Nevada…Las Vegas, Baby!

WELL, I’VE ONLY BEEN TO VEGAS ONCE prior to this trip, with my husband and daughter (only about a year old at the time) — um, that’s a quarter of a century ago, by the way! We stayed at a Thousand Trails campground (kinda like a camping pyramid scheme…pretty much expensive–but legit & it served it’s purpose for us with a preschool-age child) and we happened to be there when the area was invaded by locust (katydids?). Pretty much, all I remember is a lot of crunching when I walked anywhere–that, and the deafening noise they made, day and night. We didn’t gamble, didn’t go to any of the shows…it was merely a layover on a much, much longer trip.

So, I was really looking forward to this trip to Vegas last November. Not only was I going to get to see relatives that I only seem to see at weddings and funerals (…why is that, anyway? I won’t go into that. Nope.), but also, I would have the freedom to do exactly what I wanted. As long as it fit into the newlywed’s plans. That was okay by me.

As I was saying, I was looking forward to this trip. The beauty around the Monterey Peninsula and Salinas Valley is fabulous. Within an hour of my home, I have ocean, lakes, streams and creeks, redwoods, groves of pine, oaks, stretches of grasslands, spectacular mountains (certainly not by continental divide standards, by mountains, nonetheless) with expansive vistas of multiple counties, even a little high desert terrain.

But, Nevada is desert. Dry, stark beauty. Mountains sharply silhouetted against clear skies. Vast sparkling lakes, deep and dark. So different from my home turf.

Please remember that each picture is my property and require permission from me before you may reproduce in any fashion. Please play nice.

Last rest stop in California before heading into Nevada

Last rest stop in California before heading into Nevada

Last Rest Stop in Calif, another view

Last Rest Stop in Calif, another view

Miles and miles of nothing but dirt, scrub brush and mountains ringing the long strip of valley I was driving through as I headed to Vegas.  Then I saw a group of strange towers–I cannot remember what they are–someone did tell me afterward, and if I recall correctly, they are some sort of solar tower arrays.

Strange Structures, in the middle of nowhere...I believe they are solar towers of some sort.

A series of strange structures (3-4), in the middle of nowhere…I believe they are solar towers of some sort.

Close up of strange tower--I believe it is a solar tower.

Close up of strange tower–I believe it is a solar tower. (I took this one on the way back home, near dusk)

Then, bang! Civilization…without even seeing the sign, I knew I was in Nevada–that entire ‘town’ consisted of casinos and hotels.

Miles and miles of miles and miles of desert, then, suddenly--civilization!

Miles and miles of miles and miles of desert, then, suddenly–civilization!

Yes, I was there for my nephew’s wedding to a lovely young lady, and yes, it was a wonderful service. The time we spent together was memorable–even thought my point n’shoot (pns) camera was being a royal pain (didn’t want to lug the good one around inside the casino), so my photos didn’t turn out the way I wanted–my bad. I think my iPhoto shots are better than the pns–lol. At least they present me ‘triggers’ for great memories. That’s fine. We saw magnificent meals…I wasn’t bored, but occasionally, I found the Painterly side pop out & grabbed my camera.

Painterly Side Showing in Vegas

Painterly Side Showing in Vegas: reflection of my glass of wine on table cloth

Some amazing shows–I missed the Friday night performance, but did not miss Saturday’s “O”…and I do need to go back for other Cirque du Soleil performances (they are truly amazing!!!)–but the craziness that makes Vegas Vegas had me trying to stuff the impulse to flee the town every couple of hours…and that is putting it mildly.

View of Vegas from my 6th floor window

View of Vegas from my 6th floor window

Above and below, views out my window. I was on the sixth floor. I could hear the roller coaster going at all hours, with the occupants screaming and yelling. Sigh.

Vegas hotels across the street, including a roller coaster, looking out my dirty 6th story room window. I could hear the screaming and yelling from the ride's occupants at ALL hours...sigh

Vegas hotels across the street, including a roller coaster, looking out my dirty 6th story room window.

I deliberately made the drive from home to Vegas in two days and kept making mental notes of places I wanted to see on the way back…mistake. Mental notes have a tendency of getting lost, just like notes scribbled on scraps of paper. Sadly, I could not remember the places I wanted to go…and ended up taking a different route home. Sigh. (Note to self: write these ideas down in your iPhone ASAP so you don’t forget next time!)

While I was in Vegas, I made plans to escape into the outlying areas (several times, to keep my sanity). Their version of the suburbs. Clusters of homes with sprawling red-rock mountains and various forms of cacti as their landscape and backdrop. It was like a magnet. I’d seen the red-rock mountains when I was coming into Vegas and knew I wanted to investigate. Delicious fresh air, reasonable temperatures (November, remember) and beautiful scenery. I found myself at the gates to Red Rock Canyon National Monument.

Red Rock Canyon National Monument

Red Rock Canyon National Monument

I was so excited that I forgot to clean the lens (that made me very sad, indeed!)

Red rock formations proliferate the Red Rock Canyon National Monument

Red rock formations proliferate the Red Rock Canyon National Monument

 

I took advantage of my ‘senior’ age (all of 62 years young) and purchased a lifetime pass to all National Parks in the US for a mere $10. I then found myself in the midst of the breathtaking beauty that makes up the desert. I didn’t want to leave. Nope. But the newlywed schedule required I return way too soon.

Cactus and Yucca in the desert

Cactus and Yucca in the desert

So, I had to say adieu for the time being. Back to Vegas.

Red Rock Canyon Nat'l Monument from afar

Red Rock Canyon Nat’l Monument from afar

On my next (and unfortunately the last photo op) outing, and though the Red Rocks beckoned…pulling ferociously at my heartstrings, I chose to go to Nevada’s portion of Lake Mead and the Hoover Dam at the Arizona/Nevada border. From the stark, dry landscape of Vegas’ outlying areas…to more stark, dry landscape, with an illusion of an oasis. The lake, at the water’s edge, was the only area where plants actually flourished. A stones throw away, the desert. It was very interesting.

Lake Mead from the Vistor Center

Lake Mead from the Vistor Center

Cactus at the Lake Mead Visitors Center

Cactus at the Lake Mead Visitors Center

Views above is from the visitors center at Lake Mead. Views below of the Hoover Dam.

View of Hoover Dam exhibit area from the pedestrian bridge overpass

View of Hoover Dam exhibit area from the pedestrian bridge overpass

Hoover Dam, looking down into Lake Mead

Hoover Dam, looking down into Lake Mead

Lake Mead boat launch & marina

Lake Mead boat launch & marina with stark mountains as a backdrop.

Even thought history is not ‘my thing’, I enjoyed perusing the exhibits at the visitor center and at the dam itself. Unfortunately, by the time I’d trudged up the stairs (oh, mistake!) to the dam overpass viewpoint, I was lagging in energy, so I didn’t put much effort in taking many photos. I only made it 1/4 of the way across the dam on foot then, turned tail, retreating to my car in exhaustion. What you see here are the photos I did manage to take.

I will be back to Red Rocks. The pull is still strong, but timing (weather wise) will need to be managed carefully. I will not be staying in Vegas, even though I plan on attending another Cirque du Soleil performance–there are at least seven of them…three of which I would love to see…I will stay in one of the smaller outlying towns. I don’t need the glitz that Vegas lavishes (at a cost) on it’s visitors. I’ll stay with the simple folk.

This turned out to be a long post–my apologies, but I hope you’ve enjoyed the photography and my musings.

Note: as I am posting these photos, they are looking blurry–they are crisp shots, so I don’t know if it’s my eyes or WordPress that has distorting them 🙁

Until next time, have a blessed week.

 

Wanderings…

(I ‘found’ this draft recently, when I was finally able to get into my blog. I am working on another entry right now, but thought this would be fun to post before you see the next one.)

WHETHER IT IS MY MIND OR MY WHOLE being that is doing the wandering, I find it fun to explore.

I’ve done a lot of travel recently, and will be doing even more in the near future. Sometimes it all gets jumbled in my mind…where I’ve been when…and for how long. Little trips close together are the worst. If I have to consult the calendar, does that mean the trip was not a memorable one? Of course not! It just means this poor brain has become very dependent on the “portable brain” (aka iPhone calendar) for much of the “trivial” things like dates and places to jog the great memories to the forefront.

When I do physical traveling, there are always sights to be seen, new things to experience–even if I’ve been there before, I am always able to find something new. Always. And within the physical travel, well, there will always be mental wanderings…it just cannot be helped. My mindful meanderings can take me anywhere, which is a delight in itself. I may meander into the minefield of my writings, fraught with anxieties of how to proceed. Or perhaps I might find myself dodging through the lists of things that need doing.

…wait.  I did say my wanderings were a delight, right?  Well, even with the anxieties and lists, I find comfort in knowing things will get done, perhaps not right away, but they will get done. And, usually, within this state of mind, I am able to iron out some of the kinks and hiccups in my storyline or lists, knowing how and where to proceed.  Once those anxieties and lists are confronted, my mind can meander into memories of books recently read–reliving the adventure, or even just let my mind float around in dreams. And there’s always trips to be brainstormed or memories of past travels to explore in my mind.

My recent travels began with Pleasanton: two days of heat (oh, my…lots of heat!), Celtic food, Games, and music with friends…and more food.  Aaah…the music. Celtic music

Celtic Drummer

Celtic Drummer getting into the beat (for some reason, the drum was cut out of the photo–sorry!)

goes to the soul.  The drums.  Oh, yes!  My friend introduced me to a new band that was playing–I love Taiko (Japanese) drumming, but this drumming (amplified and accompanied by other instruments) was truly amazing! Here’s where the mind comes into play. The drums, for me at least, allow my mind to dance…wander freely. Like a release from the constraints of daily life. I always feel lighter after listening to this type of music. More alive, revved up.

The lines to buy their music (my heart sunk when I was told ‘cash only’ once I got to the front) were long, long, long…I was saddened that I didn’t have enough cash since I always refuse to use ATMs that pepper large events like this. So, I do plan on getting the music online…one of these days. It won’t be the same, playing the CD on my player…just won’t be the same. Sigh. But, it will allow my mind to free up all the clutter, become refreshed so I can dig back into my writing, or my art with new eyes.

The Seattle trip was mostly to see two very special friends that I met in Monterey when Lynne and I were learning German at Monterey Peninsula College. We became fast friends and even when (soon after class was over) she and Dan were shipped overseas, I managed to make a visit to see them in Europe. We had great fun, leaving me with lasting memories that continue to make me smile. Now, Dan was retiring and throwing a retirement party. I didn’t want to miss this, so I hopped on a train (without a sleeper berth) to Seattle. Again. Plenty of memories. Plenty of experiences. Some I do not wish to repeat, such as acquiring a sinus infection from the long train ride (aggravated by my stupidity, as I kept my face in the smoky presence of a fire I was trying to rekindle in a fire pit–just a day before the long journey home). It still lingers, but I am feeling much better…most of the time. It will eventually subside completely and I’ll be back to my busy self once again…but until then, I curse my stupidity. But, aside from that, it was an exceptionally wonderful time, meeting new friends (some that live “right next door” in Monterey!), touring the Seattle area in the style only known to these two precious people and their friends…their rental van was lovingly dubbed “the prison van” after the first ‘tour’ which I missed…but, no worries–I soon found out how it got it’s name. Great food, friendly conversations, incredible sights–and I even took some photos as we made a dash for the Wharf area and Seattle’s Farmers Market–walking all over creation one day (we even managed to sneak in

Fisherman's Wharf, Seattle WA

Fisherman’s Wharf in Seattle, viewing the ferries, carrying passengers to the Olympia Peninsula

a glimpse of the Space Needle before heading home); then the Olympia Peninsula, driving up the coast, then back to downtown Seattle the next day. Sadly, they dropped me at the

Space Needle behind a ginormous Music Museum in Downtown Seattle

Space Needle behind a ginormous Music Museum in Downtown Seattle

Music Museum...with refelction of Seattle Space Needle

Music Museum…with refelction of Seattle Space Needle

Hostel I was staying at that night so I could easily make it to the train station the next day. I didn’t want it to end so soon. We bid our fond farewells and I took with me wonder memories and visions firmly planted in my mind.

Shortly, I will be taking a PhotoTrip (as I like to call it) to Vegas. The destination is for a wedding, but I seldom find the opportunity to capture the stark beauty of the desert, so I decided I will drive. I am looking forward to this, both photographically and for the chance to spend time with relatives that I see far to infrequently. There will be a separate blog for that trip (probably in the form of a photo blog–flora and fauna only…)–I am planning on many wonderful memories to come from this trip.

Until then…have a blessed day!