Michael and I flew to Las Vegas on June 7, 2007. We spent the first 2 nights at the Sahara on the Strip. We were in the Red Feather Lodge at the Grand Canyon the third and fourth nights. We stayed at New York-New York the last 2 nights. We concentrated on the new side of Vegas. Themed hotels were the thing!
The city of lights came to life on our first night as we enjoyed a view from the Eiffel Tower at Paris Las Vegas. The Tower is a 1/2 replica. Vegas sprawled into the desert. Population had grown to 1.8 million.
Las Vegas had changed since I was there in 1993. There are mega-hotels: New York-New York, Bellagio & Mandalay Bay. They exist for the purpose of making money for the people who own and operate them. We spent conservatively and aimed for an experience consistent with our needs.
We knew what to do. I bought a camera, and Michael took 140 pictures. We walked through the hotels. The Bellagio fountains put on a show as Elvis sang "Viva Las Vegas." The Bellagio was Michael's favorite. We saw Bob Dole in the casino.
Our second day began with Michael having his picture taken with a showgirl. He glowed! We saw the antique car collection at the Imperial Palace, and I posed beside a 1955 Cadillac Elmerado.
People were everywhere! We kept moving. We ate well but kept the cost down. We rested when we got tired. We walked to Mandalay Bay at the end of the Strip and watched the Yankees play the Diamondbacks. Mandalay Bay was home to Mamma Mia!, and I told Michael we would see the movie.
They had started the Luxor in 1993, and I kept thinking, "That looks like a pyramid!" Someone said it was! The Sphinx sits out front.
We rented a car and drove to the Grand Canyon, stopping at Hoover Dam on the way. The dam provides electricity for Nevada, Arizona & California.
Michael drove us south to Kingman, Arizona, then east on Interstate 40 to Williams. We went north on 64. We had reservations at the Red Feather Lodge in Tusayan near the Park entrance.
I spotted it! The Grand Canyon! The most awesome spectacle on the planet! We pulled over for a picture. We stopped at a number of overlooks along the South Rim.
We attended the star party! We looked at Jupiter and Saturn through telescopes. I pointed out the Big Dipper and North Star for Michael.
We drove to Desert View Watchtower at the end of the South Rim. We climbed it. We saw the Colorado River at the bottom of the Canyon.
We saw hikers rehearsing for a descent at Bright Angel Trail. Michael said that when he comes back, he will go to the bottom. The Canyon is 277 miles long, and it took the Colorado River 10 million years to carve it. Rocks at the bottom are 2 billion years old.
The Colorado flows from the western slopes of the Rocky Mountains through the Grand Canyon and into the Gulf of California.
We were at the Canyon 2 nights. Michael thought one night was enough. I said it is not every day that 2 guys from Nashville see the Grand Canyon. There is a sameness about the buttes and mesas that makes them difficult. Canyons are in the west. Valleys are in the east.
Back in Vegas, we checked into New York-New York. It is a miniature of the New York skyline. There are the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building & the Bar at Times Square.
I wore my straw hat to keep the sun off my head. I had the bag Charlotte bought me when I went to Sweden. Michael had a suitcase. We watched TV before going to sleep.
Michael lounged by the pool while I went to the Atomic Testing Museum. We ate at the Outback, and I had shrimp on the barbie. We went to Fremont Street downtown.
Our last night in Vegas, we saw Jubilee! I saved it for the finale.
We went to Red Rock Canyon the morning before we left. Red Rock is a National Conservation Area, a 13-mile loop. Sandstone formations made an interesting drive, and Michael saw Joshua trees.
My goal was to introduce Michael to our most exciting city and to give him an experience in the west. I try to bolster his confidence and his ability to get around. I told him Vegas is a magnet and he will no doubt return. Karen met us in Nashville.
LAS VEGAS 1993
I returned to Las Vegas for 3 months: March 7 to June 8, 1993, with the intention of adding to the experience I had in 1979. I dug in at the Tropicana Club at the south end of Las Vegas Boulevard, relying on the Strip Trolley. Bill Clinton was America's new president, and there was a 70s revival. It was an opportune time for escaping my parents' basement, where I had lived for 7 years. It was a chance to fend for myself, to get my own food and wash my own clothes. I flew into McCarran Airport from Minnesota, my first flight in 15 years. Las Vegas was the same in some ways and different in some ways. The Ali Baba Apartments were gone. The Dunes was coming down, and the old MGM Grand was now Ballys. Vegas was still the entertainment capital of the world! The Strip is a work of art! Unfortunately, wind, heat & traffic ensure that it is half heaven, half hell. You pump up the things you like.
The Excalibur exploited medieval themes: King Arthur and Robin Hood. I patronized restaurants on the second level, where a belly dancer did her thing. The Excalibur, Tropicana, MGM Grand & Luxor formed a second hot corner.
Downtown, the Golden Goose Casino was a topless bar. The sign was still there, a fixture on the Glitter Gulch landscape. Above it, the goose revolved on its nest of golden eggs. Vegas Vic and Sassy Sally patrolled adjacent sides of the street.
Caesar's Palace is hard to top! The Forum Shops price themselves into the luxury class. The replica of Michelangelo's David (of David and Goliath) presides over Appian Way as the Italian Renaissance imposes itself on the Roman Empire. I ventured into the pool area behind Caesar's, romantic under the moonlight. Next door, the Mirage showed off its erupting volcano. The casinos are awful: men at the tables, women on the machines. Expressionless zombies! One must refrain from drinking and gambling if he is to survive Las Vegas.
It was the production shows that intrigued me: leggy, statuesque showgirls! Ballys' Jubilee! was the biggest show on the Strip and had the best showgirls. I took the backstage tour. From the stage, the seating area looked small. Jubilee! was a dinosaur, a throwback to the glamorous musicals of yesteryear. It was a mix of Vaudeville, Broadway & classic Hollywood. It boasted of its nightly sinking of the Titanic. The thrill was in seeing all those long, shapely legs.
I saw Folies Bergere (Ber-share) at the Tropicana. Karen and I had seen it in 1979. This time, I took the backstage tour led by a showgirl of 20 years. It was interesting to get behind the scenes, especially into the dressing rooms to see and handle the costumes. Some of them were heavy, and the girls had to be strong. I asked my showgirl if there was a pension plan for those who stayed 20 years. She said no, but they had given her this job. Folies Bergere was the oldest show, going back to 1959.
Bare Essence at the Sands lived up to its billing as a "sexy, sizzling revue." All the shows conveyed a sense of euphoria.
For Crazy Girls, the room at the Riviera provided some intimacy. My feeling of being hustled in and out derived from wanting to take those thighs home with me.
I made it to Arizona Charlie's for the Naughty Ladies review. It was old-timey fun. High button shoes! For the finale, we paraded to "When The Saints Go Marching In."
The Elvis impersonator at Vegas World did a complimentary show. He called himself E.P. King. I looked down on the city from the top of the building. A promo ticket gave me access to Imperial Palace's antique cars.
I was scared of Death Valley in 1979. This time, I took the Silver Star Line tour. I rode shotgun in the van as we made stops at Dante's View and Devil's Golf Course. The golf course is a dried lake with salt 3 feet deep. I tasted it. Death Valley is on the Nevada-California line.
The borax mined in Death Valley is a mineral used in soap. The 92 elements of chemistry make up the 3800 minerals of geology. Minerals form 3 kinds of rocks: sedimentary, igneous & metamorphic. Fossils are found in sedimentary rocks, those laid down by water.
In Laughlin, 90 miles from Vegas, I took a taxi ride on the Colorado River.
Returning to Louisville in order to rendezvous with Michael, I came east on I-40, old Route 66: Kingman, Flagstaff, Albuquerque, Amarillo, Oklahoma City, Little Rock, Memphis & Nashville.
The Strip is short-lived, like the D.C. Mall. I will show it to Michael as part of his western experience.