I was pleased to wake up this morning and see the car still parked outside our room, and all of our stuff still in the place we left it before falling asleep the previous night.
I didn’t share this tidbit with Jane, but before we went to sleep the night before, I Googled the town we were staying in (Victorville … doesn’t feature highly in any tourist guide …) and the first response it came back with was “Victorville Prison”.
Kind of explains the roadside “Do not pick up hitchhikers” signs I saw as we were approaching the town and why the girl at the check-in desk said that if we wanted to pay in cash, she would require a $150 deposit for our $70 room …
This morning we were faced with a choice – push on down the Interstate for a couple of hours straight to Vegas, or take the long way around and drive through Death Valley, touted as the hottest, driest and lowest point in North America. We chose Death Valley.
Leaving the salubrious district of Victorville (with all doors locked and no hitchhikers on board), we headed due North for a couple of hours on a gun barrel straight stretch of road across an undulating expanse of nothingness.
When we started heading East, we passed through a series of valleys that were staggeringly vast and all but uninhabited, although I’m guessing that at the ramshackle houses we spotted along the way, there would be a whole lot of banjo playing.
One we came through was Searles Valley, home to the Searles Valley Minerals company. With dense smoke billowing from their processing plant, everything we saw portrayed an image of raping and pillaging the environment in the name of resources. Strangely, when we later looked at their website, they trumpet their environmental credentials. Not from what we saw …
An hour down the road and travelling through yet another desolute valley, we heard the sound of jets flying low overhead. Stopping the car, we spotted two air-force jets engaged in what looked like a training exercise “dog fight”. They flew at only a few hundred feet up and down the valley, below the peaks of the mountains that lined either side of the valley, and then as quickly as they appeared, they were gone. Our own private air show.
Death Valley is appropriately named. A barren valley floor devoid of vegetation, and for a significant portion, below sea level (lowest point is 282 feet below sea level). Rather than stop and explore, the previous three hours driving through a series of less sinisterly named valleys had given us a sense of the area, so onwards and upwards to Vegas.
We arrived in Vegas as sun was setting and the lights of the strip were being turned on to drain the equivalent power supply of a small European nation. We checked into the Palazzo hotel (sister hotel of the Venetian) and popped a bottle of bubbles in our “suite”.
The Venentian and Palazzo are Italian themed, complete with a Grande Canal with gondoliers, under a ceiling painted with blue sky and fluffy clouds, to fool guests into believing it is permanently daytime. The entrance halls have huge domed ceilings painted to resemble the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel. It makes you wonder why we ever needed to go to Italy for our honeymoon.
After a long day behind the wheel, we probably weren’t the most fired-up pair to arrive in Vegas. Our first night only amounted to a walk down the Strip, stopping to watch the water fountain show at the Bellagio, followed by dinner at Michael Mina’s restaurant in the Bellagio, and dragging ourselves to the New York, New York casino to see the duelling pianists in the Times Square bar.
Feeling like we were the only sober people in room full of drunk people who think everything is AWESOME and just want to PARTY, we drew a close to the night, resolving to further embrace Las Vegas and “live large” tomorrow.