Friday, September 26, 2008

Vegas, Baby!

I can't believe I've been home for a week and have had ZERO time to blog about our trip! It is amazing how time can just get away from you.

Our trip to Vegas began on a Saturday and we immediately got our rental car, which was a breeze even though the entire rental car city was filled with horrendous long lines and really pissed off people. We had all our info and did a Self Check In and were off.

Our first drive down the strip was a bit disappointing as it was the middle of the day and Vegas is known for it's lights. I don't know what I was expecting, but there just was not the ooomph! that I was hoping for. It was a street with a zillion people all over it and yes, there were some amazing structures, but I guess as I was driving I was focused more on not killing someone.

We checked in to our hotel and took off for Hoover Dam. We stayed at the Embassy Suites, no, not very exciting. We had originally planned for the Venetian and then switched to Treasure Island, but once I saw that the Embassy Suites was right behind the Wynn I opted to stay in our usual standby and earn some points. Also, not knowing exactly how lively Vegas is we thought it might be quieter to stay off the strip. It had both pros and cons, but we were happy because the Embassy serves a cooked to order breakfast everyday which is included with your room - along with a free open bar every evening from 5:30-7:30. Not only that, the price was about half of any of the major attraction hotels on the strip.

We got to Hoover Dam really quickly (less than 30 minutes), but found that we were just a few minutes too late for The Dam Tour. We opted for the regular guided tour for $11 which was short, but very informative. We did get to go see the turbines and walk through the tunnels. The dam is amazing seeing as how it was built in the 30's. It is also interesting to find out how the government did not disclose all of the deaths related to the building of the dam so that the public would not see the project in a bad light. Shocking to think that the government would sugar-coat something, isn't it?

The next morning we were up at 4am - due to us being on Eastern time so we hit the strip. Surprisingly, it was pretty calm, but there were more people out that I had expected. We took this time to tour Ceaser's Palace - simply stunning. We then hit the road to the Grand Canyon West. The drive took about 2.5 hours during which most of it was on OPEN DESERT ROAD. Yes, there was a speed limit, but I did not observe it in the least. I hit 110, but for the most part I kept it around 95-100. He would not admit it, but I think Hunk was a bit jealous that I did not insure him on the car. We had a Mazda 626, it was cute and had the option to be either an automatic transmission or a semi-manual. There was no clutch, but the gears can be changed manually up to a 5 speed. That was kinda cool....

Grand Canyon West is located within the Hualapai Indian Reservation. There is one road that leads in which is 21 miles long and unpaved. It started out fine, but it did get really rough for the last 10 miles. I bottomed out the car once because I was really driving faster than I should have. Once you get in there is a big parking area which costs $20 to park. You then go into the office and gift shop to purchase tickets for what you want to do while there. The standard tour is $30 per person which lets you ride the charter bus to 3 stops within the reservation. You have to add on things like the Skywalk and Helicopter/Pontoon rides. We stuck with the standard figuring we would check it all out and then decide if we really wanted to go out on to the Skywalk.

The Skywalk was pretty cool, but looking at the professional photographs (you can't take your own camera) you pretty much only see the plexiglass floor. We were a bit miffed because the area around the Skywalk would not allow you to go to the edge of the Canyon. It was roped off probably 15 feet back from the edge. Disappointing, but I found out later that the next stop was PHENOMENAL. So, it was definately resolved. From this area we saw the area in the 2nd photo below, which is called Eagle Rock because it really does look like the wingspan of an Eagle.

At the Skywalk we ate lunch - a Hualapai Taco (see photo) which is everything in a regular taco all piled onto a huge piece of fried bread dough. It was $12 and we were glad we only got was huge. Not my favorite, the bread dough is pretty plain, but it was an experience. The Hualapai Indians were also at the location dancing and having photos taken. There were real examples of all the different types of Indian dwelling as well....very cool.

At our next stop - Guano Point there was a small cafe. This area was a peninsula jutting out into the Grand Canyon. This place was about a thousand times better than the Skywalk area, this was the reason I came here. As you can see from the 1st photo below you can walk right off the edge of the Canyon if you feel like it (that small blue dot is Hunk's Monkey Button shirt). We climbed a mountain in the middle of the peninsula and got a good 340 degree panoramic view of the Grand Canyon. It was truly phenomenal, there just aren't words to describe how beautiful it was and how awesome our earth is. Kudos to the Hualapai Tribe for sharing this with us. WORTH EVERY PENNY!

The third stop in the reservation was a made up western town. Might've been more exciting if the kids were with us. I did see the cow "Norman" from the movie City Slickers. He lives there and they run him through the town a few times a day. He is ginormous! And, yes, his real name is Norman!

We left the Grand Canyon and hit the desert for more fast driving - whoo hooo - and got back to Vegas for a late night on the strip. We drove from our hotel and parked at Treasure Island to go see their Siren show out front. I personally though it was kind of lame, but then again, I don't know what I was expecting. A bunch of girls dancing around in lingerie pretending they are pirates. We also hit the Bellagio to watch the fountain show, which was pretty cool, this particular show was set to Elvis' Viva Las Vegas which was very fitting.

Once Monday began, Hunk had to work during the day, usually until 4, so I pretty much hung out at the pool. We decided to go to two shows while there, the first one was David Copperfield. This was at MGM so when I went to check it out earlier in the day I got to see the MGM Lion Habitat. There is a tunnel you can walk under and the lions were laying on the tunnel, there was also a guy in there sitting next to the lion just scratching her belly like she was a regular old house cat. I took a photo from down under...

David Copperfield was fun to watch, though we had seen most of the illusions already on TV specials. The best part was that Hunk got chosen to go up and assist with one of the illusions. It involved a real duck being magically transported from a box in the center stage to a bucket in Hunk's arms on the side of the stage. He still says he can't figure out how the duck got into the bucket or if there was some trap door, because the bucket truly did seem empty, then a duck jumped out onto him!

The other show we went to was 'O' at the Bellagio. It was something I'm really glad we did not miss because the stage and setting itself it worth the price to see. The show was good, but the concept is just amazing and I would pay to go see it again. We were forbidden to take photos, but I 'accidentally' snapped a quick one during a particularly active scene. Basically the stage goes from pool to floor in seconds and in several different sections. They can have a high diver plunge into the pool and then, don't blink, as the pool just disappeared and there are people dancing where the guy just dove in. Really cool. The Cirque performers are just top notch here as well. My favorite were the contortionists, they are incredible. We had limited view seats, but it was still worth it.

We did make sure to take a trip down to Fremont Street and eat at the Bay City Diner (at the first Vegas Hotel). They boast the Original 1.99 Shrimp Cocktail(4th photo below), which is actually 3.99. I still haven't figured that one out. It was a very small, old diner and Hunk really liked his dinner. I ordered the wrong thing, so I was a bit disappointed with what I had, but it was my own fault for not paying attention to the words coming out of my mouth!

Fremont Street is the true Old Vegas and I got to see Vegas Vic (the cowboy), but some of his lights were out and he no longer waves (1st picture below)!! If you want to see Vegas lights, this street is the place to be! We really enjoyed this part of town, there were lots of street vendors and artists doing some truly amazing work. Really talented people.
At the end of Fremont is the Plaza (2nd photo below) which is Biff's Tower from Back to Future II - one of my favorite movie series.
Did I mention that a few of the Chippendales (3rd photo) were on Fremont Street? My picture is blurry - I think Hunk bumped me on purpose!
We had an awesome time - sorry for the long post, and the fact that I hit publish before I was done - I know if I'm in your reader I look like a total dweeb. Not to mention my sucktacular photoshop skills.
Oh yeah, did we win it big?? NO, I put $15 bucks in a machine and lost it in under 2 minutes. I gave up until the next day and I tried $25 - it lasted about 5 minutes and was then gone. At that point I just stopped. It just isn't in me. I know these stupid electronic machines have got to be so rigged and I'm just not up to playing at a real table - not to mention the SMOKE!! I am definately a Vegas 'visitor', not cut out to be a player!