Saturday, 27 December 2014

What happens in Vegas...we blog about!

By Sanne

I never thought I would say this, but here we go: I LOVE Vegas, man!
I have never understood the fascination of throwing my money at pokie machines or roulette tables etc. Hence why I was never really that excited about going to what ought to be Mecca for ludomaniacs worldwide - the City of Sin. But I figured that you can't go to the US and NOT go to Vegas so here we were, riding into this dessert dustbowl.

First though we made a stop at world famous Hoover Dam, about 50 km's south of Vegas. Completed in 1936 on the Arizona-Nevada border on the Colorado River it provides power for Nevada, Arizona and California. It is a major tourist attraction - nearly 1 million people visit the dam every year. The highway used to go over the road on the dam until 2010 when a bridge was built to make a bypass.
As with most dams, the construction of the Hoover Dam has had a large impact on the ecosystem of the Colorado River with many species now considered endangered.
Seen from an engineering perspective the dam is impressive. Lucky for us it was free to visit and ride and walk over the dam. The water level was pretty low and we understood that it has been declining every year.

We rode the last 50 kms into Vegas and on to ADV Rider Matt's house. Matt is an airplane mechanic for the army and had not long ago returned home from the Middle East. He turned out to be an awesome guy, super helpful and fun. We had ordered new rear tyres to be sent to his house but they still hadn't arrived so instead we took out Mark's rear shock which had had it's seal blown and lost its oil and replaced it with a new one which we found through one of Matt's contacts. Matt was indeed The Man. Any little thing we needed, he always seemed to know someone who could fix it. Like my jacket which hadn't had a functional zipper in it for about a month and which could only be closed with the 5 or 6 safety pins I had pinned though the textile - total povo style. I tried to get it fixed in Austin, Texas but they either asked for a ridiculous amount of money or a ridiculous amount of time - 1 week to do a 15 minute job, come on. But enter Matt, he takes us to a guy he knows who does upholstering on old cars and he sew a new zip in for me on the spot for $10. Sweet! I felt like a had a new jacket!

Matt took us downtown to see Vegas. He showed us the main strip but instead of going out there we went to the more local part of Vegas called "Freemont Street". Here he took us to a very em... interesting bar called Hogs and Heifers. Now, if you've seen the movie Coyote Ugly, this is the bar the movie is based on. The girls in there are super rude to the not surprising dominantly male clientele. They would regularly grab the megaphone and proceed to humiliate any given man for no particular reason. As marginally fun as it was to see the girls swear and carry on in between downing multiple shots, what let the place down was it's choice of music. It was country time indeed. And if there is a genre I just really can't stand - it's country. Most of the people in the bar did seem to like the music however, not surprising really as they were cowboys. Turns out we had timed our visit to Sin City to coincide with an event someone described to me as "the olympics of rodeo". The streets were full of cowboys, and these looked like they just stepped off the prairie, minus the six-shooter. They were wearing Wrangler jeans tucked into cowboy boots and big, wide-brimmed hats and that silly little string they tie around their necks. It was textbook cowboy-style. Yee-haa indeed.
They seemed to all have a jolly good time, so when the bar girls at Hogs and Heifers were pulling up girls to dance on the bar (just like in the movie!) I wisely declined as I wasn't nearly drunk enough for that kinda stuff. Luckily one of the older cowboys' middle-aged wife was drunk enough and up she got on the bar and the next second she had her fairly massive bosoms out in the open as she took off her bra and swung it over above the bar to where all the other bras were hanging (that's a thing here, they have hundreds if not thousands of bras hanging above the bar). As I said - I wasn't nearly drunk enough.

The next day our tyres arrived and once they were fitted we embarked on yet another visit downtown with Matt in his huge truck - the motto in the US when it comes to cars definitely seems to be "Bigger is Better"! This time we went to the main strip where all the big casinos such as Caesar's Palace, MGM Grand and The Bellagio are. I felt a bit like a stunned deer in the headlights. There are sooo many lights. I don't know if it's true that the lights from the strip can be seen from space but I am sure that the electricity bill would have to be huuuge here. Not that I think money would be an issue as there were plenty of people out and about. We first went to The Venetian which is probably my favourite. It is decorated like Venice with canals and gondolas and even has a copy of the Rialto Bridge.

We left The Venetian and walked further down the strip while admiring a fake volcano spurting out lava and fire, The Eiffel Tower, a giant roller coaster running on the outside of a casino and of course the famous Fountains of Bellagio. Then we headed to the casino The Cosmopolitan to do what Vegas is all about - to gamble baby! Matt's housemate had given us some vouchers so we didn't have to spend any of our own money to gamble with which was good as we didn't have any! We sat down at the pokie machines and started pushing the button over and over again, and who would've thought - I actually won something! OK, it was just $71 but for someone who NEVER wins anything I was delighted with my win and bought us all dinner. Mark didn't win a dime but at least we got a couple of free drinks out of it as the thing in Vegas is that you get free drinks while you play, so I had the world's smallest Cosmopolitan and the boys had some other fancy cocktail...when in Vegas...

The other thing I observed on the Vegas strip was the amount of...freaks. You have the people who get dressed up as Playboy Bunnies or Transformers and that sort of thing and you can a photo taken with them and you pay them which is how they make their money. But then you have the weirdo's who look like they should be locked up in a mental institution instead of flaunting their stuff on the streets of Vegas. Among others we saw an old man wearing nothing but his underpants, an overweight dude in a Playboy Bunny costume and then there was the young, fat girl being topless and wearing a tutu skirt dancing around like a ballerina. Not pretty.

Vegas was exactly what I imagined Vegas to be: WAY over the top and party 24//7. But I loved that it was so unashamedly...Vegas. I definitely want to come back. This would be a great place to come with a bunch of your friends and just party it up! And no, we didn't get married :)

After leaving Vegas and bidding farewell to Matt who we hope comes to see us in Oz, we rode to Death Valley, California. Here we had arranged to meet up with Tolga and Caglar, two Turkish bikers.. We had met Tolga back in 2012 when we couchsurfed at his place in Istanbul. Back then he was dreaming of going on a big bike trip and now he was actually doing it which was great to see. He has been sponsored by pretty much every company you can think of and even got a free bike from KTM Turkey.
Mark and I arrived in Death Valley in the afternoon and found a small track where we set up camp. We had already had dinner and gone to bed when the two others arrived after dark. They had ridden 600 km's that day, half of it in the dark, just to get to us.

The next day we were interviewed for the Turkish television show that Tolga and Caglar were shooting for. It has been a while since we were last interviewed, I think last time was in Bolivia, but as most people tend to ask all the same things we usually have the answers on autopilot. After our 15 mins of fame the four of us rode to Titus Canyon and on to Panamint Springs where we set up camp. Here we met a group of dirtbikers who invited us for some drinks in their camp and we spent the night chatting and drinking rum and coke which I usually don't like, but hey when you're in good company anything tastes good!

Entering Nevada!

Hoover Dam

The Hoover Dam Bypass

Matt and Mark changing the suspension on his bike

Nice and bald tyre in desperate need for a change!

Mark on Matt's Bagger...

The famous Las Vegas sign

The Vegas Strip

Paris, Nevada

The Arc de Triomphe

The giant Harley store in Vegas

The Venetian

This is inside The Venetian

Some of the more interesting "shows" in Vegas are out on the streets

And then of course you have the god-botherers...someone should tell them they're fighting a lost cause in Vegas

The Fountains of Bellagio

Stoked with my win!

This one is just drunk

Aww..someone didn't win???

Creepy Asian dude at the craps table

Another casino that is decorated like NYC streets

And a fairytale castle...

Statue of Liberty

The Thunder from Downunder!

Outside Vegas on the way to Death Valley

Death Valley, California

Tolga and Caglar

Looking out over Death Valley from Dante's view

All of us

Titus Canyon

Mark and Tolga riding together

Camping at Panamint Springs

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