With gas prices higher than they were a year ago, banks failing left and right, and the economy in a general tailspin, where did we decide to go for the weekend? You guessed it: Las Vegas!
Ian and I loaded up the car, packed C into her car seat, making sure she had access to food and games and made a run for the Nevada state line in hopes that we could have a little break from the day-to-day.
We stayed at the Monte Carlo (pictured right, in the dark), which is located on the south end of the strip, right next to New York, New York. It was really great. Our room was nice, and they had four different pools for splashing action, including a lazy river that C went crazy for.
But more on that later. First, the drive. Los Angeles to Las Vegas is about 260 miles or five hours door-to-door ... if there's minimal traffic. We left late Friday morning, which gave us nice odds, as well as on a random weekend in September during a nationwide financial meltdown. We were betting against traffic, and it paid off.
C was good on the ride over, showing very few signs of crankiness, which means a lot when you're stuck in a car for five hours, driving through the desert. We set her up with her doodle pad, heart-shaped sunglasses and a xylophone (a tricky toy that could keep her busy but also drive you completely insane if played long enough. Luckily, C started banging on it as we were arriving into Sin City.)
She decided to wear her sunglasses and hat while drawing on her doodle pad, which kind of made her look like someone's crazy grandmother but also fits in with that Vegas joie de vivre. So I let it slide.
We stopped at our usual McDonald's near the turnoff to Palmdale, Calif., and Ian pointed out a sign you don't usually see in the desert. (See photo on right.) The landscape surrounding that sign is like that for miiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiles. When does that get icy? Seriously.
We also passed by a spooky ghost town of a former waterpark. This was about an hour and a half outside of Vegas. Again, it was in the middle of the desert, surrounded by nothing other than the occasional tumbleweed. The billboard announcing "Rock-a-Hoola" waterpark was faded from the glaring sun, and the tattered "rides" themselves were sitting on nothing but parched brown dirt.
The kicker was that you had to know a few miles before the turnoff that this place even existed or you'd miss it altogether. Maybe that was their biggest flaw. But, as you can see, it looks like something right out of "Lost" and the Dharma Initiative.
Once we arrived in Las Vegas proper, C completely lit up. So did we. She loved the lights, the people streaming up and down the strip and the overall visual stimulation from that eclectically built metropolis.
Our hotel was across the street from the giant M&Ms store and the Coca-Cola museum. We all looked like eager puppies hanging our heads out the window with our mouths open. And, yes, all of us had been here before.
After driving up and down the strip, we settled in at the Paris for dinner. We stopped at the kid-friendly and reasonably priced Le Provencal. C flirted with the waitstaff and kept waving to our waitress as she crisscrossed the room.
The restaurant was down-to-earth, the food was good, and after a couple of margaritas each (excluding C, obviously), we were done for the night. Luckily, the Paris is close to the Monte Carlo. So we loaded up the stroller and walked back to our room -- sated, happy and ready for Saturday.
To be continued ...