Viva Las Vegas! and so much more…..

20 Nov

READER BEWARE – THIS WILL BE A LONG READ!  A cup of coffee or something stronger may be required to sustain the reader to the end of the entry!

An overnight stop in Williams Arizona set us on course for a trip alongIMG_2621 Route 66. It just happened that we had the choice of driving the interstate or meandering along the old road, we like to meander!


It was just as you imagine, a long straight road seemingly to nowhere! An odd house or two and we did pass through a small town trying hard to keep the spirit alive.

Eventually we arrived in Kingman, a dormitory town for the distribution network of warehouses dotted along this part of the Interstate. Our good friends KOA took care of us for the night and we caught up on washing and produce shopping in preparation for the week end.

Our route to Las Vegas was to take us over the Hoover Dam, something RoberIMG_2640t had been looking forward to for a while. A bridge is in the process of being built and when it is, cars will no longer drive over the dam itself. Security checks take place on the approach to the bridge and we were pulled over while two security guards looked both inside and outside our vehicle, this completed we drove to an overlook parking area but were surprised by the size of the dam, we had expected it to look bigger. The construction work above was fascinatingIMG_2651 and the view from the completed bridge I think will be spectacular. It would be good to come this way again in a couple of years to experience the new drive, we did not visit the exhibition centre as the road was so busy and parking made it difficult for us to stop any length of time.

After taking ourselves on a city mystery tour(we missed a turning) we arrived at the Circus Circus KOA campground around 3pm, well placed in the heart of the city to visit the lights but unfortunately we were backing on to a very busy city road.We also overlooked the Stratosphere Tower and watched the ride which climbs the upper tower bounce up and down a few times, making my tummy turn just watching it!  With information from the office we set off to buy tickets for the Duce bus which runs the length of The Strip and through to down town and start our explorations.


There is so much to see we knew we would not see it all in one night. Surprisingly The Strip was not as busy as we expected, we rode the bus to the Mirage building and decided to walk from there. Entering the Mirage we were fascinated by the rows of gaming machines and tables, however lots of them were empty, the recession has hit Las Vegas pretty hard.

Caesar’s Palace was one stop I wanted to make, it was vast, I had always imagined it being a theatre, that was what I knew it for, however we found the same huge gaming hall dominated the interior along with an up market shopping mall. Along the street we spotted high in the sky the top of fountains and moved towards their direction. Robert for some reason decided we had to go inside Bellagio to find them, we found more gaming tables… when we eventually found the area we think the fountains were in there was a large pool of water in semi darkness.. think we missed the show.

A huge new complex called City Centre being built including a Mandarin Oriental Hotel, long off finishing we had to negotiate the builders walkway to travel further down the road. Our aim was to get to the very new venue for Hard Rock Cafe, a favourite from visits to Japan and Hong Kong I knew we would get food there to suit our veggie needs. A two storey building only opened a month ago houses a retail area on the ground floor with all the usual Hard Rock souvenirs and on the first floor a huge dining area, walls lined as always with various memorabilia, a Roger Daltry fringed waistcoat took my eye as we waited for service, looking around their was an Elvis wall  (of course) and a wall with computer images of various memorabilia tumbling down it and disappearing to reappear in a different place (you have to see to understand I think) fascinating.

We easily got seats although we were told we had arrived at a good time as earlier their was a huge line up. Our server introduced us to our interactive screen next to our table where a touch screen allowed us to vote for the music being played and view pictures of memorabilia owned by Hard Rock but held at other locations, a search facility allowed us to look up our favourite groups. Roberts favourite Van Der Graff Generator did not appear and he feels this should be corrected ASAP. We had great fun attempting to get our choice played and were successful a couple of times even if one was a cheat when our server went around the empty tables pressing all their buttons too, so we could here Eddie Grant, we gave her a good tip! Oh yes, we also had good veggie burgers and drinks, paying a little extra to take our glasses away as souvenirs, Roberts beer glass was a special opening edition which he is very pleased with.

Back outside we wanted to catch the Deuce to the downtown area and Freemont Street so waited by a stop for almost five minutes before the bus arrived, Robert checked it was going to Freemont Street, the driver looked back a little blankly then said ‘ Your on the wrong side of the street mate!’

On arriving at our destination we found we had timed it just right to see the free light show there, we did not know what to expect and watched a street artist painting pictures with spray cans while we waited for whatever was to happen. At 9am the lights darkened in the arcade and the domed roof became illuminated with a rapidly changing mural of pictures depicting scenes to P1030346 illustrate the song played in the background which just happened to be one of my all time teen age favourites (sorry kids)  American Pie by Don McLean – I was lost in a world of coloured lights and singing along with lots of other overgrown seventies teen agers! I would have loved to stay for the ten pm session which was a tribute to Queen with We Will Rock You, I am positive the singing would have been louder for that one! Another time maybe.

We rode the Deuce back to Circus Circus and wearily made our way through its interior to the campground. Too tired now to take in any more. We had a busy day ahead tomorrow and needed sleep.

Aviation Nation

Our ballooning friends have their homes in Las Vegas and had told us about an air show at the Nellis air force base just north of the city. An annual event Aviation Nation is one of the largest air displays in the US. I have to confess I thought I might be bored, but knew how much Robert wanted to go. We arranged to meet Aggie,George,Sandy and Jim there so took haRVey to the free parking at the Speedway Stadium. The parking was being marshalled by young military personnel who took one look at haRVey and did not know where to put him amongst all the cars on the huge parking space, initially ushered along the line the point came when we had to be dealt with and a slightly more mature young man instructed us to park in an open area while he consulted his superiors. We finally got parked on the edge of an aisle, an ideal position to escape from later in the day. A short walk then a  security search led us to the shuttle buses which were rapidly filling and moving away to deposit their passengers a mile or so away at the air force base, an admirable operation carried out effortlessly, we were impressed.

It would be best at this point for me to direct those interested in the detail of various air planes etc to Roberts picture blog

He will do a much better job than I will to describe what we saw. I want to say IMG_2835however I was not bored for one second of the whole day and soooo impressed with the displays from the Patriots and Thunderbird teams. This was my favourite manoeuvre, this is the Thunderbirds climbing vertically into the blue sky in perfect line one below the other. Also a great photo from Robert, it is not easy to capture images when the subject matter moves so quickly.                 

Of course I should also mention the company we were with, the three men like little boys chatting about the various aircraft while Sandy Aggie and I enjoyed the spectacle and eating popcorn. George had been able to obtain tickets for the Thunderbirds VIP enclosure for us all where we mingled with family of the crew. We were delighted to be introduced to the Maintenance Superintendant of the Thunderbirds team, who despite being very obviously busy took time out to chat with us all. Great people, a great day!

The display over we queued for the return shuttle and despite what looked like a horrendous wait we were very soon on a vehicle and back at the car park. George and Aggie had kindly offered us a parking space for the night on their drive. The drive was JUST big enough for us to fit between the gates and thanks to careful instruction by Jim and myself Robert parked us up. We then realised there was not much room for people to negotiate around to the house, we emerged from the bush behind the shed without too much damage to us or the bush.Susie and John, friends of Aggie and George joined the party and we had a fun evening chatting together.

Sunday Fun Day!

George and Aggie had kindly offered to take us out to see the real Las Vegas, the place they call home. Red Rock Canyon a few mile from their home is a favourite hiking venue for them and other locals. It was difficultIMG_2871 to believe this wonderful red rock landscape was so close to the neon lights of The Strip and George was able to educate us with some of the fascinating geology of the area.


We ate a great lunch of omelette and pumpkin bread at a local cafe, fuelling us for an afternoon drive over to Valley of Fire State Park, yet another wonder of this areas geology.


This rock took my eye, I am sure I see a pelican, his neck hunched down on IMG_2891his shoulders he is sitting looking skyward. Well he is more believable than the elephant we tried to find , we think he may be a little weathered over the years since he was named

IMG_2882Four friends had a great day out, lots of chat, lots of laughter, a learning experience together.

IMG_2926However this was not the end of our day, Aggie was determined we should see places she felt we had missed out on our visit to The Strip. Having already had a long day driving George took us to park at Bellagio. Walking towards the dark pool of water we had seen on Friday night we found lots of expectant visitors crowded around the edges. Quite shortly the music began and the water started to dance, a wonderful display, like fireworks with no smoke, shooting high in the sky and sparkling in the coloured ligIMG_2919hts of the surrounding buildings, fantastic, so pleased I did not miss this!

Then into Bellagio to see something we completely missed, we saw the wonderful coloured glass flowers on the ceiling while looking for the doors, but, just to the right was a magical garden, like a fairytale land decorated for the IMG_2910autumn festival of colour, I so wish the children could have seen the magic trees with eyes which seemed to follow us, I am sure they had a microphone listening to our conversation as the eyes seemed to respond to what we were saying. Giant pumpkins over 800lbs in weight surrounded by smaller gourds and decorative plants clothed the ground around the trees, hanging from the roof beautiful autumn coloured glass leaves. This scene changes with the season so soon it will be a Christmas wonderland a delight for all ages I am sure.  We had one final look at the fountains before we left, taking with us great memories and a lasting image of a city I did not really want to visit.

Another evening with Aggie and George and a night on their driveway. We said Goodbye to them finding it difficult to know how to express our gratitude for all they had shared with us. We so hope that our paths will bring us all together again our lives are richer for the friends we have made over this past few weeks.


Highway 95 took us away from the city lights and past the outer areas of Nellis Air base. Our first glimpse of Death Valley was in the early afternoon and I felt a much bigger Wow than for the Grand Canyon. We dropped from around three thousand feet to not much above sea level into the flat bottom of the valley. As usual the information centre was a first port of call. We were able to use our National Park pass yet again, it has by now paid its way. With our sticker attached to the screen we drove to the Stovepipe Spring campground for the night passing through desert and sand dune areas along the way. Stovepipe Spring is a small cluster of buildings in the desert, no electricity or water hook ups on the basic campground but for $30 they were available at the private resort, as that was all that was different about the two areas we opted to dry camp.

Next morning we drove to a dirt track further north and the entrance to Titus Canyon  where we parked haRVey and walked up the trail of the narrow canyon IMG_2970 which becomes a wash in the rainy season. The coloured bands of rocks twisted and contorted by the massive pressures and heat exerted on them by the earths forces when the land was evolving are exposed within the canyon walls and we spent some time observing and wondering about them.

Large distances need to be covered between each area in the valley, after our hike we drove over ten miles to a vantage point high above the salt flats anIMG_2987d had some lunch before taking the cut off back to Furnace Creek area and Sunset Campground.


We had seen some information regarding a Leonid meteor shower around the 17th November and thought being out here with no city lights we may spot something however the information centre knew nothing about it so we did not know what time to look out. We did have a look and the stars were far brighter, the milky way easily visible but no meteors.

There are so many trails to explore into the rocky canyons some only accessible by four wheel drive but Mosaic Canyon was 2.4miles of reasonable gravel road from the main route. We parked haRVey and soon were within the narrow walls of the canyonIMG_3000 where the fun began. The trail was mainly a gravel wash but quite shortly the marblIMG_3002e side walls reached down to the floor and a little clambering was required, the smooth surface was easy enough to negotiate going up at this point but I could already appreciate we could have some fun sliding back down again.                                   


IMG_3003We walked on and the canyon opened up to a wide rough gravel floor, the conglomerate and marble rocks either side still fascinating us, smaller red green and grey rocks captured within a mud like cement now as hard as the individual pieces themselves. The rocks began to close in once more and another contortion of marble scrambling lay ahead.IMG_3005 I managed to push and scramble my way up the first obstacle, Robert, with longer stronger legs easily navigated his way up. We stood chatting to another couple attempting the same route for a few minutes, all needing a rest, the gentleman like Robert was able to scramble up the next smooth uplift, the lady was having some difficulty and was about to slither back down when I gave her a little encouragement from ‘behind’ with my hands. She was most appreciative!

Robert also scrambled up, now my turn… much as I tried I could not get a grip high enough for me to push IMG_3017myself up to the top, the sheer rock was so smooth from both  the water flows of previous storms and the countless hikers scrambling over it, that strong or long, arm and leg muscles were required, mine did not match the job and eventually I gave up. I even tried pushing up backwards wedging my feet on either side, but to no avail. Quite disappointed I let Robert walk a little further while I stIMG_3012ood and built an offering to the gods in the hope that next time they would look on me kindly !

IMG_3021I still had the fun bit to look forward to at the bottom of the canyon, this would make up for my disappointment for sure, although Robert reassured me the upper part I did not see was just more of the same.IMG_3038


We have been surprised how fascinated we have become by the rocks and IMG_3044 how the formations came to be, learning some, working out other bits for ourselves, the landscape here is so raw, by reading and going out and observing at close quarters it is so easy to begin to piece together the jigsaw, once again we are thoroughly enjoying a new learning experience.IMG_3055


A very late lunch followed, we were very hungry after all our exertions and our day was not yet over. We parked haRVey near to the sand dunes, for those who think a desert is all sand dunes, it isn’t here. The dunes make up a tiny part of the  valley, but all the same are a very imposing feature, and we wanted to walk on them. We timed our visit to coincide with the last hour or so of day light when the shadows are at their best, quite quickly my shoes were so full of sand it was difficult to lift them (could be my legs were also a little tired) the sand was very inviting, I took off my shoes and socks and walked bare foot in the dunes, a lovely feeling, better than on the beach. It was only later I considered the fact that snakes, scorpion and other creepy bitey things could have been hidden below the surface! IMG_3063 We stopped to look at the dried up pools of water with cracked mud on the surface, it reminded me of a potters waste pile


Animal tracks show that the cool evening brings out the local inhabitantsIMG_3070

It was so tempting to keep going, just another dip, up another ridge, just to get a better view. We kept an eye on the time, I did not want to negotiate our way back in the dark. We made our way on to the ridge of IMG_3105a dune around the half way point and walked along the top, the view was …..  not describable with words!

As we made our way back we realised we had been joined by photographers who were setting up cameras to capture the sunset and others just taking in the view. The name Death Valley conjures up an image so far from reality of this beautiful if barren landscape.IMG_3120

I think by now you may have need for a break in our progress, I hope you have enjoyed this long write up as much as we enjoyed the experiences. As I write this we have left  Death Valley and are en route to Mojave Preserve and Joshua Tree National Park. There is one last bit to relate to you about Death Valley, but that will have to wait until next time!


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