I'll describe our trip day by day, while highlighting important cities, lovely campgrounds, cool landmarks, great restaurants and of course fun things to do with kids. My boys are 8 and 12 and they are used to traveling long distances. Flying from Chicago to Seattle was very short, compared to the annual trip we make from Chicago to the Netherlands.
Of course I'll show you what it all looked like, because I am a relentless (hobby) photographer. I sometimes make my family crazy with my pics. Ha!
This part is about Las Vegas. How did we get there? What did we see on our way? Where did we stay? What did we rent? And how did we like all of it?
The drive from Los Angeles to the Las Vegas KOA at Sam's Town was about a 3,5 hours, without stopping. Las Vegas wasn't really planned, but since we decided to rent an RV just a few weeks before we went on our vacation, the only place we could return it, was Las Vegas.
We stopped at Calico, which was supposed to be a ghost town. We had been to ghost towns before, but this one was more of a tourist trap if you ask me.
It was nice to see some real old buildings, although some of them were replaced. The original buildings are: Lil's Saloon, the town office, the former home of Lucy Lane, Smitty's Gallery, the general store and Joe's Saloon. In November 1962 Calico was registered as a California Historical Landmark (Landmark #782) and in 2005 Calico was called the 'Official State Silver Rush Ghost'.
Most buildings were converted into shops, and those shops sold very touristic stuff. We didn't buy anything there. I think we walked around for maybe 30 minutes. We walked through the silver mines (which cost an extra $9, on top of the money we already paid ($8 for adults and $5 for children) to get in there). It wasn't worth the money, if you ask me.
The coolest ghost town we ever visited was in the Great Smoky Mountains. It was at the village of Elkmont. The atmosphere was pretty scary, I took lots of photos there. On one of them I see real spirits. Don't believe me? Take a look at the picture I took there:
It was very hot when we arrived and they were shooting a movie while we were there. The motion picture was tentatively called 'Townies'. I looked it up and it is a motion picture by 'Extra Credit Studios'. It is a teen drama parody created by Julia Prescott.
You can take a look at the Official Trailer here:
I am curious to find out what 'Townies' is all about, and if maybe we are visible, since we walked around the village while they were shooting.
During our drive we saw some pretty awesome things: The World's Tallest Thermometer and the beautiful art work 'Seven Magic Mountains' by Ugo Rondinone. The surroundings were amazing too. Someone mentioned the Bottletree Ranch, but we didn't drive past that. You can decide for yourself if you want to drive there, by watching this video, in which someone interviewed Elmer, the owner of the Bottletree Ranch:
When we arrived in Las Vegas, it was late in the afternoon, we had made reservations at the Las Vegas KOA at Sam's Town, like I mentioned before. It was a very different campground from what we had seen before, a lot of stone and almost no plants and a bit of a smell. Of course that makes sense, since we were in the desert. The people at the campground were nice and the swimming pool was nice and clean. It wasn't to far from the Strip either, just a 15 minute drive. We rented a car at AVIS and simply drove that to the Strip.
That evening we went to Jeff Dunham, who was performing at The Colosseum at Caesar's Palace. Both my husband and I have always been a big fan of Jeff. His show was awesome, our jaws were hurting after his show. Some parts maybe weren't that great for kids, but our boys did get (most) of it. They still use the phrase 'cause you're old' a lot. The only downside that evening was my $27 cocktail. Wow, very pricy.
After the show we were a bit hungry, and walked to Gordon Ramsay's Fish & Chips. Mmmm, that tasted very good. Unfortunately, no Gordon though. Which makes sense, since he owns a lot of restaurants. We love to watch his cooking shows at home. Our boys are cooking a lot because of him.
The next day we took our rented car downtown Las Vegas and me and one of my sons zip-lined through the mall at Fremont Street. Slotzilla was very cool, although the waiting took longer than the actual zip lining itself. We couldn't do the zoomline, since my son wasn't 80 pounds yet. The zipline was okay for him, starting at 50 pounds. It was a great experience though, one we will never forget.
We walked to the famous Pawn Stars shop. It was formidable to actually be inside the shop, the shop we watched so often on TV. The shop wasn't very big, and there were no 'real' (or actually these people were very real, ha!) pawn 'Stars' there. We heard that Chumlee had just left the store, right before we got in. It was, however, still impressive to be there. We almost bought a Salvador Dali piece, but decided not to, in the end (which was good, because it wasn't a one-of-a-kind piece).
While we were having dinner that evening, we saw something wonderful happening, on the streets below us. Someone was giving a homeless person a meal. The homeless man got up, walked away and came back with a man we saw him with before. He then started sharing the meal.
The were a lot of homeless people on the streets of Las Vegas. As much as I loved (some sides o)f Las Vegas, I felt very sad because of all those people out there. Not because they made me feel unsafe, but because I felt for them. I did some research and found out that, unfortunately, I was right: a lot of people were homeless in Las Vegas and a lot of them weren't staying in shelters.
We have been trying to help homeless people in our area before, handing out homeless helpers bags. We didn't do anything here, but I felt very bad, because we didn't do anything. What I did do, was give away all of the groceries we had left in our RV, the day we had to return it. Some people seemed to live on the campground we stayed at. I thought that they could use our groceries, turned out they could. The lady I asked if she wanted them, was very happy. Our kids walked all of our 'left-overs' to her RV and she kept telling us that we made her day. Everything we gave her, was stuff she would always buy herself too, so she would definitely use all of it. Well, that was the least we could do...
The next day we returned our RV (great, fast, kind service!) to Road Bear RV and we rented another, bigger car at AVIS. After all we had to be able to fit all of our camping gear into the car too now. We drove to the Hoover Dam. Wow that Dam was even bigger than I thought it would be. The dam is a National Historic Landmark and it is one of America's Seven Modern Civil Engineering Wonders, as rated by the American Society of Civil Engineers. I have to admit that I am proud that one of these seven wonders is located in the Netherlands!
On our way back we stopped at the World Famous Las Vegas Sign. We parked our car there, and took some pictures, after all, who comes to Vegas without taking a picture at the Vegas Sign? Someone I know even got married at the Las Vegas Sign. How cool is that?
Our last night in Vegas, we stayed at the Excalibur Hotel & Casino. It was an okay hotel, nothing special. Our boys really enjoyed the swimming pools, outside the hotel, while I arranged a last minute manicure and pedicure, since me and my husband were going to renew our vows at 'A Little White Wedding Chapel', that evening.
The spa was very pricy and the people working there, weren't very customer-friendly. I asked for both a mani- and pedicure, and on the phone they said that was fine. When I arrived at the spa, an employee told me they didn't have time to do both. I wasn't sure what to do next: cancel everything and find a nail salon outside of the hotel or just choose for one treatment. I opted to just go see the technician and ask her if she could maybe, please do both in the hour she had left. She was a very nice person and she made sure I got both my hands and feet done. It was a bit of a bummer though, that within this price I paid, all the spa facilities were included too, but nobody told me. Not when I called them and not when I arrived at the front desk. I was pretty early and managed to take a very quick lavender shower, right before the treatment.
Our boys loved the 'Dick's last Resort' restaurant, inside the hotel. We all had a good laugh there. The food was bad, but that didn't matter that much. After all a good laugh is more important.
That evening, the white limousine from 'A Little White Wedding Chapel' picked us up at the hotel. Although the driver was a bit late, the limo was gorgeous and we all enjoyed the ride to the chapel to the fullest. We had booked the renewal of our vows, before we went on our trip. We tried to arrange everything online, but when I called them, they advised me things I didn't see myself on their website. I do advise you to call them too. The lady I spoke to was very nice and patient. We choose the 'Lover's Sweet & Simple Package', which included everything we wanted.
When we arrived at the chapel, it was very special to have our children with us. I went shopping with them, without my husband knowing it, for a simple white dress, before we left. They loved choosing my dress. The chapel was small, but very over the top, the way a Vegas wedding should be. The ceremony was short, but beautiful and sweet. Of course we all had to cry. Although we have been married for almost 15 years now, renewing our vows did mean something to us. It meant we choose each other again.The boys handed us our rings and felt very much a part of our 'wedding'. It was a special moment, which we all will never forget.
After the ceremony it was a bit too much though that both the lady taking the pictures and the lady leading the ceremony expected a big tip. I get that they want a tip, but we didn't expect it to be so high. Well, what the heck, after all you only renew your vows at the same chapel all these famous people did once, right?
After the renewal of our vows, we decided to eat at our hotel. We ate at the Camelot Steakhouse, and the service was good and friendly. The food was pretty okay too. The next day we enjoyed the swimming pools once more and then we continued our road trip to San Diego, the last city of our trip.
Although we had fun in Las Vegas, we're not sure if we will ever go back there again. It wasn't 'our' kind of city. Maybe without kids, if we do ever go back.
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