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Published: June 30th 2009
June 29th 2009 Armpit of the world
There really is no way to describe it. The drive from L.A. to Las Vegas along I-15 is long and rather tedious: mile after mile of unremarkable terrain occasionally broken by a small mining town. The highlight was a trip to the gas station and Denny’s in Barstow - a town my aunt described as the armpit of the world. We have discussed at length what people must do in these towns which revolve around people passing through and have come to the conclusion that they eat, sleep and have a lot of sex. There is simply nothing else to do. We didn’t stay for a long visit……. We’re in Vegas, baby!
Alex has declined to comment on Vegas as she has been there before. But I think it’s because she can’t actually remember what happened. Alex has just poked me in the ribs: I should say that neither of us can remember all
of our time there….
So, my first impressions. What an awesome city! Coming into the town during the day, you don’t really get a feel for the size of the place - the extensive residential suburbs are
all painted a shade of pinky-beige which blends into the sand-coloured background of the desert. At night, when all the street and houselights come on you see just how far the city stretches out from the main artery, the Strip. Its official name is Las Vegas Boulevard, and it is jaw-dropping. The lights, the sights, the sounds and even the smells intoxicated me. As did the cocktails! Seriously, though, it’s always fascinating to see something you have viewed on TV or in the movies. It is all a little familiar but not quite how you imagined it would look or fit together.
Now for the fun part? Whilst some people see Vegas as a destination for family holidays, and undoubtedly there is plenty for children to do, ultimately it is a party town, and Alex and I felt the need to comply with the quintessential Vegas vibe. As we found out, it is easy to pass many, many hours just bar-hopping and clubbing - the possibilities are endless. Except that is when it comes to the choice of music. All the clubs play the same mixture of tunes: hip hop, gangster rap, scary house music and the occasional pop
tune. For the obvious reason, Michael Jackson classics were abundant (Alex wishes to make it clear that we left L.A. before he died, just so you’re clear). The concept of indie music is unknown here.
To give ourselves a break from the awful monotony of drinking, dancing, having fun, we spent a couple of hours watching a live stage version of The Price is Right
. Terribly wonderful entertainment! Despite our charming smiles and delightful name badges (see photos) we weren’t picked as contestants. Shame, as Alex was hoping to furnish her (fingers crossed) new flat with the winnings. To console ourselves we went to another bar and drank another cocktail. Such hard lives we lead. Cor blimey guvnor, it’s hot in here
We haven’t mentioned the weather yet. That’s because now we have escaped it, we still can’t quite believe how hot it was. 110 in the shade. And at night. Thank goodness for air con. It was in fact so hot that Jenny, whilst waiting to cross the road (incidentally, ludicrously long traffic signals) actually hid in the shade of a lamppost. She got some strange looks. Clothing was essentially optional in Vegas. Most women we saw
had their boobs out. In a big way. Clearly not obeying the basic rule of fashion: legs or boobs, not both. It was not pretty. But we still felt inadequate.
Not content with 110 degrees, we set off Sunday morning on our epic, two part journey to San Francisco. First stop, Death Valley national park. We are reliably informed not everything is dead there but you could have fooled us as we didn’t see a single living thing. The weather there was quite remarkable. 120 in the shade and literally not a breath in the air. An information point as we entered the park helpfully told us that most people that die in Death Valley don’t die from the heat. They die from single vehicle collision. With that helpful warning in mind, we pressed on cautiously (Alex, that’s a little white lie. Not to scare any ‘parentals’ or ‘parental types’, the speed limit through the park averaged 40miles - this on long, empty, straight roads. We took some liberties with our speed and fingers crossed I don’t receive any penalty notices in the post). Minimal number of tourists, no cows (despite the constant warning signs), and lots of dips,
which made up for the roller coaster we chickened out of in Vegas. And lots of massive ascents and descents, going from 5000 feet to 200 below sea level in a matter of minutes and back up again. Our ears popped continuously. Change of plans
We had hoped to get to the other side of Yosemite national park before turning in for the night. But we’d been driving for seven hours and had both acquired one sided sun tans through the glass of the car and looked silly (Jenny thinks I don’t look silly, just still very ‘Europeanly chic-ly’ white compared to her; that’s not a word Jenny). We also discovered too late that the actual national park in Yosemite doesn’t have any accommodation. So here we are, holed up on the east side of the park in a lovely little town called Lee Vining. It’s full of very sun tanned hikers and Californians playing guitar. And not much else. Luckily it is a good deal colder. We were recommended to go the Mobil gas station for dinner. Seriously. And here we are. It’s lovely. ‘World famous’ margaritas and fish tacos. An early start for us tomorrow, with a
couple hours’ drive through the park, perhaps a short hike, then into San Francisco for late lunch and hopefully a trip to Alcatraz. Oh, that reminds me. On the way out of Vegas today, we drove past a prison in the middle of the desert. With ‘no hitchiking’ signs all around in case a convict was on the loose. We locked our doors.
The gas station is closing. We have to take our drinks and be on our way.
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