Trip report by Nick
  Senior  foreign correspondent
  and proprietor of bartcop books

I was going to leave out the story of how I got to Bartfest, but then I realised that any story that includes the Texas Highway Patrol, one President, one Resident and a car park that looks like a native American temple had to be told to the wider world.

So, I set out for Bartfest from Oklahoma City on the Monday beforehand, figuring this is my chance to see some of the
Southwest before I go to Vegas, gamble away all my money, get drunk, marry a showgirl who then takes half of the nothing
I have left in a messy Reno divorce and I get deported back to Britain. Amazing what thoughts pass through your head as
you're driving through the desert heading towards Sin City.

I met Officer Rocha of the Texas State Police that Monday afternoon just east of Amarillo. Going just a few miles over the
speed limit may be perfectly safe in other states, but in Texas, they like to stop you for going 75 in a 70 zone. The only other
time the police have pulled me over was back when I was 17 and forgot to put my lights on when driving at night but, when
I saw those lights in the rear view mirror and realised it was me who had to pull over, I felt just like that nervous 17 year old
all over again.

So, he wants to see my license and registration. Sure, I say, and pull out the pile of rental documents and my British driving licence, explaining what they are. Next thing I know, we're sitting in his car as he copies out my details and starts asking me questions. I put on my best English accent and do the whole 'terribly sorry, Officer' confused Brit act while trying to stop my
mind from conjuring up images of Texan jails and wondering if they'll take travellers cheques or Visa cards for speeding fines. Luckily, the innocent abroad act works and he lets me off with a warning (and a heart rate that stays somewhere over 100
for the next hour or so) and I'm left to go on my way with a little souvenir written warning courtesy of the Texas State Police.

By Tuesday, I'm in Santa Fe, playing that traditional tourist game of wondering which are the really old adobe buildings,
and which are the really new buildings that have been made to look like really old adobe buildings to fit in with the local construction code. So preoccupied am I with the history, the museums and the shock of finding an American city that
not only has Mike Malloy on the air (AM 1400) but also has a downtown area that's populated after 6pm, I completely
fail to notice that Al Gore is speaking in town and just hear about his speech the next morning on the news.

Unfortunately, two nights later in Flagstaff I don't manage to ignore the presence of Resident Monkey in a Man Suit, who's
in town to give a speech to say just why environmentalists are bad, logging companies are good and how attacking Iraq will
help prevent forest fires. Basically, all the good Freepers and monkeys of Arizona have descended on poor little Flagstaff
for the night, allowing hotels to push their prices through the roof, thus giving me the opportunity to really feel like an
American and have a lot less cash than I thought I would thanks to the President.

The next morning, I consider hanging around in town, but facing thousands of ditto-monkeys in one place is too much even
for me to face, so I decided to head for the only giant hole that's deeper than the abyss inside the Shrub's head and visit the
Grand Canyon.

I get into Vegas on Saturday morning and miraculously find the airport without getting lost on the way. Good to see that they never miss an opportunity to let you gamble in Sin City and you can easily waste a few hundred dollars on slots while you're waiting for your luggage. I pick up Bana from her flight and after a quick tour of the strip we make it to the Rio and check in remarkably easily (and early), giving me time to lose some money playing blackjack before Bartfest. Then, we have the fun
job of trying to find just where the Party of The Year is going to be as the Rio's in-house events TV channel says it's in the
To Be Announced suite and when we ask the front desk staff, they have to call pretty much every extension in the hotel
before pointing us off to the Masquerade Tower, passing Marc Perkel in his Juliefest T-shirt on the way.

I'd already been sampling the delights of free Vegas drinks that afternoon, so by the time we get to the party I'm already
starting to feel a bit blurred around the edges and the free bar only adds to that effect. Luckily, I don't think I was alone
in that feeling, but if anyone has memories of talking to a loud, drunken Englishman who was talking rubbish all night then
it was probably me. Or my evil twin, who also happened to be there. Honest.

Like so many people who went to Bartfest, I have trouble with remembering names, and as my memories of the night are fractured by alcohol, here are my recollections. None of these should be regarded as a true description of any events or
people and I may in fact be making the whole thing up having spent the entire night lost in one of the ridiculously gargantuan Masquerade suite bathrooms.

So, I remember drinking, eating fajitas, talking with many people about many topics, telling Vegas Dave he ought to report
on Deadwood, South Dakota, talking about England with Al Knutson who used to live there, reciting a Bill Hicks routine on
gun control from memory for the woman with the video camera (and if that doesn't make the official Bartfest video, you have
my thanks), meeting Bart and Mrs Bart, talking about crop circles with someone whose name I don't remember, but who I
have seen in the pictures of the night so she wasn't a figment of my imagination, watching Bart try and find the people who'd chosen 37 and 38 on the roulette challenge, meeting Kevin Cunningham.

Then, with the party over we all headed downstairs and got to watch Bart explain the great Bartfest roulette challenge to the
Rio pit boss and I saw myself not win, so I couldn't offer to buy drinks for everybody and instead I went off to play blackjack again and somehow ended up much drunker and in profit so went and found Bana, Derek, Steve, Krista, Tommy and Dan
and insisted that they carry on drinking. Which wasn't hard as they were looking for a bar anyway.

Finally got to sleep sometime after 4am, then had to be up and out of the suite by 12 the next morning which we amazingly managed. Somehow, I didn't have a hangover, but I suspect that's partly because I was still drunk from the night before.

After that, it was an afternoon with Klingons...but that's a whole other story.

So, when's Bartfest 2 and who's organising it?

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