Viva Las Vegas
Hello, from Las Vegas! I’m trying my best to document some of our travels as it’s a big reason I started writing the blog in the first place. Many times our trips are whirlwinds, and we’re trying to pack a lot of stuff into a few days. This leads to many “fall into bed” nights where the thought of writing anything isn’t even on my radar. Usually there is one night of the trip where Colt is playing his gig and I’m hanging out in the hotel room with the kids, like tonight. After I get everyone fed, showered and in bed I try to find a few minutes to catch myself up on what we’ve done. That moment is right now. 😊
This trip started very differently than most. Colt was supposed to fly out to Vegas by himself on Tuesday, September 3rd, play his gig that night, and fly back on Wednesday, September 4th. He had been planning to go for weeks, but plans changed very quickly when Hurricane Dorian came on the scene. Anyone that was watching the weather knows that the forecast was all over the place. At first we were just expecting some tropical storm rain and winds if anything. Over a few days that semi-mild forecast turned into the possibility of a category 3 hurricane passing almost directly over us…on Tuesday the 3rd. We figured the airport would most likely be closed in all the scenarios that the weather forecasters were mentioning. That meant we’d probably have to drive to Atlanta or Nashville (we have family in both places) and camp out with them while Colt flew out of one of those airports. We were going back and forth about what to do, and every time we thought we had it figured out, the forecast changed again. Colt called me on Friday afternoon as I was sitting down for the first time, and starting to doze off sitting up after a busy morning. “Lara said everyone pulled their airline miles together to get you and the kids on my flight if you want to. Would you and the kids want to fly out to Vegas with me and stay a few extra days?” At first I thought I heard him wrong. “Ummmmm, YES!” Not even a question.
Usually we have at least a few weeks to plan for a trip like this. But let’s be honest, we ALWAYS squander that time and end up throwing things in a suitcase the day before we leave anyway, so this worked out perfectly! 😊 Thanks to Hurricane Dorian and the uncertainty of the forecast, we had all our clothes washed and folded in case we were without power, and had stocked up on snacks for the storm, which we could use for the kids on the plane. Clothes and snacks…what else does anyone need? We packed the night before and were ready to fly out on Sunday. Coincidentally, Bellamy got the last seat on our flight. Both flights (Tampa to Austin, Austin to Las Vegas) arrived early, and the kids are such pros on a plane now that they’re basically on autopilot (pun intended) and I’m able to sleep almost the entire time which is my FAVORITE! We flew into Vegas over the desert at sunset which was breathtaking. Colt’s friend Adam who is with the group Colt is playing for this week met us at the airport and graciously got us a rental SUV for the week. By the time we got to our hotel we were all hungry and tired so we ordered from a pizza place down the street, picked it up, ate, showered and went to bed at a very decent 10pm Vegas time, but a very late (for the kids) 1am Tampa time.
The next morning we celebrated a long standing Colt Clark family travel tradition. Colt took Bellamy to get doughnuts for breakfast. After we were sufficiently sick, we celebrated another travel tradition which was a Target run for water, and food for the room. Lara, who hired Colt for this gig has been so kind to us. Not only did she organize this trip so we could travel with Colt, she put us up in a two bedroom condo/suite for the week and even gave us vouchers for some really cool Vegas activities and cuisine experiences. She gave us a list of entertainment options to choose from and the kids chose Madam Tussauds Wax Museum and a ride on the gondolas at the Venetian hotel. --- Ok, I’m back. I took a slight 30 minute blog detour to read several internet bios on Madam Tussauds and she was a cool, weird lady. Anyway, first up was lunch at Chipotle, which is a little hole in the wall Mexican place exclusive only to Las Vegas…no. 😊 We decided to go to the wax museum first as it was still a blazing inferno outside and we figured the museum had to be at least cold enough to keep the wax from melting. The kids had so much fun there.
We walked through the entire museum twice and stopped at each celebrity. The kids were particularly interested in riding a see-saw they had set up in front of the Snoop Dogg display. They didn’t realize it was in the shape of a large, lit joint. Colt dissuaded them from trying it out. A staff member was particularly impressed that the kids knew who the wax figure of Andy Warhol was from across the room. Thank you, Pam Patton for teaching them about the greats!
After we walked, and re-walked the museum we headed down to the gondolas. The boats only seat four people which meant we would need to split up. That’s like sticking a knife through a photographer’s heart when I reflect on the missed photo ops, but the staff was really sweet and let us take a few photos of the kids in the boat together before we split into our groups. Bellamy and I were in the first boat. Our gondolier, Lunetta was the real deal, hailing from the northern coast of Italy. Bellamy was full of questions like, “Are you going to sing?” and “Have you ever bumped your head on this bridge?” The answer was yes to both, by the way. Lunetta sang beautifully and Bellamy was so excited to be there. The boys’ gondolier spoke with a very strong Italian accent. He was from Georgia. 😊
After our venetian experience, we hopped in the car and headed to dinner in the Planet Hollywood Hotel. Lara gave us a voucher for a free dinner at a Brazilian steakhouse called Pampas. None of us had ever been to a Brazilian steakhouse before, but I feel like in a way, I had prepared for that moment my entire life. My sister and I would always joke around that we were each other’s wingman at a prime rib buffet, going up for more meat on behalf of each other to save ourselves the embarrassment of having to look the man at the carving station in the eye after the third trip. At Pampas they welcome red meat gluttony! Cash loves red meat so he was in heaven. He even tried lamb which is really saying something because he’s the pickiest eater ON THE PLANET. Big lamb fan now. Huge. Beckett enjoyed the chicken options and the fruit on the buffet. That boy would survive on fruit alone if I’d let him. Maybe that’s why he’s so sweet. <3 Bellamy played it safe and bypassed the buffet, opting for chicken fingers but still gladly accepted the offerings from every person that came to the table. It didn’t really matter what it was, she wanted it. It was all about the tongs. I’m not sure she actually tried anything she took but if they were dishing it out, she was taking it.
After dinner we decided to walk through the mall at the hotel and check out some of the stores. The kids spotted a magic store called Houdini’s. We went to a different magic store at the Stratosphere with the kids when we were here last year and the staff did some cool tricks so we knew they’d want to check it out. The sales associate really took his time and showed the kids a bunch of cool tricks. I pride myself on never being sucked into a salesman’s trap but he truly looked like he was enjoying himself showing the kids his tricks, and the kids were enthralled. They were laughing and gasping, and looking at each other wide eyed after every new trick. Bellamy was asking all kinds of weird questions and Jon, the sales guy was laughing so hard at everything she said. He told us he used to be a clown for Ringling Brothers. You could tell he enjoyed the entertainment part of his job even more than making a sale. But he did make a sale. We ended up buying a floating card trick for Cash, and a jumping lights trick for Beckett. We suckered Bellamy into getting some inexpensive trick birthday candles because we KNEW she would break any of the more expensive tricks within seconds of opening the package. She has a running list of people she’s going to prank on their birthday now, so watch out because she’s probably coming for you.
After stocking up on magic tricks, we headed out to take a drive down the strip. One of my favorite apps is a webcam app I have on my phone. Sometimes the kids and I will sit and watch webcams from all around the world for a few seconds each. It really helped when we were teaching about time zones and still helps with geography in homeschool. About halfway down our drive down the strip I remembered there was a webcam in front of Fremont Street. We heard it can be kind of a sketchy place at night so I didn’t want to get out and walk around but I thought it might be fun for the kids to see us drive by on the webcam. We headed that way. Annnnd we got a little bit lost. At night. In a very scary area of town. Our traffic lane got rerouted because the police were arresting two people in the middle of the street, with the men’s upper bodies laying flat on the police car. The kids said it was like watching a real cop show. 😊 Finally we found the webcam and snapped a quick screenshot of us driving by as we watched ourselves. Mission accomplished. Finally we ended the night a delightful little nook called Insomnia Cookies just off the strip. We all got a cookies and ice cream nightcap and headed back to the hotel for some sleep.
Tuesday morning we woke up at no particular time because we knew it would be a shorter day for sightseeing activities since Colt’s gig was that night. We had breakfast and hung out around the room until lunch time. Colt mentioned that one of the places he played in Vegas last year had a really pretty drive, so we decided to head up there with him and check it out for something to do. We drove out to a community called Summerlin. Its on the edge of Red Rock Canyon which became apparent once we got of the interstate and I gasped at the sight of the red rocks. We drove a little further down and saw the sign for the entrance to Red Rock Canyon. At that point my head was turning so fast, trying to fully take in every sight as it hit my eyes.
There was just so much beauty, everywhere we looked. We took a right turn off the main road onto a very windy road. We weren’t sure where we were going, but that little road was so pretty I had to get a few (like 100) shots of that spot. I coaxed the kids out of the car to grab a picture of them and they all acted like their little bodies were melting into the pavement. Granted, it was 103 degrees with a feels like temperature of 108. Not exactly chilly. We drove a little bit longer and realized we were at a spot called Calico Basin Trail.
The kids are usually pretty adventurous when it comes to outdoor activities (braver than their parents usually that’s for sure) but they weren’t thrilled with the idea of hiking the trail. In all honesty, we hadn’t planned on hiking at all. I was wearing jeans, a t-shirt and sandals. Colt was in a button up shirt. Not exactly hiking gear. I reminded myself (and them) that its not every day that we get the opportunity to explore this type of landscape, so off we went, albeit some of us hesitantly. We walked onto the pathway, and I saw the prettiest shade tree with the softest looking grass underneath. The tree's roots looked like two hands with fingers intertwined. Don’t worry, I got about 10,000 photos of it. 😊 Then we came to a field of thistles with bumblebees buzzing around, doing their pollinating thing.
Time was running short so we ended the hike at a beautiful meadow at the foot of one of the big mountains. By that point the kids were about to burst into flames and all of their little faces were beet red. We left and grabbed lunch at a build your own pizza place called Pieology. The rest of that day was spent lounging around at the hotel and the pool for the kids and I while Colt was at his gig. When he got back to the hotel the kids were sleeping so we headed to bed too.
Wednesday was a busy day! Colt and I had talked about driving to L.A. to meet up with his brother, our sister-in-law, Katelyn, and niece, Coco. The drive from Las Vegas to L.A. is about 4 hours. We like driving some on trips because you’re able to see a lot more of the place you’re visiting that way. We weren’t sure what we were going to do when we got there but we were excited to see family. We left Las Vegas around 11:30 and started our trek through the Mojave Desert and Death Valley. Seeing the real desert was really cool. We’d drive for miles and miles without seeing any buildings or structures at many points on the road. The kids got to see an actual mirage, and learn about the desert habitat so…you know…that’s homeschool for the week. We got to L.A. around 4pm and had solidified our plans. Colt’s brother, Ryan, works for Disney and he was able to get us passes to go to Disneyland with them!
The kids’ faces were priceless. Their eyes just about bugged out of their heads and their jaws fell wide open. We spent the rest of the day trying out all the rides we don’t have at Disney Orlando, complete with Mr. Toad’s something or other which Colt was particularly excited about because they got rid of it at Disney World in the 80s. Perhaps its because at the end of the ride Mr. Toad goes to hell. But that’s another story for another day. Cash and Colt got to ride the Millennium Falcon ride which is new at Disney World but has been a Disneyland for a while now. Basically that made his entire life thus far, and nothing could be better than that experience on that ride. 😊
I hesitate to say it but I think I actually like Disneyland better than Disney World. I know… But I did. It was smaller and seemed easier to navigate with less walking. It was so sweet to watch the kids with our niece, Coco. She is shockingly well behaved for a two year old and explained to me that she wants to ride the ride in the Matterhorn but she isn’t tall enough, but maybe when she’s five like her cousin. 😊
As usual, I geeked out at all the different plants and trees they have there that we can’t grow in Florida. California has the prettiest roses and I’m always so jealous when we see them in bloom. We left Disney around 11:30 and headed to our hotel.
There was a little mishap with the hotel scheduling (the hotel’s fault, rest assured) so they sent us on into the night to find other accommodations. Nice, huh?! They later realized it was their fault, but by that time we were in bed at a different hotel down the street. No biggie though because the hotel change just put us 10 minutes closer to our destination. Colt and Bellamy got doughnuts for everyone the next morning as we all got ready to leave. Doughnuts twice in one trip! After we packed up, we headed out for the four hour drive back to Las Vegas. Since we didn’t get to spend much time at Red Rock Canyon when we were there, he mentioned the idea of heading straight there from L.A. instead of stopping at our Vegas hotel.
We knew daylight would be limited by the time we got there so we tried to hurry. The mountains and rocks looked so different around sunset than they did during the daytime. The bright red of the rocks faded to a dusky pink, even looking lavender at times. The summer hours of the canyon ended just a few days ago, and the fall hours close the park trails at 7pm so we knew we wouldn’t be able to do any hiking that day. That was kind of a bummer, but there was still a lot to see just driving around the canyon. There were a bunch of places to pull off the road and take pictures as well.
We drove through almost the entire area, when we noticed a big thunderstorm rolling in. I’m not sure if it was the dust being stirred up by the rain or what, but there was a orange/pink glow in the air around the storm. It was beautiful to see the rain falling on the mountains as the sun was going down.
We decided to turn around and drive the path we had already driven to see the difference the sunlight made on the views we had already seen since we were coming to the end of the road we were on anyway. As we drove back we noticed an entrance to a little community. It was a weird spot for a neighborhood surrounded by all this wild landscape.
Colt asked if I wanted to check it out so we drove down the path leading up to it. Right as we crossed into the community we saw a herd of wild mules. They have signs all over the canyon reminding visitors not to feed the wild horses or mules, but we had yet to see any until that moment. I tried so hard to get a good shot from the distance we were at, and with the minimal lighting I had. We sat from a distance watching them in the car until another car full of people spotted them too and drove their vehicle right up next to them, scaring the mules away. I could have spit fire at that point. Not only did they ruin everyone else’s serene moment of watching those animals in the wild, but they completely terrified the mules! After the rude car split, we were able to turn around and noticed there was a tiny little league field behind us with a little park next to it. Up the hill a few more feet was a post office, a market/sheriffs office, a little schoolhouse, a beautiful rustic modern restaurant, two gas pumps, a small rec center with a pool and basketball hoops, and the C-U-T-E-S-T houses you’ve ever seen.
Everything in the town seemed to be smaller than usual. When we googled it, we found out the little community only has 290 people living in it. The houses are quite expensive for being so small, priced at around 800k. That little town was one of the highlights of the trip for me. You would have never known it was there just by looking at it from the road. And now, henceforth it will be our mission to start our own little secret community somewhere in Thonotosassa. 😊
After that whimsical little experience, we headed back to the hotel to pack up. The kids had been begging to swim since we got back to Vegas so we made a stop a the pool for a couple hours before packing up the room. We met a woman named Lani, and her granddaughter Teheva at the pool. They were visiting Las Vegas with a lot of their family from Oahu, Hawaii. We told them we went there for one of Colt’s gigs three years ago and how much we loved it. If there was one place we’d want to go back to most, it would be there. Lani lives only minutes from where Colt’s gig was which was a cool coincidence. What I loved most about Lani was that she had come down to the pool with her granddaughter (who Bellamy made fast friends with) and hadn’t planned on getting in the hot tub, but when she saw how powerful the jets looked, she walked right in with her clothes on. I aspire to be just like that when I’m a grandmother. She was so cool and eccentric that the thought of hopping into the hot tub with me in her clothes didn’t seem to be strange to her at all. LOVE that. The rest of the night was spent packing.
Fast forward to now, and that brings me here, on Flight 210 from Las Vegas to Tampa, typing this out on my tray table two hours into a four hour flight. I’m typing in a size 5 font so the nosey passengers behind me can’t read all about our vacation. I love to read other passengers emails and text messages when they sit in front of me, so I know the deal. 😊 I know a lot of this may be monotonous for the casual reader, but it is my mission to remember EVERYTHING! This text will be the first page of a photo scrapbook I’ll make of the trip so years from now we’ll be able to remember what a lovely time it was. And it was a very, lovely time.
Special thank you again to Lara, Adam and Jamie who worked overtime making sure the kids and I could travel with Colt, generously providing our travel and accommodations on this trip. We can’t thank you enough!