Sunday, October 31, 2010

Friends, Fun, and Frozen Treats or Vegas Vacation Part 2

5:00 AM. That's when my body thought I needed to be awake on Thursday morning. Remember that little note at the end of the Part 1 post? Yeah. Two hour difference between Vegas and home. 5:00 AM in Vegas is 7:00 AM back home. On a typical Thursday, I'm at work at 7:00 AM. My body was confused. Why wasn't I at work? But I had to tell my body that I was in a super-comfy bed that wasn't my own. I could go back to sleep. I had nowhere to be that morning.

I really wanted eggs benedict for breakfast. It was after 9 when I finally made it to the cafe downstairs. Thankfully, eggs benedict was on the menu. It was decent, but the coffee was expensive. I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I was. This day was actually a bit of sticker shock to me. After ordering the $18.99 entrĂ©e the night before, I was a bit disappointed by prices across the board on the Strip. (By the end of my trip, I was used to it). $3.75 seemed like a lot for a cup of ordinary coffee.

My friends weren’t due to get into town until a bit later in the day, so I decided to wander. I had the comfy shoes on.

First, I ended up at Caesars Palace. Not really feeling like losing a lot of money again, I just sat down at a bar and ordered a drink (I felt like I deserved one). Little did I know that one shot of Absolut in a glass of OJ would run me $11.50. Won’t be making that mistake again – I’ll be gambling the next time I have a drink at Caesars. But I did get in touch with my friends who were driving into town. They thought they’d be there in a couple hours.

I decided to wander some more. I really wanted to see CityCenter – it was under construction the last time I was in Vegas. I took my time and wandered through the Bellagio to the tram to Crystals (that's the newest high-end mall on the Strip). It's a good thing I had plenty of time, though. I literally had to walk through the entire hotel. They really tucked that tram away back there.

Crystals was interesting. I’m used to malls, but this mall was like an optical illusion studded with high-end stores. And it smelled new. A little weird. I didn’t stay too long.

I stopped for lunch at Todd English P.U.B. I at least knew these prices beforehand because they had a menu posted outside the door, so I knew what I was getting myself into. It wasn’t a shock. I had the beer called “Todd’s Urban Brew,” or the “T.U.B.” It was really tasty. And I had the buffalo burger for my lunch, and that was easily worth the money I paid for it. Very tasty, all around. I’d eat there again, no doubt. Great ambiance, too.

I played a bit at the casino at the Aria casino (also new), but just basic penny slots. Didn't lose too much in the end, which is good. But as I was sitting at the Monopoly-themed slot machine, I got the word from my friends that they were in town. They were parking down at Excalibur and were going to meet me on the walking bridge between Excalibur and the New York New York hotel. I actually knew where that was!

Of course, getting there was harder than I expected. I ended up on the bridge going across the other street, headed for the MGM Grand. And then I got a message from my friend saying they couldn't find the way out of Excalibur! Disaster! But eventually we both found our way and met up with each other.

All of my friends were staying in a timeshare a few miles south of the Strip. After meeting up with the first pair of friends, I went with them to check into the timeshare, then we picked up another friend at the airport and did some shopping. The timeshare had a full kitchen (it even had a dishwasher), so the plan was to cook some meals there to save a few bucks. And after the money I had spent on previous meals, it was a relief! They cooked that night, and it was good. Much easier on the wallet than another $20 plate of 6 shrimp. And it was probably better for me, too. The timeshare also had a grill out on the balcony! Pretty sweet.

After dinner, we piled onto the timeshare's shuttle that went to the Strip. It dropped us off at Caesars Palace, and I knew exactly what I wanted for dessert. Part of the Caesars facility was the Serendipity 3 cafe. Their specialty dish was something called "Frozen Hot Chocolate." I had seen it on TV and read about it online, but I really wanted to know what it would taste like. There were four of us, but neither of us were particularly hungry, so we decided to share one dessert between the four of us. And, man, that was a good idea. The thing was huge. But it was SO good. It tasted like hot chocolate! But it was slushy and frozen. With lots of whipped cream on the top. We did manage to finish it, but only barely.

That was really all we did that night. I was really tired because my body was still (STILL) on Central time. I went back to my room and they went back to the timeshare. I was asleep in no time.

The (pink) Flamingo or Vegas Vacation Part 1

I know I'm a bit late with this blog entry. I'm sorry for the delay, but I'm hoping to get it all out tonight.

I arrived in Las Vegas on my 30th birthday. Some people may think it was sad for me to be in Vegas alone on my birthday, but I was ok with it. I really wanted to experience Vegas on my own terms. I could explore at my own pace. It was nice.

But it was raining.

Not just raining. It was pouring. Storming. Thunder and lightning. The puddles in the streets were so big they flooded onto the sidewalks.

This was so not ideal.

I took a shuttle from the airport to my hotel. The shuttle driver (from Airport Executive Shuttles or something like that) was a little crazy. He drove like a maniac. Then he didn’t drop me off at the right entrance (where the shuttle drop-off/pick up is). He dropped me off down on the opposite side of the building where I had to walk down the street and all the way through the building before I could find the front desk. Oh, and he had to drive on the wrong side of the street to get me there. Very scary. And rainy. But I’m pretty sure that was the only true downside of the day.

Once I found the check-in desk at the Flamingo, everything was simple. Check-in was a breeze. My room was right next to the elevators. And I was completely in love my room. It had a retro look to it, but it was very high-tech. The drapes were motorized, controlled by a switch by the bed. There was a huge plasma TV. There was even a TV in the bathroom! And the room was just downright huge. I loved it. It even had a fridge and a little coffee pot, which is more than you get in a typical Las Vegas hotel room.

After getting settled, I made my way down to the casino. I really like craps, but my friends who were going to be joining me later aren’t really gamblers, so I decided to do the bulk of my gambling while they weren’t there. I found a table that seemed to have some good action, and I gambled the night away.

… well, not really. I gambled until I lost about $80 and decided that I couldn’t bear to lose any more on the first day. Not at a craps table, anyway. And I was getting hungry. It had only been about 45 minutes and I had two cocktails while playing. I needed to find some dinner.

Not being entirely familiar with the Flamingo casino/hotel, it took me an embarrassingly long time to find my way outside. I had heard good things about the nachos at Margaritaville, so I made my way there. Turns out it’s attached to the Flamingo, so I didn’t really need to go outside to get there at all. And I shouldn’t have gone outside, because it was wet out there. Not comfortable. I eventually got a table and did not order the nachos because I’m a fool. Instead, I got the coconut shrimp which was extremely disappointing, especially for the price. I should have gone for the nachos. Actually, I probably should have gone to another restaurant, because I just wasn't enough of a Parrothead to enjoy a Jimmy Buffet-themed restaurant by myself. At least the margarita was decent.

I went for a walk after dinner, as the rain had cleared, but it was still wet outside, and my feet were not happy with me. I should have stayed indoors. But it was nice to see the Strip by night on my birthday.

By the way, did you know that Las Vegas is in the Pacific Time Zone? It was very easy for me to get to sleep after my walk.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Flying While Fat: A Follow-Up

I want to talk about Vegas. I really do. But first, I want to talk about my experience in the air.

You may have read some of my previous posts about Flying While Fat. Most notably, this one: Flying While Fat: Part 2. That's where I basically planned my flights to Vegas.

If you don't feel like reading that one, let me sum it up. I booked my flights with Southwest Airlines not only because they were cheapest, but also because they were the most generous with their policy for "customers of size." As a large woman, I've never been comfortable sitting on an airplane.

What I had to do with Southwest was buy two tickets, and after the flights there was a chance that the second seat could be refunded. Since Southwest uses "cattle call" boarding (no assigned seats), I also was able to pre-board because I had to be guaranteed two seats together. There's no point to having two seats if I can't spill over into the second one.

I got to the airport last Wednesday a little early because I didn't really know what was going to happen once I got there. Because of the two seats situation, I didn't want to check in online before my flight.

The person at the check-in counter was a little clueless. But luckily, she was smart enough to ask another person how to handle a "customer of size." Soon, I was on my way to the security line with boarding passes and seat reservation signs. Since Southwest flies out of the Humphrey terminal (excuse me - Terminal 2), the line was short and within a few steps I was at my gate. One of my favorite things about Southwest? They have nice leather seats in their gate areas. Not a lot of them, but if you get there early enough, you've got a comfy option while you wait.

The gate agents were fantastic. You know those Southwest commercials you see on TV where all their employees are happy-go-lucky and totally love their jobs? They're really like that! It was crazy. One dude was even singing over the PA. It was great. I was amused. They were also really good to me when I asked about when I was supposed to board. Turns out I had to talk to them so I could get a pre-boarding pass. Of course, the pass said "Pre-Board on the basis of disability" on it. I wasn't so sure how I felt about that - I don't really see my size as a disability... but it turns out that those are the only pre-boarding passes they have. They also have the option of people paying extra to be able to board early, and those people get the same pre-boarding passes. So I'm ok with that now.

I got on the plane, put the reservation pass on the seat next to me, and settled in for the flight. It was perfect. I didn't feel cramped. I didn't feel like I was invading anybody's space. And no one gave me that "I sure hope I don't end up sitting by her" look. Finally. This is how I plan to travel until I lose weight.

I realize that I'm really talking up Southwest. I should point out that Frontier also has a policy where they'll refund the second seat if the flights are not oversold. I'm sure they're just as fantastic as Southwest - I've just never flown with them before.

So that's Flying While Fat. Next up: Vegas!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Back in Blog

I'm such a bad blogger. I haven't posted at all this month! I'm going to blame it on stress. And laziness. But mostly stress. But it's good stress!

Wait a minute... how can stress be good?

All of my stress can be traced back to one thing: I'm crazy busy lately. And busy is good.

I'm busy at work because business is picking up. Also, I'm trying to catch up and get ahead with all of my stuff because I'll be on vacation - starting in 8 days, I'll be on my awesome trip to Las Vegas. I'm beyond excited.

Remember that jewelry show I was getting ready for? Yeah, had that. And it went really well - now I'm working on filling orders. That's right. Filling orders. People liked my stuff so much that they want me to make more of it, and they want matching bracelets and earrings. I'm overjoyed, but it's more work than I was expecting. I had to go shopping for new beads. I have to learn a new technique. But it's all good. Some of my coworker friends have given me the confidence and ideas necessary to start my own jewelry business. I just need to find a web designer and register the domain name, and I'll be ready. But I'll probably start that in 2011. No time now. But keep your eyes peeled for Baubles by Becky.

I'm also still walking, though I'm not going to hit my 30 miles by the time I turn 30. I'm so exhausted these days that it's hard to get outside and walk. I plan to really get back into it once I'm back from Vegas - that way work will be less stressful, and I'll be able to focus on the actual walking. Oh, and I've started running a little bit, too. Fun! But a little scary. I still plan to do the half marathon next year.

On top of everything else, I know that National Novel Writing Month will be starting soon. I plan to try again this year, but I haven't given it a single thought beyond that - no idea what I'll be writing about this time. I hope it's fun, though. I hope I write something I actually like - those seem to be the times when I'm the most successful.

Oh, I forgot about my other element of stress! I need a roommate. Do you know anyone who needs a cool place to live in SW Minneapolis? Preferably someone with a job who can afford $500/month plus utilities? Because, really, I need a roommate. I can't afford this place on my own!