Nevada

Vegas Entertainment

I personally think it is a sin not to go to a show in Sin City.  Over the years I’ve seen several including Garth Brooks, Absinthe, Cirque du Soleil – O, Le Reve, Celine Dion, Terry Fator, Penn & Teller, Carrot Top and more.

Cirque du Soleil – Michael Jackson ONE!

This time I talked my friends into seeing Cirque du Soleil – Michael Jackson ONE!  I was very excited about this as I LOVED his music as a kid.  Once he turned a little weird in my book, I stopped following him, but still I was looking forward to finally seeing him in concert before he passed.  Thriller was my favorite song and I literally dressed up as him in the 6th grade for Halloween – a red jacket, one glove, wig and more. Continue reading “Vegas Entertainment”

Big Eye TUna Pizza
Nevada

Luscious Las Vegas…Restaurant Reviews

Some of us girls who met in Italy reconnected in Las Vegas for a mini reunion as Mary had a conference in the area.  Virginia and I got a nice deal at the Venetian which included a resort credit at its restaurants.  As such, we found ourselves eating a lot!  Below are a variety of restaurants we tried over the weekend: Continue reading “Luscious Las Vegas…Restaurant Reviews”

Nevada

Hiking at Lake Mead National Recreation Area

Triathlon

I decided to compete in a triathlon over the winter because it gave me something to do during the cold weather while most of my friends headed to the mountains to ski.  Unfortunately for me, the weather was mild, and I could have been hiking!! Continue reading “Hiking at Lake Mead National Recreation Area”

Nevada

Things to Do Around Boulder City, Nevada

April 20-24, 2017

We arrived in Boulder City, Nevada on Thursday morning to compete in a triathlon at Lake Mead Recreation Area on Saturday.  Not leaving until Monday evening, we had time for a mini-vacation, and found a variety of attractions in Boulder City and the surrounding area.

First, we visited Hoover Dam, which was only a few miles away from the Hoover Dam Lodge where we were staying for the event.  This was my third time to Hoover Dam, though Steve’s first.  We paid $10 park and walked down to the dam to take in the view of Lake Mead, the water intake towers, as well as the Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge.  Then we wandered into the visitor’s center where we paid for the shortened tour of just the power plant that took place every half hour.

In the power plant, we were shown the water tunnels that transfer nearly 90,000 gallons of water each second to the dam’s hydroelectric generators.  Next, we visited the 17 generators on the Nevada side of the dam.  These generators are held in a wing 650 feet long which is about the depth of the dam at its base.  I marvel at the construction of this dam in the 1930s every time I hear about it.  Amazingly, it was built ahead of schedule and under budget.  If only the government could do that now!

After visiting the dam, we stopped for a walk along the Pat Tillman Bridge as well as for a lovely view of Lake Mead from a nearby overlook.  From the overlook, we could see the marina near where the race start would be.  It was approaching lunch time, so we tried The Bighorn Cafe at the lodge.  It was sustenance.

While we spent much of our time hiking over the weekend, we tried hard to limit our mileage in order to keep our legs rested before the race and stretched afterward.  As such, we stopped at the Nevada State Railroad Museum.  We were pleasantly surprised.  A variety of rail cars and engines were on display under a pavilion.  We could explore at our leisure.  I personally liked the mail car and learning about mail-on-the-fly.  The Railway Post Office would use mail cranes and catchers to retrieve mail without stopping!  Then mail was sorted (very quickly at times) so it could be ready to drop off.

Dinner came early at Southwest Diner.  We both order pasta.  The portions were enormous!  I got three meals out of my chicken, artichoke, mushroom alfredo.  They must have cooked a whole box of angel hair per plate!  I think they may be better known for their Mexican food, however.

The following day, we drove over to Lake Mead Recreational Area.  We stopped at Boulder Beach and then drove thirteen miles along Lakeshore Drive to check out the bike course and enjoyed spectacular views of hills peppered in a medley of colors including different shades of reds, browns, oranges, and greens.  Along the way, we enjoyed a nice hike at St. Thomas Town Site and a quick stop at the Redstone Picnic Area where red boulders peppered the region.

We wanted a simple dinner and early night before our race, so we went to Chilly Jilly’z.  They really should change the name!  It sounds like a yogurt shop, which it is, but it has fantastic broasted chicken.  The chicken, fried in a pressure cooker was so tender and tasty.  We went back on Monday for our last meal in Boulder City, but they were out of breasts, so that was disappointing, but their sandwiches were good too!

After we competed in our race Saturday, we wandered through an art festival which was taking place in town.  A variety of photographers, painters, and handicraft artists displayed their wares.  Having strolled around town for a few days now, we noticed that Milo’s Cellar and Inn had a very popular restaurant with a patio so we treated ourselves to nice a dinner before stopping at Grandma Daisy’s Candy Store and Ice Cream Parlor for dessert.  We tried the ice cream which was mediocre, but the shop was cute.  Perhaps the candy was better!

We saved Sunday for a visit to Las Vegas.  Boulder City is only about a half hour away. Before we headed out, however, we had to try breakfast at the Coffee Cup Cafe, which was featured on Guy’s Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives.  Guy Fieri suggested the pork chili verde omelette which is highlighted on the menu. Steve ordered it while I stuck with good ole bacon eggs.  One good thing about competing in a triathlon is I can eat whatever I want!

We finished off our visit to Nevada with another hike in Lake Mead Recreation Area, though we had to cross the border into Arizona to do it.  The hike to Liberty Bell Arch offered spectacular views of the Colorado River and canyon.  Who knew there was so much to do in Boulder City!  We didn’t even get to ziplining, kayaking, or four-wheeling.  Boulder City is a great town for those interested in the outdoors!  ETB

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Things to do Around Boulder City, Nevada

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Nevada

15th Annual Rage Triathlon – Olympic Distance in Boulder City, Nevada

April 22, 2017

Somehow, I got a wild hair and thought that I would try to do an Olympic Triathlon.  I think I was inspired by the Rock ‘n’ Roll 10K my tennis partner Ann and I ran last fall in Las Vegas.  I felt good at the end of the race that it was fun!  I found out what it is like to train at altitude and then compete at an elevation 3,500 feet lower.  There is a big difference.

As such I searched www.trifind.com, to find an Olympic Triathlon that took place before summer hiking and tennis leagues and in a place with a lower altitude than Denver.  I found the Rage Triathlon which was this weekend at Lake Mead National Recreation Area near Boulder City, Nevada.

The race itself was rather dinky and the swag and after race food was not worth the price of admission, but I wasn’t there for that.  On the flip side, the race director, crew, and volunteers were all fantastic and the location as far as being picturesque couldn’t have been better.  The view of Lake Mead and its surrounding peaks was lovely.

Steve likes to be early to his races, so we arrived at set-up time, 5:30am.  We already had our numbers from picking up our packets a day previous at the bike shop, so we only had to check in to get marked and pick up our timing chip.  With our numbers inked on our arms and our age and race written on the back of our calves, we wheeled our bikes into the transition area and found our designated sections.  I was on one side farther up the hill, and he was on the other closer to the lake.

Having only completed one sprint triathlon in my entire life, I wasn’t terribly sure of the best way to set up.  I looked to see how others set out their bike, bike shoes, helmet, running shoes, towels, drinks, food, and more.  I had the oldest bike around, and my hydrating system seemed archaic compared to others.  I walked over to Steve and exclaimed, “I’m going to be last!”

He responded, “It’s better to be DFL (Dead f*#?ing Last) than DNF (Did Not Finish).”

This was true, and I was only there to finish…one and done!

He did a much better job studying the swim, bike and run course maps than I did, so we went over them once more even though we performed reconnaissance mission on Thursday afternoon.  I believe my nerves were finally start to set in an hour before the race while Steve’s nerves seemed to settle an hour before the race!

With everything set up and zipped into our wetsuits, we made our way down to the rocky beach.  The rocks were very sharp, and I couldn’t between flips or no flips.  In retrospect, flips probably would have been a good choice, though most people went without.  Lake Mead’s water comes from the snowmelt of the Rocky Mountains, so it was cold.  Steve wanted to get used to it, so he joined a few others in the small waves.  I decided I’d assume stay warm until my heat was called to the start line, so I found myself zipping people into their wetsuits as I stood on the beach aimlessly.

The Olympic Tri under 40 men started first at 7am.  They were followed by the over 40 men (Steve’s group), then the under 40 women, and finally my group, over 40 women.  The Sprint Tri division followed us.  We were staggered every 5 minutes.

Given swimming is not my strong suit, I joined my group in the back of the pack as I didn’t want anyone swimming over the top of me as I would have come unglued.  We waded onto the sandbar, I adjusted my goggles and swim cap and off we went.  We started out swimming into the waves.  The forecast called for 10mph winds and dying, but judging by the one foot swells, the wind was more like 15 mph and building!

I felt like my arms were swinging and legs were kicking yet I was going nowhere.  At least the wetsuit was keeping me afloat.  As we turned around the first buoy, I was bringing up the back of the pack with a few others.  We headed for the next buoy that looked far away, as did the safety kayaks.  I struggled to stay straight, and found myself stopping to see where I was going, correcting my path while running into people, and telling myself to calm down!  Apparently, I have a fear of drowning because all I could think of is where is the closest kayak in case I need to rest.

It wasn’t until after the second buoy when I somehow settled down.  I managed to get a swimming rhythm that I learned in the pool with the help of the nicest guy, Richard.  He is a great swimmer, and when I noticed he was lapping me in the pool, I got the courage up to ask for a few pointers.  Who knew I was doing everything wrong!  I’m so thankful for his time and expertise.  I could have kept the rhythm if I could have swum straight, but the waves really posed a challenged as my body raised and lowered with the swells and constantly turned left.

Eventually I rounded the third and fourth buoy and was on the home stretch in very shallow water.  Knowing, I could stand up if I got tired and that I was more than half way finished with the mile swim, I sped up, though I was still bringing up the rear. Given I was so far back relative to some of the other swimmers, I assumed I had a terrible swim and took my time tip-toeing across the rocky beach to my bike.

I wish there had been a clock at the swim exit.  I looked for one, didn’t see it, and then managed to forget to look at my watch.  I figured I was so bad at the swim, that I took my time mounting the bike.  I slowly pulled of my wetsuit, dried my feet, ate a banana, put on my shoes, walked through the transition area and slowly climbed the hill to the street which was not blocked for traffic.

The bike course was very hilly!  It gained and lost just under 3,400 feet over 24.8 miles.  I climbed up each hill and hoped to pick up speed on the other side as I descended, but the cross wind made the downhills difficult.  The desert bushes swayed in the strong breeze, still far greater than 10 mph, as I held somewhat tightly to the handlebars while trying to keep from blowing sideways.  As I neared the 10th mile, I saw Steve on his return at around mile 20.  I was a good 30 minutes behind him which is what I expected.

Fortunately, at the start of the race, there was only light traffic, but upon my return to the transition area, now mid-morning, the trucks with boats and campers started passing more frequently.  Most of the time, it wasn’t a problem, but occasionally I wished for a little more room on the shoulder.  I managed to over-take a few riders along the way, though overall my bike time was nothing to write home about…around 2 hours and 12.5 mph pace.

I was finished with two of the three legs in the triathlon, however, with gas in the tank, so I knew I would finish, which was the main goal.  Of course, I had two times in mind…an all goes well time of 3:45 and an achievable time of 4:00.  Assuming a 10-11-minute mile pace, I suspected I’d miss both.

As I left the bike transition area to start the run, the Sprint racers as well as some of the Olympic racers were already packing up to go home, and the winners were being announced over the loud speaker.  I must admit this was kind of demoralizing, and I felt annoyed when volunteers clapped and shouted, “good job”.  Whatever!  I know they were being supportive, but it was like rubbing salt in the wound…way to go…you are last!

None the less, I kept going and I heard “Steve Johnson” get announced over the speaker at the finish line.  I thought great, he is going to have to wait an entire hour for me!  As such, I just stopped and went to the bathroom.  This was the first time I took off my prescription sunglasses and looked at my watch…it was 10:10am. I was stunned.  My heat started at 7:15, which meant I was under my four-hour pace.  While I didn’t know it at the time, I completed my swim in 42 minutes which was within my three best times in the pool.  It was just still much slower than good swimmers. Regardless, seeing that I was within my total time energized me a bit as I started running with purpose up the hill.

Though my legs felt like posts and my pace felt incredibly slow, I was overtaking additional runners.  The 10K course for the Olympic racers had been adjusted due to construction on the trail, so we had to go out and back twice.  I think this extra loop helped me even more as I could grab extra water at the aid stations and at least feel like I was passing more people than I probably was.

With about 1.6 miles to go, near the Sprint turn-around point, I caught up with another girl.  As I tried to pass, she’d speed up.  I’d try again and she’d speed up again.  By this time, my left leg was screaming with a knifing pain on the inside ankle.  She started talking to me about the adjusted course and extra loop.  This was her first Olympic Tri as well, though she had competed in several sprints which she thought were more fun.  She was from the area.  Eventually, we exchanged names.

The talking passed the time and kept us motivated.  She wanted to stop because she was winded.  I wanted to stop because my ankle hurt so bad, but we kept going.  The end of the run took us down-hill toward the beach which was welcome…no more climbing.  I told Rachel as we turned the corner on the rocky beach, “Let’s sprint it in.”

“On the rocks,” she questioned.

“Yes, that will probably get us to normal speed as the rocks slow us down,” I answered.

Not to mention, I was always told to finish strong, and I did!

Shockingly, I ran under an 8-minute mile which I don’t think I have done since high-school, and I finished the whole race in 3:42:52, below my best case hope of 3:45!  Steve was at the finish line cheering me on.  I asked, “Did you finish in 3:30?” (which was his best case).

“No, I had a DNF,” he responded.

Knowing how analytical, methodical and even keel he is, I asked in disbelief, “What happened?”

Steve had the same struggles in the swim as I did.  He fought the swells, got off course, and couldn’t get back in line as other swimmers were in the way.  He swam to the kayak I was eyeing for the first 500 yards as well.  To his credit, he went ahead and completed the bike and run, so he knows what to improve on the next time.  He is going to compete in more events!  More power to him.  If I ever do another one, it will only be a sprint as there is far less training required.

Overall, it felt good to finish the race with gas in the tank, and I wasn’t last!  I was about 2/3rds of the way down.  Looking back, I probably should have checked my watch more often.  I got contact lenses this week, so maybe I will be able to see the time without taking off my long-distance glasses if I ever do another.  While I may have made up a few minutes along the way, at the same time, having no pressure may have relaxed me enough to PR on my 10K run!  As I mentioned at the beginning, it sure helped competing at a lower altitude.  It was a good race in a beautiful setting.  And despite all the problems with the race’s fund raising page, I was still able to raise $2,500 for Alzheimer’s.  Thank you so much for the donations! ETB

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Nevada

Need a Getaway? Visit Vegas and Take This Blog with You on GPSMyCity!

Need a getaway?  Visit Vegas!

I’m pleased to announce this blog is now available to take with you on GPSMyCity.

On and Off the Vegas Strip: http://www.gpsmycity.com/tours/on-and-off-the-vegasstrip-2597.html

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Nevada

On and Off the Vegas Strip

Well I think most people would talk about gambling and clubbing after they visit Vegas.  I, on the otherhand, prefer the dining and shows in Vegas, though I think the food may be more expensive in Vegas than New York.

Ann, my tennis partner, and I traveled to Vegas to run the Rock’n Roll 10K.  Given neither of us had trained much at all, we were trying our hardest to rest up for the event on Sunday night, but the casinos are so big, we still managed to talk nearly 6 miles a day!  And that was with the help of a taxi and the monorail.

Aside from lounging poolside at Bellagio, we ate and went to see Carrot Top.  Our first meal of our trip came at lunchtime on Saturday.  We stopped at Morels French Steak House and Bistro on our way back from the expo at the convention center where we picked up our race packet.

Morels is located in the Venetian and has a lovely second story patio.  We thought it would be a great place for people watching and the menu was appealing.  I picked the mussels which came with fantastic fries and Ann opted for a shrimp salad with a side of fries.  The portions were enormous and we loaded up since we’d be burning countless calories tomorrow.

After a relaxing, yet somewhat cool afternoon at the Bellagio pool and a stroll through the atrium to admire the Thanksgiving decorations, we dressed up for dinner at Julian Serrano Tapas at the Aria.  We were a bit more discerning about dinner, and spent a short time researching restaurants on Yelp.  This one got high ratings and Spanish food sounded good to me, so we reserved a table.  Little did I know Julian Serrano is an award-winning chef who recently guided a team on the popular Top Chef TV show to victory.  Apparently he is going viral…but I wasn’t following the trend.

The restaurants in Vegas are giant!  We opted to sit at the bar to enjoy the atmosphere.  The service at Julian Serrano was impeccable.  The bartender could rattle off every detail of each dish on the extensive menu.  Our tapas were served extremely quickly.  We were shocked at the speed.  The cheese stuff peppers were excellent.  Ann loved the tuna cones so much we got a second order, and I loved the shrimp black rice.  The tenderloin was extremely tender as well.  The paella looked out of this world, but we had plans for Carrot Top later, and paella required planning (60 minute preparation).  While we probably had enough time, we chose to eat at a leisurely pace rather than wait and then rush.

Carrot Top plays at the Luxor, so after dinner, we headed south on the strip, but not before we admired the semi-circle of Lamborghini’s parked outside of the Aria.  According to the license plates, most of them seemed to be owned by “Gia Lai”.  For car enthusiasts, this was so cool!

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Carrot Top is a character.  He uses props for most of his act, and I have to say he had us in stitches!  I wish I could even remember even one of his jokes, but he talks SUPER fast, and many wouldn’t be appropriate for the content on this blog anyway!  From the Luxor, we took a taxi back to the Bellagio and called it a night.  We didn’t even gamble!  I brought $100 to waste on the slots, but I managed to save it.

Our eating continued the next day at Palio for breakfast.  The berries were outstanding and the pastries looked divine.  I mean the nutella pocket and almond croissant were huge.  I really wanted one, but behaved.

We ended up back at the Venetian around lunch time.  Ann wanted to do a little shopping at a favorite store.  We ended up at Il Fornaio (a chain) for a carbo-load.  Our pasta was quite tasty and our server was even more interesting.  She used to ride horses with the Canadian Olympic team and her husband was the chef at One-O-One, the best fish restaurant in London.  He has also been a chef for President Elect Trump and might have a chance to cook at the White House!

With lunch over, we prepared for our race.  We pinned our bib number to our running shirts and attached the tracker to our shoe.  We walked over to the monorail at the Flamingo which took us to the SLS, the last stop on the train and the start of the 10K.  I learned a lot about the public transportation at this time.  There is a tram that goes around the City Center and it is reachable while weaving through the Bellagio.  The monorail, however, is different an operates on the opposite side of the street.

The station at the Flamingo was packed.  We could hardly squeeze off the escalator.  45,000 runners were going in different directions.  Those running the 10K headed north to the start line, while those running the half and full marathon headed south.  It was a little confusing!

We reached the start line about 45 minutes before the 4pm start time and milled around the area on the clear sunny afternoon.  We began the race with a view of the Stratosphere.  I must say the roller coasters on the top of that building are terrifying!

One of the fun parts of this race, was the fact we left the Las Vegas strip and got to see other places.  We ran by the famous A Little White Chapel where Michael Jordan and Joan Collins were married.  We passed by more chapels as well as the famous Gold & Silver Pawn Shop where the TV show Pawn Stars is filmed.

Soon we turned down the old Las Vegas Strip and eventually we ended up on the current Las Vegas Strip.  I’ve never run a race in the afternoon/evening.  They usually start at the crack of dawn.  This was fun to run by all the lights with the street closed to traffic!  We celebrated our finish with a beer before we treated ourselves to sushi at Yellowtail in Bellagio.

I ate here two years ago, and generally don’t return to the same places because I like to try different options, but this restaurant was so good, I wanted to return.  I hoped that the food was just as good and met my expectations.  It didn’t disappoint.  While they change the menu regularly, the tuna pizza always stays under the appetizers.  Yes, it sounds terrible, but two years ago the waitress recommended it to us when we wanted one last dish and we had wished we’d ordered it first as we might have gotten two!  This time we got it first, and I’m happy to say it was decadent.  So was my “protein” roll…solid sushi…no rice.  Perfect!

Not only is the food great at Yellowtail, so is the view.  We got to see the Bellagio fountain show every 15 minutes.  It was a perfect way to end a short weekend in Vegas.  ETB

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Nevada

Visiting Vegas!

December 14, 2014

Well, hopefully my quick trip to Vegas with my sister-in-law for the last two Decembers will become a holiday tradition.  We have such a good time in the action packed two days.  Too bad Katie ended her trip with a long 18 hour travel day home!  Thankfully, Southwest came through for me, and I only had a bumpy flight home.  The icing on the cake in Vegas this year was being able to see my sister Liz.  We didn’t know we were going at the same time!

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Katie and I arrived Wednesday, checked into Bellagio, admired it’s conservatory beautifully decorated for Christmas before we found a place for a late lunch.  Luckily, Katie is more in tune to the cooking channel than I am, and we tried a new hot spot, Giada.  While the dining room was closed, the bar still offered a full menu until 2:30.  We were seated just in time. Given I was ready to gnaw off my arm, we ordered the Pecorino cheese with apricot preserves as we expected the plate to come out quickly.  With our expectations granted, we dove right in and were not disapointed!  Our salads, which were a healthy size, came next and our empty bellies quickly expanded.  I can see how the restaurant would be popular, especially in the evening with a view of the Bellagio fountains.

The rest of the afternoon included browsing the shops in Ceasar’s mall and taking a circuitous route off the strip to Treasure Island to pick up our show tickets to Mystere.  We purchased tickets in advance, but let the show assign us seats.  This provided a big savings online, and better yet, gave us 2nd row seats just to the left center of the stage!  We could see the cirque performers shaking during their strength routines and adjusting with all their jumps.  It was quite fun to get such a close up view and definitely made up for the mediocre dinner at Fix which was a slight disappointment, but still fun to meet Katie’s friend Beth.

While Katie attended the Expedia conference, I crossed the street to enjoy breakfast with Liz and Ron at Mon Ami Gabi.  Liz’s mushroom brie omelet was tasty!  We moved on to try our hand at Blackjack.  Ellis Island is just a few blocks off the strip and offers $5 hands and pays 3:2 on blackjack.  The only problem was the cards didn’t go our way, but at $5 a hand we got to play for a while.  Ron bid us farewell while we went on to Tableau at the Wynn for lunch.  Of course, the Wynn was basically at the opposite end from where Liz was staying so we spent the next hour or more walking all the way to the MGM Grand while taking detours through the Venetian and a few other places to enjoy the decorations and browse the shops.

As the sky turned dark (by 5 pm), Liz reunited with Ron, and I returned to the Bellagio to meetup with Katie for a final dinner.  Katie picked the best restaurant I’ve been to in Vegas I think. Perhaps it helps to go without expectations. Yellowtail is a sushi restaurant in the Bellagio with a small patio that offers a spectacular view of the fountains.  We arrived at the restaurant early (around 6) and got a premium table on the patio under the heat lamps.  During our relaxing, dining experience we enjoyed about six fountain shows!  And as much as I absolutely love the fountains, I think the food may have topped everything.  The albacore pizza drizzled with truffle oil was true ecstasy.

Our night continued in the sports book where we caught the end of the football game and then we tried our luck at the poker slots.  I won half the money back that I lost at Blackjack…not bad to go home with a pocket book only $25 lighter!  We managed to stay up a bit later while enjoying a nightcap in the bar just near the guest elevators to the spa tower before we finally called it night to catch our morning flights.  ETB

There is still time to order cards and key chains for christmas gift or stocking stuffer. Coupon MAKEMYDAY20 or HOLIDAY5 on www.etsy.com/shop/nichenotecards

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http://www.tripping.com/rentals/united-states/nevada/las-vegas

Nevada

Adventures in Vegas!

December 11-13, 2013

I was fortunate to go on an unplanned jaunt to Vegas with my sister-in-law Katie who was attending an Expedia conference.  She mentioned she was going about a month ago, and I decided, what the heck…I could handle a few days in Vegas…who couldn’t?

We landed on Wednesday morning, checked in to Ceasar’s, though a room wouldn’t be available until 4pm…we had a good six hours to kill.  The most entertaining part of check in was to hear the spiel on up-charges.  I think it took the woman at the counter longer to tell us about the early check in, internet per device, and minibar fees than to confirm our reservation…we both started laughing.  So much for the $99 room!

After check in, we grabbed a fantastic breakfast at Serendipity with one of Katie’s co-workers, Stacy.  The portion sizes were huge…I highly recommend splitting. After filling our bellies, we walked the calories off while enjoying the Christmas decorations at all the hotels and shops.  We began at Ceasar’s and wandered through the Forum shops to the Bellagio.  I think we covered several miles just to go next door!  We rode the rail to the City Center, checked out Aria and backtracked to the Cosmopolitan before ending at Olive’s at Bellagio to enjoy the fountain show!  The amount of poinsettias at Ceasar’s and Bellagio were insane…I can’t imagine the cost.  Having stayed in Vegas multiple times, never at the same hotel twice, Katie and I decided we liked Bellagio the best.  The decorations, the Chihully, the fountains, and the central location are just perfect!  After resting our legs at Olive’s, we crossed the street to visit the Venetian and its shops before finally ending at the Mirage, the sponsor hotel for the National Finals Rodeo.  I’ll say, there were lots of Cowboys sporting Wrangler’s and BIG buckles.

Our hours of strolling called for a room, and we waited in line with the masses to finally find out our room number.  Katie, Stacy, and Casey headed to an Expedia event while I opted for the Terry Fator show.  A ventriloquist, Terry, sounded exactly like countless famous singers while singing with his mouth closed in his Christmas special.  He was quite good and funny!  I met Katie back at Ceasar’s, and we tested our luck at video slots…shockingly, I broke even.  Generally, I give my money away :-).  It was a nice way to end the night!

On Thursday, I had the day to kill while the rest of the group which now included Tammie attended educational sessions.  Honestly, there was no way I could spend the whole day gambling…it’s not my thing, so I rented a car and visited the Hoover Dam and the Ethel M chocolate factory.

The last time I visited the Hoover Dam, I was with my dog during my travels around the USA, and I wasn’t allowed to park in the parking garage, so I couldn’t take a tour, as I didn’t want to leave him in the sun, despite being in a camper with the shades down, windows open, fan on, and it being a cool day.  So I was very excited to take the tour of the dam and power plant as I had heard so many good things about it.

The Hoover dam was originally constructed to control the flow of the Colorado River which flooded crop lands or dried up depending on the snow melt from the Rockies.  California couldn’t afford to take on a project to protect its farmland (what’s new?), so the Federal Government along with seven other states formed the Colorado River Compact in 1922.  The river was divided into an upper and lower half, and the states decided the apportionment of each basin.  In 1928, Congress authorized the construction of the Hoover Dam.

Construction began in 1931.  First, the river had to be diverted from its river banks.  It took four pipes 60 feet wide and 3/4 of a mile long to divert the river.  In addition, rubble was dropped in the river bed on either side of the planned dam site to create a lower and upper coffer dam.  Concrete in the amount found in a cement mixer was lowered into multiple forms for four years!  The dam was built in a “lego” fashion.  The statistic that fascinated me the most, however, it the dam wasn’t connected to the sides of the canyon.  They planned for the force of the water to flex the concrete into the sides.  If I were the chief engineer, I’d hate to miss my calculation by a millimeter!

Somewhere between 96 and 102 people died during the construction of the dam, for which there is a memorial on site.  I believe 96 workers died on site, while other workers died of unrelated problems off-site.  It is rumored that bodies are buried in the 660 feet thick concrete structure, however, this is not true.  When the concrete was poured in the 25 ft by 25 ft up to 25 ft by 60 ft forms, it only rose a 2 to 6 inches, thus it was easy to find anyone who had fallen in.  Further, this type of concrete structure would not function properly with a body buried in it, as it is different from other dams like Montana’s Fork Peck Dam where 6 bodies are buried which don’t threaten the structure of the dam due to the way it is constructed.

IMG_1095 memorial

The first generator in the power plant wings of the dam began operation in October of 1936.  These generators were the largest of their kind at the time and have yet to be replaced.  They are operated to produce hydro-electric power, and the revenues produced from selling power has paid off the dam in full plus interest.  Now the power production covers all the operating costs of the dam, thus it could stay open during the government shut down, as it is self-sufficient.  The power is sold at cost because the government is not allowed to make money…perhaps they should change that policy and help reduce the Federal Budget!!!

IMG_1084 generators

In addition to controlling the floods and irrigating crop lands down river and producing power, the dam also provides water to 20 million people in Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix, Tucson and other southwestern cities with the creation of Lake Mead, America’s largest man-made reservoir that took two years to fill.  The lake stores 9.2 trillion gallons of water when filled to capacity, though it is preferred to keep the lake below capacity so that the spillways are not forced to be used.  In it’s existence, the spillways have only been used twice, once for testing and once for real.  Fortunately they worked!

After my visit to the dam, I ventured to the Ethel M chocolate factory.  Aside from the fantastic dark chocolate cover salted caramel as well as toffee, this visit was a bit disappointing to me.  I have been through a few factory tours, and this one was small and not too busy.  I only saw about two of the seven workers actually doing something!  I did get a quick view of the boilers, conveyor belts, and the candy being packaged before I tasted a piece of chocolate in the gift shop and then strolled through one of the world’s largest cactus gardens.  I suspect the gardens would have been spectacular at night as just about every cactus was wrapped in lights…I’m thankful that wasn’t my job…I’m sure a few fingers were pricked.

Upon return to Vegas, I dropped off my not-so-good car from Hertz which is another entertaining story itself.  I booked the car on Priceline while standing at the Hertz counter as they would not honor the rate otherwise, and then the woman proceeds to tell me they don’t have that type car.  She was going to call around to different locations because I selected 8:30 am, and it was 8:15…really?!?  I picked 8:30 because I anticipated paper work.  Perhaps I should have chosen 8:16!  Don’t offer a car if you don’t have it or provide an upgrade.  Eventually, she offered me an upgrade.  They could use some work on their customer service and their cars!

The Broncos played Thursday night, so Katie and I plopped ourselves down in the Ceasar’s playbook lounge and cheered on Denver.  The area was somewhat split between Bronco’s and Charger’s fans, and it was fun!  A friend of mine from Houston, David, happened to be in Vegas so he joined us as the rest of the girls slowly filtered in.  We didn’t make it down to the playbook by game-time, so we had to wait until half-time to place any bets.  Unfortunately, the Broncos weren’t very good to us.  We didn’t have to suffer through the whole game though, as us girls went for dinner at Mesa, a Bobby Flay restaurant.  I must say the Queso Fundido and the Banana Cream Pie were mouth watering good.  I ordered the lambchops for my entree, and they were cooked to perfection, however, I’ve learned chipotle sauce is not my most favorite. I think I’m happiest with simply garlic pepper on the chops.  Having said that, the mint chimichurri sauce was tasty, and the overall dinner was great!

From dinner, which was in Ceasar’s, we went to our show, Absinthe, located in a tent in front of the hotel.  The best way to describe this show is an extremely crude, erotic Cirque du Soleil.  According to others, it is one of the hottest, best shows in Vegas.  I have to say, I was a little grossed out when the emcee licked the top of a bald patron’s head!  I’m glad I wasn’t in the front row.  The show was funny and engaging.  I always find myself holding my breath for those acrobats!

From the show, we tried our luck in the casino once more.  Tammie was a big winner on $20.  She pocketed $250.  I once again broke even, and Katie, well her luck wasn’t the greatest, but she was using her Christmas money from last year, so it lasted a while…almost a whole year!  That’s about all I can say about Vegas, as we were back on the plane Friday morning…just a quick jaunt of fun! ETB

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Arizona, Nevada

Day 169 – Hoover Dam and Travel Day

Day 169 – Hoover Dam and Travel Day, May 15, 2011

Petey and I left the Wal-Mart parking lot early, stopped for a shower at 24 Hour Fitness where I am a gym member, and then headed toward Hoover Dam.  I wanted to take a tour of the dam which is on a first come, first served basis starting at 9 am.

We reached an overlook where we took in the views of Lake Mead before continuing a mile further where there was a security check point.  I joined the RV line, as I presumed they’d at least check my propane tank like I had experienced in crossing the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel.  I was also a little anxious about carrying my .38 pistol.  At the overlook, I at least unloaded it.  Security required that I open the side door to VANilla so they could take a look inside.  I was relieved when he only peeked inside and didn’t open the cabinet where I had stashed my revolver. Petey was happy to get a quick pat.

As I hopped back in VANilla, the security guard asked if I was going to look at the bridge.  I replied, “Well I had hoped to take a tour of the dam.”  He said they wouldn’t let me park with a dog in the car, despite the fact it was 60 degrees, the windows open, the shades come down, and I can turn on fan; but suggested I tell the parking attendant that Petey could be left in environmentally safe conditions.

Had the security guard not inquired about the bridge, I may have passed right by it in my rush to get to the dam.  I’m glad I didn’t.  Stairs led up to the bridge from the parking lot and along the way several information signs regarding the construction of the bridge lined the concrete path.  Each time I see a bridge I marvel at the design and wonder why is the bridge made of steel or concrete?  Why is it a suspension bridge?  How much is aesthetics and which parts could be left out for a functioning bridge at a lower cost?

The information boards not only explained the design chosen – The Deck Arch – but included diagrams of how the bridge was constructed over Lake Mead.  While bridge discussions began in the 1960’s the project didn’t come to fruition until the mid 1990’s when the Central Federal Lands Highway Division of Federal Highway Administration (CFLHD) stepped into the leadership role.  The CFLHD engaged a design team and consultants in 2001 and project construction began in 2005.  With a budget of $240 million ($20 million from both Nevada and Arizona, $100 million from the Federal Government, and $100 million of bond proceeds, the bridge was completed in 2010.  Amazingly, the bridge and dam look as if they were built around the same time period, yet the bridge was constructed 74 years after the dam was completed for a cost of $49 million in 1936.

What appears to be a single, concrete arch is actually a pair of ribs held together at the crown by steel that flexes in high winds and earthquakes to protect the whole arch from damage.  Many of the bridge components including the concrete columns and steel cages were precast and lowered into place through a cable system where workers hung 800 feet above the river connecting the pieces together. The bridge consists of 30,000 cubic yards of concrete and 16,000,000 pounds of steel.  A few facts about the bridge:  Bridge Length – 1,905 feet, Bridge Height Above River – 880 feet, Bridge Height Above Dam  – 280 feet, Arch Span Length – 1,060 feet, Hollow Arches – 20 feet wide by 14 feet tall.

So after wandering around the bridge which actually provided a nice view of the dam, I pulled into the covered parking garage and dispensed $7 for the parking fee.  The attendant asked if I had any pets in the vehicle, and I honestly replied, yes.  She promptly handed back my money and said I couldn’t park in the shaded garage, that I had to cross the dam and park in the overlook located in the full sun and I had to stay with my dog at all times!  Given he lives in VANilla and it wasn’t even hot, Petey would have been fine, but I didn’t want to risk someone hearing him whine if he got anxious, so I took a few snapshots and left.  Looks like I’ll have to come back to Vegas without my old man.

As I approached the bridge to cross into Arizona, I witnessed a road sign that was new to me:  “Due to the Possibility of High Winds, High Profile Vehicles Use Left Lane”.  I’m sorry, seeing that sign, I wouldn’t want to be a low profile vehicle in the right lane.  If there is a concern that tractor trailers may be blown to the right off the bridge, I wouldn’t want to be between them and the railing.  Furthermore, I found it slightly entertaining that the highway sign in indirect words suggested slower traffic to move to the left as opposed to the right…the European way.

I think crossing the bridge may have been the least windy portion of my drive to Williams, Arizona today.  The wind shook VANilla so hard, I had to reduce my speed.  Since I’ve been in Williams, it seems like the wind has increased in force hourly.  VANilla is shaking while parked.  In fact, the wind is so strong it sounds like a jumbo jet is flying overhead.  Speaking of jumbo jets I may have forgotten to say that is what Yosemite Falls sounded like.  I looked up in the sky on more than one occasion for a plane or thunder clouds to find neither.

For a town of 2,500 people I was surprised to see almost every restaurant open on a Sunday night…shops too.  Being situated only one hour south of the Grand Canyon’s South Rim, it’s clear the town caters to tourism.  I decided to try a local joint for dinner, Pancho McGillicuddys.  While I would have normally ordered a local beer on tap with my chicken taco salad, I just couldn’t pass up a Dos Equis Amber – my favorite.  While enjoying surprisingly good Mexican food, I met the previous owner of the restaurant, Kevin.  He has opened five restaurants in Williams over the years and for the last five years has been selling them.  He has been retired in Mexico for the last three years in a small fishing village 100 miles south of Rocky Point.  He claims the area is very safe, and in fact he hasn’t locked his house for all three years of his retirement!

Tonight I’m sleeping in a Holiday Inn parking lot.  I had a choice of almost any hotel chain (Motel 6, Howard Johnson, Days Inn, Comfort Inn) and an RV Park.  The Holiday Inn just seemed safer and quieter as it is located near the main highway on the outskirts of town, while most the others are situated in town on Historic Route 66 or Grand Canyon Blvd, the two main roads that intersect Williams.  Tomorrow, I’m Grand Canyon bound.  ETB

websites: http://www.usbr.gov/lc/hooverdam/

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windmill website copy