A Study in Contrasts

I have the dubious honour of spending a week in Vegas supporting an event. I would never choose Vegas as a destination to visit on my own, but when I have the opportunity to be here for work, I try to look for the good!  What I have discovered this trip is a dramatic contrast between the “Strip,” with all the big hotels, and the immediate surroundings. 

The Strip: Over the Top

I walked the strip a couple times on Thursday and suffered overstimulation from so much:

Noise:   music inside and out, especially in restaurants making it hard to talk.  A couple colleagues and I bought a pizza and went into the conference centre, where it was quiet, and found a table where we ate our pizza in blissful peace, and we could actually hear each other when we chatted.

Lights: of course they shine all night…

Casino Mazes :  they are huge and each one a labyrinth designed to keep you there.  

Huge Hotels: It’s impossible to walk a straight line down the strip from A to B.  You have to navigate around and through shops, over and around intersections. And the properties with fake lakes and Roman Forums and other assorted attractions take up so much space. 

Smoke: it wafts through the casinos mixed with the sickly scented air freshener pumped in via the AC, trying to disguise the smell of smoke.

People: People watching could be a full-time activity here, because there are all kinds of ages, shapes, sizes and attire. When I see people walking the strip holding huge daiquiris at 10 am, I shake my head and realize this is so far from who I am.  I laugh at the women wearing spiky high heels; not sure how they can walk the distances needed here.

Fakeness: Everywhere you look you see things like an ersatz Eiffel Tower, Lake Como, Venice, Italy at Ceasar’s Palace.  Many of these replicas I have seen in real life, and let me tell you, the perfection of the replicas saddens me.

Caesar’s Palace hotel shops; imagine you are in Rome
2 storey chandelier at Cosmopolitan hotel

Expenses:  the price of food, well everything, approaches extortion.  I stayed in a room for which the company had to pay $799 and it was a ‘standard’ double queen room.  With no coffee cups/cofffee maker and a fridge that you cannot use because it is weight sensitive for the goods inside that are charged theses crazy prices.

Shops: Along with the labyrinth of casinos, each of these mega-hotels has a huge shopping mall filled with luxury brand name stores, into which I need not enter because I would not want to pay the prices. Somehow they stay in business and I see people with shopping bags from these stores. Not a Dollar Store in sight around here

This city should not exist. With it being located in the middle of the dessert, I can’t imagine how much  power is needed to power the lights, air conditioning and all the systems that make the city tick. With drought conditions impacting power generation, one wonders what the future holds.  

Having said that, however, there is an energy and vitality that is fascinating.  I constantly try to understand the attraction of being in a place that is designed to make you part with as much money as possible, and staying inside as much as possible, in the noise and smells.  To those that love it – please enjoy.  I’d rather not.

The Hike: Enjoying Nature

So on Saturday, a colleague and I rented a car, and got “Out of Dodge”.  Just outside the city that should not exist, there is natural beauty, and we were lucky enough to be able to enjoy just a bit of it.

The hike to Mary Jane Falls was delightful.  Even though it was short, at about 3km one way, it rose 300 m, of which the last 1 km rose about 230 m on switchbacks.  While not really difficult, I did find it tough because it was at altitude.  My sea level heart wasn’t used to a climb starting at 2300 m (7600 ft) asl.

But there was a breeze, some shade from the trees in the verdant (compared to the dry hills we drove through) Kyle Canyon, so I just took breaks and enjoyed the scenery.  The falls, of course, in the Nevada summer heat were just a trickle, but the interesting rock formations, a couple caves, and a lovely view down the valley, made it all worthwhile.  The descent was very easy and quick.

Falls just created some wet rocks

We then drove a bit south to Red Rocks Canyon, arriving just 30 min before the entrance closed.  The 13 mile scenic drive allowed us to see many different rock formations.  At the beginning, the red rocks were beautiful because the sun was behind us for viewing.  There are lots of trails here, but hiking them in the heat of summer would be incredibly difficult, and we didn’t have enough time.  We appreciated the scenery from each viewpoint/parking lot and decided that it was a place that is worth revisiting in cooler weather to explore more of the trails.  

It was a delightful day, and I was glad to have someone with me to share the fun.  It allowed me to ‘accept’ the craziness of the city and appreciate such dramatic contrasts.  

3 thoughts on “A Study in Contrasts

  1. Yep…I remember thinking the same when I went for a conference. It was an interesting spectacle to experience, but I have no burning interest in gong back. Cirque de soleil was nice though


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