|The Lost Edges of Reality|
I've started noticing that I am as inconsistent with this journal as I am with most things. I need to work on this, so, for the 40th time, here I go again! Hello to all my faves - I'm sorry it's been awhile. My last entry ended with my declaration of indepence and my goal of leaving the country before the end of 2008. Well, I didn't leave the country, but I did go on a large trip all the same in December. I went to Las Vegas, practically on the other side of the country from my home, and a good consolation prize for my plans. It was an interesting experience to say the least. I'm not a big city person, at least no a big US city person (I loved the European cities I traveled to, mostly because of the history those cities were steeped in). I do feel, however, that Vegas is a place everyone should see at least once, but be prepared to spend some money.
My first impression wasn't a good one of the City of Sin. I came down with a cold on the plane ride to Vegas to begin with, but I was still optimistic because the skies were so clear I could still see the land below from such an incredible height. I watched incredible landscape changes: green rolling mountains, yellow plains, red deserts - amazing. When all other rivers were invisible, I saw the great Mississippi, which was about a foot wide from my vantage point. I can't even imagine how massive it is in person. Yet, when we began our descent into Vegas, I was very disappointed to see we were descending into a yellowish cloud of pollution. The entire landscape was draped in a sickly fog. And navigating the gigantic airport with my 18 year old sister in tow (just the two of us, mom had been in the city for a couple days and was at a seminar) definitely rattled my nerves a bit. When we actually stepped out under the Nevada sun, my cold was in full swing, and I wanted to gag when I breathed in the air. Growing up in a place where the air is untainted and sweet, I have an extreme sensitivity to air quality. I could taste the smog and, coupled with a sore throat, I felt the need to for an oxygen tank. The ride to the hotel (we stayed at the Luxor [the great pyramid] the first night) was quick, and the moment we set foot in the hotel room I climbed in the shower, and then went straight to bed for a couple hours (mind you, we had caught a 5:30 am flight, it was 11:30 am when we got to the hotel, and I was sick). After a short rest, and a pep talk from mom who showed up around lunch, my sister and I began to explore our hotel. In short, the hotel was very extravagant and themed completely like Egypt. The show theater alone was designed like a mini Egyptian city. I tried my hand at gambling, won $30, lost $20, and then stopped. I walked right past Criss Angel (a man I can't stand) and his girlfriend, Hugh Hefner's ex, Holly. Criss Angel is about my height in real life (I'm 5'4"). While everyone chased after them and snapped photos, I went in the opposite direction. Eventually, we left the hotel and hiked the strip down to the Bellagio where we watched the famous water show. This lifted my spirits, especially since the show was set to the music of "All that Jazz" from Chicago (one of my faves). Unfortunately, the hike was a little much for my weak immune system, and I felt dizzy so we went right back to the hotel room and fell asleep.
The next day was much better. Thanks to overpriced medicine purchased at a 24 hour CVS (any other CVS would have sold those meds for $12, but a Vegas CVS sold them for $25), I was in much better shape and prepared for the day. My mom was free to leave her seminar finally, and we rented a car to drive out to the Hoover Dam. The air over Vegas was clear that day, so I think the first day we flew in must have been especially hazy for some reason. New to the desert, I think I snapped a picture of the landscape from our car every couple minutes. Once we arrived at the dam, we quickly decided to take the special tour that allowed us to go as deep as possible into the dam. It was a blast for me, being the history buff that I am. I soaked in everything like a sponge, so much so that a month later when recounting the story to my grandparents, my mom couldn't believe that I rememberd just about every detail from our tour guide's speech. We were there for about five hours, and I barely felt sick thankfully. At about 4 pm, we began our drive into Arizona because the next day's plan was to see the Grand Canyon. The landscape change between Nevada and Arizona is quite dramatic. One moment we're speeding past red cliffs and barren desert. The next, we're in yellow grasslands with evergreen trees here and there. We spent the night in the middle of nowhere; I have no idea how people lived out there, but more on that later.
Our drive to the Grand Canyon was relatively quick, and incredibly beautiful. When we finally reached the park's perimeter, I couldn't figure out where the canyon was, as it was surrounded on our side by forest. We pulled into a parking lot, walked 200 feet to a railing, and there it was. I can't even describe the feeling of seeing something so massive, and so beautiful. It was about 10 am, and the still soft morning light draped golden over red, purple, orange cliffs and crevasses with a cloudless bright blue sky hanging overhead. The only way to describe the way I felt: small. EVERYONE must see this place before they die, period. When I think back to that day, I remember seeing so much, but I am completely incapable of describing it. There are no words to describe such majesty. Despite my weak lungs (my cold was disappearing, but leaving behind a week's worth of congestion), I was ready to hike to the bottom of the canyon that day. I even attempted it when I found Bright Angel trail. If you don't know who Bright Angel is, learn. Brighty has occupied a part of my heart ever since I was about 8 years old, and I wanted to see his trail if I ever traveled to the Grand Canyon. This is also the trail they take the mule train down. We hiked a little ways down, but because of our tight schedule we couldn't afford to go too far. I am determined to return here one day, ride a mule to the bottom, and spend at least a week hiking the base of the canyon. How humbling it must be to traverse so close to the earth's bones! We spent the whole day there, moving from overview to overview. I saw the canyon in every light of the day, and it took on different personalities in each. When the sun began to disappear, you couldn't tell where the sunset began and the canyon ended. I was definitely not ready to leave that place, but we had to make it to Utah that night so we could get back to Vegas the next day.
The drive that night from the Grand Canyon to Utah was strange and a little unnerving at times. I wish we could have done it in daylight because we definitely went through more dramatic landscapes. The night was clear with a bright moon, and we could see we were in plains with massive stone towers all around. We drove through Navajo lands, and, again, I don't knowhow people live out there. We never saw a school or a hospital in our five hours of driving. We saw maybe a total of six hotels and three gas stations. Get gas when you can out there because you have no idea how long it could be before you find another chance. We stopped at a Navajo gift stand that had no electricity and we could barely see what they were selling. We were ravenous, but there was nowhere to eat. We never saw a grocery store, and we saw only two restaurants - one was closed and one looked deserted. There were only these clusters of trailers here and there, each with their own streetlight. From afar, we'd think we were about to enter a large town, only to find upon reaching it we were in the midst of 100 trailers. Suddenly, we drove up a mountain and through snow. We had reached the north rim of the canyon, which is closed in the winter for obvious reasons. On the other side of the mountain we saw more lights, in the normal world, indications of a large town. In desert world, more trailers. By the time we were driving into the town of St. George, Utah, we didn't dare believe it was an actual town until we saw the shining lights of bustling restaurants. We were all so tired by this point, the rest of the night was a blur of food barely eaten and sleep.
The next morning, we drove back into Vegas. We had done a full circle around the Grand Canyon and through 3 states. We booked a room at the MGM Grande hotel - a fantastic, beautiful, and gigantic hotel that has so many roses in the lobby it's all you can smell. We explored our hotel for the first hour - fyi, vegas hotels are designed to keep you happy and keep you there. The more money you spend in the hotel, the better, and so they are like huge malls, restaurants, theaters, and hotels all wrapped in one. We boarded the Vegas tram and explored many other hotels and sights. We saw Paris, complete with smaller, but very impressive Eiffel Tower and full scale sized L'arc de Triomphe. Inside that hotel, all of the stores looked like Parisian cafes, the halls were cobble stone, and the ceilings were painted like the outdoor sky. At one point, I forgot I was indoors still. We saw Caesar's Palace, much like Paris but with a Greek flair instead. We visited the Flamingo, once owned by Bugsy Malone, and boasts the only known monument to a mobster. It was also haunted by said Mobster and everything was very pink. We visited so much, yet barely saw half of the strip. We went to bed around midnight that night due to our flights home were early the next morning.
There's not much to tell about our journey home. The flight was only 3.5 hours, as opposed to the 5 hours to get there. When my sister heard this, she said, "You mean we're taking the route they should offer on the way here?" We sat all the way in the back (where we sat all the way in the front on the way to Vegas). I actually enjoyed the very back. It was quieter, and apparently people up front were so annoying and difficult that our steward was relieved he had us in the back and offered us all free food and drink. I read one of my favorite books, The Book of Flying, ironic I suppose. We landed, and one hour later I was back with Audi. Due to time travel (time changes) we left at 8 am, and it was 5 pm when we got home. I was exhausted and very happy to see mountains again. We bussed my sister an extra three hours to her college, and then I finally got to fall into my own bed. Although the trip was only four days, it was jam-packed. I walked so much, I lost five pounds. I also spent all of my money! It wasn't out of the country, but as I said, it was a nice Plan B.