The Rambling Writer Visits Retro Las Vegas


Today I’m presenting workshops at the Chanticleer Authors Conference, so I’m sharing a “retro” trip to Las Vegas a few years ago.  A naturopath friend had urged Thor and me to visit the Red Rock canyons near Las Vegas for midwinter “color therapy” to chase away the gray blahs of our rainy Pacific Northwest. (Are you seeing a theme in these posts, friends?) So we booked a quickie trip to Las Vegas to hike in the hills and soak up the fabulous January sunshine, blue skies, and warm vibes literally radiating off the amazing red stones.


The techno, sensory bing-binging overload of the main Strip of Vegas didn’t appeal to us, so we booked a room in the newly-renovated classic hotel/casino The Golden Nugget.


It was the first hotel built intentionally as a casino in the former “Glitter Gulch” on Fremont Street, the original avenue of Vegas gambling. We loved their bar backed by a beautiful saltwater aquarium, and took some rides in the water slide of the outdoor pool, where you shoot down a clear tube surrounded by a shark tank.  It was all nicely compact, a short walk from our room to the pool, without hiking through acres of slot machines and smoky gambling rooms that the larger casinos on the Strip force you to wend your way through.



Fremont Street still has some original old neon signs and funky casino fronts.




In 1995 Fremont Street premiered its current main attraction – a five-block long canopy over the pedestrian walkway that plays light shows overhead. The original 2.1 million incandescent light bulbs have now been replaced by 12.5 million LED lights programmed for mind-boggling spectacles with accompanying music. And you can ride a zipline beneath the show!


“Loose Slots” and Prime Rib Dinner Specials seem to come with the territory.


But before indulging in these frivolities, we jumped into a rental car and headed for Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area on the outskirts of town. This is the REAL Retro Las Vegas, ancient, weathered rock formations bearing signs of prehistoric indigenous people in the form of  petroglyphs (rock carvings) and pictographs (paintings). It’s thought that as many as five different native groups lived in or visited this area over thousands of years. Around forty natural springs, along with water catchment basins, attract humans, animals, and plants as a refuge from the surrounding desert.






We enjoyed an informational sign describing the fertility rites of the native toads, who emerge from their hidey holes with the arrival of rain and celebrate with toad orgies to perpetuate the species.


After soaking up the sun and natural beauties, we surrendered to one more retro tourist pleasure: The Star Trek Experience, where Thor got to fulfill his dream to captain the Enterprise: “Make it so!”



Sara’s newest from Book View Cafe was recently released in print and ebook: The Ariadne Connection. AriadneThumbnail It’s a near-future thriller set in the Greek islands. “Technology triggers a deadly new plague. Can a healer find the cure?”  The novel has received the Cygnus Award for Speculative Fiction.




The Rambling Writer Visits Retro Las Vegas — 4 Comments

  1. Isn’t Red Rock beautiful? And it seems like you managed to see the fun stuff in the city, which I find pretty horrible, but gambling is a zero turn on for me. I do love the Bellagio fountains–but not watching them at ten at night in nearly 100 degree heat.

    • Thanks, Sherwood. Yes, we loved Red Rock and want to go back. Staying in Vegas was the cheapest way to go, with a quick flight from Bellingham, WA. We don’t gamble, either, but some of the casinos do have amazingly over-the-top extravaganzas.

  2. The Valley of Fire State Park was the highlight of my week long research trip to Las Vegas. I knew my next book was set in the city but had no plot. Then I went to the red rocks and saw one shaped like a goblin. The entire book fell into my lap. I think I wrote the next 50K words in two weeks. Still my favorite book in the Tess Noncroire series.

    I need to go back and soak up those ancient rocks.

    • Yes, maybe we should have a rendezvous of Book View people and others of like minds. There really is something magical about those canyons and stones. So glad you got the inspiration there.