Friday, October 12, 2012

Fastest Vacation in the West.

It would be tight.
We unloaded our luggage on Friday before dawn in a remote parking lot of the Manchester/Boston Regional airport, then broke into a trot to get to a counter in time to grab boarding passes before we stripped shoes and accessories and spread our legs for Homeland Security. We stuffed ourselves into a full plane and landed in Baltimore on time around 9 am.
So far, so good.

Without delay, we took off for Las Vegas before I could smoke a cigarette or get a second cup of coffee. Damn! It would be hours before I could get some nicotine coursing through my veins. Coffee, I got, but Southwest Airlines offered no more than a bag of peanuts or some factory cookies to consume during the flight--unless you wanted to get drunk, for which you could pay a high price and wouldn't care about food anyway. Luckily, I had stashed a leftover spicy Italian sub into my carry-on bag, complete with jalepeno peppers, so Gayle and I didn't go hungry.

We banged down on the runway in Las Vegas right on time, then, after I crouched in a corner of the airport to suck down two cigarettes in a row, we hopped a shuttle bus to the Red Rock Hotel and Resort. The Red Rock turned out to be a huge, comfortable fun palace full of good food, music and gambling, located at the western edge of Las Vegas. We could see the entire city from our 16th floor room, a beautiful sight surrounded by awesome mountains, day or night.
We dropped our bags in the room and enjoyed a sumptuous meal on the ground floor at the Grand Cafe, which is open 24/7, and the hotel casino turned out to be a relaxing luxury. I could actually cross my legs on a padded chair, play video poker and smoke a cigarette right out there in public--indoors!

Viva Las Vegas!

By the time we got back to the room, we were too tired to venture out to the Strip. Gayle prepped for bed, while I went down to bask in the joys of indoor smoking. I'm not a gambler, but I enjoyed beating the house for $15 as I lounged at the poker machine.

Finally, we collapsed in an exceptionally snug bed, equipped with a feathery, lightweight comforter.
I woke up early, as usual, believing that every new day is full of promise, especially when you're on vacation.
But a promise is a promise, and Gayle promised to attend a wedding at 5 pm, with me as her guest, and prepping for the day ahead seemed to be a primary female activity. She had a hair appointment at the hotel salon at 2:30 pm, and the first hotel shuttle to the Strip didn't depart until 11:00 am. No time for Gayle to go sightseeing. But she was very understanding, so I hopped the bus to the Strip.

I had a mission. My favorite co-worker of many years, Brenda, wanted a genuine Hard Rock Cafe t-shirt from Vegas, so I hopped off the shuttle and began walking South toward the Hard Rock. As I watched the clock and admired the sights, awesome buildings and famous names, I realized I'd never make it in time, so I commandeered a cab and made a quick round trip to the hard rock mecca and its nearby hotel full of rock'n'roll memorabilia.

Mission accomplished. The attendants at the hotel hailed me a cab, and I was back at the north end of the Strip just in time to catch the shuttle back to my hotel, where I showered, suited up and made myself as beautiful as Gayle--I say!!!

So we hopped a cab to the Sienna Golf Club for the wedding, where flower petals curled down the aisle:
Then, as the sun set, the moon watched over our wine and cheese-fest on the patio. 

At this point, I forgot I had a camera, but the reception was superb. After the bride and groom finished their dance, a very talented Michael Jackson impersonator burst onto the dance floor and wowed the crowd for a good 20 minutes, peppered by lots of screaming girls. He was apparently a friend of the groom, Lee, known as popular Vegas radio personality, "D.J.Hollywood," a good match for Gayle's friend, Ashley, whom you may spot on the cover of Bride magazine very shortly.
No time left but to taxi back to the Hotel and collapse.

Again, I woke up early, but we had to catch an early shuttle to the airport to catch another shuttle up to St. George, Utah for a barbecue with the Parker family--not related to the wedding--two hours of highway through desert scenery. I was still in shock from the sight of Las Vegas. What a godforsaken gravel pit it is--huge palaces built in the dirt, a sandbox with castles for adults to play in, rocks, dry dirt and pathetic, sparse vegetation struggling for life everywhere. The palm trees, buildings and mountains are beautiful and awesome, but everywhere in between is dirt! Rocks! I missed trees already.

The large Parker family were at the top of their game, the women beautiful and the men charming. Two of the women swelled with the promise of more Parkers, while Eva tossed the best-ever-tasted chicken kabobs on the barbecue, and the patriarch, Alan, carved fresh, heavenly melons from his farm in northern Utah.

Warmed and satiated, we hopped the shuttle back to Vegas at 7 pm. I was secretly scheming a way to sprint back to the Strip to see the Freemont Street Experience at night, a tour of the old Vegas I had briefly visited back in 1969, but the obstacles mounted. Gayle would be tired, and the shuttle driver announced that roadwork along our route may delay our arrival time in Vegas--then, after five minutes into the trip, the driver decided to go back into St. George to pick up two tardy passengers, despite my grousing.
Freemont Street was fading. The only way to make it would be to pay a small fortune in cab rides when we got back to the airport, so, that clinched it. We caught the next shuttle back to the hotel and dove into the soft bed.

We said goodbye to Vegas the very next day at 1:30 pm, touched down in Chicago to wait for our connection and arrived back in Manchester, NH  after midnight, loaded with luggage, only to stare at a few acres of parking lot trying to remember where we parked.

You could find me face down on my bed about an hour later, shoes and luggage scattered in the hallway; I would be glad to get back to work so I could get some rest.

I used one leftover vacation day to check with friends on the internet. I had recently become friends with my first cousin, Dianne, who lives in northern Utah, whom I haven't seen in over fifty years. The possibility of meeting her on this trip never occurred to me, since St. George, Utah is about a four hour drive from her home in northern Utah, and we had very little time, not to mention social appointments.
But, lo! It happens that, as Gayle and I were feeding at the Parkers, Dianne and her husband were visiting one of their favorite sites, Zion National Park, just outside of St. George, which looks something like this:

And this:

In fact, they drove into St. George for lunch on the day Gayle and I went to the barbecue, so that my long lost friend, Dianne, and I were probably only a mile apart for two hours.

Oops. That's what you get for not keeping in touch.

My bad.

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