13 January 2018

Vegas

Continuing my account of our American west coast holiday in 2005...
The Bellagio Hotel, Las Vegas
It is almost three hundred miles from Santa Monica to Las Vegas. You traverse greater Los Angeles on wide concrete highways till you reach Route 15 and then at last you are out in the countryside. But it's not like Derbyshire. No green fields, quaint cottages or grazing sheep. Instead you are in a dusty desert landscape where cacti thrive and occasional joshua trees suggest you might have arrived on a different planet.

Across the Mojave Desert to the Nevada border. The traffic is light and there are sun baked mountains in the colourless distance.  Our black jeep is in cruise control and the road is as straight as an arrow. 

Then shimmering in the distance we see a city where no city should exist. Is it perhaps Oxford with its dreaming spires or the new Jerusalem? Palmyra or possibly The Emerald City itself? No. It's Las Vegas which in English means "The Meadows" but as we get closer we see no meadows - only a sprawling concrete settlement that owes its existence to gambling and entertainment.

Imagine that! Not a city built on steel or fishing or ship-building or banking but a city built on card games and sequins! Incredible. In 1905 the population of Las Vegas was just 25. Now it's home to 600,000 souls and always a temporary home for thousands of visitors. It is to the western world what Mecca is to Islam.

Vegas has its famous neon strip and north of that there's the old downtown area. Our budget hotel was between the two - the tastefully named Econolodge. We had two large connecting rooms and a kitchenette. Cheap and perfect for our needs. 
Though I was happy enough to accompany Shirley and the kids as we wandered around Sin City, our prime reason for going there  was to use it as a base for visiting the nearby Grand Canyon.

There are lots of different ways in which tourists can experience The Grand Canyon. We had chosen to fly to it, landing on a remote airstrip near the Bar Ten Ranch. There I met a real life cowboy called, I kid you not, Hank - a lovely man in his eighties who had worked cattle all his life in the rugged hills of Arizona. He was now part of the Bar Ten furniture and enjoyed chatting with visitors from all across the world.
After a rustic cowboy lunch, we climbed aboard a rough terrain vehicle and headed down to the canyon along a dusty desert track. Then we wandered around the rim of it, high above the Colorado River and marvelled at one of the planet's greatest natural wonders. 

I would have liked to wander longer but after an hour we had to get back in the ranch's open-sided vehicle ahead of our flight back to Vegas over Boulder Dam. Before flying back, we were invited to engage in some skeet shooting or what we English folk refer to as clay pigeon shooting. I have a built-in antipathy towards guns but it would have appeared churlish not to join in. The recoil on my weapon just about dislocated my shoulder and of course I missed all of my skeets by a mile. Even so it had been a magical excursion. It was early evening when we got back to the city where its seductive neon lights were already dancing.
Boulder Dam seen on our flight to The Bar Ten Ranch
That night Ian put a couple of quarters in a one armed bandit and won twenty bucks but I don't like casinos. They seem like alien places to me. Places I don't really understand and I would never waste money in them. After all, it is so startlingly obvious that in the end the casinos always win. Where's the fun in that?

Las Vegas is a vulgar place. I had the same feeling there that I had in Lourdes near the Pyrenees. A feeling of detachment - as if I didn't entirely belong to the race of humans I saw around me. Three nights were enough. I was happy to leave that crazy place and head out of the desert - back to California...
Will you take me as I am? 
Will you?

35 comments:

  1. Wow! Are you sure we are related, Brother? If there is one place in this country that I abhor more than Los Angeles, it is Las Vegas!

    Next time you visit, tho, going to the Hoover Dam and taking the tour and visiting the places around it is worth your time. Amazing how the dam was built and the stories of the men who built it.

    I am hopeful that tomorrow your memories will take us to someplace more seemly than sin city.

    Have a wonderful week-end.

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    1. The dam has two names. I prefer Boulder Dam because the other name honours Herbert Hoover who pushed the construction of the dam through in a brutish Trump-like manner. 112 men died in the construction process. More than one fell into the concrete and remain there to this day. We enjoyed visiting Boulder City... It is almost 6am on Sunday morning as I write these words and 22.50 on Saturday night in Evergreen. I woke too early.

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  2. I have absolutely zero desire to ever visit Las Vegas. It IS a vulgar place. But the West is beautiful.

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    1. Did you ever get to travel out west Jennifer? Perhaps it's on your "to do" list in the new journal?

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  3. I remember stopping off in Las Vegas back in the 1960's when it was "home" for the likes of Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. and bargains could still be found. Though I'm only about 3 hours or so from there now I haven't visited Sin City in many years.

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    1. It is obvious that a goodly moral man like you Catalyst would not wish to be tormented by the wicked excesses of Sin City.

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  4. I must have been there at a similar time to you, can't quite remember the exact year. My boyfriend at the time was celebrating his 40th. We drove from Los Angeles to Vegas in a hire car. On his birthday we went in a helicopter over the Strip, over the Hoover Dam, and we landed, they picked us up in a horse and cart, took us to a ranch where we had a cowboy lunch. Then they gave us a horse each and we went trekking for an hour before we went back. It was the holiday of a lifetime for me, I absolutely loved all of it, especially Vegas.

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    1. That helicopter experience sounds amazing. A special way to visit The Grand Canyon and a great memory to keep. Did you gamble in Vegas Meanie?

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    2. No, I don't gamble at all. My boyfriend had a flutter, just to say he had done it. I loved the sheer scale of the buildings, the hotel with the canal running through it, the size of the interiors, look up and you see blue skies with fluffy clouds, 24 hour daylight. The dancing fountains, roller coasters, the view from the top of the Stratosphere Tower. I love the buzz, walking about in the heat at midnight. So exciting and so different from the places I normally visit.

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    3. It's true that Scunthorpe isn't quite like Las Vegas... (Just guessing where you live Meanie as you once posted about Normanby Hall),

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    4. Correct, in the vicinity of the Hall.

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  5. It's kind of ironic, isn't it? Two of the most outstanding things you saw were the Grand Canyon and the Hoover Dam - one formed by nature and one built by man. Mankind is a sort of puny god at times; the things we can do when we put our minds to it and work together are remarkable.

    I have no desire to go to Las Vegas either. I know people from here that make the trip with great excitement. Really? REALLY? What are the redeeming features??

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    1. As I suggest, the main redeeming feature of Vegas is its proximity to The Grand Canyon. We must also remember that 600,000 people live there - each with their own unique human stories. But a city like that, in the middle of a desert, it really shouldn't exist.

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    2. Yes, sorry, I got carried away. I was thinking of the gambling part, only!

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  6. Vegas is the modern day sodam and Gomorrah, in my opinion. Couldn't get out of there fast enough. Yuk!

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    1. Christina, I agree! I've been there twice and hated it both times. First on a honeymoon with my gambler (ex) husband and once again when I wasn't thinking clearly. My present husband and I always say if you want to torture us, make us go to Las Vegas. You couldn't pay me to go there. Not a thing there that interests me and I hate the waste of money.

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    2. Dear Joy and Christina - Thanks for calling by. Perhaps you two should apply for jobs with the Las Vegas Tourist Authority! You would really pull the crowds in!

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  7. I guess Vegas was asking you the same question!

    Obviously, you didn't, but I have a feeling Vegas would take you as you am - and perhaps, the contents of your wallet, too! :)

    Casinos aren't my scene (crowds, included)...but I can imagine the excitement felt when visiting some of the large, well-known Vegas casinos....just from pure interest and curiosity, if nothing else.

    The areas you visited are so different to those where you live...I guess it was a huge cultural and natural (environment) shock.

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    1. I don't believe I was shocked Lee. It was all much as I anticipated it would be. As for that question at the end, I hope you realised it was taken from Joni Mitchell's song "California" from her brilliant 1970 album - "Blue"

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    2. I realised that, Yorkie. I guess my weak attempt at humour failed. :)

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    3. Cue the echo of canned laughter...!

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  8. I have been to Las Vegas twice, each time as a jumping off place for touring the southwest. On one of these stops we had an overnight so we had time to walk the strip and take in all of the "sights". Ugh. All that fake pretty facade masking ugly casinos. I hate them too.
    I have been to some of the real places in the world that are represented on the Vegas strip, places like Paris and Venice. Real is wonderful, fake is not. And the natural wonders of the American Southwest are so amazing, why would anyone want to linger in Vegas?

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    1. I agree with you entirely Linda. But many people do like to linger in Vegas and many wouldn't even bother with the natural wonders you refer to. They are happier losing money on the roulette wheel or attending overpriced glitzy shows.

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  9. I wouldn't go if you paid me

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    1. As I say, it's the best base for accessing The Grand Canyon. Would you go there?

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  10. "it is to the western world, what Mecca is to Islam"

    only for the very lowest common denominator

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    1. The visitors from all over the world are like pilgrims and the bright casinos are their temples around which they parade worshipping their god - The Lowest Common Denominator!

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  11. Casinos? Once a year I work three days in a Casino for a Charity. We do the money collecting and counting. Casinos make a dump truck load of money every night. Yes the deck is stacked against you.

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    1. Is that charity called "The R.M.M.S.F."? (Red and Micro Manager Support Fund)

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  12. Nice Joni reference! I'm with you on Casinos. Not only are they a HUGE waste of money, to me they're unspeakably boring. I'd rather read a good book. Glad you got to see the canyon and the Boulder Dam (which I've never seen). Trump's going to have this landscape drilled up for uranium mining before you know it!

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    1. I love the references to Boulder Dam in Gordon Lightfoot's "10 Degrees & Getting Colder". Looking at Trump's "hair" I would say he already has uranium on his favourite breakfast cereal - "Cap'n Crunch".

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  13. I've never been to Las Vegas although I toured northern California in 2004 and was, to my surprise, captivated. I would have loved to have seen the Grand Canyon. I was rather curious about the statement that "It (Las Vegas) is to the western world what Mecca is to Islam."

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    1. To explain that observation, as I said to Kylie above... "The visitors from all over the world are like pilgrims and the bright casinos are their temples around which they parade worshipping their god - The Lowest Common Denominator!"

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  14. Yeesh. A lot of Puritans here. If horsing around in Las Vegas isn't your cup of tea, don't go, but why get so moralizing about those who do? It's a unique place, dedicated to pleasure and vice and excess and must be seen to be believed.

    I don't gamble but I love strolling around the Strip and even in old Downtown. I like the Boneyard, where all the old neon signs from demolished casinos are stored in the open air. I like the 24-hour restaurants, I like the thrift and vintage clothes shops, I like the lines at the 24-hour marriage license bureau.

    When I got married for the second time I had the wedding of my dreams: at midnight, on the Strip, performed by an Elvis impersonator. And I'm as homey and smart and cat-loving and tea-tippling as they come.

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    1. Goody Vivian! Art thou a witch? Didst thou venture into the woods with John Proctor? Didst thou dance around the neon fire? Begone Satan!

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