I decided to make the long haul from Telluride to Las Vegas in one day so I could spend 2 nights in Sin City. I wish I had another night in Telluride, but to do this trip in the time I had allotted I had to pile on some miles. My brother John just happened to be in Vegas for a work function and invited me to stay with him at The Flamingo on the strip. I packed up my side bags and headed down to the Brick. The seat was filled with water from the morning dew and a strange mist hung not far from the ground. The town was dead quiet and I seemed to be the only person awake. I made my way out on 145 winding out of the canyon. The scenery looked different in the morning. The sun was coming up and light moved down the mountains like molten metal. The air was cool and the bike was running great and so far has earned her name.
I found a small restaurant in a town called Norwood on 145 called the Happy Belly Deli. I waited in line to order and the guy in front of me said, “sausage bowl.” Whatever that was, it sounded like my kind of thing so I ordered one as well. The dish consisted of sausage, potatoes, and sausage gravy. I admittedly wasn’t worried too much about my diet on this journey. This was an excursion of indulgence and the cholesterol be damned. I washed the greasy deliciousness down with plenty of coffee and water. I had a long ride and the carbs of the meal would serve me well. My cough, runny nose, and congestion still lingered but I have become to accept his as a way of life for a while. The trouble must be allergies that have seemed to creep into my life more and more each year. NYC is a pretty toxic place to live. The air quality from the cars and the germs from the sheer amount of people blend together in a poison cocktail. I wondered how anybody stays healthy in the city.
I finished my breakfast and used the restroom. On the walls were funny affirmations about life such as, “Savor the days people are nice to you,” and “Create your own reality.” These hand painted bits of wisdom made me smile and boosted my mood before starting out on the road again. I thought about the idea that nobody in my life knew exactly where I was. I could have been lost at sea and I actually liked the feeling of being alone and exploring the country one little town at a time. Just yesterday I cursed my loneliness and now I was getting used to the idea.
I travelled on 46 and hit the Utah border. I stopped to take a picture. My original plan was to do this for every state but most state lines I approached, I flew right by the welcome signs at 70 miles per. I abandoned the idea early on during the trip. The roads were very interesting and filled with great rock formations and canyons. I stopped every 40 minutes or so to take a look – “Smell the roses,” everybody kept telling me. In the middle of nowhere popped up a place called “Hole N” The Rock”, a 5000 square foot home carved into side of a mountain. The joint was also a gift shop, zoo, store, ice cream shop, and sculpture park. I didn’t spend any time there other than to snap a picture. The place seemed to disagree with the landscape and although I am usually up for a good tourist trap, today I wasn’t in the mood. I was more interested in absorbing the natural surroundings and this place just knocked me on my ear.
I continued on my trek and lunch came around. I pulled into a town called Salina and located a tasty old diner called Mom’s Café. The place had cheap food and I ordered the chicken friend steak. It was authentic and delicious. I had a couple of light beers to take off the stress that had accumulated during the drive so far. I felt like I had traveled through time. The prices, service, and the décor all reeked of the 1950’s. The waitresses even wore old style uniforms. Mom’s was a nice serendipitous find and I am glad I stumbled upon the restaurant.
I plowed on the long drive and eventually hooked up with route 15. I barreled south for the final 4 hours, only stopping for gas, a wipe of my face shield, and a 16-ounce chug of water. I was just outside of Las Vegas. I gained an hour because of the time zone shift and I thought I had beaten the weather, but the last hour proved differently. The heat once I hit Nevada seemed unreal. The sun not only beat down on my black jacket and helmet but the air was so hot and dry it felt like I was breathing finishing nails. My throat burned and I was boiling inside of my jacket. The air was so dry that I didn’t even feel sweat inside of my jacket. My breathing got heavy and I recalled the time I was stuck heading into the Lincoln Tunnel on my New Jersey Hell ride. This was hotter. The only bonus was that I was rolling at a good speed and although the rushing air burned like a blast furnace, at least there was some flow of air.
I saw Las Vegas rising in the distance. Who would build a gambling venue in such a godforsaken place? Proof that Vegas truly is the Sin City is evident because the weather shares the same climate as her sister city, a populous town known as Hell. I routed my way into the odd oasis of iniquity and found the Flamingo. The sun was going down and the lights that never seem to go out glowed brighter against the evening sky.
My brother John was tied up in meetings until after 9pm so I had to fend for myself. He left a room key card at the desk for me and I went up to the room. It was a swank affair. There were two huge beds and a view of the Bellagio fountain. The bathroom had a separate shower, a full tub, and a TV that when turned on glowed through the back of the vanity mirror. I took a shower and rested on the bed for a few moments finally cooling off. The heat wiped me out but I needed a beer and some food.
I ventured out of the Hotel and onto a back street that lead to the strip. I found a cheap bar called the Stage Door that had a hot dog and Bud Light special for $2.50, my kind of place. I walked in and every seat in the bar had an electronic screen to play video poker or black jack. I sat and ate my special and when the bartender came around and asked for another round, I shook my head. She not only brought me another beer, but another hot dog. She must have been a mind reader. The dogs weren’t great but not bad either.
I sat and looked around at the place. Old timers with long faces sat smoking, drinking, and stuffing money into the machines. The scene struck me as one of the saddest sights I have ever seen. I thought I knew what loneliness was but these guys were the real element, living lives that banked on the next big winning streak that never is going to come. The smoke bugged me because NYC has banned smoking just about everywhere including Central Park, so my tolerance for cigarettes has waned over the years. I could handle it back in the day when I worked doing sound in an unventilated club in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. I ordered my third beer and decided I would take a crack at the gambling – when in Vegas… I pushed a twenty into the slot of the evil device and selected black jack. I lost a few and won a few and the machine seemed to know what I was going to do. I am sure humans react in similar ways when winning and losing while gambling and the machine knew every emotion I felt. Like the bartender, it read my mind. The $20 went fast and I sat and watched others lose their money for a while. I didn’t care for the environment much.
I got a text from my brother and he was on his way back to the hotel so I headed there myself. He came into the room wearing his business casual. The clothes didn’t fit his personality. John is a guy that works with his hands and is somebody I consider a true genius. Collared shirts don’t match his t-shirt and jeans attitude of hard work. Ever since he was a young boy, he would take apart engines, telephones and TV sets. He learned how to fix and build things. Engine repair, electronics, woodworking, fiberglass, plumbing, and all things mechanical John absorbed. This knowledge grew exponentially as he got older and he now serves as a project manager for one of the top tech companies on nothing but his self-taught genius and an AS degree from a community college.
John changed out of his work togs and into a concert T and jeans and we hit the streets. We walked around and snapped a few pictures. It was great to see him. I have not seen any of my family members since the dissolution of my engagement in February so this was a needed visit. We stopped at the famous Bellagio fountain and watched the dancing waters do their thing. I thought the show would be longer, but it was entertaining for a bit. I didn’t really care much about the tourist views, I was just really glad to see my brother. We visited the foam-core constructed knockoffs and laughed at the mini-New York. John was speed walking from place to place and I just couldn’t keep up. The cooking of my body by the desert air had beaten me. We went back up to the room and talked for a while finally saying good night and looking forward to hanging out the next day.
As I drifted off to sleep I thought about the things my brother has done for me. John isn’t open and obvious like me, he is under the radar and subtle. When I first started to play guitar he told me I had to listen to Jimi Hendrix and Alvin Lee. He had an old bass and used to play along with me from time to time, never desiring to be in a band himself, but just wanting to have some fun with music and encourage me. We have pulled more pranks on each other than I can remember and when I needed him he was there.
I heard John snore to sleep and I remembered one instance in particular where John helped me and that was the time I crashed my car. I had a crappy faded Mercury Lynx and I ran a red light and damn near totaled the front by hitting a Ford F-150 pickup. The car was in my parent’s garage smashed and John called from his small house up the street, “I’m going flying tomorrow, you want to come? I’ll buy you lunch.” John had his private pilot’s license at the time and he knew I was depressed about my car. I had been saving money for a new mixing board and that money would be exhausted paying for my car and fixing the truck I hit. I agreed and went along with John the next day. I felt blue because I had had so many accidents and my confidence was shot. We took off and flew through the air in a Cessna that felt more like a lawnmower with wings than an aircraft. John did some stalls, which scared me a bit, but I started to cheer up. It was my first time in a little plane. Midway through the flight, John took his hands off of the controls and said, “You fly.” I freaked out a bit, “I don’t know how to fly!” John put his hands on his lap “Just try it, it’s easy.” I took the go-cart like steering wheel and wiggled it back and forth keeping the plane straight and level. I was flying an airplane.
We landed and had lunch. John didn’t say anything about my crash. We just ate and talked about nothing in particular. It wasn’t until days later that I realized what John had done. In his own way he helped me to heal from my accident. He restored my confidence by telling me to fly and basically forced me to move past the incident. I am not sure John even knows what he did that day. Again I repeat, he’s a genius and he does not even know how truly that word applies to him. He’s humble and real – such rare qualities in the world.
Within the next week, John helped me gather the parts for repairs and the two of us welded an entire new front end onto the damaged Mercury. John even found a hood in a junkyard that matched the faded blue paint. When I drove to work after the repairs my coworkers said, “I thought you had a wreck?” The car was indistinguishable from the way it was before the accident. Like I said, the guy can fix anything and not only cars, but also broken confidence and a busted soul.
I had many more thoughts about my brother. Great memories drifted into my dreams, and although I was in this fake cardboard city, I hadn’t felt more at home in a long time.
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Telluride to Las Vegas – 594 Miles