Today is my 26th birthday. Both Ami and I were late to wake this morning. I made a couple calls after waking up for a car rental this afternoon. Around 12:30, we drove out to a nearby Enterprise Rent-a-Car where they had a Chrysler PT Cruiser waiting for us. It wouldn’t have been my first choice but it worked out fine. The manager there, Jon, helped me out and did the walk around the car. He was very helpful and successfully upsold me on all the insurance and liability options for the rental. Ami parked her old Camry in the lot and we loaded everything up and left in our new blue car.
Before heading out of town, we stopped to visit Ami’s sister Melissa briefly. She had some birthday presents for Ami to give her before we left town. We were only there for about 15 minutes.
Ami did the driving for the duration of the trip up. I offered to drive but she was fine doing the whole thing. While we were heading out of the city but still in Phoenix, we exited I-10 too early and ultimate ended up on US-60 rather early. 60 runs up to US-93 which is a highway that runs directly to Las Vegas but while still in the city it’s just another road with lots of traffic and stoplights. It took almost an hour just to clear the greater Phoenix area.
At Wickenburg where US-60 meets 93, we neglected to turn and started heading due west. About 20 minutes went by before I realized the error and we turned around. Ultimately that little mistake cost us another 45 minutes. The bulk of the ride was uneventful, we were driving through the middle of the desert after all. We did pull over at the “ruins” of Nothing, Arizona, which was an unincorporated community that had a gas station and shop. It’s abandoned now but I saw it on a map and Wikipedia weeks ago and wanted to have a look when we drove past.
The sun set long before we hit the Hoover Dam. Traffic is slowed considerably on the approach to the dam but the security checkpoint flowed smoothly. I couldn’t see very much at night but the enormity of the dam was still pretty clear.
A little later we approached the city of Las Vegas. Seeing it for the first time at night was quite striking. After driving through the pitch dark desert for hours, we drove over one of many hills and suddenly a sea of lights become visible. Once we got down into the city it looked much like any other until you approach and turn on to Las Vegas Boulevard, the strip. Before heading to the hotel we drove up and down the strip to take in the sights. I’ve never seen anything so awesome and unnecessary in my life.
After our bit of sightseeing we pulled into the self park garage at the MGM Grand where we had a reservation and checked into the hotel sometime after 10 that night. We had one of the “grand tower” rooms which was quite nice for the price but there was no real view to speak of where we were on the 4th floor.
After we got settled, we walked up the strip, got a drink and generally just looked around. I had my camera with me and took lots of pictures. I thought we would get a look at the Bellagio fountains. We saw a show going on as we drove the strip but it was about one in the morning when we walked by. Apparently they shut them off at midnight… shame. I was hoping to eat at one of the Bellagio’s restaurants but they were closed too, understandably so. We walked into the casino where we were greeted by one of the security folks. He escorted us to Café Bellagio which has much more generous hours. It’s adjacent to the botanical gardens, a rather impressive and colorful display to say the least. The food at the restaurant was quite decent for a 24-hour restaurant. I was not very hungry so I just had the shrimp cocktail and some wine. Ami had grilled salmon. For dessert I had the carrot cake which looked nothing like what I was expecting. It made for a nice photo-op.
After what I suppose could be called dinner, we walked around for a couple more hours, mostly along the strip and maybe stopping in a couple casinos. We walked as far as the Venetian before we started heading back the other way. Even though we were out rather late, I was surprised hoe dead the strip was. There were only a few people still walking around and only a couple places still open. We tried to find a monorail stop and we got pretty close to one before we were told by someone cleaning floors at Harrah’s that they stopped at 2 AM. One last thing Ami wanted to was take a picture in front of an electronic sign at Denny’s that cycled the date which now reflected the 19th, her 25th birthday. After hours of stumbling around and goofing off, we finally made it back to the hotel room at about five. By the time we finally went to bed, the sun was coming up. I don’t think I’ve had cause to see a sunrise since the day my family got up early to evacuate for Katrina.