Dad told me the wrong flight times; it turned out we were leaving at six-ish PM on Friday and coming home at eight-ish PM Sunday.
Flight out was uneventful. We checked into Mandalay Bay, had dinner, and took a tram to Excalibur, which has a much cheaper casino. Parents told me I had a $100/day gambling budget. I played Let it Ride for a while and ultimately lost.
Didn't particularly bother me, though. I tend to think of gambling as basically a grown-up version of an arcade, except there's an outside chance you could win some money. As a result, when I lose I don't worry—I just think of it as the cost of some entertainment. When I'm winning, I try to set aside enough so that even if I start losing, I'll stop at the break-even point.
We went back to the room and I texted my message to LiveJournal; then we went to sleep.
Next day, we went to the Tropicana; they had a traveling exhibit called "Bodies". (Mom had wanted to see it, but missed it when it was in LA.) Basically, they took dead people who had donated their bodies to science, dissected them to show various interesting aspects of anatomy, and then put them through a preservation process that replaced the water in their cells with silicone. So in one room you could see several displays highlighting and explaining muscles, including one where they had detached one end of some of them so you could see how they were layered; in another, a body had all of its nerves exposed, the vertebrae taken out, and various parts of the brain were on display; and so on. They had a stroke victim's brain, a smoker's lung, and a liver with cirrhosis. It was quite fascinating and not creepy at all (although the diseased organs were a little scary). We ended up taking something like four hours to go through it.
I think somebody (Jasmine?) tried to call me during this, but my phone was on vibrate. Sorry.
Afterwards, we did some more gambling (I lost again). We then went to the Aladdin, which has the best buffet in Vegas. Unfortunately, they were remodeling, so they had put the buffet in a different section of the hotel and the selection was limited. The food was pretty good, though.
After that, we went to the Flamingo and saw Second City. The guy who was seating people chatted with Dad for a minute and then asked if he'd like the best seat in the house. He obviously agreed, and we got a table right in the front (when the place was already half-full). The reason for this treatment became obvious halfway through the show, when one of the comedians (pretending to be a cocktail waitress) started acting like we were her customers. Apparently the guy was looking for somebody who could think on his feet to put at that table. It was a very funny show.
We went back to the hotel and went to bed.
Sunday we had a brunch buffet and then checked out of the hotel. Mom and Dad had decided to get me a nice watch, so we went shopping and finally found a good one. (It had been a display model, so they knocked off some ridiculously large portion of the price.) After that, we went to downtown, where all the oldest (and thus cheapest) casinos are.
First thing I tried was roulette, which is both a true game of chance and has the worst odds of any casino game. I managed to get about twenty dollars up and then cashed out when my luck started to turn.
After that, we went to another casino, which had cheap craps. Dad and I played together—me just playing the pass line (the basic bet) and Dad playing a more complicated system involving come bets. We played for a long time and my balance varied wildly throughout the game. I ended up a dollar up (well, not including the tip, which left me $4 down); I probably would've gotten out earlier if my turn at the dice hadn't come up.
Dad, incidentally, ended up broke (well, he lost all the money he converted to chips). Ha.
After that, we found a place that had cheap roulette, so we killed some time by playing it. I ended up winning something like $14 on $20 of chips. (Rather unusually, they only required one bet per game; I ended up betting black and re-betting my winnings until they built up to $8, at which point I took off $7.) I got pretty lucky, though. Dad also got lucky—he and Mom play around 29 (they say the choice is pretty much arbitrary), and he actually managed to land it once.
Finally, Mom and Dad wanted to play a few card games. I watched Dad play blackjack for a while; we left when Mom ran out of money.
We then went to a hole-in-the-wall Italian place. Literally—the place is called Battista's Hole in the Wall. We got there early, so there wasn't a wait—I've heard it can get to two hours sometimes. The food was excellent, but there was too much, even by Vegas's standards.
Finally, we dropped off the rental car and went to the airport. There I experienced a first—an aborted takeoff. Apparently the light for the cargo hold door started flickering during takeoff, so they cut back the engine about a third of the way down the runway and taxied back to the gate to get it fixed. After about half an hour of fixing and five minutes of replacing the burned-off fuel, we took off again. Unfortunately, by that time we had no hope of making the curfew.
The airport in Orange County has a curfew at ten o'clock—the rich landowners of Newport Beach (the setting for The O.C.) insist on having it to keep their property values from being too badly affected by the airport. (Departures also have to cut back their engines over Newport. Which makes me wonder what they think a widebody passenger jet crashing into their houses would do the property values...but I digress.) Each airline gets a fixed number of exemptions a month, but when they use them they have to try to get in as close to the curfew as they can. On the plus side, this meant that the pilot pratically ran red lights to get us to California as quickly as possible. They didn't even finish giving sodas to all the passengers before they had to lock everything down. On the minus side, the ride was a little wilder than normal—the plane descended in a pretty sharp turn right before the end of the flight, and the landing involved a little more plummeting and a lot more runway than usual.
Once we got off—more than an hour after curfew—we expected the airport to be empty; to our surprise, though, there were at least four or five planeloads of people waiting for their luggage. Made me wonder if the baggage handlers collectively decided to unlatch the doors of airplanes going to that airport just to keep its baggage handlers working late. After a long wait (and plenty of jokes about how the luggage fell out of the plane during flight), our bags came out and we left.
It was a fun trip overall.