Monday, March 19, 2012

Engine Failure

Okay, so one of the reasons I didn't want to quit drinking forever was so that I never had to go to Vegas sober. Well, we just got back from Vegas. I was not sober.

The main purpose of the trip was so that my husband could catch the NASCAR race at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. He's an enormous fan (especially of Jimmie Johnson) and I've come to like the races over the years too. We had some vacay time coming up and we thought a combo Vegas/NASCAR trip would be perfect.

The only problem (it seemed) was the traffic which can run into the five-hour range after the race. There's no way we wanted to sit in a rental car for that long so we decided to take a helicopter into the track. This is a service provided by Maverick Helicopter Tours in Vegas which normally flies tourists to the Grand Canyon and down the Strip at sunset.

We arrived Thursday and rented a (groovy red) Corvette for qualifying day on Friday. We had a pool day on Saturday. Only because it was so early in the year they weren't serving drinks on the deck yet so I had to duck into the little restaurant outside the pool for my trusty plastic cups of wine.

The woman behind the counter clearly had not worked in Vegas long because she did not give me the usual "Vegas pour." It was kind of chintzy. So rather than coming back into the resto again in fifteen minutes, I asked her to double up the wine and charge me more - which she did.


Then there was a single serving on top of that. I felt fine. Giddy, but not too drunk. I took a long nap and when I woke up I felt rested. The hubby and I had a lovely dinner at Nob Hill - a Frisco themed restaurant - at the MGM Grand. I felt I'd had enough to drink (you actually get to that point once you start cleansing) so I didn't drink much over dinner and even left some good, healthy swallows in my glass at the end of the night.

When we got home we decided to take advantage of the Jacuzzi in the big bathroom - and couple it with another big glass of red wine, which was going down very well. Again, I didn't feel drunk. I didn't black out. But I do remember being very sweaty and warm.

In the morning when my alarm went off, I thought: "I've made a huge mistake." I hadn't been that hungover since ... well, a very, very long time. In retrospect, I'm sure it was the amount of wine I had in the sun that day that put me over the edge. I'm not used to drinking in the sun. Maybe the hot tub nightcap added to baking my brain, but whatever the case, there I was staring at my slightly gray and woozy reflection on Sunday morning - race day. And I had a 20 minute helicopter ride looming in front of me.

I managed to get a couple sips of coffee and a tangerine into me. Still, I wasn't feeling well. I told my husband as much, but he said I'd be fine. As we left the hotel room at around 9:15 a.m. to get to another tower to be picked up by the Maverick shuttle, I started to feel a cold sweat moving on. I got some water and sipped it. Chewed some gum. Prayed. Meditated. Prayed some more.

The shuttle arrived and there were about eight other people on it, everyone happy and smiling. I managed a little wave and then took my seat, still praying I wouldn't be sick on the chopper. I've never had a chopper ride before and I suffer from vertigo as it is, so I wasn't sure how the combo would work with the hangover.

At the extremely well-organized Maverick terminal at the Las Vegas Executive Airport, there were dozens and dozens more race fans waiting to be delivered fast and first-class to the Speedway. The cheerful and efficient Maverick staff were dressed in cool red t-shirts printed especially for the day.

They seemed to load the choppers putting the lighter people up front - and with only an orange in my tummy, I qualified. My hubby and I got to sit in the front row, me beside the pilot.

The run to the chopper was windy and loudy as you'd expect, but very exciting. Maverick helicopters are almost bubble-like with a glass dome encasing most of the cockpit. I knew it was going to be an incredible view. I just hoped I wasn't going to ruin it with my half-digested breakfast. They strapped us in and I continued to silently will myself to stay calm. Within minutes, the back end of the chopper started to rise ... and it was a sincerely wonderful physical sensation unlike anything I've ever felt. I knew immediately that it would not make me sick. I got into the trip, completely relieved.

It was a clear day full of sunshine and blue-sky and as we flew over the Strip, we looked down at all the hotspots we'd visited - and even saw the 37th floor balcony of our hotel. Then it was onward, through the desert, around the Nellis Air Force Base, and over the jam-packed highway into the track.

As we touched down nearer the gates than any self-respecting NASCAR fan would admit to, I turned to the pilot and gave him the thumbs up. "That was a blast!" I screamed over the roar of the engine. We jumped off the helicopter and hurried across the windy tarmac to safety. We started making the short walk to the gate.

"That was amazing!" I told my husband. "So invigorating! I've never felt anything like it in my life!" And it was true. One of the most thrilling experiences ever (save for seeing Cirque de Soleil's "The Beatles Love" the following night - though I didn't know that yet).

"I feel a little shaky," I said, my legs starting to wobble on the sidewalk. "But I'm fine ... I think ..."

And then suddenly, wobbly legs were actually rubbery legs and I knew I was about to be sick. I've been sick a lot in my life - between vertigo and boozing - and I know when it's coming on. My husband turned me into one of the only quiet parking lots for twenty miles so that we could make it to the (cute pink) johnny-on-the-spots. In retrospect, thinking of puking into the massive hole in one of those things, it's probably for the best I didn't make it. Because I didn't.

Before I'd walked another couple steps, I was leaning over and puking all over my bare feet and flip flops. I soon learned to map the wind direction and for the next three "tosses" I managed to puke out of the wind, but still on my feet. I saw water, probablly wine from last night, and my mangled orange.

But I finally felt okay. A little woozy, sure - I had just puked my life out in a NASCAR parking lot on race day - but I knew that was the end of my nausea.

We walked very slowly to the closest women's washroom and within minutes I was mopping up my bare feet with wet paper towels and hand soap, cleaning off my flip flops and drying the whole mess under the hand dryers. I don't know if NASCAR ladies are used to seeing women cleaning puke off their shoes every day, but one way or another, nobody took notice of me. I left the washroom with clean feet thinking: "Thank God I didn't wear my new Cole-Haan boots" because I'd just bought them the night before and I'm sure they wouldn't have been as forgiving to stomach acid as my bare feet and Fit Flops.

Anyway, I didn't know how I was going to make it through race day. But I did - and it was spectacular. Despite dozens of free drink tickets, I did not feel like wine - or anything, actually. It wasn't until we'd been there a couple of hours and the race had started that any beverage even remotely tempted me: and that was a big, icy glass of fresh-squeezed lemonade. It did the trick. I would recommend it to anyone dealing with post-helicopter, post-puke hangover stomach on race day.

I even managed a glass of wine by the 200th lap.

Anyway, I'm not exactly sure what happened. I'm getting so much better at gauging how much I can drink that for me to have over-drank on such an important night ... sucks. I'm sure it was the mixture of those big pool wine glasses and the heat. But one way or another, it happened and I paid for it with total massive engine failure.

But I lived to tell the tale of it. My husband called me a "trooper" all day long. We've been laughing about it ever since. What a day. The race was amazing. The flyovers by the local fighter pilots was astounding. The fans were heavenly. And Jimmie made it to second place.

After the race, we waited under a tent with the other Maverick customers, listening to classic rock blare on big speakers. The flight back to the strip was wonderful, no wooziness at all. And that night we pigged out on lobster and steak at STK.


Yay, Vegas!

btw ... my cleanse is coming up this week ... Just in time.

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