Bill and Kit’s 2020 Excellent Adventure, Journal #7

Coddiwomple:

To travel in a purposeful manner towards a vague destination

 

Saturday, January 25, 2020: well this morning Kit and I departed from Desert Eagle RV Park in Las Vegas, Nevada…yep, we really did it this time! And, on the road at 0928 under sunny skies and temperatures in the mid 60’s.

During our extended stay in Vegas, we discussed where to travel next and finally settled on continuing west to the left coast. So, on I-15 West we motored and crossed the California border an hour after our departure where we encountered the State Agricultural Inspection Station.

After confirming we didn’t have any hitchhiking vermin or elicit produce, we were waved through the gauntlet and continued our trek while passing the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generation Station on our right.

This Concentrated Solar Thermal system generates 392 Megawatts of power by reflecting the sun off of 347,000 individually controlled mirrors each 75 square feet in size. The mirrors then focus and direct the sunlight toward boilers sitting atop towers.

Located on 3,500 acres of public land in the Mojave Desert…

…this joint government private facility cost 2.18 Billion dollars and is only capable of producing electricity at 45% of predicted efficiency due to technical deficiencies. In addition, it has been criticized for significant environmental impact because of the effect the powerful sunbeams have on migratory birds.

Nearing the Coastal Mountains…

…we soon entered Los Angeles County, and made our way to March Air Reserve base for the evening.

This relatively small campground was full, but we were allowed to dry-camp overnight next to the RV storage facility which suited us just fine…goodnight!

Sunday, January 26, 2020: Up, breakfast, and on the road at 1015 hours under partly cloudy skies and a temperature of 59 degrees.

Before leaving town, we made a quick stop at Riverside National Cemetery…

…to pay our respects to Kit’s mom and dad…

… who are laid to rest there.

Back on the road, we spent the next few hours battling Los Angeles traffic as we circled southwest toward Seal Beach…

… our destination for the next week. Pulling into the Naval Weapons Stations campground, we…

…set up camp on a nice spacious site and settled in for the evening.

Monday, January 27 through Saturday, February 1, 2020-Seal Beach, California: Seal Beach, a coastal community of 24,000 folks in Orange County is a pleasant little town…

…which hosts the second longest wooden pier in California…

…and makes a prime spot to watch the local surfers…

…carve the shore break…

…during a low tide swell with ideal offshore winds.

In California, one never knows who or what…

… might be trying their saltwater fishing luck!

The pier, and its fisherfolks edible castoffs, are very attractive to pigeons…

…who strut, and preen…

…then pose for photographs, in anticipation of a handout.

California is the most car centric state in the union. Plenty of high-end automobiles are about and a good number of classics as well, such as this beauty…

…a 1931 Ford Victoria restored to concourse condition and parked on the street in downtown Seal Beach. I looked around for the owner in order to chat about Model A ownership, but we never connected.

Speaking of automobiles, life in California is unique…even car buying is different than the rest of the US. There are a number of these car elevator dealerships about that have transformed the car buying model.

Basically, a car vending machine, Carvana holds up to 32 automobiles which can be accessed after logging in online and receiving the code. The selected car can then be test driven for up to seven days before the transaction is put through at which time you own the car. If within that seven-day period, you don’t want the car, just return to any Carvana tower and select another one to test out!?!?

An added treat while in the area, was seeing my brother Dewey and sister-in-law Bea, who were camping just a few miles north of us.

Dewey spent a great deal of his adult life living and working in nearby Culver City and he still has relatives in the area which they were visiting. However, they were kind enough to eke out an afternoon for us and we assembled at The Boathouse, a very nice waterfront restaurant…

…alongside picturesque Long Beach harbor…

…where from our window seat…

…we enjoyed a very pleasant view of the waterfront activity.

After exchanging pleasantries, we got down to business…

…with some ice-cold Barley Pops, and…

…delicious tavern fare!

Kit and I enjoyed a great time with a great couple…see you in Tucson in a few weeks’ folks!

Back in 1957, Kit and her family lived in the nearby city of San Pedro, so we spent one day touring that area.

First stop was Point Fermin Park…

…where an historic lighthouse, built in 1874, stands guard…

…high above the crashing surf.

The park was a favorite place for Kit and her family to picnic while enjoying the fresh ocean breezes. It has a large variety of unique vegetation such as this Coastal Fig Tree.

Point Fermin also features views south toward the Long Beach Shipping Terminal…

… and north onto…

the upscale community of Palos Verdes.

A relatively unknown portion of Point Fermin is The Sunken City. This community of luxury cliffside homes, was constructed in the early 1920’s by a group of Hollywood’s elites.

Unfortunately, is was built on very unstable land and almost immediately started to slump toward the Pacific Ocean. As the slump accelerated, at times up to 11 inches a day, electrical utilities and water pipes began failing causing some residents to abandon their cliffside estates. In a catastrophic event, most of the neighborhood sunk when the underlying land slumped into the ocean.

It has never been cleaned up or stabilized and has become an unauthorized tourist attraction seldom found on San Pedro brochures or maps. Kit and I just stumbled across it but stopped at the security gate surrounding the entire area where we took the photo of the blue house pictured above, likely one of the few remaining homes in the original development.

Just up the hill from Point Fermin Park lies Angel’s Gate Park, home of the Korean Friendship Bell.

Which was presented to the People of the United States by the South Korean Government during our country’s bicentennial year. Housed in a Pagoda style pavilion, the bell is ceremonially struck by use of a swinging log clapper.

Decorated in the traditional Dancheong style using five basic colors…

… blue (east), white (west), red (south), black (north), and yellow (center), it is a truly beautiful and spiritual place to visit and reflect.

Another childhood memory that Kit shared was the elementary school she attended in San Pedro. Being that it was during her 4th and 5th year, and being that this is California where buildings just a few years old are torn down only to be replaced by bigger buildings, I had little faith the school still existed…but we went on a search anyway.

Well, imagine our surprise when the GPS brought us to a school…and it was an obviously older building!

Walking into the office we encountered a very pleasant and helpful member of the staff. When learning of our quest, she proudly exclaimed that the school was currently celebrating its 75th anniversary!

Kit was very pleased as a rush of childhood memories came over her and she recounted stories of that era to the office staff.

What a pleasant and memorable experience!

Heading back to the campground, we took a trip through the neighboring town of Long Beach…

…and headed for the waterfront…

…where we stopped to browse around…

…in trendy little shops. In one we tried on a few stylish California hats…

…and some that were even more stylish…

… than others! I don’t know what it is with me and goofy hats? I seldom wear a cap of any style, but when I spot a particularly outrageous chapeau, something comes over me and I’ve got to try it on…much to Kit’s chagrin!

Since we were on the waterfront, and since it was nearing the blue-hair dinner hour, Kit and I stepped into the Parkers’ Lighthouse Restaurant for a meal.

Sitting outside on the patio, we enjoyed some excellent local seafood, while enjoying the activity in the harbor

…as the local wildlife…

…photobombed the historic Queen Mary!

This area of coastal California has been a prime oil producing region for many years, so…

… It isn’t unusual to see oil wells in neighborhoods…some even churning alongside multi-million-dollar homes.

Also, at the other end of the spectrum, it isn’t unusual to see lush greenery and colorful flowers such as the…

… Bird of Paradise, even during these cooler winter months.

On yet another day in town, we took a ride into Los Angeles, to visit Griffith Park. Yea, I know…what were we thinking?

At 4,310 acres, it is the largest urban park in North America

In addition to picnic areas, hiking trails, horse stables, and a miniature railroad, the park is home to the famed Griffith observatory.

The access road to the summit was closed due to the parking lot being full. We were directed to an auxiliary lot a few miles away that featured a walking path to the observatory but decided to pass on the climb up due to time constraints.

Also, in Griffith Park is the Los Angeles Zoo, and across the road, the Autry Museum of the American West…

…which was established in 1988 by actor Gene Autry. As a patriot, he stipulated that all US Military Veterans would be honored with free admission to his museum, which was a nice gesture. The Autry merges the culture of the American Cowboy and the Native American Indians with the various Hollywood cowboys and cowgirls that helped make Los Angeles famous.

We learned that, contrary to what ones sees in old western films…

… a number of western settlers were African Americans.

No museum dedicated to the American West would be complete without the various firearms that helped keep law and order, such as these gold-plated pistol’s owned by sharpshooter, Annie Oakley…

…or this classic revolver used by Teddy Roosevelt.

Another unique weapon on display was this Gatling Gun designed by Richard J. Gatling and manufactured by the Colt Manufacturing Company in the late 1800’s.

Then there was a collection of Revolver Rifles…

…also manufactured by Colt in the 1800’s and issued to soldiers of the US Army. Up until this point, rifles were only able to shoot one bullet before having to reload. So, a patient advisory would just wait until he saw the muzzle blast then simple walk over to the soldier and engage him at close range while the hapless single-shot rifle bearer was frantically reloading. The revolving Rifle surprised many on the battlefield when multiple volleys came from the same rifle. However, a persistent design flaw would frequently cause the rifle to discharge all six of its chambers simultaneously causing significant damage to the rifleman and the weapon.

There was also a nice display of western toys in the museum…

…many of which I remember from my childhood.

The visit to Griffith Park was enjoyable, however the 25-mile drive from the campground took close to 90 minutes…that’s the price one pays to visit an attraction within a city of 12,874,797 souls, many of whom simultaneously drive multiple automobiles, well that’s the way is seemed anyway!

Tomorrow we pull chocks and head south, but not before enjoying a spectacular California sunset from the campground…

…goodnight!

Kit’s Bit’s: It was a real treat for me to finally see some of the Los Angeles area where my family lived when I was 9 and 10 years old. Bill doesn’t like driving in big cities, especially with such a large vehicle. Best thing I was able to see was the school I attended for 4th & 5th grade! I was surprised it was still standing. It’s now designated as a Gifted Magnet school. We never found the place where we lived. The lady at the school said the adjacent housing area had been leveled a few years ago and new apartments were built. The housing area was within walking distance to school. The entire area has been built up as most are in California. Hard to believe there are so many people there and somehow, everyday life is as smooth as it is. So many cars, stores, highways, houses, apartments… I suppose due to the mild climate year-round, life is smoother in many ways. Still, way too congested for us. Nice to visit but, we’d rather live in Maine!

Bill and Kit’s 2020 Excellent Adventure, Journal #6

To venture causes anxiety, but not to venture is to lose one’s self, and to venture in the highest is precisely to be conscious of one’s self
Søren Kierkegaard

Wednesday, January 15 through Friday, January 24, 2020-Nellis AFB, Las Vegas, Nevada: Wait, what? Yep, were still in Las Vegas…so, what’s up with that?

Well, last issue we were nearing the end of our stay. As it turned out, we couldn’t decide in what direction to head next…so Kit and I decided we would just extend here. We have family in the area, the weather has been great, the camping fees are affordable, and the area has much to see and enjoy…a win-win-win-win!

So, here are a few things we did and a few attractions we enjoyed during our ten-day bonus stay in Las Vegas.

I was able to get the rig washed by a mobile RV Wash company, which it sorely needed.

Water bring at a premium here in the desert, this is the only authorized method to get your camper clean.

We met some more of our neighbors. Including Rod, a retired Army sergeant…

…with a unique towed vehicle that fits in the back of his fifth wheel toy hauler.

Did some shopping…

…at the world’s second largest Bass Pro Shop which is connected to, what else, a hotel and casino…in this case The Silverton.

Kit wanted to go see the new movie Little Women…

…which she thoroughly enjoyed, and to my surprise, so did I.

Visited The Las Vegas International Speedway, a prime venue for NASCAR and NHRA events, both styles of auto racing I’ve enjoyed in the past. However, in between race dates there is an opportunity to channel ones Enzo Ferrari or Carroll Shelby…

…by piloting a high-performance supercar around the track courtesy of Dream Racing. Only $499.00 to enjoy 5 laps in a 729 Horsepower Lamborghini Aventador!

We continued to enjoy many unique sunrises…

…as well as…

…many spectacular sunsets…

… and more than our fair share of dry sunny and days.

Las Vegas is a multi-faceted town not the least of which is a significant military presence and strong support of our nation’s veterans…

…which is evident by the preferred parking spaces at some facilities.

We visited an attraction that Kit and I had not visited in a number of years…Red Rock National Conservation Area.

Located a mere 15 miles west of The Vegas Strip, Red Rock is a 197,349-acre park managed by the US Bureau of Land Management. There is a 13-mile loop road that takes the visitor…

…through the park…

…at a leisurely pace to view the iconic…

…red rock formations, known as Aztec Sandstone.

The red hue is from oxidation of iron minerals in the sedimentary rock…

… and the rocks that are grayer in color possess less iron.

Along the way, there are many parking areas…

… that allow one to walk about or access trailheads for hiking paths that delve deep into the conservation area.

After a few hours in the park, it was getting late in the afternoon and long past lunch time…

…so, we exited and headed for the nearest watering hole…

…and began quenching our thirst.

The Yard House, an upscale chain brewpub that features over 100 pulls at their bar…

…each one connected to a keg of high-quality beer kept frosty cold in their…

…massive beer cooler! If you can’t find something to satisfy your palette here, then you are way too finicky!

For lunch, I ordered Fish Tacos, and Kit choose this Chicken Filet salad…

…which she enjoyed very much. To top it off we split a large dessert…

…which was excellent as well.

On the weekend days, we spent more quality time with our Vegas grandkids, Jack and Tucker. Some days we just hung out and visited, and on others we went on excursions…such as our visit to Madame Tussaud Wax Museum where amazingly life like sculptures of famous people are displayed…

…many from the entertainment industry…

…and others form professional sports teams.

Jack had his favorites…

…but Kit and I also had ours.

Not sure, but we think this may be Tucker’s favorite…

…wax sculpture. It’s an amazingly realistic depiction of an American teenager in the wild.

Marie Tussaud was born in 1700’s France and learned wax sculpturing at an early age. During the French Revolution, she was imprisoned and sentenced to death but her unusual talent spared her life. Later, after taking her sculptures on tour throughout Europe, she settled in London opening the first of many Wax Museums that continue to this day, and every museum has a sculpture of Madame Tussaud…

…made from the original mold that she herself carved late in life…pretty cool!

This museum was more entertaining than I anticipated, there were over 100 sculptures, all of which looked spookily real. In addition, being that they were rendered in full size gave a glimpse into how these famous folks really looked…

…some tall, some short, some skinny, and some a bit overweight.

Leaving the museum, we stumbled into Sugars…

…a mega candy store where if it contains gobs of sugar, it can be purchased.

Then it was a short walk to the parking garage, where…

…the boys’ true personality was put on full display!

One bright sunny day, Kit and I decided to drive southeast to Boulder City…

… and visit the historic Hoover Dam.

But, before we could get close to the parking garage, we had to undergo a TSA type screening by Federal Officers.

This requirement is due to the elevated threat level that has remained in place since the attacks on 9-11. For many years prior, Kit and I had driven freely across the dam traveling between Nevada and Arizona. However enhanced security made it necessary to build a large multi lane bridge…

… that parallels the dam just downriver and now handles the traffic volume.

Hoover Dam resides in the Black Canyon of the Colorado River. Originally called Boulder Dam, as it was initially sited for nearby Boulder Canyon, the name was changed to honor the 31st US President long after the dam’s completion. This elicited much controversy and political handwringing…a local newspaper editorial at the time decried; “Let’s Just Call It, Who Gives a Dam!”

Built during the Great Depression, over the course of five years, by thousands of workers, the dam was completed two years ahead of schedule and under budget! One hundred twelve men perished during the building phase, and no…there are no bodies entombed in the massive concrete structure.

Known as an Arch-Gravity Dam, its unique design is 660 feet thick at its base and narrows to 45 feet at the top. With an arched face upriver, the configuration utilizes the force of the impoundments massive volume of water to wedge the dam into the hard rock canyon walls.

Being that it was the largest and most challenging project in the world, there was great animosity about its engineering and construction.

Made of concrete, laid up in segments so large that a railcar full of material would only add one inch of height at a time.

Since concrete gives off heat as it solidifies, which slows the curing process, water pipes were embedded in the wet mixture and chilled water was continuously cycled through until that segment was solid enough to add the next segment layer. 3,250,000 cubic yards of concrete were used in the dam itself and an additional 1,110,000 cubic yards were used in construction of the powerplant building at the foot of the dam.

Today, interior cores are periodically drilled and extracted then tested for integrity…the dam concrete tests stronger today than original built, while the concrete continues to cure some 85 years later.

There are a few different tours offered which will gain the visitor into the interior of the dam. Kit opted for the above ground museum ticket, and I decided to go for the full access tour ticket.

The museum was interesting as it consisted of many historic artifacts and personal stories from the men that built the dam. And yes, in 1930’s America, all the workers were men and 99 percent were white.

And a bit of historical trivia, workers were in constant danger of rocks, tools and other items being dropped by their fellow workers above. So many took readily available cotton hats and boiled them in tar creating a hard shell. These homemade protective hats became known as “hard boiled hats” which was later shortened to “hardhats”, versions of which are used to this day in industrial environments.

The Dam Tour (pun intended) started by a brief film then a quick ride down an elevator to the bottom of the structure, followed by a walk through some of the original passageways…

…to the Generator Room.

We learned that the entire Colorado River flows through four Penstocks with enough head pressure to accelerate the water to 85 MPH before encountering the turbines which turn the massive generators…

…generating four billion kilowatt hours of electricity a year, enough to power 1.3 million households.

Our tour continued into the walls of the dam by way of stairs…

…and damp narrow passageways…

…that lead to inspection ports…

…deep within the dam’s interior, where a unique view of the bridge, powerhouse, and river can be enjoyed.

Back in daylight, I walked across the dam’s surface road to the state of Arizona where it’s an hour later due to its location in Mountain Standard Time.

Realizing this, I hurriedly scampered back to the Nevada side…at my age, I can’t afford to lose even one minute, much less than a whole hour!

From the museum, we learned that following the dam’s completion there were many small water leaks discovered…mainly at the interface between the dam and the canyon walls.

It took an additional nine years to seal the dam to acceptable standards…but even to this day, there is some minor seepage occurring.

What a great day at an historic and very important element on the Colorado River. This trip marks the fifth time we’ve visited this amazing structure, and each time is as exciting and interesting as the last…we highly recommend it!

Before leaving the area, we drove to the parking lot beneath the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge. There is a pedestrian walkway that parallels the highway and allows the visitor…

…to access and enjoy a unique perspective of Hoover Dam, the lower Colorado River, and the surrounding countryside.

This perspective also gives a good view of the powerhouse at the base of the dam. And, late in the day, the bridges shadow creeps up the dam’s eastern face. Can you see me waving from the walkway?

The bridge is named for Pat Tillman, an American patriot…

…who left a promising career with the National Football League’s Arizona Cardinals to join his brother and enlist in the US Army shortly after 9-11 only to give his life fighting in the mountains of Afghanistan.

On the way back to the campground, we stopped for dinner at Fox Smokehouse in Boulder City and enjoyed some of their signature barbeque…

…which has won many awards. A great way to top off a great day playing tourist!

An attraction that Kit wanted to visit was Springs Preserve just 3 miles west of the Las Vegas strip. This 180-acre suburban park features nature walks, a recreated early village, and the Nevada State Museum.

Which contains exhibits and artifacts from the area’s natural history, such as the Ichthyosaur…

…a prehistoric reptile that grew to 65 feet and swam in the shallow seas 225 million years ago when this area was oceanfront property.

Also, more common today is the iconic Desert Tortoise…

… which is similar in size and coloration to the one I owned as a youngster. Melvin, is that you?

Being near Vegas, there is a display honoring this cities early attempt at development…

…with a number of early slot machines featured.

Nowadays, the gaming industries use of electronics has rendered thousands of these mechanical devices to scrap metal piles. However just a few years ago, one could purchase these relics for less than a hundred dollars. However, for security reasons, they were built to be extremely heavy, so the average tourist had few economic options to bring this unusual souvenir home.

There was a display of military history in the museum as well…most notably The Nevada Test Site (NTS), 65 miles Northwest of the city. This 1,360 square mile, highly classified and restricted facility, is still an active military test and training base.

The NTS site was used in the early 1950’s for the atmospheric detonation of various nuclear devices.

The many blast’s and subsequent mushroom clouds could be seen from Las Vegas hotels and became a major tourist draw, as evident by the following postcard.

NTS is segmented into various compounds, called Area’s…Area 51, which doesn’t officially exist is one of those. However, others are used for more mundane tests…such as Area 15, managed by the US EPA to test the effect of nuclear radiation on farm crops, livestock and native plants.

Then there’s Area 10, where Operation Plowshare was conducted. This misguided project was to see if a nuclear detonation could be used for peaceful purposes, like in “earth moving”…

…to create large lakes or coastal bays and channels.

Building a city in the desert was a challenge due to limited sources of water. In the early days a few springs existed, but as the area grew in size water had to be delivered from the Colorado River and Lake Mead via wooden pipes.

These were by nature small in diameter and were prone to leaks so were eventually replaced with more durable piping leaving the wood pipes to decay in the desert. As a kid, when we would visit relatives in Arizona, it was common to find these relics lying about…I still have segments of early wood water pipes stored in my basement to this day.

Back at camp, we took care of some chores, and prepared for the morning’s departure, as the sun set on our final day in the Las Vegas area.

We sure are going to miss jack…

…and Tucker…

…as well as their parents…

…and of course, Sophie!

Thanks for everything…love you!

Kit’s Bit’s: Staying an extra 10 days in the Las Vegas area was a great decision. It gave us some time to see a few things we’d been wanting to visit but never seemed to have the extra time. We were also fortunate to be able to spend more time with Suzie, Kevin, Jack & Tucker and also, Sophie. The kids are at the age now where they would rather spend their time with friends than old rele’s. Fortunately, we’re aware of this phenomenon, i.e. kids “growing up”, so we weren’t at all offended. It is nice though, that they still make time for us in short spurts. We treasure every minute we’ve had with all five of our “Grands” and continue to keep in touch with them as they make it to “adulthood”.

Bill and Kit’s 2020 Excellent Adventure, Journal #5

When you step away from the confines of realistic,
you become an explorer charting new territories,
creating new ways of looking at situations,
and It’s impossible to be bored with your life.
Rick Foster

Sunday, January 5, 2020: Awoke at Oasis RV Park, Las Vegas, Nevada. Following breakfast, we broke camp and hit the road at 1130 hours under sunny skies and a temperature of 55 degrees. Then meandered through South Las Vegas until finding our way to I-15 which we merged onto and headed North.

That black structure to the left of the interstate is the new stadium for the Las Vegas Raiders, an NFL football team that escaped Oakland, California a few days ago.

This jet black, 1.8-Billion-dollar state-of-the-art facility, is undergoing construction and is slated to be completed for the 2020 NFL football season. It will feature a transparent domed roof, climate-controlled environment, and a clear wall structure facing the Las Vegas Strip which can be covered by large solid shields if desired.

At 1220 hours, we pulled into the Desert Eagle RV Park on Nellis Air Force Base, Las Vegas, Nevada, and set up for a ten day stay.

So, why did we bother to only travel 22 miles just to camp at another spot in Las Vegas? Well, funny you should ask! Desert Eagle is still in striking distance of the kid’s house so we can see them after school or on weekends. Also, the campground is more to our style…and, most important, the daily rate is ¼ the fee of Oasis.

So, as the sun dove below the horizon on our first day at Desert Eagle…

…we bid you all a hearty goodnight!

Monday, January 6 through Tuesday, January 14, 2020-Nellis AFB, Las Vegas, NV: Our ten day stay here was full of fun activities including just playing tourist, something we haven’t done in the Vegas area for a few years. Some outings were just the two of us, and others included the grandkids.

The first morning here, we were greeted by a flyover of the USAF Flight Demonstration Team…The Thunderbirds.

Headquartered at Nellis AFB, these Ambassadors in Blue spend this time of the year bringing newly selected pilots and crew members up to speed and practicing their close aerobatic maneuvers in the skies over the deserted desert northwest of the base.

Their home-base hanger…

…features a nice little museum containing Thunderbird history, and information about the aircraft they currently fly…

…the F-16 Fighting Falcon, a fine Lockheed product!

As it turned out, Jack scored an extra week off school, much to the chagrin of brother Tucker. So, shoehorning a day into his other social activities, he’s 15 after all, we fetched him from home and enjoyed a day with Jack to ourselves.

One of his suggestions for the Jack Day-O-Fun were to ride the New York Roller Coaster…

…part of which can be seen as a red rail situated atop the New York-New York Hotel and Casino.

The coasters passenger cars are modeled after NYC Taxi Cabs…

…and take one on an exhilarating ride throughout the hotel complex…

…with loops…

Photo from Google Images

…spirals, and vertical drops. Kit declined to enjoy this ride, which was fortuitous, as we had someone to hold all the stuff from our pockets that could become airborne and pummel unsuspecting pedestrians below.

The ride was relatively short by mega-coaster standards, but just as exciting and jarring by pulling both negative and positive G’s…but, one ride was enough for this 72-year-old body.

Next, something a bit more docile, Jack desired to ride the Venetian Canals in a Gondola.

So off to the Paris Hotel and Casino we walked.

The ride was actually quite pleasant, although with unique Vegas “enhancements” like placing the canals of Venice inside the city of Paris.

The Gondolier was an Italian from New York (the real one) with an excellent singing voice…

…which we enjoyed as he treated us to traditional songs of Venice.

Following the Gondola ride, we ambled down the strip a ways. Getting near dinner time, Jack suggested we try The Secret Pizza…but he hadn’t a clue exactly where it is located, which is the point of a secret pizza joint after all. The only clue? It’s somewhere within the vast Cosmopolitan Hotel and Casino complex.

And that’s the draw. The eateries entry point is obscure, without signage, and hidden from all but the most intrepid pizza fan. After about 30 minutes, and with the help of a few online clues, we finally located the elusive Secret Pizza.

And the search was well worth it…

…as the New York style pizza was incredible…

…even for the more discriminating guest.

As the night wore on, the day’s activities started to wear on Kit and me, so we decided to leave this adult fairyland and head home. On the way back to the parking garage, I asked Jack if he wanted a souvenir to remember the day, and…he chooses this little beauty.

So, we purchased him a shiny red Ferrari! Well a 1:32 scale of one anyway.

On Saturday, the boys wanted to visit the Mob Museum in old downtown Las Vegas.

Kit and I toured this unusual museum a few years ago, but Jack and Tucker had not. It’s a fascinating collection of organized crime history, photos, and artifacts. Most folks, when they think of The Mob, envision organized crime in Chicago or New York City, however the tentacles of this nefarious organization stretch across the United States…

…including Las Vegas, where organized crime had enjoyed a foothold until the mid-1980’s. The city, wanting to appeal to law abiding folks and ease toward a more family friendly vibe, worked hard at minimizing the Mob’s influence. Some claim organized crime has been eradicated form the city…others are not so sure.

We learned that the Mob had a presence in California as well. This took the form of a fleet of derelict ships which were anchored off the California Coast where gambling, illegal alcohol, and prostitution was offered.

Photo from Google Images

Being in international waters and beyond the reach of the authorities, frustrated The Fed’s. So, in a stroke of genius, the boundaries were redrawn by court order, all the ships were seized, the operators and the patrons were arrested, and the ships scuttled, putting an end to the illicit operation.

An interesting item in the museum’s collection is this .38 caliber Smith and Wesson revolver owned by Al Capone.

Boy, the nefarious history that pistol has endured. This pistol only recently surfaced a good 73 years after the authorities put Scarface into prison for tax evasion…which was the only charge that the Fed’s could get to stick.

At the other end of the spectrum is this toy car from the Mob era.

The tales of Government Agents, known as G-Men, were widely publicized in print and featured in movie reels of the day, so it was common for youngsters to play “cops and robbers”. My brother, our friends, and I would run the canyons of San Diego with our Red Rider BB guns looking for imaginary bad guys. Oh, and a bit of loosely related and totally useless information, the term BB does not stand for ball bearing…but rather it’s the size of the lead shotgun shot the original BB guns used as ammunition…size B was too small, and size BBB too large.

The Mob Museum is housed in the old Nevada District Courthouse, and on one floor is the courtroom as it appeared in the 1920 and 1930’s. There are films shown depicting some of the more famous Mob cases tried in Las Vegas, which was entertaining to view.

Before returning the boys to their home, we stopped by The Black Bear Café for dinner. This regional chain has attracted the attention of the dining public due to their great service, quality food and quirky menu options, such as Breakfast for Dinner…

…which features entrees such as, Brisket Benedict with homemade Hollandaise Sauce, Cheesy Grits, seasoned western potatoes, and to help make the dish a healthier choice…a small bowl of fruit! And…yep, it was as good as it looked!

On yet another day, Kit and I made a pilgrimage to the famed Las Vegas Strip…

…which normally we have skipped during our many previous Vegas visits.

In order to facilitate getting around, we decided to purchase a monorail pass…

…which allowed us to smoothly glide from venue to venue above the masses.

First stop was the High Roller, an attraction Kit and I have enjoyed in the past.

At 550 feet tall, it is billed as the world’s tallest Ferris wheel. There are 28 cabins each with a diameter of 22 feet and mounted to the outside rim of the wheel. These passenger cabins are kept level during the 30-minute rotation by synchronized motors.

On a crystal-clear day, the views are spectacular. However even on a hazy day they rival most any other tourist attraction on the strip.

Later in the afternoon, Kit and I found our way to the Bellagio Hotel…

…for the popular water show…

… which on this day was choregraphed to patriotic music.

Making our way further down the strip I spotted this large sculpture…

…which would confuse the heck out of most youngsters.

Rolling up and down the Las Vegas strip, are dozens of mobile billboards.

Some on city buses, and others on dedicated electronic billboard vehicles that advertise “adult entertainment”. Not to be outdone, other organizations roll about…

…with messages of differing opinions.

Nearing dinner time, Kit suggested The Eataly a short distance away. This upscale food court features fine Italian (hence the name) cuisine. We enjoyed roast beef and chicken followed by…

…delicious pastries and cappuccino before returning to the campground just in time to enjoy the setting sun.

Goodnight!

One morning toward the end of our stay, I was making coffee as the sun was rising to illuminate the park. Looking to the west, I noticed a full moon hanging in the sky. Opening the campers rear window and screen I steadied my camera on the window frame and began snapping photos. Then suddenly a large cloud like image moved into the camera’s viewfinder.

Zooming the camera in, I could tell it was a flock of birds that were flying in a very tight formation, turning in unison and swooping through the morning sky.

They appeared to be photo-bombing the full moon as they kept coming into the camera’s viewfinder.

What a mesmerizing and spectacular sight! I’m not a bird person, although I have heard that I share a similar sized brain, but I’m guessing these are Starlings. I’m sure if they’re not, then my friend Florida Dave, a consummate wildlife photographer, will inform me…which I always appreciate.

Spent the rest of the day doing laundry and taking care of other mundane household chores before enjoying a fine dinner and a few cocktails.

Well, this brings our bonus 10-day stay in Las Vegas to an end. And, as if to bid us farewell…

…the sun put on another spectacular display.

So, where will the intrepid travelers end up next…stay tuned!

Kit’s Bit’s: We certainly enjoyed our additional time in Las Vegas. Our trip with Jack was fun! He had researched several things he wanted to see and fortunately, we were able to see all of them. Next time we come out here, we’ll have to take Tucker to The Strip. Our extra time in Las Vegas is always a bonus, as we revert back to our “normal” speed, Senior Speed!