Day 15: Vegas, Baby!

welcome_to_vegas_home

Public Service Announcement: At no point in this blog entry will I type the phrase “Whatever happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.”

You’re welcome.

The lights of the Las Vegas Strip

The lights of the Las Vegas Strip

When we left Ed and Regina’s place on Sunday, June 23rd, we (1) drove to Victorville; (2) retrieved the RV; (3) returned our rental car in Victorville; and (4) drove to Vegas. All in one day. It wasn’t hard; the trip from Hermosa Beach to Vegas is only 285 miles.

The traffic leaving Vegas and driving South on I-15 was pretty brutal, but the traffic going into Vegas on I-15 North — our direction — wasn’t bad at all. And I’m proud to report that when we rolled into Vegas in the late afternoon, we drove our RV right up the famous Las Vegas Strip. Did it fit? Sorta. Was it fun? Yep. Did we get honked at? Yep.

The Las Vegas Strip is called Las Vegas Boulevard, with the heart of the Strip being Las Vegas Blvd South. That’s where all the famous hotels you hear so much about are located: the Mirage, the Bellagio, Caesar’s Palace, etc.

Our RV camp was on Las Vegas Blvd North, a few miles north of the main Strip, so we parked the RV and rented a car — this time it was a pickup truck — for our foray into Vegas on Monday, June 24th.

Let me be clear that we weren’t there to do two things that Vegas is famous for (but not the only two things, of course): gamble or see a show. We were there to visit Shelby American in the morning — a guys-only trip — and to just walk the Strip and see the sights the rest of the day.

shelby_american

Shelby American is Carroll Shelby’s shop for building the Shelby specialty cars that you hear so much about, primarily Mustangs these days. Yes, they’re based in Las Vegas. The Shelby American building is a combination museum, manufacturing facility, and gift shop. Ronan, Malcolm and I visited Shelby American Monday morning and took the free tour, the highlight of which was the museum, which contains about 25 or so vintage and modern Shelbys.

The museum contains millions of dollars worth of cars, everything from original Shelby Cobras from the early 60s to modern Shelby Mustangs that you can buy and drive right out of the museum. The museum even contains three or four examples of Shelbys from the sad era when Carroll Shelby did cars for Dodge back in the 1980s. The museum doesn’t shy away from those cars and has several of them on display, including the turbocharged Dodge Omni GLH (Goes Like Hell).

Without a doubt, the centerpiece of the museum is the very first Shelby Cobra that Carroll ever built in 1962, the Shelby CSX2000. As valuable as Shelbys are, this is the Shelby #1. It’s hard to put a value on it, but our tour guide (Denny) said that a private collector offered Carroll $23.7 million for it a couple years back, and Shelby refused to sell it. The seats are tattered and torn, well-worn from Carroll Shelby himself driving it around. Great stuff.

The first Shelby Cobra 427 that Carroll Shelby ever built, in 1962

The first Shelby Cobra 427 that Carroll Shelby ever built, in 1962

Interesting Carroll Shelby tidbit: he had a heart transplant in 1990 and a kidney transplant in 1996, yet still lived until the ripe old age of 89, passing away in May of 2012. He was one of the longest-surviving double-transplant patients on record.

We finished the tour around noon, and at 1:00 PM, the ladies (Nan and Anneliese) picked us up in the rental truck, and we drove down the strip into Vegas. We parked in a couple places and just walked the Strip and saw the sites, well into night when the neon lights came on. We did some shopping and eating, but mostly we just walked and gawked.

Some observations:

1.)  We had a good day for it. The temperature was “only” 95 degrees, and it was fairly windy, so it was much less hot than it could have been. As I write this, at 7:20 PM Friday, it’s 111 degrees in Vegas, with 9 MPH winds, so it’s cookin’ right now in Sin City. We got lucky.

2.) Maybe this is naïve, but Vegas was way more packed with people than I expected. Along the sidewalks, and the elevated walkways that cross over the Strip, the walking areas are just jam-packed with people. I also expected the streets of the Strip itself to be a little more wide-open, and not so tight. It was all a bit more claustrophobic than I expected. The upshot is that it means a lot of sights and a lot of neon are crammed into a relatively small area.

vegas05

3.) Vegas just wasn’t as nasty and out of control as I was led to believe it would be. I’ve been to Bourbon Street in New Orleans a number of times, and it’s more raw and adult, with its costumed people roaming the streets, bars everywhere, and guys in the street begging girls to, uh, give the guys a reason to toss up a string of beads. I just didn’t think Vegas was that bad. Is that reverse-naïve? My kids didn’t appear to even notice some of the more adult elements of the City. Is it kid-friendly? Not really. Is it rife with adults-only sights? No. Then again, we went back to the RV at 10 PM. Maybe it got worse later.

4.) I wouldn’t recommend Vegas as a destination for anyone beyond the age of about 30. Maybe you’ve been there, and you disagree, but I found myself thinking that while I was glad to finally be seeing it, it wasn’t a don’t-miss destination. Would I have loved it at age 25? Yes, I think so.  But at my current age and situation in life … meh.

5.) Probably my favorite sight was the Venetian hotel, with its indoor gondola canal that looks like it’s outdoors. Really cool stuff. It was contained in an indoor-mall type of setting, and the large majority of the shops were too upscale for me — Jimmy Choo, etc. — but we did stumble upon one cheap little touristy shop that hooked me up with a commemorative keychain (more on the keychain collecting in a later blog entry).

The food court at the Venetian Hotel; looks like it's outdoors, but it's not

The food court at the Venetian Hotel; looks like it’s outdoors, but it’s not

6.) Our favorite store was probably the M&M Store, consisting of four stories of M&M products, paraphernalia, and merchandise. I didn’t buy a thing, but for some reason, I enjoyed looking at all the colorful products and offerings, and the M&M Wall of a few dozen colors was interesting. The kids loved it, of course.

That's a lot of M&Ms. I'll have some peanut ones, please.

That’s a lot of M&Ms. I’ll have some peanut ones, please.

7.) Most overrated (admittedly free) attraction? The Fountains at the Bellagio. The Fountains go off, choreographed to music, all night long, or so the promotional material would have you believe. They really go off every fifteen minutes or so, do one song, and then go quiet for the next 10-12 minutes. I will admit, however, that my opinion is colored by the fact that when we saw the Fountains, they were spouting off to “This Kiss” by Faith Hill, a song I dislike fairly intensely (catchy tune, but some of the lyrics are really dumb).  Had the Fountains been shooting up in the air to the tune of “Viva Las Vegas” by Elvis Presley, I might have a better opinion.

"This kiss, this kiss, it's [insert dumb lyric here]."

“This kiss, this kiss, it’s [insert dumb lyric here].” Pretty, but overrated.

That’s about it. We came, we saw, we walked a lot, and we can now say we’ve been to Vegas. And what happened to us in Vegas didn’t stay in Vegas; it’s blogged in detail right here.

We left the next morning, Tuesday, June 25th, to check out the Hoover Dam and return to Williams, Arizona. Here are a few last pics of Vegas.

Hey, who accidentally inserted this picture of the New York skyline here?

Hey, who accidentally inserted this picture of the New York skyline here?

Giant M&Ms and a giant Coke. Yummy.

Giant M&Ms and a giant Coke. Yummy.

Somebody crashed their giant Harley through this restaurant, and they just left it there.

Somebody crashed their giant Harley through this restaurant, and they just left it there.

Ronald does Vegas

Ronald does Vegas

Gay Paree

Gay Paree

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