If you’ve read our Long, Long, Too Long Trailer post, you know that upon returning from our initial trip in Stan the Airstream, we had a huge realization- we are not RV people. For years before we sold the winery, we talked about how cool it would be to buy an Airstream and travel the country. And it was truly, the trip of a lifetime. We are grateful that we had the opportunity to pack up and travel through much of the eastern part of the country and “live the dream” for three months but, it wasn’t “the dream” for us. So, we sold Stan the Airstream and the Ford truck and bought a Toyota Land Cruiser. Not Tan Stan, the 1985 Land Cruiser that will be our conveyance as we travel Route 66 in September, but a newer (and might we say, much more luxurious) one. Meet, our new road trip car (name to be determined). Just three weeks after buying our new Land Cruiser, which we refer to as the “Land Cruiser 2.0”, we decided to break it in and set out on our Tin Sheets in the Desert trip. We spent ten days traveling from Las Vegas to Death Valley National Park to Joshua Tree National Park to Palm Springs. In keeping with our previous travel posts, we have chosen the our favorite things to see, do, and eat; but we’ve also added suggestions for where to stay- all dog-friendly, of course- and the quirky, kitschy, and sometimes downright goofy roadside stops not to be missed. Our first stop takes us to the land of excess, Las Vegas. We were only in town for about 12 hours (including sleeping), but we still managed to pack in some fun!
What to See: The Las Vegas Strip Neon
If there is one thing that Las Vegas is known for, it’s flashiness. From the mega-casinos to the shows to the insane buffets, there is nothing subtle about Vegas. Perhaps one of its best-known features is neon. Since the 1930s when signs along Fremont Street first lit up the night, casinos and hotels have worked to create the most ostentatious, eye-catching signs possible to attract tourists and their wallets. Many of the iconic signs of past years, no longer stand (do not miss a visit to the Neon Boneyard!); but there are still literal miles of signs to see. No trip there is complete without truly taking in the spectacle and the kitschy extravagance that embodies Las Vegas. So, wait until the sun goes down and the temperature (hopefully) drops a few degrees and head out to the Strip. Whether you choose to walk or just drive up and down a few times, there will be more glowing lights and flashing signs that your brain can process. Absorb what you can, snap a few pictures, and take a moment to appreciate that what was once a small water stop in the desert for wagon trains, and later steam trains, is now the flashy, dizzyingly extravagant, and bombastically overindulgent spectacle known as the “Entertainment Capital of the World”.
What to Do: Strike a Pose at the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas Sign
Located in the median just south of the Strip is the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign. Designed by Betty Willis, a designer with Western Neon, it has welcomed visitors and been the star of more photos than we can imagine since 1959. Standing 25 feet tall and designed in the Googie architecture of the ’50s and ’60s, it is Americana at its finest. The circles that contain the letters that spell out Welcome, were created to resemble silver dollars, in homage to Nevada’s nickname as the Silver State. Whether you stop when you first get into town or as you are leaving, this is one photo op not to miss. Thankfully, there is no need to dodge traffic (as visitors did for many decades), as there is a parking area just next to the sign. If you’re lucky like we were, you’ll be able to walk right up to the sign and snap some photos; but be prepared to wait in line for proof that you were there…because sometimes what happens in Vegas doesn’t have to stay in Vegas.
What to Eat: In-N-Out Burger & Fries
For those of us that live east of Las Vegas and outside of Salt Lake City, there is no In-N-Out Burger. Perhaps you’ve heard the hype, or have been fortunate enough to experience the divine tastiness that is In-N-Out. Lucky you. As Coloradans, we never (and I mean never) miss an opportunity to eat at In-N-Out. So, with only one night in Vegas, we knew what our dinner was going to be days before we even left on the trip. Having eaten at In-N-Out a dozen or so times, we have yet to get tired of it. Is it the best burger and fries we’ve ever eaten? Probably not. If you’re as food-centric as we are, you spend a lot of time thinking about food (ok, Jen spends a lot of, maybe too much, time thinking about food). Whether it’s the lack of accessibility or the fact that every time we’ve eaten at In-N-Out we’ve been on a vacation, there is something that makes those burgers, fries, and shakes irresistible. If you’ve never had In-N-Out before, we suggest you try it at least once. If you end up loving it as much as we do…sorry. But not too sorry.