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This whole mess started when Pablo invited my girlfriend, Katie, to go to Las Vegas with him. Having no interest in gambling or cheesy American entertainment for people too old to hang out at dance clubs, I refused immediately. After a month of crying, bitching, and ultimatums I had my arm twisted into going to Las Vegas... can't possibly suck that much, can it?

Ohh, yes it can. And more. "The Strip" is the dirtiest, most overcrowded piece of packed road I have ever seen in my life. For the first time in my life I suppose I understand the "southern hospitality" because those Vegas suckers had 0 patience. At one point one of our cab drivers told us to shoot at anybody with California license plates. Streets are more than dirty, packed with sweaty Mexicans handing out advertisements for prostitution, creepy guys chasing you and dragging you into their bar/casino, pile of retired carnies who got fired from an amusement park stuck trying to sell people on an 8 hour tour of Grand Canyon in a bus with no air conditioning. You can tell the mob has tried everything in their power to alter sidewalks straight into their casino's that reek of alcohol and smoke. The first 2 hours in Vegas convinced me that this piece of trash deserved none of my time and especially none of my attention or money. I made a point early on not to gamble, buy drinks, or even walk through the garbage hotels that made you walk through their casino's just to get to the other side. Basically, it sucked, very very very much. Its truly a shame that such wonderful architecture was flushed down the toilet with such ugly tacky casinos. At this point Katie and I agreed to seek fun off the strip.

We went down to Dream Car Rentals (really nice guys, check them out if you're in Vegas) and rented a Honda S2000, one of Katie's favorite cars. We first took off for the Red Rock Canyon, a 13 mile closed circuit about 12 miles NW of the strip. It was amazing. We got there about an hour before the sunset and the imagery was amazing. On one side there was a nice mountain range, on the other a flat desert with Las Vegas nested in the middle. With the sun setting over the large rock sediments and dark orange rays over the desert.. it was breathtaking to see such natural beauty so close to the trash man has created.

The very next day, we woke up and went to the Hoover Dam (about 20 miles SE of the strip). Obviously, by the time we woke up, got ready, and started driving it was 11 AM. Imagine the wonderful 110 degree desert, driving in a convertible at 60mph, without even a hint of moisture. Its akin to locking yourself in the oven at 450 F and pointing a hair dryer straight at your face. For 30 minutes. Oh, the joy on my face when we arrived. Joke aside, Hoover Dam was astonishing. I honestly didn't expect it to be this huge, but the infrastructure was even more impressive. We got a really rude tour guide, with about 0 personality, and even less sense of humor. That hour would of been quite painful, but the tour was simply amazing. The "Hard Hat" tour takes you all the way through the dam, top to bottom and the right back up where they drop you off on a sidewalk. Check out some of the pictures as they are quite breathtaking.

We had an ice cream at Sonics, got back to Vegas and Katie and I went to drop the car back off. We then walked over to the Las Vegas Hilton to their Star Trek Experience exibit. If you are even a little bit of a Star Trek fan you will absolutely treasure this place. It contains the entire history of Star Fleet, props from the show, pictures and masks, etc. Then you get onto the ride, which is absolutely incredible. They beam you onto Enterprise NC-1701D and you get to hang out on the bridge and see Riker on the main viewscreen. Everything seems quite authentic and doesn't look cheesy at all. There are huge replicas of starships hanging all over the place, and you're dropped off at Quarks Bar. Its quite amazing really, you sort of have to see it for yourself. We ate the Quarks bar, had some drinks (Seven of Nine and Badlands; Katie had the "Bird of Prey" and I had Ensign Kim's Swardfish Mix).

After the Star Trek thing we went back to Harrah's, cleaned up, and got ready to go shopping. We hit Ceasar's Palace hotel and after trying to get through all the trashy gambling garbage got to the Caesar Shops section of it which was HUGE. We first went to the IMAX: Ride for the Atlantis which upset our dinner extremely. The ride was cheesy, it was grossly disorganized, and the whole operation was ran by a bunch of chinks with poor english and thick accents. They had to restart the ride twice and the whole thing was a complete ripoff. Avoid it at all cost. Besides, all the shops section was quite amazing, as you can tell by enormous FAO Schwartz and a number of other toy stores. There was also a big line at Caesars Palace to take a picture at a Lamborghini Diabolo SV; Talk about an amazing $285,000 car. Incredible. That market the end of day 2.

Our last day started out with a nice tour of the strip. We decided that since we'll probably never come here anytime soon we might as well take a look at some of the Las Vegas landmarks. Well, we started with The Venetian which was quite amazing in its architecture and authenticity. They ruined the the thing with the casino but once you got past that everything was great. The hotel had a big Venetian canal that had a bunch of gondolas going back and forth. Apparently, this place was way over our head and most shops were aimed at much more sophisticated people. We decided to take up Denise on a great restaurant recommendation (Zafrinos or something like that), an incredible restaurant. I honestly have to thank Denise a lot because this was by far the best lunch I have ever had in my life. We had around 10 people serving us, all sorts of pasta, salads, cookies, bread, etc. Then the main course arrived and every bite was so much better than the previous one. You know when you take a bite and then take a minute to enjoy it too? Well, this was pretty much that feeling extended through the entire meal. It was AMAZING. Another great Vegas thing...

After this wonderful lunch, we decided to go on to the rest of the Las Vegas resorts. First we went off to Bally's and took the monorail down to MGM. We pretty much ran through MGM to get the Rodney Dangerfield tickets for later that evening. Then we proceeded to the MGM's Lion preservation area, which was an incredible disappointment. These amazing animals were locked in an area hardly the size of a studio apartment and they were all asleep. But don't underestimate the tackiness of Vegas - MGM had the brains to record the sound of a waterfall with a random Lion growl every 30 seconds. Essentially, it sounds like someone flushes the toilet every 30 seconds and just leaves it running. As if this wasn't brain damage enough, we proceeded in the hot sun to the NY NY which we spent quite little time due to the largest casino I've seen in my life. We went south to Excalibur and then down to Luxor which was an incredible disappointment, the hotel was very cheesy and it really reeked of something I could not identify. We were quite exhausted and dehydrated from all the walking and we decided to spend some time in the A/C. We went through Luxor, Excalibur, Monte Carlo and then over to Bellagio. Bellagio was by far the most beautiful hotel on the strip, with amazing gardens, a wonderful gallery (Steve Martin's private collection with 2 Picaso's), an amazing wedding chapel, etc. We watched a wedding then made it home.

The ending to this vacation was pretty much perfect; We went to MGM Grand to see Rodney Dangerfield that went on for about an hour. If I had to pick, this was by far the most impressive thing I saw in Las Vegas. I have been a fan of his for a long time, but I never imagined that his 5 minute Jay Leno strips could ever go on for an entire hour and keep up the laughs - I never imagined there would be that many one-line jokes.. We went to bed late that evening after our show and dressup, got up early and hopped on the first class flight back to Florida.

All in all, the "Las Vegas strip" is definitely not what its hyped up to be - If you can muster up enough ignorance to just turn the other shoulder every 2 feet that you hit a slot machine it can be quite enjoyable.. The bulk of the cool stuff is hidden behind all the casino crap so you have to take your time and be patient walking through the tombs. All in all, Rodney Dangerfield, Star Trek Experience, Hoover Dam, and Red Rock Canyon were quite amazing.

Below are our picture albums:

Welcome to Las Vegas
Pictures of the Las Vegas Airport, and few strip hotels.
Red Rock Canyon
Red Rock Canyon, Stratosphere Tower.
Hoover Dam
Boulder, Hoover Dam, Lake Mead.
Star Trek & Ceasars Palace
Star Trek Experience, Caesars Palace, FAO Schwartz.
Vegas at Night
Caesars Palace
Strip Walk
Rest of the hotels: Venetian, Flamingo, Paris Paris, Flamingo, Ballys, MGM, NY NY, Excalibur, Luxor, Monte Carlo, M&M Factory, Coke World, Bellagio, Bellagio Gardens, Caesars Palace.