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Finding A Little Kentucky In Vegas... Sort Of

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By Scotty McDaniel

Talk about a culture shock.

After living in Vegas for nearly two months -- the city that never sleeps -- I've returned to Farm-town USA -- Shelbyville, Ky.

Gone are the constant beeps of slot machines, the bumper-to-bumper traffic, the 24/7 crowded sidewalks full of insomniacs, the free drinks in casinos, and the miles of sand that surround the hot and dry Neon City.

I'm back where it's quiet, the traffic flows, the sidewalks are empty, people sleep too much, booze costs money, and the grass grows.

There are obvious differences, but did I find things in Vegas that reminded me of the Bluegrass State? I guess so.

As one might expect, horse racing isn't as big in Vegas as it is in Kentucky -- literally and figuratively. But I found that it does exist. One night my supervisor took me and another coworker to the MGM Grand solely for a little horse racing game machine that he liked. You sit around the machine like a table and bet on little 4-inch mechanical horses that race around a 3-feet long track. It's a quarters-only machine, so most people sit around it to get free drinks from the casino while not wagering much money -- a great formula for an affordable night of intoxication in Sin City.

Something about betting low stakes on a fake horse race didn't feel real to me, so I smacked a bunch of buttons randomly and ended up betting 10 quarters on two horses to finish first and second. My friends laughed and questioned my out-of-control betting because it turned out that the combination was a 60-1 long shot.

Well, crazier things have happened it Vegas. On the final stretch of the race my two horses started to accelerate through the pack. We started screaming and cheering as if we were watching the actual Derby and had more than $2.50 on the race. As the little plastic thoroughbreds crossed the finish line in first and second place the guys threw me high-fives and we watched our credit ticker jump past 600.

"It's your bluegrass roots!" my supervisor shouted. I shrugged and put in another random bet that won. The rest of the table drunkenly hurled their jealous insults at us, but sneakily peeked over to see what I was betting so they could copy it. Suckers. We didn't win another big bet after that, which made them hate us even more. When we dropped back to 600 quarters of credit we decided to cash out.

The fun thing about cashing out was that the machine didn't print out a money voucher like most do these days. It was old school and started raining money, spitting out 600 quarters. Feeling like high rollers, we filled three cups with quarters and took them to the cashier, who had to take them to a special room to get them counted. The cashier eventually emerged and handed us $150, which we split among us.

Like many of Kentucky's drivers, Las Vegas drivers have yet to wrap their minds around the concept of the turn signal. Nobody signals to tell fellow drivers, "Excuse me, sir or madam. I'd very much like to enter your lane. Due to these dangerous speeds we are traveling at, I felt I should be considerate and let you know of my intentions by signaling my blinker. Thank you." Instead, they hit the gas to cut other drivers off in heavy traffic.

Of course, considering that most of Vegas's taxi drivers aren't from this country and can barely speak English maybe it's a bit unreasonable to expect these unspoken turn signal agreements to be made. I suppose the same can be said for some of Kentucky's drivers.

One of my taxi drivers was flipped the bird after an aggressive lane change, and I couldn't help but feel fuzzy inside as if I were back home.

People from all over visit Vegas to see unique beasts like the gorgeous white tigers at the Mirage, to get face to face with sharks at Mandalay Bay, or even check out Chilean flamingos and African penguins at the Flamingo Hilton. People also come from afar to Kentucky to appreciate animals. Like horses and...

Talk about a culture shock.