Bill and Kit’s 2013 Excellent Adventure-Journal #9
Las Vegas-Part One
(More or Less the First Two Weeks)
Don’t be a tourist. Plan less. Go slowly. I traveled in the most inefficient way possible and it took me exactly where I wanted to go.
Thursday, February 28, 2013 through Sunday March 31, 2013-Las Vegas, Nevada: Lots of folks come to Las Vegas for lots of reasons…..these are ours.
Well actually, to be more specific, these are the real reasons:
Our youngest, Suzie and her husband, Kevin reside in Las Vegas due to job choices…..and our youngest grandchildren, Jack age 8 and Tucker age 6 reside in Las Vegas because they aren’t old enough to live on their own yet.
The first couple of nights in town we camped in the dooryard of their home and the grand’s were able to bunk down in our little camper with us.
In the morning, Kit was able to provide a delicious and nutritious breakfast while the kiddles checked the pre-market stock action on their iPads.
Yep…..they both have their own iPad Mini’s and are as adept at using them to navigate around the World Wide Web as anyone.
After we had overstayed our HOA welcome we moved the camper to Desert Breeze campground on Nellis Air Force Base which is on the north end of town.
The above was our final site after a move ten days into our stay. You see, there are four levels of campsites at Desert Breeze. Starting with the least expensive and with the least features they are: Overflow, Partial Hook-up, Wagon Wheel with Full Hook-up’s and finally the crème de la crème…..New Section with Full Hook-up’s. I won’t bore you with detailed descriptions of the sites or how one finagles the prime locations but let’s just say there is a flaw in the system and a bit of the traditional Old Boy Networking going on. The park is great…..consistently voted the best RV park in the Military Campground community. However the reservation system and allocation of sites leaves a lot to be desired. There are RV folks that plan their life around reserving the nicer sites many months in advance then homestead the spot for an entire winter turning part of the campground into a mini mobile home park. This of course, locks out those of us who actually travel in our campers and only want to stay for a week or two. Even though we called ahead for reservations, a rarity to our way of traveling, we still were relegated to one of the less desirable sites until such time as a few of the “homesteaders” decided to move their rigs back home. This RV park is the only one of the hundreds in the system that operates this way.
For the most part, the weather during our stay was fantastic…..there were extremes of course…..some days were a frigid 65 degrees and windy and others near 90 degrees with a very dry 12% humidity. However, for the most part the days were delightful with temperatures in the low 80’s, humidity in the 20% range and a gentle desert breeze. This area of Nevada only gets about 4 inches of precipitation a year, so it wasn’t a surprise that we had no rain during our stay.
Since both Jack and Tuck are now in school we were only able to have them overnight at our camp from Friday evening through Sunday afternoon. However, a few times during mid-week we would drop by after school for a visit.
While they were at camp we would hang out at the playground.
And ride their scooters.
Play in Poppy’s kayak.
And even engaged in some quiet reading time.
As most brothers, Jack and Tucker are exact opposites in most every way. Both boys are very smart, however Jack is a bit more studious, methodical and very creative…..in a classic theater style.
Whereas Tucker is a bit more active and spontaneously creative…..in a more raw, street performance style. (Like the entertainment metaphors, Kevin and Suzie?)
While filming them at play I was able to capture the following on video that pretty much personifies their individual personalities…..just click on the following You Tube link:
Nellis is the home base of the USAF Flight Demonstration Team…..The Thunderbirds.
Since the upcoming show season was soon to begin, The Thunderbirds spent part of most weekdays flying in the skies above the campground while practicing their signature moves.
After a dozen days or so of watching them perform, I never tired of the spectacle. Nor did anyone else as evident by all the cars that just pulled off the road and all the folks that stopped whatever they were doing to just stare into the sky.
Since the campground was close to the flightline, we were treated to flyovers as close as this.
Unfortunately for the boys The Thunderbird’s only practice during the week. In past visits we have taken Jack and Tucker to the Thunderbirds hanger where they could meet some of the crew, see a movie about The Thunderbird’s history and get up close to the aircraft. However, since both boys are now in school and since the hanger is closed to the public on the weekend, I decided to make a special trip to see if I could pick up some souvenirs, stickers and photos for the boys.
As I walked to the flight line I noticed a large, brightly decorated tractor trailer rig parked nearby.
Remembering that NASCAR Weekend was soon upon us, I decided to go over and see what was up. I was pleasantly surprised when the Public Affairs Officer greeted me and offered to show me around. This Air Force Major (Thunderbird #12) was very busy with the details of hosting a NASCAR team, and dealing with some local press people but still took a few minutes to escort me into the hanger where Juan Pablo Montoya was being featured in a photo shoot while his crew chief, Chris Heroy was being prepped for a ride in one of The Thunderbird Jets.
Spent about an hour watching all the festivities, listening in on the pre-flight brief and even scored a handful of Thunderbird souvenirs for the grandkids…..Thanks Major Darrick!
As most kids nowadays, Jack and Tucker are involved in a lot of extracurricular activities….so we were glad we had the opportunity to watch the boys in their karate class……
…..and, in their drum class.
The drum instructor was an aging rocker that had formally played as a studio musician with the likes of Cheap Trick, Janis Joplin and other early rock icons that have long ago burnt out.
Being at a campground near a military base, we would frequently be out and about during evening colors. It was a great opportunity for the boy’s to learn about flag etiquette and respect.
When we heard the bugler play taps we would all stop what we were doing, place our hands over our hearts and stand quietly as the honor guard retired the colors for the evening.
As you may remember, we affixed a fresh green Maine Christmas wreath to our camper ladder when we headed south some 10 weeks ago. Well, in the heat of the desert it is a bit dry so before it spontaneously combusts, we decided to remove the wreath with some ceremony and fanfare.
Jack and Tucker did the honors cutting the plastic zip-ties with diagonal pliers while I played master of ceremonies and Kit was the invited guest. The kids even arranged the lawn chairs in a semicircle for the event. A great time was had by all…..however our neighbors thought we were all a bit odd, a reaction we frequently get form neighbors anyway as we camp about the US.
As in the past, there were a few days that Kit needed some quiet Kit time to check in with all her electronic gadgetry…..
And to get a little reading in while relaxing under a shade tree…..
And, for little Billy to basically get lost.
I took advantage of one of those days to go on an adventure of my own and headed to the La Madre Mountains which are just 20 miles to the west of Las Vegas and a world away from the lights and hustle of the famed strip.
Located in the foothills is Red Rock Canyon, a National Conservation area featuring starkly dramatic landscape and lots of hiking opportunities. Driving into the park, I knew I was in for a fun day in an incredibly beautiful desert environment.
Red Rock is an unusually diverse geologic area consisting of its namesake red sandstone formations in parallel with white limestone which creates a dramatic landscape of colorful canyons and hills.
Using my Old Guy National Park pass I slipped past the gate and headed for the visitors center. I wanted to get advice on which of the many hiking trails would give me the best feel for the diversity of the area. The very helpful ranger recommended the White Rock to La Madre Springs Loop, a 6 mile trek that climbs into the foothills through a lush canyon of Juniper and Scrub Oak fed by natural springs.
As you can see, the weather was sunny…..the morning temperatures were already climbing into the 70’s however as I hiked into the shady area the temperature dropped noticeably. Soon the sun peaked over the canyon wall and illuminated the canyon floor.
Parts of the trail wound amongst diverse vegetation more commonly found in the high desert areas of Arizona. While hiking, I frequently use a technique I call “Rest Stepping”….basically every 100 paces or so I stop, take a 360 degree gaze about, and quietly observe and listen to the sounds of the environment. In this case I noticed unique vegetation and terrain not seen in the desert and heard many birds singing and bees buzzing about. But the most interesting thing was the absolute silence of this remote part of the desert southwest so close to the Las Vegas Strip.
In a few miles, I climbed out of the canyon onto a mesa of more typical desert vegetation.
From here on through the rest of the hike it was open desert and with the temperatures nearing 90 degrees, getting a bit uncomfortable.
Even though I had 70 ounces of water in my backpack, I was beginning to run low hiking in this warm, dry environment.
As the trail led my through the high desert altitude of 4000 plus feet there are still formations that tower even higher.
As you can imagine, Red Rock is a world class rock climbing mecca. Frequently during the later stage of my hike I could hear voices emanation from sheer cliff faces and see tiny dots suspended by tiny ropes hundreds of feet above the desert floor……Joe, you would love this place!
After about 4 hours of hiking, I made it back to the trail head and my truck where more food and water awaited. Returning to the visitor’s center to view the displays and talk to the rangers about what I had seen, I noticed a large crowd around an outdoor enclosure. There were lots of park personnel, visitors and a few TV reporters all staring at this little fellow.
That’s Mohave Max, the western equivalent to Puxatony Phil of springtime prediction fame. Max is the Red Rock Spokesturtle and, as all desert tortoises (or is it tort-ti) do, he went into hibernation last September and just a few hours ago, showed his crusty face for the first time to announce that spring had indeed sprung in the Mohave Desert!
On your next trip to Vegas, treat yourself to a day at Red Rock National Conservation Area…..you won’t regret it!
Every year when we visit Suzie and the family here in Las Vegas, we are shown the latest technical gadget that they have acquired…..this year was no exception. Both Suzie and Kevin have one of the latest tools to daily monitor and encourage your individual level of physical fitness. It’s called a Fitbit and is a tiny wireless electronic monitor that you wear, pretty much around the clock. So…..we just had to have one!
It will track your steps and corresponding miles walked, your number of stairs climbed, your total calories burned, and even your nightly sleep patterns which are then calculated into a quality of sleep percentage. The logged data is continually data linked to a smart phone for review and monitoring. Is this gadget necessary? No, not for those that are dedicated to fitness and religiously follow a regimen, however for us the Fitbit is like an electronic personal trainer watching our every move and nagging us if we don’t make our goals. Since we purchased these gadgets we check our progress on our iPhones and if we are behind track in meeting the daily fitness goal we step it up (pun intended) a bit and get to walking. Check it out at:
Well, this is getting a bit long and we are only half way through our stay in Vegas. It might be prudent to split our Las Vegas Journal into two parts…..so, until next time here is a hint of things to come.
Want to know what’s going on here? Want to know why Tucker’s bangs are suddenly so short? Want to know why the woman reflected in the window has just collapsed into the lawn chair? Stay tuned!
Kit’s Corner: Halfway through our visit to Las Vegas and lots more to do! We’ve had a few “down” days but most days, we’ve been busy either planning or doing something with kids and grands! We are incredibly fortunate to be able to spend this much time with our Vegas grandkids. Plus, having them out at Nellis AFB with us gives the “kids” a bit of a break. We are thoroughly enjoying our stay here.