Thurs. Feb. 23, 2012- Lake Havasu City, Desert Driving, Las Vegas:
I woke early yet again, but this time it is because the living room was simply awash in bright Arizona sunshine, no complaints. At 8 in the morning it was still rather cold however, but the air was so fresh it was unbelievable, it was just gorgeous outside. For breakfast we went in to town to the Golden Corral, for a buffet. It was so cheap! It was only $7, but I had to pay for coffee. That was probably the only downside because this place had an amazing spread of food. They even had small cartons of milk and chocolate milk! Any place where I can eat chicken-fried steak for breakfast is ok in my books. And the dessert spread? Let’s just say, they had a chocolate fountain. And food on sticks, for sticking in the fountain, but I just found it made for a less messy eating experience. And best of all: chocolate cupcakes for breakfast! I ate so much food and was stuffed, I borderline had to be carried out. Ok, fine a bit of an exaggeration, but still. Before heading back to the house we stopped at a dollar store so that Mike could get some travel size bottles to transfer a bottle of hot sauce into (it was more than 100ml and thus did not meet carry-on travel requirements). This dollar store sold just about everything except for the kitchen sink. Among other things they had medications and marijuana home-testing kits.
Back at the house I had a quick shower and my hunger came back. I have no idea how that was possible. I had eaten so much, less than an hour ago! Afterwards we went driving south to see the desert landscape. We drove over the Parker Dam, which was built to create Lake Havasu. One of the main reasons we were driving around was because I had mentioned wanting to see some cacti. And man did I see a lot of them. Mostly it was little round red ones high atop the hills, but as we headed back there were some with the funky arms that take 75 years before they can grow an arm. Before we had left I had washed my hair. It turns out that driving around for 2 hours with the top down in a convertible car will do wonders for your hair. It dried my hair and gave it lots of body. At some point I made the incredibly dumb mistake to let my hair down in an attempt to re-tie it. The next few minutes were spent desperately grabbing tufts of hair as the rest whipped across my face and sometimes into my mouth; it was awful, and quite funny.
By the time we got back I was voraciously hungry, so I made myself a grilled cheese. Grilled is not the right word. I made toast, then I placed cheese on it and placed the whole thing on the toaster in hopes that it would melt. When it did not melt I put it in the microwave, less than 15 seconds later it was bubbling and growing and I ran to panickedly hit the stop button. The cheese kept sticking to my teeth; it was an interesting lunch to say the least. For the first time I was actually going to have some nice relaxing vacation time. The temperature at this point was somewhere around 23 Celsius? The pool was just calling out to us. Mike’s mom drove us there in her golf cart, which was a lot of fun as we held on for dear life. We spent no more than 3 minutes in the pool when Mike deemed it too cold, so we tried the other pool, which lasted another 2 minutes maybe? In the hot “summer” sun we ended up sitting in a hot tub. Eventually it became too warm so we resorted to just sunbathing on the deck in lounge chairs. There was music playing, the sun was warm… finally I had some relaxing vacation time! At one point the CSI: Miami theme song came on and I had to, simply had to, whip off my sunglasses and make a joke.
We got back to the house and I freaked out. My face was red as a tomato, I was so sun burnt, my skin was so tight and itchy and it was just awful. Turns out driving with the top down in the Arizona desert at high noon will fry your face. I was yet again hungry, as was Mike. We decided to hedge our bets, look up the In N Out secret menu and get burgers for the road. Why were we hedging our bets? Well because we had plans to go to the Bellagio for a dinner buffet that night. I had to write my order down in my notebook so as not to forget it. Mike had a burger with chili peppers, protein style which basically meant that instead of buns the burger was wrapped in lettuce. I decided to go the opposite route and order the Flying Dutchman: two burger patties with cheese melted between them, nothing else. It was a messy ordeal to say the least. But man alive was it good. That is how you can tell if a burger is good, the meat itself is tasty. I was too sheepish to ask, but Mike did for me, and I got some In N Out stickers. Thankfully I had saved some wet-naps from the PB&J place in Detroit, they came in handy post-burger.
Boston’s song More Than A Feeling came on the radio during the drive to Las Vegas and I got all sappy, drawing some hearts in my book. That quickly faded when we crossed over into California and the time changed. It seems that Arizona does not follow daylight savings time. So not only was I 3 hours behind from home, but in Arizona it had only been 2 hours behind. I gave up trying to figure out the time and took to staring out the window at the changing landscape. The desert in California is rockier and less scenic; I took to looking across the Colorado River at the Arizona/Nevada landscape. This was ruined by a smelly truck transporting sheep. We turned off onto a smaller highway back to Nevada, a super fun bumpy highway that sort of felt like a roller coaster every time we flew over a bump. At one point or another Mike and I turned to each other… this looked familiar: driving through the desert, a train far off running parallel to us on the right. We got all excited but there was one key factor missing: the train tracks would have to cross the road. The excitement died down as we drove, leaving the train behind. As some banjo music played on the radio we saw a wondrous sight up ahead, could it be? Could it really possibly be? The train tracks crossed the highway! We were driving on the Cruis’n USA Route!! Mike and I were beside ourselves with giddiness.
At this point I had surpassed a new record, over a 1000 photographs taken. As I watched the sun set, I cannot tell for sure, but I think I could actually see rays of sun poking out from behind the clouds. It was beautiful; there was just the smallest sliver of the moon way above it. You could also faintly see the rest of the moon and down to the left a bright spot that was Venus. I could tell we were getting close because far off in the distance I could see the Stratosphere tower. It was really weird to see the city lights in the valleys with dark mountains towering over top. We stopped at a gas station and I ran inside in a desperate attempt to get my Cherry Coke Zero fix, for I had yet to find any during the trip! Alas, they only had the regular Cherry Coke; again I would have to settle for ingesting high-fructose corn syrup. Getting closer to Las Vegas, there was a billboard advertising diamonds, and it actually had glitter on it, it was a sparkly diamond billboard!
While waiting for Mike’s mom, who was checking us in to the Rio hotel we sat and played a 1 cent game, in hopes that it would kill some time. Mike lost his dollar to it. I managed to win 20 cents and decided to bail with that. I cashed out my dollar and decided to save it for later. We left our stuff in the hotel and headed out with a map and a general idea of what the evening’s plans were. Mike’s mom stayed behind. It was just us two. We sauntered down the hall, filled with excitement, imagining up tales of returning to the hotel riding on burros, married and being chased by a bounty hunter with only 10 minutes left to get ready to go to the airport… and we were quickly snapped back in to reality when we were staring at a dead end. We had somehow managed to miss the turn towards the elevators. What a great start to the night! We got in the elevator and a cross-dressing man joined us. Then at the next floor about 8 high school teenagers joined us. Only in Vegas. Later on I said that to Mike and he was like “Oh! That was a cross-dressing man? I wasn’t sure, was not going to say anything but…” and we just laughed. I took my $1 voucher from earlier and played in a giant (though not as big as at the Golden Nugget) slot machine. I lost. But you cannot tell, because in the pictures I have the hugest grin on my face.
Lucky for us, our hotel featured a free shuttle bus to the other hotels owned by the same company, one of which was Bally’s which was right across the street from the Bellagio, the first stop for the night. The driver was nice enough to mention that you can drink on the strip. We started out the night by watching the fountain show at the Bellagio, which was by far, my favourite show of the whole night. We had to walk through the super confusing Bellagio in a sad attempt to find the buffet. At one point I stopped and asked an employee who started to move in close and hit on me… until Mike appeared. He gave us the most confusing directions that involved so many turns, and yet we somehow made it without getting lost. The line was long, but about 5 minutes after a whole hoarde of people showed up, so that made it feel like less of a wait. We waited maybe 40 minutes, anxiously peering towards the front every few minutes or so. Once we rounded the corner it was great watching people leave the buffet. They walked so slowly and the looks on their faces were somewhere between having eaten too much and happiness. Waiting that long and having to pay $30, so worth it, the selection was amazing. They had kobe beef steak, king crab legs, snow crab legs, various sushi, steak tartar (ok, that one was awful, the bread it was on was stale) and so much dessert. They had mini crème brulees! Alas, the thing with crème brulee is that you have to have it when it is freshly bruleed, but it was still good. My only complaint is about their soft-serve “ice cream” it should not melt that fast or into a watery puddle like that. It was clearly not made with milk. And it tasted bad. I would say we each ate more than our fair share of $30 worth of food. We met a guy at the crab legs station saying that king crab legs run about $30/pound as he piled his plate. He claimed that they were better than the snow crabs legs because they were expensive and from Alaska. So, we tasted-tested them both. The guy was an idiot. Snow crab legs won hands down.
Stuffed with food we slowly made our way out of the Bellagio and back to the Strip. We were headed to Treasure Island to see a pirate show. It would’ve been nice if it was a straight line to there, alas, we had to go around and over stuff because of the way the Strip is designed. We did quite a bit of backtracking and shuffling behind slow people. Eventually we made it to The Mirage, where a giant volcano was exploding. This caused a mild bit of confusion, I thought there was a pirate show at 10pm, I did not remember anything about a volcano at 10pm. We watched for a few minutes, but the allure of pirates was simply too strong. I was photographing the volcano and suddenly it was really hot, turns out the volcano had real fire shooting out the top of it.
On our way to Treasure Island Mike dared me to ask one of the guys’s handing out flyers advertising ladies of the night where we could find some men. The guy was genuinely confused and he turned away from me, shrugging that he had no idea. Mike had been jokingly grabbing tons of these fliers, at one point I turned to him while we waited at a streetlight and said “what must people think of this?” (guy & girl, seeming like a couple, walking down the street while the guy grabs handfuls of fliers with almost completely naked chicks on them), this elicited quite a few laughs from the small crowd around us, also waiting to cross the street. We saw the pirate show up at ahead and picked up the pace, which was truly an effort given how awful we were starting to feel at this point. I had overeaten, Mike’s cold was starting to kick in. We got there only to find that it was packed, you could barely see anything save for some fireworks at the end. Also, there was a giant lack of pirate content. It was mostly girls singing and dancing, taunting the other “ship”, no actual battles or yelling of “aaargh”, not even a real parrot anywhere. Afterwards we went in to Treasure Island for a bathroom break and to explore a bit. While waiting for Mike I saw some drunken chicks chugging cans of Corona and posing for awkward photos, it was awful. There was a bar next door to the bathrooms, Gilley’s, that was loud and intriguing, so we approached and found out that there was no cover, so we had our hands stamped and went in. The main event was people riding a mechanical bull. We arrived just in time to watch a young bachelorette get whipped around by and drunkenly stumble out of the ring. A country band came on stage and started playing so we left, not exactly in the mood to dance.
We went across the street to The Venetian because one of the things I had wanted to see whilst in Las Vegas were the canals, unfortunately before we got to the canals I saw a little too much of some club-going gals. I did get to see some beautiful views of the Las Vegas Strip from the balcony. We had missed the show (the sky changes) and the gondoliers were off for the night, but it was still cool. The fake sky and lighting was really confusing, we kept falling for thinking it was the middle of the day. A security guard came over to yell at me because people could “trip” over my tripod. This would be understandable in the daytime, when there are more people around. But it was 10pm, there was hardly anyone around and all the shops were closing. As we tried to find some bathrooms in there, we got very lost. Eventually after wandering through the casino we found some. But then we got lost again trying to find the exit. And who did we run into to ask for help? Why my old friend, the grumpy security guard. When we exited we realized that we had somehow managed to backtrack, we had been heading south along the Strip, slowly back towards the shuttle bus. But after wandering the Venetian, we had ended up at the north end of it, north of where we had started! It was awful looking south and seeing Treasure Island. Back on the street there were drunken people and people with flyers everywhere. It was as if while we had been in the Venetian a whole horde of people was let loose on the Strip, drunk and pushy. We very, very slowly made our way south to Bally’s, desperate to just get on the shuttle bus and go to the hotel. We were stuffed full of food and exhausted. Quite frankly, we both felt like crap. But not so awful that we could not stop and play a free slot machine. The machine then printed out a voucher for more free plays inside, only when we went in we could not find the desk where we would redeem it, so we decided it was a scam and continued on south. We randomly ended up asking about going into a dance club, The Rock House and she told us that the cover was $10 for Mike and $5 for me, so we turned to leave and got vouchers from another girl just outside. It turned out those would get us in for free if we stood in line, which we did for 5 minutes. As I was going in, the security guard saw my tripod bag and freaked, it looked like I was going in with a concealed shotgun, he patted it down and asked me to open it. We got inside and it was a small hole-in-the-wall where no one was dancing. We almost turned to leave when I saw an old man (old, he had white hair) approach some 20-something year old girls. At first they were trying to ignore him, but right after that they were posing for pictures with him. It was just awkward and weird, we left because apparently this was a “stand around and sip your drink” club.
In a fit of exhaustion we went across the street to Caesar’s Palace in hopes of catching the shuttle bus as I was informed by a flyer we could. Unfortunately the guy told us that it no longer runs from there. Having gone this far out of our way, we went inside looking for Roman soldiers, and lo and behold: more lies. There were no Roman soldiers to be seen. We wandered through the casino and out the front lobby without encountering a single one. As we crossed over the street one escalator after another, I seriously considered hailing a cab. The idea of walking 2 more blocks was unbearable. As we neared the shuttle bus pick-up we saw a bus up ahead. I was a zombie at this point, so Mike mustered up the energy and ran ahead to see if it was our bus and if so to ask them to wait for me. Success! It was our bus! I had never been so happy to see a small bus in my life. My minor happiness faded rather quickly. There was easily one of the most irritating women of all time on the bus. Her monologue went something like this:
We never go out and buy cats, we just find them. One day at work someone brought to the junkyard a car that had a box of kittens in the trunk so he [her boyfriend] brought one home. Right away I knew there was something weird about it; it jumped this high [height of a door handle]. Then one day I was having a shower and the cat walked into the bathroom and right into the shower! I knew there was something wrong with this cat so I took it to the vet. He ran a genetic test on it and said that its ancestry line was a mix of wild cats. My cat was part wild cat! (All of this was in a southern drawl with over enthusiasm and drunken slurring). I was half asleep as this went on and on, the whole bus ride. I nearly ran off the bus just to get away from her. I collapsed in bed with a stomachache the size of an elephant (so says my notebook).