Day 16 Seeya Vegas! Hi there Santa Monica! 20 April 2016

Despite not getting to bed until at least 11.30 last night, I was awake at 5am this morning and up by 6am.  Hubby, 12 year old and I were out the door by 7.30am and walking The Strip in search of breakfast and our hire car pick up.  Hubby had looked up the address as being at the Treasure Island end of The Strip and then a turn to the right.  Quite a walk from the Excalibur.  We saw some sights along the way.  The dudes like to show their undies here by having their jeans hanging as low as possible.  This was the skinniest set of hips and lowest jeans that I saw.
Las Vegas Boulevard

The Venetian looked so nice yesterday that I wanted to try to find a cafe in there.  We set off in that direction and that allowed us to also tick off a few more sights.  We went through MGM which we hadn’t been through before.  Not that impressive.

Then  got to see the Pink Flamings live.  Gorgeous and napping on one leg.
Pink Flamingos Pink Flamingos

As the 12 year old was looking for a souvenir hat, we had quite a few other detours on the way.  I think I had reached about 6000 steps before we finally got to the Venetian.  Not a lot open though and we settled for an Italian place that didn’t overlook the canal but had an acceptable breakfast.  We really needed it by then!  I browsed a shop or two on the way…
Grand Canal Shoppes

It was at breakfast that hubby checked the address on Google Maps this time and found out that it was actually only halfway up The Strip so we had come way too far and had to walk back again… It was actually at the Paris which we also hadn’t seen before.  The Paris was similar to the Venetian in its interior but not as vast and impressive.  The chandeliers were magnificent though!
The Paris Casino The Paris Casino The Paris Casino

Then the adventure began.  Correction, the Paris was vast and we walked a very long way to find the Hertz counter.  They re-directed hubby to another Hertz counter somewhere in the back of the casino.  We walked and walked and finally found the Hertz car pick up point and nice man who worked there.  Unfortunately we did not yet have the required paperwork…  The first Hertz counter had actually redirected us to Bally which was another casino connected to the Paris.  Hubby thought they had said valet and was looking for a garage… By this stage I had clocked up 8 500 steps… So we walked and walked and asked and asked for directions and eventually found the teeny Hertz counter at the Registration counter for Bally.  A very nice man helped us with our paperwork there and then the other nice man from the car pick up area also arrived and could give us a ride back to pick up the car.  Had a great chat with him about his love of hiking and fishing in the area and his desire to visit the outback in Australia.

Then much to the delight of our 12 year old, we met our very new Chrysler Town and Country 7 seater.  It had less than 1000 miles on the clock.  We had promised him that he could be first to use the key and he did.  He climbed in and claimed the back seat as his own kingdom for the rest of the trip!
Chrysler Town and Country Chrysler Town and Country Chrysler Town and Country

Time to navigate our way back to Excalibur.  Seemed like a simple task (but then so did walking up The Strip and finding Hertz…).  We just had to turn onto The Strip and drive straight down to the end and maybe go around half a block before pulling into the back entrance of Excalibur near our room.  The bit involving down The Strip went OK and I made some final videos.  Then we started searching for the turn off.  Vegas roads have very faint line markings and the first time we saw the turnoff (right where we thought it would be be) it looked like we couldn’t turn in there as the markings seemed to indicate that it was no entry, one way.  So we drove on and around the block to try again.  Except that we didn’t make it cleanly around the block and ended up on the Las Vegas Freeway heading for LA but minus the rest of the crew and our luggage…  We navigated our way back to the same block and this time decided that the line markings were just old and and turned into exactly the right road and car park.  We immediately spotted Poppy with his luggage on the sidewalk.  We had been struggling to contact them and later found that Poppy’s phone had not charged over night and neither had the 16 year old’s.  We got some brief intermittent access where we told them to start bringing the luggage down at the 11.00 checkout time which had seemed so far away when we set off walking at 7.30am, was rapidly approaching.  I think we drove in at 10.55am.

We bolted inside and grabbed the rest of the luggage.  I had some banking matters to attend to, so stayed in the room on the WiFi for a bit longer but had difficulties due to not being able to receive a code by SMS (on my Australian mobile) to complete the transaction.  Several attempts later at changing settings, and hearing the  cleaning staff door knocking to check that rooms were empty, I had to pack up the laptop and bolt.  Meanwhile this van had driven into the car park and it reminded us of Cousin Eddy’s trailer in the Griswold’s Vacation movies.
Cousin Eddy's trailer

We jumped in the car, spent some time learning how to use the SatNav, got the Santa Monica address into it and set off!  We were on the road.

Chrysler Town and Country Las Vegas Boulevard

On we bowled for 10 merry minutes, nearing the outskirts of Las Vegas, until I decided that after the long morning my cell phone was going flat and asked the 12 year old to find my backpack in the back of the car so that I could get the charging cable.  He looked but no backpack.  We all debated and he looked again but no backpack! What! It was my handbag with my wallet and various other items.  Also my much required sunglasses were missing!  We had to head back!  Thank goodness we were only 10 minutes down the road and not hours.

We drove back into the car park first go this time.  I raced back up to our floor and found a familiar cleaning staff member in the room opposite ours. I explained my situation and she said that yes they had seen my bag and wondered if I was coming back for it.  She let me in.  I found it in a position that I wouldn’t have seen as I raced out the door, grabbed it and headed back to the car.

We were off again!  This time for real and it was already midday…

We drove a short distance to the outskirts of town where the buildings abruptly ended in vacant lots and then not long after desert!  Not a lot of foliage in the desert but some greenery.
Mojave Desert

We drove and drove and drove until it got a bit greener with some vertical shrubs (Joshua trees).
Mojave Desert

By 1pm we needed to stop for a snack (we were holding out on lunch until we got to Peggy Sue’s diner which was a couple of hours away) so when a roller coaster and casino suddenly arose out of the desert, we stopped.  It turned out to be a casino and huge discount outlet in Primm.  Very handy.  I bought some shorts as the weather was warming up nicely.

Time was ticking by rapidly so we hit the road again.  More desert.  Some changes in colour.  Bit more greenery sometimes.  Bit of sand sometimes.  A solar farm (glad to see they make some use of their natural assets).
Mojave Desert
Mojave Desert

By the time we got to the California/Nevada state line we were starting to see very straight lines of road ahead.  No danger of getting lost, just of getting bored.
Mojave Desert

On and on we drove until we eventually hit the derelict town of Yermo where we found the much recommended Peggy Sue’s 50s Diner.  Along with a surprise 8 x 8km army supplies base that did not appear on Google maps.  It was huge!  I figured the the derelict town was just a decoy as there really wasn’t much else there…
Army supplies base

Peggy Sue’s diner was very cute.  Lots of memorabilia and trivia based on 1967.  Food was average but the atmosphere made up for it.
Peggy Sue's Diner Menu
Peggy Sue's Diner
Peggy Sue's Diner Pie stand Peggy Sue's Diner Blues Brothers Peggy Sue's Diner
Peggy Sue's Diner Marilyn Munro
Peggy Sue's Diner Menu
Peggy Sue's Diner Menu
Peggy Sue's Diner Menu
Peggy Sue's Diner Menu
Peggy Sue's Diner Wizard of Oz
Peggy Sue's DinerPeggy Sue's Diner

We whiled away a precious hour, visited the dinosaurs and turtles out the back, bought some retro Raisinets (chocolate covered raisins) and hit the road again.

Two hours from Los Angeles the roads got a bit trickier and despite the SatNav, we had to both focus more on making sure we turned on the right roads.  We had one mishap that added another 10-15 mins to the ETA and then we were on track again.

We finally hit the outer road of LA.  We had been on the Mojave Freeway (15) and now turned onto the Foothill Freeway (210).  It was quite built up by now.  Next turn was onto San Dimas exit (57). Then we got redirected onto backroads by the beloved SatNav.  Luckily traffic was light and it put us in the path of a fuel station which was a good precaution at that point.  The attendant was lovely and recognised our accent as she had relatives living in Adelaide.

Back on the road we wove our way through the suburbs, wondering why we weren’t still on a freeway.  Finally we were directed onto the San Bernadino Freeway for a bit.  Then missed an exit and next thing we knew we were heading right into downtown LA at 6.30pm in the evening.  Not where we wanted to ever be and especially not in peak hour traffic.  However, it was surprisingly quiet and we just had to persevere through a gazillion traffic lights as we wove our way along Wiltshire Boulevard.  Despite light traffic it still took a very long time.  Roads are in appalling condition and the line markings are very faint, making the job so much harder.  Hubby did a sterling job and I had to concentrate the SatNav to make sure that we stayed on track.
Pink Flamingos

About 8pm, we pulled into Entrada Drive, Santa Monica.  This was to be the highlight of our trip.  Our relaxation in peace and quiet after a couple of hectic weeks.  Unfortunately the beautiful guest house that I had booked on Palisades (one block from my treasured Montana Avenue) was abruptly cancelled on us a couple of week prior to us leaving Australia.  I had booked it several months ago.  The owner pulled the accommodation for a ‘family emergency’ and left us in the lurch.  I was desperate to stay in the Montana Avenue end of Santa Monica and it had been really hard to find somewhere affordable there the first time.  Even harder a few weeks out from the trip.  I settled on a house that looked OK but not great and I was a bit concerned that a road ran either side of the house (I hate noise).  The last review on the property had raised some issues that I had queried with the owner by email and he had assured me that they were largely fixed.

Turns out that I hadn’t asked the key question, which was ‘is the road busy’?  Let’s just say that Entrada Drive is like a race track for Maseratis (there is one parked out the front of the house next door).  It is on a hill and there is a relentless stream of traffic going up and down.  Not happy Jan.  Also not happy with the generally run down house.  The kitchen being the worst room.  The dishwasher looked like it had the remans of someone’s meal in it, the fridge was raucous and not 100% clean.  The oven looked like it had spills from several years ago in it.  On a better note, we had 3 bedrooms which accommodated us nicely.

Hubby and I set off for the beloved Pavilions supermarket on Montana Avenue and did a big shop up.  Groceries were so much cheaper here that on the East Coast or Las Vegas.  Strawberries for instance were 2 punnets for $3 rather than $5.99 for one punnet.  Chandon champagne was $14.99 rather than $24.99 per bottle.

After that we collapsed for a well earned sleep. Traffic noise was light in the bedrooms and the bed was OK.  Not as comfortable as Excalibur (which was about the only thing going for that place).

Still managed to fit in 16 000 steps despite being in the car for several hours…  the car pick up helped a lot.