Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Las Vegas Side Trip

We drove from California to Las Vegas, Nevada for a quick two day trip.  It was a seven hour drive but the scenery was fantastic!  Our route took us through the "high desert" of the Mojave Desert.  Our friends told us this but I had no idea what a high desert was.  I always pictured a desert as a lonely, isolated sandy locale that is flat with nothing to see for miles.

As we drove, all we could see were mountains.  Mountains on one side of the road and the Pacific Ocean on the other side of the road.  This was on Highway 1 in California.  In my excitement, I wanted to look out both sides of the van at the same time so I could see everything.  I finally gave up and decided to look out my window and get a great view of the mountains.  I've seen mountains in British Columbia but these mountains don't look as rugged or as high.  These are older mountains with scrub oak, ice plant and cacti covering the sides and slightly rounded tops of them.  It was interesting to see because the cacti showed up as a brilliant lighter green compared to the other greenery on the mountains.  As we approached Santa Barbara, I could see more development on the sides of the mountains.  When I say development, there were huge mansions built on the side of the mountains where the owners obviously got a great view from everywhere in their homes.  If they looked out the back windows they saw the rugged beauty of mountain wilderness.  If they looked out their front windows, they were greeted with an expansive view of the Pacific Ocean.  Our friends informed us that Santa Barbara is where the rich people live.  You could tell because the highway in this area became well paved and smooth.  There was also more money put into the beautification of the roadways and area.  There were more palm trees of which we seemed to see two kinds.  There are the palm trees that are tall with what looks to be a small amount of palm fronds adorning their tops.  Then there are the stubby, short palm trees with a thicker trunk and much more palm fronds that are wider and longer.  These palm fronds seem to sweep up and gracefully curve downwards.  I liked seeing both kinds of palm trees but if I lived here, I would choose to adorn my yard with the shorter palm trees.  They just seem more full and luscious.

As we continued our drive along Highway 101, we came near Los Angeles and then took a highway that goes to Nevada.  As we traveled inland, the mountains were still there but they slowly had less vegetation on them.  They still had the scrub oaks but there was less of them and the mountains appeared to show more "sand" on them.  The mountains really weren't made of sand but the hard, rocky surfaces looked like sand from a distance.  As we neared the Nevada border and crossed over into Nevada, the landscape really started to change.  Now the land was starting to have rolling hills and flat spots between hills.  You could still see mountains off in the near distance but the road was not going through the middle of the mountains anymore.  The sand was dotted with numerous scrub oaks but not much else.  There was no grass that I could see as we drove along.  Once we got into Nevada and you could definitely see it was a deserted spot, my friend pointed out to me her favourite tree called the "Joshua tree".  These are short trees that apparently have a bug that enters from the top of a limb and eats the inside of the branch.  This causes the branch to grow more limbs from that spot.  They are really interesting little trees to see in the desert.  They don't have deciduous leaves but look like they may be of the fir tree family.  The ends of the limbs seem to have needles.  The trunk and limbs are brown with the limbs having these clumps of greenery at the ends.  Anyway, they were interesting little trees with their various shapes. They were the only greenery that seemed to survive amidst the hot, sandy flats and mountains.  On the mountains and hills, I could see these dull orange coloured short post-like plants.  I asked my friend what they were and she replied they were cacti.  As we really got into the desert area, there was nothing to be seen for miles.  Every once in a while, you would see a home that has been abandoned.  There was a place on the north side of the highway that someone had tried to run a water park complex with restaurant and rides or something.  You could tell because there were palm trees and greenery surrounding this abandoned boarded up building.  The palm trees were really out of place in the middle of the flat desert surrounded by desert mountains which were more like tall hills.  For some reason at this point in the drive, I touched the inside of the window.  Of course we were very comfortable in the van with the air conditioning on.  The window was very, very hot!!  Considering the van was cool, the hot window made me realize how hot it must have been outside.  No wonder there were very little populated areas.

We arrived in Las Vegas and got settled in our rooms at Caesar's Palace.  I have been to a casino once but I never played any of the games.  We met our friends downstairs in the casino where we were joined at the hip for the first little bit until I was comfortable playing the slots.  That first night there I broke even.  We then hopped into a cab and went down to Fremont Street for the Fremont Street Experience which is free.  The City of Las Vegas has put a "dome" of material with lights over the top of Fremont Street for several blocks.  Fremont Street is closed off to traffic and is a pedestrian sidewalk at this point.  There are hundreds of stores, casinos, restaurants and other businesses.  In Las Vegas, you are allowed to walk outdoors with your beverages whether they are alcoholic or not.  There are also people dressed in costumes of various characters and burlesque dancers who will have their picture taken with you for free but there is an unwritten rule that it is for tips.  We saw skimpily clad burlesque girls, a dominatrix, a cross-dresser burlesque "girl" who was playing up to all the men, Darth Vader, Spiderman, Cat Woman, Storm Troopers among other characters as well.  There was also an amazing sax player who I unfortunately cannot remember his name.  He called his show experience "Safe Sax".  I really enjoyed watching him perform.  We were down at Freemont Street at night because the outside temperature was a little more bearable. However, the pavement was still emanating the heat from the day so it was still very hot and you could feel the heat coming from below you as you walked.  That mixed with the throngs of people, it was very hot, sweaty and sticky.  There was no personal space as you walked.  Everyone was jam-packed together and we quickly learned to use our elbows to make our way through the crowd.  We saw two light shows while we were there and my favourite was the one where you looked up and saw the band Queen playing with video of Freddie Mercury singing.  All the lights and colours were amazing!  While the light show was on, all the street entertainment quieted down and all the store outdoor lights turned off.  Between light shows, there was also a band that would play at the major intersection.  Brett Michael was scheduled to perform live later in the evening.  We continued to walk up and down Freemont Street.  I was so hot that I was drinking water throughout the night.  We stopped at one end of Freemont Street to watch a DJ perform and dance.  She had the crowd dancing the latest trend in dancing obviously.  All the younger generations seemed to know it.  Of course, our guys just wanted to watch the DJ dance with her lithe, well-toned body.  We were outside the Golden Nugget (or was it the Golden Gate, now I can't remember for sure) Hotel where they had a dancing bartender also.  So as the DJ did her thing, the dancing bartender did her thing on the bar also.  We were watching the show when a guy that had to be at least 6' 7" stood directly in front of my friend who is 5 ft.  She couldn't see around him at all.  I tapped him on the shoulder and politely asked if he could stand behind my friend who was there so that she could see.  He was very nice and apologized and then stood behind my friend.  His friend, however, smirked at me and then promptly blocked my view and asked my friend, "Can you still see?".  She could but I couldn't.  Throughout the rest of the time, he kept looking back at me and smirking.  It really didn't bother me a lot because I had seen lots of the show before he arrived.  I just wandered over to the side where there was less people and enjoyed some "personal" space for a bit.  We decided to make our way back to the main stage area so we could hear Brett Michael.

It was wall to wall people as we tried to stick together and make our way to an area that we would be able to hear the concert but not necessarily see the concert.  My husband led the way with my arm around him, holding his hand so we wouldn't get separated.  My friend was behind me and I could feel her hand on my back as we all tried to stick together to make our way through a wall of people.  It was slow going.  After a bit, I felt my friend put both her hands on my back and I felt some air on my neck.  I thought she was just playing and goofing off.  I turned to joke with her, when I realized it was some other chick!  YUCK!!!!  She said in my ear, "I think I'll follow you as you seem to be making your way through this crowd well".  It was sweltering and sticky.  I was starting to get into a foul mood because I really don't like crowds.  I replied with what I thought was a growl, "It's my husband that's doing this".  This chick kept rubbing her hands up and down my shoulders and blowing on my neck!  I put up with it and tried to ignore her but I'm thinking "EWWW!  I HATE CROWDS!!"  She then whispered "I need some Valium or Xanax."  I was seized with the urge to give her one sharp elbow but I didn't want to start something in a huge crowd.  So I kept ignoring her as we were making our way very slowly through this throng of people.  The last straw was when she started rubbing her whole body against my back!  YUCK!  I was about to give her a sharp jab with my pointy, sharp elbow when suddenly and abruptly I saw Scott flying sideways and a man with a long pony tail charging directly at me!!  He elbowed and shoved me aside to my right.  There was a steel gate like what is used for crowd control at concerts.  These had been placed along this portion of the street so that the stores openings were not block by the crowd.  Anyway, this man shoved me and I started falling.  The thrust had made me trip on someone else's foot and down I was going.  My husband grabbed my left hand but I still hit the gate with some force!  Over the years, I have seen my husband lose his temper but I have never seen the look that was on his face.  He was ready to kill!!  He started going after the guy that had shoved us.  At this point I had regained my balance and I stood directly in front of my husband with both hands on his chest.  I kept repeating "Just leave it!  Just leave it!"  He took my hand and led me away from the area.  As I looked back, I saw a girl yelling at the "pony-tail guy" and he seemed to be falling.  We pushed our way through the crowd until we came to an area of the sidewalk that was "empty" of people.  I was shaken and sore.  We had lost our friends so we were looking for them.  I saw my friend and my husband called her over to us.  We were then looking for her husband.  We saw him walking along more in the middle of the street and my husband and my friend called him over.  My voice is still not able to project enough to call someone in a crowd.  As we regrouped, we decided it was time to get out of there.  So much for hearing Brett Michael.  My friend said that she saw me go flying and then a bald-headed man challenged the drunk pony-tail man.  There was a little girl (child) caught between them and my friend just grabbed her to keep her safe.  This little girl's sister fought the crowd to come back and get her.  My friend protected this little girl for a few minutes and then released her to her sister.  Once we decided to leave the area, we got a cab and went back to Caesar's Palace.  At that point, I was tired and I went straight to bed.

The next day, I went down to play the slots and I won $519!!  By the end of the day, I had won at total of $650.  That will help to pay off this trip.  At lunch, we went to Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville for lunch.  It is part of the Flamingo Hotel and Casino.  We had a great lunch and shared many laughs as we ate.  The manager came over and said he needed to see why this table was laughing so hard.  My friend asked him about his Canadian flag pens that he was wearing around his neck.  He was a transplanted Canadian.  We had a great visit with him!  He grew up near the city I grew up in.  He worked in the city I grew up in.  He grabbed a nearby chair and sat down and just visited with us while we had our lunch.  He even gave us a discount on our lunch and then recommended other places for us to experience.  I'd definitely go back to eat there again.  Great food and atmosphere.  That night we went to Harrah's Carnival Court to listen to the live band called "The Crashers".  What a great time we had.  The music was fantastic.  The band played a wide range of music from AC/DC to Rush to simple ballads.  While we listened to the music, we people watched and watched the flare bartenders juggle just like Tom Cruise in "Cocktails".  It was very hot with the crowd and there were little spouts around the ceiling that sprayed mist to cool people down.  I was quite happy to have some mist fall on me and help keep me cooler.  After we left Carnival Court, we went to McDonalds for a bite to eat and then back to Caesar's Palace.  The lights and activity in Las Vegas is really beautiful to see.  We played the slots for a little bit and then went off to our room.  From our room, you could see Harrahs', The Mirage, The Statosphere, The Needle and of course, the Caesar's Palace sign which advertised Celine Dion playing in The Colosseum.  I was amazed at all the details in design inside Caesar's Palace.  There were Roman statues all over along with fountains and lights.  Speaking of fountains, we also saw two fountain shows outside of The Bellagio.  The fountains performed with lights to different music.  The first show played "Viva Las Vegas" by Elvis Presley.  It was amazing to see the water perform in circles and arcs to the beat of the music.  The second show was set to a more classical style of music which was a duet between a soprano and tenor singing in Italian.  It was absolutely breathtaking.

Then yesterday, we made our way back to California to our friends' home.  As we were driving on Highway 101 beside the Pacific Ocean, I saw a dolphin jumping parallel to the coastline.  I sounded (and felt) just like a kid as I squealed in excitement, "A dolphin!".  Today will be a rest day for me.  In Las Vegas, I did notice that I still feel a little nauseous when I'm overtired.  So I will rest up today so we can experience more pleasure and excitement in our vacation.

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