"Happiness is a butterfly, which, when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you sit down quietly, may alight upon you."
– Nathaniel Hawthorne
Hello everybody. At the present time, I am in Sunny Chicago (NOT!) where it is a balmy 32 degrees and snowing. YAHOO! You gotta know how much I love this weather. I will be here for a week for a class called "Spirituality and the Family". Looking forward to it.
Anyway, let me get back to our Vegas adventure. We continued the week by visiting Ethel M Chocolatiers, which oddly enough, has an absolutely gorgeous cactus garden. It had every make and model of cactus you can imagine - - some very oddly shaped and some with funny names. Steve did a nice job capturing the name tags so you can see what I am talking about. This chocolatier is in the middle of an industrial park so it's not something you would ever put on the tourist guide, but it was fun and I am glad that we got to see it.
Another cool place that we visited was the Neon Sign Museum with our friends Chris and Bob Perrine. What a fun place. This museum is made up of all the old signs from the early days of Las Vegas and the stories behind them were a hoot. We also learned a bit about neon sign design - - if you want a letter to look brighter, put the neon on the inside of the letter. If you want it to be bigger, put the neon on the outside. (Hey, it was news to me!) We also learned that neon is very special to the city of Las Vegas and any establishment on the strip must have 75% of its signage in neon. Our tour guide was a riot and we baked in the sun there (it was 85 degrees that day) but we had a blast. From there we visited Ricks' Restoration (from the show on the History Channel). We didn't stick around for the tour but it was interesting to see him in person. He's a very nice guy and his wife/girlfriend, Kelly, was the photographer for the tourists who wanted their picture taken with Rick. Man, these guys really know how to exploit their fame. T-shirts, key chains, bobble head dolls, pictures with Rick, and a tour of his shop - - all available for a price. I wonder if he even does any restoration any more of is the tourist dollar his main source of income now? Who knows, but I wouldn't want to deal with that life, no matter how much it paid.
The next day we traveled over to the Hoover Dam with Chris and Bob. Our first stop, however, was the Mike O'Callaghan/Pat Tillman Bridge that was built to make traffic flow away from the Hoover Dam instead of across it. From this bridge, however, you get an awesome view of the dam. I am not sure why these two gentlemen are coupled and honored with the name of this bridge because from what I can tell, they had no interaction. Mike O'Callaghan was a former Governor of Nevada. Pat Tillman was a star college and pro football player who was killed in Afghanistan while on a tour of duty that he left the NFL to assume. No matter, the bridge is cool and the view was spectacular. The dam itself, originally named the Boulder Dam, was built in the 30's and provides electric power to 5 states: California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah. It straddles the Nevada and Arizona border and created Lake Mead. The water level of the lake is roughly 30 feet below levels seen when it was first built and with the lack of snowfall on the western face of the Rockies this winter, the water level is expected to be another 18 feet lower this summer. We toured the inner workings of this dam and it was really cool to stand right over the intake pipe (30 feet in diameter) that was providing the water for the generators. It's kinda creepy down in that dam and a little claustrophobic in some areas, but we had a great time. Steve and Bob were tempted to kick the earthquake sensor box just for laughs, but we talked them out of that. After that tour, we took a long drive down a very rough dirt road to get to the back country of Lake Mead. On the way, we passed bunches of these absolutely gorgeous orange flowers that looked like Gerber daisies. There were other desert flowers that I admired on the route - - purples, oranges, yellows - - SO BEAUTIFUL.
So, a trip to Vegas would not be complete without a visit to Fremont Street and a walk down the strip. We stopped to see the pirate show at Treasure Island (excuse me, TI as it is called now) as well as the talking statues at Caesars. Neither of these impressed Steve in the least. We were going to do the Bellagio fountains and the volcano at The Mirage, but it was late and we were tired so we decided to save that for another trip. Lastly, we cruised past The Pawn Stars' shop, which had a line to get in down the block and around the corner. Apparently, it was a filming day.
We said goodbye to Chris and Bob and headed west to San Diego, where we hooked up with Stevie and Aime (our youngest son and his wie). Steve and I were commenting on how we finally made it to California. Just 5 months ago we were in Homestead, Florida at the Nascar race, and now we are all the way across the country as far west as we could go. Yet another milestone of this trip has been achieved and we are clearly on the downside of our journey. Both of us are starting to get a little anxious and excited about our future and realize that in 7 short months, our travels will be over. But between now and then, we have Yosemite, Reno/Tahoe, Utah, Colorado, North and South Dakota, Wyoming, Idado, Montana, Minnesota and possibly Nebraska to visit. The remaining states (Oregon, Seattle, Oklahoma and Kansas) will have to wait for another adventure, possibly when we do Alaska (potentially in 2014).
Alrighty folks. Gotta get ready for class. Have a nice week. Keep warm!