Las Vegas, 19th-20th December 2021
This trip, a family matter, had been in the back of my mind for a number of months but we had all dismissed it as definitely not happening and made alternate plans. All that changed a couple of days before I was due to fly back to the UK from my Midwest trip - it was on, but it had to happen immediately and could not be deferred. One shot, a drop-everything emergency situation. I considered staying in America and getting myself from Illinois to Nevada - the least risky option given the possibility of lockdowns and closed borders, but after a few sleepless nights decided to come back to the UK and work it all out from home. And I had to go to work....
Once back I applied myself to getting through an immense and complicated logistics exercise, the to-do list from hell, not least finding a suitable ticket to the USA (and back again!) at such short notice. I think deep down I like a thorny travel problem but so much was out of my control. However with an eventual window of just four days remarkably everything worked out, and all the various things that could have gone wrong, any single one of which could have prevented the trip, one by one came good. This carried on to the very last minute - sitting on the aircraft at Heathrow a luggage delay took two hours, and just as we were finally ready and about to push back a fuel leak was discovered and everyone had to get off. I had a day in reserve for this kind of eventuality, but still, why now, why on this particular trip?! Thankfully another plane was found and we managed to actually leave on the same day, not a given by any means as the crew were very close to timing out. On the way to that aircraft the terminal transit broke down and I had to race through the foot tunnels to make it. I am not a religious person but I may have offered a silent prayer as we took off.
I thought about simply skipping this from my list of trip reports, but what birding there was was actually really good, and in normal times this could be a good winter break in the same way that Arizona is for example.
- As mentioned this was not a birding trip, I had an unmissable appointment on Monday morning, and any free time outside of that was a bonus. I had built in Sunday as a reserve travel day (very nearly needed!) and was able to spend this birding, as well as the rest of Monday after the meeting.
- Flights: Direct from Heathrow to Las Vegas on a British Airways airmiles ticket (fortunately I have a lot to burn)
- Covid logistics were a "Proof of Covid recovery" NHS QR code combined with a letter from a recognised health provider confirming I could not reliably take tests and was fit to fly. Otherwise a negative lateral flow would have been sufficient. I brought a pre-departure test from the UK with me in order to be able to fly home, and as the return was within 48 hours took it as soon as I arrived in Las Vegas, my thinking being that even if I had contracted it on the way over it would not yet show up.
- Car Hire: I hired a VW Taureg from Budget using airmiles as last minute pricing was ridiculous, but this was a not a road-trip and I just needed something to get around.
- Accommodation: I stayed as far away from the famous Las Vegas Strip as I could, at the Las Vegas Lake Westin. First of all gambling and bright lights are really not my thing, but weighing more on my mind was the Covid situation. Omicron had arrived in the US about two weeks earlier and was spreading rapidly.
- Food: I ate a huge breakfast at Denny's each morning and did not then need to eat for the reat of the day.
- Literature: eBird, eBird and eBird. There was no time for any planning for this trip, I just went.
Day 0: Landed at 11pm (a mere 5 hours late!) and drove straight to my hotel about 40 minutes east of the airport.
Day 1: After a hearty breakfast crossed the city and birded the hills to the west during the morning and early afternoon, finishing the day in the desert to the north.
Day 2: Morning appointment, afternoon birding along the watershed to the east of the city, evening departure.