Thursday, April 20, 2017

Doug's Birthday Weekend ... Vegas Style

It seems kind of funny that a someone who has never put his hands on a slot machine or played a round of poker would be in a position to celebrate his birthday weekend in Las Vegas.

But, since our favorite gifts are experiences and not stuff,

... and our travels brought us to the area,

Let Doug's Vegas Birthday Weekend Begin!

In order to get to Vegas, we had to drive through the Mojave National Preserve ... that is, over 100 miles of desert nothingness. 

Never been in the "middle of nowhere" quite to this extreme before ... a little thrilling and a little terrifying. Like, this is REALLY neat until the Wildebeest got a little overheated on one of the long climbs, and we end up on the side of the road. Then a tiny bit of panic sets in.

But Doug, calm as ever, let her rest and cool down and then gently coaxed her on ... all the time keeping his eye on the temperature gauge. We arrived in Las Vegas without further incident, but Doug was already formulating a repair plan.

Since the Wildebeest was cooling her jets at our new home, Las Vegas RV Resort, I knew that Doug needed to cool his jets also.

So off to start his birthday brewery tour. During the long weekend, we toasted to Doug's birthday with the crafts of six local breweries: Bad Beat, Crafthaus, Sin City, Ellis Island, Lovelady, and Boulder Dam. Happily, Doug was able to add to his coaster collection. Sadly, Doug found most of the Las Vegas craft beer to be just "average". Lovelady Brewing was the only one that brewed more than one IPA along with a few other intriguing styles ... making it "flight-worthy".

   Having achieved a "chillax" mode, I seized my opportunity to convince Doug to become a Vegas tourist.

We meet the "sweetest" people in Vegas!

The Pinball Hall of Fame

Based on the recommendation of a friend, our first stop was the Pinball Hall of Fame. Years ago, Doug bought his own pinball machine, Fish Tails. He and the boys spent many hours flipping the balls at the lit up targets ... and I spent many hours listening to the annoying yet catchy music.

As a part of our downsizing, Doug put many hours into refurbishing it before selling it to another pinball "wizard". He was happy to find his beloved Fish Tails at the Hall of Fame and play a few games again. I, too, was overjoyed to get that Fish Tails tune stuck once again in my head as I got drawn into the game!

After $10 of pinball fun, I convinced Doug that EVERYONE needs to experience the Las Vegas "Strip" once in their life ... and he made me promise that it would only be once. Let the mingling with thousands of colorful, interesting, or just plain unique people begin!

The Vegas "Strip"

Among the "once in a lifetime" sights ...

Bellagio Conservatory and Botanical Garden
Real gondola rides on the canal inside the
Venetian Casino
A chance to spin the wheel
to win a fortune ... Doug resisted
Finding the perfect birthday treat ...
a solid pound of chocolate peanut butter bliss!

Buildings and lights ... sights and sounds ...
and, of course, Elvis appearing on every other corner!

OK, we did the "Strip" ... now on to the neat and natural reasons to visit Vegas.

Red Rock Canyon

About 10 miles west of Las Vegas is the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. When we arrived late morning, there was a long line of cars waiting to get into the park in order to drive the 13 mile loop around the park and access the hiking trails.  We decided that we had enough of crowds on the "Strip" the day before, so we drove two miles up the road and did our own hike.

We found the Oak Creek Canyon Trail and experienced the beauty of the canyon with none of the crowds. After we had finished our hike, we found that the lines into the park had dissipated, so we went in. As we drove around, we were able to appreciate the bold rock formations, 

... as well as the delicate beauty in the area.

Lake Mead and the Hoover Dam

To the east of Las Vegas lies Lake Mead National Recreational Area and the magnificent structure that created the lake ... Hoover Dam.

We were interested in seeing the lake and also checking out the public camping areas that surround Lake Mead. The beauty convinced us that "boondocking" in this area is definitely in our future.

It doesn't look like it from here, but Hoover Dam, like Red Rock Canyon, was also bustling with tourists that day. For $10 we parked and walked on, over, and around the dam taking in the sights from all angles. Admission to the Visitor's Center is an extra $10 a person, and $30 will get you in for a tour ... if you arrive before the tours sell out. 

Lake Mead side
Overlooking the Dam

Colorado River side

But, see that bridge in the distance?

It is free to park near the Mike O'Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge and walk on the pedestrian side of the bridge to get possibly the best perspective of the Hoover Dam ... without having to deal with the crowds that flock to the dam.

While it was fun to feel like we were a part of the "spring break" crowd, after three days of go-go-go, we needed a "break" from the tourist mode. We recharged our batteries by celebrating the Easter joy with the local Las Vegas community. Slowing down and reflecting on our blessings was the best ending to Doug's birthday weekend!

After that Doug convinced the Wildebeest that she can "climb any mountain" ... or at least get us up through the Virgin River Gorge while still keeping her "cool".

Currently, we are in St George, Utah getting the cooling system looked at and some routine maintenance done. While John and his talented mechanics at Kristi Diesel work on the Wildebeest, we are taking advantage of being near Zion and Bryce National Parks.

Until next time ... celebrate with the ones you love ... and enjoy the adventures in your life!

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