We slept really well. It was probably a mix of the long day and the soft bed with no dog nearby whining to go outside in the night. I fumbled around in the morning, did some writing and let Karin have a sleep in.
Around nine I opted to try and score a coffee. The thing about Vegas is this: everything is subtly designed to push you towards (a) leaving your hotel room and (b) spending or losing money. So, little things… like the lack of chairs anywhere but in front of slot machines… the lame television reception… or the absence of a simple coffee maker in the room. These things say: don’t hang out in your room. Come downstairs. Spend. Gamble. Drink. Our room is on the twenty-sixth floor and I can look out and down and see a fairly prominent Starbucks. If the window could open and I had a parachute I could drop down for a coffee. It’s one of two Starbucks in just this hotel. And getting ready and wandering downstairs to see if a coffee (and maybe some healthy muffins) was on the menu netted me precisely two pieces of information. (1) Runners like their coffee, as evidenced by the fifty or so people — obvious runners — in the very slow queue, and (2) Starbucks in Vegas is nothing like the Starbucks I occasionally hit as I walk through downtown Edmonton on my way to work. To the claim of point #2 I’ll simply say that those coming to Vegas and expecting to drink coffee, expect to pay for that privilege. And don’t bank on a healthy morning snack (unless you consider chocolate cake muffins healthy).
I returned to the room, rallied Karin, and a half an hour later we were wandering through the Venetian Hotel across the street where a far-less-famous coffee vendor and cafe was happy to sell us a slightly-less-overpriced coffee and a couple of bready-products with (at the very least) the illusion of not being complete junk food. (I’m game for dessert, but I don’t like to start my day with it!)
We wandered after that. We took a long, meandering stroll southward on the strip. By this time it was shortly before ten in the morning and our goal was simply to (a) kill some time and (b) have lunch in the restaurant we’d missed the previous night which opened around 11:30.
It doesn’t take long to kill a couple hours on the Las Vegas Strip, of course, even early in the morning. A number of my fellow racers were killing time by getting in one last loose-it-up training run. From our window and from the street there were runner everywhere, jogging down the already-crowded sidewalks. It doesn’t seem odd to me because I’m here for the same reason, but it must seem disproportionate to the regulars.
Our wandering morning was nothing too exciting as to spend a lot of words on it: people, malls, shops, more people. Even before lunch there are dozens of the GIRLS, GIRLS, GIRLS guys standing on street corners handing out little playing card-sized adverts for — well, we’ll just leave that to your imagination and save the Google indexing bots some confusion herein. They try and ram them into Karin’s hand, try and slip them to me on the sly, and that’s just when they are being subtle about it. We dodged through a couple more casinos, browsed a handful of curious shops, and killed more time.
The restaurant in question turned out to be awesome. TODAI Sushi and Seafood Buffet is tucked into a hard-to-find corner of the Miracle Mile Mall under Planet Hollywood Hotel. It is not unassuming: in fact it’s big and lively and colourful. It just has odd hours, likely due to the quantities of sushi grade fish that are served and the limited shelf-life of the same. Karin was in sushi heaven. I like sushi, too. But Karin is a sushi-fiend. And here you should pause for a moment, close your eyes, and imagine more sushi than you’ve ever seen in your life… buffet style. Top that off with a stretch of hot food, including all manner of seafoods and tempura, plus another batch of to-die-for Kimchi and, well, let’s just say we went out of there quite stuffed and having felt we got our money’s worth. And the hour-long wander back to the hotel was very much needed, if for no other reason than to balance out the digestion of all that fish.
I’ve neglected to mention the other happenstance of the day until now because it wasn’t until about this point that we were able to much about it. We’d been checking our emails on the hotel WiFi and hadn’t seen much the first day save for a few reports from the grandparents on the great fun Claire was having back home. But Saturday morning we woke up to the news that our daughter had taken sick with a bit of a stomach bug. She was suffering through her weekend with her grandparents, and rather than making cookies (as she was promised) she was tossing them… frequently. We’d been trying through the day to connect over video chat and had made a brief connection in the morning. She was sick. Poor girl. And asleep when we called that first time. After lunch, and after a spin through the nearby mall, we were able to connect again and again, she had gone back to bed for a nap. Her plans, back in Red Deer with my folks, had been a fun-filled day. A play, a christmas party, and who knows what else. Instead, she was sleeping and puking and sleeping some more.
By this point I had had enough walking. A race just twenty-four hours off, I was starting to get a little more strict about my mental and physical preparation. After months of prep and a whole vacation built around this thing, the last thing I wanted to do was get overtired or get an unfortunately placed blister or bit of chafing that would have me fretting at the start line. In other words, my strip-wandering days were closing in to complete. I opted to hang back in the hotel room while Karin went out to the mall again. I pulled out book and my phone (pre-loaded with some episodes of Game of Thrones) and kicked back on the bed. Claire called somewhere in there, and I was able to get a few words of stoic-but-tired determined-to-still-have-fun-ness out of her, though she was not nearly better, but happy to see her dad’s face.
Karin came back from shopping empty-handed, but with a plan for Sunday morning when I would be be most definitely resting up. And we walked a quick couple blocks, past the Mirage volcano in full action, past a number of cartoon characters posing for money, and past an intoxicated dude being tended by an ambulance… and into Caesar’s Palace.
It’s becoming something of a tradition. When we go to the States we hit up a Cheesecake Factory. Don’t ask why. It’s one of those silly things you start and then you just start asking: when are we doing the Cheesecake Factory? In Hawaii, it was Ryan’s birthday dinner. In Disneyland, it was our takeout meal the night we realized Claire was really sick (it’s something about vacations!) And I’m sure I could list a few more occasions… but the point has been sufficiently made.
There is a two-storey Cheesecake Factory in the Forum Shoppes of Caesar’s Palace, tucked way at the back. We got a table (even though it was crazy-busy) and ordered some wine. I’ll take it as a compliment, for both of us, that we were (yes, true story) ID’d at the Cheesecake Factory. Both of us in our thirties (in fact I’m now firmly heading towards forty) and waiter-dude asks us if we have some ID. Ah, well…
Karin got some Baja tacos, and I ordered a salad: being the Cheesecake Factory I guess I should have expected that the salad would be the size of a small country, a heaping bowl of lettuce and chicken all topped with crispy noodles, nearly a foot tall. Or maybe it just seemed that way. We ate, took a hunk of cheesecake to go, and wandered back to the hotel, which given detours, was an hour-long adventure in itself comprised of impromptu street performances, wandering past numerous wedding parties, and more window shopping.
We ate our Cheesecake in perfect Vegas style, in our pajamas on our bed and watching an old movie, the craziness of the Las Vegas Strip literally booming on the street below.
One sleepless night until race day…