Posted by: wheelywonka | August 3, 2010

What I Did During My Summer Vacation

…This blog is supposed to be about training for the Bike MS: 2010 Valero Alamo Ride the River, but at the onset, I promised to be a little broader in scope, and would occasionally take a detour into completely unrelated topics.  Well, here we are.

I just got back from 5 days in Las Vegas, where I was attending Defcon 18, a security conference that was very thought-provoking – and, to be honest, a little disturbing.  I was in a big hotel on the strip, so I got to partake in all the neon sizzle the city has to offer – shows, more good food than I can remember, and lots of people watching.  (Strangely enough, I’m one of those folks who goes to Vegas but does not gamble…not even penny slots.)   It was a great time in the desert. 

On Monday we had a few hours to kill, so I talked my daughter into accompanying me to the Pinball Hall of Fame.  We had a little trouble finding it, because my Time Out guide had the old address, and it moved to 1610 E. Tropicana last November.  (It’s now right across the street from the Liberace Museum, which I’m going to have to check out on my next trip to Vegas…)  Once there, I was in the promised land.  It’s a simple, nondescript warehouse, dimly let, with no restaurants, shows, or glitzy, bored cocktail waitresses filling you with watered-down drinks.  It is just row after row after row of working pinball machines that you can actually play.  Gottlieb, Bally – you name a brand, and it’s there.  And, the prices on the machines are what they were when they were actually in production – a quarter for 5 balls on the older ones, a quarter for 3, all the way up to the newer machines at a dollar a game.  I had so much fun in there playing all the old classics like Fireball, Batter Up,  and my all time favorite, Snow Derby, that I completely lost track of time and we almost left too late to catch our flight.  

Posing outside the Pinball Hall of Fame in Las Vegas

…So why pinball?  Well, since I’m in my late 40s.  I’m a member of the generation that was a kid before there were video games.  Pinball was our electronic diversion of choice, and I played a lot of it.  I was raised in North Carolina, and we used to go ever weekend doing the summer to the amazing White Lake, where during the hot part of the day, we’d wander the cool confines of the endless arcade buildings that contained what seemed like millions of machines, each one different, each one mesmerizing.  People talk today about the Nintendo Wii, and how it provides such a physical experience during your game play.  Well, that is true – but pinball players were doing the physical thing while gaming 40 years ago.  You watch a good player on one of the older, mechanical games, and my friends, he or she is shaking that machine like a tambourine and pounding it like a bongo drum – anything to get that little silver ball to go where you want it to go.   After an hour or so of playing Snow Derby (during which I had one ball going for more than 30 minutes) I worked up a sweet little sweat, and got my heart rate near the red zone.   Not the same as a good run or a crisp pace line, but it did feel good.  I still have a long way to sweat out the rest of my Vegas sins, but I’ve  got 11 weeks for that…

If you’re in Vegas with a few hours to kill, and were a pinballer back in the day, I highly recommend this place.  The guy who runs it does it as a labor of love, barely breaking even, so he needs all the business he can get.  For more background on these ageless wonders, check out the Internet Pinball Machine Database.

See ya’ on the road!

Cyclist in paradise

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