June 11th, 2009

PNR, days 11 and 12: "gonna sell my car..."

"...and go to Vegas, 'cause that's somebody told me that's where dreams will be." - Sara Bareilles, "Vegas"

Just a few of the bright lights that make this point on the globe visible from space at night.

After taking supplies in Richfield, I began the 280-mile trek to the town of the original CSI, the World Series of Poker, and Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau. Along the way I made the usual gas and food stops, along with a few others. One was at Cove Fort, a historical site at the junction of Interstates 70 and 15. It served as a safe haven for Mormon settlers. Signs about the place directed me to wait for a tour guide to show me around. Given that I was headed to "Sin City," and that Mormons spend two years of their lives in far corners of the world spreading their faith, I decided that a couple of pictures and a swift departure would be the right course of action. I did make a quick stop on Arizona soil, as the thirty miles of I-15 there would be my only time in the state. I also stopped just over the border in Nevada, to "clear baffles" and reset my clocks to Pacific time.

The trip was fast until the I-15 reached the northern end of Las Vegas, at which time I ran into road work. The slowness continued through the exit onto Tropicana Avenue until I checked into New York New York Hotel and Casino. Once that was complete, I headed out to walk Las Vegas Boulevard - "The Strip." Approximately two minutes after I left the hotel, I was for the first time propositioned for certain "services" unique to this state and city. A minute after that, I heard the cackling of two ladies, who were clearly not attuned to their surroundings. I wondered whether they were drunk or high, most likely the former. I walked up and back down most of the south end of the Strip, glimpsing most of the mega-resort properties that have been built over the last twenty years. Both the constructed and "natural" scenery, shall we say, were admirable. I ate at the bar at the ESPN Zone inside New York New York, and then went upstairs and showered and changed.

My first stop of the night was Coyote Ugly, which wasn't charging cover and had two-for-one before nine. At that time, the scene wasn't particularly jumping, so just after nine, I headed downstairs to play some blackjack. I had some good conversations going at my table, including one with a group of ladies from states near my own. After a couple of hours of playing, I decided to try to get into Rok, the hotel's nightclub - after all, I had complimentary admission prior to midnight. It only took a few minutes on the line to figure out that it wasn't moving fast, and I wouldn't be using that ticket. So just after midnight, I returned to Coyote Ugly - and was fortunate that my hand stamp allowed me to bypass both cover charge and the line to enter. Now, the place was jumping, quite similar to what you see in the movie of the same name. The strangest thing I saw in there was something I tried to capture in this picture, but didn't quite get. A bachelorette entered wearing a crown that sported a penis and testicles atop it. She was quickly beckoned to the top of the bar by the Coyotes. (She's second from the left in the photo, with her arm up blocking the adornment.) On my way from the Ugly back to my room, I ordered another beer - and promptly spilled it once I was back upstairs.

After waking on Saturday morning, I headed toward the south end of Las Vegas Boulevard, to capture the famous "Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada" sign. Had I known there was parking immediately adjacent to the landmark, I might have driven. But I got the shots, walked back, grabbed lunch, and then went to Walgreens to buy a nail clipper and some flip-flops. I needed the latter because I wanted to go to the pool. As is sometimes the case, I was reluctant to remove my shirt - but upon seeing some of the other men in attendance, I no longer had a problem. I relaxed with beers at the pool's edge for a while, then went back inside to watch the Belmont Stakes. Once that was over, I headed back to my room and called my parents...a call that was cut short by my phone's loss of power. Having won thirty dollars on twenty-one the previous night, it was time to improve on that position. Did I? Of course not. I dropped around three hundred dollars to the house, and another four or five beers into my stomach and liver. The table had a bit of an Commonwealth feel to it - there were, at various points, players from Canada, Britain, and Australia Once I decided that I didn't want to line Kirk Kerkorian's pockets any longer, I grabbed a slice of pizza (which was as good as New York, by the way) and returned to my room to eat it. After that, I made for the Bar at Times Square, which plays into a recurring theme on this trip - a dueling piano establishment. Except here, the drinks were more expensive, and the pianos were actually keyboards. I enjoyed a rendition of Billy Joel's classic "Angry Young Man," for which one patron laid out a hundred and fifty American dollars. I briefly chatted with a couple of ladies from the Royal Air Force. And I took what might be the defining image of the trip to date - a bachelorette dancing with a man in a pink gorilla suit. (And I know it was a man, because he came out of the bathroom alongside me.) I ultimately walked out satisfied, knowing I'd spent both my time and money better than if I'd gone to the Pornstar Ball at Rok that night.

You might be wondering why I didn't employ some of those services I mentioned earlier to end the "interminable streak." There are two reasons. One is the potential issue of safety; this is certainly a gray area, as prostitution is in fact illegal in Clark County. More importantly than that, it's frickin' cheating! If you directly purchase your first encounter, there's a permanent blemish on your male record. Even as I drive further into my twenty-ninth year of live, I'm not ready to concede that defeat. And that choice certainly didn't put a damper on my weekend in Vegas.

Pictures: Day 11 | Day 12 (Las Vegas)

PNR, day 13: "drink it in, it always goes down smooth."

Let's just continue it: Discovered by the Germans in 1904, they named it "San Diego," which, of course in German means "a whale's vagina." - Ron Burgundy

The projected length of Sunday's drive meant an early up-and-out from Las Vegas, regardless of the effects of the previous night's alcohol. A nondescript trip through the high deserts of southern Nevada and southeast California was punctuated by my inability to locate my phone after the second gas stop. I had to pull over and confirm that it was in the car; fortunately, it was. The place where I stopped, a for-rent office building, struck me as probably similar to many other structures in the so-called "Inland Empire." With that scare taken care of, I continued south. In fact, just about as far south and west as you can go. I made for Border Field State Park in Imperial Beach. When I reached the gate, I found it to be closed. On the one hand, this saved me admission to the park; on the other, it meant I'd have to hoof it all the way to the shore and the border. Yes, I was simultaneously looking at both the Pacific Ocean and Mexico. At the shore's edge, the border demarcation shrinks to nothing more than some poles. This wasn't a problem, thanks to the continual presence of U. S. Customs and Border Protection. They were everywhere. In contrast, their Mexican counterparts were - as expected - nowhere to be found. Once I'd taken care of that, I headed into downtown San Diego, and for the fourth time thus far on the trip, checked into a Hampton Inn.

I kept it close for dinner, eating along the street at a place called Buon Appetito in Little Italy. The food was quite good. After a brief respite back at "home," I headed for the Gaslamp Quarter. I walked about the place for a bit and finally settled on a place called Whiskey Girl. It was a nice scene. There was enough there to keep me interested, while at the same time the place was sufficiently uncrowded that I had no problem ordering beers. The highlight of the night was when some of the place's off-duty bartenders came in, already completely gone, but intent on going some more. One of them mentioned Cornell's loss to Syracuse in the men's lacrosse championship game. (I was wearing a Cornell long-sleeved tee.) I was only slightly peeved at having that memory brought back to the surface; I was much more appreciative of the fact that he recognized the event. Of course, given our location and respective states, we traded lines from Anchorman ad nauseum.

I ended up being there until last call, after which I got myself back to where the trolley should have been, but wasn't. I knew that the Hampton was right along the track's route, so I followed it - until a trolley came along at America Plaza, and I could hop aboard and save my feet a little pain. On this first night of the six in California, the nights when we put Tupac's theorem ("California knows how to party") to the test - the Golden State repped itself nicely.

Pictures: Day 13 (San Diego)