Las Vegas – “Sin City”

Well, here we are in Las Vegas and had we known how much energy you need to explore “Sin City” in 43 degrees we would have got ourselves a prescription for “performance enhancing drugs” to prepare for it. This crazy place has 45 million visitors a year and 150,000 hotel rooms to accommodate them. The population of Vegas is 2 million. We are staying at Treasure Island which is in a good position on “the strip”. The strip is about 4.2 km long. On the way here Elvis is playin on this ‘ere bus to get us into the groove for “the Vegas experience”.We arrived in the afternoon and checked into the enormous Treasure Island Hotel. Just to get to the room you have to walk a distance past several restaurants and the very large casino. It is pure madness with a parade of trolley cases making their way to the elevators all day and all night.

So – out we go and we are gonna tolerate this heat because we have to do what everyone does here and that is walk the strip. Ken the tour guide has given us all a lesson on what to see. He has also told us that there are people on every corner giving out cards to men to entice them to meet up with “a lady of the night” let’s just say! Well in two days the boss only got approached 3 times. To be honest, he thought he was going to get a collection of those cards! The first day he didn’t get approached at all and wondered why. I told him it was because I was behind him making an angry fist at each of these guys as soon as they produced a card in his direction!! Not good for his ego tho!!!  

Everything you can imagine has been recreated here in Vegas. We visited the Venetian – well that is Venice recreated with gondolas, the Rialto bridge and shopping plaza; the Eiffel Tower is here with a replica of a cafe from the Champs Élysées in front of it; Caesar’s Palace has recreated Rome with its famous statues and who would have thought that the 12 apostles are sitting above Vatican City right here in Sin City! Well actually, on a closer look we notice a few of the “apostles” are naked so I am not sure what happened here. To get to the shopping plaza here at Caesar’s Palace you go on an escalator which ascends and descends in a spiral. There are magnificent fountains like the Bellagio fountains which we watched 3 times because each sequence to the music was different and amazing. We visited Penn hotel where the entire enormous foyer is a magnificent garden with the most beautiful flowers and plants, fountains and luxury in every corner. The Cosmopolitan hotel has the biggest chandelier in the world and there is a bar within it.

Now the people are something else – there are girls dressed in very little as Moulin Rouge dancers, cops, etc. I got distracted at one point and put my sunglasses on over the top of my other glasses and this was all because Elvis had come back to life before my very eyes. I can also report that Michael Jackson is here too – about a dozen of him actually. There are also versions of fat Elvis and thin Elvis. Mickey and Minnie come out at night and various other creatures wearing things that are very odd and often made out of very little if you get the drift! I swear some of these girls are suffering from memory loss (like us) and got up this morning and forgot to put on the shorts and top and are wandering around here in 43 degrees in their underwear! I can tell y’all that anything goes here in this city in the middle of the dessert. You know there is nothing much around Vegas but Vegas – it was created here in Nevada in the desert.

The boss isn’t very happy with me actually because I am having a problem with the cards to get into the rooms. I keep losing them and last night I found a collection of them in the little bag I only use when we go out at night. Now I am in a quandary as to whether I admit to him I have found this little collection or just shut up about it! Another problem that has arisen is that each day we move on we have the huge task of remembering what floor we are on and, even more importantly, what our room number is. We get out of the lift and turn left instead of right (or is it reft instead of light!!!) and run straight into a window or a wall! I wish I had packed the Tom Tom!

Last night we went to Cirque du Soleil “Mystere” at our hotel. This show has been playing here for about 15 years and was one amazing show. The stage went up and down in all sorts of shapes and forms; things appeared from the roof and sides of the theatre; performers were astonishing with the things they did and we were blown away with the whole performance and so glad we went. We went out onto the strip after the show to view the lights and I can tell y’all that it was over 30 degrees late at night! This place doesn’t seem to cool down in any fashion and the girls are still parading wearing itsy bitsies; the men are still handing out the cards and Elvis is still alive!

Yesterday we had a great excursion to the Hoover Dam. This is considered by many to be a marvel of engineering second only to the great pyramids of Egypt. We went in a big pink jeep but this time we weren’t jiggling around on a bench because it was very comfortable. We travelled out through Boulder City with the heat haze from the fires burning in California clouding the landscape a little. Boulder City was built to accommodate the workers who built the Hoover Dam. Originally, the workers who arrived to work on the dam lived in tents in the desert with their families. That would have been tough. Anyway, it has developed into a nice little city with a population of 15,000. The houses are nice – some are large. Apparently prior to the GFC the average 3-bedroom house was worth $325,000. It dropped after the GFC to $125,000. The effects of the GFC here in the US have been dramatic in places. A little bit of trivia too – property owners pay 1% of the value of the house in a combined property and schooling tax. Now Boulder City is quite a beautiful small city and Oprah Winfrey clearly agrees with me because she has a house here.

We arrived at the security checkpoint for Hoover Dam where all vehicles and persons get checked for bombs or any other device which threatens security. It appears that since 9/11 the security industry has grown because these checks are commonplace and searches are carried out before you enter many of these places of significance. Hoover Dam is truly enormous and, of course, the boss understands all this engineering but even for a dummy in the matter of physics like me it is impressive. The walls of the dam are 600 feet thick at the bottom and 45 feet thick at the top, and with no steel reinforcing! The lake level here on Lake Mead has dropped 120 feet and the states of Arizona and Nevada, which the dam spans, use all sorts of methods to conserve water. When we saw all those fountains playing in Las Vegas we wondered about that but they do and have won awards for it. The water is way more important to them than the power. Hoover Dam has 17 turbines and generates enough power for 1.2 million homes and to irrigate 2 million acres. By the time it was completed in 1935 6.6 million tons of cement had been poured into this dam which reaches a height of 726 feet above the canyon floor. At that time it was the tallest dam in the world and 96 men lost their lives during the build. Contrary to rumour, and the movie, no bodies are buried within that cement!

The boss thought he would just have a little go with $20 at the casino. Trouble was we wandered around and couldn’t work out how to play the slot machines and it was too late to enrol in a course to help us, although the TV in the room has an abundance of channels showing you how to play all the games under the sun. I tell you everywhere you go in this city there are casinos. Las Vegas is full of hotels, restaurants, shows, crazy people and casinos, casinos, casinos.

Breakfast is sometimes as big an education as ze problem of ze bathrooms. This morning, for example, the buffet restaurant was enormous and you get your morning exercise by doing three laps of the blimmin place just trying to find the cup of tea. This morning we did three laps trying to find fresh fruit and yoghurt, cereal and milk. The milk really got us – we had to employ help to actually find the milk machine even though it was labelled in huge letters. But then you had to place your bowl or cup under it and we felt like we were in a cowshed. There was a big stainless bar attached to this jolly machine. Well, we pushed, we pulled, we lifted it up and down and then the waitress clearly noticed the Kiwi oddballs struggling to get a drop of milk and came to our assistance! By the time you get everything you want you sink into your seat exhausted. We are also odd apparently because we don’t have three courses at breakfast time. You can have everything from bacon, sausages, fried potatoes, eggs etc to waffles, pancakes, every type of pastry on the market, fruit pies, muffins the size of a softball and every type of coffee, herbal tea or soda pop, slushies etc. But I can tell y’all that you try finding a piece of bread to make toast and English Breakfast tea and you have an enormous problem! You can do 10 laps of the buffet and sometimes not find that!

I divert for a minute because we are currently travelling in the desert and passing the jail where OJ Simpson is on vacation so we wave to OJ and I can tell y’all that there would be no fear of anyone escaping from this institution. For one thing there is nowhere to go or hide for miles and miles!

Today we have been “promoted” to the front seat on the coach and Tutti Fruitti is drivin along ‘ere with her HUGE tumbler of soda to keep her going! We have left sin city behind and we are happy that today the temperature drops to around 35 degrees. Yay! Oh deary me – we are drivin along ‘ere in the desert – nothing around us and then suddenly we see a HUGE sign for a brothel – right beside a place selling fireworks! Imagine that!!!!! There is nothing else around except for brothels and fireworks! Can you belieeeeeve it?

On a more serious note, as I write this our bus has broken down right on the edge of Death Valley. An alarm sounded and it turns out one of the fan belts has broken. We are presently at the side of the road here and the temperature is soaring to just over 100 degrees F. The tour guide and bus driver have been trying to contact the company to get some help pretty urgently because there are 29 people on this bus now with no air conditioning. We have all been outside to see if it is better but it is seriously hot and the breeze is hot. The update is that they are trying to get a belt that will fit and a mechanic from Tonopah which is about 1 1/2 hours away so we are going nowhere. Everyone is keeping up the fluids and another bus has just stopped to see if it can help but no luck. Mechanic arrived but didn’t bring the right tools so had to travel on to Beatty to get some. Eventually, after 2 1/2 hours sitting here in this pretty extreme heat the mechanic managed to fix the belt and it took all of 1 minute! Tutti’s next job is to turn this big bus on this narrow road. Not a heap of traffic here so she manages to get us turned so we can go back to Beatty and get some food and relief for a while because we are all very hot and the clothes are soaking wet.

On we go after getting cooled down but we have a big distance to travel on this long straight road as far as the eye can see. We pass salt flats and Joshua trees which provide no shade at all in this vast landscape. Some big dust devils are sweeping along the side of this very long straight road. In the midst of this we just saw a sign “For Sale – 4 acres”. Now the boss has a brilliant idea. He thinks he could buy this and set up a shop selling drinks in large containers, food and fan belts! Suddenly upfront there is a big truck rig swerving all over the road. We think the driver is having trouble staying awake.

We pass Goldfield which is an historic town with tumbledown cottages and huge yards of car wrecks which have been abandoned on this desert highway after they broke down. We get to Tonopah, a mining town with a population of 25,000. This is an interesting small town because it is here they do testing for the stealth bombers and also missile testing.

We turn off this longggggg highway 95 and onto 6 to and we start to head towards the mountains to exit the state of Nevada and back into California passing a large borax quarry on the way beside the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains. These are considered the most stunning mountain range in the west and, oh my goodness, the landscape is becoming green and after days in the desert it looks magnificent. Suddenly it is raining when we get up to 7500 ft and we make our way to Mammoth Mountain and our lodge at the base of this rather large ski field. It has been a long day with unexpected excitement on the way. However, a meal and a welcome drink is awaiting us we are told so the company have handled this well.

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