Column: Christmas in Las Vegas, Part One

By Susan Parker
Tuesday December 19, 2006

Friday, 4:30 p.m.: Arrive at Oakland International Airport with sister-in-law, one four-year-old and one two-year-old. Stand in line to check in bags. Stand in line to pass through security. Stand in line to view flight schedule. Learn that all Southwest Airline flights to Las Vegas are delayed by at least two hours due to bad weather in the Pacific Northwest. Stand in line at gate to see if tickets can be changed to fly out on 4 p.m. flight that is now leaving at 6 p.m. 

Get sent to Customer Service at opposite end of Terminal Two. Wait in line. Request change. Told to sit in waiting area until flight is called. Four-year-old needs to use bathroom. Stand in line in Ladies Room, find stall, help flush, rush back to Customer Service. Miss 6 p.m. flight. Stand in line to get on waiting list of 5 p.m. flight that is now leaving at 7 p.m. Told to go to Gate 10 in Terminal One and wait at desk for standby list to be called. Rush to Terminal One. Lose boarding passes on way. Stand in line at Gate 10 and report that boarding passes are missing. Woman at desk says, “No problem.” Man at desk says, “Yes, it’s a problem.” Told to step back and wait for further instructions. At 6:55 p.m. name called. Proceed to counter. Asked by check-in lady for boarding passes. Explain again that they have been lost. Long consultation between multiple agents. Two-year-old begins to cry. Four-year-old joins in. Agents decide to issue new boarding passes. Instructed to rush to Gate 17 for immediate departure. Party of four will arrive in Las Vegas at 8:30 p.m. but baggage will not arrive until 10:30 p.m.  

Friday, 8:30 p.m: Arrive at McCarran International Airport but Granny and PopPop have read flight information board and expect flight to be two hours late. They sit on bench near baggage claim and are spotted by brilliant four-year-old. Pack everyone into rental van, depart airport, hit Friday night Strip traffic, wander through neighborhoods, eventually arriving at Sun City, Summerlin, winter home of Granny and PopPop. 

Friday, 10 p.m.: Discover diapers packed in luggage that has not yet arrived. PopPop and Auntie rush to Walgreens. Disaster diverted. 

Saturday, 6 a.m.: PopPop and Auntie drive to airport, pick up lost luggage, come home, everyone changes clothes. 

Saturday, 3 p.m.: Extended family of six loads into van and drives 80 miles to Sagebrush Ranch for covered wagon Christmas ride. Wait two hours around small campfire in freezing desert while horses are saddled, 30 riders are seated atop swayback steeds, and 30 revelers are packed into decrepit wooden wagon outfitted with Christmas lights and bad audio system. Head out onto the prairie just like in the olden west, singing Rocking Around the Christmas Tree. Hit many rocks and cacti. Spend one hour jostling back and forth within the wagon, viewing not the purple sage and fruited plain, but a Girl Scout Troop from Henderson crammed like sardines on the middle bench. Arrive back at camp in order to indulge in gruel-like “cowboy chili,” questionable hot dogs, bad hot chocolate, and Costco cookies. Tramp through horse manure-filled desert back to van, pile in, drive 80 miles to Sun City. Vow never to visit Sagebrush Ranch again. 

Sunday, 11 a.m.: Pack kids into van, head to Valley View Mall, stand in line at J.C. Penny’s Portrait Center in order to have Christmas pics of children taken. Stand in line in shoe department to buy new shoes for four-year-old. Rush back to Sun City in order to eat early dinner and head back out to Magical Forest for light display and visit with Santa. Stand in line to enter Magical Forest. Stand in line to buy tickets for rides within Magical Forest. Stand in line for merry-go-round. Stand in line for choo-choo train. Stand in line to see Santa. Stand in line to wait for picture with Santa to develop. Walk through Enchanted Garden out to parking lot. Wait in line of cars to leave parking lot. Head back to Sun City. Stand in line to use bathrooms at Granny and PopPop’s house. Children and mother take master bedroom, Granny and PopPop take guest room. Auntie stuck on couch in middle of small living room but she doesn’t dare complain for fear she will be left out of next adventure: trip to Ethel M. Candy Factory and lighted Cactus Garden.