Friday, May 25, 2007

Vegas, Baby

Finally got the camera back from the El-Tee. So here's the long-delayed photo essay on my trip to Las Vegas.

Vegas at night. Very, very busy. How busy? I was standing still when I took this shot. Vegas waits for no one.

A street preacher. This guy was really getting into it. Fire, brimstone, Sodom, Gomorrah, the whole magilla. Who's more whacked-out, though: him, or the folks who thought it would be a good idea to create a power- water- and money- sucking 'entertainment' city in the middle of the frikkin' dessert?

Here is what should be where Vegas currently sits. This is Red Rock Canyon, a dozen miles or so outside of the ever-expanding city limits. See the family in the corner? That's about how many people per acre this area could reasonably sustain. Any more than that, and you would have to start hauling in water, power, and food. Although the four who lived there would have a significantly different body mass index than these folks.

Red Rock was hot, dry, windy, gorgeous, and unforgiving. I wanted to stay there longer. There's a trail that leads to a little place called Ice Box Canyon, but we had been hiking for about three hours by the time we got to the trailhead for it, and I didn't think the kids could take another four hours. Didn't think I could either. The El Tee was ready for a little sprint. Bastard.

So that's what it's supposed to look like. But here's what's really there:

Thank Terry for this picture. She stopped me on a bridge and said 'Shoot that.' So I did.
One good thing about the place: I don't think I would have gotten the Queen of the Dorks to spend any serious time in the canyon. But we did have a really nice evening.

At the top of the faux Eiffel Tower.

We were up there for about twenty minutes, talking, enjoying the sites, and expounding on the incongruity of this city. Well, I was expounding. She was politely listening.

We actually spent about ten minutes longer than we either wanted, because I stopped next to a sign that led me to believe that we were to wait there for the down elevator. Then Terry politely pointed out that the elevator was actually around the corner.


And she thinks she's a dork...

This was the lady at the base of the tower who takes your picture before you go up and tells you that it will be available for purchase when we come back. I took her picture and offered a swap, but she demurred. Oh, well. After returning to the ground, we found the closest thing to a nice, quiet spot in vegas and hoisted a few. I felt mildly embarassed for drinking beer in front of her, but she seemed quite content with the foofy drink* she had in front of her, so it all worked out fine.

After we quenched our thirst, we set off for victuals, and ended up eating in an authentic Mexican restaurant next to a fake Venice Canal. I took this shot inbetween mouthfulls of a very well-prepared tuna. Or flounder. Haddock? Something fishy.

After the meal, we wandered over to Margaritaville where the World's Worst Band was playing. Seriously, they sucked. What they were doing to those instruments was almost, but not quite, exactly unlike music. Luckily, we were outside on a balcony, people-watching and talking some more, so we were only inflicted with superficial wounds, but when the waitress comes over to you and apologizes for the band, you gotta know someone in the booking department's going to get shitcanned soon.

It was close to midnight, so I had to get back to Troubletown. I called my son, and his girlfriend, who was just getting out of work, headed over to pick me up. We waited next to the fountains at the Bellagio

That was pretty much the extent of my time in the heart of the entertainment district. Although later on in the week, we went down to the old heart, and did the Fremont Street Experience:

That was pretty cool, too. What else did we do?

We hiked to the top...or at least, near the top of Mt. Charleston:

We were several hundred feet short of the peak, but we were still about 7500 feet above sea level.

One thing about this part of the world: sunset doesn't linger. It gets dark fast. By the time we made it back down to the bottom of the trail, we were almost out of light. And no, foolish tourists that we were, we weren't prepared for an evening on the mountain. And we were seriously up there, too. On the way back, Trouble put the car in neutral, and we coasted along at 65 mph for about a half hour.

This sign was on the roadside on the way back to the car. It's good to see that elementary geometry is so encouraged in the mountains of Nevada:

Another day, we went onto the base where the LT works.

I suggested that the planes might gain a bit more altitude if they replaced the cement landing gears with a lightweight metal. They're considering my suggestion.

The Grand Prix was in town, too. It was going on the week after we left, but there were time trials being held. We did our own version, though.

That's my little girl taking the inside track. This was probably one of the two biggest things we did while we were there. They were so excited to do this. As a Dad, I was worried they might be in over their heads, but I was wrong. My daughter drives a go-kart better at nine than I did as a teenager. But she was a piker compared to my son:

The 15 car, with the teenager, was the lead car. That's my boy behind him in the yankee cap. He started in the middle of the pack. This was going into the final turn of the second lap. He made up quite a bit of distance already. By the next lap, he was right on the kids tail:

And that's where he stayed, for the next three laps. Just before this spot on the track is an S-turn that neither of them navigated particularly well, but my son was always right on the kids bumper each time, but could never get the inside track.

Until the last lap, when my son, the sneaky little guy he is, put his left-front bumper just inside 15's right rear corner, and ever-so-gently nudged him as they were coming out of the S. Not enough to spin the kid out completely--just enough to fishtail him a bit, and he got around him.

Here you can see them both looking over at the control room. Because it was totally against the rules. Totally. And that's wrong. Yes. And I'm not smiling at the memory of the move right now, I'm not at all proud of his abilities, and yes, one of these days I'll certainly give him a stern talking-to about his behavior.

Yes. I certainly will.

So you may be wondering why, in this city with so much to do, we spent time at a rinky-dink go-cart park? Because the three hours we spent there cost us only slightly more than a three-minute ride for one of us on this:

That's the rollercoaster at New York, New York. We parked in their garage one night, and listened for a few moments to the terrified screams of the passengers as they zoomed past.

So that was some of what happened that week in April. A very laid-back, fun weekend, filled with laughter, swimming, and black-widow spiders, as well as what you've seen here.

It's probably going to be the last time--at least in the forseeable future--that I'll be heading there, too, since the Lt's been given his orders. He's not going to Iraq, thank God, but still, it's a topic for a different post.


*It was probably a cosmo, or martini, or something like that. Not really foofy, but my drinks pretty much all have one ingredient: Beer. Red wine. Single-malt whiskey. So, by comparison, something else in the glass besides that seems excessive.


Blogger terry said...

it was some rummy-juicy concoction. i think.

not quite as lethal as the margarita i had later...

and you're so right; i'm not really a canyon kinda gal, but those sure are pretty pictures.

(p.s. could you not crop my gut out of that pic of the two of us??)

5:50 PM  
Blogger Guy Wonders said...

That's some beautiful wild country (and by that I mean the desert and mountain areas). It must be bizarre to see the two extremes so close together. . . .

8:51 PM  
Blogger Balloon Pirate said...

Terry: were you wasting away again in Mararitaville?

Sorry 'bout the pic. I hope the revision's better..

Guy: Yes, it is. Especially when you're coming in from above it, and it's just...there.


11:09 PM  
Blogger terry said...

bless you for that revision!! now, if that only worked in real life...

re: the margarita. that taught me that when a waitress tells you you've ordered the strongest drink on the menu... i should believe her.

also? pretty clever way to alert me to this post.

11:50 PM  
Blogger Heidi the Hick said...

I loved this visual tour. Okay it can't surprise you that I liked the canyon tour better than the dity tour...although I adore Our Queen!

The desert looks like another planet to me, coming from the fertile rolling hills of Ontario. There's so much more going on the desert than we think though, isn't there? It looks so desolate but so beautiful.

(Your younguns are pretty cute too!)

10:36 PM  
Blogger Jethro said...

Loved the bit about the Photo Lady. Laughed out loud for about 3 minutes here... You know, I've tried that with telemarketers but they don't seem to get it either.

A whole damned city that's designed to separate you from your cash. It's incredible that if the trucks don't show up with the water, that place is as desert as it gets. It's about as big a monument to human excess and engaged capitalism as it gets. If only Adam Smith could see this...

Thrilled to hear that LT is not being set to the quagmire.

11:58 PM  
Blogger United We Lay said...

That's beautiful. I'm glad you got hte chance to get away. Vacations are always a renewing experience.

4:41 PM  
Blogger cadbury_vw said...

that is such a cool post

thanks for sharing it

7:35 PM  
Blogger Notsocranky Yankee said...

Excellent pictures! Looks like you guys had a great time. It was nice to see nature pictures of Las Vegas, as that part often gets missed with all the casino action there.

7:42 AM  

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