Part 1: Red Rock Canyon and the Hoover Dam

I couldn’t wait for work to be over on Thursday before I began my weeklong expedition to Vegas. I actually stayed in Henderson, which is not far outside of Las Vegas. I wish my vacation could have been as long as a fortnight, but life seems to get in the way of our true priorities such as travel.

Anyway, after the endurance training that was nine-hour flights to and from Italy, a six-hour flight wasn’t so bad. I landed at McCarran International Airport and began to soak it all in. Of course, the first thing I see is a sign advertising “The D” as the best casino in Las Vegas. That made my night.

My friend Mike met me at baggage claim. The first time I saw him since I left Viterbo, Italy last year. We walk to the car and what’s waiting for me in the glove box is a Smirnoff Ice, part of a prank we used to play on each other in Viterbo. Just like I was “Iced.” Not even an hour in Vegas and I was already drinking. I was “Iced” two more times that night. I loved sitting by the pool and around the bright orange fire at 11pm at night. If I was home, I would have been eaten alive by mosquitoes. Mike and I chewed the fat for hours before hitting the sack.

DISCLAIMER: I probably won’t write anymore about the details of my evenings in Las Vegas; it’s better that way.

La Madre Springs

The next afternoon, we began a four-hour hike on one of Red Rock Canyon’s many trails, La Madre Springs. The Conservation Area is managed by the Bureau of Land Management as part of its National Landscape Conservation System, and protected as a National Conservation Area. It is easily seen from the Las Vegas Strip and visited by over one million visitors each year. The conservation area showcases a set of large red rock formations: a set of sandstone peaks and walls called the Keystone Thrust. The walls are up to 3,000 feet high, making them a popular hiking and rock-climbing destination.

After Red Rock Canyon, we ate at In and Out Burger, a west coast burger chain with a secret menu and a ton of unhealthy foods. It had been three years in between my In and Out fix.

The next day we planned to visit the great Hoover Dam, which is only 30

The Hoover Dam

miles from Henderson. We drove to Boulder, the town established for the 5,00-plus workers and families that came to work in the 119-degree heat for Six Companies, Inc. on the largest government contract ever awarded at the time ($49 million).

Once known as Boulder Dam, the Hoover Dam is a concrete arch-gravity dam in the Black Canyon of the Colorado River, on the border between Arizona and Nevada. It was constructed between 1931 and 1936 during the Great Depression and dedicated on September 30, 1935, by President Roosevelt.

New overpass bridge.

We also drove to Arizona on the new Mike O’Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge, which was built to reroute U.S. 93 and alleviate the flow of traffic around the dam, specifically to those driving between the two states. “No more waiting in hour-long traffic just to cross the dam!” said residents. The bridge took 10 years and $240 million to complete.

We descended into the power plant at the dam for some historical context to the giant mass of concrete we were looking at it. Our tour guide made very silly puns about blasting rocks, plugging holes, and my personal favorite – a Megatron/Transformers reference. I could have sworn she said the Allspark was actually onsite. Those who know me understand how much I appreciate those dumb puns.

Later that evening, I took a drive down the Strip, in awe as I passed the neon signs and elaborate facades of prominent casinos such as New York New York, Luxor, Cosmopolitan, and others. I don’t care what anyone says, it’s not a trip to the Strip without taking pictures at the “Fabulous Las Vegas” sign. The best time to see the Strip is when the casinos are illuminated under the night sky.

Some nuggets on The Las Vegas Strip: The roadway is approximately 4.2 miles in length. Most of the Strip has been designated an All-American Road, and is considered a scenic route at night. Some of the largest hotel, casino, and resort properties in the world are located on the Strip. Fifteen of the world’s 25 largest hotels by room count are on the Strip, with over 62,000 rooms.

Stay tuned for more updates!

Be sure to check out my photo gallery.

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