Letters From a Bus
April 2008: Springtime Desert
4th entry for April
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Las Vegas Entertainment

Las Vegas, NV, Day Twelve at Oasis Las Vegas RV Resort, Site: 180

Friday, April 11, 2008 — Ten Months

It is a great luxury to be in an entertainment capital like Las Vegas and then be able to take time out to rest and relax.  Other than the noise of the freeway traffic, we like this RV resort.  We feel at home and comfortable here.  The weather is moderate and that suits me fine.  It is a little too windy right now but neither too hot nor too cold.  We sit outside on our concrete patio once in awhile but not a lot.  We haven't tried to BBQ.  Sitting when there is shade is good and sometimes it feels pleasant to sit in the sun.  However, generally, the freeway noise gets to us after awhile or it gets too windy or hot.  However, I've seen some couples sit outside almost all day every day, sometimes visiting with other couples.  Their skin is of the dark brown leathery variety so I would peg them as desert habitués — desert rats….  It is not a look I wish to emulate.

I was ready for a day of rest after our tour of Hoover Dam on Friday, so we spent Saturday, April fifth, hanging out at the Oasis.  After walking the dogs we decided to experience the benefits of being at a resort by sitting by the pool for a while.  We didn’t go so far as to put on bathing suits but we found a table under a tree and sat in the shade.  A side benefit was that I found a take-and-leave library in the clubhouse and I am out of books.  I scored a brand new Tom Wolf hardback, “A Man in Full”.  Turns out I read it years ago but it’s worth a second read — good plot, fascinating characters and lively writing….

Site 180 at Oasis Las Vegas RV Resort. 4/5/08
Dennis relaxes on our little patio pad while we have shade. The site next to us is temporarily empty. 4/5/08
This freeway sign for Mandalay Bay dominates our area. It is very visible both day and night. 4/5/08
This is the patio of our neighbors next to our bus. A pine tree is close to our living room window, but not scraping it. 4/5/08
We've gone back to walking the dogs to the central park. I'm walking Margot and trying to train her with treats. She needs to calm down when she sees other dogs. 4/5/08
Above left, we sit at a table by the hot tub. Above right, is the adult's pool. (Below us is the kid's pool.) Below, the tree by the pool is just putting out green leaves. Below left, a back entrance into the Golden Nugget as seen from the second level of the garage 4/5/08

By the next day we were ready to go exploring again so we took off to find the “Fremont Experience.”  Fremont St. crosses the northern part of the strip.  It is located between Main St. and Fourth Street.  We simply drove north on Las Vegas Blvd to Bridget St., turned left and parked in the Golden Nugget garage.  Most of the hotel garages are free but at the Golden Nugget we had to get our ticket validated for three hours of free parking.

The Golden Nugget was a pleasant surprise to me.  It is an older hotel but it has been renovated.  I thought it was very pretty and I liked it very much.  On a smaller scale than the huge fantasy resorts, this is a hotel that seems beautiful and special but also welcoming and comfortable.  Windows and halls surround the centrally located pool and the stage centerpiece there is a huge fish tank where swimmers are separated from sharks only by the aquarium glass.  A deck where sunbathers can look down on the pool tops the tank.  A waterfall descends from the deck to the pool. 

The pool at the Golden Nugget has suntan decks above a huge aquarium. You can swim over the the large dark window to look into the tank. 4/5/08
After walking around the hotel we found a table with a view of the pool in the Carson St. Café.  The food and service were excellent and prices were reasonable.  While we were there I saw advertisements for “Defending the Caveman” playing in the theater at the Golden Nugget.   The solo play opened in San Francisco in 1991 and I remembered hearing couples raving about it on the local news. I knew Dennis would enjoy it too, so while we were there we went and got tickets ($57.95 each) for the Wednesday performance.

Fremont Street has the covering with all the neon lights.  Of course we need to see it at night.  By day, it is mildly interesting.  For me, there was little of interest in the blocks we walked.  I doubt that we are typical, however.  We are not a fun couple.  We don’t gamble and we don’t buy tourist trinkets, gifts or clothes.  It all goes to restaurants and shows….

The Carson St. Cafe at the Golden Nugget looks out onto the pool. 4/5/08
The Fremont Street Experience from Main St. to Fourth St. (below). 4/5/08

Actually, my wish to see some shows (but not spend too much money) got us into a bit of trouble.  As we strolled down Fremont St. near the Golden Nugget a cheerful woman approached us. She asked if we wanted some free coupons to see shows.  She pulled us into a store and a woman at a booth showed us a booklet of free shows.  You guessed it.  All we had to do was attend a timeshare presentation.  Now normally Dennis is dead set against these so I deferred to him but they said it would only take two hours — tops three hours, if we didn’t get into conversations and ask a lot of questions.  In exchange we could earn two fifty-dollar tickets to see “Mamma Mia” and we would be served a free lunch.  The location of the presentation was in the south a few blocks from our Oasis RV Resort so we could drive to it.  They told us not to say that we lived in an RV and that we should say we were staying at the Golden Nugget.  So we agreed. (How easily we were corrupted!)

The next day, Monday morning at eleven, we presented ourselves at a shopping mall and put ourselves into the tender mercies of RCI Grandview Timeshare.  Actually it wasn’t that bad, but a terrible waste of time, as we didn’t get out of there until five hours later! Had been less the good students, asked less questions and appeared more forbidding, we might have been able to cut off an hour — I’m not sure.  Unfortunately, I really liked our sales rep, Ane´, who was charming, sassy and fun.  She had just returned from Atlantic City and said she did gigs with the Charelles.  In many ways we

were on the same wavelength and I had a good time with her.  Our lunch was a choice of meats to put into little deli rolls with envelopes of mustard and mayo.  We ate while she explained the entire deal about how Las Vegas is the best location and gives you clout to go wherever else you want to go.  (We were talking Europe or Hawaii because we can’t drive our RV there.)  She explained the points system. 

Eventually she drove us to some high-rise towers further south and we toured the premises and condo rooms.  It was very nice but — ho hum.  I didn’t want to be there. 

“Why not?” Ane´ asked. 

“No room service,” I answered.  She liked that.  It cracked her up.

Back at the sales rooms she brought in a very pleasant man who was our closer.  I think he also managed the room.  He had the smooth, sleek air of a satisfied man who has figured out how to conquer and control his world.  A Cheshire cat, he reminded me of my sales manager when I worked as a headhunter. He was very convincing and kept the figures coming while he improved his offer for a two apt. suite from

Grandview Las Vegas, an RCI timeshare, looking towards the pool. 04/07/08

33K to 15K, increased our vacation time to four weeks and added a bunch of points.  It seemed like a great deal.  How could we turn it down?  By then I was embarrassed that we’d lied about staying at the Golden Nugget instead of confessing that we live in an RV.  But it was too late.  We were tempted but not enough to put down money without sleeping on the decision first.  Upon inquiry he said they run 300 people through every day and average sales of ten percent.  I’m sure he got a percentage of each sale as he seemed sanguine about the outcome.  But poor Ane´ was tied down to her own personal sales — and we failed her.  Finally we said goodbye to them but we were turned over to another very pleasant young man who had something else to sell.  We could buy the right to use the RCI timeshare travel and hotel system without actually owning a timeshare unit.  Finally we said goodbye to him and we got to exchange our coupon for two ticket vouchers.  Mamma Mia!  The two of us earned $10 / hr for five wasted hours. We were glad to get out of there. 

Later I did some research on the Internet.  Thank goodness we didn’t buy — but many do.  They don’t have the skills to say no and stick to it.  Young people get pushed into debt they can’t afford.  And, they can’t get rid of their timeshares when they put them up for sale.  They are selling on the Internet for 15K and less.  Read this entry and the responses to, “My RCI Timeshare Horror story — The Grandview Las Vegas” on a webpage of “Tips and Suggestions Before Buying a Timeshare.” It's sad.   http://rcivip.com/2007/my-rci-adventure-grandview-las-vegas/

We hadn’t really eaten all day and we felt restless so we soon set out again.  We decided to go to Mandalay Bay and present our vouchers to exchange them for the best possible night with the best possible seats.  For our price range (cheap) we got very good balcony seats for Thursday night.

On our way out we paused to look at the various restaurant menus.  On the spur of the moment we chose Red Square.  It looked like it was going to be very expensive but it also offered unique dishes and an intriguing Russian-inspired decor.  Billed as a signature restaurant it offers Continental, Russian cuisine.  I am so very glad we chose to stay and eat at Red Square.  We had an absolutely wonderful time there.

Our waitress, Lisa, was very good to us.  She suggested we split a Lobster Bisque starter ($18) and also split my entree choice, Strozapretti Stroganoff (Filet Mignon Tips with Strozapretti Pasta, Ragout of Mushrooms & Peas, Shoestring Potatoes, Crème Fraiche $36.)  Thus encouraged, Dennis ordered a “Rude Cosmo-not” (Patron Silver Tequila, Cointreau, Cranberry, Pineapple and Fresh Squeezed Lime Juices with a bit of Simple Syrup, Salted Rim garnished with Lime Wedge  $14.)  I must be satisfied with my non-alcoholic drinks but I stole a sip and we both loved it.  Lisa brought us two full bowls of the bisque and charged us for one.  It was divine.  The stroganoff was very unusual and just superb.  We finished with Strawberries Romanoff (Fresh strawberries, whipped cream, Gran Marnier Sabayon $12.)  As a rule I’m not that interested in cooking, but this is food I would try to duplicate.  Dennis agrees.

Over dessert, the manager approached to talk to us.  He had the menu duplicated for me.  I asked about a door in the corner near the bar and he

Red Square, Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas. The CCCP entrance leads to the vault. 04/07/08
told us all about the Red Square “exclusive vodka vault.”  It is kept at zero degrees.  Guests, (generally groups of men), enter the vault to “do shots off Vladimir Lenin’s head” from over 200 varieties of “the world’s finest vodkas starting at $200.”  They are dressed in full length Russian fur or authentic Russian military coat and cap.  A “Vodka Goddess” guides them through their experience.  Well how cool is that? — no pun intended…  I don’t want to drink the vodka.  I just want to wear furs and witness this event and see the interior of this vault….

I later discovered that this restaurant has been featured on the Food Network, the Travel Channel and in magazines.  Playboy Magazine voted the vault Best Bar in America.  We stumbled onto a good one.

Dennis enjoys a Rude Cosmo-not from the bar. Upper right, Vodka is kept stored at zero degrees. 04/07/08
Elsa is entranced by the large wall murals. 04/07/08
No frivolous personalities in these murals. I doubt they — or Lenin, would approve of our Strawberries Romanoff. 04/07/08

On Wednesday night we returned to the Golden Nugget and had dinner in the Carson St. Café before going upstairs to attend Kevin Burke’s performance of “Defending the Caveman.”   Caveman opened on Broadway in 1995.  It holds the record as the longest running solo play in Broadway history.  Rob Becker wrote it over a 3-year period during which he made an informal study of anthropology, prehistory, psychology, sociology and mythology. With compassion as well as humor, Becker outlined the idea that there are real reasons for our differences, possibly even genetic reasons whose origins are buried in the millennia of human evolution.  Instead of judging the opposite sex according to one's own gender based standards, it is possible to recognize the differences and accept them without hostile judgment.  There are nine cavemen performing around the country.  We saw Kevin Burke who starred in the Broadway tour of Defending the Caveman.  The play is hysterically funny and so is Kevin.  We had a great time.

Dinner in the Carson St. Cafe before seeing Defending the Caveman in the Golden Nugget. 04/09/08
Above, the Caveman stage set at the Golden Nugget. Right, Kevin Burke channels the caveman. 04/09/08
Left, the theater in the Golden Nugget is elegant with an art deco style . 04/09/08

This was our entertainment week. Thursday evening we came back to the Mandalay Bay to use our hard won tickets to see Mamma Mia.

I love the music of ABBA and I’ve been curious to see the musical since it’s London premiere in 1999.  So I jumped at the opportunity to see it here in Las Vegas.  Mamma Mia! is based on the songs of ABBA.  ABBA was a Swedish pop group active from 1972-1982 and one of the most internationally popular rock groups of all-time.  The musical with a book by British playwright Catherine Johnson, is based on the songs of ABBA, composed by Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus.  It is an example of a jukebox musical, and is notable for popularizing the genre. The musical includes such hits as "Super Trouper", "Dancing Queen", "Knowing Me, Knowing You", "Thank You for the Music", "Money, Money, Money", "The Winner Takes It All", "Voulez Vous", "I Have A Dream" and "SOS".  As of July 2003, over ten million people have seen it worldwide.

It's a delightful musical and we had a wonderful evening.

Left, we had dinner in the Mandalay Bay at Wolfgang Puck's Trattoria Del Lupo before going into the "Mamma Mia" theater, above.

In Phoenix we searched in vain for a large public park where we could walk the dogs.  In Las Vegas we discovered Sunset Park near the post office and opposite the airport.  A huge amount of square acreage, it runs about three quarters of a mile along Sunset St. and about half a mile along Eastern St.  All of that area is covered with lawns except for the large oval lake that is available to fisherman.  This park has something for everyone.  One corner is a frisby course.  There are volleyball courts, jogging paths, dog run parks, and playgrounds for younger and older children as well as the lake.  It is amazing.  The breadth of the park offered us an opportunity to take a long walk and there was enough space for our dogs to run merrily in circles and from tree to tree as they follow their noses.  It is a wonderful place and we thank the city of Las Vegas for making it available to it’s citizens. 

Several times we drove to this park to walk the dogs.

We plan to leave Las Vegas on April fifteenth, so we only have a few days left to pack in more sightseeing.  We want to see the Venetian and we were told to drive over to Pahrump and we want to see one more show.  Our next few days should be packed with activities. 
Elsa Walton, Oasis Las Vegas RV Resort, Las Vegas, NV, Friday, April 11, 2008