Thursday, November 29, 2007

Las Vegas

The road out is the same distance as the road in, the same 60-mile road. Then we continued on Route 66 to Kingman, Arizona where we spent the night. So far, there had been no real shockers.

The drive from Kingman, northwest towards Nevada, was more interesting- barren hills, mountains and canyons exotic and fascinating. The road into Nevada crosses the Hoover Dam. The approach requires a vehicle security inspection. The U.S. Government is currently building a bypass that will allow the ever-increasing traffic to flow more smoothly between the two states without the security threat. Fortunately, traffic was not heavy from our side, and we made a stop at an overlook to see this marvel of engineering.

Anxious to move on, we did not stop to take the tour of the facility that others said is most interesting. The approach to Las Vegas goes through places dotted with casinos. Each hotel is a casino. The road into the city is a broad six-lane boulevard that never seemed congested. The city that grew from nothing to one of the largest metropolitan areas in the country is well planned, and the air in late fall at midday was crisp and clear.

It isn’t until one approaches Las Vegas Boulevard, “The Strip,” that you sense the difference, tall spires, flashing signs, glitz, and a slight amount of congestion. Turning into Caesar’s Palace, efficient aides took our bags and handed us a card for our car that was whisked away to free valet parking. Walking into the hotel we are greeted immediately by the Casino. Continuing through the Casino, we arrived at the Registration Desk where we were told that our room was ready and we could call the Bell Desk to send up our luggage when we were ready. This was the first element of culture shock, an efficient operation.

We had no idea how to play the games or machines, so we wandered around, somewhat in a daze. Most of the gamblers at the “slots,” in an hypnotic trance, were pounding a key, watching, then pounding again within seconds, the machines gobbling up one or five dollars at a hit. Coming from an area where interior smoking is prohibited, the second hand smoke was noxious.

We retreated to our room and awaited the arrival of our family while doing what we came to Las Vegas to do- our email. For us, working on the Internet was a cultural norm needed to allow us to believe that all was well with our world.

Our older daughter, Julie, arrived from New York City. She is not into the casinos, but does have an appreciation of the various motifs that exist in Las Vegas. Next to Caesar’s is the Bellagio. We had a late afternoon lunch for, I do not know how much since she picked up the tab, and wandered through the exquisite floral display set up in a conservatory. It was not until the next morning that sticker shock hit. I picked up the breakfast tab, $75+tip for three people, and the pancakes at the Havasupai cafĂ© for $3 per plate, were much better, as was the coffee for $1.50.

Culture shock continued. We had just been in an area of poverty where money meant something. In Las Vegas, money has lost its relevance except as a means to delight in the artificial splendor of the various motifs: Italian, French, New York, etc. They all exist within a square mile.

But this was a place where our entire family could meet. Getting to our Colorado mountain home from virtually anywhere is difficult in the best of times. As our younger daughter’s in-laws live in Las Vegas, even Julie could attend, although iphone was always on, ready to receive email, and a second cell phone was on to receive calls. Our son-in-law had his newest toy, a cell phone that carries TV programs in those limited areas of the country in which Verizon TV is available.

Rachel’s father-in-law, an escapee from Queens, led us on an expedition into that part of Las Vegas that was totally different, The Red Rock Canyon. If for no other reason than to preserve your sanity (and your lungs), you should get out to this marvelous nature area when you are in Las Vegas. It is a very short drive to the outskirts of the city. There are several other inviting places, but we did not have the time to explore.

Our sojourn in the Canyon had to be short in that Thanksgiving turkey awaited us at the home of our son-in-law’s mother and her friend (his mother and father are divorced, but remain friends). A giant 60-inch screen projected football in high definition, and we all subjected ourselves to the exploits of Bret Favre and the Packers, at least for a few minutes.

The house sits on the first tee of a beautiful green golf course. It is a spacious two bedroom one level with a circular design permitting easy passage from living room to kitchen to dining room and back. The bedrooms are off this passage way.

Finished with eating, we headed back to the “Strip.” I was not feeling well and went to our room. JoAnne again played her favorite group of slot machines, “Wheel of Fortune.” She was wise enough to stop when she was ahead and returned with a 20% return on her “play money.”

On Friday morning after a delightful breakfast with our family we began our return to Steamboat Springs, enjoying an easy and beautiful drive through Utah, with a night stop in Green River.

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