Coffee travel kit

Prior to going to Las Vegas for a conference I organized myself a coffee travel kit including the only TSA-approved travel grinder – a thing of brushed steel and ceramic beauty (the Porlex mini hand grinder purchased from Blue Bottle)! I’ve got to know a seasoned traveling saleswoman who told me that I’d never be able to find coffee in Las Vegas and that when she drove to conferences there from her home in Orange County, she took her own coffee maker!

What a life saver. I used it there quite a bit after developing skills for finding a cup of hot water somewhere, also not easy to find in Las Vegas!

Coffee addict's travelling kit

For your reference:

At a terrible bar or casino coffee shop you can tell a story about an icky tummy, or put on a flu-liked blocked nose in desperate need of a sachet flu drink, and get a takeaway cup of boiling water; with a confident walk and clipboard or leather-bound work pad with your phone to your ear because you’re too busy to stop and talk, you can mingle in the crowd at a conference or trade show (there’s always one happening somewhere in a hotel in Las Vegas) and get a cup of boiling water out of one of their urns; in the hotel you can order a breakfast and specify a pot of boiling water – this is all possible but the trick is to remember you need 2 cups, one full, one empty, might mean stashing a cup from an earlier score!

Sleeter Conference Las Vegas

Hoover Dam

The day after the conference in Las Vegas finished we joined a day trip with some of the conference delegates to visit the Hoover Dam and take a trip down the Colorado River through Black Canyon. It was an amazing day – so different and so quiet and I almost relaxed (as much as one can on a raft especially when Xero had an outage and with one feeble bar of reception I was trying to tweet and email the team back home to keep our customers informed because I was on a river in the middle of nowhere!)

The dam is huge and we got to go on a tour inside the power plant – turbines and pipes are huge. I also got to stand with one foot in Nevada and one in Arizona as the State line runs across the middle of the dam.

Hoover Dam/Black Canyon trip

Hoover Dam/Black Canyon trip

We were given picnic lunches (and a life-jacket for me … embarrassing as it was for The Mister as I was the only one, and we were barely under engine power, we floated most of the way) and boarded the raft for a 2-hour trip down through Black Canyon. The guide was informative, a river traveller for most of his life telling us about the dam, canyon and wildlife – we saw a mountain sheep and a bald eagle. The bus met us down river to take us back to the hotel in Las Vegas – everyone was pretty cold by then, except me because the life-jacket kept me so snuggly warm!

Hoover Dam/Black Canyon trip

Hoover Dam/Black Canyon trip

Hoover Dam/Black Canyon trip

Las Vegas

Las Vegas – love it or hate it I’ve heard. After 4 days and nights there I might be erring on the side of hating it. Even though the lights are pretty.

Sleeter Conference Las Vegas

We were there for a very full-on 3-day conference where Xero had an exhibitor’s/vendor’s booth which saw us getting up really early to be on form at our booth at 7am while the conference delegates wandered around with their breakfast, then manning the booth and nipping in an out of conference sessions (about accounting … just to keep up with the current thinking and trends) but always being on hand for demos on into the evening sessions then going off out to dinner with other vendors we’ve made friends with – laughing and telling stories about the lack of coffee and various booth visitors before snatching an hour or so to check email before falling into bed rather late. Repeat. Repeat. Rod was in town for the conference and made a couple of presentations which seemed to go down very well – excellent news given we were at a conference for people who belong to a group of experts and advisors for our biggest competition here in the States, QuickBooks.

Sleeter Conference Las Vegas

So, aside from that, before I forget, here’s my random list of observations and experiences in Las Vegas outside of the conference:

Casinos

  • smoking is still allowed inside at the casinos – which are in the lobbies of most of the hotels, including the brand new hotel we were staying in. My eyes and skin are suffering – you never get used to the smell
  • lobbies are wall to wall slot machines, card tables, bars and a section for high stakes players. There really are people slumped over the coin slot machines waiting for their lives to change at any hour of the day or night
  • it wasn’t really anything like the movies – I didn’t find it particularly glamorous and aside from the total over the top bling and enormity of the hotels I didn’t really feel any money in the room. No-one was dressed like a high roller, there were lots of tourists in multi-colored sweaters and groups of friends in the 20′s and 30′s.
  • You’re not allowed to take photos inside the casinos … unless you grab one from a walk way

Sleeter Conference Las Vegas

  • some of the older casinos are gross – doors open out into the strip with girls pole dancing to entice you inside, sticky carpets, free booze, tacky palm trees

Hotel

  • our hotel, the brand new Cosmopolitan (where the conference was held) was spectacular – I was like the little girl being taken into the fairy store – everything was shiny and big and our room was amazing

Sleeter Conference Las Vegas

  • we had a sofa/coffee table/desk area
  • a huge shower with a seat in it that you could watch one of the 2 TV’s from
  • clever lights with labels that said ‘Hello’ and ‘Goodbye’ and dimmed on or off the entire room lights
  • there were orange accents everywhere – the hotel guide, trim on the robe and slippers, wall hangings
  • we had a deck with a little double sofa and amazing view over the Bellagio fountain

Sleeter Conference Las Vegas

  • the closet knew when you were approaching, even before you opened the door, and turned it’s interior light on
  • the hotel had a Pillow Butler and despite The Mister not enjoying any of his 4 huge dumpy fluffy pillows he was too nervous to ring the butler in the night to try out some other pillows

but

  • the toilet door automatically closed which meant it could me stuffy and wiffy
  • the Hello Goodbye dimming lights became a real nuisance because only certain lights could be individually controlled. And the ones that could didn’t have an on switch but rather repeated clicking of an up dimmer and down dimmer so you never knew if the light was one of the individually controlled ones until you’d spend a fair amount of time clicking
  • there was a family sized microwave and a dishwasher in the room but not a bowl, cup or fork in sight. Just 2 tumblers, 2 wine glasses and an ice-bucket. You wouldn’t microwave anything in those but I suppose you’d put them in the dishwasher
  • there were no mugs and no coffee maker and no kettle. They really want you to go to the expensive cafes and restaurants for your food and drink. We’d take our own travel grinder, filter papers and hario knowing that that’d be the only way to get decent coffee but making it was a challenge – save that for another blog post
  • and the biggest downfall of all was the failed upgrade of their network in the wee hours of our first morning there. The upgrade was to be finished by 5am Friday to the system that operated the TV, phones, cable and wi-fi internet but it wasn’t – we were in a hotel for a reasonably large technical conference where the internet and cloud solutions like Xero were being promoted to 700 accountants and there was no internet. Until about 5pm on Wednesday when the conference closed. We had a portable Mifi device that we used when we could but with everyone having to use their phones and Mifis over 3G that network was flooded and gave very poor and unreliable connections. The hotel rushed out to the nearest Radio Shack and bought a whole lot more Mifis but that didn’t really solve the flooding problem. It was painful and shed Xero in such a bad light at times – how can we get these accountants who use desktop software to consider an online solution when their fears of downtime and inaccessibility were being played out right in front of them? Thankfully it was the whole hotel that was affected so there were some very frustrated people around so I don’t think anyone was too critical of our product

Outside

Sleeter Conference Las Vegas

  • You can drink anywhere and alcohol is free if you’re gambling so there were streams of tipsy people out on the street or in the shopping centers carrying glasses and other garish vessels shaped like some casino theme or yard glasses with straws
  • People bundled up against the cold (yes it was cold this time of year there) were in oversized t-shirts and hoodies advertising girls were in groups on street corners handing out pamphlets and cards for strippers and shows – they had this knack of flicking the cards in your face to try and draw attention to them and pushing right into your personal space to take one
  • If you weren’t drinking or gambling or spending your winnings in a lavish shopping centre (all the huge brands had individual stores there Prada, Tiffany, Tumi, Louis Vutton …) then you were being encouraged to buy girls. T-shirts, placards and mobile billboards being driven around on trucks advertised “Girls Girls Girls ready for you in 20 minutes”. Gross
  • The fountain is pretty special – here’s a video of it

  • Just a block either side of The Strip, the buildings stop suddenly and give way to a barren wasteland, brown land with rows and rows of houses where everyone who works in the casinos and shopping malls lives

Hoover Dam/Black Canyon trip

Coffee

  • None worth drinking – not around The Strip anyway. Take your own beans and machinery. Even if you have to make it at a conference table looking calm and not desperate and addicted

Sleeter Conference Las Vegas

The place is kind of surreal. Over the top. I had this strange feeling of everything and everyone being kind of fake. Or full of dreams based purely on luck and will-power if they had any – although I’m told some gambling requires skill and knowing the temperature of the table.