Mile 995. Las Vegas, Nevada. After wandering around the Mojave Desert and all its Joshua Trees for a bit, I arrive in this strange city. No matter how many times I come here, I still always find it to be odd. I guess it is what it is. When I arrive, I'm in the middle of Manhattan, but its located in Vegas and has a roller coaster winding through it. This shouldn't exist yet it does. My cousin Jovan, whom I have not seen in about 25 years, is here on business and has offered to let me crash in his hotel room here on the strip for a night, and to treat me to dinner at Il Fornaio. I am able to find an almost entirely raw salad of frisee, radicchio, endive, grapes, walnuts and pomegranate dressing that is super delicious and goes really well with the organic red wine he orders (yes, I still have wine on occasion, though less and less the cleaner my body gets, but we're reuniting after 25 years so it's definitely a special occassion.) and we sit for hours catching up and talking about our lives, our views of the world, our family, psychology, nature, traveling, hiking and I realize that we are more similar than we are different, and it's really great to be back in touch. It's even really nice to be called "Baby Cuz" and get taken care of for the night.
After dinner, we head across an aisle of slot machines to Nine Fine Irishmen to check out Ri Ra, the house band, which is amazing! The violinist steals the show with her fantastic fiddling, and there's even a traditional Irish dancer who jumps out every once in awhile to dance on a small side stage. Add to this a small asian leprechaun that knows the words to every song, and can't stop dancing, and you can say it was quite a night!
I crash in my cousin's hotel room for the night. It's super nice to sleep on a firm mattress and my back feels almost back to normal when I wake up. The position I slept on the futon my last night in LA did me in, and driving was a bit painful, but I seem almost back to normal in the morning.
My cousin goes to his morning seminar, but decides to play hooky during the afternoon session so we can go hiking together, since we're both such nature fiends and after spending time on the Vegas strip, we are in serious need of reconnecting with the earth. We decide to check out Go Raw Cafe, one of the only raw food restaurants in Vegas, to get some energy before heading to the mountains. My cousin has never had a raw food meal before and is quite the carnivore (we're Serbs - it's how we're raised!), but is into health & fitness, so he's totally open to trying it and orders the Mediterranean Wrap and a Blood Transfusion (coconut water with a shot of wheat grass) while I get the Purple Burrito and some amazing juice with 3 or 4 different greens and chlorella. Besides the amazing juice, I'm also wowed at their little nook of books. It's really impressive and they seem to carry a ton of hard to find, small edition books. My cousin is surprised at how full he gets. We can't even finish our meals.
After lunch, we head towards Lake Mead National Recreation Area, and see signs for the Valley of Fire and decide that's the place for us! The photos taken with my old digital camera don't even begin to do justice to this place, but I shoot some stuff with my real camera, though those won't get developed until this trip is over, so these will have to do for now...