Use your mind’s eye to imagine settlers arriving here for the first time. Coming from crowded cities on the East coast or Europe, space must have seemed vast. And so everything grew bigger to ensure proportion. Big houses, because land wasn’t an issue, needs big furniture, which needs big plates to fill it, and big meals. Roads are wide, so cars are bigger. We’ve just been to Las Vegas where an advert on the side of a van said it all. Elvis, in all his glittery Vegas glory, was asking you: “Why walk when you can hire a scooter?” The word “obese” has been redefined here. I’ve never seen so many people that I would be scared to bump into in case I never see the light of day again.
Vegas was an education into all that is glutinous. I don’t like the gambling culture to start with so I was never going to be in my element, but it was a culture shock. In the middle of the desert, there are huge pyramids, rollercoasters on the main street through the city, gold lions the size of a building, a fairy castle, dancing girls, stage shows. Everything is plastic, loud, gaudy, glittering. It’s toy town and the only rule is you must have fun. It’s a strange place to be, especially with children. We were staying at the Four Season Hotel, which given the other hotels we visited, was an oasis. It wasn’t tacky. It wasn’t noisy. There were fewer tattooed, surgically enhanced people. It was an interesting contrast after the natural rural life we had been living for the past two weeks, where we hiked the national parks of the Grand Canyon, Arches, Canyonland, Natural Bridges, and my favourite, the pink sandstones of Antelope Canyon, just outside the town of Page.
We had fun, but now I’m sitting in the safety of the airport, on our way to San Diego, I think three nights in Vegas was just about right. We could have done more, and that leads me to another rant. As soon as you have children, who absorb all the spare cash you have, why does everyone hike up the prices? It’s more expensive to travel during school holidays, you have to pay for more seats on planes, more food, more beds. I can see that. But if you want to have a break from sitting in your dark hotel room, waiting for the children to go to sleep, you need a new mortgage. You might think getting a babysitter isn’t a big deal. It’s expensive, but a treat, and where else to have a treat but Vegas? I don’t mind spending $50 to someone I know and trust to look after my precious girls. But I do mind spending $180 ($45 per hour for a minimum of four hours if you please) to a stranger at a babysitting service promoted by the hotel. And then there are the show tickets on top of that. Surely shows could do family deals to get bums on seats, offer babysitting coupons on the quiet days? Do they want me to write their business plan for them?