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Michael’s Travel Diary

Tuesday, 09 Jan 2007

Location: Las Vegas, USA

MapNew Years Eve - Las Veags... December 31st, 2006.

Another night of too little sleep, and I set about breaking the curse immediately. By 825am I was in the casino lobby at the Luxor, and managed to find a $5 blackjack table. It went up to $10 at 830am... must be the time the breakfast gamblers rock up. Throwing down a $20, I pocketed my fiver, and played with the other $15 worth of chips. After 6 or so hands, I was still even, having won two hands straight at some stage. Woo hoo, and I was happier for the rest of the day. Still no blackjack, but breaking even after 6 hands was like winning the lottery after the previous night. So, as the $10 a hand limit came in, the three of us headed outside, and did what I classify now as the best way to round out the best year of my life. If you've read almost any of the previous entries, you have a pretty sound understanding why it was the best year of my life. So how did I round it out? With a tip to the Grand Canyon. And not just any trip... The shuttle bus picked us up infront of the black glass pyramid and we headed to the airport. Half an hour later, and we're in the terminal (not the big Vegas airport, but Boulder City airport I think?) and another 30 down the track and we're boarding a 19 seat Cessna. From there we fly out to the West Rim of the canyon. Now there is a long story behind the Canyon and the rims. I was on the south rim in '03 (and dare say it is more spectacular to look at from the edge, but much more commercialised) but the north and south rims are no fly zone, and somewhere past the rims it is suggested lies the illusive Area 51. So to do a fly tour you have to fly ot the West Rim. What's so special about the West Rim that allows fly tours? The government gave the area (1.2 million acreas and about 108 miles of canyon) back to the Indian tribe that used to inhabit the area. It is now a soverign state, with it's own laws, courts and justice system. As such, they deemed that the are could be flown over (the West Rim), and that at that section of the canyon, you can also fly helicopters below the rim of the canyon, and down to the canyon floor. Why not, let's make some money out of this land eh?

So, of course we see a great opportunity, and after landing on an airstrip in the middle of nowhere, aside from being next to this huge canyon, we jump on into the helicopters and head on down into the canyon. Man, what a flight. It was inclredible. It doesn't last all that long, but as you're flying through the canyon, 4000ft high walls on either side of you, and the rather placid looking Colorado River slowly flowing it's brown contents along, you realise just how incredible a place you are. And then the pilot does his thing, and your dramatic side takes over. The pilot starts rocking the chopper gently, then starts banking closer to the sheer cliff faces, and suddenly all I can think of is Will Smith being chased by an alien in a fighter plane through the canyon in Independence Day. And like all good things, before too long it is all over, and you land on the canyon floor in a small clearing with a semi-permanent shade cloth shelter, and a couple of porta-potties. They kinda destroy the beauty of the natural surroundings, but when you gotta go, you gotta go I guess.

From there we walk down a short path to the river itself and jump into the boat that is going to take us up and down the river to admire more of this incredible place. And the first thing is that you can see, whilst there isn't the Hollywood famous white water rapids in this section of the Colordao River, there is still one monster current. We headed up stream for about 20 minutes, powering gently against the current, till we reached a bend in the river. It was at this point the driver turned the boat around and explained the story of the ownership of the canyon and that we were on native American soverign soil. We cruised back theentire way without power, and made it back to our starting point in about 10 minutes... strong current.

Next we jumped back on the chopper and headed back up to the rim of the canyon, huging the walls on the West Rim nice and close. Again it was an incredible view, flying upstream and heading up an dout of the canyon, climbing 4000ft in less than 4 minutes. Eventually we land back at the airfield, and board a bus to take us out to Eagle Point and Guano Point. Eagle Point was pretty un-interesting, outside of two things... well three. One it's at the rim of the canyon, so it is beautiful - pretty obvious... but aside from that. It is the spot that was used to shoot the scene at the Grand Canyon in the film Fools Rush In with Matthew Perry and Salma Hayek. It got the name from the huge rock formation in the middle of the canyon that appears to be an Eagle with wings spread in full flight. But the most interesting thing is the new structure that is being built at Eagle Point. A huge glass bottomed walkway, in a horseshoe shape that extends 70ft out from the cliff face, and sits 4000ft above the bottom of the canyon. Walking on air over the canyon, able to look all the way to the bottom. The steel horseshoe is there, but the 8 inch thick glass has been delayed coming in from Germany. Originally it was due to open on the first of the new year, but now the official date is 28th March. Safe to say it would be a pretty incredible "walk in the park" to head out on that thing.

So, on to Guano Point, where they used to mine Guano - hence the name. I don't know the best way to describe this spot, but it is like a peninsula, where the Canyon wraps around coming back on itself. And at the tip of the peninsula there is a massive rock mound that just begs to be climbed. With 360 degree views, the destination is breathtaking - probably got something to do with the climb and the air at over 4000ft? But in any case, the view is spectacular. Check out the video...

From there we headed back down the peninsula, grabbed a quick lunch at the building there (also included in the price) and sat eating our meal surrounded but the most amazing views. What a place for a fist full of picnic tables and a cafeteria style lunch! Back on the bus, to the airport, fly back to Boulder City and then shuttle back to the hotel. All up, we were picked up at 830am, and it was about 4pm when we arrived back. A FANTASTIC way to spend the last day of the year.

Once back at the hotel, Richie and I raced down the strip and fought the crowd that was crazy increasing in size. The strip itself is shutdown for a number of hours, reportedly from 11pm to 3am. More amazing is that the casinos go into lockdown between 11pm and 1am. You are either locked in or locked out. A bunch of the casino's even had huge temporary fencing erected to keep the people off the gardens and out of the drive-ways! It was an absolute mission, and all to get Richie a shirt to wear out for the evening. We made it past the halfway point of the strip, and once we managed to finish shopping we headed into the Wynn and looked for the monorail. After not finding it there, we headed down the strip, caught it back to the MGM Grand, and after some erroneous guiding from Richie, we finally made it to somewhere near the Luxor. Picked up a 12 pack of beer, and started getting ready in the room. For the night, we headed down to Manadalay Bay, and The House of Blues. Firstly, they wanted ID to get in, and I'd left my wallet back at the room so as to not loose it, nor did I take my passport. So back to the hotel room (20 minute round trip) for the passport. Once we get back we head on in. Downstairs, they had a huge stage and some beat box guy on it. Too cool. He was actually really cool. Then around 11pm, The Dan Band (from great movies such as Old School and something else) came on. Not bad. The dude seems to make a living off singing chicks songs and rocking out to them. Eventually we realised that everyone in the place had a camera with them, and we had been told the previous night that there were no cameras allowed. Upon further checking, we were told that cameras were normally not allowed, but they would be for NYE. This time I broke into a jog and ran back to the room to catch the camera... from here on the night turns a little hazy. The drinks weren't cheap - infact the burbons went for $9 a pop, and the find of the night had to be the $2 champagnes. After the confetti fell from the ceiling and the happy new years were done, The Dan Band played another song or two and Ash went AWOL. Richie and I explored the club further, and hit the dance floor briefly upstairs with the GO-GO dancers. Up an ddown, from one room to the other we wiled away the night for a bit.

Eventually we left (having not seen Ash in god knows how long) and wandered out to the strip. It was incredible. We were out there some time near 2am (maybe?) and the place was already being cleaned up. They had street sweepers, water tankers and everything else cleaning up the road already. Incredible. We wandered down the strip and made it all the way to the Monte Carlo (after pciking up a margarita from Coyote Ugly) and being as drunk as I was, figured that thowing $100 on a $15 craps table seemed like a great idea. So with lit cigar (that I took from the dude in the bathroom at The House of Blues), a $1 bill floating in the nearest fountain for luck (I had no change), and margarita in hand, I watched my money crap away particularly quickly. In fact I have no idea how long it took to loose it, but I did loose it. From there we headed back down the strip, picked up another margarita from the COyote Ugly bar, took god knows how many photos of absolute strangers and made some calls on the way back to crashing out in the room. At some point I also brought a 'slippery when wet' cone to the room and put it in bed with Richie who'd passed out almost immediately. In the morning (11am when the alarm went off) I reached out, grabbed the end of my margarita and took a gulp - worst move ever!

Quickly (well as quick as you move on New Years Day) we got ready, found out that Ash had been kicked out of the club last night, then Mandalay Bay as a whole. We set up ourselves and headed down to the ESPN Zone to watch the Rose Bowl. Well, we weren't the only ones with the idea, and the line was going nowhere. Eventually I came with thedea of heading to the Hooters Casino to rab a lunch at Hooters and watch the game there. Again we weren't the only ones, but at least this time the line was moving. We had to wait the best part of 30 minutes, but we got seated eventually. It was great to finally get some food into us, and we just made it in time for kick off. Well, we didn't have any beers, just water and coke, and lots of it... and fries, buffalo wings, and burgers. At half time (3-all, much like a soccer game at that stage) we went out to the pool to get some fresh air, and I truly was feeling shocking. We headed back into another bar to watch the most of the third quarter and it was clear that USC had Michigan under control so we headed back to the room for some rest. Watching the end of the game, lying in bed and not getting much sleep...

Around 730pm, we headed to the Bellagio for a bit of a gamble, and I actually managed to at least break even - woo hoo. From there we went across the road (after the water show) and tried to catch the bus to down town. What a lucky break. It is $2 a ticket, no change. So with nothing but $5 notes, we bailed and went for change. At that stage I saw the score of the BSU vs. OK score was 28-20. And just about to end. I grabbed the other two guys, and with 1.28 on the clock left in the game, we spent the next half an hour watching one of the most amazing football games EVER. The whole time we were in Margaritaville, and never had a drink. First, Oklahoma tied the score 28 all with a minute left. Next BSU quarterback threw an interception that was taken to the house, and inside 30 seconds the score had gone from 28-20 to 28-35. The game looked over. But the BSU quarterback composed himself, and the coach sent in an series of trick plays. With 7 seconds left, they tied the score with the old Hook and Lladder play, where the ball was passed downfield, and latteralled to another team mate who ran untouched into the endzone. Increible play, totalling 50 yards, to tie the game. Overtime. Oaklahoma score on the first play of overtime, to make the game 35-42. BSU managed to bring the ball down the field, and with one play left, and a touchdown or loose, they scored. No to tie the game with a kick or go for the 2 point conversion and the win? Go for the win. The opposition coach flipped, called a time out. After the game resumed, BSU (HUGE Underdogs) came out and ran ANOTHER trick play, the old Statue of Liberty. Fake pass to a wide receiver on the right (and the QB sold it well) and the running back takes the ball from behind the QB's back and ran into the touchdown for an incredible win. What a game! So from there we headed into town, armed with $1 bills for the bus, on the most painful bus ride ever. The locals at that time of night were absolute freaks. Finally we made it into town and got off the bus at Freemont Street. Now, downtown, the original Vegas, is a ghetto. The place looks run down, and full of the sad people that probably used to play in the strip casinos. On the up side, the tables are much cheaper in this part of town. The main draw card though is the Freemont Street Experience. A 1500 foot long curved roof, 100ft off theground that covers Freemont Street, and every hour on the hour, the roof lights up with TV footage and music. It was pretty cool, but nothing more. Then we cruised through Binions (the original home of the World Series of Poker until a couple years back), playing some Craps for a while. Then we cruised through other stalwarts of Old Town, the Golden Nugget, 4 Queens, Pioneer and a couple others - always increasing my collection of chips. Finally, around 2am, we headed home and got some sleep - I was leaving the next morning.
Up early, and down at the buffet for a breakfast. I was at the airport early, to ensure that my bags could be checked all the way through to London, rather than have me get the bags in San Fransisco and re-check them. So, with time to kill, I dumped one dollar into a poker machine, and came up empty. Finally, I left Vegas, and made it to San Fransisco pretty easily. Straight away on the way to the check in counter for the Virgin Atlantic flight to London. No isle or window seats available - d'oh. Then the call came through. An isle seat, and in the bulk head row - sweet. So no leg room problems. A couple of last minute Duty Free shopping items, and then on the way to Heathrow.

Long plane ride, around 11 hours, and I managed to get 1 hour sleep. Three movies though - A Scanner Darkly (wierd as... still don't know what it is about), Da Vinci Code, and MI:3. Anyway, the main joy of being in the bulkhead row, at the very front of Economy, is being the first in economy class off the plane. I charged through passport control, and was at the baggage carousel before the first bag came out. And then waited, and waited, and waited. About 45 minutes later, with a few people standing aorund, and no bags coming out, I knew for sure that my bags were not in London. Yep - left in San Fransisco. At least I didn't have to carry all of my bags home. Having said that, I got in at 11am Wednesday, and it was after 4pm Friday before I got my bags. No shaver, hair gel or clean clothes, and only the toothbrush that was given to me on the flight. Started to get annoying.

Anyway, really long diary entry - had a ball in Vegas, and wish I was still on holiday. Tough first few days of work! More videos and photos to be up soon.

What??? You Want More??? If you want another view on NYE (haven't looked at Richies yet, but know it is up - and he didn't look at mine whilst writing his, so it could be interesting...) see the site:

ww.planetranger.com/richard

Take care... more on the way soon.

Michael