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Day 1 - We're Off to Meet the Monkies...
Friday, 28 March 2003

I suppose this one is going to need some explanation, eh? I've opted to tag along with Baldie, along with bstB and hal97 as they trek from their home station to Las Vegas in some sort of gathering of others who participate in the WWDN Soapbox (Wil Wheaton Dot Net, for those of you just joining us... and that link won't do much for you unless you join, too). So, yes, it's sort of like crashing into the clubhouse of the kids down the street and not yet knowing many of those within. And yes, I've also opted to refer to everyone by screen name (or a portion thereof), as (a) it's a bit more anonymous, and (b) I missed virtually everyone's name in real life. For the purposes of these entries, I've chosen refer to Baldie as the_bald1.

Travel Services had us leaving at 7am, but apparently that wasn't gonna happen, and we actually met the highway at 8:09am, hmmph, to begin the trek of 500 miles. And then, on another day, we'll go 500 more, just to walk 1,000 miles.. la-lala-la... sorry. (And yes, I thought that distance was too round a number as well, but I checked my math, and 50,770 to 51,270 adds up to 500. Odd, eh?)

The trip itself was relatively uneventful. As I sat in front with the_bald1, I was still able to get a decent view of the road in front of us (which wasn't anything noteworthy most of the time) as well as those behind me, like hal97 and bstB.

We did pop into a McDonald's in Barstow for nibbles, and after having our order taken by a deer-in-the-headlights eyed girl (whom I will address as Jessica, per her nametag), we dined in the International car. I guess I should explain that this particular McDonalds, joined in the lobby to a touristy stopping point ("Barstow Station"), is modeled after an old train station. And given the number of buses, and those who often travel on buses to Las Vegas, is a popular stopping point for those traveling through.

As we cleared Barstow along I-15, there was a 20-mile stretch of highway that was a construction zone, given the signs announcing such, and the orange barriers. And traffic, lots of traffic (even if the pic doesn't do it justice). the_bald1 was not amused, but at least for the time being, he was more awake than asleep, which was a rare event on this trip. I was somewhat hopeful that these two cars off to the side of the road around mile 4 were the cause of the delay, but alas, they were not, and we crawled the entire 20 miles. Ugh.

After our arrival, as we headed to the Sahara to begin our 3-night stay, we ended up stopping at Fry's. the_bald1 apparently wanted to get something that the local (read, at home) Wal-Mart and Target didn't have -- a webcam that had a microphone built in. Dispelling the myth that such a camera doesn't exist, one was acquired for $29.99 (before tax) at the newly opened Fry's in Las Vegas (corner of Highway 215 and Las Vegas Boulevard). I rather enjoyed the facade of the store, with the slot-like display, and the car-barriers that looked like stacked quarters. (They also had an IP-based webcam that the_bald1 was all about... nerdy dork.)

As we reached town, I-15 northbound was backed up. So, after Fry's, strangely, we ended up on I-15. Thinking Las Vegas Boulevard would be faster, we exited, and found ourselves in gridlock. So, first the_bald1 hears about choosing I-15 given the traffic, and was blamed for this dim decision because he was on the phone. The surface streets are then his fault for exiting. Then not getting back onto the interstate fast enough given the concrete barricades was also his fault. Somehow, the amount of gas the SUV consumes is also his fault, as is the fact it's only a crappy 4x2, and not a 4x4, which as you will note, would use even more gas. But while still on the Boulevard, we saw MGM went out and spent the money to make their sign shown an American flag on demand... spiffy.

We checked into the hotel after parking on Level 4 of the garage (which I don't think is relevant to the story, honestly, just that the_bald1 will forget, so I'm doing this mostly for his benefit), were checked in by Sylvia of Nevada (again, per the nametag), and headed up to the room on the 11th floor (at the end of the hall, but I don't want to over-share too many details, eh?). We decompressed briefly before returning to the lobby to meet the other Monkies as part of this event, set to begin at 6pm.

After an initial gathering near the phones, where we learned from sifichick that the hotel is a bit uptight about paging "Monkies" or "WWDN Monkies" to a common meeting place, we headed up to the suite to gather there, and others would scour the lobby for the others (there were something to the tune of 15+ folks in all to meet this evening). That worked out reasonably well, it seemed. The phone kept ringing from others who couldn't attend, as the number was apparently posted somewhere on the message board. The first few calls were those trying to order a pizza, but it soon elevated into something of a higher level of prank calls, including ratboy's call indicating the escort for daniel was in the lobby. Funny.

I could have probably offered more insight in the festivities, but I wasn't permitted to roam freely around the room. Given the amount of flashes going off, either numerous photos were taken, there was a fireworks show, or Las Vegas is under siege by the Moral Majority. But I think it's the first one...

bstB, the_bald1 and I bailed out around 9pm, and the_bald1 was actually surprised (and upset) to learn the level of fatigue he was experiencing was relative to it only being 9pm (what an old fart, huh). We retired to the room, and pretty much ended the night there, although I did briefly perch precariously on the window's ledge for a photo. Surprisingly, the window opens, is unscreened, and given we're 11 floors up, does offer an ideal opportunity for a drunken band member to do something stupid. Fortunately, I don't play in a band, don't drink, and am far from stupid.

Cost for this update: 10 minutes / $1.00. (The hotel charges $1 for the first 30 minutes, and 10¢ for each additional minute. Imperialist hotel managers.)

Continue to Day 2

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