Following the events at Ocean Beach the night before, the drive to Vegas can best be summed up in the term ‘hilariously hung over’. Nate, presumably sad on the inside as Natalie was not coming to Vegas drove while the rest of us recovered and joked around, taking in the change of scenery from beach town to arid desert.
As dry as the landscape in South East California is, the drive to Vegas was still quite beautiful. On either side of the highway were large, rocky mountains of which a few had snowy caps. Simply how vast and empty some of the scenes were was quite a sight compared to the jungle-clad terrains I was used to in Asia.
It took until later that day before everyone had learned how to pronounce my name correctly. The name ‘Callum’ I have found, is not at all common in South East Asia or the USA and two months out of Australia I had mostly given up on correcting peoples pronunciations, even defaulting to the much simpler ‘Carl’ in some cases in Asia. My name often gets mistaken as Colin, Callen or any variation there-of and so it was much to my pleasure that Nate came up with a cheesy, yet surprisingly unheard phrase that I’ll continue to use from this point on: ‘Call – um like I see em’.
We arrived in Vegas late in the afternoon, to the same Kanye West song that the characters in the ‘Hangover’ movie did and presumed that we were unlikely the first to do so. Not that it mattered. The guys had already booked a room in Caesars Palace that with the addition of myself to help split the bill, worked out to be cheaper than a dorm bed in a hostel. Staying in a nice hotel on the strip certainly made us feel as if we were doing Vegas ‘right’ and in that vein it didn’t take long for the first bets to be made – sporting bets. Surprising to me, sports bets are illegal in most of the US so it is a big thing for people who come to Vegas to place a bet on one of the many sports available. The NBA finals were in their second game and the French Open was entering its semi-finals so it was an exciting time to bet! Pat, a local tennis pro gave us some insight that proved fruitless, for which he received hard-humored harassment.
After checking out the room we made haste to buy a 24hr buffet pass called the ‘buffet of buffet’s’. The pass, at $50 gives unlimited entry to any of the 7 participating restaurants over a 24 hour period. Which we took advantage of. We timed it so that we could get late dinner, breakfast, lunch and then an early dinner the next day. The food at the Caesars buffet was undoubtedly the best (western) eating I’d had all year, devouring three cheese ravioli, roast lamb, fish, and managing to peck a little bit at the huge desert selection before my stomach couldn’t take anymore. The problem, we discovered soon after eating was that when you plan on drinking a lot of beer, a buffet may not be the best precursor to doing so. Alas, we persevered and with the gambling that the other guys were doing, free beers were flowing for a good part of the night.
As the night wore on we began to explore more of the strip, taking in the lights, sounds and probably 200 of the prostitute business cards that get slapped into your hands as you walk the strip. One of the more memorable events of the night was an encounter with one of the many guys peddling limo rides and free entry to the strip clubs. On this occasion, the man wearing a suit that made his pitch even more convincing introduced us to a woman called ‘Russia’. Russia had joined us halfway through the conversation after buying some fried chicken, the grease of which at this point had covered her hands and lower part of her face. Russia, the man insisted, didn’t like clothes. He then nodded towards Russia for confirmation, to which she responded ‘It’s true, I hate clothes’ through a mouthful of chicken.
Somewhere in the time-line of that first night in Vegas, planking seemed like a great idea. The craze, that blew up in Australian media after a death from a balcony hasn’t really taken off in the US, if not for lack of trying on our behalf. We planked a number of places on the strip, including in front of the Bellagio fountains as well as a water feature inside Ceasars itself which raised a few eyebrows. The planking managed to stick with us throughout the remainder of the trip as we planked all over Denver and parts of the mid west.
I went to bed (comparatively) early that first night, however the others stayed out until the sun came up and still managed to back it up the next day with a night of VIP booths and table service at the LAX club, which I’ll talk about in the next post.