Day 4: Santa Barbara to Las Vegas

Dave and I managed to situate ourselves, improbably, on the sofa together after abandoning our sinking air mattress for the remainder of our restless slumber.  Justin and Jeff felt badly about the air mattress, but we had quite literally made our own bed, and laid in it.  

The Santa Barbara Municipal Court Complex

The Santa Barbara Municipal Court Complex

The boys took us to their favorite brunch spot in Santa Barbara. In addition to being a fabulous name for a drag queen, Scarlett Begonia served up one of the best brunches I’ve ever had.  As a gay man who lived in New York City for ten years, I speak with authority on all matters brunch.  Sure, it was 9:30AM, but there were cocktails involved, and only a lush has booze with breakfast.  We feasted on kimchee fried rice and maple-bacon biscuits, which erased any unpleasantness from the night before. 

Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu, California.

With full bellies, we set off for our first stop of the day: Gold’s Gym, Venice, California. The MECCA of Bodybuilding.  Would there be celebrities? Beasts? Monsters?! We got into the locker room and I whispered to Dave: “Did you see who’s here?!”  Dave, too cool to wear his very necessary glasses at the gym, had failed to spot celebrity beast-monster Rich Piana and his entourage on the training floor.  Rich Piana is one of our favorite personalities in the sport, not because we aspire to look like him, but because of his zero-fucks-given attitude.  

VIP Parking at Gold's Gym in Venice, California. 

VIP Parking at Gold's Gym in Venice, California. 

We got into our back workout, catching glimpses of “The 5% Crew” in between sets.  We knew from Instagram (where else?) that Rich loves meeting his fans, but we didn’t dare approach him.  He was literally the largest human being either of us had ever seen.  Instead, we regressed to the mental state of a couple of 14 year old girls backstage at a OneDirection concert, masking our delighted squeals with poker face as we marveled at our freakish hero. We played it cool; no big deal.  The place was populated with other non-celebrity beast monsters, too.  We wished there was a gym like this back home…there’s nothing quite as motivating as training amongst really serious bodybuilders. 

This is basically what the scene looked like at Gold's (from Rich Piana's Facebook Page)

This is basically what the scene looked like at Gold's (from Rich Piana's Facebook Page)

After training, we composed ourselves and set off to Los Angeles to visit dear friends Heidi and Anthony, and their newborn daughter, Phoebe. We’d been threatening to visit them in California for over a year. I’ve known Heidi since the summer of 1999 (hemp necklaces, frosted tips), and she’s been ready for motherhood, I think, since birth.  It was surreal and yet completely natural to be sitting with her, bottle feeding her baby girl. 

Bottle time for Phoebe

Bottle time for Phoebe

Nap time rolled around (for the baby, not for us), and we hit the road for Las Vegas.  We got a later start than anticipated, and a “much-needed” torrential downpour followed us almost all the way to the Nevada border.  The four-hour drive turned into a seven-hour drive, putting us in Las Vegas after midnight.  My body knew it was midnight, but Las Vegas seemed not to care. Tourists crawled the strip in droves.  Scantily clad young women braved the desert chill in the name of…Fashion, I guess?

Rainy conditions made the drive to Las Vegas a bit of a slog. 

Rainy conditions made the drive to Las Vegas a bit of a slog. 

It seemed a waste to spend 6 hours asleep at the Bellagio before departing for Colorado, so we extended our reservation for another night.  We schlepped our bags up to the room, changed into some fresh clothes, and ventured out in search of food.  The restaurants in the Bellagio had all shut down for the night, so we faced the terrifying prospect of wading through the human wreckage on the strip to find an open restaurant.  

Our prayers were (sort of) answered as we gazed up at Sammy Hagar’s Cabo Wabo Cantina.  Places like the Cabo Wabo Cantina depend entirely upon a good crowd to provide ambiance.  Without throngs of tequila-shooting revelers, let me tell you, it’s pretty grim.  The space is cavernous, and with only two other tables occupied, it felt like it was closing down. Possibly permanently.  

Crossing the street to go back to the Bellagio, we were accosted by no fewer than three party promoters who could all tell from looking at us that we were out for lap dances from Vegas’ hottest women.  I wondered how difficult it must be for a blind party promoter to be successful here.