What Happens in Vegas

You know the saying. You’ve seen it on television advertisements and in movies; you may have even said it once or twice yourself. I would like to argue that it’s not what happens IN Vegas, it’s what happens when you DRIVE to Vegas.

If you aren’t acquainted with the route from Reno to Vegas, let me familiarize you: It’s about an eight-hour drive through the desert. For the majority of the trip, the speed limit is 70, but for every town you pass through, it will drop to 35 and then 25, forcing you to crawl along some of the most depressed areas you have ever seen. Towns that consist of little more than a few ramshackle buildings, a bar, and a brothel. Boomtowns like Goldfield which was named for the precious metal that was discovered and mined there in the early 1900’s. According to the 2010 census, today Goldfield has a population of 268. On the way to Vegas, you drive past the entrance to Death Valley, a couple of questionable hot springs, and lots of cacti. The halfway point is a town called Tonopah where you stop for lunch and fuel.


I have always enjoyed a road trip. I like to take in the scenery, crank up the tunes, roll down the window, and drive. While most Nevadans claim there’s nothing to see between Reno and Vegas, I would disagree. It’s not the usual sights that I grew up with, and so I appreciate the peaked mountains, the dancing dust devils, the rolling tumbleweeds. What I’m not fond of is when that scenery includes flashing blue and red lights.

Last summer, my friend and I decided pack up our kids (two seven year-olds and two three year-olds) and we made the drive to Vegas to visit her mom. On the way back is when we got pulled over. Her mom had sent us home with all the booze we purchased but didn’t drink  and it was piled on the floor under the girls’ car seats. As the officer made his way to the window, we frantically threw the little ones’ baby blankets over the cases of Bud Light Margaritas and put on our most charming smiles. My friend’s son, Max, immediately started sobbing in the back seat. Max is a rule follower and his father is a cop. He was inconsolable. Thankfully the officer let us off with a warning, no thanks to Max’s sister though who when asked by the policeman if her mommy deserved a ticket, vigorously shook her head yes.

I guess I should have learned a lesson that day, but since I wasn’t the one driving, clearly it didn’t sink in. For just last week, my husband and children and I made our way to Vegas and this time, not only did I get pulled over, I got pulled over twice: a feat I daresay feels just as probable as getting struck by lightning twofold.

My husband had been behind the wheel for the first four hours and I was starting to get restless. A short stop in Tonopah recharged us. It was my turn to drive; I pulled out into the 35 mile-per-hour zone. As I had just begun, I was still getting comfortable and didn’t quite pay attention to the sign reflecting the change to 25. No sooner did I adjust my rearview mirror, and I was being pulled over.

“You haven’t even been driving for five minutes!” My husband found this to be highly amusing. By the time the officer came to my window, he was still unsuccessfully stifling his laughter. The Tonopah cop let me go, and I vowed to watch my speed…in the towns, at least.

Fast-forward three hours. It was open highway. I’d been singing along to a variety of satellite radio stations while my children were immersed in the IPad and my husband slept in the passenger seat. When he finally woke up, I was eager for some conversation. As I had recently been teaching some controversial texts in my English classes, I knew it was a matter of time before I would get a phone call or an email from a concerned (conservative) parent. We were talking about this when I saw it: the tell-tale U-turn.


But then I thought: I can’t be getting pulled over again, can I?

Yes. Yes, I can.

Off in the distance, I could just make out the Stratosphere.

“Mommy, why do they keep stopping you?”

“Because I’m speeding.”

“But why are you speeding?”

Good question.

The officer told me I was going 97 in a 70. I wasn’t buying it…it was 85, tops. After all, if I was driving that fast, surely I would have been passing all the cars around me and that wasn’t happening. I even told the cop that I thought I was hanging with the traffic, to which he replied, “you were.” I guess I was the one who got lucky.

Needless to say, I did get a ticket, although he only cited me for going 75, which I guess I should be thankful for.

My children wanted to know how many times I had to get stopped before I went to jail forever and they would have to live with Grammy. My husband still couldn’t stop chuckling and shaking his head. When I explained to the officer that we would be switching spots so that my husband could finish our drive, the policeman said, “but you almost made it.”


We completed our Chinese fire-drill and my husband slid behind the wheel. Much to his delight, our four year-old announced, “Oh good. Now we’re safe.”

More thanks.

Checking into our hotel, I wondered if getting pulled over twice in one day was a sign that I should or should not gamble. Was my lucky number 97?

All in all, my careless driving did not overshadow our mini-vacation. While we didn’t win big, we made some great family memories. My eight year-old lost a wiggly tooth on the casino floor and the tooth fairy left her gambling tokens in lieu of money. (I guess that’s how she rolls in Vegas.) We got to reconnect with some friends we don’t often see as well as the family we went there to visit. We spent hours by the pool where my children swam non-stop and I remembered what it was like to lounge in the sun drinking piña coladas. And we returned home to Reno with the cruise control on and a ticket in the glove box, proving that what happens in Vegas, doesn’t really stay in Vegas.

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