Vegas Had One Last Surprise – Or Two

The ruins of a once great casino. The Riviera.

The ruins of a once great casino. The Riviera.

Vegas, like a good drunken uncle, always seems to have a surprise or two in store.

When we first arrived, our first surprise was not a new hotel, but seeing the ruins of an iconic hotel, the Riviera, torn down to make room for another, fancier hotel. That’s Vegas. Ever changing. You never know what you’re going to see. Or who.

So it was fitting that when we went to leave, the taxi guy who took us to the airport was one of the best surprises we had. Our arrival driver was a disaster, nearly killing us at least 10 times (which, to be fair, was a surprise as well.)

This driver, though… he was special. He looked like an old boxer, strong jaw, thick stubble on his cheeks, black hair going salty grey. His nose had been broken a good number of times, but that only seemed to add to his character. His eyes, once probably a deep brown, now looked worn, like they had been left out in the sun too long.

A blast from the past, CHIPs, Ponch. Eric Estrada

A blast from the past, CHIPs, Ponch. Eric Estrada

But it turns out this guy used to be Poncho’s stunt double. Wait, you must remember Poncho? Eric Estrada? CHIPs? The guy with the whitest teeth in Hollywood and the best feathered-hair of his generation?

In his day, he was quite the thing. Even The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World had a poster of him, I think. But when CHIPs died, his career disappeared, mostly, and I don’t think he took it well.

After listening to our driver, we mentioned that we heard Eric Estrada had become a cop, and the taxi driver snorted. He said that guy would never have passed the interview process. Or the drug tests. Or anything that cops would have to pass. So, it was likely an honorary title, which totally makes sense since he’s like 80 now.

We had the best talk with him. He’s the kind of guy you’d meet in a bar and he’d be all too keen to tell you his life’s story. He was Eric Estrada’s stunt double for 5 years, and it took a toll on him. He wore every fall, every fight scene, every moment he got tossed out a window or slid on the pavement after a motorcycle crash.

Oh, the stories he could tell! But, sadly, we didn’t have time to hear everything. What we heard was entertaining, and a little sad. Like most people, our driver had gone to Hollywood to seek fame and fortune and returned, broken in spirit, (and I suspect, in body), to his hometown, where he eventually met us, probably one of the great highlights of his life.

He dropped us off, I tipped him well for his stories about stunting, then we went inside. Only to find that the ticket we had, the one that said, “United” on it, was, in fact, for Air Canada and Air Canada was on the other end of the airport.

Sigh.

At least, this time, we didn’t declare that we had guns, ammo and the black plague hidden in a banana.

Then the most unlikely thing happened as we waited in line to board the plane. A pretty girl talked to me. Now, this happens, like, never, except for The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World who, for some reason, seems to like me.

But the girl said she loved my hat, a blue fedora-like thing. I thought I looked great in the hat and was constantly surprised that no one had come up to me before to tell me that. But that got us talking about our experiences in Vegas and what we liked and hated, and if we could go back, again.

I would, for sure. She said she was done with Vegas for a while.

Are wookies real? In Vegas they are

Are wookies real? In Vegas they are

But, as we found our seats and she went off to hers, I thought, you can never really do Vegas. You just never know what’s going to happen. Ask The-Oldest. He was attacked by Chewbacca. Ask The-Youngest, he found his future wife. Ask The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World, she got to talk to Eric Estrada’s double.

And for me, it’ll be another completely different experience when we return for The-Youngest’s 21st birthday. Or our 25th Anniversary. Or for The-Oldest’s wedding.

This time, though, what made it so great, apart from all that we did, all that we saw or heard… this was a great trip because I got to do it with my new family.

*****

And now it’s time to return to a normal life back home. However, there are 4 top 10 lists still to go. Stay tuned. 🙂

Then on to the wedding planning.

About Joe Cummings

Aquarius. Traveler. Gamer. Writer. A New Parent. 4 of these things are easy. One is not. But the journey is that much better for the new people in my life. A life I want to share with others, to help them, maybe, to make them feel less alone, sure, to connect with the greater world, absolutely.
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