Wednesday, September 29

I woke this morning to find that I lost my prescription sunglasses somewhere in Joshua Tree. Now they might also be somewhere here in the car, but with all the stuff we have, it’s not easy to search through it all.

We finally got in touch with the crew and they met us at the hotel, and got back on the road to Las Vegas. Our route would take us through the Mohave National Preserve. The preserve was beautiful, we saw signs that said watch for tortoises. We did, but they didn’t show up. ☹

As we neared Las Vegas, Brian told us that he had another surprise for us. We’ve been batting about 50/50 in the surprises and how we felt about them, but we decided to see what was in store. Brian gave me the address and we punched it into the GPS.

We arrived into Las Vegas and to the address to see a big sign that read, “The Gun Store.” Brian told us that he knew that the last few weeks had been stressful for everyone and we could us to let off some steam. Now I am not a gun fanatic; they’re loud and they kill things, but I figured I’d give it a shot (Hey-Oh!). we went inside and met Emily who talked to us about the available shooting packages. We decided on the Coalition Package: M9 pistol, M-16 Rifle, and the M249 S.A.W. Tod was really excited because he said these were guns he shot when he played Call of Duty. They had us pick out our targets as well, and we opted for Nazi Zombies, because both are completely fictional. Just kidding, zombies are totally real.

Emily introduced us to Burt, who would be our Range Master. He was a really low key, easygoing guy. He took us over to get our ear and eye protection. Everyone had to wear them, even the crew. Burt took us into a private range to shoot, originally I thought we were going to be a while, because there was a huge line of people waiting to get on the range and release some stress. There was this cool feeling when we were able to cut in the line and go right to our own private gun range.

Burt showed us how to fire each weapon; how to hold, sight, and how it might recoil. Tod was the first one to shoot. He was much excited about it than I was. This is totally more his thing. Even with ear protection, in this small range, you could feel each discharge of the gun. I winced every single time Tod fired, even though I knew it was coming. Adam didn’t grab any ear protection because he was already wearing the headphone for the mics. As soon as the shooting started, he ripped the “cans,” technical term, off his ears and was trying to hold the boom mic up while squeezing his head against his shoulder to muffle the sound. Once Tod emptied his clip, Adam went back out and got some ear protection.

Now it was my turn. I stepped up and Burt walked through the way to fire the M9 with me again. Now, I was in the Air Force and I have fired both pistols and M-16s before, and I have watched enough movies that I understand how to fire a weapon properly. Acronyms like BRASS – Breathe, Relax, Aim, Squeeze, Shoot. All to help you to hit the target you are aiming at, I learned from watching movies and my military training.

The first few rounds were very cautious, I think mostly from my unease around guns, but as I fired off more I got more comfortable ad was able to fire in more rapid succession. One of the things I always found interesting, especially in movies, was that people who stay away from a thing, like shooting guns, end up being really good at them. It turned out to be the case with me. When Burt brought the target back in he commented on the grouping of my shots. I was both proud and a little concerned with how well I shot the pistol.

We moved on to the M-16s, and I was overly concerned with firing a semi automatic weapon. The combo of a higher caliber bullet and rapid fire could cause the weapon to spin a person around or fly from their hands. I have found on this trip that I am a fairly overcautious person, especially when it comes to things that can hurt someone else if they go wrong. I ended up over compensating for the recoil, and pulled a muscle in my shoulder about halfway through the clip.

The M249 turned out to be both Tod’s and my favorite gun, because of the ease. There were legs on the rifle to stabilize it, and we had to lean into it as well. Burt had gone and gotten me a zombie clown to shoot for the M249, and I spent some quality time making sure that zombie didn’t get us. I even pulled a Rustler’s Rhapsody, and shot him in the hands. The M-16 had a pretty touchy trigger, and we would end up firing off two or three rounds with the squeeze of the trigger, but the M249 was much smoother. You could pop off one round when you needed, or more, fairly easily.

We got done firing and we talked a bit to Burt and asked him The Question. It was an amazing to see him get all choked up when he was thinking about the answer. I think in that moment, I really saw Burt for the man he is. Through his sincerity and openness with his feelings, I got to really know a complete stranger and make a connection I hadn’t expected to on this trip.

We headed down to Las Vegas Boulevard and drove up and down seeing the lights and getting some good footage, and the we went over to the Bellagio to see the fountain display. We got to the fountain just as it was starting and we lucked into a great spot, for me at least. As we were watching the show, I noticed one of the water jets was clogged a bit, so it was not spraying as high as the others,. The normal jets were probably 20+ feet into eth air, where this one was maybe two or three feet in the air, tops. It reminded me of Finding Nemo, with his one flipper smaller than the other, and so he had to work harder to keep up with the others. I found myself rooting for this little jet that could, I found watching it more exciting than the rest of the show.

As the night began to cool down a bit, and we finished watching the water show, we headed down the strip to our lodging for the night. Let me give you some advice, mid week in late September, you can get a hotel room in Vegas for $28.

PS – Tod was the big winner in Vegas, playing a $20 bill in video poker, he won $100. I lost $57,000 and we had to sell the car to pay off the debt. We are now finishing the trip on a tandem bicycle.