Sunday Feb 28 – Route 66, Hoover Dam and Vegas

I checked in at 3pm yesterday, and spent the rest of the day, and till midday today, in bed, mostly online, starting to get the blog caught up, and talking to Ria and Nikki (thank you both!). Once they kicked me out (after some confusion about checkout times because I was living in California time, but was actually in Arizona, an hour ahead) I headed off, aiming for some food, and then to drive a piece of Route 66.

Food proved to be difficult – Seligman is clearly suffering from the economy, and of course it’s still winter. Many places were closed – hard to say whether it’s permanent or just for the winter. Many houses on the main street were also either for sale or simply falling down – this place definitely isn’t prospering.

A bit further along I finally found a couple of places that were open – and hit a touristy, kitchy part of Route 66 – I hope it’s enough business to keep the town kicking along. I found the Roadkill Cafe that had just re-opened for the season, and had a beef and bean burrito for breakfast. It kept me going for most of the day, augmented by the never-ending supply of M&Ms and trailmix!

Back on the road the poverty continued – similar to some isolated parts of Australia, I guess. Lots of very run-down houses in tiny towns, especially on the Indian reservation that I drove through. But, once more, it was mixed in with gorgeous scenery, great light, lovely mountains and plains. And I had to dodge (or drive over) actual tumbleweeds! Especially after the kitch in Seligman, it made me feel like I was really in the Old West.

I’ve still got 3 days left (including today) and am not quite sure what to do with them. I didn’t do much planning for this week because I wasn’t sure what my body was going to be able to cope with – it seemed like after 3 busy weeks I might end up having to sit still in a motel somewhere, resting up. But I’ve been lucky and been able to do much more than I ever imagined.

Bryan suggested going to Catalina Island off the coast of LA for a day, but in the end on a whim I turned right and followed the signs to the Hoover Dam and Las Vegas. The dam was pretty spectacular – I guess I’ve got some engineering blood in me somewhere that makes me fascinated by all these big construction works, I had the same reaction to the Deltawerken in Holland. The security was pretty tight – there were checkpoints and police all over the place, and trucks, buses etc aren’t allowed to drive over the dam. I guess it’s a prime terrorism target.

According to Wikipedia all the current construction work you can see in the background is to build a bypass bridge over the Colorado River, which is due for completion later this year. When it’s opened, you won’t be able to drive over the dam any longer, but you will be able to see it from the lower side (which as far as I know you can’t do currently).

And then, once I’d passed the dam, the views over Lake Meade, and the light on the hills was spectacular, although my photos don’t seem to have captured it very well 🙁

The drive down into Vegas took longer than I thought – it’s a much bigger city than I imagined. I drove up and down the strip while attempting to work out where I was going to sleep, park the car, find a hotel and check in, etc. That also took much longer – from the time I got off the freeway at the end of the strip, until I actually got into my room took a good couple of hours. As I said to a couple of you – the hustle and bustle of the city (or this city) isn’t really for me. I’m feeling very much like a country mouse in the big smoke!

I ended up in the Excalibur Casino on the strip (for less than $100 per night, this was the view from my room, and yes, that moon and clouds is actually real!) and rested up in my room for a couple of hours – even the casino itself is big enough to give me pause. I just looked it up – it has 4000 rooms and 10,000 sqm of casino floor – and there are dozens the same size or bigger all the way along the strip. Mind boggling that there’s enough business to support all that. But new development isn’t doing so well – I drove past Jamie Packer’s project that he lost a bundle on, it’s still a building site with nothing happening.

I eventually headed out with Bertha to have a look at the strip. Loud, colourful, in your face, bright – what else is there to say? Even McDonalds gets in on the act with sparkling signage! And, of course, the fountains at the Bellagio were beautiful.

But I left it a bit late in the day to go exploring – when I first went out there were still plenty of families around but by the time I headed back it was feeling a lot more sleazy and menacing – mainly drunken young guys, no kids and few women. It’s really the first time I haven’t felt totally safe during the entire trip – even late nights on the streets of New York weren’t this nervous-making, and I was glad to get back to my room.

And all those elevators! Vegas has largely taken the pedestrians away from the traffic by building a series of sky bridges across the side roads along one side of the strip. It’s a good idea, but it meant I was forever having to find the elevator (often in an obscure corner), wait, go up, across and down again. And since elevators are always awkward in Bertha, it was tricky (especially the one that made my heart stop by closing on me when I was half in and half out, and for a moment not letting go!)

I got around OK and nowhere was impossible to reach, but they obviously didn’t consider disability issues properly when they last re-did this place. All the footpaths have huge dips between the slabs of concrete and large patterned texturing, and have a considerable sideways slope – fine for pedestrians, but I was pretty much rattled out of my socks by the time I got back, and was worried Bertha was going to tip over several times – good thing I’m agile enough to save myself should it happen, lots of other scooter users wouldn’t be. And the lips on the kerbs leave a lot to be desired. There always was one – but many are right ON the corner, so to get on and off the footpath I had to venture out into the (moving) traffic each time. Hair raising!

Oh, and apparently I’m seriously not a gambler – I just don’t understand why people bother. Am I the only person to go to Vegas and not drink, not gamble, AND not see a show?