Outside, there wasn’t a Blazer in sight; just a few Nissan twin-cab pickups and a whole bunch of soft-top Wranglers. Back at the desk, I told the lady that I couldn’t see a Blazer in the yard. “Ooo noo” she replied, “We don’t have any Chevy Blazers. They’ve all been rented.”
I kept calm. Explained that I had booked a Blazer three months ago, and showed her a copy of the confirmation in my folder. “You’ll just have to go and talk to the manager then.” she said. We found him outside, and explained the situation again. According to the manager, the rental company doesn’t guarantee a specific make or model. Then he made some suggestions: a Wrangler soft-top (Sorry, we have one of those back home and know it doesn't offer much security for our luggage), a Mustang convertible (No way), a Suzuki Grand Vitara (Too squeezy. And we’re not going to pay the premium SUV rate for something that size!). “OK,” he said “I can let you have a brand new Dodge Ram 4x4 V10 Extra-Cab. It has just come in and you’d be the first to rent it.” Hell, it was tempting. But we knew that it was just too big for city parking and it could be a real liability if we wanted to turn it around on a back-country road. In the end, we opted for the Suzuki, with the manager’s assurance that, once we got to Las Vegas, we could swap it for a Blazer. “They’ll have lots of them up there.’ he said.
We soon realized we should have flown to Las Vegas. The last time we drove this road there was a lot of traffic, and it was boring. This time there was a lot more traffic, and it was even more boring. We were shoe-horned into a USD100 a day econo-box, and we were wasting a fourteenth of our trip.
It felt like ground hog day when we got to the Las Vegas car rental desk. “I’m terribly sorry. We don’t have any Blazers available, but you’re welcome to have a look outside to see if there’s anything you’d like.” Out in the yard were the familiar faces: Nissan pickups and more of those soft-top Wranglers.
Keeping a lid on the anger, we explained to the clerk that we had just flown in from Australia, and we needed to get the type of vehicle we were paying for. She decided to call the wash-bay and see what they had. “If you could wait about fifteen minutes, we can give you a Mitsubishi Montero.” (That’s a Pajero in Aussie-speak). Hey, we’d be happy to wait an hour!
Las Vegas is a great place for people who don’t gamble. The food and accommodation is relatively cheap, and there are hundreds of things to keep you entertained. Even people-watching on the main drag can be absorbing.
We worked out why everyone on the slot machines, and at the gambling tables, looked unhappy. (1) They were doing their dough. (2) They knew that the money they were losing was helping us to get a good deal. (3) They would eventually have to go home and pretend they had a fantastic time.
If you’re a car enthusiast, head for the Imperial Palace Hotel. They have an auto collection that will blow your mind. Every week thousands of people visit this display of around 250 unbelievable machines – and most are for sale. Got a spare million? That much money might get you one of the cheaper Duesenbergs. At the bottom end, you could shell out sixty grand for a better-than-new ’55 Chevy! But don’t try to steal one. There’s a security guard watching from an office up in the roof!
The desolation of the Nevada desert country is more pronounced as you drive north from Sin City. And it makes you wonder why on earth the original settlers decided this was a good place to live. Thankfully, unlike the poor souls in the 1800s, we were traveling at high speed, in the air-conditioned comfort of a 4WD vehicle, and would soon be well away from the monotonous landscape.