Nevada Part II: Las Vegas

We pulled out of Reno on December 19th. It was a good weather day and we were happy about traveling with favorable road conditions. We drove east on Interstate 80 for a short while until we got to Fernley, then we cut over on ALT 50 until we reached Fallon. In Fallon we turned south on Highway 95. Our reservation at the Circus Circus Casino RV lot did not begin until the next day, so we planned to drive until we (Mike) got tired and then boondock somewhere. We expected the entire drive (from RV Park to RV Park) to be about 7 hours, so it made sense to break it up into two sessions. No reason to kill ourselves on a travel day.

Highway 95 was fairly flat and straight, so I was excited about that. However, it was also a very busy road with only two lanes and practically no shoulder. Mike was on hyper- alert all day in anticipation that an oncoming vehicle would cross the center lane and slam into us. He did not have fun driving that day. As our travels progressed, we figured we would be near the Amargosa Valley when nightfall approached. This location is where Highway 373 intersects Highway 95 as 373 comes out of Death Valley National Park. Mike recalled that there was a rest area and a gas station near that intersection. The temperature was dropping and we were definitely going to need to crank up the heater overnight. If we boondocked, it meant we would have to fill up with diesel to keep the generator running so we could run the heater. As I looked at google maps I also discovered there was an RV park at that location with full hook-ups. The rate was $25 per night. We were going to have to spend money either way, so we decided to call the RV Park and see if they could take us for one night. We didn’t need water or sewer hook-ups, but the 50 AMP electrical connection would allow us to wait and refuel in the morning before we pulled back onto the road. I called the campground from the road. The man on the phone said he could take us. We pulled in right around 5:00 PM and it was already pitch black outside. It felt more like 10:00 PM than it did early evening. He guided us to a spot near the back of the park, Mike plugged us in, I made nachos for dinner, we hit the sack extra early.

We slept well and got up around 7:00 AM to do our regular travel preparations. We filled up with diesel upon exiting the RV park, and we were back on the road with more good weather to lead us into Las Vegas. We only had about 90 miles left on our route, so the drive was easy and quick. The highway expanded to four lanes with a center median shortly after we hit the pavement, so Mike was much more relaxed as we pulled into the Circus Circus lot.

One of Mike’s co-workers, who is also retired, had planned to come visit us while we were parked in Vegas. He had hotel reservations at the Mirage and his flight was scheduled to land around noon on the same day we arrived. We got ourselves parked and situated as quickly as we could. Once we were all set up, we walked over to The Mirage and found Doug at the Sports Book. It has been so much fun to have various people visit us during our Lower 48 in 48 Tour, and we really appreciated the fact that Doug chose to come spend Christmas week with us. The three of us visited over drinks at the bar and then walked across the street to the Yard House for a bite of dinner.

The rest of the week blew by in the blink of an eye. It was bowl season (as in football), so Doug and Mike spent most of their time at the Mirage Sports Book. I joined them on occasion. When I got sick of watching teams I didn’t care about, I wandered over to the Pai Gow Poker tables and donated some money to the casino. They hung out a couple of evenings without me when I went back to the rig to keep the dogs company. They enjoyed their time together and I enjoyed my time alone – so it worked out great for everyone.

We had some good meals at restaurants like Guy Fieri’s Vegas Kitchen and Bar, The Hash House A Go Go, and another DDD spot called Fat Choy. Doug was generous enough to bring us some delicious home- made Texas tamales, so we were able to have a proper Christmas Eve dinner (its a South Texas thing, and since I spent my childhood years in the Valley, tamales and queso are a required feast on December 24th). I cooked Christmas dinner in the Monaco and we enjoyed hanging out with our friend.

Mike and I never expected Las Vegas to be busy during the Christmas holiday, but we were completely mistaken. The crowds were “regular size” when we arrived, but on Christmas Day the number of tourists on the strip exploded. I was amazed at all the bodies that appeared out of nowhere. It was crazy. Apparently people start arriving on Christmas in anticipation of the New Year’s celebration one week later. Tour companies were dropping off patrons by the bus loads. It looked like guests were standing in line at the hotel registration desks for hours! I was also amazed at how many people were toting small children in strollers. I can’t imagine why anyone would choose Las Vegas as a vacation destination with tiny kiddos in tow, but they must know something I don’t because there were kids everywhere! Seems like Disney Land or the equivalent would be more appropriate, but what do I know?

We dropped Doug off at the airport on the evening of December 26th, and we left Vegas on the morning of the 27th. It was time to cross Nevada off the map and head for state #48… California!

Walker Lake is a natural lake beside Highway 95 in the Nevada desert. Hawthorne Army Depot, which is the world’s largest ammunition depot, sits on the south edge of the same body of water.

Most of our drive to Las Vegas looked like this.

We ran into the Grinch on the way home from our first dinner in Vegas.

We were assigned a different spot when we made our reservation at the Circus Circus RV lot, but when we arrived #10 was open and it had a little grassy area beside it. When I checked us in at the office, I asked the lady if we could have that spot instead. She said no problem and had us reassigned in a matter of minutes. I thought it would be nice if our outdoor space was roomy. It never dawned on me that other campers would traipse directly through our stuff to get from one aisle of the park to the next. Piper didn’t like strangers creating a thoroughfare through his yard. I was afraid he was going to bite the next idiot that didn’t have enough manners to go around us. Mike set up the ladder as a makes-shift barrier to pedestrians. It was a successful deterrent about 40% of the time.

We had to stop in and say hi to Jimmy while we were in one of his neighborhoods.

Why yes… I DID eat my entire plate of Crab Cakes Benedict from Hash House A GO GO. I took more than half of the plate home in a box and made about three more meals of what was left – but I finished!

When one of your besties sends a text to say they are stuck in Vegas for the night because the pilot did not show up for their connecting flight between Denver and Houston, you drop what you are doing and drive over to their hotel to say hello!

I did not know there was a Cathedral on the Las Vegas Strip!

The Christmas Mass was very crowded and the music was magical.

Christmas dinner. Not as many options as a buffet, but far better flavor (if I do say so myself). I told Mike and Doug that I was going to order a Honey Baked Ham to pick up on Christmas Eve. They each got to choose a side dish for the menu. Mike selected Mac and Cheese. Doug requested Green Bean Casserole. I opted for a Spinach Horseradish Salad. Rolls and dessert completed the line-up. We stuffed ourselves.

One of my favorite things about Las Vegas is to go see the sculptures made of flowers at The Conservatory in The Bellagio. I walked over there alone one afternoon. Upon seeing the throngs of people when I arrived, I was so glad I had not forced Mike and Doug to come with me. It really was a miserable experience. At one point I was smack in the middle of the sea of bodies when one self absorbed woman had the nerve to ask me to move out of the way because she wanted to take a picture of her daughter and didn’t want me in the photo. On the inside I thought to myself “No S*%t Lady, where do you suggest I go? I don’t want to be in the picture either”! On the outside I smiled and said “Merry Christmas”. I’m pretty sure she knew I didn’t mean it.

A winter cabin made of flowers and other natural elements.

Polar Bears made of carnations.

Our friend, Doug, beside his favorite slot machine.

A view from the hotel portion of The Mirage.

We had a delicious lunch at a DDD spot on Sahara called Fat Choy. Wonton Soup, Short Rib Grilled Cheese, Fried Dumplings, Sesame Noodles, Soft Shell Bao. YUM! Thanks for treating us, Doug!

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