The drive from LA to Vegas is like nothing else. One minute you're buried in LA freeway traffic that seems endless. Then you're driving through the desert, thinking you made a wrong turn at Broken Hill, NSW. And then out of nowhere appears Vegas - with her 24/7 bright lights, iconic hotels and vibrant casinos. Upon checking into our hotel (The Excalibur), we had a quick scrub and headed out to the Rio Grande to watch Penn & Teller perform.
Aussie readers may recognise Penn & Teller from their TV series "Bulls***!" in which they debunk common myths and misconceptions about everything from recycling to Feng Shui. It was one of my favourite TV shows. But Penn & Teller's true talents are in the field of magic. They are arguably the best magicians in the business and they perform their tricks in a way that allows them to elaborate on their libertarian principles and point out the falseness of other magicians who claim to have special powers. The show blew us away. Amongst other mind-blowing tricks, they managed to disappear an audience member's phone and make it reappear inside the body of a dead fish (which was found under the seat of another audience member sitting on the other side of the theatre). We even met the great men after the show and had a photo with them. I couldn't believe that they stood outside the theatre for hours after the show to meet every single person that came to see them. That explains why they've been the most loved magic duo for more than 30 years.
And just when we thought it couldn't get any better, our second day in Vegas topped anything we had ever experienced. It was the day that I would finally receive my early 30th birthday present. Remember back to the Kansas City blog and how I had mentioned that Jess had revealed my birthday present? It was a helicopter flight over the Grand Canyon! I had seen the Canyon on my previous trip to Vegas with two other mates but it was via a 5 hour bus ride and following a big night on the town. We ended up sleeping the whole way to the Canyon - missing out on seeing Hoover Dam - and spent barely 10 mins taking snaps of the Canyon's Western rim before getting back on the bus and falling asleep again. What a waste!
This time around we were doing the Canyon the right way. We had a limo pick us up from the hotel and take us to the helipad. From there we sat in the front seat of the helicopter and flew over the Vegas strip, past Hoover Dam, and into the Grand Canyon itself where we landed for a picnic lunch with champagne. It was one of the greatest experiences of my life and easily the best birthday present I have ever received. It also puts the heat on me to top or match the effort for Jess' 30th birthday. Luckily, I have 3 and half years to work something out.
After hectic first few days in Vegas, we finally had time to wander the strip and check out all the hotels and casinos. Everything was crazily overpriced but you come to expect that in a place like Vegas. After all, someone has to pay for all the extravagant architecture and electricity bills. From the strip we went to Circus Circus to ride El Loco - the craziest rollercoaster on the planet. I'm glad we did that before we visited Fremont Street (the old Vegas strip) and ate deep fried Twinkies and Oreos. And if that wasn't enough for your calorie counter, we paid a visit to the Heart Attack Grill for a thick shake. The Heart Attack Grill controversially boasts that its food has the highest fat content of all burger joints in America. Fries and patties are cooked in lard, customers are made to wear hospital gowns, and the staff wear skimpy nurse's outfits. Oh and that thick shake? It's made with butter fat and is the highest fat content shake on the planet. You could taste the open heart surgery as the gluggy shake made its way down into our tummies. It tasted amazing.
All in all we preferred Fremont St and old Vegas to the flashy, newer Vegas strip. Our dollar went further and the people seemed more down to earth there - less silicon-breasted bimbos and sugar daddies with bad transplants. And Fremont St gave us that Cowboy fix we had been desperately craving, but sadly went without, in Austin. The Rodeo championships were in town and any self-respecting country boy with his 6ft wide cowboy hat and blue jeans was in town. Yeehaw!
One final highlight in the land of 24/7 entertain was our trip to KISS Mini Golf. Yes, KISS have their own mini golf course. To say that I'm a KISS fan is about as much of an understatement as it would be to point out that Saudi Arabia has an issue with women. As a die-hard KISS Army member, the mini golf was somewhat of a pilgrimage. In addition to the golf, there were tonnes of KISS memorabilia and artefacts - including the Porsche that the band gave to late drummer Eric Carr when he joined the band in 1980 (so that we wouldn't feel out of place with his rockstar bandmates). The mini-golf course itself involves putting up Gene Simmons' tongue, under Paul Stanley's guitar (sadly not through his mane of chest hair) and around Eric Singer's drum kit - all while the DJ plays non-stop KISS tunes. Can you say "heaven"?
Next Stop: Anaheim