My son Rob and I had an adventurous week. We boarded a plane Monday for Las Vegas, our first trip there. I’d always had a curiosity about the city, having seen photos and heard stories of “the strip”…meaning, Las Vegas Boulevard where a majority of the big name hotels and casinos are located. I’m not a gambler, and I’m not much of a night-life person, so Vegas might seem an odd choice. It was Rob’s choice, mainly, and my curiosity to see the sights that caused us to spend a few vacation days there.
The coming of Christmas can be stressful for a pastor with increased services and activities in December. In fact, I had to be disciplined and work ahead in planning so I could leave town without a lot of worry or guilt. And it worked. We boarded the plane at Hopkins and I felt the stress lift when the jet’s tires did. We arrived in Nevada four hours later, took a shuttle to the Paris Hotel and unpacked. The Paris is smack in the middle of the strip, so it was easy to get around and see the other hotels and casinos. And casinos. And casinos. Just as I’d heard, they’re everywhere. They’re smoky (yuck!), noisy, fairly dark and…full. At least at night.
Rob and I both brought some spending money for gambling. I played a few slot machines, video poker and video blackjack. I’m no card-sharp anyway, but these games I could figure out. I’d lose a little, win a little, lose a little more. I know these “games” are set in the casinos favor, and I have a low tolerance for giving my money away in this manner. All told, I lost $26 over two days and was done. Yes, $26, which means I went $1 over my self-imposed limit. Given that there was a poker tournament going on with a pot of a million dollars plus, I suppose I shouldn’t whine about my loss.
We sought out some good food, but finding lunch for less than $20 per person takes some doing. We splurged on a buffet, had excellent crepes at our French hotel, rode the monorail, and attended two shows in the evenings. We walked our feet off, took lots of photos and enjoyed watching the sunrise over the mountains from our 25th floor hotel room. One night, while waiting for a show to begin, we spotted a woman who was the spitting image of my daughter, Katie–but older and taller–and surreptitiously took her picture so we could show Katie when we got home.
The hotels in Vegas are marvels of engineering and beauty, at least the newer, grander ones. You can ride to the top of the Eiffel Tower (fake), walk the streets of Manhattan (fake), ride a gondola in Venice (fake). I’ve been fortunate to have traveled to all those real places, and frankly, I prefer the grittiness of reality in this case. But there is something Disney-like in the sparkling lights, the clean streets, the many shows, the fountains and flowers, and the “over the top” way the hotels and casinos compete for your money.
After day two, we were done. Finished. Almost bored. We looked into booking a plane ride over the Grand Canyon, but the price was high and the weather was iffy, so we skipped it. I know we could have rented a car and driven to Hoover Dam, but neither of us had much interest. Yes, we could have taken a longer car trip to see the Grand Canyon. But we chose to relax, sleep in, walk, and enjoy each other’s company. And in the end it was fine. It was a good trip. We can say we’ve been there, done that. Got the t-shirt.
Sometimes, you’ve got to leave town to appreciate what you have back home. Maybe that’s what vacation is all about.
[more Vegas photos on my Flickr site]