Why anyone would want to leave the happiest city in American beats me, but we had to eventually start the drive home. We left San Luis Obispo in the morning, leaving lunch open for In-N-Out, arguably the best burger place in the world and available only in the western states. After a scrumptious lunch, we headed for Las Vegas.
The drive took us through the Mojave Desert, a barren, dry land that can reach 120 degrees in the summer. This long stretch of heat had me Googling questions like, "Why do people live in the Mojave Desert?" There were a few occasional sights, though, like a vast expanse of windmills, which turned out to be the largest wind farm in the country when it was built, providing energy for more than 600,000 homes.
We also saw a memorial for actor James Dean, who died in a car accident along the highway (before it was reconstructed to make it safer). The memorial is a stainless steel sculpture around a tree of Heaven, designed by Japanese James Dean fan Seita Ohnishi. As it turns out, James Dean is actually buried in Indiana, so perhaps we'll have to make a visit to his grave as well.
We kept driving through the Mojave, traveling over the San Andreas Fault Line. We luckily made it through unharmed, but it was an eerie feeling seeing how calm things were in the immediate area of such a dangerous feature in the Earth. Later, we even traveled down the historic Route 66, which I know mainly from the movie "Cars."
Our next stop was the Tehachapi Loop, a spiral railway over a two percent grade, allowing trains to pass over themselves. According to a plaque at the sight of the overlook where we stopped, the Tehachapi Loop is one of the seven wonders of the railroad world. After a little research, I couldn't find an official list, but several train fanatics seem to enjoy making their own lists of the seven wonders. We got to the overlook at a perfect time, as we were able to watch two trains go around the loop, one going up the mountain and the other going down, in a fairly short amount of time.
After that last stop, we continued on toward Las Vegas. We arrived at a decent hour, giving us plenty of time to explore. We checked in at the Paris hotel, and my dad went to watch the World Series of Poker as my mom and I walked around among the hoards of people (seriously, I think Las Vegas is more packed than New York City). We watched the famous fountain show in front of the Bellagio, this show to the song "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds." At the time of the show, it was about 9:30 p.m. and 94 degrees. Needless to say, we went back inside the air-conditioned hotel after that.
The Paris hotel is adorned with slightly domed ceilings painted to look like blue skies with wispy clouds. The ground is a fake cobblestone, mimicking the common street style in Paris, France, and lined with fake storefronts designed in traditional Parisian architecture. It's pretty impressive, and it definitely does not feel like a hotel lobby, but I regret to point out the major flaw of incorrect French plastered all over the building. Now, I know my French isn't perfect, but I certainly can recognize incorrect accent marks and words, not to mention the grotesque strategy of putting "le" in front of something to make it seem French. Staying at the Paris hotel is beautiful and fun and an awesome experience, but it might be a little rough for you fellow French speakers.