Monday, April 27, 2015

Las Vegas - Surprise Elopement and a Giant Ferris Wheel

At the last minute, Tori and I were invited to Las Vegas for Wayne and Lisa's Elopement. They still have a big wedding planned for November but due to Wayne's upcoming Navy orders to move to San Antonio, they decided to get married now to help with the transition. Due to the short time frame, Tori and I crossed our fingers and booked a mystery hotel through Hotwire for only $56 dollars a night. After paying, we found out that it was the Riviera Hotel which is closing May 4th, only 10 days after our trip. Opening the same year as the Stardust and used as the shooting location for Martin Scorsese's "Casino", the sixty year old hotel has been bought by the Las Vegas Convention Center for their expansion out onto the Strip.

Taking a half day off from work on Friday, we drove out to Las Vegas, stopping at the border to ride the roller coaster at Buffalo Bills. This was my third attempt for Tori to experience the fun ride but it wasn't operating due to high winds. We arrived in Vegas at 6:30pm but the Riviera didn't have our reservation. This was the first time this has ever happened to me and we spent two hours sitting in the lobby calling Hotwire and dealing with the Front Desk before we finally got our room. I am still not sure if it was Hotwire's fault or someone at the hotel who dropped the ball due to their upcoming closure. Since we had to get up early the next morning for the wedding, Tori and I just walked around the hotel and had a good meal at the Wicked Vicky Tavern before calling it a night.

At 8:30am, we drove over to the house Wayne and Lisa rented for the weekend so Tori could help the Bride get ready for the early ceremony at 11am. I met Lisa's family and Wayne's mother before the ladies drove over to the Riviera to catch the limousine to the Little Church of the West wedding chapel. The ceremony was officiated by the best Elvis impersonator that I have personally seen. He was a good singer and had a fun sense of humor. Nick was able to make it to the ceremony as well after his Trapeze class ended nearby. Afterward, we all went to the Encore for lunch at the Society Cafe.

After returning to the Riviera to change Tori's high heels, we rode the Monorail down to The Linq Hotel to ride the High Roller. The Ferris Wheel opened in March 2014 and at 550 feet it is still the tallest in the world, 107 feet higher than the iconic London Eye. It sits right next to the monorail station but in true Vegas fashion, we had to walk up through the casino and then back down the Promenade in order to reach it. Since it was daytime, we paid $25 for the tickets instead of $35 each for a nighttime view. If you are willing to pay extra, the Happy Hour Capsule has an Open Bar.

The giant observation wheel never stopped as we boarded our slowly moving capsule in the loading zone. When we realized we had the spacious 40 person capsule to ourselves, Tori suggested we practice our AcroYoga with the Vegas Strip spread out below us though the large encircling windows. It was fun performing our poses as the capsule made the 30 minute journey around the sky. Half way through our spin, the wheel's exterior lights turned on as the sky darkened and rain began to fall.

After overcast conditions all weekend, we woke up to bright blue skies on Sunday morning. Too bad since we were leaving in the morning to avoid the afternoon exodus. We walked past the bankrupt Fontainbleu tower next door to the Riviera for a quick breakfast at McDonald's before hitting the road. (It was strange seeing the second tallest building in Las Vegas sitting vacant.) With the bright sun, the 173,500 heliostat mirrors of the finished Ivanpah Solar Electric Plant caught our attention immediately after crossing the state border. I was surprised that we could actually see the visible pyramids of solar flux concentrated back towards the top of the boiler towers illuminated like three shining light bulbs in the desert. The plant was still being built the last time we drove out to Vegas. The thermal heat generates steam that powers turbines up to 392 MW.

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