The word “decibels” never came up when we talked about our next vacation. All we cared about was five days away from the wet of Oregon. I hate to sound ungrateful, but WILL IT EVER STOP? We were planning five days with old friends exploring the sights around the famous Las Vegas Strip. Little did we know what was in store!!!

Walking into a casino that first night set me back on my heels. Mind you, I was last in a casino 30 years ago and my ears were younger then. The sudden blast of slot machine payoffs spun my head every which-a-way. Oh the flashing and blinking, like fireworks going off in a hundred boxes all at the same time. Sitting in front of each one were very serious, mostly grim faces, mesmerized by the carrot of turning nickels into dollars. The room could have been on fire and they would not have noticed, really.

Once my ears adjusted, the smoke hit. It took me by surprise because I live where there are strict laws against it in public places. My lungs and throat gradually turned on me. I found out later that because this casino was older and off the strip, it was poorly ventilated. However, this was my introduction to the Las Vegas experience. And first impressions, like covers of books, stick stubbornly in my mind.

After dinner in a restaurant filled to the brim with 50 conversations at the same time, we snaked our way through a zig-zaggy trail lined with slots, which had grown taller in mind than the hour before. The venue for the show we were about to see was in the far corner of the casino and it looked promising. A band setup on stage and a room full of tables and chairs hinted at clinking wine glasses and good listening. Wrong. Sorry folks, no drinks were being served during this show. Then the music began, a.k.a. serious amps. Fumble, fumble, where are those earplugs?


Desert vacation. Red Rock Canyon, NV

I’ve never been to the desert and was unprepared, not only for the assault on my senses, but for the stark, brown landscape that is Nevada. Where are the trees? Where is the green? I keep having to remind myself that my Las Vegas head-spinning is because most of my life has been spent in the lush hills and forests of the Pacific Northwest. Also, I’m slow to adjust because we’re inexperienced travelers.

By week’s end, the relief on my face as I stepped into my house was unmistakeable. Whew. The rain and cold we were so anxious to escape from the week before welcomed me like a fiercely wagging dog waiting for her human to come through the door.

I’m definitely guilty of complacency. Guilty of taking for granted what surrounds me everyday. Even though my vacation was different than I expected, I appreciate the experience and the wake-up call. We saw old friends, Hoover Dam, Red Rock Canyon, AND The Strip. The best part, though, is we got to see the world through different eyes. Learning never stops and I love that.

There's no place like home!

Husband plus whiskey in the backyard.

As I write this I look up occasionally at my own backyard. You couldn’t get more different from Oregon than Las Vegas. The excitement can perk up an ordinary life, but it can also put adrenaline on overload. Calm down, Carol. You’re home now. You clicked your heels three times and voilá, “There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home.”

SECRET: Open your mind to possibilities. Take a chance once in a while and do something entirely different from what you’re used to. You could find out there’s a better way to go through life OR find out what you’ve got is better than you imagined. Either way you win.