October 7, 2005

Start: Salt Lake City, Utah
Las Vegas, Nevada
Miles: 420 miles
Route taken: Interstate 15 south to Route 9 east through
Zion National Park back to Interstate 15, exit at Las Vegas.


        The trip was now about getting home in two days and I knew when I left Salt Lake City in the morning it was going to be a grueling day of driving.

        Fortunately I had a discount card at the Stardust on the Strip so I wouldn’t have to worry about where I was going to stay and ironically, it was one of the cheapest hotels I stayed at during the trip.

        During the week, Las Vegas is still a deal. I got a room for $38. On the weekend, though, it is another story. The days of getting in a car and looking for a cheap room once you got on the strip are over. Most of the rooms now are more than $100 on the weekend and people gladly pay that.

        Why I don’t know. Las Vegas has certainly lost its charm. It used to be a fun place to go. The dealers were friendly, the deals were there, the pit boss may throw a couple of show tickets your way if he knew you. Now it is all about squeezing the last possible dollar out of people. Dealers barely talk to you and the fun is definitely gone.

        I probably should have stopped in Mesquite, which is 73 miles north of the strip. It is a little town, just over the Nevada border and has more of that old Vegas feel to it, but I was in the mode of wanting to get home. I knew if I was in Vegas, I would only be five hours from my house.

        One stop I did make was Zion National Park. I have passed the park several times on trips through Utah and never stopped.

        This time I veered off of Interstate 15 and got on Highway 9 east and went to the park.

        I am glad I did. It is spectacular and I think part of the reason I was so enamored with it was because there were no expectations. No one told me of its beauty. I had no idea what I would see. It was a completely fresh experience.

     From the minute I paid the $10 fee I was mesmerized by the scenery. Large rock outcroppings and mountains worn away by time, colorfully majestic greeted every turn on the road of the park.

        I was entranced by it all and stopped the bike several times to just stare at the landscape, all the while thankful that I took the detour.

        By the time I got back on Interstate 15 it was getting late and I had to make some time up. It isn’t really difficult to do because there is so little to see on that stretch of road, especially once you leave Mesquite.

        I was surprised that Vegas had expanded north, though I guess I shouldn’t be. I knew it had stretched out towards Los Angeles, but it has crept out this way as well.

        The city is one of the fastest growing in the country and a million new residents show up every year. Part of the charm is not paying state income taxes, but they might be in for a rude awakening. The infrastructure that allows that to happen, may be going away. Gambling is still healthy in Las Vegas, but it is not growing, while the population is. There might come a time in the next 20 years where the state may have no choice but to start charging state income tax.

        On this day, I supported the residents. I was exhausted but decided to gamble anyway and predictably lost. I went back to my hotel room a tired and beaten man, but was one day closer to home.