The flight from the Cook Islands to LA wasn't hideous, with a brief stop in Taihiti where more cheery singers welcomed us making me wish we were staying for longer than an hour and a half. LA was our destination though and after a night at an airport hotel we were picked up by my cousin, Rachel who lives nearby in Orange County. It was great to see her and she took us to her lovely house where we stayed for a few days with her, Pat, Katy and Sean and Mitzy the dog. It was great to spend time with them in their home; a bit of family life and normality was welcomed. They took us to Newport beach and Crystal cove (In Pat's enormous truck) where we walked and watched the sun go down and we also had our first American Diner experience.
We had no real plans and so we didn't really know what we were going to do after leaving Rachel's. Pat said 'Las Vegas is fun' and so we decided to head there first. Rachel took us to collect our hire car and I agreed to hiring the Pontiac, a red sporty number that they offered us because they had no economy class cars. I think Rachel was jealous of my new car! It has features which include being able to turn the engine on remotely (why you would want to do that I do not know, but it amuses us. It's like Kit out of Knightrider!) I said Goodbye to Rachel feeling sad to do so, promising to ring her when we got to Vegas. This had a pleasing ring to it and although I was nervous about driving in The States, I also felt excited about our road trip to Vegas as did Tim and as we pulled on to the freeway we settled into our new car. I got used to driving it pretty quickly and felt fine about driving. As we travelled along the Freeway, I commented, 'if my driving instructor could see me now' (I think he despaired of me for a while when I was learning to drive 2 years ago).
I enjoyed the drive to Vegas although it took a bit longer than planned due to a traffic jam. We travelled through desert of sand and low scrub for a while when suddenly seemingly out of nowhere a town appeared. The town was Primm, which has casinos and over the top buildings as well but just not to the same scale as Vegas. It looked so out of place in the desert. Arriving at Vegas, singing the obligatory 'Viva Las Vegas', the sun was setting and the surrounding mountains and desert looked beautiful and unreal especially as it was the backdrop to the surreal city of Las Vegas with it's massive neon signs and bizarre buildings. We found our hotel, the casino The Excalibur, a massive toy town looking castle. It was exciting to be in Vegas.
Unfortunately it was also very cold. The wind was blowing and it was icy. Probably due to this the strip wasn't as busy/manic as I had expected it to be. We spent a fair amount of time in the casinos, due to not wanting to be in the cold and also because half the time we couldn't find our way out! They are designed well. Tim and I gambled hard and fast....on the 1cent slot machines! I got very excited when Tim won $20 and at one point the waitress who comes round to take orders for the free drinks remembered us. It was quite embarrassing when she said 'appreciate it again honey' when I gave her her tip from my pew next to Tim on his slot machine.
I think I have watched too many films, but I expected a lot of the clientèle to be glamorous so I was feeling rather scruffy in my travelling gear when we ventured out the first night. I needn't have worried as no one else was! I did consider buying a velour tracksuit to fit in but for some reason Tim wouldn't let me.
We had hoped to see a show whilst here and I was determined to as it is probably the only time I'll hear Tim say 'let's see a show'. However, we didn't fancy any of them. The only one we did fancy was Penn and Teller but disappointingly they were booked up. Also the free show of the battle at Treasure Island was closed for repairs so we couldn't see that. However we did see the dancing Fountains in front of the Bellagio which were impressive and we had a great time going round the casinos and walking down the strip. It just felt so different to anything we'd done so far. I usually hate slot machines and never let Tim go in the arcades in Lowestoft (bad teenage memories) but this was fun and Vegas is so over the top (although I'm sure it could feel more over the top on a weekend) that you can't help get into the spirit of it.
We went to Red Rock Canyon one day, a 20 mile trip to a beautiful canyon. Going here made me see there is so much more to Vegas and also it made the city seem even more bizarre: a huge neon city plonked in a desert. I'm glad we went to Vegas. I didn't get married by Elvis. Maybe next time.