A couple of years ago I flew to Las Vegas for two days of the COMDEX show. It was all on work’s tab, so the trip was already one of the best ever before I stepped on the plane. Even better was that my boss had fallen ill on the evening before the trip, and I would be heading out alone.

One can’t peruse COMDEX booths all day. For one, there just aren’t as many as you’d think. And for two, they’re kind of boring in a depression year. So after I had seen my fill of displays and gathered up enough literature on work stuff to fill several hours of discussion, I headed out to the casinos.

I did a ton of stuff while I was there - I’m completely a type-A vacationer. I need vacations from my vacations to recouperate. But one thing I did that generates a good story is my experience with the High Roller, the roller coaster at the top of the Stratosphere hotel.

The Stratosphere is the tallest freestanding observation tower in the United States, and the tallest building west of the Mississippi river. The Stratosphere is slightly taller than the Eiffel Tower. Atop this behemoth at somewhere around 900 feet above the Vegas strip sits the High Roller, much higher than the skating rink attached to the Eiffel Tower.

I left the convention center early on my last day in Vegas and took a cab directly to the Stratosphere. In the lobby they had a model of the new thrill ride expansions they had planned, which have since been built. (These things look crazy.) I walked straight to the tick counter and bought a single ticket for the High Roller.

You have to walk through the mall in the base of the building to get to the elevator that goes to the top. It wasn’t an unpleasant walk since it was still early in the morning, and many of the shops hadn’t opened yet. The walk didn’t do much to quell the apprehensive knots that were forming in my stomach.

One of the world’s fastests elevators whisked me and my three fellow passengers to the observation deck. The view was amazing. Amazingly high.

I’m not great with heights, which is probably where most of the thrill of this ride comes from. Looking out the glass of the observation tower (which slants outward with no guardrail, by the way) I found it difficult to walk around even from a distance. Still, I convinced myself that I should stick it out and attempt the ride, which the employees on the ground floor has so craftily duped me into buying at a low altitude. I thought that if I could walk once around the observation deck, take some pictures, and settle myself down at that altitude, then I would get on the ride and have it done.

So I did. I walked around the deck and took pictures. The view, as I said, was fantastic. In the dry air, you could see forever and then some. The whole strip was as clear as day, and you could very clearly see the mountains in the distance.

By the time I got back around to the ride entrance, I was leaning out over the glass to look down. I had totally kicked the fear and was ready for the ride. That’s when I turned to look toward the ride entrance.

In the ceiling near the stairs to the next floor was a hatch. It was hanging open and there were many thick wires hanging out like some enormous beast’s entrails. The admission desk was empty at first, but then a guy in a hotel uniform popped up from behind the desk and placed a sign on top. It read, “The High Roller is currenly closed due to technical problems.”

I turned and quickly boarded the elevator.

The cab driver on the way to the airport told me that there was once a fire in the hotel and that the place has not been structurally sound since. They have to close the rides on top when it gets windy. This seems a bit too much to swallow to me, but made me feel better about missing my first chance at the ride.

Now that there are a few more rides there, I’ll have to plan to go back and try them all.