Travels in the American Southwest

Back in Vegas

Sunday, 9/7

Our road trip was coming to an end. We headed north on US95 to Las Vegas. Although the road is being widened, there was little traffic to slow us down through the construction zones. By 11:00 AM, we had picked up a rental car from the airport and were settling in to our final night in the RV at Circus Circus RV park. We were some 8 hours ahead of schedule and while that doesn't seem like a lot of time, it allowed us to visit the strip after giving the RV a good cleaning! MSO consented to a trip to Casino Royale. I'd heard of the favorable craps odds they offer but when we got there, it was apparent that everyone else had heard also. The tables weren't just full, they were packed on a Sunday afternoon. We headed next door to Harrahs where the dice sliced and diced me! Headed back to Circus Circus. Our nights of cooking under the stars were over. I'd heard good things about the CC Steakhouse but no early reservations were available on a Sunday night. I'd also heard less than good things about the CC buffet so that option was just below going to bed without supper. Saw a poster for the Pink Pony and decided to give it a try. Well, that option turned out to be just above the "no supper" option. Service was great but the food barely so-so. The salad looked sad and the oversteamed vegetables sadder. The prime rib was only fair. Exhausted, we dragged ourselves back to the RV. At least we'd sleep in air conditioned comfort for our final night!

Monday 9/8

Gave the RV a final going over before heading out, first to UPS where the camping/survival gear started its trip home. Our next stop was the Community Outreach Thrift Store at 1304 E. Lake Mead Blvd. where we'd purchased our bikes 16 days earlier. The woman who sold them to us was overseeing donations this morning. She wasn't at all surprised to see us. Heck, she remembered us doing the same thing last year. She thanked us for patronizing her shop and looked forward to seeing us next year. Our final stop was the Shade Tree Shelter. MSO had brought a large number of trial sized shampoo, conditioner and the like. She knew that whatever we didn't use would be gratefully received and used by the residents. She added the donation to the pile of donations left by others. Dropped off the RV, sorry to see it go after 17 days. It had allowed us to travel in civilized comfort and have a whole lot of fun.

Our final stop was the Golden Nugget, where our adventure had begun. Scored a North Tower, poolside room on the 17th floor. It was with a touch of irony that I realized our first room had a view to the rising sun in the east and now that the trip was almost over, we faced the setting sun to the west. Luxuriated in a long hot shower, the first one where I didn't have to worry about water consumption. Ruined a Golden Nugget towel as the dirty brown water swirled down the drain. Someone in the laundry would be cursing me the next day.

Since we missed out on The Star Trek Experience last year, I wanted to make sure we saw it this time. A 2 for 1 coupon is offered to those who sign up for Hilton's player card. Take the few minutes to get a card and save $30! Yep, tickets to the Experience are $29.95 a head, double the admission charged in 1998. The premise of the Experience hasn't changed since I visited in '98 but the graphics are improved. The timeline leading to the ride has expanded to include the Star Trek spin-offs and new props are seen behind glass. I overheard a couple of extreme Star Trek fans discussing the props. You'd think these guys were discussing history! One phaser model was superior to an earlier version because.... I simply smiled. To each, their own. While wandering around the displays, I was surprised to see a Ferenghi (big ears, pointy teeth). "You realize that this history is from a hue-mahn perspective?" he asks. I shot back, "Yes, but not many hue-mahns read Ferenghi." The thrill ride was a lot of fun with the staff giving it their all; From the Star Fleet officers to the janitorial staff who ushered us into the gift shop. Through the gift shop and you're in Quark's Bar where a Klingon and Ferenghi were available for the photogenic. MSO and I play a little VP while enjoying a carbonated, grain-based Earth drink from Holland, although the Warp Core Breach looked like a killer (1/2 ounce of Goldschlager, 1/2 oz. Tequila, 1/2 oz. Jack Daniels)!

A quick dinner buffet at the Golden Nugget, then sleep between clean, lightly starched sheets. What luxury!

Tuesday, 9/9

Played the craps tables Downtown; Won some, lost some. MSO continued her incredible run at VP at Claude's Bar. She consistently walked away a winner. High point for the day was watching the sun set from atop the Stratosphere, then seeing the lights of the Strip come alive. MSO was first to notice the Full Harvest Moon rising over the McCullough Mountain range. A hush fell over the bar as the moon rose. We headed back Downtown; Dinner was at Binion's Steakhouse. I had the Benny Cut of Prime Rib. It was even bigger than I imagined and knew I'd be gnawing on the bone in the morning. MSO had the NY Strip with that gaggy stuff on it.....bleu cheese. Fully sated, we staggered back to the Golden Nugget for our final night in Las Vegas.

Wednesday, 9/10

Well, this is it! We'd fly home on the Red Eye tonight but had a full day ahead of us. Did some packing, stuffing the suitcases full of dirty clothes. TSA had inspected our bags on the way out; I wondered if they'd be as efficient on our return.

Between crossword puzzles, MSO suggested we visit Red Rock Canyon. We had been to Valley of Fire together last year and I'd been solo many times before that. She had never been to Red Rock Canyon and the one time I tried to visit, I'm embarrassed to say I got lost. Occasionally a discussion erupts in this group regarding which park is better and we wanted to see for ourselves which we preferred. Both parks have their pluses and minuses when compared. Red Rock Canyon has an interesting Desert Tortoise habitat. It's close proximity to Las Vegas (17 miles from the Golden Nugget) allows those on a tight schedule to get a flavor of what Las Vegas was like before it was Las Vegas. The 13 mile scenic drive gives an adequate representation of the area's desert plants ranging from Barrel Cactus to Yucca. The color for which the park is named is best found in the first couple of miles of the scenic drive, after that it's miles through desert habitat, brushing up against the edges of the Spring Mountains. Perhaps we were simply jaded after visiting so many outstanding places with such visually-stimulating views during our long trip. We weren't overly impressed, preferring the more colorful Valley of Fire less than an hour north of Las Vegas.

Wandered the downtown with MSO cashing in the chips I'd won or managed not to lose. Passed the craps table which had signs of being a hopping place. A little old lady was chucking the bones, not completely sure what she was doing but the stick was being helpful. I slipped into an open spot and like magic, my chips kept doubling. Red became green then turned black. MSO looked on from a distance - She wasn't quite sure what was going on but looking at the chip rack, she knew that it was good.

Our final chore dealt with about a half a bottle of vodka which was left over from the Burning Man portion of our trip. Chugging it might have been an option two or three decades ago but those days, thank God, are gone! MSO had a fun book from El Cortez which we weren't able to utilize. She taped the free food coupons onto the bottle and on the way to the airport, we deposited it on a newspaper box outside the bus station on Main Street. We paused for a minute, then headed to the airport for our red eye home. It had been a great vacation.

 Epilogue: Numbers & Photos