Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Las Vegas, Nevada (May 1, 2012- May 22, 2012)

Our temporary home for the next three weeks is Nellis Air Force Base in North Las Vegas, Nevada. Nellis is the home of the Air Force's famed Air Demonstration Squadron, the"Thunderbirds". Its RV Park, the Desert Eagle RV Park, is one of the prettiest and well kept military parks we have been to so far. It had everything one needs to include a very large, "grassy", fenced-in dog park.  Guinness, Rosco and we are going to enjoy this as much as we can.  Guinness and Rosco, especially, likes the grassy part.  It had been so long since they have had grass to do their business on.  They are in heaven, but first-things-first.

When we arrived on May 1st, we had to scramble to save the food in the refrigerator from going bad. With that problem in hand we pulled out the the next morning for the local Camping World. Naturally, it was on the opposite side of the city so it took a while to get there, but once there the serviceman found the refrigerator was down for the count.  A repair would take 3-4 days with one year warranty, but a new one would only take several hours with a three year warranty. The price difference would be about $300.  New One, Please!

We dropped the trailer and headed out to the Vegas Strip to re-familiarize ourselves with the city.  It had been almost two decades since we had been there together and that was when we got married.  More to come on that.  Anyway, the Boys had never experienced the thrill of this city and did they ever.  Just riding up and down the Strip several times their eyes were glued to everything that was going on outside. They certainly did enjoy it.

With a new refrigerator we now found our food stuff was much colder than we had before.  That's good.  We, finally, got settled in and spent the rest of the late afternoon at the doggie park and lounging around the RV.  Not the way I would like to have spent my birthday, but what the heck, it's really just another point in one's life and I have done enough celebrating my birthday in the past.  These days a simple "Thank You, from above" suffices for us perfectly.

The next entire week we spent catching up on email, sorting pictures, resting and re-organizing the RV for the next leg of our journey across America. In the second week we started to do some sightseeing in town. Like I mentioned earlier, we had been here before, but the whole town has had several major facelifts since then and it seems to be twice the size.

We started mid-morning walking the Strip and going through each casino.  That is a major effort in itself since there are so many of them. It took us two days to accomplish this.  Neither of us gamble so we did not stay long at each one, just long enough to take in their individual motifs. We enjoyed this very much for, at least, half of them were built since our last visit. I will not bore you with lots of pictures for I could not decide which ones to post.  I took well over 700 pictures in and out of the hotel/casinos along the Strip. Go there to see it for yourself.  This city has something for everyone and it is extremely family friendly. Not so dog friendly, though.  Seems the panhandlers, which were everywhere, ruined it for everyone else. This article explains it. Click on the following link: Animals Banned From Vegas Strip.

Our next excursion was with our Boys and it was into Death Valley National Park. The park is about 150 miles from where we were staying so we started out very early. It was a scenic, but desolate ride.  There were many stopping points and we did, sort of, a loop through the park. We and, especially, the boys were amazed at each stop with the different smells in the sand.  Lots of borax and salt along with other strange smells they had not experienced before.  They enjoy these explorations as much as we do.  They now can say the stood in the lowest point of elevation in North America, Badwater Basin, 282 feet (86 meters) below sea level.

On the way back to the park we took US 95 which took as legally close as we could come to Area 51.  Sorry, no extraterrestrial sightings.  All-in-all our day trip was about 370 miles and took us over 9 hours.  Tiring, but awesome day.

Notice the elevation....-190 feet below sea level.

Harmony Borax Works remains.

Salt from an evaporated lake.  Extremely salty.

Dry salt lake bed.

Leaving Death Valley

No comment needed.

Our last week in Las Vegas was doing maintenance on the RV and truck, mainly the truck. While traveling between Green River, Utah and St. George, Utah we noticed the front disc brakes chattering and fading a lot during the steep and very long descent of the the San Rafael Swell. Neither the brakes nor rotors had been changed since we purchased the truck in 2006 so it was time.

I inspected all four wheels while doing an oil change and lube at the airbase auto craft shop and found the rear brakes and rotors in very good condition, however, the front brakes and rotors were not. I went to a local truck accessory shop and found a pair of rotors, drilled and slotted, that many RVers used for their trucks in these mountainous areas. The brakes they suggested were ceramic mixed composite disc pads designed for heavy duty use. Since we had a lot of hills/mountains to go up and down before we returned to Georgia I figured this would suit our purpose. Once installed, I immediately felt the difference.  Good advice.  OK Rocky Mountains, here we come.

Just before we moved on, we decided to go into town late and visit the original casino area, Fremont Street.  It was a circus and free, except for the reasonable parking fee. A must see stop. From there we moved on to the Strip and the Rio Hotel/Casino to partake in their buffet and a show, The Rat Pack is Back. Needless to say the buffet was more than awesome (never again though, no self restraint) and the show was spectacular. Here is a link to a promo video: The Rat Pack is Back.
The video does not compare to the actual show and the group impersonates the originals so well you think you are watching them 60 years ago. Highly recommend this show.

Ok, one more visit to town.  Several decades ago Joyce and I flew from Baltimore, Maryland to Las Vegas, Nevada on a Friday morning for a four day stay. We had a purpose for the trip and it was not gambling. We arrived in the morning after a long delay in Cincinnati, Ohio due to aircraft maintenace problems.  With the aircraft fixed we continued our flight to Vegas. The route took us over the Grand Canyon and the pilot got permission to fly low. We, actually, flew below the rim of the canyon for a brief time and we could see, very clearly, rafters on the Colorado River, He banked the plane from side to side for everyone to see.  That was exciting, but once we came back up to approach altitude, we started to experience turbulence. Extreme turbulence.  The day was clear and very warm, so the thermals and high winds were play havoc on our landing. The last few minutes were very nail biting, but obviously, we landed safely, thank God.

We had a rental convertible waiting for us and drove to our hotel, the Luxor, and checked in. It had been recently rehabbed and it was stunning. We were like kids in Candy Land.  So much to see and do, but we had a mission. We got back into our rental car and drove into the town center to the Clark County Courthouse where we we parked and found the line waiting to get in.  This line was comprised of all kinds of folks in all kinds of attire.  Many had tuxedos and wedding dresses on, for you see, this was the line to getting a marriage license. It took about two hours, but we finally had our turn and obtained our license. Back to the hotel for a walkabout.

The next day, June 20th (first day of summer) we got our fancy duds on and made the short trip to the chapel.  We had chose the first and oldest wedding chapel in Vegas, the Little Church of the West. It was only a bit after 9 AM and it was already over 90F. No problem, at least not yet.

Upon our arrival we were greeted by the chapel staff and brought to a room to make sure we were prepared for the ceremony.  Joyce was primped and given the most beautiful bouquet of flowers and I was primped to make sure I was photogenic. Our march down the aisle began exactly on time and the Reverend (a real one) performed the beautiful ceremony. Afterwards they took many pictures and we went on our way. It was, actually, a wonderful, memorable experience. So, yes, we have a close tie to this city.

The church has since been placed on the National Register of Historic Places and will, forever we hope, be preserved.

Remember, if you click on a picture it will bring up all the pictures in a full screen format.

Tomorrow we will make our final trek west before we start heading north. From here we will travel through the Mojave Desert for a one night stay between Barstow and Bakersfield, California at Edwards Air Force Base's RV Park and then onto the Lemoore Naval Air Station RV Park in Lemoore, California. Hopefully, that will be the last of the desert we will experience for a long while.

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