No, actually, it’s because Erin’s father lives in Vegas, and even though we’ve been together for three years now, I’d never had the chance to meet him. We both took off on a Wednesday afternoon and met at the Vegas airport, where I was startled to discover slot machines in the terminal. Man, this was a different place.
Erin’s dad picked us up and took us on a little driving tour of the strip before meeting up with his wife for a late dinner — and I mean really late. It was midnight there, but I’d just jumped two time zones, and Erin had jumped three. We were both really hungry, and after eating, sleep came pretty easily. Erin’s dad was kind enough to lend us one of his cars while we were there, too, saving us the cost of a rental car. It’s interesting, though — I looked around Vegas a lot, but I don’t think I actually saw any rental cars the whole time I was there. I expected them to be all over the place.
Thursday was the one day of this brief trip we’d get to spend completely alone with each other, just the two of us, and proving once again that I’ve got the greatest girlfriend in the world, Erin indulged me by helping me find two comic shops in the area. She knows that when I travel out of town I like to check out the local comic shops so I can talk about them in my columns and podcasts, and she was more than happy to oblige. After that stop, we went to lunch at one of Erin’s favorite west coast burger joints:
If you’ve never eaten at an In-N-Out Burger, I’m not surprised. The company makes all its food fresh at a central location and ships it to all its locations, preventing it from expanding far out of the Nevada/California/Arizona area. I wish we could get some further east, though, because it was delicious.
After this, Erin indulged me again by taking me to one of the things in Vegas I wanted to see the most: Star Trek: The Experience at the Las Vegas Hilton.
I’m not as big a Star Trek geek as some people I know (and here I am specifically thinking of my sister, Heather), but I am a fan, and with the recent news that this attraction would be closing down in September, I knew I needed to visit this when I had the chance. More proof that Erin is the perfect woman? We were there for four hours and she never once complained. So what did we do with four hours? Everything. We visited the walk-through museum, which includes a timeline of the Star Trek universe and lots of props and costumes used in the movies and TV shows. Then we rode one of the two motion-simulator rides, The Klingon Encounter. This was an awesome experience, not just because the ride itself is fun, but because the pre-ride adventure is as cool as anything I’ve ever seen in a major theme park. I’m not going to tell you here just what it was, in case you get a chance to visit someday I don’t want to blow the surprise, but suffice it to say that Erin kept looking at me and telling me I looked like a little boy on Christmas morning. I know she was right.
After the ride, we went to the gift shop and got a few things, including a shirt for my sister, and then had a drink at Quark’s Bar. This is something else I love about the place — they recreate the Promenade section from my favorite Trek series, Deep Space Nine, for the restaurant and bar areas. Then we hit the casino for a little while until it was time for what we paid the most for — the backstage tour. It was more than I expected, but well worth it. The tour showed us how all of the effects and tricks in the ride were accomplished, then took us down to beneath the ride itself, where we got to watch the simulator car in motion. We also saw the costume and make-up areas, and lots of other cool stuff. (If you take the backstage tour, RIDE THE KLINGON RIDE FIRST! It’ll totally ruin the ride for you if you take the tour first.) Finally, we visited the second ride, Borg Invasion 4-D. The Borg attraction was okay, but nowhere near as good as the Klingon experience. Erin was so wonderful for going along with all this, but I’m pretty sure she had fun too. Here are a few more pictures of us at Star Trek: The Experience.
After leaving the Hilton, Erin wisely suggested we buy a monorail pass to take us down the strip. Without a pass, you can spend the entire day walking from one place to another. With the one-day unlimited ride pass, we could take the train to about seven stations, and virtually everything we wanted to do was within reasonable walking distance of at least one of them. We rode down to the MGM Grand to begin the second part of our day, walking around the casinos in that area.
We also took in the Caesar’s Palace casino that night — a nice place to visit, and Erin learned she liked slot machines that have spinners at the top.
Saturday we got together with more of Erin’s family — her father and his wife, her Aunt Karen and Uncle Dee, Uncle Derek and his son Josh, and her stepsister Britany and her boyfriend Cedric. It was my first time meeting any of these folks, and I’ll admit I was a little nervous. It was a lot of fun, though — they were all really nice and I enjoyed talking to them. They had a lot of questions about Post-Katrina New Orleans, which I expected, and I was more than happy to tell them the truth about the area, as opposed to what you see on TV.
As we left, we took a slight wrong turn, neither of us being familiar with the area. This turned out to be a stroke of luck, though. After we figured out the mistake and turned around, we saw this campaign sign on the side of the road:
Afterwards, Erin and I went back to the hotel to clean ourselves up and change. It was our last night in Vegas and we were going to do something special: a nice dinner at the Grand Lux Cafe in the Venetian Casino. All of Vegas was fun, but the Venetian was hands-down the most beautiful place we saw. The casino has indoor canals and beautiful architecture that simulates Venice. You can even take a Gondola ride indoors and visit an outdoor sun-lit marketplace in the middle of the night.
After dinner, we did our last bit of wandering, visiting the Wynn and the Treasure Island Casino, both of which were nice. The best bit, though, was that we got some girls who wants us to take a picture of them in front of the Wynn waterfall to return the favor. Although we’re both shutterbugs, it seems Erin and I never manage to get enough pictures of us TOGETHER.
The next morning, it was time for me to go home. (Erin was staying a few more days with her dad.) The rough part was that the hotel’s internet connection had been out for two days, and I couldn’t pull up my return flight information. We wound up sitting in a Starbuck’s parking lot glomming off their wireless connection. (Kids, remember, don’t do that.) We wanted to stop for breakfast, but IHOP was packed, so we set out in search of an alternate. Boy, are we glad we did. We wound up at an awesome little restaurant called “The Egg and I”, a breakfast/lunch place that’s open from 6 am until 3 pm. I had the “Piggy Skillet,” a mix of eggs and cheese with bacon, ham, and pork sausage, served over ranch potatoes. Erin had the French Toast stuffed with egg, cheese, and bacon. Both were delicious. If you’re in Vegas, you’ve GOT to check this place out for breakfast, it was one of the best breakfasts I’ve ever had.
Leaving Erin is always hard, and this time the airline didn’t make it any easier. First, my flight to Denver was delayed and I was going to miss my connection to New Orleans, so they put me on another airline, which sucked. Then I got picked for “additional screening” (i.e., stand there like an idiot while a guy swabs my shoes and electronic devices with cotton then waits for a machine to confirm I didn’t have any explosives on them) and rushed to the plane. In Denver, I had to run through the terminal, take a tram to a different concourse, then run through THAT terminal and made it just in time… then got home only to find my luggage never made it to the second plane. Coming home sucked harder than ever.
But being with Erin was better than ever. Whenever we’re together it’s like a whole different universe where everything is better, happier, more realthan the real world. We’ll be together again for Thanksgiving, then for Mardi Gras, then we’re hoping to plan a Disney World trip with Chase and Jenny for next summer. It’ll never be enough until we can be together all the time. But we both know that day is coming. As always, Erin, I love you with all my heart, and November can’t come soon enough.
Want to see more of our trip? Check out our Las Vegas 2008 Flickr Album!