Day 4 – Taking the dam road to Las Vegas, with a stop in a dam town for a little antiquing along the way.

Mike loves looking for motorcycle stuff at antique stores, he could do it for days on end. I like wandering around antique stores for about 2 hours, then I’m done. Actually, I think it’s a good thing that only one of us likes to own “stuff”. Our place is packed to the gills as it is, I can’t imagine how insanely over-stuffed it would be if I also collected fripperies.

This is not to say I don’t love spending money. I do. But it’s on tools and electronic gizmos. I might try and act all high and mighty sometimes, and say Mike’s stuff is all just dust-gathering shelf art, and my stuff is used to create things – but when my stuff is a few years old it’s worth nothing, where his stuff just keeps gaining in value. So who is smarter? Don’t answer that.

We get up early this morning, pack up the car, and we’re on the road by 9am. It’s cooler today, and a little windy. Perfect on-the-road and in-the-stores kind of weather. I can’t figure out why the rocks would be flipping us off, but back at ‘ya, buddy.

We’ve decided to take Hwy 93 to Vegas so we can check out the new bridge at Hoover. The last time we had a look at it was in 2009 when they were just starting to put the deck on. It was an impressive structure then, and even more so now that it’s complete.

We’d been lucky enough to visit Hoover dam and do the in-depth tour prior to 9-11. Things there are very different now, including the bridge that keeps truck traffic off the massive structure. Even though it seems like the bridge was specifically in response to 9-11, the powers that be actually started talking about it back in the 1960’s. Even then the combination of tourists, terrain, and transit were creating a bottleneck. A plan was drafted in 1989, but it took until 1998 before the Federal Highway Administration took over the project and money was set aside to start developing a plan. By early 2001 the plan had been approved, but funding was scarce.

9-11 changed that. Security measures now prohibited commercial truck traffic across Hoover Dam, which meant a 23-mile detour (including two very steep grades) via Laughlin Nevada. The bridge project was then fully funded and things went forward quickly.

If you’ve visited the site, you can understand why it took a while to design and build. It’s not exactly an easy place to imagine a bridge. The finished product is pretty amazing, its single arch is the widest in the Western Hemisphere, and it’s the second tallest bridge in the US.

Driving over in a regular-height car is nothing special, the walls are above the windows, so all you can see is rock wall and sky. I’m sure truck drivers have a more impressive view though.

Fortunately, they’ve got a nice parking area on the Nevada side, lots of visitor information reader boards, and a very nice pedestrian walkway the length of the bridge.

I placed my fear of heights carefully in the very back of my brain, and we start walking out on the 840-foot-tall bridge. Holy smokes, this thing is tall. Adding to the excitement is the movement you feel every time a big rig goes by. Wheee. Deep breath.

It’s definitely worth taking the time to stop here. Not only do you get an exhilarating shot of adrenaline, the view of the dam is better than anything you’d see short of a helicopter ride.

We stood there for quite a while, then Mike noticed something on one of the side walls.

We zoom in on it with the camera – yep, those are people doing a job you couldn’t ever pay me enough to attempt. Yikes!

We continued on to Boulder City, which is the federally funded and planned community that served the workers of the dam while it was being built. Being a company town meant no liquor or gambling. But guess what was down the road a bit? A little berg named Las Vegas which had conveniently legalized gambling in 1931. Between dam workers and those mysterious scientists from something called The Manhattan Project, Vegas was able to make it through the lean years and the war years.

Boulder City is beautiful, it’s full of parks, quiet neighborhoods with sidewalks and greenways, the downtown area is made up of buildings that are all sort of a cross between Spanish Colonial Revival, and Utilitarian Fed-Building.

Strangely enough, even though the government worked hard to create a Perfect City, they imagined it only male inhabitants! They didn’t think women would follow their husbands, but of course they did. What the ladies found was a very nice place with businesses whose owners were pre-screened for character and financial viability, and a gate at the city boundary that only let in those with the proper papers (no gangsters or other ne’er-do-wells!). What they didn’t find were schools or hospitals.

The town made do with makeshift schoolrooms until the city won the right for state funded schools. There was a hospital, but it didn’t treat women until 1943. Before that, ladies were required to travel 30 miles to dirty old Las Vegas for their health needs.

But we’re not here to worry about ladies health, we’re here to look at Antique Stores! Sigh.

Actually, I did enjoy most of our time wandering around Boulder City. This town does have some higher-end antique stores, so we got to see this cool little toy:

And find out from the shop owner that it was made by Peter Gendron back in the 1800’s to show off his newfangled invention, the lightweight spoke wheel with axle bearings. The design was first used in production of adult velocipedes and baby carriages. Later making stretchers and other devices for the war effort, and coming up with some mighty strange designs in the process http://videos.videopress.com/KXIKjTZt/1898_gendron_wheel_co_std.mp4   Although the company has gone through many iterations since then, they are still around, and still manufacturing hospital equipment.

This is the kind of thing I love to find at antique stores. Not that I want to buy it and take it home with me, I just love to see stuff like this and take pictures of it. I’m not exactly the store owner’s dream customer, am I? Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending what side of the counter you’re on) Mike IS a store owner’s dream if they have anything motorcycle related.

Lucky for me, he didn’t find anything in Boulder City that he couldn’t live without, so we headed to Vegas, Baby!

I think we’re close.

I’d Pricelined a room here, ending up with what used to be the Hilton until it had some money issues back in 2010 (who didn’t), and is now called the Las Vegas Hotel. Nice generic name for what is a pretty generic hotel compared to other Sin City properties.

It’s tough to actually tell what the heck you’re going to pay in Vegas when you use Priceline or Hotwire because this town LOVES resort fees. To the point that some places have a resort fee that’s higher than the room rate.

I hate games like that. If it’s a mandatory resort fee, then as far as I’m concerned it shouldn’t be something they can tack onto the price after it’s quoted. Grrrr. Don’t get me started.

Anyway, we arrived (after getting lost the requisite 45 minutes trying to find the entrance to a place you can see from 5 blocks away), I went to check in while Mike stayed in the car to keep it from being towed (valet is the only option here, and it seemed a little crazy to valet for the 15 minutes I needed for check-in).

My room-jinx is still active, as I’m told the only non-smoking room they have available is one right next to the elevators, which is so loud that no one will stay in it (then why have it available, I wonder?) Oh, but of course there’s a wonderful room available for an upgrade. Sigh. How much? $20 a night. Sigh. Okay.

So our good Priceline deal at $60 a night is now $100 a night when you add in the $20 resort fee and $20 “upgrade”. This room better be epic.

It’s not.

Yes, that’s Mike doing some repairs so we don’t electrocute ourselves or start a fire. Honestly, the room itself is nicely appointed, but so run down that it has multiple danger zones – mostly electrical. Including the missing plug cover plates and a makeup mirror in the bathroom that pops the breaker when you plug it in.

Niiiice.

But they’ve got a beautiful flat screen tv, a nice view, and comfy mattress so we can at least get a good nights’ sleep before we’re burned in our bed.

Sorry, rant over.

We get all our stuff in the room and even though it’s only 6pm, we enjoy a relaxing evening watching TV through our eyelids until Mike gets smart and turns it off around 9pm. We have truly joined the geezer set – we’re in Vegas and asleep before most of the bars even open for business. Paaartay!

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