Tag Archives: Las Vegas

Had a crepe time in Las Vegas

My girlfriend and I went to Las Vegas last week. Had a really good time, playing and dining on some of the best food around. It’s always fun to leave the mundane activities of our daily lives to fly away to the adult version of Never Never Land. The only downside was the 110+F temps. I have been in Las Vegas in July previously, but I never remember being as pressured by the temperature as I was this year. Maybe my age is showing. On the positive side, all the casinos and restaurants have excellent air conditioning. We spent most of our time inside.

I have previously discussed my play in Las Vegas. You can check out The agony and ecstasy of video poker if you want to read about that. This  time I am focusing on the culinary pleasures available on my recent trip.

Before getting into the food, however, I wanted to share this picture of a new Wonder Woman slot machine in the Las Vegas airport. I am a giant fan of Wondy as regular readers know. What fascinated me about this new Wonder Woman machine is that it features Lynda Carter of TV fame in the 1970’s and not Gal Gadot who starred in last  year’s Wonder Woman blockbuster movie.

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In the airport.

Now for the food. The Paris casino is right across the Strip from Caesars Palace where we stayed. I like to go to Paris for their authentic Parisian crepes – at least to my taste.

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This was a fresh berry crepe which proved to be berry delicious. (Sorry. Couldn’t resist.)

After enjoying that crepe from the casino across the Strip, I stumbled across the following sign in the food court at Caesars.

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Voila! A new crepe vender at Caesars!

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As you can see there is a striking similarity between our home-grown crepe and the one from Paris.

The crepes from both casinos were equally delicious. So much so that we decided to have one for lunch too.

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The lunch crepe featured ham and gruyere cheese. Delicious!

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Did you win in Las Vegas …?

Did you win? That’s always the question people ask when I mention having gone to Las Vegas. Please consider this a companion piece to what I posted May 12 –The agony and ecstasy of video poker.

Back 20 years ago when I was married, my wife and I had a subscription to Chicago’s famed Lyric Opera. A night at the opera would easily run in the neighborhood of $500, considering the ticket prices, well north of $100 each, cabs to and from, dinner out and a baby sitter. No one ever asked – Did you win? upon hearing that we went to the opera. How was the performance? What did you see? How was the production? Those were the kind of questions asked.

The fact is that my girlfriend and I played a lot of video poker on the trip. BUT, that wasn’t all we did.

Here is a shot of the beautiful fountain at Bellagio out the window of our room.

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You can see the dancing waters of the fountains. At night the view was more spectacular.

Like any trip there were lovely meals out. Here are pics from a few of ours.

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These were delicious baked clams at Rao’s on our first night there. New York readers are familiar with Rao’s.

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Off to Las Vegas … the agony and ecstasy of video poker

I am off to Las Vegas this weekend for four nights and five days at Caesars Palace. Regular readers know that I play there regularly and have written a number of posts on my trips – primarily on the health aspects of dining out for several days and nights. This time I am writing about playing there. You won’t find much in this post about healthy eating, just what I do that passes for fun in my life.

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The upper left hand in this pic qualifies as the ecstasy of VP. For anyone interested, the chances of holding an ace and drawing a Royal Flush are one in 178,365.

At 78 years old, I have been playing gambling games for most of my life. I grew up on the west side of Chicago. My father owned a pool room with a poker game in back. So my earliest recollections were playing cards. To this day the only thing I do left handed is deal cards because I was so little when I started that I couldn’t hold the cards in my left hand. I had to hold them in my right and peel them off with my left. My family always played games together, including Monopoly and all the card games. So, I grew up experiencing the vicissitudes of probabilities in cards and dice.

Growing up in the ’40’s my friends all gambled. I remember pitching pennies in grade school. We would stand behind a line on the sidewalk and try to pitch our pennies closest to the line two sidewalk squares (about 10 feet) away. Although we were pretty much uniformly poor we always ‘played for keeps.’ Continue reading

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One of my pet peeves – Bad Dice

pet peeve
noun informal
something that a particular person finds especially annoying.
“one of my biggest pet peeves is poor customer service”

Do you have any pet peeves? You know, those actions or situations that just make you crazy. Why can’t they get it right? Of course, possibly the most frustrating aspect of the pet peeve is that very few other folks share your feeling. At least, that seems to be my experience.

This is one of my pet peeves. It may seem very insignificant to you and maybe it is, but I find this really bothersome. You can be the judge. Is this totally neurotic of me, or does it indicate something that just isn’t right with the world?

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My pet peeve is the graphic depiction of dice – done incorrectly. I don’t know when I realized that there are correct dice and incorrect pictures of dice, but ever since I noticed it, incorrect depictions of dice make me crazy. Following are examples:

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This is in the McCarran airport in Las Vegas.

I bought the shirt below at the theater in New York where I saw Guys and Dolls, Damon Runyon’s classic story about gamblers who get involved in a giant dice game. I couldn’t believe the dice.

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The truth of it is utterly simple.

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This is an accurate die. Notice that on the sides exposed you can not add up to a total of seven.

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As you can see: They continued on the soundtrack album

When a die is constructed correctly whatever number is on the top has a corresponding number on the bottom that adds up to seven. So, if there is one on top, the bottom number is six. Two on top, five on the bottom. So simple. But apparently not easy for some artists.

The ad agency that created the sign in the McCarran Airport in Las Vegas couldn’t take the time – to get a pair of real dice – in Las Vegas. They screwed up their illustration.

Likewise, the company that produced the Guys and Dolls shirt – about gambling – couldn’t be bothered with getting a pair of real dice to reproduce on its product. Also, while I don’t have a photo, they used the same shot on the marquee outside the theater where it was performed.

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How would you like to carry incorrect dice around your entire life?

Sorry, but I find this kind of carelessness intolerable.

There, I got it off my chest. Thanks for taking the time to read this. Feel free to share your thoughts on this in the comment section below.

For the record: Yes, I gamble. Regular readers know that I go to Las Vegas around four times a year. Have been playing there since the late 60’s. When I first went there, all I played was craps, betting against the dice and laying the odds. I don’t any longer. Video poker is my game now.

Tony

 

 

 

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What is a Yoga Trick for Getting to Sleep Quickly?

Regular readers know that I started doing yoga more than 30 years ago while in my 30’s. I did it religiously for the first couple of years, then slacked off some. But, I never stopped doing yoga. I use yoga techniques when I do stretches on bike riding breaks. The yoga breathing sends oxygen-rich blood to my leg muscles and refreshes them to extend the ride.

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I wrote previously about being in Las Vegas on a trip with my girlfriend and dealing with the huge portions of food being served. Another difficulty of being here is that your mind gets going gambling and then when you finally get to bed, your brain is still in high gear.

This Royal Flush is the kind of hand that can keep a player from falling asleep.

This Royal Flush is the kind of hand that can keep a player from falling asleep.

What to do?

Going back to my practice of yoga, the one technique that I have carried forward and used probably every day of my life is breath control. I think it may have saved my life on more than one occasion.

If you aren’t familiar with breath control in yoga, I will share my experience. I learned from a yoga teacher that I was dating, there may well be other further techniques that I don’t know about.

What I do is called diaphragmatic breathing in which you lower your diaphragm by extending your stomach outward (making a potbelly). This is done to a count of five and the result is that the inhaled air reaches deep into the lungs which doesn’t occur in regular breathing. You can hold the breath for a beat or two and then exhale to a similar five count.

Besides sending oxygen-rich blood around to your muscles and brain, this also has a wonderful stilling effect on your mind as well as your body. Remember, when you are stressed, you breathe shallowly – your breath comes in short pants. The yoga breathing is the opposite of that and has the opposite effect. It calms you down.

Whenever I find myself stressed in any way, the first thing I do is to relax and breathe diaphragmatically. This slows my racing mind down and allows me to make clear decisions as opposed to panicked ones.

Now you know the first part . I recently took a yoga class from The Great Courses. In this class, the teacher extended the yoga breath which I have described. In her version, you inhale diaphragmatically to a five count, then, instead of exhaling, you expand your chest and inhale for a further five count. This results in considerably more oxygen getting into your system and also has a stronger impact on slowing your breathing and heart rate.

While practicing yoga breathing concentrate only on the breath you are taking and nothing else. Feel the oxygen entering your lungs and circulating through your body as you inhale. Release the waste air on the exhale thinking only of that. Clear your mind as you fill and empty your lungs.

I have found that using this new technique at night can result in putting me to sleep in no time. It really relaxes me and takes me right down.

If you are having trouble getting to sleep or would just like to fall asleep faster, I suggest you try it.

Finally, because so many readers are concerned about their weight and waistlines, a good night’s sleep is very helpful in controlling your weight. When you sleep badly, or too little, you are more likely to be snacking on sugary, calorie-filled, confections in the afternoon to get an energy boost. So, a good night’s sleep can help you cut down on bad snacks, too.

Tony

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Good Eating Habits Die Hard in Las Vegas

I have said elsewhere and written here time and again that I feel I have total confidence in my ability to maintain my current weight of 155 pounds, having done that for the last five years.

HOWEVER, that statement is based on the assumption that I am home and in total control of what I eat, preparing most of my own meals. Also, it assumes that I am able to ride my bike an average of about 20 miles a day. Clearly, that much exercise covers a multitude of sins.

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At the end of February I went with my girlfriend to Las Vegas to celebrate our second anniversary together. In this case, what happened in Las Vegas isn’t going to stay there.

First of all, I realized that I was going to be eating a lot of wonderfully prepared foods. That fact could be a big potential stumbling block for my weight control program. Secondly, no way was I going to be pedaling 20 miles a day on a bike. There are health clubs in the big hotels, HOWEVER, again, I am leery about exercising in Las Vegas. The altitude is 2500 feet above sea level and my body reacts poorly to that. I almost fell off an exercise bike a few years back after just 20 minutes of riding as a result of this altitude. The bottom line is that I limit my exercise to walking around casinos and sight seeing. Not a lot of calories burned that way.

So, I made a policy decision about eating. I was definitely going to enjoy indulging in the culinary fare available. After all, we were there to celebrate. I didn’t want to spoil it being a calorie cop. If I gained a pound or two in the five days we were there, so be it. I felt sure that I could burn them off once I got back home.

I am not going to bore you with pictures from the dozen or so meals
that we ate there. But, I have selected some dishes that I think represented our dining experiences over the period.

This was a pasta dinner at Rao's in Caesars Palace. Delicious meal on our first night.

This was a pasta dinner at Rao’s in Caesars Palace. Delicious meal.

The next day we ate at a little French cafe in Paris, our hotel. This sandwich is bacon and cheddar cheese melted on a croissant.

This was mouth watering and I have to believe it ran close to 1000 calories.

This was mouth wateringly delicious and I have to believe it ran close to 1000 calories.

We would have desserts at dinners, but split them rather than each go crazy with one.

I think this chocolate and whipped cream covered crepe came from another of the French restaurants in Paris.

I think this chocolate and whipped cream covered crepe came from another of the French restaurants in Paris.

Although we don’t usually do the buffets in Las Vegas because there is so much food on them, we did one on this trip. One of the entrees was crab legs.

Bucket of crab legs from the buffet.

Bucket of crab legs from the buffet.

Our anniversary was February 28 and we celebrated at Nobu in Caesars Palace. I have been eating sushi since I was first introduced to it in the mid-1970’s at a press party. I love it and eat it often. I can honestly say that in close to 40 years of eating sushi I have never experienced anything like the dishes at Nobu. I believe there are 35 of them in a number of cities all over the country. If you have a chance and a few extra dollars, I recommend a celebration dinner at one.

Beside being gorgeously laid out, this was literally melt in your mouth delicious.

Besides being gorgeously presented, this black cod was literally melt in your mouth delicious.

The final dish was our dessert at Nobu. I was so impressed with the way they decorated the plate.

This was some kind of melted chocolate pastry that simply exceeded my descriptive powers.

This was some kind of melted chocolate pastry that simply exceeded my descriptive powers.

Again, we split the dessert.

Just to fill in some details, we did go back to the little diner at Paris and I had their ham and gruyere croissant sandwich which was equally delicious and caloric.

This was another food court meal, a strawberry crepe with whipped cream. Again, we split it.

This was another food court meal, a strawberry crepe with whipped cream. Again, we split it.

 

The final night we went downtown to the Chicago Brewery and Pizza parlor in the Four Queens Hotel and Casino. We split a couple of pizzas and wrapped up the remainder to eat on the plane going home.

Okay, that should give you a pretty good idea of the kind of eating we did in four nights over five days in Las Vegas. Put your hand over the next paragraphs and guess – How much weight do you think I gained?

Full disclosure, I figured I had added about two pounds on the trip and I was committed to some serious biking and exercise upon return.

I hope you did as I did and made some kind of a guess about my weight. The following morning, I tipped the scale at … 155 pounds. Incredibly, I didn’t add a pound.

I can’t explain that. My girlfriend said it was because we walked so much, but at my weight walking a mile only burns around 90 calories. I don’t think we walked that many miles. But, the scale doesn’t lie.

The only thing I can think of is that I didn’t snack much between meals and we stuck to a regular schedule of meals. As I said at the top, “Good eating habits die hard.” I think I have become hard-wired to balance my intake and output. I didn’t get silly at a bunch of buffets and I didn’t fret at any point in the trip about what I was eating.

If you have any observations, I would be pleased to hear them.

Tony

I have written about trips to Las Vegas previously: Is it Possible to Enjoy Las Vegas and Control Your Weight? Thoughts on Aging in Las Vegas, What Happens in Las Vegas …”

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Is it Possible to Enjoy Las Vegas and Control Your Weight?

First of all you have to decide on your fun factor. Part of the fun of visiting Las Vegas is the chance to eat a lot of wonderful foods. So, if you are going to sweat your weight, you might not have nearly as much fun. My decision was to have a good time and worry about the food when I got back home. I didn’t go crazy stuffing myself with bad food, but I also didn’t listen to the food cop inside me.

We stayed at the Paris Hotel and Casino on the strip. Here is a shot of the view from our window.

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Another aspect of weight control at home or in Las Vegas is exercise. The hotel where we stayed had a health club as most do. I am not much on health clubs. They make me feel like I am in prison. In addition, as I wrote in a previous post on a Las Vegas visit, “Although there are no signs posted anywhere in the health club, or in the city for that matter, no one mentions the fact that Las Vegas is 2000 feet above sea level. The air is thinner. Air compresses under pressure. At sea level there is greater pressure than there is 2000 feet above, so while there is the same amount of oxygen in the air, the molecules are farther apart and you get less oxygen when you breathe.” I really don’t like working out there because I get strange feedback from my body. The bottom line is that I decided to skip exercise for the four day trip.

In the course of four days we had a lot of meals. I am going to pick out a few that I can illustrate and share them with you.

One of my healthiest breakfasts was a bowl of granola with yogurt and berries at Bally’s I am guessing it come in around 700 calories. Very tasty and held my appetite in check very well. granola

Below is a picture of a bacon, cheese and egg croissant sandwich. Paris has a lot of little eating places on a little street on the ground floor. I am putting the calorie count close to 1000 I know that croissants have at least 250 calories and that doesn’t count the eggs, bacon and cheese. By the way, this is a wonderfully tasty sandwich.egg and bacon

 

Another treat I look forward to on every trip is a visit to the Lobster Chowder Company in the Caesars Palace food court. As you can see from the photo they will serve their lobster chowder in a bread bowl if you want. This adds calories, but also adds a lot of fun cutting up and eating the bread soaked in chowder. I like this so much I wrote it up for Yelp. I am guessing this would run 100 or so under 1000 calories. Again a lovely meal. One observation here about eating at these fast food type places. I bring a bottle of water. I don’t order sugary soda or is chemical substitute diet soda. This eliminates at the least a bunch of calories and at worst throwing damaging chemicals into my system. Check out my Page What’s Wrong With Soft Drinks? for more details.

Lobster chowder in a bread bowl.

Lobster chowder in a bread bowl.

For our big meal we dined at Mon Ami Gabi, also in Paris. This is a very popular restaurant frequented by the locals. It also happens to originate in Chicago, so we knew about the quality of its food. mon-ami-gabi-patio

One of their specialties is Steak Frites which as you can see from the photo, I ordered. I guesstimated this entree at 1000 calories minimum. Yes, it was very large and I ate it all. steak frites

Another of my favorites is the pizza they serve at the Chicago Brewing Company in the Four Queens downtown. I know – why travel to Las Vegas for Chicago style pizza? The fact is it is excellent pizza and not like any of the pizza places I frequent back home. As you can see from the photo we had two good-sized pizzas on the final night. Our plan was to eat half of them and wrap the rest for the plane ride home. Cold pizza to an Italian guy beats the life out of anything they serve on an airplane.

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So, as you can see, I was pretty lax about my eating there. Take a guess at how much weight I put on with these meals and no bike rides from Monday through Friday. Spoiler alert, I gained a pound. That was all.

I was very pleased that I did not pack on more pounds on the trip. However, to put this in perspective, to eat like this regularly and not exercise would gain at least a pound a week, or 52 pounds in a year. Clearly, it is a one off experience.

Speaking of one off situations. Here is a picture of a Royal Flush I caught at Paris. I am a video poker player. Man does not live by bread alone.paris royal 7:22:2014

Tony

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Thoughts on Aging in Las Vegas

What happens in Vegas  ….

This time it isn’t staying in Vegas. I just returned home to icy (9F) Chicago from Las Vegas where temps ranged as high as 70F on the three days I was there.

My girlfriend and I decided to celebrate our one year anniversary (Feb 28) with the trip.

Nice place to stay.

Nice place to stay.

We indulged ourselves at Caesars Palace.

Sumptuous seafood salad at Rao's Restaurant

Sumptuous seafood salad at Rao’s Restaurant

I took my first trip to Las Vegas back in the 60’s when there was still desert between strip casinos so I have seen some amazing changes in the past 50 years. I used to go on junkets where junketeers would round up players and fly them out free. The stipulation was that the player had to gamble a certain amount of money. If you could play, you didn’t need to pay … except at the tables. Those stopped when the city went corporate, but there are still lots of comps to be had.

This seemed an appropriate sign at the Starbuck's shop in Caesar's.

This seemed an appropriate sign at the Starbucks shop in Caesars.

If you haven’t experienced one, casino buffets are really a special experience. I was reminded of the sumptuous feasts at Hogwarts dining room in the Harry Potter movies. You can be sorely tempted by the offerings. We watched people carrying plates with mounds of food on them. I know that when I came here in my youth I was one of them. It is no surprise that 60 percent of us are overweight and 30 percent outright obese. My girlfriend and I were able to enjoy our meals without having to push ourselves away from the table, or loosen our belts afterwards.

We saw Lainie Kazan in her Cabaret Show on the night of the 28th. Kazan is 74 years old, the same age I am. It was sad to see her have to be helped up on the stage. She is very overweight. Her voice isn’t what it used to be, but she still has plenty left. She can certainly deliver a song. The audience totally loved her. One thing she did that I never saw a singer do before was use a music stand with pages of lyrics on it. She turned each page as she finished the song. At one point she said she is getting old and has ‘trouble remembering’ these days. I hope it is just a matter of aging and not anything more ominous. As a person with Alzheimer’s and dementia in the family, this resonated powerfully with me. Check out Exercise, Aging and the Brain for some positive info on aging and memory.

It was a great trip for the two of us, a different setting from what I experienced going there as a youth in my 20’s. The town has matured since then and so have I, … somewhat. I am now a lot older and a little bit smarter.

When I weighed myself this morning, I had not gained any pounds. Back in my 20’s I had always packed on a few.

For important info on exercising in Las Vegas check out my What Happens in Las Vegas post from last September.

Tony

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Las Vegas Return Plus One Day

As I wrote upon my return from three nights in Las Vegas, I was very happy to see that I hadn’t gained any weight despite minimal exercise and partaking of some wonderful meals.

On the first full day back, I took it relatively easy.

I was surprised to see waitresses selling cigars and cigarettes in the casino.

I was surprised to see waitresses selling cigars and cigarettes in the casino.

For context, I hadn’t been to Las Vegas or any place on an airplane for three years. So, I was not accustomed to the bottlenecks and delays of air travel. We left our hotel at 10:30 AM for a 12:15 PM flight. Once we got through security, we sat around for about an hour. Then the flight back to Chicago took 3 hours and 25 minutes. Another 40 minutes for the ride home through rush hour traffic. So, we got home at 6:30 PM. Don’t forget Chicago is two hours later than Las Vegas, so we, in effect, spent half a day crossing the country. Although the majority of the time was spent sitting, it was emotionally draining on me.

On Saturday, the first day back, I ‘slept in’ for me and rose at 6:00 AM. Normally, I wake between 4:15 AM and 4:45 AM. I am usually out on the bicycle at 5:00 AM on most mornings. Because I slept in, I did not go out first thing, but walked the dog after she woke up and we had both breakfasted.

I took out the bike around 9:30 Saturday morning with the dog in the basket. I only put in 18 miles as I didn’t want to overdo it the first day back. Usually, I start with a 20 mile ride and then have a second ride later. Also, on the first ride, I don’t take the dog which is an easier ride. Instead of riding, in the early afternoon, I napped for an hour and ended up going to bed at my usual time.

I conclude from that experience that my body still needed rest from the trip, or the flight, or the waiting.

On Sunday, we had wretched weather in Chicago with rain, wind and a Bears game which meant a lot of folks on the bike path. I got in 20 miles of riding and came home to watch football.

I am hoping to be back in perfect shape on Monday.

Tony

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What Happens in Las Vegas …

No, this time it isn’t staying there. I have been in Las Vegas for the past couple of days and thought there might be some value in sharing a few of the details of my trip with you. Certainly the exercise part.

I had a nice view of the Eiffel Tower and the Las Vegas strip from my room.

I had a nice view of the Eiffel Tower and the Las Vegas strip from my room.

First and foremost, I am not able to ride 20 miles a day on my bike. So, my body is not going to get its usual super cardio workout. I am staying at the Paris Hotel which offers health club facilities so I have been using that. Guess what, although I am a seasoned bike rider, 20 minutes on the exercise bike here wears me out. How can that be? Is it the extra helpings of goodies at the buffet, or the late nights at Jersey Boys taking their toll?

No. My first instinct was to feel guilty about having fun and over indulging which was damaging my conditioning.

Although there are no signs posted anywhere in the health club, or in the city for that matter, no one mentions the fact that Las Vegas is 2000 feet above sea level. The air is thinner. Air compresses under pressure. At sea level there is greater pressure than there is 2000 feet above, so while there is the same amount of oxygen in the air, the molecules are farther apart and you get less oxygen when you breathe.

Basketball fans know about this regarding the Denver Nuggets who play in Mile High Stadium. It is harder for visiting teams to keep up with the home team because of the elevation. While Las Vegas is only about 40 percent as high as Denver, there is more oxygen available, but less than we are used to at sea level. The effect is more subtle and more unexpected.

As you can imagine I was gratified to learn this elevation fact, as I thought my body had begun going to seed after only one night of overindulgence. The second and third mornings I did the treadmill instead of the bike to get some weight-bearing work, too.

Cracked crab legs at Joe's were part of my overindulgence.

Cracked crab legs at Joe’s were part of my overindulgence.

You need to drink more water in the higher altitude and pay attention to alcohol consumption as drinks pack more wallop higher up. Just what you need in Las Vegas, right?

My game of choice is video poker. The Royal Flush is a jackpot winner.

My game of choice is video poker. The Royal Flush is a jackpot winner.

So, it is possible to exercise and eat well without losing your conditioning. You just need to be alert and not overdo it on either end of the spectrum.

Tony

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