Las Vegas: Family style!

Well, it’s a little late for my yearly Vegas trip (or so it’s become), but better late than never right?  This trip was different though.  I was going with my family this time to help ease my cousin, Kristin, into her new life in Las Vegas.  She was offered and took a job as a veterinarian in Las Vegas.  So, a nearly two weeks ago Kristin packed up and moved.  She drove from Baton Rouge to Las Vegas with her two large dogs and tiny cat in her car with her mom, Aunt Karen, while her two brothers, Michael and Brandon, manned the Penske truck.  It took them about three days to get there, and once they did my cousin Brian flew up to help move everything in.  Myself my mom and brother flew down last Friday the 18th.

Our day began fairly early, with Rob bringing us to the airport around 6:30 a.m.  My brother had apparently been awake for the last day and a half.  We left Portland around 8 and the sun was shining and the sky was fairly clear.  Clear enough for me to take this photo of Crater Lake as we flew over it.

I’ve never been to Crater Lake.   Rob and I are talking about going there for our anniversary.

We landed in Las Vegas around 3:30 and had to get our rental car and drive to my cousin’s house.  My mom thought wisely and had my brother bring his GPS so we could use it while there, and shit that was the best idea she’s ever had.  If we hadn’t brought that thing we would’ve spent the night in the desert.  Las Vegas is a big city.  Kristin lives about 28 miles from the airport.  You have to take two interstates to get there.  The interstate going through downtown and drives right by the strip is the single most dangerous road I think I’ve ever been on.  The speed limit is 65 and I swear everyone was doing at least 80.  At least.  Nobody uses their signal when changing lanes, or really looks to see if another car might be right next to them before changing lanes.  There were motorcyclists speeding with no helmets on.  It was terrifying.  We managed to make it to Kristin’s unscathed, thankfully.  Cameron passed out soon after we arrived and I managed to get this adorable piece of blackmail:

Kristin had to attend a dinner her new boss was hosting, so the rest of us went out to The Strip, well the old strip.  We went down to Fremont Street which is what used to be the strip before Caesar’s and Planet Hollywood.  It’s where me Rob and the girls had the best time last year.

We walked around for a while before Michael, Brian and my mom went in to gamble.  Aunt Karen, Brandon, Cameron and myself stayed outside and managed to catch the Queen show on the ceiling.  Now, this poses a problem for me and my irrational fear of heights.  I can’t look up at that ceiling without feeling like I’m going to fall over.  My last two trips here I never caught one of their little “shows” on the ceiling.  First they turn out all the lights on the street, including all the lights on the casinos and hotels.  It’s dark (also a fear of mine).  Then the beginning of We Will Rock You starts and the ceiling lights up with Freddie Mercury.  It’s actually pretty cool, and I was able to look up briefly before getting overwhelmed with anxiety.

I took a photo of it to try to give an idea of what it was like.  After the Queen show it turned into disco.  The summer theme there is the 70’s.  So guess what,

This happened.  It was more dizzying than the Queen show.  When this thing was done we walked a little more and I think we ended up at the “bad end” cause there was a bunch of gutter punk kids yelling and as we turned around to walk back a segway cop rolled over my Aunt’s foot.  Yup.  There were tire marks and all.  That was pretty shitty.  We were ready to leave then.

The next day we made our way to Red Rock Canyon.  This was what I excited for.  I’ve never been to any place like this before and it was as awesome as I thought it would be.

When we parked at the visitors center I saw my first cactus in the wild.  May not be a big deal to most people, but I’ve only seen them at Fred Meyer in a pot, so I thought it was pretty cool.

Basically there’s a road that goes through the canyon and parking lots that have trails you can hike on.  We made a couple stops to see the mountains before we chose our hiking trail.

This was taken at the visitors center.  The red mountain in the background was our first stop.

My lens isn’t wide enough to grasp the enormity of this mountain.

Of course the first thing Cameron and Brandon do is run off and climb things.  And the first thing I do is worry that they’ll fall and crack their skulls open.

Cousins!

Moms!

My Aunt Karen had gone back to school and is studying geology so she knows all about these rocks and how they were formed.  This trip was fun and I learned things!

We drove a little further in and found our trail called Calico Tanks.  It was a 2 mile hike, rated moderate.  It was a pretty easy hike, with the exception of the little bit of climbing we had to do.  I’m so out of shape.  Even the little bit of dodgeball I play didn’t help me here.  It wasn’t too hard though.  Walking in sand isn’t the most comfortable though.

We hiked up this mountain and ate lunch in a cave where we found a time capsule someone created.  We added a 2010 penny to it.  This may not look too high.  It was high enough for me.

I was feeling a little sense of accomplishment.

Aaaaand Cameron left his mark in Red Rock Canyon.

There were little cactus’s/cactai (?) all over the place and we all managed to not get poked by them.

After the hike we drove through the rest of the canyon, stopping at points of interest for photos and exploring.

It’s amazing how the mountains changed shape and color as the drive went on.  It really was an amazing sight.

When we got home I was beat.  I napped for about half an hour before dinner.  I showered after dinner and was ready to go out for a night on the town.  Our first stop was the M&M factory.  It’s four floors of M&M stuff.  I did end up buying my nephew something there as well as some M&Ms for myself. We walked across the street to New York, New York where Brandon was going to ride the roller coaster, but decided not to at the last minute cause no one else wanted to.  We then walked to Excalibur and the Luxor and we were going to take the tram back but it wasn’t running anymore.  So we walked.  These are not short distances either.

This might be one of three photos I took on the strip.  I realized that after you’ve done The Strip once, you probably don’t need to do it again.  I’m not a gambler, and getting drunk in Las Vegas is like getting drunk on a cruise ship.  It’s expensive and nearly impossible unless you provide yourself with your own liquor.  If I ever stayed on The Strip again, I’d lounge by the pool all day and go to a show at night, then hit a buffet.

The next day while Cameron and Brandon did this indoor skydive thing, me Kristin and Brian went to the Premiere Outlet Mall.   I was pretty excited for this because I wanted to go to the Kate Spade outlet in the hopes that I could maybe afford one of her handbags at that price level.  Turns out I can’t, sadly.  But I did get some super cute purple sunglasses and earrings of hers.  We met up with everyone else at The World’s Largest Gift Shop on The Strip.  There I got a turqouise ring for 50% off and some other crap I probably don’t need.  From there me mom Cam and Michael went to this plant/indian store near Red Rock Canyon.  This store was pretty cool.  It was 7 acres of cactus’s, handmade art, petrified wood, rocks and gemstones, and this stuff called rainbow glass.  I forget where the rainbow glass comes from.  I bought two pieces as garden art.  My mom and cousin bought boxes of the stuff and had it shipped home.  The people there were super duper nice and they gave us free sodas and let us play with their many dogs they had roaming the property.  If you’re ever in Las Vegas check this place out.

When we got home my mom and I had about a half hour to get ready to go to our show, Viva ELVIS, a Cirque Du Soleil show.  This was one of two things I wanted to do on this trip, Red Rock Canyon being the other.  I read about this show months ago and when I learned that I’d be going there I decided immediately that’s what show I wanted to see.  Of course nobody else wanted to, and that’s fine.  But mom wanted to be with me and she took me.  Some of the others went and saw LOVE, the Cirque Du Soleil show based on the Beatles music.  Mom left the car with valet parking, so fancy!  I spent a ridiculous amount of time, and maybe money, in the Elvis souvenir shop.  All my love and devotion came flowing in, and when the show started I had tears in my eyes.  Yeah, I’m a real dork.  It was fantastic.  The whole show played recordings of him singing while a live band played the music.  One of my favorite parts was when they had a drum line play Burning Love, a favorite song of mine.  Some of my favorite songs were included in the show, there were some awesome acrobatic sequences, and at the end it rained red scarves!  Me and mom both got one!  It was a really great show and I’m so glad and thankful that my mom came with me (and paid for me).  It was a wonderful night.

Neither of us brought our cameras cause you can’t use them in the show.  This was taken on my phone.  I really should’ve brought my camera though.  We had our photo taken in front of the Elvis statue by the hotel photographer and mom paid for it.  I’m glad I have it, but it makes me a little sick thinking about how much money they make off those photos.

The next day, our last day, me Kristin Brian and Brandon went and explored Kristin’s new neighborhood while the others went back to the plant store.  We saw where Kristin will be working and had lunch at Chilli’s and went to my favorite store, Target!  When everyone got home we had a nice family dinner.  Kristin, I think feeling anxious about everyone leaving, had a few drinks.  Well, more than a few.  It was actually pretty funny.  She tackled me on one of the air mattresses and made our Cousin Brian dance with her in the living room.  She went off on this “rant” about how the lead singer of Death Cab For Cutie and The Postal Service is the same singer in Iron and Wine.  I knew that wasn’t true but she was too drunk to reason with, but she still bet me $20.  Kristin, if you’re reading this you know where to send the money:)  We ended up spending the better portion of the evening playing a game we used to play as kids, Spoons.  I sat next to Kristin, who is notoriously competitive, and took a few hits.  I ended up losing the whole shebang but it was fun and well worth it.  Somewhere in between dinner and Spoons we toasted with champagne to Kristin and her new life in Las Vegas as a veterinarian.

Mere hours later, seriously about 4 hours later, I drove Kristin’s car with Brandon and Michael to the airport while mom drove Aunt Karen and Brian.  It was time to say goodbye, again.  but this time was different.  Kristin was going to be alone in a new city.  It was incredibly sad to see my Aunt hold her and say goodbye, seeing my cousin Michael cry because his sister wasn’t going home with them.  We headed back to the house, our flight left later, and Kristin went back to bed.  I stayed up until we left for our flight, about two hours.  We said our goodbyes to Kristin.  I felt bad leaving her alone, but that’s the way it had to be.  I think she’ll do great out there on her own.  Her boyfriend Nick will be there at the beginning of July and she’ll have some sense of normalcy.  I spoke to her last night on the phone and she sounded pretty good.  I wish her all the best in the world and can’t wait for her to pay for me to come visit her with her veterinarians salary!

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