ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, Fashion, Museums, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States

Ticking Attractions Off Our List

Travel There – The Fall of Atlantis and Barbie

Navigating Like Pros

On our final full day in Vegas, we lingered in our room all morning. We’d been out late the night before and were still managing our business long distance, so there were photos to deliver, appointments to schedule, etc.

When we did venture out on the Strip, it was for lunch. We hopped the Deuce to The Mirage and used one of the My Vegas Slots awards for lunch – bogo sandwiches at SNACKS. I had loved the burger we shared with the free beer and this time I got a whole one to myself, but it was too early for beer!

Then we hopped back on the Deuce and stopped at the The Forum. This was the day The Fall of Atlantis was supposed to be presented. We got there in time to see the end of it, but it was enough to tell us it we hadn’t missed much.

What now? We’d pretty much hit all the free attractions, so I had suggestions for how to spend our money and our time. Thankfully, Bill chose to see exactly what I wanted him to choose.

Barbie, A Cultural Icon Exhibition

My Barbie Collection

I was four when Barbie was born, so she and I have basically grown up together. I loved her with a passion! I had numerous dolls – Pony-tail Barbie, Bouffant Barbie, Midge, Ken, Allan and Skipper – multiple cases of clothes, the house and the car. On Christmas morning I would wake up to a living room floor covered in her pink striped packages. My grandmother sewed clothes for her. I wanted it all!

Her trunks of clothes were my treasures. The outfits were hung on tiny little hangers, the shoes were stored in their compartment and I had every accessory that was ever given to me. I didn’t actually “play” Barbie. It was more like curating a collection. I would dream up an occasion and get all my dolls dressed to attend it.

My Barbie House was a portable cardboard version that folded up with a plastic handle, so the fun was getting it all set up and placing my dolls in various positions. Then I’d have Ken and Allan drive up in the car and join the fun. At that point, it was time to put it all away again.

So imagine my chagrin when Mom gave my collection to my little sister. I came home from college to discover one of my dolls in my sister’s room, butt-naked and her hair sticking out in every direction. It was obvious my sister had been carrying her by the hair, something I would never have allowed.

I freaked out and demanded to see the rest of it, but there wasn’t much. My entire collection of treasures was reduced to one small case and what clothes still existed were stuffed inside in a jumble. No shoes, no hats, no gloves. It’s about the most angry I would ever be at my mom and my sister.

I can only guess the value the collection would have today. The cardboard house alone would be considered museum quality. It was pristine when I packed it away. Now it doesn’t exist. Yes, I’m still angry.

The Exhibition

I’ll start by saying I loved the exhibit and am so glad we went, but I also have to tell you it’s not worth the $45 price of admission – not when you can visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art for $30. The Barbie memorabilia presented wouldn’t even fill up one of the galleries there. They also didn’t have much to show you. Sure the photo op with the hanging chair and the Barbie car were cute, but I wasn’t there for the hashtag. I wanted to see my old friends.

I wanted to see every single character with all their various hairstyles. I wanted to see every single outfit – the wedding dress, the ball gown, the red velvet coat, the hats, the shoes, all of it. What they had instead was all the Barbie career dolls, which came a long time after my Barbies had been destroyed. They wanted to show Barbies of various skin tones and ethnicities, when all of mine had been white. They wanted to impress on me how righteous and woke they were from the beginning, but I knew that was just a lie. Little white girls like me, whose parents had expendable income, had been their target audience in the beginning and no amount of virtue signaling at this point could erase that.

In the end, we paid $45 each to experience some committee of millennials’ idea of Barbie’s social significance. What I wanted instead was the good stuff. The young attractive attendants were very nice, but they knew nothing about Barbie. I tried to strike up a conversation with them about my treasures and they didn’t even know there had been a cardboard Barbie house.

Bill rounded out our time at the Crystals shopping mall by finding another gallery where he could chat up the sales clerk. This time it was a photographer’s gallery. The art was gorgeous. The sales clerk was a bag of hot air. We headed back to the hotel, stopping by Walgreens for an ice cream and a Diet Dr Pepper.

Next up we join a friend for dinner at Mandalay Bay. Come back next week and get a bite at Lupo’s.

TRAVEL

Holiday Magic in Vegas

Travel There – Bellagio’s Conservatory & The Fremont Street Experience

This is Paul & Kathi. Kathi and I go way back to my days at Stephen F. Austin. She was a sorority sister with my roommate and then the three of us had an apartment in Dallas. I’d tell you more, but we’re sworn to secrecy. Now you’d expect a good friend like that or at least your husband to tell you about the lipstick running down your chin, but no, they just let me have a picture taken looking like this. This is the edited version!!

The Conservatory and Botanical Garden

Horrible as I looked, the scenery around us was stunning. So stunning that somehow we got home without a single picture of it. Sorry about that. Just imagine glitter and lights and trees and snow and more poinsettias of every color than would be reasonable and you’ll have the picture.

We did a little catching up as strolled among the holiday decorations, but between the extraordinary show we’d just seen and the fantastic display in the Conservatory, my chit chat skills were somewhat hampered. We worked in a few more hugs and then parted ways.

Back on the Deuce

I would have happily crossed the street and crawled into bed once again, but Bill was raring to go. He’d already entertained himself for two evenings while I slept off the dredges of my bad cold. It was time to suck it up and see Vegas at night.

The Bellagio fountain obliged us with another show and then we hopped on the Deuce and headed north to the Fremont Street Experience. The further north we got the more lonely the bus became and the darker it got outside. This adventure was getting downright spooky.

The bus driver assured us we were close to the attraction and so we got off the bus on a darkened corner where one might expect to be accosted by a vampire. We focused on the light about half a block away and followed the cacophonous noise to a huge cave-like edifice.

The Fremont Street Experience

I can’t speak to what the Experience might have been like in the pre-Covid world, but during our visit it was more like a nightmare. This band was performing its heart out, but that didn’t stop other performers from doing their thing. The edge of the stage was surrounded by scantily clad women and their grungy escorts. The rest of the Experience was almost empty. For Covid purposes, I suppose, I series of 6 foot circles had been painted on the floor of the area, where other performers did their thing and some distinctly odd people were hawking odd wares, that I suppose were supposed to be souvenirs.

The canopy above it all is the main attraction, but of course, we failed to get a picture of it, too. If you’ve attended one of those “Immersive” art shows where they project Van Gogh, Kahlo, Monet or Tut onto the walls and ceiling of a building, you’ll have an idea of what it’s like, but the immersion stuff is only on the ceiling here. I confess, it’s not my medium, so I’m not the right person to ask. Lots of people have been blown away by it. I can’t say the same for Bill and I. Perhaps we hadn’t had enough to drink.

The Real Experience

I recently watched the old Elvis movie, Viva Las Vegas. In those days, Fremont Street was Las Vegas. The flashing lights featured in the film clustered around this area, but those days are long gone. No one inside the Fremont Street Experience could tell us where we should catch the next Deuce and outside there was NO ONE!

Stumbling around in the near dark I pointed us toward what I hoped was the Bonneville Transit Center, but before we got there, we happened upon what I now believe was the stop for the Center of Brain Health. We knew it was a bus stop, because there was a sign and one of those little shelters, but it was way to dark to wait in it. We placed ourselves in the brightest spot we could find near the Deuce sign and waited.

As we waited we began to distrust ourselves and wondered if the Deuce would indeed be coming by at this hour. It was supposed to be a 24 hour service, but perhaps Covid had effected their operation. Eventually, someone else showed up to wait with us, which was in some ways reassuring, but I couldn’t help but think he was a potential mugger.

I’ve rarely been happier to see anything than I was that bus. Our new not-friend climbed aboard and we joined him. A few more riders joined us once we hit the Strip – but not many. Sin City seemed almost shut down. We hopped off in front of the Bellagio and crossed the street to Paris. It was time to put me to bed.

Come back next week and find out what we did with our final full day in Vegas. Strangely enough we had another friend arriving in town. We had a better social life in Vegas than we do back home!

Accommodations, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, TRAVEL, Travel Planning, United States

The Big Bus Bombed Out

Travel There – Warning Tourist Trap

Now I am no stranger to Hop On/Hop Off tours. I’ve enjoyed them in other towns. I know it’s a little touristy, but the concept has worked for me many times. This time it did not. In fact, it was the biggest mistake I made on this vacation. It wasted my time, it wasted my money and it used up good will with my husband. Three strikes and you are out!!

Perhaps I look perky in the photo, because I was asleep by 9:45 the night before and stayed in bed until 8 AM. That’s not my usual routine, but I wasn’t quite over a nasty cold. The early wake-up call in the wee hours of the morning resulted in early to-bed. We had a Mickey D’s breakfast and were waiting at the stop at the appointed time.

Someone else was at the stop, too and who gave us a glimpse at the dark side of Sin City. A very drunk lady perched herself at the Big Bus stop and began to inventory the empty bottles in her shopping bag. The Big Bus attendant, there to collect our tickets, gently suggested she had to go elsewhere. She put her bottles back in her bag and careened down the sidewalk. Though we didn’t realize it at the time, about a block away, she had fallen in a heap. As our bus arrived we noticed a flurry of activity up the street as an ambulance pulled up. Driving by on the bus, we realized it was the lady with all the empty bottles in her bag.

Touring at Its Worst

I like the Hop On/Hop Off concept, because you get both a form of transportation and a guided tour in one purchase. I had visions of riding up top with scads of excited tourists, taking in the sights of the Strip while a well-informed guide filled me in on all the secrets. Not exactly what happened.

Looking at the sunny picture above, you’d think it was a perfect day for a double decker bus tour, but there’s a reason I have on so much gear. It was cold! As we waited for the bus to arrive, the sun went behind some clouds and was not seen again that day. Before we’d gotten to the next stop, the weather had deteriorated further and it began to sprinkle.

As I said, it was damned cold, there was precipitation and we were the only people on the bus, but our idiot guide insisted that we would be making the most of our travel investment by riding in the open air. Nope, that’s wasn’t going to happen.

The scintillating secrets shared by our guide sounded something like this, “Ok, there’s Harrah’s and across the street is The Mirage. Now we’re coming up on the Venetian with the Palazzo Towers. Over there is Treasure Island and now we’re coming up on the Wynn…” And no it didn’t get any better.

At the Convention Center we picked up a lady, but I’m convinced she was the bus driver’s wife. She rode for a few stops and then got off at one of the hotels, where I think she worked. She had on a uniform and she certainly wasn’t a tourist.

We passed the Strat and the Bonneville Transit Center. So far we hadn’t seen or learned anything new. Up around Fremont a few people got on, but they were soon getting off again. It continued to be me, Bill, the bus driver and the guide. I was beginning to believe the guide was operating in an altered state and I don’t think it was alcohol.

As we made the loop near Fremont and headed back toward the Strip, we started to get the same dialog he’d given us before, but in reverse, “The tall building on the side of the bus is the Strat. Now we’re coming up to the Sahara and over there is Circus, Circus…”

We Escape the Big Bus Tour

At Treasure Island, Bill had reached his limit. We got off and attempted a walking tour led by ourselves. I’ve got to hand it to my husband. Bill really was trying to be cooperative, but I was just pissed off, damp and hungry. We wandered around the Grand Canal and visited galleries and shops – a few of which I’ve included for your viewing pleasure.

We were both hungry, but nothing we saw looked the least bit interesting. So ,we went into the Venetian and ate at The Grand Lux – a restaurant we have in Dallas. I opted for Chicken Alfredo and drowned my sorrows in one of my favorite comfort foods.

Waiting for the Deuce

Refreshed we went over to the bus stop at the Mirage to return to our part of the Strip. The Deuce was obviously not on schedule, but once we boarded the bus we got a taste of just how off schedule it was. We could have easily gotten to Paris faster if we’d walked, but the rain was pouring outside. Eventually, we discovered a car had turned over in front of the Bellagio and the entire Strip was in chaos.

It was still early evening with all of Las Vegas waiting for us. I’d planned for us to take the nighttime Big Bus, a part of the package we’d purchased and supposedly a real neon treat, but you could not have paid either of us enough money to get back on a bus, especially not a Big Bus. We went back to the room and I went directly to bed – again. I found out the next morning Bill did a little exploring on his own while I slept, but none of it sounded very exciting. There’s a reason Vegas was not at the top of my vacation wish list.

Day 3 was a lot better, so it’s safe to come back and check in with me next week!

DESTINATIONS, Road Trips, TRAVEL, Travel Planning, United States

Shades of Amsterdam

Travel There – Jane Faces the Kiosk and Loses

With the RTC discount card firmly in hand, our next hurdle was buying the three day pass we’d need to get around Vegas. The human who issued our senior discount card could not sell us tickets for the buses. We had to go outside and face the human-less kiosk. I am intimidated by kiosks. With humans, you can say oops, but kiosks don’t care.

Sometimes I do fine with the kiosks, like getting food coupons at the State Fair of Texas or when we bought subway tickets in Vienna. I was a total champ, but there will always be Amsterdam. That’s when Bill and I were nearly defeated by a phone with more slots than your average casino. To this day, I am convinced the hand of God reached down and saved us, because after trying our luck with various phones and various slots we were suddenly connected and I’m not sure why.

There have been other kiosks which won the battle – like the day we headed to Portland and ended up in Denver. It was the weather, not the kiosk, but the argument we had in the terminal was all about the kiosk.

And how about the first time I tried to tackle the Southwest kiosk. We ended up with boarding passes, but no luggage tags. An exasperated Southwest employee treated us like a couple of senior citizens who didn’t know the difference in dial-up and broadband. I like Medicare and senior discounts, but I’m not senile, yet. You can call me “ma’am” or even “honey” (which seems to be Millennial for old person) but don’t treat me as if I take my brains out and play with them.

As we trudged out to the RTC kiosk with our senior discount ID’s, I felt as if we were headed to a firing squad playing a game Russian Roulette for bus tickets. Would we get our tickets or be sent back to Dallas?

Pushing the Buttons for Tickets

I still can’t explain what happened, but suddenly, I was holding not one, not two, but three bus passes and each pass was for three days. Drat that kiosk!

I looked at Bill and he was as clueless as I was. He’d stood there coaching me through the transaction and he didn’t know how we’d ended up with three tickets either. We shrugged our shoulders and headed back into the Transit Station.

I reminded the attendant I hadn’t wanted to face down the kiosk in the first place and she was sympathetic, probably because she had those senior citizen prejudices, but there was nothing she could do for us, except give us a telephone number. Isn’t that always the case these days? You’re standing in the bank, looking at one of their employees, who hands you a phone number to call to deal with your issue.

Apparently, I’m the only idiot who’s ever had this problem, because the first few people we talked to didn’t know what to do about us. Eventually, we were transferred to a lady who could help, but even then, we had to read some number off the extra ticket and that was more difficult than you might imagine. The senior citizen thing kicked in, because Bill couldn’t see the number with any of the glasses we had with us.

Now, the extra ticket only cost us $10, but the whole reason we’d gone through this exercise in the first place was to save a little money and that $10 would have rendered our efforts useless, so we stood around in the Transit Station working out our refund.

The Most Fun We Had in Vegas

I told you at the beginning of this trip that Vegas wasn’t my kind of town, but let me illustrate for you just how much it wasn’t my cup of tea. Looking back, this adventure to the Bonneville Transit Center was my favorite part of the trip. There was an element of discovery. Bill and I laughed together about several of our other travel challenges, from evil kiosks to running out of gas coming back from Temple. We were having good old fashioned fun and for the most part, the rest of the trip was tinged with disappointments and Covid-related challenges, not fun.

Come back next week and we’ll start using the coupons I’d earned playing the My Vegas Slots app.

DESTINATIONS, Road Trips, TRAVEL, Travel Planning, United States

The Transit Adventure

Travel There – Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada

Bill and I usually get a rental car when we travel by plane. We like to avoid the hassles and constraints of public transportation, but what the heck are you going to do with a car on The Vegas Strip, except pay very expensive parking fees. So, I did a little research.

There’s a monorail and we’d used it extensively when we’d stayed at the Sahara attending a conference which was in the Venetian. It did a great job of getting us around then, but for the itinerary I’d put together, it wasn’t going to do us much good this time.

I looked into the Big Bus Tours which were so convenient and useful when I’d visited Chicago. More about them later, but for a tourist getting around Vegas, nothing seemed as convenient as the Deuce on the Strip! And guess what else!! I discovered Bill and I qualified for the senior discount. All we had to do was get to the Bonneville Transit Center and get a free Reduced Fare ID.

Once Bill had gotten in his nap and I’d moved into our room, we were ready to go see Vegas. First on our list was our senior discount!

From Paris to the Bonneville Transit Center

I am a timid user of public transportation. I always have visions of missing my stop and being forced to disembark in a ghetto, where I get mugged and perhaps caught in a drive-by shooting. I don’t know if Las Vegas has a ghetto or not, but I had a good map of the the routes in my hand and I was tackling the public transportation system with my handsome husband.

Another of my fears of public transportation is having the right thing to pay for my ride or coming to a point where I have to pay more and I don’t have cash or any form of payment they will accept. Irrational, of course, most fears are, but the ticket we got to take us to the Transit Center was good for two hours, certainly we could find it in that time without paying more – even if I had to get off and try again in another direction. And besides the street-side kiosks took credit cards.

Riding along in the Deuce, we craned our necks to see the sites along the like other tourists. After passing The Strat, we knew we were at the end of The Strip and that our destination was just a few stops away. Thanks to Bill we did get off at the right place. Dodging the busses to get to the building was dicey, but we made it.

Inside the station, they actually knew what we were talking about, which is always a plus. Often in my research I find something that no one but me knows about or they just did away with it a week ago, but not this time. We had our pictures taken and were issued with an ID card which would provide reduced fares until 12/13/2026.

If you are only going to be in Vegas for a couple of days, this is probably not worth the effort, but we used the heck out of the passes, so we thought it was great. If you’re one of those people who go all the time or you are staying for more than a couple of days, why wouldn’t you get it, if you qualify.

Now you’d think this was the end of this story and we’d move on to our next Vegas adventure, but not all my fears of public transportation are unfounded. Come back next week and see what happened next.