Monday, January 16, 2012

The Last Post from Vegas

Lake Mead from the Nevada side overlook

After the better part of a week during which we learned more about wireless devices than anyone really needs to know, on Saturday we decided to see some of the countryside around Las Vegas. Originally we had planned on renting a car for the entire week, but when we landed in Vegas, we decided that it was foolish to pay for car rental when the car would just be sitting in the parking lot most of the time. It was a good decision at the time, and I'm happy we made it. However, with Saturday at hand and no transportation easily available, Kevin tried to get a car from Enterprise. Alas, all their Vegas locations close at 2 pm and should we keep the car past 2, we'd have to pay for an extra day, not to mention the problem of where to leave the car when we were scheduled out on an early morning flight. Avis to the rescue. Not only did they have cars available at the Venetian, right next door to us, but they closed at 4 and if we were later than that, well it's simple, just leave the car with the Valet Parking at the Venetian and Avis would retrieve it the next day. Now the big question, did we want a Corvette or a Camaro. Well, neither, actually. Kevin always wants either an SUV or a pickup. Sorry, no such vehicles available. Would we prefer a Corvette or a Camaro? Beggars can't be choosers, or so we're told, so we settled for the Corvette. A big, white, t-top equiped Corvette. Even in Vegas a 'Vette turns heads.

We jumped in the car, er, let me rephrase that. When you're 6'6" and 62 years old, you don't "jump" into a Corvette. I'm not sure what Kevin did, but I very gingerly folded, spindled, and mutilated myself into a size that could fit in the cramped passenger seat. It took a while, believe me. But then we were on the road, or on the Strip anyway. We had breakfast reservations at Planet Hollywood at Caesar's Palace, and all we had to do was get there--two blocks away. I suggested that we take the car to Harrah's and walk to breakfast, but Kevin would have none of that. Not now that he had wheels to play with.

Many of the newer casino/hotels on the Strip are large, but Caesar's Palace takes the cake. I'm not sure just how large it is, but it has at least three separate entrances from the Strip, and it helps to know just where you're going. We didn't. But by following the small, hard to read, signs, we eventually found our way to the Valet Parking where we left the car. Funny thing about Kevin, driving the 'Vette, he decided that he would always take advantage of the Valet Parking. I began singing "Hey, Big Spender." Once in the Forum Shops, we took a wrong turn at the Trevi Fountain and missed Planet Hollywood completely. Retracing our steps, we found our error, moved around the Fountain and saw plainly the PH sign beckoning us to breakfast.

A bit of Arizona landscape on the north/east side of US Highway 93

Back in the car after breakfast, and back to Harrah's for a quick stop to pick up the thirty-eight pounds of printed matter we were going to ship home via UPS. That chore taken care of, we left the strip heading for the most wired spot in the area, Hoover Dam. Now I'm old enough to remember when Henderson was a separate town, south and east of Vegas. Today it is basically a suburb of the larger city, with eight exits of its own from I-215. (Who knows how many exits it has on I-515. ) We drove through Henderson continuing on toward Boulder City, Lake Mead, and the dam that made it all possible. The highway we followed was US 93, the same highway I follow driving from home to the cabin back in Montana. Originally the highway crossed the top of the dam, which resulted in a terrific bottleneck, especially once security checkpoints were set up in the aftermath of 9/11. The new bridge was opened to the public on October 19, 2010, and estimates are that it cuts seventeen miles off the drive between Las Vegas and Phoenix as compared to the old route. The time it saves is incalculable, as 93 was closed to commercial traffic once it was determined that the bridge would make an attractive terrorist target.

Now I love to photograph bridges, and am working on a book of bridges from the state of Oregon, but it's next to impossible to get a good, unobstructed view of this bridge. As I noted above, this is one of the most wired places I know of. The generators at Hoover Dam produce, on average, 4.2 TeraWatt Hours per year. I'll let you do the math, but there are plenty of transmission lines leading away from the dam in just about every direction. I was rather taken aback to learn that 56% of the power generated by this dam placed between the states of Nevada and Arizona goes to communities and companies in Southern California.

Red Rock Canyon, Nevada

After a brief excursion into Arizona (my but that "Vette handles nicely at 90 mph), we turned around heading back into Nevada. Pulling off the highway in Henderson, we found a UPS Store and got rid of the paper we had accumulated at the show. Those brochures and catalogs are all supposed to show up at our Missoula office on Thursday. While there, we asked about good places to eat, and were directed to one of Vegas' newest casino/hotels, South Point. A brief stop at South Point showed us that 1) the prices at Primarily Prime Rib, one of the resort's restaurants, are indeed reasonable; and 2) the restaurant doesn't open until 5 pm. So much for that idea.

Back in the 'Vette, we drove north on I-15, leaving the interstate at Clearfield to drive west toward Red Rock Canyon. Now that I know it exists, I'll return to the canyon sometime when we can spend more daylight time there. As it was, we reached the canyon just in time to lose the light and watch the sun set. Parking in an overlook, we found ourselves parked next to someone with Ham Radio license plates, and we struck up a conversation with him. A 61 year old man currently charged with raising single-handedly two thirteen year old girls, our new acquaintance is a professional landscape photographer intent on catching the colors of the sunset above the canyon walls. Alas it was not to be. The color eluded us for the evening.

Toward the north end of Red Rock Canyon

After grabbing these shots of the canyon's walls, we took the advice of our new friend, and continued south on Nevada 159 past the site of Howard Hughes' ranch and Wild Joe's Mercantile, returning to Vegas on Nevada 160. This put us just north of South Point, so we returned to that casino for dinner. Kevin ordered the Cowboy Cut Prime Rib, which he declared the tenderest prime rib he's ever had, and I chose the Wienerschnitzel, a delicacy one rarely finds on restaurant menus, in my experience.

We turned down the chance to see Paul Revere and the Raiders (My Gawd, he has to be at least seventy), as I noted that we had an early flight to catch the next morning. (I've checked Wikipedia, and it tells me that Paul Revere Dick --his real name-- was born in 1938, so I wasn't far off in my guess.)

Back on the Strip, we turned in the "Vette and headed next door to our room at Harrah's. Kevin called the shuttle company, explaining that we had a 6 am flight, and asking what time we should catch the shuttle. The company insisted we needed to be on the 3:30 bus, so I dutifully set my alarm for 2:45 and Kevin and I went to bed.

Sunday morning, we woke before the alarm went off, showered, dressed, and were downstairs ready to check out in plenty of time. Our shuttle left Harrah's at 3:25, and deposited us at the airport roughly fifteen minutes later. This meant we were there before any of the concessions opened. But at 4, Cinnabon turned on their lights, and we each got a roll and something to drink. By 5:40 we were on our plane, which, thankfully, left on time, returning us to Missoula where Ron, Mike and Norm met us at the airport. After breakfast at Paul's Pancake Parlor, a Missoula tradition, we drove home where I promptly fell asleep in my lounger, all five dogs happily stretched across my supine body.

And the Sun sets slowly in the West

No comments: