Vegas, Baby!

27 Dec

I couldn’t drive within 100 miles of Vegas and not make a side trip. My favorite place (and best source of fodder for future paintings) is there – the Neon Boneyard. Plus, we had a date on 11/11/11 to renew our wedding vows with Elvis and weren’t able to get out here then, but the chapel was nice enough to let us transfer to another date instead of forfeiting our deposit on account of our date being so popular. Normally they do about 30 ceremonies in a day; on 11/11/11 they did over 300.

We started off from Flagstaff bright and early and headed west on one of the best-preserved sections of Route 66. We first arrived in Williams, which is home to this fabulous bull sign. Williams is laid out in two one-way streets that make a loop; this restaurant is situated between them. The owners thoughtfully put a message on the sign to let people know if they are going the wrong way through town. Williams is home to many other small businesses that have embraced the Route 66 theme. Unfortunately since we were there at about 7 am, none of them were open.

Next we were on to Seligman and Peach Springs, where – true to form – the Arizona scenery changed once again. If you are familiar with the Pixar movie “Cars,” you can tell that they took a lot of the inspiration for the geography of the fictional town Radiator Springs from this area.  We alternated between open expanses of gorgeous scenery interrupted sporadically by small towns and the random route outpost, such as this abandoned trailer park/gift shop that has a giant Easter Island-inspired head in the front. Why? Why the hell not?

Once we hit Kingman we broke away from the route to head north to Vegas. This 90 mile stretch is one of the most desolate drives I have ever been on and all the scenery is uniformly rocky and brown. Distances are deceptive out here – things appear to only be a short distance away but they are in fact many, many miles off. At one point to relieve boredom we chose a random peak in the distance and made a bet how many miles away we thought it was. I said 20, JJ said 25. It turned out to be 23.7, so we were both pretty close.

There is one odd little outpost along the way between Kingman and Vegas that is well worth seeking out if you ever are in the area. It’s a town called Chloride, AZ, located approximately 4 miles off Highway 93 about 20 miles north of Kingman. The town has a population of only 342 people, all of whom have embraced a sort of crazy-from-the-sun desert folk art aesthetic for decorating the town. The sign welcoming you to town is a fence covered with assorted rusted debris gathered from the desert. Nearly every home in town is festooned with improvised sculptures made from old water heaters, pieces of abandoned cars, rocks or animal bones. JJ stopped into the post office to get a stamp and asked how all the art got started, to which the clerk replied, “I don’t know, it’s just what we do.” She also told him that he is the first person from SC she has ever met. As we left town I noticed what appeared to once be the town’s gas station, but is now someone’s home. They’ve either left or collected old gas pumps to put out front, but mysteriously surrounded them with a miniature train track. Why? Why the hell not? They also had some other great sculptures scattered about.

On to Vegas, where we arrived with enough time to have a quick lunch, which I determined should be of the liquid variety because hey, it’s Vegas. Why the hell not? I headed straight for the Russian vodka bar in Mandalay Bay for a bloody Mary, only to find they were not going to be open for several more hours. What happened to Vegas being a 24-hour town? House of Blues proved to have a decent one, though, and JJ enjoyed his Jack Daniels Manhattan as well. We killed time until our 2 pm appointment at my favorite place on earth, the place where my ashes should be scattered after I die – the Neon Boneyard. If you are ever in Vegas, you simply must put this place #1 on your to-do list. The casinos and bars are open 24 hours and you’ll have plenty of time to drink, gamble, or do whatever else it is you want to have happen in Vegas that stays in Vegas. Please do yourself a favor and book an appointment at the boneyard for a tour – they only offer two tours per day. The signs are fabulous of course, but what really sets this place apart are their tour guides who convey in an hour and a half the history of Las Vegas illustrated through the signs on display. It’s probably the most cultural spot in the whole city. Seriously, check it out.www.neonmuseum.org

I’m only going to share one photo to give you a taste; I have to horde my others as future painting references.

Tip – you may be able to make out the side view of the skull that used to hang on Treasure Island on the right side of this photo. If you do a google map search for the neon boneyard and click on satellite view, the skull will be staring up at you. They did that to scare away aliens.

After the boneyard we headed off for our appointment with Elvis, where we laughed our heads off reciting our special “Elvis vows” to renew our marriage. (He promises to never act like a hound dog, whining all the time. I promise to never step on his blue suede shoes. I also promise never to let him buy blue suede shoes).

Our “Elvis” (Harry) was fantastic and we had a lot of fun. When we are able to download our photo off the web I’ll post one here because of course it is impossible to take photos with Elvis using your own camera. He’s invisible to all but the special Graceland Chapel camera, which produces images that cost $25 each. Seriously, the folks at Graceland are great and they made our actual wedding two years ago and our renewal last night really fun and special. If you want a quick, easy, fun, no-fuss wedding I highly recommend the Vegas route.

Sadly, we knew we had to be on the road bright and early again so we actually were in bed by midnight (!) in Vegas. That’s the closest thing to blasphemy in Vegas. I’m sure that because of our insensitivity, somewhere in the city a showgirl lost her wings.

Updates on our journey into L.A. in a bit – as promised, I will get caught up from skipping a day of updates.

-d

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