Sunday, October 20, 2013

Fabulous Las Vegas

On the famous strip in Las Vegas on our own motorcycles!
In 1829 a man called Rafael Riviera found a green zone fed by artesian wells in the middle of a desert. He called it Las Vegas, meaning 'green meadow'. Rafael simply wanted a place to water his cattle and found it in what is now known as 'The Valley'. I'm pretty sure he had no idea it would develop into the most well known gambling city in the world, nor did the Mormons that came after him. The railway came in 1905 and in 1911 it officially became a city. It's now trying to become a growing retirement and family city with a population of around half a million, and has established itself as one of the top tourist destinations in the world.

Of course it's best known for it's gambling and excessiveness. Because if there's one word to describe Las Vegas then it must be 'excessive'. Wandering over 'the strip' at night you can't help but wonder who pays the power bill… It's not a city where an environmentalist will feel at home :-) I'm not a big fan of cities in general and even more so for big cities. Las Vegas, to me, is a big city. It's a madhouse where the simplest traffic accident turns into a mega traffic jam, because there are simply too many cars on the road. Riding over one of the main arteries into the city makes me want to start an anti-car lobby. If everyone would start riding motorcycles today, we would solve the congestion around the world tomorrow.

Despite the fact that I do not like cities, I do like Las Vegas. Yes... it's insane, it's absurd, it's ridiculous and it's lots of all that too. But somehow it works. Don't ask me how, as I have no idea how, but it does. Zach and Amanda from Pursuit Horizon, were our hosts for the night (see the 'people that matter' section). We parked in the underground parking area of the famous Bellagio and walked into the madness.

Looking at the famous fountain of the Bellagio made me realise I was looking at the famous 'watershow' which I had until then only seen in the Ocean 11 movie. Now we were all here, looking at it! We had just ridden our own bikes over the famous 'strip'! Bikes that had taken us from Australia, through New Zealand, Canada, Alaska, The Dalton Highway etc etc. They had taken us over famous and infamous roads, and had now taken us past the famous lights and the most unbelievably and excessive casinos in the world. I had to pinch myself. I wasn't dreaming! This was great. Only a few months ago we were on isolated gravel roads above the Arctic Circle, a couple of months before that we were on the most southern tip of New Zealand and looked at the real famous Burt Munro Fastest Indian, and now we were literally in the spotlights of Las Vegas!

If you're new to Las Vegas, like we were, you don't know where to look. There is so much to see. So much going on at the same time and so many things that don't seem to make any sense, that it's hard to comprehend. Why, for instance, would anybody want to copy the Eiffel Tower and place it in the middle of Las Vegas? Of course covered in millions of lights, this is Las Vegas after all.
We went back the next night. There is too much to see for just one visit. During the day we organised a Garmin 62s GPS from REI and downloaded the free maps from open source. The first test was to get us to the parking garage under the Bellagio, which it did perfectly.

Despite this being our second visit, it was just as amazing as the first one. We went inside the casinos too this time. Places like Caesars Palace and the Bellagio are just unbelievable. I have no idea how much money goes through these casinos, but it must be huge amounts! According to a survey, gambling generates more revenue than movies, spectator sports, theme parks, cruise ships and music together… Las Vegas is the fastest growing city in the USA and players loose 6 billion dollars a year at Las Vegas casinos… Mind boggling numbers. 
The atmosphere outside on the strip is amazing too. Bands are playing everywhere, like the band you can see on the movie in this post. We walked around, made lots of photos and absorber the atmosphere, the colourful people and the sheer madness of it all. A happy madness! I was a bit apprehensive about going to Las Vegas, but I'm glad we did. It's an experience not to be missed!