This past week, my family and I wrapped up our summer vacation with a trip to Las Vegas. While I have been once before, the place is always revamping and ramping up the level of ruthless commercialism and loud music venues, etcetera, so there were plenty of new things to do. Also some old attractions that we didn’t visit the first time we went, such as the Dolphin Habitat and Secret Garden at the Mirage:
These had to be the happiest captive dolphins I have ever seen. A lot of cetaceans at shows look kind of sad and aimless, but these were eagerly performing their training exercises and bonding with trainers, as well as playing together on their free time. Look at this smile:
Yes, I know it’s biological, but still. Cute.
The big cats, on the other hand, were really suffering from the heat. The little big cats (there are three white lion cubs in the Secret Garden!) seemed to suffer less than the great white lions and tigers, which just moped in the shade.
Here’s one cub getting his nails trimmed:
Another thing we did this time that really stood out to me was riding the High Roller, the world’s largest ferris wheel at 550 feet tall. In fact, it’s so tall they don’t even call it a “ferris wheel” anymore – it’s an observation wheel.
I’ve been itching to ride this thing since I first heard about it last year, when it was just a twinkle in some businessman’s eye. Now that it’s a reality I’ve been bugging my parents to take me, and finally my dad got four tickets for us all to ride.
However, we lost a couple members of our party on the ominous walk across the strip to get there, so it was just my dad and me by the time of our ride, a little after five PM.
Once we passed the entrance, the obligatory bar, and the dark staircase, my dad looked at me with a little whimper. I told him, “there’s no turning back now.” We came out onto the landing deck and waited to board a cabin. That was the really scary part – the cars never stop moving, and we had to get on as it was moving sideways and preparing to ascend to 550 feet above the ground! This was the moment when I really wondered if I could get on this ride. And if I did make it on, would I survive to tell the tale?
But I just remembered my own advice, that I’d told my mom and brother earlier: sometimes you have to choose to keep moving forward, even when you want to turn back. When things get a tiny bit uncomfortable, that doesn’t always mean you have to run away from it. It can be a good thing, like a deep stretch that pushes the boundaries of your body’s flexibility. Trying new and scary things can take you to a level you’ve never experienced before – a level you never knew you could achieve.
I’d be, among other things, a total hypocrite (not to mention a coward) if I backed out now. I’d been waiting for ages for this experience, and I knew if the beginning was bitter, that would only intensify the sweetness at the end. So I summoned my courage and entered the cabin.
As it turned out, boarding the cabin was the scariest part of the whole 30-minute ride. It’s a slow rotation around the wheel, so slow you can barely detect any movement at all in the enclosed, stable cabins.
I had been afraid of being stuck in close quarters with a bunch of smelly or otherwise annoying people, but luckily all the other riders were hygienic individuals and furthermore, the cabin fits 40 people, so there is plenty of space.
The only annoying person was the automated guide on the TV screen inside the cabin, who provided an unnecessary chattering narration that mostly just advertised various items on the strip, as well as poking fun at anonymous riders.
Aside from that, it was a wonderful ride. I took lots of pictures, and got a great view of Vegas: not just the strip, but also the houses and regular goings-on surrounding it, and the desert and mountains beyond. It’s amazing how people (and dolphins) have found a way to thrive in this seemingly inhospitable environment.
I got off that observation wheel ready to go around again! (Sadly there was no time for that.) But I really encourage anyone out there planning to go to Vegas to take a spin on the High Roller (and no, they did not pay me to say this!) Even for someone who isn’t sure about heights or rides, consider stepping out of your comfort zone a little. I was sure glad I did!
Upon returning to our hotel that evening, I wanted to step outside my comfort zone even more and try some new things, including the Minus5 Ice Bar inside the Monte Carlo, where we were staying.Even though I hate the cold, I just wanted to step in, see what it was like, and then get back out into the refreshing desert evening.
My dad went, but sadly I was not permitted to enter with him because it is a bar and I am 17 and who knows? Maybe this alcohol-hating, health-conscious teenager will start throwing them down right in front of her dad and a ton of other adults. But I understand that a law is a law, and come to think of it I would have felt pretty awkward among a bunch of drunk people anyway. But I was interested to see all the pictures my dad brought back from this chilly room made of ice:
Vegas in summer is HOT! When I got home, I had a whole list running in my head of all the frozen treats I wanted to make. Most of my ideas were indulgent, reflecting the atmosphere of Las Vegas, but also sinless (or at least “reduced-sin”) to make them healthy enough for me and any other health-conscious sweet tooth to enjoy, guilt-free.
One idea I’d been mulling over in my head for a while now (almost as long as the notion of riding the High Roller) was the idea of frozen peanut butter cups. You know, like the candy? Except with ice cream instead of peanut buttery junk in chocolate coating.
These would have been great to have in the 100 degree weather in Vegas last week! But I guess it’s hot everywhere, and they’re a great icy cold refreshment no matter where you are this August.
I elaborated on the original peanut butter cup idea with a peanut butter-graham cracker crust, a mixture of frozen Vanilla Dreyer’s Yogurt Blends, chocolate pudding, and peanut butter, and to top it all off some dark chocolate sauce and a sprinkling of Reese’s Peanut Butter Chips. The result is a delicious and unusual combination of classic flavors that simply screams summer! My mom told me it made her think of frozen s’mores.
Whether you think of it as a s’more with smooth chocolate and peanut butter or a peanut butter treat with graham cracker crunch, it’s a yummy frozen treat that I’m sure you’ll enjoy. Go ahead and try this recipe now!
Click here for full recipe: Frozen Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups
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