Before I start today’s diary I feel I need to apologise in advance to any of my American readers who might be offended by comments I make in it. I have great affection and respect for the American people but this was just one of those days where everything that annoys me about the country happened, fittingly when the “word of the day”, as you will discover was “dam” (without the “n”).
Our second and final full day in Vegas was largely taken up with an organised tour of the Hoover Dam and luxury cruise on Lake Mead. We boarded the feeder bus from our hotel at 8.30am and proceeded to the Grand Canyon Airport in Boulder City where, before we were let off the bus, a tour guide tried to sell us a cut-price helicopter flight over the Grand Canyon as an add-on to our pre-booked activities. Only in America can someone try to sell you something else before you have even started to take advantage of the thin for which you have already paid. Admittedly, it was a good price though we declined as we had done it before.
Check-in was efficient and friendly, but it was a full forty minutes before the tour finally began, not least because we were directed to the gift shop first (another brazen money making ploy). Have you noticed also how every ride in an American theme park ends in the gift shop? And I shouldn’t forget the obligatory group photo, yet another opportunity to rip you off. To be fair, we have occasionally bought the photo package (usually an assortment of different size prints and key rings), but we resisted it twice today – at the airport and Lake Mead – as well as at the shows on the previous evenings.
Eventually, two hours after we had boarded the first coach, we were on the way to the Hoover Dam, each passenger proudly displaying a coloured (blue, red or yellow) sticker on their chest denoting which tour they were on and, therefore, how much they had paid. Our driver for the day was extremely knowledgable, a cynic might say a know all, but his constant use of the word “dam”, witty at first, grated after the fiftieth time. We had 2 hours 20 minutes at the Dam, most of which was taken up with an escorted group tour which I for one, not being remotely engineeringly minded, found rather tedious if undeniably awe inspiring. The highlight of our stay came when we were set free to wander around with our cameras taking photos of the Dam and the highest road bridge in the United States.
The coachload was then separated into its respective coloured groupings for lunch. Whilst the majority were treated to casino fare, we began our “luxury” cruise on Lake Mead with a sumptuous repast of ham or turkey roll, chips or potato salad and an apple or orange, washed down by a non-alcoholic drink. It only seemed appropriate in the circumstances that I should decide to pay an extra six dollars for a pre-prepared pina colada (which was actually quite refreshing).
The cruise, which lasted an hour and a half and took us as close as we were permitted to the Hoover Dam, was very relaxing, though the biting wind rendered trips up on deck to take photos short and challenging. Disappointingly, the position of the sun at the time also scuppered shots of the Dam itself. Nonetheless, it was generally enjoyable, though I still can’t get the picture of the mother on the table next to us checking her young son’s hair for nits whilst we were partaking of our banquet, or of the young girl who devoured two enormous burgers, out of my mind.
The final part of the tour was a brief visit to Ethel M’s Chocolate Factory and tour of the adjacent cactus garden. We returned to our hotel at 6pm.
Ever since we first visited it in March 2008 we have made Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill in Harrah’s Las Vegas is one of our essential things to do in Vegas, irrespective of the length of our stay. Good, wholesome southern style food is served in the restaurant and the adjacent bar is lively and good natured. The house DJ plays the latest country tunes during the breaks in the performance of the nightly live bands, and numerous TV screens showing country music videos, many by Keith himself, are located throughout the establishment.
After a 45 minute wait for our table the meal was as enjoyable as ever (Janet had chicken and I had catfish), the Whisky Girl cocktails which seem to contain around half a dozen measures of Jack Daniel’s, were equally typically potent and delicious, and the service by the “hottie” waitress was excellent.
But apart from that, the atmosphere was very different to what we had enjoyed on our previous visits. The DJ played very few recognisably country tunes (Van Morrison’s Brown Eyed Girl?), the periodic free shots dispensing interludes were accompanied by what sounded like a rap version of The Birdie Song rather than I Love This Bar, the band played competent southern, country tinged, rock and the TV screens, rather than celebfrating the country theme, were showing wall to wall college basketball – like thousands of others around town!
And finally, revellers who were only drinking were continually sitting at restaurant tables whilst others, including ourselves, were expected to wait for those same tables. And some of those were asked to leave whilst others weren’t. A very depressing experience, and one that convinced me finally that it was time to have a rest from Vegas for a few years (though that’s not to deny that we enjoyed the vast majority of our stay).
The irritations of the day didn’t end there. On returning to our hotel at midnight my room key wouldn’t work! This necessitated our traipsing down to reception where we were lectured by a female robot at reception that we shouldn’t keep the close next to credit cards and mobile phones (which we hadn’t) before being given a replacement. And, to cap the evening’s entertainment, as I walked away she droned “have a great day”!!!!!!
And, believe it or not, I will be so glad to get away from those damn slot machines and return to civilisation (California Here I Come)!!!!!