Living Las Vegas

Las Vegas, what can I say it is a wild and crazy city and I’m not sure I was up to it. The constant throng of crowds, usually drunk crowds carrying foot long sipper cups filled with frozen cocktail whilst loudly yelling at each other about the next casino bar to stumble into, and that is during daylight hours. Come night time all bets are off and here’s the kicker, it’s not illegal to drink on the streets of Vegas.

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Miracle Mile Shopping Strip

We’ve been here for five days and nights and whilst we aren’t the partying types we have had packed days and some nights. Here is a rundown of what we’ve been up to so far.

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Las Vegas Strip

Shopping Outlets – With shopping list in hand we have accumulated another case load of shopping / clothing items for mothers, daughters, sons, friends and of course ourselves. Our favourite was the Primm Outlet which is 57 kilometres from Las Vegas, we got some great bargains but so far the best shopping was The Citadel in Los Angeles.

Walking The Strip – We wandered along the strip (without alcohol) and marvelled at the pure size of the Casinos, like the Bellagio, Caesars Palace, The Venetian, Paris Paris, The Mirage etc. and by night the lighting is amazing.

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Amazing Replicas

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Lights, Lights, Lights

 

 

Afternoon by the pool – We wandered down to our pool one afternoon with all the beautiful people and to be honest we found ourselves wanting to pack up, drink our beers and scamper back to our room. The pool area was lovely but it was crowded with loud people saving their deck chairs with towels with no one sitting on them … very frustrating.

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Poolside

Vegas Shows – We treat ourselves to two Cirque Du Soleil shows whilst in Las Vegas.

Firstly, the “Beatles LOVE” show with its stunning special effects with of course the music from the Beatles which provides the inspiration for acts. It was full of surprises and you don’t know what to expect next. With amazing aerial and trapeze acts, acrobatics, trampolining and roller-skating there is so much going on you just don’t know where to look.

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Secondly we went to see “O” which has been playing since 1998 at the Bellagio and is a water-themed stage production. The name “O” which is pronounced the same way as eau, the French word for “water”, takes place in, around and above a massive pool of water. It features water acts such as synchronised swimming as well as aerial and ground acts. Apparently a team of 150 stage technicians assist in the production of the show, the cast of which is 85 performers: international acrobats, synchronised swimmers, and divers. Some of them are former Olympic athletes.

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“O” my goodness

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Excited To Be Watching “O”

Whilst at the Bellagio we have dinner at the Bellagio Buffet for an over indulgence of food … so much food and so many desserts to sample. After dinner we take a walk through the Bellagio Conservatory which has 15,000 – 18,000 visitors every day. They change the floral displays five times year and we are in Las Vegas to see a Japanese themed display.

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Samurai In The Bellagio 

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Floral Fantasy

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Tortoise & Topiary 

Las Vegas is a town for everyone but there sure a lot to choose from.

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Dancing Anyone?

Mojave Mojo

My complimentary earplugs worked a treat in blocking out the howling winds of the Mojave Desert last night and we wake up refreshed and ready to go for the final leg of the drive through to Las Vegas.

Breakfast of waffles, maple syrup and a strong perculated coffee sets us up for the day of driving through the desert and parallel to Route 66.

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Good Morning Mojave

With only a three hour drive today, we decide to take it easy and stop regularly for petrol, drinks and snacks.  Whilst driving along the highway we notice advertising for Peggy Sue’s 50’s Diner, we decide to take a detour and come across an absolute gem on Route 66.

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Desert Highway

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More desert!

Peggy Sue’s is an original roadside diner, built in 1954 with nine counter stools and three booths. Located near the Calico Mountains it was built from railroad ties and mortar from the nearby Union Pacific Rail yard and was reopened in 1987 with an attempt to restore and preserve it in its original state. Packed with 50’s memorabilia it’s almost overwhelming as everywhere you look there a photos, trinkets, advertisements and the attention to details for the 50’s decade is amazing.

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Doesn’t Look Much From The Front

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Danielle … Our Waitress

We ordered 50’s inspired meals and again the size of the meals have us beaten … you literally can’t eat that much food.

There is also and souvenir shop which they call “5 and Dime” which has a little bit of everything, in fact it’s overwhelming with the pure volume of trinkets, t-shirts, clocks, movie memorabilia and souvenirs.

After lunch we power through to Las Vegas but make a shopping stop at a random retail outlet at a town called Primm, we find some bargains and then we head straight to a hotel, the Hilton Grand Vacation Suites in a drive up to find availability.  We have found that picking a hotel and doing a last minute drive up is saving us heaps of money.

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Hilton … our Hotel For Next Five Days

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View From Our Window

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Well Earned Beer In The Bar

Barstow or Bust

Road Trip – This time we leave our San Francisco budget inn for the wide open spaces via Modesto, Fresno, Bakersfield with good intentions of staying in Barstow for the night as it is about half way to Las Vegas.

We cruise through rural California only to stop for petrol, food and drinks and of course to stretch the legs and change drivers. Our lunch stop was at a road house / diner in a town called Gustine.

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Denny’s Dinner – Gustine

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What’s For Lunch?

Some research on Gustine – it was established in the early 1900s as a station on the Southern Pacific Railroad and named after Sara Miller, nicknamed “Gussie”, the daughter of Henry Miller, the “Cattle King”, an early California land baron and Agricultural pioneer. Little Sara, always getting “gussied up” with fancy clothes, was killed when she was thrown from her horse when she was eight years old … poor Sara!

Also Gustine was the site of the first 9-1-1 system in California, installed in March 1970.

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On the road again we head towards Bakersfield and on to Barstow however we decide to keep going and head to some random town we’ve never heard of, Mojave.  We new it would be remote because it is right in the centre of the Mojave Desert but the wind takes your breath away.  We pull into the Best Weastern Dessert Winds and it lives up to its name with the car door nearly being blown off the hinges when we got out of the car.

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Dessert Winds!

Dinner tonight is Maccas as there is fast food or fast food in this town and earplugs are needed to drown out the rattling freight trains and constan wind overnight.  The hotel even supplies ear plugs.

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Mojave at Sunset

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Mojave at Sunset

Mojave is a pretty interesting town too. Established in 1876 as a construction camp on the Southern Pacific Railroad and was the western terminus of the 266 km twenty-mule team borax wagon route originating at Harmony Borax Works in Death Valley.

Also located near Edwards Air Force Base, Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, and Palmdale Regional Airport it has a rich aerospace history as well as a general-use public airport, Mojave has three main areas of activity: flight testing, space industry development, and aircraft heavy maintenance and storage (the plane graveyard).

We Went To San Francisco Without Flowers In Our Hair

San Francisco … Frisco, San Fran, SF, The City, The City By The Bay, The Golden City, Fog City and our home for the next 3 days.

It’s an outrageously hilly city on the tip of a peninsula surrounded by the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay.  It’s known for its year-round fog, iconic Golden Gate Bridge, cable cars and colorful Victorian houses and Alcatraz Island in the bay which is of course the site of the notorious former prison.

We explored this city from our humble hotel room in the Castro, taking the F Line trolley car all the way down to Fishermans Warf and back again.   We ate at Boudin for the famous bread bowl with an option of clam chowder or beef chilli (an option we may have regretted later due to excessive gas!)

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Busy, Busy, Busy

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One Of The Best Places To Eat – Boudin

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Chilli In A Bread Bowl … Love It

We travelled the trolley cars but the drivers aren’t as friendly as our Melbourne tram drivers (I may be biased). They rattle and roll and are packed with tourists but it’s a worthwhile trip at only US $2.50 for a two hour hop on hop off ticket.

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Trolley Cars

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Riding The Rails with Raels

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Cable Car

We return to waterfront the next day to explore some more and enjoy a local beer in a bar on Pier 39.  We also take another stroll past the marina and some of the local bird life which I can only describe as huge.  The seagulls here are about the size of my small dog with wings … don’t mess with them if they have an eye on a snack!

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Sampling The Local Brews

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The Marina at Pier 39

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Mutant Gull

It’s windy and cool with an average temperature of about 15 degree but the views of the bay and the tall ships at Hyde Pier take your mind of the brisk breeze and then we decide to drive accross the Golden Gate Bridge – bucket list …. tick!

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Maritime Museum – Hyde Street Pier

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Hyde Street Pier

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It Cold Today

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We Drove Across The Golden Gate Bridge … Tick

Our last night in San Francisco we say good by to the Castro and our temporary home.

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View From The Balcony Of The Hotel

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Got To Love A Rainbow Flag

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Castro Street

Tomorrow we leave for new adventures in Nevada.

Carmel-by-the-Sea to the City-by-the-Bay

After a restless night sleep in Monterey, we have a complimentary waffle or two for breakfast before taking a little side trip to see the rest of the scenic north coast route and in particular the Bixby Creek Bridge with its stunning views.

Along the way we discover this amazing town called Carmel-by-the-Sea which is located on the Monterey Peninsula. It’s known for it beautiful scenery and apparently in the 1910’s 60 percent of the houses were built by actors, poets, and artists and it still has a rich artistic presence now.

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Carmel City Beach Park

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Carmel City Beach Park

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Carmel City Beach Park

On the road again and we head towards the Big Sur coast however like the day before the road is closed ahead and we decide to go as far as the Bixby Creek Bridge (aka Bixby Bridge) for a photo opportunity with all the other tourists on the coast that day.

Apparently it is one of the most photographed bridges in California due to its aesthetic design.   It’s a 110 m reinforced concrete open-spanded arch bridge and was opened in 1932 and is one of the tallest single-span bridges in the world.

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Bixby Creek Bridge

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Bixby Creek Bridge

Now we put peddle to the metal and drive straight through to San Francisco to get to our hotel Becks Motor Inn by sunset.

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Our Home For The Next Three Days

We’re On A Road To Nowhere …

Thank you Casa Del Mar Inn for a king-sized sleep in a quaint little cabin with an excellent shower and fabulous continental breakfast.

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Casa Del Mar Inn

We decide to explore the heritage of Santa Barbara and find ourselves at the Old Santa Barbara Mission.  It was the tenth mission to be established by the Spanish Franciscans who basically built it to bring Christrianity to the Churmash Indians.  The Mission itself has been built and rebuilt four times due to upgrades and also being destroyed by an earthquake in 1812.

We take a stroll around the Mission and grounds enjoying the Spanish inspired architecture, however Raelene has to duck through the doorways as obviously the monks were a lot shorter than we are today.

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Santa Barbara Mission Hallways


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Mission Gardens


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Mission Cemetary


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Random Cactus


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Santa Barbara Mission – Front View

After spending about an hour we hit the road in search of the famous Pacific Coast drive towards The Big Sur and Monterey.

Along the way we decided to stop for lunch so we take a random freeway exit and find ourselves pulling into Los Alamos which apparently was a prospering and popular stagecoach stop from 1861–1901. The Union Hotel opened in 1880 to serve overnight travelers and has been rebuilt following being destroyed by fire.

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Union Hotel – Los Alamos


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Union Hotel – Los Alamos

Perhaps we should have done some research on the route but we trusted our Tom Tom (who obviously didn’t get the memo) … the road is closed between Ragged Point and Carmel due to the road being damaged in February 2017 and is washed out in sections.

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San Simeon – North Coast


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San Simeon – North Coast


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Road Block – Ragged Point

Not to be deterred we grab a really, really bad cup of coffee and head back the way we came and head towards Monterey via an alternative route (2 hours) longer than intended.  We find a hotel in Monterey and don’t even bother about dinner … we are too tired and we go straight to bed.

Santa Is Not Just A Fat Man In A Red Suit

Road Trip! Raelene and I blast out of Anaheim and hit the road, or should I say we rather sluggishly weave our way through peak hour traffic on the Los Angeles freeways.

An issue with the car hire company, Alamo, has us taking a side trip via LAX to try and sort out double charging of my credit card.  Very frustrating, obviously the customer service girls don’t give a hoot about the issue and the extra $1,200 charged to my credit card won’t be resolved until we return the car.  Inconveniently this means that I am short the same amount of money on my card.  Cheaper doesn’t always mean best option.  Mind you the Nissan Altima we are driving is really comfy.

We swing by Santa Monica and more importantly we take a stroll along Santa Monica Pier with its red and yellow Ferris wheel towering above hundreds of tourists.  The Pier has a full on amusement park with plenty of restaurants, bars, and souvenir shops.   There are magnificent views of Malibu and the South Bay and of course it’s the “end of the line for Route 66”.

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Santa Monica Beach

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Santa Monica Pier

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“End Of The Line” Route 66 – Santa Monica Pier

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Santa Monica Pier

On the road again and we headed towards Santa Barbara, (we’ve seen signs to Santa Cruz, Santa Clara, Santa Ana) we decided to wing it and roll into town without booked accommodation and we discover a little gem right on the waterfront, Casa Del Mar.

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Casa Del Mar – Santa Barbara

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Santa Barbara Foreshore

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Santa Barbara Beach

A wander along the waterfront and we find a pizza restaurant called Rusty’s for dinner and a couple of Bud Lites … pepperoni pizza American style.

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Bud Lites … yes please!

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Pepperoni …. Thanks Rusty

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A Well Earned Thirst