"Thataway!"
Day Seven, Thursday – Beaver to Las Vegas:

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The Route of Day Seven - the Ticket Day The morning came and we awoke and started packing while sorta half-watching the TV. Then a strange movie came on – The Million Dollar Hotel, an independent film, set in a downtown L.A. skidrow hotel. It slowly sucked us in.

The Million Dollar Hotel In spite of being packed and ready to go, we didn't leave until the movie was over. See it if you can.

We started zipping our way down the 15 towards Arizona, Nevada, and Las Vegas. It was a pretty morning. Traffic was moving quite nicely, and so were we until just outside of Cedar City when flashing lights appeared in my rearview mirror.

And we got pulled over and given a speeding ticket.

Mind, everyone else was going the same speed – it's one of those stretches of road where you go fast or you get run-over – but the Utah Highway Patrol pulled over us. And after he ticked us and drove away, we passed him pulling someone else over. And, guess what, the person being pulled over also had California plates.

*Sigh*

Okay, I know the logic behind this. A lot of places make big bucks off of tickets, but if you ticket locals, well, they might do something annoying like fight it in court, or complain come next election or whatnot.

But if you ticket non-locals – especially from out of state – well, what's the chance they'll drive several hundred miles back to dispute it in court – and they don't vote where it'll bother you...

And you can tell Utah's using tickets as a revenue source – they don't accept traffic school instead of money.

Bryce - we didn't see this...Zion - we didn't see this either...Anywho, after that we got out of Dodge (Utah) as soon as we could – didn't even do the drive-through of Bryce or Zion parks that I'd sorta planned on. It didn't take long until we were cruising through the small northwest corner of Arizona that the 15 cuts across. This stretch of road is less than twenty miles long before you hit Nevada, but it runs along the bottom of the Virgin River Gorge, a twisting, narrow knife-slice through the mountains. It was pretty enough it even improved my ticket-impaired mood.

After a few miles, the walls of the gorge open up onto the flat, desert lands that tell you you're almost in Nevada. You soon hit the border and – BAMM! – you find yourself in the city of Mesquite...

...and inundated with billboards advertising Nevada casinos.

Just past Mesquite (which is trying to be yet another border gambling town) we hit that most annoying of road events – traffic. Lot's of traffic. They're doing construction on the 15 and in the last few hundred miles apparently everyone seems to have lost the ability to merge. It's nearly forty-five minutes before we get pass the five miles or so of construction and the speedometer can edge back up to a more impressive level.

Between the border and Vegas it's pretty empty. You pass through the Moapa River Indian Reservation – and that's empty (except for a casino/cigarette shop/fireworks store in a medium-sized warehouse-like building). You drive just far enough away from the northern shore of Lake Powell that you can only pretend you just see it. You pass strange factories that produce who knows what. And you pass miles and miles of empty desert before the outskirts of Vegas begin to pass you by.

It's mid-afternoon by the time we pull off the freeway and go looking for the hotel (Terrible Herbst – yes, that's correctly spelled) where Dee Dee's family's staying at. We discover that traffic hasn't gotten any better since we were there last (two years ago) – and new hotels are still being built willy-nilly.

One other thing you quickly find out is that Vegas is a town that smokes too much.

Oh, if you're not a Californian, you probably wouldn't notice this like we did – home's got some pretty strict rules on where/when you can smoke. But as a Californian, every time we go out of state (especially to the Southwest) we notice the vast increase in cigarette smoke. In Vegas, this increase jumps a couple of orders of magnitude.

Five minutes inside the casino and I can hardly breath. Ten minutes inside and I'm heading as quickly as possible for outside. All the hotels are like that (though the larger ones have enough space to at least allow the smoke to thin out a bit). People sitting next to you at – say – a slot machine blow smoke in your direction (well, in Dee Dee's direction, anyway – I didn't really play the slots). Restaurants still have smoking and non-smoking sections – usually with no walls between them. Most businesses still have cigarette machines!

Heck, even standing on the street in the middle of an intersection it smells like cigarette smoke!

We soon find Terrible Herbst, and once there, soon find Dee Dee's brother-in-law, sister, niece, nephew, and mom. We chat for a bit, then discover that – in spite of the "vacancy" sign out front, the hotel is all booked up ("oh, they never change that" the man at the desk said. "So why the photon do you have it," I wanted to ask). So we have to find another place to stay – which proves to be a motel just up the street (if there's one thing Vegas isn't short of, it's places to stay).

So we get a room and go park the car and start to unpack. This is where we discover an interesting fact of life in Vegas – there, "handicapped accessible" is just a term other people use. The elevator goes down to the underground parking, all right – and lets you off at a set of three stairs the rest of the way down to the lot.

Let me repeat that: The elevator leads to stairs...

This was far from the only place we came across this too. In fact, the new Sahara has a nice pedestrian viaduct from its parking lot over the road to the hotel, so guests don't have to cross through traffic. Or, at least, non-handicapped guests don't have to, because in spite of the fact that the viaduct has an elevator up to it from the parking lot, at the other end it leads to – you guessed it – stairs – which lead to an escalator!

Has no one in Vegas thought these things through?

Noticed another annoying thing about Vegas – hotels/motels there (at least, the ones we've been at) offer very few channels on the room TV's (heck, Beaver, Utah had five times as many!). I guess the logic is that if you're in the room watching TV...you're not gambling – which makes sense from their standpoint, but just annoys me no end.

Stuff finally in our room we decide to head out for dinner – early, but we're still an hour ahead of everybody and we haven't eaten today (we sure weren't going to eat in Utah any more!). Originally, we were going to eat at Terrible's, but I was close to passing out from the smoke there – and we were between the lunch and dinner buffet times anyway.

Dee Dee wants us to go to "Hush Puppy Seafood" – a place she's eaten at before that she (and apparently every one else, judging by the reviews) thinks is excellent. So we're off into the Vegas traffic, driving first north, then west for several miles before we find the place.

Which opens at 5 p.m. – and it's 4 p.m.

By now we're both more than a little hungry and not ready to wait another hour. So it's back to the Strip to find a Buffet. It's Vegas, you gotta buffet!

We end up at the newly rebuilt Sahara Hotel I figure that's as good a place as any to buffet – and anyway, the hotel has this new rollercoaster...

It proved to be kinda...eh, actually. Food was nothing special (we watched the pizzas, fer example, actually being taken out of their packaging. Store-bought) – the roasted chicken was literally inedibly dry – and variety was not all it was cracked up to be. Desserts were okay but, again, nothing special...

...'course, what was really annoying is that we later discovered that the buffet at Terrible Herbst was a very good seafood one!

The coaster proved to be "eh" too. A simple out and up, then down and back backwards. Not really worth the buckage they wanted for it, so after dinner we just started walking down the Strip.

Playing tourist (and the occasional slot), we visited several hotels, then headed back to the car. Once back at our motel, we decided to try the free shuttle it had to check out the Luxor, the one big hotel I've never gotten around to visiting.

Well, the shuttle actually dropped us off about a mile from the Luxor at the San Remo, but through a combination of walking and one of the monorails (which we had to take to the Mandalay Bay first, then back to the Luxor for some reason – no I don't know why either), we did actually get there.

Luxor Luxor is a pyramid both inside and out. The rooms are all on the outside walls of the pyramid, so there is an enormous pyramidal space within – the floor of which is the casino and whatnot. The "hallways" circle each level of this pyramid, so each one looks out over this empty space. I was somewhat disappointed that they wouldn't let us go up the elevator to look down from the top of the pyramid to the floor below (guests only are allowed up the elevators), but it is a cool hotel.

We came back via the Excalibur, wandering around its fake medieval castle-ness (though the tacky lame "Renaissance" costume that – according to Dee Dee – the employees once wore are no more) and hung out in their amusement area (more old-fashioned style "carnival" games there than even a Chucky Cheese – without the risk of Chucky Cheese's pizza!) for a while.

Eventually, we made the long walk back to the shuttle pickup point – and discovered that the mere five minutes we had to wait for it on our way there was very atypical – then returned to our room and to bed.


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