22.10.2014 - 25.10.2014
Writing this blog reminds me of my GCSE English course - no sooner had I completed an essay than I would have to sit down and start writing another one. Whereas in those days I became easily sidetracked by my ZX Spectrum, YouTube and Twitter now provide the distractions, as they just have been. My point is that updating this blog is becoming a pain, especially as I seem to be constantly a week behind and struggling to remember clearly what happened when and where. At least with this blog, I don't first have to read an unintelligible book written 400 years ago.
I had heard there was a ghost town on the outskirts of Beatty, so before setting off for Las Vegas I took a look round. The town was called Rhyolite and, like a lot of places in this part of the US, was originally set up during the gold rush of the early 20th century. The town's lifespan was only around 15 years due to all of the gold ore having been mined, and it has been a tourist attraction for nearly 100 years. Not many buildings remain in any sort of recognisable form; one of the few that did burnt down last month after being struck by lightning.
Sadly I didn't see any ghosts - not real ones anyway. Just as interesting as the ruins was a series of artworks scattered around nearby, known collectively as the Goldwell Open Air Museum. The museum's unusual mission is to "encourage artistic exploration in the Amargosa desert", and I would say that they have succeeded.
In Las Vegas I was back in hostels, this time in a small 6-bed dorm in a place called Hostel Cat, which dubbed itself a "party hostel" and designed for people wanting a "whirlwind romance" and to "party their ass off". Well, I didn't fancy Jimmy White and I wasn't trying to shrug off a donkey, but it was cheap and in between the main Strip and Fremont Street areas so I took a chance. It was also right outside a strip bar-cum-mucky video store - and no, I didn't go in.
My dorm-mates throughout my 3-day stay were predictably all at least 15 years younger than me. There was the usual 20-something type of behaviour such as getting hammered, stumbling in at all hours, laziness and whingeing - and my dorm-mates were even worse. They weren't a bad bunch in all fairness, a cosmopolitan array of Canadians, Australians, a Spaniard, a German and an Austrian (girls, mainly) and all spoke excellent English, including the Australians.
There are two main areas to go in Las Vegas - the Strip, a road about 4 miles long that contains all the famous casinos such as Bellagio and Caesar's Palace, and Fremont Street, the 'old town' casinos. The Strip is pretty spectacular day and night and it's entertaining enough just walking around without actually going in anywhere. Most casinos have some sort of extravagant attraction outside such as a rollercoaster (New York New York) or gondolas (Venetian). Dolly birds and people dressed up as cartoon characters try to tempt passers-by into their particular venue, and flyer-wielding pests try to badger you into paying someone to have sex with you. There were also a lot of people selling 'ice-cold water'. I chose not to point out to them that there's no such thing and ice-cold water is in fact just ice.
The only casino on the Strip I spent any time in was Circus Circus when I was out with the German & Austrian from my dorm. There we were kept entertained by a couple of Chinese gymnasts, a hula-hoop girl and a half-hearted clown, and we also won some sweets at an indoor amusement park like the ones you get in places like Skeggy.
Volcano display outside Mirage (sound doesn't record on my iPhone for some reason):
Fremont Street is a lot more compact but I much preferred it to the Strip for a lively night out. Last time I came here (11 years ago) it was showing its age and was a bit on the seedy side but, much like Renee Zellweger, it's had a facelift and a lick of paint and looks much the better for it. It's now mostly under cover so the street is a hive of activity, and zip wires run the length of the ceiling allowing those who fancy it a bird's eye view of proceedings.
I liked Las Vegas, but after a few days I'd had enough and decided to move on. Gambling is not something that overly interests me and I don't really understand casinos (with the exception of poker and roulette). I don't have the patience for poker so I chose the roulette table as the location to lose the majority of my money, the rest of which disappeared into various one-armed bandits. I think I lost about $60 in total.
Forgot the map last time so here we are... as you can see I'm in a town called Page near the Utah/Arizona border. Hopefully the next blog will bring everyone fully up to date.