Road Trip - A Tale of Two Cities
Naughty Mickie gambles on fun and supports the troops
By Naughty Mickie
Three days, two chicks and one city of sin... you do the math. Usually when I take a road trip, the first thing I do is toss the map (OK, I put it in the glove compartment just in case) and then go whichever way seems the best heading for adventure. This time, my friend, Valerie Liebe, had booked a hotel room and gassed up her Cadillac for a route she knew well-- we were headed to Las Vegas.
The way there was mostly uneventful, except for a stop for coffee and the bathroom. I was standing next to the car checking the scenery and all of a sudden it began to rain. Wait! This rain was sorta sticky! Ewww! Hey, hey, Val, easy on the wild wiper fluid. Valerie had decided to clean her window by using the wiper fluid which sprayed everywhere, including the not-so-amused lady next to us. I promptly jumped in the car and slunk down in the seat laughing as we drove off.
We hit the parking lot of the Golden Palms hotel mid-afternoon. The hotel was just off the strip, but it had a decent lounge, a pool, a spa, a clean room and a coffee pot. It would do fine. We unpacked, looked through some magazines touting the city's nightlife offerings and we were out the door.
First stop was Bellagio. The casino is lush to the max and so was the shopping. We wandered through the selection of stores that we could only afford to dream about.  Then on to Cesar's. There, we found Cesar, his wife and two handsome guards hamming it up for anyone with a camera. Valerie and I each took a turn posing with the hunks and then went on to peruse the Cesar's mall.  The offerings ran the gambit of good deal to more than the average house. For example, in one store I found the cutest shoes. Simple wood bottoms with a nice high heel and leather straps spiced up with metal studs. I lifted them up to look for the price-- $500! Oh yeah, on a writer's income... I'll be back for them for sure.
That night we gussied up and headed out for Studio 54 at MGM. We stood in line for about 30 minutes listening to the thump-thump-thump coming through the walls and then we were in. Dancers, both male and female, shake their stuff in an assortment of catchy costumes atop boxes and in cages throughout the venue. There are several dance floors, bars and bar carts strategically placed and plenty of chairs and couches for taking a break.
Not wanting to wait around to be asked, we took to the dance floor and let the guys come to us there. It was fun, but as the evening progressed, the guys tended to get "too friendly," lifting the back of our skirts, rubbing up against us and trying to feel things they shouldn't. We would sneak into the bathroom or stand by the bar and then go to a different dance floor, but the actions would be repeated by other guys who must think that because it's Vegas anything goes. Finally, we had had enough, so we headed back to the hotel and hung out in the lounge watching karaoke until 4 a.m.
Early the next morning, Valerie found me down at the pool She graciously had brought me a cup of coffee and we chatted, sunned and took in the soothing spa while planning our day.  First it would be off to Rio!
Rio was great. The casino was bright, the restaurant was good and the free shows were terrific. We caught a couple of the dancers' sets, which were well choreographed and executed. We also garnered a neck full of Mardi Gras beads each.
The rest of the day was spent traipsing through the myriad of casinos and shops, including New York New York and the M&Ms and Coca Cola stores. The beads on our necks gave us notice, as many guys would tease us "how did you get all those beads" and some even wanted a kiss for luck (we obliged, of course!).
We must have caught the Coyote Ugly Bar in New York New York on the wrong night, as the spot was filled by a 50 years plus crowd standing around clutching drinks while listening to boring music. Our main highlight at NYNY was meeting two guys who were in town for a Quarters competition. They were funny and sweet, so we hung out and talked with them for a while.... wonder if they won???
We also met the Green M&M at her home base. She was cute and sassy and told us that "the rumors are true!"
We had one mission on this road trip-- to hunt down a shot glass at the Hard Rock to take with me when I went to Texas the next weekend. I found the glass and we found the party. Hard Rock was happening... or maybe it was the martinis, but the memorabilia on the walls and the music set the tone for friendly people and good gaming. We played the slots and flirted with the boyz.There were some really cute Goth guys who were probably barely old enough to be in the casino, but were decent eye candy and it seemed the feeling was mutual. Finally, we decided to cruise back up the Strip and head to the hotel.
Karoake was in full swing in the lounge and over a late (or early-- it was past 2 a.m.) breakfast Valerie persuaded me to sign up to sing. My inexperience showed immediately, as I didn't even know how to sign in and when I took the stage, the DJ was kind enough to tell the crowd that I was a "karaoke virgin." I had selected Patsy Cline's "Crazy," a song I can sing in my sleep. I figured it would be easy to go with something simple and I had a great time getting into the number as I warbled out the words. I got a nice applause and started to return to my table.
"Nice pants," said a good looking guy who had done a Prince song earlier.
"Thanks," I replied. I was wearing my favorite Tripp NYC pants plush with studs and safety pins.
The guy invited me over to chat and I learned that he was Freddie Almost, a local, who works as a karaoke DJ at another venue and also sings and acts professionally. (I checked out his resume when I got home- wow!) Seated in front of a machine was Silent Bob, actually his name was Shaggy, but his looks and demeanor could land him a job as Kevin Smith's double. Valerie joined in our conversation and we left just shy of closing out the bar.
The next morning we headed home with a stop at Stateline for a little more fun. There, we caught a terrific blues duo-- David "The Sax Man" Brown and Dynamic D. From classic blues to show stylings and contemporary grooves, these guys had it going on! Look for them Stateline and in Vegas.
I got about 10 hours of sleep over three days and it was well worth it. Unfortunately, it took me several days to start feeling normal again and then it was time to pack my bags for Texas.
You may recall reading a story about DaBelly's Air Force friend Scott Weatherman who came out to California and stayed with me for his vacation. It was my turn to see him and his family. I had a solid week with Scott and was determined to make the best of everything, as he is preparing to be shipped out to duty in Iraq as this hits the Web.
Saturday: The plane broke through a cluster of clouds and landed in San Antonio. There is so much green here. Scott brings me home and I meet his mother, Donna, who is warm and perky, and his dog, Sparky, who takes a chewy from him with a big wag of his tail. Scott and I head out to the famous River Walk. We wander the mall there and then I realize one of my dreams-- a boat ride down the river, like the ones I see all the time on the Food Network. Our guide is akin to the ones on the Jungle Boat ride at Disneyland, full of bad jokes and wicked teasing. But he also supplies a bevy of history and points out all kinds of interesting sites. After the boat, we walk several blocks to the San Antonio tower. It is one of the most recognizable landmarks in the United States. You take an elevator to the top and then you can walk around outside or inside for a 360 degree view of San Antonio, higher than anything else nearby. Stunning!! The surrounding park is great too, it has fountains, waterfalls and an art structure down one hill that looks like a big Tetras game.
Sunday: I'm not really a monkey person, but the tamarinds at the San Antonio Zoo are charming and adorable. All of the animals here seem well-adjusted, calm and happy. The butterfly walk-through exhibit is fun, but you have to be careful when you exit, as I had a couple of "hitchhikers" on my hat and shoulder. In one darkened exhibit, there was a room full of fruit bats. A young woman had gone in to feed them and they looked her over, but let her do her job, still she checked her back before stepping out. She went into the next enclosure which contained slumbering sloths in a tree. Gently, she placed some fruit in one sloth's paw and slowly he took it and began to nibble. The other sloth was too lazy to old the fruit, so she teased him like a baby to open his mouth and then pushed some food into him. Too funny!
Monday: Natural Bridge Caverns and Wildlife Park. The Natural Bridge Caverns were discovered on private land and opened to the public to share their beauty. Inside, it is around 70 degrees with 99 percent humidity. It was a little uncomfortable, but well worth it-- so many gorgeous stalagmites, stalactites and other formations. It seemed so alien, yet here it was, a natural wonder. Next to the caverns is a drive through wildlife park. Ostriches and emus wandered up to the car without hesitation. There were zebra, buffalo, deer, and an assortment of rams, antelopes and other animals. The rams were the funniest, as they refused to pick the food up off the ground and wanted you to feed it to them. Unfortunately, this would make them get to close to the car and they would bang it with their horns. They would look up at you like they were truly sorry and you just couldn't resist feeding them more!
Tuesday: Fredericksberg. There are three dominant languages in the San Antonio area-- English, Spanish and German. Fredericksberg is a German town with shops, restaurants and wineries. We sampled and bought local wines, dined on bratwurst and wandered away an afternoon. On the way back we drove through Luckenback. There wasn't any Waylon, Willie or the Boys, but there was a ranch with zebra.
Wednesday: We had to go to Scott's work for a meeting and to pick up some paperwork. Lackland Air Force Base is quite large, with many buildings. I think I would get lost quite easily there, as much of it looks exactly the same. Later we headed out to the Alamo. It was interesting to see the weaponry and other artifacts from this battle site. Scott had me pose for a photo on The Line made notorious in many history books. The Alamo is worn and smaller than I expected, but it still left me with a sense of awe. And, no, there aren't any bathrooms in the basement! That night Donna and I went out for dinner and a girl chat. We came home, donned our pajamas and yelled at the Spurs' basketball game. Go Spurs! What fun!
Thursday: We packed up for an overnight in Houston. After a looong car ride, which was made much better by good conversation, we arrived at our hotel (courtesy of Scott's dad, Dale, who kindly used some travel points for a room) just a block away from NASA. We headed over to the facility and immersed ourselves in all things space. I couldn't get enough of the place!! We tried on helmets, tested our docking and landing expertise, viewed films and took the tour to the space center. We saw a real part of the space station, as well as the models used in astronaut practice, the room where mission control shared our moon landing with the world and experimental aircraft. Scott could have left me at NASA for a few days, but he had more fun planned for the next day. We checked out Kemah, a boardwalk spot on the gulf with amusement rides, shops and restaurants. I dared to drink the Fishbowl (I finished it and didn't stagger out either!) at Joe's Crab Shack and flirted with the waiter. Then Scott and I went up in the tower ride to take photos of the water and shoreline. Back at the hotel, I went for a dip in the pool before retiring and dreamed of the stars that night.
Friday: We headed down through Gavelston to the shore and took a ferry to an "island." It was a seaside kind of place with summer homes and little shops. Finally we found a beach and got out of the car to dip our toes into the sea water. I gathered up a selection of seashells and rocks (I knew that Fishbowl would come in handy). Drying my feet off by the car, I noticed that the cows on the other side of the road had gathered to look at us-- it was funny that we would amuse cows. Back on the road, we set our sights on the San Jacinto Monument, where Texas won its battle for freedom in 18 minutes. You can't go up to the top right now because they are doing some renovation, but there are some nice historic displays inside. We also saw the outside of the U.S.S. Texas battleship and the surrounding park. We waved at La Grange and went on to wander through the streets of Houston. It's actually quite a bit like Los Angeles, whereas San Antonio is more like Old Pasadena.
Saturday: Kisses for Sparky and back to the airport for home.... Thank you Scott, Donna and Dale for a great adventure! And readers, please keep thoughts of our soldiers in your hearts.

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