Frickin’ Vegas baby!
After my trip to the Grand Canyon, the next day saw me heading back west, over the Hoover Dam into Nevada, and to Las Vegas. Vegas is one of the many places in America I’ve wanted to go to for a long time, and I probably would have been going on this trip anyway, but happily my trip to the States also coincided with The Amaz!ng Meeting 8 (TAM8), the critical thinking and skepticism conference organised by the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF).
TAM8 was held at the South Point Casino which is about 2 miles south of the main strip. That didn’t matter though, when I pulled up outside and walked through the front door, right into all the sounds and lights of a real Las Vegas casino. It was another one of those real ‘just like the movies’ moments. And when I’d checked in and seen the size of my (£28 a night) room I actually jumped up and down like an excited child.
I met up with my friend Liza (@wickedlibrarian), who had travelled down from her home in Illinois with her husband Bill (@billtannica) for TAM. It was great to see Liza again having met her previously on her trip to the UK last autumn, and to meet Bill. And after 10 days travelling alone, as much fun as that had been, it was lovely to see some familiar faces.
Although I was mainly in Vegas for TAM, and to experience all that it would have to offer, I was also determined to see ‘Las Vegas’ too. After checking into the hotel I had to take my now beloved Dodge back to the car rental place at the airport, but before I did that I had just enough time to take a drive down the strip and see some of the world famous hotels. There really is something very surreal about an almost life size Eiffel Tower in the middle of the Nevada desert!
I got a chance to see some more of the strip on my second day in Vegas – we met Bill’s cousins for lunch, next to the Trevi Fountain in Caesar’s Palace (like you do) and then after getting a lift down to the Stratosphere at the north end of the strip then walked back through some of the other hotels – notably the Venetian, Paris, and the new City Centre. Luckily a lot of the hotels are connected, requiring minimal time to be spent outside in the ridiculous desert heat – I swear the soles on my Converse were actually melting!
The three days of speakers and events of TAM were brilliant – if you haven’t heard of TAM and have no idea what I’m talking about there’s a good summary here. I’m not going to go into masses of detail about what happened and who I saw here but I will mention a few highlights. After about 18 months of listening to The Skeptics Guide to the Universe it was very exciting to be witness to two live recordings (even if they were at 8am and I was still eating breakfast at the time) and I got to speak to one of the hosts, Jay Novella, when I was buying an SGU t-shirt. Also, getting to hear James Randi himself speaking (particularly his very interesting reminisces about his many appearances on the Johnny Carson TV show) and to see the tiny man himself in the corridors (although I didn’t have the balls to actually speak to him) was pretty awesome. Other great speakers for me were Michael Shermer, Simon Singh (as always), Mythbusters’ Adam Savage, Paul Provenza and the now infamous ‘Don’t be a dick’ speech by Phil Plait (you can read a transcript here).
And of course, I can’t forget to mention the Skepchick‘s Bordello Party, which took place about a mile from the hotel at a cabin in the desert. It was a lot of fun and I got to speak to current JREF president DJ Grothe, and talk to fellow Brit, Sid Rodrigues.
On my last night in Las Vegas (which was also my last night in America) I headed back down the strip to get the full on night time Vegas experience. And I loved it! I saw the pirate show at Treasure Island, went into even more of the hotels including the Luxor, Excaliber, New York, New York and my favourite; the Bellagio. I also saw the fountains at the Bellagio a couple of times. They are amazing, and I think probably my favourite thing in Vegas.
And that was it. I left Vegas and flew back to the UK (spending two hours in Houston, Texas on the way). It was the end of my American adventure but not the end of my holiday. I still had another ten days to spend in London and at Latitude Festival before I finally made it home.
This really was a trip of a lifetime. I knew when I was planning it that it was going to be brilliant but I didn’t realise just how amazing it was going to be. I packed so much into my 19 nights that it felt like I had been there months. And there was another thing that made my trip even more amazing than I could have imagined….and that was something that has turned into an entirely new adventure….
You see, I had company on my trip. Not actual physical company, but virtual company from a boy; a boy I had met on my last trip to London and had started chatting to online before setting off on my trip. All the time I was 5000 miles and 8 hours away, we exchanged emails and tweets and texts, then phone calls for hours (oh, how I love the wonder that is Skype), and somehow, despite the strangeness of the circumstances our friendship and later mutual admiration grew. And this weekend, 8 weeks and 10500 miles after first meeting, I went to see him at home in Manchester….and we started our new adventure together. It seems you really do find love when you least expect it after all.