Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Days 14 & 15: Las Vegas to Santa Monica

Yesterday was a day off - the first and only one I'd had in two weeks of biking, and what better place to spend it than Las Vegas?

I'd never played Poker in Vegas before, so that was high on my list of priorities. The first night I played in my hotel (The Tropicana), and it was a dead loss. With only 7 players registered for the tournament there was not much money in the prize pot, and the blind structure was too fast. I didn't do very well, finishing in 4th. I did  a bit more research today and decided that the 7pm tournament at the Mirage looked good, so I registered for that. This was more like it, plenty of players entered and a slower structure meant I did OK in the early parts and made the final table. After that I was card dead and saw my stack dwindle as the blinds kicked in and antes came into play. I hung on, but eventually it was too much and I crashed out in 6th, just outside the money. Still that's one more thing ticked off my "to do" list!

I spent most of the day wandering around and taking in the sights, here's a few pics:

Las Vegas Blvd skyline

On top of the Stratosphere
Now, I love Vegas. But it's not a good place to be on your own. It's a place for partying, and a party of one can be a bit depressing. If I were to do this trip again on my own, I would probably miss out Vegas. If I were with some others, I definitely would come back! I think Gillian and I should plan another trip here together soon.

The casinos these days seem to have quietened down since the time I first came here - and I mean that literally. A few years ago, as you walked in, the noise was incredible, as the slot machine spewed out quarters to the lucky winners, and every one walked about with tubs full of coins to feed into the machines. Now that doesn't happen. The machines only take payments in the form of 1, 5 10 or 20 dollar bills, and if you win, the machine prints you out a ticket which you can take to the cashier, or feed into another machine (the management's preferred option!) I think that has reduced the air of excitement in these places as they seem so quiet now.

So today I leave the city of Lost Wages, Nevada, and head back to California and Route 66, by way of the I-15 south to Barstow:
The El Rancho Motel in Barstow - I didn't stay in this one though
It was warming up as I headed across the Mojave Desert, the temperature gauge on my bike said that it was touching 100F as I reached Victorville. In my schedule I had planned to stop here for the night, however it was only 1:30, and far too early to stop for the day. Besides, Victorville didn't look too inviting a place to stay, so I decided to continue for a bit. It does have a nice little Route 66 museum though.

In San Bernadino there's the WigWam motel, where the rooms are styled as Indian tents. They're proper rooms of course, with air conditioning and everything, so that was my second option the the night. However, when I got there it was still to early to stop for the day, and according to the Zumo, I could be in Santa Monica in an hour. I thought that might be a bit optimistic, but even if it was 3 hours it would still only be 6, so I carried on.

The traffic now was getting much heavier. I'd been used to having the road pretty much to myself over the past 2 weeks, so I could tell I was getting close to LA. However the traffic didn't slow me down too much, and I was soon riding down the Santa Monica Blvd towards the Pacific Ocean. There was one song I had in mind to listen to as I completed this journey, that was "All I Want To Do" by Sheryl Crow, so I put it on the MP3 player and blasted it out of the bike's speakers as I drove the last mile:

"All I wanna do is have some fun,
I've got a feeling I'm not the only one,
All I wanna do is have some fun,
As the sun goes down over Santa Monica Boulevard"

Cheesy, but great!

And so here I was, at the end of Route 66 by the pier in Santa Monica, CA. I felt quite emotional. I had taken the photo of the "Route 66 begins here" sign on a freezing cold Chicago morning only 2 weeks ago. It seems like an age. I had achieved a dream that I've had since I was a kid hearing the Rolling Stones urging me to get my kicks on Route 66. Now, at the age of 50 years and 3 weeks, I'd done it. On a Harley Davidson. On my own. I was ecstatic! I was also a bit sad that this part of the dream had come to an end, but all good things do. So it was with mixed feelings that I walked onto the pier to take some photos.
The end of the road - beyond, only the Ocean.
The less attractive side of the sign, but this road leads to Chicago
A toast, having achieved the dream. Shouldn't I be looking happier?
One thing that I am upset about though: my flag didn't make it. That thing has followed me faithfully since Chicago, fluttering along behind me, proclaiming my English-ness. Many people have asked about it, thinking I was from Sweden or Finland or some other Scandinavian country for some reason. So it has helped me educate some Americans about the Cross of St George, and how the Union Jack is not the flag of England, but of Great Britain. It had become tatty, and dirty and frayed around the edges, but I had intended to take it home with me as it had been my constant companion throughout the trip. It finally gave up just a few miles from the end, and has probably been picked up by someone who thinks that a Norwegian has lost his flag. I do have a spare, but I won't put it on. It would feel like trying to replace the family pet.

Today's route is here, including a bit beyond Santa Monica, as all the local hotels were a tad above my price range!

Today's Mileage: 358
Total Trip Mileage: 2995

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