Wednesday, October 29, 2008

NCPTW '08 - Las Vegas, Day 1

Today was my first real day in Las Vegas, although to be fair I should note I spent very little time actually in Las Vegas. My Pink Jeep tour vehicle picked me up at 7:30, and off we went. Although there were nine other folks in the car (all British, except the tour guide), I was the last picked up; and I was lucky enough to get the front seat. I was suitably impressed; the tour guide was really good. He seemed to know everything about everything, told us about plant life and geography, local history of not only Las Vegas, Henderson, and Boulder City, but of a few small towns we drove through – essentially he talked non-stop for the entire 10-hour trip. And the trip was arranged well, too; we were getting in and out of the Jeep constantly so he could show us something or tell us about something and brought enough bottled water was brought so we could drink as much as we could handle (and were encouraged to drink a lot of water, too; I was surprised how dried out I got). This was not a cheap trip, although I hesitate to call it exorbitant, but I really think it was well worth it. We weren’t rushed; questions were answered; all the incidentals were taken care of (not only the bottled water, but bus transportation to and from the Grand Canyon, as well as lunch).

And I had such a good time. Being in the front seat had its perks; it was gorgeous out there. We didn’t go through the Hoover Dam, but we did get out in a good location while tour guide Jerry told us various factoids about it, and so we could take pictures. It was hot, in the mid-to-upper 80s (I was told that this was warm for this time of year), and the sun was pretty strong, but I lucked out and didn’t sunburned.

The dessert was really pretty; we drove through a Joshua tree forest; saw some cacti (of course), and saw the Grand Canyon from two different stops along the West Rim. I’ll say this: Obviously the Grand Canyon is huge and impressive and just beautiful, but that first look at it was something else. We stopped off at the Skywalk, which everyone else took advantage of enjoying, but which I did not (cameras are apparently not allowed, and I didn’t feel like shelling out more money for something I couldn’t photograph or otherwise share with anyone). One of the features of this particular area included a Native American dance troupe from New Mexico was doing some native tribal dances, which was rather nifty. Of course my video camera had run out of batteries as soon as we had left the gift shop previously - impeccable timing.

We had lunch, after which tour guide Jerry trundled everyone on a short walk up a bit higher. (I stayed put there, too; honestly, there was no “bad” location and I just didn’t feel like wrestling with some rocks that were likely to cause me to plummet over the edge.) And then we turned around, and meandered back to our hotels, of course stopping a few times along the way to check out the Joshua trees.

It was a long drive, and a long day; I didn’t realize how far away the Grand Canyon was, and in my stupidity didn’t really give any thought that it might actually be in another state, so I’m happy that I get to add Arizona to my list of states visited. By the time I got back to my hotel it was about 6 p.m., which was just when the conference folks had scheduled a poolside social at the conference site (the hotel which is right next door – very convenient), so I wandered over there, felt extremely out of place, tried to make friends and failed somewhat (although I did run into Harry briefly, which was welcome) before heading back to my room so I can pass out in extreme tiredness.

It was a good day; I loved being outside for so long. I think I’m realizing that I’m not as much of a city person as I want to think I am. Being outside – and away from the crowds – was just too much fun.

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