In my last post, you got the low-down on the Scale the Strat stair climb race in sunny Las Vegas. In this post, you’re gonna get the low-down on the rest of my Vegas experience. And I took plenty of pictures!
Insanity. Let’s start at the top! After the race, my pal Tavi and I returned to the top of the Stratosphere (via elevator this time) with the sole purpose of riding one of the thrill rides that are on the tower’s roof, 900 feet off the ground. There are also binoculars up there, and only a few handrails between you and certain death:
The ride we chose is called Insanity, and that’s a fitting name. You sit in chairs that get extended out over the edge. There’s just a lap bar and a single seat belt buckle holding you in place.
Then, the ride starts spinning. Fast. It reaches 40 miles per hour, and the arms pull you backward, forcing you to look down.
It’s completely exhilarating and terrifying, all at once. It’s ridiculously fun, and I’m thankful I visited the restroom earlier because almost pissed in my pants. I actually showed Insanity in a photograph in my last post, although I didn’t point it out. This gives you a sense of how high off the ground it is:
Gambling. I’m not a huge gambler, but I do enjoy an occasional slot machine! We were wondering around the Bellagio when I found my favorite slot machine of all time, Benny Big Game. I put in $6, and a few minutes later (after getting down to $.04), I cashed out when I hit $15.16. That’s a $9.16 net profit!
The next night, I was at the Wynn at 2am with Tavi and my stair race friends Madeleine, Stephen and Jason, when I put $5 in a “The Price is Right” slot machine. A few minutes later, I was up to $25.75, so I cashed out. Total Vegas Winnings = $29.91. Boom!
Exercise. Besides the race itself, I got in two workouts at the Stratosphere’s Fitness Center: one cardio (on the Arc Trainer), and one weightlifting (upper body). The Stratosphere gym is pretty well equipped for a hotel gym, and it’s really easy to find: literally next door to McDonalds. Seriously?
Food. I was conscious to eat the best I could, and since Vegas has loads of great restaurants, I added a second goal: to try new things. I made smart choices whenever I could. When driving to Vegas, our fast-food lunch stop was at Subway, where I got a turkey chopped salad. I bought a bag of jerky at a convenience store to have a high-protein snack handy in my room (especially helpful the morning of the race). At a post-race BBQ, I stuck to grilled chicken, some mixed-bean salad, and lots of raw veggies.
We also had two great meals at fun, fancy restaurants, and this is where I got to try new things. The first night was at Sensi, at the Bellagio. It’s a very contemporary space, with stone walls, lots of glass, and completely open kitchens in the middle of the restaurant. I ordered an appetizer and a side, and that was enough for me:
In the back is roasted romanesco broccoli. Romanesco is the coolest-looking vegetable you will ever see (find pictures of it at the end of this post), and this was delicious. In the front is a dish called Tongue & Cheek, and that’s a literal description: braised veal cheeks and smoked beef tongue, both of which practically melted like butter in my mouth. I’ve only ever had tongue in a taco before, and I think this was my first time eating cheek, and it was ridiculously amazing dish. That’s a parsnip puree that it’s served on, so I definitely got a lot of veggies in that meal.
After dinner, Tavi and I wandered around the Bellagio, and got our photo taken with the giant disco ball horse in the lobby:
We also were approached by a prostitute. I caught on pretty quickly, but it was funny when Tavi didn’t. He was just chatting away with a pretty lady in a tight dress and stilettos, asking where she’s from, like he was making a new friend. Meanwhile, she’s asking over and over again where we’re staying (I replied with a vague “up the street,” which I had to repeat), and I saw the light bulb moment in Tavi’s eyes when she finally cut to the chase and asked if either of us wanted company that night. (“No, thank you, we’re good.”)
The next night, a group of six of us had dinner at the restaurant at the Wynn called Red8, which had a menu that spanned all sorts of Asian cuisines. I started off with the Shredded Chicken & Jellyfish appetizer, simply because I wanted to try jellyfish.
It was served cold, and the jellyfish was a lot like calamari, in that it was a little chewy, but it was also more gelatinous and bland. It didn’t taste like anything except the sauce it was tossed in, and it wasn’t bad. (Sidenote – jellyfish are found on menus throughout China and other Asian countries, and they’re the third-biggest catch right here in Georgia, where they’re exported to Asia.)
The other thing I ordered was the Sliced Beef with Egg Congee. I had never heard of Congee before, but it’s a thin rice porridge.
It tasted good, especially when I stirred in the egg yolk, but it was definitely salty. It was mild, and had a grits-like texture. Apparently there are all sorts of hole-in-the-wall places here in Los Angeles that sell great cheap Congee, if I’m ever in the mood for it again.
Zzyzx Road. Another reason I was excited for this trip was because it was my first time to Las Vegas after finishing my Cardio to Vegas challenge last year. That challenge involved me logging all my cardio miles, adding them up, and plotting my progress on a map as I virtually ran to Vegas. It took me 5 months to reach my goal, and as I worked towards it, I researched and found fascinating stories about the places I “passed” along the way.
One of those places is Zzyzx Road, an exit in the middle of the desert with nothing around as far as the eye can see. How Zzyzx got its name is a fascinating story involving a con artist and a phony health spa (read about it here), and since it was the most fascinating thing I learned during my Cardio to Vegas challenge, and since “Zzyzx” is such a fantastic, bizarre word, I had to pull onto the shoulder of the freeway and take a picture with the sign. Based on the graffiti and stickers on the sign, it’s clear I’m not the only fan.
This is one of my favorite pictures from the trip.
Coming up next time: One final Vegas post, featuring my favorite restaurant of all!
KEEP IT UP, DAVID!