My next stop was Elko, Nevada to spend a couple days with my cousin, so I headed out of Las Vegas about 1 PM as I had a 6 1/2 hour drive to make. Because I can not drive that many hours straight without a break and because that stretch of road is long and nothing for miles I knew it was going to take me longer to get there, plus I ended up feeling really tired and just needed to close my eyes for a bit, so at one of the rest stops I fixed myself some lunch and slept for about 15 minutes. After that I was fine but I did not get into my cousins until 9 PM that night.
The next day, Saturday, August 25th my cousin, Walt and his wife, Lynette took me on a drive to Lamoille Canyon….21 miles outside of Elko. Lamoille Canyon is a glacier-carved canyon in the Ruby Mountains and is one of the most beautiful ranges in Nevada. The scenic drive is just 12 miles one direction with self-guided interpretive signs describing the geology of the canyon. It’s hard to believe after traveling through much of Nevada that is desert, rock, dust and pretty barren that one would find this beautiful canyon. There are plenty of hiking trails to explore with Island Lake being an easy two-mile hike. I wish I was in better shape and did not have bad knees so I could do more hiking and get into the backcountry a bit more. In addition, there are places to camp as well as picnicking which is what we did, we brought some lunch and found a really awesome place nestled in among the trees after a short trail walk. A few weeks after my visit a terrible fire went through this Canyon so before you pay a visit be sure and check the updates.
I classify myself as an RV traveler, even though at times I am stationary for several months as I work at whatever current job I am doing. As I have mentioned in other blog posts I came to Phoenix in January of this year to take a job here. One of the things that I am lucky to have with this job is “flexibility”. One of the agreements I arranged with staying and working here was to only work 75% of the year so that I could go visit my family, friends and pursue my “adventurous” spirit. So with that in mind, I spent several months saving up funds to take a 5-week road trip which turned into 6 due to my car breaking down (more on that later). For this trip, I was not taking my RV, but just going in my car because for one it was cheaper and I was going to have plenty of places to stay the majority of the time. This was my first summer in Phoenix and the heat was downright miserable, so by the time August 23rd arrived (my departure date) I was more than ready to hit the road and get to cooler weather. On my departure date, I worked until 11 am……I had been packing for a couple of days so everything was ready to go except for a few last-minute items, so within a half-hour, I was in the car and on the road.
My first stop for the night was Las Vegas……The drive from Phoenix to Las Vegas is about 4 1/2 hours but I don’t ever seem to make it in the time frame that mapquest says I should. Maybe it’s because I don’t drive hard and make too many rest stops. I just like to drive at my own pace and take in the adventure and the scenery. To me taking a trip isn’t just about getting to my destination as fast as I can, it’s about the journey getting there. So for me to get to Las Vegas to my hotel was about 6 hours. I had booked a room at the Boulder Station Hotel and Casino online through “Hotwire” for $57.00. I had originally looked to get a room closer on the Las Vegas strip but the additional casino fees were expensive. Boulder City has the casino fees as well but they were cheaper. So anyway the Boulder Station Hotel and Casino worked out just fine. It was really nice, I had a big room with a king-size bed and my window overlooked the pool. I right away got into my swimsuit and went to check out the pool which was really nice also. The water was a little cool getting in but once in, it was fine.
Boulder Station was built on 27 acres at the corner of Lamb Boulevard and Boulder Highway. The site was chosen in 1986, as the company believed that the east side of Las Vegas was under-served and because of its easy access from I-515. Groundbreaking of the $85 million Boulder Station began on August 5, 1993. The project’s ultimate cost was $103 million. Boulder Station opened on August 23, 1994, with a fireworks show. It was the first new hotel-casino to open on the east side of Las Vegas since 1979. Boulder Station’s design is of Victorian architecture.
Day 2 – I was up about 9 AM as I had a ticket for 10 AM to the Neon Sign Museum which was only about a 10-minute drive from the hotel. Founded in 1996, the Neon Museum is a non-profit dedicated to collecting, preserving, studying and exhibiting iconic Las Vegas signs for educational, historic, arts and cultural enrichment. The museum campus includes the outdoor space known as the Neon Boneyard, a visitors’ center which is housed inside the former La Concha Motel lobby and the Neon Boneyard North Gallery which houses additional rescued signs and is available for weddings, special events, and photo shoots.
My next stop was to the Bellagio Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. I had my first visit to Las Vegas in March 2016 when I met up with my friend Becky from Washington to celebrate her birthday. We had 4 great days and did and saw so many things and one of our stops was to the Bellagio and I just loved the Conservatory. The Bellagio has 5 seasonal themes throughout the year and I wanted to see the new one on display which was called “That’s Amore 2018” which was a French/Italian theme and it was beautiful.
The Valley of Fire State Park was such an amazing, beautiful place! It was one of those places where the scenery and landscape just kept changing and dazzling me at every turn and bend in the road.
Valley of Fire is located in the Mojave Desert about 58 miles Northeast of Las Vegas. Valley of Fire is the oldest Nevada state park and was dedicated in 1935 and covers about 35,000 acres. Named for its magnificent red sandstone formations that were formed from great shifting sand dunes during the age of the dinosaurs more than 150 million years ago. These formations can appear to be on fire when reflecting the sun’s rays. A 10.5-mile road connects the east and west entrances to the park.
Rainbow Vista is a viewpoint where the road reaches the top of a low ridge revealing a vast area of multicolored rocks stretching for miles. Rainbow Vista was also carved from sand deposits 150 million years ago.
Seven Sisters are a series of stone formations that were once part of nearby red rock formations. These rock towers are all that is left after the relentless forces of erosion stripped away the surrounding sandstone deposits. Numerous “blow holes” in the formations forecast the eventual destruction of the towers that will take place many thousands of years into the future.
Viva Las Vegas!……..Wow! what a great week and a half I had here. So much fun!
I arrived in Las Vegas and hooked up for a late afternoon lunch with a childhood friend from my hometown of Truckee CA….I had not seen Vickie since she moved away during our Freshman year of high school. It was so great to see her and get caught up on each other’s lives and our families.
I then went to Sam’s Town KOA where I had reservations for my RV. This place was the best camping rate I have had on my whole trip so far. I basically ended up storing my RV here for a week since I was meeting up with my friend Becky from back home in Washington who has a timeshare at the Polo Towers just one block off the strip. It made more sense to stay there for the week where we had two bedrooms, my own bathroom, and a small kitchenette, a living room, kitchen and dining room, a swimming pool and a hot tub.
I arrived in Las Vegas first, Becky was flying in later that night. I found my way to the Las Vegas strip via a shuttle bus from Sam’s Town to Harrahs. I only had a few hours before it was going to get dark so I did not wander too far and I just wanted to get on the strip and just take it all in. It was just amazing with all the people, the grandiose size of the casinos and all the different shapes, sizes, colors, and sounds. I loved it! I made my way down to Treasure Island and tried my luck at gambling………No luck……. lost $40.00!
My friend Becky arrived later that evening, she picked me up in her rental car from Sam’s Town KOA and made our way to Polo Towers. We had so much catching up to do plus make our plans for the week that we were up till 4 A.M.
Here are random pictures of the Las Vegas strip during the week:
Here are other weeks activities:
Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area
Red Rock Canyon is located about 17 miles west of Las Vegas. A very easy, nice drive to get to. We took the 13-mile one-way scenic drive loop which was just beautiful. The best time to get there is in the morning before it gets too crowded. The area has miles of hiking trails, rock climbing, horseback riding, bike riding, and picnic areas.
Spring Mountain Ranch State Park
Spring Mountain Ranch is a small preserve within the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. I did not know anything about this place, but my friend, Becky wanted to check it out and I am glad we did. It has a really interesting history. The many springs in the mountains provided water for the Paiute Indians and later brought mountain men and early settlers to the area. In the mid-1830s, a campsite was established along the wash that runs through the ranch. The spring-fed creek and grassy meadows formed an oasis for travelers using the alternate route of the Spanish Trail through Cottonwood Valley. The use of the site by pack and wagon trains continued until their replacement by the railroad in 1905. This remote trail was also used extensively by outlaws involved in Indian slave trading, horse stealing and raids upon passing caravans. In 1840, a group of American mountain men and Ute Indians conducted a famous raid on the Mexican Ranchos in California. Mountain Man Bill Williams, a member of the raiding party, brought his band of horses through Red Rock Canyon where he rested the horses from the hard trip across the desert. Apparently, he revisited the area several times and for many years the site of Spring Mountain Ranch was known as the “Old Bill Williams Ranch”. In 1876, Spring Mountain Ranch was homesteaded as the “Sand Stone Ranch” by Jim Wilson, a former Army sergeant from Fort Mohave. In 1929, Willard George, a friend of the Wilson family, acquired the ranch by paying off the outstanding debt incurred by Jim Jr. and Tweed. George was largely an absentee owner, leaving the ranch operation to the Wilson’s. During 1941-43, the George family lived on the ranch. George was a prominent furrier in Hollywood, and during this time, he raised chinchillas in addition to the cattle operation.
In 1944, George leased (with the option to buy) to Chet Lauck, (Lum of the “Lum and Abner” radio show). Lauck exercised his option to buy the 520-acre oasis in 1948 and renamed the property the “Bar Nothing Ranch”. He kept the cattle operation going but built part of the ranch into a family vacation retreat with an expanded ranch house, a boy’s camp and a large reservoir that he named “Lake Harriet,” after his wife. He sold the property in 1955 to Vera Krupp, a famous German movie actress. She renamed the property the “Spring Mountain Ranch”. Krupp was the longest residing owner. She expanded the business of ranching by raising a large herd of a hybrid strain of white-faced Hereford and Brahma. She added a swimming pool and expanded the west wing of the main house. It was her principal residence until 1967. Sometime after that, Howard Hughes owned the place for a while. Three generations of Wilson men are buried in a small family plot on the ranch.
Springs Preserve is the birthplace of Las Vegas and is located about 3 miles west of downtown Las Vegas. Springs Preserve is 180 acres of culture and history that sits on the site of the former springs. There are exhibits, galleries, walking trails and botanical gardens that teach visitors about the city’s rich heritage.
The Origen Experienceteaches visitors about the spring’s early inhabitants. The Natural Mojave Gallery has interactive exhibits that explore the geological history of the Mojave Desert and the formation of the valley and springs. Visitors can play with fossils, see how desert animals adapted and learn about erosion. There is also a flash flood re-creation to show the danger of flooding in the area. Visitors are also able to see a variety of live wildlife that live in the desert…..the Gila Monster, Lizards, Bats, Snakes, Desert Cottontail Rabbits, Tortoises, and a Gray Fox.
The People Gallery focuses on the city’s cultural history and development. Visitors can see reconstructions of Native American dwellings, walk through a 1905 Las Vegas land auction and view actual footage from the construction of the Hoover Dam, and the arrival of the railroad which put Las Vegas on the map.
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The Nevada State Museum is a 70,000 square foot state of the art building that is within the Springs Preserve. The permanent exhibition takes you through Nevada’s geology, fossil, and desert wildlife. Visitors learn about mining to early settlers—minerals that were mined, tools and technology of the mining profession. The railroad boom, the formation of Nevada’s government and construction of the Hoover Dam. The museum takes you through the Native American inhabitants of Nevada, the Nevada nuclear test-site, WWII history, Bugsy Siegel and the Flamingo Hotel. Displays of old slot machines, neon signs and a $25,000 poker chip from the Old Dunes Hotel. A 1911 Desert Love Bug that is considered one of the most popular cars to cruise Fremont Street….used mainly for promotional purposes made its first appearance in a parade in 1939 and its last in 1994. The museum has an amazing collection of vintage showgirl costumes…..lining a large pink sequined wall, the costumes and headpieces are encased behind glass windows. The Museum also has revolving temporary exhibits that change every few months.
The last time I made the trip to Hoover Dam I was 14 years old. My uncle and cousins at the time lived in Boulder City and we had made a trip to see them. At that time we were able to drive across the dam, we took the tour and also spent time on Lake Mead. I wanted to return and see Hoover Dam again but due to the changes in the new freeway, security and congestion I chose not to drive on the dam or take the dam tour. Becky and I found in our research a museum in Boulder City that was only $2.00. This museum is small but so worth the $2.00. It was full of great information….. a movie about the building of the dam that was great, the displays and exhibits were well laid out to describe the social and economic struggles from the 1929 stock mark crash and depression that drove thousands of unemployed citizens from their homes into the Nevada desert where the Hoover Dam project was one of the few places where men could get work. Photographs, artifacts, and oral histories tell the story and give you a sense of the complexity, and danger of the construction of the dam. The museum also had displays and exhibits that showed how they lived ordinary lives in an extraordinary time and place, how the women set up their households in the sandy Nevada desert along the Colorado River and the dangers that the men faced in building the dam….an engineering project unlike any attempted before.
The museum is located in the Boulder Dam Hotel……The hotel was built to accommodate official visitors and tourists during the building of the Hoover Dam. It was designed in the Colonial Revival style. The hotel was restored and still operates with 22 rooms.
Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge
A new freeway opened across the Colorado River above Hoover Dam in October 2010 which rerouted US 93 from its previous route along the top of the Hoover Dam. The previous narrow, two-lane road could no longer handle the 14,000 cars that passed over the dam every day causing congestion. The road was dangerous with two hairpin turns, blind curves, and pedestrian traffic. There were also vehicle restrictions on the Hoover Dam, loaded trucks and buses could not pass over it. Since 9/11 trucks and other unauthorized vehicles have had to go through Laughlin, NV to cross over the Colorado River and other vehicles were subject to inspection due to increased security.
Since the building of the Hoover Dam was an engineering feat that had never been done before it seems fitting that the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge was also a new engineering feat. Construction of the bridge approaches began in 2003, construction of the bridge began February 2005. The bridge was the first concrete-steel composite arch bridge built in the United States and it incorporates the widest concrete arch in the Western Hemisphere. It sits 840 feet above the Colorado River and is the second-highest bridge in the United States. The new bridge is 4 lanes wide and has a pedestrian sidewalk which provides spectacular views of the Hoover Dam. To reach the pedestrian sidewalk there is a parking lot and interpretive plaza on the old road to Hoover Dam. The bridge was named for Mike O’Callaghan a decorated Korean War Vet and Governor of Nevada from 1971-1979, and Pat Tillman, an American football player who left his career with the Arizona Cardinals to enlist in the US Army and was later killed in Afghanistan by friendly fire.
Fremont Experience-Old Downtown Las Vegas
You can’t leave Las Vegas without visiting Fremont Street! What a fun place this was from people watching, free entertainment and street acts! A fun atmosphere!
Here are a few highlights from Fremont Street:
Light Show – The Viva Vision canopy is the world’s largest video screen, an awesome musical, light entertainment experience with a 550-watt speaker system!
Zipline-We did not go on the zip line but it sure looked like everyone who was doing it was having a lot of fun. The zip line runs the whole length of the canopy above everyone’s head. There is the lower “Zipline” which is 77 feet and the upper” Zoom line” which is 114 feet.
Vegas Vic stands to watch over the Pioneer Gift Shop
“Glitter Gulch” – A nickname given to downtown Las Vegas because of all its dazzling lights.
Golden Nugget Casino – is the home to the world’s largest nugget and the “Tank” which is home to sharks and other fish with a water slide running through it.
Heart Attack Grill – We saw this place but did not go in. It apparently is a one of a kind restaurant, there is a scale outside and anyone who weighs over 300 pounds eats free.
Binions Casino opened in 1951 and was the first casino in Las Vegas to have carpeting.
4 Queens Casino has been around since 1966
Fremont Hotel and Casino opened in 1956 and was the tallest building in Nevada when it opened.
Free entertainment and Street Acts
Before leaving Las Vegas I got to see another old friend from high school and my hometown of Truckee, CA. It happened that Joann and her husband, Scott were having a small family reunion with Scott’s family in Las Vegas and were in town the same time I was. We were able to hook up on a Friday night at the place they were staying at to catch up and had awesome BBQ elk. It was another great time seeing an old friend I had not seen since high school…. 42 years!