Westbound: Las Vegas, NV

With just a few stops left to make, my trip across the country was starting to come to an end. As I planned my drive from Yosemite National Park to Grand Canyon National Park I noticed Las Vegas, Nevada sitting directly in my path. I have never had a strong desire to go to Las Vegas but the fact it was conveniently located along my route caused me to etch it into my schedule.

A significant portion of the drive was through the Mojave Desert. I have not spent much time in the desert and I was surprised at how interesting I found it to be. Although it is as one would expect- brown, sandy, treeless and full of small brittle shrubs; the desert also delivered something more. The uniform landscape stretched across the plains and over the mountain ranges creating an unexpected attractive quality that I can only describe as a blank canvass. This canvass appeared to extend indefinitely in every direction and the recreational possibilities seemed as equally endless. One’s imagination is the only restriction here; space is not a constraint.

As I arrived in Las Vegas it became apparent someone else recognized the potential for this blank canvass and had a vision for a grand urban mosaic. Buildings quickly sprung up and I was suddenly transported into the center of a concentrated city. I began to think of what I wanted to see while I was in Vegas and two things immediately came to mind: the pawn shop from the television show Pawn Stars and the Vegas strip.

On the way to the pawn shop I noticed a mechanic off the road advertising a special on brake pads. I had my oil changed and tires rotated when I was in Seattle and the mechanic there mentioned the brake pads were very worn and highly recommended I change them. I usually do any car maintenance myself because I am capable of doing it and it saves me a lot of money, so I declined the offer and planned to do it when I returned home from my road trip. A couple states later they began to squeak and I knew with the amount of driving I was doing I really needed to change them before they wore down enough to destroy the rotors and cost me even more money. I parked in front of the shop and walked in to ask about getting the pads replaced. I confirmed with the mechanic he could get started on the job immediately and I handed over my car keys as he requested. A minute or two passed before I started to think about my bike sitting on the top of my car and whether I would need to take it down or not for it to fit in the bay. I eyed the bay on the way in and the opening looked pretty high. I thought to myself he would surely come and get me if the bike didn’t look like it would clear. Immediately after I finished this thought I heard a loud crashing sound and knew I put too much faith in the mechanic’s judgment. I walked out to find my bike seat in pieces on the ground and my bike wedged under the sliding bay door. The bike was still upright on the roof rack and aside from the seat, overall unharmed. Given that I had just accidentally ran over and left the front wheel of my bike back in Yosemite National Park the day before, I couldn’t bring myself to be too upset with the mechanic. I collected the pieces, took the bike down off the rack, and chocked it up to a couple of bad luck days for the bike.

When I left the mechanic I headed over to Gold and Silver Pawn Shop from the show Pawn Stars. I made my way through the crowds inside this relatively small store and looked around for one of the workers from the television show. Not seeing anybody I recognized and not being too interested with anything behind the counters, I headed out the door. This was not the most interesting stop but it was worth popping in just to see the shop in person after watching it on television.

Pawn shop
“Pawn Stars” shop
pawn shop2
“Pawn Stars” shop

My next stop was the Vegas strip. I drove around for a while trying to find parking that was not in a parking garage because I wanted to avoid any more low ceilings that could potentially destroy my bike any further. I eventually found something near a shopping mall and I walked over to the main strip. There were not very many surprises here. It pretty much looked like what I had pictured in my head from seeing photographs of Vegas and seeing it portrayed in movies. There were a lot of buildings lining the street which were full of hotels with casinos, restaurants, shopping, and more casinos. Large billboards advertising various shows littered the skyline. Seeing a show in Vegas seemed like something I had to do so I picked up a ticket for the original Cirque du Soleil show, Mystere, playing later that evening. I walked around and took in the sights. I was surprised how clean, literally speaking, the city was. Even with so many people condensed into one area the streets and surroundings were not dirty or full of trash. Figuratively speaking; however, the city could very well be described as dirty. After all, Vegas did get the nickname sin city for nothing. Although I have heard it has become much more family friendly over the years, I am not sure I would bring my children here. You would really have to put blinders on to avoid witnessing the drunkenness, gambling, prostitution, and overall debauchery taking place all around you.


Caesers palace
Caesars Palace
The Venetian
hotel hallway
Extravagant hallways

Before I went to the Cirque du Soleil show that evening I stopped at BurGR, a Gordon Ramsay restaurant. I noticed he had two different restaurants nearby, one being a more expensive and upscale steakhouse and the other being a less expensive burger joint. I decided to go with the latter and was doubtful whether the food could live up to Gordon Ramsay’s persona from his television show Hell’s Kitchen. I ordered the hell’s kitchen burger, as the waiter suggested, and was pleased to discover it greatly exceeded my expectations. I am not a huge hamburger fan but this was hands down the best burger I have ever had. I topped it off with a strawberry shake layered with coconut pudding, a thin chocolate cookie, and a dollop of thick whip cream. This little treat was as equally incredible as the burger I had prior to it. I can’t say with certainty if Gordon Ramsay’s other restaurants are as good as BurGR, as I have not been to them all, but I assume they would be. If you happen to be in Las Vegas, go out of your way to find one of these restaurants, you will not be disappointed!

Hell’s kitchen burger
Cirque du Soleil show
Bellagio fountains
The Mirage volcano eruption
strip night
Las Vegas Strip

It’s your life. Demand adventure.

– Jon

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