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26 hours in Vegas

I’ve always hated Vegas. It truly is one of the most terrible places on Earth. Everyone thinks it is so glamorous and wonderful, but in reality, it is a sad, depressing wasteland. But somehow, quite surprisingly, whether by magic, smarts, or luck (all three I think), Jim and I had a really fabulous mini-vacation there this weekend (and no, we didn’t gamble).

Let’s start out with why we went to Vegas. The trip was a little impromptu. When I found out that I had to be in Kanab for work last week, I couldn’t imagine being so close to Vegas and not going to hang out with my friend Lizzy. See, Lizzy lives in New York. We have plans to go adventure with her in New England next fall, but I didn’t want to wait that long to hang out (especially because I haven’t even seen her since June). But she would be in Vegas (along with half of everyone else I work with) for our No More Homeless Pets National Conference this past weekend. I called Jim at work the day I decided I was going to Vegas and told him, “I’m sorry, but I’m also gonna go to the Neon Museum.” It’s a place we’ve been dying to see. His response? “Noooooooooo! I want to go!” So, we finagled a plan to make it happen. Molly and I would drive to Vegas on Friday night (I’d have been in Kanab all week). Saturday morning, Jim would fly in from Salt Lake (a $70 plane ticket, seriously). Sunday, Molly would hitch a ride back to Kanab with other coworkers while Jim and I drove back to Salt Lake (also taking a coworker at conference who lives a few blocks away from us). So, Jim and I had something like 26 hours in Vegas together, and they ended up being pretty damn awesome hours!

The reason they turned out so awesome is no doubt because we picked the right places to go… as in we didn’t go down the Strip (because we knew better… Molly, Lizzy and I walked it the night before, coming up with photo ideas for a much-needed website called Sad Vegas). Walking the “Miracle Mile” makes me lose all my faith in humanity. There’s the Bellagio fountain, where they blast “Proud to Be an American,” as if wrapping it in a flag will make wasting 100 billion gallons of water in the desert worth it. Then there are the card slappers, doling out flyers to get prostitutes in your room in 20 minutes or less. The fact that they try to give them to absolutely everyone is annoying, but what’s brutally sad is when women are passing them out. Then there are the drunk girls in their sparkly shirts, high heels so high they can’t walk, and glazed over eyes, stumbling down the sidewalk. And last but not least, the predators waiting to take them home. The Strip is so gross, I fear you might actually catch STDs just by breathing the air.

We knew better than to go down the Strip. The real treasures of Vegas are the odd museums. After Molly and I picked Jim up from the airport (bright and early at 9 a.m.!), we headed to the Atomic Testing Museum first. The reason Jim wanted to come to Vegas so bad is because the place truly fascinates him, especially now that he is working on his thesis (which is basically about the militarization of the Great Basin). He was so excited when he found out about that museum that we simply HAD to go there. It ended up being really interesting, frightening, and also loads of fun!

However, the real treat of the trip came next when we finally arrived at the Neon Museum Boneyard. I forget how I first found out about it, but we’ve been wanting to go for a while now. When we drove through Vegas on our April trip to Death Valley, they were all booked up, so we were very happy when we managed to get into their 2 p.m. tour on Saturday. It was even more awesome than we expected!

So this is the part where I tell you that if you ever find yourself in Vegas, you must, MUST, get yourself to the Neon Museum! It isn’t much yet… right now it is basically just a junkyard, but they are building their visitor’s center and soon it will be the real deal. For $14, you sign up for a tour of their Neon Boneyard. This is a junkyard of neon signs. No, they aren’t plugged in (but in the future, when they open their visitor’s center, some might be!… they may even do night tours!), but besides being a really cool sight to see, all the signs have really fascinating stories behind them. Who knew that dead hunks of metal and wires could be SO interesting?! I don’t think I can say this loud enough: GO TO THE NEON MUSEUM! And maybe if you are as lucky as us, you will get a tour guide who walks around with an adorable red parasol.

Following the Neon Museum, we walked Fremont Street to look at more neon signs (and come up with more Sad Vegas ideas). Vegas is really so weird. Down on Fremont Street they have the Heart Attack Grill, where anyone over 350 pounds eats for free. They serve “quadruple bypass burgers” (four patties?!!!) and “butterfat shakes” (with the “highest fat content of any shake”). Diners wear hospital gowns, and of course, the waitresses are hot, naughty nurses. Oh, Vegas…

Now comes the lucky part of our journey. A few days ago, I had to book a hotel room for Jim and I for Saturday night. The Rio, where Lizzy was staying (and where the conference was held) was a bit pricey, but we decided to splurge anyway out of convenience and fun. We got the cheapest room we could… but it was still $220. That pricey $220 ended up being a steal of a deal! When we checked in Saturday afternoon, they upgraded us to a suite on a PRIVATE floor – the 39th. “Okay, cool, whatevs,” we thought. Then we got up to the 39th floor, walked down the hallway, opened our door, and our jaws promptly hit the floor.

Our hotel “room” was TWICE the size of OUR HOUSE. It came with floor to ceiling windows that wrapped around three sides of the building. Yes, we had views to the north, south, AND west. I shit you not, we had three couches and an arm chair in the living room; a bar, a kitchen, and a dining room; a room with a hot tub and massage table; two bathrooms, two showers (not necessarily in the bathrooms), and ANOTHER jacuzzi tub. It was ABSURD. Did the hotel people not realize we don’t actually gamble, and we are not high rollers? We had no idea what the hell to do with a room that big. There is really only one option: have a party. So we did!

Well, party might not be the right word. We invited some people up for drinks. We went and bought five bottles of wine, thinking we’d maybe use two and bring the rest home. No, we drank all five. We had a lovely little shindig with maybe 10 people, including us. Some friends, some coworkers, and even some slightly random strangers (but friends now!). We stayed up until 3 am, and it was GREAT.

We packed up our stuff in the morning, questioned the hotel staff as to why on Earth they gave us that amazing suite, and then hit the road back to Salt Lake. Our 26 hours in Vegas were just enough… not too short and not too long. They were so much fun that they actually did give me a new appreciation for the place. We want to go back and find more oddball attractions! Since we are unlikely to score an epic suite like that ever again, our accommodations next time will probably go back to normal – which for us means sleeping in the truck up on a mountain. Vegas has plenty of those, so maybe on our next outdoor adventure down there, we’ll swing by the city. So I concede… Vegas can be fun (if you do your own thing and stay away from the crowds). I might even be finding myself feeling little inklings of love for the place. Vegas, as horribly trashy and disgusting as you are, your oddball quirks are somewhat endearing. There, I said it.

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