Death Valley and Vegas Baby!
20.03.2015 - 24.03.2015
We left California behind this morning to head into Nevada. Glorious weather - high 70's, so the hood came down and we were treated to some incredible empty desert roads. Perfect Mustang territory, and time to see what she could do! Turns out quite a lot, and only had to back off when the numbers on the dashboard started looking a bit scary. Had a whale of a time in the car round here, although above certain speeds the wind noise got a little bit crazy.
Between us and Vegas lay the famous Death Valley ("Warning: No gas for 140 miles"), but we had nothing but confidence in the 'stang, and it wasn't that hot or anything so we headed right on without a worry. Pretty incredible place though - as soon as we got close to the valley the thermometer started climbing. As we entered the valley it hit 90 and didn't stop there. With the hood back up and air con blasting it got to close to 100 in the middle of the valley (and this is March), and the views were pretty otherworldly!
With 90 miles or so to the next town (or next ANYTHING) we got a bit of a shock, as some lights started flashing on the dash. Hmmm.
"Oh it's no big deal" I told Jamie.
"One tyre is a bit low but we can pump it up at the next town. It's still at 24 PSI."
...5 mins later:
"Err... make that 22 PSI. Still, it's fairly steady, we can definitely make it to the next town"
We couldn't make it to the next town. On consultation the manual told us we had no spare wheel, we were 70 miles from anthing or anyone, and it was hot. Shit.
Apparently the car had some kind of foam based emergency repair kit in the boot, but we were less than confident of how we'd be able to use it. What's a foam based repair kit anyway? This wasn't looking great. As we unloaded the car and mentally prepared ourselves for failing to work out how a foam based emergency puncture repair kit actually works, we got a very pleasant surprise. The 'stang hadn't let us down, and she did indeed have a spare, albeit a 50mph space saver one.
After nervously limping the 70 miles to the next town we were relieved to find the place consisted of pretty much nothing but some trailer parks, a Macdonalds, and about 17 car tyre repair shops.
With the proper tyre repaired and after a nerve settling milkshake we hit the road again and that night made it to Vegas for some celebratory cocktails and a wander down the strip. Now Vegas is an odd place, and I have to say that after the first night I wasn't really feeling it. The strip is cool, and the hotels and casinos really are something to see, but it just wasn't me. It felt like apart from the multitude of frat boys passed out or staggering around the place, the people there were mainly there to be seen, and show off their cash, and the whole place was designed to unceremoniously rid them of it. Still we had a fun night - watched the fountains at Bellagio, played a bit of blackjack, and enjoyed a duelling pianos type show put on by some twins in one of the bars.
The next day we headed down to the Stratosphere to get a birds eye view of the place. Unfortunately the price of a ticket up the tower was virtually the same as a ticket that also incuded a ride on one of the white knuckle rides at the top, so there wasn't really any manly way of not doing one. We opted for the "Big Shot", one of those ones where you sit in a chair and it shoots you 200 ft in the air then drops you again a few times. Now normally, these aren't that terrifying, but when you take one and stick it on top of a 1000ft building it becomes a different story! Still, after a few moments of wishing I really hadn't done this, the ride fired and we shot up, and massive relief and manic laughter ensued. It really is fun, and the views are awesome.
Our hotel (the Hard Rock) was pretty sweet too, with massive pool parties during the day. Real sand beaches, live DJs and a lazy river make it the best pool I've ever seen, by a decent margin. One of the big shot hotel guests started chatting and was bragging to me about how after he'd tipped a security guy a hundred bucks he'd jumped the queue and not had to pay to get in to the party, and he could now come and go as he pleased. He wasn't too impressed when I let him know that we had done the same but not tipped anybody, that was just the policy for all hotel guests.
We'd been told that we should check out downtown Vegas whilst we were there, so that night we headed off to Freedmont street. As soon as we arrived, my whole view of Vegas was flipped upside down. Wow, what a town! THIS is Vegas, not the strip! Apparently this was the original town tht got famous before the strip existed, and it has sooo much more atmosphere. Walking down a long, wide, pedestrianised boulevard that had an arched ceiling made of lights, with zip-liners screeching overhead I started to get into the swing of things. Vendors everywhere were selling mangle cocktails to passers by which were pretty strong, started at a litre and went up in size from there, and were all served in novelty cups. Awesome! Really got into Vegas mode by hitting an old school casino (Grand central station???) and got a buffet prime rib dinner. Just a quick note to restaurant owners out there - if it's a buffet you can't look annoyed if I ask for a triple helping of the beef and then decline chips or potatoes.
After that and some more mangle cocktails the place really began to shine for me. Topless women walking the streets, old Elvis impersonators (that really looked or sounded nothing like him) and even a midget B A Baracus. Superb. OK, so people are still out to relieve you of as much of your cash as they can, but at least here it feels like they want you to have a good time while they're doing it!
Hit a few more bars, did some dancing, weighed myself at the Heart Attack Grill (free food to those that weigh in over 350 pounds, unfortunately I'm still short...), went to an area with shops and malls made from shipping containers and had an argument with a giant steel fire breathing preying mantis. Amazing night, and I'm definitely a vegas convert!