Las Vegas in August?


Mary’s vacation plans are beginning to gel. She and Rainer and Hartmut (Rainer’s older son) are going to spend upwards of a week here in August before flying to Las Vegas for a week. Then Hartmut’s main squeeze will link up with them in Vegas and the couples will split off, the younger folks to go on to California for two weeks while Mary and Rainer fly to New York for a couple of days before returning to Germany.

And then she adds that she’d like to drive down to Florida for a quick visit with Dave’s brother and sister-in-law and their two sons, one of whom is a professional photographer. Rainer is a self-trained amateur, and would like to meet Mary’s cousin.

Quick, hand me that cold cloth.

Mary has not lived in the States for so long that I really believe she doesn’t remember how hot it can be and how great the distances are here. Obviously it would be better to plan this visit in spring or fall.

That’s not how it works in Germany, however. Many businesses are closed as personnel enjoy a long July/August vacation: five or six weeks is common. Concert halls and opera houses are closed all summer, so everyone else pretty much has to follow suit.

Trying to figure out where to take German visitors to sights they’d never see in Germany is tricky. Mary always wants to go somewhere she’s never been. Our western states probably provide the sharpest contrast to the rolling valleys and lofty alps of southern Europe.

Not to mention cost-effectiveness. Even with out-of-control gas prices, it’s still cheaper to travel in the U.S. than it is in Europe.

I was a bit surprised she opted for Las Vegas, but she’s never been there. She says she thinks the Germans will like it especially. Since Germans love to be wherever it’s hot and sunny, she’s probably right.

She says she wants to go to Vegas because it’s relatively close to the Grand Canyon and she thought about seeing the Skywalk, on the west rim of the canyon. That is, until she heard how expensive it is. As she put it, too much money to walk on plexiglas over a side canyon where visitors are not allowed to take pictures.

She also wants “to finally see Death Valley.” First I’ve heard about that.

I’ll be delighted just to make the shuttle to the airport however many times we have to do it.

We visited Vegas quite a few years ago, and marveled at artificiality on steroids. While there we walked and walked, up one side of the strip and down the other. Food was cheap and glamorous, our lodging well placed. We were in our little motor home which we parked under Circus Circus, for $10 a night, plugged into electricity and water, and enjoyed our own privacy and air conditioning whenever we came back to it. Our traveling companion, the late Irish setter Abbie, was up in years and perfectly happy to nap all day while we were out in the heat.

We gambled not one cent, a decision based on our penurious nature and not on scruples. It’s a fantastic place, and I mean that literally or figuratively. (Which is it when I want to say it is really a fantasy world?)

I hate that most of it really is against my values, but that doesn’t mean the experience should be avoided. Au contraire, it’s a lesson in spending, environmentalism, morality. My philosophy: Go, observe much, play it like a grown person’s Disney World (which I haven’t seen either), and enjoy cheap delicious food and lodgings. Just don’t gamble.

Before I had a chance to suggest they might consider a beach vacation, Mary did raise the possibility of our all going to Florida to visit her uncle and cousins. She thinks it might be interesting to see her cousin Russell, who is a professional photographer based in Ft. Lauderdale.

Dave and his brother have never been close, and it follows that our girls and his boys have never known each other as adults. I think Mary knows that I wish they were closer, and she’s developing a yen for keeping in touch. Hard to do after so many years….

Actually, I should credit her for keeping up networks. She had some time after a gig in Austria to spend visiting a friend, just beyond Lake Constance. From there she jogged over to Liechtenstein, although there wasn’t much to see at the border, as she puts it. On the way back, she changed trains in Lindau, and had enough time to go out and look at the lake there. Then she stopped in Mannheim for two hours to talk to a friend…

Her spring lags behind ours and she relished seeing magnolias and tulips in full bloom. She planted a few things on her “balcony: daffodils, tulips, and pansies, or whatever you call Stiefmutter in English.”

Will tell you about some more of her travels next week. Vacation suggestions?