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.
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Last rest stop in California before heading into Nevada
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.
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. (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!
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: 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
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 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
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
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
So, I had to say adieu for the time being. Back to Vegas.
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
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
Hoover Dam, looking down into Lake Mead
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.