After six years of playing husband and wife, Inna and I decided to make it legal with a unique wedding ceremony in Las Vegas. At 59, this would be my first marriage. Inna has been the best thing that ever happened to me. I knew it. My friends knew it. By now, even my stubborn, 92-year-old mother knew it. And as the departure date grew closer, I found myself almost giddy with excitement.
Inna and I both took off from work early and were heading for BWI Airport with our good buddy Jimmy Martin by 3, arriving two hours before our flight to Vegas.
We had heard all sorts of horror stories about interminable waits at the airport because of the dreaded sequestration, so we were prepared for the worst. Southwest was jammed but the whole check-in procedure only took about twenty minutes. We joined the security snake line at Gate B and found the TSA folks to be both efficient and courteous.
After putting our belts and shoes back on, we headed over to the Zona Mexicana for some dinner and a few tasty Pacificos.
The flight to Vegas took about 7 hours with a brief stop somewhere along the way – I can’t even remember where the hell it was – and we arrived in Sin City around 10 – 1 o’clock Maryland time.
The airport was buzzing and the head-pounding TV screen ads for Cirque de Soleil, Blue Men, and an endless stream of don’t miss Vegas shows, made it all feel like we had just landed in a very amped OZ.
We walked out into a warm desert night and caught the shuttle bus to the car rental facility a few miles away from the airport where we joined the long line at the busy Hertz store.
Vegas excels at moving tourists efficiently and over the years I have seen them showcase many cutting edge technologies to make traveling more enjoyable. For instance, they were the first to implement the handheld computer when you turn your car back in. You pull up, they zap your car, out comes a bill, and you are on your way.
After five minutes in the Hertz line, they turned on the slot machine agents. We were directed to what resembled a gambling device with a telephone attached to the side. We pressed the screen and up popped a friendly agent in – I have no idea where – who had us on our way in a matter of minutes. We had ordered a full-sized car but they were out of cars. So we got a brand new Chevy Traverse SUV that seated seven and resembled something that might transport the President. This would prove to be an ace in the hole later on.
I’ve been to Vegas many times and navigating the airport and then getting to the Strip was a breeze. The neon views were intoxicating and the air smelled like flowers.
Most of the wedding party was staying at the Tropicana, but everyone else was arriving the next day, so there was no one else to meet. We parked around back and schlepped our bags to the front lobby.
The Tropicana is old school – as in Rat Pack glory days. It’s all retro reds and whites and has recently undergone an expensive face lift. I chose it because it has a really cool pool, and with hot, sunny days in the forecast, it seemed like a good place to stay. I also liked the fact that it isn’t a destination casino. Meaning, people don’t drop in to check out the Tropicana, like they do at Caesars, Bellagio, Paris, Luxor, New York-New York, Aria, The Venetian, Wynn, or Encore. The only people hanging around the place are staying there. So there’s no riff-raff and it’s a lot quieter than the fancier hotels. Quiet is good. And I figured we’d need some sanctuary over the course of the next few days.
We had reserved a room through Priceline – a king with a balcony overlooking the pool. But by now, it was well after 11, and we were about to get a lesson in modern hotel management. Check-in at most Vegas hotels is at 3, and they steady dole out the rooms with abandon – even those reserved by others.
“Want an upgrade? Well, sure thing, we have a lovely king with a balcony overlooking the pool.”
This is standard operating procedure. When you book a room, the small print says “Subject to Availability”.
We ended up in a very nice room on the fourteenth floor of the Club Tower with a king bed, overlooking McCarron Airport and a large parking lot.
We were way too tired to argue. By now, it was about 3 o’clock east coast time and the bed looked quite inviting.
Tomorrow we’d work out the room situation and get settled in. But for now, it was time to dream.