Wednesday 3rd September. Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
Viva Las Vegas! Man, is this place incredible! This enigmatic desert town has grown so much, I barely recognize it! Of course, old favourites like Caesar's Palace and the Mirage are still here, but it seems that everywhere there was a spare space, someone's thrown up a new casino, and each one more massive, more gaudy and more elaborate than the last.

the famous Caesars Palace. The new look boulevard.

I drove into Las Vegas Boulevard at about six o'clock yesterday evening. Yes that's right, my near new Toyota Camry. It's funny that I was just saying to Chris and Monica the night before that the perfect car would be something like a Camry- spacious and comfortable but still economical. At that point, all I could find on the internet was a big pickup truck *gas guzzler* to go to New Mexico, and a Ford Windstar *minivan* to go to Houston. Then when I phoned Autodriveaway yesterday morning, they said there was a Camry to be delivered to Dallas. I'll take that, thanks!

On my way out of Los Angeles On the way to Las Vegas.

I thought I remembered the drive from LA to Las Vegas as being six hours or more, but it was two in the afternoon when I left north east LA and I was sipping a ninety-nine cent Heineken in Westward Ho! casino on Las Vegas Boulevard four hours later. Vegas was hot, even at that time of day. It had hit a hundred and ten degrees along the way from Los Angeles, and was still over ninety. I wanted to walk around and take photos of all the incredible new buildings, but the whole scene was just a bit overwhelming. My host Meghan was finishing work soon, so I headed to her place to wait for her.

What the? Meghan getting ready for work. Sorry about the red eyes Meg!

Meghan moved to Las Vegas with her friend and flatmate Erin eight months ago. They say it wasn't easy to find a job at first, but have both progressed from waitressing to dealing, so I think they're quite happy with how things have gone. As well as dealing, Meghan also works part time for a publishing company. They've not long moved from a dump in the ghettos, where they were continually being burgled and harrassed, to this modern three bedroom apartment. Lucky for me, hey?

Meghan had plans for last night, and Erin stumbled in- and later out again- so drunk that she was barely intelligible. I chilled out here at their apartment with their flatmate Brent, who of course also works at one of the casinos. Meghan let me sleep in her bed since she wouldn't be coming home, and just as she'd warned me, I was woken by intense sunlight at six o'clock. I managed to doze for another couple of hours, but relented and got up at about eight. I spent the next couple of hours catching up on emails, courtesy of Brent's internet connection, trying to establish contact with my hosts in upcoming cities. At eleven, I dropped Brent to work, and spent the rest of the day wandering the strip, exploring the various new casinos- The 'Bellagio', 'Paris', The 'Venetian', 'Mandalay Bay', and 'New York, New York'. A picture tells a thousand words, they say, so here's six thousand words about Las Vegas.

The MGM lion stares across the street at the gigantic 'New York, New York' casino.

Fountain in front of the Paris casino.

The Luxor. the Paris casino

I phoned a local horse breeder regarding a challenge that was left on my messageboard. A reader has challenged me to post a photo of myself sitting on a Peruvian Paso horse. Why? Who knows! I'd contacted a breeder of these horses in California, but she wasn't real enthusiastic about having some random Australian interrupting her busy day and upsetting her prize animals. The folk in Nevada seemed a little more receptive, but their horses are fifty miles north of Vegas, the opposite direction to where I'm heading. Oh well, I'll try again in Arizona or Texas. It's a $100 challenge so I'm not giving up without a fight. If you're interested to see the other challenges I've received, go to my Challenge Steve page. Maybe you can even think up your own challenge. C'mon...bring it on!

'Excalibur' casino in the background Me, cooling off in the spray of the fountain.

Meghan was free between five and nine, so I caught up with her and then waited for Erin to get home from her shift. She and Brent both finished work at about nine o'clock, and in spite of her big night last night, Erin was still keen to join Brent and I for a night on the town...or so she said. I waited for an hour and a half after Erin said she'd be home, then realized that Brent would be wondering where the hell I was, so gave up on Erin and raced down to the boulevard. Brent had also given up waiting, it seemed. Oh well, it's not the first time I've had to entertain myself. I meandered up and down the strip, checking out the new casinos and filling up on steak and eggs for three bucks. I saw some sporting competition advertised, but after I'd already paid my admission, I discovered it was mud wrestling. How disgusting and degrading to women! I only stayed for a couple of hours, I was so offended!