Saturday, March 21, 2020

Las Vegas in the Time of Coronavrius

Normally the Las Vegas Strip would be full of visitors on a Saturday afternoon in March, but nothing about what's happened recently is normal.

With things changing so rapidly, I wanted to get out to see what the deserted Strip looks like before we're all grounded even further. Under non-pandemic conditions, I would have parked somewhere and walked along the Strip for the best pictures, but today I shot everything from a vehicle. My son, who was my driver, was quite adamant about me staying in the car. 

The drive there was sobering. We took Spring Mountain Road through Chinatown, which was largely deserted. We took a right on The Boulevard and were stunned at the sight of abandoned sidewalks and empty roads. "I've had bad dreams that looked like this," my son said.

It was eerie and weird and unsettling to see the Strip so deserted. The largest crowd we saw was at the Welcome to Las Vegas sign, where about 20 people were gathered to take photos.

I've always liked taking pictures of abandoned  places. I just never expected the Strip would be one of those places, even temporarily.

If you, too, were wondering what a deserted Las Vegas Strip looks like, here are some photos for you.

Fashion Show Mall
Looking west, up Spring Mountain Road from The Strip

One of the entrances to Caesars Palace, blocked off due to the coronavirus shutdown

The Caesars Palace Fountains are dry


Park MGM

In addition to a lack of people, you'll also find road construction in front of the Luxor and on the northern end of the Strip

Northbound on Las Vegas Boulevard at Harmon

A most unusual sight: a bicyclist not about to be run over while riding on the Strip
All photos by Terrisa Meeks

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

A Trip to the Eureka Sand Dunes

In late December right before Christmas, I got to see the Eureka Sand Dunes, which are the tallest in California and among the tallest in North America.

Originally, I just wanted to see the night sky.

Even if you haven’t been in Las Vegas recently, it’s probably not surprising to learn we don’t get much of a night sky, considering the Strip is the ancestral home of neon and one of the brightest damn places on the planet. I wanted to get as far away as I could get from all those lights so I could see the Milky Way. 
Death Valley National Park seemed the logical place to go, considering how close it is and the fact it has Dark Sky Park Designation, which means its night skies are dark enough to see an astonishing array of stars and, of course, the Milky Way. 

My initial idea was to drive to Death Valley with my son and hubby, stay until dark, see the night sky, and drive back home. Even if we had to drive back in the wee hours, who cared? We were on a winter break. No one had to be back at work until after Christmas. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to take advantage of the short winter days to get the maximum amount of night sky for my efforts. 

At some point while I was pouring over maps, it occurred to me that this was a chance to drive to the Eureka Sand Dunes. These remote dunes had been on my wish list for years. Unlike the other nearby dunes in our region, like Kelso, Mesquite, Dumont, or Amargosa (those last two being ATV-friendly), the Eureka Dunes are relatively remote. The dunes are in the northern portion of Death Valley, in an area added to the park in 1994. Thanks to my son’s recent acquisition of a 4x4, we finally had two four-wheel drive vehicles for an expedition to the dunes, which had always been our preference for this outing.

The other immensely appealing aspect of this trip was the chance to get outside the range of cell phone service, to a place where GPS is unreliable and other humans are scarce. My research indicated the Eureka Sand Dunes were the place for all these things.

At his point, the hubby and son decided it would be a good idea to camp at the dunes. They pointed out how long it would take us to get there, given our proposed itinerary of Vegas – Beatty – Rhyolite – Titus Canyon – Eureka Dunes. We estimated eight hours travel time. 

I was not a fan of the camping idea. My experiences with camping for a single day are that it’s a lot of work for one miserable, sleepless night. Also, we hadn’t camped in over ten years. They insisted it would be a good idea to stop for the night after a full day of driving over rough dirt roads, an idea I reluctantly agreed had some merit. Eventually, I decided if I had to give up sleep for a night to see the Eureka Sand Dunes and a spectacular night sky, it would be worth it. 

Saturday, December 21, 0430 

We wanted to make camp two hours before sunset, which we calculated to be roughly 1430 (2:30 p.m. for those of you who don’t do military time). The math on that worked out to a rendezvous time of 0430 to load the trucks for an 0600 departure on Saturday, December 21.

We’d gone back and forth on which day to leave because of the pesky cloud cover that had rudely arrived in the entire region. The weather reports indicated this sky-obscuring situation would only grow worse as the week of Christmas wore on. It was anybody’s guess as to whether or not we’d get to see the night sky, the inspiration for our adventure.

On Friday night we pulled together our ancient camping supplies and tried to sleep (mostly unsuccessfully) before our very early wake-up time.
Everyone was up early and we were on the road before our estimated departure time. By the time the sun was fully up, the buildings of Las Vegas were long behind us. 

My son was driving his New Old Stock (it’s a thing, look it up), a Suzuki he’s been working on for months. This was its big road test. The hubby’s truck bed was filled with giant plastic storage tubs filled with our dated but still (surprisingly) functional gear, secured with tie-down straps so it kind of looked like we were moving. In back of the Suzuki, a tarp secured our six one-gallon water jugs, along with an assortment of tools deemed essential for this trip. 

As we sped toward the tiny town of Beatty (pronounced BAY-dee, by the way, not BEE-tee, my  non-native friends), I kept checking the forecast. It stubbornly remained cloudy. We all agreed that even if we didn’t get to see the Milky Way, seeing the dunes would be worth the trip. 

I have a bit of mild obsession with the dune fields in the Mojave, a desert that doesn’t prominently feature dunes. Finding them takes some work. And the Eureka Dunes are booming dunes like the Kelso Dunes, a rare phenomenon occurring in only about 30 dunes world-wide. When enough of the sand moves, they “boom,” and a noise and vibration fills the air. You can feel it as well as hear it. 

The Eureka Dunes stand about 680 feet (207 meters), putting them in the ranks of the tallest dunes in North America. Honors for the tallest dunes go to The Great Sand Dunes in southern Colorado, which rise over 750 feet.

Rhyolite and the Goldwell Open Air Museum

We fueled up in Beatty before heading to Rhyolite and the Goldwell Open Air Museum, our first stops before we hit Titus Canyon Road, the 25-mile, one-way dirt road that would take us into Death Valley. After that, we would head to the Eureka Sand Dunes.

Rhyolite and the Goldwell Open Air Museum are only 10 miles (16 kilometers) from Beatty, and we rolled in while the morning was still young. 

A collection of art might be unconventional and unexpected in the middle of the desert, but it fits perfectly right outside Rhyolite, one of the best-known ghost towns in the region. It’s well worth the time to stop and walk the grounds, which are filled with thought-provoking and whimsical works of art... like a giant bedazzled cement sofa. Or a ghost getting ready to ride a bicycle, or a group of ghosts re-staging The Last Supper, or a giant naked cinder block lady. It’s all quite photo-worthy.

Rhyolite is a short distance down the road from Goldwell. Its slowly disintegrating buildings are visible from the museum grounds. I’ve written a lot about Rhyolite, a ghost town I’ve been exploring since long before protective fencing went up around many of its crumbling ruins. It’s a place I never get tired of visiting because I always find something new. You can drive through the town site, but I recommend getting out on foot to truly get a sense of this former boom town.

After wandering around the museum and Rhyolite, we headed to Titus Canyon.

Titus Canyon and Leadfield

The turn off to Titus Canyon Road comes up quickly after you leave Rhyolite. On the day we drove the road, it had recently re-opened after being closed due to storm damage, and was closed again about a week after our visit due to more storm damage. 

If you intend to venture off into any dirt roads or remote areas of Death Valley, one of the things you need to do is check the park’s website for news about warnings and road closures. Storms in these parts can wash out roads, turn them into impassable mud, or cover them with ice and snow, or some combination of all of the above. Nature has the upper hand here.

Titus Canyon is in the Grapevine Mountains, and getting there involves driving through Titanothere Canyon. The landscape is full of otherworldly layers of colors and jagged, rocky mountains. Eventually the road reaches Red Pass at 5,250 feet, the high point between Titanothere and Titus Canyons, then descends to the bottom of the canyon where you’ll find the ghost town of Leadfield

This road is a fun and popular drive. Four-wheel drive is nice to have, but we’ve done it with a two-wheel drive Jeep. I rode with my son on this stretch of road, which climbs and curves its way up and over Red Pass. We bounced all over the road, skittering sideways a little here and there as we went around the sharp corners. It’s one of those roads that’s so much fun you want to go back and do it again as soon as you’re done.  

On this road we also discovered that our gallon water jugs were faring badly in the back of the Suzuki, now known as the Little Zook, although everyone was happy to find that the stuff leaking out of the back of Zook was water and not some essential car fluid. We patched up what we could and made a mental note about not bringing those again, in what was the first of many discoveries we mentally filed for future reference. 

At Leadfield we stopped and explored the area, which has a few buildings, piles of mining tailings, and boarded-up mines. Throughout Death Valley – in fact, throughout Nevada, Arizona, Utah and Colorado – you’ll find plenty of abandoned mines (it’s actually a problem). If you ever find an old mine that’s still open, resist the urge to explore. They’re incredibly dangerous, being prone to cave-in and often have passages that open up unexpectedly beneath you. Mines are not worth the risk to explore. Go find a nice cave instead. 

After leaving Leadfield, the road runs through a dry wash and, unsurprisingly, this area is prone to flash flooding. It looked like some serious water had been through not long before, judging from the deep channels, twisted plants, piles of gravel and unexpectedly placed debris in the sandy, rocky canyon floor. The cliffs around the road tower thousands of feet above you.

The last mile and half before you enter Death Valley is the most spectacular part of Titus Canyon because the cliff walls constrict to less than 20 feet across in some places. This slot canyon has no place to pull over. The twisty, turny road gives you no idea where you’re going until the very end, when you emerge dramatically into Death Valley to a panoramic view of the valley floor and surrounding mountain ranges. 

Next stop: Eureka Sand Dunes. 

The Eureka Sand Dunes 

We drove north once we hit Scotty’s Castle Road. Scotty’s Castle itself and the road through Grapevine Canyon Road have been closed since massive floods damaged the area in 2015. Currently the NPS predicts the castle will re-open sometime in 2020, and I noticed the park’s website now has a link to a walking tour of the grounds

Our route took us to Big Pine Road, a wash-boarded dirt road that stretched to the horizon, disappearing from our sight before we could ascertain its route up and over the Last Chance Mountains.  

Off we started up road, which was teeth-chatteringly wash-boarded, featuring sections where water had carved dry stream beds across the road on its way to the valley on our left. Although we initially went with the theory that going faster on a wash board reduces the roughness of the road (an idea proven by Mythbusters, FYI), we soon found the downside: those rocky little ditches come up really quickly with that technique. 

Crankshaft Crossing, with an appropriately ornamented sign, marked a fork in the road. We went left and climbed a winding road that took us over the mountains through Hanging Rock Canyon. We passed an abandoned mine and even hit a patch of paved road before finding South Eureka Valley Road. 

The road to the dunes was just as wash-boarded as Big Pine Road, unsurprising given that Death Valley is known for its notoriously bumpy, rocky dirt roads. 

In the distance, the sand dunes rose suddenly from the floor of a valley ringed with mountains, some snow-tipped. As we rounded the road toward the campground, we noticed something deeply distressing. People. Lots of people, by our measure. None of the cozy little spots with a picnic bench and metal fire ring were open, with the exception of one or two a few feet away from people who had already set up camp. 

I had not driven eight hours to have strangers camping twenty feet away from me.

We had already decided that if the campground was full, we would find a spot off the road, so we continued on (away, I might add, from the outhouse, the only latrine in the area). Before our disgruntled exit from the campground area, we took a few moments to commiserate amongst ourselves about how very not-deserted this campground was, which was in sharp contrast to all the reports we’d read and watched. Apparently, we weren’t the only ones who had decided to squeeze in some camping during Christmas holiday.

We drove past the campground and noticed there were cleared areas on either side of the road obviously intended for camping, but an open area was all you got. We took one of these spots, which was out of sight of the campground. Two vehicles drove past and took spots some distance off, toward the point where the road curved around the dunes and turned from “high clearance suggested” to 4WD required. I was aghast that I could still see other people, although my hubby and son kept insisting our closest neighbor was at least a quarter mile away. 

Wilderness markers all around reminded us to tread lightly. Recent rains had left a damp desert floor, evident in the cracked clay all around us. Our entire view to the south was of the magnificent Eureka Dunes. I took pictures while the tents went up, and then it was time to fix dinner and wait for the sun to go down and the stars to come out.  

Right after sunset, a sliver of sky remained open above us although low-lying clouds obscured the majority of our view. We all watched this stretch of partially clear sky as it got darker and more stars appeared. A tiny section of the Milky Way peeked through, and even with the clouds, we could see more stars in that slice than in the whole night sky back in Vegas. On a clear night, I’m sure the night sky is utterly amazing here.

And then the clouds covered up the stars and we marveled at the darkness. We could still see the horizon, with the clouds giving off enough reflection for us to be able to make out the dunes. We all wondered if the light reflection was from Las Vegas and concluded it was possible. My son and I walked into the desert with our head lamps and contemplated climbing the dunes, but were worried we wouldn’t be able to navigate our way back to camp in the darkness.

Eventually, we ran out of things to do and climbed into our sleeping bags to try to go to sleep. 

The cold had become bone-chilling at that point, far beyond what I had expected. I had a hat on and a blanket over my head, plus a sleeping bag and a couple of blankets over the rest of me, and any portion of skin that hit the air immediately felt like it was frozen. It didn’t take long to realize my original projection on the overnight temperature had been wildly wrong. I’d had a tough time finding a good weather prediction for the dunes. Most predictions for the park were for the southern regions like Furnace Creek, and they indicated about 38F for the overnight low. I had guessed we would be around freezing.

At about 0130, my hubby began trying to fill up his air mattress, unsuccessfully, in no small part because of the cold. He kept complaining about his air mattress deflating and not being able to feel his legs, a complaint that might otherwise worry a person except for the fact he has nerve damage and so consequently that isn’t an unusual condition for him. In this case, however, we could see our breath in the air, a situation that clearly wasn’t helping things.

Our son, to whom we had given all of our old (but good) backpacking gear, was sleeping away when we woke him with the mattress-filling-in-progress, which involved a lot of cursing (on the hubby’s part) and hysterical laughter (me). 

We had the cheap tent and the worst gear, mostly because we can no longer fit into our two-person backpacking tent, and that’s before you consider the inflatable mattresses we now need to approximate anything close to sleep. And we don’t even want to talk about fitting into our old mummy bags. The phrase “ten pounds in a five pound sack” comes to mind. I was in mine, but it fit me so tightly I felt like a synthetic fabric sausage.

Fortunately, my hubby had insisted we bring essentially every blanket in the house, due to some traumatic incident he suffered as a young man which involved unexpected, unwanted spooning with another dude on a camping trip because of uncommonly cold weather. I wouldn’t go so far as to say all those blankets saved our lives, but I was sure glad we had them.

As it so happened, we had picked the winter solstice for our adventure, which meant we got to enjoy the intense cold for the longest night of the year. Had we been able to see the night sky, it would have been a jackpot for night sky viewing time. 

Sunday, December 22, 0630

I got about two hours of sleep before the sun started to rise. Truthfully, I was so glad that the long night was over that I didn’t care about the sleeplessness. I was just looking forward to breaking camp and warming up inside the truck. 

After the sun had risen behind a bank of low clouds, we waited a little bit before uncurling out of the nests we’d made. I wrapped myself in as many layers of clothing as I could get on and proceeded to the truck to check the temperature. 

It was 28F. 

The water we’d left out in a shallow rubber sink was frozen. Our pillows had become crunchy during the night. The inside of our tents had tiny ice crystals from our breath.

We were a combination of amused, horrified, and proud. We made some coffee and set about breaking camp as quickly as possible.

I may have said something along the lines of, “I told you so.”

My son and I had originally planned to climb the dunes before we left, but we took that off the table since we were not properly outfitted for the cold. Instead, we explored the base of the dunes and the campground, which emptied out fairly early in the day.

Our original plans for our trip back had included another dirt road near Stovepipe Wells, which was on the way home. We all agreed to skip that road, especially since after we left the dunes we had almost 50 miles of dirt before reaching a paved road. 

When we reached the pavement, it felt silky smooth. We immediately gained a whole new appreciation for asphalt.

As we sped south through the valley to the cut-off to Beatty, the sky was a brilliant blue, a shade I’ve never seen outside of Death Valley. We soaked up the afternoon sun, enjoying the golden winter light and the dramatic desert around us.

The Zook had sustained a bit of damage: a broken sway bar mount and a busted heater core, but nothing that would keep us from making it back to town. 

Then, just like that, we were back on US95 headed back home.

I was right: it had definitely been worth a sleepless night. And then some. 

All photos by Terrisa Meeks

Friday, December 13, 2019

Hiking in Las Vegas: Kraft Mountain Loop

Last year was a great hiking year for me, and one of the best hikes I did was the Kraft Mountain Loop in Calico Basin. 

This year I've spent more time at my desk than on the trail, sad to say. I'd almost forgotten about this trail until I found these pictures when I was cleaning out my phone's storage. 

As it turned out, my hiking partner and I did the trail going up the wash as opposed to going down it. This is the more difficult way to go, as I discovered when a woman stopped us at Pink Goblin Pass and asked me how I’d gotten up the wash. Honestly, at a couple of points, I didn’t think I was going to make it, so I highly recommend hiking the trail in the recommended direction, which is down the wash—starting at the Sandstone Road Trailhead.

Here are some pics I shot that day. It was just a little overcast, perfect for keeping cool while hiking. If you stick to the trail as intended it’s a 3.25 mile loop, although we probably hiked closer to four miles since we parked near the intersection of Calico Basin Road and Charleston/ Highway 159.


All pictures by Terrisa Meeks

Sunday, November 17, 2019

The Plane Crash on Mount Charleston

Sixty-four years ago today, a plane crashed at Mt. Charleston.

If you were outside in today’s beautiful sunshine, it’s hard to picture the snow storm that was raging around Mt. Charleston on this date decades ago.

On November 17, 1955, a C-54 military cargo plane traveling from Burbank to Area 51 went off course, hit that terrible storm, and ultimately crashed into Mt. Charleston about a half a mile from the peak. All 14 men aboard were killed.

No one, not even the families of the deceased, knew the details of the flight or why the men were on the plane until after the details were declassified in 1998 – although if one persistent man hadn’t been tenaciously pursuing information about the crash, those details still might have been lost, ignored as insignificant and forgotten again.

For decades the remnants of the plane littered the area around the trail to the peak of Mt. Charleston. One of the most distinctive pieces left was a propeller, twisted and gnarled. I saw it when my hubby and I made the peak in 1996, and we, like everyone else, simply knew a plane had crashed there.

Today the propeller is part of a memorial to the men of USAF Flight 9068, which is next to the Silent Heroes of the Cold War memorial for those who served during those years. According the Forest Service’s fact sheet, it’s the only national memorial to the Cold War era of its kind.

Not until I visited the memorial with my husband, who is himself a Cold War veteran, did I learn the whole story of the crash. I picked up a copy of “Silent Heroes of the Cold War Declassified” by Kyril D. Plaskon in the gift shop and learned the true story behind the flight. 

The book starts out with a thorough background of the Nevada Test Site, where the infamous Area 51 is located, and its role in atomic testing as well as the development of the U2 spy plane. The flight from Burbank to Area 51 was a regular flight taking people who were working on the U2 back and forth on a daily basis.

On the day USAF Flight 9068 took off from Burbank, the flight was a little late taking off because the pilot waited to see if one of the regular passengers would show up (he had overslept, which was a lucky thing for him). At a little after 7 a.m., the very secret flight departed for Area 51. The flight took a route through the mountains and according to the book, near Goodsprings it went radio silent, flying without contact with the flight tower as it made its way toward the Test Site.

Unfortunately, a storm was approaching and they were blown off course to the east. The pilot was flying by sight, but the storm clouds made that difficult. The disoriented crew soon realized they were in trouble. In the book, Plaskon describes the crew “...dodging peaks just above the trees and snow covered mountain range when their normal flight path should have taken them over flat desert.”

At 8:19 a.m., the plane slammed into the side of Mount Charleston, killing everyone aboard.

Plaskon’s book describes the harrowing recovery mission undertaken, which ultimately involved the Sheriff’s Mounted Posse, which was the Search and Rescue of its day. A team that included Sheriff Butch Leypoldt led 17 horses to the crash site to bring the bodies back down, a gruesome chore carried out in the midst of terrible storm conditions.

The entire incident might have gone unremembered had it not been for Steve Ririe.

Ririe had seen the crash site and became interested in knowing more about it... then the crash site seems to have become interested in him, so to speak. The book recounts Ririe’s slightly paranormal experiences, all of which led him – some might say compelled him – to pursue the story of the crash. The story he uncovered is the reason there’s a memorial now to commemorate the men who lost their lives.

The Cold War had no battles to feature on the nightly news. It was, however, a pivotal time in world history when the entire world was holding its breath in the hopes of averting a disaster, a time of secrets and spies that still holds mysteries like Flight 9068.

The U2 spy plane was considered vital to our country’s efforts to prevail in the quiet fight that was happening, and the men who died that morning on Mt. Charleston were instrumental in its development.

The next time you’re at Mt. Charleston, take a moment to stop at the memorial. Ponder the propeller, preserved as it was found at a little over 11,000 feet. We almost didn’t get to hear the whole story of that flight and the men aboard it. 

They deserve remembering.

All photos by Terrisa Meeks

Sunday, August 04, 2019

Vegas Voices: Brian Rouff’s Vegasy Ghost Story, “The House Always Wins”

When you live in a famous city, you get used to reading about your hometown. But very few Vegas-based books have a truly local setting. In “The House Always Wins,” author Brian Rouff takes us to a part of town that doesn’t make it to the Travel Channel, with characters that will ring a bell or two for any long-time resident.

East St. Louis Avenue at Atlantic, looking west towards the Stratosphere
If you know anything about Las Vegas, you’ve heard of our most famous street: Las Vegas Boulevard, a.k.a. The Strip, a.k.a. The Boulevard. It’s sparkly and fancy and attracts the attention of over 40 million visitors a year.

Unless you’re truly a local resident, however, you probably have not heard of East St. Louis Boulevard.

Brian Rouff’s newest novel, “The House Always Wins,” opens with a whirlwind romance that begins in Michigan and winds up in Las Vegas. Our heroine, Anna, quickly succumbs to the charms of Aaron, a touring Vegas musician, and in short order, Anna and Aaron are married with a baby on the way. Finding a house quickly becomes a priority.
Homes along East St. Louis Avenue
Rouff describes the bulk of houses in Las Vegas with complete accuracy: “Outside, some variation of an earth tone, a red-tile roof, and a mottled textured coating they call ‘stucco.’ All accented with a patch of ‘desert landscaping,’ meaning rocks, cactus and other bushes that require less than a thimble of water to survive.”

Then Anna wanders into what’s now known as the Beverly Green Historic District, and is captivated by a two-story brick house that stands out from the cookie cutters she's seen. I thought it sounded a lot like the house the Sahara's orchestra leader Jack Eglash once lived in (which was actually further east in the Mayfair District), and in fact Rouff and his family bought and remodeled Eglash’s former home in the 2000s. Today, that distinctive home is gone.

Beverly Green, Mayfair and all of the aging/vintage neighborhood in this area hold a mix of homes that range from fully restored to vacant lots that once held homes, with everything in between. 

This abandoned building on St. Louis was once a home that was converted to a dental office
Anna and Aaron take on the fixer-upper and Anna finds that it comes with a ghost named Meyer Levin, who has a lot in common with Moe Dalitz.
Looking west up East St. Louis from about 16th Street

Dalitz isn’t the only local who makes an appearance, so to speak. One of my favorite nods to local lore is the character of Ed Scott, a muck-racking reporter who’s ready to help Anna fight a casino owner (imagine Bob Stupak crossed with Steve Wynn) to save her property from becoming a parking lot. Just like local reporter Ned Day, a man who covered the mob, Scott expires while swimming on vacation in Hawaii. (In real life, Day died of a heart attack while swimming--some would add "allegedly"--while the character of Scott drowns.)

Neither the ghost of Meyer Levin nor Anna are willing to let the house get turned into a parking lot, but if you want to find out exactly what happens, you’ll have to pick up the book.
Looking west up East St. Louis from John C. Fremont Junior High, my old junior high
The locations described throughout the book are very familiar to me, since I grew up in the area, just a few streets from East St. Louis Avenue. It’s a real pleasure to read a story set in my old ‘hood, and anyone who knows Las Vegas will enjoy the attention to detail throughout the story.
Beautifully maintained/restored home along East St. Louis
Rouff is also the author of two other Vegas-based novels, “Dice Angel” and “Money Shot” (both of which are also quite good). I’ve seen a few comparisons drawn between Rouff and Carl Hiaasen, although personally I was reminded of Janet Evanovich’s style. In addition to being a great writer, I have to tell you he’s also one heck of a nice guy, being kind enough to come speak to my former writing group back in the day.

If you’re looking for a Vegas book that goes beyond the Strip, pick up “The House Always Wins” and see a side of the city you don’t know about.

I took the photos for this post along East St. Louis Avenue traveling from St. Louis and Atlantic west to just east of Las Vegas Boulevard, where the actual street address of the house in the book, 339 E. St. Louis, would be, according to Google... if there were any homes there:

Look for a future series of photos from me taken mostly in this area and the Mayfair District, where I grew up.

Friday, May 18, 2018

The Cottonwood Station Eatery & Other Vegas Restaurants

Today’s update to Vegas Girl’s restaurant listing includes a new cafe in Blue Diamond, plus other restaurants in the western part of the Las Vegas valley.

I almost hate to write about Cottonwood Station Eatery in Blue Diamond, not because anything was amiss, but because I don’t want this rural gem ruined by too many visitors. Chances are I’m too late to save this charming cafe from the ravages of popularity, however,  especially since the waitress told me Mothers’ Day was crazy for the little restaurant. (I bet they’ll be overflowing when Super Summer Theater gets going for the season at nearby Spring Mountain Ranch.)

My son and I drove out to Cottonwood Station on a weekday morning, when only a handful of people were there. The interior design is a nice mix of eccentric elements and a clean, modern style. I loved the finished particle board tables.


I had a breakfast sandwich, my son had a sausage roll, and we both had coffee. For dessert we split a coffee cake muffin, which I had no chance to photograph before we devoured it. I also had no opportunity to take a picture of my son’s food before he ate it. Everything was quite tasty.

I loved everything about Cottonwood Station. The drive through Red Rock to the cafe was beautiful. The food and coffee were yummy, the service was friendly and efficient, and I was able to stroll around Blue Diamond snapping pictures, something that generally arouses suspicion... unless there’s a fancy new cafe in town attracting city people like myself.

Blue Diamond is home to less than 300 people and its small-town ambiance is as genuine as it gets. Unfortunately, the threat of development on top of Blue Diamond Hill continues to loom as a possibility. The two-lane lifestyle may be on a count-down here. 

I suggest you visit the Cottonwood Station now, before all the other people find out about it.


The Cottonwood Station is just one of four additions to the Vegas Girl’s Restaurant List in my latest update. I also recommend Salud, Buldogis, The Martini and Khoury’s Mediterranean.

Feel free to leave suggestions for restaurants I should check out in the comments!