When Mother Nature Strikes: A Las Vegas Kinda-Cation

Half the fun of taking a vacation is planning one. Researching where to stay, what to see, where to eat, what to do; it’s part of the adventure. I’m a planner, it helps get me psyched up for the main event. That means I always have a very clear vision of what my trips will be. But the Universe doesn’t always cooperate, and all the research in the world can’t save the best laid plans from a blizzard.

Winter in Cleveland is a dismal time. The trees are bare, the grass is brown, and leaving the house in the bitter cold of morning freezes your soul as much as your flesh. Sure, the snow is pretty while it’s falling, but soon it turns to dirty, gray sludge that outlines the entire city. Seasonal depression is all but inevitable.img_6724

In January I was in full hermit mode. A series of athletic injuries had left me laid up for months by that point. I was feeling fat and lazy, and leaving the house for any reason seemed like more trouble than it was worth. I needed to flee. I needed to feel the warmth of the sun on my skin, see a color other than gray, just get the hell out of the Midwest for a while.

I recruited my fellow Ladycationers, Lindsey and Mary, and began planning our adventure. We only had four days and a limited budget to work with, but we needed to get far enough away to escape the cold and snow.

My first and only time in Las Vegas had been the previous year for my step-sister’s wedding. I hadn’t really had the desire to go to Vegas, I’m more of a nature girl. But the kids and I hopped on a plane and partied with the whole family for three solid days. I had such a fantastic time that I vowed to go back–without my kids. Flights from Cleveland to Vegas are pretty cheap, and splitting a hotel three ways wouldn’t be too terrible, but it wouldn’t give me the nature fix that I so desperately needed.img_6736

Lucky for me, Google has all the answers. I looked at a map, realized how close Zion National Park is to Las Vegas, and the decision was made. Two nights of camping and hiking in Zion, followed by two nights of partying on The Strip. The perfectly balanced mini Ladycation.

I booked our flights, hotel room at the Paris, campsite, our rental car, I even bought our tickets to Zumanity by Cirque du Soleil. Everything was all set. We were going to flee the CLE and spend four days in the sunny Southwest. I was excited for Vegas, but Zion was all I could think about. I spent hours looking at pictures, researching trails, checking the weather forecasts, and reading blogs. I could barely contain myself when the day finally arrived.img_6762

Mary and I met Lindsey at the airport, and we all made it through security without incident. After toasting our friendship and the adventure to come with a cocktail at the airport bar, we boarded the plane, a trio of excitement.

That’s when it all went to shit.

It began snowing about twenty minutes before we boarded. Big, fat, wet snowflakes slowly drifting from the sky and covering everything in sight. We sat on the tarmac for over two hours watching it fall faster and thicker with each passing minute. Every half hour or so the captain would update us, “We’re just waiting for clearance to take off, we’ll be in the air soon” “We’ve been here so long they have to deice us before we can take off, we’ll be on our way shortly,” “That took so long that we have to wait for the runway to be plowed, shouldn’t be long now.” We all knew that was bullshit. No way were we going anywhere in the midst of the first blizzard to hit Cleveland in two years.

At two and a half hours they finally returned us to the gate–still claiming we were only delayed–and had everyone disembark the plane, supposedly to refuel. All the flights in our terminal had been canceled, so I wasn’t the least bit surprised a few minutes later when the announcement was made that our flight had been canceled as well. img_6645

Even thought I knew it was coming, to say I was angry would be the understatement of a lifetime. Not only were we not flying out that night, we couldn’t get on another flight until two days later. Those were the two days in Zion. My idea of what this vacation would be vanished, as though buried under the snow, and was replaced by absolute rage and despair. If I said I handled the situation with grace or dignity I would be lying. I was in tantrum mode.

We stood in line waiting to re-book our flight and I wanted to start a riot. Suddenly screaming like a maniac, tearing at my clothes and throwing chairs through walls didn’t seem all that unreasonable. So, when the Susie Sunshine behind me in line kept going on and on about how “no one can control the weather,” and we all “need to relax,” I started imagining what my fist would look like lodged in her face. If there’s one thing I can’t abide when I’m irrationally angry it’s someone telling me to relax.

My brother braved the roads and picked us up, the trio of excitement now a trio of sadness. The minute I got home I ordered pizza and poured myself a glass of wine, determined to eat my feelings and drink away my sorrows. On the plus side, I was far less aggressive and dickish by the time I cracked open bottle of wine number two.

img_6650Two days later, the three of us were back at the airport, this time more apprehensive than excited. I wouldn’t get excited until our plane was in the air. Thankfully, Mother Nature was more cooperative, and when the wheels finally touched down in Las Vegas, and I saw the light beaming atop the Luxor, and palm trees dotting the landscape, I was so happy I nearly cried.

My cousin Luke and his wife Kelly had driven up from Phoenix to meet us. They’d planned on hiking with us, but had instead enjoyed a couple days of kid-free time on The Strip, just the two of them. Knowing how frustrated we were with our two days of missed vacation, they were prepared when we arrived. They met us at the Paris and had three giant Eiffel Tower margaritas in their hands so we could begin drinking immediately. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I have the best family ever.img_6659

Lindsey had tickets to see Zedd that night (a dream come true for her). Not being Mary or I’s scene, we dropped her off at Caesar’s Palace to dance the night away, and the rest of us hit The Strip. We set off with Luke and Kelly, exploring the casinos and hitting up a marijuana dispensary (obviously).

Luke and Kelly had never been to a dispensary, and I found great joy in being the one to facilitate their first experience. They didn’t partake, but we did get a discount for having Luke, a military veteran, with us. Though I know it made him uncomfortable (he gave a fake phone number for fear of going on a registry) he was a good sport about it. I know it can be weird for someone who’s not a smoker to be around that scene, particularly with the amount of misinformation out there, and the stigma that surrounds us “pot heads.” But they handled it with a sense humor and a grain of salt.img_6669

Since Luke and Kelly had a long drive the next morning, they retired early. The other major downside to our missing days of Ladycation was the limited amount of time we had with my fam. After we hugged them goodbye, Mary and I spent the remainder of our night walking from casino to casino, admiring how different each one is from the next, having many, many drinks, and trying a few slot machines.

The rest of our trip was typical Vegas. We walked the strip, we gambled, we went to Fremont Street, we saw a Cirque du Soleil show, and we watched the fountains at the Bellagio. It was great time, but I felt like a shadow was cast over the entire weekend, as I couldn’t fully get past the disappointment of missing Zion. It was the hiking, the escape from civilization, that I’d been so desperately craving. Although being drunk most of the time did help ease the pain (or at least make me forget about it).img_6668

Isn’t it strange how often we’re victims of our own making? We had two fun-filled days in Las Vegas with no work, no kids, no obligations, and legal cannabis, but I couldn’t escape the thought, “we didn’t get to . . . ”

I’m not going to say we can control how we feel, and I’m definitely not going to say that any emotion, be it happiness, anger, fear, sadness, or anything else, is wrong. However, what we can control is how we respond to those emotions. I know a lot of people will probably say we should be in control of our emotions 100% of the time. Maybe they’re right. However, I’m more of a let-yourself-feel-your-shit-for-a-minute kind of woman. If you need to be pissed off, go for it. Be pissed. If you need to cry, cry your freaking face off. Own your feelings, identify them, and learn how to channel them into something productive and get the hell over it; move on.

If I pretended I had it all figured out, that I was living a perfect life, and have all the answers to life’s greatest questions, I’d be a big, fat liar. No one has it all together (regardless of what their Pinterest boards or Instagram pages tell us). Everyone has good days and bad, moments of weakness and times of triumph. And every time we have a new experience we learn how better to relate to the world around us, making us better prepared for the next time we find ourselves in a similar situation. You live, you learn, folks. Alanis Morissette was right.

So while our mini Ladycation wasn’t what we’d hoped it would be, I’m thankful we were able to get away at all. And I’ve learned that I need to get better at being ready to accept the travel challenges and disappointments that are inevitable for anyone who travels with any type of frequency.

Thanks for stopping by! Be sure to come back next week for another chapter! And remember to follow Ladycations to stay up to date on the latest trips, tips and tales. Stay chill and keep hiking, my friends!

~Steph

Las Vegas Shenanigans: A Family Affair

Not all of my vacations are Ladycations. I’m all about travel of any kind; an equal opportunity traveler, if you will. One of the most fun “Othercations” I took was when my step-sister, Sara, got married. She and her fiancé, Samson, had just moved to Las Vegas and were to be wed at Mandalay Bay. I was goin’ to Vegas, baby.IMG_3511

I’d never really had a desire to go to Las Vegas, to be honest. I get anxious in crowds, I don’t like noise and chaos, I don’t gamble; it just didn’t seem like my kinda place. And going there with my three teenage children? It gave me heartburn just thinking about it. But I wasn’t going to miss Sara’s wedding, and a vacation is a vacation, so off we went.

I flew to Minnesota with my daughter when she was one year old. It was one of the worst experiences of my life. Flying with kids is a lot easier when they’re teenagers. For one thing, teenagers don’t poop themselves mid-flight. They also don’t scream bloody murder, and thrash around like they’re possessed by demons. So apart from my sixteen year old son being a bit nervous on take off, the flight was a breeze.IMG_3533

It was 8:30 when we landed, which was 11:30 Cleveland time, so the kids were beat. Once we got checked into the hotel, they went right to bed. I wasn’t anywhere near tired, however, so my dad and I headed down to the casino and met up with my brother, Chris, and our other step-sister, Anna. While my dad and Anna were ready to call it a night, my brother and I, as usual, were not.

landline phone in las vegas
Chris talking on a random phone in the Cosmopolitan

We hit The Strip, where our first order of business was finding a big slushie drink. I was in Vegas, I wanted a giant margarita in my hand immediately. We walked from our hotel, the Excalibur, through New York New York and MGM Grand, to the Cosmopolitan. Everywhere we went, we played a few slots, and ordered a drink. Every time the ladies came around to get our drink order, my brother asked if they had the Macallan, his favorite scotch, on the freebie list. And every time he asked, they said “no.” Sadness.

I was not sad at all, though, because I kept winning! We were playing quarter slots. I need my money, I can’t just throw it all in a machine and risk it being gone forever. I’m a single mom, and Mama’s got bills to pay. So when I won $45 on Ellen and Game of Thrones slots, I felt like I’d just won Who Wants to Be A Millionaire. I was in love with Vegas.

red high heel at cosmopolitan
I’m a sucker for a red stiletto

Our next stop was Paris. We sat down at another slot machine and, when the waitress came over, my brother once again asked if they had the Macallan. I don’t think either one of us were prepared when she said, “Sure, and for you?” I blinked, ordered my vodka-cranberry and, when she walked away, my brother and I looked at each other in disbelief. Minds: blown. Paris was most definitely our favorite casino of the night.

We gambled long enough for Chris to drink two Macallans and, when we realized it was almost four in the morning, decided we should probably head back to the hotel. We walked outside and started stumbling down the street; laughing, taking pictures, and talking to random strangers. We’d been going like that for about a half hour before we realized we’d been walking in the wrong direction the whole time. We felt stupid for half a heartbeat or so, and then we just laughed and turned around.IMG_3551

Whenever my brother was out without me he was constantly getting approached by “ladies of the evening.” He flew in the night before we did, and while he was alone and walking the strip that night, a woman approached him. Being the Midwesterner that he is, it took a while before he realized what was happening: this scantily clad, incredibly friendly, young lady walking down the street with him was on the clock. I think it was his, “Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore,” moment. It must be easier to get laid in Vegas than in any other city in the world.

ellen degeneres slot machine
Hangin’ out with Ellen. She gave me over $30. Thanks, Ellen!

As we walked we kept passing old men, in expensive suits, with women in their twenties on their arms who were wearing dresses that barely covered their lady bits, heels as high as the slushie drink I was carrying, and more makeup than a Maybelline ad. (Maybe she’s born with it. Maybe it’s prostitution.) So to pass the time on the long walk back, we turned it into a game: Girlfriend or Hooker? If you’ve never played it while walking the Vegas strip late at night, you should try it, it’s pretty entertaining. And not in a “judging their lifestyle choices” sort of way, but more of a, “wow, I hope she’s getting paid a lot for that, this is such an interesting intersection of humanity, and I want to remember that dude’s face for the sketch artist” sort of way.

Despite our accidental detour and stopping to take a million ridiculous pictures, we managed to find our way back to our hotel safe and sound. The kids were snoring when I got back to the room, and I was out before my head hit the pillow. Vegas, as it turns out, is fabulous. . . as long as you’re drunk. Viva Las Vegas!