Saturday, August 21, 2010

Viva Las Vegas

Time to say good bye to the Grand Canyon. Waving our hands, we thought we had done our part. However, the Grand Canyon did not seem ready to leave us behind just yet. Really it was my fault – you think I would have known about following a GPS after the BC incident, but no – I do not learn. Now, I know for a fact I had dirt roads checked as “avoid” but, never trust that. When a road become dirt, check or no check, pause and reevaluate.

Following the GPS I scoffed at signs saying the exit was the other way. After all, what do signs know? After all, it's not like they're there to help direct people to the exit. No, we seemed to be following a truck suited to off roading. Strange, that. It took us through the village up in Grand Canyon. There is a whole town here, and a school, and everything. Crossing Guards were helping wee ones not get run over by the likes of me.

How strange would it be to grow up on the Grand Canyon?

Now just past this town was where the road became dirt, leading to back country. I protested that the GPS knew what it was doing, but Katherine was the voice of reason – turning us around and heading out the proper way. Fifteen minutes wasted, but disaster averted. I don't think I'd even call it a waste, we never would have seen the town up here otherwise.

Outside the park we found ourselves, once more, on the historic route 66. This meant all number of towns with touristy shops, such as the one just a block down from the good ol' Road Kill Cafe (with names far cooler than the actual menu items. Still, we had to stop in, as I had the poster for this place way back when I thought it was cool to hang posters on my wall.) This shop had a number of scandalously costumed female manikins standing on the roof. If nothing else, it allowed me to get a post card. For weeks I have been carrying a stamp around with me in my pocket. One day, I trusted, I would be able to post a card to Kath from North America (thus insuring she was sent a postcard from all the continents.) Never mind she was beside me when I went to the post office and mailed it – it's the completion that counts. The Gotta Catch 'em All mentality.

Down the highway another route 66 side show would present itself. Fred Flintstones' diner. There was a giant egg plant and volcano, and other things in the back. To see them proper would have cost five dollars. I had no money for that. The Eggplant reminded me, strangely not of Kid Icarus, or Captain N – but instead of the McDonald's happy meal toy from the first time I went to Disney World. It was an Eggplant car a Fraggle would ride in. But never mind all this.

Outside the Flintstones land was a dinosaur made out of metal car parts. It was like the baby of Truck-a-Saurus. Taking a picture, I felt the stop was worthwhile.

We entered into Nevada. Now, entering into Nevada from Arizona is not a passage without some interesting sights. There is no main highway – instead there is a passage that requires a security check, and then a slow drive over something amazing. The Hoover Dam. The Dam is just enormous. I'd seen it in movies, of course, but to be there and drive across it – that was something else. I could have paid the seven dollar to park and walk it, looking down the sheer drop, but I received view enough from the car. I would have liked to have toured the facility, but the cheaper shorter tour can only be booked online. Who does that?

As we crossed over, we made our way to a Nevada welcome centre. Inside there was free wifi access. This would be important as we needed some confirmation numbers for Las Vegas tickets.

We also discovered that 'back in the day' Nevada had a “Miss Mushroom Cloud.” One atomic bomb a month was detonated here. What could possibly go wrong?

Once you're over the boarder getting to Las Vegas is a matter of minutes. It's checking in that's the hard part. The Strip appeared in front of us, opening up like a wonderland of sights and sounds and worlds coming together – Pyramids beside the New York skyline, just down from the Eiffel Tower. When we rolled up to our place, the Imperial Palace, it took a while to learn where we should park our car. The sign only visible once you've turned the corner you may not have otherwise known to turn. Then you try and find a spot – good luck.

After that, we walked the stairs down, not knowing where the elevator was located. The Imperial Palace, it's not a bad place – but signs... it needs more signs. You could over hear people in the casino, and in the elevators all remarking about the same thing. But that would come later – once we'd checked in .

To check in you need to wait your turn. And oh the wait it is. I could have lined up to ride the Harry Potter ride at Universal before we got our room key. A woman in front of us pulled out her watch, timing each person at fifteen minutes to get to the counter, grab their key and leave. With five windows open, we still stood in line for an hour. Never did we learn what the hold up was. We walked up, got our key, and left. Fast as lightening.

We dragged our bags back across the casino floor to the elevator, rode to our room, tossed our gear on the bed, and then made our way back down, out, and to the strip.

Neither of us had been to Vegas before, and looking out we didn't know where to begin. Picking a direction, left, we started walking. The first casino aside from our that we came to was Paris. Out front the Eiffel tower rose into the air. As if that were not impressive enough, the inside was designed to look like the streets surrounding the land mark. Clouded sky was the ceiling, and the legs of the structure came down through the building itself.

Walking through we marveled at the flashing lights, pleasing sounds, and moving images everywhere. No doubt this was a land made to take advantages of our most primal desires – flashy, soundy, coloured things... voices of angels.

A hallway behind was made to look like a strip of cafes and restaurants. People dined in the faux Parisian night. It was something to behold. Unfortunately, this is the most impressive Casino we saw on the strip, and seeing this first may have set expectations a bit high.

The Flamingo was just a casino – nothing too fancy. But down the street was the MGM Grand. If Matt Good lyrics didn't make me care, the giant lion out front did. Inside there is a lion habitat – but we were too late. It had closed hours earlier. Across the street was New York, New York – similar to Paris, but with an American theme, and a roller coaster far too pricey to ride going through the false skyline.

Further down was the Pyramid Luxor. It sent a beam of light straight off into the night sky.

These were the buildings of legend, of iconic pop culture, of – Vegas.

We next sought out food. Having walked five hours, we were hungry and tired. Vegas was said to have cheap buffets. People lie. Cheap is 17.99, and they range to over forty dollars. Sure you can buy an eat all day pass for a chain of seven casinos – but who could make use of that?

No – this would not be for us. The value menu at the Mackers would do. Refillable soda for a buck, a side salad for the same, and some dollar McDoubles. It may not sound all that great to you – but it was damned tasty, and compared to the buffets, probably the healthy option too.

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