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Posts Tagged ‘Las Vegas’

We’re on the road again, Charlize and I, this time with company. Alexis and her two Yorkshire terriers Mimi and Zsa Zsa are making travel even more fun. We left early Wednesday morning, the 4th of February. We crossed over Snoqualmie Pass in spitting snow but the road was clear. On the eastern slope the snow was heavier with spotty dense fog all the way to Yakima. Near Cle Elum in a patch of light fog the traffic was heavy and moving too fast for the conditions. I moved into the passing lane to get around a slow moving semi. A car came up fast and tailgated me. I watched in horror as a black SUV traveling west veered onto the median and went airborne flipping sideways at least three times, with parts of the vehicle separated and airborne. It landed on its wheels shuddering. There was only the soft median to pull onto and the car was still on my tail. There was a long line of cars on my right. I slowed and the traffic following swung around me. I glanced in my rearview mirror and saw that three cars had pulled off onto the right shoulder and all the drivers were on their cell phones. I was already too far away to get off the highway safely then get across to the median to offer any aid. I have Googled several times but can’t find any reports of a fatal accident at that location on that date. It was not an auspicious way to start our trip.

We pulled into Boise, ID that evening and checked into our first of many La Quinta Inns booked because of their dog welcoming policy. The receptionist offered dog treats, we call them “cookies” and at the mention of that word all three dogs commenced spinning. We enjoyed a nice dinner at the Alavita an Italian restaurant in downtown Boise only a few blocks from the State Capital Building. We decided that all the customers in suits and ties were lobbyists. If you are in Boise this restaurant is worth the effort and then some. Alexis and I always order different dishes and then share, it doubles the experience.

The next night we were in Ely, NV after a day of empty highways and empty spaces. We gained an hour back after losing it in Idaho. We got settled in the room then caught up with the local Ely Times and the Sherriff’s blotter, interesting stuff going on in tiny Ely. We tried to identify a place to eat but the choices were so limited we elected to eat some fruit we brought from home; the huge salads we consumed at lunch would tide us over.

All three dogs are now experienced car travellers. Whenever we stop they stay in the back of Whitey until their leashes are in place then take advantage of the first non-paved location we can find to do their business. Charlize taught the other two to take advantage of every opportunity.

Las Vegas, after a short drive, was Las Vegas. We walked the old part of downtown experiencing the low-rent Las Vegas. Then checked into our La Quinta before cleaning up and going to the “Strip” for some serious people watching and dinner. We discovered Vegas people watching to be a unique experience, on many levels. The casino staff people are interesting to observe since it appears their every action is calculated to obtain a gratuity. The slot machines draw an intense set of focused characters mesmerized by computerized spinning, flashing images. Blackjack players seem more social, more relaxed but still focused. All excitement focuses on the craps tables.

We wandered through the Cosmopolitan, where we took advantage of their free public parking, then the Bellagio. Mega casinos but we were there just observing. The problem was to try to escape the cigarette and cigar smoke. Apparently the people of Nevada are in denial about the adverse health effects of second-hand smoke. Maybe the casino workers have to sign some sort of legal document recognizing they are working in a hazardous environment and give up their right to sue. Our hotel was non-smoking though so perhaps the casinos have special dispensation.

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It was after dark when we finally arrived in Las Vegas. We enter town on a freeway I know nothing about, five or six lanes of rush hour traffic at 65 miles per hour. I have the mistaken idea that I can spot a hotel or there will be a sign for one. I will be able to pull off and check in.  I am quickly relieved of that ridiculous idea as the traffic worsens. I gradually inch our way to the right lane and take the first exit I come to. I obstruct traffic for seven or eight blocks looking for a place to pull off the street. I spot a parking lot and pull into it. Whitey, Charlize and I are all still whole, amazing! The hometown drivers continue to curse my out-of-state license plates and are, no doubt, glad to see me get the hell out of their way.

This time my new GPS comes through. I am less than a mile and a half way from a pet friendly La Quinta Inn. I follow the spoken directions and the map to the front door. I thank the device. I don’t know how I would have coped without it as tired and frazzled as I am.

I know for certain I am getting “long in the tooth” (that’s how one gestimates the age of older horses). A long drive and two nights in 50’s motels with less than comfortable beds and my shoulders and back are aching. The spacious La Quinta room includes modern plumbing that functions as intended and a comfortable king-sized bed. I’m living large. The folks at the front desk recommend a close by restaurant. After a nice steak and a long hot shower I catch up with the Winter Olympics. Charlize wolfs down the steak scraps that I mix in with her kibble. The Las Vegas room cost less than either of the previous night’s motels.

We are up early and on the road again by 7:30. I am anxious to visit old, familiar places in Arizona. We arrive in Boulder City Nevada and follow the signs to Hoover Dam. It will always be Boulder Dam to me. We stop to gawk, along with a surprising number of tourists. Lake Mead reflects the drought conditions of the southwest the water level significantly lower than I can remember. Charlize does her thing making friends with two young couples.

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I say hello and they answer, very friendly but speaking what I surmised to be a Balkan language. They have a few words of English but my zero words in their language make it impossible for me to find out what I am certain is an interesting story. I do understand when they ask for the dog’s name but I just leave it at “Charlie” too difficult to explain more.

Since Charlize doesn’t read she was unable to follow the directions stenciled onto the wall she jumped onto.

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Just above Charlize’s rump two lines are visible on the dam. The top line is the high water mark for Lake Mead. I can’t come close to guessing how much water is gone from this reservoir.

Next on the agenda is Oak Creek Canyon and Sedona. The sun is out and the outside temperature gauge in Whitey reads seventy degrees, this is my Arizona in February. In the late 1940’s my family used to go camping in the Oak Creek Canyon. Sedona consisted of a gas station and a general store. There might have been a dozen or so rustic cabins sprinkled along the canyon. Progress and population evoke change. The canyon now seems full of Inns and restaurants and summer homes all crowding in on the remaining campgrounds. Sedona is a huge tourist mall, crowded with cars, RV’s and people. I take Charlize for a walk. One of the places we pass advertises: “The history of Oak Creek Canyon and Sedona”. We did not go in so I have no idea what they were selling, maybe just providing free information, but my impression of Sedona is that not much is given away free. There I go again, complaining about “progress”. But I urge you to imagine what Sedona looked like before this photo. Note the landscape, the red rock formations poking over the clutter.

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Charlize and I are driving through southeastern Oregon and into California. The winter landscape is much like eastern Washington; rolling hills, windmill farms generating electricity, creeks and washes home to cottonwood trees bare and stark silhouettes in the winter sky. We drive past cultivated fallow fields but the rows cut with the slope, up and down rather than terraced, perpendicular to the slope to conserve the soil.

“Why do they cultivate like this?” I ask Charlize.

She doesn’t respond but I see her perk up her ears in the rearview mirror. We slow to twenty-five miles per hour through Moro, Oregon. Proudly emblazoned on the tall outside of the high school gym is an announcement that both boy’s and girl’s teams have won state championships. Even at twenty-five miles per hour we pass too quickly to note which sports or when the students accomplished those historic achievements.

Moro is obviously an agricultural community, the supply center for a region. Outside of town are sprinkler irrigated fields, the rolling wheels and attached sections idle, resting for the spring and summer workload of providing essential water to the dark soil. I see no indication of what is grown.

At mile marker 231, still following highway 97 south, the evergreen trees on either side of the highway show the scars of a forest fire. The charred, blackened trunks of the surviving trees bear witness to the conflagration but I spot only an occasional skeleton tree, stark against the sky. Judging by the size of the new growth trees the fire must have happened eight or ten years ago. Piles of logs not far from the road indicate logging activity but it is not clear to me if the scarred logs are being harvested for lumber or firewood and there is nobody around to ask. We are still about forty miles north of Klamath Falls.

We stop in Klamath Falls. Charlize has her walkabout and I opt for a slice of apple pie and two cups of coffee. The waitress is unable to shed any light on the mystery of the piles of logs we passed. I was getting tired. I presume, correctly, that the coffee and sugar fix will keep me going for another two or three hours.

It is almost six in the evening when we stop at the “Last Resort Inn” in Adin, California. It is another motel directly out of the 1950’s. The young, female clerk who shows us to our room welcomes Charlize. She seems anxious to engage me in conversation but my answers to her questions are dismissive and she gives up. I’m too tired to relate my story or listen to hers.

There is only one place to eat in Adin. The limited menu is displayed on the wall above the counter where I place my order for an “Ortega” burger, onion rings and a diet Pepsi. As I supposed the “Ortega” burger features a slice of canned poblano chili pepper wedged between the hamburger meat and the other accouterments, enough said.

Before we leave, early the following morning, I take this photo while Charlize takes care of her post-prandial business.

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On the road early again anticipating a long drive to Las Vegas. We motor through the Modoc forest with intermittent showers, gray, dark skies, mist and low hanging clouds hugging the trees before us. The empty highway twists and turns but before too long we are in Nevada, long, empty high desert valleys separating mountain ranges as we gradually progress south and east. As we climb up from the desert valley, devoid of interesting vegetation, we reach elevations above six thousand feet and observe Joshua trees scattered occasionally amongst non-descript, ground-hugging brush.

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The photo was taken through the driver’s side window while whizzing past at 65 miles per hour, amazing and this from Rosalie’s five or six year old, small digital camera.

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