About 2 hours from LA, we stopped at Calico, an old ghost town in the desert, which used to be a large silver mining town but got abandoned when the price of silver halved. It was a bit cliched but also quite cool. All the buildings had been restored to how they would have looked back in the 1880s and there were buildings for different purposes like the Sheriff’s Station or Saloon. We had lunch in a restaurant which had sawdust and peanut shells on the floor. It was baking hot (39 degrees) and, because it was the desert, very dry as well.
You had to pay an entrance fee, I think it was about $12 for both of us, but you were free to stay as long as you liked. There were a couple of places to eat, shops ands boutiques fitting with the town and you could walk to some of the mines if you wanted.
Driving into Vegas was strange. We were literally in the desert, having just crossed the Nevada state line, and then we were essentially right next to the Main Strip. The temperature gauge said about 45 degrees when we got there, and you could feel it as you got out of the car. Our hotel was the Luxor, an Egyptian-themed hotel, so it naturally had a giant Sphinx outside of it, which turned out to be the car and taxi rank underneath. The whole hotel was the shape of a pyramid, with a light on the top which you can apparently see from space. The rest of the hotels nearby were similarly themed: Excalibur was joined to ours and knights of the round table themed; New York New York had a Statue of Liberty outside, along with the Empire State Building and the Kreisler Building, and there was a Parisian one with an Eiffel Tower.
Photo: Luxor Hotel
Walking into the lobby was like walking into a theme park and a city combined. Everything you could possibly want was there, food courts to casinos to oxygen bars, which are apparently a ‘thing’. We checked in and went up to our room in the pyramid, where the elevators don’t go up and down, they’re called inclinators and go sideways and up. The view from our room was of the Sphinx and the MGM Grand.
Photo: The Luxor Hotel lobby.
We were pretty hungry, so we headed down to the massive lobby area and had fajitas in a Mexican restaurant. Then we tried gambling….and failed spectacularly. We won about 10 cents. We tried roulette, a couple of slot machines and a wheel of fortune game, but failed. And gambling is boring if you aren’t winning, which, considering the house had favour on its side, wasn’t likely to happen. Plus it was also more complicated, because you can legally smoke in some areas of Vegas hotels, which meant that we were essentially dodging people who were gambling and smoking.
By now it was dark, so we headed outside to look at the strip in its flashing glory. It was like Times Square but an entire street and more tacky, but also quite cool at the same time. We didn’t venture too far, because even though we were in the desert, we’d still managed to get caught in a rain shower. Rain’s very strange in the desert, because you dry within about 9 seconds. In LA, we’d found a 24-hour cupcake ATM, and in Las Vegas we found self-serve frozen yoghurt which we obviously had to try. Vegas never sleeps, so you could pretty much have anything you wanted whenever you wanted, including 29 yard-long cocktails.
The next morning, we got up and went down to our Egyptian tomb breakfast in the depths of the hotel. From our room to breakfast, it took about 5-10 minutes to walk, and we were on the 25th floor, so we had an awesome if not slightly terrifying view of the main concourse. In England, they’d have a barrier or glass so you couldn’t fall to your death when drunk, in Vegas they don’t seem to care. The buffet was massive, you could eat pretty much anything, even things which aren’t breakfast associated.
Photo: From the hotel room looking down to the lobby.
After a valet parking man had sprinted for our car (they all do, even in the heat), we set off for the Hoover Dam. One thing we soon discovered about Las Vegas, is that pretty much everything can be made into a drive-thru or 24 hour (or both), for example, ATMs, pharmacy, show women etc, we saw lots of automated 24 hour convenience things we don’t have in the UK while driving out of town. We got to the Hoover Dam relatively quickly (about 40 minutes) and had a look around. By now it was sweltering, you know you’re hot when you’re moaning in your head that there’s no aircon in the toilets.
Photo: Hoover Dam
The Dam is on the corner of Arizona and Nevada states, both which, confusingly, have different laws about pedestrian crossings and whether or not you have to yield within about 100m of each other. It also sometimes has different time zones, but Arizona only runs on Mountain Time at certain times of the year and in certain counties, just to confuse you more, so we didn’t actually have to change time zone for the 10 minutes we were in Arizona. The Dam was originally called the Boulder Dam, and renamed after President Hoover, and Boulder City only came into existence because they built it in order to build the Dam. The Colorado river had been flooding before that, so they diverted it and made the Dam and nearby Lake Mead so it didn’t interfere with the settlements or mining in the area. It’s free to walk around the top of the Dam, but you can pay to go on a guided tour of the internal part of it.
We made our way back into Vegas and had lunch in an Italian restaurant in Excalibur, which you can get to without even having to leave our hotel. I tried to be healthy and opted for salad and pasta, but this turned out to be huge. After, we went to the pool, which was outdoor, very hot and a party pool more than a swimming pool, but it was great to cool off, look up at the blue sky and get blinded by our glass pyramid of a hotel.
Dinner was in an American bar and, again, I tried to be healthy and had salad, but it turned out to be the biggest salad I’ve ever seen. You will never go hungry in America, and you’re allowed to take your leftovers home with you if you want to! We wandered out to the Strip afterwards and sat on the second Brooklyn bridge we’ve seen on this trip, listening to a blues guitarist underneath these sprinkler lampposts which mist you with water, essentially making outdoor air con (amazing invention). By the time we walked back, the Strip was all lit up and dark and was well worth seeing. It must be nice to build a city from scratch and make everything look good from the outset.
The next morning, we checked out, watched another valet man run to get our car and then started our drive to Death Valley.
Photos were taken by me.