Back to the Shire.

And so our adventure came to an end.

On Thursday, we cleaned out the RV, dropped it off at the rental company, took a taxi to Circus Circus, and began our Las Vegas adventure. As I suspected, I suffered from immediate sensory overload, but eventually adjusted. Our hotel was nice, but a little far away from everything else in Las Vegas. It was on the Strip, but as one of the older hotels, it almost bridged the gateway between the Downtown/Fremont area of Vegas and the newer, flashy, buildings-that-resemble-other-cities area of Vegas. After we got settled in to our hotel, we researched lists of things to do in Vegas, and started making a list. There seemed like a lot of interesting things in all of the hotels! Free shows, penguin habitats, lions at the MGM casino — even an awesome Merlin vs. the Dragon show at Excalibur! So we made a lit of things we were interested in seeing and hit the road. For some reason, I was convinced this would be a 4 to 5 mile walk, tops, and I thought we’d get to a place we were interested in, look around, sit down, gamble, have waitresses bring us free drinks, then move on to the next casino on our list.

It didn’t quite work out that way, however.

First of all, Vegas is a constant wave of solicitation. There’s an army of official-looking people in uniforms inside and outside of every hotel and casino very insistent on having you listen to a two-hour time-share pitch for discounted tickets to shows you don’t care about. Then, you have an army of people lining the sidewalks on the Strip flicking cards at you every few yards or so promising to deliver sexy naked women to your door. Then you have people taking pictures of you and offering to sell you copies after the fact. And I’m not even going to relate my embarrassing Gentlemen’s Club experience here. Essentially, as a tourist and as a breathing human with a wallet, you are a walking money-making target for everyone in the city. So, as we walked around attempting to explore, look at, and enjoy stuff, we were constantly dodging salespeople of all sorts.

As we walked around, we couldn’t talk amongst each other over the din of the busy streets. Nevada was also experiencing a serious heat wave while we were there, so we were walking around, sweltering in 100 degree heat. Because there were so many hotels and casinos we wanted to look at on our list, and because it was much more expensive to gamble in these nicer hotels, we pretty much power-walked the entire Strip — and we ended up walking nearly 10 miles that night when it was all said and done. To make matters worse, many of the things we were excited about seeing were no longer there — we found the flamingos at the Flamingo, but we couldn’t find the penguins; the MGM had taken the lion exhibit down; the Merlin show had been cancelled at the Excalibur back in 2007. It felt like we would powerwalk through the heat, wander around one hotel just to discover that they no longer had what we wanted to see, and the trudge on to the next. It was a pretty miserable night.

The next day we discovered that there was a very affordable bus line that ran up and down the Strip and into downtown Las Vegas. That would have saved us a world of heartache that first night.

Even with the disappointment on the Strip, there were still a few things that were really cool to see. The Bellagio fountains were absolutely amazing, the Mirage’s volcano was pretty cool, the decor inside & outside Paris and the Venetian were wonderful to take in, and the crazy Treasure Island pirate show at the entrance to the TI casino was fun to watch. That being said, I felt like I was pretty much over Vegas on that first night. It was hot, my feet hurt, everyone was always sticking stuff in my face to try to get me to buy something, and I had discovered that, sadly, I had not inherited my grandfather’s luck at gambling. I probably would not have ventured out the next day at all if Thomas hadn’t been so interested in exploring more of the city. I think it was safe to say that I was more than a little grumpy.

The second day went much better. Discovering the bus line helped us a lot — we were able to go a little ways down the Strip again and back up before heading to the Downtown area that evening. As soon as we walked into the Golden Nugget, I realized that THIS was a part of Las Vegas I could really enjoy. I actually had fun playing 25 cent BlackJack on the card machines, and FINALLY a waitress brought me the legendary free drink that I had heard about but had not experienced yet! The decor was crazy, gaudy, retro-70s looking, and the atmosphere was much more laid-back. I decided that if I ever did come back to Vegas, I would stay there.

The rest of the Fremont Experience area was pretty awesome — still loud, but you didn’t have to deal with people flicking nudie cards in your face every five minutes, and there were so many lights. The hotels in that area are all older, broken-in, and felt much more my speed. We still didn’t win anything gambling, but at least I started enjoying myself a little more and could accept that maybe Vegas wasn’t the WORST place on the planet anyway. We rode up to the top of the Stratosphere at the end of the night, and sat at a table looking over the lights of the city, which was very beautiful, before heading back to our hotel to prepare for the return trip home.

I can’t really say that I enjoyed Las Vegas, I must confess. While I love big cities as well as small towns and open wilderness, I generally love cities that are built around people living and working and creating a history for those cities, as opposed to cities that seem to cater mostly for a tourist crowd. It may have been a different experience for me if I’d seen more than just the Strip and Downtown, or if I’d had an insider’s perspective. As it was, everything was horribly overpriced (I heard from everyone that drinks and food were supposed to be really cheap, and I just couldn’t justify spending $140 for Thomas and I to see a show even though I heard those were good as well) and the food was mediocre (I’d heard Las Vegas dining was supposed to be delicious.) Maybe I just didn’t go to the right places, but I can’t imagine ever wanting to go visit that city again. 

That being said, that’s about what I expected out of the experience, so I can’t say I was disappointed. Wandering through mountains and finding psychedelic murals painted on cliff sides? That’s more my kind of adventure. I guess I’m just not so much a partier or gambler to thoroughly enjoy Vegas. But I’m glad I went and got the experience, even if my feet still do hurt from it.

And now, I’m flying over Texas, soon to descend to the airport and Houston, and then to make my way home. It’s been a wonderful adventure with the very best people, and I couldn’t have asked for better travel buddies. Also, I’m pretty sure we all kinda want to move to Arizona now. But I miss my daughter and my pets and my own bed. As much as I have loved this adventure, it will be good to be home again.

Comments are closed.