Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, United States

Monday, June 23, 2008

Mega TR: Las Vegas - May 11-16, 2008 - Day 3 5/13/08

Mega TR: Las Vegas - May 11-16, 2008 - Day 3 5/13/08

Welcome Back! Last night at dinner, we had decided to day would be one of my alone days out in Las Vegas. Accordingly, I got up pretty early, around 8 or so, and quietly got ready, and headed out. I'd gotten to not trusting that the monorail to Excalibur would be running, so rather than lose valuable moments on my carefully timed out day, I decided to just use the walkway connector to Excalibur.

I didn't want a huge breakfast right before a day of riding, but I also decided that Excalibur's food court is more on the way than Luxor's. I head across the casino floor and up the ramp to the connector. I note a MGM-Mirage stockholder meeting is going on in the convention center before taking the Speedramp up, then the moving sidewalks. I did note all the moving sidewalks are working today, and soon find the food court.

I head, yet again to McDonalds and find a very cramped service area. I get my food and find out McDonalds there has its own dining area with fountain heads for free refills. I approach the soft drink machine, and am shocked to learn it has Pepsi products. I recall that when University of Cincinnati signed an exclusive with Pepsi, the on campus McDonalds was an exception and continues to serve Coke. I enjoy my breakfast and am sure to grab a refill for the road.

I then proceed on what has become a common trek, that going through Excalibur's food court level, down the escalator into the casino, about face to walk towards the main entrance. I walk through the tunnel, recall that Speedramp only moves IN not out. I then cross the bridge to NYNY and since Rollercoaster isn't open yet, do not go down to the casino yet, but instead continue along the mezzanine and cross the bridge to MGM Grand. One thing I noted crossing the bridges is that we have some wind today, a fact confirmed when I look at the palm trees swaying, and the two large United States flags flanking the Statue of Liberty flapping in the wind. This starts to worry me since I know Stratosphere has some pretty strict wind policies in regards to its rides.

I enter the MGM Grand and go down the escalator near Rainforest Café. I knew the monorail station was in the back of the casino, so proceed to walk through. A rather unique Monopoly themed slot catches my eye, and since according to my watch I am ahead of schedule, I proceed to play for a little bit. I wind up winning about $60 in short notice, I am happy as this will provide seed money for the day. I follow the signs through the casino for the monorail. If I thought we had seen the MGM Grand last night, we hadn't seen the half of it as the casino just goes on, and on, and on. The monorail path takes you past the theatre for KA, which is their Cirque Du Soleil, and then through a shopping area, in fact quite a bit into the shopping area. After what seems like 5 miles (just kidding!) you see the big art deco sign proclaiming the monorail station.

I follow the hallway back to the monorail and find the ticket machines. I press a couple buttons and am happy to learn the $9 all day special they have been advertising is available right out of the machines, no coupon needed. (All day is usually $15) I insert a $10 and receive my ticket and a dollar coin. That done I follow the hallway around a couple bends to the fare gate. They look like turnstiles, but instead of having the mechanical bars to push through, it has two large wedge shaped gates that recess into the sides of the gate when you are clear to go through, then thy pop back out blocking the path after you clear. The ticket is pretty clear, insert this side up, insert this end. I find the slot and feed the ticket into the gate, and then start looking around trying to find where the ticket comes back out, after all it is a one day pass. In about a matter of 3 seconds an attendant walks over and doesn't hand me my ticket back, but points out to me where it has come out. That is actually more useful than just handing it to me, as now I know where it comes back out. The ticket ejects actually not far from where you insert it, but on the first use it takes some time because it has to print the expiration time on the back of the card, and possibly code it into the mag stripe. I go through the fare gate into a large lobby which feeds into an escalator up to the platform At the top you exit the MGM Grand. Welcome to the Las Vegas Monorail. The station is done up in yellow and white, on one side I can see the unload platform with warnings not to board trains at those doors, on the other side I see notices with arrows pointing me down to the load platform. I see additional escalators from another subway entrance, along with an elevator. There are some vending machines in the center with cold drinks, and racks with city guidebooks, with a monorail map as the centerfold.

Before too long a train arrives, and I board. The cars have seats mostly around the entire perimeter of the car except for the doors and a couple slots for wheelchairs/strollers. As luck would have it there were enough seats for everybody, and unlike most public transit seats, these have cushions. We start the ride and along the way there are recordings that are both informative and entertaining. "Did you know children under 5 ride free? Adults who act less than 5 pay extra", another one tells how many trains and cars there are and the length of the line, and ends with "If you wanted to ride the entire line in every one of our cars on every train, it would take you 12 hours, or you could ride 1 car to your destination then have over 11 hours to do other things, Decisions, decisions" They point out the seeing the world without a passport when you pass Paris and the Venetian, and you need this type of narration because the views aren't that scenic, I mean you go behind the casinos mostly by their parking garages and service areas. The longest stretch without a station passes over the Wynn golf course which looks out seeing a lush green golf course in the middle of brown desert. As you approach the convention center they give a stat on the number of conventions and convention goers each year, and how many taxis that is, "now aren't you glad you chose the Las Vegas Monorail, we thought so!", as you pass the Las Vegas Hilton, you have to realize Star Trek Experience is a monorail sponsor so you get a plug for Star Trek Experience. We eventually reach the current end of line, which is at the Sahara casino. I am temporarily confused since every station except this one has the platform in the middle, so as we approach the platform I move to the inboard side doors, but then we enter the station and you exit to the platforms to the outside edge. We follow the exit signs and walk around the essalator for people entering the platform and proceed to the far end of the platform. I take a few seconds to be a transit geek so I can watch the train go around the turnaround and start back. I am surprised when instead they load the train I just got off of at the same doors, and then the train shoots out of the station the way it came in. I will have to make a note to investigate this later in the day.

At the far back of the platform is an escalator UP to exit, this leads you to the station proper which is located above the tracks. I exit through the fare gate, to exit you just walk up to a fare gate and the wedges open up, no card required. Upon exiting I can go left to exit down to the street, or right to exit to the Sahara. I chose to exit right and proceed along an elevated walkway then down an escalator which leads me to the back door of the Sahara. Whoever said that some of these monorail entrances look like service entrances isn't kidding. I enter the Sahara, walk along a windy uphill ramp and enter the casino at its rear. I made a no nonsense walk to the front of the casino, where I decided to go and get a reprint done of my Players Club card just so I could get my free daily spin on the promotional slot machine. So I have my card, I get a losing spin on the free slot machine, and continue through the casino. It's true Sahara has a roller coaster: Speed: The Ride, however in the off season and since it is before Memorial Day, Vegas is in off-season mode, Speed does not run on Tuesday or Wednesday, and when it is open its only open for a few hours like 2-8 or something like that. I make a note to come back Thursday for it. I exit the casino, but not before spotting a slot machine I have been wanting to try back home but can never seem to get on the machine. Let's just say it wasn't a profitable experience, but it should at least let the slot club people know I have been there.

I decide to walk from the Sahara to the Stratopshere, its not a long walk, just a couple big intersections, and a couple dubious looking properties along the way. I arrive at the Stratosphere and a doorman holds the door for me as I walk in. I swear every time I come here the gaming floor looks less and less congested. I know the drill by now, so I walk around the table games pit to the escalators to the second floor. I go over to the ticket sales counter to find out what the bad news is going to be. The good news is that 2 of the 3 rides are open, the bad news is one that is closed is the only one I haven't been on, Insantiy. The ticket seller indicates Insanity is down for high winds. Hmm, the winds seem to be dying down outside, I take a chance (this is Vegas after all), and buy the POP wristband ($34). (Red tyvek wristband) I proceed down the shopping arcade to the elevators at the other end. There have been some subtle changes here, for starters a VIP line has been added called "Tower Express", it seems for that a $10 fee you can skip the queue for the elevators. I look and see the queue through 1 switchback and decide to go through the regular line. Seeing the palm trees dance outside is not making me feel better. We get to the end of the switchbacks, tickets are collected or wristbands checked, and you go through a turnstile and are handed a plastic cup. You place all metal objects into this cup in anticipation of going through the metal detector. I clear the metal detector with no problem, and then after the detector they have one of those green screen photo opportunities. I indicate I am single, and the guy, who probably realizes singles don't buy these too often says "Do you want your photo taken?" I say no, and he allows me to skip the photo session. After the photographer you ride an escalator up to where you get the elevators. The first two elevators we come to have signs indicating to go on to the next elevator. Here we wait for the elevator, there are no call buttons, just a sign that says the elevator is programmed to automatically stop on this floor.

I board the somewhat small elevator and soon I am taking my 37 second elevator ride to the 108th floor. The elevator operator indicates to access the rides to go to the gift shop. Hmm, that’s another subtle change as there used to be a ticket sales desk and another elevator queue area out on the tower concourse, and you exited the rides area into the gift shop. I take a lap around the tower catching the view. They have signs indicating what you could see at any point, and they have the cue numbers for an audio tour. I don't know if the audio tour is still available, I didn't see it advertised, and I have never done it here. They have certain areas markes as Insanity viewing area, and X-Scream viewing area. I make a lap and go into the gift shop. I decide to start with Big Shot, up on top of the tower. After what seems to take like 10 minutes the elevator arrives, and takes us up to the Big Shot. (112th floor). The High Roller roller coaster has been removed, so now there is only one ride up here. An attendant on the 112th floor checks tickets, wristbands and invites people to step outside and proceed through the empty queue maze. At the end of the queue maze you go through a turnstile and up a flight of stairs. Man, let me tell you this wind is strong, sometimes its hard to walk up here on the outdoor decks, a jacket might also be nice.

About 5 of us board the Big Shot, and after the move us around for balance, the ride starts. I should note the belts are plenty long enough here, not even a worry. Big shot is an S&S Space Shot, and it still has the goods, in spades, it gives you a nice forceful launch and the car starts going back down while your body is still trying to go up. Most wonderful indeed. I exit the ride down the stairs, and ignoring the ride photo booth, I proceed to not follow the arrows back to the elevators, ad instead go through what was and still is the reride door. Wristband check, and its back to the queue, this time I am the only person on the entire ride. The attendants are friendly here and offered the following deal, since I have a wristband and very few people are riding, how about we give you a few rides instead of you having to walk around each time, save everybody here some work. I accept and proceed to have ERT on Big Shot for a while, and when I say Exclusive Ride Time, I mean EXCLUSIVE ride time. On a wristband versus ride tickets ratio, this just put me far ahead on the deal. Still $34 is a bit much for just two different rides, but I am getting ahead of myself.

After my ERT ended and I thought I had my fill of big shot, I exited down the stairs, and headed for the elevators. Hmm, didn't seem aas long a wait to get a ride back down, and I indicate I would like off at X-Scream which is on floor 109. I get off the elevator and follow the hallway to X-Scream. X-Scream and Insanity sit next to each other on a section of the outdoor observation deck. The former observation deck doorway has been cut up into entrances and exits for the rides, which explains why the rides have revolving doors for exits. Insanity is still closed, so I rde X-Scream, It’s a one cycle wait, we go through the turnstile, and I unload some stuff into the loose articles bins, they aren't lockers (which were out of order), but they do have doors on them and they are inside the ride area which means once the ride starts no one can get to them anyway. For my first ride I am in row 2, on the side nearest the tower. I pull down on the bar, and after just a little bit of struggling insert fasten the short belt to the side of the seat. It seems I was putting more work into it than needed, I thought you had to get the tounge all the way in, but it seems it will fasten with it only partially in, due to the design of the tounge. X-Scream still has the playful operators and all, but I know its only really good up front and this time it just didn't do anything for me. What made the ride better though was the fact the rest of the riders, who had a British accent were obvisously first time riders, and they had the first time rider experience, especially those in the front seat where it scares the crap out of you. Very funny to watch newbies get their first X-Scream ride. I exit and immediately re-enter, I wanted that front seat ride.

The ride is one of those giant see saw rides, where there is a sled mounted atop a seee saw. When you board the end on the observation deck is down, then during the ride it flips the other way and the sled rolls down the see saw at high speed and looke like its going to go flying off the end and go crashing down to the street. Its all about the visuals, so with the high seatbacks, its only good in the front seat. There was nobody in line so I entered, dealt with lose articles and then jumped in that front seat before the rest of the people heading for the ride could get there. The family that had been on the ride with me had met up with the rest of their family who was watching the ride from the outdoor observation deck. I decide to ham it up, and instead of gripping the bar with all my might like they were, I held my hands up high as the sled looked like it was going to fly off the end, even laughing about it. Have to do something, because the ride itself just doesn't to that much for me the second time around. As I exit the ride, I happen to run into somebody with a ride operations jacket on who looked like a manager type. He asked me how I enjoyed my ride, and I indicated how I thought it was much better on my very first ride in 2004. He understood about how that very first ride on it is more powerful. While I was chatting him up, I asked about Insanity he indicated the winds were shifting away and I should try back in a couple hours, and he reminded me my wristband is good till 1am. I took that as a glimmer of hope.

I then proceeded to go back into the indoor observation deck, where I dodged the on ride photo booth and while wandering around I found a stairway down to 108. I noted that it comes out near the coffee bar. That could be useful later on, I have already overstayed my scheduled time here, so I head to the down elevators, and happen to get on a car with the British-accent group. At first they don't realize I am in there with them when they start talking about that nutjob who rode with us, and then rode again all hands up. One of them turns around and then hints back to the group "You mean the guy standing behind you?" We all have a good hearty laugh and then part ways.

I decide to investigate when I reach the shopping area as I note signs indicating the casino is the other way. I pass by another ticket booth (yes still says Insanity is closed), then down an escalator into the casino. This whole area is a ghost town the escalator ends at a little platform, and you have to walk down 2 or 3 more steps even when you get to the bottom. Other than a 50's diner type place and an area of slot machines roped off for some promotion, this area is dead. I proceed through the casino and soom find that I am not that far from the front door, and this is a much shorter passage than going through the shopping area.

I exit the casino and had intended to take the Deuce double decker bus to Circus Circus, but darn it I just missed it. Instead of just waiting for the next one, I proceed to walk it, and of course by the time the next one comes by I am halfway there so I figure, may as well just walk it the rest of the way. That was a bit longer walk than I had bargained for, so I was glad to get into the cool of Circus Circus. Circus Circus is one of the last "family friendly" casinos left from that failed experiment. As such the carpeting around the casino floor has "green zones" on it where those with children are allowed to walk and be while in the casino itself. I failed to see if any circus acts were going on as I headed all the way to the back of the property, up the escalator, and through the shopping area to get to the entrance to Adventure Dome, which is a full fledged amusement park.

The guidebook for my Power Pass says I must go to Group Sales, which is conveniently enough just inside the park entrance. It seems only the one group sales lane has the power pass machine. They insert my card, a ticket pops up, they keep the ticket and put a wristband on my wrist. (pink plastic)

I head into the park and decide to do 1 lap of the park in order. First stop, their all new Disko, and is this one in far better shape than the one at Mt. Olympus. All the seats work, the traction strips are there and the ride is spinning in full on mode. I arrived out of cycle with the other guests so I got a solo ride on Disko, then crossed the midway and got a solo ride on the Inverter. Inverter was running a bit better than last time I rode it here. Its just overly complex for what it does. It’s a looping ship ride, with an odd gondola rotation really.

I proceed around the park and decide to skip the bumper cars and some other rides. In a refreshing change, I notice on a slow day they shut down most of the game joints and kept the flat rides open, unlike how Six Flags would do it. I headed up the stairs past the arcade and went to Canyon Blaster. Except I was on the unload side of the tracks. Not to worry as they have a bridge setup right next to the station to cross over the tracks. I cross over and head to the near empty coaster station. There isn't a queue maze, just really long seat queues. They even have a ticket machine right here, presumably for those that just want a coaster ride. ($7 for 1 ride, the all day pass is $25) I hop into the front seat and take a ride. Leave the station, turnaround, up the lift, turnaround, vertical loops, turnaround, corkscrews, turnaround, helix like section through the cave, then return to the station. It is still one of Arrows smoothest multi elements and I am sure the padding the trains have as this is an indoor ride surely help. I exit, cross the bridge and about to ride in the back seat when an alarm goes off. I look around and the strobe on the red fire box is also flashing. An attendant tells me the ride is closed, what a uhm, surprise. A few moments later a PA announcement is made "the source of the alarm you are hearing is being investigated. You need not take action at this time, if the situation changes you will be informed" the alarm then starts alternating with that message. The ride operators indicate we are free to leave, but are welcome to remain at the coaster station, should there be cause to take action they will escort us out. This goes on for about 20 minutes or so, including time for the alarm drop and time to get the rides back open. After the rides reopen I take 4 or 5 more rides on Canyon Blaster and even score a solo ride in there. I head back downstairs and continue my tour. Next stop is Chaos, which was being operated by an older lady. Three of us were admitted, shown to separate cars, but in the end I could not ride as the big outer bar would not lock. Oh well. I take the walk of shame and continue my tour going through what must be the kiddie ride area. I note the log flume type ride is closed as is the mini-himalayah. I skip Spongebob Squarepants motion movie as I can get that at my home park, but do go into the 4D theatre. In fact I got a solo in the 4D theatre. First they show a short clip demonstrating all the toys in the 4D theater, then the feature starts, and its Fun House Express. I groan as I have seen this one as a ridefilm. I soon loose the groan and start loving it because their version of the same movie includes numerous scenes the motion movie version does not, of course the scenes cut from the ridefilm are the ones that make use of the 4D theatre toys. It's like rediscovering an old favorite movie, except its been changed. One more ride to stop at, and that is Slingshot, a Chance drop tower. I knew it would not be much right after riding Big Shot, but I didn't expect to board, fasten the seatbelt, but the ride sensor said we could not get the bar down far enough, even with a helpful operator. At least I have to say both the Chaos and Slingshot operators were as nice as could be about telling me I couldn't ride, even sounding genuinely apologetic. On my way out I wanted a Pepsi, I had noticed machines throughout the park selling it for $2 a bottle. I expected the same price from the front gate gift shop, nope something like $2.50 or $3 there, and they also had the 20 oz bottles. I backtracked my way to a machine and got a $2 bottle of Pepsi, which lasted me as I walked out of the park, through Circus Circus, out the side door of Circus Circus, through a little dumpy casino called Slots-Of-Fun where I noticed the machines were still using coins and not the tickets like most of the other casinos. I realize there are some purists who like the coins, but the casinos and a lot of players prefer the tickets for the conveneience of not having to mess with dirty tokens, or haul around heavy buckets of tokens, or standing in line to get tokens changed to bills just to turn around and insert into another machine. Casinos like how they have eliminated the vast majority of slot attendants, hopper fills, it allows you to play faster, eliminates them having to deal with tokens, and with the advent of self service ticket redemption machines are even cutting down the number of cashier they need, further improving cash control.

I proceeded to cross the Blvd when I noted jaywalking is no longer an option as they have erected a substantial fence down the center of the street. I cross at a legal crossing, and wait in front of the Riviera to catch the Deuce. We had stayed at the Riviera on a past trip and it was nothing fancy but it was nice enough, and a reminder to the old days. My Uncle would actually set foot in it this week and reported back that it is now a dump.

They were going out of their way to attract gamblers as they had guys standing outside the casino carrying long flagstaffs to which were affixed large Riviera flags. These guys not only had to walk around outside the casino carrying these, but when the winds dies down, they had to wave them back and forth, otherwise you could not see the logo on the flag, now could you. I though was more dismayed when at times they didn't have to wave them, the wind itself was doing the job quite nicely. Anyway that ploy screams "Desperation" you don't see the other casinos stooping to that do you?

Doesn't it always seem like you just missed the bus, it seemed to take some time for the Deuce to arrive and when it arrived I decided I probably could have walked it faster. You see they first unload through the back door like any other bus, but unlike most busses they don't load passengers at the same time. After they unload but before they open the front doors, they play a recording with the prices, then they open the doors and admit people. I board and pay the $2 fare. Both decks are full, and people are even standing on the stairs to the second deck. I wanted to go upstairs but didn't want to risk it as I was only going two stops. To add insult, there is no stop at the Sahara, so I wound up having to ride past it and then walk back a bit.

I go through the Sahara to get to the monorail, Back out the back exit, and I hope the guy freewheeling that wheelchair down the ramp knows there is a curve ahead. Up the escalator, over the bridge, through the fare gate, then follow the signs To Monorail to the escalator down to the platform. I wait on the end of the platform the trains arrive at and get to watch the switch. They have platforms on both sides even at this station, but they don't use one of them, instead a switch diverts departing trains to the other track. I ride one station to the Las Vegas Hilton, exit go down the escalator and a very short walk later am entering the casino right next to Star Trek Experience. This is what sponsorship gets you, no long walk here, no sir!. I go up the ramp to Star Trek Experience, I had pretty much thrown my carefully tuned time schedule out the window by now, I mean Insanity being closed, plus the 20-30 minute fire drill at Circus Circus and all has thrown me way off. What could go wrong here? I am in the ticket line and I notice a sign "Allow 2 hours to see Star Trek Experience" What, I had only budgeted this for 1 hour, I had already seen Klingon Encounter on a former trip, so maybe I'll just see Borg Invasion and be on my way. Thoughts of seeing the Dolphins at the Mirage, or Madamme Tussauds at the Venetian were drifting away. I knew I had planned an ambitious timetable, I just didn't plan on everything going wrong. Murphy's Law is in force in Vegas. I get to the ticket desk, and present my Power Pass, you know the drill Power Pass goes into the machine, and the pass and a ticket come out, they retain the Power Pass ticket and instead give me one of their own tickets. The ticket is large and has two tear off stubs advertising each of the two attractions, and I note the logo clear as day is "Paramount Parks", and not "Cedar Fair" I take the ticket up the ramp to the exhibit entrance, ticket is torn and I get a handstamp, I note they no longer use a handstamp station that is moulded to force your hand into a Vulcan V. I enter the attraction and proceed to take the Star Trek Museum of History as read since I had already taken the time to properly see it once. This doesn't look out of place because both attractions exit back out into the casino and you have to re-enter each time anyway. I get to the actual attraction entrance and there is a rail down the center of the hallway. Signs indicate for Borg stay left, for Klingon stay right. I stay left for Borg and go through the queue all the way to near the front where the Borg queue is roped off diverting you into the Klingon queue. Guess I am doing the Klingon Encounter. .

Before the greeter takes us into the attraction he explains that only one attraction is open at a time, and they alternate every hour. We will be the first group for the 2-3 session for Kingon, then Borg will run from 3-4. Each of these experiences takes about 20-25 minutes See now that I am going to be here till at least 3:30, and its now 2, yep had I studied the Star Trek Museum, it would be a two hour ordeal to experience everything. Sorry dolhpins, sorry Madame Tussaud..

We are admitted into Klingon Encounter and I am afraid my prior Klingon Encounter trip report isn’t detailed enough to let me know I am not going crazy, as I swear they have made subtle changes to it.

A shot time later I was admitted to a nondescript holding room. (On my first trip I thought this was straight ahead, this time its an alcove to the right) They show clips from the various Star Trek films as you wait to be admitted. The automatic doors open, and the ride attendants usher you into a dimly lit room. To the left of you there are four automatic doors. (I thought they were straight ahead before) The attendants act like you are just going to ride a motion simulator ride.

The attendants then become very stern about forming 4 lines, one in front of each door, each line to contain EXACTLY 7 people, single file. They then tell you to step back from the automatic doors so that everyone can see the monitors. They also make sure that no one is standing against any wall. The attendant then talks with operations, and they tell you they are going to show a safety video about the ride. The video starts out with all the health warnings. (A pregnant woman leaves the room in the video while the husband stays behind), you see the automatic doors open in the video, and people starting to board what looks like any other cabin based simulator. Then the picture and sound on the video start deteriorating rapidly until all is lost. You get the message from ride operations that something has gone wrong. The room lights go out. A strong blast of air hits you. Some bright light, and suddenly you are awestruck as you find yourself standing on the transporter bay. They give people a couple seconds to realize what happened. Then your ride escort calls out to the transporter operator ahead of you "Would you like to explain what happened?" You are then told that you are now on a spacecraft, the Enterprise, and that you are now way ahead in the future. The ride escort complains about missing their break. An ensign is then told to take the two ride escorts to security for debriefings. You on the other hand will be taken to the bridge. You walk down a hallway that looks like part of the enterprise, and are shown to the bridge. (The first time I thought the hall to the bridge was to the left of the trasnporter console, this time its to the right) They have the tour party stand at the back of the bridge. You are told there are Klingon fightercraft behind you, that you were abducted through a time rift by the Klingons, and that the crew of the Enterprise was able to intercept you. They then note that Picard is missing. It seems that he disappeared when you appeared. The story is that one of us must be Picards ancestor,and unless we are returned to the present, Picard will never be born. We then see a menacing video from the Klingon ship, before being escorted to a Turbolift to Shuttlebay.(And it seems the positions of the Turbolift and the hallway from the transporter bay have been swapped) Of course the Klingon's attack while you are on the Turbolift assuring a very rough ride, with the lights flashing on and off. You then exit the Turbolift into a hallway leading to shutlebay. You are then grouped into rows again, in front of a huge garage door leading to Shuttlebay. You then get a briefing about what is about to happen, followed by a safety video. The video starts out in an alien language, then revered to English. Standard motion sim safety video topics are covered. Those people who don't meat the health requirements are allowed to bail. (Q: Has anyone taken the alternative exit, and how to they keep the continuity intact if you do?) The door in front of you opens to reveal the shuttlecraft. You board, fasten seatbelts, yada yada, the gullwing door closes. The motion film ride starts. The cabin has openings in the ceiling, the front, and the sides, and from where I was seated on this ride I could tell the cabin sits under an OmniMax style domed screen, not unlike Back to the Future. . This plays with your peripheral vision and makes the movie more effective. The movie is about going with a team of other shuttlecraft to head back through the time rift to take you back to the present, along the way you destroy a Klingon cloaking device, and escape from the Bird of Prey. Towards the end you fly over the Vegas strip at night seeing all the different casinos, have the Las Vegas Hilton in sight, when the Klingons have one last battle before you land safely on top of Hilton crashing into the Hilton logo. You find yourself in an elevator shaft and the narration goes "According to historical records before being abducted you were about to board this simulator, we'll sit you down next to it." You get a inspirational message from Picard. The gull wing door then opens to reveal the unload area, the whole ride mechanic, maintenance man storyline has been scrapped, an unload host escorts you from the ride car to the elevators back down to the 1st floor. Along the way out monitors in the exit hallway continue the experience as the local news anchors are doing a story about a spaceship seen in Vegas, and of course the government is trying to cover it all up, the next story on our fictitious news reel, slot winner hits big. They load you onto the elevator and send you down to the gift shop. I breeze through the gift shop, and check my watch, its 2:25. I play some of the special Star Trek slots placed in the area, I haven't seen these anywhere else, and like a video game, you can earn more features and bonuses and stuff as you play, when you cash out it gives you both your payout ticket and a valueless ticket you can use to continue with the same number of experience points won and the same features unlocked. These machines were not nice to my billfold.

Around 2:45 I reenter the attraction and you need to show both your ticket and a handstamp, since I had the other tear off section left on my ticket, she collected the other stub. These are holdouts from when they first brought Borg on and went from a POP plan to a "Ride each once" plan. They are now back to POP. I zip through the museum, then enter the left queue lane. This time the left queue lane is open. We are admitted in a much larger group than for Klingon, and proceed straight ahead, again turning right into an alcove. I wonder if they have two of everything, set in mirror image, and from the man greeter station they can send you to any one of the four.

You know how careful they were with continuity on Klingon, using the transporter to get you to the ship, and the shuttle ride itself explains how you got back to Vegas? Not so with Borg, you exit the queue area, you turn right, through a doorway with flashing lights (We are scanning you) and suddenly you are in a briefing room aboard a starship! They are careful to make sure nobody stands on the edges, by means of having a two tome carpet, please stay in the gray area of the carpet. This time its to allow the live actors place to perform. You attend a briefing where the chracters in the movie interact with the crew members standing in the briefing room. The story here is that the scan you just received indicates he thinks we hold the power to resist the Borg, and we are here for scientific experiments. The eager doctor gets cut off when the Borg does attack the ship, you go to yellow alert, the lights in the room you are in change accordingly, then the room where the doctor is in gets taken over by the Borg, go to red alert, and the room you are in goes red as well. The ship is under attack, we must get you out of here. You know the usual motion sim ride story line. They rush you out of the room and down some hallways, we come to anther crew member working at a console, uh oh, the Borg is coming from this direction, quick everybody turn around, lets go the other way. You hit another seemningly dead end, you can see the Borg trying to get into the room. Uh oh, the door is jammed, nothing a little phaser shot can't fix, but that alerts the Borg to your precense, you get hurried down the next hall, where they give you 3D glasses and send you into the theater, uhmm, shuttlecraft, whatever.

The movie is the escape from their starship movie you might expct but with all the 4D toys (water, wind, seat buzzers, vibrators, pokers, that sort of thing)Of course you get captured by the Borg, they try to assimilate you, the mad doctor makes a brief appearance to encourage you to resisit, and so forth. Of course you do escape just before the Borg decides to destroy their entire ship with your ship in it just to destroy you. Because, you have the power to resist the Borg. You never do land back on Earth, you just get some sort of inspirational message then the exit doors open, you return the glasses, and walk down a short hall to the elevators, the same elevators you use at the end of Klingon, the same gift shop, and out of Star Trek Experience I go. 3:30. Just as predicted. I do take a few moments to use the infamous talking urinals in the men's room before leaving the Las Vegas Hilton. I should note I learned shortly after returning home that on May 8, Cedar Fair indicated their intention to not renew the lease/license on this at the end of the year and that unless something happens real soon, the Las Vegas Hilton will expect them to have vacated the area with the attraction completely removed by the end of the year. Speculation has started the Experience will close forever shortly after Labor Day, unless something happens. I also hear negotiations are still on so its not a done deal. But, that might explain why the cast and crew of the Experience were somewhat less than jovial.

I exit the Las Vegas Hilton and proceed to do something really dumb. I have a cell phone on me, I could have called the Stratosphere and asked if Inansity had opened. Did I think of it? Of course not, and it seemed like the wind had died off. I ride the monorail back to the Sahara, walk through the Sahara, playing more slots along the way, wlak back to the Stratosphere, take the new short cut I discovered to the back escalator, to read the sad sign, Yup, still closed. Well, I'm this far may as well go up and have a look, I walk around the corner to find tower access to be a walk on, and it looks like the Tower Express person has given up. I ride back up tower, take the stairs b the coffee bar, and snoop around. I go out on the outdoor deck to feel the wind. Hm, yup it is still windy up here. I cover my tracks with a ride on X-scream. Then hightail it back down the the ground, out of the Stratosphere, back to the Sahara.

As I am walking through the Sahara the cell phone rings. Family checking in about going to Freemont Street tonight, and I look at my watch and note its like 4:30. I say to give me an hour. Let's see momorail ride is 15 minutes end to end, that ought to do it.

I ride the monorail all the way back to the MGM Grand. Exit into the MGM Grand go down the escalator through the shopping arcade, through the casino. Man I feel like I am doing a marathon! Up the escalator by Rainforest Café, cross the bridge to NYNY, and wait, the devil made me do it. I take the escalator down into the NYNY casino, walk over to the Coney Island escalator and head back to the coaster station. Power Pass to the rescue again, and I walk into an empty station. I get in the front seat lane and proceed to take a front seat ride. Wow the view is great, but OUCH is the headbanging worse. I exit the ride through the gift shop (per the terms in the Power Pass guidebook, you are limited to 1 rollercoaster ride per day here)

I check my watch, its gonna be real close on that hour, I start feeling guilty. I really high tail it out of NYNY, over the connector to the Excalibur, I don't even TRY to use the monorail to Luxor, so I re-enter the casino using the Speedramp tunnel, hightail it through the casino, make it up to the food court on the second floor. Status Report, of course I don't say I am in the Excalibur, I say I am entering the Luxor, leaving out the fact I still have to cross the connector. Okay, meet up back at room, great.

I high tail it trough the Luxor, up the Inclinator, and then stop at the vending corner for a $2 pepsi. Ahh, that feels wonderful. Get to the room where EVERYBODY is wating on me in our room. Oh well, not much is made of it, and soon we are getting ready to go to old Las Vegas, or Freemont Street.

We head dowstairs to the casino floor, and walk through the casino and out the front door. We get in the taxi stand line and ask about our options with 5 people. The taxi stand guy signals and a minivan pulls up. We load into the minivan and are soon heading to Fremont Street via Frank Sinatra Avenue. We had though about asking him to go down the Strip, but with the traffic on the Strip we knew that could get pricey. Frank Sinatra Ave runs right behind the casinos on the west side of the strip and runs directly alongside I-15. The difference is while people were on I-15, almost nobody was on Frank Sinatra, and it seemed to be a beeline to Fremont Street, and less than $20 later (plus tip), he was dropping us off at the Plaza.

The Plaza sits at one end of Fremont Street. Freemont Street is in old Las Vegas, and four blocks of it have been turned into a pedestrian only area, sort of a permanent street festival with stages for live bands, bars and other vendor booths in the middle of the old street, and its most notable feature the canopy that runs over almost the entire street and hosts the nightly LED light shows. But it’s way too early for that.

We start touring Freemont Street, and I point out the Las Vegas Club, which lends its name to some instant bingo tickets back home, I point out the animated sign of the Golden Gate, where the letters all pivot back and forth. I point out Vic the neon cowbody that sits atop a gift shop. Further along I point out Binion’s Horseshoe, now shortened to just Binion’s due to a change of ownership. Oh, and across the street is the Golden Nugget. We cross a street, and we start looking for dinner, we were all pretty hungry, and there are still some food deals to be had on Fremont Street. I point out the Fremont and the 4 Queens. Some of Mom’s friends travel to Vegas regularly, and stay at Fitzgerald’s so I point that out to Mom.

In terms of food, we decide to go with the Prime Rib special for $6.95 at 4 Queens. The catch is you have to be a players club member, but a quick visit to the Player’s Club desk can solve that problem. We walk through the casino and find the players club desk located in the center of the casino. We also see signs indicating the prime rib special is served in Magnolia Terrace. We all get in line, and soon we all have a players club card, as well as a little tin with a souvenir deck of cards just for joining the players club, and the promise of a t-shirt if we earn 40 points on our first day. Then, Mom goes up to the desk, and she gets everything we did but then the host tells her that he noticed it is Mom’s birth month, and you are entitled to a free dinner on your birth month. We ask if we can get that in Magnolia’s and he says we can. So, now we are brand new members, not having spent a dime there, and here they are writing mom a food comp. You have to like that!

We go to Magnolia Terrace, which sits slightly above the casino, and find immediate seating is available. Even though we get the usually dreaded “table-by-the-kitchen” ther are very few people seated in this area, and it sees to be nice and private. Perfect setting for a family dinner.

We place drink orders and start looking at the menu. Its’s a pretty extensive menu, but we do note that prime rib is no where on that menu, at any price. When the server comes back we ask for the $6.95 Prime Rib, and its like we said the password, because without skipping a beat she responds “how do you want that cooked?” We learn we get choice of soup or salad, meat cooked to order, choice of potato, vegetable, and dinner rolls. Not bad for $6.95.

While waiting for my dinner, I decide to play FreeNo, which is closely related to Keno. Keno is one of the worst bets in a casino, real long odds and all, but the benefit of it is that they only play 1 game every 5-10 minutes and you can get in on the game for like $1. If you are losing, or you want to play a long time on a little cash, Keno will allow you to turn a $10 into an hours worth of entertainment or more. Casinos place racks on the tables in their restaurants with brochures describing keno (which is a variant of the lotto), as well as keno bet papers and the Keno Marker, more commonly known as a thick black crayon. They also place Keno boards around the dining room so that you can play Keno while you eat. They tell me they have people called Keno Runners who will run your money and bet slip right from your table to the keno desk, and bring you back the official ticket. I have never actually seen a Keno runner, so I can’t vouch for their true existence. Anyway, I take a bet slip and a Keno Marker and mark up a paper just as if I was placing a keno bet, but with a key difference, I don’t turn it in. This is just for my personal amusement, but whenever a new set of Keno numbers comes up on the keno board, I check to see how many numbers I would have had. And yes, this doesn’t distract from good table conversation, as I said they only play Keno every 5-10 minutes. It takes about 10 seconds to check your paper every 5-10 minutes, wha’s more I had some of my family playing along, and did I mention we are competitive about everything. FreeNo actually enhanced the fun of the dinner conversation.

The dinner comes out, and I am very happy to report that for $6.95 the portions were generous, the service was good, and the meat was cooked perfectly to order. We were very satisfied with our meal there, but I would advise you that their horseradish is pretty potent. My uncle tried to tell that it was weak, and I better load it on. After our meal, we go out to the restaurant cashier and present player club cards and mom’s comp voucher. That’s 5 prime rib dinners with drinks for less than $40!

Speaking of 40, its time to go down to the casino floor, and we all work on getting our 40 points. In time we all have our 40 points, and our t-shirts, and its in perfect time to go outside and see the hourly light show. We step outside and stand in the middle of the street. You know the show is about to start when all the neon lights on the fronts of the casinos turn off, then the overhead canopy starts playing a light show choreographed with music. This particular showing featured lots of show girls dancing to popular music. I think they got an upgraded light system since my last visit, and I still love the Feemont Street Experience, and so did the family. After the show ended I needed to run back onto the 4 Queens and cash out, then we all headed over to Binion’s (Horeshoe), and played there for quite some time. I even hit over 8,000 credits on a machine, too bad it was a penny machine J. They also had some of the Monopoly and Press Your Luck community gaming machines, where not only do you have your own bonus games, but at random intervals the game plays a bonus game on a giant screen above the carousel, and every player who was actively playing on that bank of machines when the bonus trigger hit gets paid out whatever the community bonus is.

We wind up leaving Binion’s just in time to see the midnight light show out on Freemont Street. It’s a science fiction theme show with spaceships and aliens. After the light show, we briefly walk through the Golden Nugget, I note that they solved the space problems associated with that giant 10 person wheel of fortune, by basically mounting the wheel of the machine flat against the wall with only 5 player positions. I was going to remark that the riverboat casinos back home would not be able to accommodate these large round 10 player party slots, but I just went to the riverboat today and they proved me wrong by installing one!

After touring the Golden Nugget, we looked in the gift shop where Vic the cowboy is, and the ABC shop next door. Surprisingly, no one bought anything in either gift shop. We then returned the Plaza and were able to obtain another minivan which took us back to the Luxor, for a comparable fare. We did not stay up too much longer, but of course we did play for a little bit at Luxor before we went up to the room and assumed the position of Pyramid dwellers for centuries, perhaps a bit noisier than your traditional pyramid dweller, but we were horizontal nonetheless.

Next report: Day 4 (Paris casino including Eiffel Tower Experience, Ceasar’s Palace including the Forum Shoppes and a SPIRAL escalator, and the Bellagio including “O” by Cirque du Soleil and the fountains.

As always: Watch for it!


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