Letters From a Bus
April 2008: Springtime Desert
2nd entry for April

Mandalay Bay and the Las Vegas Strip

Las Vegas, NV, Day Four at Oasis Las Vegas RV Resort, Site: 180

Thursday, April 3, 2008 — Ten Months

Monday was our first big day in Las Vegas and we had a marvelous time exploring the Bellagio. But I was tired that day and very tired the next. So we decided to take it easy on Tuesday and make it a maintenence day. That's the beauty of the RV life. Here in Las Vegas, if we were paying $100 or $200+ for a room we would be limited to only a few days and we would want to pack as much into each day as we could. We spend relatively little compared to a hotel and we can afford to stay as long as we like. As a matter of fact, they offer a special rate at the Oasis if you stay for two weeks. You get two free nights after the fourteen nights so we went to the office and extended our stay. Our costs for sixteen nights averages out to $37.89 per night. Now we have plenty of time to explore and not feel hurried.

Of course, each day we must walk the dogs morning and evening.  We've been walking up and down the RV site lanes over to the central park where most people bring their little dogs. Margot makes walking near other dogs a terrible embarrassment.  She barks and goes into a frenzy if she isn’t allowed to go up and sniff noses immediately.  Not all owners want to let her approach.  Because of the barking she sounds dangerous.  I need the Dog Whisperer.  However, we found an enclosed dog pen at the entrance to the park that is very large.  It is for big dogs but we rarely see anyone there at all.  So we drive to this and throw a ball for our dogs and let them run around on their own.

This is okay for the dogs but it is boring for all of us. They walk around sniffing or they chase the ball but they really prefer to cover new ground and find new smells. Also the ground cover is sharp little pieces of gravel. Rudi has a cut on his paw and now he limps but he won't give up running to chase the ball and to beat Margot — if he can. Rudi plays keep away with the ball and Margot retrieves and drops it for more throws, so we try to throw in her direction. Once Rudi has it, the game is over for awhile.

These four photos are taken from inside the big dog play area, but they give you an idea of the area surrounding the Oasis. Above, facing east towards the RV park and I-15 beyond. 04/01/08 Facing north towards the Las Vegas strip. Our Honda is parked by the gate to the dog park. A coach towing a car is just leaving the entrance to the park and will turn onto Blue Diamond Rd. 04/01/08
Facing west towards the southern end of Las Vegas Blvd. (the strip) at the corner of Blue Diamond Rd. We are a few miles south of the airport. The buildings in the distance are one of many strip malls along Las Vegas Blvd. There is a supermarket and a pharmacy at this corner. Just north are two long blocks of outlet stores and beyond is a huge shopping center — with a Borders store, among others. 04/01/08 Facing south. The Oasis wall is on the right. We thought this highrise was a hotel attached to the Oasis, but it is not. It is still under construction and might be condos. As you can see the southern part of the strip is still desert and hasn't been developed. But property is purchased and new resort wonderlands are on the drawing board. The horizon will change dramatically in the next five years. 04/01/08

We needed to renew our monthly prescriptions.  Usually Dennis does this online with RiteAid.  He turned up three stores in Las Vegas and under pharmacy each one was marked “closed”.  We were puzzled.  How can a drug store have a pharmacy that is closed?  Isn’t that what they do?  Also there were no phone numbers or addresses.  Finally we asked here at the desk and discovered that all RiteAid stores are closed in Nevada.  Prescriptions have been passed on to Walgreens.  Oh my gosh!  RiteAid is supposed to be all over the country and that’s why we set up online with them. Here was an April Fool's joke, for sure.  Maybe we need to switch to Walgreens on a permanent basis.  So we drove to a nearby Walgreens and got everything renewed.

We needed to mail some things and buy stamps so we found a huge post office very nearby.  It is opposite the runway of the airport, which is also nearby.  (You will wonder if we are bothered by airplane noise.  We are not.  It is the freeway that is loud.  The cars make a peculiar whining sound because of grooves in the surface.)

In the afternoon we explored a little bit of Las Vegas by car.  We drove from our southern end of Las Vegas Blvd. straight through town to the northern end.  In the north the buildings and strip look a little more familiar — like the old black and white Vegas of the Sinatra Ratpack days.  On the way we noticed an Office Depot so we stopped to re-supply our printer cartridges and printer paper.

I commented in my last letter, that I've never been to Las Vegas. Well, strictly speaking, that's not true. In 1950 my father left Bell Labs in New York City and went to Hughes Aircraft in Culver City, CA.  He decided to take advantage of our move and turned it into an educational tour that lasted for three weeks.  I was ten at the time.  My sister and I sat in the back seat of a 1940 2-door Ford coupe while we zig-zagged slowly across the country in the full heat of summer.  En route, we stopped in Las Vegas.

I remember little.  It was hot.  We saw some casinos and hotels as we drove along the strip but we couldn’t stop and go in.  My dad said we weren’t allowed because they served liquor.  We did stop at a coffee shop and he let me put a coin in a slot machine.  I was under whelmed.  I didn’t see much of interest.

What did I see in 1950? There wasn't much at that time.  There were five hotels and no big casinos.

The very first resort built on the strip was El Rancho Las Vegas (now the Hilton Time Share).  It had 63 rooms and was opened on 4/3/41. 

Second was the Hotel Last Frontier (New Frontier) that was opened with 105 rooms on 10/30/42. 

Third was the Flamingo Hotel (Flamingo Las Vegas) with 105 rooms that opened on 12/26/46. 

Fourth was The Thunderbird (El Rancho) with 76 rooms that opened on 9/2/48. 

Desert Inn (Wynn Resort) was the fifth, built 4/24/50 with 300 rooms. 

The first major casino, Silver Slipper/Golden Slipper, was built as we passed through and opened in September 1950. 

The sixth resort, Sahara, (Club Bingo) with 240 rooms didn’t open until 10/7/52.

The seventh, Sands (The Venetian) with 200 rooms opened on 12/15/52. 

I got this information from Deanna DeMatteo’s website, “Las Vegas Strip Historical Site” at http://www.lvstriphistory.com/ie/

I snapped this photo as we drove past the Venetian at 3355 Las Vegas Blvd. South (across from Treasure Island). As I understand it, this is the location of the former Sands Hotel. 04/01/08
Further north, I snapped this photo of the Sahara, the sixth hotel on the strip. Is this the original location? They are "celebrating 55 years" so I think it is. I assume it is rebuilt. It is located at 2535 Las Vegas Blvd. South. The cross street is Sahara Ave. 04/01/08 A little more north as we approach the older section of the strip where Fremont St. crosses Las Vegas Blvd. I took a photo of these signs that have that fifties look. They are near the Stratosphere Tower. 04/01/08
Left, the Stratosphere Tower is near the Sahara. Above, The Tropicana is across from the Excalibur at the corner of Tropicana. During the building boom of the 1950s, the Tropicana was built along with the Royal Nevada, Dunes, Hacienda, Stardust Hotels on the Strip, and the downtown Fremont Hotel-Casino. 04/01/08

On Wednesday, April 2nd, we set out to see others of the big famous hotels.  We had noticed that the the Mandalay Bay and Luxor and the Excelsior are adjacent to each other and are connected by a tram. That looked convenient and fun, so we pulled into the garage at Mandalay Bay.  Actually two buildings, Mandalay Bay has a gigantic area mostly dedicated to conventions.  Sony was there among others.  The lobbies for these hotels are all impressive but none came close to measuring up to the Bellagio.  I was expecting the visual amazement we experienced at the Bellagio and so I was disappointed. 

Mandalay Bay was the best of the three resorts with better restaurants and stores.  Bellagio was Rodeo Drive.  Mandalay Bay was high end.  We walked all around and then found the tram and took it to the next stop at the Luxor.  This was dark and a disappointment.  The outside pyramid promises much but the interior is dark and other than Egyptian decorative motifs there wasn’t much of interest.  I’d say it was middle of the road in terms of stores and restaurants.  We walked through and rode some very long moving platforms on the hallways between the two hotels.  We emerged at the Excelsior and this was downright low end.  The theme is medieval knights and it is very Disneyland in terms of décor.  It was dark and noisy and offered pizza type places.

I understand there was more to see on the second floor of the Luxor but we didn't know that. It seemed like there was not much to see and I was getting very tired. So we turned back and walked rather than taking the tram.  At the escalator leading down from the Luxor to Mandalay Bay we spotted a very modern looking Asian restaurant serving seafood and sushi.  With no casino noise in the background and no speaker system from the lobby blasting famous hits by famous singers it looked like a good place to collapse and eat.  We had a restful and delicious lunch of fish tacos at Rick Moonen's RM Seafood.  Then we made our way back to our car in the Mandalay Bay garage.

We are headed north on Las Vegas Blvd. as we approach the Mandalay Bay. It is located at the southern end of the strip. 04/02/08
The lobby is dark. My flash helped to illuminate this fountain in the lobby of Mandalay Bay. 04/02/08
There are a number of important restaurants near the Mandalay Bay lobby entrance. Dennis looks twice at a statue of Lenin in front of Red Square. He's missing his head! Nearby is Trattoria Del Lupo, owned by Wolfgang Puck. 04/02/08
We walked extensively down the halls of the Mandalay Bay towards their convention center. It is gigantic. 04/02/08 The Mandalay Bay has created a beach by one of their pools. 04/02/08
We thought we could walk through gardens from the Mandalay to the Luxor so we exited through a hallway door and went down some stairs. 04/02/08 Okay, we're lost. We've walked up and down service roads but can't break through towards the Luxor. 04/02/08
We see this flag and climb up some stairs to the beach but we have to re-enter the hotel to move towards the Luxor. 04/02/08 Back inside Madalay Bay, we found the tram station and took the tram to the Luxor. This is the station at the Luxor as people exit the tram. 04/02/08
Left, is the entrance into the Luxor as seen from the tram station. Inside, above, the lobby is even darker than the Mandalay Bay. 04/02/08
There wasn't much to see at the Excelsior so we headed back to the Luxor. On the way I took a photo of their pool. 04/02/08
We wandered around the lobby of the Luxor and then used these moving platforms to get to the Excelsior. 04/02/08
Left, Dennis looks at shops and restaurants in a hallway at the Luxor as we head towards Mandalay Bay. Above, we stop to eat lunch at Rick Moonen's RM Seafood. The food was excellent and we sat on a patio situated in a quiet interim lobby between Luxor and Mandalay Bay. The tables were soon filled with Sony convention people. 04/02/08
On our way out of Mandalay Bay I stopped to giggle at the Lenin statue, which purports to be covered with bird shit. A man sitting there offered to take our photo. He told us that the original statue looks exactly like this one. 04/02/08
RM Seafood is located at the bottom of an escalator in Mandalay Bay.

Fortified by lunch, we drove north and parked in the Paris garage opposite Bellagio and next to Ballys.  These hotels appeared to be a little older and in a way I liked them better.  They are what they are.  The glass dome of the Paris is very beautiful. 

We emerged outside and walked a few blocks along the strip.  The weather was perfect — in the high sixties with a little breeze it was neither hot nor cold.  We made it as far as the Hawaiian Marketplace under the Polo Tower.  I saw a big statue of King Kamehameha at the entrance and commented that if he could see this place and his likeness he would turn over in his grave.  (Well, I remember admiring that statue in Honolulu when I was a school girl in 1959 so I feel I have some right to be snide.)

I was worn out once again so we sat under the Eiffel Tower at a refreshment café by the sidewalk to rest.  It cost Dennis eight bucks for two large diet cokes!  We wanted to kill a half hour so we could cross the street to the Bellagio and watch the first fountain show of the day at 3:00 PM.  While we sat we watched a young man on the street standing there with a python on his shoulder.  He wasn’t representing an act or a show.  He was his own show.

From Mandalay Bay we drove north on the strip and parked opposite Bellagio in the Paris garage. We walked through the Paris lobby and admired this beautiful glass dome. Underneath are beautiful antique and glass shops. 04/02/08
Above, we walked through the Paris but somehow we emerged on the strip through Ballys lobby. This station entrance is a moving platform that crosses over gardens. Right, we began to walk on the strip south towards the entrance to Paris. On the other side of Las Vegas Blvd. is the Bellagio. 04/02/08
Next to the Bellagio, just to the south is an enormous amount of construction. The Jockey Club was torn down and an entire "City" is being built. Dennis counted 18 cranes. 04/02/08 This portion of the strip is crowded and features lots of small stores and restaurants. We passed Miracle Mile Shops, an indoor mall, and then came to a Harley store. 04/02/08
We walked a few blocks south as far as the Hawaiian Marketplace, which is opposite the Monte Carlo Resort. This market was like a flea market with cheap tourist trinkets. Incongruously, in the center folks were dancing under the entended pole to calypso music. 04/02/08
After the Hawaiian Marketplace, we turned around and went back towards the Paris and the Eiffel Tower. The entrance to the Miracle Mile mall is just below the hot air balloon in the photo up above. Left I sit under the Eiffel Tower by the sidewalk to rest, and take a photo looking north. Above, Dennis buys us some diet cokes — at great cost. 04/02/08
While we sit and rest, we are entertained by a fellow on the sidewalk just outside of our little Paris cafe. How to meet girls! A python seems to do the job.... 04/02/08
We wanted to see the first fountain show of the day at 3:00 PM so we sat at our Paris cafe until it was time to cross the street. Then we walked back to the bridge by Ballys that crosses over to the Bellagio. 04/02/08
We walked down the sidewalk in front of the Bellagio and found a good viewing spot. It was certainly worth the wait. It is spectacular. First they played the Star Spangled Banner and then there was an Italian song. 04/02/08

We walked to the escalator that takes one up to the bridge at Ballys to cross the six-lane Las Vegas Blvd. over to the Bellagio.  Then we descended on another escalator to the sidewalk and found a good spot to wait for the fountain show.  It is wonderful and spectacular and all that one might expect.  I want to go see it again — and again.  We have to go back and see it at night with the lights….

I took photos and for the first time I remembered that my Canon has a movie camera feature so I shot some footage also.  When I learn how to edit in iMovie and put it up on a website, I'll include it on this page.

Dennis says we can go see some shows.  My number one choice was “O” — the Cirque de Soleil water show at the Bellagio.  Alas they are dark next week and the remaining shows this week are sold out in the balcony.  Balcony tickets cost $99. + 10% tourist tax totaling $108.99 or $217.80 for two of us.  Seats at $150. each were still available, but I felt that was really pushing it, so reluctantly I gave up on the idea.  We could go get in line at the discount place to see if tickets are available for the same night, so we’ll see….

Today we will choose some other shows and I’ll line up reservations.  We are going to take a day off and relax.  It is a beautiful day so maybe we’ll just sit outside.  Maybe we’ll try the pool here at the Oasis!

Elsa Walton, Oasis Las Vegas RV Resort, Las Vegas, NV, Thursday, April 3, 2008