We’ve been sitting on this story for a while and even writing it down now is giving us cringe flashbacks.
But it’s one of our strangest travel experiences so it deserves to be told.
It’s a long one – so grab a shot of Patron and strap in for a tale of love, debauchery and missed connections.
In Which All Signs Point To Conflict
Dominic isn’t a Vegas guy.
He’s not into gambling or lounging by the pool.
He’s outdoorsy and for him Vegas is like a blight on the otherwise breathtaking US state that is Nevada.
I on the other hand don’t mind a bit of kitsch in small doses.
Things that are so bad they’re good? Sign me up. Garish but in a good way? I can dig it in that it’s-gross-but-also-kind-of-fascinating.
I’d been hyping the place up as one of the highlights of our journey across America.
Safe to say our plans didn’t align.
Being on a road trip budget we’d parked in the RV parking at Circus Circus which is just a hot concrete slab at the end of the strip with a pink and white mock-tent rotunda in the middle with 2 working washing machines, watched over by a giant demon clown sign rocking the diamond-eyed look of the last person to leave a warehouse party.
Which makes sense because, yes, it’s the casino in Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas when Johnny Depp/Hunter S Thompson hallucinates the lizards at the bar.
Every morning we’d open the door of the RV into the hot desert sun, say hi to the creepy clown and force ourselves into the streets to marvel at the sprawl of endless signs shouting-out at the pedestrians all the different ways to HAVE FUN!
Naturally this kind of pressure to enjoy yourself eventually weighs on you and ends up having the opposite effect.
Cut to day 2.
When Excess Became Our Norm
Maybe it was the desert heat, maybe it was the third glass of champagne at The Wynn buffet (remember everything MORE is considered good in Vegas. “More food, more booze, more to all the things!” it shouts 24/7).
Maybe it was because we’d been stuck in a vehicle with no power steering for a month. Whatever it was it all culminated in us having a huge argument.
It was one of those awkward couple arguments where you witness the two people walking towards you, brows furrowed, uttering the occasional swear, arms flailing in frustration and it makes you nuzzle into your own partner’s shoulder and crack jokes to your companion about ‘trouble in paradise’, safe in the deluded confidence that this will never happen to you.
Except this wasn’t paradise. It was Vegas.
And in true Las Vegas form, this argument went aaaalllllll night.
When Nothing Is Certain
The next day we woke up. Still not talking. One of us wanting to go to The Mob Museum, the other wanting to get the hell out of the city.
We decided space was the best call so we went our separate ways.
Catch is, in the rush to leave the creepy clown car park of Circus Circus behind I got lost and with a dead cell phone my only option was to return to the RV.
What I didn’t know was Dominic had tried to follow me to the museum but with no way to contact me he just hoped we’d run into each other.
So there we were, apart, still slightly angry and with only one cell phone.
The hours went by.
Eventually with my phone charged from the generator and I received a call from a android-voiced woman:
“You have a collect call from [pause] ‘Dominic Loneragan’. This has been a service from Pre-Paid Inmate. Please supply your credit card details in 30 seconds to speak to your caller.”
Surely this was a scam.
We’d already had our credit cards defrauded once this journey and Dom would never be in jail.
I let it the timer ring out.
What if he’d been taking photos and he got into a scuffle when someone tried to swipe his camera? What if he’s hurt?
What if this was his only call!? What if he never gets out of the country and I have to return to Vegas for conjugal visits?
Enter the cold sweats as all the scenarios flashed through my mind.
I dialed 911.
*Cue stressed panting*
“I’m in Vegas…My husband… We had a fight… He doesn’t like Vegas… He just called me… *sob*… From Pre-Paid Inmate… What is this?!… What do I do!?”
“Ma’am, is this an emergency?”
“It is to me.”
“I suggest calling around all the local lockups. If your husband has been picked up by the police he might be at the CCDC (Clark County Detention Center). Good luck.”
Then she hung up with what felt like a dramatic click like something out of ‘Taken’.
An Adventure Most Foul
Anyone analysing my Uber history would have a field day with this.
First stop: City of Las Vegas Detention Center.
Second stop: Clark County Detention Center.
The driver batted about zero eyelids at seeing a frazzled girl in a tank top and last night’s makeup demanding a tour of Las Vegas’ most popular correctional facilities, all while muttering to herself about what time it is in Sydney.
I watched the little Uber icon weave its way across my phone screen, wondering when would be a good time to call and break the news to Dominic parents.
Eventually we land at the big one, the CCDC. Imagine the antithesis of Vegas and you’d get this building.
It’s grey, boxy, and lined with rectangular slit windows that eye you off suspiciously.
I nervously pushed my handbag through the security X-ray machine and the female officer behind the table eyes me up strangely.
“Ma’am, you can’t come in here dressed like that” referring to my lace singlet top.
Fair enough, I thought.
Up until this point in my life I’d never had to be in a jail, maybe the mere whiff of cleavage would be enough to whip the inmates up into some kind of animalistic frenzy.
“But it’s all I have? I didn’t know my husband was going to end up here. I need to check if he’s in here….this is new to me.”
Hamming up my Down-Under accent as though the charm of dropping my ‘r’s and ‘g’s on the end of words would make any difference.
Can confirm that police in the USA are not swayed by the charm of Australians (obviously).
“Let me find you something…” She disappears for 5 minutes and returns with a light khaki police shirt.
Now I’m through security, standing in line waiting to speak to the officer on duty, tears running down my cheeks and dripping onto this lady officer’s crisp blouse.
A Suitable Ending For A Disaster
Just when I’m at the front of the line my phone starts buzzing.
Maybe this is Dom’s state assigned lawyer.
I pick up.
I hear his voice; “Meg, where are you?”
“I’m at the Clark County Correctional Centre looking for YOU! I’m standing here in line. Don’t worry. Everything is going to be okay.”
“Why? I’m at the Golden Nugget casino. They finally let me use the reception desk phone. I’ve been trying to collect call you all day.”
Here’s where the wires got crossed & you’re in for a big Vegas-level anti-climax.
Apparently Pre-Paid Inmate is an legitimate reverse charge call company, even if you’re not an inmate or remotely close to a US jail.
Clearly the company has a target clientele or they just get their kicks stressing people out.
At this point a kindly police officer comes over to me and asks if I’m okay because suddenly I’m cry-laughing in a room that’s essentially the most depressing place on earth.
So I guess I finally fit in.
I tell him the story and he offers to walk me to the Golden Nugget personally because cops are people too and I guess when you work in Vegas this kind of stuff happens all the time.
Moral of the story? Vegas is hard. You need to go in with a plan and get out the moment you find yourself crying in a plastic chair in half a police uniform.
And yes, we forgot what we were fighting about. So maybe this city does have a weird way of bringing people back together.
And that, friends, concludes the story of our time in Las Vegas.
We hope you found it helpful.