Top 10 Quotes From the Vegas Trip

Is he being thoughtful or thinking up something funny?
Is he being thoughtful or thinking up something funny?

So, our trip is done, the boyz are back in school, and it’s time for a recap of our trip to Vegas. And what better way than the 1st of 4 top 10 lists.

 

Top 10 Quotes From The-Oldest

  1. “I am providing the laugh track.” After he laughed, and I commented that he doesn’t often laugh at a lot of my super funny jokes.

  2. “The smell just comes at my face.” It was the smell of Vegas after the rains came. A wet, kind of sulphuric, moldy smell.

  3. “He’s the Beeth.” Now this means, ‘he’s the best.’ ‘The most amazing.’ It comes from his favourite composer, Beethoven. I have no idea how it got morphed into ‘beeth.”

  4. “Coffee tastes like black.” Yes, yes it does.

  5. His new word of the trip – “Danger noodles.” For snakes. I think this one will catch on.

  6. The Grand Canyon “has been touched more by cameras than by humans.” Wow, I mean, wow. That’s actually deep.

  7. “Girls? What girls? There were girls? Looking at me? What? Where? When? What?” After I told him about the incident in Dunkin Donuts where 2 girls checked him out.

  8. luigi-and-marioEvery morning in our hotel room, he’d write a quote on the foggy bathroom mirror to his brother. My favourite… “Will you become Luigi?” It meant, will his brother get taller than him. See, ‘cuz Luigi, from Mario Brothers, is taller than his older brother. Yeah, I didn’t get it until he explained it to me.

  9. “I am funny. I had meat.” After I told him he was on fire one night for all the funnyisms.

  10. Then the words that may define him. “I’ve found my passion, Joe. Music. It’s what’s in me.” How cool is that? It brought manly tears to my eyes.

I know there were more, but being old and forgetting things, these were the best that I could recall. When did he become such a funny guy? A deep thinker? Or has it always been that way and he’s just becoming more comfortable belting it out so I can hear him.

Either way, he’s an astounding cool guy.

Next up, the best things to do in Vegas with Kids. In my opinion.

Peace out.

Vegas Had One Last Surprise – Or Two

The ruins of a once great casino. The Riviera.
The ruins of a once great casino. The Riviera.

Vegas, like a good drunken uncle, always seems to have a surprise or two in store.

When we first arrived, our first surprise was not a new hotel, but seeing the ruins of an iconic hotel, the Riviera, torn down to make room for another, fancier hotel. That’s Vegas. Ever changing. You never know what you’re going to see. Or who.

So it was fitting that when we went to leave, the taxi guy who took us to the airport was one of the best surprises we had. Our arrival driver was a disaster, nearly killing us at least 10 times (which, to be fair, was a surprise as well.)

This driver, though… he was special. He looked like an old boxer, strong jaw, thick stubble on his cheeks, black hair going salty grey. His nose had been broken a good number of times, but that only seemed to add to his character. His eyes, once probably a deep brown, now looked worn, like they had been left out in the sun too long.

A blast from the past, CHIPs, Ponch. Eric Estrada
A blast from the past, CHIPs, Ponch. Eric Estrada

But it turns out this guy used to be Poncho’s stunt double. Wait, you must remember Poncho? Eric Estrada? CHIPs? The guy with the whitest teeth in Hollywood and the best feathered-hair of his generation?

In his day, he was quite the thing. Even The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World had a poster of him, I think. But when CHIPs died, his career disappeared, mostly, and I don’t think he took it well.

After listening to our driver, we mentioned that we heard Eric Estrada had become a cop, and the taxi driver snorted. He said that guy would never have passed the interview process. Or the drug tests. Or anything that cops would have to pass. So, it was likely an honorary title, which totally makes sense since he’s like 80 now.

We had the best talk with him. He’s the kind of guy you’d meet in a bar and he’d be all too keen to tell you his life’s story. He was Eric Estrada’s stunt double for 5 years, and it took a toll on him. He wore every fall, every fight scene, every moment he got tossed out a window or slid on the pavement after a motorcycle crash.

Oh, the stories he could tell! But, sadly, we didn’t have time to hear everything. What we heard was entertaining, and a little sad. Like most people, our driver had gone to Hollywood to seek fame and fortune and returned, broken in spirit, (and I suspect, in body), to his hometown, where he eventually met us, probably one of the great highlights of his life.

He dropped us off, I tipped him well for his stories about stunting, then we went inside. Only to find that the ticket we had, the one that said, “United” on it, was, in fact, for Air Canada and Air Canada was on the other end of the airport.

Sigh.

At least, this time, we didn’t declare that we had guns, ammo and the black plague hidden in a banana.

Then the most unlikely thing happened as we waited in line to board the plane. A pretty girl talked to me. Now, this happens, like, never, except for The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World who, for some reason, seems to like me.

But the girl said she loved my hat, a blue fedora-like thing. I thought I looked great in the hat and was constantly surprised that no one had come up to me before to tell me that. But that got us talking about our experiences in Vegas and what we liked and hated, and if we could go back, again.

I would, for sure. She said she was done with Vegas for a while.

Are wookies real? In Vegas they are
Are wookies real? In Vegas they are

But, as we found our seats and she went off to hers, I thought, you can never really do Vegas. You just never know what’s going to happen. Ask The-Oldest. He was attacked by Chewbacca. Ask The-Youngest, he found his future wife. Ask The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World, she got to talk to Eric Estrada’s double.

And for me, it’ll be another completely different experience when we return for The-Youngest’s 21st birthday. Or our 25th Anniversary. Or for The-Oldest’s wedding.

This time, though, what made it so great, apart from all that we did, all that we saw or heard… this was a great trip because I got to do it with my new family.

*****

And now it’s time to return to a normal life back home. However, there are 4 top 10 lists still to go. Stay tuned. 🙂

Then on to the wedding planning.

Vegas – Buses and Sharks and A Darker Side

Mandalay Bay in Vegas. A long, confusing bus ride.
Mandalay Bay in Vegas. A long, confusing bus ride.

Saturday. Last day. We had to do what’s left quick-like. Fast and furious. Dolphins at Mirage, take local transit, see Luxor, Excalibur, and sharks at Mandalay Bay, eat at some point, take bus to Fremont Street, try not to get pick-pocketed, find way back to hotel, eat supper, see Bellagio fountains and find a legendary pianist at Venetian for The-Oldest to watch.

So, here’s fast and furious travel. In 2 parts.

Up at 6. Went for coffee. Nuts in Starbucks. The weekend had arrived. Fed family from Starbucks and supplies bought at gift shop. Everyone dressed, showered, shaved, as needed, and we were out of the door by 11. Took tram to Mirage. Went to see dolphins there.

Seeing dolphins cost $22 a person. Are you nuts? For that price, I would expect to swim with them and have a happy ending afterward. Had an attack of cheap. Couldn’t pay that money to see dolphins. Headed to the far end of the strip.

It should be so simple. Get a bus pass...
It should be so simple. Get a bus pass…

Decided to take bus. Lots to see today, so bus made sense.

Couldn’t buy bus-pass at bus stop. Had to buy on the bus.

Became that guy who holds up 20 people trying to get on the bus while having to sort out how to get a ticket, then get the money for that ticket. Had to have exact change. $32. Of course. Didn’t have exact change. No, no credit cards. No NY NY arcade tokens. No balls of Canadian lint.

Had to get Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World to empty her purse to find the money. Stole coins from the boyz. Debated asking riders for money. Finally found enough. Finally paid. Took about 4 minutes or in bus time, 10 years. Ignored evil stares from passengers. Driver totally chill though.

The best way to see Vegas. Seriously. It's $8 per person.
The best way to see Vegas. Seriously. It’s $8 per person.

Went up to top of the double-decker bus. Hunkered down. Made no eye contact. Pretended to check phone. Unpuckered sphincter.

Got front seats as soon as people got off at the next stop. Boyz happy. Like a tour. Decided not to stop at Excalibur. Or Luxor. I mean why, really? One’s a pyramid filled with slot machines and the other’s a castle filled with slot machines.

So with time restrictions and being a little Vegas’d out, we went on.

Mandalay Bay entrance.
Mandalay Bay entrance.

Mandalay bay. Never been. Nice entrance from the sidewalk, lots of water features. Open concept. Loved it. Huge, huge walkways through the casino. I mean you could actually walk four abreast and pass by other people walking 4 abreast. Yes, lots of breasts there.

The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World spotted a wall display of boobs and bums. Covered her boyz eyes with her hands. Deeply ashamed I did not spot that display. May have to surrender my guy-card when I get back.

The best big burger ever at Mandalay Bay, Vegas.
The best big burger ever at Mandalay Bay, Vegas.

Failed to find the food court. Ate HUGE hamburger at expensive restaurant. Super yummy, but $$$$. Oddly, they stewed four tomatoes in The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World’s salad. Who does that? Is that a fancy thing?

Youngest had a meltdown after learning he left his hat on the bus. I was more surprised this hadn’t happened earlier.

Went to see the shark reef exhibit. Saw a croc up close. Freaky eyes. Saw piranha. Learned they are lazy hunters. Wouldn’t eat me alive. Kinda disappointed. Next I’ll find out that Raptors liked to cuddle.

The-Youngest's wife to be. A chatty 8-9-year-old who knew as much about everthing as he did.
The-Youngest’s wife to be. A chatty 8-9-year-old who knew as much about everthing as he did.

The-Youngest wanted to touch a ray. Took half an hour before he touched one. Kinda scary, you know. He met a nice girl there. His age. They exchanged vital ray facts. She had no fear touching the rays. He eventually got up the nerve. Said they were really slimy.

We decided to choose the wives for our boys. More on that at a later date.

Sharks were cool. LOTS of sharks in the final tank. Both boyz uber excited about them.

I spent more time watching the turtle swimming around. Not the sleekest, not the meanest, not the sexiest, just kinda doing his own thing in a very dangerous world.

Like me.

I am a turtle.

Sharks! In the Shark Reef exhibit, Mandalay Bay
Sharks! In the Shark Reef exhibit, Mandalay Bay

Watched sharks glide over us from a glass tunnel. Watched sharks slide under us on a glass floor. Watched sharks slip around an old sunken-ship in the tank. Watched a school of Dora fish. Wondered how they survived in such a tank.

I suddenly wanted some fish and chips.

But no time. Left for the bus.

The-Youngest was thanked for holding the door. He liked being a doorman. Lots of people smiled at him. Many, but not all, thanked him. Many more took advantage of his skill and often family after family poured in like they expected a cute 9-year-old boy to hold the door for them. No looks.  No thanks.

I said we’d give him a cup and with his looks and great manners, he could afford a new house by the end of the week.

He said, no, but I think he loved the attention he got.

Feeling pretty tired after sharks. A week of running around gets to an old guy like me. Had a blister the size of a baby’s head on my little toe. Grossed out The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World. The youngest wanted to watch me pop it. Made walking a bit harder.

Off to Fremont Street on fast bus. Had to stand in the sun for bus. The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World not impressed with my earlier statement, hey, we won’t need sunscreen, we’ll either be in a bus or a hotel.

All of us got a bit of a burn.

20 cars like this all in a convoy. That's Vegas, baby
20 cars like this all in a convoy. That’s Vegas, baby

Fast bus zipped by a lot of stops. Hey, it’s the fast bus. It’s what they do. Saw a crazy convoy of cars painted the same. Like 20 cars. Took a picture.

Drove through a different part of Vegas. The dark underbelly, away from all the lights and glitter. The poorer part.

Saw lots of bail bondsmen. Saw a Coke machine with reinforced bars protecting it. Saw ruined buildings covered in graffiti. Saw fortified convenience stores. Didn’t take a picture.

Kept an eye on stops. Didn’t want to miss our stop and end up on a crack street.

Began to worry for the first time since we’d arrived in the US.

Had we made a mistake going to Fremont Street?

Beatles Love – Cirque du Soleil – Vegas

Would my guitar gently weep?
Would my guitar gently weep?

No question about it, the Cirque du Soleil folks can put on a fine show. I’d seen one every time I went to Vegas, but this one was a little different. This one had a musical theme. The Beatles.

Now who doesn’t love the Beatles?

So I was keen to see what they would do with their usual contortionists, flying acrobats, odd-looking clowns and gymnasts leaping around. The-Oldest couldn’t wait to see it. He’d seen one Cirque show in Vancouver and loved it, so combining that style of performance with music that he loved could be amazing.

Or he could be massively disappointed as he set his sights too high, like I did for the new Star Wars movie. Or for democracy.

We’d bought tickets more towards the back. Deliberately. Being me, I read a ton of reviews, and the general consensus was that the new Star Wars movie wasn’t that great and that we should sit in the back if we wanted to see EVERYTHING in the Beatles – Love. If we wanted to be a part of the show, then closer to the front was the way to go. Every seat was great, I’d read, so why not go with what would be the best for us?

I mean, hey, spooky-ass clowns poking children or whatever else the Cirque people decided to throw at the keeners who sat at the front might be a bit much for the-Youngest, so for us, farther away was better.

Not exactly a spooky-ass clown but sometimes the costume are a little.. odd
Not exactly a spooky-ass clown but sometimes the costumes are a little… odd

We made our way to the Mirage and waited for them to open up the theater. While we waited, the-Oldest ran through a litany of Beatles songs he thought they might play. His top 10. We made our own list. I may post this ‘cuz I know people are just dying to read about more lists.

Then we went in.

In the end, the show was spectacular. We’d done well by choosing the back since they covered most of the front seats with a huge, billowing sheet for one song (which looked awesome, but would have scared the poop out of the-Youngest.) As well, they had a performer dressed up as a spooky-ass monkey (instead of a clown), who picked bugs out of people’s hair.

That would have terrified The-Youngest. And me.

So, here is the top 10 list of why the Beatles- Love was amazing.

Top 10

1) For me, the music brought back so many great memories. I grew up listening to their music. I owned their albums. I can sing (badly) most of their songs.

2) I loved what they did with the billowing sheet, shining lights on it and making it seem like a moving ocean. And yes, there is a video below of that. Spectacular! How does someone think this up???

3) The set they did with undersea gardens looked amazing. Floating octopi. Kelp trees. Bubbles. So awesome. I wanted to be in that octopuses garden with them.

4) I love seeing what human beings can do. Skilled, acrobatic ones. Not chubby, Captain-America-loving ones like me. Even the simplest of things for Cirque performers like climbing up a rope (which always made me feel funny in my naughty area) is done with such grace and beauty, that I can’t help but be amazed.

5) We watched a man seemingly dance in slow motion, using a cart with a ladder on the end. it’s hard to explain, so there’s a video at the bottom. The strength and balance that takes is so far beyond me that I may as well be that monkey picking bugs from the audience’s hair.

6) Lucy soared in the sky with diamonds. Words simply fail me to describe it. It was magical.

7) A VW bug slowly exploded into pieces during one of the songs, the pieces held by the performers. (again, you can see this below.) It worked because I love seeing things kind of blow up, I didn’t see it coming, and it looked like poetry would look if poetry could be visual.

8) The stunning visuals and song “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, made me cry. Yes, I cried. Don’t judge me. If a guitar can weep, so can I.

9) There were even a few times when the leaping acrobats missed their marks, landing not on top of the roof of a car, but on its side and then having to scramble up. But hell, they even made that look good.

10) Having the-Oldest smile with unrestrained joy made it worth the expense ten times over.

So, my review… see it. It’s worth the money. It’s worth the time. It’ll leave you singing Beatles songs and talking about the most amazing feats you saw.

The-Oldest gave it a complete 10/10. He would see it, again. Happily.

The-Youngest agreed it was fantastic, but he says stick to the back of the theater. That monkey is the stuff of nightmares.

And The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World sat either transfixed by all the grace and beauty or was moved to tears by the music. 10/10 for her. Maybe 11/10 because it made her oldest so happy.

Could you ask for a better show?

My apologies for the ads, but since I couldn’t record this myself, I had to look to youtube

 

 

6th Day in Vegas –

The Germanic part of me always needs a plan.
The Germanic part of me always needs a plan.

I have to have a plan. I still can’t quite play it totally “by ear.” It may be something I need to work on in therapy. Or after a bottle of wine.

But today’s plan? An adventure for me, (I would have said, “an adventure for the boyz”, but the truth was, it was for me, me, me and me.) An adventure for The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World. And an epic adventure for The-Oldest. Since yesterday was pretty much a whole day for The-Youngest, the rest of us would get something special today.

On the agenda, a visit to the fashion mall. Take the Avengers Tour. See Cirque du Soleil’s Beatles Love.

Can you guess which experience belonged to which person?

Luckily, The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World felt good, today, her migraine mostly, but not completely, gone. We began by marching out into the sunny… wait, what, cloudy??? Day. The air smelled of smoke from a fire off to the west. My eyes burned. The-Oldest sneezed a lot, though he was pretty sure it was not because of the smoke, but because of the light???? Apparently being allergic to light is a thing.

At least according to the internet.

The Fashion Mall, right across the street from Treasure Island.
The Fashion Mall, right across the street from Treasure Island.

Not a lot of people up at 11am, not many in the mall. Shamefully, we ate breakfast at the food court and I devoured about 3000 calories in a crape so stuffed with whipped cream, they burned out an entire can on it. (BUT, also inside, there were 3 banana slices, so, yeah, it was totally healthy, too!)

While we ate, The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World kept glancing towards the mall, towards all those shoe stores and purse stores and clothing stores … with a lean and hungry look like a praying mantis.

No, ah, not praying mantis? How about an octopus? No??? Ok, how about a beautiful lioness? Ok, that’s the one, then. …with a lean and hungry look like a beautiful lioness.

But what would the boyz do in a fashion mall, you ask?

Well, there was a Lego store, a video games store and The-Youngest had decided he needed a pair of headphones – ones that he could afford, that would have professional, studio-quality sound, and ones that had super comfy padding so his ears would be, you know, super comfortable. He set his price limit at about $20. I set the possibility of finding one at about 0, especially with no Best Buys or Walmarts in this mall.

So as soon as we were all done breakfast, The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World roared off. I won’t say she ran, but, you know, she didn’t saunter to the stores, either.

Looking for headphones in a fashion mall is like looking for honest politicians in Washington.
Looking for headphones in a fashion mall is like looking for honest politicians in Washington.

We boyz meandered around, vaguely heading towards the gaming and Lego stores, looking at the people, at the displays set up and at the other stores, no matter how mundane,

When we found the gaming store, we looked at every game there. Literally. Every. Game.

We even looked at a few twice. Plus, The-Youngest touched everything at least once and I’m pretty sure he fondled the headphones there more than 30 times, (but didn’t buy any, cuz, “Joe, did you know that these are gaming headphones? They have mics and I don’t need a mic.”)

Then we went to the Lego store and found that they have a nifty new screen that detects your box and then animates the Lego for you. So, lemme esplain. The screen reads the picture on the box, say a tie fighter, then an animated tie fighter appears on your box and zooms around and shoots things.

It was dead cool.

The-Youngest tried every box in the store, I think. All the while, the-Oldest began to build his most epic racer from old Lego parts. See, they have a neat box that you can build lego the way I used to build Lego. No instructions. No tie fighters (sadly). Just blocks and wheels.

After about 40 hours, The-Youngest grew bored with getting boxes and watching the animated lego pictures, and began to build his own super racer. It was about a foot long. The-Oldset built a wide, heavy, four-wheeled racer with a jet engine on the back. The-Youngest built, ah, something like a truck. Or a snake with wheels, I’m really not sure.

Ah, the simple joys of Lego. Old-school Lego. No tie fighters, no complex kits that make the Taj Mahal, just blocks and wheels.
Ah, the simple joys of Lego. Old-school Lego. No tie fighters, no complex kits that make the Taj Mahal, just blocks and wheels.

Then they raced. If they started nose to nose, The-Oldest won. Hands down. But!!! If you started butt to butt, then the shear length of The-Youngest’s extra long hauler could squeak out a victory.

Honestly, I don’t know how long we were in there, but that’s the cool thing about the Lego store. They just let you play if you want.

When we left, I texted The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World. She was still in the first store. Zara. Right beside the food court.

I had to laugh.

But she was having fun, so we went in search of headphones, trying all the major stores and even the booths. Remind me never to approach a booth. The-Youngest shot off to one and I nearly had to punch the person to get away. Think of it as having to get rid of a leech. Fire is the best method, but lacking even a lighter, I had to say, no, we aren’t interested about 8 times as we walked farther and farther away, the seller trailing us like a Turkish Rug hawker.

Having looked through the ENTIRE mall, I texted The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World and she had found a great store that carried the pants she LOVED.

“Better you boyz head off to the Avengers,”  she said. At least that’s what I heard. Could be she said, why don’t you come bra shopping with me, but whatever, we went back to the hotel to do something I wanted to do.

Nerd stuff.

Avenger stuff.

Day 5 – Vegas High Roller

The High Roller. A huge Ferris Wheel in Vegas.
The High Roller. A huge Ferris Wheel in Vegas.

It was likely this would be the last event of the day. – Our ride on the High Roller Ferris wheel.

At a certain point, The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World would have to call it quits. Her migraine wasn’t going away. I worried that this ‘ride’ might be too much for her.

Now the High Roller is like a party room on a big wheel. The-Youngest declared that he would have his 21st birthday in it. And rent a limo. And shoot some guns. And buy all the candy he wants because he’ll be able to do what he wants then.

This is where The-Youngest wants to spend his 21st birthday
This is where The-Youngest wants to spend his 21st birthday

But at 3pm, there really wasn’t much partying going on. I can imagine that at night, the view is spectacular with Vegas lit up with bright neon and it would be a great place to have some drinks with friends. Maybe a lot of drinks.

At 3pm, there’s no lines, either. So we sailed right in to one of our gondolas. Beneath us, the flood waters raged down a street and into a parking garage. Above us, the sun shone. Inside with us was a family of Russians. Mom. Pretty girl, handsome boy, expensive clothes and shoes. Husband probably has neck tattoo and gold teeth.

Did the pretty Russian girl notice him?
Did the pretty Russian girl notice him?

The girl was so pretty that even The-Oldest noticed her. She was his age, give or take a year. Didn’t stop him from being his awesome, funny, self, posing like a model for pictures, though. I hope he never loses that goofy, fun side of himself.

I offered to a to use their phone to take a picture of them, since, (unlike us) they didn’t have an awesome selfie-stick. They thanked me, but didn’t return the favour.

Despite going super high, the heights didn’t bother me at all. However, the High Roller had a ladder that made me dizzy looking at it. Fear of heights not bad, but that ladder, it had to follow the curve of the structure so at some point, you’d be climbing it at a backwards 60 degree angle! Yikes.

The view of Vegas from the High Roller.
The view of Vegas from the High Roller.

It was a lovely ride and The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World held out super well, even posing for one of the best pictures we’ve ever taken of the family.The views were fantastic, and while it’s not free, I think it’s totally worth the price, especially if you get a discount coupon online.

More panoramic Vegas from the High Roller
More panoramic Vegas from the High Roller

Flood stopped taxis from getting to the nearest hotel. Had to march around to the front to try to find one.

Didn’t find one.

Marched to Caesars, then the Mirage, then took their tram to our hotel. Had to ask since there were no directions for tram. Ended up being the completely opposite end of the hotel, where we had basically come in.

Each step agony for The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World.

When we got back, she needed to go to bed and since The-Youngest can’t remain quiet for more than 2 seconds, and we couldn’t plug him in due to no internet, we went downstairs, ate pizza and they got even more lectures on the pitfalls of gambling.

See, this is something we didn’t expect. We hadn’t prepared for this. Phones didn’t have much of a charge left. So, no games. We actually had to talk.

Talk!!!!

Had a great chat with The-Oldest about what makes great music. Had a great chat with The-Youngest about if you’re going to eat two Jolly Ranchers at once, was it better to have them the same flavour or mix it up, though Joe, did you know, you have to be careful about what flavours you mix?

Ate frozen yogurt after the pizza and talked more. I even got to talk a little bit about life and choices and the girl in the gondola.

Then we explored the entire hotel. We found the Avengers exhibit. Found a hot dog restaurant! The-Youngest did a running play-by-play of a horse race. Found more bathrooms. The-Youngest declared that his favourite game would be keno. And he knew how to win. Even though he didn’t know how to play.

at 6pm, the pool is not a kid-friendly place. Much worse at 9 I think.
at 6pm, the pool is not a kid-friendly place. Much worse at 9 I think.

We looked at all the shops, decided not to buy a purse for any of us, went to the pool and saw it was filled with 20 somethings yelling and partying, checked out every little hallway and passage that didn’t have a sign that said ‘employees only.’

Honestly, it was a lot of fun. I love exploring and exploring with the boys just made it a billion times better. The-Youngest is always full of questions like ‘why is that man lying facedown on the slot machine or what is that on the floor or how many beers can you carry, Joe?

Came back about 8. Simply ran out of things to do. No games to buy. And I wasn’t going to teach The-Youngest to play poker or 21.

The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World felt a bit better, but still needed sleep, so we all went to bed, early and dreamed of what was to come tomorrow.

When the Rains Come

Vegas in the rain. Grey. Wet. And very different
Vegas in the rain. Grey. Wet. And very different

A pouring rain came to Vegas. And, being in a desert, Vegas has a problem with rain.

5 problems, actually.

First, people don’t know what to do. I mean, in Vegas, even Vancouverites don’t have an umbrella packed away in their backpacks. No one has jackets. No one’s prepared. So mostly they stand in the hotel doorways looking up and muttering, boy, it’s raining outside.

Second, traffic becomes a nightmare. I’m honestly not sure why it suddenly becomes worse. Maybe people are looking up instead of driving. Maybe they’re worried about the slippery roads. Or maybe Vegas cars have a reaction to the rain and automatically slow down.

Wait! What? You want me to stand in the rain for a picture? Are you kidding me?
Wait! What? You want me to stand in the rain for a picture? Are you kidding me?

But we didn’t mind. I even took a picture of The-Youngest in the rain, right by the Hershey store sign. He was not happy, but at his age, he can’t tell me to go f*ck myself like The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-world would.

Running out of time to get all our sights seen, we made a mad dash across the bridge from NY, NY to MGM Grand to see the other candy store, (M&Ms) and check out the Coke store. The M&Ms seemed bigger. Hell, they even had a car in it, and The-Youngest found about 200 things to buy.

He found cups with his name on it, key chains with his name on it, license plates with his name on it. It thrilled him to know people thought about him and wanted to put his name on things. Me, it’s why I’ll always try places like Original Joe’s, Joe’s Lube and Oil, or Joe’s Sexy Lingerie Shop.

The-Youngest drooled over slot machine-like dispensers. A toy jeep with M&Ms storage in the back, toy  helicopters with a bomb bay full of M&Ms, animal dispensers, you name it, they had a way of dispensing M&Ms from it.

I think there should be a contest. What’s the rudest thing you can invent that dispenses M&Ms? Have at it.

The M&Ms car. The-Youngest wanted to buy it. To, you know, store his M&Ms.
The M&Ms car. The-Youngest wanted to buy it. To, you know, store his M&Ms.

Luckily, The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-Wold found an M&Ms dispenser that looked like a pencil and didn’t cost as much as a smart car. Not that he was spending our money on any of these things, he was using his own hard-earned pooch-poo-picking-up-cash, but we still wanted to make sure he had some cash for stuff he’d invariably want in 10 min. Or one day.

The Coke store was a bust, though. The-Youngest wouldn’t go in. Big bear outside. The stuff of nightmares. I don’t think any of us were really disappointed.

Outside, it continued to rain. I loved it. That wet, hot-water smell tinged with dust. The lack of smog in the air. The way the cars sounded slicing through the rivers that began to form on the roads…

The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World’s migraine began to become debilitating. But she kept up her good cheer and wanted to go on, just not in the pouring rain, so we stayed indoors, found pants in Marshalls and the most awesome shirt for The-Oldest that made him look super handsome.

The youngest kept hugging his new super soft Jolly Rancher pillow like he’d found his best friend.

When the rain stopped, we ventured out. We had planned to take a bus or a cab to our next location and that’s when we hit the third way that Vegas has a problem with rain.

No cabs. Everyone is taking one. And with no rain, all those people who had been inside, decided to go outside. Just like us. The sidewalks were crowded with hundreds of people, all of them super annoying. The Russian gangster wannabes with their mirrored sunglasses and girlfriends in super-short, shorts. The zombies walking so slow they were almost moving backwards. The hawkers trying to give your kid a card for free cocaine or something.

When it's not a dry heat.
When it’s not a dry heat.

And while walking, we ran into the forth thing that is a problem when Vegas rains. When the sun comes back out, that lovely, dry heat turns into something muggy and humid.  Something sauna-like.

It made The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World’s migraine so bad that if we wanted to get to our next location, the famed High Roller roller coaster, then we would have to cab it.

It took a while to find one, but we finally found a grumpy cabby who looked like Ted Nugent after a hard night of partying and smelled like he’d slept inside a cigarette carton. (Not the best when all smells make The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World sicker.)

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The flood waters in Vegas disappearing into an underground parkade

Then we came upon the last and final reason why Vegas doesn’t do rain that well.

Floods!

Being me, and somewhat stupid sometimes, I looked at the river of water pouring down one road and into what looked like an underground garage and said, OMG that’s so cool.”.

I probably would have looked at the Hiroshima bomb and said, OMG, wow, look at that amazing mushroom cloud!

Thats it water, head down this street, take a left, thats right, now head to the flood canals please
That’s it water, head down this street, take a left, that’s right, now head to the flood canals, please

The Ted-Nugent guy looked at me.  “Cool? Not for the people who are affected by the flood.”

Clearly Ted Nugent was not a fan of the awesome destruction of nature like me.

I think in my next life, I want to chase storms for a living. Or create them, depending on if I’ve evolved into a god or not.

But despite the rains and floods, we’d reached the High Roller.

Vegas Surprises

The rest of the day began well enough. Most horror novels start this way.

The Village Street Eateries in NY, NY, Vegas. My favourite area to eat.
The Village Street Eateries in NY, NY, Vegas. My favourite area to eat.

We had THE BEST lunch at NY, NY. I love this hotel, with its fake streets and fake Manhattan skyline and fake Statue of Liberty.

We ate at the not-so-fake Broadway Burger Bar and Grill. Made our own. The boyz had their traditional hamburger – patty, bun and ketchup, no, nothing more, just plain with ketchup, no, no tomato or mustard, just plain.

I ate the massive and diet-killing philly burger, which was largely a huge burger stacked with cheese, steak, and grilled onions and peppers. OMG good. I instantly gained 30lbs.

Plus, our waiter was simply fantastic. Chatty. Informative. Funny. He not only served us food, he gave us some great advice as well.

However, it was right after that meal that things started to go pear-shaped.

The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World began to get a migraine which could be from me making loud eating noises and moaning, ‘Omg,’ this burger is good for the entire lunch, or it could be the beating her head took on the roller coaster, or it could simply be the stress and pressure of a day filled with making sure The-Youngest does not behave like a rabid howler monkey hopped up on coffee.

Maybe all 3.

But by the time we were done, she wasn’t feeling well at all.

We could have gone back to the hotel, but The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World wanted to make sure her boy had a great day. She’s amazing that way.

So off to the Hershey store we went.

Yes, they made a Statue of Liberty out of Twizzlers. This is Vegas, after all. Be thankful it wasn't condoms.
Yes, they made a Statue of Liberty out of Twizzlers. This is Vegas, after all. Be thankful it wasn’t condoms.

Now, it’s quite a balance for us, letting The-Youngest have the best time possible while making sure we don’t get kicked out of a store because our child climbed the walls or stuffed his underwear full of hard candy.

I mean, on one hand, we want him to be a kid and enjoy those kid-moments of pure happiness.

On the other hand, we do not want to live in a world ruled by unsupervised 9-year-olds going all Lord-of-the-Flies, taking off his shirt and rubbing chocolate on themselves.

And the simplest solution… The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World held The-Youngest’s hand. In a vice-like momma-grip.

But wow, did he love that store. He dragged his mom to every part of the store, showing her cups that looked like they were made out of chocolate, pillows that looked like Jolly Rancher candies, water bottles with the Hershey logo, and HUGE chocolate bars the size of brief-cases.

What, no apple-flavoured Jolly Ranchers? But I saw them on YouTube!
What, no apple flavoured Jolly Ranchers? But I saw them on YouTube!

Then he ran into the most terrible of things. Something he’d not prepared himself for in any way despite having watched hours of video on what the inside of the Hershey store looked like. They didn’t have a dispenser for apple flavoured Jolly Ranchers.

The-Youngest wasn’t pleased. Nothing was turning out like the YouTube videos showed. First, the roller coasters were terrifying. No one told him that. Then we wouldn’t let him gamble more than $2. THEN, horror of horrors, no apple flavoured Jolly Ranchers!!!!

To be fair, he took it pretty well. It would be like me going to a tank museum and finding all the tanks didn’t have guns, or The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World going to a shoe store and finding a perfect pair of shoes, but forgetting her wallet. Or not having them in her size.

But he couldn’t understand why they wouldn’t have his favourite flavour. He wanted to speak to someone about this.

Luckily, that lasted only, what, a minute, then he was off, again, rushing to look at the orange peanut butter cup displays and touch all the shot glasses. FYI, if you ever buy anything like that in a candy store, wash the sh*t out of it cuz I guarantee it’s been touched by 10,000 little sticky, snotty, dirty fingers (and that’s just kid-fingers. Imagine what the adults have been touching!)

In the end, The-Youngest bought a pillow, a big bag of Jolly Ranchers, (assorted flavours) and got a free gigantic chocolate bar because, I think, he was so damn polite at the till.

That seemed to cheer him up. Nothing like free candy, right?

Then, we went to go outside. Into the bright sunshine. Into the heat.

Only to find it was raining.

Pouring, actually.

Kim without make-up? Vegas without sun? Are these things even possible?
Kim without make-up? Vegas without the sun? Are these things even possible?

I was super excited.

It’s not every day you get to see rain in Vegas. It’s kind of odd.  Like seeing a good Adam Sandler comedy or a Kardashian without make-up.

So, anyone have any idea what happens in Vegas when it rains?

New York, New York, Vegas-Style

Ny, Ny, in Vegas. Oddly, the sky looked just like this. It should have been a warning
NY, NY, in Vegas. Oddly, the sky looked just like this. It should have been a warning

This was to be The-Youngest’s day. Down to NY NY, play some arcade games, see the candy stores, (“Joe, did you know they are 3 stories tall and all the floors have candy?”), then head to the High Roller and see Vegas from a 782’ Ferris wheel.

A simple plan, but once, again, something cropped up that we never, ever would have expected.

To be honest, we weren’t in a rush, though by ‘us’, I mean everyone but The-Youngest. He wanted to get going and going NOW. However, inexplicably, he wasn’t being a pest. Although he couldn’t keep still and kept walking around the hotel like a caged badger on speed, he didn’t bug the rest of us who were moving with sloth-like swiftness.

We ended up buying food in the gift shop. At $120 for breakfast, we had to rethink our approach and so bought milk and cereal at the gift shop. Sure, it wasn’t Walmart-cheap, but it was less than $15 for all of us.

We ate back at the room, cleaned up the mess after The-Youngest managed to spill his entire cereal box and milk onto the bed, and then dressed for the day.

By 11, we were out of the hotel and roaring down to NY, NY, which is not quite at the far end of the strip but far enough to make walking a bit difficult. We chose to use a cab since getting a 2-hour bus pass for the 4 of us costs more. If we’re going to use the bus a lot it makes total sense to spend the money, but if it’s just to zip down to one hotel, then cabs are the best way to go (or Uber which we still might try).

roller coaster at ny ny
The roller coaster at NY, NY, Vegas. Wow

Originally, The-Youngest planned (nay, dreamed!) of going on the coaster at NY, NY. But El Loco scared him so badly that he decided, in a very rational and contemplative manner, to wait until he’s 86 to go on the more adult roller coasters.

The-Oldest and The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World, however, HAD to try out this one. Frankly, I was happy to stay with the-Youngest and listen to the facts about roller coasters around the world that he would one day do.

The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World came back with her hair messed up and a look on her face like a soldier who’d just come back from a tour in Bagdad. I asked her if she was ok, and she looked at me bashfully and told me that the ride made her bra come off.

What? How the hell does a roller coaster do that?

She shrugged. Who knew someone could be sexually harassed by a rollercoaster.

We’re still not sure how it happened, but we’re blaming her front-loading bra. I guess the excitement was just too much for the ‘girls’ and they wanted to be free.

The-Oldest, though, had the look of someone who’s just eaten a bag of chocolate covered coffee beans, the biggest grin on his face. They both had a great time!

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An epic game of air hockey, brother vs brother, no prisoners taken.

Then we played in the arcade. The-Youngest made the mistake of reminding me that I lost to him the last time we played air hockey, so I kicked his butt this time. The real challenge, though, was stopping him from playing all the gambling games to get 1000 tickets which can then be used to buy a small, rubber ball.

Playing was no longer important. Winning was. A game where you shoot zombies in the nuts became un-fun, while a game where you could win a ticket if you guessed the right number became super-awesome. In the end, he got to play only a few of those, however, and for that privilege, he was treated to 20 minutes of me lecturing him, again, about gambling and obsessive behavior (which I freely admitted, I can do as well.)

Then it was time for food since we refused to let The-Youngest into a candy store before he ate. And, to be honest, there was no way I could go in a candy store on an empty stomach. You have no idea how much chocolate I would buy. I might even buy the store.

So we went to eat at the BEST area in Vegas, in my opinion.

We had no idea of what was happening outside.

 

 

What Writers Do on a Vacation in Vegas

You got time for a confession?
You got time for a confession?

Confession time. I hate everyone, and everything at 6

I hate everyone, and everything at 6 am in the morning before I’ve had coffee.

I do not leap out of bed and think, wow, what a wonderful world, I’m so grateful to be alive. I think, why no one has invented an intravenous machine that pumps hot coffee directly into your veins?

Everyone is still asleep when I get up and it’s hard to sneak out to do writing because The-Prettiest-Girl-In-the-World has momma-hearing, (and that means she detects the exact moment my breathing changes.) After thumping around, I kiss her on the forehead and tell her I hope she gets back to sleep.

The strip and casinos are dead at 6 am. Even the in-house Starbucks isn’t busy. The few who are up seem to be either rushing out with a suitcase, or staggering around red-eyed like they never went to sleep. There are a few nutbags at the hotel gym, I should imagine. Some at the slots looking tired and broke. I see one sad-looking soul at the bar (and I’m not even sure they’re serving anything.) But a casino is a spooky place without a lot of people.

Right now, I hate everyone I see. The thin guy in his expensive jogging shoes and high-tech sweat gear heading out for a run. The large black woman who’s closing in on 400lbs who has decided yoga pants are a good look this morning. The overly nice barista who tries to make happy-happy conversation with me when all I want to do is order a coffee, grande. The white-haired old guy who couldn’t figure out what to order despite standing in line for 10 freaking minutes and stands at the counter, looking at the board like this is his most difficult decision of his day and if he gets it wrong, he’s going back to the concentration camp or something, (spoiler alert, this will be me when I’m 200.)

Lacking a Tim Hortons or Dunkin Donuts, I guess a Starbucks will do.
Lacking a Tim Hortons or Dunkin Donuts, I guess a Starbucks will do.

I need coffee. Coffee doesn’t so much restore my faith in people as it moves my brain way from sleepy grumpiness to wide-awake creativity.

It really quite a transformation. I go from wanting to murder the guy who looked like he shined his bald head with a floor buffer to give it a blinding shine to reading the burlap sacks on the walls of Starbucks and wondering when the sack says “save the Amazon, use Jute” what the heck Jute is? A tree? A plant like hemp? What if I had a character named Jute? From the Amazon? Who wears burlaps sacks?

So, this morning, yes, not only will I write a bit, but I have to figure out how to make the tickets to the High Roller Ferris Wheel usable on my mobile phone. We’ve also brought tickets to the Beatles Love (Cirque du Soliel style) because The-Oldest needs a good music fix. He hasn’t been able to play his piano for nearly a week, listened to no classical music for at least two says, and I can see that his eye is starting to twitch.

Last night I failed to get those tickets on my phone. I was simply too tired to figure it all out. With more coffee, I hope everything becomes clear. Last night, The-Youngest, who listed the High Roller in his top 10 then asked, actually asked, if he could bring his iPad cuz it could be boring and he didn’t want to be bored on it.

This from the guy who bugged us for WEEKS to go on the High Roller.

I said, ah, that would be a no. No iPad.

New York, New York, in Las Vegas. The Holy Grail of the kid side of Vegas. Rides. Candy. Arcades.
I would actually love to visit the real NY one day, but for now, this’ll have to do.

Also planned for today…NY NY, mostly for the rollercoaster there, which (after supper), The-Youngest vowed NOT to go on because of his terrifying experience yesterday. He’s gone from literally vibrating with excitement at the mention of a rollercoaster to looking like he’s about to have his liver removed with a spoon and all his electronics sold to hobos.

But The-Oldest is dead keen on that coaster. He’s fearless on those things. Beyond fearless, really. He loves the speed, the exhilaration, the feel of terror and impending death.

He’s 13.

Then after NY, NY, we’re hitting the candy shops, a place that The-Youngest can talk to you about for hours. I kid you not.

The Hershey Store in Vegas, with a freaking WALL of Jolly Ranchers
The Hershey Store in Vegas, with a freaking WALL of Jolly Ranchers

“Joe, did you know they have giant jars of Jolly Ranchers that are just the red kind, but I don’t know if they’re actually the watermelon kind or the cherry kind or what, but it doesn’t really make any difference because I like them both, but I also like the apple ones which are green, and they have jars of them, too, and all the other colors, and I think, if I have enough room in my luggage, that I’ll get the green ones, cuz apple is my favourite and Joe, did you know that they have Hershey bars that are so big that they cost $50…”

Knowing how much time everything takes, we’ll have a full day. I suspect we’ll be spending hours in the candy store alone while The-Youngest debates which two jars of candy he’ll take home. Joe, did you know that on one hand, the watermelon ones are good in the summer because they taste like real watermelon, and that’s refreshing, but apple is kind of refreshing, too, and tastes like, you know, apple, which always tastes good, but then, again, oh, look there’re the jars filled with the blueberry ones and they’re my all-time favourite…

Fun times.

And I wouldn’t trade them for anything.

After I’ve had my coffee, that is.

The Day of Fails and Wins – The Adventure Dome

The Spazadoodle resting, waiting to pounce.
The Spazadoodle resting, waiting to pounce.

When we come home, we have a spazadoodle that rushes from person to person trying to see everyone at once. It’s a blur of fur and barking and running around.

The-Youngest was the same when we got to the Adventure Dome. Minus, you know, the fur and most of the barking.

See, The-Youngest simply couldn’t make up his mind on what to do. There were so many rides to try. The El Loco roller coaster, the Canyon Blaster coaster, the ride that got you wet, the ride that hung you upside down, the ride that zoomed you 1000 feet in the air, then dropped you like a stone.

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So much to dooooo! What to do first at Adventure Dome? What to do first? What?

It’s understandable. Hey, there were a lot of rides to try. Not like Disneyland. Or some of the other theme parks. But for Vegas, this was the place to be for rides.

In all the research that he’d done, never once did he figure out what to do first. Me, I would have had an itemized excel spreadsheet detailing rides, times and likelihood of me throwing up. On a scale of 1-5.

See, when I want to do something, sure I plan it out, maybe over plan might be the right word, but certainly, once I get there, I know what I’m going to do. Down to the second.

So he dragged us around the entire complex desperately trying to make a decision he couldn’t himself make.

So, in the end, we chose for him. It was that or have his brother kill him. And we chose… are you ready,?  …bumper cars.

It was a poor choice. Oh, the bumper cars could have been awesome. You drive around, smash into each other, The-Oldest can line up his brother and smash into him, The-Youngest can charge like a bull at the Stepdad and nearly shatter his spine.

Yup, good times. But for some reason, the people running the ride didn’t clear out all the excess cars. So we simply crashed into them like a pile-up on an LA freeway in the fog. And then no one moved. No one could. We were bumper to bumper and stuck.

It was a lot like this. Bumper-to-bumper bumper cars.
It was a lot like this. Bumper-to-bumper bumper cars.

It was the worst 3 min ride ever. Or 5 minutes. I can’t remember. But it helped The-Youngest choose the next ride. He wanted to go hardcore. No more kiddy rides. It was time for El Loco.

Being me and being old and in many ways comfortable with my life, I didn’t have any desire to be flung around on this coaster. So I declined. But the-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World, being the best mom ever, chose to go, as did The-Oldest who has no fear of these darned things.

But here’s what happened. The ride was fast. It flung you around. It hung you upside down. It jerked you this way and jerked you that way. All at horrific speeds.

This is the terrifying El Loco roller coaster in the Adventure Dome. Old Circus Circus.
This is the terrifying El Loco roller coaster in the Adventure Dome. Old Circus Circus.

The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World staggered off of it holding her neck. The-Oldest danced away from the ride with the biggest smile on his face. The-Youngest, though, well, he looked like he’d seen a ghost. Or his parents have sex. Something horrific, anyway.

Thing is, that ride scared the hell out of him. As it would me. It’s why I don’t do these things. And he learned that it’s one thing to watch 3000 videos on the ride and a whole different experience actually, you know, experiencing it. Feeling the speed. Having your stomach drop as the coaster hurtles down. Having your head spin as you dangle upside down.

He hated it.

And, I think, hated himself for hating it.

It’s like dreaming of eating a huge plate of ice cream only to find out that eating it makes you sick.

A fun, if not terrifying ride. My kind of ride, actually.
A fun, if not terrifying ride. My kind of ride, actually.

So, after walking around with his mom for a bit, trying to explain what he was feeling and not wanting to let everyone down, we decided to do our own thing. The-Oldest and I went on all the super hardcore rides. Ok, HE went on them and I cheered him on. The-Youngest and his mom went on all the other rides. The ones designed for 9 year olds. The ones not designed to make you want to throw up.

The only hard ride I went on was the Canyon Buster coaster and it was my perfect ride. Lots of speed, which I love, lots of twists and turns, (even flipping upside down), but no big drop at the beginning which I find utterly terrifying for some reason. Only problem, one turn slammed my head to one side and my braces cut a huge hole on the inside of my cheek.

Stupid braces.

The dancing machine. The-Oldest, not the machine
The dancing machine. The-Oldest, not the machine

After the rides, we played arcade games. The-Oldest did amazingly well on the dancing machine, while The-Youngest wanted to gamble. First, the coin push.

Ah, that’s a no, we said.

Then he wanted to spin the wheel to get tickets. We finally relented and he was so excited when he won ‘the jackpot’ and got 70 tickets. 70 tickets bought him 5 jolly ranchers. He kept hearing people win. See they win here, he’d tell us.

But we went through the math. We went through gambling with him. We went through the whole ‘winning’ thing. Look at the arcade. If you’re here for fun, that’s ok, you have $25 and you spend that $25 to have fun. But if you’ve come to win, you’ve just spent $25 and got 5 Jolly Ranchers. You could have bought, like, 10 bags of Jolly Ranchers. There is no $$$ sense in chasing the win.

Luckily, math won. This time.

Happy with the day, we ate hot dogs at the food court (pretty yummy, actually), and then we headed back to the room. In the end, we all had fun, even if it wasn’t the fun we thought we’d have.

New York, New York, in Las Vegas. The Holy Grail of the kid side of Vegas. Rides. Candy. Arcades.
New York, New York, in Las Vegas. The Holy Grail of the kid side of Vegas. Rides. Candy. Arcades.

The-Youngest, much to my surprise, was not all bummed out.

“Joe, did you know that the candy stores are all near New York, New York and that the roller coaster isn’t as scary as the El Loco, and that there’s a new arcade there, and the Statue of Liberty’s there, though not the real one, a smaller version, and I can get Jolly Ranchers at the candy store, except I won’t want lemon, because lemon isn’t that sweet and…”

It’s one of the things I love about that kid. He’s forever positive about the future. He took that disappointment over the roller coaster ride and put it in the past. Just like that.

And, back at the room, we finally came up with something special for The-Oldest. Something totally Vegas.

The Day of Wins and Fails in Las Vegas Pt 1

Someone wants something really, really badly.
Someone wants something really, really badly. Like a trip to the Adventure Dome in Circus Circus.

It was time, to quote The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World, “to let The-Youngest go Orangutan.”

After weeks of research, of looking up Vegas pictures, of reading reviews and watching idiots do idiotic things in Vegas on YouTube, the day had finally arrived for The-Youngest. HIS DAY. A day at the Adventure Dome. A day of roller coasters, bumper cars, and food-court food.

Little could he have possibly guessed what would happen.

Still a little tired, we all ate at the hotel restaurant. $115 for breakfast. And The-Youngest only ate his toast. So that’s $30 for toast. What’s worse is that I felt compelled to eat everything that was left. So, good bye diet, hello second helping of eggs and hash browns and sausages.

I wasn’t mad at The-Youngest, though, he was just so excited.

This is the terrifying El Loco roller coaster in the Adventure Dome. Old Circus Circus.
This is the terrifying El Loco roller coaster in the Adventure Dome. Old Circus Circus.

“Joe, did you know that you can get a pass for the whole day and go on all the rides? Joe, did you know that they are open until midnight? (I think I groaned at this point.) Joe did you know that El Loco is the best rollercoaster ride in Vegas? Joe did you know they have ANOTHER rollercoaster, too? It’s called the Canyon Blaster, and someone threw up on it? (Today?) No. There was a video (Great. I always wanted to throw up on a rollercoaster.)

So, yeah, I was less than enthusiastic about the whole roller coaster thing, but boy, was he keyed up. The-Oldest was as well. I could tell because he only half-shrugged when we told him what we were doing today. Not a full-on Gallic shrug, more of a “Yeah, I guess this could be interesting” kind of way.

Getting ready to go out into the summer sun, I made the rookie mistake of letting The-Youngest do his sunscreen. He slathered it on so thick that he looked like the Joker from Suicide Squad, minus the green hair. I scraped off as much as I could and used it to cover my vastly larger areas of white skin while he rubbed it into his skin. But at least we’d be protected from sunburns. Even if we lived on the sun itself.

How cool we looked just leaving the Treasure Island Hotel. Not sweaty, yet.
How cool we looked just leaving the Treasure Island Hotel. Not sweaty, yet.

Being near the Adventure Dome, we decided to walk. It wasn’t late in the day and, sure, the sun shone outside and heat shimmered off the pavement, and all the beggars retreated into the shade, but somehow we thought this was a good idea.

Ok, I thought this was a good idea.

Well, it really wasn’t that bad a walk. We avoided the sleazy guys handing out flyers of naked women (escorts?) and avoided more guys handing out pamphlets for sightseeing tours or discount show tickets. Not easy things to do.

The ruins of a once great casino. The Riviera.
The ruins of a once great casino. The Riviera. Check out the link for more info.

Plus, along the way, we got to see the debris from the latest Vegas Hotel demolition. Of all the places in the world, I don’t think there’s one that transforms as much as Vegas. It evolves faster than a rewrite of a movie that had a poor screening.

But we made it, a bit sweaty, a bit hot and The-Youngest dragged The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World through the maze-like casino. Even with The-Youngest trying to memorize the map and The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World using her mad navigational skills, we ended up, well, I have no idea, but there was no dome.

This is us trying to figure out how to get to the Adventure Dome.
This is us trying to figure out how to get to the Adventure Dome while waiting for the hula-hoop girl to appear. I think The-Oldest doubts we’ll ever figure it out.

Now, if you’ve ever been to a Vegas casino, you need to know that they have spent a lot of time, energy and money making sure it’s easy to get in, but you soon get lost trying to make your way from point A to point B. I guess the thinking is if you get lost, the flashing lights and ringing bells and people shouting, I’ve won a billion dollars, will make you forget what you came to do and sit down and gamble a bit.

What we did find was a cool little circus act. Every ½ hour. Or thereabouts. Like an old carnival show. Feeling lost and bewildered, we did what we do when we’re lost and bewildered, we sat down and watched a girl dance with hula-hoops.

She did things that would throw out my hip, herniate my spine and wreck my neck so badly that I’d need a Darth Vader suit to simply walk around (which I have to say, having thought about it more, sounds kind of cool.)  She displayed the kind of incredible gymnast-like flexibility that even on my best day, even when I was young, even if I fell down the stairs, I never had. And, she made it all look easy.

She was spectacular, but despite her smiles on stage, she looked sad when she left. She was Russian and they seem to look sad a lot, but I wondered if she thought her life would end up here, on the stage of a casino performing for chubby white guys who looked like they had nothing better to do. Clearly, she’d been a gymnast at some point. Maybe a medal contender. And now this.

I would be sad, too.

But it could be worse. At least they let her wear clothes. And she wasn’t in Russia anymore.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BZPM6HXrsCQ

As nice as it was, however, it was just a rest stop for us. An oasis of human entertainment in a desert of lights and sounds. As soon as it ended, we were off to the Dome. I think we took the longest route possible, but finally got there.

And when we did, something really odd happened.

Top 10 Reasons The Hoover Dam’s Amazing

The Hoover Dam. Completed in 1935.
The Hoover Dam. Completed in 1935.

Is the Hoover Dam the 8th wonder of the world?

The Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World might give that spot to the Rock, but the Hoover Dam might still crack her top 10 list.

Inside one of the tunnels in the Hoover Dam
Inside one of the tunnels in the Hoover Dam

Like the Grand Canyon, the Hoover Dam is really a MUST-SEE if you’re in the area. Oddly enough, I’ve been to Vegas 3 times and not seen the dam once. So much for a MUST-SEE, right?

But I made a mistake those other times. It really is something you shouldn’t miss.

We made it just in time for the last tour. It was one of those days where everything just seemed to work out. Even the tour guides were surprised that we bought our tickets only 15 min before the tour started. They said people usually have to get tickets at 10am and wait.

IMG_9423
Each section of concrete was marked on the Hoover Dam so the workers or supervisors could identify a specific area.

Our tour guide took us through the dam itself, a fantastic experience, and the generator room. We got to see where the workers did math on the walls, how the lights were sunk into cavities in the tunnel roof so no one would smash them or bonk their heads, and how the engineers would check if the dam shifted in any way.

The turbines and giant crane inside the generator room of the Hoover Dam.
The turbines and giant crane inside the generator room of the Hoover Dam.

We got to see the immense crane used for moving the generator parts around, feel the wood-grain texture of the concrete in the tunnels, hear the low engine-like roar of the water as it passed above us in the first room of our tour.

I loved it. Loved. It. I love seeing how things are made. Electricity. Movies. Beer. Babies. Whatever. It’s all fascinating.

******

But instead of 10 blogs about why the Hoover Dam is amazing, here is a top 10 list.

The Allspark was kept hidden from us at the Hoover Dam which made The-Youngest sad.
The Allspark was kept hidden from us at the Hoover Dam which made The-Youngest sad.

1) You get to see where the Transformers hid the all-spark. Or where Megatron was hidden. I can’t remember which. The actual room is not on the tour, however, it’s kind of

The actual room is not on the tour, however, it’s kind of secret so it’s somewhere behind that big ass wall they show you in the generator room. I think.

2) The dam was built AHEAD of schedule. Have you ever heard of anything like that? It must have happened somewhere, sometime in my life, but I’m hard pressed to remember an example.

3) Provided jobs for 20,000 workers during the depression and the workers were paid $4-$6/hr, worked 8 hours a day, with 2 days off a year. Hard core work, too. Not writing, work. Manly, man work. With Concrete. In a million-degree heat.

Marble? In a dam? That;s one of the surprising things about the Hoover Dam
Marble? In a dam? That;s one of the surprising things about the Hoover Dam
Our guide at the Hoover Dam just before he nominated The-Youngest to be his assistant guide. Seems guides like to borrow The-Youngest for some reason. We need to start charging
Our guide at the Hoover Dam just before he nominated The-Youngest to be his assistant guide. Seems guides like to borrow The-Youngest for some reason. We need to start charging

4) The workers were paid to actually make the dam look good. I mean, who does that these days? They used wooden slates on the concrete in the interior of the dam to create a wood-grain look to the concrete. They used marble on the floor inside, for goodness sake. And proceline tiles on the tunnels. You have to see it to believe it, but they built the dam with the idea that it would be a tourist attraction from day 1.

5) A whole town had to get built to support the workers. Boulder City. I know it sounds like a Flintstone location where Fred and Barney worked, but it’s a cool name. Personally, I would have gone with Dam City, but whatever.

6) The company, being asshats, clawed back $1.25 in wages per day for housing and food, then paid ½ the remainder in company script which, you guessed it, could only be spent at the company store. Vegas girls made a killing by accepting company script then going shopping in the company stores. Fun times.

The elevator door!
The elevator door!
Art deco statues outside the Hoover Dam.
Art deco statues outside the Hoover Dam.

7) If you love art deco, and I  do, like I love gargoyles on churches and stained glass in windows, then you HAVE to see the Hoover Dam. Look at the bathrooms, at the elevators, at the statues outside and even the parking lot… all beautiful examples of the style.

 

8) The dam could not be built today. Can you image the environmental nutbags who would line up to protest, the massive mountains of governmental paperwork that would have to be fought through, the years of studies that would have to be done and the country-crippling expense? The US is simply not a country capable of such great things. Look to China.

Coolest picture of the Hoover Dam ever. 3,250,000 cubic yards of concrete
Coolest picture of the Hoover Dam ever. 3,250,000 cubic yards of concrete

9) Lots of fun concrete and building facts to learn, but my favourite was how they solved the problem of setting the concrete. See, it would take, like 100 years to cure and when it finally cured, it would crack and that’s kinda like a bad thing for a dam to do.

So, they built a huge fridge and placed ‘582 miles of one-inch steel pipe throughout the concrete, pipe that carried river water and ice water to cool down the concrete.’ Thus allowing the concrete to cure.

10) You get to say things like dam line-up, I’m waiting for the dam guide, I’m on the dam. It never gets old, and there are a billion permutations.

For more facts, check these links. 8th Wonder, History Channel which has some really cool stuff, and this from mental floss which has EVEN MORE fun facts.

Now there was only Vegas to see and do.

We had plans, but as usual, some of the best adventures came from what was not planned.

 

Why Road Trips Rock

Fabulous Vegas
Fabulous Vegas

Can you make a road trip fun? Or does fun just happen sometimes?

We had just three things to accomplish. Drive to Vegas. Stop and see the amazing Hoover Dam along the way, and see what The-Youngest called the MUST-SEE place half way to the dam.

All three things offered something new, something unexpected, something, kinda awesome.

Now, take a guess.

What would The-Youngest’s MUST-SEE place be? Uncle Jeb’s Monster Trucks, Guns and Liquor? The location of the Cars movie? A tumbleweed race-course?

No.

Dunkin Donuts.

See, they don’t have a Timmies down there. At least down in Arizona. The Americans have DD. And The-Youngest was convinced it would be the best place to find a good donut (based on his research of donuts.)

It made sense. There was a Dunkin Donuts half way to Vegas and, this time, we had no elusion that we could do the 4-hour drive without several rest stops. Plus, I wouldn’t mind a good donut as well. And something akin to a double-double.

All kinds of Ford Mustangs on the road. 2016's. 2013's like mine. Mint 1967 ones. ugly 80's mistakes. It was like they were given away free with any gun purchase.
All kinds of Ford Mustangs on the road. 2016’s. 2013’s like mine. Mint 1967 ones. Ugly 80’s mistakes. It was like they were given away free with any gun purchase.

So let me tell you about the drive. It’s a boring drive. However, cool note, there are a billion Mustangs on the road. It is, by far, the muscle car of choice. Sorry Charger. Sorry Camaro. It’s actually crazy how many there are. On the drive TO Flagstaff, I started pointing them out, but after about 20 within 30 minutes, The-Oldest begged me to stop.

It was the same on the way back. You couldn’t toss a cup of coffee out the window without hitting someone speeding by us in a ‘stang. Personally, I would have bet on some form of truck being the most popular car in this neck of the woods. Gun rack. Confederate flag. Deer antlers on the hood, But no. Young, old, short, tall, man or woman, they all seemed to choose the Mustang.

Also of note was the fact there aren’t any rest-stops like the ones we have in Canada and the Pacific North West. No place to pull over and let the children out to pee. Those places in this part of the world are called gas stations.

We never found Radiator Springs. That's more like Peach Springs on Arizona State Route 66, but we did see a lot of similar geography.
We never found Radiator Springs. That’s more like Peach Springs on Arizona State Route 66, but we did see a lot of similar geography.

Now, for The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World, the best part was seeing a real-life tumbleweed tumble across the highway and back into the desert. No Roadrunner this time, though. And she was excited to see a lot of the terrain depicted in Disney’s Cars, a movie she watched over 200 times with her young boys.

For The-Oldest, he was happy that we listened to classical music the entire drive. He got to explain who wrote it, why it was awesome and how he would change it to make it more awesome. He had no idea what awaited him at the Dunkin Donuts. Not a clue.

And The-Youngest was happy just to discuss the possibility of donut selection. Would there be a double chocolate donut? One with sprinkles? One with chocolate AND sprinkles? Maybe there’d be an arcade there. And wifi. And a place he could buy cheap headphones. When he grew bored of that, he tried to yank one of his loose teeth out of his head, grossing his brother and mom out.

Dunkin Donuts!
Dunkin Donuts!

At the Dunkin Donuts, The-Youngest had his dream come true. A double-chocolate donut WITH freaking sprinkles. I got to have my double-double (and the same donut as The-Youngest), while The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-world chose a healthier black coffee, and The-Oldest was satisfied with milk and Wifi.

But while he was looking intently at his phone, two girls came in. Same age as him, as near as I can tell these things, and they totally checked him out.

I wanted to jab him and point out what was happening, but that might have been embarrassing for him, so I let him be. But there was no mistaking what the girls did. They huddled close to each other, shot looks over at him, giggled, tried to catch his eye while trying to look like they weren’t interested at all, and played with their hair, smiling in his direction a lot.

The man The-Oldest will become can be seen in this picture
The man The-Oldest will become can be seen in this picture

It made me realize what a transformation The-Oldest has gone through this year. Ok, he’s still largely oblivious to girls, but he’s become quite the handsome boy. Tall and lean. Big brown eyes. Great smile. You can see it in some of the Grand Canyon pictures. You can see the man he’s becoming. (FYI – it makes The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World cry.)

Sadly, he saw nothing of the attention he received. He later explained he was too busy composing in his head, but wasn’t uninterested in hearing that girls might find him, you know, attractive.

Equally sadly, The-Youngest didn’t find his headphones and we weren’t going to let him eat 12 donuts, so for him, he was happy to get on the road, again.

I wondered as we drove off, though, a few years from now, what would The-Oldest have done? Smiled back? Simply ignored them? Gone over and talked to them about Beethoven?

Who knows? That’s the amazing part of watching these boys grow up, deal with how their world changes, how they change, and how what’s important changes.

How lucky am I to be there with them? Maybe to help them along the way. Maybe to be there to support their choices. Their decisions. Maybe to offer sage advice that will likely be completely ignored.

But for today, just being there with them, on something as simplistic as a car ride, made this adventure a thousand times better. And we hadn’t even reached the dam, yet.

Where Do You Find Travel Adventures

Pictures never do the Grand Canyon justice
Pictures never do the Grand Canyon justice

Why travel? I mean, really. Why?

To experience stuff you simply wouldn’t experience at home. Sights. Sounds. Tastes. Smells. Textures. And to occasionally be surprised.

Not that we don’t have a ton of cool stuff to experience here. Hell, people come from all over the world to walk around Stanley Park, sway on the Capilano Suspension Bridge or buy our real estate. So there’re lots of things here, too, but Vancouver is not the world, and the world is an amazingly interesting place.

Days Hotel
Days Hotel

Now, let me take you to Tuesday, morning. 7am. Location: The restaurant at the Days Hotel in Flagstaff. Not a place you’d expect to see something you don’t see every day. But that’s the beauty of traveling.

As I sat down to have a good breakfast, get some writing done and let the family sleep in, who should walk into the restaurant but a biker gang?

A French biker gang.

I sh*t you not. 8 of them.  Who knew that France had biker gangs? Who knew bikers would want to come to Arizona? As tourists?

They were mostly old guys and half of the group were women, looking like they’ve seen a lot of road, but smiling and chatty just like any tourist would be.

They all took a table together. Got menus from the waitress who spoke about as much French as I speak Swahili. She tried her best to explain the specials, but I don’t think they understood. Even when she repeated the choices with a higher and higher volume.

I have to say, the bikers seemed a lot less intimating when they said, oui, nes pas or mais non. Not that I had the courage to go up and take a picture of them or sit down and ask what brought them here, but I do have a theory on the latter.

Route 66. Perhaps the most famous highway in America.
Route 66. Perhaps the most famous highway in America.

See, some of the highway we’d traveled (and would travel, today) was old route 66. A famed highway from long, ago. A highway that you can take from Chicago to Santa Monica.

It’s a route filled with abandoned gas stations, ghost towns, old bridges, ruined warehouses and lost of bits of Americana. It’s actually a great road, a road less traveled.

I set one of my novels here. The Darkest Desert. Oddly, it featured biker gangs
I set one of my novels here. The Darkest Desert. Oddly, it featured biker gangs

I even set one of my novels on locations along Route 66, in California, so I got a chance to drive a bit of it a few years back, and I loved it. I could see why bikers from France might want to take that route.

Despite the leathers, the bikers were polite as hell. The busload of Koreans who came in to eat sat about as far away from them as they could, but there was no need. The bikers were happy to enjoy their American food, laugh and tell stories with each other, and plot the next leg of their journey.

French Bikers. Despite their outer appearance, polite, full of good humor and very French
French Bikers. Despite their outer appearance, polite, full of good humor and very French

In the end, I did sneak a picture, but all the while I thought, boy, this is why I get out of the hotel room. You just never freaking know what you’ll find.

It was a great start to a day where we had one thing I thought we MUST do and one thing the-Youngest thought we MUST do.