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Published: August 28th 2012
Craig and Ross USA 2012
Episode 2 : Disneyland and Las Vegas
Hello to all.
After Los Angeles, we picked up a hire car and successfully navigated the spaghetti plate of freeways South East to Anaheim, the location of the mother of all theme parks. I had been to Disneyland some 24 years ago and enjoyed it, but now, on the verge of 50, I wondered what I would think. Ross had never been previously, but it was a childhood dream of his. We both had a great time. Ross had smiles and laughter on his face the whole time. DL is more than just getting your picture taken with Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck. We especially loved the 3D virtual roller coaster type rides, such as the Star Tours (Star Wars) ride, which Ross did twice. I still love the Haunted Mansion, with hologram ghosts dancing about the place, and rooms lengthening around you. However, it is quite clear to me that roller coasters such as Space Mountain are beyond my physiological capacity these days. We both emerged from the Space Mountain ride with our guts in our throats, feeling terrified! There is a machine that takes your picture on the final drop, which you can subsequently view and/or buy at the end of the ride. In our case, the picture showed other people in our “car” laughing, but Ross gritting his teeth with apprehension and me white as ghost with fear ! The night time entertainment at Disney was spectacular – the highlight being the outdoor lakeside Fantasmic sound and light/laser sound, complete with a huge four storey high dragon that appears from nowhere and spewed forth flames across the lake.
From the happiest place on Earth we drove 220 miles East to the arguably the riotous place on Earth – Las Vegas. Rising in the desert like a giant flamboyant drag queen covered in sequins and feather boas, Las Vegas (“the meadows” in Spanish) is a sensory overload - a wild mix of casinos, bars, eateries, shows and general debauchery and non stop action. Vast casinos and staggering excess at every turn make for a surreal experience. We stayed at The Flamingo – The first high end casino-hotel in Vegas, built by mobster Bugsy Stegel in the 1960s, across the road from Caesar’s Palace. Both are located on “The Strip”, the 7 km stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard South, where all the non-stop 24 hr action takes place. Fifteen of the world's 25 largest hotels
by room count are on the Strip, with a total of over 62,000 rooms ! As luck would have it – or not – we arrived Saturday arvo, when all the young drunken people from LA were checking in. Our initial impressions were not good – we waited forever in the hotel check-in queue, and our first two margaritas were expensive and watered down. People were smoking anywhere and everywhere (in bars, arcades, casinos, in pools). And there were flyers for strip tease shows littering every street corner. It was very hot too. In said to Ross, “What are your first impressions?” and he replied:
“Like someone has vomited on a two dollar sponge cake from Safeway.”
But it was impossible not to be caught up in the buzz, and in the end we enjoyed ourselves. The foyers of the vast casino/hotels complexes are lavish and ornate beyond belief, especially the very good ones (Bellagio, Paris and Wynn). Highlights included the huge Bellagio Fountains that go off at night, the Freemont Street Light show in downtown, and Wynn’s opulence (where I was informed that the pairs of huge carved elephant tusks that I was admiring were $2 million dollars.). While walking through the Wynn Casino complex, which had lots of mirrors and general over-the-top grandeur, I commented to Ross:
“There are a lot of gay guys in here – have you noticed?”
“You fool – you just walked past a full length mirror."
Another highlight in Vegas was going to the Mix Bar on the top of the Mandalay Bay hotel, for breath-taking views down the strip during the late arvo/dusk, when all the lights come on (plus they served Chimay Blue beer up there). Highly recommended.
In Vegas, we took ourselves along to a Penn and Teller Magic Show. These guys are brilliant, currently the best in the business – you may have seen the recent UK-based TV show where aspiring magicians do tricks on stage to try and fool Penn and Teller, winning a trip to Vegas if they do. As a kid, I had always been fascinated with magic tricks, and how magicians skillfully use misdirection to bamboozle and amaze. Penn has said that there is no such thing as magic, or fortune-telling or palm reading, it is all just cunning tricks of the mind. I was looking forward to their show, especially since they apparently pepper it with amusing liberal, left wing comments throughout. Anyway, they were great, the highlight being Teller’s famous trick of pouring coins into a large bowl of water – the coins appearing out of nowhere and flowing from his hands, and then, as he adds the last single coin, the bowl of coins suddenly turns into a bowl of goldfish. WTF ! We were right up front and were baffled and amazed. We got our pictures taken with the guys in the lobby after the show.
Although our hotel, The Flamingo, is a bit faded and needs a good renovation, one of its strengths was its excellent pool. A huge pool studded with palms, pumping music, swim-up bars, “islands” with sprawling lounges, and heaps of people gaining respite from the hot sun (about 35 degrees each day in Vegas). I spent one leisurely arvo in there, while Ross shopped.
It was by the pool that we met several people, including a .familiar looking guy by the name of Harry. We accompanied him and several others up to his lavish roof top suite for poker. It was only then that that we realised that…Oh, hang on. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas
As we often do, we purchased a bottle of Frangelico for nightcaps in our hotel room. Ross took the small black icebox down the hall to the ice machine on our floor, to get some crushed ice for the Frangelico. He returned laughing.
“What are you laughing about?”
Apparently he walked past a woman, who turned and said to him; “ Oh, you have found the ice machine?”
To which he apparently replied:
“Oh no, his box is my wife’s ashes. She always wanted to come to Vegas, and with the life insurance , we could finally afford it.”
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