That third trip to Las Vegas, as mentioned two blogs ago, occurred as 2009 drew to a close and I took my post-operational tour leave after Afghanistan.
Vegas was the launch site for a planned road trip east across the breadth of the U.S. and toward the most southeasterly point at Key West, before finishing in Miami, handing in the car and flying back to the UK.
My wingman for the adventure was Pete. Now Pete was and still is a pretty handy wingman. He’s the sort of guy who despite being hung over as hell will drag his body out for another night of bedlam, no matter what; even if he was coughing up blood I imagine he’d still go out.
He’s also one of those guys who’s always loyal to a fault. When I got into a spot of bother in Afghanistan for writing an article in the press, he was the only person who bothered to get in touch and check up on how I was doing, which I’ve never forgotten.
Landed in Vegas we picked up our Chrysler Sebring convertible, parked it in the Luxor Hotel parking lot and headed out to lose ourselves in neon nirvana, determined to shake the metaphorical sands of Afghanistan off our backs.
The first night there Pete managed to strike up a conversation in a Luxor bar with some residents of Los Angeles who worked in adult entertainment and invited us to join them for some drinks. It wasn’t quite as exciting as it might sound–they worked in distribution (we never found out exactly what that entailed).
Funnily enough, I can’t remember much else of the two days and nights in Vegas, other than walking to the Sebring after checking out of the hotel, feeling pretty ropey but knowing we were heading east and with an uplifting sense similar to what Hunter S. Thompson wrote about in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas:
“There was madness in any direction, at any hour…that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn’t need that. Our energy would simply prevail. There was no point in fighting—on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave. . . ”
We’d known and seen enough madness in Afghanistan, but before us lay a different and more welcome type. Anything seemed possible.