825 Miles for Christmas
Christmas is pretty much the only time of the year my husband doesn’t have classes to teach. So if I have enough vacation days by the end of the year I like to take time off to hang out with him. This year we naively took on what essentially became a three day road trip and my ass has never hurt more. But we had a lot of fun and saw a lot of things along the way, so here’s a taste of that.
Friday, December 22nd
Bakersfield to Boron . . . . . 87 miles
If you aren’t familiar with Boron go to your kitchen and take a look underneath the sink. Chances are you’ve got a Borox product or two you didn’t know you had. That stuff is mined in a small (tiny) town in East California called Boron. When he was working on his thesis he visited Boron and the tourist trap/museum they have there. For a recommended $2 donation you can explore the small museum, watch a 10-minute video, and then be treated to a panoramic view of the biggest hole in the ground. There’s also a very chilly restroom that is worth the cold if you need to pee.
What I Bought: a small leather bag I filled with my choice of stones (so naturally they are all shades of pink), two postcards and a poster of the periodic table of elements with pictures of rocks.
Boron to Baker . . . . . 101 miles
You’re not reading that wrong. There’s Bakersfield where I live, and another city called Baker. Their claim to fame is the world’s tallest thermometer, but the reason we stop there is for the Alien Beef Jerky. The last time I stopped by (maybe 2014/2015ish?) the famous landmark looked completely different. I was shocked to find they’d transformed the building into something that resembles like a cross between a tank and an alien spsaceship. They’re also apparently building a hotel called the Mothership and I was mildly annoyed to find that they don’t really put prices on anything so you have to ask them and the ladies at the register don’t look like the friendliest people. That was probably a runon sentence. Anyway. They also have a bathroom and while it’s not chilly it’s not fantastic. Clean enough to use though so moving on.
Oh, you can’t beat a sunset in the dessert.
What I Bought: Honey Teriyaki jerky and a bottle of water. The jerky was just okay.
Baker to Las Vegas/The Linq . . . . . 88 miles
First things first I do not recommend you stay at the Linq. We only found the overflow parking lot because we got lost making a right turn at the Venetian and actually had to get out the Google Maps app to find our way to parking. From there we couldn’t find the entrance to the actual hotel itself from the promenade and had to ask someone for help. Turns out we hadn’t walked far enough yet. Mind you it’s dinnertime, 45 degrees and we’re pulling luggage through a throng of people in a place named for sin.
When we finally made it into the hotel itself we quickly became lost because the signage was so confusing. It was probably twenty minutes of hopelessly looking up at signs to find our way that we were informed the little insignia next to the text was a hand pointing a finger in the direction you were supposed to go. That improved things a little but there was still the problem of signs saying this way to this thing and then on the next sign in that very direction there is nothing mentioning where you’re trying to go. One nice part that I can’t strictly contribute to the Linq because I saw it other places was an electronic checkin system that made things somewhat easier. But then we got lost on our way to the elevators to go up to our room (you’d think that being booked in room 30432 meant you’d be on the 30th floor, but no, not at the Linq) and ended up ensnared in this scheme to look at a timeshare in exchange for $150 in dining vouchers and two free tickets on the High Roller. I’ll save you the drama of that escapade and just tell you that we did find our way to “District 3” where our room was with a view of the parking structure across the street. It was all very proto-Hunger Games.
It was too cold to walk and I’d had an unfortunate incident that forced me to change into a backup outfit that necessitated shoes not suitable for walking the Las Vegas Strip, so we took a cab to Planet Hollywood. It was Jeff’s first time in a cab. Ever!
This is the exciting part because this was actually on my bucket list… we ate at Gordon Ramsey’s Burger restaurant. I got a burger called The Barnhouse or something like that that had a fried egg on it, and I thought that was good until I tried Jeff’s The Hog burger, which made my burger no longer good, it was that good. I really wanted to go across the street to the Bellagio to not only watch the fountain but also see the famous Christmas decorations in their botanical garden, but it was so fucking cold outside I didn’t even make it to the steps down to the crosswalk. We made our way back into PH and took a cab back to The Linq, and called it a night.
Oh, something cool about the Promenade at the Linq, there is a Sprinkles including the famous cupcake ATM. Tried it.
And it was kind of disappointing. Maybe it would have been better to get a fresh cupcake from the inside?
Saturday, December 23rd
Remember I’m skipping the part about the timeshare and the drama that followed and seriously pissed me off because it involved being locked out of our room and needing security to let us back in to get our stuff…. and jumping straight into another item I crossed off my bucket list: the High Roller. It’s like the London Eye but bigger. And it turns out I am WAY more afraid of heights than I thought. It would have been nice to enjoy the thirty minute ride with amazing views of the city and mountains beyond in the horizon instead of having an almost full blown anxiety attack in a glass ball 550 feet above the ground.
After that experience we took our dining vouchers to Hash House A Go Go where the food is delicious and ridiculously large, and only paid tip on a dinner with drinks, dessert, glassware and a hat. It was going on 5pm at this point and we had originally wanted to be home by 6pm. (I’m realizing as I type this that the panic attack I had on the High Roller was the catalyst of how my anxiety fucked with me the entire rest of the day.) The neighbor/friend watching our dogs kindly agreed to keep the kids an extra night which meant I could stress less about driving home in the dark.
Vegas to Baker . . . . . 88 miles
We stopped at Alien Beef Jerky again for a pack of jerky for my father in law and a fun gift for my uncle, who we were seeing later in our trip.
We did briefly stop in Barstow for gas (which is practically a tradition if you ask anyone who has made the drive before) but that part is boring and was just another fucking anxiety attack basically.
Baker to Bakersfield . . . . . 189 miles
By the time we made it home at 9pm I was in a full blown anxiety attack and basically passed on face-down on the bed without any bedding, and woke up in the middle of the night freezing and surprised to find the cat sleeping with me. I don’t know if he secretly loves me or loves being on the bed more than he hates being around me.
Sunday, December 24th
Bakersfield to Valencia . . . . . 87 miles
Jeff’s dad had to work Christmas Day so this year we had Christmas dinner and opened presents on Christmas Eve. And honestly it din’t feel different at all. We got a lot of amazing gifts (including a beautiful piece by Charlie Bowater) and didn’t do nearly as good a job in the gift giving department. We’ll step our game up next year though, watch this space.
Monday, December 25h
Valencia to Ventura . . . . . 49 miles . . . . . and back to Valencia again . . . . . another 49 miles
We met my mom, grandma, and uncle in Ventura at the Four Points Sheraton for a champagne brunch buffet where we ate entirely too much food including but certainly not limited to salmon, eggs benny, and a lot of other really good foods.
Valencia to Bakersfield . . . . . 87 miles
After packing up our haul of Christmas gifts we made our way home and promised ourselves we wouldn’t go on any more long drives or road trips for a long, long time. Seriously, we just hit 30,000 miles on a car we’ve owned less than two years. We’ve basically gone through a third of our warranty and we still have a few years of payments to make.
Tuesday, December 26th
While most others were returning to work Jeff and I were having brunch at the 24th Street Cafe which is usually always packed, then spent the day cleaning. Fun fact: after brunch and a quick trip to Target I came home to find our front door wide open. Fortunately all of the animals were safe inside and it turns out Jeff never actually shut the door all the way when we left a few hours before. I’m sure he’s getting the message now that I make him check the front door every time we leave.