A Weekend in Las Vegas with Shawn and Leanne

This past weekend Justine headed down to Las Vegas to meet Shawn and Leanne for some fun in the sun. It was a fun, busy weekend and we got to check out the sights and visit some favorite spots. Shawn and Leanne were there for the CONEXPO-CON/AGG & IFPE 2017 heavy equipment show, so we got to check that out - and had a surprise visit with Uncle Dave and Linda!

Our flight from Bellingham left at 8:00, so we had to be down across the border and at the airport super early - a 4:45 start to the day. Traffic was light, and there was no line at the border so we were a little early. We had some breakfast at the restaurant, and were on the plane before too long. It's a short trip to Vegas, and we were checked into the hotel by 11:00 a.m.

We were meeting Shawn and Leanne at the CONEXPO-CON/AGG & IFPE 2017 heavy equipment show, planning to spend the afternoon at the show. So we hopped in a taxi and took the short drive over to the convention center. We found Shawn and Leanne right away, and headed into the mayhem!

It's hard to say much about this, other than yes it is real. 

Probably the oldest piece of equipment at the show - a steam-powered tractor from 1913. At 75 hp, you have to imagine how crazy this thing must have been at the time.

The show is enormous, and frankly half the time I had no idea what I was looking at. Shawn did a great job translating for us, and it was crazy to just see the incredible range of equipment available. I didn't realize how specialized so much of this equipment is. The flipside is that it's amazing how many huge companies make essentially the same type of equipment, and that all of them can survive. 

Some of the standouts were the huge mining trucks; a crane the had 300 tons of ballast weight; and lift trucks that were reaching up 10-12 stories. There was so much more, but its all a blur.

We took a break from walking around to grab lunch at the Peppermill - this crazy original Vegas diner that looks like it hasn't been updated since they opened in the early 70s. The food was good (although the portions were insanely huge), but we did have to wait quite a while to get in. 

After lunch, it was back to the show, and more exploring. There was a whole section that was just different types of lube trucks, and whole areas dedicated to different countries - there to support their local economies and push the business interests of their citizens. We stuck around until around 4:00, when we called it a day. Shawn and Leanne had already been there for 3 days, so they had seen it all. We took the monorail back to the strip, and had a few hours to kill before dinner.

A view over the outdoor exhibit space from the monorail platform.

Earlier that week we had found out that Uncle Dave and Linda were going to be in the area on their travels, so we had arranged to have dinner with them. We made a reservation for 7:30, so we had some time. The area between New York New York and the Monte Carlo is now known as the "Entertainment District", with the new stadium and brand new concert venue. They've done an amazing job with the area, and there are a number of cool restaurants and bars along that area.

The Pac 12 college basketball tournament was  being held at the T-Mobile Arena over the weekend, so there was lots going on. We hung out in the area, and had a couple of drinks while we waited for Uncle Dave and Linda to join us.

A fun evening out!

Some good family time in Vegas!

We booked dinner at the Todd English pub at the Aria casino, one of our favourite places to go in Vegas. The food is great, it's not too trendy so you can get in, it's not too loud so you can carry on a conversation,  and they have good beer selection. And it's not overly expensive, which is a bonus for Vegas. 

We had a great evening getting caught up on Dave and Linda's adventures as they been travelling about. It had been a while since we had seen them. After dinner, we wandered along the Strip. Eventually we ended up at the Bellagio, and watched the fountain show go off - always fun.

After the fountain show, we went across the road to the Paris hotel, and went into one of the bars. They had a set of "dueling pianos" - two guys playing the piano and singing songs that the crowd requests. Shawn and Leanne had been in there earlier in the week and said that the guys were amazing. It was busy when we arrived, but eventually we found some seats. Sadly it was a different set of players, and they really weren't very good. 

We didn't stay long as a result, which was OK as it was already almost 1 a.m., and frankly I was exhausted. We all went our separate ways, and I was very much ready for bed!

Justine and I by one of the most famous signs in the world!

Saturday we woke to a beautiful day - sunny and warm, and not a cloud in the sky! We had decided to rent a car and do some exploring away from the city, as Shawn and Leanne had not really done that on previous trips. We picked them up at their hotel around 10:00 a.m., and headed out on our way.

Our first stop was a quick one at the "Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas Nevada" sign at the south end of the Strip. Leanne has wanted to see it, and it;s really easy to get to. So we stopped and took a few pictures, before continuing on our way. 

Our destination was a little ways outside the city, in Red Rock Canyon. I've been out there a number of times, and it's just so beautiful. We've been having a very wet winter in the west, and the result of that was that the normally red desert was very green, and the mountains all had snow on them. The whole place looked amazing.

What we didn't count on was the traffic to get into the park! Like I said, I've been out there many times, and half the time I had the place to myself. I guess because it was a Saturday, and a busy weekend in Vegas, but there was a lineup to get into the park. I've never seen anything like it. 

Once in, we decided to skip the Visitor Center, and see it on the way back. The way the park works is that there is a one way road that you drive along, with lots of places to stop to check out the view, or do side trips or even long backcountry hikes if you so desire. We were mostly planning to just do the drive and enjoy the sunny day.

One of the erly views of the surprisingly green desert.

The signature red rocks of the park. There were tons of people rock climbing all over the place.

Our little group, down on some of the rocks on one of our short hikes.

Justine's shadow art.

It was amazing ot see how green everything was, and how much was growing.

The park was packed, but we made a number of stops, and did a few short hikes to explore some of the hiking trails. We weren't really prepared, so we didn't go too far. The scenery is spectacular, and we wanted Shawn and Leanne to get a chance to see some of it.

On one of my previous trips, I had managed to see bighorn sheep on one of the trails, so we did a short hike out to the same spot to see if we could get lucky once more. No such luck this time - probably becuase the park was so busy and full of very loisy people. 

Yes, Shawn really had to see if the cactus was prickly...

The scenery is just so spectacular.

After driving around the park road, we thought we'd head over to the visitor center. Unfortunately, the people had kept piling in, and they actually had to close the park! There was a huge line of cars along the side of the road, I assume waiting for people to leave, so they could let more people in. It was insane - I've never seen anything like it. But it meant we couldn't go back in, and so missed the visitor center.

Instead, we headed back into the city, and stopped for lunch at the Red Rock Casino. I really want to stay here in the future, so we can do some longer hikes in the park, and maybe some road riding along the roads out in the desert. It looks pretty amazing.

After our late lunch, we headed back to the north end of the strip. As we still had the rental car, I wanted to check out the Neon Museum. This relatively new museum has been set-up to save all of the old classic neon signs from the "old" Las Vegas. I've wanted to go there for ages, so we drove over to check the place out.

Each of the letters in the sign for the museum was styled after a letter in one of the famius signs from the Strip. 

The museum features a restored lobby shell from the defunct La Concha Motel as its visitor center. It was designed by famous architect Paul Williams who was one of the first prominent African American architects in the United States

The sign from the Sahara Casino

The museum only offer guided tours, and they were sold out for the day, so we couldn't go in. We'll have to do that another time. Still, we could see a bit from the outside. And the gift shop had some great photos of old Las Vegas. 

After that, we were close to the Outlet Mall, so we headed over and did a bit of shopping. Leanne ended up with a bunch of things for the kids, and I needed a couple of specific things as well. Eventually we ran out of interest in that, and we headed back to the Strip. 

Hanging out in the Entertainment District on Saturday night in Las Vegas!

We dropped Shawn and Leanne off at their hotel, then returned the rental car and went back to our hotel to change. We got cleaned up and hopped in a cab to head back to the south part of the strip, and met them back in the Entertainment District. We got some dinner, then hung out in one of the bars and watched the end of the Pac 12 basketball final, being played about 200 meters away from where we were sitting. It was pretty fun.

Eventually we called it a night, and headed back to our respective hotels. I went and played poker for a while, before calling it a very late night (with the time change), and heading to bed.

Sunday we had to fly home at about 5:00, so we had most of the day to enjoy. We slept in a bit, and eventually met Shawn and Leanne at a restaurant in the Paris hotel for a late breakfast. We had a leisurely time of it, sitting outside on a patio, overlooking the Bellagio fountain and the Strip. It was a good start to the day.

As we didn't really have anything planned, we decided to head over to the MGM and try one of their new facilities, Top Golf. This was a new golf game, set up in a driving range. It's an attempt to make golf more social, by crossing the driving range experience with bowling. They've built a series of targets into the turf on the driving range, and then use balls with sensors in them to record which targets you hit. A computer keeps track, and has a bunch of different games that you can play. 

It was really fun, and even Leanne  who doesn't golf at all was getting into it. You don't even really need to know how to golf, to have a good time with it. The place was really quite amazing - it's pretty huge, plus they've built a whole entertainment complex around it -  5 bars, lots of other games to play - and have done good job of mixing family-friendly with guy-night-out, as well as support for corporate events. It's pretty amazing and we had a fun time.

The targets that you have to aim for.

The four of us, during our very competitive match.

The place is pretty huge - three levels plus the upper area that seemed set-up for bigger groups.

There is even a pool that you can lounge in.

We ended up there for almost three hours, and eventually had to leave as Justine and I needed to get back to the hotel to back up and get checked out. It was a super-fun weekend, and was great to hang out with Shawn and Leanne for the whole time. And the pleasant surprise of seeing Dave and Linda, made it a fabulous weekend.