Saturday, September 18, 2010

It's Vegas, Baby

This week it seems like everyone has been writing about fall and fall colors. When I think of fall – Well, I think of Las Vegas.

For the past fifteen or so Septembers, my husband has gone to a convention there. When my son was younger, I’d spring him from school early and we’d head to the Burbank airport and catch a flight to Vegas to catch up with my husband. Since my son was under 21 and couldn’t go in the casinos, we’d walk the strip, stopping in all the hotels. We’d ride every tram, check out all the inside shopping street, stop at the indoor rainforest, and watch the pirates battle in front of Treasure Island. That night we’d go to the convention award show, and then the next day we’d leave my husband to finish his business and we’d fly home.

Now my son is part of the business and we both go for the whole trip. When I used to fly, I’d look down on the 15 (you can see it from the air) and think yuck, who’d want to drive through all that beige.

It’s always good to have an open mind. When we realized the cost of all of us flying, and how long it really takes to fly if you consider getting to the airport early and flight delays on top of the one hour flight, we started to drive Vegas. Now I look up at the planes flying overhead and think they don’t know what they’re missing.

In my head its broken up into parts. The first takes us out of the San Fernando Valley and along the San Gabriel mountains. It’s all towns with Walmarts and Best Buys until the huge housing development in Rancho Cucamonga.

The road turns and instead of stores and houses, there’s just open brush before it twists into the El Cajon pass. All the signs with warnings about brakes overheating always makes me a little nervous. All you see is mountains for awhile and then we’re into the high desert with towns like Victorville, and Hesperia. By the time we’re going through Apple Valley it looks like the backdrop to an old cowboy show which might be why Roy Rogers lived there. This part of the journey ends when we reach the vast expanse of fast food places outside of Barstow and make our first stop. After we eat, we pick up Starbucks coffees and head on. It’s nice with good music on the radio and my family together.

After Barstow it really is desert, though on the ground it doesn’t look as monochrome as it does from the air. There’s a reason they call them the Calico Mountains. It’s most empty with a few signs for towns that are barely visible. Sometimes we stop in Baker which is the gateway to Death Valley. It has a giant thermometer which offers more information than you want. There’s also a place called the Mad Greek that has great butter cookies.

Now the road goes up to 4000 feet and then down to a dry lake bed, and up again. There are places for runaway trucks to try to stop. And lots of hills with rocks on them. It goes on like that until you leave California and enter Nevada at Stateline. The road instantly gets better and there in the middle of nowhere is an outlet mall that goes in a circle and a couple of casino hotels with huge signs bragging about their entertainment and high paying slots. We usually stop at the mall for a bathroom stop and a little shopping. Who knows what you might find?

From here it’s just a hop skip and jump past a distant prison and a town named Jean. The road turns through some mountain and suddenly Las Vegas spills out in front of us
This trip I’m not sure how much time I’ll have to spend smelling the rainforest or watching the gondoliers. There are some parties to go to, which gives me a chance to see the kind of places I would never otherwise get to - trendy bars with girls in gold paint dancing on tables. But most of the time I’ll be pulling my computer bag to a coffee spot. I’m planning to finish rewriting Book 6 now called Behind the Seams. Nothing like the din of a casino to get those creative juices flowing.

So, I guess my fall color is desert beige. How do you feel about road trips?

And the winner of last weeks contest is Chicken Herder. If you’d contact me at and give me your address, I will send you a signed advance reader’s copy.


Linda O. Johnston said...

I enjoy the drive to Las Vegas, too, Betty. Have you ever stopped along the way to tour Calico Ghost Town? That's an enjoyable frolic and detour.

Camille Minichino said...

You're the first one to make me long for a desert trip, Betty!
But I do love road trips. One of my favorites is the drive straight across Massachusetts to New York and then up to the Finger Lakes to visit two other cousins in that region. Beautiful in any season.

Betty Hechtman said...

Linda, one of these days we will check out the Calico Ghost Town. It sounds great.

Camille, your road trip sounds beautiful. Just hearing "Finger Lakes" gives me a wonderful visual. I love traveling around the East. Well, I love traveling everywhere!

Planner said...

I'm a native Southern Californian, but I've never been to Las Vegas. I'm sure it would be interesting, but other destinations seem more attractive to me. I'm not a gambler, I don't want to go to overly priced shows, and I suspect the ostentatious hotels would disturb me even if I found them fascinating. Sometimes there just seems like a better use for money when there are so many problems to be solved.

When I do go on a road trip, I prefer a place where I can just enjoy nature, although camping is not my thing. I particularly like being near the ocean, and I love going to Mission Bay in San Diego. We bring our folding bicycles and enjoy the abundant bike paths in San Diego.

On a road trip, I enjoy the ride to the destination. There's all that anticipation and conversation about what you're planning to do that makes it exciting. I think it's similar to starting a new crochet project--you do your preparation and have a clear vision for what you want, you anticipate that the results will be the best ever, and you get to be there to see it all unfold and enjoy it. Optimistic anticipation is so sweet!

Enjoy your trip, Betty!

Congrats to Chicken Herder! Happy reading!

Monica Ferris said...

One of my favorite drives is across Pennsylvania then cutting south to Washington, DC. We used to start in Minneapolis, but it's rather boring until you get into the mountains in PA. We did it in the Spring, going to DC for Malice Domestic, a really great mystery convention. A beautiful but somewhat eerie sight are the pre-leaf dogwoods in bloom amidst the big trees. They look like the ghosts of snowflakes.

Betty Hechtman said...

Planner, it's great that you enjoy the anticipation of a trip. I love road trips along the ocean. It's very cool when you get around Santa Barbara and can see the channel islands.

Monica, what a wonderful description of the dogwood trees. I'd really like to see that.

Judy Harper said...

I never made it to Vegas, but I stayed with my Aunt in Sacramento for three months and one of my favorite drives was up the mountain, stopping at Lake Tahoe. Even in August, I could see snow on the mountain top and when I dipped my foot in the water it was so cold! I had a little VW, and we'd have a picnic and then drive back down. You know what surprised me the most, Squaw Valley! Watching the Olympics there I envisioned a huge place, and it wasn't. So while I never made it to the desert, I was enthralled by the mountain and villages.