At this time in America, where everything is so surreal and defying logic, it makes me think back to when I went to Vegas. I selected October of 2018 for my visit to the absurdity that is Las Vegas. Cocktails and casinos were not on the agenda though. I would go about my usual game taking in the landscape on foot, finding local food and taking yoga classes just like I do everywhere else.
The tension between the values of Vegas and my way of living was palpable. No matter your personal ethos, though, I recommend visiting Las Vegas once in your life. It’s so otherworldly; brightest place on earth when viewed from outerspace. Gotta get there soon, though, as climate change means it might not be there for long. Not surprising really when you see on a map just how close Vegas is to blistering hot Death Valley:
It was a cheap and dirty flight of course for me and my travel partner Tim to arrive in Vegas. I prefer to avoid flying, but of course no trains go directly to Vegas since this is the USA.
Departing from Lambert Airport in St Louis, Missouri already things were looking weird:
After ordering my Explosion Salad, an ad for a naked chest effect hoodie popped up on my phone:
Time to fly and tune out the world. Very quickly we landed at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas. The bright light show begins the second you enter the terminal:
Hints at the endless entertainment on offer were everywhere:
Getting outside to street level, it was apparent that not many people walk into town:
Carefully creeping thru parking lots and skipping over a few roads, we found a sidewalk… and another pedestrian! Very reassuring to see someone else walking, eventhough I knew it was only a few miles into downtown.
I had prepared for Vegas by listening and studying 99% Invisible: Lessons from Las Vegas. It gave me an appreciative, more empathetic lens to view the unique but disposable architecture we were about to see. Las Vegas constantly reimagines itself like no other place and on a grand scale.
After a decidedly unglamorous few miles strolling around parking lots and fenced off gravel lots, here came the lights. First up a driving range right in the middle of the city:
Turning the corner onto The Strip proper, I was reminded who my daddy is:
Walking just a few hundred feet more, things just frigging blew up:
Blinding bright light flashes from around the corner had tipped us off slightly to this, but holy hell what a scene.
We took this helpful, harmless walking bridge to see where it ended. It’s not like we’d walk 1/2 a mile thru shops, bars and casino areas before hitting a pedestrian dead-end in a cavernous lobby of black mirrored walls, floors and ceiling or anything….
Happy go-luckily we paused for a photo on the bridge. Perfectly normal setting:
Look some thoughtful art. This place can’t be so bad:
Half an hour later still stuck inside the casino labrynth, we started to see the true colors of this contradictory hell hole:
We escaped out to the light of the Eiffel Tower….what?! Yeah things were getting weird fast:
These type of folks suddenly seemed sane:
It was a struggle to stay at street level. Most street crossing had to be done via overpasses (read “traps”) that eventually spill you back down to the road via outdoor escalators:
Overstimulating to say the least. Is that Marie Osmond looking down on us?!
As we made it to the northern stretch of The Strip the stimulation thinned. Finally a dark sky above and natural light from the moon:
Never been so reassured to see a Denny’s in my life. We had entered normal, corporate America (not pictured is the spacious McDonalds across the street offering 24 hours of sadness where we had to stop for a late nite snack):
This was a little jarring though:
We were staying here. If not, I would have run across the street to get some distance from the towering crazed clown. Dirt cheap rooms to be had on a weeknight here so into the circus we went:
By the time we navigated the hotel property to our room, it was past 1 am. Our plane had landed shortly after 8pm and it was only about a 4 mile trek to Circus Circus….how did that take so long?! Vegas is wild.
We awoke eager to make our way out of the strangeness. Our room was in a building detached from the main complex….which admittedly had some beautiful colored glass adorning it. The desert light made it really gorgeous:
One last trudge thru the corridors of sadness. We did not encounter any of the amazing buffets of food we had been told of. Instead, we got ripped off buying overpriced yogurts and bananas from a gift shop:
Excited to see the front entrance. Pretty sure it wreaked of cologne here:
Only slightly less intimidating in the daylight:
Power walking to catch the city bus….which evidently was stopping at the base of the space needle?!
We made the bus with our hustle. Eating our breakfast en route to a yoga studio, the sights were still alarming even as we hit suburbia:
Off the bus and into the land of strip malls:
Strip malls with a lot to offer:
November elections coming up:
Ah sweet yoga relief to take the edge off. The slight awkwardness in our bodies is reflective of the somewhat rigid approach to ashtanga yoga we had just lived thru:
Thankfully there was a delicious Mexican restaurant nearby. We were happy boys as we headed out exploring in the warm but not scorching autumn sun. Not many people walk around this area, as evidenced by all the services on offer for cars:
Also a ridiculous amount of pavement for the cars:
The pavement theme continued even in residential areas:
And what was left unpaved was still a bit off:
Time to catch a bus again. We needed to get back downtown to connect with a bus route running south out of the city. One night on The Strip was informative enough:
Hopped off to make the bus transfer and found ourselves in among the human zoo that is Fremont Street. So much absurdity that it wasn’t alarming in the slightest to notice the zip line zinging tourists over the crowd:
That’s someone in a full-on Chewbacca costume casually strolling away:
Out of the throng of people and awaiting the next bus. Artwork on the adjacent parking garage was pretty cool:
The bus ride was pretty cool too…other than some crazy dudes bantering back and forth on the first half of the trip into the suburban sprawl called Henderson, Nevada. Note the boring brown homes lining the street:
We stayed on until the bus reached Boulder City. This is a remote, parched town that only came to be as an encampment for the workers who bravely built nearby Hoover Dam:
After dropping by the grocery to pick up some provisions (again where are these buffets people had talked up!), it was time to hike out to our sleeping spot for the night. Losing daylight fast, but the peaceful natural surroundings were so inviting compared to life in Vegas:
Pushing on thru peaceful darkness for the last stretch. We carefully navigated an old dirt road to cut distance and avoid cars:
We arrived to Boulder Dam Hotel & Casino in good time and much more relaxed than we had at Circus Circus one night earlier. We still had to walk around a casino floor (with ample ashtrays no less) to get to our room, but things were way more chill. We felt closer to a much more natural human existence out this way.
And that’s the close of Act 1 for Vegas. Up next in Act 2 is a peek at Hoover Dam in beautiful morning light, an eventful trip to the hotel gift shop and a glorious trek along Lake Mead. Stay tuned and cheers for reading:)