So, the trip to Vegas is over. The last few days were kind of hectic, so I wasn't able to post. I'll use this post as a summary of my time there. My next post will deal with traveling back. And then look for non-Vegas posts later this week.
100 Years of Vegas. The signs were all over. Apparently this is the Centennial Celebration for the Neon Nightmare. In one-hundred years, we have gone from a dusty desert town to a thriving metropolis with enormous buildings, hotels, and casinos. Millions of tourists come every year to see this testimony to human creativeness. There is a 50% scale Eiffel Tower. There are exact replicas of the Statue of Liberty, Michelangelo's David, and a whole casino based on clowns (eesh). There are also enough burlesque and adult shows to satisfy a whole branch of the military. Seriously, though, the architecture is pretty impressive. The whole city is about marketing. The hotel/casino areas are constructed to funnel you towards more opportunities to spend money - the slots, the restaurants, the shops. Name branding is everywhere. I stayed at the MGM Grand. And in case I forgot, that was on the trashcans, five TV channels, the showerhead, the bars of soap, the tiles in the bathroom, the four pens in my room (now in my bag), basically everything but the furniture (missed opportunity there). And if I was completely braindead, I could look out my window and see the gleaming green walls and remember that it was "The Emerald City." And all of them are done the same way. Brand recognition gone nutty.
Well, on Saturday, I had been sitting through sessions all week - and the lady doing this all-day one decided to rehash the one-hour one she had done on Friday. So I made the choice to bolt. I had not really gone out anywhere. I had rented a car which sat in the parking garage all week. So I went and found the Hard Rock Hotel to buy a pin (what a loser place that was). Then I hopped on the Interstate to sightsee. A friend at work had told me to go find the Valley of Fire and the Hoover Dam. Since the only one on my map was the Valley of Fire, that settled it. I turned my Pontiac Sunfire with its part-time AC north on I-15 and drove. It is amazing how fast you exit Vegas. It is about 15 minutes from one end to the other on the highway. And then you are in .... the desert. Being a Florida boy, I am used to water being everywhere. I also am used to no elevation and lots of trees. The opposite of that what was I encountered. I had a good 40 miles to cruise, and look at the scenery of the Mojave Desert. Here's what I saw: rocks, dirt, a few sprigs of brush, rocks, dirt, mountains, dirt, rocks. Drive drive drive. Dirt dirt dirt. Lots of grays, browns, tans, khakis, taupes, borings.
Well, finally I hit the Valley of Fire State Park, plunk down my six bucks and make the last bend. Gasp. Everywhere around the rocks, mountains, boulders are now orange-red. They look like terra cotta pottery. There are windblown arches, caves, gigantic rock formation. They look like they got dropped there from somewhere else. As you kept driving, there were climbing cliffs of orange-red and stark white. On the other side of the road you could see the boring desert. I have no idea how this one area came to be there. For about ten miles, you drive through this absolutely bizarre and beautiful place. I would just stop my car and stare, trying to get some lousy pics with my camera phone. For the first time in a week, I was awestruck.
And it hit me. It took man 100 years to build a city of concrete, neon, and flashing lights - one of the crown jewels of architecture and marketing. And the thing that I took back with me - the first thing I took a picture of - was a pile of rocks. Rocks. Those are like throwaways of God's creation. There was more beauty and wonder in a ten mile stretch of stinking rocks than in an entire city of wonders. I had been listening to my iPod on the drive on shuffle. As I was heading back through the park, still amazed at the sights, one of my favorite Steven Curtis Chapman songs came on.
How could I stand here / And watch the sun rise
Follow the mountains / Where they touch the sky
Ponder the vastness / And the depths of the sea
And think for a moment / The point of it all was to make much of me
Cause I'm just a whisper / And You are the thunder and
I want to make much of You, Jesus
I want to make much of Your love
I want to live today to give You the praise
That You alone are so worthy of
I want to make much of Your mercy
I want to make much of Your cross
I give You my life / Take it and let it be used
To make much of You (Click here for full lyrics)
That was a pretty good lesson to take back from the conference. We work so hard to strive, achieve, and make much of ourselves and our lives. But it isn't about us. It is about Him. And even when we put our biggest accomplishments on display, they will get trumped by a rock, a tree, a river, a lake, a planet. Really puts things in perspective. My return drive to Vegas was made in a much different mindset, and that city was seen in such a different light upon my arrival. It was like the city and desert switched places.