Las Vegas, NV
July 17, 2010 – July 26, 2010
This was the first time my family had ever been on a vacation like this. We usually drove from NC to the beach in SC, to see family in FL, or to see family in TN. Las Vegas was quite a change of pace for them. That said, I was now a different man than the one they knew before I embarked on this journey. They’d been following my blog and heard from me periodically, but they hadn’t experienced what I’d experienced. I’d seen, felt, smelled, and breathed over 6,000 miles of this country. I’d navigated emotional and spiritual challenges and learned more about myself and God than ever before. I’d truly found what some would refer to as wanderlust. And I wouldn’t ever be the same.
I can sort of compare the situation to that when I returned from several months away in Nicaragua. You feel a bit like a stranger to society coming back from something like that. This time it was similar, but different in its own way.
My family has a very basic concept of what “vacation” is. You go somewhere to stay for a week or so. A nice hotel with a pool. You sleep in, get into your swim suit, and head to the pool. You stay at the pool until 3 or 4pm and go back to the room for a shower. Then you go to dinner. Then you come back to the room and hangout, maybe watch a movie something. Then you go to bed, and do it all over again. This schedule is occasionally interrupted by an outing of some kind, but the bread and butter of the trip is pool time and dinner out. Are you seeing how my little adventure broke the mold?
Thankfully, though my family did spend plenty of time at the pool (something I’m not a huge fan of –maybe 1hr per day, tops), we got the chance to do some pretty cool stuff.
I realize I haven’t mentioned yet we were accompanied by our newfound yankee freidns from New Jersey. I use that term endearingly. Yes, the lady my parents met in a hot tub the year before in Orlando, Mary, was now with us in Las Vegas, this time with her two sons Martin (3-4 yrs younger than me) and Scotty (about my age). This added to the fun, no doubt.
I do have a few stories to share, though I will admit my bike only left the parking garage once during the time in Vegas, and that was to give my fiancée and sister each a quick up and down the strip (they brought an extra helmet all the way from NC just for that).
Kelly arrived the day after I got there and I went with my mom to pick her up in the rental car. Because of my age, the cost was way too much to add me as a driver. Bummer. It was quite an ordeal. Kelly had only flown on a plane with me before this, and that was to Nicaragua. I was proud of her for doing this on her own – flying across the country and navigating airports is no easy task for a novice traveler, but at least this time everything was in English and she had a cell phone. And she didn’t have to worry (as much) about being abducted. My sweet wife is somewhat directionally challenged, so 3 or 4 phone calls after she got off the plane we finally found her. At long last, we were together again. Queue fireworks. For real though, it sure was nice to see her.
About halfway through our time there we decided we’d go see the Grand Canyon. I’d already decided I was going with or without them, but I was glad to have the chance to go together. This would make for one of the funnier experiences of the trip and something our family laughs about often.
As you probably know the most common places to visit the Grand Canyon are the North Rim and South Rim. Both of those are about 275 miles away, though, which was just too much for the family and friends to bear. Enter the West Rim option. This is the one on the Indian Reservation with the glass Skywalk out over the canyon, and it was only 180 or so miles away. Hey, it’s still the Grand Canyon. Let’s go.
We load up in our two rental cars and go. Outside of Las Vegas it is almost immediately flat, featureless desert. Then we get to Hoover Dam. I noticed signs saying “Report any suspicious vehicles” as we approached – remember that, it’ll be important when I write about leaving Las Vegas after our time there. We all got out and took some photos of the family at the Dam.
Other side of the dam is back to desert desolation. Finally we make a left turn off the highway toward the Hualapai reservation. Then we drove down about 5 miles of twisting gravel roads. I was very thankful not to be on the fully loaded Bandit.
Shortly we arrived at the visitor center, a big inflatable tent that was pretty cool, actually. There we paid some crazy amount for tickets to enter. Tickets for the Skywalk were out of this world, so we passé and opted for the standard option. We boarded a charter bus which drove us out to the canyon.
Exit to see one of the most awe inspiring views in creation. And take lots of photos.
From left, Dad, Sister, Mom, (now) Wife, and Me. Yes, I’m well aware I’m the sexiest.
Then it was back to the bus and back to the rental cars. Now everyone is starving and not shy about sharing their desire to eat. Thankfully there’s a multitude of eatery options out by the West Rim of the Grand Canyon. Not.
On our way out, just as we’re about to get back on the main road to head back east, we noticed this little spot.
The Wishing Well. Little did we know, it was very appropriately named.
It is essential to understand that this sort of thing is totally out of character for my family. This is justa tad too adventurous. They'd much prefer a Chili's. But, options were quite limited. So, all 8 of us enter this little hole in the wall, half from the south and half from the north, half of us kind and polite, and the other half, well, you get the idea. Seemed like we filled the whole place up.
There was one waitress on duty and another person in the kitchen, just behind our table. Both weren’t the sharpest tools in the shed. The waitress passed out the menus and everyone looked them over. We ordered drinks. She got most of them wrong. I’m easy to please and really didn’t care, but a few others in the group were beginning to get irritated. We started to order our food. Each time someone told the waitress her order she’d yell at the person in the kitchen and ask if they had any of that left. She said something about him bring the breakfast cook, too, and he didn’t know how to make everything. We’re talking basic sandwiches and bar food. Anyway, most people had to accept their 2nd or 3rd choice because other options either weren’t available or the cook didn’t know how to make it. By the time she was done taking the table’s order most everyone had moved past the point of irritation and into bewilderment. It was hilarious. The place was called the Wishing Well, for goodness sake.
When she borught out the food I think about half of it was right and the other half wasn’t, but nobody cared. We all had a good time with it and left cracking up about how funny the experience was. We often refer back to our experience at the Wishing Well. I'd love to go back someday and see what they've done with the place.
We did a lot of normal vegas stuff. Went to a few casinos, went to the old strip.
Even went to the Pawn Stars pawn shop with my dad. Yeah, the bald guy was a jerk. Surprisingly the place was small, too, and didn’t have as much neat stuff as I expected.
I did see the 2wd (front and rear) trail bike.
The time with Kelly and the family was, like I said, sort of like a mini version of being home. Knowing I was there for over a week with those I loved felt really good. I was extremely thankful for the chance to have the little break of being a road warrior. But, like all things, it came to an end and reality set in. We said our goodbyes, the family flew home, and it was back on the bike for several thousand more miles of adventure for me. I hit the road feeling refreshed and re-energized.