Mountains, Desert And Guns

Pro Gun Club Mountain View
Sweet Mountain!

This was scheduled to be posted a couple Friday’s ago but with sensitivity to the incident in Connecticut I decided to put this on hold.  Donate to Sandy Hook School Support Fund.

I visited Pro Gun Club (Formerly named Desert Hills Shooting Club) a couple of weeks ago to see what a Las Vegas shooting range was like. This was a new experience and something I’ve talked about doing in for years.

Pro Gun Club is about 25 minutes off the strip near an area called McCullough Mountains. I’ve only been in this area once before on my only trip to Laughlin last year. Pro Gun Club is located in the beautiful but vast openness of the desert for a city guy like me almost intimidating.

Pro Gun Club Map

Pro Gun Club is more than a gun range its multiple shooting spaces outdoors in the mountains and desert with plenty of shooting options. Most of the shooting ranges in Las Vegas are indoors and allow you to only shoot guns short distances. Few Las Vegas shooting ranges are outdoors and even less that are as large as Pro Gun Club. The smaller shooting ranges are fine if you just want to spend 10 minutes shooting guns but that’s different from an outing that can last much of the day.

After spending a few hours rotating through the various shooting ranges at Pro Gun Club I felt like I’d experienced a world of shooting. Shooting a Glock is not the same as shooting a semi automatic machine gun which is not the same as shooting at skeet (skeet skeet) with a shotgun.

Pro Gun Club Skeet Shooting Box

The outing at Pro Gun Club began on a beautiful and incredibly picturesque mountain. The majority of my shooting was done here with a shotgun and skeet as the target. The set up was similar to a golf course where there were over 20 shooting centers up and down a mountain each with different skeet shooting options. I think even hit a couple skeet(s)! It was really cool and if this was all that Pro Gun Club offered I would have been happy. Fortunately this was just the beginning and we went back to the clubhouse for more guns and ammo!

Pro Gun Club Rifle

We grabbed a few different guns and headed over to the rifle range. Here we were shooting into targets on open land and another in the distance on the mountain behind our pit. This is where my shooting went downhill. I couldn’t hit the broad side of a mountain. Literally.

The instructor noticed that I was using my left eye to focus while shooting right-handed. Evidently this isn’t right and may explain why I was so bad shooting skeet. I can’t close my left eye for whatever reason so he had me switch to shooting left-handed. My body went into shock and I was shooting even worse now.

Strange enough, even though I couldn’t hit anything shooting left-handed, I was having more fun shooting with the pistol and semi automatic rifle then I was with the shotgun. Whatever, I was having fun. Then it was time…

Barrett Sniper Rifle Pro Gun Club

Looking back at my time at Pro Gun Club everything up until this point was child’s play. It was time for the big boy – The Barrett sniper rifle. These are the kind of guns you see in movies when snipers are trying to shoot a person a mile away. They’re also the kind of gun you may see atop a Hummer in a war. This is serious fire power and rounds to shoot the Barrett sniper rifle are $5 each, alone.

I was shell shocked from shooting so poorly as a lefty that I didn’t even want to get behind this gun. I passed my opportunity to shoot the Barrett onto someone else. The power from this gun is so loud and intense that I’m glad I didn’t shoot it. My shot may have gone over the mountain and back toward the Vegas strip. Nobody needs that.

Pro Gun Club Bar

One of the cool things about Pro Gun Club is that the experience doesn’t end when you’re done shooting. They have a giant clubhouse with a full bar. If you’re with a large group you can grab drinks and head to the lounge. If you’re only a couple of people you can grab a beer at the full bar and recap the day. Looking back on the experience having the opportunity to unwind before driving back to the strip was perfect.

Note: There’s no more shooting for you once you have a sip of booze. The wristband you’re given for the shooting range is removed at the bar when you place your order.

The round of shooting at Pro Gun Club lasted a couple of hours and an ice-cold Stella Artois made the entire experience a great day. All-in my time at Pro Gun Club was about 3.5 hours and that included plenty of instruction on how to shoot.

My trips to Las Vegas are simple. I eat, drink and gamble. That said, I would definitely recommend a day at Pro Gun Club as something to do when you’re in the mood to change-up the routine get some fresh air.

Note: My outing was paid for but my opinions weren’t.

Casino And Hotels As A Separate Business

Is the separation of casinos business and hotel business and retail business a good thing? Penn National thinks it’s good business. A few weeks ago they split their casino and hotel businesses into two separate companies.

Penn National Gaming has announced that it will split itself into an operating company and a REIT. The casino properties will be cleft between the two entities, with Penn National leasing most of them from the REIT.

A REIT is short for Real Estate Investment Trust. Separating the hotel and casino operations wasn’t only done because it may be good business, but it was also done to save in taxes.

OK, let’s get right to the bottom line: This is a big-ass tax dodge. REITs are exempt from federal taxes. Ergo, Penn rents property to itself and then is “required by law to distribute at least 90 percent of [its] taxable earnings to shareholders as dividends.”

This sounds half like a sketchy big business avoiding taxes but also like smart business move that may provide better service to the customer on both the hotel and casino businesses. Service should become better since employees will be concerned with less and able to focus on creating better experiences.

Penn National is the only company doing this right now, but Seeking Alpha thinks that seperating hotel, casino and mall business would be a good idea for Las Vegas Sands (LVS) (The Venetian & The Palazzo).

LVS is known for its exceptional gaming and lodging brand, but the company’s value proposition is centered on three different (and integrated) business models: Malls, Lodging, and Gaming. Collectively, the company’s three platforms provide tremendous value, and individually, the pieces appear to be worth more than the whole.

I don’t think that big businesses are always able look to the customer first. Take LVS, their priority is split between casinos, hotels and malls on multiple continents. Taking 2/3rds of the worry out of the hands of one person, for example, and handing it to 3 experts in different fields should help make each company operate better.

Additionally if employee bonuses are tied to the performance of their individual company as opposed to all 3 divisions as one company there isn’t the ability to let focus go on a division.

This should produce a better experience for the customer. On the surface, I think separating casinos from hotel and malls could be a good thing for everyone.

Photo – kinchloe

It Was Nice While It Lasted

Something great happened in Las Vegas when the economy crashed in 2008. Hotel room rates in Las Vegas decreased. A lot. $200-$300 hotel rooms at Wynn could be had for as little as $99. It was awesome for those not hurt too badly by the slowed economy.

I was able to get suites at The Palazzo for $109 without ever having gambled there before. Even middle of the road hotels had to discount their rooms and places like The Mirage and MGM Grand offered rooms as low as $29.

Things are changing. The number of visitors to Las Vegas has increased almost every month this year and while that’s good for the businesses in Las Vegas, that is becoming bad for for the customer. Insert the law of supply and demand.

The law of supply and demand defines the effect that the availability of a particular product and the desire (or demand) for that product has on price.

When hotel rooms were unoccupied, the hotels had to lower rated to get people in the door. Now that there are more visitors the hotel companies have been able to raise prices. Those $99 Wynn hotel rooms are back in that $200-$300 per night range. The Cosmopolitan feels so confident about their room rates that they’ve added a resort fee to their rooms even though they said they would never have one.

This is just a warning that prices will continue to rise as tourism rates rise. There are still bargains to be had at casinos if you are a players club member and/or if you shop around. Twitter and Facebook offer sales and expedia runs weekly discounts just to name a few places you can find bargains.

Plan your trips to Las Vegas early and manage expectations of where you’re staying because the dollar won’t be stretching as far as it used to.

Encore Has High Toilets

Note: This won’t be graphic, just weird.

I don’t run into high toilets very often so it always stands out when I do. When I stayed at Encore last weekend I noticed that their toilet is higher than any other throne I’ve sat on in a while. I don’t like high toilets and I think it goes back to the first time I experienced a high toilet in Las Vegas.

I was staying at The Palazzo a few years ago and noticed that their toilet was higher then a normal toilet. I also noticed that I used it much less than normal. I asked some friends in other rooms if they had similar experiences and response was mixed. Some said yes, some said no and almost everyone said “WTF, Marc”.

A friend went into detail, that I won’t go into, explaining how and why there are some people that are more comfortable with toilets at a certain height. Either I have an issue with heights or he got into my head with his explanation and freaked me out for life.

Anyway, if you’re not comfortable with a high toilet this is a heads up that Encore, The Palazzo and The Venetian all have high toilets.

While looking for a picture on google I came across this fun video from Tosh.0 on high toilets. Daniel Tosh makes me laugh.

Vegas Strip Is The Brightest Spot On Earth

I was doing some reading over the weekend when I came across a cool article from NASA with pictures and discussion about viewing cities across the world from space…at night. The article is a few years old but there are lots of cool pictures. Of course, I’m mostly focused on Las Vegas (photo above).

The “Vegas Strip” of casinos and hotels—reputed to be the brightest spot on Earth—stands out in the center of this image due to both its brightness and its diversity of light colors.

This isn’t anything that’s news to people that frequent Las Vegas, but this is a unique view of Las Vegas and I wanted to share that. I’m assuming that the giant green dot of light that stands out at the bottom of the photo is the light beam that shoots out of the Luxor. Pretty cool.

If you’re a world traveller the entire article is worth a glimpse, if only for the pictures.

Las Vegas Cab Drivers OK Strike

I’m going to have to tread lightly talking about Las Vegas cab drivers threatening to go on strike. In brief, I’ve heard (and experienced) too many horror stories about taxi drivers in Las Vegas.

These cab drivers threatening to strike are the same people who long haul travelers and frequently over-charge passengers without care. The government in Las Vegas has admitted to being OK with these expletive expletive’s expletiving people. The Nevada government who allow this are also a bunch of expletives.

Now the taxi drivers in Las Vegas want to go on strike when I’m vacationing on the strip (I’ve been taking a Vegas Vacation the week or weekend before Christmas forever and that hasn’t stopped with me living in Vegas). Awesome.

After a vote completed late Thursday, a representative of the Industrial Technical Professional Employees Union said the vote to authorize a strike was “overwhelming,” but the union would not disclose vote counts or percentages of voter approval. A contract extension between the drivers and YCS, the second-largest taxi company group in Southern Nevada, is in effect through Dec. 15.

I, clearly, have a problem with the cab drivers who sneakily overcharge customers in Las Vegas (and the government that allows this) but they do provide a service that I use and need. Since this strike is scheduled to happen during the last weekend of the National Finals Rodeo it will probably be averted with nothing being done to curtail the petty larceny by many of these cab drivers on a daily basis.

If you ever find yourself taken advantage of by a taxi driver in Las Vegas here are a couple of simple tips.

  1. Take pictures of your cab and cab driver.
  2. Submit a complaint to the Nevada Taxicab Authority.
  3. Don’t Pay or pay what you feel is appropriate.

The more complaints submitted, the more the incentive for the government to do something about the sketchy taxi drivers in Las Vegas. Help yourself and help your fellow Vegas travelers.

Note: I’m generalizing all cab drivers here. There are some good taxi drivers, but they are the minority

Photo – Misadventures with Andi

The Cosmopolitan Is The Best Hotel In The WORLD?!

A travel planning website, Gogobot.com, recently named the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas as their #1 HOTEL IN THE WORRRRRRLD! Here’s what they have to say.

Very trendy and elegant. My favorite Vegas hotel on the strip!

OK. Further down the best hotels in the world list is Wynn Las Vegas at #7. (Wynn is #5 in North America)

This place is one of my favorite places on the vagas strip. I love the pool too. If i had one complaint its that its all the way on one end of the strip….

The location and lack of action on the north end of the Vegas strip has kept me from visiting Wynn and Encore. That’s a shame because I really like both casinos. Unfortunately most people want to meet or stay in the middle of the action. Even though The Palazzo and The Venetian are just across the street both seem to feel much closer to the action of the Vegas strip.

I’ve never heard of Gogobot before. Here’s what the website is all about.

Whether it is a week’s vacation, a business trip or a weekend getaway, we believe planning your trip should be almost as fun as the trip itself. We believe the best advice comes from people you trust – people like you – and not from anonymous strangers on the internet. We believe sharing your experiences should be as simple as touching the screen on your phone. We are passionate about technology and design and their power to reshape our world for the better.

There are a lot of awards about casino design and not much on the site’s content. With that being said, I can’t really hold their “Best Hotel” Awards with having any merit. Even though I really like the Cosmo, I’d trust Trip Advisor or Yelp before the editorial from a new website that I’ve never heard of.

Photo: Flickr  kajo0069

Tweet me @eastcoastgamblr

 

Hilton Honors Coming To Tropicana

My friends and I stayed at Planet Hollywood on one of my first trips to Las Vegas mostly for one reason. At the time Planet Hollywood was a Starwood Property. Not only could some of us use Starwood points and status from work travel, but the lesser travelers could earn points towards free hotels anywhere in the country.

Vegas may be the greatest travel destination in the world, but it’s not the only place to visit. Having a partnership with a national hotel chain is a nice perk for travelers even if people in this town (like me) don’t believe it there are people that want to travel places besides Las Vegas.

Planet Hollywood is now a Caesars Total Rewards property. While that’s not as cool for the world-wide traveler at least they offer discounts to locations outside of Las Vegas. Tropicana is the latest casino to jump on board the national hotel program.

Four days after telling you about a Vegas rumor that DoubleTree was taking over the Tropicana‘s hotel, it’s now official…

Hilton HHonors members will both be able to use and earn points with stays at the Trop.

While partnering with a national hotel chain isn’t an exciting marketing move it’s a nice perk for the traveler. Tropicana may not be the most exciting place but it’s not embarrassing property at all and is not the worst way to introduce new visitors to Las Vegas.

If I wasn’t so familiar with Vegas and have so much “equity” in Total Rewards properties I think this might attract me to staying at Tropicana at least once to see what it’s like.

End Of An Era

I’m not much of a nightclub guy, but I’ve spent a few awesome nights at Rain Nightclub at Palms. It’s lasted a long time, but it closes for major renovations after this weekend. It will re-open as something different in the future, but it won’t be Rain.

The casino and 9Group announced Monday that Rain Nightclub will close early Sunday to make way for a multi-million dollar renovation….Renovations begin next year. The Rain announcement follows the closure in June of the Playboy Club at the Palms — also to allow space for renovations. New tenants haven’t been identified.

Rain opened in 2001, which is shortly before I first started visiting Las Vegas. At that time Rain was the only club to go to. While I’d rather eat, drink and gamble I could always take a short break from the tables to hang out with the good looking and famous people in Vegas.

I’ve written about seeing Britney Spears at Rain before so I won’t go into it again but it’s needless to say I’m listening to Britney while I write this.

There are many places in Las Vegas that are tied to very specific memories that are amazing parts of life. Rain was a part of some of those Vegas memories that I’ll never forget and will always hold a special place in my heart.

Rain will probably reopen as something awesome next year, but it doesn’t matter to me. I still have those awesome memories. I can’t imagine that the new Rain will challenge Marquee and XS for the current title of best clubs in Vegas. We’ll see.

The audio in the video below is not good quality, but that’s about how close I was when Britney first performed at Rain. If you can stomach her audio the fan reaction is awesome.

Cheap Places To Stay In Vegas

People are often asking what hotels in Las Vegas they can stay for cheap. My immediate response is downtown or check expedia to see what you can afford. When the question stays on the strip, it’s a little more complicated but not really. It’s just too much for a tweet.

I’m writing this as a reference of hotel/casinos to look at if you’re looking for cheap options broken down by area in Las Vegas.