2 – We Arrive in Vegas

This trip appears too good to be true when you look at it beforehand. I mean, something this monumentally doesn’t happen without its drawbacks. There has to be a Yin and Yang element of balance. Something has to go wrong. Would we be so fortunate for it go smoothly from the off? No! But I didn’t expect it to before we’d even go through security.

Thomas ‘Robbing Bastard’ Cook deemed both our suitcases to be over the allocated 23Kg. Sue had put a lot of her stuff in mine, shoes, shoes, and more shoes, and all sorts of cosmetics that made me think I’d forgot something. My case rocketed from what was about 22Kg back home on our scales to 27Kg on Thomas Cooks. Having been successful with a diet for two months, I’m now worried our scales lied. Or could it be that Thomas Cook decided to claw back some of the money from the cheap flights they initially offered? Sue’s was just over 23Kg too and they suggested moving even more stuff from hers into mine so we only get charged once. ONLY?? At £85 aswell! Scandalous! Others suffered a similar fate in a matter of minutes, making me think this was just a crafty ploy. They probably had us earmarked from the off. ‘When the Cartner party arrive at the desk, nudge them scales up a bit.’ Fuckers! Let’s hope the same doesn’t happen on our return flight, or else the shoes will have to go, sorry! There will definitely be no shopping on Rodeo Drive at the trips end!

Ten hours on a plane seemed unbearable beforehand. That’s like waking up, going to work, and driving back and sticking Friends on on the TV! But having waited patiently for nine weeks, I’m sure we could get through the final ten hours, which did go rather quickly actually, despite only watching one film on the personal TV screens. Well, there wasn’t much option as only five things were available. You had to pay to unlock the full range of Films and TV Shows (I’m sure the £85 would cover that…..but no!). Why Thomas Cook couldn’t just give them you for free is beyond me. Free doesn’t seem to come into their equation.

I arrive in Vegas excited, despite the rigmarole at Passport Control. It took forever and I had to endure a few questions from the barrel of laughs Officer, who asked me why I was in Vegas (silly question), where I was born (it’s on my passport that’s in your hand), how much money did I have on me (I thought he was going to recommend a high class strip club or something) and where I’m staying on my first night. Nosey bastard!

Once we were through and into the open we hailed a taxi, and I promise Sue that I’ll win the £85 back no problem. Haha – just writing it is making me laugh.

We found that The Hooters we were staying in (yes you heard correctly) was not as sleazy as its reputation in the UK made it out to be. Far from it actually, but my excuse beforehand was that I thought I was booking into a “cracking owl sanctuary” as a certain Alan Partridge once said. The owl logo threw me.

So after a necessary couple of hours kip when we got in the room, we got dolled up and hit Las Vegas Boulevard at about 5pm, eating in a cheap and cheerful Dennys. I forgot how nice Philly Cheese Steaks were! We then visited the hotels and casinos that brought so much pleasure for me and my friends six years earlier. We walked through The MGM, New York New York, The Bellagio, where we watched the fountains, before venturing into the place we stayed six years earlier, Planet Hollywood.

Everything hadn’t changed really, and the old familiar sights and smells quickly drove me back into nostalgia. The indoor smoking laws meant each casino had an odour of tobacco that was hidden by the aroma of what seemed like bees wax furniture polish. Rows and rows of thousands of slot machines lit up the insides of the casinos and the sounds of each game rang through the air. Everywhere was nicely busy and you never saw a cluster of slot machines without at least a few people sat around them. The money that was being spent must have been scandalous when lumped together. Typically, the tables were packed with the seekers of the American Dream, all convinced they were going to have that life changing win. Me included!

Me and Sue played and lost a bit on the slot machines, and only managed to get one free drink from doing this. I’m sure we lasted longer on the machines previously? $10 seemed to stretch for about half an hour last time, but was done with in a couple of minutes this time. Free drinks are a given at the machines….we got one! After how much we spent in the machines, we’d have been better off sitting in a bar!

On the whole it was a nice and quiet night for me in Vegas, considering how hard we hit it years ago. Vegas can take many different forms so to experience it at this pace was ideal. We have two weeks of a huge trip ahead of us, moving about around the West, so it wasn’t really top of our agenda to hit the clubs till eight in the morning. Still, it was proving to be quite an expensive first day with the drink costs, $22 for a round in a bar called The Roadhouse. And that’s without a tip, which is enough to clean you out too!

I’d held off gambling at the tables for now, but thought I’d do that on low minimum tables back at Hooters. I shouldn’t have bothered.

I took up a pew amongst four friendly Americans who welcomed me to the Black Jack table in Hooters. They were from Colorado and were consistent visitors to Vegas. One was actually dressed very similar to Hunter S Thompson; skinny, balding, glasses and wearing a visor. I didn’t know if he was on adrenochrome! There was a great spirit and camaraderie on the table, everyone was friendly, but we had to be as we were all locked into the same situation of being completely screwed over. The way the upcoming games played out was so unbelievable even these guys said in the twenty years they’ve been coming to Vegas they have never seen anything like it. The dealer hit 20 or 21 sixteen times in a row. That never happens! Needless to say the chasing of bets started very quickly and coupled with the amount of alcohol consumed, sensibility got lost somewhere on Las Vegas Boulevard and I was $250 down in no time at all. Ouch!! So I went to bed pissed and pissed off. Vegas! So close to my heart…..close enough to rip it from my chest and wave it in front of my face taunting me . Vegas had won this battle…..but would I try and win some of it back the next day??

Vegas Day 2

Strange thoughts of what to do on our only full day in Vegas. Like I said, it wasn’t that important to hit it hard when we had two weeks of travelling. The best option was to try and absorb more hotels along the strip, and forget about last night’s financial disaster. We found a Mexican joint to eat next to The MGM on the strip that advertised breakfasts for $4.50. Good value for Vegas in terms of price, taste and portion size. The free refill on drinks was abused, so a couple of cups of coffee later fuelled us for our trek down the strip. We went to Caesars Palace, The Mirage, The Venetian, The Palazzo and The Wynn. I noticed that the area near The Wynn had been completely regenerated. The Imperial Palace and low key bars around it had been demolished and it was far more attractive from a tourist point of view. But personally, I enjoyed the sleazier bars. They had character and were much more suited to drinking establishments back home in terms of the grounded clientele. It was sad to see one particular bar completely wiped away. It was called O’Shea’s, which had beers for $1, and was the scene of one of our more drunken nights years ago.

Still, to be able to roam freely throughout all the mega hotels was a great experience. Everything is just so big and grand, and looks so cool and well kitted out. You do get locked into its enormity and can’t help but be in awe of each hotel and casino. Vegas really is an adult playground that appeals to all ages. It is a colossal place that really strikes at the heart of people’s fantasies and vices.

Walking through the hotels pretty much took the whole day. We decided we weren’t going to drink much on the night as we had a huge day ahead of us, where we believed the trip would really start. We were going to take the six hour drive to Tucson, and considering I hadn’t driven abroad before, I thought it best to be sober and energised for the journey.

So the night went by quietly, we took in the sights and had some food and ended up back in Hooters where the urge to gamble was hard to resist. This time I just went with $20 on Black Jack and was quickly ousted from my seat five games later with nothing left on the table. The Gods were against me in Vegas, I thought best not to piss them off anymore so left gambling alone. But We’ll be back in twelve days time for our final night. Maybe I’ll have another shot then.

Jet lag really kicked in and decided to go to bed in Vegas at 11pm. Unheard of!! It ended up being a good move because I was ready to tackle the drive through the desert. Before I drift off I receive word that Mohawk Radio smashed their opening gig in North Carolina, and the atmosphere was meant to have been incredible.

I had heard from them the previous day and judging from the pictures they sent me, it looked like they were staying on a lake within a forestry. Maddy had said the house was sensational and their host basically fed them cocktails and beer. It seemed peaceful where they were, a complete contrast to where we were. They booked it through airbnb, staying at people’s houses. I had never contemplated the idea beforehand, but on their recommendation me and Sue found three places to stay via airbnb on our travels, starting in Tucson. I loved the idea of staying in typical American neighbourhoods, it seemed to add an authenticity to the trip where we could really immerse ourselves in American culture.

But first, I had to stop shitting myself about my first drive abroad and navigate my way down to Tucson. I started to think what my first song would be that I would play as soon as hit the open road….

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