It’s still Anzac Day here in the US, and it’s the last day of our trip. We’re flying home from LAX tonight and have a few hours to spend/waste/use fruitfully until we take the rental car back to its ‘home’ and check in at the airport.
The day after we saw Jersey Boys we walked up to the iconic ‘Welcome to Las Vegas’ sign. Along the way we dropped into New York New York, Luxor and Mandalay Bay, the last ‘megacasino’ on the Strip. We caught the bus back to our hotel and needed an afternoon nap to recover from the walk! In the evening we took another bus to downtown Vegas to see the older casinos and the Fremont Street experience, which is a light show along several blocks of the Fremont St Mall. As it was Easter Saturday, there were plenty of people and lots to see and hear. There were 3 stages along the Mall, with bands playing covers of popular songs. There’s a lot less glitz and sparkle in the Fremont St casinos than in the megacasinos along the Strip. We walked through the Gold Nugget and found an ATM which dispenses gold bullion! A 1 ounce coin or bar was around $1700. So if a punter got lucky in the casino, s/he could convert his winnings straight to gold. I did win another $10 on a 1 cent machine, but took the paper money and left.
We spent Easter Sunday driving from Vegas to Los Angeles, and today we have been packing, throwing stuff out and checking out the competition (Barnes & Noble and Borders). We dipped our toes in the Pacific Ocean at Redondo Beach, so we can now say that we have travelled right across the USA.
So … after one month, 4 time zones, 21 states, temperatures ranging from -8C to 30C, some fantastic meals and a few utterly forgettable ones, accommodation ranging from a 2-person tent to a hotel suite on the Las Vegas Strip (and lots of Motel 6 rooms with free morning coffee until 10am in between), we have added nearly 8000 miles to the red rental car, had a great tip, gained an extra 30 or 35kgs of luggage …. and hopefully not gained any weight personally!
We are staying for 3 days in Las Vegas, in a place we have stayed at before, the Jockey Club on the strip. When we stayed here six years ago, it was a couple of buildings with a huge carpark around it, next to the Bellagio Casino.
The Jockey Club in 2007 after we last stayed.
Las Vegas being Las Vegas, therre is always something new being built. We booked into the Jockey Club online, then drove down the strip to find not one, but two Casinos had been built near it.
The Jockey Club, now surrounded by the Cosmopolitan Casino
Its a great place to stay. We have a suite with a kitchen (a bid step up from camping or motel 6), and its right on the Strip.
We had been saving up our pennies. (We are so glad Australia got rid of 1 and 2 cent pieces, they are such a pain), to play on the slots (pokies). However we found pokies don’t take 1 cent pieces (pennies) anymore so we each inserted a dollar note. Greg lost his dollar within 2 minutes, while Judy won $124.
Just part of the Bellagio Flower Garden- all inside
Salt Lake city is a nice looking city. There are mountains (currently covered in snow) both West and East of the city. Even in the centre of capitalism there are no houses built on the mountains, so its a great view.
We went into the city centre to view the Morman temples in Temple Square.
Morman temple Salt Lake City
We headed South on the I-15 towards Arizona and Nevada. It was cold in Salt lake City, but gradually got warmer as we got further south. By the time we reached Arizona, it was warm, and we had left the snow on the mountains. We had a great drive on the I-15 through Virgin River canyon.
Virgin River Canyon Arizona
The it was into Nevada, and we got our first views of Las Vegas covered in haze. The it was time to hit the peak hour traffice (5pm) driving into Las Vegas. 6 lanes all crawling along.
We arrived too late at the Little Big Horn National Battlefield monument to see it, so we drove 20km further onto Hardin, intending to return the next day.
The reason I was so interested in visiting Little Big Horn, the site of Custers last stand, was this game I played as a kid in the 1960s/1970s:
Battle of the Little Big Horn game
We drove the 20km back to the Little Big Horn Battlefield memorial. There is a visitors centre with a history of the battle. The most impressive thing is the headstones of Custers soldiers (and indian warriors) scattered around the battlefield marking the place they fell.
Custers last stand. The hill, and the memorial at the top of the hill.
We then headed west on the I-90 towards Billings Montana. The weather has been cold, and windy, but not much rain (and no snow!). We left the I-90 at Livingston to head south towards Gardiner the entrance to Yellowstone National Park. Along the way we found some Bison wandering over the road:
Bison wandering next to the road (and on the road) on the way to Gardiner Montana
After deciding that since Yellowstone National park opened for spring on Friday morning, we would detour (2,000km) to Yellowstone National park.
After our snow problems getting into Colorado, we were wary of getting caught by snow along the route. The shortest route according to google maps took us through Teton Pass, which according to the webcam was covered in snow. So we decided to go via I-25 north into Wyoming, and then across the I-90 to Gardiner.
We spent the day exploring Boulder, then drove back to Denver along the eastern edge of the Rockies. The mountains around Denver and Boulder are spectacular, and the higher peaks are still covered in snow. It’s a very impressive backdrop for residents when they walk out their front door.
Boulder is a lovely town. The main street shopping area is a mall, so it reminds us of home. We happened to find a Borders bookstore that is closing down ( I’ve said it before …. books just seem to find us, even when we’re not looking), so we went and had a look. I picked up 3 gems – my current favourite author Larry McMurtry’s latest book, Hollywood, which is the 3rd part of his memoir, Annie Proulx’s latest and Before the Fall by Kylie Ladd, an Australian author. Greg found a couple too.
I had done a bit of internet research and found out about food carts in and around Boulder. Here they call them ‘gastro truck’, but that has some negative connotations for us Aussies ( I wonder what the Americans call ‘gastro’?). Anyway, I found out about one that serves American/BBQ food – a lot of them serve Mexican food, and they’re great, but I wanted to try a BBQ one. Top of the Hill Grill West sounded good, and they had posted their Friday location on their Facebook page – here. However, before we went to find them a couple of kms from the CBD, we had a pre-lunch hotdog from a little hotdog cart in the mall. Stood eating it and chatted to the seller and his customers & found out a bit more about Boulder.
And then on to our ‘real’ lunch destination. The guys run their food cart out of a very impressive van-turned-into-kitchen. They are in a different location each day, and many evenings, and post their location on their Facebook page. They offered 6 or 8 choices, plus side dishes. The food is all cooked as it’s ordered. I had a Pulled Pork and Coleslaw sandwich, Greg had a Steak & Cheese sandwich, and we shared side orders of cornbread and hand-cut fries. I almost can’t think of enough words to describe how delicious and tasty it all was. Definitely one of the best meals we’ve eaten in the US on this trip.
We left Colby in rain, that gradually changed to sleet, and then when we crossed the Colorado border, snow. It was difficult driving along the interstate through snow and slush, having semi-trailers pass throwing up loads of water and slush over the windscreen, making it almost impossible to see. An SUV following us slid off the road onto the median strip.
Evenutally we drove through the snow areas to get to completely snow-free areas. We are staying a great hotel we got cheap on hotel.com, in the southern part of Denver.
parked having a break from driving in the snow, colorado