We awoke this New York morning to a blanket of snow and ice. To a family of visitors from Australia it was magic, to commuters on Manhattan Island it was tragic, figuratively at least. By the time we left home at 7.00am, most of the roads had been cleared (not that I inspected most of the roads in New York but the ones that we drove on had certainly been ploughed).
We left New York today en-route to Las Vegas. The flight boarded roughly on time but sat at the gate for a very long time without any indication by airline staff of the reason for the delay (which was probably obvious to regular commuters but not so to naiive Australians). The flight attendant at least had a sense of humour. She was at the rear of the plane and a passenger asked her what was the cause of the hold-up. She answered with one of, what I imagine are, her top three responses in this situation; “they are just finalising the paperwork”, because she then called over the public-address system to her colleagues at the front of the plane; “Are we waiting on paperwork at the moment?”. The pilot responded; “We are taking on some additional fuel”. Quick as a flash the flight attendant called back (again over the PA); “Well that can’t be good!”. Some of us thought this was funny although there were others – perhaps not so much.
The plane lurched into motion after a time but before we did anything like what regular planes do we had to be de-loused – at least that what I thought the pilot said. We taxied to the other side of the airport. We arrived at the de-lousing area which was a large open ended hangar. A series of, what I believe to be, hot air jets started to blow all over the plane (perhaps the de-lousing area was in fact a ‘de-icing’ area). Two mobile de-icers joined the fray. They started with a series of hot air blasts at much closer range than the ceiling mounted ones. They also had a light on the end of a boom which they used to carefully inspect the wing areas for ice patches and then blasted them again with hot air. Then the plane’s wings were washed with what I imagined to be a salt water solution. Finally, they sprayed the wings thoroughly with what appeared to be a green coloured anti-freeze solution. I am not sure of the efficacy of this process but I do know that if anything subsequently went wrong on this flight we would be the plane with the prettiest luminous green coloured wings ever to have fallen from the sky!
We landed in Las Vegas. Having been up early and travelled for 8 or 9 hours including ground transfers – the horde was, again, hungry so we met our favourite burger chain again (in truth we don’t have a favourite burger chain, we are burger agnostic, if it sells burgers, fries, nuggets and coke – we are disciples). After consuming a double whopper of nutrition we were ready to go and pick up our bags from the carousel which we had left ‘carouselling’ while we had lunch.
Now any bags left unattended in airports are regarded as potentially explosive devices so in order to protect the public they take them away and explode them! Our bags had been left unattended for a lengthy period while we lunched and two of them had already been taken hostage by the TSA (Transportation Surveillance Authority or some similar thing). We negotiated their release and went in search of our rental car.
Our car was waiting for us it was a Chevrolet 6-seat people mover but it had everything which one could want in a vehicle. We loaded up, took a crash course in using the GPS and set sail for Hoover Dam. Finding Hoover Dam was one challenge, greater issues for me were driving on the opposite side of the road to Australia my normal place of residence, and having ‘She Who Must Be Obeyed’ (SWMBO) not be holding her breath, sighing heavily, or making other sounds of disturbance which really put you off your game when you are doing the best to come to terms with changed conditions.
Night fell on Hoover Dam so we retraced our ‘steps’ along the road toward Las Vegas to a Spanish styled hotel and casino complex. We hadn’t reserved accommodation so Leanne went in and checked things out – it met all of her requirements in a hotel room – five beds and cheap – and we checked in. The overpowering smell of cigarette smoke filled the corridor in which the rooms were located but fortunately the rooms were better.
With bags dropped and a quick change of shirt we went looking for the bar. The entire ground floor is basically a casino and it wasn’t obvious where we could sit down as a family and enable the adults to consume an alcoholic beverage. So, I asked Security Guard No. 1 who had absolutely no idea but said the kids could enter the gaming floor if they didn’t go near the machines – so we wandered through the floor until we found a bar area with a few tables and a live Neil Diamond impersonator on stage (impersonator perhaps gives him greater credit than was warranted). We weren’t sure whether we could sit down in that area with our children who were young adults but none had reached the age of twenty-one. Leanne went over to the barman to ask. As she was walking over, I noticed that he had seen us and immediately picked up a hand-held radio. When Leanne arrived at the bar the barman waved her away – she told me later he refused to talk to her and said wait for security.
Well the cavalry arrived 5 seconds later, “Is he 21?” he asked me, pointing at one of our crew. “No”, I answered. Well they can’t be on the gaming floor. “That’s fine”, said I, “where can we go to sit and have drink”. The short answer was nowhere. This family hotel did not have one bar area where the kids could go with us while we had a drink. This family hotel only caters for parents who go to gamble while they dump their kids in a games arcade so the kids can learn how to put quarters into a slot machine. I was offended by this. But not so much so that I didn’t give the kids a handful of quarters, point them to the arcade and order drinks for Leanne and me.
It was then time for a meal and we made our way into the buffet area. We were seated by our ‘server’ who turned out not to be our real server but his level of training allowed him to take us to our seats and take a drinks order. The kids had soft drinks and then he turned to Leanne and said what would you like Miss (by which I am certain she was flattered)? We both asked for beers and he said he couldn’t do that but he would get someone else who could. I didn’t understand this but Leanne piped up and said we would walk over to the bar and get them ourselves but I interjected and said I would be happy for him to arrange for someone to get me a beer. I figured that if we were in a restaurant where people would expect a gratuity, the least they could do was serve me a beer.
I really didn’t understand what was happening – we arrive for a meal to be told we have a server but this guy wasn’t him or her, yet he could show us to the table. He could ask us if we wanted drinks but wouldn’t get them. What strange hierarchy did these people operate under. After a time our drinks arrived. The fellow came over to me later and apologised for sounding like a dill and explained that you have to be authorised to make a phone call to a bar which is about 20 metres from the buffet and he wasn’t authorised so he had to go and ask someone else to phone for our beers. I appreciated his apology and explanation but it didn’t address the more fundamental question of how activities were structured in the place.
We ordered the buffet meal. Upon reflection, and credit where credit is due, I think it was probably the worst food I have ever had at any buffet in the world. Seriously, if you are near Hoover Dam please stay at this place and try the buffet just for the experience and the stories you will be able to tell your friends. With the main meals out of the way the kids were already well into dessert. I offered to get Leanne some dessert and Sarah gave me instructions to make sure I chose the ice cream dispenser and not the yoghurt dispenser. Long story short, I am dispensing Leanne’s dessert and I could hear Sarah guffawing from the other side of the restaurant – I got the yoghurt!