This is a very delayed follow-up to my trip to Interbike in Las Vegas, the week of September 9 – 12th. This is somewhat about the event and somewhat about Las Vegas in general. You can read my Day 1 and Day 2 product reviews.
I had a whole galaxy of multi-colored uppers, downers, screamers, laughers. . . also a bottle of pain relievers, handful of anxiety pills and an epinephrin shot. Not that I needed all that for the trip, but once you get locked into a serious polypharmacology dependency, the tendency is to pack for any scenario.*
The plan was to get from Portland to Las Vegas non-stop. And my adventure began before I even arrived at the airport. Because I have a vagal nerve stimulator and I hadn’t flown with it; I wanted to do my research. I mean, I’m not going to use the word, but. . . I have a titanium battery with wires coming out of it embedded in my chest. I was a little curious about how TSA would react to it.
Upon research, metal detectors are a potential issue to those with VNS devices. There are official websites dedicated to epilepsy advocacy; to VNS information and doctor’s referral that said that it is perfectly safe to go through the metal detector. Then there were others, as well as personal stories that said that metal detectors could possibly turn my device up, down or reset it. If my settings were to change, I could possibly go into status epilepticus right there and then on the terminal floor.
So I did what any over-reacting person would do. Instead of just gathering paperwork of support and dealing with it day of; I called the airport. The Port of Portland is great. The lady that I talked to arranged for me to call a customer service rep after I checked in that would escort my boyfriend and I through security. She said that she made a notation on my ticket in the computer. I don’t know what kind of notation. VIP? Trouble maker? Pain in the ass?
I also checked in with my rep from Cyberonics to ensure that my card with my generator and lead ID number were all that I needed. So I’m solid there. My rep ended up sending me a new card with all the info filled out – and instead of just mailing me an envelope with the card, she sent me a new set of magnets with the cards filled out. She informed me that if I ever need new magnets to let her or my neurologists know. Good to know! I’ll stop swiping myself in the hardware store to see if expensive nail bowl magnets are strong enough.
When I called Las Vegas airport, they didn’t care so much. The ADA guy left a voicemail referring me to another number. When I called that it was the emergency line at the airport. I don’t really want to alert them! I’m going to be difficult enough, what with my meds, electronics, magnets, luggage – I would hate to deal with me. . . the emergency line referred me to the customer service info kiosk, who brusquely told me that I just tell the security at the gate that I need to be patted down.
No special treatment in Las Vegas.
Our flight out was insanely early. We got up at about 4am. Had no checked luggage, had checked in the morning before online and so when we arrived at the airport were good to go. I called the phone number I was provided and sure enough a wonderfully polite lady from TSA showed up and escorted us through the security line. I put my items on the conveyor belt and went through the full-body scanner. After a brief conversation with the TSA security, we decided that I would be able to do that as an alternative to the old-fashioned x-ray machine. I don’t care if my junk is on display for the TSA operators. I was going to let them feel me up. I just don’t want my chest to explode. The body scanners are safe to use for people with VNS devices, pace makers, etc. What was super interesting is that the first time in Portland, I forgot to take off my belt which had a metal clasp and that pinged. On the way back in Las Vegas, my medic alert bracelet pinged, which it didn’t even show up on the screen in PDX. My giant titanium (about the size of a watch-face) medical device didn’t show up on either machines. So, I guess if you’re smuggling things into the country, make sure it’s titanium and embedded under your skin.
When we arrived in Las Vegas at 8 in the morning it was already warm. What was cool was that we got to share the shuttle to our hotel with two ladies who started Sweet Spot Skirts. The company started in Vancouver, WA and they’ve been around for a few years. For those of you that have never heard of them, they started their company with short wrap around skirts that cover up cycling or running shorts. For many women it can be a deterrent to exercising because of that awkward material. Personally, I really like wearing skirts over my shorts because it allows me to go straight from riding to restaurant in moments. They have really expanded their business and now sell nationwide; even now offering a man’s more “kilt” style wrap. These are great for after racing when you want to change out of that sweaty kit in public. They unfortunately weren’t showing at Interbike, but they were going to talk about their product and network with other retailers; which was the point of the whole thing. I mean, I’m talking about them now! There’s a couple cycling hats on their site I want. Check them out. They’re pretty swank.
Tuesday was our free day to get settled in to Las Vegas. Our first mission was to see if we could check into our hotel room early. Thankfully, that worked. Which was awesome, because neither of us wanted to carry around bags all day long.
The first observation Brad made was that Las Vegas smells. And it’s true. There’s a very lenient smoking policy there. Basically as long as it’s not in a restaurant, it’s fair game. People were lighting up in the airport, walking around the casinos. It was like living in the 1950s. Worse than that, to cover up the smell of cigarettes, the hotels and casinos would pipe in artificial vanilla or cinnamon; resulting in this very stale, old folk’s home aroma. Not bad, not good – just very recognizable. And recirculated by the industrial A/C that every building was sporting.
We decided to explore as much as we could this first day and ended up walking from the Mandalay Bay all the way to the Venetian and then back. That equates to about 5 miles. Strangely enough, we were able to do the majority of that inside the casinos. Most of the hotels are connected by shops, sky walks or casinos and discourage people from going outside. Honestly, we just went outside so that we could see something other than slot machines and so that we could get some sun instead of the dim casino lights.
One of the things that we discovered while walking outside was this cool stop sign. You may have one in your town, but we don’t (at least for the most part) in Portland. Both Brad and I thought that they were great attention grabbers. *WARNING* Slow pulsing light.
So yeah, I was in this crazy city that doesn’t sleep, where there is always noise, and I’m taking little videos of flashing stop signs and checking out the transportation infrastructure. Here’s my thought on this; this town is made a lot for tourists. Many of them choose not to rent cars and so are reliant on other modes of transportation, whether that is walking, taking the tram, the bus, charter bus, taxi or whatever. What this town needs, if there were some bad asses that could cope with the blistering heat, would be some pedicabbers. And to tighten up that main thoroughfare that all the casinos are on. It’s like a 5 lane road that people are constantly crossing, cars are zig-zagging across. I heard or saw accidents on it every day I was there. It’s easy to say, “Not my town, not my problem.” But when it comes to people’s lives; it’s everyone’s problem to improve their quality of life standards.
Walking was exhausting. It was nice and warm in the sun, cold in the casinos. In addition to the lenient smoking laws, they also have an almost non-existent drinking policy. And while I am super careful about my drinking as it is a huge trigger for seizures; viva Las Vegas! Vegas seems to be famous for selling over-priced, under-boozed slushies; and there’s nothing that I love more than snowcones! So, I was toting around a cup of sugar-ice with a splash of booze for half the day.
I felt like such a small town gal, having never rightfully been to Vegas. I mean, I’ve driven through a number of times when I lived in Salt Lake City and we’d go to San Diego and I’ve had layovers there. I even had to pick up something in the suburbs once. This is like going to Disneyland for the first time. Super overwhelming with so much stimuli coming at you all at once.
I have a lot of dietary concerns and I’m vegan. The Vegas strip doesn’t really seem the ideal place to be eating, what with all their fancy Food Network chefs and chain restaurants. However, we ended up at a delicious restaurant called Slice of Vegas, coincidentally at the same time as Brad’s co-worker Mary was there (who is also vegan) where I came across a note at the bottom of the their menu advertising a book on vegan eating in the City of Sin. You can view a few of the restaurants without having to buy the book.
I did have to dip into my stock of enzymes; specifically Enzymaid to assist with gluten. But I mean, come on! Vegan bbq pizza! I only have a little luck with it, but it’s still worth it. (The giant 32oz beer was Brad’s. I’m not that foolhardy!)
But back to the noise. I like background noise. I like playing music in the background or watching TV. However, this is just noise. I don’t know if it’s the A/C or air recirculating, the slot machines, the incredible din of so many people and bodies or what. It was just a constant buzz of sound driving my ears crazy. Even when we went to our room, which was a nice room and I regret that I didn’t get any photos there was still noise. (It was just a standard room, but I’m easily impressed.)
It’s also wicked cold there. This is counter-intuitive since it’s a desert and if you check the weather it’s like 90 degrees and super dry. But the air conditioning systems are cranked up to 11. I feel sorry for people like, well. . . me who require a little extra warmth. If you look through the slideshow, you might notice I’m wearing a long-sleeve sweater in a couple of the shots. My mother told me that places like LV were why the “summer scarf” was invented. I resisted the urge to bring one of my gazillion scarves.
I also gambled for the first time! However, I didn’t spend any of my own money. I did something that is probably something really uncouth. People will leave change on the machines; 15 cents, 8 cents, things like that which you can’t actually use. I walked around and collected it for a few minutes until I had enough to feed into one machine so I could have a turn. How cheap, yes. I did borrow a couple dollars from my friends. It was just for fun and I don’t know how to do any of those card games. I watched some of the tables for a minute or too as well. Way too complicated.
We didn’t make it to any shows because we were so busy with Interbike, however that weekend they were doing a weigh in and big fight for Mayweather vs Maidana at the MGM Grand. We talked to the maintenance crew for a moment and Brad was able to peek in and look at the stadium; something that the security officer said was not allowed. (Not actually walk in and all that like you see in the movies. Just peek in the door.) We then stumbled into a pretty stellar display of all of Mayweather’s old boxing costumes and belts. They were going to be showing up at any moment and have a press conference and all that. We got a photo with the ring girls but ended up leaving as it was a complete madhouse.
Another hidden gem while walking in the Venetian was a place called Nectar. It looks like a bakery with little tarts and donuts in the front windows. It’s actually a soap and natural oil shop! You can even do customizable scents. I got hooked up with an apple spice/pumpkin blend roll-on for fall! Wish there was one of them here. Almost want to ask them about franchising options!!
All in all, it was an interesting trip. No terrible experiences with lighting.Some weird experiences with food ordering, but most of them were from me not reading the menu correctly. Exhausting. Smelly. Loud. I hugged a lot of strangers in costumes, so there’s that.