Monday, June 29, 2009

Day 6 – Las Vegas: The city of standing in line

If I could collar the executive director of the Las Vegas Visitors and Convention Bureau, I’d make the following suggestion.
Change your advertising slogans to reflect the real truth. What happens in Vegas might want to stay in Vegas, but in reality, “what happens in Vegas WAITS in Vegas.”
Las Vegas could be the city that never sleeps and where time is irrelevant (except for dinner reservations and show times), but it should, for the foreseeable future, be known as the “city of standing in line.” Because that is almost ALL that you do these days in Sin City – stand in line to check-in, waiting for the buffet (an hour’s wait Sunday at The Bellagio), to see any major show at any hotel, to check-out, to catch a cab, ride a bus, and even to collect your winnings at the cashier.
It has become all about “hurry up and wait” when one visits Las Vegas. And it grates on one’s nerves enough to make you think HARD about future visits. I believe I’m NOT alone in that assessment and conclusion – not a good sign for Vegas’ future. The longer you are forced to wait, the longer it stews in your brain, “why am I putting up with this?”
The problem (for us) starts some 90 miles away, in Kingman, Ariz. (of all places), and is symbolic of who things have changed in southern Nevada.
The shortest and most direct route to get to Las Vegas, coming east on Interstate-40 is along U.S. Highway 93 in Kingman. That road goes OVER Hoover Dam and through Boulder City into Henderson/Vegas. It was always a treat to see the dam AND that most unique of observations – the two towers on the dam that showed Arizona and Nevada clocks. Sadly, since Arizona does not observe daylight savings time, the clocks hold no more mystique; it’s the same time on both sides of the state line.
Since 9/11, Hoover Dam has been seen as one of the most sensitive sites for possible terrorist attacks (and hence, heightened security) in the nation. Fair enough, but after almost eight years, I believe it borders on paranoia, and the ensuing problem it causes to thousands of others seems a bit much.
When you turn north in Kingman onto U.S. 93, there begins a series of signs, clearly marked, telling drivers that NO commercial trucks, trailers, etc. will be allowed to pass over Hoover Dam. None! No buses, no rental trucks – just cars and some campers (although the signs also prohibit them but I saw plenty of evidenced to the contrary).
Again, fair enough. But nowhere along the 60 miles you drive before reaching Hoover Dam is ANYONE told about the real traffic problem. Two miles from the actual dam site, we were stopped by a police checkpoint, with law enforcement representatives inspecting each vehicle before allowing it to pass. On the northbound side, we first encountered the backup a full two miles before the actual checkpoint and we NEVER reached more than 5 miles per hour for the next two hours!
Once past the checkpoint, traffic remained at a crawling standstill, snaking through the twisty, winding two-lane path until passing the visitors center when suddenly the heavens parted and the traffic evaporated.
Sitting in such a parking lot for so long, when the sun simply pounded you like an anvil, could have been totally avoided had someone in charge used their brains. Along U.S. 93, there are half a dozen overhead message boards, whose sole purpose in life is to tell motorists of problems ahead. Sadly, no one considered this to be out of the ordinary (which is a problem of itself).
Had someone, or something, told us of the two-hour delay, and offered the alternate route (going to Bullhead City and Laughlin and taking U.S. 95 into Vegas), we would have been on it like white on rice. But we had NO warning whatsoever … as well as hundreds, perhaps thousands of others in that 5-6 mile logjam.
All the while, we looked at what will eventually be a major bypass over Hoover Dam, including a huge suspension bridge towering hundreds of feet over the dam itself – yet another marvel of engineering in conjunction with the nation’s foremost engineering feat. When this will be completed is anybody’s guess; it could happen late into the next decade … who knows? But the purpose is to move traffic away from Hoover Dam in a more timely fashion.
Or will it close off Hoover Dam to the public? After 9/11, all tours on the inner workings of the dam (which cost all of $1 back in the day and was the greatest tour of its kind) were halted for fear of terrorism. Nothing was the same yet people still flock there; the danger still exists (if you see such happenings around every corner).
I guess the following opinion is mine alone but if we are THAT scared, as a nation, to act as if you are entering a foreign country merely to get into Nevada, then take the next step – stop ALL traffic from traveling on U.S. 93. Permit NO one to use that roadway and keep ALL people away from Hoover Dam. Then it will be COMPLETELY safe from strangers.
Otherwise, tell the motoring public of what is happening WELL in advance, with full disclosure of the problems, so more intelligent and timely decisions can be rendered. As taxpayers, we deserve nothing less.
And when the Bellagio bellman agreed with me, almost word-for-word, without me having to say a single word in my defense, I knew I was spot on.
But this isn’t your father’s Las Vegas or even your older brother’s town. Everything costs more than any other planet in the nation. Sandwiches that cost $6 are sold for $10 and you are grateful it was THAT cheap. Shows average nearly $100 per ticket and the era of the free lounge act, serving as apprenticeships for rising singers and comics, have disappeared.
That was a time when inexpensive food and low priced big-name entertainers were the draws to get people to stay and gamble. No more, sadly; that time has been demolished with the like of the Dunes (The Bellagio occupies its former space), Sands (now the Venetian), Desert Inn (now The Wynn), Frontier, Stardust, Marina, Aladdin, Hacienda (now the Mandalay Bay), Maxim, Bourbon Street and many others. The ax will eventually fall on the Tropicana, Riviera and Sahara.
Once upon a time not so long ago, one could stand on the Strip and see the surrounding mountain range without much eye clutter. One could stand at one end of Las Vegas Blvd. and clearly see the neon lights of each hotel from the Hacienda down to the Sahara. Now there is so much iron and steel and glass shoehorned into precious open space, you cannot see around the corner.
There are fewer headliner stars and more and more shows, led by Cirque de Soleil’s numerous different offerings. Even the long-running Follies Bergere has exited the Tropicana in favor of “Sopranos Last Supper” and some hypnotist. The high-end hotels offer 7-8 wildly expensive restaurants, each once tagged to some celebrity chef, and costing at least $150 for a dinner for two.
And, of course, you have to wait in line to get in.
If it is causing developers to cut back or re-assess, you cannot tell by the crowds. Sidewalks are jammed and it is impossible to navigate a CPS (concierge personal system).
That … and plenty of money (to gamble, to tip, to purchase). Some things about Las Vegas NEVER change.
“Upon further review” might be the three words no NFL fan wants to hear, but for our own use concerning tomorrow’s plans, it is exactly the right phrase to employ.
Originally, we were going westward to see Death Valley National Park, the hottest place in America (as in scorching heat, not hip activity). My quest to see as many national parks as possible has run into the unmovable barrier – personal energy. Simply put, we are too damn ass-dragging tired to expose ourselves to temperatures over 110 degrees. Only a fool would think that to be a wise move and I stopped being a fool somewhere along Route 66 in New Mexico.
And traffic around the Strip is horrendous, adding 30 minutes extra to any planned excursion away from the city. Since we are on a strict show schedule tomorrow night, there’s no use screwing around with clock management. We will probably have lunch up at the Mount Charleston Inn where it should be 20 degrees cooler than the triple-digits on the valley floor.
Besides, this is one of the finest hotels in America and even if the cost is almost 70 percent off the normal rack rate, we should enjoy the numerous amenities offered.
Wise choice, Chuck. Your body will thank you later.
However, I must skip a day in posting blogs until we reach Riverside. The Bellagio (as do all the major hotels on the Strip) charges $14.99 PER DAY for 24 hours of internet service. That is what we pay Verizon PER MONTH at home – which reinforces my point about the cost of coming here becoming out of reach for most people.
However, I can’t tell if there is any slowdown in the number of visitors; everything remains jammed packed.
Until then … waiting to see the Cirque de Soleil’s “LOVE: The Beatles” spectacular … without waiting all night … Shalom!

1 comment:

Bellagio Las Vegas Hotel said...

Chuck's great to learn about your experience at The Bellagio Las Vegas Hotel. Having read all pros & cons of the place, it has become easier for me to decide on whether or not it's gonna be my accommodation in Las Vegas..Thanks alot!