Walking down the Las Vegas strip, Leigh points to the blue and red colored steeples of the Camelot Hotel & Casino.

“That’s what I thought I was booking when I made our reservations,” she said.

I guess somewhere along the way she got castle peaks confused with circus tents because our luggage was somewhat safely stored a mile down the strip at Circus, Circus.


It all started with running as adventures tend to start with my best friend, Leigh. Some of our most brilliant work has resulted from a long run on Raleigh’s many greenways and trails. Unfortunately, some of our worst ideas have come from those trails as well.

In 2016, we decided we would run the Rock’n’Roll Half-Marathon that would take us through downtown Raleigh on a mild spring morning in April. Never mind the distinct swearing off of Raleigh races because of the hills in the City of Oaks race we ran the previous November.

With a little research, we discovered it would make financial sense to purchase a “tour pass” of three races in the Rock’n’Roll series than to just pay the $100 to run Raleigh. Plus, the tour pass came with two extra medals. What runner doesn’t want extra medals?

After registering for Raleigh, we selected Savannah, Georgia, because we had already checked Louisiana off our state list, and Las Vegas, Nevada, because Leigh wanted to run the Strip at night.

The Las Vegas Strip shuts down only twice a year. Once for New Year’s Eve and once when the Rock’n’Roll race comes to town. Naturally, we felt inclined to experience this phenomenon even if neither one of us cares for Vegas.

The race was set for the weekend after we ran Savannah. Leigh captained our adventure, and I left all travel arrangements to her, which left us with really nice accommodations for Savannah – like within walking distance of the start line nice – and somewhat questionable reservations in Vegas. Instead of getting average accommodations for both trips, we decided to span the spectrum from luxe one weekend to sketchy the next.

Let me explain.

When we hopped in the taxi after arriving, our burly driver turned around and looked us over and said, “Are you sure?”

It’s not that Circus, Circus is a bad hotel. As of this moment, you can book a room at this 3-star hotel for $20 a night. Expedia rates it with almost five stars. Even Google gives it a solid 3.7 stars with more than 14,500 reviews.

It’s just that the alarming things about Vegas are a bit more obvious at this hotel. It’s easier to ignore the gamblers, dealers, and drunks when there’s good lighting (or too much lighting) or good food around the corner. I joked to Leigh that it felt like this hotel was once the most popular kid on the block, but as the years went by, it cared less and less about keeping up.

It was far away from everything, except a somewhat rundown Walgreens where we purchased airplane bottles of Fireball to stash in our Camelbaks for post-race celebrations. The casino’s circus theme had all but been abandoned, I noticed, as we walked by an actual carousel of slot machines that no longer spun. The sign to its wedding chapel blinked off and on like a warning sign. And it’s bright neon sign was burned out in all the wrong places. It’s too-happy clown looked like it was sporting blackface. Not a good look for anyone.

Needless to say, we survived our trip, but we did high-tail it over to the spa at the MGM Grand our last day in town. Twelve hours in and out of the sauna before our plane ride home got all of the fake cotton candy and stale popcorn scents out of our systems.

 

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