Day 8 – This Circus has no clowns but I hear the high wire act is pretty good.

We slept in this morning again, knowing that tonight will be a late one, and tomorrow morning hideously early.

I tell Mike we’re going to the Springs Preserve. No “pick your fave out of a list of options”, I’m putting my foot down because I know he’ll enjoy it once we get there.

The Springs is a complex that includes a natural history museum, the Nevada State museum, a Desert Living Center, and outdoor gardens. It sits on 180 acres just 3 miles from downtown, but it feels a million miles away. It’s cool and quiet, smells wonderful, and gives your eye something to dwell on that’s not flashing or made of neon.

We see you there Stratosphere.

The whole thing is built on the site of the original artesian springs that gave Las Vegas its name and started it as a town. The springs were used by the Native Americans in the area for years, then John Freemont and Kit Carson camped here in 1844. I’m sure Freemont would be thrilled to know his name is now in lights on a street named for him. Okay, “thrilled” is probably not the right word, “baffled” might be closer to the truth.

The Mormons came next, arriving in 1855, spending their days planting fruit trees and converting Natives. Apparently one or both of these endeavors failed, because they abandoned the place in 1858.

In 1881, a man named Archibald Stewart bought property where the springs were located from a bankrupt tin miner and brought his wife Helen and their four children to live on the lonely ranch than encompassed nearly a thousand acres. Helen longed to return home to California where there were civilized towns and schooling for her children.

That’s Helen, looking like she’s ready to be done with ranch living and back home already.

Mr. Stewart promised her they would only live on the ranch for two years, then could return to California.

Shortly before the two years was up, a neighbor shot and killed Mr. Stewart.

Helen Stewart buried her husband on a knoll west of the ranch house in a coffin made from the doors of their home. A few weeks later, she gave birth to Archibald, named after his father.

Helen ended up staying on at the ranch and getting in on the ground floor when the railroad came looking for property in 1902. She happily sold most of her land (including the springs) for a tidy profit.

With the coming of the railroad in 1905, Helen found she didn’t have to move to civilization, it had moved to her.

Well, sort of. These things take time.

The springs stopped flowing to the surface in 1962 when the water table in the valley dropped, but by that time Hoover dam irrigation had taken over and created a beautiful oasis to fit the name of the place.

Uh, okay, maybe they were cultivating a different kind of green.

Anyway, you know the rest. Hughes, The Rat Pack, Elvis, Charo, Liberace, Copperfield, Siegfried, Roy, Penn, Teller, Donny, Marie, Celine… Doesn’t anyone have a last name around here?

Sorry, sort of went off on a tangent there. I think I might have mentioned that I like history?

We spent a very relaxing afternoon wandering around the place and generally enjoying ourselves with only the occasional grumble from Mike when I’d dawdle too long over a display of ladies vintage clothing or their small art gallery.

Finally, it was time to head back to the strip. What were we here for? Oh yeah, this!

Our VIP tickets not only got us a lanyard and poster, they also got us in a couple hours early to watch the last practice and also a Q&A session with the stars. It worked out really well for us because during the practice we sat on the South side of the theater, and during the performance we were on the North, so we got to see both big ramps close up.

Mike and I have never been to a Freestyle show like this before. Sure, we’d seen stunts on TV and as the half-time entertainment at some other events, but nothing that was dedicated specifically to guys (and gals) hurling themselves off of huge ramps and flying through the air while doing things that defy logic, sense, and gravity.

He’s not crashing, he’ll actually get back on the bike in a second and land the thing.

This is Aaron “Wheelz” Fotheringham.

He’s not in a chair because of some stunt gone bad, he was born with Spina Bifida, but that’s not why he’s here, he’s here to back flip that chair. Really. He’s just one of about 50 expert stunt people involved in the show.

And here’s Travis Pastrana, the reason we got started with this whole thing:

And he IS riding that ATV because of a stunt gone bad. He broke his Tib/Fib a few weeks before this event. He does that sometimes.

Massive fireworks with people standing right next to them? Sure. Who has a fear of fire when they’re getting ready to fling their bodies down a 50-foot-tall ramp?

And we’re not just talking motorcycles, bicycles, skateboards, scooters and rollerblades, we’re talking Barbie Cars (with a girl at the wheel):

And what’s next, I think it’s a Barcalounger?

Yep, it’s a Barcalounger.

It was an amazing show, and no one got hurt, which made it about 1000.998% better. There were a few stunts like the double back flip that I was so nervous about I just let my camera film them and watched through the screen in case anything went wrong. I know, crazy, but I really don’t like watching people get hurt.

Was it worth the extra $$ for the VIP experience? Definitely. Would I go again? In an instant!

Here’s a few seconds of the finale. These guys are absolutely nuts.

After the show, we got back to our car as quickly as possible. We parked at Planet Hollywood instead of at the MGM because we’d heard that getting out of there was chaos after an event. It meant more walking, but once we made it to the car we were back to the room in minutes – which is a good thing because we’re getting up at 3am tomorrow morning!

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