Mile 2,177 - The Hoover Dam and Vegas
Back in ’79 Lex Luther created an earthquake so strong that it destroyed the Hoover Dam. Superman reversed the rotation of the earth, turned back time and saved not only Lois Lane, but also the Hoover Dam. When you are a six year old boy huge, crumbling dams are cool. Since that time I’ve always wanted to see Hoover Dam before another comic book villain tries to destroy it again. The good news is that with terrorism a real threat, they now inspect your car before you get to the dam. It will not be so easy for Lex Luther next time.
We didn’t spend a whole lot of time at Hoover Dam, but it was a decided destination on our road trip. History Channel documentaries fail to capture just how harsh and unforgiving the landscape of the Hoover Dam really is. The sheer size of it speaks for itself, but it is the place they put it that makes it a true engineering marvel. Above the Dam is the recently constructed Pat Tillman bridge. The bridge not only serves the highway system but also serves as a pedestrian/observation bridge. The Hoover Dam is high. The Tillman bridge is way, way up there. At the time of our visit the wind was gusting with such force that it would stop you in your tracks and take your breath away. I love looking at big, huge things, but I freak out in heights. Adding 65 mph wind to the mix didn’t help. I held on to Kiley, but I’m not sure if I was holding onto her for her own security or for mine. It doesn’t matter. We work as a team.
Apparently if you go to The Hoover Dam you either stay the night in Vegas or you sleep with the coyotes. At the time Vegas seemed like the safer choice. Now I’m not so sure. We are well aware of the Vegas reputation, but with some counsel from a few friends who have been there I was under the impression that it is indeed sin city, but you can steer your family clear of that stuff. I've been a student in New Orleans for the last four years. I know how to "steer" New Orleans, surely I could navigate Las Vegas. Wrong. Sin city means that the depravity is unavoidable.
We stayed at the New York, New York, which is probably the finest hotel I have ever slept in. If you are hotel geek, Vegas is your place. The size, themes, and history of Vegas hotels is truly awe inspiring. The problem is that the filth and depravity overshadows the splendor. We set out to make a simple trip to the Bellagio to see the fountains. The journey would require crossing a few blocks and a tram ride. At the first street crossing we were a part of a massive pack of people. When the “walk” sign lit up the dude next to us did a handstand and began to cross the street upside down. A guy walking the opposite direction knocked him down, words were exchanged. On the other side of the crossing a group of people in neon T-shirts that read “Girls, Girls, Girls” were handing out cards of nude strippers advertising their escort service. Those that didn’t want the cards threw them down thus covering the sidewalk with pornography. The first business we encountered on the new block was called The Inferno, or something to that effect. Two guys dressed up like Kiss as well as several scantily clad women fronted the restaurant. About this time Kiley had a mental breakdown thinking people were trying to take her away. We assured her that no one in Vegas wants to deal with kids, so she was safe. The next hurdle to overcome was The Monte Carlo. We were instructed to catch the tram there. Little did we know that “catch the tram at the Monte Carlo” translates “walk your family through the bastion of sleaze and infidelity.” It was hard to know what to do. I had the girls by the hand trying to walk them away from the filth as quickly as I could, so in just a matter of a few moments we were deep in the muck. If we turned around and went back we had to do so over a sea of pornography. If we went on would it get worse? Shannon described it aptly, “There are no exits in Hell.”
By the time we made it to the Bellagio and saw the fountains we were a nervous wreck. The fountains were awe inspiring, but when it was over we were sick to our stomachs knowing that somehow we had to navigate Sodom again. Yet somehow we made a wrong turn off the tram on the return trip and missed most of the sleaze on the first go round.
I hate Vegas. I will never go back.
The next morning we woke up early so we could do one thing, leave. I wanted to get to the mountains before the fire and brimstone began falling. However, if I did have a pillar of salt moment it was that I had to go by the Gold and Silver Pawn Shop, the store that serves as the subject of the reality show Pawn Stars. I do enjoy the show. It is about the only thing left on the History Channel that has any historical value. It is amazing the relics of the past that are traded in a pawn shop. What a brilliant and creative move by the History Channel folks. From watching the show, I was under the understanding that it was a 24hr pawn shop. I suppose in Vegas 24hr means that it doesn’t open until 9:00 a.m. Wanting to miss the brimstone shower we didn’t stick around to see. I got my pic. I am happy.
On to California . . .