Despite fact that BiSC is classified as an "unconference" I have actually learned quite a bit over the past few years. I mean, aside from things about myself and friendship and how to make a collage of images to post on Instagram. Specific skills, such as learning to travel by myself. Traveling solo is actually a lot of fun and makes you feel like a super independent badass. The biggest downside that I can think of is that you have to haul all your luggage with you if you have to pee because you don't have anyone to watch it for you, and it's a huge pain in the ass because bathroom stalls were not designed to fit a person and luggage. Unless you take the handicap stall. Which I will neither admit to nor deny doing.
But I digress. Over the last few years, I have learned how to navigate unfamiliar airports, the beauty of taking the airport shuttles, how to pack for up to a week with only taking on a carry-on bag because I refuse to pay for a checked bag, how to efficiently get through airport security with minimal awkward encounters with TSA agents, how to sleep sitting completely upright in the middle seat, that the least rip-offy food at the airport stores is probably trail mix because it's almost equally overpriced everywhere, to always offer to gate check your bag when they ask for volunteers because (a) it's a free checked bag that you don't have to haul around at your connecting airport and (b) they're probably going to make you do it anyway because there is never enough room, that a backpack is probably the best choice for your personal item because you can stuff your laptop and your book and your purse and anything else in it and it still fits under the seat, and to never buy a salad at the airport because they are disgusting and you totally just wasted at least five dollars.
Most importantly, I have learned that it is cheapest to fly on a Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday. Thursday through Sunday is the weekend, as far as airlines are concerned, and they will charge you accordingly. I was considerably more broke last year than I was this year, and I was anxious to save every possible penny... and I heard some mumblings about some people coming out on Wednesday instead of Thursday and leaving on Monday instead of Sunday. Excited about the possibility of spending even more time in Las Vegas, I crunched the numbers. Even with my portion of paying for a hotel room those extra nights, I was going to save a significant amount of money. And after my missed connection fiasco of 2011, I was more than happy to get there in plenty of time and avoid the possibility of missing out on any little bit of BiSC again.
When it came time to make my travel arrangements this year, it wasn't even a question as to whether I would take the extended trip again. I booked my extra hotel rooms before I booked my flight. I wasn't even remotely anxious about the traveling part of the trip - I'd done so much traveling for work in the meantime that it was old hat at this point. I'm a pretty savvy flier, though I did forget to take my baggie of toiletries out of my backpack when going through security in Des Moines. (In my defense, they are usually in my suitcase, but I'd had a Shampoo Leaking Incident on my last trip home and I didn't want to ruin any of my carefully planned outfits.) I'm really not sure what my biggest anxieties actually were; I'd pretty much stuffed them all down and directed all my energy into plotting outfits and trying to pack. This turned me into a bit of a lunatic but once I was packed, that was it, and I had no choice but to chill the eff out and enjoy myself. Though I did experience a bizarre bout of plane-disaster-related anxiety as I drove up to the airport - I've never been nervous before flying, but I think that this was possibly because I had just driven past an ad agency that was inexplicably flying pirate flags with a skull and crossbone on them. I've seen Final Destination. I know how it works. (Spoiler alert: everything turned out fine.)
I guess my other (completely unrelated) anxiety was rooted in the fact that this was the last hurrah for BiSC. Seeing people put "last" and "Bloggers in Sin City" together in the same sentence had been making my heart ache for months. I was worried what would happen when I got home, what it would feel like to know that there wasn't another one to look forward to. I also felt anxiety to make sure that this grand finale was the Best Ever and to make sure I did ALL THE THINGS and made the most of it. That's a lot of expectation build-up, you know? I don't know why I always do that to myself.
At any rate, it wouldn't be a proper BiSC if I didn't get delayed leaving Denver. This time, it wasn't a missed connection due to leaving Des Moines late; rather, there was a bit of a kerfuffle due to the weather - namely, the high winds around the airport that made it difficult for the arriving planes to land. They had been circling the skies patiently, but the departures couldn't leave until they landed. Basically, the air traffic controllers were probably all having panic attack and running around with loosened ties and pit-stained white shirts, frantically trying to sort out the mess. (They were apparently all fairly new, which for some reason the captain felt it was necessary to inform us. Confidence-inspiring!) But, I had plenty of time, and there was no chance I could be separated from my luggage at this point, and the whole point of arriving a day early (aside from it being cheaper) was to allow for the unexpected. I was pretty zen about the whole thing, but I did sneak in a text message to let my hotel roomies know I would be a bit late.
Now, I have flown into McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas four times before this trip; I have never had trouble finding my way around, not even the first time I had been there. But this time, I was spit out into a part of the airport I had never even seen before. It felt like it was in the basement. There were still, like, two slot machines nearby, so I knew that I was for sure in Vegas, but... no stores, no billboards, no carpet.
I waited patiently for my luggage (gate check FTW!) while idly checking my phone and sending an absurd amount of text messages and tweets. You know I'm in BiSC when my Twitter presence wakes back up. I am such a terrible tweeter these days.
I did the most logical thing I could do, and went outside. I was definitely not in a part of the airport that I knew. I might not even have been at the main terminal - I'm pretty sure I wasn't. I don't even know if I was in a terminal that was attached to the main terminal via the tram. I DON'T EVEN KNOW WHERE THE TRAM WAS IN RELATION TO THAT SPOT. I was tweeting with Raoul and Edwin, who had also just arrived, and it
was apparent that they were in the normal part of the airport and there
was no way in hell I was going to find them. I wasn't down for paying for a cab by myself so I set out in search of a shuttle that would take me to the Strip.
Finally, I found something resembling a shuttle stop, and of course the guy had problems figuring out how to take a card with the iPad/reader, because of course I didn't have more than enough cash on me for anything other than the driver gratuity, because I had expected to end up where I always end up and I knew for a fact that I could use a card to buy a shuttle ticket from that location. He took my card with him while he went inside to find help (as I made sure to sear the name from his badge into my brain) and, fortunately, came back with it and another dude who knew what was up. Finally, FINALLY, I was on my way to the Flamingo, and in a sort of weird, Vegasy way, it felt like I was headed home.
I sent a shouty text message to my three roomies, announcing my arrival, which was key to the success of their evening, since the hotel room was in my name. I stood in the lobby, doing a fantastic job of restraining myself from bouncing up and down in excitement, and occupied myself with taking a ridiculous photo with the illuminated poster of Donny Osmond.
Because, as I was devastated to learn when I was in Las Vegas for work in January, the life-size Donny decal on the entrance to the gift shop was GONE due to their remodeling. A moment of silence, please.
As soon as I saw them approaching (confession: I was watching for Jessica's red hair), I ran over as fast as a person weighed down with luggage can run, and enveloped them in a hug. Suddenly, seeing these girls, it all felt real. I was here, I was back, and this weekend was finally going to happen and everything was going to be wonderful.
I knew Mich from 2011 and was sad when she wasn't able to make it last year. Honestly, I was incredibly flattered at how excited she was to see me, because I didn't really think I'd made that big of an impression on her or anyone for that matter, and it was completely mind-blowing to be proven wrong. She was just as awesome and friendly and sweet as I remembered, and it was like that Year Without Mich hadn't happened, because it felt like we had picked up where we left off in 2011.
I had met Jessica in February when I was in Denver for work. I knew from the minute I read her bio that we needed to be friends, because she was hilarious in all the ways that my sense of humor requires, and sassy, and insightful, and a ton of fun. I was incredibly pleased that I got to meet her early and I had a super fun time hanging out with her in Denver and even made friends with some of her friends and it was so awesome, guys.
I had never met Marian before and - I know she has heard this a lot - was kind of intimidated by her. She's such a bad-ass on her website and just radiated confidence and severe kick-assery skills. However, I had learned by now not to be overly fooled by appearances - she had seemed super nice in all of our pre-BiSC messaging, which meant she probably was. I'll let you in on a secret: bloggers are regular people, too. We're also very similar people - aside from the fact that we're all writers and often share other creative interests as well (photography, design, food, crafts, etc), most of us are pretty introverted. Which makes sense: I write because it's how I share my feelings. I am more comfortable talking with "invisible strangers" and a screen than I am pouring my heart out to people I've known for the better part of a decade. Maybe that's not introversion so much as a personality glitch, but whatever. My point is: she's a person, just like me, and I was right in my assumption that she was going to turn out to be nice. Because she is.
(Frankly, I'm a little jealous of how well these three got along. I decided to sleep in the next morning because I needed to catch up on my lack of sleep from the previous few days in order to enjoy the weekend, and they went to brunch and then trekked all over the Strip and had awesome adventures and I MISSED OUT which of course is my biggest fear with stuff like this, but: it was my choice, I guess, and my own damn fault. I felt like this happened a lot over the weekend - I was focused on whatever thing it was that I felt needed to happen at that time, and probably missed a lot of things in the process. It's impossible to catch everything, sure - but I always come home feeling like maybe I could have participated in "more.")
We got up to our hotel room and plunked our stuff down, and Mich looked at me with a playful twinkle in her eye. "I have a present for you," she said eagerly. The same eagerness I tend to have, when I have something really awesome that I can't wait to show someone.
"For me?" I was a bit puzzled. I knew all of the Canadian BiSCuits had brought a lot of candy and snacks with them that we couldn't get here in the US, but I hadn't really requested anything.
The next thing I know, she whips out a black sequin fedora and I'm pretty sure my eyes got big. But then she reached underneath the brim and flipped a switch and it started BLINKING.
IT WAS A LIGHT UP SEQUIN FEDORA.
You can probably only imagine the amount of squealing and bouncing that went on at that moment. This hat was the epitome of Las Vegas. (If you're new here, it's also significant because I have made a habit of buying a sequin fedora every year in Vegas.)
Despite the level of travel fatigue we were all feeling, we weren't quite ready to call it a day yet.
We went back downstairs and said hello to the handful of other early arrivals who were at the Center Cut Steakhouse, enjoying half-price martinis and an epic bacon sampler. Guys, this was the thickest bacon I have ever seen, and I'm from Iowa.
We went over to Carlos & Charlie's for a (cheaper) dinner, wherein we learned about the wonder of Canadian money. (I learned a lot about Canada this weekend, actually.) Their new bills are made of a plasticky material that you can wash without incident (though if you accidentally run them through the dryer, they will melt, which is probably worse than what happens to our money when you clean it - it just gets soggy and soft). There is a clear panel in them that you can actually see through. The best part? The anti-counterfeit chemical they use smells like maple syrup if you rub the bill. THEY HAVE SCRATCH AND SNIFF MONEY. I'm not even kidding. We tested it on multiple bills over the weekend.
I also tried not to be a narcissistic know-it-all but I couldn't seem to stop myself from babbling about the past BiSCs I'd been to and I didn't want to be That Person but I was legitimately trying to be helpful and some of the time I was answering direct questions but the rest of the time I just thought of random things that I thought might be useful to them (since Marian and Jessica were BiSCgins) but... I'm always kind of paranoid about how I come off, because I honestly don't know, and I don't want to be an asshole. So if I was: SORRY GUYS.
We wandered back to Center Cut where more BiSCuits were accumulating. There were hugs - reunion hugs and nice-to-meet-you hugs (we don't mess around - you're a BiSCuit, you get a hug, period) and I demonstrated a proper sitting tackle hug to Larissa.
At this point, I was ready to sleep, but I was waiting for the DC crew to arrive. They'd gotten some sort of awesome deal and all flown in together on the same flight from Baltimore. They also somehow managed to end up arriving to the hotel in a freaking LIMO, because it was cheaper than a cab, and therefore, an obvious choice. I almost literally knocked Caryn over in the lobby as I ran up and hugged her - I'm not actually sure what kept us from falling over, because I don't generally possess the greatest sense of balance sometimes. It kind of reminded me a little bit of the start of the school year at ISU when everyone was moving back into the dorms and we were excited to be reunited after three long months apart. Replace three with twelve and dorms with Las Vegas and you've basically got the same thing.
Eventually, sleep became an inevitable prospect, and I was pretty proud of myself for staying up later than I expected I would be able to. Later than I did last year, even. Score some points for this old lady. I went back up to the room where my roomies were already snuggled into bed and made good use of the flashlight app on my phone. Fortunately, no lamps started on fire this time. I drifted off to sleep, blissfully content and happy. I was back in Las Vegas, and I was with my people, and we had the whole weekend ahead of us, and it was going to be amazing.
(to be continued...)