Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Las Vegas July 2010 Trip Report

Although Las Vegas wasn’t our first choice for going on vacation, we couldn’t pass up the room rates at the Orleans.  Located off the Strip, the Orleans may well be our favorite Vegas hotel.  In addition to the Obligatory Nevada Tax Revenue Collection Station (a.k.a. the casino), the Orleans has several nice restaurants, a bowling alley, a movie complex, and a huge pool and Jacuzzi.

So on Monday the 5th, we tidied up the house, cut the lawn, packed, and got Teh Kittehs, Basil and Gregory, ready for our departure.  On the way, I got my new shoes’ inserts properly adjusted; thanks, A Proper Fit!  Minor inconvenience: after going through security, I discovered I didn’t have my mp3 player!  No one had turned it in to the TSA.  Turns out I left it on my bed, and it was under the sheets after I made said bed.

Our flight was delayed slightly because of congestion at McCarran Airport in Vegas, probably with a large number of people heading home from the 4th weekend.  The flight, landing, and rental car pickup all went smoothly.  We rented a Chevy Aveo that did the job, but I kept hitting my head on the grab bar above the door.  Without the mp3 player, we had to content ourselves with the radio.  I love how so many stations advertise “no-repeat work days,” but they don’t tell you they repeat every song the next day, and often in the same order!

But we weren’t there for that.  After we got settled in the room, we partook of the pool, which was most refreshing despite the 104-degree temperature.  The hot wind warmed us up rather quickly once we were in the lounge chairs.  After dinner and some contributions to the Nevada tax base, we went to bed.

Come Tuesday morning, we decided to try out the buffet.  So, however, was everyone else, because Tuesday was a discount day for seniors.  We waited in line with a couple ladies who had gotten their coupons, then one of them gave us hers.  How sweet was that?  We passed the blessing along to our server.

After watching the first World Cup semi-final game, Sandy suggested we head out west to Pahrump, where she had once seen a patient.  The ride through the Red Rock Mountains was impressive, and then we came to Pahrump, a town spread over many square miles.  It’s probably best known for giving the world the enigmatic late-night talk show host Art Bell, who now calls Manila home.  According to Sandy’s patient, Pahrumpians (?) get tired of being asked about him.

I saw on a map that there was a small portion of Death Valley National Park that was located near Pahrump.  We didn’t find that (turns out it was located within a wildlife refuge), but we decided to continue into California and visit the park itself.  The rock formations were impressive, as were the salty floors of what had been an inland sea.  Deeper into the valley we descended until we reached sea level, then found the Furnace Creek Resort and the nearby Visitor Center at 190 feet below.  The temperature was a mere 120 degrees.  Sandy got us some water, which served one important function; it was wet.  Warm, but wet.  Time prevented us from seeing Badwater Basin, the lowest surface point in the Western Hemisphere at -282 feet.  Maybe next time we’ll come in winter, and allow ourselves more time!  On the way back, I fear I ran over a lizard on the highway.

Not surprisingly, when we got back to the hotel, we jumped in the pool again, even though 120 makes 105 feel cool by comparison!  But for reasons that were not disclosed, the pool was closed only moments after we entered.  Drat.  We contented ourselves with Fuddruckers for dinner.

The next day, we watched the other World Cup semi-final, and then headed northeast toward the Valley of Fire, a state park near the northernmost arm of Lake Mead.  About as seemingly remote as Death Valley, the VoF has been used as a setting for numerous movies.  It features all sorts of unusual red rock formations, many with holes in them etched by wind and sand.

I took a short hike through one canyon.  The sand was a bright orange and seemed to have the consistency of soft clay.  And then, on the cliffs amid what appeared to be tar, I saw the petroglyphs.  To this day, it’s not exactly certain what the Indians of that era were trying to communicate.  The other fascinating thing about the canyon was the absolutely dead silence.  There aren’t many places in the world that quiet.

As we continued through the park, more incredible scenes unveiled themselves around every curve and following every dip, such as Elephant Rock and the Seven Sisters.  I wanted to drive back to Vegas along Lake Mead, but the road was being extensively rebuilt, and a long portion was nothing but gravel.  So we turned around, backtracked through the park, and headed down I-15.  That night we had what may have been our best dinner of the trip, at Don Miguel’s in the hotel.

After all that gallivanting, we decided to chill out on Thursday.  We ventured out of the hotel for both breakfast (at the Black Bear Diner, where just about every jukebox song I selected skipped) and dinner (at Marie Callender’s).  But we did partake of Toy Story 3 in 3-D.  Very enjoyable, and I was a bit verklempt at the end.

On our final day together, we checked out of the Orleans and headed to Lake Mead National Recreation Area near Boulder City.  After having lunch at the restaurant on the floating docks, we boarded the Desert Princess and tooled around the lake, including almost up to Hoover Dam.  Lake Mead is well below normal levels because of ongoing droughts in Colorado and Utah, but it’s not at a record low . . . yet.  Unfortunately, the breeze was hot, so the air-conditioned interior of the Desert Princess felt good.

After we killed a bit of time and got dinner, Sandy dropped me off at McCarran.  My flight was delayed about 30 minutes because of equipment problems; some of the seats in the rear needed to be replaced, as did one of the landing lights.  Time seemed to pass a lot slower without my mp3 player.  The flight was smooth, and I spent most of it talking with a bubbly young couple across the aisle.  I soon learned they were so bubbly because they were drunk.  They were headed from San Diego to Reno for a 70th birthday party for the guy’s dad.

Sandy stayed behind to learn about creating a pregnancy center, based on one already up and running in Las Vegas.  So Teh Kittehs and I are bachin’ it for a few days.


big bro said...

I think I know what the petroglyphs say. "Vote no on proposition 121" or something close to that.