Tag Archives: North America

Hoover Dam and The Grand Canyon, Arizona – Impressions

Las Vegas, in the state of Nevada, is an intense place even if you’re only staying a couple of days. But if you’re planning to stay a week or more, getting out of the city should be a high priority. We did just that, hiring a car and driving to two features of the region:

Hoover Dam
Hoover Dan is situated on the U.S. state border of Nevada and Arizona, 50 kilometres from Las Vegas. The dam was built in Black Canyon on the Colorado River to prevent flooding, provide irrigation and generate power for the states of Nevada, Arizona and California. At the time of construction it was the largest concrete structure in the world.

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Completed in 1936, the dam was also used as a major highway, but due to increasing traffic concerns the Dam Bypass Bridge opened in 2010.

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The dam created Lake Mead, the largest reservoir of water in the United States by volume. The dam took only 5 years to build and during that time took the lives of 112 people. Sixteen people died in the first year of construction when temperatures in the area clocked in at close to 50ºC. Another forty-two died from pneumonia, although in later years this listing was seen as a cover-up of deaths caused by carbon-monoxide poisoning.

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The Grand Canyon
Nearly 200 kilometres from Las Vegas by car is the site of the Grand Canyon Skywalk. The Skywalk is near the western end of the canyon at a site ingeniously called Grand Canyon West. There are several sections tourists can visit at Grand Canyon West; one is  Eagle Point, named after the impression of an Eagle in the ridge opposite…

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Eagle Point is also the location of the Skybridge itself, a metal framed ‘bridge’ with a glass bottom. Unfortunately use of personal cameras on the bridge is not permitted, meaning the cost of entry onto the walk plus purchase the photographs is quite expensive. Taking the Skywalk is not required as fearless tourists can walk to the edge of the canyon beside the structure.

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Another point of interest is Guano Point, literally ‘Bat Shit Point’. Bat caves were discovered in the canyon, the guano being a good source of phosphates used in farming. The mining lift building still stands at the end of the point.

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Guano Point is at the end of a thin section of a ridge line stacked high with boulders, giving great views along three separate sections of the canyon.

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The Colorado River formed the Grand Canyon over the course of two billion years. It is 446 kilometres long, 29 kilometres at its widest and is 1,800 metres deep. It is in the top five largest canyons in the world, although the term ‘largest’ can have several meanings relating to depth, width and length.

While many simply bus to the sections of the canyon, boat, helicopter and small plane tours are available for those who wish an even closer look.

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Other Places
These are not the only getaways near Las Vegas, only the two we visited. Other sites of interest are:

  • Red Rock Canyon
  • Death Valley
  • Valley of Fire
  • Hidden Valley
  • El Dorado Canyon

The World Wanderer

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Las Vegas, Nevada – Impressions

There’s no denying that Las Vegas is the Entertainment Capital of the World. While many cities try to match the intensity and vibrance of Vegas, only a few come close to the glamour and the hideous wealth that brings people from all corners of the world.

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Like a shining beacon in the Nevada Desert the city sparkles day and night with its brilliant lights flickering and dancing. This is especially so along the world-famous ‘Las Vegas Strip’, which dominates the southern end of the city even though it’s not actually within Las Vegas city limits, but in the cities of Paradise and Winchester that surround it.

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The wealth of the city is centred around the multi-billion dollar casino and hotels, and there are many of these block-sized behemoths owned primarily by two corporations. But if they didn’t have enough casinos in the city, more are being built. This includes completing some of the half-built skeletons of hotels left abandoned after the financial collapse a few years ago.

Even corporations that don’t have towering casinos are well represented, such as the massive Coca-Cola store and the four level M&Ms store, with one floor having an entire wall covered in M&Ms.

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Las Vegas is definitely the city of the slot machine with nearly three hundred thousand scattered everywhere, from the airport foyer to gas stations. This isn’t to mention entire floors of them in every casino. The slot machines are themed on almost anything you can think of in attempts to draw the casual gamer. But like most, they give a little enticing the player with hopes of winning, then, if you let them, taking back all that was given and more.

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There are many other attractions in the city beyond the casinos, such as the roller coaster circling the New York New York casino, the rides atop the towering stratosphere casino, the Mob Museum and the Fremont Street Experience. Fremont Street is in the centre of the Las Vegas ‘downtown’ area surrounded by older casinos. Along the covered street are many street performers, including many pop culture performers and celebrity lookalikes.

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Fremont street also has several stages along its street with various bands playing. It was St Patrick’s Day when I visited so there were many kilts being worn and irish bands playing to celebrate this ‘holiday’ that was created by the Americans. Even those without a kilt kept the green theme…

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There’s a lot of talent in Vegas with many comedians and musicians getting their start in the city. But Las Vegas is also the place where performers of old go to scrape out a living after their buzz has died down; these include David Copperfield, Celine Dion and Meatloaf, to name a meagre three.

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Alcohol laws are relaxed around the city. Almost every store sells it and some in large vessels like the daiquiri filled plastic yard glasses or the near actual sized plastic guitars filled with some alcoholic concoction. Alcohol is everywhere at all hours of the day and night. Honestly, who can resist a shot or two of the sweetest Tequila in the world, Dirty. This is especially so when the shots are twice normal size and only $2 each!

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Debauchery is rife in the city, with mobile billboards advertising ‘the classiest girls’ delivered to your hotel room within 20 minutes. Strips clubs are also heavily advertised in the evenings, with many hawkers giving out numerous business card sized cards offering special deals. There are also plenty of these…

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At a location along Las Vegas Boulevard between The Strip and the downtown is the towering casino Stratosphere. The building looks similar to the Skytower in New Zealand, and is only 20 metres taller. Atop the massive building there are four rides, a SkyJump similar to that on Auckland’s tower; The Big Shot, the highest thrill ride in the world which flings you into the air before letting you free fall down again; Insanity, dangling you over the building’s edge and spinning swiftly around; and lastly X-Scream, a roller coaster car that shoots you over the edge and stops suddenly, dangling you there.

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While visiting the city we even took in a baseball game. The Cubs versus The Mets…

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Overall, Las Vegas is an interesting place to spend a few days partying it up or throwing away your money, that’s if you can stand harassment by street hawkers or the relaxed inside smoking laws that make the slot machine floors harsh on the eyes and lungs. It’s not a bad place as long as you set a limit on everything and quit while you’re ahead.

The lights of our hotel, Excalibur…

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This is my final stop on my trip through Australia, Antarctica and the Americas over the course of sixteen months. Next I’m off to London, England, for a well deserved rest from travelling and to begin planning my next escape.

The World Wanderer