- Where We Started: Las Vegas, Nev.
- Where We Ended: Anaheim, Calif.
- Miles Driven: 346 (10,189 total).
- New States: California.
- States So Far: 19 (Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee, Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, California)
THE DAY'S HIGHLIGHTS
Sometimes in life, your brain writes checks your body can't cash. That's what happened on Thursday, as our original plans to visit Red Rock Canyon and Death Valley National Park on our way from Las Vegas to Los Angeles fell victim to the collective fatigue of the merry FHMA band. Instead, we slept in, took advantage of the amenities of the Four Seasons and explored the Las Vegas Strip before making a leisurely drive to Los Angeles.
While our new schedule -- which has our days beginning much earlier -- has been a success on the sightseeing front, I tried to pack too much into Wednesday. As a result, no one had the stomach for a crazy day Thursday. So we all slept late. Then, instead of starting the blog, I goofed off with other e-mail and some trip planning. By the time I started writing, the Four Seasons' wireless connection started crapping out. This led to a delayed posting on Thursday, and lots of laying around time at the Four Seasons.
After determining I wasn't going to finish the daily blog post before we got kicked out of the hotel, we checked out and hit the Strip. Now, the Strip is not a great place for dogs -- or, more accurately, not great for the people who have to walk the dogs. There's lots to smell, and all sorts of people -- some crazy, some inebriated -- who want to stop and play with dogs. The Strip is also mostly concrete, and the frequent pedestrian overpasses are difficult for dogs who had never been on an escalator. Or at least not until Thursday.
Fred takes his first escalator ride during our walk down the Las Vegas Strip on Thursday. Off-camera, Hank did the same.
Our stroll down the Strip lasted only 45 minutes, as the dogs exhausted themselves by scampering all over place and exhausted us by trying to track every smell they encountered. But we did manage to get Fred and Hank to stand still briefly in front of the Luxor.
We then hit Las Vegas by car, as the dogs slept off their walk. In addition to hitting The Strip, we checked out some of the older casino areas and also past The Fremont Street Experience. While most of our trips to Vegas have focused on the Strip, I find the older casinos fascinating.
Moving to the car allowed us to spot interesting people -- of which there's no shortage in Vegas -- at a faster pace than on foot, and Joan took full advantage of the situation.
From there, we hit the highway. We made one lengthy stop in the casino border town of Primm, Nev., where Joan took over the driving so I could finish Thursday's blog post, and where she packed a bag for my trip to Texas and New York. Once we arrived in Los Angeles, we headed straight for LAX, where I caught a red-eye to Texas. Thus begins a two-day hiatus for Fred & Hank Mark America. We'll be back on Monday.
- Yes, you read right. Joan drove most of the four-hour journey from Las Vegas to Los Angeles. This marks the first time on the FHMA tour that Joan has driven for a period of more than an hour. And you know what, I kind of enjoyed it.
- While Joan was behind the wheel, our journey crossed the 10,000-mile mark on a non-descript portion of Interstate 15 near Barstow, Calif.
- I tend to make it to Las Vegas about once a year on average, so while here, I performed my annual money sacrifice by putting down $50 on the New York Jets to win the Super Bowl. The odds were a not-bad 18-to-1. I expect to see no money. But tradition is tradition.
- In Baker, Calif., we passed a sign for Zzyzx Road. There's also a town named Zzyzx, and not surprisingly, it would be the last town listed if every town in the United States was listed alphabetically. Ironically, there was an independent film made a few years back called Zzyzx Rd., starring Katherine Heigl. It made news because of its total gross: $30. Here's an Entertainment Weekly story on the film.
- Sign of the Day:
The sign itself isn't the issue, it's just that, of the four bolts that are holding this sign to the back of the cab, one is in the middle right of Louie's forehead, and another in right where his nose should be. It looked ridiculous.
- Random iPod shuffle song of the day: "Love Is a Long Road," by Tom Petty." We've already discussed Petty a lot on this blog, and this is a solid-but-not-great song of his, in my opinion.
- Most-Played Albums: We didn't play any music while we cruised up and down the Las Vegas Strip. That's a place where natural sound is far more interesting than anything we could have played off my iPod. Once we got started toward Los Angeles, we went for The Ramones, specifically their amazing debut album -- did anyone ever make a better first song than "Blitzkrieg Bop"? -- and "Rocket to Russia." When Joan took over the driving, however, the music was hers to choose, and she chose -- gulp -- one of our XM country music stations. Yes, it's time for me to admit the shameful secret: Joan likes country music. I was pretty sure I had programmed the car to turn off automatically any time country music was played, but apparently not.
- Lunch: The Four Seasons Hotel, Las Vegas, Nev.: We got room service, and my food was excellent. I got the chilled seafood platter and a bowl of chicken soup, and while I partially spoiled the meal by getting pita chips and hummus, it wasn't too bad a meal. Joan had a far different experience: She got a salad. And then she felt sick for a while. In any system, food poisoning costs you a lot. Jim Nutrition Rating: 3 stars (out of 5). Restaurant Rating: 2 stars (out of 5).
- Dinner: In-N-Out Burger, Hesperia, Calif.: Our first trip to this excellent West Coast hamburger chain was satisfying as always. In-N-Out was a standby of the 2003 trip, but in all honesty, it has since been surpassed in our eyes by Five Guys Burgers & Fries. In our quest for death by hamburger, we once -- on the same day -- had In-N-Out Burger in L.A. for an early lunch, and Five Guys for a late dinner in Virginia. The verdict: We both preferred Five Guys. But that doesn't mean we don't like In-N-Out Burger, so all you West Coasters don't need to get too riled up -- I'm looking at you, Kovac. Jim Nutrition Rating: 1 star (out of 5). A double burger and fries. Game over. Restaurant Rating: 3.5 stars (out of 5).
- Quality Inn Maingate, Anaheim, Calif.: The hotel was perfectly fine, reports Joan, but they gave her a second-floor room, which is a bear when you have two dogs and a lot of little bags. Nothing special, but no real issues. Hotel rating: 3 stars (out of 5).
COMMENT OF THE DAY
- Today: Jim's in Austin, Tex., and Joan is in L.A., as FHMA starts two-day hiatus.
- Tomorrow: The second day of our two-day hiatus.
- The Day After Tomorrow: Jim returns to L.A.; FHMA hits the gas pedal again.
BONUS BEAGLE PHOTO