(griffin's 2013 BotCon adventure)


THUR 20th June
The day had come... well, the day before 'the day' had come.
I managed to get a day off work, and only just had enough Annual Leave to cover it. (had 3/4 of a day left in the Account)
Even though this year's flight was not at the crack of dawn (being a direct flight, and not one via a southern state or New Zealand), I still needed to be sure that I had enough time to do last minute packing and other things for the trip.  If I had been working, I would have gotten home at about midnight, and not had enough time to sleep before the flight.
As it turned out, I had so much stuff to do, that I didn't get to sleep before the flight anyway.

So Thursday night, I packed, printed out paperwork (tour reservations, maps, itinerary, checklists), did computer work with the messagebooard, and cleaned myself up and ready with plenty of time to get to the airport (for once).

FRI 21st June
The check-in cut off was 9am, but I left early enough (by taxi) to get there by 8am.
It took about 15 minutes to check-in, and another 15 minutes to get through the Customs departure processing and security.
After a quick snack/breakfast, I waited at the gate for boarding to commence at 10am.

The plane was named "Hervey Bay", which is a city 4 hours north of Brisbane, where some relatives of mine used to live.
(the name "Longreach" on the front of the plane is the name QANTAS gave for their 747s, like a class name)

10.35 we left, and I actually drifted off to sleep for an hour... because I didn't realise it until an hour later that the seatbelt sign was only then turned off, due to expected turbulance after take-off. (it usually goes off 15-20 minutes after take-off)

Since I was already tired before the trip had even started (from not getting any sleep the night before), I didn't end up watching much on the Personal Entertainment Unit.
I did end up watching the latest Bond movie, and an episode of NCIS that was the first of the latest season (wrapping up a cliffhanger that I watched 9 months ago). I also watched 3 episodes of Mythbusters and played some games (not many good ones, as this was one of the touch-screen units, so no hand controller). I was in the front row of my section, so had a TV unit and meal tray that come out of the arm-rests (instead of the back of the seat in front).
The assotment of movies didn't interest me that much so I wasn't too upset about being to tired to watch anymore than just one. The return journey is a new calendar month, so should have new movies to choose from.
But then, I'll be too tired to watch any of them anyway.

The beef dinner wasn't too bad. And the hot breakfast at the end of the light was one of the better ones I've had too.

Continuing the recent tradition of flights from Australia, this one didn't have a snackbag, but they brought around snacks throughout the flight.... including these pizza portions that are so hot, they scald your hands and tongue. I told them last time that they are way too hot to serve, but they still do it seems.

Being at the front of my section, I had a block of restrooms in front of me... and at one point in the flight, I could hear someone flushing several times... and when this kid came out, he had to call on one of the flight attendants to bring a cleaning kit to help with something that couldn't have been good.

Sleeping on and off during the flight, the 12 hours went by really fast this time. Before I knew it, we were having Breakfast, and landing.
It was 6.40am in Los Angeles when we landed, which was about 10.40pm back in Brisbane (on the same day - Friday).
It's one of the advantages of flying in that direction across the dateline, is that you gain a day. If you sleep on the flight, you wake up to the same day as you left, and it is morning, giving you all day too do stuff.

It was lucky I had 3 hours until the next flight, as I got just about every delay possible this year.
Customs was the usual 20 minute wait, but this year the Customs officer decided to ask a lot of questions about why I was in America, what I was doing, and where I was going.
In previous years when I'm vague with the answers, they don't care and just wave me through. This year I was more forthgiving with the information of the trip, and she was now asking me questions about each bit of it.

Finally through the interregation, I went over to the baggage carousel, and saw that some was aready on it from our flight.  But then, that was it. For the next 25 minutes, we had over half of the passengers from my flight waiting for more luggage to come from the shute.
Two other nearby carousels had started up and unloaded their entire luggage compliment during this time.

It was 7.45 when the luggage started flowing again on our carousel, and after I found mine, I then had an exit queue that was about 300 people long.
At 8.10am, and hour and a half after we landed, I was walking out of the International Terminal.
I had been checked in to the connecting flight when in Brisbane, but I still needed to drop of my bag and clear security... and I only had about 20 minutes before American Airlines had their check-in cut-off.

I didn't have much time to play with, but fortunately at the International Terminal I could drop off my luggage and it would go to my plane from there (the tagging already had Las Vegas on it).  This meant that I was able to quickly dash upstairs to the departure level and check out the toyshop I look at each year.
They had quite a few small-size TFs this time (last September they had just 2 Legion-class), but the prices were more than Australian retail, so I didn't end up buying any of the ones I was missing.  I fiured that if I failed to find them at all during the week at a regular retail store, I could just come back here on my return to Australia and buy them.
(They had Hungrrr for US$13 - should be about US$7 - and Hardshell for US$17 - should be about US$11)

Heading over the Terminal 4 (next door), I went straight up to the security screening gate.  I was in a line of about 10 people, when one of the security staff decided to move me and about 20 behind me to another line... that had at least 50 people in it.
So instead of being about 10 minutes, it took just over 30 minutes (just as I was approaching the x-ray scanners, one of the two had to be closed down for cleaning too, slowing things down evven more.

I was at the gate at 8.50am.  Boarding would have started by now if the arriving plane wasn't late (people were walking off it as I got there).

With the plane being late, I though... excellant, I have time to get some Burger King.

I walk over to where it is located in Terminal 4, and I see a fresh-food "Farmers Market" outlet instead.  What the?

I go to the newsagent nearby and ask what happened to the BK, and the lady said that it was closed for relocation two months ago.

NOOOOOoooooooo............... !!!!!!

I was looking forward to that for weeks.... actually, since my day-trip last September, which had me run out of time due to security delays that time as well.

So I just got some unusual snacks from the newsagent instead.

One of the things I look forward to each time I'm in America is trying snack foods we don't have here.
Those Combos are a favourite. If you are ever in America, you must try them.  Same with the Flipz, but look for the white fudge variety... can't say no to just one pack of them.

At 9.15am they started boarding (it was ironic that the flight actually had a recent schedule change to be 5 minutes earlier... but ended up being 15 minutes later).

A new thing I noticed this year, on this flight and the other ones this trip, was that after the first-class and priority people had been invited to board, they invited passengers on who had small carry-on items that would go under the seat in front of them (they don't slow up boarding by stopping to put a bag in the over-head bin).  So I crammed all my snacks into my backpack, and got on the plane without being stuck in a queue.  I had a window seat, so got on and got comfortable.

We took off at about 9.30am, and I watched out the window at the interesting geological patterns on the ground, from the built up suburban area of LA to the brown arid desert all the way to Vegas.

Our plane ended up circling all the way around Vegas, which gave me a good look at the city and the Hoover Dam.

It was only a short flight, of about 45 minutes.... barely enough time for the drinks cart to do two laps (dispensing and then collecting).  Apparently it is about 4 hours drive from LA.

Las Vegas, Stratosphere Hotel (A) & Hoover Dam (arrow)

Hopping off the plane at Las Vegas at about 10.40am (which was about 3.40am Tuesday back in Brisbane), the first thing I saw when walking out of the gate were rows of slot machines.

They are everywhere in Nevada.

Dispensor had a go at one right off the plane.

He didn't win anything.

Then we saw a Burger King near the gate.

I saw that the menu board had on it the "Memphis Pork" burger that I saw at LA last September, and when I asked for one, just like last September, I was told that it was not available at this outlet... saying that the menu boards are generic.  Such a tease... as it looked quite yummy.

I bought three other burgers though, and carried them out with me, deciding to have them when I got to the hotel, as I'd have some time to wait for the tour pickup (if the Hotel wouldn't check me in).

The Vegas airport had the departure gates separate from the departure/arrivals building, so I had to catch the inter-terminal tram to get my luggage, and then to get a taxi.
Outside it was hot... dry and hot.
Now just keep in mind, just 13 hours ago I was in the middle of winter, and now I was in the middle of summer in an arid/desert environment.
During the night before I left it was about 5 degrees, and now I was in about 40 degree heat.  That was about 35 degrees in about 15 hours. (for Americans, that's about a 60 degree change)

So outside it was hot, and I just wanted to get straight to the hotel, which would be airconditioned...  but when I stepped out of the terminal with my two bags, the queue for a cab was about 200 people long.
It took about 20 minutes to slowly make my way to the head of the queue and get a taxi.
According to the Taxi driver, there was some big Alternative Rock Festival on for three days, starting the day I was there... which would explain all the people and very few rooms left available (and tourist things booking out early).

A map of the lower Las Vegas area, covering the Downtown Casino district to the New Strip and the airport.
The 'A' is where the Stratosphere Hotel is located.
The circled 'Downtown' is the old Casino precinct.
The pink line towards the bottom of the map is the main part of the new Casino precinct (as noted on the map below this one).
The pink 'X' near the bottom of the map is where the famous Las Vegas sign is located.
Right at the bottom, at the Warm Springs Road, is the "South Strip" (noted on the map below this one).

This is a casino map that is easier to identify the different themed casinos.

The Hotel and nearby shops & streets

Some photos on the way to the hotel. We had to drive around the entire Casino strip from the airport to my hotel, so was able to get some first looks at these massive, fancy, expensive (excessive), themed hotels.

The first Casino you see on the Southern end is Mandalay Bay, with it's THEhotel. Apparently the windows are coated or embeded with gold leaf.

Next is the Luxor (the pyramid), Excalibur (castle), and New York New York (on the left with the replica Empire State Building).

A better look at NY NY, with more of the replica city skyline.

Caesers Palace - a Roman themed Hotel, one of the bigger ones, and one of the oldest surviving ones.

In the middle is the golden Trump Hotel... as in Donald Trump.
Funny story about the Trump Hotel, which we were told on the Tour the following day.  Since Donald Trump was at one time Bankrupt, he is currently ineligible to own a gaming license in Nevada... but he built a hotel anyway, either to still cash in on the tourist demand, or to lobby the Nevada politicians to eventually relax the bankruptcy restriction. So for now, apparently his fancy, shiny Vegas hotel, is not able to have a Casino or any gaming in it. (not that he needs the money anyway)
On the right hand side is the Wynn Hotel, and to the left of it is the Encore Hotel.  You'll notice that they look very similar.  When the owner of the Wynn wanted to build a second hotel, I guess he thought it was as good as the first, so named it as such. (an encore to the original)

Getting closer to the Stratosphere.... standing out like a beacon. (at least with this hotel, no matter where you are in, or near, Las Vegas, you can see it to never get lost)

Near the Stratosphere, there were two hotels that were half built (or half-missing, depending on your interpretation).  The blue one in the middle was to be called Fontainebleau, looked like it was just about completed, and the taxi driver told me that it was soon to open. It was going to be the largest LV hotel (based on the number of rooms), but both of my tour operators on the two tours I went on, said that it was actually being DE-constructed.  They said that it was almost completed when the Global Financial Crash occured 5 years ago, but since no one (apparently) wanted to buy it to complete it (and operate it), the building and site have been sold off, and is being stripped.  Apparently it was only 70% completed, and would cost over a Billion dollars to finish, which was more than it was now worth. The grey stripes are where they are currently removing the glass windows. Sounds a bit odd to me... unless it was just too big for any person or company to want to operate.  Things are picking up though, and it probably only needed a few months to outfit it, if it wasn't already.
Anyway, on the left (where the SLS sign is) is another Hotel/Casino that was affected by the GFC. It was originally the Sahara, but was closed down and half-demolished, with plans to reopen in 2014.  It doesn't look like anything is being done to it at the moment though.

Getting closer to the Stratosphere.

Just as the taxi was at the intersection before the hotel, we saw someone "bungy jumping" from the tower... that little black speck between the two guide wires.  (it wasn't a traditional bungy jump with a rope around your ankles - the person is strapped into a harness that is held between two guide wires)

And no... I didn't go on it.

I was at the hotel just on midday, and went to the check-in desk to see if they do early checkins, or to see where I can leave my luggage while on the Hoover Dam tour in couple hours time.
They told me that it would be a $40 fee to be checked in early.  Since I'd paid $200 for a room that can be as cheap as $36 on quieter days, I wasn't about to pay another $50 just to have my bags sitting in a room for 5 hours.

A little bit about the hotel I was staying at... The Stratosphere.
It is the most northern Casino Hotel of the (new) Casino Strip, and could even be claimed that it isn't really part of the Strip as there is still a bit of a gap between it and the row of Casinos on the Strip.  The gap probably would have been filled by now if the GFC didn't hit five years ago (at least 3 abandonded build sites can be seen - one was half built, another (the blue one) was almost completely built but is now being demolished, and there are two giant vacant lots that were bought for the purpose of building Casinos on them, but never started), so for now, the Stratosphere ends up standing alone with about 3 blocks gap between it and the main strip of Casinos.
Its distance from the newer, main part of the strip probably works against it, as is the age of the hotel (one of the older ones, but by no means run down), but the main feature, aside from it being centrally located to both Casino districts (if you like walking and it isn't too hot), is the observation tower.  It is apparently the tallest structure currently in Las Vegas at about 100 storeys high, and people staying at the hotel who paid the extra $15 room amenities fee, gain unlimited access to the tower for everyone in your room (it costs $16 per person per visit to everyone else).

Stratosphere Casino, Hotel & Tower
2000 Las Vegas Boulevard South, Las Vegas, NV, 89104-2597
(702) 380-7777
Check-in time is 3:00pm - Check out time is 11:00am.

I went and left my big bag with the concierge, and wandered off to look around the Hotel/Casino for a little bit, and then sat down near the Tour pickup point and had my 3 burgers...

From left - BBQ Rib Fillet burger, Carolina Whopper, and Alaskan Fish Burger. (they certainly like to tug on the patriotic heart-strings by naming most of their themed burgers after US states)

The BBQ Rib burger was an unusual one, as it had a yellowish bun, THICK-sliced pickles and BBQ sauce with just the "Rib" fillet.

At 1.20pm the pink tour bus arrived and since I was the last of 5 people to be picked up, we headed straight out for Hoover Dam.


We passed through Boulder on the way to the Dam, which was the town that was created for the purpose of housing the workers who built the Dam 80 years ago (in the 1930s).

Approaching the Dam (also known as Lake Meed), I could see the white "bathtub stain" that I saw when flying over it just before landing.  We were told that it was caused by the disolved limestone from upstream coating itself to the rocks of the Lake, and since it doesn't rain much at the Dam itself, the white stain has stayed.

It was also an indication of just how empty the dam currently was at this time.

We got to the Dam at 2.10pm, and drove across it to the other side... which was only then that I was informed that we'd actually crossed into Arizona.  I didn't notice when researching this trip, that since the Colorado River at this point is the state line between Nevada and Arizona, the Dam is actually half in Nevada and half in Arizona.  And since the two states are in different timezones, there are two clocks on the middle of the dam to let you know what time it is, as you cross over the Dam. (at the moment though, daylight saving in Nevada meant that both states were currently the same time)

Our tourguide informed us that the Dam used to be the main roadway for traffic crossing the Colorado River between the two states until September 11, at which time it was assessed a Terrorist target, and trucks were then prohibited from using it.  This apparently resulted in America breaching some North American transport treaty, that was meant to provide dedicated highway access to freight-haulers from Canada to Mexico... so the American government had to rush to build a new road, and bridge to accomodated the trucks (and cars as well, as the road before and after the Dam is slow and winding - which you can see in the google image above).

So we started on the Arizona side first...

Now you can see just how empty the Dam currently is.


In the photo below, on the top of a nearby hill was a gun emplacement.  Six of them were built during World War 2. After the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbour, Hoover Dam became a potential bombing target, but they were never used..

It's quite amazing how empty the dam looks now, after seeing it full in images, and even in the Transformers Movie, which was filmed 7 years ago.

We drove back across the Dam, to where the tourist center was located.

The start and finish years of construction.

An old map, showing the traffic that used to use the dam, before the bypass was built.

It was a long drop...

A few memorials, of those who died during its construction.

The official death count would only include people who died on the construction site... not those who died from injuries sustained from working on the construction site, but were transported to the hospital in Boulder. This kept the number fairly low, to avoid bad publicity back then.

One casualty was their mascot... a stray dog that showed up at the site one day, and stuck around for much of its construction, boosting moral with the workers.  It ended up being run over by a truck, so was buried on the site.  The number 41 in front of it was significant... but I forgot what it meant now.

After we walked around the Dam for a bit, at 3pm we were directed to the main tourist building for a tour of the bowels of the Dam, by the operators of the Dam.

Inside the waiting room, there were three newspapers on the wall, which caught my eye from the other side of the room...

I rushed to take these photos, so unfortunately didn't get good shots.
This one mentions that Paramount paid $110,000 to use the Dam in the Transformers movie. (just the exterior though, as I didn't see anything of the "interior" from the movie on the tour)

After seeing these on the wall, I was surprised that there wasn't any mention of the Transformers movie on the tour... but I guess it has been 6 years now - they probably mentioned it back when the movie was released.

I didn't realise it until typing this up, but the map below (from the waiting room) uses the same aerial photo as the one just a few photos up (from the car park)... but it's here now, so might as well keep it.

We descended down about the equivalent of 30 floors in an elevator, and led into a room that looked out over a giant pipe.  This was one of the two pipes that fed water from the dam into the power generators (the Nevada side).

On one of the walls was a diagram of the different tunnels under the dam. Two feed into the Generators (red dots), while two others can feed water straight through to the river past the dam.  The two grey tunnels are over-flow tunnels, for when the dam was ever at capacity.  The four yellow lines were the original bypass tunnels that were dug out when the dam was built (to keep that section of the river dry). They were later blocked off when the dam was finished.

Walking along a tunnel underground (the camera moved... giving it a rather blurred affect).

Next was the Generator room (the Nevada Generators).

Seven main generators...

...and a small one in the fore-ground, to power the operations of the Dam itself.
Apparently, the electricity that the Dam produces, paid for the cost of the Dam a long time ago... and it is clean energy.

Down another tunnel, to the Elevator, and back upstairs.

A view of the dam wall.

We were in a small museum, of the Dam and its construction.  This was an interesting model, showing how the dam was constructed by pouring blocks of cement, rather than one big pour.  If it had been one continuous pouring of cement, it would never had set/cured, and would have generated so much heat, that it would have cracked and collapsed.  (pipes were buried in the concrete, to have chilled water go through to cool and cure the concrete faster)

You are here...

It was noted that there were six states involved in the haggling of where the dam would go and who would pay for it... as well as who gets what share of the water.  Initially Mexico was the loser of the project, as California and Arizona had access to the water from the Dam (which had effectively reduced the amount flowing downstream through those states)... but since the Colorado River goes through the Mexico before it reaches the gulf, it meant less water for them with no compensation or access to the water stored in the Dam.  Some time later, Mexico was included in some sort of arrangement (not sure what though).

At least with a drought, it makes for some clear photos.

Another model, in the Tourist observation room... showing just what it should look like when it is full.

Dispensor wanted one last photo in front of the Dam before we left...

We left the Dam at 4.30 and headed back to Las Vegas.

Through the haze of some bushfires somewhere in California. You can see the Stratosphere tower dead ahead.  The Casino strip is to the left, and the Downtown district is over to the right.

Driving through the main strip, we dropped off the other four people first.

On the right is one of the oldest surviving Casinos - The Flamingo - currently under renovation.  After being surrounded now by all the fancy new Casinos (many of which had to knock down older ones), this one looks out of place now.

On a street corner was a busker in a Bumblebee costume.  Odd as that may be (it's not a common thing for someone to just stand in a costume expecting people to pay money), there were actually two different Bumblebee's - one here, and one in the Downtown District (later in the evening).

Okay... hands up those of you who were reading the promo sign for the Mirage.
Huh, what Mirage sign?   :p

There was actually a good reason for me taking that photo.
I can't remember what it was now though....
Just kidding.  I kept seeing lots of advertising for callgirls, prostitutes, escorts... or whatever you want to call them.
I also saw lots of churches too... to try to guilt the sinners I guess.

The Venetian - a Venice themed Casino/Hotel, complete with canals inside and outside.

Treasure Island Casino/Hotel has its own pirate ship and skull island.

Circus Circus, complete with its own circus tent out the front, and a themepark out the back (the shiny red building).

I was the last to be dropped off at my hotel at 5.20pm.
I went inside, checked in and got my luggage.... and went up to my room.

Not a great room, especially since I was paying $200 for it (due to the weekend being close to sold out), as it was about standard size and didn't even have any tea/coffee/kettle in the room. If I had got this room at its cheapest rate of $36, I wouldn't have cared what the room looked like.  I would have slept on the floor at that price.

I specifically booked a room that was a the front of the Hotel, so that I could look out towards the main Strip.... just so that there was something a little more interesting to look at than what is out the back of the hotel.
I was on the 20th floor, so was able to see a little bit of the Strip.
In the end it didn't matter, as I was going to go up the Observation tower soon anyway.

Looking to the left.

And off to the right.

After getting cleaned up (I'd been in the same clothes for over a day now, and in the heat of Vegas), I went downstairs to get access to the Tower before it got dark - I wanted to see Las Vegas by day and by night.

It was 6.45pm when I went up the tower, and it looked like the sun was still a couple hours away from setting, so I took some photos of the view, and decided that I'd come back up here after dark, and take more photos with everything lit up.

On the map below, it shows the four rides on offer.  Hmmm... there was an outdoor observation deck as well. I'll have to remember that one for next time.

The Downtown district.

Out towards where Hoover Dam is.

And the Casino Strip. (with the airport on the left)
You can see up until the bend in the road, which is about midway down the strip.
Note the blue Fontainebleau tower and the orange Sahara in front of it (both of which show signs of deconstruction)... and to the right of the blue tower is a construction site which was going to be the Echelon.
In front of those two are some big vacant lots, so if the GFC hadn't hit Las Vegas, the Stratosphere would probably have become part of the Strip by now.
From what I read, the newer Strip was progressively building from the bend in the road, down towards the south (away from the Stratosphere), but when the strip reached a certain point away from the built up part of the LV, they started building back towards Downtown, which would have included the Stratosphere within a few years.  After a pause of 5-6 years, it looks like that might slowly start to happen again.

A bit about The Echelon - it would have been a $4 Billion project, making it the largest Hotel on the Strip, but went into bankruptcy during the GFC. Just 3 months ago the property sold for just $350 Million to a Malaysian company who plan to have something built there by 2016.

Over to the far right in the photo above there is a shiny red structure.  That's part of the Circus Circus Hotel/Casino. It is an amusement park at the back of the Hotel block, and at the front they have an actual Circus tent. It is one of the oldest surviving Casino/Hotels on the Strip (as many of the older ones keep getting bought and demolished, to make room for bigger and fancier Hotels).

Looking up, was one of the rides - it sends a cart down a short track, that juts out over the edge.  When the cart gets to the end, the track then drops down as if it has suddenly been knocked loose.

It was 7.30pm when I stepped outside, so it was already starting to cool down, making it a good time to be walking around Vegas. I wanted to see as much of the Strip during the day as I could, and then see a little of it at night, while it is lit up.

Looking straight up at the Observation Tower.

All day (Friday) I kept seeing girls wearing very little, but had wooly boots.  Apparently it was something a lot of girls were doing for the music festival.
Not too sure about the one in red though...

The half-demolished Sahara Hotel.

I came across these boxes, which I thought at first were just newspaper dispensers...
Nope.  They were magazine dispensers... of al the different girls you could call up to come to your room.  Not one, but six boxes... some with up to three different catalogues!
Between the gambling, the prostitutes and the care-free nature of weddings, it's definitely a sin city.

A closer look at the Fontaineblue, being stripped.

Probably a favourite for families, with the Circus in the front and the 25 rides and attractions in the Amusement park out the back.

The abandoned Echelon construction site.

I found a Walgreens store (cross between a chemist and a convenience store) by about 8.30pm, which stocks smaller Transformers toys, so bought my first toy for the trip - Trailcutter.

I only managed to get about 6 blocks along the Strip before it got dark, and I was getting tired after a long day (and no sleep the night before). I didn't like that I wasn't going to be getting far tonight, but told myself that the tour tomorrow should cover the rest of it... and it would be a good excuse to come back another year (to see the rest).
I came across a Dennys (a restaurant chain in America) which I'd never been in before, and bought a few items for dinner.  I wan't able to eat it all, so got some of it packed up to go.

Bacon Burbon Burger, Sampler plate (onion rings, chicken bits, deepfried cheese sticks), 2 pancakes. (I only bought 2 for $2, but you could have all-you-can-eat for $4!)
The person serving me at Dennys told me about a toy/collectables shop in Vegas, and gave me the address... but first I wanted to walk a bit further down the Strip, until I felt too tired to go further.  But since he told me that the toy store was open until midnight, I wanted to get down there by around 11pm.

This looked to be the same guy as earlier in the day, but on a different intersection.

Treasure Island Casino/Hotel is one of 3 or 4 that have something happening outside each night to attract the tourists.  The Bellagio has a fountain light-show, and the Mirage has an erupting volcano... while this one has a short pirate show four times a night.  This was where I saw that they had a second pirate ship, and this one was part of a restaurant block that looked like an old sea port.

This was as far as I got on this night, where the Venetian was located... looking down the bend in the road to all the glittering lights I was yet to see.

I crossed the road (one of the pedestrian over-passes) and started walking back along the other side of the road, looking for a taxi rank.

The Stratosphere in the distance... I had walked a fair distance, but was only barely into the Strip though.  Looking on the map later, I was a bit disappointed at just how little of the Strip I had actually gotten into.

Found another Walgreens, and found another Transformers toy I wanted (Starscream). They are slightly higher than regular US pricing, but still cheaper than Australian... and meant less for me to have to worry about later (in case they were hard to find in regular stores or at the convention).

It was about 10.30pm when I come back to where the Treasure Island Casino was (while I was on the other side of the road now), so I decided to stop and wait for the show that was about to start.  It was only a minute or two away, so I didn't have time to get to a crossing and get closer. Besides, it was so packed at this time now, I wouldn't have gotten a good spot to see it anyway.

The story was about Sirens taking over a pirate ship, and keeping one of the crew prisoner.

Then along comes another pirate ship to rescue the captive. (this was the ship near the Skull face - it was moving about 50 meters along the waterway to face off the white ship)

It parked on the right of this photo.

Then they "fired" at each other (a fireworks display).

The red ship lost out though, and was made to look like it was sinking, by descending a little at an angle into the water.

The captive was able to convince the Sirens to let him go (with a bit of singing), and it was finished off by some fireworks into the sky.

It was about 11pm when I finally found some taxis waiting at a hotel (Wynn). I hopped in one and gave him the address of the toy shop... The Dennys on Fremont Street.

As we pulled out of the Wynn hotel, the red ship was already back to its spot.

We drove north, past the Stratosphere, and then we kept going further than I was expecting.  I thought it was only meant to be a couple blocks from the Stratosphere so that I could just walk back when I was done, but the further we went, the more I was hoping that we were going somewhere busy enough to have Taxis easy enough to find and use.

After a couple minutes he stopped right in the Downtown Casino district, so this was quite a welcome surprise, as it meant I would be able to see this area when it was all lit up with the night lights.
I knew the street name sounded familiar, but didn't realise it was the Downtown Casino district.

Ignoring all the flashing lights and sounds, I began by looking around for the toy store. (yeah, I had my priorities in order)
I ended up finding it quite easily, and there was indeed a lot of toys inside, including a lot of Transformers toys.

Right up in the top corner was a box for the GIJoe aircraft carrier USS Flagg... possibly the largest actionfigure playset of the 80s. If not, of all time. Just look at the various Transformers boxes beneath it for a sense of scale.

As excited as I was at seeing for the first time a USS Flagg box, I then found the actual toy. I was so excited at having finally seen one of these suckers (it is so big, it is the size of a kid's bed... and I don't think it was ever released in Australia), it didn't bother me that I wasn't seeing anything that I really wanted.

I bought a Deluxe Insecticon Venom, because I thought it was the one I had broken... but later I worked it out to be Barrage that I needed. Fortunately they didn't have a Barrage, otherwise I would have been kicking myself even more than I already was (for buying a toy that I don't need). At least it was only about $20 (good condition, but no weapons).

Then near the toy store was a fast food restaurant that I'd read about online a few years back (for being unhealthy)... Heart Attack Grill.

I bought a small burger from there to sample, and it was just a single - you could get up to eight layers. I only bought the single, because I was still full from dinner, and still had the burger and onion rings from Dennys to have when I got back to the hotel.

The staff were dressed up as doctors and nurses, and the place had a medical theme to it.

The mural on the back wall was amusing, as it had various Fast Food characters done up to look like "The Last Supper". I recognise about 8 of them - the chiuaua from Taco Bell, Ronald McDonald, Wendy from Wendy's, the snowman from Jack in the Box, Julius Ceaser from Ceaser's Pizza, the donut boy (which I recognise more from the Simpsons version), Col Sanders, and the King from Burger King. Most of the others look familiar too, but I can't name them.

The burger... which ended up missing the tomato and chilli.  Another thing I have to go back to Vegas for. :p

I headed back to the Fremont Casino "mall", and took some photos. I wasn't planning to be there for long as it was almost midnight and I was getting tired.  Since this trip to Vegas had to be cut down to just two days and one night, it was only going to be more of a recon trip, than a "see as much as I can" trip.  I still covered as much ground as I could though, so that next time I'm in America (with friends), I have a good idea what to do and where to go.

This is the old district, that people might recognise from movies set in Las Vegas before the 80s. (like one of the Bond Movies, an Austin Powers movie, and even Xmen First Class)

This was the other Bumblebee costume busker.  This one used the official Roleplay Helmet and Roleplay Gun.

This district was currently undergoing a long-term rejuvination project, to compete with the new strip.
This was one of the free concerts, which would include some known names throughout the summer months.... including Third Eye Blind, Live, Presidents of USA.

And here we go again...
Which did you see first - the flying fox ride on the left, or the girls dancing on the bar on the right...
Huh, what?  A ride? Where? :p

So many pretty lights... and yet, it still looks dated and old.

After walking back through the enclosed mall of the Downtown casino district, I found a taxi rank, and grabbed one to take me back to the hotel.  There was a bus service there, running between the two Casino districts, but I couldn't be bothered to work it out and wait for one.  The taxis are so much cheaper in America than Australia, it wasn't a lot of money to hop in one for 5-10 minutes.  And I usually round up to the next $20, or add at least $10 onto the total as a tip... it is amazing to see how much they treat you like royalty when you give them just $10 or $20 as a tip. It's also quite sad that many of those jobs pay so little, that they need the tips for them to survive.

I actually walked to the first taxi in the taxi rank, but the driver asked me where I was going.  Since it wasn't far away, he waved down an approaching taxi for me to use... so I gave the driver of that one a big tip, and hoped that if they ran into each other again, the first driver would find out about what he missed.

It was 12.30 by the time I was back at the hotel.  I went up to my room to drop off the stuff I had bought during the night.

In the elevator I took this photo, as I have never noticed before in a building that had skipped the number 13... due to superstition.

The view from my room at night.

I went up to the observations tower to take some photos of Vegas by night.

The Strip.

And Downtown.

The giftshop up on the observation deck, had these t-shirts on the wall that I found amusing.

I then headed down to the casino floor, to have some fun before heading up to bed.

It was already 1am by this stage, as I walked around a bit, looking at the games on offer.

I ended up playing some blackjack... which took about 10 minutes to burn through $100 at $5 per hand. Then two spins of Roulette ($20 of chips), which landed on 0 on the second spin, cleaning me out.
So then I went over to a Star Wars slot machine, which was a lot more fun, because you could earn "bonus" games, in which you could play out scenes from the original trilogy to earn extra credits.  Not only was it more fun, but it took a lot longer to use up the money I put in, so better value.  I ended up spending $40 and it lasted an hour.
Plus, if you are seen to be sitting at the slot machines for a while, you get offered free drinks by the staff.

It was a little after 3am when I finally had to head back to my room, as I was dead tired by now.
I ate the two burgers I bought earlier in the evening, watched some TV, checked out the messageboard on the computer, and went to bed at about 5am.

It was a lot later than I was planning to be asleep, because I had to be up by 9am so that I could check in time to get to where the Tour started on the next day.
At least I didn't have to worry about packing, as I the only things I unpacked were a change of clothes.

Go to next day - Saturday June 22nd.

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***All pictures in this convention report are mine unless noted or watermarked. Any that are borrowed, have the source credited/noted.  If you want to use/borrow any of my photos, all I ask is for you to please credit the source as well. I try to take as many of my own photos as possible, and usually only resort to using others if I failed to get something, or my photo wasn't clear enough.

OZFORMERS - The Australian (and Asia) Transformers Fansite for News and Interaction (started way back in 1996 - try to find a Transfan community that's older)
BotCon website - The official Collector Club and Convention website
To contact me --> griffin @ otca.com.au