The first time I hit Vegas was 1961, at the ripe old age of 10. I didn’t see the inside of a casino, but I remember the night like it was yesterday. Mom, Dad, plus two renters of 2/3 of our (my) backseat. Squished in our 1958 Chevy Biscayne 2 door. With me. We’d been vacationing in California and were driving home through the desert. With no air. At the time Las Vegas had a population of 64,000. It was getting dark as we drove closer, yet none of us could speak. There ahead, quite narrow but very long was a sprawling, sparkly city of dazzling lights. It was breathtakingly beautiful.
|This sign still stands, welcoming all to Sin City…|
The city was alive and bustling. And hot. We were all pooped. And hot. Folks finally decided to stop. Mom checked out several motel/hotels. If there was a vacancy sign, she’d get out of the car, stop in the office and ask the price first, then ask to see a room. If the room or surroundings weren’t up to her high standards, (many establishments were not) we’d press on. She had a cleanliness phobia. I know we didn’t stay on the Strip, but the room was clean and obviously within our budget (thus making the grade for our sojourners, the renters hogging my back seat). The small motel had an outdoor POOL. I was beyond excited. The night air had cooled and my swim in the pool felt like warm bath water. Goodness it just didn’t get any better than that. I’d gone swimming in the Pacific but it had been frigid the day we were at the beach. I was ready to stay here a week. I think Dad was hesitant about stopping in Las Vegas, like some bad viral gambling habit was going to hop on board and follow us to Iowa.
|My twin Kruizenga cousins and me in the freezing California Pacific, 1961…|
It would be 35 years before I gave Las Vegas another thought. One of Hubs buddy’s asked if we were interested in going to Vegas for a couple of days? Well sure. Not a memorable trip, but we stayed at the old Tropicana. About 5 years later, the same friend asked if we’d like to go again. By then we had moved to North Muskegon, making the drive much longer to Detroit Metro. So was the stay. Five days equaling 120 hours, or 7,200 long, excruciating minutes. We were leaving very early Monday morning on a plane specifically headed to Vegas. I think they called it a party plane. You know right off the bat, this just isn’t me.
The flight was delayed so most everyone sat around drinking (not me, it was 8 am for pete’s sake). Finally we took off with about 90% of the passengers 3 sheets gone. Just kill me now. Loud, obnoxious and not very funny. Pretty sure I’m the only person who’s gonna remember that flight. One dude sitting close to us asked a stewardess how much beer (quantity) was on the plane? She gave him a figure, he said, “I’ll take it.” She explained that wasn’t fair to the rest of the passengers because there wouldn’t be beer anyone else. (like anyone needed more? Maybe me by this time) He shot back, “I’m buying all of it to give it away!” Oh boy.
|One of the casinos when we drove through in 1961…|
We finally landed and were shuffled off to our hotels. Hubs and I were staying at the Excalibur. The lines to check in snaked halfway through the lobby. Instantly, the noise bothered me. I’m pretty sure I was either losing my hearing and didn’t realize it, or the Excalibur caused my deafness. Hundreds of one armed bandits being pulled simultaneously, accompanied by those noisy falling coins. Banging, clanging, clunking. I was instantly uncomfortable and twitchy. While John played slots languishing through the long line, I stood and waited, shivering. The casino owners don’t want you nodding off or you’ll wind up in your room sleeping instead of gambling. I’ve found casino floors (not the actual floors, then again I’ve never checked) to be on the chilly side. I had researched temps for Las Vegas in May. Mid-80’s or higher. I brought my swim suit, (laid out every morning by 8:30 before it got hot) shorts, sandals and sleeveless tops. Wrong. I needed fleece and Cuddl Duds. Try finding that in Sin City during May. I did manage to buy some slacks and a couple of long sleeve tops to wear. Looked like a homeless woman all week in my 7 layers, but I was more comfortable.
After Hubs got our room key, he sauntered over carrying a small bucket. Filled with quarters so I could have some fun. Whee. At the end of the week, he glanced at the bucket, 75% full. “You won all this? That’s great. Fun, wasn’t it?” “Umm, no, this is the same bucket of change.” “You mean you lost about a half an inch of quarters? During 5 whole days? And this is what’s still left?” “Yup.”
|Part of the Strip in 1961…|
I don’t have a problem spending money. I love to shop. (Ok maybe a small problem, just keeping it real) I can buy a top for $75 bucks, wear it twice, then realize it makes my butt look humongous. Toss it in a bag and bring it to Goodwill, and not feel too bad. I might feel stupid for buying the shirt in the first place. Why didn’t I turn around and check the 18 mirrors to see how the sweater looked on my big ass before ringing it up? Not prone to glance at my big butt too often I guess. For some bizarre reason, I can’t put pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters or heaven forbid dollar bills in a slot machine. I equate slot machines to throwing money down a toilet. Just can’t do it.
|One of a dozen Kors bags. Yup, I like to shop, not gamble…|
I spent most of the long week in a sports lounge. They had several big screen TV’s with every game on imaginable. A diehard Cubs fan, I’d just sit and watch their game. No one knew if I had placed a bet. Good grief, much as I love them, who in their right mind would bet on the Cubs anyway? Though definitely in 2016. Yay Cubbies. I’d head back in our room by 8 or 9 cause all my favorite programs were having their season finales. Ah, the good life. By Wednesday Hubs was up a grand and feeling guilty about not doing much together. We started walking the Strip, ending our walk at Caesars Palace. What a magnificent place (except for the gambling part). A plethora of small shops, we wandered into a Coach store, buying my very first, a navy bag the size of Delaware.
Thursday we rented a car and drove out to Hoover Dam. Not very many tourists, so we got the royal treatment. Our guide took us into the deepest bowels of the dam. He told us though construction started in 1931 (same year they legalized gambling in Las Vegas) the cement was still not dry (some 50 plus years later). I believe it’s about 8 feet thick. For me, Hoover Dam was the best part of our trip, bar none. We watched Mountain Goats climb precariously straight up solid rock, and wander amazingly close to us with absolutely no fear of humans.
|Big Horn Sheep roam around Hoover freely…|
That trip to Vegas was 20 years ago, and I really never thought about going back. But we just did, twice. We flew to Vegas with the idea of staying one night, renting a car and driving to Yuma. Didn’t realize that our flight was before and during the Super Bowl. John thinks he’s a football fan, but that’s really not accurate. He’s a Minnesota Vikings fan. Once they’re out of it (they were never really in it this year) he’s done. We arrived at Hooters just as the game is headed to overtime. We were tired and hungry. I’d never been to a Hooters before, our ‘goal’ was some of their famous wings and a good nights sleep. Not to be. Every restaurant in Hooters was closed for private super bowl parties. We waited with assurance once the game ended they’d reopen to the public. Forty-five minutes later we were told the cooks had to re-prep and it would be another hour. Now crabby, tired and hungry we walked to the Tropicana and had pasta.
|One armed bandit…|
After 12 great days in Yuma, (thanks Les, Mary Jane and Marco the dentist) we drove back to Las Vegas on Friday to drop off the rental and hop on a plane Monday morning. At 6 am. Yes, that meant waking up at 2:30. We stayed 2 nights so we could visit our niece Wendy and her family. Which was the best part of this Las Vegas trip. The weather was horrible. Cold, rainy, we never saw the sun or 60 degrees in Nevada. On Sunday we hit the Premium Outlet Mall early for a new Michael Kors bag. (Sorry Coach, you lost me 10 years ago with over-saturating the market with subpar merchandise). We both wanted to go back to the Hoover Dam which they’ve completely redone. Number one, our national treasure was packed. Fantastic to see such a long line of cars. Families with strollers, back packs filled with snacks, hikers hitting the nearby trails. Steady stream of walking traffic in and out of souvenir shops. Never knew the (2010) bypass bridge around Hoover which spans the Colorado River between Nevada and Arizona was dedicated to Pat Tillman. He was a Arizona Cardinals safety from 1998-2001. He quit pro football and joined the Army Rangers in 2002 and was killed in Afghanistan. That bridge bears 2 names, the other is Mike O’Callaghan who I know nothing about. Sorry Mike.
|The Pat Tillman By-Pass, opened in 2010…|
Back to the Tropicana for our last short night. As I’m walking through the casino I can’t help but feel sorry for the people gambling. Isthat weird? I don’t know any of them and don’t really care if they’re losing money they can ill afford. It seems worse now than 20 years ago. Not bigger numbers, the casinos didn’t seem that busy. But the glazed, lost, hopeless looks on their faces. Now you don’t even have to pull the one arm bandit. There’s a button that you just smack. It reminds me of my former favorite TV program, The Walking Dead. (Dudes, you lost me in the first episode this year, the second Glenn was killed. How could you? Seriously?) There’s a zombie impaled on a wrought iron piece of fence, but until he gets shot, arrowed, macheteed, knifed, hammered, baseball batted or stabbed in the head, he will not die the second time. But he no longer has the strength or smarts to undo his miserable situation. So he keeps making those annoying noises and herky-jerky-itty-bitty movements. Exactly like those slack-faced gamblers. Smacking that bet button. Over and over and over…