THANK YOU VERY MUCH

Life Is A Rollercoaster

Friday

As we left Il Fornaio last night we caught a sneak preview of their breakfast menu. Then by some sneaky subliminal process we woke up this morning unable to think of anywhere better to eat!

After a little Rory play time, (trying to teach him the principles of Cowboys and Indians) we made our way over to New York New York.

The amount of times we'd eaten at our neighbouring resort it would have been easier on our legs had we stayed there!

Actually we would have stayed at NYNY but for the rooms at the Excalibur being a lot cheaper. I suppose doing it the way we did worked out well.

The Italian theme at Il Fornaio wasn't so evidient for breakfast with a more traditional bacon and egg available. Tim went for traditional.

"How would you like your eggs, sir?" asked the waitress.

Tim replied "Sunnyside Up".

We started to laugh but the waitress didn't understand why we found it so funny. To her it was a normal request for a fried egg, to us it sounded hilarious as we would only hear it in the movies. When his eggs arrived they were exactly what he ordered.

Hannah and I both had the asparagus omelette which was delicious, and their home bake bread was exceptional. Top marks again.

Within minutes Hannah, Tim and I were gripping on to the Manhattan Express seats hurtling past the New York skyline, looping the loop.

I sat in front of them in case one of them couldn't hold down their breakfast!

As rides go it wasn't the scariest. It started well with a dramatic swoop and a loop but it petered out. It was still good fun nevertheless.

Having survived with our stomachs intact we were on a roll and decided to head towards the Adventuredome within Circus Circus to try their thrill ride.

We still had several pre-paid monorail tickets but chose instead to pay $5 for a 24 hour pass to ride the Deuce bus. It was just far more convenient than having to walk through the maze of casino floors to find the monorail station.

Jumping off the bus near the Wynn Hotel, we once again sighed in admiration and vowed "Next time we're in Vegas we will definitely stay there." (funds permitting, all restrictions apply)

As we crossed Las Vegas Boulevard we got a great view of the the North section of the strip, home to the more established casinos such as the Frontier, Stardust, El Rancho, Sahara and so on.

Marking the end of the 4 mile strip stood the Stratosphere whose main attractions are several death defying thrill rides on top of the 1081 ft tower! Madness!?!

A nightmarish clown pointed the way to Circus Circus. The casino certainly seemed to have seen better days, it felt tired and dated, but it's still a popular choice, especially with families. We walked in through the casino, peering upwards above the safety nets where trapeze artists would entertain the gamblers. They must have been on their tea break or something when we walked past.

The Adventuredome was at the back of the resort. It was much smaller that I had imagined, but then again I didn't know what to expect really. I suppose this is the world's largest indoor theme park so that must mean something. Is it the only one perhaps?

To be fair they had packed in quite a lot. They had many rides, such as the log flumes, (although the river had run dry), a swinging Pirates ship, and several kiddies rides.

I don't know which one was called the Rim Runner but for some reason the name tickled me!

Unfortunately Rory was too short for all the minimum height restrictions. So whilst they sold $25 day passes we decided to just go for one ride ticket at $7. The Canyon Blaster rollercoster was fun but nothing to write home about.

We left shortly after 2pm and went our separate ways. The three amigos marched northwards towards the Garden Of Love to pick up their authorised marriage certificate. We marched in the opposite direction, down the strip. Stopping at the first Deuce bus stop, outside Slots-A-Fun. We waited, and waited, in the baking sun, eventually having to pop inside to get two ice cold marguerites to quench our thirsts.

We didn't ride the Deuce for too long, hopping off at the Mirage hoping to see some penguins. We didn't see "This way to the Penguins" signs but we saw "Secret Garden & Dolphins Habitat" so we reckoned they were hiding in there.

Having walked all the way to the entrance, in good time for the 3pm feeding show, we were disappointed to find that it wasn't a free attraction. We're not exactly penny pinchers but we do demand value for money and decided that the $15 fee was a little too steep. You could buy a lot of fish to feed them for that amount.

As we walked out back towards the strip we stumbled across the White Tiger Habitat. He looked beautiful but all of a sudden I came over all Born Free and felt really sorry for the poor thing.

Perhaps it was the ridiculous fake jungle murial that nailed the point home that it wasn't exactly the tiger's natural habitat.

We walked a short distance to the Forums Shopping Mall and walked through, past Puck's restaurant, and into Caesar's Palace. We needed to call at the Box Office to collect our tickets for the Elton John show tonight.

Then back onto the strip where the turetts of Castle Excalibur seemed a very long long way away; so we hopped onto a conveniently passing Deuce bus. It sadly didn't save our legs much though as we overshot our destination and had to walk balk from the Luxor.

We were aiming for (once again) the food outlets inside New York New York.

As we couldn't possibly eat in Il Fornaio again we tried their American Diner. I wasn't looking forward to it much but it turned out to be great!

We both had burgers which were delicious and I had a dark beer called Samuel Adams which was interestingly different. Top marks once again.

What was even better was a huge three dimensional map of the whole US of A. All 50 states were up there with small items that represented their part of the world. We weren't too sure if Wisconsin was famous for cheese or PacMan!

Back at the Excalibur we bumped into Hannah, Tim and Rory with a proper marriage certificate in their hands. They were thinking about going over to Fremont Street and we were on our way to Caesar's Palace so we arranged to meet up with them just after 11pm in New York New York. Hannah said she may not even be awake at that time as she was shattered, so we left it as a "If you're there you're there, if your not you're not" arrangement.

Elton John is an artist that I really wouldn't go out of my way to watch but as this was Vegas, and this was Caesar's Palace then it would be an experience not to be missed. I was just grateful that Celine Dion was on holiday.

We were running a little late. Five minutes were wasted standing at the back of a long queue for the Pure nightclub. Then more time was wasted when we slowly shuffled through airport style security and having to leave my cameras at the door.

By the time we got to our cheap seats ($150 each) Sir Elton was half way through his first song.

We settled down with a bucket of six bottles and waited to be entertained.

And to my surprise I was.

To stop you from getting bored of staring at the shortarse sitting by his red piano (I'm not being derogatory, apparently his first band was called Shortarse and Beanpole. Then again, he is a shortarse!) they had splashed across the entire length of the stage a high definition screen showing David LaChappelle produced video montages of a skating purple teddy bear, then an exceptionally passionate balletic dance, then a retro trip down Sir Elton's memory lane and many more themes.

Once the video phase ended it progressed into an inflatable show. Little white umpalumpas came on stage to blow up roses, bananas and breasts. It was quite a visual treat.

The only downside to the evening was that we were sitting next to a pair of hooters. You know, those who hoot loudly instead of clapping. In between every song the annoying cretins were going "Whoooooooo! Yeah!!" busting my drums and then when I pulled my hands from over my ears they shoved their index fingers into their mouths and whistled at deafening decibels.

We had a comedy moment when they deflated the breasts to make way for the next stage set. "They look more like mine now!" Julie joked, and as more air left the pair bosoms they took on the shape of a saggy scrotum. "Now they look like yours!"

"Oh, thank you very much"

The performance came to an end at 10am, without the usual encore. It was peculiar that our concert psychology left us feeling cheated just because he didn't walk off stage, had a waz, came back and sang another two songs.

We quickly got over our disappointment agreeing that we both had a very enjoyable evening.

Leaving Caesar's Palace we picked up two marguerites to-go and made our way over to the Mirage to watch its volcanic eruption show.

We stood there for ages like a pair of numpties just waiting. Firstly we waited paitiently, then we waited impatiently. For over half an hour we waited and nothing happened so we left.

(When I got back home I read that we would have benn waiting a long time as they hadn't been working for months!!)

Why didn't they have a sign saying "Out of Order" or something? Ah, well, never mind.

We thought briefly about checking out the free Sirens show outside Treasure Island, or T.I. as it's now rebranded. It's meant to be quite spectacular.

We were both however too tired to take a chance at catching a show. I just couldn't remember the scheduled performance times. So instead we decided to slowly make our way back down the strip.

Which in itself was interesting as we walked past casinos that look far more attractive at night.

"Oh, it'll be nice to see the Bellagio fountains once more before we leave" said Julie.

"Yes, especially from the top of the Eiffel Tower!" I added. This upset her.

She seriously doesn't like heights but she felt duty bound to put her self through the torture, soley for my benefit.

Sensing that she was a tad peeved I feebly offered a "we don't have to if you don't want to", but there was no stopping her.

Off she marched towards Paris, crossing the eight lanes of Las Vegas Boulevard at the lights without blinking. I could hardly keep up with her.

She was in no mood to talk and I didn't know what to say. In silence we walked into the casino and bought two tickets for the Tower Experience.

Along the way to the elevator an authorised Tower Experience photographer took our picture.

He placed us on a spot, and counted down.

"3-2-1 ... smile"

Neither of us wanted to be there. Julie was pissed off, I was pissed off. Neither of us could muster up a grin for the camera. We stood there staring at his lens as if we were receiving a caution from a gendarme. What must have been going through the photographer's mind? We looked a right miserable pair.

All of a sudden a flashback entered my mind. A flash back to 1997 when the Spice Girls had just won a couple of Brit Awards. We were in London, in a Virgin megastore, where they had the actual glitter covered Mini that was used by Baby, Ginger, Scary, Sporty and Posh at the ceremony awards the night before. I was sadly more excited about this little piece of history than Hannah and I practically forced her to stand by its side for a photograph. Her face was a picture, a classic Kodak moment. (One that I won't embarass her by publishing it here!)

Back to the present and I turned to look at Julie. She had the exact same face as Hannah did and I started to get the giggles. I managed to internalise them and regain my composure, refusing to let that smile surface.

We remained in silence.

We spent a good ten minutes at the top; most of it was spent waiting for the Bellagio fountains to perform.

In the meantime we had plenty to look at. The view of the strip was fascinating. We could see all the way up north to the Stratosphere. We also saw where Elton entertained us tonight, at Caesar's Coliseum. To the south the great Luxor beam could be clearly seen, the Excalibur stood out brightly, as did the MGM with it's neon green.

When the fountains finally came to life they looked spectacular from this vantage point. There was an eerie silence however. We were too far away to hear any of the accompanying music.

Returning down to the strip, bad moods still lingering, we'd somehow forgotten to collect our officical Tower Experience momento photograph! Actually, I now regret not buying it as it would have been such a hilarious picture I'm sure!

Making our way slowly down the strip we decided to stop at a karaoke bar at the Hawaiian Marketplace.

It was quiet, with only one other couple sitting at the bar. We sat down, had a few beers and listened to the ( for want of a better word) compare sing terribly in an attempt to get passers-by in off the street, as he did with us.

I was just about to get up to sing a Tom Jones song to lighten the mood when a couple of hairspray rockers strutted in and began to browse the song list. I crawled back into my shell.

The opportunity to sing "The Green Green Grass Of Home" (Live from Las Vegas) went begging.

We did kiss and make up at least, to the strains of the karaoke king slaughtering Elvis' Hound Dog.

"When they said you were high class ..."

We suddenly realised that we were twenty minutes later than when we'd arranged to meet the three stooges. We walked around New York NY looking for them but they weren't there, so we returned to our room at the Excalibur.

Midnight came and midnight went, which in itself is an unremarkable event, but as we hadn't comfirmed that Hannah, Tim & Rory were back safely in their room, midnight struck a haunting toll. Despite knocking their door, gently at first to save waking a sleeping Rory, then louder as we began to worry that they weren't back yet. We phoned their room ... we got no answer.

"Perhaps they were at New York NY somewhere, still waiting for us?" I suggested.

We returned to the party atmosphere of Times Square scouring every corner for a tired trio. Walking amongst the happy revellers just seemed to heighten our anxiety.

"No, they're not here. Maybe they are in their room but in a really really deep sleep?"

So back up to their room we went where I knocked on their door so hard my knuckles bled. I beat the door with the power of a John Bonham drum solo. To an observer I must have looked as if I was trying to smash the door down. The noise would have raised the dead but there was still no answer.

"They can't be in there" "But what if ...."

That's when we decided to return down to the reception and explain the situation to a supervisor. She dealt with us very calmly and professionally agreeing to do a "welfare" check on the room. A few minutes passed as a security guard went up.

The duty manager soon called me over and said "I'm sorry sir but there was no one in the room."

I'm not a born worrier, far from it. In fact there are times when I have remained unruffled when I should have worried! Julie on the other hand worries at the drop of a hat and often uses my calmness as a refuge. This calmness I was now rapidly losing and I could see Julie disintegrating in front of me, inconsolable with worry. I could find no words of reassurance.

Each minute that passed escalated our fears.

It was now 2:00am. If it had been just the two of them then I wouldn't have been so alarmed but they had Rory with them. Something must have happened.

We felt so helpless but we couldn't just sit there and do nothing. So we got hold of telephone number for all the major hospitals. Working our way down the list we checked all the A&E departments to see if any of them had been admitted. This trip began with a late night dash to A&E, we were praying that it wasn't going to end in the same way, or worse. I can tell you that no news is not good news, it just prolongs the agony.

I've not watched CSI at all but right now I felt as if I were starring in an episode!

At 3:00am, in desperation, we phoned the Las Vegas Police Department and filed a missing persons report. I was hearing my own voice quiver as I gave the LVPD a description of the three of them.

All we could do now was wait.

Our door was wedged open as Julie paced in and out of the corridor. I was sat on the bed with my head in my hands. We were passing time, waiting for the inevitable bad news.

Then completely unexpectedly I heard Julie shout "They're here!"

I almost passed out with relief. I'd never before experienced a release of emotion so strong that took away my ability to walk. An emotion that soon turned to anger when I learned that there hadn't been an "incident" to explain their lateness. They hadn't been abducted by aliens nor attacked in a deserted Taco Bell. They were fine. They just wanted to make the most of their last night in Vegas. I was in no mood to listen to what they had to say after that. I called them irresponsible and walked away.

It was now almost 4:00am. We were due to leave for the airport in seven hours! After all that I couldn't get any sleep at all. Julie had very broken sleep, tossing and turning and every so often a vocal outburst in swahili would explode from within her.

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