John

Las Vegas – Money Talks; Mine Always Says Goodbye

Greetings friends, from the deserts of Nevada. We have spent the last two days in Vegas. It was fun, but as you know from your own past dalliances in Vegas, it was expensive.

We arrived in the city that truly never sleeps, fresh from camping in Death Valley for several days. It would be hard to present a starker contrast between the quiet solitude of camping, with all of its accompanying natural beauty and stark privation, and the harsh, yet comforting and comfortable business of the money-extraction machine known as Las Vegas. It was a bit of a jolt, but I’ll confess that we were not too disappointed by the prospect of a hot shower. The fluffy warm bed was also well received by both of us.

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IMG_3115.JPGSome of the sights along the Las Vegas strip.

This was Becci’s first time to Vegas, so I wanted to make sure that she got a good sample of the town during our brief-but-sufficient 48-hour stay. We enjoyed some time walking up and down the strip, and hit a couple of casinos to try our luck at Blackjack and the slots. We visited the Bellagio, which has a Dale Chihuly store inside where one may purchase a $250,000 glass sculpture (“installation is free”, we were informed). We saw Kat Von D’s former tattoo studio. We wandered into Gilley’s in Treasure Island to check out the Sunday evening bikini bull riding contest. We kept it classy and didn’t take any photos of that event…you’ll all just have to use your imaginations for that one.

Day 2 of Vegas included a trip to the suburbs for laundry (we were running on fumes), before we made it to the Golden Nugget and the Four Queens down on Fremont. I still enjoy going downtown to Old Vegas to play; it’s grittier and less polished than the strip; the people are more interesting. I played cards for an hour next to these two Russian immigrants who live in LA. We drank heavily, as ya tend to do when hanging out with Russian guys who have nothing to do. We also saw tons of rodeo guys, and a few rodeo gals, who were in Vegas for the National Finals Rodeo. There were many, many cowboy hats. Also, I noticed that rodeo performers have gone the way of NASCAR racers, and compete in shirts that are encrusted with logos and sponsorship hooks. Maybe all the redneck sports do this?

That night, we wandered down to the Rio, where illusionists Penn and Teller are performing nightly, and have been for the last 14 years. Penn and Teller are amazing. Their very first trick involved bringing a guy up from the audience and then vanishing his phone. A few moments later the phone was recovered from inside a dead fish which was itself located in a wrapped box found under the seat of an audience member. It was located by calling the phone. The phone had been set up to video-record the entire gag, with the express purpose of letting the audience know (later, by looking on YouTube) how the gag is performed. The bit is called Cell Fish, and you can check out some camera footage here. Great bit.

Penn and Teller of course put on a fun, engaging, wonderful show. I highly recommend it. They also hung out in the lobby afterward, taking photos and signing things until everyone was satisfied. These guys are great showmen who seem to work very hard at what they do, and they give a shit about the people who support them. I’m a fan.

Bex finished up the evening with more gambling, but I was done after the gallon of whiskey that I drank at the magic show. I have a strict rule about not gambling drunk. Buzzed yes, but drunk no. And I was trashed. I went to bed, and Bex finished up and joined me sometime before 0800. I think.

IMG_3119.JPGSome of the remnants of our money.

IMG_3117-0.JPGBex favorite sign, outside the Flamingo.

IMG_3118-0.JPGDown in the old downtown, on Fremont Street. I love hanging out down there.

It was slow going for me the next morning, but I eventually rallied and we hit the road. We started getting our kicks on Route 66.

Our first stop after getting loose from the meadows was the Hoover Dam. The Hoover dam is a very secure place; each car is stopped and searched before entering, albeit not that thoroughly. The officers checked some of our camping gear but did not ask about nor look into the glove box, which is full of semi-automatic weapons. Bex did have to open one of the camping bins, but a quick look at the blanket on top of that box was all that was required to satisfy the security men. Guess we don’t fit the profile. Although I do currently have the beard of a man who might be writing a manifesto. In we went.

The dam is a wonder, as are all of the art deco buidlings and monuments that accompany it. Build in the 1930’s, the dam was a huge public works project enacted during the Great Depression. Once known as Boulder Dam, it is a concrete arch-gravity dam in the Black Canyon of the Colorado River, on the border between the U.S. states of Arizona and Nevada. When you walk across it, you pass from one state (and time zone) to another. The construction of the Hoover Dam was the result of a massive effort involving thousands of workers, and cost over one hundred lives. The dam provides hydroelectric power and irrigation for farming. It’s an impressive and beautiful structure.

IMG_3128.JPGThe high (dammed) side of the Hoover dam. Water is sometimes as high as the white rock.

IMG_3126.JPGLooking down the low side, to the south. That is one hellacious trestle supporting state Highway 93.

IMG_3127.JPGThis dam wall slopes ever so gently; I still wouldn’t feel good about traversing it.

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We left the Hoover Dam and headed east. East! We are starting the return journey!

Along the way we encountered some sculpted dinosaurs before stopping for food, beer, and sleep in Williams, AZ, the gateway to the Grand Canyon.

But that’s a story for another day…

IMG_3124.JPGFound along Route 66.

IMG_3125.JPGZoomie the brontosaurus, who lives outside an extremely sketchy hotel on route 66.

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