Bright light city gonna set my soul on fire,
Gotta whole lot of money to that’s ready to burn,
So get those stakes up higher,
There’s a thousand pretty women waitin’ out there,
And there all livin’ devil may care,
And I’m just a devil with love to spare,
Viva Las Vegas, Viva Las Vegas! – Elvis, The King
How can one top The Big Ditch, I hear you ask? Vegas.
We cruised down the strip in SuzyQ, the reliant steed of Yankee, with our faces melting in the heat to reach the base of our upcoming mayhem, the Stratosphere. A hotel with the tallest tower in the states outside New York, complete with insanely high amusement rides. After cooling off in the rooftop pool and hanging myself over the edge of Vegas, we convened for a night of ‘What happens in Vegas…, stays in Vegas!’
Just like a scene from the Hangover, Yankee (our triumphant leader) emerged from a stretched pink hummer, like the daddy bringing home the goods, to an rapturous chorus of whistles, whoops and applause. Our ride for the evening had docked. Climbing aboard, we glutton ourselves on bubbles and fizz as we took in the neon lights of Vegas Strip.
Surprisingly, Vegas did not feel as tacky as one would expect, unlike other tourist traps which have ruined local history with Disney-esque attractions, Vegas is purpose built. Ironically, making it feel more purposeful or even authentic. It is the city of Sin, prostitution is legal in Nevada and the pimps patrol the streets touting their wares, and there’s something saddening and seedy to see the singles glued to the slots first thing in the morning. Yet despite this, the police keep clean streets and you don’t find half cut females spewing in the street like some haunts in the UK. Admittedly, it was fairly easy to win Yankee’s competition to find the worse dressed American.
Ending with the Bellagio’s dancing fountains, our group split in different directions on the strip. The younguns’ taking off for the rides, with the more sophisticated heading for some serious fun at Caesar’s Palace and Margaritaville. For the casinos’, it’s in their interest to get you as plastered as possible, so not only do scantily glad waitresses offer free drinks to any gamblers but you’re also welcome to mosy through with your own bottle. It was a slightly trampy yet liberating feeling to walk through clutching a bottle champers.
Two rolls of film later, the group headed to bed, even if they weren’t their own (I’m looking at J-Dog), just before the sun dawned.
When the sun did creep over the horizon we dragged our sorry arses out of bed to explore the strip in daylight. I was often told that Dubai was like Vegas on speed and minus the gambling, it is partially true. Each hotel bigger and better then the other – the King of Vegas, a Mr. Wynn rejuvenated a decaying Vegas in the early 80s adding a family aspect to the city. He has three hotels including the Bellagio, the ego fuelling Wynn and his third, The Encore. On the strip it’s possible to stroll from Venice to Paris and back to New York within a matter of minutes.
But by far my favourite is Caesars. Not because of the plush room we rented for our second night in Vegas, the amazing view of the strip from our window or indeed the whirlpool bath, the replica Trevi fountain in the lobby or even the Garden of the Gods where I took my morning swim, but because I have twenty odd photographs of Yankee, Hampton, J- Dog and the Welsh all doing their best ‘Romans, Countrymen’ poses alongside Caesar himself.
Picking up our own set of wheels, at last, we cruised down the strip to visit the Pawn Stars shop, from the hit cable TV show.
This trip has been an amazing opportunity to both rekindle and cement new friendships. But, it has also been a trip for adieus and as this last day of Vegas drew to a close, so too, did this leg of our journey. The rest of the team travel up to Yosemite and San Fran (following in our footsteps) as we head further South still to Palm Springs. These goodbyes felt particularly hard as it felt like we’ve been together longer than a week.
Everyone else at this stage can stop reading, but because I know they’ll be reading this, I’d like to thank kiwi, Pom, Hampton, JDog, the Welsh, The Belgians, the dynamic duo which are the Prykes, Neil and of course, Yankee – who, for me, literally made the trip and not just with his touring skills, for a week that was a complete scream from beginning to end! Luke and I hit the road the following day giggling all the way down to Palm Springs about What Happened In Vegas!