Las Vegas Road Trip

Yesterday I returned from my road trip to Las Vegas. My feelings about this town can be summed up with the fact that I'm most happy when I can see it in my rearview mirror. There's a saying, "He's got a face for radio," and Vegas is kind of like that. During the day, it's gritty and ugly, and with all the construction going on, it's even more so now. It's a town designed for nighttime when it's gritty and ugly with the lights and the action.

Brotherly Love...

Since my brother moved there many years ago, I've made the trip many times, usually under stressful circumstances. Because he has health concerns and burdens that the rest of us don't have, we've always done what we could to help. This, no doubt, has something to do with my negative view. This time, thanks to my sister Mary, who was determined to inject some fun into our situation, I enjoyed not necessarily the town itself, but did an actual tourist thing for once. We made a trip to Hoover Dam.

Hoover Dam without the traffic-jam that I enjoyed.

Dam It...

The trip should have taken about 40 minutes, but since we went on Sunday, we hit the going-home traffic. Once we made it to Boulder City (which sounds like a town right out of Bedrock), we drove 8 miles to the dam on a one-lane road in bumper-to-bumper traffic. So the 40 minutes turned into 2 1/2 hours. Sheer determination and will kept us to our goal, plus the fact that we were stuck and couldn't turn around. When we paid and parked, we stepped out into a furnace. It's still early summer, so it was only in the low 100s, but it's a dry heat so it could be worse.

The dam was a sight to behold. We first watched an informational film (from the 1930's) and I thought about the accomplishments of those men, perhaps fueled by a desparate need to work during the Great Depression, who performed the back-breaking work of building. The dam is definitely a testament to engineering skill, ingenuity, and force of will. Perhaps most impressive was the fact that, remarkably, the project, the biggest of its kind, was completed two years ahead of schedule. A couple in our tour marveled at how hard they worked back then. Would it be possible today?

Our guide took questions, and there weren't very many, but Mary of course had to ask the question of the day: "How many people died building the dam?" Our guide teased her for her happy question. We laughed. The answer: 96 (not counting the many who died in hospitals and at home, bringing the true count to more like 700). Taking the elevator from the visitors' center 53 stories down was quite a trip. The air was cool once we got down there, about 67 degrees. (I have to admit feeling a little weird about being so far under ground like that.)

Then there was the Eric Clapton/Steve Winwood concert (which Mary bought us tickets for. She's quite the dynamo). It was great. They played and sang fabulously. True craftsmen. The crowd was a bit, ahem, older (except for the girls sitting next to me who talked and texted and took pictures the whole time until the lady in front finally turned around and asked them to be quiet). It was a great concert.

What is in Vegas Should be Left in Vegas...

The weirdest sight: Walking through the Excalibur (on our way to the concert) and seeing a go-go dancer in a micro mini bikini doing her dance and then, not 10 feet away, seeing a giant plastic SpongeBob Squarepants advertising the SpongeBob in 4-D ride. You know, for the kids.

A visit to the fine-art gallery at Hooters Hotel and Casino.

Most surprising situation: Sitting in the Hooters (I know) casino watching my mom play video poker and finding that the Hooters waitresses in their dolphin shorts and tank tops looked more like cute girls and seemed tame, almost wholesome, in comparison to Vegas in general. (Hooters of all places. The same place I'd called our city planner and complained about when they allowed it to replace a great old restaurant in our town.)

I have more stories, but I'll save them. The trip wasn't without drama, things could have gone worse, but luckily it was all manageable. Now I'm home and it's good to be back.


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