After numerous delays (Delta) we finally arrived in Las Vegas just before midnight. Delta was nice enough to upgrade us to First Class (I don't know why; just happy they did. Free vodka always tastes better than any I pay for). After finding our bags, we found the spot to wait for the trip to the “off site” car rental (got a pretty good deal of only $700 for a month’s rental), but stood in line for an hour to get the rental car. The car I asked for wasn't available so they gave me an additional 15% discount on the one I got. We finally checked into the Wyndham Vacation Resort at almost 2AM. This unit has more than a lot of apartments: full kitchen, LR w/flat screen TV, dining area, king sized bed (and another TV), whirlpool in separate room, fully equipped exercise room (I saw it once, while on my way to a bar), free Wi-Fi, free movies in their private theater, etc., etc. (you can Google them for more info). We plan to stay at ten different resorts/hotels for the next eight weeks and build a book of each place, what we liked, what we didn't like. I figure if we really stop using the motor home so much and start using all these time shares and special deals, I'm going to get really confused from one place to another. My book will help me remember ;-)
After a few hours sleep we visited with sister-in-law for her birthday. Then we went to friend Soupy's house for a backyard BBQ and grand time with his family. The next day we attended a four hour meeting for the Wyndham owners and then I slipped off to meet old friend Steve Thornhill at a bar at Harrah’s for a session of reminiscing about old times and old friends. Heard some stories for the first time concerning the old PSMs, but I think the funniest was about friend Bruce St Cyr. I probably wouldn't repeat it correctly Bruce so why don't you tell us all about your morning stay in a locker or why you drove the staff car so your NCO could consume a 12 pack of beer? Yep, been real busy on this vacation so far.
I checked on the shows I could get me discount tickets to and picked up a few of the Vegas “propaganda” pamphlets to see what/who was playing where. I brought the pamphlets to our room and asked Julieann what/who she wanted to see while we’re here and I was quickly told that she was “relaxing” and didn’t want to go to or see anything for the next few days which meant that I would be doing the picking.
I finally got Julieann out of the apartment last Friday and attended “The Association” concert (you youngster just ask your parents). To tell the truth, I only remembered two of their hits, but they did hits from other artists which got the crowd going. Julieann “had” to remind me that these guys are in their 70’s and to cut them a little slack on not hitting all the notes “just right”. (Borrowed this from YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zXAoa951MYM)
BTW – for those who haven’t visited Las Vegas in the past year, get ready for another shock. Not to be outdone by the airlines with their “charge for every bag” scheme to add to their billion dollar profits, the casinos have begun charging for PARKING!! Yep, it’s BOHICA time (Bend Over, Here It Comes Again).
The next day (Saturday) was time to switch locations so we moved from the Wyndham to the Cliffs of Peace Canyon, about 15 miles outside of Vegas. Really nice apartments with a free shuttle for shopping and to the strip. The nearest “big” casino is Red Rock, which we visited (free shuttle). We finished our week at the Cliffs of Peace Canyon and moved to the California Hotel for one night in between the Time Shares we are trying out this trip.
I really like the “old” downtown Vegas (where the hotel is located). This is where most of the nut cases hang out (MY people!!). Freemont Street, if you haven’t been there, is very hard to describe. Years ago “they” closed off Freemont Street to vehicle traffic and built a light show above the street that is run at night and changes themes every hour – puts on a great show of lights and sounds. Thousands of people crowd the streets in and around the Freemont Experience and various bands play at different locations. Street vendors (I guess that’s what they’re called) wear anything or almost nothing to get your attention, mainly to get you to pay for a photo with them. There are the show girls, an Indian wearing just his loin cloth, Kiss impersonators in complete makeup, Spiderman, Batman, etc. in total costume, etc., etc.
I really believe the odds at winning, at least with the slot machines, is better downtown. At least WE came out ahead and had a great time doing it.
Sunday we moved to the Wyndham WorldMark at Tropicana. When I booked this location they did not have any weeks (7 days) open so I opted for 5 days. They also did not have any one bedroom units left so they gave me a two bedroom deluxe unit at the same price. Turned out to be a very nice unit. Like the Cliffs of Peace Canyon, this location was also a rental location of 2 and 3 story buildings with 1, 2 and 3 bedroom units where the rental market wasn’t so good. Seems the Time Share business is doing very well. We don’t really have a need or even know what to do with the extra bedroom and bathroom, but I’ll keep a record of this for future reference.
As you’ve seen in our travels, we do spend a lot of money, but not as much as you would think. I really look for the “deals” and yesterday we used a coupon for a restaurant called “Capo’s”. We started by trying to find the entrance. Finally got inside the building and faced a locked door with a message telling me to “ring bell for entrance”, so I did. A head popped out of the wall to the right of me. The guy said (in New York/Italian/Gangster accent) “Whatcha need?” I told him that I had a reservation for lunch. “So?” I said that I’d like to come in. “You got $20?” Yes, I do, but I need to get my wife first. I then needed to explain to Julieann what a "Speakeasy" was to prepare her and she, of course, got the camera ready.
We reentered and rang the bell. Went through the same "screening". Once we passed the test, the wall with the telephone came open and we were invited into the bar and restaurant. All the employees were dressed in black with white ties and suspenders. The place was decorated with old photos of Al Capone, Lucky Luciano, Bugsy Siegel and others including Frank Sinatra. Old music from the 20’s and 30’s played while “The Godfather” was running on the TV. The food and service were both excellent. We had a real good time. Thinking about returning for the Sunday Buffet where they’ll have a piano player.
We had tickets to see Jay and the Americans (JATA), one of my favorite groups from the 60’s. The Golden Nugget highlights a different group from the past every Friday (this is where we saw The Association). We got to see Jay #3 and only two of the “Americans” (Marty was recovering from a hospital stay). Their show covers the history of Jay and The Americans, acknowledging all three Jays and featuring all of the top hits in their original arrangements. IMO the current Jay has a great tenor voice and does very well on most of the songs, but he doesn’t quite hit those famous high notes of previous Jays. Still, he sang a few of Roy Orbison’s songs and did well. We enjoyed the show.
After the show I wanted to visit “The Gold Digger Lounge” which is in the Golden Nugget on the second floor where a lot of the bar overlooks Fremont Street. Although we had a good time watching the “crazies” in the street dancing, singing, just being drunk silly, the temperature was in the 50’s so we only stayed for one drink.
Today we moved to Club de Soleil for a week, which is quickly becoming our favorite place to stay. Not as fancy as some others we’ve stayed in, but very comfortable with everything we need. A great, friendly and helpful staff didn’t go unnoticed. The photos tell most of the story, but I need to point out the in-room Jacuzzi and living room fireplace (no, we didn’t need it this trip). Off the living room is the patio, which overlooks the pool and BBQ area. Very relaxing.
Also today we had tickets to Senor Frogs to have a buffet and watch some drag queens put on a show. We were told to be there for the 2:00PM show so we arrived at 1:50PM, just in time to wait in line for over an hour. By the time we got into the showroom the show had already started and the buffet was cold or had run out of food. The show and the antics of the performers was very entertaining, especially when all those customers celebrating “something” were called on stage. Celebrations of weddings and divorces of male and female, male and male and female and female plus all their friends and those celebrating birthdays, etc. put on quite of show. We had an Asian male at our table who was celebrating his divorce from his husband, two ladies in their 70’s celebrating their anniversary and two guys celebrating their “togetherness”. Of course Julieann and I weren’t the only “straight” folks there, but I believe the ratio was somewhere around 50 to 1. Overall, the Drag Queens put on a good show and we had a good time watching everything going on.
Today we met my brother and his wife for dinner and the Terry Fator show (ventriloquist). They treated us to a great steak dinner and Terry put on an outstanding show. Both he and his wife enjoyed the show and I am grateful for that since he spent so much money for the tickets. I originally offered to buy the tickets using my military discount, but he thought he could possibly get them “comped” by his gambling handler, but that didn’t happen. We had great seats, but they really came at a high price. Sorry, Bro.
This afternoon we saw the Nathan Burton Comedy/Magic show. Burton's revue mixes his friendly, approachable comedic touch with his prop-oriented magic tricks. The dancers' routines are sweet and just slightly saucy rather than being overtly and overly sexy -- it's a kid-friendly affair. Burton's take on magic can be mischievous -- as a hilarious toilet-paper launching contraption proves. Burton has great timing and really connects with his audiences well. Burton's props can be significant -- one trick involves the largest hand hair dryer you've probably ever seen. He uses it for some classic levitation illusion work. One of the highlights of Burton's show is the "dream date" segment, where a lucky male audience member meets the dancer of his dreams—and discovers Burton's ability to predict the future. Burton ends the show with a real cool touch with his "snow" trick. Here’s a video of his America Got Talent performance: https://video.search.yahoo.com/search/video?fr=yfp-t&p=nathan+burton#id=4&vid=5ff31533e5a26f4c6f14c618a9478436&action=click
We also saw Henry Cho’s show. I haven’t seen him perform in years and never in person. He is a full blooded Korean comedian, born and bred in Knoxville, Tennessee and his family were the ONLY Asians in town. He can’t speak Korean and has a very heavy Southern accent. He talks about his father, when his father isn’t in the audience, but he doesn’t talk about his Mom because “she’s not funny.” He also tells stories of growing up as the only Asian in Knoxville. We really enjoyed his show and it was a really clean show, thank God for that. If I took Julieann to another dirty comedy show……….well, it wouldn’t be good. Henry had a Question-and-Answer period and I asked if he was related to Margaret Cho (see my earlier posting about her filthy shows), another Korean comedian that we once liked a lot until she went over to the dark side and performs the dirtiest comedy you can imagine. Henry didn’t even look at me and said into the microphone, “You’re lucky my sisters aren’t here.” I took that to mean that they aren’t too pleased with Margaret’s performance either. Anyhow, we got to see a very nice, clean show and would definitely go again.
We arrived at our next 7 day home in a time-share in Mesquite, Nevada around noon, but our room wasn't ready. So we hit the Casablanca casino, had lunch and took some of the casino's money home with us. Our room still wasn't ready, but I wasn't going to chance losing what I won so instead of returning to the casino we hung out at the pool until the room was ready. At least they had an elevator (carrying our bags up stairs isn’t much fun). Interesting room, though. Seems that the original building was made up of single rooms, like in a motel. During renovation the owners combined two rooms together making one the living room, dining area and full kitchen and the other room for a sitting room, bedroom and bathroom. The renovation turned out pretty nice except no laundry facilities on the property. Also the Jacuzzi is outside next to the pool, not inside our unit (yea, we’re getting spoiled). This should be a relaxing week since everyone keeps telling us "Why are you going there??? There's nothing to do." I'll let you know.
We had a very restful stay in Mesquite. Julieann picked a real good time to be under the weather as there was very little to do or see in this town. I went out a few times to check out the town, but Julieann stayed in bed most of the time. In addition to the town lacking much to do, the unit we had did not have a washer and dryer, something we’ve been getting pretty used to with all the other units.
We then left beautiful, downtown Mesquite and headed back to Vegas. Our next scheduled stop was at the Tahiti Village Resort. I didn’t know what to expect, but we were definitely pleasantly surprised. This is a beautiful resort with all kinds of things to do and it even has a Denny’s (one of my favorite places). The unit we have for only $369 for the entire week is bigger than our condo in Hawaii AND it has a Jacuzzi in the bathroom (me like). Julieann was happy to see the washer and dryer since Mesquite didn’t have one.
This spacious 971 sq. ft. suite sleeps four guests and provides all of the spoils of home. They are thoughtfully appointed with one king bed in the private bedroom and a sleeper sofa in the living room. The spacious bathroom includes dual vanities, a steam shower and a large jetted tub. The Suite is also equipped with a full-size kitchen, which includes a large refrigerator, dishwasher, stove & oven, microwave and granite countertops and is complete with a stackable laundry unit.
So tonight we had tickets for the Solid Gold Soul show. It was in a small theater in Bally’s Hotel and Casino, but even with seats in the back we could see and hear everything just fine. We loved the singers and thought the dancers were terrific. Tina Turner, Martha Reeves & the Vandellas, Sam Cooke, James Brown, Jackie Wilson, Ray Charles, the Four Tops (all tribute artists) all sounded great. The guy on the sax did a great job. These unique performers not only sounded like the originals, they looked like the originals. This fast locomotive took us on a ride down memory lane of the greatest hits from Motown. Featured in the production is Pete Peterkin, from "America’s Got Talent." Pete's impersonation of Ray Charles is second to none. Grady Harrell was superb as Jackie Wilson. He played Jackie in the movie "The Jacksons: An American Dream" and has made many appearances on "Soul Train." Backing up the stars is a very talented group of singers and dancers (if I had to dance and move as much as those dancers did, I sure wouldn’t have the weight problem I have now). One of the best priced shows we’ve seen at less than $49 a ticket.
Got to hear the songs of one of my very favorite groups, ABBA. Of course, not the originals, ABBA The Concert, features members from the original ABBA group (not the singers, although a couple of them could pass for the originals). Sold out performances across America and around the world are proof of what many fans believe–that ABBA The Concert is the closest to seeing ABBA we’ll ever get. Each show highlights the unique ABBA-sound combined with a stunning live “ABBA-esque” performance. The concert features a dazzling performance set to music which include the original group’s biggest hits “Mamma Mia,” “S.O.S.,” “Money, Money, Money,” “The Winner Takes It All,” “Waterloo,” “Gimme, Gimme, Gimme,” “Dancing Queen,” “Knowing Me, Knowing You” and many others. I think their songs will last forever ;-)
The big “plus” was when Julieann said that the show was a good Mothers Day gift so I knew I had “done good”.
We had tickets to see “Menopause, the Musical”. We’ve seen it advertised many time during our visits over the years and the reviews were pretty good. Sometimes it’s hard to find a “funny” show that Julieann approves of, especially in Las Vegas, but the reviews just said that the performers would be talking and singing about menopause, something that Julieann (and I) know something about. On the way to the theater we passed a couple of gals trying to make money by having their photo taken with the tourists. Julieann got a free photo by shooting from the hip ;-)
Cindy Williams, of the “Laverne and Shirley” TV show was a guest star who was included in a few of the group’s acts. The Vegas run marks the fourth time she has performed in Menopause The Musical, having previously appeared in the Tampa, Fla. and Laguna Beach, Calif. productions. The four (permanent) women who performed did an outstanding job of keeping us laughing and singing along. It was fairly easy to sing along since they were using the melodies and most of the original lyrics of songs from the 60's, 70's, etc. to describe their “hot flashes” or whatever else their bodies were going through. They just changed some words to help in the description. It was a really funny and entertaining (PG) show. We recommend it to all.
After the show we drove to the Westgate Hotel. Unknown to Julieann (who spends most of her free time on the phone) we were meeting up with Ed Leonard, our Best Man from 20+ years ago. Ed was passing through on his way to an annual “conference” in Pahrump, Nevada (about an hour away). Julieann was properly surprised and took awhile to get her blood pressure under control.
Today we attended "Hitzville - The Show", a journey through time with the music that made a city come alive (so the ad reads). The show featured hits made famous by Tina Turner, The Temptations, Gladys Knight, The Supremes, The Four Tops and more. The revue featured a cast of talented, accomplished performers that included a trio of women, a quartet of men and the seven-member Hitzville Band. Jin Jin Reeves stared in the show, but they all did a great job. I’m really partial to the “oldies” so I almost always say that they did good ;-)
We left the comfort of the Tahiti Village and went to another time share. The Bluegreen Club 36™ is like our other time shares for anyone looking to combine the luxury of Las Vegas with the privacy of home but not quite up to the standards we’ve come to expect. This is not the best place we’ve stayed on this trip, but it only cost $249.00 for the week. It has most of the amenities the other time shares had, but no Jacuzzi in the room (we really like that). It’s a bit smaller than the best rooms we’ve had, but it manages to squeeze everything we need into the smaller space. The biggest drawback is the L-O-N-G walk to the car. This location has three, nine storied buidling, but the only real entrance and exit is in the middle. Out unit was not anywhere close to the middle, hence the long walk to the car.This unit is located just blocks away from the Vegas Strip with a proximity to the MGM Grand, Mandalay Bay and other popular gaming destinations. They also have a free shuttle bus to get us to the strip and back. They have an indoor pool and Jacuzzi on the 4th floor and a sunbathing area outside on the sundeck where you can also enjoy a great view of Las Vegas. Our view from out room is overlooking the airport so not much to brag about. I’m thinking I may take advantage of the $49 offer for a half hour massage (my back has been acting up) This place even has an ABC Store (very popular in Hawaii) and a few eating places out front.
Today friend Soupy (AKA Roger Carruthers) and his beautiful wife took us to an American Patriot Fest. This is an annual free, open to the public, family-friendly event, designed to Honor, Respect and say Thank You to all branches of our armed forces and their families, including active military, Veterans and those that have sacrificed all. Event is held May 18-21, 2017, coinciding with National Armed Forces Day, Saturday, May 20th. The location is Craig Ranch Regional Park, 628 West Craig Road, North Las Vegas, Nevada. We had a very good time visiting the various displays and listening to the patriotic music. The “Wall” had its usual effect on me and Julieann.
On the way home, Soupy took us for a tour of the RV storage areas on Nellis. I’m thinking about moving my RV from Travis since Nellis is so much cheaper than Travis. Even paying for plane tickets from Hawaii to Las Vegas would be cheaper than paying the Travis storage fees.
Tonight we attended the Cher concert. The evening did not begin well. I’m all for security, but taking my ½ blade knife and the metal top to Julieann’s plastic water bottle and tossing them in the trash is just too much. Since this so called security started after 9/11 I’ve given up a dozen mini-Swiss Army knives, all with blades less than ½ inch long. I don’t know anyone I can scare with that. Oh well….. Then the drinks started at $17.00. I (wisely) purchased a 32 ounce vodka/tonic with four shots for “only” $30.00. I thought the drink would last me through the entire show, but I didn’t know that the show was starting an hour late. The drink barely made it through the first two songs. We had seats in the “nose bleed” section which I paid almost $300.00 for. When I mentioned the nose bleed section to the cashier printing out our tickets she informed me that there weren’t any bad seats in this theater and the furthest seat from the stage was only 150 feet. That sounded good, but when we got to our seats I believe the cashier meant YARDS, not FEET. She also said that even if we had trouble seeing the stage there were huge screens on both sides of the stage. Yep, there were two screens, but at least 90% of the time they were being used to increase the special effects, not focusing on Cher or the dancers. I did feel better as we looked down at the $600 seats and saw that just about everyone had to stand to see the stage because the “high rollers” who had the first few rows locked up “had” to stand, sing and dance for the rest of the theater to appreciate them.
I didn’t know that today was Cher’s 71st birthday and I don’t know that many folks who look as good as her at that age. She looked, sang, danced and moved like a 40 year old. She did put on a fantastic show that helped me forget about the hour delay. The show was very well done with constant costumes changes (almost one change for each song), very entertaining dancers and lighting effects.
Today we attended “VEGAS, The Show”. I opted for the “VIP” package and scored front roll seats dead center. But, they wouldn’t let us take photos so the photos I’m posting I “borrowed”. The Vegas showgirl may be an endangered species these days, but “VEGAS! The Show” has those feather-clad beauties and the likes of an era when everything was flashier and dripping with sophistication. The show began with a trip down memory lane with the works of early performers, going through songs (and costumes) of the Rat Pack, Elvis, Tina Turner, Gladys Knight & the Pips, etc. The dancers were terrific. The costumes were fun, funky and sexy. With our seats so close to the stage, Julieann got serenaded by “Tom Jones” and had her hand kissed so she was happy.
NOTE: If you plan to attend any of the shows at Planet Hollywood, they will try to sell you “drink tickets” along with the show ticket. If you plan to have a drink, buy the ticket(s) they offer. That drink ticket is a little less than $10.00, but if you wait to buy your drink at the show it will cost you $16.00.
We’ve decided that we don’t like the “big” theaters in Las Vegas. The seats that we can afford (without spending the entire vacation budget) always seem to be in the nose-bleed section. This happened again last night when we attended the 1043rd Celine Dion performance at the Colosseum in Caesar’s Palace. From our seats in the balcony, Celine looked like a little dot on the stage so, once again, I’ve had to “borrow” some photos that mirrored our visit. At least she relied on her fantastic voice to entertain and not so much scenery, costume changes and dancers (which she had none of). We can’t get over her super voice that is so sharp and clear. We just had to close our eyes and try to imagine how she looked on the stage. When she wasn’t singing, she was talking to us, which appeared most people enjoyed. She took us through a musical journey that brought out all the feelings in a decades-spanning set list. Belting classic hits like "Because You Loved Me," "Beauty and the Beast" and "Incredible," she even tantalizes us with covers from other demigods like Prince and Queen. The five-time Grammy Award-winner pours every fiber of herself into making this show utterly dazzling. The woman, the songs, The Colosseum – this enchanting evening of entertainment needs to be checked off of your bucket list. Oh, and we dare you not to cry when she sings “My Heart Will Go On.” Good luck, you’re gonna need it.
Today we moved to our final time-share stay in Las Vegas for this trip. Grandview is geared towards families and offers apartment-like rentals for a self-catering stay in the glittering city. The property is a short drive from the bright lights and vibrant sounds of The Strip, giving travelers a low-key lodging alternative that’s right for the budget. They have a shuttle to take you to the strip or to downtown Vegas, AKA “The Fremont Experience” (unlike other stays, their shuttle is NOT free). This is an “Off the Strip” location; popular casinos and entertainment venues are 7 miles away. The nearest strip properties are Luxor and Mandalay. Gaming, dining and movie theaters are inside the South Point Casino next door. The hotel’s swimming pools offer peace and quiet. Outdoor parties with barbecue using the grilling facilities of the property are available at no cost. Apartment-style suites boasting a fully furnished kitchen, clothes washer and dryer, in-room Jacuzzi, a two-sink bathroom, king sized bed, TVs in living and bedrooms and a DVD player in the living room. They have more than 1,400 rooms to offer families and groups in either spacious one or two bedroom suites. There is complimentary access to fitness facilities and the Lobby serves free coffee and provides free Internet. A snack bar is on site and the South Point Hotel & Casino (next door) has a number of restaurants, including a huge “Vegas Style” buffet.
This Memorial Day weekend we were invited, once again, to a BBQ at Soupy’s home (AKA Roger Carruthers). We were also joined by good friend Tanny (AKA Stanette) and had a great time.
On Memorial Day the South Point Hotel & Casino (next door to our property) offered their standard All-U-Can-Eat Buffet free of any charge to all veterans and a guest. This is the first time that we attended one of these where a guest is also free. We were told that the owner of this casino is also on the Nellis Community Friendship Board (or some name like that) and he does this every year. Obviously, we had a great lunch. We also met some retired Army brass who joined our table. Nice folks.
There are two things that bother me during these events. While having served during the nasty times where our American brethren called us names and spit on us, I appreciate how the tables have turned and now our military is acknowledged and appreciated. But, Memorial Day (to me) is not the time to acknowledge we who are still walking around. It is a time to reflect and remember those who did not come back. Of course, I’d be the first in line for anything offered to Vets in November, but I don’t have a comfortable feeling of doing the same in May. The second thing is, when these places do something for the Vets and their families, I wish they would stick to their rules. They say that a Military ID card or DD214 is required, but they let folks in who do not have a “military” ID card. I saw two women show their Dependent ID cards and walk in with nine people. Not right.
(to be continued on the following page)