Viva Las Vegas

My recent trip to Las Vegas left me with the urge to play Fallout: New Vegas, again, and about one hundred and fifty somewhat crappy photos taken with my mobile phone. I’m going to share some of the photos with you. Not because I wish you harm, but because I think some of them are less crappy than others and because they capture the aspects of Las Vegas that I really like.

When I tell people I got married in Vegas, they naturally assume I was pregnant and/or drunk. I made the decision with a sound mind and flat belly. Reasonably flat. Moving to the States carried a ten pound penalty that took me about ten years to shift. As weddings go, mine was very normal (except for the skinny dipping, but that could almost be normal). No Elvis impersonators, cheesy chapel of love, rented bouquet or rude honk from the car behind us in the drive-thru. No sparkly suits or vast quantities of flammable hair gel. No uninvited guests playing ‘Objection!’ right before the credits rolled.

The chapel we chose has since been bulldozed to make way for a beach club, but that’s Vegas. Some marriages do last longer than the memories. 🙂

Why did we choose to get married there? My husband is from Vegas. No, he’s not a compulsive gambler. Not compulsive, anyway. His mother is not a showgirl. And that’s kind of the point of this ramble. Vegas isn’t all it seems. It can be all about The Strip. The gambling, free drinks, sticky carpet and perks of losing all your money to a mobster with shiny teeth. If you want it to be. But the valley of Las Vegas has so much more to offer than empty pockets and a hangover. Step outside the glow of the pretty lights and you’ll see one of the most unique deserts in the world: The Mojave.

One of the highlights, for me, of any visit to Las Vegas is a day spent at Red Rock Canyon. Valley of Fire is equally stunning. Both are carefully curated preservation areas and the attached visitors’ centers hold a wealth of information. Before I start to sound like a travel brochure, I’ll get to the happy snaps.

Red Rock
Red Rock, Calico Hills. Red Rock Canyon State Park

The colour of the rocks at both Red Rock and Valley of Fire inspire a lot of happy snapping. (Ignore the washed out foreground. Just remember all these pictures were taken with a mobile phone. Don’t look at me like that!) This particular rock stands twice the height of my husband. For reference, he’s 6’3″.

Calico Hills
Calico Hills

I’ve climbed these hills a few times, now. The shape of the boulders and the challenge of the nooks and crannies inspire amateur rock-climbing and spelunking. There were some professionals there. We tackled the rocks with a lot less gear. We might have pretended we were playing Assassin’s Creed as we shimmied up between two almost vertical rock faces and squeezed through chimneys. My daughter all but ruined a pair of jeans. But we had a lot of fun!

Gaps
Gaps in the rocks, Calico Hills.

The day before, we visited another of my favourite places: Hoover Dam. Built in the early 1930s, it’s considered one of the seven wonders of the industrial world. There are many reasons why it qualifies; the amount of concrete poured, the thickness of the dam, the height, the audacity of the project, the fact it was completed in just five years. Five years. I think what astounds me is not only that the dam has paid for itself–it carries no construction debt–it continues to run at no cost to the tax payer, year after year. They don’t even siphon off any of the electricity they produce to run the lights inside. They have separate turbines for their own power. The place is nearly 100 years old and a model of efficiency rarely seen in the modern world. That, alone, makes it a wonder.

Dam
Hoover Dam.

We rolled a coin down the side. We lost sight of it somewhere at the bottom there. Actually, I lost sight of it about a second after my husband released it. Leaning over the side of the dam made me feel really, really sick. Naturally, my family teased me about the queasy feeling in my stomach for the next half hour. Then we went to look at a big, deep hole in the ground. Yeah, this didn’t make me feel any better.

Dam4
Spillway. Hoover Dam.

This is one of the spillways that carry excess water away from the dam. The gates to the spillway were open when we visited and probably have been for years. The lake is that low. The last time they were actually used as a relief valve was in 1983. Water thundered through this tunnel for over 60 days. Need some perspective on the width of the tunnel? Two semi-trailers could drive through side by side.

Lake Mead. Nevada.
Lake Mead. Nevada.

The white line on the rock shows the high water mark (1983). The dirt in the foreground is the bottom of the lake right in front of the spillway. It’s easy to see why the gates are left open. Water isn’t going to be covering that ground any time soon.

Here’s a view of that tunnel from inside the dam:

Dam3
Tunnel. Hoover Dam.

A picture of the turbines:

Turbines inside Hoover Dam.

This picture is a little shaky. Low light and a mobile phone camera. Despite the number of turbines–all of which were running during our visit–it was really quiet in there. Maybe less so down on the floor, but up on gallery, the sound was something like a hum.

Dam5
Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge.

The Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge is another engineering marvel. I don’t have any facts to share on this one, I was too busy clinging to the edge, trying not to think about how far from the ground I was. Even looking at this picture turns my stomach.

I have a lot more photos–another hundred and thirty? I’m not going to inflict them all on you today. Fair warning: I am putting together another little travelogue so I can show some more of them off. Until then, thanks for stopping by. I hope I’ve inspired you to visit some of the places outside the city of Las Vegas.

3 thoughts on “Viva Las Vegas

  1. Jenn Burke November 22, 2013 / 12:15 pm

    I don’t know if I’d even be able to approach the edge of the dam. Oh my god, that’s high up.

    Great pictures! The pictures of Red Rock Canyon remind me of the badlands in southern Alberta (where all the dinosaur bones live). That’s one of my favourite places!

    • sisimka November 22, 2013 / 12:17 pm

      Alberta is one of those places on my ‘must visit’ list. One day… 🙂

      • Jenn Burke November 22, 2013 / 12:18 pm

        I haven’t been back in 27 years, so it’s on my list, too!

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