Mar

10

 Las Vegas is a very interesting city to visit and a pleasant surprise, outside of the gambling establishment and Strip areas. There are very reasonable prices for rooms and buffets and surrounded by many natural wonders within a day's reach.

Various cons, of course, are on display 24/7. While leaving the parking area I was approached by a vehicle with two men who wanted to offer me a fantastic deal on a 3-carat diamond that had recently come into their possession. "No thank you", I said and they quickly moved on without comment. A limo driver noted later that he had had an offer from a rich, turbaned man for his car (a red Cadillac) many years ago with payment to be made in 4 gold bricks. The driver checked two of the bricks with the local pawn shop and fortunately determined that they were worthless.

The city has its share of down and out transients but all in all the city vibe is positive and the energy associated with the arrival of NASCAR week and a huge display of construction-related equipment (excavators, trackhoes, platform lifts, various concrete pump trucks, etc. in the convention center–all supersized) was palpable.

A very spectacular, geologic structure, the Keystone thrust fault is located just west of town in the Red Rock Canyon Natural Conservation area. Hiking through this beautiful area with crossbedded ("herring bone") Aztec sandstone and red, Jurassic Kayenta Fm. One sees the many adaptations that plants and animals have evolved to collect and conserve water that comes during infrequent rains– and often in the form of raging, flash floods.

Fossils, despite promising intel from locals, however, are not easily found and only a few, small crinoid plates were noted during a long walk over a fossiliferous ridge south of the main park along horse and burro trails. It's a tricky business when you are walking along the Permio-Triassic extinction boundary!

A good museum on crime (as in "does not pay") is located downtown and aptly called the Mob Museum and graphically shows the typical end result of the "gangsta" lifestyle. Several hours did not do justice to the displays.

I was interested that Estes Kefauver held a session in the early 50s of his crime in America investigating committee (broadcast on national TV) in the same Mob Museum building. My grandfather once worked as a floor manager during one of Kefauver's presidential bids– and also for baseball commissioner, "Happy" Chandler in similar vein on other occasion.

The National Atomic Testing Museum was quite fascinating to visit although I did not pay the extra fee for the Alien Area 51 exhibit and focused instead on the historical displays of atomic and hydrogen bomb development. Trinitite was on sale in the gift shop but high prices for a tiny piece of fused glass held little appeal.

Skiing is available nearby and quite fun even for a cautious, green run specialist like me (the resort gives a free lesson for warmup purposes that helps the novice get reacquainted with skis)  And of course, the Death Valley area, is a mere 1.5 hour drive away and holds such unusual stops as Marta Becket's Amaragosa Opera House   and fantastic variegated colors at Zabriskie point.

Well I had to put $20 on the Florida basketball team (giving away a ridiculous 12 points to LSU) and by sheer luck (with perhaps a touch of insight about season-ending, home court propensity) walked away with $18.50 (after vig deduction) in order to leave Vegas, this time at least, a winner on all accounts.

Stick to the natural wonders, folklore and history and you will always win out West.


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