9:31 a.m.: The woman at the Southwest Airlines counter says they're sold out for both morning flights, and the evening one as well.
"But," I counter, "my brother-in-law, Jesse, says that he flies to Vegas all the time, and he just walks up to the counter and gets a seat for $49 so they can fill the seats in the plane."
She doesn't even flinch. Instead, she offers to sell me a full-price, one-way, nonrefundable, stand-by ticket that I might be able to use sometime that day, or maybe later that weekend. I politely decline.
9:44 a.m.: Rent a car from Avis, whose people try harder not to laugh when I tell them the story about Jesse and the $49 tickets.
10:01 a.m.: Get on the Interstate, headed for Vegas. I have a fountain drink from the Circle K and a Rice Krispies treat. It's a Friday in Lent, and I'm feeling mighty spiritual.
1:40 p.m.: Having decided to avoid Phoenix, am now approaching the California state line. Turn north, heading for Parker, Lake Havasu City and parts beyond.
1:50 p.m. until around 4:30 p.m.: I HATE OLD RETIRED PEOPLE, ROAD CONSTRUCTION, BOATS, PEOPLE HAULING BOATS, RECREATIONAL VEHICLES, MOTORHOMES, RETIRED PEOPLE IN MOTORHOMES, RETIRED PEOPLE WHO DRIVE 15 MPH UNDER THE SPEED LIMIT IN MOTORHOMES, ALL-YOU-CAN-EAT RESTAURANTS THAT CATER TO SLOW-DRIVING RETIRED PEOPLE IN MOTORHOMES, KARL ROVE AND THE ENTIRE NORTH-SOUTH SECTION OF THE COLORADO RIVER!!!
5:10 until 6:22 p.m.: Get to see Hoover Dam while traveling approximately 1.25 miles per hour.
6:12 p.m. (Las Vegas Time, at the time): Finally get to the volleyball facility. Missed her first game, but get to watch her last three games.
11:11 p.m. : Late dinner with the team. Every successful team has a kid who's good-natured and athletically talented. This allows everybody else to pick on that kid mercilessly without hurting her feelings. On Darlene's team, that kid has the old-school name of Jean. She's from Globe, which means that before she came to the UA, her only contact with the outside world was old retired people passing through in motorhomes on their way to the Apache casino.
Her teammates ragged on Jean, with the jokes leapfrogging one another until it reached a point where the teammates claimed she'd been seen dating her own brother at church. That was when the realization came that it was late, no matter which time zone we were in.
12:15 a.m.: Drive to The Strip to get a room. Las Vegas holds absolutely no sway over me whatsoever. I don't drink, smoke or gamble. I don't like Wayne Newton, neon lights or women with fake breasts. If most people were like me (and even I thank God they're not), this place would still be a Mormon wagon-train stop.
I'm all for adults having fun. But back in the day, you'd go out at night in Vegas, and people were dressed up in suits and fancy dresses. These days, you go in a casino at night, and you bump into a fat guy wearing a Hawaiian shirt and flip-flops. The good old Sin City/Adult Playground Las Vegas has lost its way. What you have now is porn shops with carnival rides.
1:05 a.m.: No rooms available anywhere. I get in the car and drive south, stopping at hotel-casinos along the way, with no luck. At the far end of Henderson, this one place has a room. The guy says it will be $189. I tell him that I only want one room for one night. He repeats the $189 figure. I remind him that we're in Henderson, which is like the booty-ass South Tucson of Las Vegas. He won't budge.
Saturday, 11:13 a.m.: Back at the gym. Darlene's team loses in the semi-finals, but comes back later in the day to win the third-place game.
6:40 p.m.: Tonight, the five inner planets (Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn) will be lined up in a way that won't happen again for decades. I've been waiting to see it, so I step outside at sundown--and realize that I'm in the brightest place on Earth. Gee, when it happens again in 30 or 40 years, maybe I can remind myself not to be in Vegas.
6:55 p.m.: On the way out of town, I drive by the spot where Tupac got shot. I pour some soda out of my Thirst Buster and head for home.