Dam Las Vegas

Knowing that the drive to Las Vegas was a mere 3 and a half hours, including the 20 mile detour to the Hoover Dam, we decided to sleep in a bit at Lake Havasu and take the day easy.  This decision was helped by the fact that check-in at our hotel was at 3, so the earliest we realistically could leave was around 10 — the downside of taking a pickup truck on a road trip – security of your luggage.  So after everyone woke up and got their stuff ready, we got back on the road to Las Vegas.

GPS will tell you to go back towards Kingman and take US 93 up, but one of the places I have always wanted to visit, even if it is just a small corner of the state, was California, so we decided to get back on the Route 66 and head into Needles and then up US 95 to Boulder City and the Hoover Dam.  The drive itself, after a weird check-point at the California Border (I’m still trying to figure that out) was pretty uneventful.  Once we got off the Interstate and onto US 95 the landscape was flat, barren and you could see for miles — well, you could if there weren’t mountains on either side of you.

Distant mountains in the Mojave Desert
A view looking west from US 95 somewhere in the Mojave Desert in Nevada.

US 95 ends at US 93, which will soon become Interstate 11.  But for the time being, traffic is a little hectic, which adds about 20 minutes to your drive if you are heading to the Hoover Dam, some 15 miles to the east.  That said, once we got past the small town of Boulder City, which was having some event at their convention center, the drive out to the Hoover Dam was pretty easy.  After turning into the Hoover Dam area, we were asked to pull into secondary screening because some government agency or another decided they needed to make sure our luggage crates were bomb free.  No problem, I had no problem with this as we were going to a live power plant.

The Hoover Dam, much like everything else so far on this trip, is much larger than photos and videos make it out to be.  In fact, I had a strange feeling driving over the dam itself — even Oatman didn’t give me that feeling.  But, we made it across and into Arizona (this will become a recurring theme for the next few days) and went up to a little overlook for some photos before heading back across (and out of Arizona — again) to the visitors center.

Well, we tried to get to the visitors center.  Parking is a garage that costs $10 or so to park in that is inside the mountain.  Then, one must deal with a mass of seniors and Asian tourists before getting inside the center itself.  We decided to avoid all this and headed back up the mountain towards Las Vegas.

I’ve never been to Vegas before, but had been told that traffic is a nightmare, so I was somewhat prepared for the hell that was.  What I was not prepared for was for my GPS to poop out on me in the middle of the Vegas strip.  Luckily, it decided to work about 100 feet away from our turn and I was already in the right lane so I didn’t have to do anything stupid or dangerous to get to our hotel.  A few  minutes later we pulled into the Hard Rock Resort and Casino, and to what I thought was a going to be a relaxing and enjoyable evening.

Welcome to Las Vegas
Welcome to Las Vegas
Hard Rock Resort and Casino Guitar Sign
Hard Rock Resort and Casino Las Vegas Guitar Sign

After finding the entrance to the sprawling complex that is the Hard Rock Resort and Casino, I found a place to pull over and let Liz and Hunter go check us in.  Knowing this was a resort and seeing the amount of cars in the area, I assumed there would be a wait, but not the 40 minutes I sat there waiting for them to come back out.  Eventually they did, but with bad news — because the reservation was in my name, I had to be the one to check in so rather than allow Liz to call me and have me come in, or send Hunter out (he is <21), they sent both of them out to tell me that I have to go stand in a 40 minute line.  So I did, and I was NOT happy about it.

Full Disclosure

There were a few more issues than what I’m writing about, but after speaking with management over email during the end and after our stay here, our room was refunded.  Further, the desk agent, once we were checked in “upgraded” us to a ‘pool facing’ room.  My Yelp and TripAdvisor reviews will reflect this.

When I finally got up to the desk, check-in was relatively painless until I tried to give them the debit card, which was under Liz’s name.  Initially the clerk was going to have me exit the line and go get Liz, but I told her that I wasn’t budging without the key to my room or a guaranteed refund.  She (the clerk) reluctantly let me call Liz in to approve the charge and then continued to check me in.

20 or so minutes, and a mile or so hike across a casino with giant rolling plastic chests, a cooler, backpacks and other junk later, we get to our room.  The room itself was nice, but we were facing the pool where there was a giant party going on, causing even our 8th floor windows to shake.  Thank goodness it’s Vegas and staying in one’s room is not what one does here.

Hard Rock Resort and Casino Pool Area
Hard Rock Resort and Casino Pool Area

After getting my videos transferring off the GoPro and onto the laptop and a short rest later, we made our way out to the strip to first have dinner with a high school friend of Liz’s.  Since we were in Vegas and are both fans (yes, I admit, I like a few of his shows) of Gordon Ramsay, we decided to eat at Burgr, which was located at the nearby Planet Hollywood Casino.  Since our friend was running a tad late and why not, I decided to get a drink at the Casino.  A simple Crown and Coke.  Liz wanted a Margarita so I got her one of those and after paying $30 for the two drinks (yes, highway robery), I made my way over to where Liz and her newly-arrived friend were sitting waiting for a table at Burgr.

No sooner had I sat down and started sipping on my $10 drink, our pager went off letting us know our table was ready.  So we had to chugged our drinks down like an Army private and made our way to the hostess stand to get our table.  Once seated, we started looking at the menu and a few minutes later a photographer came by and took our picture.  A minute or so later, our server came by to get our drink orders.  2 sodas, 1 one water, and 2 margaritas.  Remember this.

A few minutes later our server comes and takes our order and then returns with both our drinks and our appetizer — the Hummus — great stuff.  20 or so minutes later, our burgers arrive and let me tell you, I’ve never eaten a $15 burger before, but damn, this was probably the best burger I’ve ever eaten.  Was it worth $15?  No.  Maybe $10, but who cares.  It was Gordon Ramsay and its Vegas, baby!

Uber Cheese Burger
Uber Cheese Burger* asadero cheese + fontina cheese +boursin cheese + vintage white cheddar

So, 5 burgers, 1 Hummus and 1 order of regular fries and 1 order of sweet potato fries later, we get our bill.  $141.  The food was about $80 of that.  Do the math and figure out the rest.  I’ll just say the sodas weren’t more than $4 each.  Bloody alcohol.

After dinner, Liz said goodbye (well, we all did) to her friend and we spent the rest of the evening walking up and down the Vegas Strip — it really is a completely different view at night than during the day, and I’m happy to say I’m pretty impressed with what I saw.

Between street-side shows, dancing water, and gorgeous buildings, it really is an adult’s playground.  We, of course, had our kids with us so we were limited in what we could do, but they enjoyed themselves and Chloe had a blast watching the various dancing water shows.

Around 11, we were all worn out and caught the monorail back to our parking spot and got rather twisted around inside the MGM (the monorail’s south terminus) trying to find our way out to the main street.  Once we did, we quickly made our way back to the truck and headed back to our hotel where we all promptly crashed.

While a shorter drive than previous days, this was by far one of the most stressful days of the trip so far.  Between dealing with slow-checkin at the hotel, crazy traffic, security types and long walks down the Vegas strip, my mind and body were worn out by the time we got back to our hotel.

I did enjoy myself here, and could see myself coming back if I had money and time to blow.  Oh, and without kids.  Kids can find a few things to do here, but really, its not family friendly.  Keep them at home.  Also, know your route before you head out.  There are TONS of people walking the strip, from locals to Asian tour groups.  So keep your personal items close and make quick time from place to place if on foot.