Vegas was exactly like the neon-lit image I had in mind. The cowboy sign is still there on Fremont Street, only he no longer glows. Instead he is shrouded by a digital canopy running the length of the strip which displays a light show every hour on the hour.
What I didn’t expect was the heaviness of the heat. Never in my life have I experienced a breeze that doesn’t bring some form of relief. When the wind blew in Vegas, it was as if the street had turned a hair-dryer onto my face, full blast. And of course, my poor car, having been driven over 4,000 miles in the course of three weeks, also has started occasionally overheating; which means we are now quite often driving with the air conditioner off and the windows down.
West Virginia summers have spoiled me from the sticky humidity I grew up with in Alabama. Dry heat is casual in the sense that the air isn’t bogged down with humidity, but intimidating because it causes your tongue to shrivel up in your mouth.
There is so much to do in Vegas, I almost feel unqualified to suggest anything. Our first night we saw the Beatles “Love” Cirque Du Soleil show at the Mirage. Beautiful and exotic, the performers brought the music to life in an indescribable choreography of acrobatics and plot. Subtle hints in costume and movement describes the events that molded the Beatles’ art.
That evening and the next two we spent on the strip wandering in a buzzed stupor. After so much time spent in the desert with only the stars and sandstone, the Fourth of July hordes paired with copious amounts of sugary booze and brightly lit corridors became even more fascinating.
We strolled through Caesar’s Palace, the Bellagio, and the Venetian winding through storefronts, clouds of cigarette smoke, and art galleries. We watched the Bellagio water show at night picking our way through the costumed Disney characters and feathered showgirls.
One recommendation I can make, other than the obvious Cirque Du Soleil show, is to ride all the rides on top of the stratosphere. You can ride all three for only $35 (they give military discounts) and it is worth it. You can also bungee jump for an additional fee from the top. Access to the rides also provides you to access to the observation tower. Although, we had spectacular views from the lines waiting on the rides. These thrill rides are VERY intense, but the views and sensations of amusement park rides on TOP of the Stratosphere are definitely worth it.
If you’re not into heights that much (I’m not, but I still enjoyed all of the rides) check out the roller coaster that loops around the New York, New York Hotel and Casino for $15. This coaster is definitely worth the $15 and provides you with great views of the area before dropping into two spiraled loops.
We stayed at Ellis Island Hotel and Casino, reasonably priced and only about a ten-minute walk to the strip. Their barbeque in the evening is spectacular and most of their gambling tables have a minimum bet of $5 before 9:30/ 10 p.m.
I don’t have many recommendations for food and accommodation for Vegas, because it’s Vegas, expect to spend money. We loaded up the mini-fridge in our room with salad and fruit from Wal-Mart so we wouldn’t have to spend $10-20 per meal.
The fireworks were magnificent on the Fourth of July and the crowds were surprisingly minimal for the holiday. The sky was alight with colors as we drove down the interstate to Fremont Street on the Fourth. Driving through a tunnel of color, both sides of the road flashed for miles with celebration, although Caesar’s Palace’s fireworks display was Sunday night during our show.
We are currently in Coloma, California, a tiny, old mining town with nothing but a river and a couple of kayak rental companies while Zach participates in a swift-water rescue class. We’ll be here for the remainder of our journey and should get to Ashland, Oregon by Monday. It’s been an incredible ride, but I’m ready to reach our final destination.