Yep. It’s been a while. It took a trip to Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon and the purchase of a new off-road hand bike to get me back on the horse that is writing. Each of those tidbits is a story to be told, but I thought I’d start back with a look at Sin City. Las Vegas.
If you’ve followed along with my journey on wheels, you know that Las Vegas has some significance to my tale. Our first visit was in August of 2008, just before Shannon and I got married with a large group of good friends. I was walking then and had no idea that a chair was in the future, but it was also the place where we began to realize something wasn’t right with my legs.
Flash forward to 2017 and a new chapter is ready to begin. Shannon and I are taking this trip to Vegas with the primary purpose of buying me a new bike from Lasher Sports…more on that in another post. There were a lot of flashbacks for us on this whirlwind trip, but it was amazing how much had changed in 9 years. My wheels are the most obvious. We are married. We were on our own for this trip and we had planned for more than just the strip. Gambling wasn’t on our radar. Our most unusual restaurant was The Cheesecake Factory, where their monstrous portions continued to make it impossible to finish a meal. What changed the most? Our perspective.
So how is Vegas in 2017? It is still the most incredible mashup of class and crass that you will find commingled in one place. So, not much has changed on that end, but in 9 years there is a lot that has changed on the strip itself. You’ve got entirely new resort areas from the high-end Aria to a new outdoor market spot with the Linq casino and the Las Vegas version of the London Eye ferris wheel giving a view of the strip from almost 500 feet over it. All of that gives it a little bit of a new shine, but really…Vegas is Vegas. You’ve still got scantily clad women offering pictures for five dollars, random people flicking business cards to get your attention, men trying to convince women to come to their bars/clubs for free drinks, and people wandering with their massive drinks at any time of the day. It’s Vegas baby.
Exploring it on wheels though? Again, it’s two sides of the coin again. The effort is there, but the execution of it often leaves a lot to be desired. What do I mean? Well, let’s start with Caesar’s Palace, the casino resort you can’t miss…hell you might even be staying at one of its sister hotels and never know it. I have two questions for Caesar’s. Who came up with the approved design for the slopes on your ramps, indoors and outdoors…and who the hell thought those beds were great ideas in your accessible rooms??
Seriously, the room was gorgeous. When we first stepped in, we couldn’t help but whistle (wasn’t as inspiring as the upgraded room we got at the Paris in 2008…but that’s another story). Take a look at it! Plenty of space, room for my chair, a huge flat screen TV you can’t see on the right (hey I’m not the greatest photographer), the standard hotel fridge with every possible loophole to charge you for ANYthing you might do with it…but it looks classy and the bathroom had the roll in shower and a separate toilet with all the grab bars. Oh I know…bathrooms again…but as I’ve said before, they matter.
So here’s the trick. Like so much of Vegas it has a great first look, an overwhelming first impression. Then…you look a bit closer. You try to use something as simple as a cupboard…and you notice the handles are missing off the doors.
Or you go to climb onto the bed and you discover that the bed is so high that even your 6 foot 2 inch height would have had a hard time the floor when you could walk. So in a room that is supposed to be accessible you end up with this:
Doesn’t look like much does it? It was about six inches higher than my legs were in my chair. Keep in mind I am damn tall which mean my chair is much higher than many people you will see wheeling around. So what’s the problem? It’s just six inches right?
The problem is that you have nothing to brace on to get give yourself a boost up since it isn’t an easy slide across, or better yet down. I ended up having to a very awkward sideways flop and roll which usually ended up with my feet tangled in my chair and it eventually rolled over on it back. The first time it happened I couldn’t help but just flop back down giggling at how dignified I looked. (seriously, I flop with the best of them).
Now imagine you weren’t 6 feet tall. Imagine you were 5 feet tall. That bed, which was supposed to be accessible is now a foot and half higher than your sitting position (guestimating). How do you get into it? A step stool would help but good luck with that. Once more we’re left with the question of who actually designed the rooms and why they never thought to bring in someone with a wheelchair. This isn’t the first hotel that we’ve dealt with this (cruise lines seem to get this right), but this was by far the biggest name hotel we’ve seen it this bad.
This kind of “just missed the mark” seems to be prevalent all over the Vegas strip. From uneven pavements, bridges you have to use to cross streets without working elevators, to the worst curb cut downs at intersections, to ramps that give me one hell of a work out, it truly felt like everything was an after thought. Don’t get me started on the ones inside pretty much every Casino…I’m looking at you MGM Grand…yes you know the one that leads out to the bridge that crosses over to New York, New York. That wasn’t a ramp, it was a bloody hill.
So despite all that…how was Vegas? A blast. We’re too old for the clubs, but there was always something to see, something to gawk at, something to laugh about, some strangeness that left you saying “only in Vegas”. We just missed a fire at the Bellagio which shut down the busiest part of the strip, walked into the middle of a wedding photo reception in the Bellagio indoor asian garden, bought some art from a street side graffiti artist, and took in all we could in the short crazy time we were there.
We never thought we’d say this after our visit in 2008, but…we can see ourselves going back for a more leisurely trip.
Oh and a couple of tips?
- If you have to visit somewhere off the strip and the map makes it look like it’s only a couple of walkable blocks away? Don’t believe it! My big mistake as our first day ended being an hour and a half walk off the strip to get to Lasher Sport. More on that another time.
- Yes, the Bellagio Fountains are worth a visit at night despite the crowds. Find a good spot and wait for a couple of shows. If you’ve only seen them from Ocean’s Eleven, it doesn’t do them justice.
- Sleaziest hotel/casino on the strip? The Best Western between Harrah’s and the Venetian. I mean seriously…feels like it should be on the old Strip (which we didn’t get to on this trip)
- Favorite spot for shopping and wandering? The Venetian. Hands down. I liked the Forums shopping under Caesar’s too, but the Venetian is spectacular.
- Most insanely expensive? Anything to do with Aria, but especially their shopping mall. That place was insane. Just…walk through it…my wheelchair was cheap compared to some of the dresses in the stores.
- Best time to just watch humanity be hilarious? Happy hour at Margaritaville in the Flamingo. 5pm and beers are 5 cents a glass. With beer pong tournaments between college kids and retirees. It was something to behold.
Lots more stories to come…but tonight I needed to get back on the horse. The Geek on Wheels and his Molly exploring the Strip. Another chapter begins…ready to continue the story with me?