Route Day 66 Days 3 and 4: Desert Storm

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We got on the road early Friday morning, departing from our hotel in Hollywood and heading west on Santa Monica Boulevard. Amazingly, the traffic was not bad at all and we made pretty good time through Pasadena. LA has dozens of distinct neighborhoods and it was nice to drive through parts of the city that we hadn’t seen already. That being said, we also saw places like San Bernadino that looked like they’ve seen better times.

After driving the Cajon Pass, we arrived in Victorville. While in Victorville we stopped for lunch at a Del Taco, which can be best described as a better Taco Bell. Nothing too special, but it was pretty good for fast food.

Lunch was followed by a short drive to the California Route 66 Museum. The place was with old trinkets and friendly staff who seemed to be genuinely dedicated to preserving the history of this legendary highway.

The final stop in Victorville was the local airport, which is notable for its airplane graveyard. When an airline doesn’t a particular airplane any more, one of the places they can send it to is Victorville Logistics. Once it’s there the plane sits out in the desert for months, sometimes even years. If a new buyer isn’t found, the plane is unceremoniously cut up and sold for scrap. While they didn’t let us into the airport, we were able to drive around a bit and see some of the planes up close. After snapping a few pictures, we turned around and headed back towards 66.

Leaving Victorville, we drove along the two-lane highway to Barstow. To be honest, there wasn’t that much to see in that town and we mainly used it as an opportunity to take a break from the road and get something to drink at Church’s Chicken. From Barstow we took I-15 all the way across the state line towards Vegas. Along the way we encountered stormy weather, with downpours so strong that not even our windshieldwipers could keep up. Between the reduced visibility and the traffic jam it caused, the storm must have cost us a good hour between Barstow and Vegas. So much for the desert being “dry.”

We finally pulled into Vegas at around 7 o’clock. The luminous thoroughfare that is the Las Vegas strip was a welcome reminder of civilization after hours spent crossing the empty desert. My anticipation grew as we walked into the hotel lobby to check into our room. Coming from a Holiday Inn Express, this was paradise.

We finished up the day by eating dinner at one of the many restaurants that the hotel offered. The best description of a Vegas hotel is a luxury cruise ship that sits in the middle of the Nevada desert. The sheer size of this places is mind boggling, with thousands upon thousands rooms stacked on top of each other. My hotel has at least three separate pools, including a giant in-ground Jacuzzi! There must be dozens of shoppes and stores within the hotel, the equivalent of a good sized shopping mall. Now I’m not big on shopping myself, but even I still marvel at the sheer scale of it all.

I was able to sleep in on Saturday morning, which is a welcome change from waking up at 6 am three days in a row. After a quiet morning lounging around the hotel room, I set off to try my luck in the world of gambling.

The last time I visited Las Vegas was over ten years ago when I stayed at the amazing Bellagio. Now that I was back, I noticed that I appreciated the luxury of it all way more than when I was just a kid. And now that I’m 21, I could finally stand in the casino without getting hassled by the employees. Not to mention the alcohol!

So rather than spend all my time at my hotel, I decided to walk up and down the strip to play at multiple casinos. At the Venetian, I had no luck whatsoever. The slots were killing me and I was in no mood for card games at a place like that. After losing a good 10 dollars on a penny slot, I walked south along the strip, poking my head into the various casinos to scope out the field.

Slowly but surely I found out that while these hotels may look wildly different on the outside, from inside the casino it’s hard to tell if you’re at Bally’s or Harrah’s or MGM Grand. After scouting a few places, I decided to try my luck at the Monte Carlo.

My first (and only hand) of casino poker ended up being a massive disappointment. It was Texas Hold’em, and I had 9-10-J-Q-K diamond flush. There was only one possible hand that could have beaten me, and I put most of my money on that one game. So guess what happened: some guy got a royal flush and I lost most of my gambling money in one disastrous moment.

Utterly dejected, I started on the long shuffle down the Strip back towards my hotel. Losing big time can make a man hungry, so on the way I popped into Planet Hollywood for a snack. For reasons I cannot explain, I found my self inserting a dollar into the nearest slot machine and pulling the lever down like it was a mere extension of my arm.

And I won.

Not huge, but from my $1 bet I got $20 in winnings. After thanking Lady Luck for this splendid miracle, I did the smart thing and cashed my ticket right away. And while I still lost money that day, I had fun doing it and I’d like do it again the next time I come here. And by “it” I mean having fun, not losing money.

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