PREFACE: This is less a story and more a journal entry, recounting my wedding on July 1, 2013 and the road trip there and back…
WE BEGIN: Andi and I have been together for nearly six years. We’ve lived together for over five. Last August, I, in my normal state of awkwardness, proposed and she gracefully said yes. She didn’t want a fancy ring. It nearly brought tears to my eyes; she was satisfied with the ring I presented her on the day we got engaged — my late grandmother’s engagement ring from the 1940s.
Us: we’re not much for large get-togethers. She especially will shun big parties. Likewise, she doesn’t like being the center of attention in a large group. So we decided the best route to a wedding was something small — we set a mid-summer date and scheduled a small ceremony at the famed A Little White Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas (Elvis not included). The date: July 1, 2013 — all prime numbers (a requirement of Andi’s).
Homemade invitations were distributed to a small number of close family and an even smaller number of close friends.
Given Instagram has added embed functionality to their photos, I figured I’d give you a visual rundown of our trip.
The trip was amazing. What we didn’t expect, though, was 117-degree weather.
We left our Mount Vernon, Washington home on the Saturday before our wedding and drove to Twin Falls, Idaho. It was a long drive at over ten hours, but we stopped in the cute town of Nampa just outside Boise for dinner at Messenger Pizza. The second day, we traveled south to Vegas, quickly passing through several small desert towns.
We arrived in Vegas Sunday afternoon, the day before the wedding, and checked into our room at the Flamingo. Andi’s parents had arrived earlier that day, and mine the day before. We met up with hers for dinner, hopping from casino to casino to take advantage of their indoor air conditioning. The heat was already near unbearable with thermometers reading the hundred-teens.
I’m not sure if you’ve ever experienced this type of heat, but it’s like being in a slow cooker. The air is thick with the heat — not thick like it is when it’s humid, though, just a pure, hot thickness. Almost immediately, we began to dub Vegas as Las Vegas, Hell.
We ultimately settled on The Cheesecake Factory in Caesar’s Forum for our meal after a few unsuccessful attempts to find a spot that offered gluten free options. By that time, Andi’s parents had gone back to the room to rest, and we were joined by Andi’s sister and her sister’s husband (where we are Andi and Andy, they are Jesse and Jessi).
The rest of the evening was spent looking for the piece Andi would ultimately wear in her hair during our wedding. We scoured the Forum for hours, looking in this store and that.
Marc By Marc Jacobs, a store in which we spent a fair amount of time, had a 1979 El Camino sitting in the window. Being that I drive a nearly identical car (but jet black), I had to take a picture. Finally, we gave up as 9:00 came around.
Heading back to Flamingo, Andi noted that she would probably find it in the least obvious place possible: our hotel. She was right.
That night, I took a few shots of the view from our hotel room on the 24th floor. The view was astonishing at night, lights everywhere, traffic and crowds never ceasing…
The morning of our wedding, we drove downtown to apply for our marriage license. At a Starbucks down the street, we met a wonderful elderly gentleman from Nevada who was nearly as hot as we were. He said this was unusual weather, even for the desert; the night before, it barely dipped below 90.
Andi dropped me off at the hotel around 11am. She and her father ran additional wedding errands while I met Andi’s friend Gypsy, who was just getting into town, and assisted her in checking into the Flamingo.
Our limo was to pick us up between 2:15 and 2:30pm. Andi hadn’t returned from having her makeup done by 2, and I, being the stress case I can be, was freaking out thinking she wouldn’t be ready in time. But we made it; she returned five minutes later and was ready within fifteen minutes (quite the feat for her, I must say).
She had her makeup done at Sephora, and expressed concern at the thickness of her eyebrows. Gypsy noted that on film and in photographs, having slightly bolder eyebrows is a good thing. She, of course, was right — despite our Girls references (i.e. when Hannah’s co-workers do her makeup, which prompts Adam to comment You look like a Mexican teenager. It rules.).
We made it to the limo just in time (or, about five minutes late). Andi’s mom gasped noticeably from the lobby as we descended on the escalator to where our ride was waiting. Joining her at the bottom, she commented that Andi looked stunning with her hair and makeup and 60s-referencing, Mod-era dress.
The limo ride was nearly unbearable. 117 degrees outside, but it wasn’t much better inside — 105 at least — as the air conditioning was terrible. The six mile drive to the Chapel nearly killed us. We rode back to the hotel in my parents’ rental car (though Andi’s family took the limo).
Technically, you’re not supposed to take your own photos in the Chapel, but we snapped a few from the lobby, including one with an Elvis cameo (he was not part of our ceremony):
After the ceremony, we congregated at The Center Cut, Flamingo’s signature steakhouse, for our reception dinner. We all ate steak and me, being a social drinker, had nearly 12 glasses of water. I snapped a photo of my parents, my brother and his wife, and our wedding dessert. In retrospect, I wish I would have had one of the waiters take a photo of the entire party at dinner.
Andi and I had a very untraditional honeymoon. The majority was spent on the road, driving home from Las Vegas. But it was along these roads that we had the most fun. Driving northwest toward Reno, we turned down a side street in Goldfield, NV and discovered a gold mine.
Not literally, of course, as those dried up years ago.
Goldfield is a partial ghost town, parts of which appear to have been abandoned in the 1920s. We could not pass up the chance for the photo op.
Walker Lake is a picturesque lake just outside Hawthorne, Nevada. We stopped here for a restroom break, questioning why the resort-like beach was vacant. We soon learned why.
Stretching our legs and getting ready to use the restrooms, Andi almost stumbled into a bush. It was at this moment she realized the bush was covered in inch-long spiders — nearly fifty in all! It’s wasn’t just this bush — it was EVERY bush.
Creeped out, we left as quickly as possible, not pausing to get a picture for proof. For miles around the lake, as we cruised by at 55 to 60 mph, we saw similar bushes along the side of the road, all infested with spiders. The following article about Walker Lake notes:
…woe to the motorist who pulls over and doesn’t pay attention to the guard rail. It is spider central — spider nirvana. It’s as if a B-movie director put out a casting call for large, nasty looking arachnids, miles and miles, thick with webs and spiders, packed together and ready to pounce.
On July 3, we were those motorists.
That night we splurged in Reno, staying in a room with a jacuzzi at the Silver Legacy Casino and Hotel.
The next day we drove the best road I’ve ever traveled: CA-139 from Reno, Nevada to Susanville, California. It’s a road I hope to drive again someday. Along it we stopped at Jacks Valley, a watering hole from the settler days and early 1900s.
On our way to our evening stay in Bend, Oregon, we took a planned detour and visited Crater Lake. For those who have never been, Crater Lake is exactly that: a giant lake in the crater of a dormant volcano. What you don’t get from the name is that it features one of the bluest, most serene and picturesque lakes in the world.
That evening, we were spent. We stayed at your standard Super 8, woke early the next morning and drove north to Yakima, over to Seattle, then home.
Exhausting as these types of drives may be, we decided that road trips are the way to go.
You experience so much of America by driving back roads and byways, by traveling two-lane state highways and scenic routes. You discover towns like Goldfield, Nevada, drive breathtaking roads like CA-139, and have unforgettable experiences like Walker Lake.
The old saying Why drive when you can fly? should be reversed: Why fly when you can drive!?!?