Part 10 – Back to reality

It is in the very early morning hours that one can see the real face of Vegas and it is not the sight for the faint-hearted.

Intent to avoid heat strokes on our way back at all cost, we woke up at 4, and were on the road by quarter to five. Making our way to the parking lot through the hotel, we’ve seen it all:

  • A guy in unclean boxer shorts with manic zombie-red eyes, hugging an ice bucket, was crawling along the corridor on our floor, loudly hissing “ice, ice, I need ice!
  • A bit further down the same corridor a paper-white girl in a cocktail dress was walking slowly barefoot back and forth between four room doors holding the walls. Maybe she was looking for the ice guy…
  • In the elevator, an obnoxious man in a tuxedo and flip flops, drunk as a skunk, was shouting obscenities at the top of his voice at everyone who bothered to listen. None of the other five people in the elevator were paying him much attention.
  • Downstairs in the hall/casino floor a dozen or so bodies in varied stages of intoxication and consciousness were sprawled over the slot machines, snoring happily to the loud music blasting from the speakers under the bright fluorescent lights.
  • 4 girls in ball gowns were sitting around the breakfast table in the restaurant (yes, Vegas does work 24/7!) in a fully comatose state, staring at a pile of pancakes. All four looked like they have been dragged through the hedge backwards.

We grabbed two coffees from Starbucks (this was the first time in three days when there were no hour-long queues there), and were on our way.

Much as I feared the ride back (the memories of my far from elegant arrival in Las Vegas still fresh and painful), it turned out to be quite smooth and not suffocatingly-hot either. In the early hours of the morning the desert was if not welcoming, but definitely survivable. We made it through Death Valley without any problems, and as we started closing in on LA, temperatures dropped and we had to stop, dig out our leathers from the side bags and put them on.

Venice, LA

We fought our way through mad LA traffic, pulled into the parking lot, and breathed a sigh of relief – man, was it good to be back to reality, and be among normal people again! Mind it, I never thought I would say this. Several visits, and some time spent in Los Angeles, firmly placed the city on top of the list of natural reserves for crazy people. All sorts of lunatics have been flocking in there en mass for years, while the local specimens were encouraged to breed and get crazier and crazier. Public and loud expressions of undesirable emotions, dying your favorite poodle green to match the color of today’s outfit, public breastfeeding of pets, the old, the fat and the ugly shopping for groceries in bikini bottoms only – for the “before Vegas me” this was enough to cement LA‘s place on the “crazy Olympus”. Much did I know!… After three days in Sin City we were supremely, indecently, and very politically incorrectly happy to be back to the land of the normal! Sorry LA, you lost to Vegas, and completely and utterly rehabilitated yourself (at least in my eyes). These days Vegas is the new LA.

Venice Boardwalk

After an early 4-hour dash through the desert both of us were more than ready for breakfast. Besides, we were meeting an friend in LA, and made plans for brunch. We dropped the bags in the room, and rushed back to our bikes. Guess what? Having carried me through some 2,050 miles (~3,300 km) in 3 states, through the cold of the Pacific Coast to the desert heat, and from single life into matrimony, my bike finally gave up. When I turned the key in the ignition, it made a sorry little sound and died. Great!… Just when we were in a rush to meet a friend and get ourselves fed!… On second (and quite quick) thought, we were thankful to the noble steed that it decided to die in the comfort of the parking lot at its final destination, and not in the middle of the Mojave Desert miles away from civilization. The people at the Eagle Rider who we reported the problem to, were happy as well. They even offered a free replacement bike, but 2 days did not make much difference to us. Besides, our stomachs were calling. We doubled up on Nic’s Road King, and I spent the remaining two days in LA riding bitch. That’s what happens when people get married!…

We did the tourist bit in LA – Venice, with its shabby chick charm (more shabby than chick, to be honest, but I still kept fond memories of the place), clean and airbrushed (in comparison) Santa Monica with its famous pier, mad Hollywood, and of course – Andy! Nika was away in Russia with her granny, but Andy, he was there! Both our evenings in studio-city were spent in a crazy whirlwind. We behaved on the first evening, meeting Andy for drinks and snacks in a fun wine bar in Culver City not too far from our hotel and called it a relatively early night. By the next day we were fully rested and ready for full-blast good byes to LA.

The calm before “Loaded”…

We hooked up with Andy in Hollywood – he was having drinks with a beautiful, fantastic and talented Anne – she and her girlfriend and soon-to-be wife were Nika’s first friends and hosts in her new Californian life. We hit it off right away after only half a sip of wine, and then the evening quickly whipped into a frenzy. More wine was ordered, fantastic snacks arrived (man, you gotta love California if only just for the food!), and before we knew it, we were back at the scene of our original Hollywood crime – “Loaded“. Alcohol flowed freely, giggles and laughter were had by all, conversation spiraled into the semi-intelligent but nevertheless entertaining mode, and a good evening was had by all. Anne said good bye around 11, sometime after 2 Andy went to the bar and disappeared into nowhere, we found the remains of our consciousness and fell into a cab. The consciousness was regained only in the morning, and then it was time to leave.

2,133.6 miles – yes, we did it!!!!

Before we knew it, our crazy vacation was over. As planned, it was the one to be remembered. We rode the bikes along the West Coast from Seattle to Los Angeles, we went into the desert and survived (barely), we met up with some wonderful people on the way, and dragged most of them to Vegas, we got married, we partied, we had fun, and we came back, almost unscathed, 2.5 weeks older but none the wiser (thank God!). 2,133.6 miles on the bikes, we were flying back to Seattle for the last party with Cindy and Seany (it was conveniently their wedding anniversary the following day), and a day later a big white airplane with a blue and yellow crane on the tail took us back home. Thank you, West Coast, we had a blast!

Part 9 – The day & morning after

Newly married and freshly hungover we spent the next day recovering, exploring the neighborhood, and celebrating the 4th of July.

Our merry group has started seeing some dents, though – some planned, others accidental, but all were solely missed:

  • brave Andy drove Nika across the desert back to LA to catch her morning flight to Russia to see her granny. And while there must have been a throw-up stop or two on the itinerary, his heroic feat the morning after could only call for applause.
  • Cindy and Sean spent the next day recovering with drawn curtains and room service – their feats in the photo booth were definitely making themselves known in the bright light of the following day!…
  • Olga and Sean of the Dead were going back to the Bay Area, but before they went the remaining gang met in Paris for a drink…
The Strip

Now, a few words about Vegas topography. The Strip, which is the main happening place with all the big hotel/casinos and old Vegas downtown are two different  places. Few people are familiar with the real downtown, unless they got married there (we did!). This is where all the chapels and other businesses working on Cupid call have their base of operations.

Venice – Vegas style

The Strip, on the other hand, is on the tip of everyone’s tongues. It hosts all the fake world sights – Paris, Venice, you name them, they are all there. It is considered en vogue to hate and despise Vegas for being phony, but just like the commercial side of the Valentine’s Day and Christmas, I actually found them attractive. The fake Venice and Paris we saw in Vegas were definitely cleaner, more compact and slightly less crowded versions of the originals. You can enjoy them both indoors and outdoors, complete with the canals and singing gondoliers (in Venice), and narrow streets and fancy bistros (in Paris).

Paris – Vegas style.

On the way to Paris we observed a couple of typical local pastimes, that everywhere else in America apart from Vegas would have left people completely bewildered. Hordes of pedestrians were walking around sucking on what from a distance looked like big bongs, but upon closer inspection turned out to be extra large cocktail glasses, filled with disturbingly colorful icy concoctions. Public consumption of alcohol, just as indoor smoking, was apparently OK in Vegas. Another point in support of a theory that it’s not really a city, just a chain of interconnected Casinos.

Everybody who was not sucking on a oversized psychedelic cocktail was distributing porn ads. The elderly Chinese grandmas were especially skilled at flogging stacks of little business cards to unsuspecting passers buy. The cards showed a variety of naked women with invitations for a good time for all tastes and budgets and were especially popular with toddlers being dragged down the Strip by oversize moms. Prostitution, although frowned upon in Sin City proper, is absolutely legal in Nevada. So everything a lonely heart needs to do, is get out of the city border. For a couple extra bucks you can also be limoed out to the place of your choice.

In Paris, despite the excesses of last night and early morning promises to ourselves to keep it real today, we nipped into the wine (what else?), and spent an enjoyable couple of hours watching the world go by.  After tearful hugs and good byes it was time for Olga and Sean of the Dead to get on the way – after all, they had about 8 hours of driving ahead of them till they reached home in Oakland. Fletch and Jane decided to throw some bucks onto the roulette table (to the best of my knowledge, they were the only ones who actually contributed to the gambling industry that trip), and together with Thomas our remaining trio started in the direction of the hotel. We admired the fountains of the Bellagio, got stuck in a people jam at the overpass bridge of the Cezars Palace, got warmed up by the volcano at the Mirage, and finally enjoyed the famous Vegas July 4th fireworks along with a couple other thousand people crammed into the Strip for the occasion.

Last drinks in Paris

Half an hour before that, though, a mysterious text message appeared on my phone, with “where are you, be there in 15 min” from Olga and Sean of the Dead. And we thought they were mid-way to San Francisco!… Turned out they made it out of Vegas, drove for an hour, then realised they were two idiots who were about to spend the evening of the 4th of July in the middle of nowhere without even a room service, turned the car around and came back. Just in time for the fireworks display!

July 4th fireworks in Vegas. They weren’t as lame as on the photo, were just hard to catch on camera in the middle of a drunk crowd…

The fireworks were OK. Not as fantastic as the rumors promised them to be, but still decent enough. What was memorable though, was how the Vegas police sealed the Strip to all sorts of traffic within 5 or so minutes, letting hordes of people flood into the street, but seemed to be utterly amazed at the fact that said crowds did not clear up in the same amount of time after the fireworks display was over…

The fountains at the Bellaggio

Back at the hotel bar, the scene of so many late night vigils of the past couple of days, we once again repeated the tearful good byes, this one not only with Olga and Sean, but with the rest of the surviving gang as well (Cindy and Seattle Sean were still nowhere to be seen). The drinks program was repeated in a shorter version, as Fletch, Jane and Thomas had an early flight to catch, and Olga and Sean had all the good intentions of starting their drive back to Oakland as early as possible. We were intent on not repeating our mistake of being caught in Death Valley in midday heat, and planned to leave Vegas not later than 5 in the morning.