What could have been the end of a lovely relationship

Our flight was due in the evening so we were supposed to be at LAX around 19:00. 500 km drive from Las Vegas to LAX should not be a problem. So we thought. We took our time to wake up and pack our bags as we thought that the boring drive through the desert would be… boring. We didn\’t have breakfast as we planned to stop somewhere.

We stopped at the Nevada-California border to have breakfast at the Whiskey Pete\’s Casino. Maybe some last rounds of slot machines.

We took off and everything went smoothly until this here. Just as the highway started rise towards to mountains, all three lanes stopped. We would spend the next 2 hours driving the 10 km stretch up the slope. Tensions in the car started rising but neither one of us started the blame game. We knew that it would cost us another set of one-way-tickets if we missed our plane. When we reached the top of the pass, we saw that a truck load had been fallen over on the road. And right when we reached the site of the accident, the traffic started moving again. If we\’d make it to Los Angeles in time, we would be there just in time for the rush hour. Of course hopefully driving against the traffic. We couldn\’t afford to miss any exit. And then we missed an exit and had to take a 10 km reroute.

Diamond lane to the rescue: Car pool lanes were mostly empty as people drive usually alone. We had to google how many people are needed in the car to be allowed to drive the diamond lane. It only required 2 persons so we were OK to take the empty lane while all the individual drivers were stuck in traffic.

Two more things to do before the airport: fill the tank and return the car to the rental lot which would be somewhere near the LAX but a bus ride away anyway. I decided to skip the gas station and pay whatever it costs to return the car with an empty tank. Luckily the guy who handled the paperwork at the rental return was kind enough to mark the tank fuller than it actually was. I gave him ten bucks.

During the 7-hour ride from Vegas to LAX neither one of us blamed the other for any delay. There were several occasions where either Minna or I could have said something about being late or missing the exit but we kept our cool and didin\’t start a fight in the middle of the drive. This was really a proof of the strength of our relationship. And we caught our flight eventually so the fight would have been premature anyway. We didn\’t manage to send the post cards though. There just wasn\’t enough time to find a mail box.

It really is a god damn dam

There are several day trips available from Las Vegas. The grandest of them all is of course the Grand Canyon. However, in order to see it properly you will either have to rent a helicopter from Vegas or stay overnight closer to the canyon. As Las Vegas was just a side step on our trip to LA, we wanted to give Grand Canyon the time it deserves, sometime later. So it was either Death Valley or the Hoover Dam. I remember when I had a summer job in the US, some of my fellow summer workers got a job in Death Valley while I lived and worked in the Boston area. Even Boston was hot enough during the summer. Hoover Dam was closer so we drove there.

To our surprise there were two things there which were amazing: the dam itself as well as the bridge. In the movies you usually see people driving across the dam itself but actually the highway doesn\’t run on top of the dam but there is a huge bridge next to the dam. Mike O\’Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge clearance is 270 m. So you could almost fit the Eiffel Tower between the bridge and the Lake Mead.

The Hoover Dam is so famous that ticking it off from the bucket list while in Vegas is worth the 50 km drive.

Breaking the Las Vegas rule

I am going to be the first one in human history to break the famous \”What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas\”-rule. The following really happened in Vegas:

My must-sees in Vegas are:

and last but not least:
The first experience is of course the Arrival. Ours was like this:

Accommodation: We chose to stay in the MGM Grand. We booked the room from hotels.com and it cost 63 €/night. A bargain compared to LA. A small drawback was the resort fee which hotels.com didn\’t mention but apparently is standard practice even if booked from elsewhere. The room didn\’t have a view to the Strip but who cares. Also free parking was available.

The gamble: Slots everywhere. Mostly table games had a minimum bet of $10 or even more. If you had a black jack or a roulette with less than $10 minimum, the table was \”automatic\” without a live dealer. We played slot machines. The sound was hypnotic. Whenever you won, you just couldn\’t stop playing because of the ring. The drinks were free as long as you sat by a machine. While I was away getting my membership card, Minna hit the jackpot. With a 1 cent bet, it wasn\’t really a lot of money but it was a lot of ringing.

Neon museum is also called the Neon Boneyard. It\’s the place where the neon signs go to die. Or actually to get refurbished and their stories told. Book your slot beforehand and remember that the tours fill up very quickly. You will need to attend a tour as the guest are constantly supervised and cannot explore the museum on their own. This is really a must-see as it has some of the signs of long gone casinos and landmarks.

The show: We tried to book seats for O Cirque du Soleil through the internet but for some reason the transaction didn\’t go through. So we had to walk to Bellagio to find out that the show was fully booked. However, if you will wait in line 1 hour before the show, there may be some leftover seats. The thing is: you don\’t know which seats you\’re going to get and especially how much they are. Or you will end up queueing for an hour and the show is sold out anyway and you just spent an hour in the queue for nothing. As we wanted to get the show-box ticked as soon as possible, we waited in line and got quite good and reasonably-priced tickets, if you can call them reasonably-priced in the first place as they are always very expensive.

The buffet: Based on a thorough investigation on the Internet, we chose The Bacchanal at Ceasars Palace with a wine package. We soon realized that we could have left out the wine package as there was so much to eat that drinking wine at the same time would be too much. Even eating was too much. Stone crabs, sushi, shrimps, jumbo shrimps, meats, pizza, you name it. Come dessert and you will feel sick.

The silver ball: I knew there had to be pinball arcade in Las Vegas and really there was a good one: The Pinball Hall of Fame. Lots of games, lots of modified games (for example Scared Stiff with colored animations as opposed to my original orange-colored animations) and lots of rare games. Even Space Mission which I had played last time in Pekan Baari when I was 10 years old. And of course Kiss (Bally)

The southernmost

Moving from the subtropics to the tropics didn\’t make it any warmer. Key West was windy and rainy. Luckily the sun started to shine on Thursday so we were able to join the sunset celebration at the Mallory Square. The best act was the money-eating dog. Or actually it collected money for the banjo player from the audience. I don\’t even remember the songs the man played but I will always remember the money-collecting dog. If I could teach this trick to a dog, I would not have any difficulty in getting a permission from Minna to actually get a dog…
We stayed at the Authors of Key West for the second time and the Hemingway cottage was very cosy. I recommend the guest house because it is within a walking distance from the Duval Street and it is really well-kept property. In my opinion it was the nicest accommodation on this trip. We even got an extra heater for the second night… It was quite cold at night. The highlight for the rest of our crew was when I got dog crap on my sandal.

Welcome to Miami

It\’s been a long time since I have travelled anywhere. After changing jobs, I must admit that I have not missed business travel a bit. Last year I did not travel anywhere on pleasure either so this is my first vacation since Australia two years ago. Maybe I cannot be considered as travel blogger anymore. Well, frankly my darling, I don\’t give a damn.
Anyway, here we are. How we got to choose Florida (again) is mainly because of the cheap flights. We managed to get flights for three with 1000 euros which was pretty good considering that we are travelling on a winter holiday week. Kia starts to be in the age when she is not satisfied with the parents\’ company only so we asked her friend Mona to join us. With this move, I wanted to get rid of the dad-are-we-there-yets.
We changed planes at JFK and there was a big snowstorm there so our plane to Miami was delayed by 2.5 hours. Once we got to Miami, the luggage belt broke while our luggage was being delivered so we waited another 1.5 hrs for the luggage. Then, to top our ordeal, Florida is having the coldest weather in about 40 years.
I had reserved Mazda 6 from Hertz already but then I got second thoughts because I figured out that we will have a lot of luggage. I cancelled the Mazda and reserved Chevy Trailblazer from Avis with the same price (about $700 for two weeks). Then we actually got Ford Edge which had enough space in the back and also looks terrific. Even if the rent is equal to Mazda 6, we are paying extra on the excess fuel Ford consumes. I also booked the first three nights with my Marriott rewards so we have not paid anything for accommodation until today.