.

The first night walking down the strip was an overwhelming array of sensory information. Lights flashed from every angle, every sign. Music blared from every casino. Every character and every kind of person was in Vegas. It felt like a giant adult playground. Everyone walked around with drinks in hand, similar to New Orleans.

The highlight of Vegas Round 1: Losing $30USD on 17 black in Roulette.

Before leaving on this trip, a patient from the clinic handed me money specifically to put down on 17 black in Vegas. So, we did.

I put all my chips on 17 black to the enthusiastic response of other gamblers at the table. After I had placed all my chips on the table, two others had piled their chips high on top. One guy looked at me excitedly, “Are you sure?” Nope.

The lady running the booth spun the Roulette wheel and began drumming on the table, chanting for 17 black.

30 seconds of thrill and excitement = 30 dollars cost. 17 black did not win. And we were done gambling.

We were in Vegas 2 nights the first time, before heading off to sunny California!

In California, we headed to Joshua Tree Park. We were hoping to camp, only to find that camping was fully booked. (We drove through some of the camping areas and the sites looked amazing. Lots of them backed into natural alleyways leading into the rock, beautiful.)

We stayed the night, dispersed camping style, close by on BLM land. The Bureau of Land Management offers a wide range of land across the US for free dispersed camping. Basically, it is turnoffs on very long deserted dirt roads (like what we parked at in Sedona), or in this case, just a giant field of tire tracks. It worked for the night. Free accommodation, you can’t beat that.

From Joshua Tree, we headed down to San Diego. We soon discovered that camping in a motor vehicle or RV parked on the street was illegal anywhere in California. Overnight parking signs specifically stated no parking between 2-4am to deter van enthusiasts or people like us. Stealth mode was key in San Diego. The first day, we checked out Ocean Beach and worked for a few hours.

We lucked out the first few nights and were offered by a friend of Chris’ 2 nights free stay at a hostel located in the center of downtown San Diego. It was a relaxing and much-needed break from the car. And surprisingly, our first time sleeping outside the car the whole trip.

We talked about doing a day trip to Mexico, but with rain pouring down the following day we axed that idea. We were further concerned we would not be let back in (after our last border encounter). From the hostel, we headed down to Imperial Beach. Imperial Beach is basically as far south as you can go on the coast of California without actually jumping down into Mexico.  

We stayed about two weeks in San Diego. We headed slightly North to meet up with friends for Round 2 in Vegas.