2. Red Rocks and Sketchy Deals

Checking out of the Paris hotel and transferring to the Mardi Gras was one of the saddest travel moments of my life. My inner self was holding on to the ropes in the lobby for dear life. Pleeeeease don’t make me leave! I wonder if the gentleman checking us out could see the desperation in my eyes?

On the agenda for the day besides downgrading from a 4 star hotel to a 1 star hotel- yes, I said 1 star my friends, things were about to get rough- was driving out to the natural beauty of the Red Rock Canyon Keystone. It’s a 200,000 acre area maintained outside the city by both the Southern Nevada Conservancy and the Bureau of Land Management
. It has camping, hiking, rock climbing, and biking available. I was hoping to partake in a little light hiking, nothing too strenuous for the older people in our party, just a short jaunt to see the petroglyphs less than a quarter mile off the road.

We arrived at the Visitors Center around noon. I purposely didn’t research too much about Red Rock Canyon so that I could be surprised. The Visitors Center is very well done and very well set up. It has some interactive elements to it which added a really nice touch to the educational boards and the beautiful scenery. It was such a welcome view after the stimulation of the Strip.

We walked through the turnstile, entered the center and I promptly lost my husband and father-in-law. That became a common occurrence on this trip. We lost my father-in-law a lot while in Nevada. He has a tendency to wander off on his own without a backward glance. Let me tell you how annoying that can get. I spent a lot of time asking my husband, “Where’s your dad?”

20 minutes later and Daniel’s step mother and I finally found the boys. They had disappeared to the gift shop where my father-in-law (lets just call him FIL from here on out, shall we?) bought a rad hat that he never wore. A heated discussion ensued between my in-laws about the fact that FIL walked off to the gift shop without asking his wife if she wanted to go there as well, which she in fact didwant to go to. They walked off together in the direction of said gift shop bickering as they do, leaving Daniel and I to sit outside on the bench waiting for gift shop round 2 to be completed. I was still in a chipper mood at this point, despite the wasted 20 minutes looking for the boys. We were after all about to see our first red desert dirt. Our first bit of landscape that I had never seen before. I was pumped. 

We set off on the 13 miles scenic drive that winds you through the Red Rock Canyon past trailheads, picnic areas, a campground and thankfully bathrooms. Shall I tell you my grand plans for the day? I had envisioned just a short hike off the road into a little bit of wilderness, just a taste since the in-laws are not hikers or outdoorsy kind of people. Just enough to lose sight of the parking lot and the majority of people- to be surrounded by nature for just 10 minutes. I crave it. I get overstimulated 95% of my life and that’s just not me. I fight my own nature just to work in the industry that I do. I like quiet, I like to be alone and I like to breathe fresh air, preferably while surrounded by trees. 2 days in Vegas preceded by long, loud days at work and I needed this. I needed to put shoe to dirt and take a deep, cleansing breathe. 

We rolled up to the first and arguably prettiest stop on the route, the Calico Hills. With the car parked I gathered myself and made to get out. It was then that I noticed no one else appeared to be getting ready to exit the car. I turned to my husband and asked if anyone else was getting out. The reply I got was something to the effect of: go ahead and get your pictures, we’ll wait for you. No grand hiking for me, no landing my shoes on the dirt trail and definitely no losing sight of the parking lot and the majority of people. It was right about that moment that I realized I might not have the trip I was hoping for. I needed to make friends with disappointment over the next 3 days or I was about to get very grouchy indeed.  Did I do that? No. I kept getting my hopes up and that was a mistake. 

So I took my measly 20 steps from the car, took as many photos as I could without people walking into the frame and got back into the car. We sailed off and did not stop again. I stared with longing at the trail heads, said a silent “maybe I’ll see you next time” to the petroglyphs, and listened to the grumblings coming from the back seat about what a long drive this was. Ah, vacation with people you’re not blood related to. What a joy. 

After a comical stop for lunch at Chipotle where I had to explain the difference between pinto and black beans, it was finally time to check into the hotel I’d been dreading the entire time. On the surface it seemed fine. It wasn’t in the best area but it was okay, it seemed clean enough at first glance and at least it had a pool. The red flags started showing up during the check in process though and just kept coming. Daniel wandered off with his dad leaving me to check in and get things sorted. Red flag number one: I was informed that this hotel required payment up front, not when you check out. Well, alrighty! I’ve only ever experienced this at small bed and breakfasts while in England, but never at a hotel in the United States. Okay, sure. So I told the guy checking me in that I would like to pay with cash. I had a tight budget on this trip and it was administered by a very well concealed envelope of cash. One for hotels, one for the rest of the trip. He informed me that this hotel did not accept cash payments. Say what?! I have never had a cash payment refused at a hotel. I slid my credit card across the counter silently cursing the fact that they were messing with my accurate to the penny budget. 

Before I get to this next part of the check in process I should tell you a little story. It’s important to remember a few things before we move ahead. This hotel is actually a motel. The kind of place where you park your car in front of your room and there are no interior walkways. As I mentioned before this wasn’t the best area of the city so Daniel and I both did not want a room facing the street. We wanted a room in the “courtyard” area facing the pool. To be honest I’m sure this isn’t any safer but it gave us a sense of security. I knew I would have to figure out a way to finagle one of these rooms because we hadn’t specifically booked one. My in-laws had a pool facing room. Store that tidbit of info away friends. Fact number two to remember:  sometime prior to checking in that day, on one of the mornings we picked my in-laws up for the day’s excursions my FIL said an animated hello to one of the hotel staff. I teased him and made a comment about already being best friends with everyone that worked there. FIL replied that that was one of the cooks that he’d made friends with and boy did the staff have a party outside the laundry room the night before. I put this little bit of useful information away in the back of my mind and didn’t think I’d ever need to call on it again. Well, said information came in very handy 5 minutes into checking in. 

The guy behind the check in counter proceeded to pull out a map of the hotel property. I had asked him if there was any way to have a room near my in-laws. Not because we needed to be close to them but because they had the prized pool facing room. He said the only room they had left that was near where my in-laws were was, you guessed it, next to the laundry room! Immediately I remembered my FIL’s comment and asked if there was anything on the second or third floor in the general area of my in-laws. He replied that the only room they had left in that area was the room directly above my in-laws room. I said, that’s fine we’ll take it. His response? A surprised, are you sure? To which I emphatically said, yes, that’s fine. He eyed me and said that if it was him he wouldn’t want to be in the room above his in-laws. Again I responded with, it’s fine. In my head all I could think was: Ew! If you think I’m getting naked in this place you’ve got another thing coming buddy! And also, ew with where his mind went!

With room key in hand and a fresh set of heebie jeebies we grabbed our things and went to our room. I proceeded to tell Daniel everything that had transpired except for the guy making the comment about not wanting to have a room above his in-laws. His eyes got big and asked me again, did I say they wouldn’t accept cash? Yes, I sure did. Daniel, who works in the hotel industry went on to tell me what a red flag that was. Basically a hotel that won’t accept cash has a few things going on with it. They are afraid of people skipping out on their bill, they get a lot of damage in their rooms and most importantly they’re afraid they are going to get robbed. Great. He said that if he had known it was the kind of hotel that didn’t accept cash he never would have pushed me to change our accommodations. Double great. 

I spent the rest of the day dreading having to go to bed. I was trying to figure out how I was going to make it through sleeping there 3 nights. One night I could handle. I wouldn’t have liked it but I could have done it and just dealt with it. We found out rather quickly that half the electrical outlets didn’t work so the lamp on Daniel’s side didn’t work and you couldn’t charge your phone. I stayed in longs sleeves and socks to sleep. I told Daniel that I wanted to go to Target and buy a pillow and pillowcase because I didn’t want to put my face on the pillow. He told me not to be silly and to sleep on my hands. Cue eye roll. But I did it. I spent that time before falling asleep on my phone looking at other hotels and trying to find a deal. Daniel said he would happily take me to another hotel but he was going to stay there. Boo. I didn’t want to stay by myself in a hotel, but I did put that in my back pocket in case that was my only way out. 

After a restless and interrupted night’s sleep we were woken up around 6:30am to the sound of running water. Daniel got up to investigate and immediately came back from the bathroom and announced that it was flooding! My first thought was the toilet backing up, so I was terrified to get up and see. I finally got out of bed, walked into the bathroom to find a hole in the ceiling with a steady flow of water rushing out of it. That water was someone else’s shower water people! We could hear the shower going. The water was running down the shower, hitting the lip of the bathtub and flowing over onto the floor. That was the last straw. Just unacceptable. Daniel went down to the front desk after mutually agreeing that we were ready to get out of there and asked for our money back. Fortunately for us the gal working the front desk didn’t argue. At first she offered to send maintenance to our room to fix it but when Daniel made it clear that we wanted to check out and receive a refund she didn’t put up a fight and informed us that it would take 3 days for the refund to show up on our credit card. At least it was a satisfactory ending. 

I wasted no time in getting ready, I didn’t intend to stay in that room any longer than necessary. My husband went in search of his dad to let him know what had happened and that we were changing hotels. I figured it might not go over well. I’m pretty sure that my in-laws think I’m a princess- and not in a good “we respect the royal family” kind of way. Basically I suspect they might think I’m a snob. I’m not, by the way. Do I have certain standards? Yes, but I don’t require 5 star things. I have what I would consider fairly average standards. Is it clean, is it safe? Yes,? Then I’m fine. Bonus if it’s quite nice, but I don’t like to go so fancy that there is a concierge or someone grabbing your luggage for you. 

As predicted FIL was mystified that we would want to leave. He didn’t think a flooded bathroom was a good enough reason to up and move to another hotel. In his words, “Our bathroom has been flooding all week, I don’t see the problem. Why would you leave? I really like it here.” So now I look like the jerk for wanting to leave a hotel that must be crawling in mold and mildew and surely is structurally unsound from that water damage. Daniel has a really complicated relationship with his dad- I’m fully aware of their dynamic so I had to just let it go when I found out that I came out of the situation looking like a prima-donna. Easily strike number 10 against me, furthering their opinion that I am indeed a middle class snob. C’est la vie. At this point I don’t care enough to correct them. 

The only thing my FIL specifically requested that we do while in Vegas was take a ride on the High Roller, a large observation wheel much like the London Eye. If you’re unfamiliar with that is it’s a giant Ferris wheel with enclosed pods or capsules instead of open air seats. Opened to the public in 2014, the High Roller is the world’s tallest Ferris wheel. It goes up 550 feet! I may have mentioned before in the blog that I am afraid of heights. I had no intention of going on the High Roller. I was planning to sit this one out. I pictured myself happily sitting on a bench waiting for everyone else to complete the 30 minute rotation. Maybe I’d be eating a delicious treat? Or texting my mom and telling her how much more than usual that I appreciated our family.  What I didn’t realize was how effective a guilt trip could be. So there I was, standing in a 40 passenger pod with 5 other people wondering how on earth I found myself staring down at the Flamingo?  

Let me tell you, 550 feet is a long way off the ground. I was pretty proud of myself. I only panicked once. Somewhere very close to the top of the rotation I had to sit down and stare at the floor of the pod. I needed to pretend that I was on stable ground. I held it together but honestly I think the reason that was the case was because there were strangers in that pod. An Australian couple was also in the capsule with us. I didn’t want to lose my cool in front of them. I might have looked calm and collected but I can assure you that my heart rate was in the fat burning zone during that ride. 

After all was said and done, feeling my fear, it was actually a lovely experience. When I could convince myself that I wasn’t going to plummet to my death, I was able to look out over the Las Vegas strip and marvel at the architecture. In the end I was glad I did it. Although it nearly didn’t happen. Rewind to before I was gleefully exiting the capsule after successfully not dying by falling from a great height. I was awkwardly standing alone with my FIL by the pool. I don’t remember why it was just the two of us but there we were. I made some feeble comment asking if FIL was excited about going up on the High Roller. His response? We’re not going, it’s already too late in the day. Friends, it was 10am. The High Roller didn’t even open until 11:30. I brought this to his attention but he insisted that we couldn’t go because it was already too late in the day. My husband doesn’t even know his father and I had this little tense exchange. I decided not to let this go and asked pointedly how it could possibly be too late in the day when it was only 10am and the darn thing didn’t even open for another 90 minutes. I’m ashamed to say I lost my patience and let my frustration show. He gave some weird answer that wasn’t even a good reason and grumbled a bit at which point we argued a bit about the length of the rotation and various things. Daniel finally returned, interrupting this power play  and when I informed him that his dad said we couldn’t go because it was too late in the day already his father kind of pretended he had’t told me that, making it look like I was overreacting and off we went. I just followed behind and rolled my eyes. This was going to be a long 3 more days. 


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