A New View of Las Vegas – Part 2


On Saturday afternoon, we decided to join our friends at the Orleans Hotel and Casino where, surprisingly, the Continental Cup was being held. I never would have thought that a Hotel and Casino would have a curling rink, but that’s only one of the many sports venues they have. It was interesting to watch (for someone who has played the game many times). As the score board indicates, it was a match between teams from North America (Canada and US) and the rest of the World, and the skill demonstrated was very impressive. We heard a few Scottish and Irish accents drifting among the spectators.

Can they get it through?
Sweep, Sweep!

We stayed for only one draw (game) that lasted three hours, and then we drove down to The Strip again.

The Paris

This time we drove on through to the older part looking for Rick at the Silver and Gold Pawn Shop from the Las Vegas Pawn Stars TV show, a favourite of Jim’s. We found him! We’d hoped to have dinner at the BBQ next door, where Rick often tends bar, but it was closed.

Hmm, something seems a little odd

We did discover this interesting “community” though, where all of the stores and restaurants, and some living quarters are made from shipping containers.

We drove back up The Strip and stopped at Circus Circus, one place I hadn’t been before. After chowing down on burgers that were so big we could barely get our mouths around them, at Vince Neil’s Tatuado, we squeezed through the throngs of people, mostly kids who were in town for a big Soccer Tournament, to watch some of the entertainment. It is actually a huge circus midway, in the lower floors of the Hotel. We managed to get lost trying to find our way back to our parking garage and had to ask for directions!

By then my bones were beginning to ache and, since we’d spent a whole week at the Flamingo Hotel on the strip when we were there six years ago, I wasn’t too keen about walking the street again. Jim was disappointed, but reluctantly took us back to the condo.

On Sunday we looked in the papers and hotel literature to find something different to do. We chose a one-hour drive to Valley of Fire State Park, and I was so happy that we did! The colours were stunning and the one-hour hike around White Dome was good for body and soul. I took far more pictures than I can post, but here is a sampling.

White Dome
Blue Rocks

It was after dark when we got back to the city. We took our second coupon back to the Silverton Casino Hotel and nourished ourselves with selections from the buffet again. We dropped a little more money in some slots and went back to the condo to reminisce about our fantastic adventure, and organize our belongings for the trip home the next day.

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A new View of Las Vegas – Part One


I started writing this post with the intention of finishing it all at once, but I realized that it would be too much to throw at you, so it’s going to be in two, or maybe three parts. Hope you enjoy the ride!

We were sitting in a restaurant in Chandler, waiting for the Ukulele Jam to begin, when I got a message from a new friend and co-Board Member, inviting us to join her and her husband in Las Vegas for the weekend. It turned out that they were there to watch a Curling Championship and the other couple who was to join them had to cancel. They had reserved two suites with their time-share. They offered us the second one for a really good price. We discussed it and decided that we could leave the next morning. Thus began our second adventure for the month of January!

We packed the car with a couple bags of food, since we would have a full kitchen, a small bag each of clothing, iPads and chargers, and Jim’s all important CPAP. I put my clothing bag, a bag of chargers, my camera, and one bag of groceries into the back seat, along with out iPads. Jim put the rest into the trunk. You might wonder why I’m bothering to share all these details, but you will understand later in the story.

We were on the road by ten. The day was sunny and warm, and we had the top down on the car all the way to Wickenburg before the clouds rolled in and it got cool. At Wickenburg we stopped at the Cowboy Cookin’ Restaurant for a really good lunch of Shrimp Scampi, and then were on our way again.

Cowboy Cookin’ Restaurant, Wickenburg


Nice Ride!

That is real cowboy country!

The Big Spur

We drove through some rain off and on until we reached Kingman, still in Arizona, and Jim decided it was time for gas. As we were approaching the exit into town, the car kicked out of gear for a minute and then kicked back in. That was odd. The battery light came on, but it had been doing that occasionally lately. We got into the gas station and filled up, but then the car wouldn’t start again, at all. Fortunately we now carry a small battery booster with us. It was pouring rain by then, but Jim had to get out and give it a try. It worked. He pulled into a parking spot and left it running, with me keeping my foot lightly on the gas pedal while he went inside. It seemed fine when we pulled away, but we only got back onto the highway and to the next exit when it shifted into limp mode. We took the exit back into Kingman. Fortunately, there was a service centre within sight. We expected we’d need a new battery, which is a big job in a Chrysler Seabring, because the battery is hidden behind the wheel-well. But it turned out it was not the battery, but the alternator. They were able to get to it in a short time and a couple of hours later we were on our way again. We had only another hundred miles to go, but the sun was already setting. We discovered that the radio no longer worked, but thought nothing of it. We could live without that for the rest of the trip and figure it out later.

Approaching Las Vegas at Night

It was seven o’clock when we finally found the Grandview Condo Complex, got signed in, and parked outside our building. Jim pushed the button to pop the trunk; nothing happened. He tried the button on the key fob; still nothing happened. He tried using the key; no luck. Oh, oh! Something had happened to our interior electronics and there was no way to open the trunk. We took what we had in the back seat up to the suite, and I started making some dinner using what was in the bags we had access to, while Jim went back to the car to find a way to get the rest out of the trunk. Being a convertible, the back seats don’t fold down. The only interior access to the trunk was in through the pocket where the top stores when it is down. Jim took all of the casing out of that pocket, and was left with a space about a foot wide that he could reach into and retrieve another bag, but the trunk is deep and most of our bags were close to the back. He took a break to eat dinner and then I went down to help him. We had to do some contortions just to get as much of our bodies through the opening and reach as far as we could. Between us we managed to retrieve most of our real necessities. His big tool box was left in the middle, too large to fit through the opening, and too heavy to lift up anyway. We were able to lock the doors using the inside buttons. We left it for the night.

Our friends arrived, and we told them our saga before we crashed for the night. The accommodations were amazing. I’m sure the suite was bigger than our condo at home, and certainly way bigger than the motorhome. In fact, the shower stall alone was bigger than the whole bathroom in the motorhome! The big lounger bath tub looked very inviting, but it was time to crawl into the king-size bed and get some sleep.

The King Bed is Waiting

The next morning I made breakfast in the very large kitchen and we caught up on the news on the TV, before going out in search of some kind of tool that might help us reach the emergency trunk latch. Jim had looked through the car manual to see how to reset the electronics, to no avail. He’d found where the bright red tag to indicate the emergency latch was, but even with the grabber we purchased, we couldn’t reach it. A family came along and Jim asked the father if he could “borrow” his slim son. We knew he should be able to climb into the trunk through the narrow opening, and we hoped, release the latch. They were happy to help, so with the iPhone flashlight, in he climbed, a couple of times, but the bright red tag couldn’t be found. We thanked them and let them be on their way. We worked ourselves a little longer, moving the tool box around, taking pictures in the hope that we would see the tag, but it wasn’t to be. It was time to give up and enjoy the sights, sounds and food of Las Vegas.

The first thing on Jim’s bucket list was to go to the Silverton Casino to see the big aquarium, just a ten minute drive our condo. When we arrived we registered as players and got our rewards cards which enabled us to claim a dinner for 50% off at any of the restaurants.

After spending some time watching the fish and the mermaids in the aquarium, we found the Buffet. It was agony trying to decide what to try. The buffet was so long it was impossible to sample everything, but what we chose was delicious. As it turned out, one coupon was good for two people, and it was buy-one-get-one-free, so the two of us ate for only $10! I saved my coupon for another day. Luck was back on our side, for a little while anyway! At the slots, I quite quickly lost $9.95 of the ten I allowed myself to spend. Jim just about broke even.

Acquarium
Mermaids

We gave up and drove down through the lights and traffic on the Strip and then made our way to the famous Fremont Street.

When we got out of the car we realized that we should have thrown jackets in, as the evening air had turned cool. Before walking very far we found some inexpensive souvenir jackets. Our friend had told us that the
World Spinners Championship was supposed to be taking place down there. We caught the first round. Who knew that this was a thing?


Wow, some talented spinners!
Looking Up

After some dinner, we walked through the covered street, watching the varying displays on the overhead screen, and people flashing by on the zip lines. We laughed at some of the “acts” on the street by “buskers” and were impressed with others.

By the time we’d walked the two blocks again, I was ready to call it quits so we returned to the condo and I enjoyed a good soak in that marvellous tub, before climbing into bed.

The next day would be another busy one.

The Grand Canyon


Our day started at 5:00 a.m. as we needed to be waiting outside at 6:20 to catch a shuttle van to a small airport at Henderson, where we began our Grand Canyon Adventure. After much perusing of brochures we’d decided that, although expensive, the full tour with Vegas 500 was the best value. At the airport we were offered coffee and comfortable couches to sit in, after we’d signed all necessary waivers, while we waited for the plane to be prepared. Pictures were taken, instructions were given and we climbed aboard the nine-passenger Cessna Caravan and were lifted up into the bright blue yonder. It was a cool, but clear day, unlike the two previous days when three of our fellow passengers, who hailed from Ireland, had attempted the tour. This was their last chance, and luck was with them.

Vegas 500 Plane

Flying over Vegas

After 20 years of drought, the only green to be seen is on the golf courses

We all had window seats, which made for much picture taking all around as we flew over historical Boulder City, Lake Mead and Grand Canyon West. Upon arrival to the Hualapai Indian Reservation airport our plane pilot got us our arm bands for the rest of the tour. We were thrilled to learn that we had been assigned front seats on the helicopter that awaited us! Lots more picture taking as we dropped over the cliff and down 4000 feet into the Canyon.

Helicopter

Our helicopter

Grand Canyon

Dropping over the edge

Approaching the Colorado River

Approaching the Colorado River

Into Grand Canyon

Into Grand Canyon. Note the tiny dock and pontoon boats below

From the helicopter we were hustled down an embankment to a large pontoon boat that would take us on a twenty-minute trip on the Colorado River. Wow!

Trekking down the rocks

Trekking down the rocks

View from the Colorado River

View from the Colorado River

Back to the top in another helicopter, we boarded a bus to Eagle Point, where we awed at the vistas and ventured out onto the glass Skywalk. No cameras were allowed here; no phones or purses or backpacks either. Lockers were provided for such items, and we were given cloth booties to put over our shoes before we stepped onto the glass. A professional photographer was available to take as many pictures as we wanted. Of course, they were all beautiful and we couldn’t choose, so ended up purchasing the whole package! When we were ready, the bus was waiting to take us to Guano Point, and then onto Hualapai Indian Village. The designated three and a half hours slipped by too quickly. At the Village we were given a delicious buffet lunch before we had to catch our bus back to the airport for our reluctant return to the city.

Eagle Point

Eagle Point

Skywalk

Skywalk, Grand Canyon

Skywalk

Looking 4000 feet down

Another long, exciting day ended in a very early retreat to our beds while the younger members of the family partied into the wee hours. A text message received long after we’d been asleep told us that one of them had won $1,000 at the slots! Did we want to join them? We had to pass.

Hoover Dam, Treasure Island and Fremont Street


Hearing the news today, I’m thankful that we aren’t in Vegas this week. The “shootout” appears to have taken place in very close proximity to our hotel! Of course, it happened in the early hours of the morning, so we probably would have been safe.

On Saturday, we took a break from the lights and boarded a bus to Hoover Dam. We had a very congenial driver who filled us in on some the history of Las Vegas and things of interest along the way. It took us about an hour to get to the dam, where we were immediately taken on a video tour of the building of the dam, then down through the tunnels and into the Generator Room.

Hoover Dam Generators

Hoover Dam Generators

Back up to the top, we were left to explore the museum and gift shop (isn’t there always one of those?) before heading outdoors to take pictures from every angle.

Hoover Dam

Hoover Dam

Hoover Dam

Hoover Dam

Hoover Dam

Hoover Dam

What an impressive feat!

We arrived back on The Strip in time to meet up with the rest of the family at New York New York. They’d arrived while we were gone and were already enjoying the infamous yard high drinks that we’d seen everywhere. We didn’t need to wait for them to finish. Drinks of every sort can be carried along the streets from one establishment to another, the empty containers left anywhere along the way to be surreptitiously picked up by city cleanup staff and re-distributed among the hotel bars.

We watched the Pirate Show outside Treasure Island Hotel and grabbed dinner at Senor Frog, before catching cabs to take us downtown to Fremont Street.

Pirate Show

Pirate Show

Fremont Street is the older “strip” where the original hotels and casinos can be found. To compete with the flashing lights of the “new” strip, the many-blocks-long street has been closed to traffic and covered with a huge white canvas canopy. Every half hour the throngs of people partying beneath it are treated to a moving light show on the ceiling, each with its own musical theme, such as music by Queen or The Beatles, and you can’t help but laugh at some of the costumes and antics of revellers.

Fremont Street

Fremont Street

As much as we would have liked to stay to enjoy the show, we had to leave the “young ones” to it because we had reservations at 6:20 am for the Grand Canyon Tour of a lifetime.

Viva Las Vegas


Viva Las Vegas!

Although we aren’t big gamblers or drinkers, Las Vegas is one of those places that everyone needs to experience at least once, right? So after a couple of months of stress and sadness, we decided to join a few of my family members for a whimsical downtime, exploring the never-ending themes of Las Vegas. Of course, visits to the natural wonder of the Grand Canyon and to Hoover Dam had to be included in the itinerary as well!

For us, leaving from Toronto and choosing a cheap flight meant a ten-hour trip, unlike the short jaunt for the rest of our party flying from British Columbia, but we arrived a couple of days ahead of them.

Before I share with you all of the fun we had, I’m going to get a few warnings out of the way. We soon discovered that you can lose money very quickly without even entering a casino.

1.  If you take a taxi from the airport to your hotel, tell the driver that you want to go via city streets. It was after 10:00 pm our time when we climbed into our cab, headed for the Flamingo Hotel.  The  driver asked, “Do you want to take the highway or the city street?”  As newcomers we naturally thought the highway would be the quickest route. He saw us coming! What should have been a $15.00 drive cost us $30.00!  We also learned later that the extra $5.00 “airport fee” that he tacked on was already included in the rate.

2. When you find yourself hungry after you’ve checked into your hotel, don’t head to the nearest hotel eatery that you see. Two large salads and ice tea at Carlos & Charlie’s Bar and Grill in the hotel cost us $37.00. Two simple bacon and egg breakfasts with one orange juice and two coffees the next morning at the convenient  Tropical Breeze came to a grand total of $36.00. The orange juice alone was $5.00! The bacon made me thirsty so I picked up a bottle of water at one of the fast-food stands in the lobby.  I was prepared to pay $2.50 or $3.00, but it was $4.50 for half the size of bottle that I’d purchased at the airport for a dollar less.

3.  Everywhere you turn you will be bombarded by pushy people offering “free” breakfast and tickets to shows, just for agreeing to tour a time-share condominium by Wyndham, owners of 80% of the hotels and condos in Vegas. If you don’t mind spending the time, it’s worthwhile, but know that the two-hours they assure you it will take will extend into three or four hours if you don’t want to purchase a time-share. The sales people will try all sorts of tactics and discounts to get your signature on the bottom line.

4.  There is no free Wifi in the hotels, and it’s expensive to purchase. That’s why I was unable to post each day. Denny’s Restaurant and some of the shops in The Forum do have free access.

We did get a $5.00 gambling voucher and “free” tickets to see the shocking yet funny comedian, Vinnie Favorito, at Bugsys Cabaret when we registered for our Total Rewards Cards. Free is in quotes because there was a catch – we had to prepay for two alcoholic drinks, about $18.00 .

After our expensive late-night dinner, we’d revived enough to want to head out onto “The Strip”  and begin our adventure.

Night lights of Vegas

Night lights of Vegas

Caesar's Palace

Caesar’s Palace

Blue, sunny skies on the inside of Caesar's Palace

Blue, sunny skies on the inside of Caesar’s Palace

Inside Caesar's Palace

Inside Caesar’s Palace

The Flamingo Hotel is still undergoing renovations, and new construction is taking place in the lot next door. Our room was clean and very adequate for the amount of time that we spent in it, but we were awakened, sometimes as early at 4:00 a.m. (Las Vegas time) by the sound of jack hammers and vehicles backing up right outside our window. We were offered an upgrade when we checked in, but chose to save our money for more interesting things.

The back exit from the hotel led us through this lovely garden complete with live flamingos, swans, ducks and Koi fish enjoying the ponds.

Flamingo Hotel garden

Flamingo Hotel garden

Flamingo Hotel garden

Flamingo Hotel garden

Flamingos

Flamingos

Koi Fish in Flamingo Hotel garden

Koi Fish in Flamingo Hotel garden

Every hotel has a theme, and over the course of the next five days, we explored most of them at least once.We took a ride on a gondola through the streets of “Venice” at the Venetian Hotel.

Venetian Hotel

Venetian Hotel

Gondolas, Venetian Hotel

Gondolas, Venetian Hotel

And strolled through the streets of Paris.

Eiffel Tower, Paris Hote

Eiffel Tower, Paris Hotel

Streets of Paris

Streets of “Paris”

I’ll share more of this adventure next post.