You are currently browsing the daily archive for September 27, 2007.

The first item on our to-do list upon arriving in Vegas on Sunday: find a self-service car wash to remove all evidence of off-roading from under the hood. Though the hoses retained a light coating of dirt, thank heavens, the rest came clean with little effort. What a relief! Perhaps we didn’t ruin the car after all. Knock on wood.

Second item on agenda: check in hotel, find lazy river and boat drink and proceed with intense relaxing. Checking in went just fine. Our hotel room was nice enough with a large king bed (which Stuart loves, but I find myself spending half the night hunting him for a cuddle). What I didn’t like about the hotel: so over-sized that it takes half an hour to walk from your room to the pool, or anywhere else within the hotel grounds for that matter. By the time we got situated, the pool was about to close and we hadn’t eaten, so we decided to postpone pool fun until Monday and grab dinner after checking out the Strip. So we did just that…Monday and Tuesday, we got up earlyish, found pool chairs next to the lazy river and pretty much camped out all day. If I’m ever so filthy rich that I don’t know what to do with my money and I forget all about those rural people in Utah and Arizona, I’m building myself a lazy river, with a built-in bartender who makes slushy frozen boat drinks. What lovely fun.

On Monday, I was confronted with a certain question. I was in Vegas. People gamble in Vegas. An idea occurred to me, “I could bet on my Orioles!” So, even though Cabrera was pitching, and it was the Orioles playing, I bet on my team, fully expecting that I would lose my money. There’s wisdom in limiting the influence emotions have in decision-making when it comes to business or gambling, unless you don’t like your money. However, the Os are my team, so there was only one option for me. I am so proud to say that they won and turned my twenty dollars into $38. That’s money right back in my pocket. They quiver in Vegas when they see me coming. Of course, I didn’t bet two days in a row. That would just be stupid.

On Tuesday, I happened by the sports booking area (truly – it was on the way to the sandwich shop) and don’t you know, MASN was on! I discovered another treat, watching multiple baseball games at once. In addition to the lazy river, if I’m ever richer than God, I’m doing that multiple television bank thing.

One of the best things about Vegas: there’s no shortage of characters. Overheard conversations were pretty interesting. We passed one woman saying into her cellphone, “I didn’t touch your money, much.” Oh boy. I bet the follow-up to that conversation was pretty intense. In a bathroom stall next to me, a woman was having a lengthy discussion about her friend’s admission to the emergency room, “$20,000?!! Did you stay overnight? What did they do to you? My stomach surgery was only $30,000 last year and I stayed overnight and everything. Oh…that’s deep!” When I was watching the Os on Tuesday, a young kid came and sat next to me. He didn’t look old enough to drink, let alone gamble, but he told me it’s how he makes his living. Every weekend he drives from Southern California, a three hour drive, to spend the weekend betting. He offered me some free drink tickets that he got from “betting a certain amount of money.” He told me which bets I should make and then told me what his “big games” were. I worried for him, but I guess he has some sense. I asked, “I bet you don’t ever take the Orioles, do you?” With a chuckle he said, “No. They’re bad. Really bad.” As I watched the game and the Blue Jays continued to score runs against the Os, he would offer in sympathy to my laments, “They’re bad. Really bad.”

I didn’t get to see the end of the game Tuesday night because Stuart had another surprise for me. He bought tickets to see Cirque du Soleil. We had the night planned out, Cirque, then the all-you-can-eat buffet. (He’s the best husband ever!) Unfortunately, we were both a little disappointed in the show (Ka). It was more like Cirque du Mauvais Nuit, if you ask me. We both thought there would be a lot of acrobatics, but it turned out to be a sort of opera/play, but to a soundtrack, and wordless, with a bizarre plot line that I spent the entire show trying to decipher. There was only a little bit of acrobatics and generally the whole thing seemed pointless. Half an hour into the show I started getting the restless legs and dreaming of mashed potatoes and macaroni and cheese and wondered how much longer the show could go on. I thought, “boy if I’m this bored, and I love plays and operas, Stuart must be out of his gourd.” Towards the end I found myself thinking, “oh God, please let this be it” and fortunately, after only another torturous thirty minutes, when I really had to fight the impulse to shout, “FIRE! FIRE!!” it was. When the lights came on and the cast came out for bows, there was resounding applause and standing ovations. Stuart and I looked at each other quizzically. Maybe these are all the rural people from Utah and Arizona who came via a fund raiser and are really, really starved for entertainment. I didn’t get their excitement even a little.

I guess it’s another one of those expectations things.

The buffet was expensive and not all that good. Truth be told, I’ve had incomparably better food at the Golden Corral. Vegas is not the destination it used to be where you could get good food, cheap. It’s not really a place you go to have a good time. It’s over-crowded, overdone and it’s a place to go to gamble and shop. I’m not sure what will keep drawing people back without the allure of reasonably priced activities. For the kind of money you spend on a hotel in Vegas, you could go to the real New York, New York, shop, see a real show, go to amazing museums, have a variety of ethnic food and have a much better quality experience. But I suppose if you love gambling, there’s no better place to be.

All in all, we had a good time in Vegas, but of the choice to be home or be in Vegas, I’ll pick home any day. I love and appreciate Charlotte more than I ever have. There’s just so much to hate about Vegas: the excess, the over-priced everything, how over-priced everything is, how they gouge you coming and going. True, they have the lazy river, but I can just head down the road to Carrowinds for that. And, I have MASN, right from the comfort of my own couch where I can make my own boat drinks, strengthened the right amount to suit the particular Orioles game that I’m watching.

For the first time in my life, I appreciate in a new way being in a city and the benefits that commercialism and chain stores offer. I still prefer to shop at mom and pops when I can, but I can’t imagine ever living somewhere where I can’t get my camera or computer serviced without driving hundreds of miles. For now anyway, we have fresh drinking water and, even though I’m still conservative with my water usage, I don’t have to berate myself with guilt for the occasional long shower. Living in Florida taught me the preciousness of fresh water, but touring out west has reminded me what a valuable gift water is, that even during a drought we don’t have to haul water tanks to our property to supply drinking and bathing water.

There’s more to say about the trip and my dream husband, but the pictures will capture what I haven’t. I’m slowly uploading them as time permits: Enchanting Sunshine.

Now it’s back to the vacation aftermath.


We’re back in civilization again and it seems a bit surreal. How could my vacation be over already, so soon, as if it never happened? I find it hard to believe that I’m sitting in a cubicle again and wonder why time passes so quickly when you’re happy, but so agonizingly slow when you’re waiting for your computer to be fixed or a shipment of purchases to arrive. At any rate, I must come to acceptance that, here I am at work, and all the anticipation of our vacation has now turned to wonderful memories and digital images.

I suppose it’s time I summarize the rest of our vacation. I wanted to write more from Vegas, but the MGM Grand feels like they don’t milk you for enough money with the hotel expense, they also charge $12/day for wireless Internet access. There was no way I was paying that, and besides pecking anymore on a tiny keyboard with a little wand was more than I could bear.

Would you be surprised to hear that our car broke down on the way to Vegas or that we got pulled over for a traffic offense and spent the night in jail? If not, then you haven’t been paying attention to how our luck runs, but actually, none of those things happened!

Despite our car maintenance light giving us an ominous warning, we decided to push our luck to its limits and take the long road to Vegas via a sight-seeing tour along Route 66. Years ago, National Geographic did an article on Route 66 and ever since I’ve wanted to see it for myself. We were there, so we thought, “may as well.” Plus, there was an actual ghost town on the map, just north of Oatman, AZ. How could we miss that? After all, how often do you get to see a ghost town?

So, we set off along a very long, deserted road through desert and mountains and saw very little of anything, except the occasional lot of trailers and dirt roads. The ghost town turned out to be an abandoned gold mine. We didn’t see any other signs of previous life, no houses or stores, nothing that would suggest that humans had ever spent any time inhabiting this land. We didn’t even realize we had passed the so called ghost “town” until we arrived in Oatman, a two-block long tourist spot (population 128) that looked like it could have been the original town center. We were surprised to see a number of cars parked there and people milling about. The lonely drive suggested that we were the only people to have ever passed that way.

The best thing about Oatman was the free Internet access. When I got out of the car to take pictures, I noticed one of the houses at the top of a very big hill had several large satellite dishes and I figured one must be for Internet. I pulled out the Pocket PC and was able to connect right away. How odd. The whole trip was that way–Internet access in the most unlikely of places and yet unavailable in the many of the more populated areas.

The rest of Route 66 was a lot of nothing. Desert as far as the eye could see, spotted with tiny little communities and a pocket of houses in the middle of nothingness that left us wondering why, of all the places on earth, the residents chose that spot. When we got to Needles, it seemed like a veritable city in comparison. According to Zip Skinny, the population is 5471. It was huge. There was an entire subdivision and a school. Passing through Needles reminded me of the Three Dog Night’s, “Never Been to Spain.” Since it was notable enough for them to sing about, here’s what they had to say:

“…Well I never been to England
But I kinda like the Beatles
Well, I headed for Las Vegas
Only made it out to Needles
Can you feel it
It must be real it
Feels so good
Oh, feels so good”

I’m not sure what feels so good, and the song makes even less sense to me than ever, if that’s possible. Did people of the seventies have any standards for lyrics?

When we eventually got to Vegas, it was even more jarring than it’s ever been. What a stark contrast to the many impoverished areas we passed through. Where the median household income is $20,000 or less in the rural areas we passed through, you wonder what possible opportunities one could have for education or advancement, or a way out. The Indian Reservations, in particular, seem as hopeless as any place I’ve ever seen. I mean, rural is wonderful if you love isolation, but if you’re trying to give your children options, it’s hard to see how it’s possible in the middle of such nothingness. I feel like I should defend myself now…as an environmentalist, I see nothing wrong with nothingness. There is great value to me in undeveloped spaces. I think it’s admirable to be able to survive in such an inhospitable place where water and rain are scarce, and I understand why people stay for emotional reasons, to remain connected and attached to one’s roots. It’s just that once you’re there, it doesn’t seem like there are a lot of options for leaving and I wonder how many stay by choice.

One of the biggest towns we passed through, Cameron, (before reaching the Grand Canyon – not on Route 66) had a number of Native Americans in the restaurant where we breakfasted. The population of Cameron is 2,125, 94% Native American. The median household income is $20,625 and 25% of the residents have a high school education. For many hours along our drives I found myself wondering what kind of business I could open there, if I were that sort of capable person, to create jobs. I wondered how I could bring education and resources, open a library perhaps, if they would want it. It’s nearly impossible to pass through such places and not want to do something to help. It gives you a whole new perspective on poverty and the contrast between inner city poverty and rural poverty. They strike me now as two very different things.

That’s about all there is to say about Route 66. The interesting part must be the other direction, to the east of Kingman.

In contrast, when we arrived in Vegas, it was utterly shocking the amount of wealth dripping out of the many towering hotels and casinos. The last time I was there was in July of 2000. At the time, the new Aladdin was almost ready to open, after the previous incarnation had been imploded and a new building erected in its place. Sunday, after we arrived in Vegas, we were walking down the Strip and I wondered, “where did the Aladdin go?” That one is gone too. The new building was remodeled to make way for a bigger and better casino, Planet Hollywood. All along the Strip, there are enormous buildings created in such lavishness, air-conditioned to 60 degrees, ornate and energy-demanding displays and lights…All in the middle of the desert, a place not meant to support the number of people who live and vacation there. I couldn’t help myself thinking, “what if just one of these casino owners donated a few million dollars to build some libraries, maybe with computers with Internet access, for the rural towns all around Vegas? what would life be like for those residents?” When is it ever enough money? When do people ever have enough? I know, I know, I think too much. I’ve heard it forever.

So, that said, we arrived happily, uneventfully in Vegas…which I’ll describe further in the next post.

September 2007