Wednesday, July 17, 2013 | 4:38 p.m.
Editor’s Note: While Robin Leach takes his traditional summer vacation under the Tuscan sun and along the Amalfi Coast in Italy, many of our Strip personalities have stepped forward in his absence to pen their own words of wisdom. We continue today with top Las Vegas rock pop artist Michael Godard.
Looking up into the night sky, stars fill my view. In front of me, the horizon is filled with the twinkling lights of the city. Directly ahead is a steady stream of red taillights leading us all to the Land of Oz.
Of course, it’s not really Oz, but Las Vegas still has its magic. And the Yellow Brick Road? Well, it’s actually Interstate 15.
I don’t know how many times I’ve made this journey from California to Nevada, but I’m sure that it is more than 100. And you know what? I still enjoy it and always have for as far back as I can remember.
When I was a toddler, my family would drive up from Southern California to visit my grandparents, who moved to Las Vegas in the 1950s. Fighting with my sister in the back seat, playing games with the letters on signs or doing Mad Libs. Then there were the countless times of my parents telling us to quiet down as my dad threatened to pull the car over.
Later, when I was about 10, my parents divorced and my father moved to Sin City permanently. Now those trips were just as fun. Riding in the car and deciding all the fun things we were going to do when we got to Las Vegas.
A trip to the arcade and certainly the buffet at the Rio or Frontier. Seeing those strange pink birds at the Flamingo. And most certainly the El Rancho for bowling! Oh, and I can’t forget all the good times at Circus Circus.
Later, I attended Clark High School, then UNLV for a while, until I was spending more time at the Sands playing blackjack than doing my homework, which my dad put a stop to in a hurry and sent me back to Cali.
Once again, making those fun drives with my friends in a beat-up Pinto praying the car would make it over Cajon Pass or that there was enough change lodged in the seats to buy gas to get back home because the winning streak I dreamed of didn’t go exactly as planned!
We still have family in California, and I still do a lot of business there. So I still make frequent trips between California and Las Vegas, and I still enjoy the drive. Somehow, it still holds magic for me. I am really not sure what it is. Most likely it’s because of all the fond memories.
Thirty years and not much has changed along the highway. You can still find Peggy Sue’s Diner, the giant thermometer in Baker and a Bob’s Big Boy. There was a water park that sprung up briefly. And anyone who has made this drive is familiar with the beef jerky brought down by aliens.
I still get excited when I finally see ZZYZX road. “Just 100 miles to go until I’m home again in Las Vegas,” I think to myself. Shortly after that, the glimmering lights of Las Vegas appear. I’ve reached Oz!
I have been making this trek so many times, I know it like the back of my hand. I’ve driven it through snow, crazy strong winds, fog and the desert heat.
At times, I look at it as an opportunity to clear my head. Other times, my radio will be blasting as loud as it will go as I sing along to my favorite tunes on my cassette deck, then CD player and lately my iPod.
Some people prefer to fly; not me. Some of my best memories are the trips to Las Vegas with friends. Specifically, I mean the actual car ride to Oz. Those 4-hour conversations catching up with friends or going on about life and the party just 200 miles ahead.
The only time I remember it wasn’t so pleasant were trips where I got caught in traffic. So here I am again as I add another notch to the number of times I’ve traveled this road windows down, warm breeze, sharing the road with idiots, music turned up, smile on my face and the twinkling lights ahead in the desert landscape.
This time it’s not my dad driving with my sister and me in the back. Tonight, I’m the father driving my family back home to Vegas. Funny how life is — and how such simple things make life so intoxicating.
Check out our other guest columns today from exhibit king Tom Zaller and cowgirl Trish Lynn, and on Thursday from Luxor headliners Jabbawockeez, John Fitzgerald of Ri Ra Irish Pub, Milo Kostelecky of Las Vegas Film Festival and Shine Alternative Fitness founders Russ Petroni and Dima Shine.
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
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