Norman J. Olson, US



Travel Essay


Las Vegas to LAX in a Convertible


About three weeks ago, my daughter and her family came to Minnesota for a two week visit… we had a great two weeks and when it was time to go they flew back to LAX last Tuesday… my wife flew back with them on her employee pass… she then said goodbye to the kids and grandkids in LAX and flew on to Las Vegas… I stayed home to cut the grass… I had not cut the grass while my daughter was visiting because her oldest daughter (age 7) is allergic to cut grass…

...So, on Tuesday, I busted out the lawn mower at about 8 in the morning… I have a fairly large lawn, so it takes about three hours to cut the grass… so, I did that, cleaned up the house, took a shower and left to return the rental car that we had while the kids were here… a Toyota Corolla rented at Maplewood Mall a few miles from here… from Maplewood Mall, I took a city bus to the airport and started trying to get to Las Vegas… I did not get on the first flight I tried but did get on the second so got to Vegas at about 7 p.m. I had an exit row seat, so it was a pretty comfortable flight…

At LAS, I used my Vegas transit card and took the 109 bus to downtown (for $1) where I met Mary at the hotel… we had booked the Main Street Station Hotel for $80 for three nights… Vegas hotels can be pretty cheap in the summer… Main Street Station is an interesting property… it was built by Bob Snow who did Church Street Station in Orlando (which I have not seen) in 1991… here is the description in Wikipedia… “Main Street Station offers a self-guided tour which includes a portion of the Berlin Wall, stained glass from the Lillian Russell Mansion, doors and facade from the Kuwait Royal Bank, doors from the George Pullman Mansion, Louisa May Alcott pullman car, chandeliers from the Coca-Cola building and Figaro Opera House, and various statues. The portion of the Berlin Wall is located in the men's restroom and has urinals affixed to it.” there is also a bar from some famous hotel in I think, Kenya… it really is an interesting place… I remember when the place opened in 1991 and all the people there were knowledgeable and excited about all the genuine antiques that are built into the building… but the original owners closed the place in less than a year after it opened and then after it sat empty for some time, it was taken up by the California hotel across the street…

It is nice to see this beautiful conglomeration of a building back open, but the new owners do not seem to care much about the historical accoutrements of the place and on line, I could only find the information above… although there are lots of reviews of the buffet and the price of beer in the casino bar… so, I spent a couple days soaking up the desert heat, sampling those famous buffets… riding the bus around Las Vegas and just basically being on vacation… I got one nice drawing pretty much finished sitting in the shade by a pool on the roof of the California Hotel… in a gorgeous hot wind… I would sit and draw for a couple hours until I started feeling hot (temp was about 105 Fahrenheit) then slip into the pool which felt ice cold but was amazingly refreshing… and when I got dry enough not to drip on my drawing pad, go back to the drawing… very nice…

So, on Friday, we got up at 4 a.m. and took the bus to the airport… the 7 a.m. flight had looked okay but we wound up not getting on… well, that is part of travel on employee passes… if the flights are full, you don’t get on… and the flights did not look good for the rest of Friday or Saturday… so we were casting around for alternatives and I checked rental cars… for some reason, one way rentals between LAX and LAS sometimes do not have drop fees… and the Saturday morning flight at 6:28 out of LAX looked pretty good and another flight later in the day had some seats too, plus, our daughter lives in Riverside, CA, so if we could get there, we could sleep a short night at her place and drive to LAX in the morning… so, I checked online and found to my surprise that the cheapest rental car for a one way rental without a drop fee was a convertible for $70 (including all taxes and fees)… and so, we rented the convertible and set off for Riverside… I love the drive from Las Vegas to LA… I love the openness and color of the desert and the distant mountains… the sun was too hot to keep the convertible top down for long… but it was a beautiful brand new car… so we spent the drive looking at the amazing scenery and listening to satellite radio… oldies from the 50s, hard rock from the Foo Fighters, the all Elvis station… amazed how lucky we were to be driving this $30,000 car across the beautiful desert in a comfortable seat with the air conditioning set just right… stopped at Barstow for a pee and a soda and then back on the road through the Cajon pass and down into San Bernardino and then Riverside…

Anyway, we got to Riverside about 4 p.m. took the kids for a ride in the convertible and had a nice if brief visit with my daughter and her wonderful husband and their amazing three children… then at 4 a.m. we were rolling out of Riverside on the 60 headed for LAX… we stopped at a gas station near the airport to fill up the car and found that to our surprise it had gotten almost 30 miles to the gallon, so the whole drive cost only about $110… including the car rental… after adding the gas, I put the top down and rode the last few miles in the cool early morning LA air… we got on the early flight and so I spent a few hours sitting between a LA hipster who spent the whole time on his I pod and a very pretty girl (probably went to LA to be a star -- wound up as a waitress) who slept through the whole flight… I had a good novel with so it was a quick trip… and now back to Minnesota where I will probably have to cut the grass again in a few days…


Free Verse

driving from LAS to LAX in a new convertible


of course, it was too hot to put the top down…

heavy traffic and no
exit… cars flying across
the tan desert like a bullet train
unhooked… yes, at one
point the mountains do
go from tan to red to purple
to gold… if you told me this was
all once the bed of an ancient sea…
I would understand
and agree…
imagine huge swimming dinosaurs
with teeth like six foot razors,
swimming sixty feet
above this long, narrow
concrete road… continental plates
grinding these dusty mountains up through the
from broken bedrock and
deep wells of gravity… imagine me, small,
short lived, fat monkey man
fueling my flight
across this immensity with
ancient fern forests compressed into an
oily sludge of carbon
and made by my brothers and sisters
into gasoline… and yes, I am adding my share
to the yellow cloud that floats above the valley
as I wind down through the San Gabriel
Mountains and a taste of
fresh mountain air
that somehow made it through
the air conditioner…

of course, it was too hot to put the top down…









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