Firstly, before we get into whats been going on over the last couple of days... Congratulations to Dave and Jules (Jens bruv and sister-in-law)! Jules gave birth to Harry David James Rees at 8:19am on the 12 or 13th... Sorry, we're not sure cos we don't know if the text we got shows the time it was sent or the time it was recieved, something like a 8hr time difference and its all very confusing, so we are just going to drink a beer or six in celebration! We can't wait to meet him :-) Here is the little blighter (sorry about pic quality, its from a text messege!)
Before we got to Vegas we spent the day driving around Death Valley. It's kind of a bizarre place. Nothing lives there apart from the most stubborn mountain sheep, the odd rattlesnake and some small rodents that are meals for the snakes.Vegetation is pretty much non existent. It was originally the home of the Timbisha Shoshone Indian tribe who were a bit miffed when they got kicked out by the white man... same old story really. You kinda get the impression that the native indians of America were poo'd on from a very great height!
Anyway, depsite it being a desolate place, there is something very cool about it too, but its hard to describe. I think its to do with the fact that it can be an amazing place to see, but if you don't appreciate it properly, respect it even, it will kill you! Seriously, its that hot there that people have died when their car fails or just going out for walks, even experienced hikers have gotten into trouble. So we played safe and never went more that a couple of hundred yards from the car.
So anyway, onto Las Vegas. We had booked oursleves into Luxor, the huge Egyptian pyramid for couple of nights so that we could check "The Strip" out.
I came here a few years ago with a couple of mates and spent one very drunken night checking out the hotels and casinos without a care in the world and generally having a good time. This time round was different. Don't get me wrong, I still enjoyed it, but as I wasn't in a drunken daze with a load of mates around me I paid more attention to the surroundings.
The hotels themsleves are amazing, each with its own theme. We walked for miles on our first night there and before we knew it, it was 1 o'clock in the morning! It's amazing how when you step out of your hotel, everything looks fairly close, but in reality The Strip it well long, the closer you think you are getting to the next hotel, the further away it seems to be... wierd! Also all the casinos seem to be designed to get you completely lost. The plan is that once you are in, you stay there! There are no exit signs, no arrows pointing to exits, only signs pointing to other attractions within the hotel.
The next day we walked The Strip in the daytime and again it took us ages. We planned ahead tho and knew which hotels we wanted to see most. We really wanted to see "The Sirens of TI" show outside Treasure Island (recently renamed TI because its more trendy!). Its a bit pirate ship theatrical show that is supposed to very good. Unfortunately it was too windy that night and the show was cancelled... Boooooo! By 9pm we were both exhausted so spent the next 22hours walking back to our hotel (ok, it didn't take quite that long!).
INSIDE the Venician (first floor!):
Now then, I'm gonna get all moral/boring/analytical now, so those of you that get bored by this sort of thing might want to go and watch Coronation Street or something. There is no denying that Las Vegas, or at least "The Strip" is an amazing place, the casinos are spectacular, the shows entertaining, and the general atmosphere is one of exuberence and excitement. But there are a couple of things that make you think. On our second night there in one of the casinos, I forget which one, we saw a woman in hysterical floods of tears leaving the building rather hastily. We may have read the signs all wrong, but the first thing that went through our minds was that she had made one last desperate attempt to win a fortune, and inevitably had lost, who knows how much! On reflection it could have been a completely different situation, she could have just had a barney with her other half, but whatever the situation it got us thinking about how many people must get lured here dreaming of winning a fortune. Its easy to see how it can happen too, we put about $5 of our own money in the slot machines, just for the experience, the rest that we put in was winnings. We came out about $30 up, there were many more toursits just like us but you could see with some people the temptation to keep going, just in case the next big payout is yours. But we knew when to stop, and thats the crunch point. Many people don't know when that point is, suprisingly, the Casino's don't seem to mind. In our entire trip we saw three small cardboard signs advertising gambling help-lines, scary really.
The second thing that we both found annoying, even disturbing was the touts. Prostitution and brothels are completely legal in Nevada. Las Vegas is well known for it, even to the extent of pciking up the nick-name "Sin City". There is no getting away from it and if you are going to visit vegas, you just have to accept that it goes on whether you like it or not. But the touts almost make any visit here unpleasurable. They stand on every street thrusting calling cards into your hands. They even hand them out to kids who are with their parents and parents who are with their kids, one chap in front of us had to tell his young teenage son to ignore them - they were targetting him too. There are advertising trucks driving up and down the strip. The whole stripper/prostitution thing is thrust in your face all the time, which spoils it for the vast majority of people who are there to experience the less seedy side of what Las Vegas has to offer.
There are essays about the legalisation of prostitution. Peoples free will and the safety of those in the industry should always be paramount but I'm not going to bleat on about any pros or cons of such a system, both Jen and I have our opinions on it and they needn't be written here as it isn't the time or the place.
On a final note, Elvis REALLY is dead, and most of his impersonators, barmey as they are, are completely rubbish!
Today we mostly spent the time leaving Vegas, doing some shopping and heading for the Grand Canyon. We passed over the Hoover Dam, which bizarrely was alot smaller than either of us thought. Very high security there so much so that Charlie got pulled over for searching, well, I say searching, it was more of a cursory glance but annoying as we had to open the roof tent and back up etc. I would tell you lots about the Hoover Dam, but it was really expensive to get in - they wouldn't even let you in the vistors centre without paying out. So we decided just to admire the views instead and look it up on the internet when we got to the campsite. I'm so cheap :-) Hehe.
Hoover Dan: (hehe!)
Anyway, now is time to enjoy the finer things in life, I have a hotchocolate with Balieys and mini-marshmallows waiting (I've been swimming tonight therefore earnt it!) so will sign off now. We're in the Grand Canyon National Park for the next few day's so not sure when we can update next, will do it asap.