I cashed my chips at Caesar’s instead of playing them and we hurried outside to take a cab to Mandalay bay. Normally, the cabbies aren’t too talkative, but this guy was very chatty. The conversation started surprisingly when Sara simply mentioned the construction over at what used to be Bill’s Gambling Hall. It was a dive that I knew for the $5 craps and overpriced diner. It was an inoffensive relic from before the Bellagio and the Venitian and Planet Hollywood. The whole section of the strip it belonged to is much worse and distasteful, and really out of place cradled between the larger resorts that have been changing Vegas for the last 20 years. Our driver, who reminded me a bit of Thomas Haden Church when he spoke, marked it ruefully as he told us about the changes to Imperial Palace which is now called the Quad and its ferris wheel which is currently under construction and will be the largest in the world. The cars on board the attraction will be fitted with bars and casino tables.
Sara does not like ferris wheels and the issue of heights brought us to the topic of the Stratosphere and it’s numerous attractions. The driver informed us that the rollercoaster was taken out because pieces of it kept falling off and crashing to the floor below. He told us one of their attractions is a drop from the top in which a steel cable is used to lower you and stop you from spraying the sidewalk. He told us about his experience with it. “They don’t take refunds” he said. “Lots of guys will pay for it and then get out there and change there minds at the last minute. What they do is give you a chicken out token” The idea behind that is that if anyone gives you crap about not jumping, you hand them the token, which is essentially a ride ticket, and tell them to put your money where their mouth is. He told us about going with his girlfriend. He jumped first and when he got back up he found her waiting with the token, so he went again. About this time, I probably should have paid more attention to how safely this daredevil was driving the car, but I just listened to the story which lead now to the topic of skydiving, of which he is also an enthusiast. We discussed the safety issues with skydiving and also its allure, teerarticularly to those who have done it, and continue to be drawn by it. The conversation took a somber turn when he told us of a dive gone wrong, with someone he knew. She was diving on a blustery day and steered incorrectly. rather than using the wind to slow herself down in preparation to land the wind accelerated her fall and plunged her into the ground. She lived but sustained several injuries and is now deaf as a result. We changed the subject as we neared our destination.
“How is the steak at Circus Circus?” Sara asked. Everyone says Circus Circus has the best steakhouse in Vegas. In fact, the only other time we had a cab driver talk to us was three years ago, after our wedding and he told us we had to go to the steakhouse at Circus Circus. Best steak in Vegas? There’s no way that’s true.
“It’s not the best. but it’s vey good.” he said. We approached Mandalay Bay and Sara pointed out the Valley of the Falls at the hotel entrance.
“That’s where we got married three years ago” she said. Suddenly, the bitterness overtook his tone. He was not much interested in hearing about that. We very quickly learned that his ex-wife is apparently a cougar and likes to date men too young for her, but that he got the house and the kids. With that we arrived at the drop off and he quickly recommended we go to RM for dinner if we like seafood.
“That’s exactly where we’re going,” I said as we got out of the car.
To be continued…