Sunday, May 20, 2018

Heading North!

We got to cross a couple of items off the bucket list on our way North. We had been meaning to hit Basin and Range National Monument for a long time, but somehow never seemed to be in the vicinity. Managed by the BLM it has no real services. But it does have a treasure trove of ancient rock art. On the way to Ely we hit White River Narrows which has rock art galore.

We also found the usual historical but not ancient rock art. Employees of the railroads as well as those of the US Geological Survey would often mark the areas where ancient rock art was found. While this stuff is in essence graffiti, since it dates back to the late 1800’s or early 1900’s, park management considers it to be historically significant.
We also stumbled on the visitor center at Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge. Water in the Pahranagat Valley resulted in it being a haven for ancient agriculture. As Europeans moved into Nevada Territory, the lush environment most of the year drew them as well. Long before Vegas became Vegas this valley supported permanent settlements that have not been able to stand the test of time. 
When we finally got to Ely we discovered that the Silver State Classic Challenge had all the venues booked. The Challenge began in 1988 as a showcase for vintage racing cars. Today it draws serious racers from around the world. The Silver State Classic Challenge holds the Guinness World Record for the fastest car race, when in the 2017 race the fastest car was clocked over the entire 120-mile course at an average speed of 219.643 MPH – smoking!
We dined in style in Ely at the Jailhouse Steakhouse. In our own private cell, we were served a delicious 16 oz Ribeye with all the fixins. Luckily, we could leave when we were done by just paying the bill.
Talk to you soon!

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Too hot - we're outa here!

Well, it got too hot here, so we’re heading North to Alaska as they say. So, before we took off, we wanted to get a big dose of Vegas to tide us over until we return. Our first stop was Fremont Street and the famous canopy. The second White Castle Hamburger joint to grace Las Vegas wound up under the shade of the Fremont Street canopy.

Fremont street has its charms. It’s always busy down here because you can walk out of one casino main door and just be steps away from another casino. On the Strip, when you leave one casino main entrance, the next main entrance could easily be a mile away. While Fremont is a bit ragged and borders on seedy, even I get a chuckle out of some of the street folk vying for your money to take a photo with them.
To get the complete experience, we took in the two largest gold nuggets on display, where else, but in the Golden Nugget Casino. We thought it appropriate that the 190 ouncer was named Robin’s Nugget, but they refused to let us leave with it. We took in the mural painted by our friend Laura McCubbin (Chambers back then) at the old Amtrak Station at the Plaza Casino. And of course, I couldn’t pass up the only actual piece of the Berlin Wall on display at the Main Street Station Casino – however the Woman took a pass on this attraction.
We took Karen and Albert to see Mat Franco’s magic show for her birthday. Mat, an Americas Got Talent winner, plays at the Linq Casino, the old Imperial Palace. In order to add new stuff by still keep the old hotel tower, the Linq is all cut up, and finding your way around, especially from the self-parking garage, it quite a challenge. Fortunately, they have installed some very informative signage.
We have been reveling in the current success of the Las Vegas Golden Knights in the lead up to, and so far in the Stanley Cup playoffs. We have seen at least some portion of all their games, and most of the games we have seen with Karen and Albert. Tonight’s venue for taking in the Knights was The Claimjumper.
Speaking of having Golden Knights fever, even the Statue of Liberty at the New York New York Casino couldn’t help but join in the fun. We hope this heavy dose of Vegas will tide us over until we return in December.
Talk to you soon!

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Reaching

It’s getting hotter and hotter in Vegas, and we are running a bit short on ideas of things to do. Since outdoor activities are becoming less comfortable, we decided to reach a bit and take a tour of Republic Services lone recycling center in Southern Nevada. Thank goodness we won't be here in the desert too much longer!

What I thought was a photo op prop turned out to be the real thing. Each of the recycling trucks are equipped with two drivers’ seats – duplicate steering wheels, gas and break pedals, the whole thing in duplicate. That way the often-lone driver can use the automated arm on either side of the vehicle to pick up and empty the bins on the curbside, regardless of which way he or she is traveling through the neighborhood!
We learned how labor intensive the process is. Although they attempt to use various machines to separate and bundle the different types of material – paper, plastic, glass and metal. Some amount of separation is done by machine, but in the end, nearly everything has to run by a human in order to be properly separated. It’s hard to believe just how intensive it is.
Most of the recycled material is sent overseas. While it would be nice to think we would just use the results of all our recycling effort here, it turns out that the US pretty much has no manufacturing capability to reuse paper or even aluminum cans really. Republic sells what it can overseas where recycling manufacturing capabilities (or maybe just cost structures) exist. Interestingly we learned that there is no real market to recycle glass bottles. They are just crushed up and put in the landfill.
All in all, it was an interesting tour, and we learned a lot about how to make recycling work.
Talk to you soon!

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Grand Canyon West


We hadn’t been to the Hualapai land on the Colorado River since we first moved to Vegas in 1995. So, we picked a slow day and headed out there on a 2 ½ hour drive. Unlike 20 years ago when we went, the Hualapai have taken business advantage of their location and made it a major attraction, with a major attraction price. When we arrived, we learned you could no longer get near the canyon rim by car as we used to – you had to park, buy a $50 entrance ticket, and ride shuttle buses to any of the overlooks. Luckily, they had a kennel where you could park the puppy for a while or we would have had to just turn around and leave!
Despite the massive development, the gift shops, the restaurants, and all sorts of gimmicks to part you with your dough, we enjoyed the visit. The shuttles got us easily and quickly to everywhere we needed to go. The overlook views were still stunning, and we managed to spend an appropriate amount of time enjoying the canyon. It’s not quite as spectacular as the South Rim in Grand Canyon National Park, but it’s still awesome!
The only surprise was that with all the people crawling all over the canyon rims, there is not a single railing or barrier to prevent folk from casually slipping over the edge. It must not happen or there certainly would be some, although suing a tribal nation might not be that easy to do. We got pretty close to the edge in a few spots, but pretty much kept a few feet from the edge just out of a sense of caution – or fear! I know I will wake up having height dreams for the next few nights.
I couldn’t make the hefty drive out here and not take in the Hualapai’s new Skywalk. They built a horseshoe shaped unsupported walkway out over they have dubbed Grand Canyon West. The surface of the walkway is clear plexiglass. They would not allow you to take any cameras or cell phones out on the Skywalk as they wanted to use it as another way to part you with your dough – sell you some photos. I know its really hard to pick out on this photo the Woman took on her phone, but the dude in the bright green shirt is me on the Skywalk. I thought it would be scary and I might have to force myself out onto it, but it was actually quite pleasant, and the views of the canyon between my feet were breathtaking.
The road to and from Grand Canyon West travels through a Joshua Tree forest that easily rivals Joshua Tree National Park. I actually think that the Joshua Trees are denser here, and maybe greener than I remember them being in the National Park. However, that may be because it is April, and both the spring rains and cooler spring temperatures may be the cause.
Talk to you soon!

Monday, May 7, 2018

More Lifers and Vegas bonuses

We have taken advantage of the April weather to visit our daughter Karen frequently and walking around Stone Lake where she lives. On our last visit, we wondered whether we were back at the South Padre Island Birding Center – Karen asked us what the bird was she saw next to the path, and we told her that it was a Green Heron, which we had only ever seen in SPI. We were telling her about all the other species of Heron that hung around SPI, and lo and behold, in another marshy area we spotted a Night Heron – unbelievable!

A few days later we took the pooch on a walk along the paved hiking paths in the Seven Hills Development. We had done some of these trails the last time we were in Vegas and enjoyed it a great deal. We think that there might be a conspiracy going on to get us to want to return here after our wanderlust wanes. The Woman spotted a bright yellow bird in her peripheral vision, and when it settled down, it turns out it was a Hooded Oriole – another bonus!
Then, back at the RV Park, we spotted what we are pretty sure is a Hepatic Tanager. We think we may have seen this guy in a fleeting glimpse last time we were in the Park but couldn’t get a picture of him since he wouldn’t sit still. We saw on the Henderson Birding Center website that they are a rare sighting there in the spring, so we are deciding this is a Lifer ID.
While doing some birding in Spring Mountain Park we spotted another photo session for a young Hispanic girl in her Quinceanera dress. This particular dress may have been even more spectacular than the ones we frequently spotted in the Brownsville area.
Talk to you soon!

Friday, May 4, 2018

Mr. Las Vegas


We’ve driven by here routinely for nearly 25 years and had even driven by occasionally for the previous few decades. Casa de Shenandoah is the high profile historic home of perhaps the most iconic Las Vegas entertainer, Wayne Newton.

The extensive VIP tour of the grounds was really fascinating. We always wondered why there was an airplane on the grounds, and in the tour, we learned why. Back in the day when he toured internationally, he bought a private Fokker 28 jet, and completely made it his home away from home. Decades ago the FAA determine the Fokker 28 as originally built was underpowered and banned it from landing in US airports unless its engines were upgraded to a more powerful model.
Since upgrading it would cost more than buying a new plane, Newton left it where it last landed, in Oakland International Airport. When he decided to convert his home into a museum, he had the rotting jet disassembled, refurbished, transported to his Casa and reassembled for his guests to enjoy a stroll through Newton history.
His home was impressive, but you have to remember it was built in the 1980’s. You can tell it was special at the time, but it looks very dated now. Mr. Newton no longer lives in the house – it is essentially a museum to house all his memorabilia he collected over his very successful career. He has cars, paintings, awards, costumes, instruments and other interesting things that go along with his success. All of it was fun to explore.
The best part was that his stables are still all on location here, as well as his collection of Arabian horses that he has bred. We actually got a private demonstration of some of his prize horses and got to stroll through the stalls and see them all. For the Woman, that was clearly the best part!
Talk to you soon!