• Image about Thanksgiving
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It might sound strange, but when you consider that one is the most American of traditions and the other is the most American of cities, well, it kinda makes us wonder why we didn’t think of it sooner.

Last thanksgiving, I woke before the sun came up, got on my motorcycle and rode south to a dry lake bed about 15 miles from my house. You see, at dawn, the light in the desert is a soft, gauzy pink, and shadows stretch to comically long proportions. It’s a start to the day unlike any other — and worth getting out of bed to see.

That particular day, the wind was still and there wasn’t a sound to be heard on the hard-baked expanse, save for the ones I was making. Most people don’t realize it, but silence, not heat, is the real soul of the desert. Many landscapes are just as hot, some just as desolate — but few are as quiet. I listened to nothing for maybe half an hour, then realized it was time to get back. It was Thanksgiving, after all; the turkey had to come out of the brine and go on the barbecue, stuffing needed to be made, pies had to go into the oven, collard greens needed to be cut and sautéed. Tradition had to be upheld.


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Dinner was excellent, by the way. But the very best part came afterward when, instead of flopping on the couch in a tryptophan coma, my wife, two kids and the visiting in-laws got in the car and made the short drive to Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. We scampered among the folds and crevasses of burgundy-colored sandstone cliffs that make this park one of the most popular rock-climbing destinations in the country.
  • Image about Thanksgiving
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Exhausted, and with daylight fading, we took the long way home, down Las Vegas Boulevard, for a crawl through the electronic fantasyland that is The Strip at night. We passed the singing fountains at the Bellagio, the almost hourly pirate battle at Treasure Island and the 65-foot-tall marquee at The Cosmopolitan. We saw Elvis high-five a Power Ranger at the intersection of Las Vegas Boulevard and Flamingo Road, while Barney (the purple dinosaur) hugged a tipsy tourist, and a Star Wars Stormtrooper posed for a picture with a man in a wheelchair.

And thus ended a typical Thanksgiving holiday in a city where nothing is typical. Thanksgiving itself is 391 years old; by comparison, the city is just a 107-year-old ankle-biter. The former is steeped in the rhythm of the season and gratitude for things given and received. The latter thrives as an oasis of artificiality where everything is available, always, and seasons are of no real consequence. It seems like the two just aren’t meant for one another.

Then again, Thanksgiving is arguably the most American of holidays and Las Vegas is arguably the most American of cities. Change is the tradition here, and no one seems to hold too tightly to any widely held notions of tradition, let alone nostalgia. Feel free to spend the holiday any way you like. History and tradition are yours for the making in a young city where the past is only relevant as a means of selling the future.

It just might be the perfect place to spend the holiday.