I think it’s a Monday! Catch my flight from SD to Vegas no problems, and it’s a quick one, although very very bumpy. Jump in a cab and its off to the HOOTERS CASINO HOTEL, my base for the week, to meet up with my best mate Lisa who flew out to join me for the week.
So Vegas – what I didn’t know (or didn’t realise). Its reeeeeeeeeeally bloody hot. The Vegas Strip is MASSIVE (something not mentioned in any tour guides I bought), and old Vegas is totally separate and miles away from new Vegas. There are no clocks, so you never know what time it is and its always later than you thought, esp after all the walking through casinos. The main casinos are ridiculously huge, and you get lost in them easily – the Lonely Planet guides should have maps of the casinos, not the strip!
I really liked the Hooters hotel, esp after seeing the MGM, Excalibur or Mandalay Bay (the neighbouring hotels). Its small, has enough machines to keep you occupied, has cheap Black Jack and Roulette, and you can find the lifts, the bar and the pool easily. One day it took us nearly an hour to exit the MGM. That’s just ridiculous!
First night I basically hung out with Lisa, getting my mind blown by insanity that is Vegas. It’s a lot to take in, even though I only stayed down the bottom section of the Strip. We had a buffet at The Excalibur (the only one we had), which was great, and learnt how to play roulette. Then we played roulette. And lost.
Started with our free Hooters breakfast (where the serving fella referred to us as “gentlemen” the whole week, much to our amusement), then we headed off to the Vegas Gun Store to shoot guns. Didn’t realise how long the walk was, and after nearly dying in the 100+ degree heat, we finally managed to catch a cab down there. We blew $150 each on taking the Zombie package once we got there (they obviously knew we were coming – how could we resist), where you get to shoot all the guns you’d use in Left 4 Dead (cunning!). Kitted out with our ear shields and eye guards, we headed into the range and began shooting the guns. First was the .45, then the HK33 rifle, then a 12 gauge shotgun, and finally an Uzi 9mm. We were excited, but nervous at the same time. Especially when the guys next to us on the premium package kept letting off a S.A.W. (I’d shit myself, then laugh uncontrollably). The .45 handgun was prob the worst. It was like letting off an explosion in your hands. The kickback was insane, esp coming from something so small. Scary stuff. The other guns were nowhere near as bad (surprisingly). The HK33 was a heavy bugger to lift, but had barely any recoil and was easy and accurate to use. My fave gun to shoot, but would be utterly useless in a zombie holocaust for me as I couldn’t lift it. The shotgun was a tad scary as I couldn’t pull the trigger at first – and when I did, the thing basically flew out of my hands. Once I got used to it, it was cool, but no way can you use a shotgun like people do in films. Like the Uzi. Again, a great little gun to shoot, but if you held your finger on the trigger too long, it bounced out of control. Short bursts is what you need to maintain some kind of accuracy. This was an amazing experience, as its something I’d NEVER do. I’d do it again, no question. It definitely gives you perspective on something you have no idea about coming from the UK. Scary stuff, but brilliant.
That evening we went to see Rancid and H20 at the House Of Blues. Or House Of Rules And No Fun, as we christened it. Gig was utterly sterile and boring. And $12 beers. Rancid started off well, but decided to play 40 songs, including an acoustic segment. Got old very quickly. YAWN!!! Matt Freeman is still the man though, and remained the coolest band member throughout.
The day ended with more wandering through the MGM, which got utterly tedious. So me and Lisa ran off to Hooters, gambled what spending money we had left and called it a night.
Up early and off to the Valley Of Fire in a lovely bright pink 10 seater 4WD jeep! Valley Of Fire was incredible, and was so cool to be out of the flashing lights and bleeping noise of Vegas. First stop was a mad Indian Truck Stop that had slot machines, crappy gifts and masses of fireworks. Lisa wanted to stay and gamble, but luckily I managed to drag her away. Valley Of Fire was wicked. On entering the park, we were treated to playing on big sandstone rock structures – which unfortunately didn’t last long as we got dragged off to see more mad shit. Lots of insane rock structures, cliff faces, all bizarre colours, indian petroglyphs. Was an incredible place, especially as the scale of it was pretty huge. There was nothing there for miles, just loads of mental coloured rock faces. We had lunch, then as it started to get really hot, we came back to Vegas. Where I had my first dip in a hotel pool. Which was bloody freezing. Then I fancied a beer at the pool bar, but had no money and no ID (a mega no-no in Vegas). Christ knows why Jenny the Hooters barmaid felt the need to let me off, but I got two beers charged to the room, without an ID, and got treated to listening to the most disgusting and rudest americans I’ve ever met. These Hooters girls put up with a lot!
In the eve, we all descended on the Doubledown Saloon – which during the day was like the scariest punk rock dive bar EVER. Totally dark, and populated by some very dodgy looking people. Who as it turned out were all ok, esp the barman who was a total riot the minute we sat down. Jukebox had some awesome punk rock stuff on it (we blasted The Methodones, RTFC, Radio Birdman, Descendents, Black Flag while we were there), and was a nice place to hang out in the end. As the evening progressed, we got involved in the Punk Rock Bingo – which I can only describe as being like a punk rock version of a Vegas show. The huge tattooed bingo caller read out numbers and abused the square tourists throughout the eve (she was cool with us), while a freak show performed in the intervals. One guy bent an iron bar in his mouth, then sat on a chair of nails while a bowling ball was thrown on his chest. Then he wrestled a midget lady. The midget lady was part of a bunch of regulars that included the hottest tattooed one armed lady I’ve ever seen, It was all a bit much to take in. Me, Lisa and Tom were lapping it up, but didn’t think Alex was too impressed. Eventually it all got a bit too David Lynch for everyone, so we headed back to Hooters for a final gamble, and a so called early night (3am???)
Woken up at 5am by an alarm call for our Grand Canyon trip. Now, the Grand Canyon was AMAZING. But the trip was horrendous. 4 hours there and back, mainly due to all the faffing around. Change one coach, then another coach, then get on a shitty coach to the canyon (cos they don’t wanna mess up the posh coach) which was scary as shit as the driver was a lunatic. Going there was vaguely bearable. Coming back was INTOLERABLE. We stopped at the Hoover Dam, but that was a mega disappointment. I’ve wanted to see this place for years, and although we did see it and got a great view, we were nowhere near it, so you didn’t get an idea of the scale. Considering what a mega piece of engineering this place is (and its prominence in Xbox’s Fallout: New Vegas), I was disappointed we could only see it from a distance. But onto the canyon. First was a drive through the isolated redneck town Dolan Springs, where me and Lisa want to go for a holiday one year. Then we got dumped at the base of the West Rim, where we caught buses to the different points within the area.
The Canyon is simply AWESOME. As in the proper use of the word. You can’t even really gauge the scale of it, its so huge, especially when you look down into the Canyon and realise the grass you are looking at below are 20ft high trees, and that dot flying through the Canyon is a helicopter. It makes being up the Hancock Tower or Rockafeller Centre a bit redundant. Maybe its cos your brain has never seen anything like it. Its hard to take it all in to be honest, but is incredible to actually stand on the edge of the thing (ignoring all the other spazzy tourists that could trip up and knock you into a 3000ft drop at any minute!). Our favourite place was Guano Point (or Bat Shit Point as we named it). We spent ages there. Had an amazing lunch served by the Indian fellas (stripped beef and mash!), which we ate surrounded by the Canyon. Then we walked around the basin, which had a 360 degree view of the area. It blew my mind – even though I spent the whole time freaking out cos Lisa kept going to near the edge.
I’d love to go back – but I’d definitely spend more money on a smaller tour, and maybe look into getting a helicopter and a boat. For info the Pink Jeep Tour people (who did Valley Of Fire) go here as well, and I reckon its gotta be at least an hour and half quicker to get to the Canyon rather than on the coaches.
Once back, me and Lisa headed to Fremont Street to experience the retarded cheaper side of Vegas. Fremont St is full of old couples and rednecks with no teeth from middle America. And was amazing. Lost lots of cash on the electronic roulette in Fremont St casino, then watched a Kiss display on the neon roof that covers the area, and got treated to a cheesy glam rock band playing in the street. Either side of the band were Golden Gate and Glitter Gulch casinos – that made Hooters look classy.
Evening ended with a trip back to Excalibur where we met up with Lisas tattooist and their friends from Liverpool. And what a fab bunch of people they were. Was so cool to catch up with them.
Day #19 deserves an entry all to itself….