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2019 - West Coast USA - Day 18

Another glorious morning and another early start. This was of our first and last Holiday Inn Breakfast of the trip and we had the whole breakfast area to ourselves which was a bit strange. Just goes to prove that nobody else ever stops at Tulare. Well they should, as the breakfast was very good even if Cinnamon Swirls were an unnecessary option.

The car was packed and wheels were rolling by 9.09am. By 9.19am we had heard Shawn Mendes twice and Ed Sheeran once. Boy, when they like a track over here they really like it. The journey to the next Hotel was still 347 miles despite us taking a small chunk out of it the previous evening. Traffic for the first hour was quite heavy on the freeway, but at least it was a straight road.

The first of our planned stops was to be at a Starbucks in Bakersfield. However they conspired to be all on the wrong side of the freeway and we didn’t spot them until after I had passed the turning. Karen was very brave about it all. Fortunately we saw some signs well in advance of another one about 20 miles on. We made the stop and I enjoyed a 15 minute break from the driving. We listened to a Desert Island Discs podcast for the next part of the journey. The countryside we passed through had by now turned into the Mojave Desert which was quite desolate and had no features to look at all. The temperature was also increasing the further we went along and hit 106f.

We made another stop at Barstow, which seemed to be the major transit stop for people heading between Las Vegas and Los Angeles. It was like an oven getting out of the car. The whole place was full of people from coaches and cars, and didn’t seem to attract the upper echelons of society. We both ordered a roll from Subway as we thought that would be a safe bet. The whole building made the Farm Stop on the A17 in Lincolnshire look like the Ritz. Karen wanted another coffee from the Starbucks across the road but didn’t feel safe leaving the car loaded with luggage where it was. So she walked across the road whilst I was designated to move the car across to pick her up.

Eventually after she had drunk her coffee we got back on the road for the final 150 miles. This time we listened to Bill Bryson reading ‘The Road to Little Dribbling’ which kept us both amused. As we crossed the Nevada border we hit the casinos over the state line. The number had grown since our previous visit.

We knew we were going to be too early to check in so we drove to the Las Vegas Premium Outlets South where we knew it would be cool inside to pass the time. As we were walking into the mall, Karen said ‘I’m not intending to buy anything so let's get out of here as soon as we can’. Within 15 minutes she had bought two bags from the Kipling Outlet and been tempted by some shoes from Clarks.

We wandered further along and ended up again in the Columbia Outlet where we both bought a couple of bargains. We were by now hungry and decided to eat at one of the many restaurants that were at the mall. Funnily enough one of them was an Outback and as we had $20 credit to use up from our loyalty card we thought it silly to waste it. We were seated quickly at the bar and as well as the usual Steaks, Karen this time had a Strawberry Kiwi Rita.

Then it was time to get to our final Hotel for the trip - Flamingo which is on the strip. It was another one to add the list I have stayed at. We were going to stay in the Best Western Casino Royal as we had done previously but Karen didn’t much care for their pool and really liked the look of this one. It was a tad more expensive but happy wife means happy life.

Getting to the Self Parking facility was easier said than done but we managed it and dragged our luggage to the lobby. I had checked in online and so went to one of the automatic booths to collect our keys, predictably that didn’t work and so I ended in a small normal check in queue. For a reason that I still haven’t fathomed we were then given food credit to spend on breakfast which was a Brucie bonus. We went up to our room which was rather nice, all recently redecorated in what they describe as retro kitsch. Karen described it as 1970’s Porn Star, not that I know how she would know. We had buttons to open and close the curtains beside the bed and a fetching stage type lighting over the bed. The mirror in the bathroom could be partly turned into a TV.

After settling ourselves we decided to go out to explore.

Las Vegas - the Sin City. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. It is a sight that has to be seen to be believed. Frankly it is quite ludicrous and ridiculous. It is full on in your face 24 by 7. It is a place where everyone is out to fleece you in one way or another. It is built in the most stupid place in the USA, hundreds of miles from anywhere else remotely interesting and in a desert which means unbearable temperatures. It is a City full of excesses. I don’t like it but I am strangely fascinated by it.

Its whole being is based on gambling. I don’t disapprove of gambling as such but I cannot say I enjoy it in this sense. They say you should gamble what you are prepared and able to lose. My problem is that I am not prepared to lose any in exchange for a few seconds of pressing that button or on the turn of a card or wheel. A very small percentage might win, but the only winners at the end of the day are the Casino owners. I begrudge even losing a few dollars as I suspect I will again this trip to ensure Karen doesn’t feel she is missing out.

We thought our first dollar should be put in one of our Hotels own machines. That dollar broke the machine, meaning I had to call for service as I wan’t going to lose a dollar without even that split second pleasure of hitting a button. The lady who fixed it was very amusing and her time and conversation was almost worth the dollar she retrieved and I then immediately lost. Not happy and thinking what other things I could have done with that dollar we came out of the Hotel and turned right down The Strip.

Immediately we were hit by the heat and the normal commotion of people walking along The Strip. It was like walking in an oven populated by all the dregs and zombies of society. Within 10 yards we were confronted by naked girls who wanted us to take a photo with them. Karen tutted loudly but then smiled when we were also nearly approached by Topless Male Cowboys who wanted the same thing.

Welcome to Vegas. Another very noticeable change was the sweet smell of Cannibis being smoked openly and all along The Strip. Indeed I could smell it everything time I went outside leading me to wonder if it wasn’t being pumped out by the Casinos to ‘mellow’ everyone into drinking and gambling even more.

We wandered around the Venetian for a while. We watched the gondolas being punted along. How I wished Neil was with at the moment when one appeared under the bridge with the fattest gondolier in the world. The boat was definitely down at the end he was standing meaning the front was in the air like a speed boat. I think Neil would have had tears of laughter at the sight. The inside of the Venetian Hotel is another place where you just have to say Why?

We walked as far down as Casino Royale popping into a few shops and Casinos on the way. But once you have seen one Casino you have actually seen them all. Mindless, soulless, windowless, smoky, and sad places, everyone of them.

At Casino Royal, Karen wanted to play a machine called Buffalo, I am not too sure why. We found it easily enough and turned our five dollars into profit which cancelled out our previous loss making me happier.

We stopped at Harrahs piano bar on the way back. This is a place we have enjoyed in the past as we both like a good Piano bar. One day I might work out how to make one be profitable in the UK. Anyhow this time the pianist were a pair of twins who had both seen better days. There is no easy way of putting this, but they were rubbish and probably only got the resident booking because of the novelty factor of being twins and pianists. Except they weren’t, pianists that is. They couldn’t hold a tune between them, were not accomplished on the piano and were rubbish at getting the crowd involved. Frankly we were embarrassed for them as it took an age to even recognise what song they were trying to do and so we walked on.

Then we went down the promenade at The Linq next to our Hotel. It was a lively place. Again though I felt there was too much forced fun (as my eldest son is prone to saying) in the bars with bands playing and elsewhere. People thought they should be enjoying themselves as they were in Vegas and therefore forced it upon themselves without thinking what would they really like to be doing to enjoy myself. I bet in 90% of cases it wasn’t what they were actually doing. We went in the Ghirardelli shop to see if they were giving away chocolate, which they were only if you ordered something. As Karen needed a tea, we ordered one and got a chocolate for her to enjoy with it.

At that time we decided to make our way back to our room for the night. I was very very tired after the long drive.

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