Road Trip Update: 3 Days in Sin City

I recently went on a 6,000 kilometre road trip from Vancouver, BC down the Pacific Coast, into California, sideways to Nevada, and then up again through Utah, Idaho, and Washington State. I was joined by my dad as copilot, and we were gone for two weeks. The car we chose for the adventure was my Speed Yellow 2000 Porsche 911 GT3 Aerokit Cup.

Las Vegas Arrival: Completely and utterly wiped from that treacherous drive from LA to LV, we mustered just enough courage to find one of the Cosmopolitan's three pools, locate a restaurant of some sort, and order a few beers and a few salads. A lazy late afternoon lunch with a view. Just what the doctor had ordered. 43 degrees Celsius, a Blue Moon beer, and a Cobb Salad. And what a view. The Cosmopolitan came highly recommended by some of my friends who frequent Vegas more frequently than I do; perhaps mostly due to it being the newest and trendiest resort on the Strip. They weren't kidding. A quick scan of the pool area had me thinking that all the briefcase ladies on Deal or No Deal had thrown a party and invited the Los Angeles Lakers cheerleading squad, then realized that they were missing some "personality" so Dan Bilzerian's rent-a-girlfriends and Hugh's Playmates were asked to fly up from Los Angeles. Good show. The salad, by the way, was delicious. Just don't ask me what was in it. 

Hoover Dam. Water not actually nuclear in colour.
After lunch, feeling completely relaxed, we headed for the Strip. Since the Cosmo is in the middle, you don't have to tackle too much all at once. You can simply split it up in four outings. Up first was the Aria, New York New York, the Excalibur, and eventually, Luxor, where we were hoping to catch the Titanic exhibition. After a quick visit to a bar in New York New York during happy hour for some liquid courage, we checked out the roller coaster, decided we were too scared, and continued through the muggy Excalibur (medieval period themed) and into the pyramid with the bright light on top - Luxor. The Titanic exhibit was something my dad and I had dreamed of visiting for quite some time now. And while we missed out on the Queen Mary visit, the aircraft carrier visit, and the Mojave airplane graveyard visit, we were beyond stoked that we had managed to hit at least one of wish list items. If you haven't realized it by now, my dad and I are both fascinated by large scale transportation that reflects a particular time and period where the voyage was just as celebrated as the destination. We also like abandoned stuff. Racing cars, looking at cars, talking about cars, fantasizing about what car to buy next, criticizing other people's car choices, and generally reading and learning about cars. But right now we're looking at a boat. The largest ship in the World, in fact. One that sank in 1912 as a result of the guy, who was supposed to keep an eye out for icebergs while the captain drank himself silly with first class guests in the dining room, didn't have a set of binoculars. So when he finally spotted an iceberg, he went "ICEBEEEEERG AHEAD!!!" and then they hit it. I guess someone at some point didn't quite think this through. But it was 1912. Who knows what people were thinking then.

The crummy Flamingo's party trick - the tropical gardens. 
Inside we found a real iceberg which we were allowed to touch, a full size replica of the upper decks complete with starry night sky and ice cold wind, a huge section of the Titanic that took 10 years to lift from the ocean floor (it was supposed to take only four years, but then the cables that were lifting it up snapped - back to the drawing board they went and the second time around they used inflatable bags - very trick). At the end of the day this exhibition also reminded me that extremely wealthy people's idea of a good time always involved a crowd, drinking, and cards. Not much has changed, really. We just dress less funny and carry our pocket watches on our wrists. After the exhibition we were hungry. Isn't it amazing how people need to be fed three times a day? All the people in the western world. Three times a day they need feeding. Why am I not in the food business? In fact we were so digested with the frivolous mass consumption glutinous rituals that have penetrated our society that we bought the "Buffets of Buffets" pass that allowed us to eat as much as we want, at as many buffets in Las Vegas as we want, in a 24 hour span. Ready. Set. Indigestion.

Hoover Dam: With not nearly enough time to spare, we took off for the Hoover Dam around 5PM in the hopes of catching some kind of last minute tour of the mechanical underground bits that turn water pressure into electricity. Unfortunately the drive took a bit longer then expected so once we arrived there were two sides of looking at the situation a) the Hoover Dam was all to ourselves, or b) and this is how my dad chose to see it, "damned Alex, why are we always late for everything?" 


Absolutely no stopping on the dam. 

Dream Racing @ Las Vegas Speedway: On Thursday I had something special planned - a belated birthday present for my dad that involved a very red Fezza and a wide open race track in the desert. I'd call this one of my better birthday surprises, followed closely by that book I got him one time about wine and the 22 other birthdays I forgot about. Following a strategically short breakfast, partly because we were absolutely saturated from the multiple buffets and partly because I knew from previous experience that a full stomach while racing on the track leads to an ambulance being called. So after a quick breakfast, I pointed the yellowbird North to the Vegas Speedway. At this point I had my dad guessing all sorts of things as to what the surprise would be. I could tell he was becoming more and more nervous as I hinted at things like a father-son sky diving session or a bungee jump from the Hoover Dam (I'll have you know that my dad has a serious fear of heights). But after I told him that at no point he would feel uncomfortable about the surprise (I was wrong), he immediately relaxed and guessed, quite correctly, that it would involve a fast car. 


It wasn't easy to pick a car for my dad, but the Scud Missile proved choice. Ciao bella!

A fast car it was. Arguably my favourite modern Italian super car - the Ferrari F430 Scuderia, a lightweight track-focused version of the popular Ferrari F430. Dream racing actually has an entire stable of super and hyper cars including a Lamborghini A-vent-and-a-door, the McLaren MP3 CD, and the Ferrari 458 homecountry. I chose the Ferrari Scuderia since it was the most track ready of all the road cars available. What I should of gotten however, was the unadvertised extremely rare front engined V12 Ferrari 599 GTO that they had casually parked in front of the Dream Racing office. Apparently it was available for a similar price. Whoever is running Dream Racing simply hasn't heard of the word "depreciation." I love it. 
510 lightweight Italian stallions, a race engineer, a personal hostess and a wide open track. 


Talking about the people who run Dream Racing… what a fantastic bunch of people. Form the genuinely nice hostesses that greeted us, to the professional race car driver instructors, to the owner who popped by to say hi, each person loved their job, loved the cars, and couldn't have been more excited for us to be there. We were offered all kinds of food and drinks while we signed off on some paperwork, then sat in a short private classroom session run by a current GT class race car driver who taught us about different lines through various corners on the track together with all other kinds of racing tips and tricks. Next up was a simulator that emulated the race track down to each bump and groove, on which my dad got to practice his corner entries, exits, shifts, and braking points. After all, things were about to get very real, and you don't want to brake late into a corner where if you fly off, you write off a limited production Ferrari. Worse, at the speeds that are suggested on the Speedway inside track, you could do some serious physical harm. As my dad progressed nicely on the simulator, we decided it was time to hit the track. We were escorted on and immediately got weak in the knees at the sight of all the super cars lined up and ready to play. There was only one problem. 

The Scud missile was nowhere to be seen. "Don't worry", said the instructor, "it's just getting some fresh tires." Lovely. So we took some pictures and sat down in the shady lounge where we were offered yet more refreshing drinks (remember its like 41 degrees Celsius outside). When the Scud got dropped off by a mechanic, my dad all of a sudden became a little more nervous. I think it was the thought of racing an unfamiliar car, on an unfamiliar track, in extreme temperatures, at very high speeds. It all of a sudden all got very real. But I assured both my dad and the instructor that we were here to have fun first. Who cares about lap times. We aren't that competitive minded anyways. Let's just enjoy the car, enjoy the massive loud downshifts, enjoy being on a track, and enjoy opening her up on the straights. Let the rest just come to you and if after a few laps you want to begin finding 75+% of the car's performance, go nuts. 


With the nerves settled and the track memorized, it was time to get genuinely excited. 
So in he went, and off he went. What a noise. When the valves in the exhaust open up when the needle climbs above 3000 rpm unleashing a loud BWAAAAAAAPPP I felt my heart clutch. Wow. 

Round and round he went, and eventually it was all over. What an experience. I would do it again in a heartbeat. Vegas actually has two companies that run this type of program where you can rent an expensive car and unleash it one a track. I did quite a bit of research into the two different experiencing including reading countless reviews on Yelp and Tripadvisor. I can only speak for Dream Racing, but take it from me that it was one of the best organized events I've ever had the pleasure of experiencing. There was simply nothing to complain about. 


$800. Tempting. Nearly became E30 #4.
Later in the afternoon we had planned to visit Fremont, the old Las Vegas and home to the "Fremont Street Experience", the Golden Nugget, and loads of surprisingly accurate celebrity impersonators. On our way there, we drove past a black BMW E30 Convertible with a "for sale" sign. Wow. What are the odds? Frequent readers of the blog will know of my affinity with E30s (read: 1985-1992 BMW 3 Series model, now a classic) and in particular, 5-speed convertibles. This one was all of the above, so naturally, my tail was wagging. Unfortunately it turned to be in terrible shape and how in the world was I going to get it up to Vancouver? Drive it? Well, yes. Perhaps. But no. This wasn't going to become my 3rd E30. Not today (fast forward a week and I made an offer on a green on beige, minter 1989 318i Convertible - but my offer was too low by $600 and it slipped through my hands). 

Winner of the worst restaurant name in more ways than one.
Fremont (Old Vegas Downtown): Last time I was in Fremont I stayed at the Golden Nugget. The hotel famous for their pool, which features a waterside which takes you through a shark tank filled with four big sharks - and also for being seriously old. It's been there for a long long time. So since I knew the place I told my dad we should have some lunch there. Still visibly shaken up by his seat time in the Scud missile, my dad ordered the hot soup. In Vegas. Where they sprinkle pedestrians with water because its so unbearably hot outside. Anyways, (delicious) soup, salad, and beer in stomach, we decided Fremont was kind of a 5-minute experience, and for the rest quite dumpy, so back to the Strip we went. Actually that's a lie, we did a quick walk-through of the Premium Outlet Shops as well. But it was so.freaking.hot.out. And that was that. Las Vegas was a wrap. The next morning we set off to see the canyons (Bryce Canyon and Zion Canyon) on our way to Salt Lake City, Utah. More on that later. Thanks for reading!