The series I am developing as the weeks go have to do with why I haven’t been writing anything over the past few months — Dustball Rally 2000. Over the next several weeks I will be talking about the madness that entailed our main event this year, and much of the media that was made from it. This year’s main event ran 2000 miles from Las Vegas, NV to Vancouver, BC (yep — that’s Canada). Starting with our final pre-drive:
Day 1 – Vegas Baby!!
Being a route that we had been working on for over a year, we were excited to finally drive it all in one complete week – to test for times, make adjustments and verify gimmick locations. All of Dustball Rally’s routes are pre-driven for absolute rally worthiness, as this is what it is known for.
We flew into Las Vegas, NV on a Saturday, to give us some time to get situated for the big drive.
We’ve flown in several times, but only one other accession had we taken the shuttle to the rental car terminal.
Many don’t understand, but the driver prefers if you allow him to load and unload the baggage, and you simply and carefully enter and exit yourself. This actually makes things much faster, especially when overpacked bags leave many travelers struggling to lift their bulging bags on and off the bus. We listened, and tipped $5 for his kindness.
Having previously made a reservation for a Mercedes with SIXT, I was pretty excited to get into it and really see what it could do. So excited that I got online and started reading about their company, including reviews.
Online reviews can be taken many different ways, but I prefer to heed warnings if the reviews are 50% good and 50% “stay away.” A couple of the reviews were pretty specific about low oil levels and cars stalling in the middle of Death Valley.
Then it popped into my head, wait a minute – that’s where we are going – and it’s averaging 120 out there.
Needless to say, we opted for Enterprise, as they had a deal that worked:
- Full Size Sedan – (Brand new) Dodge Charger
- One way – Las Vegas to Seattle
- Eight days
You cannot beat that kind of a deal with a stick!
Big Hints: Always make several reservations months in advance, to make sure you get something, as we’ve been left in the cold before. A friend of mine reserved a single vehicle at La Guardia and when he showed up, nothing was available. He had to spend $547 on an Uber to the next town over for a wedding.
Also – always, always, always check again every day from five days up until the day you pick up your rental. You never know when a rental agency might need to move a car to a different city, and have a smoking deal available.
This was actually our first time renting with Enterprise, and the experience was nothing short of speedy and convenient.
Coming into the rental complex, we set our baggage aside expecting a wait, even though no customers were seen at the counter. I walked up, and before getting to the counter they asked for my last name. By the time I reached the counter they sent me upstairs to pick out my car.
Upstairs, there was another booth and upon entry an associate opened the next door for us and walked us to the selections available, literally not having stopped walking the whole time, until we reached the car we wanted, he even loaded our bags for us.
Having reserved with our Southwest card, we opted out of insurance as it is one of the many benefits of ownership.
We opted for the full tank prepay, so that we wouldn’t be struggling to find a fueling station nearby the airport, to insure a completely full tank. If you ever rent a car in Miami, the nearest filling stations to the airport charge upwards of $7.99/gal when the rest of the town is under $3.00.
We didn’t want that to happen again, and it worked out, as the fuel charge was 2.20/gal and prices in Seattle were $2.95.
Before we knew it, we were in the car and on our way heading to our favorite hotel in Las Vegas, The Palms Place Hotel and Resort.
This is a non-casino hotel although it has access to the Palms Hotel and Casino via “sky tube.” After having stayed in at least 8 different strip located hotel/casinos, staying off-strip is highly preferred. We do this for many reasons:
- Reduced bachelorette parties
- Far less smoke
- Literally zero traffic to park, compared to the strip
- Straightforward entry with little to no wait
- Reduced bachelorette parties
- Every room is a full suite.
- When we go to the strip for a show, the cabbies know the shortcuts
- Reduced bachelorette parties
- Walking the strip is out of the question – do you realize it is seven miles long?
- After a long night of hanging out, you take a cab to the front door and walk 100 feet into the elevator to your room.
- You do not have to navigate a 500-yard smoke-filled obstacle course of slot machines, card tables, vagrants and bachelorette parties to get to what may or may not be the correct bank of elevators, and cram into one with 37 drunks, one of which may have vomited on himself or defecated in his trousers.
Many people don’t realize this, but I have to divulge: casino hotels are designed such that you never have to leave.
I don’t miss staying on the strip at all. Palms Place, Cabs and Uber make my Vegas stays far more enjoyable and less irritating.
Palms Place was initially built as condominiums, and when the real estate bubble popped, the units that could not be sold were converted into hotel rooms, complete with kitchenettes! Being located approximately one mile west of the strip, the room rates are hard to beat (because everybody wants to stay on the strip). Between all the above and great rates, everybody wins.
Also, the cars parked in front of Palms Place are always far more impressive than any other hotel in Vegas, that I have ever seen. This is truly a gem.
Our first night in Vegas is spent preparing for the drive, and admittedly getting a healthy amount of architectural work done because let’s be honest, it pays better than the labor of love we call Dustball Rally.
After getting through the important work-related stuff, I begin to review the route that is getting us through the next four days. I’ve got to say, this is probably the best route that a Dustball 2000 has ever seen, consecutively killing it with a complete variety of mind-blowing roads every single day.
I feel just as giddy as a homeless person that found a paper bag full of money, and cannot wait to share our discoveries with the 90+ Dustballers registered for this event.
I finish programming our GPS with the final route selections and layout all the gear to be mounted in the car for tracking and recording our trip. No, I’m not giving away how we do it, remember those trade secrets – developing the perfect Dustball route requires….let’s just say a lot.
The following day we spend hours visiting several potential meeting venues for our team introductions and safety briefing. Most may expect us to be meeting at some fancy on-strip location, but we are known for doing the unexpected. We finalize a deal with Count’s Vamp’d Rock Bar and Grill. Count’s Vamp’d is far off the strip, but is one of the most incredible concert venues that we have ever been in.
What’s better? The amazing professionalism of the staff and their willingness to help make our event one of the greatest possible. Next time we start from Vegas – you bet we will be meeting here again.
With the stress of finalizing a meeting place off our minds, we relax and enjoy some additional preparation time in our room, scouring lists for anything that may have been overlooked or forgotten.
With everything ready to go, we pack for the morning and go to sleep early.
Stay tuned for Part 2 – The Valley of Death!