I’m sitting at McDonald’s on the strip in Las Vegas, using their paid Internet service at 1am. And I have no place to sleep tonight. But we’ll get to that.
I started the day early at Zion National Park. The park is huge and again I went to the visitor center to ask for tips. The ranger there suggested three different short trails (instead of one long one) so that I can enjoy a variety of the things the park has to offer.
I did the first two, but as I was walking them I could feel that, even though I was going through truly breathtaking trails, my enthusiasm was lost. I think after yesterday I got tired of walking in snow (and partially in mud) even if this time it was just a few centimeters of it. Or maybe I didn’t want to see nature anymore after it tried to kill me :) I also had Las Vegas on my mind. I already knew that I’m going to skip the Grand Canyon (something I may regret, but still) so I kind of wanted to get to an urban view.
By 11am I was out of Zion Park, only 2.5 hours after going in. I stopped at a small town called Hurricane on the way and had lunch there at a local cafe. I prefer those small places over the big chains. While I got a small salmon bagel, it was very good.
I drove first to Hoover Dam. Hoover Dam is huge. I mean you have to see it to believe it is man-made. It is simply beyond grasp and an engineering marvel. I was just interested in seeing it, not learning about it. Was it worth the one hour detour on the way to Las Vegas and the 15$ parking+visitor center admission for about 15 minutes of looking at the dam? Meh. Maybe I would have been better off taking a 29$ helicopter ride.
On the way to Las Vegas I stopped for gas and to buy something to drink. I saw a man sitting at a slot machine in the store gambling. I thought this was wrong but I let it go. It was also strange to see so many people, cars, commotion. I’ve been in national parks over the past few days. Today at Zion I felt uncomfortable when I ran into more than 5 people on a trail.
Armed with a list of seven (!) hotels prioritized by a friend I drove to Vegas. The first one was Paris Hotel. I arrived at 4:30pm. The 1 km drive on the strip took 20 minutes. I finally got to the hotel and walked inside. It was overwhelming. They created (presumably) French streets inside the hotel, with blue sky and clouds painted on the ceiling and street lights (because after all we’re not outside.) And there are tons of people. Tons. I became anxious and followed the signs to the registration desks only to find out that the hotel is completely full. And now my GPS again came into play. This thing has all the phone numbers of all the hotels. So I started calling (using my local, prepaid phone – another smart buy) all the hotels on my list by order. All were sold out.
I decided to go wardriving so I could use the Internet to find vacant hotels. I found free Internet access and used it from the car. I tried Expedia and it was pretty clear – there isn’t a room under 400$ in Las Vegas. I then realized something must be wrong and started calling motels. All fully booked for the night. And then it hit me – I should win the prize for the stupidest trip decision of the year (and I needn’t remind you that yesterday I walked a trail a ranger told me I shouldn’t.) Want to know what that decision is? Here you go:
The stupidest trip decision of the year is going to Las Vegas without having a reservation. On a Saturday. That is also Valentine’s day.
Oh yes… that’s what I did. For a while I was in denial. Calling more hotels and motels. It was either 400$ or more for one night on the strip or 80 km away from the strip. I won’t pay 400$ for a night, so basically I’m now homeless in Las Vegas for one night. I decided not to worry about a bed for the night and try make the best of my time. My car is parked in the Paris Hotel parking and I’m sitting in McDonald’s because a friend of mine told me Internet access would be free (it’s not.) At least I know where I can charge my gadgets later – at the “business center” in the Mirage Hotel that gives you Internet at 1$ per minute. Yeah, like I’m going to use that. But electricity is free. Also in Starbucks, which is closer. Bu tI can’t find a place with both reasonable priced Internet access and wall sockets.
After a while my initial culture shock subsided and I started walking around. I first went to the casino at the Paris Hotel. The people playing the slot machines looked like zombies to me, sitting there with expressionless faces, pushing the same buttons again and again and feeding the machines more money. And I always thought I’d enjoy that the most (later I spent an entire 4 Dollars on these machines.) And the gambling people – I like watching them… seeing the expressions as they win or lose – some don’t hide their feelings and others are so cool about losing their money. I don’t think I’m going to gamble – it just doesn’t excite me to throw my money away when the odds are so against me. I would rather spend my money on a Pinball machine at Gameworks, where the kids go to play in Las Vegas. Maybe it’s a kind of “I have my life in perspective now that I went through an I-think-I’m-going-to-die type experience”) And suddenly drunk-guy-in-otherwise-inappropriate-clothes smiles at me. I smile back. It’s all very weird.
I decided to try and find a show. At 9:05pm I got a ticket to a Jay Leno show that started at 10pm. Again, the power of one proves very strong. On the way to the show I saw the beautiful Bellagio Fountains (also: YouTube videos of the fountains) – truly a pretty sight. Prior to Leno’s show we saw The Alleycats, a Doo-Wop quartet that are very good (doing 50s and 60s songs) and funny. Jay Leno was funny – it’s like watching the monologue of The Tonight Show, only for an hour and a half. And there was an exciting part when he took on stage this guy from the Air Force and his girlfriend and the guy proposed. I guess that happens a lot in Las Vegas but it only happens once a year on Valentine’s.
I took way too many pictures today at Zion. For every picture that you see here I threw away three. Still, there may be a lot that look very similar. I still included them because I couldn’t decide between them. Also the panoramas (that are composed of more than one picture) are a bitch to create and manage. Today there are many of those.