Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Vegas, Baby!

Last month Dave and I traveled to his national bowling Las Vegas.  I have to say, I am not a Vegas kind of girl and can think of all kinds of places I'd rather visit than Las Vegas but Dave assured me there were plenty of things to do in Sin City.
Case in point...Sin City Knit Shop which also happened to be our first port of call!  This lovely knit shop was south of the strip near our hotel--how convenient!  We stopped in very quickly on our way from the airport to the Hoover Dam.  It was such a quick stop that I didn't even take pictures of the interior!  The staff of this shop was so friendly and helpful and once they learned we were staying nearby and in town for a bowling tournament, they invited me to come back and hang out and knit.  I didn't of course because I was petrified to drive there myself and we only had our rental car for two days.  Those two days were kind of regimented as far as what we did so as to get the most use out of the car.
I bought 4 balls of their shop dyed worsted yarn, a ball of shop dyed fingering yarn, a skein of lovely tweedy Cascade slow changing fingering yarn and this awesome shop logo 3/4 length sleeve t-shirt.  They gave me that awesome needle gauge in the shape of the famous Welcome To Fabulous Las Vegas sign.  They also had shop shirts that said, "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" but they didn't have them in my size so I will have to check back with them because I want one.  Awesome shop.  I'd be happy to do mail order business with them any day.
We left the yarn shop and headed directly to the Hoover Dam.  We arrived and paid the $10 to park the car and were expecting to take the full tour and pay $30 each.  Once we arrived, we were told the Dam Tour was sold out for the day but we could take the Powerplant Tour for $15 each.  At this point, may I just say I couldn't help but snicker every time I heard Dam this and Dam that because I am eternally 12 years old and they take advantage of this joke!  Anyhoo, I did my homework before this trip and there wasn't anywhere you could make reservations for the Dam Tour so I suppose you just have to arrive early.  We were happy with our Powerplant tour though.  You sit in a theater and watch a short film about the Dam construction and then you're sent down a stomach lurching elevator to see the original diversion tunnels and these turbines.  I never realized we'd be on the border of both Nevada and Arizona at this location.
You're then shot back up the same high power elevators to the observation decks.  It was so bright that day and all these photos were taken on my phone so I had a hard time seeing what I was filming.  I never did get a decent shot of the entire Dam.  That crescent shaped area at the bottom of the photo is the ceiling of the turbine room we were just in.  The entire tour took about 30 minutes.  You heard a lot of information in their little spiel and they answered all the group's questions.  They were constantly counting us and kept us on a short leash.  It was interesting too that there were international visitors here because I heard German and French being spoken by different groups.  I felt very patriotic visiting the site.
This picture was taken standing on the Dam itself.  I remember watching a PBS special all about the building of the Dam during the Depression despite the dangerous and awful working conditions and the engineering wonder it is.  A coworker of mine toured the dam a few years ago and someone said they'd heard workers literally dropped over dead from the conditions but they just kept pouring concrete and the men were just buried in the structure.  Their tour guide answered simply, "That's a Dam lie."  HA!
Las Vegas is expensive.  Holy Cow is it expensive.  Like I said I did my homework and I am a tightwad.  Taxis are expensive.  Food is expensive.  ATMs are expensive.  We'd gotten a taste of this in Reno because hotels with casinos don't want you spending time in your room, they want you spending money in the restaurants and drinking and gambling in the casinos.  Surprisingly we had a refridgerator in our room so we stopped at a grocery store in Boulder City to get some snacks and Diet Coke and also to just check out a grocery store in Nevada.  I love grocery stores!  For my kitchen souvenir on this trip, I bought a bean masher since we were in the American Southwest.  This sign greeted us in the parking lot of the store which was appropriate because the heat did not mess around.  Also I thought it was cute because the dog looks like Zak!
The following day we had an appointment at the Neon Museum for our tour.  This was my absolute favorite thing we did on the trip.  Like I said earlier, I am not a Las Vegas girl.  I am not a gambler.  My drinking days are behind me.  I have no desire to pay that kind of money to see the people performing out there.  I know that makes me sound incredibly snobby but it is just not my kind of town.  I do love the idea of 1960's Rat Pack Era Las Vegas.  That Las Vegas is long gone but if you want to experience a little taste of that, go to the Neon Museum and Boneyard.  The La Concha Hotel is no more but their beautiful lobby has been saved and now lives on as the lobby for the museum.  In excitement and haste, I totally forgot to take pictures of the building so I stole this picture off the internet.
This non-profit organization collects and displays all kinds of classic Las Vegas signage in their boneyard.  They offer both day and night tours but you MUST book ahead if you want to take this tour.  The night tours are more expensive than the day tours and fill up faster but bear in mind the signs are not illuminated as they were originally wired, they are lit via floodlights.  Seven signs have been restored to their original glory.  Part of the museum's mission and fundraising purpose is to restore the neon signs one at a time but it is an expensive undertaking.  What I love about the signage is the branding and iconic legacy they immortalize.  In the picture above, almost anyone could identify the yellow four pointed star from the Stardust logo or the R from the Sahara font.
The entire tour took about an hour and distance-wise would be like walking around the perimeter of my house but you heard so much information about the evolution of Las Vegas and not just the casinos.  My only gripe about the tour is you had to stay with the guide (which is not a bad thing) but you could not back up more than 15 or so feet to take decent pictures of the boneyard which isn't a big deal unless you're fussy like me.  I took pictures constantly.  My parents went to Vegas quite a few times before us whining kids came into the picture and Mom really enjoyed looking through these because she remembered and knew quite a few of these now defunct hotels. 
Hotels in Las Vegas have a limited life span if they aren't successful so it seems.  Boneyard is a very fitting term for the museum because it is just remnants of signs and quite often these are the last remaining fragments of the hotel/casino.  This organization had a fabulous gift shop and my loudest feedback was to make it available online.  I would have bought way more stuff if Dave hadn't been there to reign me in!  All the the tacky shops on the strip sold the same stuff whereas this shop sold stuff I wanted to own or I'd give as gifts.  They are sitting on a goldmine that can benefit their non-profit organization if they open up their shop to an online marketplace.
We stayed at Southpoint Hotel which is south of the strip.  It was a lovely and affordable hotel and self contained.  By self contained I mean that there were several different affordable restaurants and eateries all in the same building.  Dave went out a couple nights to play poker in their casinos but I stayed in most nights in our room to watch PBS!  Dave teased me saying, "You're the only person I know who'd come to Las Vegas to watch PBS!" but they had a great PBS station!
After we turned the car in, we used the excellent RTC bus system to explore the strip.  Our hotel offered a shuttle to and from Mandalay Bay which was the very edge of the strip, maybe an 1/8th of the way up the total strip...for $7 each way and it left once every hour.  There was a city bus stop right outside our hotel and it cost us $2 to ride to Mandalay Bay where we could buy a 24 hour all access pass from an automated machine for $8.  I'm a tightwad and not going to pay for a $40 cab ride down to Fremont Street or $14 for a shuttle ride a few blocks to my hotel.  We walked a lot of the strip to explore the different hotels and casinos and their themes.  The city bus came along every 15 minutes so you never had to wait long when you got tired of walking.
I had to laugh though because as tropical and lush as it appeared, if you looked closely the grass was all fake! 
This was the only time we were out on the strip.  I wanted to stop in to Guardian Angel Cathedral because the architect was the same man who designed the lobby of the La Concha and I liked the sixties spacey look of it.  The rosary I bought here glowed in the dark which I thought was very appropriate for Las Vegas.  Once you get this far up the strip near the Stratosphere, the area gets kind of sketchy so we rode the bus the rest of the way to Fremont Street.  Souvenirs are cheapest there and I'll admit, there are some freaks up there but I liked Fremont street because that is old Las Vegas.  The El Cortez, The Four Queens and The Golden Nugget are just a few of the oldies that are still up and running there.
We didn't go crazy for souvenirs because we don't need shot glasses, ash trays or dice clocks but we did get a few t shirts and I was excited to go to the ABC Store.  We frequented these when we visited my brother while he was stationed in Hawaii years ago.  I bought some black lava and kiawe smoked salt and totally got hassled at the airport because I packed it in my carry on bag.  I also got 3 packages of these wonderfully tacky Las Vegas Strip napkins and my mother and I had a cream tea yesterday with them.  We felt like really classy broads!
And of course there was a little bowling!

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