The first item on our to-do list upon arriving in Vegas on Sunday: find a self-service car wash to remove all evidence of off-roading from under the hood. Though the hoses retained a light coating of dirt, thank heavens, the rest came clean with little effort. What a relief! Perhaps we didn’t ruin the car after all. Knock on wood.

Second item on agenda: check in hotel, find lazy river and boat drink and proceed with intense relaxing. Checking in went just fine. Our hotel room was nice enough with a large king bed (which Stuart loves, but I find myself spending half the night hunting him for a cuddle). What I didn’t like about the hotel: so over-sized that it takes half an hour to walk from your room to the pool, or anywhere else within the hotel grounds for that matter. By the time we got situated, the pool was about to close and we hadn’t eaten, so we decided to postpone pool fun until Monday and grab dinner after checking out the Strip. So we did just that…Monday and Tuesday, we got up earlyish, found pool chairs next to the lazy river and pretty much camped out all day. If I’m ever so filthy rich that I don’t know what to do with my money and I forget all about those rural people in Utah and Arizona, I’m building myself a lazy river, with a built-in bartender who makes slushy frozen boat drinks. What lovely fun.

On Monday, I was confronted with a certain question. I was in Vegas. People gamble in Vegas. An idea occurred to me, “I could bet on my Orioles!” So, even though Cabrera was pitching, and it was the Orioles playing, I bet on my team, fully expecting that I would lose my money. There’s wisdom in limiting the influence emotions have in decision-making when it comes to business or gambling, unless you don’t like your money. However, the Os are my team, so there was only one option for me. I am so proud to say that they won and turned my twenty dollars into $38. That’s money right back in my pocket. They quiver in Vegas when they see me coming. Of course, I didn’t bet two days in a row. That would just be stupid.

On Tuesday, I happened by the sports booking area (truly – it was on the way to the sandwich shop) and don’t you know, MASN was on! I discovered another treat, watching multiple baseball games at once. In addition to the lazy river, if I’m ever richer than God, I’m doing that multiple television bank thing.

One of the best things about Vegas: there’s no shortage of characters. Overheard conversations were pretty interesting. We passed one woman saying into her cellphone, “I didn’t touch your money, much.” Oh boy. I bet the follow-up to that conversation was pretty intense. In a bathroom stall next to me, a woman was having a lengthy discussion about her friend’s admission to the emergency room, “$20,000?!! Did you stay overnight? What did they do to you? My stomach surgery was only $30,000 last year and I stayed overnight and everything. Oh…that’s deep!” When I was watching the Os on Tuesday, a young kid came and sat next to me. He didn’t look old enough to drink, let alone gamble, but he told me it’s how he makes his living. Every weekend he drives from Southern California, a three hour drive, to spend the weekend betting. He offered me some free drink tickets that he got from “betting a certain amount of money.” He told me which bets I should make and then told me what his “big games” were. I worried for him, but I guess he has some sense. I asked, “I bet you don’t ever take the Orioles, do you?” With a chuckle he said, “No. They’re bad. Really bad.” As I watched the game and the Blue Jays continued to score runs against the Os, he would offer in sympathy to my laments, “They’re bad. Really bad.”

I didn’t get to see the end of the game Tuesday night because Stuart had another surprise for me. He bought tickets to see Cirque du Soleil. We had the night planned out, Cirque, then the all-you-can-eat buffet. (He’s the best husband ever!) Unfortunately, we were both a little disappointed in the show (Ka). It was more like Cirque du Mauvais Nuit, if you ask me. We both thought there would be a lot of acrobatics, but it turned out to be a sort of opera/play, but to a soundtrack, and wordless, with a bizarre plot line that I spent the entire show trying to decipher. There was only a little bit of acrobatics and generally the whole thing seemed pointless. Half an hour into the show I started getting the restless legs and dreaming of mashed potatoes and macaroni and cheese and wondered how much longer the show could go on. I thought, “boy if I’m this bored, and I love plays and operas, Stuart must be out of his gourd.” Towards the end I found myself thinking, “oh God, please let this be it” and fortunately, after only another torturous thirty minutes, when I really had to fight the impulse to shout, “FIRE! FIRE!!” it was. When the lights came on and the cast came out for bows, there was resounding applause and standing ovations. Stuart and I looked at each other quizzically. Maybe these are all the rural people from Utah and Arizona who came via a fund raiser and are really, really starved for entertainment. I didn’t get their excitement even a little.

I guess it’s another one of those expectations things.

The buffet was expensive and not all that good. Truth be told, I’ve had incomparably better food at the Golden Corral. Vegas is not the destination it used to be where you could get good food, cheap. It’s not really a place you go to have a good time. It’s over-crowded, overdone and it’s a place to go to gamble and shop. I’m not sure what will keep drawing people back without the allure of reasonably priced activities. For the kind of money you spend on a hotel in Vegas, you could go to the real New York, New York, shop, see a real show, go to amazing museums, have a variety of ethnic food and have a much better quality experience. But I suppose if you love gambling, there’s no better place to be.

All in all, we had a good time in Vegas, but of the choice to be home or be in Vegas, I’ll pick home any day. I love and appreciate Charlotte more than I ever have. There’s just so much to hate about Vegas: the excess, the over-priced everything, how over-priced everything is, how they gouge you coming and going. True, they have the lazy river, but I can just head down the road to Carrowinds for that. And, I have MASN, right from the comfort of my own couch where I can make my own boat drinks, strengthened the right amount to suit the particular Orioles game that I’m watching.

For the first time in my life, I appreciate in a new way being in a city and the benefits that commercialism and chain stores offer. I still prefer to shop at mom and pops when I can, but I can’t imagine ever living somewhere where I can’t get my camera or computer serviced without driving hundreds of miles. For now anyway, we have fresh drinking water and, even though I’m still conservative with my water usage, I don’t have to berate myself with guilt for the occasional long shower. Living in Florida taught me the preciousness of fresh water, but touring out west has reminded me what a valuable gift water is, that even during a drought we don’t have to haul water tanks to our property to supply drinking and bathing water.

There’s more to say about the trip and my dream husband, but the pictures will capture what I haven’t. I’m slowly uploading them as time permits: Enchanting Sunshine.

Now it’s back to the vacation aftermath.