We started in Reno. It had to be Reno. Everyone goes to Las Vegas to get married in tacky Elvis-inspired wedding venues but we told our 15 year old son that we were going to Reno to get divorced. That’s what happens in films and books, anyway. But to be strictly honest, we started in London, boarding a plane for San Francisco. I don’t remember much about the flight but I do remember getting frisked by a security lady at San Francisco. After the third going-over with the magic wand, I whispered that I thought the wires in my bra might be causing the machine to go off and she smiled a knowing smile and let me go.
The flight to Reno was in a tiny airplane. The toilet was behind a plastic concertinaed door and the other passengers were regulars, taking the trip for work or meeting friends for the weekend. It was a short flight and we found ourselves at Reno airport, in possession of a hire car and all our baggage about to search for our hotel. For anyone who has never been there, Reno is like a mini Las Vegas. Set in apparently the middle of nowhere, it has blocks of high-end hotels full of casinos and slot machines. We didn’t gamble a single penny or should I say cent? We walked through amazed at the number of people sitting with huge buckets of quarters pushing one after the other into a machine. Our transport around the hotel was a monorail. We could have walked outside but no-one did that because no-one really walked anywhere so we did like the Americans and rode the monorail.
One casino had an enormous dome which behaved as though a great storm was brewing. It issued great rumbles of thunder and flashes of lightning accompanied by a darkening of the sky. Our favourite had a dog show and, I have to say, I have rarely laughed louder in my life. The trainer was dressed as a dog warden who had to round up lots of stray dogs. Every time he caught a dog and tethered it, the dog would release itself and escape, returning to the scene in disguise. We had a big dog dressed as a lady walking a smaller dog, a dog dressed as a diver pursued by a shark and a chef, trailing a large string of sausages. The hapless warder failed to notice all the dressed up dogs and so they all made their escape.
The breakfast in our hotel was just like the enormous feasts you hear about. We could have eaten pizza with ice cream for breakfast and no-one would have blinked an eye. It was during breakfast that we heard one of the phrases we have adopted into our family language. An older boy was reprimanding his young brother who was busy filling his plate. “Don’t gorge yourself with fruit” he said and my son and I laughed quietly together and thus it was absorbed into our family repertoire.
We did venture outside to see what Reno looked like. It was a fairly small town with everything concentrated around the casinos and shops or anything else of interest was hard to find. We had arrived during what is known as Hot August Nights where people from all over the States bring their cars to show them off and during the evening, drive them through the town. We are not really car people but watching the crowd was an entertainment in itself. Apart from the obvious car enthusiasts, we spotted 3 men dressed in dungarees with mullet haircuts excitedly watching the parade. They didn’t have the full complement of teeth between them and we were thrilled and then slightly ashamed to think we had just seen our first poor white trash.
After 3 nights in Reno to acclimatise ourselves and adjust to the time, we were ready to head off for the rest of our American adventure.