The past two and one half weeks have brought us some of the best and most memorable experiences of our lives. However, we had reached the point that Dennis and I were having a hard time motivating the kids to be excited about another red rock or funky tree or deer on the side of the road. Las Vegas was exactly the right place at the right time to shake things up again!
Before we left for our trip, a friend of mine joked that I should take a picture of the boys before they go into Vegas because they won’t be the same after they leave! There was more truth to that statement than he realized, a truth that lied beyond the billboards of scantily clad woman and postcard sized advertisements for the nearest gentlemen’s club. The truth they experienced lied more in the realization that there is an expansive world out there filled with promise and hope, despair and loneliness. In Vegas, you see the highs of the promise of glory and wealth and the lows of poverty and homelessness. Las Vegas is without a doubt a life changing experience.
Much to my surprise, that Monday in Sin City brought out the families. Kids under the age of 15 with their extended families made up the bulk of the foot traffic on the strip. We were no exception. The casinos sang their songs of winning jackpot but many of the seats remained empty in lieu of roller coasters, ice cream and buffets, lots and lots of buffets. Strictly by accident, we discovered a delicious money saving tip that I would like to pass along. In trying to decide which buffet to enjoy, we noticed the Bellagio offered the best seafood and sushi selection which was exactly what Cam and I had hoped to find. Lunch, ended at 4:00PM was $10/head cheaper than dinner. We got there about 3:45 and found no lines, no waiting. We paid the lower price and within 15 minutes, all the glorious higher-end items like lobster ravioli and sashimi tuna were there for the taking! If you can time it right, you can eat like kings but at the price of a commoner.
After some R&R at the hotel pool, we got dressed and headed out for the bright lights of the city after dark. Dennis and I wanted the kids to see Old Vegas. One of our trip “guidelines” was to try to experience things unique to the area we were visiting. The Fremont Street Experience fits that to a tee. You can take a taxi there for about $25 each way from the strip or feel free to hop on The Deuce, public transportation for $3 per person per way or $7 for a 24 hour pass. The kids had a field day with the name, dropping every potty joke they could think of to kill the time waiting. (For the slower crowd, deuce = 2…number 2…get it?) Most folks were heading across town with us. The buses were filled and the stops were many, but it gave us a chance to see the strip from a unique vantage point. They ran every 7 minutes, so if you can’t get a seat, hold tight and jump on the next one. After an hour plus ride, we arrived at Fremont Street.
The Fremont Street Experience aims to capture the nostalgia of Old Vegas with a modern twist. The canopy of lights overhead that runs the length of the street was dark. Most nights there is a theme or tribute created for the audiences’ viewing pleasure. Our night was a tribute to the rock band Queen. We timed it perfect. Much to our delight, within the past year the boys have discovered classic rock. AC/DC, Led Zeppelin and Queen top their list of favorites so we knew when the show started, it was going to knock their socks off. We walked around; checking out the old neon signs and listening to an Elvis impersonator rock the house. At the end of his set, he told the folks dancing in the street that he’d be back shortly. Dennis and I looked at each other knowing the time had come.
The hotel lights went dark, the street lights dimmed and this huge lightning bolt complete with thunder sound effects raced from one end of the street to the other, shockingly loud. The boys eyes popped open and their jaws dropped to the floor. Perfect! Queen’s “We Will Rock You” filled the streets and the canopy of lights flooded the boulevard with everything from the British flag, to Freddy in concert to the lyrics pounding overhead. It ended too quickly; I could have watched the kids watch the lights for hours. When it was finished, Cam picked his jaw off the ground and said slowly with purpose “That…was the coolest thing I’ve ever seen.”
The kids nabbed front row seats on the top deck of the bus ride back to the hotel. Honestly, the best view of Sin City I’ve ever seen. Although we missed the dancing fountains at Belliagio, we did see the pirate ships, the volcano, the circus tent and the New York skyline before we called it a night. I can’t exactly put my finger on it but the kids did change after that. The last remaining childhood habits and comforts were abandoned and new, more adult attitudes are starting to rear their heads. My boys are growing up.
We headed out the next morning for Sedona Arizona. As we were leaving the city limits, Dennis commented on how he had never seen the Hoover Dam, wondering if it would be that far out of our way to drive by to see it. We were resigning ourselves to the fact we’d have to catch it on the next trip when we noticed signs for Lake Mead. Our faithful companion Betty plotted our route to cross over the Hoover Dam on the way to Arizona. Since 9/11, security has been very tight at the Dam and we were required to pull over and be subjected to a minor search. We gladly obliged and within 10 minutes we were driving across this miraculous man-made tourist attraction. The new bridge across the dam was in process. Tourists lined the streets taking photos from every angle. I did my best from the window because we were informed that any vehicle over 15’ in length is not allowed to stop until they have passed over the entire structure. I’m so glad we got the opportunity to see it, again nothing else like it in the world. See, our luck in Vegas wasn’t all bad.