We started our venture towards Nevada with breakfast at Brandy’s. Evidently Guy from the road house diner show on Food Network did a story on it in Flagstaff. I had the most delicious vegetable omelet…I mean chunks of fresh broccoli, mushrooms and tomatoes. I couldn’t resist the oats pancake that had this savory apple cinnamon mush on top of it. An English muffin was included, but damn I had no room left in my tummy.
I’m glad we filled up though because there was nothing but rolling desert hills after Flagstaff. The wind is horrible for your car too. There is nothing to block it and it becomes somewhat of a challenge to stay straight at times. Louis has these sun visors on the windows and the shaking becomes an annoyance quite often; almost as aggravating as Tammy’s voice…but not quite.
We noticed the front bumper of Louis had come off on the passenger side when we had arrived in Flagstaff. At first, I thought someone had hit me in a parking lot. But we soon realized it was from the viscous wind (turns out my theory that Louis could fly was wrong).
We stopped at this rinky-dink gas station/restaurant about an hour from the Hoover Dam to grab some water (because it got HOT in the desert) and check on Louis’ bumper. I remembered I had some duct tape in my glove compartment from my second mother, Tammye (not our Tom Tom).
For graduation she gave me this bag full of important items with a note explaining their meaning. It included duct tape and two packs of gum, well because MacGeyver used it. I’m glad we had it, because it has held my bumper together for three states.
An interesting note about the little shop where we rigged my Element. There was a license for prostitution dated in the early 1900’s next to the bathroom. Next to it was a picture of this woman bathing in an old barrel. I haven’t really formed an opinion of this observation, but I found it intriguing. Is it good that the whores bathed? Is that what you paid for? Who knows. I didn’t have the heart to ask either.
So onward. We drove for hours in the desert… some more. There was construction outside of the Dam and it took much longer than anticipated to see Hoover. It was worth the wait though. This human construction is amazing. Lake Mead is crystal clear too. It’s the best indication of the natural scene one can expect the further West you drive.
There is also a massive bridge that is going up too. It has architectural wonder…not like the bridges on I-10 that I’m used too. Imagine being able to say you saw the construction of the Golden Gate. It’s that kind of epic. (I would have pictures, but once again, technological woes plague me).
So we crossed the Dam and the state border into Nevada. Vegas was only a blink away.
While I was over this human construct, Derek, a fellow journalist/colleague of mine called. He was on his way to Yosemite. A whimsical, transcendental journey he decided to take a few months ago in order to get out of his shell and test his manhood.
We actually discussed the trip one night at Shaker’s, downtown Lafayette, when I played an acoustic gig. During my break, we kicked back a few and talked life and dreams. He’s an editor for a local weekly newspaper in St. Martinville. We took quite a few classes in college together, including Feature Writing with Buckman, one of the most militant journalism professors known to man (this class was also one that motivated me to quit my job and go back to school full-time and one of the pieces written that semester landed me my initial job as a staff writer for The Vermilion).
The other was Ethics and Sustainable Practice in Environmental Science (or something like that) with Griff, one of the most laid-back, make you reevaluate your current life situation and start a revolution, professors. Somewhere in the middle of these classes, we also took a trip to D.C. for a Society of Professional Journalists national conference where we witnessed Woodward and Bernstein (guys who broke Watergate scandal) and Ken Paulson (editor of USA Today) relate some of the most important professional words of wisdom and motivating philosophies to bring TRUE journalism back to the original roots. Like Paulson said, bring reporters back to Superman and Clark Kent; respectable souls who just want to give the public the TRUTH.
Enough of my backstory/rant. Derek and I had pertinent professional history and both of us are contemplating our future. It was no coincidence to me that he would try to make it to Vegas the next night for us to hang out and discuss our current situations.
Nick and I made it to Vegas around 4p.m. to our destination–The Excalibur. It was a castle on the Strip. I have to say, it was the most appropriate place for me to stay. The movement of Vegas, however, was not what I was in the mood for that first night.
As soon as we walked through the doors with our luggage, staff members in suits were asking us if we had checked in, if we were a couple, and if we got our free gifts. Between the third degree, the lights and constant bells/casino sounds, I felt like I was tripping on mushrooms and had turned into Hunter S. Thompson in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas…except without any of the perks.
My mind was swirling and we had to wait in line to check in. I didn’t think it would be very busy on a Tuesday, but this is another one of those cities that does not sleep or rest. There was some confusion between Expedia and the hotel because we arrived a day later than our original reservation. I had to wait on the line for 20 minutes trying to get Expedia to fax the hotel a copy of our itinerary.
Tip: try to stay on track to avoid these types of hassles. And if you can print out your confirmations, do so. Evidently emails on your iPhone aren’t as valid.
Oh yeah, we got haggled by a clerk named Catrina who talked us into giving her $40 cash, which was refundable, once we went on a tour of one of their new properties. In exchange for free breakfast and two hours of our time, we would get free Criss Angel Cirque du Soleil tickets.
Another tip: When you are from Louisiana and a woman named Katrina tries to sale you something, run away fast…there’s a storm brewing.
We changed, ate salads at the MGM casino and then drive to a ritzy retirement home to visit Nick’s 94-year-old great uncle Edgar, a Costa Rican native and a complete Casanova.
We sat and talked for two hours. Nick had only met him once before when he was real young, so Edgar told him a lot of tall tales about their family history. It was kind of like Big Fish. His stories were captivating and his presence, mesmerizing. And I think everything was very true.
He told us of his deceased wife, who he still sighs at the thought of, and his current female companions, who he smiles of. The best line of the century was when he was comparing a current comrade with his wife, who he says the resemblance is uncanny.
“I told her, ‘I wish I would have counted the freckles on my wife’s body. Because if I counted yours, they would be the same!”
He invited us to dinner the next night at the Gold Coast, the casino he still goes dancing every Wednesday. We bid farewell for the night and then decided drinks were necessary.
We found tickets for a free drink at the hotel bar and figured thrifty was the way to go. I had won $15 on our first dollar (which turned out to be the only money I spent on gambling). I used it to get a double bourbon and water. The bartender, who evidently doesn’t get tipped when given coupons (I appreciate my former life as a server and practice good tipping karma). He ended up hooking us up with Jack Daniels instead of well. The drink was stout too. It looked like Coca Cola without the fizz.
We sipped as we walked the Strip. The lights and architecture are a beauty, but when you look around at the people, it loses its valor. The drink was “mamazing” and I was giggly by the time we hit the Bellagio. We waited for the fountain show, but it was already 12:30 and it turns out they stop the display at midnight. I guess it saves cost or energy.
I had an idea at one point that if Vegas could use the energy of people pulling the handles into electricity, they could save a lot of money.
Anyways, Nick’s favorite part of us walking back to the hotel after me drinking a strong adult beverage, was when we passed a man pushing a baby stroller with a toddler, who was completely passed out (like drunk/exhausted passed out—but the kid wasn’t really drunk…at least I hope not). I accidentally yelled “Oh My GOD!”, then realized I said that out loud and clasped my hand over my mouth and followed with a statement behind giggles, “I mean, I’m not judging”.
But I mean come on people. I was already shocked as to how many families and children were on the strip or in casinos in general. If you are going to spend money on a family vacation, shouldn’t you take those kids somewhere more beneficial? To each his own I guess. And I guess I am judging. But there are provocative pictures of both men and women everywhere. It’s not exactly a wholesome environment fit for children. People are constantly passing around cards for personal strippers–even to parents with strollers. This ain’t Disneyland and they shouldn’t see the Australian Thunder from Down Under.
We made it back to the room and I brushed my teeth in judgment, talked to Jesus and Buddha and passed out. I needed a good rest after this exposure. Maybe I’d get off my white horse and join the party the next night. Or just lighten up.