Posts Tagged ‘Treasure Island Las Vegas’

Our last day on the road and one on which we hoped to catch more vintage Route 66 sights before we said a fond farewell to The Mother Road. We had nearly 300 miles in front of us before we reached Las Vegas, where we had tickets for the Dark Star Orchestra concert in the House of Blues in Mandalay Bay at 8pm. With that in mind, we left the Little America Hotel in Flagstaff at 8.35am, our earliest start of the trip.

Before we joined the I-40 west we needed to fill up the car. As we had contracted to return it with an empty tank, we did not want to put in any more than was necessary. We estimated $30 should do the trick.

Our first planned stop was at Bellemont, location for a classic scene from Easy Rider. Early in the movie Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda pull up in front of the Pine Breeze Motel, hopeful of a room for the night. However, the owner, peering from within, spots their motorcycles and promptly switches the neon sign from VACANCY to NO VACANCY. Although the motel is now closed, the sign is still displayed at the nearby Route 66 Roadhouse Bar & Grill – which does welcome bikers. It is that we went in search of.

We left the interstate at junction 185 as directed and followed the signs to Bellemont – or so we thought. Our first attempt ended in a pothole ridden track that ran out in a forest clearing. Undaunted, we crossed back over the I-40 and took the frontage road, but after two miles we reached a similar dead end. With no access to the freeway we were forced to turn back.

We could not afford too many such fruitless detours on a day when we had so many miles to cover. At least this diversion had given us the opportunity, on an empty stomach, to witness a group of cows defying the flies to feast on a rotten deer carcase.

The other Route 66 destination that we were anxious to visit was Williams, just thirty miles from our starting point. Taking exit 165 we entered the town, whose welcome sign stated that “You are wanted in Williams”. And so we were.

After parking the car we started to walk down the main street in search of a suitable breakfast venue. We were tempted first by Goldie’s Route 66 Diner, but the sight of ten bikers roaring into the forecourt in front of us suggested we might have to wait a while!  The nearby Red Garter Bed & Bakery retained outward hints of its former notoriety as a bordello.

This town has the distressing or proud, depending on your point of view, distinction of being the last one to be bypassed by the interstate on 13th October 1984 when Bobby Troup, the writer of (Get Your Kicks on) Route 66 attended the closing ceremony. That might have proved the death knell of the community, but its railroad history and proximity to the Grand Canyon enabled it not only to survive but thrive as an important major tourist location.

We were immediately attracted to Williams with its frontier feel and vibrant Route 66 connections. Nearly every establishment, whether a gift store, diner, trading post or motel, appeared to be selling a large selection of road memorabilia.

We were spoilt for choice of dining options here too. Cruisers Café 66 Bar & Grill, which would have been my original preference, was, sadly, closed, though we were still able to roam its delightful patio with its vintage gas pumps (above), murals and and quirky Halloween paraphernalia (below).

Of all the towns we had visited on our trek through New Mexico and Arizona on America’s Main Street, nowhere flaunted its Route 66 heritage more than Williams, as the restaurant sign below illustrates. And we loved it!

Eventually we decided on breakfast at the Pine Country restaurant, a classic diner with friendly staff,  family atmosphere and, of course, its own mini gift shop. Two fried eggs sunny side up, hash browns, sausage patty, lashings of ketchup, sourdough bread and, of course, unlimited coffee, was just the right fuel for the long road ahead.

Aside from its Route 66 frisson, it is Williams’ railroad history that brings the visitors flocking in today. The Santa Fe Railroad first connected it with the Grand Canyon in 1901 but it went out of business sixty seven years later.

Then in 1989 it reopened as the embarcation point for the Grand Canyon Railway which now carries tourists the 65 miles daily to the South Rim through the high plains and pine forests. An essential excursion on our next trip.

Another of the town’s nostalgic diners is Twisters, full of road memorabilia and complete with original fifties soda fountain and bar stools. The reasons for a return trip in the not too distant future mount up – only time today for a handful of photographs of the exterior.

We would have loved to have spent longer in Williams (it was now nearly 11 o’clock), not least to explore the Arizona State Railroad Museum (and sample each of the diners!), but were mindful that we needed to reach Vegas as early as possible in order to avoid a lengthy queue at hotel check-in. And there was that gig to get to.

This meant we had to remain on the interstate rather than join the Route 66 loop which included Seligman and its legendary Sno-Cap Drive-In and the equally famous Hackberry General Store. 

I am so looking forward to that next trip!

Route 66 may not have been the primary focus of the trip when we first planned it. But we had virtually lived on it since Albuquerque and fallen under its spell – even when we couldn’t find it! There is no other road in the U.S., or anywhere in the world for that matter, that carries as much resonance – not bad for a road that no longer officially exists! Tim Steel put it best in his eponymous book:

There are few things in life as alluring as a road trip, and few roads beckon as seductively as Route 66.

We may now have been concentrating on eating up the miles rather than looking for obscure Route 66 spots, but it did not dull our powers of observation. Hitchhikers dotted this stretch of the interstate, a reminder of a gentler time and one we had not seen at all on the trip heretofore. Perhaps they were Deadheads trying to get to the Dark Star Orchestra gig in Vegas! No tie-dye in evidence, so probably not. We passed a truck carrying an  unusual “oversize load” – an aircraft wing! Blown tires strewed the road and hard shoulder.

At exit 48 at Kingman (along with Barstow and San Bernadino, celebrated in the final line of Bobby Troup’s classic song), we finally left the I-40 (and Route 66) to join the I-68 West and, shortly afterwards, the I-93 North to Las Vegas. It was a quarter to one, eighty four degrees (twenty three degrees warmer than it had been when we left Flagstaff but still eight degrees cooler than when we arrived in Vegas). We had exactly one hundred miles to go. We took a comfort break in a gas station and discussed whether we needed to “top” the fuel up, concluding that we might just make it – which we did, endorsing the decision we had made at the beginning of the day). Billboards for the casinos in Vegas were already a regular roadside sight.

Much of the I-93 was desert with occasional shacks the only habitation. Plots of five, ten and twenty acres were on sale, though the landscape was bare and unprepossessing. Within the hour we had passed the Hoover Dam and crossed into Nevada. Having made such good time since Williams, we stopped in Henderson for an iced coffee before the final cruise into Vegas.

Nothing in the past seventeen days had prepared us for the volume of traffic that greeted us on the run in to Vegas! We approached via Flamingo Road’s three lanes that seemed to go on forever, and made the right turn onto the Strip towards our hotel.

After a tearful goodbye to “Ruxy”, who had transported us, without a hitch, 2,325 miles across five states and innumerable extraplanetary vistas, we headed for check-in at Treasure Island. And yes, it was crammed! As the receptionist explained “half of Southern California is here this weekend” and most of them had just landed!

But within the hour we were in our room overlooking the Strip. And not only did we make the gig but we arrived in sufficient time to eat in the House of Blues first – where it had all started two and a half weeks ago.

The concert was great – well I thought so! We walked the length of the Strip in the balmy early hours, and had a nightcap in the Breeze Bar in the casino before retiring.

It was already my sixtieth birthday, and we now had a long weekend in Las Vegas to look forward to.

As to what we got up to over the next four days – well, you know the phrase, don’t you?

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At last, undiluted sunshine as we woke on our first full day in Vegas, although the deaths of movie icon Elizabeth Taylor and English cricketer Fred Titmus cast a cloud over the morning.  

This was our third trip to Vegas in the past 16 months and fourth in 3 years, so, with a show booked for this evening and a full day tour tomorrow, we decided just to spend the day strolling the Strip.  Required to collect our Cirque de Soleil “Viva Elvis” show tickets from the Aria box office at midday we had a late breakfast there whilst we waited.  We walked as far as Tropicana Avenue, returning on the other side of Las Vegas Boulevard.

We stopped for a beer outside Planet Hollywood where, at Pink’s, I also partook of a veggie hot dog with cheese (why are they, on the rare occasions you can find them, so much smaller than the “meat” ones?).  By this time, around 2.30pm, the sun was at its most powerful.  Although we were in the same state as the one we had left the previous day, we could have been on another continent and in a different hemisphere.

With spring break still in full swing the sidewalks were full, not just with tourists and people trying to thrust in your hands cards advertising call girls and adult shows, but with numerous celebrities, including around a dozen assorted Elvises, ranging from the ages of 25 and 60 and weighing between 140 and 250 pounds.  In addition, we could have had our photograph taken with such diverse characters as the Fantastic Four, Elmo, Freddy Kruger, Marilyn Monroe and Spiderman.  We also passed beggars with placards inscribed with several variations on the “homeless and hungry” theme, the most interesting of which was “we’re not in Oregon anymore Toto”.

Meeting Janet’s parents at 5pm we had dinner in Treasure Island before getting a taxi to the Aria for the show.  Sad to report but neither of our cabbies this evening had opinions on any subject other than other road users – they were plain nice guys, nothing more.

The show was terrific, more, understandably, given the subject matter, a variety show with exuberant, high energy dance routines than the gymnastic extravaganza of other Cirque de Soleil shows that we have seen, although the athletic performances were no less spectacular for that.   The merging of big screen clips from Elvis’s life  and performances with the excellent singers, musicians and dancers in the company worked very well.  If you’re in Vegas or the show visits your town I would unhestitatingly recommend it.

Following drinks and another break even session on the penny slots, we returned to our room where I intended to complete the previous day’s blog.  The same issue with accessing the wireless network that I had experienced before resurfaced, but my frustration was mollified by the excellent IT support person in the hotel fixing the problem.  I went to sleep satisfied that I had avoided missing my deadline for the first time on the vacation.

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Hardly a “bluebird day”as the locals call a blue sky and sunny prospect, but the weather augured better for a great day’s skiing (another 3-4 inches of snow overnight),but we were leaving town for warmer climes. The benign conditions meant there  were no delays on our outward journey up the lake and through the Carson Valley to Reno Tahoe Airport.  Arriving on time, and nearly three and a half hours before our Southwest flight to Vegas, we enquired whether we might be able to get an earlier flight.  However, we decided to relax and have lunch at the airport on learning that transfer to the 12.25pm flight would cost us $91 each. We weren’t that desperate to get to Sin City! 

This gave me the opportunity to write the previous day’s blog over a coffee –  a bonus as I had doubted whether, once in Vegas and with a show booked for tonight, it might prove beyond me.  But 1,000 words and less than an hour later, it was foisted on an unsuspecting world.

We had lunch at Brew Brothers – another tradition on these trips, though there wasn’t anywhere else to have a full meal – Janet had a chicken and apple salad whilst I had a veggie burger with mushrooms and fries, plus wine of course.

We proceeded through security and took our seats on the 2.05pm flight. I never cease to be amazed by internal US flights – the matter of fact but organised security and boarding arrangements, the desultory safety demonstration once on board and the sheer energy of the three person cabin crew in carrying out all their duties on the 75 minute flight, taking refreshment orders, preparing and serving them and then clearing them away for 137 passengers.

Janet and I were almost the last people to board the plane, so were inevitably separated.  Janet ended up on the front row, enabling her to disembark first, but not until she had had to endure a journey squashed by the two 20 plus stone and fragrantly challenged women next to her.  By contrast, four rows back I was able to start my blog and enjoy great views of both Red Rock Canyon and the Las Vegas Strip, the latter so dreary by day but dazzling by night.

The captain was a wisecracker, though when he proclaimed “Go Phillies” as we landed, I could not resist calling out above the laughter ” Giants – Champions”! And they still let me off the plane!

Collecting our baggage and walking straight away into a taxi – a clear indication of how slow business is in Vegas at present –  meant we were checking in at Treasure Island a mere 35 minutes after we had touched down, and that was despite the cab driver taking us on a tour of Southern Nevada before dropping us off.  We secured a strip room, and although I had initial difficulties connecting with the hotel’s wireless network, we were “good to go”.

We met Janet’s parents, who had arrived the day before on a ten day vacation to celebrate her father’s eightieth birthday (they are veterans of American travel), and had dinner at Kahunaville in the hotel before taking a taxi to the Rio All-Star Suites and Casino for the Penn and Teller show.

Now they are hugely talented guys and deliver some amazing tricks.  However, and I am being deliberately provocative here, there was something unsatisfying and irritating about the show.  It may have been Penn’s rapid, and sometimes incomprehensible, patter or his repeated protestations about how their act is more honest and decent than others in their field, notably professed psychics whom they dismiss as frauds.  But, as I said, I am probably being too picky here, and there is no doubting that Teller is a great clown in the mute tradition.

It is commonly felt that, with the only possible exception of London cabbies, New York taxi drivers are the most opinionated on the planet.  Now, if you put one in charge of a cab in Vegas, the effect is likely to be explosive.  Yes, we had the doubtful privilege of being escorted back to our hotel by the craziest New York Italian taxi driver imaginable.  

After he had asked me which part of Australia I came from he launched into a scattergun tirade on a variety of subjects such as Middle East politics, the glory of Tony Blair compared to the catastrophic presidency of Bill Clinton, who had (apparently) spent his entire period in office engaging in extra curricular activities, and his affection for the former New York Giants baseball team.  Keeping his eye on the road was secondary, as the number of pedestrians hurling themselves out of his way and the exasperation expressed by other road users demonstrated.     

Finally, yes you guessed it, the penny slots – initial success followed by setbacks, but a break even session overall.  The theory still holds – just.

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