“Somebody left the gate open, you know we got lost on the way. Come save us, a runaway train” ~ LP: Southwestern America Road Trip, part 2.

Song in Title: 

Las Vegas has long been on my to-visit list-though it had never made its way to the top. One reason was I was always worried I may just have too much fun. The drinking, debauchery and gambling may fit the moniker of “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.” But I fretted the effects of life-long debt or a late night wedding would not be so easily cast aside. Thankfully, my self-control is greater than I gave it credit for; Sin City and its temptations provided a great time without any negative lingering effects.

The three of us arrived after stopping at the Hoover Dam on a sunny Saturday afternoon. Once more, the night before we had been snowed in (at the Grand Canyon) so it’s a bit hard to say if we were more impressed by one of the world’s largest dams, the Las Vegas architecture and surrounding landscape,  or the simple fact that you could see the sun and it was warm. It was probably the sun…but we were all pleasantly surprised by the city appearing out of the desert.

Our first pressing matter to deal with was not losing money but food. This provided my first ever opportunity to try In-N-Out burger. There has been very much written and talked about the legend of these burgers. I do not want to cause an online debate-I will only say this: it was a pretty good burger. Would I be okay if I never had another? Yep.

After that we drove around and checked into our hotel. The process to check-in was a little more fun since ended up walking through a fancy indoor mall/casino for about 15 minutes first. At this point we were still smelling horribly like campfire smoke and looking like we had just camped out in snow in the Grand Canyon…which we had. Viva Las Vegas.

This suite was classssy.

This suite was classssy.

After checking in to our artsy-fartsy suite, it was time to go out and explore. Traveling with Jake and Reid is always an experience and the way down on the elevator reminded me why. Reid, followed by Jake, and then me, started jumping on the elevator. We were reminded at the bottom by a security guard that, “Stop…a reminder that there are video cameras everywhere.” I ignored the Big Brother overtones and as we were walking away I had my head down, embarrassed…whereas I think Reid may have said, “that wasn’t us.” Gig Em’, Vegas-style.

We then set out to wander up and down the strip. Las Vegas’ promenade (aka the strip) really didn’t seem as overtaking as I thought it might. A lot of people, a lot of lewd behavior and a lot of random architecture mixed up. There was the discussion brought up a few times that if aliens were to find Las Vegas in a thousand years, they’d probably think this was the treasure of our civilization. I think it’s possible, but I also think right now it seems such an obviously gold-plated replica of what it aims to be that the aliens would have to choose not to explore the rest of earth to believe it. The Eiffel tower within a football field of St. Mark’s and fountains on the other side of the street, all nearby a Pyramid. All of this is not tributary to any civilization: it’s a sheer, faux-reality that is Las Vegas; image not depth. That’s not a critique, it’s just reality. Anyway: I’ve got to admit that I like the fountain show.

Fountains & Handsome

Fountains & Handsome later on

We then went to a restaurant to watch some college basketball and Reid made the first bet of the night for his beloved UNC Tarheels against Duke. What should be known is that Reid, Jake, and I had never really gambled. The city of vice seemed an inopportune time to swim with sharks. This had all the makings for more entertainment.

Time soon passed and a friend of mine from Poland-Chris-and a friend his-Angelo-met us. This added to the night on so many levels as they both live in Las Vegas and provided some great insight. I’ve compiled a top 5 of this insight (and as this was several months ago, don’t expect the world):

Betting Area w/Chris

Betting Area w/Chris

5. You can drive drunk on the strip/in fact you can do pretty much anything in Vegas so long as you don’t kill anyone. The fact is, the police won’t do anything to kill your Vegas buzz. They don’t want to cause any problems with Vegas’ industry of tourism. Makes sense.

4. Only a fool would do the following-
A. bet $10 on UNC against Duke. Chris (properly) berated and then taught Reid, Jake & I on the rules of betting. But, though I don’t remember them all exactly & won’t put them here, they were much appreciated. Oh, and Duke crushed UNC.
B. Turn down free drinks when the waitress offers them. It should be noted that Reid did (A) whereas Jake & I did (B). Thanks Vegas, you’ve been great.

3. Places to go in Las Vegas are rarely the casinos on the strip. Probably smarter to check out the old strip-which we didn’t. We were tourists short on time, so we made the best of it and did get a bit away and there are many other and better places to go. For example, Ellis Island. Great beer, especially when you keep playing blackjack and slowly losing what you’ve won (in comparison to the Monte Carlo where you lose $40 in 3 hands).

At Ellis...'I think you have my beer in there'

At Ellis…’I think you have my beer in there’

2. Worth checking out is the place where Robert DeNiro always got food in Casino. Good food. That said, I had one bite.

1. Duke is afraid to play UNLV in Vegas. Just ask a local…

So that was Vegas. We took off the next morning/early afternoon to head to Cali and stay with my friend Mark and see what was to see in LA/the city of Angels/city of smog/etc. On the way, we had to stop to see some major and important sights. First, was a sign that Reid had been dreaming of getting his photo next to since he was a child.

Turned out well.

Turned out well.

Second was the extremely famous CMSACMCMAMC University that I had been hearing about on Jezebel.com and all last summer in Kyiv from a friend of mine, Bojana. I was
A) impressed that it was a really nice university
B) amazed that Reid could walk on water there
C) saddened Bojana had lost her recent election (it was several months ago so I’m not exactly sure but I believe she was running for community organizer or local chef, something like that).

Reid performing a miracle at CCMAMC

Reid performing a miracle at CCMAMC

Then was Mark’s apartment in Santa Monica where we slept. More details on our time in LA, concert in San Diego and trip back in the next post…probably in 8 months.

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