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Travelling in the USA

Keep on rockin' in the free world!

sunny 28 °C

I bade the lovely Janet adieu at the Phoenix Sky Harbour Airport on her way to her fantastic-to-be Boston Marathon adventure. On my return to our Tempe digs, I thought, lots of kms ahead in our trusty Subaru Legacy GT! Through a combination of attending many Court Circuits in the Yukon, as well as a number of long road trips throughout the Pacific Northwest over the past years, I have certainly found myself "behind the wheel of this not so large automobile" encountering a seemingly endless supply of rocks and trees and water and plains and ... repeat...you get the idea.

Angus, Max and I headed out of central Phoenix on Route 60, which is a Northwest diagonal out of the Valley of the Sun. It takes a LONG time to break free of the gravitational field of Greater Phoenix. On balance, Phoenix is a good destination in the late spring for a sports-minded family, but the sprawl of the city is quite overwhelming. Canadian cities are generally not much better, but Phoenix may be in a league of its own as the city clearly was primarily built out, and certainly not up. The downtown core of Phoenix is very small, and, I understand some of the CBD is not very vibrant or desirable. Overall, not a city planner's ideal city, but, it seems to work...until the water runs out...

The drive to Las Vegas was reasonably uneventful. After temperatures in the high 80's to low 90's, we lucked out with a pretty mild, overcast day with intermittent showers. The desert landscape was stunning, with many spring cactus blossoms and general greenery, which I am sure, is fleeting as the 110 to 120 degree big heat of summer was approaching.

Downstream from Hoover Dam

Downstream from Hoover Dam

Prior to arriving in Las Vegas, we stopped at the rather massive FDR 1930's public works project, a.k.a. the Hoover Dam. Janet and I were there in around 1994, pre-kids, and it is still really big. Max and Angus were suitably impressed. There is a lot of Art Deco design in the statues and plaques and the concrete work as you walk across the top of the dam. It is very similar to the architecture of the Chrysler and the Empire State Building. The style is evocative of the power of human potential and ingenuity. This style was of course twisted and contorted by the totalitarian regimes of the time, but it is, in this context, a hopeful, optimistic, and forward-looking design.

Hoover Dam

Hoover Dam

We arrived in downtown old Las Vegas in the late afternoon. We stayed at a Best Western which was within walking distance of the Fremont street experience. We went to said experience that night. The concert music was various Queen songs, most of which the boys had recently heard at "We will rock you" in London.

The street scene confirmed the status of Las Vegas as the premiere adult playground. The variety and volume of large novelty drink containers was impressive. The most popular were modified hollow plastic golf clubs, which can conveniently double as walk stabilizers as the evening progresses, and biggish football goblets, which would not have the same utility, but could perhaps become the focal point of a rogue game of likely instantly wet touch football.

Excalibur in Las Vegas

Excalibur in Las Vegas

In addition, the fun for adults experience is enhanced by lots of cigars being consumed by novice aficionados, people taking advantage of the "loosest slots in Las Vegas", and the ever-present massive buffet offers. Of note, the tell tale clanging of coins is becoming a bit of a rare beast, as most of the slots run on credit systems, which do not, for the most part deposit copious quarters into the metal trays. I recall that noise being ever-present in our previous trip to Sin City.

Here is not a bad tip for families with kids between 10 and 14 in Las Vegas. Walk from the old town all the way to the end of the "new" strip. It is around 10 km and it is a pretty decent mix of exercise and sightseeing.

Our kids had not had a full breakfast yet, so they were developing a bit of a hunger when we stumbled upon the first Denny's experience of their lives, and let me tell you they were some excited. The perennial home of comfort food, Denny's has moved up/down the food chain, and you can actually have a somewhat healthy Grand Slam now. The boys had fun picking out the healthy alternative substitutes like the daily fruit selection or the egg white omelette. I know, kind of defeats the purpose, but it was fun, and, in any event, our eldest, Max is in his admirable " body is a temple" phase of his early teen life!

The day consisted of roaming the strip and surveying the concourses of the big casinos, pretending we were in Venice or ancient Rome, or New York, or vaguely 1950's meets ye olde tyme Merry Olde Englande at the Excalibur. The strip is generally on a rotation where the oldest casino is due for demolition and the next newest, flashiest concept rises from that casino's ashes. I think the one exception might be Caesar's Palace, which they appear to be renovating as they go. It really does have a massive footprint, with the mercantile mall section itself being bigger than many purpose-built malls elsewhere.

Just like Venice...on the second floor of a casino

Just like Venice...on the second floor of a casino

All in all, we had a good time, as the desert sun descended upon us. Sex, drugs and rock 'n roll (oh, and the occasional bit of gambling thrown in) is clearly the fuel that drives the Vegas bus, but there is no pretense that it is anything other than that. Is now and has always been...

Posted by clarkesabroad 12:32 Archived in USA Tagged hoover_dam las_vegas

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Good luck Janet. Lovely piece Nils. am constantly amazed by what you are seeing and doing and obvioulsy very jealous. Is there no end to the magical mystery tour? ! London and the Olympics alwasy here if you need rain, huge amounts of people, rain, unbelievable traffic jams oh and more rain!

by lindsay

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