Our journey begins

Las Vegas Travel Blog

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My short residency in Las Vegas (and even shorter tenure as a Special Education Teacher at Roy Martin Middle School), I had gained three things: an intense dislike of teenagers, a not insignificant gambling problem, and a $2500 contract payout to add to my savings.  One thing you don't want in Las Vegas is to have lots of money and no job--idle hands, as they say, do the devil's work (or Benny Binion's work, in my case).  For a couple of weeks, though I tasted the sweet air of freedom from the middle school prison that is the Roy, I became slightly despondent and, dare I say, even depressed.  I would wake up at noon, sit around for a while, go play in a 11 pm tournament at the Sahara (and lose), and possibly go drinking at some shady bar with a name like My Cousin Vinny's or the Offramp Lounge (remember: there's no last call in Las Vegas).  All in all, things were not looking up--I had no job and nothing to do all day but drink, gamble, or generally dick around.

The weekend of the Super Bowl was the last straw.  I had decided to go home for a little while, and drive from Las Vegas to Houston for some respite.  At some place in the back of my head, I thought that it would go a little farther, but I really had no idea what I was actually beginning when I set off for Houston on the monday morning after Super Bowl XL.  I packed a few changes of clothes, some snacks and drinks in a cooler, and grabbed my three trusty volumes: "USA on a Shoestring," "Hostels USA," and my slightly worn Road Atlas, which had survived several Road Trips and one totaled vehicle already.  The Jetta, which would be my trusty steed for the next five weeks, shone with an almost angelic sheen--over the next few weeks that luster would be dimmed by snow, mud, and Canadians, but would never be completely lost.

Las Vegas, as you may know, is built in a valley.  When driving in, it just sort of pops out of nowhere--you come over a hill and there's the neon gleam of the strip, seemingly jumping out of the desert sand.  Leaving Las Vegas is much the same--from the 95 freeway, you turn a corner at the Railroad Pass Casino and find yourself in the middle of a fucking desert.  One moment you can't help but be blinded by the sheen of the strip, the second you cower in the expectation that, at any moment, your car will be set upon by a horde of Jawas and Sand People.  This is how our Journey begins, and for the next sixteen hours I find myself driving through a desolate landscape with hardly a trace of civilization (with the exception of Phoenix, but does that really count?).  That evening at almost midnight, I roll into El Paso, which is more or less halfway between Vegas and Houston.  One of the Holy Trinity--my "Hostels USA" volume--informs me that there is a good hostel downtown, in an old hotel converted to dorm-style rooms.  Since apparently there's not a huge tourist market for El Paso in February, I found myself in a four-bed room all to myself.  Though it was cold and the plumbing was sketchy, the price was right at <$12 for the night.  All in all, I recommend it for those passing through El Paso.  The next morning, refreshed and rejuvinated by the night's rest.  I set off at 5:30 Mountain Time, even before the asscrack of dawn.
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photo by: maka77