Monday, July 14, 2008

Vegas Baby Vegas

As we all do, I love to travel. If you have been reading this blog at all, you already know that about me, but one thing you might not know is that visiting cities can get a little repetitive when you travel extensively. Take my advice, it never gets bad, each city brings its own tastes, smells, sights, and people that make it special and stand out from the rest, however, after you've been to so many cities you don't "look forward" to them as much. It's just natural because they all offer "similar" sights. Before heading to China it had been maybe 8 years since I had gone to a zoo, so I jumped at the chance to go to a zoo in China. Now I've been to 4 zoos in less than 3 months. It's because you hear the same thing when you get to a city: "We have nice places to eat, great museums, beautiful parks, and did I mention the zoo?" Now like I said before, if you are there, you must do these things because even though they sound similar to what you've done recently, something will make it stand out. Every zoo, restaurant, museum, and park are not the same, and I can't stress to you enough, that in the moment it does all seems new and exciting, but before you are in the moment it sounds old, like you've already done it, and uninteresting.

When you travel outside of cities to natural wonders you are naturally excited because you know you've never seen this mountain, or that waterfall before, this desert, or that crater, skied here, hiked there, swam here or snorkeled there. Those things always sound interesting and exciting because you already envision them as singular events that can "only" happen in those particular places and nowhere else. But when I tell you about a museum, park or zoo after a while you think you can see them anywhere.

This is how I felt about cities after Seoul, Shenghi, Beging, Sydney, Hong Kong, Despensar, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, and LA in just a few months. But there are always exceptions to the rule, and to that I give you...Las Vegas. I don't remember another city I looked forward to visiting as much as Vegas. Foreigners I met seem to look forward to visiting San Francisco like it is some beacon of American idealism and utopia. I however, looked forward to Las Vegas. I'm not sure why exactly. Of course it could be my propensity for gambling, but I really thought about Vegas as a big city unlike any other city in America, and I wanted to see what it was like.

Vegas, Vegas, Vegas...Where do I start? The stretch limo ride? The Hawaiian Tropics Swimsuit competition? The clubs? The cool people I met? The staying up all night in the hot tub? The thousand dollars I won? The hooker that was killed? Okay so not all of those things really happened, I was a HUGE loser when it came to gambling this visit, and the hooker wasn't "killed" she was...well, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Ha.

Vegas was so much grander than I even thought it would be. I mean how do you explain the picture of me with a huge green bird on my shoulder? Vegas... It is amazing what money can do. Everywhere there is music, fountains, lights, wedding chapels, cars, buildings, and they all seemed to be tricked out by some crazy visionary who a long time ago had the belief that "if we make everything Extremely Tacky but Huge and Overdone, someday when it gets big enough the city will all come together and work" he was right.

The casinos are ridiculous. I'm not sure you can really describe them, there are too many and they have too many things in them. I took a water slide through a shark tank at one, and watched a lion feeding at another. These places are larger than life. They are confusing, five steps after walking in you can't find your way out. There are so many lights, and bells you think people have to be winning, you're wrong. The buffets are really good. However, unlike in Sydney, luck was not on my side during this trip to Vegas. I think I lost everything I played actually. But I still played everything I wanted. Since I had no "wining" highlights I would have to say that my losing highlight was when I played hold'em at the meca of hold'em, Binion's. Some obese woman sitting behind a stack of chips that nearly blocked out her gut called me with 9 high. I had 8 high. She said something was telling her to call. I said it was too bad something didn't tell her to go on a diet, honestly it looked like she only sat at that table for the year, with her only breaks being to the hotel buffet. Either way, it was a small thrill to be all in and called on a bluff.

What next? I stayed out almost every night until early in the morning. I have now seen the sun rise in Las Vegas and that is a good feeling. While seeing the sun rise on a normal night out might make you think maybe you've been out too long, in Vegas you feel like you're doing something right. I met a ton of cool people from all around the world; Swiss, German, Irish, French, English, Spanish, Canadian (should that make the list?), and probably more but I don't remember now. My favorite was when I met 2 girls from Jersey! Not "Dirty Jersey" that's "New" Jersey. They were from the real "Jersey", old Jersey which floats in the English Channel between France and England. Who would have thunk it? They were cool too, but I told them they had to work on their accents if they were going around telling people they were from Jersey. They didn't get the joke either.

I tried to see as much as I could in Vegas, on a budget that is, but I think I did alright. When you walk around everything seems so cheap; a steak dinner for 5 dollars, glasses for 2 dollars, a shirt for a dollar, drinks for 50 cents, a quarter for a dime, I don't know how they get away with it. Well, that's not true, it's the gambling, I know, but damn, everything else seems to cost nothing. I've been to China, and a number of Asian markets where things are supposed to be really cheap, but I think Vegas might have them all beat. Vegas had everything, and for almost nothing.

I spent almost a full week in Vegas, that's about half a week longer than I was expecting to stay, but I couldn't find anyone who wanted to hike and camp the Grand Canyon with me. So I waited...gambled and waited, drank and waited, laid in the sun and waited until I finally thought I could wait no longer. If I kept waiting in Vegas I would run out of money in no time. I was about to bite the bullet and just take the standard bus tour of the Grand Canyon that everyone else takes. I even began to tell myself that this would be good. 15 hours for $115 only about 4 hours that are actually at the Canyon, but I was gonna do it because I had to get there. The Grand Canyon was my number one destination on this trip. I couldn't get to Vegas and then not get there, I had to go while I still had money. I wanted to find someone to rent a car with, hike with, camp with, but after 6 days of asking everyone I ran into it didn't look like that was going to happen.

Again, I was saved at the last moment. I was sitting in the sun waiting for the guy at the counter to come back so I could sign up for the bus tour. I was ready to give in. Then I saw a guy looking at an Atlas. I thought about it, wondered my chances, then asked him, "where ya headed?" His response was, "I'm looking to hike and camp the Grand Canyon." Toby from Switzerland became my new best friend :)

Check out the pictures:

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