Go Vegas — Then Start Exploring

Take a side trip to amazing Red Rock Canyon the next time you go Vegas. Jade Moon photo

Take a side trip to amazing Red Rock Canyon the next time you go Vegas. Jade Moon photo

We’re in Vegas! What to do, what to do? The obvious answer is to explore The Strip. It’s famous, after all, and considered the ultimate Las Vegas experience.

So that’s what we do. We walk the length of The Strip, from the Venetian Resort to New York New York.

Along the way we see many marvels. We see fake Italy, with a truly wonderful fake St. Mark’s Square.

We meander inside giant malls. The Forum is especially fine. In fact, I buy a bag that is too expensive, but who cares? I love it.

Fake Rome (Caesars Palace) is packed with fake sculptures that many, many people love to photograph and be photographed with. I have a few pictures of the real ones (in real Rome) and so decided I didn’t need any more.

Then we see a restaurant owned by a famous TV chef and wander in to have lunch. I admit I was a skeptic. All the TV chefs have restaurants in Vegas, but are they any good? I must say, Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill surprised me. The quesadillas are to die for. Not kidding.

Of course, fake New York is pretty amazing. It really is like wandering along streets we are somewhat familiar with, except for some reason it’s always dark.

Las Vegas is crowded, confusing, tawdry, glitzy, noisy, expensive, pretentious, smelly. I think that’s why people like it. It’s tacky and it’s proud.

High rollers arrive in limos and head straight to their suites, gliding alongside the rest of the common folk who are there to gawk and gamble.

Salespeople call out from the doors of their shops, trying to hand you a “free” gift. You’ve already learned that in Vegas, nothing’s free.

Hawkers shove paraphernalia at you as you walk briskly by.

Street peddlers cry, “Water! Gatorade! Water! One dollar! Don’t get dehydrated and ruin your Vegas vacation!”

Beggars beg. Old men, young men, women. I even saw one child – or at least she looked like a child at first glance. Upon closer inspection she proved to be a tiny woman dressed as a child.

And look – a bunch of young men yelling something about stripping for money. They’re not good looking, definitely not strippers. They look like Midwesterners here on vacation who decided on a whim to make a few bucks. Maybe they’re drunk in the middle of the day. After all, what happens in Vegas …well, you know.

So here they are, lining the sidewalk, shirtless, white skin pinking under the sun. When young girls walk by, they hoot and scream and do that hip thrust, crotch-grabby thing some guys are so fond of doing. Is there a woman alive who finds that attractive? I’m laughing; it’s ridiculous.

It’s Vegas.

So how do you cleanse your mind after such a display? You get out of Vegas.

Red Rock Canyon is only 17 miles west of The Strip. In other words, a world away from the bright lights of glitzy-town. It’s 195,819 acres of natural splendor.

It was Nevada’s first National Conservation area, and thank goodness someone saw fit to preserve the wild grandeur of this land.

There are 30 hiking trails and a 13-mile scenic drive that is often breathtaking. The rock formations twist and jag and jut up at the sky. They impress from far away and knock you down with their immensity when you get up close.

It’s quiet out here. Despite the many tourists, there’s room to breathe.

Here is where you find salve for your wounded senses.

So the next time you go to Vegas, don’t be held captive by the raucous excitement of the city. Take a day. Go exploring. Enjoy what makes America so grand and so spectacularly special.

America is beautiful, “from sea to shining sea.”