Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Frozen Fury scouting trip

Like Brett Farve, I'm back.

I just completed a hat trick of sorts - my third trip to Vegas in six weeks.

First trip was for a fight, then a concert, followed by this weekend's scouting trip. You see, for the last few trips to Frozen Fury we've stayed at the same hotel, ate at the same restaurants, hung out the same places...basically, we've been in a rut. It's been fun, if not a little predictable.

So, given that we're about a month out, I decided to mix things up a bit this year. Channeling my inner Mark Yannetti I headed out to Vegas this past weekend to scout out some new places.

If you were hoping this blog entry would provide more hard hitting hockey insight, you might want to lower those expectations for today. The following is only loosely related to hockey, as its a bit of a Frozen Fury primer. I'll return later in the week with more NHL related fun. For now, not everything about Vegas stays in Vegas...

The 10 things things I learned this weekend:

* When stopping in Baker to use the restroom, go to Arbys. Why? Because nobody else does. The line at Burger King is ridiculously long, while nobody is at Arbys. NOTE: This is new information, as the Starbucks used to be the place to go. However, I guess nobody was going there either, as the coffee house is now gone. Hopefully Arbys stays open at least through the end of September.

* Driving home on Monday is the only way to go. On my two previous trips we came back on Sunday due to others in my party needing to get back to SoCal. This time we came home on Monday without any traffic! Man that makes all the difference in the world. Hotel rooms in Vegas are practically free on Sundays. I'm never coming home on Sunday again if I can help it.

* For nearly a year people have been saying how dead Vegas is. I just haven't seen it until this weekend. Sure, the deals have been better the last 8 months or so. Yet, every time I've been to sin city its been packed with people...until this weekend. I was at the Foundation Room at 9:30 on Saturday night for drinks before hitting the town. There were four people - just to make sure you read that right, FOUR other people - in the entire place. It was scary it was so dead. However, it made the cut for the Frozen Fury itinerary. The place is way better than the LA version.

* In complete contrast to the normally snobbish vibe in the Foundation Room is Divebar - without a doubt THE BEST rock n roll bar in Vegas. Just 10 minutes off the strip, they feature $3 beers and great bands (usually with NO cover charge). This was my third time there and I just love the place. This place continues to hold a permanent spot on on all future itineraries.

* After years of wondering, I finally got the answer to why the Del Taco's in Barstow are so much better than other Del Taco's. Little did I know, Del Taco originated in Barstow. Their bean and cheese burritos are light years better than the one sold around the corner from your house. And they still rock the old school "small" taco salad that my local DT abandoned decades ago. Footnote - the best place to eat after a night of drinking at the aforementioned Divebar is - you guessed it - Del Taco (on Tropicana Blvd, just two blocks away).

* On the subject of fast food, word to the wise...don't eat at In-n-Out in Vegas. Upon hitting town I was hungry and thought "hey lets stop there before checking in"." Well, a 45 minute wait just to order killed that idea. We left immediately. I know some people are obsessed with In-N-Out, but come on people, its just a hamburger. I'm not waiting 45 minutes just to ORDER.

* When its time to hit the pool, of course you have the great scenes at the Hard Rock and the Palms, yet I'm here to tell you the private cabanas at Mandalay Bay make my "Best of Vegas" list. Yep, we'll be back there in September. Great place to get our pre-game drink on.

* Speaking of drinking, Jager bombs should be done in moderation. I probably didn't need to go to Vegas to learn that one though, did I?

* Tired of dropping your money in the casino? How about catching a movie? The theater at the Palms has very comfortable seats. However, you may want to steer clear of "The Goods". Sure, there are some funny lines. Overall, I was extremely disappointed.

* Despite my 8-10 trips to Vegas a year, I'm not much of a gambler. I prefer to spend my money on the more tangible entertainment, rather than leaving it on the tables or in the slots. Like everybody else though, I can't always resist the urge. I dropped a 20 in one of the new Happy Days slot machines this weekend while killing time. Now we've all seen the "bonus" features they've been adding in to the video slots for years. But just when you thought you had seen it all, here's a new one. When you cash out to collect your winnings on this machine, it gives you another bonus. Yes, a bonus when you're getting up to walk away! What?!?! How weird. So I picked one of the five records in the jukebox bonus, which revealed 10 free spins. I won $38. That's a nice little parting gift, especially considering I had already committed to moving on. I'll take $38. Heck, that's another drink at the Foundation Room.

Like the Kings, after reflecting on last year, overall I like what we have. There will be a few tweaks to the itinerary. We'll add a piece here and there, take away a piece or two. Yet, the core will be same. Our itinerary is pretty solid.

Hope to see most of you in Vegas next month for Frozen Fury. As the years go by I remember less about the actual games and more about the surrounding experiences. My peeps never disappoint. In fact, the stories usually get better as the years move on.


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