Road trip Warriors

There's time to ponder what happens in Vegas when you drive 3,000-plus miles there and back

There's time to ponder what happens in Vegas when you drive 3,000-plus miles there and back

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The Paris Las Vegas Courtesy of Caesars Entertainment
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Living room at Planet Hollywood  Towers Courtesy of Caesars Entertainment
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Bedroom at Planet Hollywood Towers Courtesy of Caesars Entertainment
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The Red Room at Paris Las Vegas Courtesy of Caesars Entertainment
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We’re blessed here in Houston — in more ways than one. Our blessings come with names like George Bush Intercontinental Airport (the 7th busiest in the US) and William P. Hobby (equipped with four runways and serving 8.5 million passengers each year).

With a combined 804 flights departing daily and high gas prices, you’d have to think someone was demented to drive anywhere — especially the 2,500 miles to and from Vegas.

Well, let me introduce myself as the demented individual mentioned above. I drove to and from Las Vegas a few weeks ago — on purpose. It wasn’t because I couldn’t afford airfare or that there weren’t any accommodating flight schedules available; it’s because I firmly believe in that old adage: “Life is a journey, not a destination.”

The destination was clear — Viva Las Vegas — however, the journey remained a mystery.

 Here’s where I omit a lot of the frivolous shenanigans that happened in Vegas because my mom may be reading this. Just use your imagination.

 Enter Jody Torrence, Houston-based event planner and founder of iCatching Events. In honor of my 30th birthday, he decided to put together the ultimate road trip for my friend Amy and me.

Here’s a brief recap of what we did, where we stayed and everything in-between. The only omission, of course, is all the trouble we got into along the way. I also adhere to that other adage: What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas…

By the numbers

Tanks of Gas: 6.5

Total Miles: 3,240

Bathroom Breaks: 12

Speeding Tickets: 1

Ice Storms: 1

Coffee Stops: 5

Taylor Swift songs on the radio: too many to count

The first portion of our trip was a pleasant ride through Fredericksburg, Texas, — a place I’ve heard wonderful things about but never had the pleasure of visiting. Jody knows I’m still on the learning curve of finding out what real authentic Mexican food is like, so he set us up with lunch at El Maguey Mexican Restaurant.

That first night I had the terrible idea of camping at the Carlsbad Caverns. It was 29 degrees out, I forgot the pump to the air mattress and it was pitch black, making it almost impossible and extremely miserable to set up a tent. I promised not to out myself, but after four trembling hours we found ourselves sleeping in the car wrapped tightly in our snuggies.

 Alcohol + Cupcakes = any girl’s dream (especially a birthday girl). Not to mention that the girls at Pick your Poison Cupcakes were recent finalists on the holiday edition of Cupcake Wars.

 The second night however, was much better. We stopped for the night in Tucson, Ariz., and Jody hooked us up with a huge, luxurious room at the Lodge on the Desert. The room had a garden tub (which was larger than the entire SUV we arrived in), a fireplace, flat screen TV and free wifi – a pretty nice step up from camping in the dirt next to a playground.

Finally, on the third day, we arrived in Vegas and found our accommodations at Paris in one of their newly renovated Red Rooms, complete with a marble bathroom and custom European furniture. For two girls who wanted to see as much of Vegas as possible during our stay, this was a prime location on the strip.

As a belated birthday cake of sorts, Jody arranged for us to meet with the two dolls behind Pick Your Poison Cupcakes to sample a bunch of their alcohol-inspired treats (Jager Bomb and Strawberry Champagne, just to name a few).

Alcohol + Cupcakes = any girl’s dream (especially a birthday girl). Not to mention that this pair and their treats were recent finalists on the holiday edition of Cupcake Wars.

To add a little girly element to the trip (which was desperately needed after two full days in the car), we headed to The Blow-Dry Bar + Salon for a quick blowout. The stylists handed us a menu, which had eight sassy styles to choose from.

It’s a little far from the strip (about a 10 minute drive), but luckily we had a car. I had some time to chat with Todd, the owner, and he mentioned their mobile hair + makeup service which comes to your hotel. Definitely something to keep in mind next time we head to Vegas.

After getting dolled up, we grabbed dinner at what could quite possibly be the largest buffet in the world  — or at least in Las Vegas — Wicked Spoon, inside The Cosmopolitan. The two best parts about this buffet? The steaming hot crab legs and the PB&J ice cream. So much delicious goodness to savor at $35 a person. 

(Here’s where I omit a lot of the frivolous shenanigans that happened in Vegas because my mom may be reading this. Just use your imagination.)

For our last night in Vegas, we switched hotels to the PH Towers by Westgate for a little change of scenery, which was still centrally located. The property was connected through the mall (Miracle Mile Shops) and also Planet Hollywood, one of my favorite places to eat, gamble and people watch.

 As Texas girls, we had to visit Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar inside Harrah’s. The $19 mason jars full of whiskey helped us find our way back to our country roots, if only for a few glorious hours.

 I’m a big fan of the Pussycat Dolls Burlesque Saloon — the atmosphere there makes me feel like I’m 100 percent in the heart of Las Vegas.

And back to my mom — I think she would have been pleased with this hotel selection, thanks to their extra safety measures. Overall, I think Vegas is a pretty safe place, but the security outside the guest room elevators is something you don’t see very often and definitely put my intoxicated mind at ease.  

As Texas girls, we had to visit one of our favorite spots in Vegas — Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar inside Harrah’s. The $19 mason jars full of whiskey helped us find our way back to our Texas country roots, if only for a few glorious hours.

The trip amounted to the best possible way to head into the third decade of my life — with a good BFF sidekick and an ultimate event planner guiding me through the entire trip. Ending up in Vegas was no doubt the high point of the celebration.

The only part lacking in the fun department was the 24-hour drive back to Houston, especially the ice storm and 5-degree temperatures we hit in Albuquerque.

Hungover and driving through the Grand Canyon, Amy put the trip in perspective: “I’m glad we’re doing this and driving through this part of the country. It’s pretty, but mostly because I know I’ll never do it again.”

Needless to say, the next time I see Vegas, it will be courtesy of an airplane.