If you are over 22 or so there’s probably a good chance that at some point you’ve been to Vegas with a bunch of friends to have a party. If, like me, you eventually came to realize that partying in Vegas is very expensive and exhausting then you might have decided that it’s not really a place worth going to unless you are young and dumb or old and rich. Well, have I got news for you! Turns out Vegas rules and continues to rule even if you’ve got no money (I was surprised too!). Read on!

My original plan was to just briefly stop over in Vegas on the way from Phoenix to Zion; after watching a ton of baseball in Phoenix I had decided it was finally time to pack up and get back to nature. Soon after, I was on US 60 from north Phoenix until I joined US 93 north towards Vegas. Spring was obviously in full swing and all along my drive the desert was exploding with wildflowers and Acacia. Very nice.

Right on the Arizona/Nevada state line I stopped for a couple of views of the Hoover Dam. Damn. That thing is old and cool in most of the correct ways (destruction of ecosystems aside). I was especially taken by the utterly desolate and barren landscape around the dam; made more poignant by the aforementioned desert bloom a few miles away.

Cool dam, nerds

I had done some homework before I arrived in Vegas and had determined that the only free parking available on/near the strip was at the Circus Circus Hotel/Casino. Sure enough the parking was free and I soon found a nice flat spot at the top of the garage where I estimated there would be minimal comings and goings of other people. By the time I arrived I was almost late for an important date so I hoofed it down Las Vegas Blvd to the central strip (a trip of about 1.5 miles that I would make many times in the coming days). The date in question was the Mac King Comedy Magic show at Harrah’s. I had heard about Mac King from Penn & Teller and was excited to see what is apparently one of the best comedy magic shows around. Well let me tell you that Mac King does not disappoint! I laughed my ass of for most of the show and there were a few genuinely amazing tricks that will keep me up for a long time. At $46 this indulgence wasn’t strictly in the dirtbag vibe, but if you’re ever in Vegas for any reason I highly suggest you treat yourself to some quality entertainment care of Mac King.

After the show I discovered what would become my dinner/evening routine for the next three days: First I walked down the Linq’s pedestrian mall and abused the generosity of Ghirardelli and Honolulu Cookie by taking as many free samples as I could (the later of which were extremely generous and tasty). The next stop was the Stage Door, a sort of liquor store/bar/casino at the corner of Linq and Flamingo. In here the PBR’s were only $1 and a big, juicy hot dog only $2. For $6 I could fill myself with hot dogs and beer; truly this was the American Dream.

$3 PBR + Hot dog. Hell yes.

My first night at the Stage Door also started a wonderful and worrying trend of people buying me beers. It started with a pair of off-duty pilots who let me finish the drinks they had to abandon in order to make a dinner reservation. Next was a trio of waitresses who made excellent bar-mates and bought me a PBR every now and then, and finally there was an Oakland fan (like, the city, not any specific team) who got me another hot dog and a few more beers. When I finally managed to stumble out of the Stage Door I had spent about $9 but consumed 3 hot dogs and about 12 drinks (that is not a joke). I wove my way back to Circus Circus, poured myself in bed, and was asleep instantly.

Home in Vegas

During the days I did some work by splitting my time between the Circus Circus Starbucks (which had plugs but no WiFi) and the nearby McDonald’s (which had WiFi, but no plugs). In the evenings I would walk down to the Stage Door for dinner and then see where the night took me. On the second night I ended up across the street at the Ellis Island Brewery/Casino. Here they made a good selection of craft beers, all of which were only $2.50 for a tall pint. Once again a group of well-meaning locals insisted on pouring beer down my throat and it was only with the aid of tremendous will power that I remained coherent enough for the walk home. I would like to think that my raw animal magnetism was responsible for the outpouring of generosity from the local Las Vegans, but I suspect it comes down to the fact that the people who actually live here are just nice, generous people trying to make a life in and bring some courtesy to a city gone mad.

Speaking of a mad city, the streets of Vegas are also full of free entertainment of the people-watching variety. No matter what time you’re out there are probably some weirdos to oogle at. Here are two of my favorites: a gross dude who was “rocking out with his cock out” (his words); and an escaped DON’T right from the pages of Vice magazine.

Weirdos on the strip

On the third night I resolved to give my liver a break so after diner I went for a walk up and down the whole strip (while checking on baseball games at various sports books). I made it all the way down to the south end at Mandalay Bay and by the time I was back north at Circus Circus I had walked over 8 miles. Woof!

So anyway, there you go. Far from being a tiring waste of time and money Las Vegas beat the odds (ha!) and ended up as dirtbag heaven.


One of the locals I met at Ellis Island Brewery was an acquaintance of a bar-owner in Springdale (the town just outside Zion). She told me to check it out and actually wrote me something like a letter of introduction on a bar napkin. It was a strange mix of Victorian propriety and modern debauchery.


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