None of us gamble, no one was getting married soon, and it wasn't a holiday vacation... So why Las Vegas? If you live anywhere in the country besides Southern California, a trip to Vegas usually means there's a good reason behind it. But for us, Angelinos, it's our weekend playground and a four-hour drive to freedom—I should know, having spent 32 weekends in Vegas last year! So being how we bust our asses putting together one dope mag every month and bringing you fresh daily content on our web and social sites, it was only fitting to round up the troops and have an innocent work retreat to the place I call "my second home," and a place the rest of the world calls "Sin City."
Sean "The Skeez" Russell, Michael "Fakerich" Sabounchi, Jofel "Sarap Life" Tolosa, and myself played hooky from the office one Friday morning last spring. The obvious vehicle of choice to take us on our journey was our own Project NX—a vehicle Lexus loaned to us toward the end of '14 (see sidebar). With a party of five, including our photographer Randy Ly, it would have been a tight fit to squeeze the entire gang plus our luggage within the NX. So I contacted my good friend Gordon Ting for an extra hand. GT is the man responsible for the 2JZ-swapped IS that we took on Gumball 3000 in '14, and also the first Rocket Bunny-kitted RC that was featured earlier this year. You might remember his RC F at SEMA '14 inside the Mackin Industries booth. Fitted with beautiful carbon aero and Yokohama Advan wheels, it looked like the perfect modern-day JDM sports coupe. With only a few miles on the car since SEMA, I happily added another 600 miles behind the wheel and can attest that this blue beauty is a pleasure to drive, whether stuck in traffic or on the open road. It handles tight, yet still retains its luxury ride comfort. The 5.0L V-8 also growls like no other thanks to some GReddy bolt-ons, while not too loud at idle or cruising at 80 mph.
For the next 48 hours, the gang and I shared an experience filled with intense driving, bomb food, hairy situations, all-night partying, endless alcohol consumption, and much more. We simply couldn't fit our entire adventure into these pages but highlighted some of our top moments and recommendations for you to check out on your next Vegas trip. And if taking a road trip to Vegas is simply out of the question, we hope we inspired you to take a Friday off work and have some beers or Grey Goose bottles with the boys!
Mandatory Pee Stops
To get to Vegas from Southern California, all you have to worry about is getting on the I-15 North. Once there, it's a straight shot—you can't get lost. Barstow ("It's Barstow, baby!") is a good halfway checkpoint to stop, refuel, stretch your legs, and grab some grub. For lunch, nothing beats In-N-Out—don't forget to Google the secret menu before ordering!
Another good stopping point off the I-15 is the small town of Baker. It's hard to even consider it a town with only a handful of gas stations and fast food restaurants. But over the years, I've found myself stopping here every trip for a small store called Alien Beef Jerky—definitely recommend the Colon Cleanser flavor, but stay close to a bathroom!
Son of a Beach!
Once you hit Baker, it's usually the home stretch to Vegas with only an hour and a half to go. But being as we had an RC F at our disposal and Baker sits on the southern end of Death Valley, we opted for the scenic route and hopped on a smaller highway to Nevada. Highway 127, aka Death Valley Road, is a two-lane road mostly used for people going dune buggin', off-roading, or heading straight to Pahrump—in other words, we had miles and miles of open road without anything to stop us! Let's just say it made it easy for us test the top speed of the RC F—sorry, Gordon!
About halfway to Pahrump, we stumbled across a gorgeous open area called Dumont Dunes. With no other humans for miles and beautiful volcanic hills in front of us, we pulled both vehicles onto the sand for an impromptu photo shoot. As the gang was packing up the gear back into the NX, I had the bright idea to park the RC F next to the Dumont Dunes sign for a photo. In the process, I landed myself on a patch of soft sand... The more I pushed on the throttle, the more the tires began to spin and the car sank further into the sand. Son of a beach! With my head held low, the guys and I tried everything to give the rear-wheel-drive coupe traction, which included digging out the sand from behind the wheels and using wood to try and give it some grip. Towing the RC F out with the NX was out of the question as our NX was a front-wheel drive model and we had no tow straps. My mistake led to a three-hour wait in the desert heat. Thankfully, everyone was in good spirits. We were still enjoying a day out of the office, plus the NX had Sirius XM radio and a 24-pack of Bud Light to keep us entertained. Won't be making that mistake again...
Ninety-nine percent of people who travel to Nevada have never heard of Pahrump. It's a little more than an hour west of Vegas and there aren't many attractions there except buying fireworks and visiting a "ranch" (more on that later). There are several different firework stands in Pahrump, but Mike's been to Phantom Fireworks several times and according to him, "They carry all the rad stuff you've always dreamt of as a kid." They also have a 'buy one, get two free' deal on just about anything in the store. Thanks to Mike's advice and us feeling like kids in a candy store, we went HAM filling up our shopping cart with three of everything we wanted such as 148-shot Roman candles! With the sun setting and time running out on our journey, we loaded up the NX and RC F with all the fireworks we bought and headed to our next stop in Pahrump, the Chicken Ranch.
Where's the Chicken?
Sans Fakerich, our visit to the Chicken Ranch was our first official visit to a brothel. The moment we pulled up, we knew this was an establishment we could easily get lost in. After standing in the parking lot for 15 minutes, we finally got the nerve to venture inside, where we went straight to the bar for some much needed liquid courage. This is where we met the madame of the house, Pati. After a li'l conversation explaining ourselves, the madame commissioned one of the Chicken Ranch's finest to give us a private tour. We couldn't quite take a photo of our girl, but trust us when we say she was the hottest one! Our guide took us around and we were simply shocked to discover how massive the compound was. The ranch is famous for their themed "work" rooms (our favorite was the Sahara room), but there's also a pool, kitchen, sleeping quarters, gym, and office. We found out some very interesting things, for example, you can rent out the entire pool area and throw your own party with as many girls as you like. You can even rent a bungalow or cabin with five girls for the weekend—it'll only cost you a mere $50K. We asked our girl what her take home after a good week was and she told us it was in the $20K range; on a good week, she can make triple that amount... We're definitely in the wrong business! On a side note, the girls are examined regularly and the customers are also checked before any funny business goes down, although we had to leave the ranch before I could sign up Jofel for the full service...
What Happens in Vegas...
I have partied in many corners of the world, but one place that is nearly impossible to beat is Vegas. You won't find as beautiful nightclubs, the hottest girls, and simply just having people out and about who want to have a good time and not worry about who they are and who you are. All drama and stress is left at the door and people simply just want to have a good time—of course, the more money you have to spend on alcohol is a bonus. We made a couple stops at Tao at the Venetian, one of Vegas' most successful clubs, as well as Marquee at Cosmopolitan. We managed to snap a few photos, but the rest of the night was a blur...
Meet at District One
Following a night of partying, if you can manage to get yourself out of bed and skip shitty room service food, make your way to District One Kitchen & Bar. Nothing cures a hangover like a big soupy bowl of pho. D1 is the creator of lobster pho, plus you can't go wrong with their oxtail, either!
During our staff lunch there, we invited the first two people via an Instagram post to come stop by for a free Hoonigan x Super Street shirt, plus a set of Continental tires. Huge thanks to Conti for allowing us to give back to the people!
Less is more With Project NX
With only a short-term loan for our '15 NX200t F Sport, we didn't have much time to go crazy with the build (trust us, we would have loved to rip into the turbocharged 2.0L!). Instead, we concentrated on the two proven things you can make to any vehicle that'll change its appearance from zero to hero: wheels and suspension. Mackin set us up with its Volk Racing G27 wheel, one of the first sets in 21-inch fitment. Matched to some ContiSportContact5P tires, we were halfway to stardom. For suspension, we decided to go with air. It was a tough choice as we're strong advocates of high performance coilovers. But...this was a crossover SUV that would only see the roads in between our homes and office. Our goal was more looks than handling performance. After a couple months of waiting, AirREX developed a system for the NX and we were one of the first to receive the kit in the world. Our good friends at LTMW helped us install the new struts and rear bags, plus line all the plumbing associated with the kit. After many months of usage, we're happy to report, it's very easy to use on the day-to-day basis. It doesn't slam the NX to the ground like what you'd expect from a typical aired-out car but it gets the job done giving us the low, sporty stance we want. The ride is slightly bumpier and we lose the luxury and comfort Lexus intended; however, sometimes looking sexier matters more. Just ask a girl in six-inch heels!
AirREX Suspension airrexus.com
Beyond Marketing beyondmg.com
Continental Tire continentaltire.com
District One Kitchen & Bar districtonelv.com
Mackin Industires mackin-ind.com
Tao Group marqueelasvegas.com, taolasvegas.com