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”.

2 thoughts on “Bill and Kit’s 2020 Excellent Adventure, Journal #6

  1. Extending your LV stay was a great idea…. I loved the black/white sunrise…beautiful and unique…. You tugged at my heartstrings…again… with the visits to the Red Rock area and Hoover Dam. I took that interior tour 30+ years ago. So interesting…I do love the southwest! … The wax museum has been added to my list!

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