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by Nancy Dowicki
It all started with a discussion between myself (Nancy Dowicki) and a co-worker (Ruth Watkins) who sparked my interest in a travel/walking club. What better way to experience two of my favorite pastimes and meet others with similar interests. So, my husband and I joined the club and participated in our first "travel" walk.
Mornings are not our best time and early mornings are even worse; however, there we were at the Baltimore Airport, travel bag in hand and excited about our adventure. Upon arrival at the airport, I re-introduced myself to Matt (we have met through a work related working group) and promptly introduced my husband who had bravely volunteered to be one of the designated drivers and who was totally unaware of the challenge and responsibility of keeping our assigned group together. Matt proceeded to give us a package which contained maps, itineraries, and a listing of the other walkers and informed us that we would travel in our assigned van with the same folks for the entire 3-day period. Before boarding the plane, we had an opportunity to meet the folks who would be traveling in the van with us and many of the others as well.
Arrival in Las Vegas was a bit chaotic in arranging vans and luggage but finally we attempted to find our way through the maze of construction to our hotel. From the airport, we were supposed to travel in a caravan and allow Matt to proceed us into the hotel to check on our room availability. So, naturally the vans all took off at different times and some of us arrived at the hotel ahead of Matt. With 27 people and 4 vans, keeping everyone together as a group is a challenge. As expected, our rooms were not ready so we checked our luggage, chose one of the 3 sanctioned walks, and headed off. Our 11K walk took us on a winding path from our hotel to the famous Las Vegas Strip.
In following our directions, we walked through hotel lobbies, past casino gaming tables and slot machines, up and down escalators, around hotels, and over pedestrian walkways. There was so much to see (we haven’t been to LV in more than 10 years) that it was hard to keep ourselves focused. We did divert to watch the water show outside the Bellagio and the roller coaster outside the New York, New York Hotels. Four hours later we found ourselves back at the hotel, checked in, showered and met the group for our first buffet dinner at an Asian buffet. We ended our first day, tired and full but anxious for the next phase of the trip.
Up early, for continental breakfast at the hotel which consisted of coffee, juice, cereal, oranges, apples, bananas but no promised Danish pastry. Upon arrival at the buffet, we were informed by the food police, checking room numbers, that the pastry had not yet arrived and she wasn’t sure what time it would be there. Rather unusual since breakfast started at 6:30 am and ran until 9:00 am. At 7:00 am we headed off to St. George, Utah for our second walk. Here we met at a designated spot and set off on our walk as a group. However, due to the varied pace of the walkers, the group did not remain together. Along the pleasant, quiet walk through the town, we met several nice people. One woman took time from her morning exercise (she came out of her house in workout clothes) and after chatting a few minutes to find out who we all were and what were doing, informed us of a state park called Snow Canyon within a 5-mile drive of where we were. Our group took a vote and decided to take advantage of the opportunity and upon completion of our walk, left a note for the other walkers and set off for the Canyon. It was a pretty ride (though not spectacular) through the canyon and we did see two inactive volcano’s along the drive.
One very interesting aspect we learned was that there are several walks in and around the Snow Canyon that might have been fun if more time had been allotted. Perhaps if the group goes to Las Vegas in the future, this should be considered. Once more we headed back to the hotel to change and meet the group for dinner. Our buffet tonight was held at the Bellagio Hotel and the food was awesome. After eating ourselves into oblivion, we headed around the corner to see Cirque du Soleil spectacular"O".
The most expensive and sought after show on the Strip!! Can’t speak for the others, but my husband and I were certainly impressed with the show; especially those 50 foot dives. As we filed out of the theater, we stopped by the "O" souvenir shop and waited for our van group to convene. Unfortunately, we met up with many of the others, but only one other of our group showed up.
After waiting a good while, Matt and his group were among the last to leave and suggested we do the same. After scouting the ladies room one last time looking for the rest of our party we departed. Oops, we found out the next day that they had been waiting at a different location and unfortunately had to take a taxi back to the hotel.
That was a great learning curve for all of us, and believe me, we all agreed to make a plan for the next evening.
Out last day in Las Vegas we awoke full of adrenaline as we prepared for our Death Valley walk. Our first stop was the breakfast buffet where there was a different "general" checking our room numbers. After signing in, we were all told that we were expected to take only 1 of everything on the buffet line. Very strange to be held to a minimum at a buffet!!! Anyway after our limited breakfast, we met our guides and headed to Death Valley. This tour was the highlight of our trip. The weather co-operated with slightly overcast skies as we started our trek. Along the way we experienced the most breathtaking of mountain ranges which appeared to be colored by an artist’s pallet. Along the way we also observed several varieties of plants and grasses which seem to thrive in this heat dominated environment. However, our biggest and best surprise was the waterfall we discovered just slightly off the marked path. This was something we never expected to experience in the dessert. Our tour ended at a Date Farm, where we sampled dates in many forms including fresh, dried, date nut bread, muffins, etc. Several members of our group sampled a "date shake" which they claimed was great and was so thick it had to be eaten with a spoon.
We arrived back at our hotel with about 4 hours of uncommitted time. One member of our group, chose to take another walk, one needed some down time and relaxed by the pool, and the rest of us rode to the Strip and enjoyed some time exploring the Venetian Hotel. My husband and I took the inside gondola ride, complete with gondolier who sang us two beautiful Italian songs. It was such fun!!!
Our group convened at 6:15 pm and it was off to a "free" show at the Rio hotel where some lucky members of our group were able to catch Mardi Gras beadsShow In Sky thrown by some pretty cute showgirls. There was yet, another buffet which was mediocre at best (we really do need some alternative meal plans). The evening ended with our seeing the Follies Bergere show (one of the longest running shows in Las Vegas).
Our opinion of the show was just ok, as it captured the essence of Las Vegas complete with bare-breasted showgirls, but it was the comedian who kept us laughing. However, many of the women who were polled would have preferred to see the Chippendale Male Review or Aussies Down Under. Matt, if you are reading this I suggest you offer a choice of shows next time.
We were certainly a motley crew who departed for the airport at 9:00 am the next morning, tired and looking forward to sleeping most of the way home.
Overall we had a fun trip, met some fun and interesting people and are looking forward to the next adventure.
After all, I had seen the movie with Elvis and Anne Margaret several times. It had been 20 years since I had last seen all those neon lights. So when Matt proposed a Bad Pennies trip to Las Vegas, Adventure #26, and put out the call, it was Viva Las Vegas for me. Evidently quite a few other Bad Pennies heard the strip’s siren call, because there were enough interested people to fill four vans. Who wouldn’t want to visit a town with a casino named Terrible’s and a convenience store named Grumpy’s?
SHOWGIRLS and PASTIES
by Peggy Bercher
If you have gone on past adventures, you know Matt doesn’t let any asphalt grow under your feet. We picked up our vans, drove to the hotel, got our walk instructions and plunged right in. We had a choice of several walks and many of us opted for the South Strip YRE. It was a great walk and if we had gone in every casino we passed, we would still be there. Yes, the strip had changed a great deal since I was there last. We paused at the Bellagio to see the wonderful water show. We saw the Eiffel Tower without ever leaving the states. We passed a HUGE Harley Davidson and an equally large Coke bottle not to mention some very large M & Ms. We rode trams between casinos and crossed several pedways.
After finishing that walk, I decided the name of the game had to be bigger and better. Each casino tries to outdo the other and nothing is too outrageous if it will attract big crowds. The gambling habits of Las Vegas visitors were also quite interesting to observe. In one casino, Amber discovered the room with the $1,000 slot machines and told the rest of the group about them. The notion of such high-ticket slot machines was fascinating and we just had to see for ourselves. I stood and watched a guy feed $100 bills into one of the machines. That boggled my mind. I thought I was hot stuff when I played the penny and quarter slots and won a grand total of $5.05.
While the trip was still in the planning stages, Matt polled the group to see if we were interested in seeing “O,” the water show of Cirque Du Soleil.
I must admit I never did quite figure out what the show was about but the “mechanics” were phenomenal. One moment someone was walking across the floor and the next, someone was diving into water in the very spot where the floor had been. Some of the people in the show bent their bodies into positions that boggled the mind.
Made me hurt just to watch them in action.
We also saw the Folies Bergere at the Tropicana. Ours was the adult version, which meant that some of the dancers performed sans top. I never could see how being topless makes one a better dancer, but what do I know. The comedian, Wally Eastwood, who performed midway through the show, was very funny. I would have enjoyed hearing more from him. The Fremont experience was also quite astounding. Fremont Street ExperienceA metal awning stretches from one side of the street to the other and every hour you get to see a terrific light show, accompanied by music, projected on the awning. Earplugs would be helpful, but the visual effect is not to be missed.
As we left the Tropicana after seeing the Folies, Matt wanted to show us the $10,000 chicken challenge. The challenge involves playing tic-tac-toe with a real live chicken. Fortunately for us, the attendants told us the chicken was asleep for the night. Matt was very disappointed, but I was actually glad the chicken was snoozing. Many experiences in life are humbling, but losing out to a chicken would have to be near the top of the list. Less damaging to the ego was playing “release the genie” at the Aladdin to win $1,000,000. No one in the group won, but non-winners (loser is such an ugly word) did come home with a mug as a parting gift.
Buffets in Las Vegas seem to be the way to eat your way through the town. We ate at the Bellagio buffet before the show and I must say the buffet was spectacular with an incredible selection. Hard as it is to believe, I think the group was buffeted out when the trip was over since we also ate at the Todai, an all-you-can-eat Japanese Seafood Buffet and the Rio buffet.
The next day found some us in St. George, Utah. Helping to put on the walk gave the Bad Pennies the opportunity to meet some very nice people like Myra. St. George is a lovely little town and it was very nice to just look at peace and quiet after the glitz of Las Vegas. The walk took us past points of interest such as the St. George Temple. Construction of the temple began on November 9, 1871 and it took almost six years to complete. It is the oldest Mormon temple in use today. We also saw the beautiful summer home of Brigham Young. It was a nice break between the previous day’s walk and what was planned for the following day.
Our final planned walk was in Boulder City Nevada. The walk in Boulder City did not quite go as planned for my part of the Bad Penny contingent. While the Death Valley group (see Nancy Dowicki’s account of this part of the Adventure) was enjoying the beauty of the scenery and touring a date farm, my small group was climbing over rocks, big rocks, and deciding that we were lost. We had our suspicions not far into the walk, but our suspicions were confirmed when we saw other Bad Pennies walking on a road, way up high in the distance, waving to us. At that point we knew for sure that we belonged up there and not down where we were.
Our valiant efforts to correct our mistake and to do the walk as directed did not quite work out. We tried to make our way up to where they were but no dice (keeping with the Vegas theme). If we had been able to figure out where we should have turned, we would have seen the Railroad Tunnel Trail. During the construction of the dam, there were almost 20 miles of railroad connecting Boulder City with all the facilities needed to build Hoover Dam. According to the brief history found on the directions, the Six Companies Inc. Railroad was abandoned after the completion of Hoover Dam in 1935. The railroad section was used on occasion until 1961, and the tracks were dismantled in 1962 and sold as scrap.
Oh well, what adventure is complete without getting lost and living to laugh about it.
After we recovered from the Boulder City walk, we went on the discovery tour of the Hoover Dam. No one in my van got the free ‘dam proud’ sticker, but we still enjoyed ourselves. The tour guide just couldn’t resist those dam jokes. The Hoover Dam is an amazing engineering feat and well worth the time for a visit. On the way back to Vegas, my van stopped at Ron Lee’s World of Clowns and we toured the Ethel M chocolate factory and the cactus garden tour.
Of course the traditional drawing was held. The winners of the drawing were John Lynch (Klaus Waibel’s van), Gail Wegner (John Dowicki’s van), Hilary Walsh (Bruce Coxon’s van) and Pam Ledford (Don Fox’s van). The final drawing determined that the Baddest Penny was Bruce Coxon. Gifts for the winners were Las Vegas appropriate of course.
One incident occurred that threatened to disturb Bad Penny camaraderie. Two of the vans happened to be getting gas at the same station. One van that shall remain nameless (okay, it was the Dowicki van) was sporting a slogan that could not remain unchallenged. Someone in that van had actually had the nerve to write Best of the Bad Pennies on the dusty back window. Ha!!! A quick swipe with a cloth conveniently provided by the gas station took care of that. See if the Fox’s, I mean the second anonymous van, will take an “insult” like that sitting down.
It was a fun trip. As always, I enjoyed the company of my Bad Pennies “walking buddies.” I hope it isn’t another 20 years before I see the sights of Las Vegas again.