Week 39 – Palm Springs, Joshua Tree NP & Las Vegas

Week 8 of our North America road trip and we’ve driven 12,641kms so far (only 978kms this week). Not too many kilometers this week as we ventured from San Diego to the desert of Nevada for 4 nights in Sin City. I haven’t really allowed myself much time to write this post so it’ll be pretty brief. I could’ve been writing instead of lounging by the pool but the latter was far more fun.

Our drive this week (week 8)

Our first stop was Palm Springs which is a desert resort city in California made famous by Elvis, Sinatra and other stars who used to holiday here. The Rat Pack are long gone and all that’s left are ageing retirees and some wealthy tourists that come from LA. Well that’s what Lonely Planet lead us to believe but on the day we arrived we found classic divas, pop icons and other famous celebrities all strutting down the main street. Upon closer inspection, things didn’t look quite right and we realised that most were men dressed in drag. Then we drove further into town to discover that the annual gay pride event was taking place. It did provide quite a few laughs but we didn’t really get to see what Palm Springs was like because the town centre was closed to traffic and was full of people. The drag queen diva performance on the main stage was a highlight though. Fortunately we scored a cheap stay at the Hilton only 20 minutes away so we escaped the madness and went to use the fitness centre and hot tub. We went to The Cheesecake Factory for dinner and it didn’t disappoint. The S’mores cheesecake was the best.

S’mores cheesecake at the Cheesecake Factory

The next morning we headed for Joshua Tree National Park but stopped at Pioneertown on the way. Pioneertown was built in the 1940’s to be used as a set to film western films and shows like The Cisco Kid and Judge Roy Bean. The town was quite amusing to look through because you could imagine the sorts of scenes filmed here. Anna made me pose for some cheesy pictures but I’ve convinced her to leave most out. 

The Joshua trees in the NP aren’t as grand as the Sequoia trees we were looking at last week, but they’re a very unique tree. Kind of like a hybrid between a cactus and a tree. As you drive through the park they’re everywhere and combined with the large rock formations in the background it makes for a scenic journey. We did some hikes to Hidden Valley and Barker Dam which helped us get our step count up. At several locations we found rock climbers scaling the rocks on organised tours. The park was nice to visit but it’s quite small so one day was enough to see the main attractions. That night we couldn’t decide where to go for dinner so we went to Sonic which is America’s largest drive-in restaurant chain. Each bay had its own menu and loudspeaker audio system but that presented a problem, the girl taking our order couldn’t understand my accent. Once I slowed it right down Texas style then she understood what I was ordering. The carhop brought our order to the car on his rollerskates which I thought was pretty cool.

Our time in Las Vegas was planned as a break from our holiday. A couple of car-free days relaxing by the pool and then hitting the town at night, seeing shows and eating far too much. To be honest we did a pretty good job of achieving our mission. Luckily I did my research when picking a hotel because I discovered that most places close their pools from the start of November but they’re not very upfront with advertising that. I hunted around and scored us a cheap deal at Treasure Island for AU$80 a night and the heated pool/jacuzzi was still open for one more week. They also had an extensive fitness centre which is always a good idea when in Vegas. Along with free parking, the location was perfect because it’s right on the strip just opposite The Venetian. So considering what we paid for a 4 star hotel, I’m giving myself a big pat on the back. It was funny though, we were tossing up whether to stay 3 or 4 nights so we only booked 3. I asked at the counter what was the price to add the 4th night and was advised that it would cost an extra AU$540. It was a Friday night but I was blown away. We didn’t realise it at the time but that’s Veteran’s Day which is a national holiday plus there was an air show and a city marathon on over the weekend. Needless to say we didn’t stay there for the 4th night… we moved to Motel 6 just off the strip and used some hotels.com credit to score a room for AU$67!

On our way into Vegas we stopped at the outlet mall and bought some much needed replacement clothing. Anna had torn jeans and my shoes had holes in them. We couldn’t be heading out looking like that! We both bought some things at good prices but it’s so much easier to control your spending when you know something in the suitcase will need to be discarded to make room. 

Wednesday and Thursday we were poolside during the day relaxing in the sun and swimming in the pool. People watching at the pool was quite entertaining for us, especially people taking selfies around the pool. I know I take selfies of us but that’s so we can have a memory of us being somewhere. One young guy took about 15 selfies of himself taking a swig of beer sitting on the deck chair with his cap backwards. I sound like an old man don’t I. We used the daytime to relax and then at night we walked around the strip checking out the various casinos. We saw all the typical things like Bellagio fountains, Mirage Volcano and the Paris Eiffel tower but we enjoyed roaming through the buildings and looking at the themed architecture. We gambled a total of US$20 between us in the 4 nights so roaming was higher on the agenda than gambling. Funnily enough we lost the $20 rather quickly and decided that there were better ways to entertain ourselves. Drinks were quite expensive as well so we bought a bottle of gin and some tonic from Walmart and had a few drinks while getting ready to go out. I did splash out one night and bought a frozen margarita in one of those long cocktail glasses. There was so much sugar you couldn’t have more than one.

We saw 2 shows while we were there, Britney Spears and Boyz II Men. Britney at Planet Hollywood had great stage production and choreography but unfortunately the dubbing was pretty obvious. There was no huffing and puffing during the song but the 2 or 3 times she talked between songs it was very clear. Regardless, she’s had so many hits that she was able to put together a playlist to keep the crowd entertained. Boyz II Men at The Mirage sounded fantastic and they definitely weren’t dubbed. The theatre was small but gave it a very intimate feel, especially when all the women rushed the stage for selfies and roses that they were handing out. They were very humble about the support they’ve had for 25 years and thanked the audience over and over. They did a mix of their hits and Motown classics with matching cheesy dance moves. I really enjoyed the show because they sounded great and engaged the crowd so well.

Now for the most important part of Vegas… FOOD! We ate like kings without breaking the bank. Even our cheap breakfast at Denny’s was delicious where we had the Grand Slamwich (scrambled egg, sausage, bacon and cheese toasted sandwich) and Chocolate Peanut Buttercup Pancake. We had cajun spiced lobster in a roll which was great. To do Vegas correctly we decided that we needed to go to a buffet so we went to the one at Wynn which is highly rated. In attempting to try all the different dishes I ate way too much and had to go back to the hotel room to lie down for an hour before heading out. The food was so good but my body couldn’t keep up with my appetite.

Since we had to move hotels we decided to drive to Hoover Dam for a look. We took the power plant tour where you catch an elevator down to the bottom of the dam to see some of the pipework that brings the huge volumes of water down to the turbines. The water rushed through at such speed that it shook the room we were standing in. We then went to one of two rooms that house the 15 generators. With all the noise and rumbling of the first room it was surprisingly smooth and quiet with the generators whirring away. Between the power plant tour and the visitors centre it’s easy to see why Hoover Dam is considered a feat of engineering for its era. Considering the equipment available at the time it is so hard to comprehend how they made it happen 2 years before schedule. To give an idea of the structure, the dam used the same amount of concrete as it would to make a footpath 4 feet wide all the way around earth’s equator. When we drove back to Vegas we decided to go up The Stratosphere to watch sunset and get some night shots.

Next week we’ll be making our way to the Grand Canyon via Utah and Arizona before heading to Texas.



Fail of the Week
There are so many options for fail of the week.

1. I almost died by Vegas buffet;

2. I used hotelscombined to book a night at The View Hotel at Monument Valley but when I checked the confirmation email from the booking partner it was for Hotel the View in Seoul South Korea. Luckily I realised and it had free cancelation;

3. I needed to have the battery in my watch replaced and stumbled across a place in Palm Springs. It looked a little dodgy but how hard is changing a battery… Well he had us come back in half an hour and there was fluff in the watch face so I asked him to separate it again and clean it out. Then that night the back popped off when I took it off because it looks like he busted the original o-ring and has replaced it. I re-seated the o-ring and pressed it back together. All was fine until I went to wind the time forward when we crossed into Arizona. I pulled the pin and the whole pin came out. I opened it up and he has broken the adjustment pin and just pressed it into place without mentioning it. Being a Tissot it’ll cost more to fix than it’s worth so looks like I’m up for a new watch. Grrr

Meal of the Week
Last night we went to LVB burger in The Mirage. This AAA burger (Angus beef, Applewood smoked bacon, Arugula lettuce) with boursin cheese and sun dried tomatoes was the best burger I’ve had on the whole trip. Oh and the sweet potato fries and nutella milkshake were epic too.


More photos


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