Since I didn’t manage to get to bed on Friday night, I think it’s only fitting that I combine what I did on Friday and Saturday (September 20). It’s all pretty much a blur anyway.
On Friday morning I awoke to find the sun shinging in my eyes. I was laying on a picnic table in the middle of Nevada’s Joshua Tree National Park. This wasn’t the result of a drunken Vegas stupor (we didn’t hit Vegas until later that night) but rather my own decision to ‘sleep under the stars’ for the last time while riding the Green Tortoise bus. Most people slept in tents, a few slept on the bus, but I rolled out my sleeping bag under the amazing Nevada sky and gazed dreamily at the Milky Way until drifting off to sleep around 10 p.m.
“Route 66 is a quintessential home to all the world’s wanderers.”
— David Lamb, Smithsonian Magazine, February, 2012
“Route 66 isn’t just about nostalgia. It’s become an American icon,” writes Roger White, the transportation curator at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, where a 40-foot-long stretch of the road is on permanent exhibit.”
“It is woven through the social tapestry of the United States from the 1920s through the ’50s. It opened an all-weather route from Chicago to the West and was the route for the migration of Dust Bowl families, military mobilization during World War II, for veterans seeking new homes and vacationers looking for fun.” The road, said White, “was a catalyst for the belief, if there is a better life out there, the highway will take me to it.”
Some day I will return to California and attempt to trace Route 66 all the way to Chicago. There is very little of the old road left, much of it having been replaced by an Interstate, but it is possible to get a feel for the old route if you have the time.
It’s a good thing I got a full night’s sleep on Thursday as there was no sleep on Friday when a bunch of the Green Tortoise crew hit the Strip. Since only one other guy from the group of 10 had been to Vegas once, and I’m a 30-time Vegas veteran (sucker?), I volunteered to play tour guide for a few hours.
MIKE’S TOP 10 VEGAS BUFFETS
10 Rio (Village Seafood Buffet)
9 Paris (Le Village Buffet)
8 The Mirage (Cravings)
7 Planet Hollywood
4 Cosmopolitan (Wicked Spoon)
2 Caesars (Bacchanal)
1 Sunday Brunch at Wynn (Country Club)
After checking in and undoubtedly showering at a number of various hotels and hostels, about 10 of us met in the lobby at Caesars at 8:00 p.m. I told the group that we were heading to my #2 ranked buffet – Bacchanal at Caesars – but when we checked their front-of-line kiosk and learned the estimated wait time was 101 minutes, we made a tentative reservation and promptly hoofed it down the Strip to The Cosmopolitan. The Wicked Spoon at Cosmopolitan is #4 on my list but with a wait of more than an hour and a half at Caesars vs. 5 minutes at Wicked Spoon, it was an easy decision.
The spread at the Wicked Spoon was good but not great in my opinion. It didn’t help that we arrived at 8:45 and the buffet began to shut down at 11:00. Ten minutes would be ample time at Circus Circus but 2+ hours is the bare minimum required to get your money’s worth at a $51 buffet like The Wicked Spoon. I think we gave it a good shot though.
After dinner I led the group through Aria, Bellagio, and down the street to Carnival Court to watch the flair bartenders. Some in the group felt it was too loud so we decided to skip the high priced drinks and head to the gambling floor at The Venitan where the drinks were free. That’s generally Mistake #1 but in this case it turned out to be a net win for the group.
The frugal backpacker-types who ride The Green Tortoise aren’t prime patrons at a casino when the drinks are free and there’s a whole bank of penny slot machines. Thanks to Torsten’s big score at the Roulette table, we collectively left with some of Sheldon Adelson’s money. I think he’ll be okay though.
We ended the night downtown at Binion’s. Well, technically it wasn’t “night” as the sun was up and we had less than an hour to get to our hotels, showered, packed, and back to the central meeting spot near the Stratosphere. Miraculously, everyone showed up on time!
Needless to say, most of us slept as the bus rumbled through Nevada and Utah on the way to Zion National Park.
I can’t begin to describe the beauty and sheer grandeur of Zion National Park so I won’t even try. Instead I’ll leave you with this photo gallery of Saturday #12 in Zion. Enjoy.