Destination Sin City
Like thousands of tourists every year, I'm making the well-worn pilgrimage from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, that mecca of excess, indulgence and bright lights plonked in the middle of Nevada's Mojave desert.
To get from LA to Vegas you have the choice of flying, hiring a car or taking a bus. Having already spent more than enough time in the air to get to LA, the prospect of jumping in another plane wasn't attractive. And finding my way out of LA in a car? Don't even go there.
So I'm travelling by Lux Bus, a direct-route service established six years ago that has since struck up a partnership with Qantas and Air New Zealand. It now caters heavily for the Australian market, providing transfers for almost 20,000 Aussies last year.
Travelling on the Lux Bus on this day is Mark Jarvis, from the Queensland Sunshine coast, and his extended family of six, including members from Ayr south of Townsville.
Jarvis says the group, in the US for 10 days for a trip including Disneyland and Vegas, chose the bus because it allowed them to relax and see some more of the US.
"We took the bus to see more of the country," he says. "We wanted to see what was around."
The Lux Bus leaves daily from Anaheim, next door to Disneyland, at 8.45 every morning. Passengers staying in other parts of LA are picked up by a free shuttle bus from various locations and delivered to the Anaheim depot.
The trip to Vegas takes around four and a half hours plus a 20-minute stop.
Greyhound also runs buses from LA to Las Vegas but Lux Bus bills itself as an alternative luxury service with an airline-style hostess and complimentary drinks and snacks.
Our hostess for today is Anne, who collects our boarding passes and ushers us on board. I sink back into comfortable leather seats as the bus pulls off.
"I'll be serving drinks and snacks in a moment," Anne says. "We have water, Coke, 7-Up, Orange Juice, Budweiser or Red Wine.
"The snacks aren't healthy, but then neither is Las Vegas."
By the time we leave the city and start crossing the Sierra Mountains at San Bernardino we've had drinks and snacks – a choice of granola bars or packaged pastries – and are settled in to watch a movie.
Two hours whiz by and we're taking a break in Barstow, where we've got time to buy food, souvenirs and avail ourselves of the rest rooms.
Back on the road, Anne tells us: "you're generally going to see desert, desert and more desert. But it's quite beautiful," she adds.
She's not wrong.
We pass the curiously-named ZZYXX Road (pronounced zi-zix), and our driver, Dan, points out one of the bigger attractions along the way – the Guinness World Book of Records certified world's tallest thermometer in the town of Baker, a gateway to Death Valley.
The 40 metre tall digital construction is a monument to the high temperatures in the area, which reached a record of 57 degrees celsius in 1913.
The joshua trees we pass look like strange vegetation out of a Dr Seuss book as Anne continues to fill passengers in with the history of Las Vegas.
It was discovered by missionaries but built by outlaws, she says.
"It definitely didn't take after the missionaries," she quips.
By 1pm we're in the town of Primm, or "Stateline" as it's known by the locals, because it's on the border between California and Nevada. Once over the border, it's just 64km to Sin City.
We arrive in Las Vegas on time after a quick, easy and enjoyable trip, with a final word of advice from Anne.
"I'm sure all of you are thinking of very deep pockets in Las Vegas," she says.
"Winning in Las Vegas is do-able. The trick is when you do win, get out of town as quickly as possible."
If YOU GO
To book your trip on the Lux Bus visit Luxbusamerica.com.