Waking up in Las Vegas was like any other place along the route–shower, dress, pack, drink coffee, pack the car, and on the road. We’re getting the hang of this travelling thing. But, today, we are in Las Vegas, Baby. Bright lights, over-the-top casinos, lavishly decorated restaurants and hotel lobbies, tour buses, and people—lots and lots of people.
Had I been with my husband or friends, the experience may have been different, but I doubt it. I’m sure it was the same with Dani. She may have enjoyed Vegas in a different way, also. Instead, we just looked at the larger-than-life buildings, a casino decorated to look like the 1940’s new York skyline, a replica of the Eiffel Tower, a gigantic castle that took up three city blocks, all connected by a tram that went from section to section. That was just driving down the strip. We decided to get out of the safety of the car and do some exploring. We started at the end—a tiny place called Excalibur, the three-block castle I just wrote about. There were parking spaces at 9:00 a.m., and we gingerly parked Hector stuffed full of Dani’s life and our luggage and frantically looked for a parking attendant. There were none. Wondering what it would cost us to get poor Hector from the car pound when they towed him away, we found a tour bus attendant in front of the building who laughed at our inquiry about who to pay to park.
“Oh, honey-dears, it’s free. They want your business and your money inside the casino, so the parking is a perk.” Now, that was a deal we could live with. Neither of us was interested in gambling, so this was a win/win situation.
We decided to take the two-story, open-air tour bus ride and learn all about Las Vegas. Our first stop was the famous Las Vegas sign where we snapped pictures like mad beasts from the rolling tour bus. All the pictures I’ve seen make it look like it’s on the edge of a small desert town. It’s actually in the middle of a six-lane highway and tourists are all swarming to get pictures beside it. Dani and I thought about it, but then decided against it—too many people.
The tour then took us down the strip passed all the famous casinos, the names of which I cannot remember at the moment. There were malls with all the well-known fashion designer stores. I guess I have a reverse snobbery about that sort of thing. Anyone that is going to spend more than a week’s worth of groceries on a purse, bottle of perfume, or shoes is simply stupid in my book. But, that’s just my opinion. I rocked the strip in my $20 Wal-Mart purse. The tour guide went on about the casinos, the stores, and the amusement park rides throughout the strip. He then told us about the restaurants in town. When he mentioned Gordon Ramsay’s Steakhouse and BurgGR joint, Dani and I both looked at each other with our eyes wide. Dani said, “Mom, I want to go. It’s my treat for all you’ve done this trip. Please, can we go?”
“Hell’s yeah,” I said. Oh, I love me some Gordon Ramsay.
The tour was at its end, and we were told that to get back to where we began we had to wait for the next bus, which would be there in twenty minutes. Knowing we had to get on the road eventually, we decided to walk back down the strip, highly underestimating the distance. We wanted to make it to BurgGR before the lunch crowd, so we started hoofing it. We couldn’t help stopping by a few stores to take a quick look around, buy a couple postcards for people back home, and kept on walking. And walking. And walking.
The interesting thing about Vegas is the escalators. To keep people from crossing the street and holding up traffic or getting killed in the mayhem, they have escalators that take you to a walkway above the street and down the other side. They even have some that carry people from one casino to another casino to another casino, which we accidentally did.
I’m still not sure how we kept our direction straight, but we eventually came to Planet Hollywood and saw the BurgGR sign with Gordon Ramsay’s sweet little face all lit up by the fire that he’s famous for on Hell’s Kitchen. There was a line, and we instantly became discouraged. Since it was something we both really wanted to experience, we decided to wait. To our surprise, since we were a party of two, we were seated very quickly. We were awestruck by the streamlined, modern décor and were very excited about the fancy little menu that we could keep as a souvenir. Who knew hamburgers could be so fancy gourmet? The problem was picking one. Dani chose one with truffle sauce and goat cheese. Mine had chanterelle mushrooms and arugula and was absolutely delicious. Dani got a milkshake that was so far beyond the normal milkshake—it was creamy ice cream on the bottom and hazelnut pudding on top with whipped cream. It was totally decadent and to-die-for. We shared an order of parmesan truffle fries. We were both excited to be in a Gordon Ramsay restaurant to begin with, but were more impressed with the impeccable service, comfortable ambience, and food that definitely lived up to its reputation. That was what made our trip to Las Vegas. They can keep the casinos, the bright lights, the mazes of escalators—just give me the food.
It was getting close to 1:00 p.m. and we still had a lot of walking to do to make it back to Excalibur. Before leaving the strip, we had to at least try one last thing—a slot machine. Dani and I both put in a dollar. I lost. Dani won a four dollar voucher. She was excited to slightly over triple her money, but decided to keep the voucher for a souvenir. That was the extent of our gambling.
Finally seeing the castle replica draw closer, we took the escalator to get us at our final destination. I was never so happy to see Hector sitting there in all his Honda glory in the same spot we left him, still full of Dani’s life and our luggage. Dani got in the driver’s seat, I got in the passenger seat, and we buckled in to head to Reno. We had a lot of Nevada to get through between here and there.
To be honest, we could have skipped Nevada. It was long. It was boring. There were gas stations every one hundred miles and absolutely nothing else except sage brush, cacti, sand, and brothels. Yep, you heard me right. Prostitution is evidently legal there. At the gas station stops, they advertised the local brothels. Some were little houses sitting off the road. One was even a tiny Airstream. Our favorite was the Alien and Brothel stop. We kept on going, but we did take pictures as we passed.
One of our stops was in a little town called Beatty where we got gas. There was a huge candy and jerky store that had rows of rows of candies, chocolates, nuts, licorice, etc. I wondered where in the world they would get that many people to buy it. This little store was stuck in the middle of nowhere desert with nothing else visible for miles and miles, almost like a mirage. A sweet girl behind the jerky counter informed me that Beatty has won many jerky awards and she offered me a free sample. It was spicy, salty, and absolutely yummy, and the aftertaste totally lit my stomach on fire.
“Do you live in Beatty?” I asked her.
“Yes, ma’am,” She answered
“But it’s in the middle of nowhere,” I said. After it came out of my mouth I realized that it may have come out as an insult. I was simply incredulous that people could live so far from civilization and not go stir crazy. The more I thought about it, the more it did have its appeal.
“I’ve lived here all my life,” she said. “I don’t really know any different, so it doesn’t bother me.”
“Well, I’m glad y’all are here. We’d run out of gas and wouldn’t have anything to eat.”
It really was the friendliest little town. When we went to the check out at the opposite end of the store to buy more postcards, the cashier laughed with us about the brothels.
She said, “We have two here in Beatty. One I’ve been to because it has a little bar in it. The other is just a brothel, so I haven’t had any need. I swing toward the men, you know.”
It was a nice interlude, but it was time to get back on the road.
Our Nevada day was way too long. We were both getting grumpy and were more than a little tired when we finally pulled into Reno. It was another night of unpacking the car, unlocking a hotel room, and settling in for the night. We were both exhausted, though, so there wasn’t much talking, no TV watching, no Facebook status-making–we simply ate our leftover Gordon Ramsay burgers and went immediately to sleep.