Bright and early in the morning me and cat broke camp. By this stage in the game, we had formed habits and quickly fell into the set routine without needing to say a word. Cat folded up the tent in quick practiced moves while I broke down the tent poles in record time. Everything stored in the car and our travel mugs filled with hot coffee, we hit the road settling in for the long six hour drive from Zion to Los Angeles. About an hour into the drive I started going through the receipts looking for the reservation page for our hostel that night. Suddenly my heart skipped a beat.
“Cat, what day is it?”
I started to laugh. One thing about being on the road as long as we had and pulling into campsites in the wee hours of the morning was that it sure messed up the days of the week in your head. A day blends into two and one week blends into the other with no weekends or Mondays to distinguish the ending of one and the beginning of the other. And suddenly we were pulling into Los Angeles a whole day ahead of schedule with no place to sleep.
No fear. We are road warriors. After lightning storms, hail and floods, a scheduling issue was no problem. After all, between us and LA was the biggest last minute deal city in the world- Vegas.
Let me just state for the record here that I have a list of places that I never want to travel to. The list is very short, and even most of the places on that list I could be talked into visiting if you give me a good enough reason. I love travel, especially travel to places that no one else wants to go to or would dare dream of going. But there is a list of places I have absolutely no desire to ever see and at the very top of that list is Vegas.
And yet here I was, booking a hotel on the strip, contemplating my failures as a human being and reiterating to myself repeatedly the old adage of “never say never”. Shame welled up in my heart in a way I never thought possible. For though I usually avoid “touristy” destinations like the plague, I would at least give them a cursory glance, snap my picture and then move on to the “locals only” spot with little or no guilt. But Vegas would not allow me that concession. I was in the middle of The Strip, literally in the heart of tourist paradise and everywhere I turned I was bombarded by that fact.
I wish I could say that I gave it the old college try, that I attempted to give Vegas a chance to win me over before I coldly shut her out of my heart forever, but that would be a lie. Vegas lost me within the very first 60 seconds of our tires hitting that 6.8km stretch of pavement. Cat had been to Vegas once before and therefore automatically won the driver’s seat based on previous experience. I gazed out the passenger window taking in all the famous sights. We pulled up to the first red light and suddenly I was staring at 6 scantily clad women making suggestive gestures at me, telling me how much they would enjoy visiting me tonight for some”fun and sexy time”.
The anger that boiled through my blood nearly turned my vision red and I spent the rest of the drive up the strip mumbling expletives under my breath and keeping my eyes straight ahead to avoid searing some poor passerby to the bone with my potentially unwarranted judgemental glare. That might have worked if the girls weren’t on the back of the trucks too promising me hours of late night chats. By the time we got to the hotel, Cat was wisely giving me a wide berth, allowing me time to control my rage by staying silent on the matter knowing that any comment on her part would set me off on a justice seeking rampage.
I feel a disclaimer would be a good thing at this point. I am a very open minded, mellow and happy person who has never been known to be given to fits of rage. Cool, calm and collected are how I usually approach anything I don’t agree with, and I usually seek to understand an issue from all sides, even the sides I don’t personally agree with. Vegas unfortunately had caught me off guard at the worst possible time. Not only had I not been planning on visiting it, therefore having to time to prepare myself mentally for the onslaught, but I had just recently returned from a 6 month missions trip to Australia and Thailand where I had been working with street prostitutes in the former and helping out in a ministry that rescued children from the sex trade and child soldiering in the latter. My emotions were still raw from the horror stories I had heard and witnessed, and here I was in the heart of Sin City, drowning in the whirlpools of a city whose entire existence depended almost solely on the selling of sex.
I also wish I could say that I shut that part out and tried to separate the rest of Vegas from it. And in a way I did, the problem is that I wasn’t overly impressed with the rest of it either. One night in a cloud of smoke, extreme air conditioned dry air and a thick fog of exhaust left me with a screaming headache. Everywhere we went was flashing lights, throbbing music and the shrill ring of slot machines. Outside was sweltering heat, pushy obnoxious salesmen and drunk stumbling idiots yelling obscenities and jeering at anything in a skirt. The whole thing left me with a bad taste in my mouth and the overwhelming urge to put as many miles as possible between my tail lights and the city limit sign.
I feel like I need to end this with some kind of positive to make up for my obvious disgust with this city. Cirque du Soleil was amazing, our waiter at the Hard Rock Cafe was great and the water fountain show at the Bellagio was worth the long walk. If not for the ever present cloud of smoke, I would have enjoyed sunbathing at the pool too. But alas, I didn’t and I couldn’t have been happier then when we were once again on the road and I was surrounded by nothing but desert and Vegas was just a distant memory.
The Medical Diagnosis
Cost: This one is hard to say as it depends on how you book, what deals of the week you can find, when you book, everything is up to timing.
Things to see: Everyone has their own recommendations for this list. Mine include the Bellagio water fountain show, Cirque du Soleil and a meal at the Hard Rock Café.
What were your favorite parts of Vegas? What were the things you hated about Vegas?