Back in Vegas

I feel like a fish being reeled in. We’ve been retracing our steps, flying back from Maui to Honolulu to Las Vegas. Tomorrow we will be back home in Iowa. We’re ready to go home though.

Lore won a $45 at blackjack. She watched my brother and sister-in-law play two weeks ago and wanted to try it on her own. The winnings paid for our midnight room service meal.

Wayne Brady

My bachelor party involved going with my father, uncle, and brother to see Wayne Brady at the Venetian. The show was my choice. I liked Wayne Brady from “Whose Line Is It, Anyway?” and was always surprised that his career never took off more than it has. It’s clear he would rather not be performing in Vegas, and though he has recorded an album that netted him a Grammy nomination, I think his genius is still in improvisational comedy. The show was great. I hope he makes it.

Steve Wynn and his neighbors

The great adventure has begun. We got in last night and stayed in a super-cheap room at Circus Circus. This was way of offsetting the expense of flying in to Las Vegas a night earlier. The super-cheap room is in a motel-like complex. Our next door neighbors had the door propped open. They were hang-drying laundry all over their room. Circus Circus has a bad reputation for room break-ins. Security guards on bicycles were very visible but the security precaution signs posted everywhere were a little unsettling.

Two brown glass hotel buildings with recurved roofs are seen from an elevated pedestrian walkway.
Wynn-Encore Las Vegas
Our night at Circus Circus had the unintended effect of making the Wynn (and its adjacent sequel hotel, the Encore) seem even more extravagant and out of our league. Everything at the Wynn is expensive. There is nothing in the building as provincial as a self-service laundry or vending machine. People are here to be seen and be seen spending money. The clientele is better dressed than elsewhere; in other words, few tee shirts and flip-flops. Either there are fewer under-dressed Americans here or they have been shamed by Steve Wynn’s visionary taste into dandifying themselves.

Brightly colored parasol-shaped lamps decorate the ceiling of a hotel solarium.
Interior of the Wynn Las Vegas
Speaking of Steve Wynn, he is everywhere. I hear his voice while holding on the telephone. He also hosts the in-room orientation video. He has neither a nice voice nor a good screen presence but his hotel is beautiful. You might say the least tasteful thing about the hotel is this cult of personality.

An Italianate hotel tower rises from behind one of its outdoor patios.
Next door to the Wynn is the Palazzo, which is an extension of the Venetian. It is another high-end leviathan of the new Las Vegas. Being from the East Coast my family pronounces it like “Plotso”, making it sound more low-rent than it is. Anyway, while walking through the casino we happened upon a war table. That’s right: war. The card game we played as a kid, where the high card wins. Except in casino war you don’t get to collect the cards you win, and in case of a tie you have to double your bet. My brother played a couple of cards and won $10.00.

Great Basin inversion

The irony of Great Basin National Park is that it only occupies part of a mountain range and no basin within the Great Basin. I spent three nights there, including one in the backcountry, at elevations between 8,500 and 10,000 feet. My stay there included a tour of Lehman Caves and two hikes to the tree line.

Las Vegas and beyond

I haven’t written much about my vacation in Nevada, Utah, and Arizona. In two separate trips during August and September, I visited Las Vegas three times, plus six national parks.

It only took me a couple of days of Las Vegas to realize I disliked the place. For a while I kept telling people I wasn’t in Vegas to gamble. Well, I did gamble–on a relationship–and lost big time. It was an emotional disaster, but at least I had a good time hiking, so enjoy the photos. I took five hundred or so, and posted much fewer.

During my first stay in Vegas, we went backpacking at Lake Mead National Recreation Area–a poor exercise in judgment on my part. It was August and about 100 degrees; “cool” according to the volunteer in the visitor center. We did find a nice camping spot on Lake Mojave, the part of the Colorado River just downstream of Hoover Dam.

Lousy way to end a vacation

I got back to Iowa yesterday. The following things happened:

  1. Before leaving Las Vegas, my girlfriend dumped me for the second time in two weeks and for the umpteenth time in the last four years. It does not get easier with practice, it gets harder.
  2. After landing in Cedar Rapids the cabin filled with smoke and we had to exit via the inflatable slides.
  3. I came home to find my ceiling leaking from the kitchen upstairs.

Other than that, the vacation was okay. There was good and bad.

More later.

First impressions of Vegas

Coming into McCarran Airport, we flew very low over a mountain escapment, revealing the shiny city in all its nighttime decadence. From the plane I could see that there were very many hotels. A lot of them were right near the airport. Doesn’t the noise and air pollution make it less desireable to build there? Then again, these casinos don’t have a problem with light pollution, or gambling, wasting water, and so forth.

There are slot machines in the airport! I wanted to shout out to those playing them while waiting for their flight, “You people are freaks!”

Vegas is a SimCity. It looks like it took landmarks from all over the world and plopped them down on Las Vegas Boulevard.

Speaking of Las Vegas Boulevard, the traffic in the city is abominable. It’s a big, sprawling, new Sun Belt city, designed around the car. The only place people walk around is on The Strip (Las Vegas Boulevard), and the traffic just crawls down the street.

Vegas is disgustingly hot; the desert surrounding it shows just how uninhabitable the area really is. It was over 100 degrees Fahrenheit every day I was there; the seven-day forecast on the local news was all triple-digits. At Lake Mead, a lady told me this was a “cool spell”; they don’t talk about the heat until it gets over 105 degrees.

That’s nuts.

Adventures on Allegiant Airlines

On my flight from Cedar Rapids, Iowa to Las Vegas, Nevada, the flight attendant said, “In the event of a water landing…” which struck me as funny because I didn’t expect to fly over any bodies of water large enough to land a jet in.

Allegiant Airlines flies from small-market airports to Las Vegas and Orlando. They sell drinks and snacks. The flight attendant was passing out menus, asking “Menu? Menu?” but under the noise of the jet engines, he sounded like a tree frog: “Mm-nn. Mm-nn.”

Packing again

I am making two trips in the next two weeks, both to Las Vegas. I’m finally going to see Lore tomorrow night after I get there. I’ll be there for the weekend (a very long weekend made possible by a scheduling quirk), back Monday for a week of work then back on vacation for two and a half weeks. I’ll be visiting Lore again, but also doing some traveling while she’s at work. I’d like to visit some of the parks within driving distance of Vegas.

I’ve been going through my camping gear and getting it ready to fly out tomorrow. Yee-haw!