A Jaunt to Las Vegas

At some point in time, I had to decide whether “Kelly on the Road” is about our travels in an RV or about our travels in general. Whether go there by road, or by air, is immaterial, so we have expanded our horizons. We have been on the road, and the name of the blog is “Kelly on the Road”, so this trip counts. Most of my friends will tell you that I have never really been limited by technicalities, so why start now?

The one clear spot we saw.

The one clear spot we saw.

Several months ago, my favorite daughter with children, asked us if we would be free to do some babysitting. Nanoseconds later I agreed, and told her that we would be glad to baby-sit the children while they attended a function in Las Vegas. Shortly thereafter, flights were booked, cars were reserved, and motels were arranged.

There are number of foods that are not available where they live in California, and we always like to bring treats when we visit, so we loaded up on Taylor ham, (an only in New Jersey, spiced ham type of deliciousness), fresh bagels, and adult treats and beverages. The food on airlines, as of late, has deteriorated to the point where the substances they hand out, for outrageous amounts of money, are inedible. Never having willingly missed a meal in my life, I made sure we had delicious Ham and Swiss sloppy Joe’s from a local delicatessen for the secondary purpose of sustenance on our trip. The primary purpose was to make anyone who didn’t plan ahead feel bad as we scarfed down some really good sandwiches. It might not be kind, but it is fun.

The day of our departure I was up and out to hunt and gather by 5:30 AM. I picked up the bagels, and looked for some Taylor ham egg and cheese on a hard roll sandwiches from the local delicatessen. To my surprise, I found out that there were exactly *no* places to purchase one at that time of the morning in our neighborhood, so Louise and I settled for some bagels and coffee.

For whatever reason, the transportation gods decided to smile upon us, and somehow, for unknown reasons, our boarding passes indicated that we were TSA pre-checked. In essence, that meant that we didn’t have to strip down to our undies and have everything gone through with a microscope, and were able to pass through security with ease. We were half an hour early for the flight, and were aboard and nestled in our seats in the wink of an eye.  I think Santa had a finger in it. While booking, I selected a window seat. I generally take a window seat for the room, as I have wide shoulders. Seated, my left shoulder was pressed tight against the outside of the aircraft, and my right shoulder was pressed tight up to Louise, not a bad thing, but it overlapped the armrest by 2 inches.

I’m old enough to remember when airline travel was something people dressed up when they flew, when flying was comfortable, had good food and was neither blindingly expensive nor stressful. People seem to fly in their pajamas today, whatever is served on aircraft cannot qualify as food, and those items are blindingly expensive. I’m glad that I am my size and not 6’2”, as I have no idea how my legs would fit between the seats. For me, the width of the seat was just fine, but I saw many people in the terminal whose attempts at sitting in a seat would be fine material for America’s funniest home videos.

Travel should not be a painful experience. There are international laws against torture. How do the airlines get away with it? I would’ve gleefully paid $20 for a handful of ibuprofen’s by the time we were flying over Dallas, since, somehow, it’s cheaper for the airline to fly me Las Vegas via Los Angeles instead of Las Vegas directly.

vegasI had a book and our own good food, so I ate when I was hungry, and went to book land for the flight. I love looking out the window of an airplane. Unfortunately, this was the first flight I’ve ever taken across the United States where from the East Coast to west of Las Vegas there was 100% cloud cover. As it turned out, the flight from LA to Las Vegas was delayed about an hour to cloud cover over Las Vegas.

There was supposed to be an hour layover in Los Angeles, but apparently the airline never read their schedule, so immediately after getting off the flight, we boarded the plane to Las Vegas. It was glorious. The seats were leather, wide, and soft, and it felt like there were miles of room between the rows. I sat back and smiled. Sitting in that seat was as if a chiropractor was working on me to loosen all those tight joints from the previous six hours crammed in like an olive.

Immediately after boarding, the pilot came on the PA and announced that we were not going anywhere, but we would sit at the gate for an hour because flights in and out of Las Vegas were restricted due to weather. Suffice it to say people on board were not happy, so much so, that complementary adult beverages served on the flight to Las Vegas. The flight to Las Vegas with smooth, with nothing to see. There was cloud cover all the way back to Vegas.

I always thought Las Vegas was a small airport. You can pretty much see the whole thing from any one of the hotels on the Las Vegas strip. The walk to the tram to the luggage carousel, felt like a 3 mile hike. We arrived in the area to get out luggage, and the luggage carousels stretched off to infinity.  My immediate impression was that I’d been transported into the movie “Raiders of the Lost Ark”. I’m sure that you know the scene where the Ark is being stored in the infinitely long government warehouse. I think the number of the carousel closest to the tram was 4000. We got our luggage at carousel 19.

Our car rental was through Alamo.  Everybody there was terrific, they had the car I wanted, a late-model Ford Fusion, and we were off into gridlocked Las Vegas traffic in no time at all. It was 4 o’clock in the afternoon on a Thursday, and it took us over 45 minutes to get to the hotel on the strip. The last time we were in Las Vegas was in June, a little earlier in the day, and we breezed through town in the RV. This time, there didn’t seem to be as many cars, but they were all stopped.

We had a great time at the hotel, played with the grandkids; put them to bed without any difficulty, and my daughter and son-in-law had a great time at their function. The following day we had a quick breakfast, and were off to the Bellagio to take a look at their shark tank. My daughter thought the shark tank was one of those attractions designed to bring in gamblers, and as a result free, but the Bellagio charges admission, a nominal amount. My grandkids are age 3 and one, and they had a spectacular time. There were fish, sharks, snakes, lizards, crocodiles, ray and horseshoe crab touch tanks, jellyfish, and the grandkids had a terrific time, and is great is the shark tank was, watching them enjoying the whole thing was a real treat.

We took off for Twenty Nine Palms, and decided to re-take the June RV route through the Mohave Preserve. It was really overcast, so the trip was all new.  The large solar plant, just over the California line, the one that is seeking a half billion dollar bailout from the feds, wasn’t frying any birds on the wing since the sun was obscured. The clouds were low and had settled on the top of the mountains, so there was little contrast. The day was pretty dull and a little gloomy.  I couldn’t believe the traffic as we headed south into the Mohave Preserve. In June, we passed three cars, then there were dozens of cars traveling both North and South. There were cars everywhere. We stopped to take a look around, and discovered the desert was damp. In June a walk surrounded you with knee-high dust clouds. Now, the sand was damp and clumpy. The Joshua trees were a deep dark rich forest green instead of being a dusty light green. We saw a rabbit or two running across the road, and uncommon sight last June and there seemed to be more birds flitting here and there.

The scenery still was spectacular, but it lost a little of its “Oh Wow!” flavor with the newness gone. We passed through Kelso again, but didn’t stop. Kelso is a resurrected ghost town that serviced the railroad when steam was king, and engines were added to make the trip to Los Angeles. Someone managed to tear down, since June, one of the buildings that had managed to survive since the 1920’s to put in a concrete pad and some metal posts.

roys_1Traveling over a route for the second time has its plusses and minuses.  The initial impact on the senses is lost, as it’s a repeat, and all but the most spectacular places pick up a little been there, seen that, dust. We passed the famous Roy’s Motel and Café in Amboy, and this time stopped.  The place although it looked abandoned and closed, was open.  It didn’t look inviting at all, so we didn’t take a close look.  I did take a picture of the sign advertising the fuel prices.  Diesel was $5.21 a gallon.  roys_2Mind you, when we left NJ, the price was $3.09.  Amboy is remote, but. The salt works south of Amboy are still there and in operation, but you really need bright sunlight to appreciate the emerald and snow white brine pools. The Amboy cinder cone was like an old friend on the near horizon.  One of these days we’ll hike over and take a closer look.  I’ve read that there is a lava lake in the center of the caldera.

In the dimmer light, and closer to a December sunset, Wonder Valley looked less surreal and other worldly. It finally looked like it could belong on this planet. We arrived at my daughter and son-in-law’s residence after dark, but before dinner and had an enjoyable evening. Grandkids are great.