Alright, time for part one of the Las Vegas portion of the report!
After spending a few days in the desert (often 100 miles from the nearest building with electricity) it seemed sort of surreal to head over a mountain and see the bright lights of Las Vegas up ahead.
We had a few ideas for what we wanted to do in Vegas but for the most part we just went in ready for anything, knowing we had a solid 8 hours before we needed to drop our rental car and head to the airport. I debated dropping the car early and taking a cab / uber to the strip and in retrospect maybe I should have but in the end we just decided to drive in to the city figuring it would be nice to know we wouldn't have to wait for a cab or uber to show up when we left for the airport as late as reasonably possible.
After snapping a quick picture with the Las Vegas sign (where we totally parked in the nearby Harley dealer's lot instead of waiting forever for the tiny sign parking lot... sorry guys, lol) we made our way up the strip. For the most part we were really excited for our day in Vegas but there was one notable exception to that excitement and unfortunately it was the first thing we came to on our way up the strip. Reluctantly, I turned on the turn signal, checked to see if we had any aspirin handy and tried to mentally prepare myself for the impending sh*tshow.
While I knew we could have continued on and parked for free at Treasure Island, we only had 8 hours in Vegas and I didn't feel the need to waste precious time trying to save 10 bucks so we opted to park at the Monte Carlo (next to New York New York) instead. After exiting the garage we got a look at the brand new Vegas hockey arena which looks absolutely awesome. For a minute, we were happily distracted, enjoying the nice weather and admiring the new arena without a care in the world but then we turned around and were quickly reminded that all things fun and happy were going to have to wait.
As I already mentioned, this wasn't my first time in Vegas but it was my first time since 2001 when I was a kid and mom took me and my brother across the country. Back then, we drove from California and I managed to annoy mom into stopping to ride a few coasters while in town. On the way in we stopped in Primm and hit Desperado since we drove right by it. We also went up to the Straosphere and rode the High Roller and we were staying at Circus Circus so we rode Canyon Blaster as well.
At the end of the night, we had walked the strip from Circus Circus and found ourselves in front of Manhattan Express (or whatever the f*ck it's called). She asked if I wanted to ride, but we were tired and ready to go back to the room so I thanked her but declined, telling her that everyone said it was awful and really expensive. Even as a kid, I knew better... but here I was almost 2 decades later standing in front of that piece of sh*t coaster again, about to prove with absolute certainty that I now have less common sense than I did as a 12 year old. Against our better judgement, we entered the casino in search of the coaster.
As is normally the case in Vegas, finding anything other than slot machines was a bit of a hassle. As everyone who's ever been to Vegas knows, most casinos are set up in absurdly complicated layouts designed to suck you in and get you lost in an endless sea of slots. New York, New York was no different. Generally casinos put all of the slot machines up front since casinos like to entice you to play them over everything else since statistically they're the biggest ripoff in the entire casino.
Understanding this and knowing that casinos always put their biggest ripoffs in the most prominent locations, we were a really surprised to see that they made it so hard to find Manhattan Express. That defies all conventional wisdom.
After finally finding the ride, we purchased our $15 (yes $15... per person) tickets, bought a fluffy, fluffy bunny filled with medicine and goo to hold our crap and entered the station.
Since we had just paid $30 to ride the thing, we debated waiting for the front but it had a bit of a line and we decided that since we were most likely going to hate the thing anyway, we would just choose a row with no line.
One thing we noticed while waiting in line was that they take safety seriously here. Like many coasters, the ride has air gates that open out as well as a yellow line on the floor ahead of the air gates. We generally stand behind the line, but very few guests bother when there are queue gates. The people next to us took one step over it (still well behind the gate), and were immediately met with an angry lecture from the ride ops.
Pro Tip: In Las Vegas you can be simultaneously sh*tfaced and high as a kite and walk up to a cop while drinking straight moonshine out of a red solo cup on the sidewalk with one handing and holding a joint in the other and ask him for directions to the nearest brothel and that's all perfectly acceptable behavior. Step one foot over the yellow line in the Manhattan Express station though and you WILL be met with the full f*cking fury of god.
Anyway, a few minutes later our cab to destination: f*cked pulled up and I won't deny that it looked pretty cool. The cars are made to look like New York City taxi cabs and they feature functioning brake lights and headlights which look really awesome. While the brake lights were fully functional, the turn signals never once lit up for any reason... even as the ride made abrupt, violent, almost incomprehensibly stupid and horrible turns, swerves and transitions which really drove home that "New York City Cabbie" theme. Impressive! They really thought of everything!
Unfortunately as we stared at the trains a bit longer we realized that not everything on them was worthy of praise. The primary restraint on the coaster is a lap bar, but I guess somewhere in the evil Togo, underground lair they realized that if the coaster only had lap bars it wouldn't be able to deliver a preposterously excessive amount of violent headbanging so they added partial over the shoulder restraints that end a few inches below your shoulders and seem to exist solely to inflict pain on everyone who dares to ride this horrible thing.
They checked our evil restraints, took our picture (yes... the on ride photo is taken by the ride op row by row in the station before they dispatch the train since I guess that's the only point in the ride where you might look like you're happy and having fun) and sent us on our way.
The twisted Togo disaster that awaited us...
We made our way out of the station and up the lift, questioning our sanity the entire way. On the plus side, the view was awesome. The view of soaring casinos and skyscrapers juxtaposed against huge, desert mountains made for an awesome visual and it gave us something pretty to look at right before our imminent death which is always nice. We slowly crested the hill, dropped off the lift and into a tangled mess of misery. After what seemed like an endless blur of jarring transitions and general awfulness we mercifully slammed to a stop right outside the station.
We did it! We survived what many people consider to the worst coaster in America! We stumbled off the train (declining their absurdly expensive re-ride... you'd have to f*cking pay me to re-ride it) and into the gift shop. Thankfully the first thing you see when entering the gift shop at the ride exit is a fridge full of beer. Almost instinctively, I grabbed for one with no regard for the price... whatever, I f*cking earned it.
Alright, let's be real for a second here. My opinion of this ride is that it's awful, like really awful. Pure, absolute sh*t.
But... I think I expected worse. The ride IS awful, but objectively I don't know if it was quite as awful as I expected given the ridiculous amount of venom it gets. I'd probably rather ride Manhattan Express than something like T3, X2 (actually... just any coaster with a single letter and number in the name), Mighty Canadian Minebuster, any coaster named "Green Lantern", any Volare or the vast majority of standup coasters (just to name a few). It's a really bad ride, but it's not the historically bad ride I was expecting. In a sick way, I was disappointed.
After walking around a bit more and grabbing another beer, we made our way out to the street... taking advantage of their wonderful nonexistant open container laws in the process. At the time I hadn't actually confirmed with anyone that you could legally walk around Vegas with an open container but I saw everyone else doing it and I figured if I was questioned by the police I would explain that it was medicinal and I needed it because I just rode Manhattan Express and I was drinking to forget.
At that point we had a few options. We considered going to the Stratosphere (obviously) but I figured if we did that I would blow way more money than I should on the Sky Jump so I opted to save that for another time. Next, we considered going to Mandalay Bay to check out the shark reef but we decided to save that for our next trip since in the end the shark reef isn't going anywhere and we knew we could check it out on our next visit, plus we'd have to backtrack to get there.
After weighing our options, we decided to make Circus Circus and the Adventuredome our next stop. Unlike our other options, I knew that if we didn't go now we might miss out on something we would never have another chance to do. Yes, I remember liking Canyon Blaster and yes, I wanted to ride El Loco but there was one reason and one reason only that we were going to the Adventuredome.
I pulled out my phone and plugged in Circus Circus to see how far away it was. Initially we planned on walking the strip, but I had sort of remembered that Circus Circus was obnoxiously far from the heart of the strip and it turned out my memory was correct (impressive considering all of the substantial blows to the head I had suffered a few minutes prior). If we had more time we would have walked it since it would have been a fun walk down the strip with loads of cool stuff in between, but since we were only there for about 5 more hours before we needed to head to the car we decided against walking. We knew there were cheap buses on the strip and we knew there was a cheap monorail a block back (which is a loooooooooong block) but we were on vacation and short on time so we decided to hail a cab instead.
We crossed the street (I mean... I don't mind splurging but I'm not paying a cab to sit at an endless light to turn around on the strip when I could just cross the street), started walking and hailed the first cab we saw. The cab driver later informed us that he wasn't really supposed to pick people up hailing a cab on the strip but he picked us up so clearly he didn't really care all that much. lol what do we know? We're from New York standing outside New York New York hotel hailing a cab. If the cops ask, tell them it's all part of the theming.
We made our way down the strip, making small talk with the driver, mostly about the amazing laws (or lack thereof) and before we knew it we pulled up outside of Circus Circus. We tipped the driver, grabbed our sh*t and made our way inside.
Up next: Las Vegas Part 2!