Bill and Kit’s 2014 Excellent Adventure, Journal #8
I soon realized that no journey carries one far unless, as it extends into the world around us, it goes an equal distance into the world within.
Monday, January 27 through Friday, January 31, 2014- Desert Eagle RV Park on Nellis AFB, Nevada: Well, we are closing in on our final week in Las Vegas. It has been a great stay and we have really enjoyed spending time with our two youngest grandchildren, Jack and Tucker and their hard working parents. Who, by the way, have both been working crazy hours this month due to major projects at their respective places of employment.
Jack and Tucker, as most modern day kids, love their technology and sophisticated toys. So being overindulgent grandparents we occasionally take them on a shopping trip for special purchases. On one such trup to the BX (Base Exchange), they cruised the toy aisle looking for that ”must have” item. Jack immediately zoned in on one of the few “Change and Go Dino’s” that they do not have in their collection. Meanwhile, Tucker wandered to the nearby hardware department and fell in love with a nifty toilet plunger. Well, Jack thought he should have a plunger as well so they agreed to share the $30.00 Switch and Go Dino if I would buy them each a $3.00 toilet plunger. Being almost as crazy as they are, I thought it was a grand idea.
Back at the camper, Jack and Tucker decided that toilet plunger personalization was in order to better tell whose coveted plunger belonged to whom. They spent a few hours with marking pens and created some serious toilet plunger works of art. Perhaps that should read “objet d’art” because that particular archaic word will have symbolism shortly.
As you may imagine, the $30.00 Switch and Go Dino pretty much went ignored as the boys created all kinds of games and entertainment opportunities using the lowly $3.00 toilet plungers. One of their games was “Toilet Plunger Darts”, which they played against the smooth sides of the camper.
I was amazed that a toilet plunger launched from five feet away by a diminutive human person would actually stick to the trailer and hang there for quite some time! All kinds of cool rules and methods of keeping score ensued. They played their innovative game for hours until I wailed, “When can I have a turn”!?!?
In addition, they played rock star microphone and automobile stick shift then proceeded to suction their creations to anything and everything they would adhere too. This of course included their bellies…..which certainly made for some pretty impressive hickies. They also inverted the plunger cups, filled the resulting cavity with dirt and demonstrated the incredible power of centrifugal force…..and also learned the messy results of not swinging the dirt laden device fast enough. I should slap a Mattel/Made in China sticker on these things and wholesale them to Toys-Backwards R-Us!
During the week, when the boys were in school, Kit and I would look for places of interest we had not enjoyed in the past…..a fairly difficult task as we have made many trips to Las Vegas over the years. While poking about online, Kit had recently discovered a place downtown called Container Park and since it involved shopping it immediately went on her bucket list. Well, on a particularly cool and cloudy day we decided to check it out.
Yep, that is indeed a giant sculpture of a praying mantis gracing the entrance. And this particular oversized pious bug is capable of shooting flames from its 10 foot long antennae; a feat that I bet is pretty impressive at night! The heart sculpture in the center of the above photo is entitled Locks of Love and contains hundreds of padlocks within its frame each with a special note of love written on them. And the square yellow object to its right? That is indeed a “container”…..more about them later.
Container Park was built on a razed city block of a former crime and drug infested area of downtown Las Vegas. This urban redevelopment was financed by the bizillionaire Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos.com whose corporate headquarters are just a few blocks away.
An innovative and progressive corporate mogul, Tony Hsieh was upset that downtown Las Vegas has been largely left behind in the rush to develop The Strip miles to the south. We can personally attest to the economic and social division between the two areas. Since we camp on Nellis Air Force Base in the more seedy northern part of town and the kids live south of the strip near the trendy community of Henderson, we frequently travel the length of Las Vegas Boulevard……and the stark difference is jarring! Tony Hsieh has been instrumental in gathering like-minded, well-heeled folks together to gentrify the center city area…..Container Park is just one of the facilities built by the newly formed Downtown Project.
So what’s with the name? Well, Container Park is largely made up of old Containerized Intermodal Freight Transport Systems or better known as shipping containers. These things have over 8,000 pounds of steel and are difficult to dispose of when they have outlived their useful life…..it’s not like they can slap a 5 cent deposit sticker on them to ensure responsible recycling. So Tony decided to find a permanent retirement home for them. The containers have been arranged, stacked and repurposed into small retail venues for fledgling startups and more established companies that want a boutique style outlet for their products.
The 34 shops run the gamut from clothing to food. They are all arranged around a central mall area featuring an observation tower, children’s playground, and a performance stage. They day we visited, there was a very accomplished Jazz musician playing for the sparse but appreciative crowd.
Most shops are a bit on the quirky side…..for instance, where else can one purchase a Deluxe Bacon Wallet?
Suddenly getting very hungry, we decided to dine at Pinche Taco’s, one of the many specialty food shops in the park.
We had an incredible meal! Kit selected a tasty Burrito and I enjoyed the taco sampler consisting of a Fish Taco, a Carnitas Taco and a Carne Asada Taco. Everything was fantastic!
So…..did you notice that the shops name isn’t on the sign? Kind of curious myself, so after poking around some, I discovered the Spanish word Pinche is a vulgarity in Mexico, and is basically used like the “F” word is used in the US. The historical (hysterical?) downtown committee refused to allow the signage, even though there are three other Pinche Taco’s in the area that have sneaked by the censors.
We really enjoyed Container Park. It is a hidden jewel right in the in the middle of downtown that should help revitalize this older and poorer relative to the famed Las Vegas Strip.
After 48 years, I can easily tell when Kit needs some alone time. All I have to do is look for the subtle clues and about half of the time I can figure out that she wants me to disappear for a while. In the photo below, see if you can detect her mood and her need for some Kit Time?
Difficult, isn’t it? However, being a trained professional it took me less than an hour to pick up on her mood. And that means it’s time for old Bill to make himself scarce! So, off to the Colorado River for some kayaking I go!
It was a beautiful sunny day as I made my way 35 miles south into Arizona and Willow Beach which is just 16 miles below Hoover Dam.
Loading up the kayak for an all-day adventure I shoved off into the slowly moving current.
This marks the second time I have put in at Willow Beach. Last year we camped here just a few hundred yards up the hill and I spent a day kayaking up river into The Black Canyon. Today I decided to explore down river. Remembering to start GPS Tracks on the iPhone before inserting it in a dry bag, I started slowly paddling and watching the towering mountains and cliffs drift by.
Since the intakes for Hoover Dams hydropower system are at the base of the dam, the sun has no effect on the waters warmth at that great depth. After the water has passed through the turbine generators it is released back into the Colorado at roughly the same temperature…..verry cold!
Also, I’m constantly amazed at how crystal clear the Colorado is at this point in its journey. The rugged and rocky shoreline deposits little sand or soil into the river and the gentle current does not stir up the sediment off the rocky bottom.
The cliff face in the above photo enters the water at a 90 degree angle and continues down for many feet. I’m guessing the depth is a good 25 feet at this point of the river and I can see clearly to the bottom!
Since the shoreline is pretty rugged, there are few places to safely land a kayak. So when one does appear you pull in for a break.
Here I spent about half an hour stretching my legs and enjoying the lunch I had brought along…..then it was back on the river.
When paddling downriver, I always judge when I should turn around and head back by the current and by how tired I’m getting. To judge the current, I generally paddle to river center, and float while watching the MPH indicator on GPS Tracks. Today, the current appeared to be about 1.2 MPH…..not bad. It should be a relatively easy paddle back up river to Willow Beach.
Paddling on river right, I noticed the following geologic formation resulting from the stratified rock being thrust up by the forces of the earth.
Notice the layers in the rock on the right are nearly vertical…..now that’s some pressure!
This part of the country has been experiencing a severe drought…..Lake Mead, above the dam, is a good one hundred feet below normal. And even though this part of the Colorado is controlled by needs of the hydro station, the river is at least 2 feet lower than I remember. Notice the “Bathtub Ring” evident in the below photo.
After 5 hours on the river, paddling over six miles, I returned to Willow Beach. Loading up and making my way out of the canyon I paused to capture the below photo of the western sun setting over the Colorado River.
What a great day on an iconic river! Hope Kit enjoyed her “Day-O-Quiet” just as much!
As mentioned previously, our grandsons can have as much fun out of mundane items such as cardboard boxes as they can most any fancy toy or tech gadget.
Case in point…..one day, they donned their homemade costumes, stuck their plunger darts to the side of the camper, unscrewed the handles and made some music. Here is a short video I filmed of their performance:
After many trips to this city over the years, Kit and I finally decided to visit Freemont Street…..the original Las Vegas Strip.
As a youngster of about 10, I remember driving down this street with my mom and younger brother at around midnight on our way to Alamogordo, New Mexico to visit friends. In those days, before air conditioning, we always traveled through the desert at night and stopped to rest at a roadside motel during the day. Freemont was very much as I remembered it with all the neon signs lighting up the street like it was mid-day.
It was nice to see that the iconic Golden Nugget is still in service. Many of the antique signs of long defunct casinos are now placed as pieces urban art along median of Freemont Street.
The upside down sign is kinda weird, but it does capture the eye…..pretty clever marketing!
One new attraction on Freemont Street is the Heart Attack Grill, a shrine to gluttony.
The Quadruple Bypass Burger contains 32 ounces of beef and comes with Flatliner Fries which are cooked in pure lard. This meal quickly zooms past 8000 calories and 100 grams of fat! If a customer (patient) weighs more than 350 pounds then the meal is on the house. I bet 9-1-1 is on the restaurants speed dial!
In fact, the spokesmodel for this palace of food pornography was 575 pound Blair River until he perished at the bus stop in front of the place after consuming his daily free meal. Blair was only 29 years old…..sad but true.
Returning to Desert Eagle RV Park late one afternoon following a great day of exploring, we noticed this tanker truck on its way to making a delivery.
This might help explain why the Coffee at many gas stations is a bit stale.
While it is true that we travel in a fully self-contained camper and that we are at a campsite with full hook-ups one might think we prepare all our meals rather than eat out. Well, one would be wrong. We really like to explore the offerings of local eating establishments and regional chain restaurants. Some of the places we pigged out at during our stay in Las Vegas were:
- Pei Wei
- Memphis Barbeque
- California Pizza kitchen
- Oasis Cafe
- The Cheesecake Factory
- Manchu Wok
- BJ’s Brewhouse (3 times)
- Wolfgang Puck
- LA Subs
- Sweet Tomatoes
- Pan Asian
- Pinche Taco’s
- In and Out Burgers
- Grimaldi’s Pizza
- Griddle Cakes
- Rosatti’s Pizza
- Five Guys Burger and Fries (Twice)
- Buffalo Wild Wings
OK, we know those last three restaurants are also available to the discriminating dinee in rural Maine…..however we like them at home as well so why not enjoy them on the road?
As you might surmise, BJ’s Brewhouse was our favorite! The atmosphere was great, the food was incredible their selection of micro brews was extensive and the pièce de résistance is their signature Pizookie.
A baked to order jumbo cookie delivered to your table warm with ice cream melting into it. Simple but delicious…..I believe it to be the best dessert in the world!
As you may remember from previous journals, Nellis in addition to being the premier Air Force training base, is also home to the USAF flight demonstration team The Thunderbirds. They practiced pretty much daily over Nellis and the surrounding open desert.
One day, as I was sitting in the truck at the base commissary while Kit did the weekly grocery shopping, The Thunderbirds took off en masse. They then flew a low pass over the base full tilt and with smoke on. The thundering roar set off about a half dozen alarms in cars parked about…..it was funny as folks started digging for their keys to silence the racket.
During our stay we had fun entertaining and being entertained by Jack and Tucker, it was fun to just watch them interact and play.
However, we have three other equally great grandkids back home in Maine and they too have nifty parents. Even though we do not journal our doings after returning home from our annual Excellent Adventures, rest assured that we enjoy entertaining and being entertained by our Maine family (no pun intended) as well.
First, there is our oldest grandchild, Joe, and coincidently, our oldest daughter Kim:
Joe is a college senior and avid outdoor adventurer, excelling in rock and ice climbing, water and snow skiing, backpacking, sailing, and his newest love, white water kayaking.
Joe spends a lot of time with his delightful longtime girlfriend Abby, seen here with Joe during their winter escape to the island of Grenada.
The kids were on this southern Caribbean island to visit Abby’s father who has been sailing the Atlantic for the past eight months in his 28 foot sloop. Abby, an accomplished sailor in her own right accompanied her father on the first leg of the voyage across the Atlantic.
Then there is our son and his family…..Joe, Ann, Katie and Chris (CJ).
Even though Katie and CJ are four years apart they are very close and actually enjoy each other’s company. They are delightful and respectful teenagers and very good student athletes as well.
Katie, our only granddaughter, is a high school senior and has just signed to play lacrosse at an eastern division one university. In addition she enjoys basketball and soccer and has served as manager for her varsity soccer team. Katie loves the outdoors as well, skiing and snowmobiling in the winter and spending time at the family camp on Sebago Lake during the summer.
CJ is in the eighth grade and plays soccer, basketball and lacrosse as well. In addition he enjoys fishing and hanging out with his buddies while being yanked about the lake on the tube behind the family speedboat.
If there is a down side to RV travel for the winter, it’s not being able to see the family that hangs back in our cold and snowy home state. We miss you guys and promise to return home when snow’s gone…..love you!
Oh, just so you know…..there are some pretty spectacular sunsets in Maine as well!
Back to Las Vegas, another feature of The Downtown Project that we explored is The Learning Village. This redeveloped city block near Container Park features classrooms which are made available for rent to schools or individuals. The purpose is to provide a variety of classes as well as instructional opportunities such as dance, photography, art and music.
The classrooms are generally small modular pods of various sizes and a few Airstream trailers are available as well. One of the more unique training venues is this small home built by The Tumbleweed Tiny House Company and donated to the village.
Kit was impressed…..she spent considerable time peeking in the windows and trying to determine if this 200 square feet mini home would be suitable for me to reside in if it was strategically placed in our back yard.
At one of the museums, Kit noticed that this particularly attractive woman from the Pliocene Era had eyes for me.
She thought it funny that her name was Lucy, the same name given to my beloved GPS.
Saturday, February 1 through Monday, February 3, 2014-Oasis RV Park, Las Vegas, Nevada…..surprise! We decided at the last minute to stay through the weekend. However, unfortunately our Desert Eagle site was reserved by someone coming in. So, since we had Jack and Tucker, we decided to engage them in a short trip back to Oasis RV Park, the place we stayed when first arriving in the area 6 weeks ago. So, putting them to work, they helped raise the stabilizing jacks.
And, standing to the side they gave me expert hand signals to help position the truck hitch ball over the trailer coupler. After which they proudly posed for this Hero Photo.
Since our 30 minute trip to Oasis was to be a Mystery Ride, the kids were some excited when we pulled in to the Land of The Heated Pool! They were even happier to learn that I had snuck all of their swim gear into the truck when we picked them up the day before.
After checking in and setting up, I noticed the sky had turned moody and the temperature had dropped considerably.
But that didn’t stop any of us (well most of us) from enjoying the pool or hot tub!
As the weekend closed, Kevin and Suzie took us all to BJ’s Brewhouse…..it was Super Bowl Sunday and surprisingly not very crowded. Not sure what we enjoyed more, time with the family, the commercials on television or the Pizookie’s.
Well…..as the desert sun sets on another great stay in Las Vegas, our intrepid travelers sit in their quiet camper and discuss where to head to next.
Wanna know where we land? Stay tuned!
Kit’s Bits: Six weeks in one place is by far, the longest time we’ve spent anywhere since we started travelling. Nellis AFB was beginning to feel like home for us. Spending as much time as we did with Jack & Tucker was quite a treat! With our very small trailer, and two growing boys, the trailer seems to be shrinking. So, we had to be creative and find lots of outdoor activities to keep them busy with. Every day was an adventure! We thoroughly enjoyed our time with the boys and look forward to having them visit us in Maine this summer. Since neither of us knew our grandparents when we were young, our goal has always been to figure out ways to spend as much time as we can with these children. After all, they grow up in the blink of an eye! Thanks, Suzie & Kevin for incorporating us into your life for six weeks!