Monday, October 25, 2010

Travel Conclusion

4:30 a.m. Too many weeks on the road

Las Vegas... Sin City... Gateway to the rest... Last week, as the final stop in my tripartite trade show travel (three shows in three weeks), Nevada's premier gambling mecca became my home. I normally stay at the Westin - my favorite off the strip hotel - or one of the Venetian properties. Both, however were booked up, so I went with the Mirage.

At first blush, as I entered the lobby, I thought what a sad little place. The ceilings seemed low and kind of dark. There was no organization to the check-in process (which took an unduly long amount of time). And overall, after two weeks of travel, I wanted something light and airy, not slightly clammy feeling and dark. Finally, after a nice clerk checked me in, I found myself on the 11th floor, trudging down one of those low-ceilinged halls that seem to extend forever in the palaces of excess that populate the city. My doorway was only one or two away from the absolute end of the hall. That made it about a football field's distance from the elevator or the ice machine. Honestly, after all of the travel, it kind of rankled me (that is a term I have always pined to utilize (that is yet another)). But there were some benefits to the outpost location that became more apparent as my stay progressed - I'll get to those later.

I opened the door to my room, and was pleasantly surprised to be greeted by a somewhat tasteful, passably clean, and... wait for it... airy room. I gasped, no kidding, as I realized that the windows actually opened in the room. Who knew? Since I hadn't lost any money yet, I was only tempted to inhale the fresh(ish) air, and not to fling myself out into the afternoon sky. I checked the bed for bugs - this is something I always do. One apparently cannot be too careful anymore. And, finding no critters lurking, I proceeded to unpack in the nice room, with its views of both the Strip and the mountains in the distance.

I was pretty tired from the travel and a good run the day before, but I nevertheless changed into shorts, trudged back up the hall, and went downstairs. Since it was raining (a true oddity for Vegas), I found the cardio-center and did a quick workout. The guy at the desk was nice and helpful. After the treadmill, I showered and then went to dinner at a sushi place across the boulevard with a co-worker. It wouldn't be until the next day that I'd finally do a run on the Strip.

The next day I awoke at 4:30 a.m. I had been working on the East Coast for the past couple of weeks, so it somehow felt as thought I had slept in, with the three hour time difference and all... I was looking forward to a run, but it was too early. I grabbed a small $4 cup of coffee (no kidding - and actually $5 with tip) from another very nice guy in the casino, and then went back up to my room to continue reading the running and philosophy book I've been wading through for the past couple of weeks. When 6 a.m. finally rolled around, I went back along the hallway, down to the lobby, and out onto the Strip. I was instantly surrounded by people running. And this happened the next day as well. It was amazing, really, because outside of Austin, TX, I have never visited a place that had more early morning runners in one place than Las Vegas.

For years I had heard from other runners that the Strip is a great place to run in the mornings. And, while it was nice to be around other runners, I can honestly say that the Strip is not a good place to run ever. I did two runs of approximately 6 miles each on two subsequent mornings, and didn't really enjoy either one. The Strip simply has too much traffic and emissions , too many curb cuts, too many scary drunk or drugged people (staggering somewhere...home?), and too much noise (blasting so loudly from speakers in front of the various properties that you can't hear your own MP3 player), that the run really isn't fun. It is an interesting route, but I found it utterly impossible to get into a flow. And it was pretty depressing seeing some of the homeless types sleeping wherever they could find a safe spot as I got further out of the center. So, now I can say been there, done that, but I don't plan to do it again.

Now to return to two earlier topics. First off, I came to actually appreciate the Mirage. The rooms were nice. The staff of the hotel is actually the nicest I've encountered on my 20+ trips to Vegas. The amenities (cardio-room, the snack shop, the Starbucks) were all good as well. I would happily stay there again. And I would ask for a room at the end of a hall. Because of the way Vegas is, the room requiring a hike was a wonderful insulation against the noisy late-night revelers that populate the city. I can honestly say that my stay at the Mirage was the most restful I've ever had in Sin City. After initially being unimpressed, the Mirage grew on me. I would highly recommend it as a nice place to stay the next time you find yourself in the glowing city in the desert.

Finally, to return to another comment; if you do travel a lot, you can check out places you are staying by going here . I use it. I cannot vouch for its accuracy, but it does serve to remind me to check things once I'm in a room, prior to unpacking. On all three of the trips I took, I encountered no critters creeping or crawling. But with the bugs all over the news lately (like an epidemic), it is good to check.

Until next week... Good night. Sleep tight. And... well... you know the rest.

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