Today is the start of my 8th annual March Madness Las Vegas trip. Since I haven’t been able to focus on anything else all week (aside from rainbows), why not run through some random thoughts, stories and tidbits about the past seven Vegas experiences. If you’ve ever made the trek out there with friends, chances are you’ve also seen some of this stuff first hand. Let’s see if we can organize them into categories:
- Anyone who’s been paying attention to my yearly Vegas trips will note that this week is not the start of the NCAA “March Madness” Tournament. For seven years, we’ve descended on Vegas for that opening weekend of basketball games. Sadly, it’s the end of that streak, at least temporarily. Due to scheduling circumstances and a few people’s desire to “check out conference tournament weekend,” we’re going a week early this year.
- My friends who are on the upper end of the basketball nerdery spectrum (BNS) assure me that this year could be even more fun because there are a lot more games being played each day compared to the first weekend of March Madness. They need to remember I don’t really care about the basketball. I care about the experience. As long as it’s not a drastically different atmosphere, I’m in.
- Someone in our group pointed out earlier this week that the weather in Vegas right now is in the upper 80s. This led someone else to question if it’s ever been that warm for any of our seven previous trips. Our email thread died out when no one could even remember ever being outside during any Vegas trip.
- If you’re new to the blog or you just didn’t have the patience to read the 3,000 words I wrote on The Vegas Experience last year, now’s your chance. I especially recommend that the guys who are joining me this weekend give these posts another read. It’ll get you psyched for the trip. Here’s PART ONE of the Vegas Blueprint. And here’s PART TWO.
THE MOST DANGEROUS THING IN VEGAS IS YOUR OWN HOTEL ROOM
- In Part Two, I quickly mentioned that you should shower every morning in Vegas because you don’t want to return to the room in the afternoon or evening if you can avoid it. I wanted to expand on that thought some more. I actually think the most dangerous thing you can do in Vegas is go back to your hotel room alone…specifically for that mid-afternoon or early evening visit. You’re there to take a shower, or change, or most likely to sit on the toilet in peace and quiet. But then the bed starts calling out to you. A nap sounds good, and you start to question how much longer you can put up with all the bullshit down at the casino: breathing pure cigarette smoke, losing your vacation fund in a three-minute debacle at the Craps table, stuffing yourself with free drink after free drink just because it’s there. When these thoughts creep in to your head, your only option is to run out of the hotel room, even if you’re in the middle of showering. Obviously a nap during a long weekend in Vegas actually sounds fantastic, but I’ll warn you that the funniest, most outrageous thing that will happen all weekend will happen while you’re up in the room. Don’t succumb to the midday nap. It’s powerful, but with the right amount of Vodka & Red Bull drinks, you can avoid it.
- Speaking of napping…in a long list of ridiculous stuff that I’ve done in Vegas, here’s the one that gets the most laughs. In year one of this annual trip, me and my two brothers flew back to San Francisco from Vegas together. For some reason we booked a flight with a layover in Los Angeles (not the point of the story, but a pretty terrible logistical move when all you want to do is get home as quickly as possible on a Sunday leaving Vegas). On the flight from LA to San Francisco, I was sitting in the middle seat between my happily-sleeping brothers. I started feeling nauseous and sweat immediately began to soak through my shirt. I woke one of the brothers up and asked him what I should do if I feel like I have to puke. He handed me one of those paper bags that’s in the back pocket of each seat. I told him it wouldn’t be nearly big enough to hold what I had brewing. He fell back asleep. I continued to panic. Finally I decided to get up and walk to the bathroom, if only to get some circulation going and distract myself. I went into the bathroom, sat on the toilet and the next thing I knew the plane is landing in San Francisco. I passed out for roughly 40 minutes on the airplane toilet, only waking up because of the normal turbulence that comes with landing. I have no idea how many people might have knocked on the door during that time. Even though every return flight from Vegas is miserable, none has ever approached that year one level.
- Another quick flight story from two years ago. It’s Sunday morning at 5AM. My brother and I have a 7AM flight out of Vegas. We weren’t staying in the same hotel room. I’m in the lobby when I realize it’s well past the time we agreed to meet. I call his phone 30 times and get his voicemail 30 times. I call the cell phones of the guys who he was staying with. I call other people in our group just to see if they know where he is. No one answers. I go to the airport alone. The whole time I’m laughing to myself at what an idiot my brother is for falling asleep and missing his flight. I sit down next to my gate in the airport with about 30 minutes until boarding begins. I wake up some time later thinking only a few minutes had passed. After all, there were still a ton of people sitting nearby waiting for the flight to board. Then I hear over the PA system “Final boarding call for Southwest flight 1461 nonstop to San Francisco. Paging Ross Gariepy. Ross Gariepy please report to gate C7 immediately?” I quickly realize that the people sitting next to me aren’t on my flight; they’re on the next flight leaving that same gate. I got to experience walking down the aisle of the plane with 180 pairs of pissed off eyes staring at me. Apparently they had been waiting for me for quite a while. If only they knew I was sitting 15 feet away from the gate the entire time (How much better would this story have been if my brother had shown up for the next available flight a couple hours later and found me passed out near the gate of the original flight?).
- OK, one more thing about the airport in Vegas. In our seven years of doing this trip, we’ve had two instances of someone going to the airport more than 10 hours before their scheduled flight home. In both situations, the person basically said to themselves “I’m done with Vegas for a long time. I need to get the fuck out of here now. Not tomorrow morning, right now.” I bet Vegas gets more people who show up and try to get on an earlier flight than any airport in the world. If you have bad luck long enough in Vegas, you get to that moment where you have to decide between removing yourself from the situation or taking out a cash advance on your credit card.
- Have you ever dreamed of being in a dance club and having strangers crowd around you while screaming “he’s on fire”? Me too. I always thought that moment would come because I was tearing up a dance floor and all the people would stop to watch me. What actually happened a few years ago was this: I was smoking a cigar at the club while waiting in line at the ATM. A woman standing in front of me turned around abruptly and her elbow hit the tip of my cigar. The cherry of the cigar flew into the air and landed inside my polo shirt (I swear this all happened in slow motion). My shirt and chest caught on fire. I started shaking my shirt out. Smoke started billowing out of my shirt. A bunch of girls screamed “He’s on fire!” Not the way that moment happens in my dreams.
- You only understand what I’m saying here if you play Craps. For some of us that go on this trip, our first impression of our buddy’s best friend from the east coast was seeing him play the Don’t Pass Line on a Craps table while six of us in his group were playing “normal style” at the other end of the table.
- This same guy once threatened to “take his money elsewhere” when a pit boss wouldn’t let him jump into a Craps game at a reduced rate. He was arguing to be allowed to make $10 bets instead of $25. You can imagine how nervous the casino was to lose him as a customer.
- We’ve spent about 28 nights in Vegas over the seven years and only one time did an “everything we touch turns to gold” night happen. I don’t remember the year, the night or the exact people who were there, but for a three-hour stint at the Mandalay Bay, our group couldn’t lose. You probably think I’m getting ready to say that we walked away with a combined ten grand that night, but no. What happened was we were all split up so by the time we got back together and realized it was one of those nights for the group, it was too late. If you’re ever in one of those situations and don’t know if the hot streak is over, go throw $100 on black or red in Roulette. As soon as you lose, it’s over. It’s worth the hundo just to see what might be.
But seriously, take a few minutes and re-read my blogs from last year’s Vegas trip. It’s the only way to get a full tour of the four-day March Madness experience.