My Aunt Laurie announced a month ago that she was coming to visit for a week. She hasn’t seen Mom in a year and misses her terribly. Sounds sweet, right? Problem is we are in Grand Canyon and Aunt Laurie is traveling only as far as Las Vegas. So in order for her to “visit us”, we had to pack up Big Boomer, give Tabby an unsupervised weekend with Stewey and Dewey the Goldfish, book ourselves a room, and head for Vegas during my parents two days off from work.
Although a long drive, it was an easy one. No traffic, no street lights, just desolate desert lands, rock formations, and a pitch black night sky—until we got about an hour outside of Vegas. Then the lights of Sin City called to me like a beacon! The Luxor’s sky beam is said to have illumination equivalent to forty billion candles!
My family visited Vegas on two prior occasions, the last time was 20 years ago for my Grandma’s 70th birthday. Boy have things changed! For starters, the Sands Hotel was still open for business back then. It was imploded a week after we left. Now The Venetian, complete with water canals, gondolas, and singing gondoliers, adorns the land. I even met some of my cousins from the old country there!
Some of my "cousins"--they will even serenade you!
Since Aunt Laurie and her partner Rob were staying at a time share suite in the Hilton Grand Vacations, we booked a room at Bally’s, which was within ½ mille walking distance. Our room rate (booked direct through the hotel) was quite inexpensive ($42/night), but we incurred an additional $34/night resort fee (plus taxes) and $10/night parking fee. We didn’t incur any of these extra fees during our prior two stays in Vegas.
We got settled in our room around 10:45 p.m. and then went looking for dining options. Bring on the buffets! Well, that, too, has changed in Vegas. It seems the abundance of inexpensive yet expansive buffet options of yesteryear are no longer offered.
By the time we made our way to a formal restaurant that interested us, their kitchen was already closed. We ran with haste to the food court so Dad could catch a quick burger at Johnny Rocket’s before they closed at midnight. All I can say is it was a good thing Mom packed roast beef sandwiches, snacks, and Laughing Cow Cheese for us to eat on the road trip ‘cause other than Kingman, there was no major town or city along our route that offered decent dining options either.
My Grandma loved me tremendously (she tucked me into bed every night until the day she died) and my Grandpa (who sometimes could be a bit grumpy) found me endearing, But Aunt Laurie never accepted this stuffed rat as part of the family. So what better way to annoy her than for me to join in all the activities in Vegas! Mom found a tote bag big enough to carry me, so Aunt Laurie was surprised in the morning with PoPo in a pouch!
We all headed to Bucca di Beppo for their small but adequate $15.99/person breakfast buffet. This Italian restaurant boasts “meatballs as big as your head.” I was so disappointed that the buffet contained none of these legendary delicacies.
The meatballs in that pot are large--but no where near the size of MY head!
Aunt Laurie, the quintessential tourist, took the restaurant up on their “free” picture postcard. That free picture postcard ended up costing her $35 for three 5 X 7 photos. Me, the epitome of frugal with my allowance, just snapped a picture of her free picture postcard!
A rare family photo--it even includes Mom who hates being in pictures!
On to Bellagio, which was still under construction during our last visit. The conservatory was decorated with multitudes of plants and colorful flowers. There were replicas of Italian villas, town squares, and gondolas. And like the floats in the Rose Bowl Parade, many displays were constructed from blooms, legumes, and other natural substances. Absolutely gorgeous! This is the closest I’ll get to Italy in my lifetime.
The beautiful fresco ceiling
Unusual floral arrangement
My family agreed we wouldn’t blow a lot of money gambling—why jeopardize my cheese funds unnecessarily. And the “Total Rewards” Card program at Bally’s, which we were instructed to use for lodging, restaurants, and gambling, turned out to be worthless. None of the restaurants at which we ate were part of the plan any longer, and it was invalid at most of the gaming machines. The $10 free play matching funds we received (you put in $10/they give you $10) could only be used at a table. And in a single bet of $20. And, of course, all of the tables had a minimum bet of $25 or more. So no matter what, you were putting money out of your pocket. We said “no thanks”. Of course, Aunt Laurie, Queen of Quarter Slots at Turning Stone Casino, was more than gracious in sharing her hard earned salary with Vegas. Do I hear 1-800-GAM-PROB?
OK, I told a white lie. I did lose some cheese money in the slots with Aunt Laurie. Ted made me do it! Please don't tell my parents!
Although Aunt Laurie and Rob had tickets to several shows for the latter part of their week-long stay in Vegas, all of the shows my parents and I would have enjoyed seeing fell into three categories: 1) seen it previously; 2) sold out; 3) “dark” on the nights we were there. We were striking out.
Then Rob came up with an idea: Let’s all go to the National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement, A.K.A. The Mob Museum, which none of us had visited previously. Coming from New Jersey, land of fictional mafia boss Tony Soprano (not to mention the many real-life mob members who live there), this was quite an interesting place! $25 a ticket, but its interactive activities, film clips, even an authentic electric chair, engaged and educated us for nearly 3 hours! Housed in a former Post Office and Courthouse in Old Las Vegas, the building itself dates back to 1933 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Thoroughly entertaining, the Mob Museum earns a coveted Rambling RV Rat 5-cheese award.
Al Capone's Revolver
Hey, I take offense! What do they mean "no rats"! What did I ever do to them?
We savored an early dinner at Lagasse’s Station, one of renowned Chef Emeril’s restaurants, at the Palazzo. Really cool layout and décor and a tasty Black Angus Prime Rib Sandwich to boot. Enjoyed watching the Little League World Series on one of their 100+ TV screens. Good times!
We walked the Strip, taking in the dancing water fountains at Bellagio, the erupting volcano at The Mirage, the roller coaster at New York, New York, and the Eiffel Tower and Hot Air Balloon replicas at Paris. Boy, I sure was pooped.
Our room came with two queen beds, so I had one all to myself!
We slept in until 9 a.m., then met Aunt Laurie and Rob for breakfast at Mon Ami Gabi in Paris. Quite lovely ambiance in the Atrium room, good service, and everyone enjoyed their selections, especially me and Dad, who indulged in steak and eggs!
We said our good-byes to Aunt Laurie and Rob. It was a good trip—no arguments, no drama, just good old family fun.
We headed back to Grand Canyon, making a couple of stops along the way. We visited Lake Mead, the oldest National Recreation Area in the U.S.A., accommodating more than 7 million visitors per year. Mom insisted we watch the Park Service film, learning that the Colorado River provides drinking water to seven states AND Mexico. Dad also received some boondocking info for future use.
Old Railroad route through tunnel is now a bicycle trail at Lake Mead Recreation Area
We did a quick stop to Hoover Dam (we did the full plant tour during a prior visit) since Dad wanted the experience of driving Big Boomer over it. Hard to believe a hydro project of this magnitude was completed earlier than planned, but well within budget!
We opted to drive along yet another section of Historic Route 66, through Peach Springs and Hualapai Indian Tribal Lands, rather than take Interstate 40. Since we were getting hungry, we took the recommendation of our store’s Assistant Manager, and ate in Westside Lilo’s Café in Seligman. Family owned and operated since 1996, they have some traditional German dishes like Weiner Schnitzel, Jaeger Schnitzel, and Bratwurst, along with American favorites. We all opted for the Black Angus Salisbury Steak, ½ pound of juicy, cooked-to-perfection ground sirloin, served with onion and mushroom gravy and accompanied by soup or salad, choice of potato, and vegetable of the day. We topped off the meal with a huge hunk of their homemade Carrot Cake—absolutely to die for! In fact, Guy Fieri was here in June, and his Route 66 Family Road Trip Show, including his visit to Westside Lilo’s Café, will air on August 18!
Combine the friendly, efficient service; clean, country rustic setting; and an outrageously delectable meal at reasonable prices, and you’ve got a 5-cheese rating from Rambling RV Rat!
We arrived home to find Tabby was on good behavior and our goldfish were alive. All is well that ends well.
So many more happenings lately to tell you about, but this post is getting too long. Anyway, it’s snack time for me—I’m busting out the Cheese Doodles!