Chapter 12 : Las Vegas

The original version of this article was published in The Legend-News of 2000 August 28 . Slight changes have been made, but nothing that affects the facts.

One Day In Vegas, Then Out

Saturday, 2000 June 3

We hit Vegas a little before 5 P.M., with no idea of where to stay. T A wanted to be near the strip; he had plans to see the Star Trek Experience at the Hilton. I didn’t care where we crashed, for all I wanted to do was walk around town and see the free sites. So when we got within the city limits, T A decided to use his AAA membership to get some information about what was available. Now came the bad news: after finding the local AAA, we found that it was closed. Yep, in good ol’ 24/7 L.V., there was a business that didn’t do business ’round the clock. I miss the old days.

Calling an 800 number that was posted on the door, T A got some pointers to a couple of local hotels. But they seemed to be in the seedier part of town (a.k.a. “Downtown”), so we drove down to the Strip and parked in the Frontier’s lot. A short walk in the hot afternoon sun later, we inquired further at a tourist information booth and came to the conclusion that the Casino Royale looked like a good place to stay. We registered at the front desk, then walked to our cars and drove back to hotel garage.

Once in the room we rested for a while, then T A took off Where No Tourist Has Gone Before and I decided to await sunset and some cooler air. When that finally arrived, I went for a walk. North, up the east side of the strip to the Venetian, then south on the west side of the street. I wandered through most of the casinos, observing the design, the tourists, and the constant background music of clinking coins. I lost a buck and a half to the slots. Not being a gambling man, I had only bet about ten dollars total. I wasn’t in Vegas for the experience.

Now there’s one observation that I made that will prove useful to anyone who is planning to visit The Strip in Las Vegas: do not attempt to use the sidewalk in front of Treasure Island in the fifteen minutes before or after — or even during — a performance of the battle between the H.M.S Britannia and the Hispaniola [2010 February 27: the current show is called "Sirens of TI". From the description on the Treasure Island site, it sounds like sexy pirates. — Future Ed.]. The crowd that gathers here makes an L.A. rush hour look like the Indy 500, as they fill every available square inch of sidewalk outside the hotel. Even the “passing lane”, which sits between the curb of Las Vegas Boulevard and the bleachers on the sidewalk, is blocked with people struggling to get a view of two wooden ships blasting each other with cannon. You have been warned.

I got back to the hotel around eleven, watched some television, and went to sleep. T A finally crawled in sometime that night, having visited the Star Trek Experience and some less-reputable places. Actually, he got bounced from The Experience; but that’s a tale that he'll need to tell.

Hoover Darn

Sunday, 2000 June 4

We awoke late on Sunday morning. I was up for leaving Las Vegas, but T A wanted to stay for a second day. So I packed up the Saturn and headed south for Hoover Dam and London Bridge. T A and I would again meet up on Monday morning at the designated starting point of Convoy 2000, the Wildwood rest area on I-10.

On my next cross-country journey, I’ve got to make a rig for photographing while my vehicle is moving, because there are a lot of interestings sights that I saw but they escaped capture by film. For instance, the sign that I saw on the road approaching Hoover Dam (and I am not making this up!): “Watch For Mountain Sheep. Slippery When Wet.”

Oh, you want pictures? Okay!

Hoover Dam, looking up from the bottom

This is the dam, looking up from the bottom.

Hoover Dam, looking down from the top
This is the dam, looking down from the top.
The cheap tour at Hoover Dam
This is a group of people on the cheap tour, ’way down deep. I’m the one behind the camera.
Electric generators at Hoover Dam
These are some really big electric power generators. That's what the dam does, y’know.

London Bridge Ain’t Falling Down

I took the 11-dollar tour and spent an hour in a wonderfully cool cave somewhere under the dam and ate lunch at the restaurant/gift shop.

Tube steak
A foot-long lunch.

About 2:30 P.M. I headed south from the dam, travelling along US 93 to Kingman, Arizona. The air was hot that day: for the first time since the journey began the coolant temperature gauge was in the red zone. This was a sight that I was going to see again in two days, when I again drove through Arizona.

In Kingman I bought some jerky and coffee at the TA Travel Center, then picked up I-40 for about 40 miles until I turned at AZ 95 and south to Lake Havasu.

London Bridge, Lake Havasu, Arizona
And for the excitement-impaired, this is the famous London Bridge in Lake Havasu, Arizona. Yawn.

Almost Time For A One-Eighty

Out of Lake Havasu on AZ 95 to I-10, desert all the way. I stopped at a few historical markers and thought about driving on the old dirt road that paralleled 95, but the Saturn only had 2-wheel drive and the day was getting late and there was no way that I was going to attempt any off-road travel without a buddy. I-10 loomed ahead, I went westbound towards California. 244 miles to L.A, about 190 to my destination, and I needed a break. I stopped at the first rest area which was about three miles east of the border. I napped for an hour and called Lisa, noting the wildlife warning signs on the low wall that surrounded the rest area: Here There Be Scorpions and Rattlesnakes, or words to that effect. Back on the road and into California, I declared nothing at the fruit check on the border.

The day was getting dark, and I was getting very tired. I eventually settled for the night at a rest area about 14 miles east of Indio. Up until now, my Saturn had been operating well, or so I thought; but when I tried to start up the engine on Monday morning, nothing was happening and it was happening a lot. I needed a jump start; fortunately, I had brought along my jumper cables and got an assist from a guy parked next to me.

Back To The Future. A short aside here to explain the nature of the electrical problem. Apparently my alternator was failing, and it had picked this particular morning to tell me. At that time the problem wasn’t fatal, in fact I didn’t get it fixed until three weeks after I returned home from Convoy 2000. But it was annoying, because the fault in the alternator was affecting my battery, which wasn’t fully charging. Igniting the engine was becoming an art; no longer was the startup sequence “turn-the-key-and-go”. And when starting, the pop-up headlights (this is a ’94 Saturn SC2, the year before they changed ’em) would pop up all on their own and usually not all the way. Driving down the road with a headlight flapping in the breeze is a strange sight. These problems continued for the remainder of the trip, but did’t worry because except for the several attempts that were necessary to get up and moving, Ol’ Bessy didn’t fail me.

Monday, 2000 June 5

I reached Calimesa, a town near the Wildwood rest area, about an hour later. I cruised the vicinity of the Interstate, located the rest area, then checked into the Calimesa Inn and vegged out for the day, finally getting in a few hours of guitar practice. I repacked everything in the car, preparing for the Big Trip, then hit the sack.

Next: ’Bout Fifty Miles Outside A’ Shaky Town