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Monday, October 16, 2017

Things That Go Bump in the Nerd

Let's extend a big Flusherville welcome to guest blogger Joan of Aces!
She's a great writer and I can't wait to read all about her Nerd Herd trip to Las Vegas.

This past weekend featured the annual Nerd Herd migration to the Promised Land, aka, The Summit.

I wasn't going to go.

I was going to be good, and stay home, and follow along on the InstaTwitBook. I was just in Vegas a few weeks ago. I should stay home.

But no. Why pretend I can resist?

The Summit, presented by the Vegas Nerd Society,, is a gathering of Vegas-obsessed, super-aficionados who faithfully generally tune in to the same Vegas podcasts and blogs, week after week, year after year, to live Vegas vicariously. The same weekend used to be called VIMFP (Vegas Internet Mafia Family Picnic, or depending on your blood level of creative juices: Vegas is My Favorite Place, or V I Mother F'ing P). It's a fast few days of silly plans with like-minded people with one thing in common. OK, two things in common: a true devotion to all things Vegas, and nothing better to do with their lives on a beautiful October weekend in the middle of football season.

I LOVE that United is using this massive photo of the Denver Broncos defense, aka "The No Fly Zone", for their Denver Airport advertising.  So apropos.  Heh. 
I had an easy drive to the DOA, err, DIA, airport. People familiar with Denver will know that as often happens, there wasn’t any parking at the actual airport. All full. Everybody is going somewhere else this weekend. I followed the signs and found a spot in Western Kansas, hopped a shuttle so crowded it may as well have been an elevator out of the MLife playbook.

I had extra time for a drink next to our gate. Turns out the other four people in the bar at 10 am were also Vegas-bound. But, of course. Nobody flying to Boston this early is sucking down suds for breakfast. Oh no, not a chance. (They are quietly draining their little TSA-compliant bottles in the privacy of a public bathroom stall, like the classy folk who plan ahead do.) We are toasting each other, our new-found flight friends.

I was ready to board when they asked for a volunteer to bump. A man was taking his young son on a birthday trip, and they needed somebody to give up a seat. Spirit offered me a Delta flight at 7:30 pm with a connection, arriving at 10:30. But I reallllly want to go to Vegas. Right NOW. And I didn't want to lose a day of Vegas, loitering in the terminal for 8 hours.

I said, is there another other option? Jonathon, the smiling gate attendant, said he could refund my money for my flight instead, and I could book something else on my own.  A quick search on my phone showed that I could fly Southwest on points.  A lot of points--29,282. In exchange, Jonathon offered me two roundtrip tickets valued up to $500 each.  Jonathon: "Anywhere!  Even International!"

Two round-trip tickets anywhere Spirit spirits travelers away. On Southwest, it would have been a done deal. On Spirit? Well, it’s definitely my biggest gamble and I’m not even in Vegas yet. Also, Jonathon threw in $21 on food vouchers. Not $20. $21.

It’s a sign.

A Vegas sign!

I reallllly want to go to Vegas. Right NOW. But, hey. The kids is cute. The dad is sweet. And for $400 worth of Southwest points, I figure can fly Southwest in a hour and a half, and have $1000 worth of future travel on Spirit for my trouble. Jonathon refunds my $84 for the Spirit flight on the spot.  On the outbound, I am always on the hunt for a good bump.  Southwest has definitely taken great care of me with easy to use travel vouchers in the past.  However, it would soon become apparent that Spirit just played me with the mother of all sucker bets.

Lunch on Spirit. Drinks on me.
I took my food voucher to Root Down at the C concourse at the Denver Airport. I highly recommend Root Down, should you find yourself with airport time on your hands. Funny that the voucher is for food, but not alcohol. Yet alcohol is what a girl needs when she gives up her seat to Vegas. They have Myrcenary beer by Odell on tap, one of my favorite local brews. They also serve a little wonder called the Pepper Blossom, which features St. Germain, Jalapeno, Grapefruit Lemon and Basil with a heavy splash of vodka. The Spirit voucher excluded spirits, so I also had the lamb sliders and Thai Carrot Curry soup. I’m not known to dilute my drinks with food. But three drinks in, and I’m not even en route to Vegas? Well, food was necessary, and in this case, delicious and worth it. Those two items were recommended by the bartender, in between lightening-fast drink-slinging to the travel-weary travelers. Or in my case, would-be traveler.

Turns out the special beverages buoyed my mood when a Google search revealed that redeeming the Spirit vouchers might be just a little challenging. The $500 isn’t good toward taxes or bags. Seat selection isn’t included. You can go #1 for free, in the onboard bathroom, but #2 is an extra $2.

Unbundled fare, baby. Unbundled. Means, you only pay for what you need. I went to the Spirit website, and put in what would be an $80 roundtrip future fare to Las Vegas. That “$500 voucher” gave me $7 credit. Tricked! By Spirit. I just got time-share trick-rolled by an airline.

I consider being super travel-savvy and finding awesome travel bargains a central tenant of what I’m all about. (Maybe I need to take a look at that… hmmm.) Not gonna lie. This one hurt. I've easily forgiven myself a bevy of unmentionable sins, but man. MAN. Being suckered by Spirit is a new low. I know better than to trust Spirit. Heck, we all do.

Soon, though, I am front and center in Southwest’s spacious aircraft for a mere 29,282 Southwest point. My brain won’t let me forget that 29, 282 points on Southwest is SIXTEEN round trip tickets to Vegas. Just saying.

Thanks to Root Down, though, I quit kicking myself for pulling a bonehead travel move. I am head down, chin-bobbing, snoring, drooling on my pink, polka-dot neck pillow, and feeling every last drop of that spicy ass-kicker called the Pepper Blossom. I don’t wake up till the plane touches down. Bump, bump, bump, brake! Slide on into the gate.

Hey baby. I’m home.

Hello, Cal! Hello, Hawaiian Senior Center! Junior is here. Posted at the slow, if not often broken, west elevators is a guard standing sentry. Well, leaning against the wall. Mostly awake.

The California security guards are no spring chickens, either. I offer to buy the poor guy a coffee. I resist the urge to offer him a donut. I say we should bet on which elevator of the three elevators will come first. We certainly have enough time to get some bets in, even a parlay or two. Later in the afternoon, all the elevators were down, so they were (sort of) directing people to the freight elevator behind the arcade. Who knew there was an arcade? Much less a behind the arcade? The guard asked to see room keys before we boarded the elevator. What is this, the Hard Rock? Gah.

Actually, I was into it. There was much more security and police presence around Fremont than I’ve ever seen.

Ohhh baby. It’s go time. I dropped my bag in the room, and I skipped like a kid out at recess, down the single block from the Cal to Fremont. Past the ruins of the Las Vegas club, and the giant hose spraying it like an oversized, defeated gardener who just won’t quit. Past all the people who are watching the hose. Past the Stanley Cup, there in the open for anyone who wants to touch or it or take a photo.

OK. Stop. Go back. Must spend a moment with Lord Stanley’s Cup. Yes, you could touch it. One girl even kissed it. They take your photo for free with the cup, and email it to you. They will also use your personal phone for a photo. This was even better than the Binion million bucks photo op.


In addition to the Stanley Cup, there's also a very interesting old school hockey exhibition in what looks like one of the giant pods people put a whole house worth of stuff into when they move. The pod was decorated with fun hockey stuff and slogans on the outside, and featured hockey memorabilia on the inside. Old jerseys and a roster photo of the brand new Vegas Knights featured prominently.

Does Vegas Knight hockey dude Brad have a brother named Mike?
Usually, no plans are my favorite plans, with cancelled plans coming in a close second. This weekend, though, I had plans for days. For two days, anyway. I joined with my fellow Summit-goers in front the Golden Gate, and became an enthusiastic (on the inside) part of Those People Who Mosey in a Giant Block. The leader, Hunter, held a marching band baton, instead of the pink umbrella or green flag you usually see at the head of a herd of slack-jawed, meandering tourists, seeing Fremont street for the first time through a lens. Personally, I recommend skipping down Fremont, and looking outside the lens. Much, much easier to avoid puke puddles and various other indecipherable collections of the Fremont fairway fluids. The parade ended at the Vue bar at the D.  

First, we checked out the great Las Vegas Club takedown. If you had ever wandered inside the dump, you know we should have been wearing gloves and masks.

Derek Stevens, owner of Golden Gate and the D,  joined the festivities

Hunter leads the Nerd Herd

Since I can't give you the shirt off my back, here's the back of my shirt
The Vue bar is a funny little pickle. You take the Escalator of No Return next to THE WORLD’S LARGEST KENO BOARD up to the second floor. (Thanks to the GIANT BOARD, I am now aware that Keno spells out my dad’s name. Ken O. Plenty of time to contemplate that giant board from the escalator).

From there, if one were attempt her ghost exit from whence she came, she’d be completely busted. As I was. Ugh. There is no way down from the outside of the Vue Bar. No stairs. No down escalator, except back in the door and through the whole bar and casino. No fire escape. No two-story pole. No way out. Brilliant, Uncle Derek. Freakin’ brilliant.
The Ken O. Boar
Hunter stepped up to order a beer, and I bought it for him.

“That’s not necessary,” he said.

Oh, it's necessary. He needed that beer. And a few more. He earned it. Introverts gathering more introverts was a Herculean task, if Hercules sported glasses, old satin Casino jackets and loved nothing more than a little full pay VP at the quiet end of a crowded bar.

The Vue bar doesn’t have the most amazing collection of beers on tap, so I settled on a rum and coke. Soon I was in seat number one at the PreakNERDS Sigma Derby tournament. It was a $50 buy-in for ten rounds of horse-racing on the ancient and beloved Sigma Derby horse-racing game, which features miniature mechanical horses racing around a track.

I have a confession. I don’t really get horse-racing. My experience is always betting on the black horse in lane 8. I love the Sigma Derby machine in the abstract. I love that it’s there. I love that we nerdy types have weaseled our way away from keyboard and calculators everywhere, and are screaming and cheering 100 year-old tiny metal horse replicas. They are, actually, really cute when they make a last ditch effort and bounce erratically up and down, like somebody juiced an old-timey carousel. Thankful, I lost my heat immediately and would not be invited back for the finals. Oh, say no more. Now nothing stood between me and my happy place: the Boar’s Head bar.

To be continued...


    1. So Spirit bought you off with a voucher and 7:30PM Delta flight but you used 30,000 or so points on Southwest? So confused.

    2. Mervis--sorry, I didn't explain that well. Spirit gave me a refund for my flight, and the vouchers. I then used Southwest points to book a flight 2 hours later. The thing is, I almost always have a back up Southwest flight booked when I fly Spirit or Frontier, and then cancel it when I'm on board the cheaper airline. I did the Spirit credit card promo years ago, and there were a lot of rules, but 3 of us did travel for free to for a nice beach vacation. I guess that's why I thought the Spirit thing would work out. I updated the blog to better explain what happened. Thanks for commenting.

    3. She opted for option 2...get her own flight (therein lies the Southwest flight) and get 2 $500 vouchers. She did not take the Delta option.

    4. I heard Brad's brother Mike get paged at the NC state fair the other night

      1. Prior to phones in dorm rooms, we used to have Sister Aloisis, at the front desk, page for Mike. And she had a lisp. A lot of us will be spending time in purgatory.

        Great reports. Thanks.


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