Like a mirage, equal parts fantasy and light reflection, Las Vegas rises out of the surrounding desert and calls out to travellers – not only because it's simply the only place to stop if you're crossing that part of America, but also because of its undeniable dreamland quality. Here you can sip cocktails at the Bellagio and watch choreographed fountains, or go a few doors down and ride a roller coaster. Want to pet a shark, or marry your pet? No problem.
I, however, will always remember Vegas as a great place to catch up on sleep after hiking the Grand Canyon. We managed to walk the Strip, knock back two cocktails, inhale a great dinner, and lose $9 in the slots before collapsing in a heap. (That said, the clever Art-o-matics at the Cosmopolitan were a highlight for unique souvenirs).
After a quick oil change and restock at Trader Joe's, we were off for our least seasonally appropriate activity yet: August camping in Death Valley (Jordan's idea – she has a thing for deserts in summer).
The park we chose sits north of the interstate, past certifiable ghost towns, sand dunes, and twisted Joshua trees. Despite the obvious effects of deep budget cuts, Red Rock Canyon state park is well kept and clean. Arriving around dinner time, we had our pick of sites under a massive, wind-sculpted rock outcrop that made it seem like we were camping on the moon. The stars were on full display that night, and despite my dire predictions, we didn't come close to dying of dehydration.
Dancing fountains at the Bellagio.
Entrance to our hotel, which had 4,400 rooms in a pyramid.
The Art-o-matic, a vintage cigarette machine that sells mini artworks for $5.
Not a bad perch for morning coffee!