We landed after nightfall. We were originally scheduled to arrive mid afternoon, but after the missed flight and waiting out the thunderstorms, my first glimpse of the neon lit adult playground that is Las Vegas would be after dark.
We retrieved our bags and caught the shuttle to the rental car lot. The way it worked was that they dropped you off amid a field of cars, you chose the one you wanted and drove it off. Well, there was a kiosk that took the cars, and your information and checked you out as you departed so it wasn't quite as risky for the car company as it sounded when it was described to us at the airport. We had both agreed that a convertible was the only way to go. I heard a red corvette speaking to me until my friend mentioned that red cars were police magnets. We settled on a green Camaro. Low slung, with a spoiler gracing its rear, it was, quite frankly, the hottest, sexiest car I have ever traveled in. For the next few days I felt like the ultimate convertible ridin' stud muffin. The top was almost always down and our chests were almost always bare as we cruised the highways of America's southwest.
It was Saturday night and traffic on the strip was moving at a crawl affording me ample time to take in my surroundings as we moved along the hotel and casino lined street. At the Bellagio the waters danced as the voice of Frank Sinatra boomed thorough the warm air of the desert night. Roller coaster cars zipped past a mock New York City skyline, gondolas glided down the canals of an imagined Venice and a multitude of lights, in a multitude of colors, spun, flashed, blinked and twinkled.
My friend had made a reservation at a hotel near Fremont Street, on the far end of the strip from the airport. The hotel, "The Downtowner", was selected by him based on it's modest price. The reason for the modest price was evident as soon as we entered the room. Sparing the details of the decor, I will just say that to get the air conditioner running we had to hit it with a shoe. It was, unfortunately, not the only time during this trip that we would have to resort to this. The hotel's sign was a prime example of high 60"s geometric kitch. It's pool, while it did look like the photo on the web, was located across the street from the hotel. The chain link fence which surrounded it had originally had plastic slats woven through it for privacy. Over the years the desert sun had taken it's toll on these leaving them faded and broken; which left large swaths of the chain link fence exposed. This also left bathers exposed to anyone who might pass by on the sidewalk. As it was well after dark we would not be using the pool and would only be using the room to sleep in the one night, planning to leave early the next morning. We dropped off our bags and headed out into the visual riot that is Las Vegas at night.
Our first stop was Fremont Street, the former main drag of Las Vegas. It is the home of the famous neon cowboy sign and the iconic Golden Nugget casino. The street has been arcaded and a light show is projected nightly on the white, arched ceiling of the arcade. We then drove to the newer area of town. Passing by the Bellagio again the waters now moved to music by Aaron Copeland. The Flamingo leaves it's doors open to the street and the superheated desert air. Walking from the outside into the uber air conditioned inside feels almost as if you are walking through a solid wall of cold. As we passed through Paris Paris, with it's miniature Eiffel Tower and scantily clad cocktail waitresses I remarked "The French already hate us, I can't imagine what they would think if they ever saw this."
It was my first time in Las Vegas. I expected it to be bright, garish, somewhat tasteless and over the top. It did not disappoint.