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Hoover Dam Death Valley

19th July 2010

Driving Through a Red Light Leads to a Chilled Out Day

    I kept the windows of the van open all night, but it was just too hot to sleep. I must have lost a few pounds in weight over night through perspiration. Come morning, I just stood by the standpipe and ladled gallons of water over me and smothered myself in shampoo.
After a hasty breakfast, I headed up to Boulder City to get WiFi access. Unfortunately the access in Starbucks was asymmetric; I could download, but it just didn't want to know when it came to uploading, so I gave up and decided to have another attempt in Las Vegas. Boulder City was a blink-and-miss type place, with a history similar to Page by the Glen Canyon dam; established to house the dam workers. It did remind me of Grand Junction in respect that it had a good collection of sculptures scattered around the streets reflecting life in Boulder City in days gone by. They were the soul of the party in Boulder City.
Concrete Spreader
That Big
Toilet Cleaner
Bubble Blower
Kids on a Bike
    Las Vegas was only about 30 miles away, and I wanted to go there to get the tracking sorted out on the van. I soon found a place that did "alignments", and got the tracking rectified. I knew I needed a decent night's kip, plus a shower, and basically a chill out after over two months of travel. I also knew that Las Vegas motels/hotels dropped their rates through the week, so I decided to spoil myself and live in relative luxury for a night. The garage advised on a place to stay, and gave me instructions on how to get there.
    First I had to head down the road and take the next left at the lights. I headed down the road, observing all the roadworks going down the centre of the road, to my left in this case; just a long string of cones like the UK roads. I got to the lights, and they were on green so I turned into the central area in order to cross the junction when there was a gap in the traffic. I sat there, then realised there was something wrong and I was going to get clobbered by a truck if I didn't get out of that position. Self preservation took over, and as soon as there was a gap in the traffic, I just went for it, regardless of what colour the lights were.
    I shot out of the danger area and was confronted by the flashing blue and red lights of a police motorcyclist. I instinctively knew the flashing lights were greeting me so I pulled into a bus stop, not knowing whether that was permitable or not. I got out of the van, and the nice policeman screamed at me to get back in the vehicle. "Sorry sir", I uttered, trying to play the thick Brit. "Do you realise what you have just done?", he asked. "I was trying to turn left and I got screwed up in the central reservation area", was my weak response. "You went through a red light", he barked. I knew that in desperation I had shot out of the danger area as soon as a gap became available, but soon realised where he was coming from. When I had been approaching the lights, I had missed a gap in the cones that would have allowed me to enter a turn-left filter lane. That filter lane had a red light which I had not seen, and I had turned left on the lights that were green for straight ahead. I knew I was in big trouble, and attempted to alleviate the situation my explaining the innocent mistake I had made. He wanted every document I had, then he called in to check details about the vehicle on the police computer system. The guy's face showed no emotion, but I was lacking that key element, eye contact. He wore sun glasses which immediately put me at a disadvantage, I couldn't see into his soul. I waited for the inevitable, but got cross questioned about the vehicle, and did I live in it and where did I intend to go. I thought why is he asking me all this, why doesn't he just give me the ticket and send me to Alcatraz or whatever they do to bad guys. To my surprise he said he wasn't going to give me a ticket, but ordered me to be more careful next time. He gave me instructions on how to get to reasonably priced places to stay, and told me to drive safe and have a good trip. I was gob smacked. I followed his instructions and drove straight to one of the casino/hotels he suggested. I did not want to tempt fate, I was counting my lucky stars, and I just blindly followed his instructions. My lucky day!
    I arrived at the Cannery, checked in for the night, and went back to where I had parked to van to collect my bags. A young guy driving a golf buggy asked if I needed a lift back to the front door. I thanked him but declined the offer since I was still sorting out my gear into bags. He passed me a couple of bottles of ice cold water which was most welcome.
    The room was $49, which I later found was twice what I would have paid if I had researched it properly and booked on line, but hey, life was too short to worry about such things. The ground floor was a football pitch sized area of slot machines, sports betting areas and just gambling in general, with a collection of restaurants on the periphery. All manner of people were glued to these machines, transfixed by the flashing lights, some managing to drink at the same time, and some even eating a meal at the same time. Hmmm... perhaps I am not wired the same way.
    I found where the pool was, and went straight for a swim. After about an hour of swimming and chilling, I detected some English accents, and went over to chat to a couple from Shepperton, mainly the chap since his wife either swam or read. They had toured America many times, usually in motor homes, but this time they were using a hire car and hotels over the southwest area of the states. Indeed they were a very well traveled couple, and had covered Europe and a lot of Australia; the lady's uncle was a vicar in Australia whose parish was the size of Europe.
    I spent the next four hours chatting to this chap. He originated from Bakewell, Derbyshire, had been in the parachute regiment for many years, before becoming a lorry driver hauling freight all around Europe. Because he had all the HGV licences under the sun, he ended up instructing others and became an examiner. He even started his own courier business at one stage. His driving experience landed him with jobs in the film industry, and he had "starred" in Bond films, The Avengers and even had a stint on some Beatles films. Quite a checkered career. However, a heart attack at the age of 50 made him realise work was not the most important thing in life, and he had been taking it easy and chilled out ever since, mainly through travel. He was now in his 70s and was still travelling with his wife. We discussed our families and found some commonalities that we shared. I really enjoyed our chat, and I think he was glad to have someone to chat to as well, but I needed to get out of the pool and find something to eat.
    I didn't want to traipse all the way over to The Strip, just stay local and chill out where I was, so I went into one of the restaurants in the hotel and had soup followed by steak for $6.50, with a glass of Newcastle Brown (they sell that on draught in a lot of places).
    Once my stomach had been satisfied, I wandered around the casino aimlessly. The thousands of slot machines were a mystery to me, no longer the one-armed bandits, but now an army of computers offering every gambling game under the sun, no doubt electronically programmed to ensure that there is ultimately one winner. All the tables that dealt with various card games were also a mystery to me, my feeble knowledge of whist no match for what these folks were playing. I recognised roulette and craps, but because of the speed these were being played at, I failed to deduce how bets were being placed and spread. The croupiers kept a canny eye on the proceedings, and other eagle eyed chaps kept eyes on the croupiers, and no doubt cameras kept a lens focused on these chaps too.
    I soon got bored watching all this, and wandered down to the next such establishment to see if that was any different. No, there wasn't much difference. All these places ran 24x7, and I'm sure many of the lonely individuals who sat for hours at a time at these machines came for nothing but to gamble. It all seemed so sad to me, since most folk were on their own. I too was a loner, but I was on an adventure which required a degree of autonomy in some respects without any compromise associated with having others in tow, I had something new to look forward to each day. I wondered how many of these individuals would actually stray from this air-conditioned cocoon they were in to explore the deserts beyond the city boundaries, feel the heat, smell the parched earth, and visit the sights within a day's travel. I suspected not many, gauging from the intent expressions on their faces. But who was I to judge, I had no idea what hopeless situations these people might have got themselves into for them to seek gambling as a way out. Of course it would be counter-productive for these casinos to have gambling counselling rooms attached to their establishments.
    I had one more beer and then retired for the night to experience the novelty of sleeping in a bed in an air-conditioned room. I soon fell asleep.
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Hoover Dam Death Valley

Uploaded from Expresso Coffee Bar, Lone Pine CA on 21/07/10 at 10:15

Last updated 21.7.2010