GG: The US Tour – Vegas and beyond!
So much for posting small tidbits of vacation at a time and avoiding huge mass-posts. /sigh It couldn’t be avoided though. Between hotels with crappy internet, Vegas being way too fun to spend my time blogging (although I did enjoy many hours of LotD on preview-day, hehe) and just being too tired from driving/exploring to type when I got to my hotel I just couldn’t get anything done. So anyway, I’m finally at the end of the first leg of the trip and will be here for about a week or so, so have time to spend documenting my journey again. Yay!
So, inside you will find more info on my time in Vegas as well as my stops between there and Tulsa, where I am now. Ugh, it hit 101 yesterday here. Tell me again why I stopped? hehe. TG for air conditioning. Anyway…
So if I remember correctly, I finished up my last update with me pulling into Vegas and checking in to the Luxor. I know I said last time to not stay in the pyramid if you stay there, but honestly, after spending a few days in Vegas, I’d say just stay somewhere else period. I honestly can’t wait to go back and stay at places like Paris, the Bellagio and most likely, one of the two new Hotel/Casinos being built currently right in the middle of the strip. But anyway, let’s get on with it. Pictures!!!
So I got in at nite on Sunday so just hung out in my room and hit the sack. Monday however, I went for a stroll down the strip and took a lot of pictures. It was definitely warm out, hehe, but the great weather made for a beautiful view as can be seen in these pics.
The New York, New York. I didn’t stop to ride the rollercoaster here after the beat-down the Desperado gave me (I was still bruised!) but I do remember it being very cool.
The MGM Grand. I actually stayed here back when the had the giant Lion laying on the ground and that was the entrance. Personally, I liked it better that way, but it’s still cool.
The Paris. Truth-be-told, I’ve never been in this hotel/casino. Somehow I never get over there because I’m too busy somewhere else. /sigh I’ll get there next time, I swear!
The Bellagio. Man I love this place. In a city full of amazingly decorated and detailed hotels/casinos, this one goes one step beyond. I was going to just continue on my way as I was in dire need of food and drink, but as the walkway to cross the street was accessed via the interior, I took a quick detour and snapped these shots too.
This is one of many areas like this as you walk around one of the shopping areas. Love it.
This is the ceiling of the check-in area. Hey, if you’ve got to wait in line, this is where to do it.
This is in the garden area just off the registration area. Very cool, however it’s much cooler at nite. Scroll down for pics of that as I returned to the Bellagio later for dinner and to pick something up, which I guess I can explain now since this is when I dropped it off.
So when I turned 16, I didn’t get a car, but my Aunt (the one I was staying with in the Bay Area) gave me a keychain. Not just any keychain though, a Tiffany keychain with my name engraved on the attached charm. I have used this keychain ever since, without exception, for all of my vehicles and keys, even when I didn’t have a vehicle. Occasionally I would try to use the little cloths to keep it clean, but after the first decade, it just got to the point where it really didn’t clean it all that much. So 17 years later, as I walked by the Tiffanys in the Bellagio, I decided I’d go in and see if I could get it cleaned.
The sales lady directed me to the Customer Service area in the back and after ringing the bell twice, a very nice girl came out to help me. She took one look at my keychain and said “We don’t sell these.” lol. I patiently told her to turn it over and look at the engraving, where of course it said Tiffanys. Her eyes got real big and she asked me how old it was. When I told her, she seemed rather amazed that someone would keep something like this for so long. She apologized and said she could clean it but it would take a bit of work. (no kidding, hehe) I said that was fine and asked when I could pick it up and how much it would cost. She told me three hours, which was perfect as I could pick it up when I returned for dinner. As to the price, she checked her price chart, which said $10 for keychains and just stared at it. Finally, she looked down at the form she was filling out and as she wrote “N/A” under cost, she told me “Since it’s a classic, don’t worry about it. I just want to make it look like new again.” How cool is that? I mean yeah, it’s only $10, but still. How often do people just comp you something just because? Especially at Tiffanys. lol. So I thanked her, told her I hoped it wouldn’t be too much work and hit the strip again to find a place to eat lunch.
Do you know where Gaar is? hehe. Margaritaville of course!!! I’d remembered they had one here but had never gone so was hoping I could find it to have lunch there finally and boy was it worth it. I’m a huge Jimmy Buffett fan, both his music and his books, so this whole place was full of win for me. I actually had a really hard time choosing what I wanted to drink as there were just so many delicious options and then I had the same problem with food. lol. I finally decided on these…
Gaar can haz cheezburger? hehe. That, my friends, is the “Cheeseburger in Paradise” and the “Who’s to Blame” margarita, which I’d already almost finished. :p I stopped after one because, quite frankly, I’d have spent a couple hours there drinking my way through the menu and wouldn’t have made it back to the hotel. lol. So anyway, I finished up the meal, hit the gift shop to pick up my obligatory Margaritaville t-shirt and then headed back to the Luxor. On the way, I took more pictures of course!
As you can see, I finally made it back to the hotel. I headed upstairs to drop off my stuff, take a shower (did I mention it was hot?), and snag a quick nap. When dinnertime rolled around, I snagged a taxi (no way I was doing that walk twice in one day, lol) and headed back to pick up my keychain and get some food. The girl that helped me was gone by the time I got there, but the sales guy went back and got it for me. It was even in one of the little blue Tiffany bags as if it as new. So cool. hehe. It looked amazing btw. I really should have snagged before/after pics but oh well. Off to get some food.
So food is about as synonomous with Vegas as gambling, but I have to say, there are some crappy places to eat in Vegas. The first nite I was there, I just went down to the cafe in the Luxor and ordered food. Not only did they get my order wrong, it was horrible. I didn’t even finish it. I told myself after that experience that I’d have to watch where I ate. Luckily, Margaritaville was great. :p For dinner at the Bellagio, since it was a bit late, I hit up Fix. Talk about a beautiful place to eat. The food was fabulous too. It totally made up for the junk I’d had the nite before. Pricy, but hey, I really didn’t care. It was totally worth it. The wait-staff were amazing and so was the food, definitely a place to hit up if you have the chance.
So after dinner I went back to the garden to take some more pics. Here ya go!
As you can see, I finally made it back to the hotel. Since Order on Iron Rock had “won” early access to Land of the Dead, I aimed to be up and online to check it out. The next morning, I ran the patcher and went down to the little mini-store they had to pick up breakfast and drinks to last me until I decided to stop for lunch. For once, prices actually weren’t bad. lol. Imagine that. For lunch, I hit up the Backstage Deli in the Luxor. Man, I should have gone there the first night. HUGE sandwiches. Much happier with that meal choice than the cafe and you can get it to go and take it back to your room, which I did. While eating, I booked a ticket to go see Criss Angel’s Believe show. I had wanted to see ‘O’ at the Bellagio, but it was dark both of the nites I could have gone. But anyway, this was right downstairs and I figured I could try out the steak place here beforehand and have some drinks as well. Good plan imo.
First off, Tender at the Luxor. I just sat at the bar because I didn’t want to be late to the show, but the regular seating looked great and the bar wasn’t bad at all. The food was on par with Fix, which made it a worthy stop. I had a New Zealand grass-fed filet and it was incredibly tender (hehe). I hurried a bit at the end as it was almost time for the doors to open. I didn’t need to apparently though because the line was HUGE. I ended up chatting with the couple next to me at the bar and in line. Really nice people. I have to say, that’s another fun thing about Vegas: you can just run into people and chat with them and have a really good time completely out of the blue.
After a decently longish wait in line, we finally got in. It’s kind of fun to buy tickets for shows by yourself because you can get great seats. :p I had a second-row seat on the aisle. Fabulous view. The trade-off is you’re by yourself, but hey. lol. For those that want to know, the show was really good. Or at least I thought so. It’s actually a Cirque du Soleil team-up with Criss doing some magic and the rest being really trippy and surreal cirque acts. Really trippy and surreal. If I’d been 8-10 deep from the bar instead of 3, it would have been a truly wild experience sitting that close. lol. Having ran away and joined the circus in college, I really enjoy watching anything done by Cirque du Soleil as they have some amazingly talented performers in their shows. I don’t know that I’d see this one in particular again, but I’d consider buying the DVD. hehe
So after dinner I did some people-watching and then hit the sack as I knew I had long day in front of me the next morning. Boy did I. hehe. I packed up the truck, got sad when I realized I didn’t have the right Sheryl Crow CD on my iPod (hehe), and hit the road. I punched in the Hoover Dam and was there in no time. I ended up not stopping, but did take some pics as I drove (slowly) by.
Apparently they’re building a bypass here which not only looks cool, but will also help with traffic as it was a crawl across the dam.
Odd, I thought the Golden Elevator was in the Chocolate Factory. WTH? hehe
~starts nervously looking around for Decepticons~
~looks around~ Phew, none here either. On to Arizona!
So yeah, it’s a bit of a drive from Vegas to Flagstaff, which is where I planned on stopping for the nite. I stopped for lunch in Williams at this cool little Route 66-type diner on the main drag. The food was good, but the view was better. There must be something in the water here because all the women were cute as hell. :p Anyway, I hit the road again and finally got to Flagstaff and droppe my stuff off at the hotel. I then headed for the Grand Canyon.
Pictures really can’t explain how vast, or cool, this place is, so I’m only going to put up one. Honestly, it really doesn’t do the actual scene justice. This is definitely a place you want to spend a lot of time at. Next time. 😉 I really want to whitewater raft thru it, to be honest. I’ve been wwr’ing before and loved it and this would just be the most epic place to do it. Anyway….here’s the pic.
So I reluctantly headed back to Flagstaff and kept my eyes open for food. Woohoo! Sonic. I love Sonic. I think it’s cuz it was one of the few fast food places in the tiny town we went to for groceries and where I ended up going to high school at in Oklahoma. I immediately pulled in, hit the button and ordered up an extra-long coney with chili and cheese, tater tots and a cherry limeade. mmm mmm good. Best part of it all, one of the guys bringing out orders was on roller skates. I’m not even joking.
Somewhere along the way, I got stuck at a railroad crossing. I was trying to figure out how long it was when I realized what was on it. It was car after car of military vehicles. Wild.
So the next morning I tried to get up early as I knew it was going to be a long day. That didn’t happen. hehe. First stop was the Meteor Crater…way out in the middle of nowhere. lol. But it was very cool. Again, pictures don’t really do this place justice, it’s huge. If you can make out the tiny white stuff at the bottom, keep in mind that it’s actually very large stuff. Somewhere down there that you can’t really make out is even a six-foot tall astronaut mock-up. You have to actually zoom in on the original to see it, but it’s there. hehe.
They have a cool little museum there as well that talks all about the history of the crater. They even do guided hikes out onto the rim which people were on at the time. The spot they hiked to looked like it wasn’t that far off, until I looked thru the telescope to see that they were actually there and just very, very tiny. hehe. Again, this place is big. Not Grand Canyon big, but dang. After leaving here, it was on to another big place: Monument Valley. I have to say, just driving to it was cool. Check it out:
So, I was getting close but decided it was time to eat…and more importantly, find a bathroom. :p So of all my choices, I picked Burger King. Wha!?!?! Let me explain. The Burger King where I stopped doesn’t just hold fast food, it also holds a monument to the Navajo Code Talkers. Way cool. They had a lot of amazing items from WWII and pictures of the original Code Talkers. Well worth the stop. Plus, I love BK Chicken Sandwiches and I got two chances to win the Transformers giveaway! 😉 So after filling up (and emptying) I finished off the last miles to Monument Valley. Here’s what awaited me.
The road you can see you can actually drive down and go thru the valley to see more of the sights. I had seriously been considering it, but it would have taken a few hours and I wanted to get to Gallup for the nite and still had to hit Four Corners. If you get the chance, go do it. Again, pictures just don’t do these kind of sights justice.
So I hit the road again and headed to Four Corners. For those that don’t know, this is where the States of Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah all meet at one point.
When I got there, I walked around the monument, and thru all four States before standing in line to take my pic on the actual convergence point.
Once that was done, I hopped back in the truck and headed to finish off the day in Gallup. As you can see from the first Four Corners pic, there were a lot of clouds around. While they looked a little dark from the direction I was coming from, they looked amazing in front of me.
So the reason I wanted to get to Gallup was because I really wanted to spend the nite at the famous El Rancho Hotel. It was so worth it.
When I got there, it was dark and they had all the neon on. lol. Awesome. Then you walk inside to the coolest old-school lobby I’ve seen in a while. The guy at the desk was telling stories about movie stars that had stayed there in the past to the people in front of me which was neat. I quickly got a room and hauled my stuff up two flights of stairs to my room. Yeah, I said up the stairs. There’s only one elevator in this place and it’s the kind you have to get an employee to operate for you. lol. So anyway, all the rooms here are named after stars. I got the “Lee Marvin” room. :p Cozy, but comfy. It was late and I hadn’t had dinner, so I hit up the restaurant downstairs. Good choice yet again. The special of the nite was Steak and Enchiladas. I chose green chiles and ordered a Jack and Coke. It’s nice not to have to drive home. 😉 It was fabulous. So much food and yet I ate it all. I was stuffed. So stuffed I didn’t even eat until way in the afternoon the next day. hehe. Anyway, I got up the next morning and was immediately bummed out by the sight of this in the parking lot.
I had a ’52 Buick Super 4-door sedan at one point and I still miss it to this day. Such an epic car. Picture this Roadmaster, but with more chrome and you’ll have an idea of what I’m talking about. Now that would have been a great roadtrip vehicle. /sad
Anyway, I got over it and hopped back on the road. First stop of the day: Santa Fe. There were two reasons I wanted to stop there. The first was the Loretto Chapel which houses what some call the “Stairway to Heaven”. The second was there was a pizza place here that was supposed to be great and I was in the mood for pizza. :p Once I found a place to park, I headed out on foot to find both stops, food first. On the way, I stopped to take a quick peak at the Cathedral there as well.
Very cool. As you can see, the clouds were a bit darker here. I should have taken more note of that, but I didn’t. Stupid me. Anyway, I hit up Upper Crust Pizza, ordered up some food and enjoyed. It really is good. While I was sitting there, it started to rain. At first, it was just some sprinkles like the ones I’d run thru on the way here, but as I packed up my to-go box, it started to come down harder. I used my pizza box as an umbrella as I tried to dash down the street to the Chapel, but it was too late. It started to pour, hard. So hard I had to duck under the awning of a closed store and wait it out. Man. That was a lot of water. When it finally slowed down, I made a quick dash to the Chapel.
The Chapel is a worthy stop in its own right, as you can see from the pics above, but the main draw for me was the staircase. This thing is incredible. Here’s the story:
When the Loretto Chapel was completed in 1878, there was no way to access the choir loft twenty-two feet above. Carpenters were called in to address the problem, but they all concluded access to the loft would have to be via ladder as a staircase would interfere with the interior space of the small Chapel.
Legend says that to find a solution to the seating problem, the Sisters of the Chapel made a novena to St. Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters. On the ninth and final day of prayer, a man appeared at the Chapel with a donkey and a toolbox looking for work. Months later, the elegant circular staircase was completed, and the carpenter disappeared without pay or thanks. After searching for the man (an ad even ran in the local newspaper) and finding no trace of him, some concluded that he was St. Joseph himself, having come in answer to the sisters’ prayers.
The stairway’s carpenter, whoever he was, built a magnificent structure. The design was innovative for the time and some of the design considerations still perplex experts today. (In fact, it’s said that engineers that have studied it swear that it should have fallen apart the first time someone stepped on it.)
The staircase has two 360 degree turns and no visible means of support. Also, it is said that the staircase was built without nails—only wooden pegs. Questions also surround the number of stair risers relative to the height of the choir loft and about the types of wood and other materials used in the stairway’s construction.
Keep in mind, the railing was added later. Here’s a re-creation of what it looked like before that was added for safety reasons.
Very cool and well worth a visit to see. Once I left here, I browsed thru some of the shops along the central area of town before heading back to the truck and heading off. I figured I needed some decent time on foot as I had decided to drive all the way to Tulsa tonight instead of heading south to Roswell and Carlsbad Caverns. They’re definitely places I want to see at some point, but I was getting a bit tired of being on the road every day and just wanted to finally get somewhere and stay for a bit. So I punched up the address on the GPS (which has worked great btw) and it told me I’d be there around 3 am. lol. That didn’t even include stopping for gas or dinner. Good times. So off I went.
I polished off New Mexico and entered Texas to find they have two speed limits, one for daytime and one for nite. Great. As it was getting late, I decided to stop in Amarillo for dinner. Where? Where else? The Big Texan! Awww hell yeah! This place rocks. lol. It offers a 72 oz Steak Dinner that if you eat the whole thing in one hour, it’s free. (If not, $72, hehe) When I got there, I had to wait a bit for a table to open up, and it was 9.30. lol. When I finally got seated, there was a young guy up there trying to polish it off. They actually have a raised platform with a table on it and a timer on the pole next to it. You have to eat that thing in front of everyone! Good times.
The food was definitely good, but the view was better. Now, I come from SoCal which has plenty of very attractive women, but the women working here were crazy. Maybe it was the boots, cowboy hats and the occasional pair of tight jeans (most were in dresses or skirts), but I did not rush thru my dinner. 😉 Along with the great view and the entertainment of the guy attempting, and failing, to eat the 72 oz Steak Dinner, they also had pairs of musicians wandering around and playing music. The pair near me was an older man with a guitar and a younger girl with a fiddle. They were excellent. The man’s memory was amazing as he basically just asked people what they wanted to hear and he played it right away. They got around to me as I was leaving, so I didn’t ask to hear anything, but I tipped them anyway as they were great.
Then it was back on the road. It was fully dark by this time, but still warm. I updated the GPS and it told me my arrival time would be 4.23 am. It was pretty dead-on as I stopped for gas one more time and finally arrived at my Mom’s place at 4.30 am. I slept til 2. hehe. The next day, I did it again too. :p It’s nice not to have to get up and drive somewhere.
So anyway, I’m in Tulsa now and I’ll be here at least until after the holiday weekend as there are some family get-togethers I don’t want to miss. As you can see, I’m trying to catch up on my blog posts. I’d like to also finally finish my Armor Guide revamp while I’m here, but that will depend on whether I take a day-trip or two or not. We’ll see. Also, Naimless lives around here somewhere, so I have to give him a call as well. :p I really should try and plan out all my stops from here to Virginia as that will be where I end the second leg of the trip. I know I have to head north from here up to Iowa and possibly Minnesota, then east to the Great Lakes area before heading on the New York and then south to Jersey and finally Virginia. So if you’re on that route, let me know. Some of you have already said so, but please do so again and make sure your comment has an email address I can get a hold of you with to plan logistics.
I’m looking forward to the second leg of the trip, especially because of all the cool people I can’t wait to meet, but for now I’m very much enjoying: not driving, air conditioning, reliable internet and lots of free food. hehe. Gotta love Moms and their desire to keep you fed. So until next time,