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What Happens in Vegas, Part 2 (Continued)

The Vegas adventure continues.

After a good meal, a movie and a nap I awoke ready to play. I decided tonight to head to the Strip. The hotel concierge told me that the bus was the cheapest way to go, and the layover was next to the post office located at the end of the block. So I headed out and walked the few blocks and found the layover.

I questioned the driver of the bus that was there about the cost to ensure I had enough loose change, because as with all municipality buses across the U.S. they don't make change. We chatted for about 15 minutes before his scheduled pullout time, and it turned out that he had relatives in Ohio. When he discovered I was a police officer he said just to show my ID to the drivers and the rides would be free.

My first time on the Strip at night was beyond belief — so much to see, so many places to play. My first stop was The Excalibur, the newest casino on the strip at that time. I played blackjack for an hour and they took me for 100 dollars, but I won 50 of it back at the roulette wheel.

Roulette is probably one of the few games where winning is strictly at the whims of Lady Luck. You place your chip(s) on one of the 38 numbers and the dealer spins the ball on a steel track above a slotted wheel with corresponding numbers. Each numbered slot is separated by a plastic wall. The ball will drop down onto the wheel as the spin in the track slows down and it will bounce a few times before settling in a slot. If it is on a number you chose, the payout is 35-1. Now there are multiple ways to place your bet and the payoffs will vary, and many casinos offer FREE gaming classes for many of the more popular games. If heading to Vegas do yourself a favor and make inquires about these classes w 

I then walked to the Mirage and arrived in time to see the volcano in front of the casino begin. I must have looked like a country hick standing there with my mouth open. Standing on the sidewalk across from the casino entrance I could feel the heat from the flames that shot into the air, and my ears were assaulted with the loud rumblings of an erupting volcano from the very powerful speakers. I played at the Mirage for a bit and won back another 50 dollars. I then crossed to Harrah's but only broke even. I decided it was time to head back downtown before my luck changed. I saw a bus and made a run for it, showed the driver my ID and the ride was free.

It was about 10 PM when we pulled into the layover, I and a couple of other guys deboarded and started walking in direction of the hotels. The building next to the bus layover was the post office and after sundown it became an ugly place. The local winos, panhandlers and homeless gathered there on the steps, and when they saw three clean cut and well dressed individuals get off the bus they figured we must have money, so halfhearted threats and requests for donations were thrown in our direction. I ignored them and kept walking, as did the two other males who were about 10 paces in front of me.

Suddenly my "cop radar" went off and I got the distinct impression I was being followed. I turned around to face whoever might be behind me, since it is easier to defend yourself if you see the attack coming. There were three of them about 10 steps behind me, their hands were visible and weaponless.

"Is there a problem?" I asked in a voice that tinged with menace.

"Gimme a dollar," their spokesperson said.

I told them to take a walk. The spokesperson raised voice slightly and requested money again and they kept moving forward, I lowered my voice and growled for them to start stepping.

They suddenly stopped moving forward and slowly began to back away. It seems the two males that were in front of me had heard the verbal exchange and had turned on their heels to render assistance if needed. The winos, not wishing to deal with an equal number of combatants, decided it was best to depart. I thanked the guys for heading back.

I was once again in the lobby of the Fitzgerald, so decided to try my hand at the slots again. I didn't have much luck this time out.

That's when I spotted it, a staple of the casinos in days gone by. It was a machine with about four tiers and a row of sweepers on each tier that pushed at the abundance of quarters accumulated on the tier. The player was to insert a coin into one of the slots on front, where it would strike a high speed spinning disc located under the coin slots and throw the coin toward the tiers. The object or hope was to get your coin to land flat and close to the sweeper so when it came forward it pushed your coin into the others and caused them to fall onto the next tier and push more coins until they dropped into the exit chute. But each tier had a slight upgrade so the quarters couldn't be pushed over the edge too easily.

I made about a buck, so I found a chair and sat down. With almost every coin I won back three. This was a lot of fun! Then Lady Luck reappeared at my side and decided to assist me. At the back of the machine were various targets that you hoped to hit (but never did), which promised a payout. Well sure enough one of my quarters landed on the center target and once again the long peal of a bell was heard and a waterfall of quarters fell into the coin catcher. I was about 200 dollars richer and officially in love with Las Vegas.

The next two days Lady Luck was not good to me at all, however, as I lost half of my gambling stake. I decided it was time to go home, but there was a problem. When you fly on a tour or junket you cannot leave early; the travel agency paid for your return flight on a certain day and the airlines would not honor the return flight ticket on any other day.

Thankfully I have always carried a credit card that is left untouched except for emergencies, and this would qualify as an emergency. So called the airlines, purchased a ticket and checked out, and while waiting on the curb for a shuttle bus to arrive Lady Luck paid me a final friendly visit. The driver of a limousine pulled to the curb and asked if I was headed to the airport, when I nodded he said he would take me for 10 dollars. I agreed and boarded.

Upon my arrival at the airport I would learn another valuable lesson. Every November the Las Vegas Convention Center hosts a massive electronics show with attendees numbering in the thousands, and today was the end of the convention and they were all heading home. The flight I was on was delayed so a larger plane could be brought in; seats had to be reassigned and it was a madhouse. My seat was in the middle of a row of five seats. This was going to be a long flight.

Finally the pilot announced that unless you were in first class to take a seat, any seat, so he could take off. That's when a Pakistani gentlemen came to the end of the row and proceed to proclaim very loudly in a most annoying voice that I was in his seat. He ignored the flight attendant's request to take any seat per the captain's orders. He continued his loud, high pitched complaining until I finally stood up and slid out of my seat.

The purser informed me she had a seat for me. It was against the bulkhead but it was only a two-person row, so I thanked her. Rather than stare at the wall or out the window I simply dosed and awoke only for beverages and the skimpy meal they offered. It was a great trip, a learning experience whose lessons would be recalled on my repeat visits there.

If you have never been to Vegas you owe it to yourself to visit it just once. You will not be disappointed.

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