I’m not big on “destiny.” Still, I called this Vegas destiny because it felt like my friend MAK and I were destined to go to that place on Sunday, September 24.
We had talked about a few dates. It had to be after the 16th when my wife and I had tickets for a play. And it had to be before the 29th when I had my annual physical. Meanwhile, he had to see an Electric Hot Tuna’s Last Waltz show on the 21st in Kingston, NY.
We stayed at a hotel near the airport on Saturday night because we had a 6:21 a.m. flight. The current conventional wisdom of people who travel far more than I was that we are at the airport 1.5 hours before the 5:58 boarding.
BTW, there are two Hilton hotels on the same short road. The first is Hilton Garden, which my wife and I visited the Friday before to double-check that the shuttle would work. And the second is Tru by Hilton, which we booked. We’re glad my wife stayed until we checked in.
It was a nice room. The most difficult things were two: the big-screen TV in the room had a remote control that we couldn’t control. I called the desk, and a guy came up very quickly. He tried the remote and got the same result, took the remote, and then brought back a remote that worked a few minutes later.
He also solved our second problem: we couldn’t find how to turn on the lights. There are these little black buttons about halfway down the metal trim. We might have seen it in the daylight, but since we checked in well after dark, there was no way we could have discerned them.
The logical strategy would have been to go to bed immediately before our 3:45 a.m. alarm went off. But no! We stayed up until well past midnight talking.
Early morning flight
I slept perhaps three hours, and MAK not all when we had to get up and ready; the shuttle did work. We got to the American Airlines check-in. There are a lot of people there at 4:30.
My friend didn’t mention that we weren’t checking our bags. Our economy status was such that everything, including checked baggage, was charged extra. Fortunately, the total outside dimensions of the piece, length + width + height, were less than 62 in / 158 cm.
We go through TSA without a hitch. You can bring water BOTTLE through, just not water.
We went to Burger King partly because the Starbucks line was longer. A tip: ordering a Croissan’wich without the egg confuses the staff.
On our way to our gate. I saw Steve Hartman. He’s the guy on CBS News who does the On The Road segments started by the late Charles Kuralt. They tend to appear on the CBS Evening News on Friday nights and CBS Sunday Morning.
He’s also on the CBS Mornings on Mondays with his son and daughter on a segment called Kindness 101, which I don’t see often. I wait for him to finish talking to someone; I say to him, “I really like your work,” and then I move on because I don’t like bothering public figures too much, especially at 5:30 a.m. at an airport.
Because American Airlines offered to check a bag to our final destination – for free – I liberated myself from my larger bag. We were each in the middle seats on both legs of our flight, about a row apart.
I could see the woman on the aisle seat would be flying to XNA from her boarding pass. Where the heck is THAT? Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport, serving Fayetteville/Springdale, Arkansas. She goes to Walmart to instruct them in baking their cakes. It was great initially, she indicated, but her workload continues to increase.
She was watching something on her phone: The Chosen, “the first-ever multi-season TV show about the life of Jesus.” I heard of it, and maybe I’d watch it someday, but not on a cellphone.
We only had 45 minutes from landing in CLT at a B gate to taking off from a C gate at least 10 minutes away, and that’s just to the beginning of the C area. As we’re walking, I see coming toward me my niece Rebecca. She had performed in Charlotte on Friday night, then in Montgomery, AL, on Saturday night. She was flying back to San Diego via CLT (east to go west), and she was running from The C gates to wherever her flight was. Seeing her just long enough to hug her was a bit of kismet.
On our CLT to LAS flight were several – at least two dozen – Pittsburgh Steelers fans. We knew this because they wore black and gold paraphernalia, primarily uniform tops and some T-shirts. Most were attending the NFL nationally-televised game that afternoon between the Steelers and the Las Vegas Raiders. Another bit of destiny, being in the presence of a temporary hejira from Steel City to Sin City.
The guy in the window seat beside me slept most of the trip, wearing a hoodie, so I could barely see his face. About 20 minutes before landing, however, Pat woke up. He, too, was going to the game, having nosebleed seats at a severe premium.
We then talked intensely about his interests in football and other sports, COVID-19, his work as a freelance cameraman, and other things. He was delightful.
We all picked up our luggage at the farthest carousel from the gate we deplaned – one must take a light rail to get there.
MAK and I took a cab to our timeshare, passing by Allegiant Stadium. We waited for our room to be ready by watching pieces of football games (Miami 70-20 over Denver, Swifties learn who Travis Kelce is.)
Then we checked in, went out, and did a whole bunch of stuff – more info anon – and ended up at a bar/restaurant, eating and watching the end of the football game less than two miles away.