Road Trip – Part 2
Yes, it's long. But so was the trip. And I keep remembering stuff, so this is good!
Day 4 – Sunday, 7/2/06
I love Albuquerque. I like the people, the smell, the view and the grocery stores. Most of all, I love the fact that you can get Avocado Pringles there. Never again did we see these on the store shelves. It was a fluke.
Had a quick “continental” breakfast at the hotel (since we were Club Level – woohoo) and hit the road. But first we visited Smith’s grocery and purchased munchies and lots more water. Also, we deposited a large batch of postcards into a mail receptacle. Jumped onto Central (old Route 66) and headed west through “old town”. Beautiful. We also invented a new term – “Jesusy”. As in pressing the scan button on the radio, listening for a second and saying “sounds Jesusy to me.” Scan… When out west, you go through spells where you can only receive 2 stations. One is Mexican. When you have several stations, about 60% of them are “Jesusy” – at least on a Sunday, they are. Occasionally a good rock station. These increase exponentially as you cross state lines.
Here I must also add that in all of my trips to the southwest – including Death Valley – I have only seen it rain twice. Once, I saw a rogue storm scooting across the Arizona desert near Meteor Crater. Another time as I was driving back from Death Valley to Vegas, I could see angry clouds over the mountains near Pahrump, and the Vegas radio station I was listening to was giving traffic reports that would have fit well at Gomorrah. By the time I crossed the pass, it was over. Las Vegans driving in rain are somewhat akin to Mississippians in ice, apparently. Anyway, from the time we left Albuquerque, we saw storms every day until we went back through Albuquerque. They (Albuquerque) had over 2” of rain while we were in the SW area (compared to 1.5” in the previous nine months).
Most of the morning we played the “guess how many miles to that farthest rise in the road” game. My girlfriend is a wonderful travel companion, I must add!!!! We also noticed that we were both starting to miss green. Not much green to be found out there. We found more nice stretches of Route 66 and tumbled into Arizona around noonish or so. Lots of nice dinosaur statues along the road as well. We stopped in Holbrook for gas and burgers (at an ancient DQ) and hit the road again. No time for fooling with Rt 66 as we were trying to beat the weather to Meteor Crater. She had never been and I knew it would be a treat for her. Remarkably, the storm we drove through stopped 4 miles east of the crater. And from the “moon tower” overlooking it, we had a splendid view of the east side storm and another on the west side. We could also see smoke from the Sedona fires. Creepy.
While at Meteor Crater, I saw 2 girls (actually, they were “grrrrrls”) placing a Styrofoam chicken to be photographed with one girl, then the other. As we were walking up the steps from the observation post inside the crater, I noticed that this chicken had “Bob Mould” printed on the bottom. (Of course, I’m sure you all know that he was the songwriter/guitarist for the great Husker Du, before embarking on his solo career.) So I had to quiz them. These two were probably in their mid twenties and looked like a nice couple, and I was impressed that they would even know who Bob Mould is so I stopped to ask them about it. Their reaction? “She (the chicken) went to his show. Wow – I can’t believe you know who Bob Mould is!” This made me feel really old. I mean, Bob and I were playing the same clubs at the same time, way back when. He got famous – I did not. Then they also proudly displayed John Doe’s signature (and were duly impressed when I knew about “X” as well. You may remember him as Amber Wave’s husband in “Boogie Nights”.) Anyway, that chicken has been to some pretty cool shows. But how old did they think I was? “Yeah, I never got anything new once my Edison Cylinders wore out…” Hmph. They probably don’t even remember LPs.
Back on the road, we bypassed Winslow, the Jackrabbit and Twin Arrows because we were kind of in a rush to hit Hoover Dam before nightfall. It wasn’t to be, however. We watched the mountains of Flagstaff approach and marveled at how green everything got as we entered the Ponderosa pines. We crossed through 7000 feet and the Arizona divide, and then she passed out until Kingman. Again, drove through a pretty heavy storm, but then I got to watch a great electrical storm stuck in the valley at Kingman for about 30 minutes as I approached. Stopped for gas at the Chevron at the bottom of 93 and got waited on by a woman with one tooth that burped out loud – I mean LOUD! Headed north up 93 into that electrical storm and missed the best opportunity I will ever have to get pictures of lightning, mountains and sunsets. I could kick myself. (I just did!)
Crossed the dam exactly at 9PM Pacific Time. Breezed through Boulder City and Henderson to be welcomed with a view of Las Vegas herself, sprawled out and twinkling. What a sight! Made the trek into town and got stuck in traffic on the strip, of course. It took 45 minutes to go the length of 2 casinos. But we got to watch the Bellagio fountains, so it was cool. Made it to the Stardust at 10:30.
For those of you who don’t know, the Stardust will be imploded at the beginning of next year. She is one of the last of the original strip hotels. This is the only place I’ve ever stayed in that city – and I always get suite 12403 on the 24th floor. There are nicer places to stay, by all means, but from here you get the best view of the strip, and if you stay during the week you can get a 1000 square foot room for $140/night. Great bed for king-size sex, too! The bathroom is bigger than my bedroom at home! Huge whirlpool and a walk-in shower with a bench. The shower alone is about the size of my bathroom. She’ll be hard to replace. Anyway, we ordered room service and several beers, stuffed ourselves, got tipsy and passed out.
Day 5 – Monday, 7/3/2006
Skipped breakfast. She wanted to go to the Korean BBQ we passed on the way in, so we struck out on foot. It was only 90 degrees. We walked through the new mall (I think it’s called “The Fashion Show”) that sits between the Frontier and Treasure Island. They know how to do things right, for sure. It was cooled to within an inch of your life, lots of stores (that stay open LATE) and a great food court. Coming out of there, you have to take a bridge to the next corner and then around the front of Treasure Island (as opposed to walking through the casino – I prefer outside). 91 degrees. Past the Mirage. 93 degrees. Caesar’s Palace. 94 degrees. Stopped at the Bellagio under a blessed shade tree. We had only walked 1 ½ miles, and even though you don’t sweat out there, I could feel it sucking the life right out of my body! I came very close to diving in the fountain! Once past the Bellagio, we had to hop to the other side of the street just past the Aladdin. Our destination was just this side of the MGM Grand, behind the Walgreen’s. Ate some wonderful Korean food (I had never experienced it before) and then moseyed up the other side of the strip, past Paris, Balleys, The Flamingo and the (new) Hilton and Harrah’s. Went into the Venetian. I love that place. Got to see a couple of free performances, but didn’t ride the gondola as the lines were pretty long. Finally made it back to our hotel for a quick shower. The plan was to drive out to Death Valley and go exploring, but the rental car began showing signs of stress and developed a rumble at top speeds. We turned around at the Hualapai reservation and abandoned Death Valley. I am kind of sad, and she has never seen “real” desert before. But it would certainly have sucked to have the wheels fall off out there! So we went back to the hotel and then walked down to T.I. to catch the cheesy pirate show.
The cheesy pirate shows are at 7, 8:30, 10 and 11:30. We arrived at 6:30 and it was already packed. So we listened to it (oh, it is so freaking goofy) and then immediately parked ourselves in a good spot for the 8:30 show. (Yes – I am the best boyfriend in the world.) Chatted up with a nice lady and her friend (turns out she’s from Australia), watched the show and then tried to get some food. The food court at the Fashion Show closes at 9, by the way. So back to the hotel for more room service! Whee!
Day 6 – Tuesday, 7/4/06
Happy Birthday, America. Ran into some Brits in the elevator (excuse me, the lift) and had to chide them somewhat. Went to the Budget Car Rental to exchange vehicles. They tried to downgrade us to some trunkless wonder that was beeping for an imminent oil change. Went back in and managed to wrangle a Mercury Grand Marquis out of them, but I was going to miss the Impala. The new car had leather seats (instead of fabric). But Tony Soprano could have stuffed several bodies in that trunk. Of course, it was showing 37% oil life left, but at that point, I was ready to go.
Drove out to Henderson to find out where the fireworks show would be that evening. Can you believe that no one at our hotel knew where any fireworks shows were? Nor did the paper say anything about fireworks in Vegas. It just happened that 3 weeks ago I googled Vegas fireworks and found a small blurb about Henderson. So we visited and talked to an uber-polite EMT coming out of a 7-11 carrying what could only have been a seven gallon soft drink. He told us where the park was, how to get there, and what time we should show up to get a good spot. It turns out this was an annual festival they do. Lots of kiddie stuff, some food, etc… And fireworks. So we went back to town and visited the new Wynn Resort – the newest since the Venetian (which was the newest on my last trip). I must say that it is indeed the most sumptuous and well appointed place I have ever been. But it still wasn’t as fun as the Venetian.
Then we hit New York, New York and rode the roller coaster. That was a stone gas, baby! I really wish we had gone again (it’s cheaper, then) but for some reason we did not. We wandered around inside (got lost, actually) and then made it over the the MGM Grand and saw the lion. Back over to NYNY and found the car and headed on out to Henderson, but not before driving the rest of the strip into north Vegas (past Fremont) and then south to the sign. Got to Henderson around 6:30 and wandered around the park, enjoying the festivities. One reason I love my girlfriend is that, while she is most certainly an adult, she has the ability to get so excited about certain things that she appears quite child-like on occasion. We watched a couple of nice clowns making balloon animals for lines of kids, and she sent me off in search of a sheet of paper while she got in line – her goal was to trade an origami crane for a balloon duck. The crowd was pleasantly entertained during this show! Then we wandered over to the “Mad Science” tent and they helped her make some “goo”. She spent all evening shaking it and getting it to the perfect consistency. Then we set up the camera about 50 feet from where the fireworks were set up. I have to say that was the best fireworks show I have ever seen. And the loudest (since I’ve never been directly under the big aerials before). Car alarms were going off all over town. And it lasted a good 20 minutes or more. And on the way back, we could see hundreds of aerials going off all over Vegas. It was so freaking beautiful!!!!
By now we were exhausted. It was too late for room service, so we wandered into one of the restaurants to get a kick nibble before going to bed. Then I was reminded once again of the thing I hate most about Las Vegas (or any casino). Keep in mind, it’s after midnight. At the next table sat a puffy, round dumpling of a woman sitting across from her 2 kids. She had her cellphone cradled in her ample neck, chatting it up with someone as she sat there and cut her steak and ate. To me, this was wrong on so many levels! First, she was ignoring her kids. Second, why are the kids up after midnight – they looked to be about 5-ish to me. Third, don’t talk on a goddamn cellphone in a restaurant. Fourth, don’t talk on a phone while you are eating. Can you say “gambling addiction”? But then, as if she didn’t get a chance to ignore her children during all of that – she immediately started writing a text message once she hung up from that call. I can only hope that the phone call was her despondent husband’s lawyer threatening to take the kids.
For all the fun I can have in that city, it is really a depressing place – especially when you see people in gas station parking lots, sitting on their luggage. You know they lost the car on a crap table somewhere. Or old ladies shuffling through the lots next to convenience stores like they are looking for coins – like all they need is one more pull to get it all back. Any idiot should be able to look at the Venetian or the Wynn and know that they weren’t built by philanthropists trying to fill a void in their lives by donating to the public. The were built by greedy millionaires looking to exploit the weaknesses of the many-headed. C’est la vie.
Tomorrow – leaving Las Vegas