Throwback to our Great Western Adventure
Ang dami kong magagandang alaala dahil sa Las Vegas
My parents were invited to a wedding in Flagstaff, Arizona, during the Memorial Day weekend. We were in San Diego and we studied the least expensive way to get there. The cheapest was by Greyhound, but Tita Marie and Tito Fred were appalled by the thought of us kids in a Greyhound bus. Hindi lang dahil poorman’s travel ang Greyhound, marami daw mga adik sa bus. A camper rental was suggested, but my Papa, although a good driver in Manila had no experience in driving a camper. So, we took the train. It was fortunate that Tita Marie checked the weather in Flagstaff – 40 degrees, mid afternoon. A scamper for old winter clothes of Donny ensued as the kids had only t-shirts and sweaters.
The Santa Fe station in San Diego was a beautiful structure built in Spanish style. The walls were mosaic tiles and it had chandeliers. The train was 2 levels and we rode on the top floor. Its final destination was Chicago. We left at 9 PM and the first stop was downtown Los Angeles. Seeing LA from the train is very different than by car, like seeing a body from the inside. The train quickly filled up with passengers. We watched the sunset as we moved eastward and the train rocked us to sleep.
Flagstaff! Flagstaff! The conductor announced. It was six in the morning and when the door slid open the cold hit us. It was snowing! My first experience with snow! We walked to the terminal and hailed a cab. Our motel inn was not far from town, along the famous Route 66. Right beside it was a Denny’s Restaurant. We checked in and ate our first meal at Denny’s. We ate most of our meals at Denny’s afterwards, which was great because they had good food, a big menu and the waitresses very friendly. They all called us “honey”.
Luckily, one of my grandmothers came to Flagstaff from San Francisco in a Van for the wedding and stayed in a hotel near us. Everywhere she went, she dropped by our motel to pick us up and so, we were able to visit Red Rock in Sedona and Walnut Canyon Park. The wedding was outdoors in freezing weather and the visitors outnumbered the hometown crowd.
My grandma left soon after the wedding and we had a day more to stay, so we called a cab and visited The Grand Canyon Park. It was awesome and even when I returned there before the pandemic, I was still floored by its grandeur. Kung pupunta kayo sa Arizona o sa Utah, kahit sa Colorado, visit the Grand Canyons!
Our next problem was going to Las Vegas. We considered the bus, but the fare for 6 of us would still cost a lot! My Papa jokingly asked the lady cab driver if she could drive us to Las Vegas and she said yes, and mentioned a fixed price. Mas makakatipid pa! So at 8 the next morning we were on our way to Las Vegas, but we had a problem. When we got to Hoover Dam, we had to cross the border to Nevada and her cab was not allowed to cross the state line. So we had to call for another cab at Hoover to Tita E’s condo in downtown Las Vegas. Halos pareho lang kung nag bus kami. Sabi nung driver na lagi siyang pumupunta sa Las vegas, pero first time naka taxi.
Tita E owned a timeshare condo in Las Vegas. We were on the 28th Floor with a great view of Luxor and Excalibur Casinos. We could walk there anytime, but we could not play. Underage pa kami noon. On our first trip to the strip, we started with Freemont Street. The sight and sound display was quite new then and very impressive. We were treated with jets flying overhead, Memorial Week display kasi.
Arriving at Las Vegas Airport 16 years later, around Thanksgiving, with the 2 loves of my life, my husband and my Papa, was very exciting and comforting. My Uncle Frank met us at the airport. He was a civilian contractor in Afghanistan, on leave, and while on leave he drove a cab for a living. Kapatid siya si Uncle Stan.
We stayed with Uncle Frank. We have a few relatives in Las Vegas and dinners and outings with them was the first schedule to be filled out. The rest would be shopping, catching some shows and maybe a little gambling. Our first visitor was Papa’s cousin, Tita Mona who brought us a large stuffed turkey. Tita Lai was an excellent cook with the well equipped kitchen, so she got started roasting the turkey which would be ready for dinner. We walked the neighborhood, which was quite high end, and beyond, the endless desert. Dinner was in celebration of early Thanksgiving. It was a great evening with new friends and new relatives.
The following day my cousin Kat, who is a nurse, with her son picked us up for lunch. We drove around Vegas for an hour and ended up in the newest restaurant in East Las Vegas. She treated us to an eat all you can buffet lunch. Mas grabe pa sa Vikings ang selection. I would rate it A++. We stayed until 3, trying to sample food we have never tried. That evening we had tickets to the Cirque du Soleil show at the Bellagio. It was a circus acrobatic and magic show, which kept us on the edge of our seats!
The following day was supposed to be rest day, but in the afternoon Uncle Frank invited us to the Las Vegas North Premium Outlets. This is where whole sellers pick up their goods for sale in upscale Las Vegas outlets. Mura na ang mga bilihin, marami pang sale ng mga items na hindi na benta sa Las Vegas. Shopper’s heaven. We filled up two balikbayan boxes from Las Vegas to be sent to John’s house in Orange County.
The next morning was our flight to New York. Jet lag pa rin kami.