics of each clothing line, but if you see me walking down the street in the next little while, feel free to ask me “Is that a new *insert clothing item here*?” because the answer will almost certainly be “Why yes.”

8:45 – The sun has gone down now and we’re finally finished shopping.  Where else could two guys spend 4 hours shopping and still be running out of time other than Vegas?  However, we’re both pretty nervous we’ll be late for our dinner booking, and when that booking is at 9:30pm, that’s pretty funny.  We raced back to the car and are now tearing down Las Vegas Blvd back to the hotel.

9:00 – Driving down the Strip at night is a new experience by itself.  This is incredible!  You don’t need headlights (in fact, I totally forgot to turn them on!  A passing car just yelled out for us to turn them on – oops), because the lights from the casinos are blindingly bright.  Also, we just drove past an exploding volcano – yes, you read that correctly.  Somehow we got back to the room, showered, changed and ready to go in 15 minutes.  Isn’t a great to be a guy?  We’re both dressed up to the nines (wearing some of our recent purchases) and we head off to Sushi.

9:30 – I have to say, I was a little sceptical about having sushi but after turning up at our restaurant, Yellowtail, those fears have melted faster than the polar ice caps (are they even melting??).  The bar is simply cool – the waitresses are wearing outfits that, really, don’t even count as outfits and they are super friendly (the Aussie accent is at work again).  The restaurant’s concierge, and really that’s the only word for him, informs us that our table isn’t ready (who doesn’t have a table ready by 9:30pm???) so we should get a drink from the bar.  A little disappointed (we ‘re starving) we go to the bar.

9:35 – What a great idea!  Each with a drink in hand we’re just a little speechless by our surrounds.  Little did we know that we had already attracted the attention of a cougar… yes, a cougar.

9:45 – For the last 10 minutes this crazy mid-forties, Botox-infused prostitute has been trying to hit on Dave and me with reckless abandon.  She’s like a caged tiger that has been kept in captivity and starved for the last 2 months only to be suddenly released into the same room as a gazelle with a broken leg.

She’s tried every approach imaginable from trying to get close to us (eugh!), to trying to sit on our laps (I haven’t tried to escape a situation that fast in 10 years) and trying to guess Dave’s star sign.  This was absolutely hilarious because she tried to guess his sign about eight times and still couldn’t get it right. Surely, statistically speaking, she should have accidentally guessed it by that stage.  Dave and I concluded that this is further proof that the entire astrology industry is a fraudulent cult designed to take advantage of hippies loaded up on illicit narcotics.

Anyway, her pursuit of us continued until it got to the point of absurdity when she said she could read our palms.  This slayed me for a number of reasons, however, it reached its funniest point when the following exchange took place

Cougar: *pointing at me* Ok, your palm is really interesting!

Me: I get that a lot.

Cougar: *missing the sarcasm* I’m not surprised!  Now look, this line here, and I’m sorry to tell your friend this, but this line here shows that you’re more sexually experienced than he is.

Now, anyone that knows Dave and me will know the comedy of that statement.  Dave and I looked at each other doing our best not to fall over in laughter… but it didn’t work.  Our laughs could be heard as far away as New York.  It was the highest of high comedy.

Eventually the cougar realised that we weren’t ‘taking the bait’, so she decided that there were easier customers around.  She handed us a complimentary condom each (we informed her the chances of either of us needing it that night were between 0 per cent and 0 per cent) before she sidled off to sit on the lap of a gentleman she’d never met who, curiously enough, didn’t mind one bit. 


10:00 – Our table is finally ready and as we take our seat we fortuitously meet our server named Anna.  Not only is Anna remarkably cute, not only is she outrageously friendly, but she decides that since we look ‘cool’ (her words not ours) she’d try and hook us up with a lunch booking for the next day.

Frankly, Anna could have told us to go and try to feed a couple of alligators who’d just been punched in the face and we probably would have done it, but a lunch booking overlooking the lake?  That sounds just fine. 

10:30 – We’ve completed our orders and with a glass of red wine each we toast to what is bound to be an epic night.  We both feel like we’re back in year 12.  Do you remember how back in those days you wouldn’t even ‘get ready’ to head out until 11pm?  Well, we’re back amongst it and it’s awesome.

11:30 – We finish what is, without a doubt, the greatest sushi in the history of Japan.  Every bite was like we were receiving a present from some ancient Emperor who has given us half his kingdom.  Also, our wallets just got a whole lot lighter… again.  Still, every future sushi experience has now been ruined for me because no other sushi could even come close to what we consumed that night.  But I never eat sushi so I guess it’s not a big loss.

12am – Let the games begin!  We find ourselves a $10 blackjack table in the Bellagio and decide to try our luck.  Please keep in mind that neither of us gamble.  Ever.  In other words, this was never going to end well.

12:01 – We sit down and we’re off to an inauspicious start.  Dave throws $60 on the table and gets $45 in chips. 

12:02 – Huh?

12:03 – Pandemonium.  The whole table is siding with the dealer that Dave only gave him $45 while Dave and I are incredulous.  We’re pleading his case but we’re getting less sympathy than Britney Spears. 

In hindsight, we should have fled the table right then and there, leaving tread marks.  Instead (remember, we’re gambling rookies) we hang around and prepare to get shellacked.

12:20 – Yep, my $60 is gone and I reach in and throw another $60 on the table.  Where else can you give your money away for nothing like you can in Vegas?

12:30 – I’m barely alive while Dave is going steady.  He wins, I lose.  We’re sitting right next to each other.  He wins I lose.  He wins I lose.  Did I mention we’re sitting right next to each other?  Just know that right now I hate Dave with the fury of God’s own thunder and am considering spiking his drink with poison.

12:50 – After treading water for a while we get to that epic point of no return hand.  I have 14 and the dealer has a 10 showing.  Every person in the world would hit.  Everyone at the table is thinking I should hit.  Everyone in all of Vegas thinks I should hit?  Do I hit?


Why?  I can’t explain why.  Maybe it’s because I’d just lost $100 without breaking a sweat and was feeling like my entire world was collapsing.  Maybe it’s the waitresses in their skimpy outfits that were distracting me.  Maybe it was my third gin and tonic in the past 40 minutes.  Who knows?  All I know is that Dave, who remember is sitting next to me, hits and gets a seven.

A SEVEN!!!!!!

I lost the next two hands and was somehow now down $120 for the trip and I hadn’t even been gambling for an hour.  I got up and immediately decided that I hate Vegas.

1:20 – We both get up and decide we need our luck to change.  That means a new environment.  Outside we go, at 1:20am, and you’d think it was 7pm.  People are everywhere!  The entire city is buzzing with energy. Suddenly, I love Vegas again.

1:40 – We’ve ended up at the Planet Hollywood and have just seen a few things that nearly caused me to throw up including... lingerie clad dealers.

Now, I can already hear many of you thinking this could be a good thing?  Believe me, it’s not.  I’m not sure how to write this but just trust me – do NOT go into Planet Hollywood!!  Run!  Run for your lives!!!!!!

2:00 – After fleeing Planet Hollywood like the building was on fire we head a bit further down the strip and yes, everything is still going a million miles an hour.  It’s almost enough to send you into a mini headspin.  The neon lights, the scantily clad advertisements, the loud music, it’s unlike anywhere else on Earth.  Meanwhile, Dave has an epiphany that we should go to the Venetian.  Well, who am I to argue with that?  And also, what the hell is the Venetian?

2:23 – The answer: a casino!  And damn, the Venetian is seriously cool.  In fact, it might be cooler than the Bellagio.  It’s made to resemble Venice only it doesn’t resemble Venice at all.  But you know what?  Who cares?  It looks ridiculous.  It probably cost more to construct than Australia’s GDP.  And we don’t mind a bit.

We find ourselves a $15 blackjack table and both thrown down $80.  Let’s see what lessons we learned from ass-kicking number one.  The dealer looks unfriendly.  The other guys at the table look like they haven’t seen their families in months.  The waitresses are annoying.  The atmosphere isn’t great.  But you know what?  We decide to go ahead anyway.

I don’t think it’ll surprise anyone what happened next.

3:10 – Why do I play this stupid game??? I’m now down to $30 after getting repeatedly killed by this evil dealer and I’m starting to hate life again.  Is Vegas somehow determined to ruin my entire life?  Let me win damn you!!

3:30 – Well, we didn’t.  Within 40 minutes, Dave and I had our butts kicked worse than Mel Gibson at the end of Payback, only our toes are unbroken.  We’re now limping away from the Venetian vowing never to return and are contemplating calling it a night.  What the hell could make this night get better again?  Surely there is no reason to continue.  I hate Vegas.

3:35 – We step outside and, as always, there is life everywhere.  Suddenly, Vegas has returned. 

I love Vegas!!!

3:51 – We’re stumbling round a deserted Caesar’s Palace (we possibly just saw a tumbleweed) and decide that since the tables have killed us, let’s play some slot machines.  Bear in mind that in the history of mankind, nobody has ever won money doing this – stumbling around at 3am looking for something to do.  However, this did have the added benefit of us obtaining some free drinks, which of course is the only reason anyone ever plays slot machines. 

Dave sits down at what can only be described as a dolphin while I settle in to play something with mermaids on it.  These are the sentences you write when you’re describing Vegas. 

Meanwhile, the waitress turns up with Dave’s quintuple scotch on the rocks and my gin & tonic.

4:05 – Dave’s lost less money than me so is gambling aggressively and enthusiastically.  I on the other hand barely have the will to live so I’m just sucking down another gin & tonic eagerly awaiting the apocalypse.  Dave, in the meantime, is…. *gulp*… winning.  The dolphin machine has him on a hot streak and Dave is playing it for all it’s worth… which, by the way, isn’t that much.

4:10 – Dave’s hot streak ends abruptly and we both decide we’ve had enough of the deserted Caesar’s Palace (we quickly stop by the foyer to take a photo of where the Hangover boys checked in).  We head back to the Bellagio continuing our search for the Monopoly slot machines.  While there may be plenty of people outside, we’re the only ones alive in here.  It’s like we’re in 28 Days Later, only without the zombies.

I should pause here to point out that Dave had been waxing lyrical about some famed Monopoly slot machines since that morning.  Apparently on his last trip to Vegas he played them and they were fun.  According to Dave, when we found them it would be like entering a land of milk and honey and the entire world would be made a better place.

Whatever.  We haven’t found any that look even remotely playable… until now.

4:14 – We’ve sat down playing Monoploy slot machines and, quite frankly, what possible connection these things have with the actual board game is a bigger mystery than the Da Vinci code.  There’s weird numbers, graphics and absolutely no streets whatsoever.  Still, a waitress just came over and gave us some more free drinks so neither of us really care that much.

4:27 – We’ve just been accosted by some Bellagio waitress/pit boss who made us write down our names and registered us for… something.  Honestly, neither Dave or I remember it very clearly.  She may have punched us… she may have given us $200,000.  Either way, we have no idea who she was and we don’t care.  We’re both toasted and decide that enough is enough because we’re now quite convinced that the entire human race is extinct and we are the only survivors.  In other words, it was time to call it a night.

Vegas may have won this round, but there’s always tomorrow.

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I love the Vegas.

The upgraded car was an
unbelievable development
Welcome to Vegas
Yellowtail - the greatest sushi on the planet.

The Venetian is a visual spectale.