San Diego, CA to Las Vegas, NV

“I watched the world flash by, headlights, taillights, running through a river of neon signs” – Keith Urban

Miles traveled: 390.3

I drove out of San Diego this morning to head back through the desert towards Las Vegas, NV. On the way, I stopped at Joshua Tree National Park. It was pretty toasty by the time I arrived at one of the park entrances (shocking, I know), and I learned from the park ranger that I had timed my visit perfectly as they had just re-opened to main roads in the last few days after the water finally ran it’s course from the flooded roads in the park. Yes, water in the desert and lots of it. Most of the unpaved roads were still closed, but the main paved road that goes through the park was open to all traffic. Phew! Joshua Tree NP is mostly desert landscape, with some rocky mountains, and everywhere you turn there’s a Joshua Tree. Hence the park name. The park almost reminded me of Saguaro NP in Tucson, but the cacti had been swapped out with Joshua Trees. So I meandered my way through the park, and took a couple of very short hikes just to get out of the car and explore – but short enough to not melt in the 104 degree sun! Beautiful park, so happy I stopped and even happier that the roads were open!

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After my park visit, I ventured through the Mojave Desert (holy mother – now that was a desert in its truest sense) towards Las Vegas. The drive was about 3 hours, and all but 30 minutes of that was through the desolate, dry, hot, dusty desert. To be honest, I wasn’t sure which way my GPS was going to take me to get up to Vegas – Joshua Tree is literally in the middle of nowhere southern California – not far from Palm Springs – but there’s nothing else there. But I did make sure I had a full tank of gas before going into the unknown! The drive was interesting – and hot. Driving through the heart of the Mojave Desert is like a scene out of a movie – it peaked at 114 degrees, and there isn’t a soul in sight. At one point I actually drove through a ‘town’ called Grimm, CA. You’re damn right it was Grimm. Perfect name for the place! Looking out on the horizon, it was so dang hot it looked like there was an ocean just within reach. It was one of those places where you are just driving along, hoping your GPS is guiding you towards civilization and not circling you around the proverbial drain of desert hell, constantly checking the gas level and DTE (distance to empty) even thought you know you have plenty, and continuously calculating in your head the speed you are traveling to figure out if the DTE is accurate on the Jeep with a slight tinge of panic. I drove through a couple of spots labeled “rough road” – which means dodge the thousands of pot holes in the road as you pass the signs alerting you to “Watch for Tortoise”. Really?! Something lives out here – poor tortoise. How miserable!

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And just when I thought I couldn’t take much more of the desert, I happened upon an old friend, Route 66, and felt immediate relief – cause I knew there would be other humans in the general vicinity! And I was correct – thank goodness – for about 15 miles, I enjoyed Route 66 in California, before turning off and heading back into the middle of nowhere. So at one point, I truly thought I would never get to civilization, and out of concern for fuel (I had plenty, don’t panic) I turned off the AC and had the windows down. Holy lord it was hot! Once I finally got to i-15 N, I was about 40 miles south of Vegas, I stopped to top off the tank to avoid having to do it in the morning in Vegas.

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I drove into Vegas down Las Vegas Blvd, stopped to get my picture of the ‘Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas’ sign (when in Rome), and headed to my hotel (Trump International – I hope I am getting a discount because of Donald’s recent behavior; I have to imagine from the PR nightmare it may not be the hot new place to stay in Vegas – but Hotwire sent me here on a pretty good deal, so I wont complain). I’ve been to Vegas quite a few times in the past so it is really just a stopping point for me on this road trip; I don’t plan on doing too much here (what a snoozefest, I know). I am going to see “O” at the Bellagio tonight as my Godmother once told me it was the best show to see here (they lived here for several years, so I would always come to visit when I was younger). She (Katherine – one of my favorite people of all time, hands down) passed away several years ago, so I am going to channel my inner Katherine tonight and head to the show upon her recommendation.

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So posting this early today, but with limited pictures for the time being (because I left my camera in the Jeep accidentally and I don’t feel like dealing with Valet to get the SD card out of it)! I will update it tomorrow with more pictures from the National Park – so check back when you see my post for tomorrow for more pictures. Off to the show!

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Update: Finding ‘free’ anything in Vegas is quite the task, but I managed to get to the Bellagio via a free shuttle from my hotel to Caesar’s Palace! Was pretty pumped about that. The Bellagio is the next monstrosity of a hotel down from Caesar’s Palace, and to get from the shuttle drop of to the theater I walked about a mile and a half from the valet at the Forum Shops, through the Forum shops, down to street level, out to Las Vegas Blvd, down the street, up and over in an escalator, and through the shops in the Bellagio (you know, just the everyday shops like Cartier, Tiffany & Co, Gucci, etc. I’m sure the sale’s people in those stores shuddered as I walked by in my nice jeans and shirt (I mean let’s be honest, I didn’t pack to be able to dress to the nines on the road trip)! I made it to the theater with a little time to spare so I waited outside in the gallery until show time. Why am I giving all of this detail leading up to the show, you may ask. Well if I didn’t, than I would have failed to mention the huge fight between a group of women not far from where I was standing that I was lucky enough to witness. Absolutely no idea what the ruckus was all about but heard multiple times, “How dare you speak to my mother like that, you $%^@%#*&(#%&@” (insert your choice words if you’d like for some added color, otherwise you get the basic jist). Oh Vegas, you never disappoint.

The show was pretty cool – those folks are amazing athletes! I have seen a few of the Cirque du Soleil shows before, and this was definitely one of the best ones I have seen. The stage alone was worth the ticket price. Really cool show that incorporated the typical Cirque-letes and story being told without words, and of course had the comic relief, but set on a stage that went from huge, deep pool, to shallow pool, to solid platform, etc. It’s hard to describe! The audience was your typical Vegas crowd – no manners, no regard for others who may be watching, but cheerful and elated to be in the city that never sleeps. A final word for those of you who left their basic-level manners at home: Please bring them with you next time because in no culture is it appropriate to talk through an entire production in your outside voices. Seriously – why bother going if you aren’t going to watch and enjoy the show!!

Until next time…

-traveljunkE

Day 20

Day 20

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