Driving through Vegas with Jay is an experience in and of itself. It seems like everything you pass he’s got something to say:
“I lived there.”
“I stayed there before.”
“I put in all the gas main from this place to that place.”
“My mom worked there as a cocktail waitress.”
“I lived there.”
“I stayed there before and they have really nice rooms.”
“My step-dad worked in that casino.”
“I stayed there before and it’s bedbug heaven.”
“I ran the gas to that hotel.”
“My dad worked in that casino.”
“That’s the best buffet in Vegas.”
And on and on and on … so if any of you are ever planning a trip, let me know, so I can tell you where not to stay! Cause nobody wants those bed bugs to bite for real! 🙂
So Friday night we went down to the strip. It was still spring break, by the way, so the whole city was full of drunken college kids. If you’re going to go to Vegas I would recommend the off-season, cause we were out of there by 9 or 9:30pm and it was already pretty freaking insane.
Our mission was not to walk the whole strip, it’s just way too long for a little evening jaunt. Our mission was to get to Caesar’s Palace so I could get a picture of me in front of the fountains for my sister, Jenn, who had requested this photo on Twitter earlier. Prior to her tweet I didn’t really have a mission, I just wanted to go down at night, see the lights, take a few pics, walk a bit, go in a few different places, and get the hell out of there and home to bed as early as possible. I mean I was still exhausted from the cross country trip and we were sleeping on a futon where the mattress was in two pieces and I kept falling into what we called “the great divide” all night long, so I wasn’t really getting rested up any.
We parked at the Excalibur. It’s the one that looks like a castle. Jay lived there before when he was working in the area. It’s gone downhill since then, now it’s bedbug city, so don’t ever stay there. There are security cameras everywhere on the strip, they estimate that you’re photo is taken every few seconds if you’re anywhere near the place. So because we parked at the Excalibur (free for guests & casino goers) Jay figured we should go in just to make it look good so we didn’t get towed. Unfortunately he got all turned around inside and we ended up coming out in a different place than he wanted, way on the other side (and even further away from our mission destination of Caesar’s Palace). Unfortunately for me, I had forgotten to change out my sandals for my running shoes. Mind you, they’re great sandals, super comfy and usually no problem for walking, but this was the first time I’d worn them this year and I’d never worn them on the kind of long hike that we were embarking on. You can stand on the street and see Caesar’s Palace, it looks like it’s right there close, but actually getting there, past all these other huge establishments, well, that’s another thing all together! Lesson learned: make sure you have a good pair of shoes on before walking the strip in Vegas.
In the parking lot I had debated whether to put on my hoody. The wind was still blowing pretty hard and it was definitely chilly, but again Jay told me I wouldn’t need it, I’d get too hot … and boy was he ever right! I’m sure the walking helped generate some heat (I was sweating at times) but those big buildings really cut out the wind once you got around them to the other side. It was like a warm summer night out there.
Absolutely none of the up escalators were working that night. So we were crisscrossing the street climbing massive amounts of stairs. My feet were burning with blisters. And freaking Caesar’s Palace never seemed to get any closer. At one point I looked at Jay and said, “Screw it! Let’s just go back to the truck and leave.” And he was game for that because he hadn’t realized either just how far away he’d parked and the idea of walking all the way back there the further we got away from it was crazy. I was like, “Why didn’t you tell me just how far this walk was going to be?! I wouldn’t have forgot to change my shoes then!” And he was like, “Well, I didn’t realize myself.” And I was muttering under my breath, “It’s like freaking walking from Front to Bloor! Or Yonge to Bathurst! Or Barnettville to the Rapids! for godsake!” But while we were stopped so I could have my little meltdown, I got a second wind and knowing that this would be my last opportunity this trip to get that picture, finally I said, “Okay, let’s just get there and get this over with.” 🙂
Part of my crankyness came from the fact that my legs felt like rubber from climbing a zillion stairs and part of it was the burning blisters on the soles of my feet but the other part was just Vegas itself. Out in the burbs where Jay’s parents live the air is different than anywhere else I’ve ever been. There are no smells on it. It’s just … I dunno … nothingness. Even sitting outside in the evening with a breeze blowing, it just kind of feels like you’re in an air conditioned building. It’s like Vegas is in a bubble and we’re all breathing some sort of filtered air. But the strip is different. There’s no nice way to put it … it simply stinks. On the strip it’s like you’re in that filtered air bubble with no natural smells of grass or trees but instead they’ve filled the bubble with popcorn, every kind of perfume & aftershave ever manufactured, cigarette smoke, body odor, and booze. The smell made my stomach queasy. And my sinuses were throbbing being around all that perfume & cologne.
But we pressed on through the stench with thousands of other people all walking the strip too. And then finally …
With our mission accomplished (I hoped) we decided to take a break. I would have liked to have gone into Serendipity 3 for ice cream, but it was kinda full and there was an outdoor bar right behind it so we went there instead and got a couple of beers. Jay is used to things being cheap in Vegas. You drink for free in the casinos when you’re gambling. So when we had to pay $12 for two beer, he was flabbergasted. He hadn’t walked the strip in a long time and remembered buying beer for a buck. We rested and drank and then decided we’d head back to the truck, call it a night and go home to bed. Since none of the up escalators were working, Jay thought it would be easier on us if we crossed the street just one time and walked all the way back up at street level on the other side. The walk back was easier for sure, but there were so many people at street level, it was just insane, we were packed in like sardines.
While we were walking I saw what looked like a bronze statue of Elvis way up ahead of us. When we finally got up to it so I could take a better look, the man stepped forward and said, “Hi! How you doing?!” I literally jumped and screamed, scared the freaking crap out of me! Jay laughed so hard I thought he was going to piss himself. He thought it was a statue too because the guy had stood still for so long as we approached him, and hundreds of other people walked by without him moving. So that was pretty funny.
When that happened we were right outside of a liquor store so we went in and bought two more beer for the walk. These were cheap, like $1.13 each or something. You can drink out in public in Vegas, just like in Savannah, but the difference is that in Savannah you need a cup, no glass bottles, and in Vegas anything goes. You can walk along swigging from a half gallon of whiskey if you want, or glass bottles of beer, doesn’t matter. Lots of people had these huge souvenir cups that would easily hold a litre and a half of cocktails.
The most annoying thing about walking at street level is the guys handing out cards and flyers. They are everywhere! It’s just insane. You walk into a swarm of them on all sides, clicking their cards at you and shoving them in your face. Jay got really annoyed with them and I was worried he was going to punch one out for getting too far into his personal space. Mostly the cards are for the girlie shows, a few club passes, that sort of thing. Nearly all the people handing them out are illegal Mexicans. They only get paid if they hand out 4,000 an hour or something like that and there’s a watcher who lurks to make sure they don’t just trash them. Some people take the stuff, but the sidewalk is barely visible underneath all the cards that people have taken then tossed.
There are also a lot of aspiring musicians. They not only busk for cash but a lot of them hand out CDs that they’ve burned of their music to anyone who will take them. I guess they’re hoping some music producer will discover them this way. Or they’ll create some kind of grassroots following that will propel them into a real music career. I don’t know.
Everywhere there are people with their little cans trying to make money on the strip. When Jay was taking my pic in front of the fountains, a guy was right there asking if we wanted one of the both of us together. He’d do it for $10, his little sign on his can said. The picture guys were at every place that might be a great tourist shot.
There was a black guy and his kid who couldn’t have been more than six, breakdancing for tips. Tons of impersonators of Elvis, Liberace, Michael Jackson, and others. Some of them didn’t look any more like the person they were supposed to be than I do. There were tons of other statue people, though none scared me. After the bronze Elvis episode I just figured there were no statues on the strip no matter how still they seemed. An extremely tall Frankenstein statue tried to scare me when he walked out in front of me, but it didn’t work. There were also kids characters in costumes. I saw Woody and Buzz Lightyear. You can’t get pics with any of these people without paying them $10-$15.
And there were some people who just had homeless signs with their money cans. One guy’s sign even said, “Why lie? Need $ for beer.” Jay got a kick out of that one. There are prostitutes everywhere too. Some all dressed up in evening gowns & looking fabulous (though those ones were actually men) and others who looked like they hadn’t bathed in months. I even saw one that had to be at least 70 years old, all dolled up in her leopard print cape.
We rounded a corner and found ourselves across the street from the Bellagio where the big water spout show happens every hour or half hour. It was already underway. They were blaring that country song “God Bless the USA” and the water was rising and falling in time with the music, building higher and higher as the song progressed, until at the very end when it’s so high you can see it above the buildings.
I had trouble squeezing out to the curb (without being pushed into traffic) to get a shot of it, so this is the last big spray as it’s almost all the way back down. Overall, it was kind of an emotional experience. Next time I go I’m going to get over on the other side where it happens and wait to see the full thing.
On the walk back we went in and walked around the MGM Grand (again hopes of Jon Bon sightings didn’t pan out). I didn’t like it as well as the hard rock, it seemed dark and dingy in comparison.
Finally we hobbled back to our truck and I snapped a few more shots as we were driving home.
Most of the driving pics I have are just a blur of lights, so that’s all I share of those. I could barely walk by the time we got home and fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.
(…to be continued… Day 3 in Vegas next)