Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Las Vegas Urban Wildlife

You might think that bachelor party attendees are Las Vegas’ only wildlife, but I’m happy to tell you that actual animals—with four legs and/or wings—live in Las Vegas. In my neighborhood, we have woodpeckers (they keep trying to nest in our stucco), finches, sparrows, doves, grackles, robins, hummingbirds, and pigeons. I’ve seen hawks, a great horned owl, and a turkey vulture. Rats have moved in, much to our dismay. When I saw one running across the street recently, I initially thought it was a confused White-tailed Antelope Squirrel. But some of my favorite desert critters are lizards. We have a wealth of them in our backyard, some of them with identifiable characteristics—like the one I call Hook Tail. At my mom-in-law’s condo, they’re in the shrubs and rocks. My brother-in-law, whom I’m now calling “The Lizard Whisperer” caught this tiny little guy on Mom's patio. I think I saw its dad yesterday, but as soon as he saw me looking at him, he took off. If you want to see the wildlife in Las Vegas, you've got to pay attention. Unlike those bachelor party attendees, the real wildlife is a little bit shy.
Photograph courtesy of Sandy Hoskins

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Vintage Vegas

Last week, the remains of the Moulin Rouge were demolished. Las Vegas’ first integrated casino was open for only six months in 1955, but until July 22, 2010, talk had persisted about resurrecting or preserving the historic site. The sad, lingering death of the Moulin Rouge is representative of the way Las Vegas has traditionally treated its history. Like a former lady of the evening turned legit, Vegas likes to ignore its past.

Paradoxically, those of us who have been here for a while enjoy a round of “I remember when,” as in: I remember when Rainbow was a dirt road; I remember when the sand storms were so bad you couldn’t drive; I remember when you could drive on Fremont Street; I remember when Red Rock was a long drive out of town; I remember when Lake Mead over-flowed Hoover Dam’s spillways. (And I’m only using my own “I remembers.” My pals have a bunch more.) I damn near cried when I watched a YouTube video of the Strip in 1991. There was the Hacienda, the Glass Pool Inn, the Dunes, the Sands, Wet ‘n Wild—all long gone now. But I reminded myself that time marches on for everyone, especially for those of us in the City of Neon. In another twenty years, can you image what Vegas will look like?

For more on the Moulin Rouge, read the LV Sun's story, which also contains pics and video.

Photo of Moulin Rouge (on “Life”) courtesy of Mark Holloway, a.k.a Nevada Tumbleweed

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Sunset in Las Vegas

Monday night my son ran inside and told me, “You’ve got to come outside and see the sunset! Rays of light are shooting out—it’s like all wah-WAA!” He waved his arms to indicate this sunset was so majestic that it required angelic musical accompaniment. Everyone went outside and, sure enough, we were all immediately snapping pictures as the sun went down. Wah-WAA, indeed.

Friday, July 09, 2010

In Memory of Tobin Talbott

Last Tuesday, a good man died. Tobin Talbott, 34, an equipment operator for Las Vegas Paving, was killed in a construction accident. His loss has shocked the tight-knit Vegas community of truckers, operators, and construction professionals. Tobin was one of the best in the business, working on Southern Nevada’s roads for over 15 years. If you live in Las Vegas, you’ve almost certainly driven over a road that Tobin helped build. Several of his friends have speculated that God must have a big construction project going on, and since Tobin was the best, well, that’s who He picked.

Tobin was more than one of the best at his profession. He was a generous, caring, fun-loving man who always had time to help a friend. Tobin was one of those rare people with a naturally even-tempered and level-headed disposition—a rarity in the ultra-macho world of construction—and his easy-going nature won him friends wherever he went. Everyone who knew Tobin has a story about his generosity and thoughtfulness.

When his close friends and family gathered last week to honor his memory—Irish wake style, with shots of Jack Daniels, his favorite drink, for a toast—almost 100 people were there. That alone should tell you how beloved Tobin is. For his memorial service this coming Sunday, Tobin’s family reserved a chapel that will seat 300, and they’re not sure that will accommodate everyone. On Sunday, I imagine the crowd will have a chance to smile as well as cry when we say good-bye to this much-loved man. Tobin wasn’t the kind of guy to sit around drowning in sorrow, and he certainly wouldn’t want his friends and family to send him off in a flood of tears. It wasn’t his style, and those who knew him have no shortage of smile-worthy stories about him.

At the gathering last week, his friend Scotty told me, “If Tobin were here and had his pickup truck parked out front, and someone got in their car and smashed right into his truck, Tobin would walk up to them and say, ‘It’s all good. Don’t worry about it. We’ll get it taken care of.’ " Tobin was the kind of man who would drop in at a friend’s house to say hello, see his buddy in the midst of a big project, and then stay for the rest of the day to help. You didn’t have to ask. If Tobin saw you needed a hand, he just pitched in. He generously gave of his time and was willing to loan out anything he had. Tobin knew the true meaning of friendship, and he took every opportunity to show it.

But no description of Tobin is complete without mentioning two things: the desert and his daughter. Tobin loved those sandy, remote places where a man can zoom over the dunes on a quad or a sand rail, and from the time his little girl was a baby, she was out there with him. His love for his daughter was something you noticed immediately when you saw them together. Tobin's easy-going, loving nature made him a spectacular dad. Whenever I saw him at “sand camp,” as I call the city of RVs at the base of the Dumont Sand Dunes, Tobin was usually sprawled in a camp chair, having a drink or shooting the breeze with friends, and smiling widely. At Sand Camp, surrounded by his friends, his wife, and his daughter, it was hard to catch Tobin without a smile.

Tobin leaves behind countless friends and family members, including a beautiful five-year old daughter who looks just like him. His wife, Robin, is inspiringly stoic; she told me that Tobin’s love is what keeps her strong. Tobin was an only child, and his parents, Greg and Debbie, are struggling to accept a world that doesn’t include their son. God may have needed Tobin for a project on Heaven’s Highway, but down here, his loss is felt deeply.

Services for Tobin Talbott are Sunday, July 11, at Bunkers (925 LVBN), at 1:00 p.m. A visitation will be held before the service at noon.

A fund has been established for Tobin's wife and daughter. Donations can be made at any Wells Fargo bank to account 6453859958 for Robin Talbott.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Thinking of Helicopters

I’ve been thinking about helicopters a lot recently. More specifically, I’ve been thinking about the helicopter in this picture and my flight in it to the bottom of the Grand Canyon (tour thanks to It wasn't my first ride in a helicopter, but it was definitely the most fun. (My first helicopter ride was in a police helicopter when I was working at Las Vegas Metro's command post during a Culinary Union strike, but that is another story.)

One notable difference between my TourGuy flight and that long-ago police ride: champagne. Before we took off from the Boulder City Airport, the pilot thoughtfully pointed out not only the location of the air sickness bags, but also cargo bay containing the champagne. I liked her right away. After we had flown over the Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge (officially the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge) and a portion of Lake Mead, we entered the western portion of the Grand Canyon, which is on Hualapai Reservation land. We flew into the canyon and gradually descended four thousand feet. We landed on a relatively flat piece of land just above the Colorado River, and then we got to drink the champagne and watch the sun set. A few wildflowers were still blooming. Other helicopters buzzed overhead, but when nothing was in the sky, it was wonderfully silent. Only the tops of the canyon walls caught the light, creating natural neon. All too soon, it was time to get back into the helicopter and fly toward the sunset.

Visit for more information about Grand Canyon helicopter tours and other Las Vegas adventures.
You can read more about my helicopter trip on my NileGuide Las Vegas blog.
All photographs by Terrisa Meeks

Monday, June 07, 2010

Lovely Boulder City

Writers aren't supposed to describe small towns as quaint or charming, but Boulder City can't help but be both. It's got antique shops, sidewalk cafes, a surplus of shady parks, public art, and history to spare. The city was created to house the workers who built Boulder Dam (today we know it as Hoover Dam), and it's a rarity in Nevada: a town without gambling. Boulder City has been slot-machine-free from its inception to today. You will not find anyone handing out fake Mardi Gras beads (or pamphlets for adults-only services) nor see any exploding volcanoes in Boulder City. It's only 30 regular miles from Las Vegas, but in a different dimension, atmosphere-wise. Boulder City's Historic District is terrifically strollable, and a great place to stop for lunch and a walk. The Historic District's buildings date from the 1930s, proving that not every old building in Southern Nevada has been imploded.

I spent the afternoon wandering around the Historic District in Boulder City several weeks ago. The sidewalk cafes looked so inviting--perfect places for a glass of wine, something yummy, and some people watching. Walk around the Historic District and you'll see an assortment of sidewalk statues: baby elephants, motorcycles, children, and a woman permanently waiting to cross the street. The side streets have a decent smattering of cafes and shops, and it's not hard to envision the area completely full of stores and eateries one day (which I sincerely hope it is). One must-see in downtown Boulder City: The Boulder Dam Hotel. It's home to the Boulder City/Hoover Dam Museum, which is an absolute steal for a $2 admission.
All photos by Terrisa Meeks
Read more about Boulder City on NileGuide.

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Paw Injury at Red Rock

Last week we took two outings, and both our dogs came with us. That was partly because I needed some dog models for pictures to accompany an article, and partly because the weather was no nice. Unfortunately, on the first outing my border collie took a spill jumping out of my husband's truck (we didn't see the fall, just the dirt all over the side of her face). The girl's paw injury wasn't healed when we drove up to Red Rock, but we didn't know that until she had walked for a while. Then she sat down and whinned, so she got carried back to the truck. Talk about a dog's life.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Wanderable Las Vegas

Recently, I wrote a post for NileGuide about Aria, the hotel casino at City Center. City Center is the Strip's newest incarnation, the mixed-use development every high-rise wanted to be, back in the days of the "Manhattanization" of Las Vegas. One of the things I mentioned in my post was that Las Vegas is new to the mixed-use idea--hotels, shops, residences, restaurants, entertainment, business areas, and livable, walkable spaces--but City Center isn't the only mixed-use development in town (although it's certainly the largest and most luxurious). The District, adjacent to Green Valley Ranch Resort in Henderson, is a smaller, more modest-sized collection of stores, restaurants, condos, movie theaters, and (of course) a casino at Green Valley Ranch. If you're looking for that chic, wanderable urban feeling in the Las Vegas 'burbs, it's worth checking out.

Additional reading:
This week's CityLife article about The District, "
Urban paradise."
Photo courtesy of JNovak at

Vegas Seven: The New Weekly in Town

There's a new free weekly in town, Vegas Seven. It's like Las Vegas Weekly, only with more fashion and general interest articles. It's mildly like City Life, only without the political slant or the adults-only ads in the back. Vegas Seven is available at newsstands around Southern Nevada and at the library. It's loaded with articles and blurbs about restaurants, performers, nightclubs, and things to do, along with a heap of full-page ads for things like Grey Goose vodka and the Jaguar dealership. Vegas Seven's mix of local events and general interest pieces seems like a good way to appeal to both residents and visitors. Next time you're at the 7-Eleven, grab a copy.
Photo of Las Vegas Strip, 2004, courtesy of Joakim Syversen at

Thursday, April 01, 2010

The Vegas Girl & Bingo

I played my very first game of bingo a couple of nights ago. There I was with my dauber and a nifty little computer screen, and boy, was I lost. The bingo room ladies probably talked about me later because I was so clueless. I had no idea there was more than one way to make bingo--six packs and nine packs, along with other configurations. I was on one of the last three games before I got all that figured out. And who knew there would be an entire sheet of "cards" for me to frantically scan, searching for B Whatever That Number Was? When I got home, my husband asked me, "Did you win?"

"No. At least I don't think so. I might have had a bingo, but I was too confused to be sure," I told him.

I don't gamble much, but I felt certain I could grasp bingo. Turns out keeping up with those alphanumerics is tougher than I thought. I was almost embarrassed. Me, a Las Vegas native and the daughter of a serious gambler, confused by bingo? Scandalous. I can live without understanding doubling down in 21, and I've never had a desire to learn Texas hold 'em, but... bingo? After putting big blue blots all over my cards, but never in the pattern necessary to shout out that magic word, I consoled myself with a few nickels in the poker machine, and went home. Who knew bingo had a learning curve?
Photo courtesy of sarae: / CC BY-ND 2.0

Monday, March 29, 2010

Las Vegas During Earth Hour 2010

On Saturday night, my family and I drove down to the Venetian. We wanted to get a look at the Strip during Earth Hour, and we thought we'd do some wandering around while we were there. Wandering around any of the Strip hotels provides heaps of free entertainment--especially on Saturday night.

The first thing I noticed was that the "darkened" Strip was still very bright. You could see the hotels clearly, and several of them had their names illuminated. The overall effect was interesting: a subdued Las Vegas that looked very much like any other city full of big buildings. I was surprised to see how much light was present even with the hotels' big lights off.

At 9:30, when the Strip's exterior lights came on, it was a gradual change. "That was pretty anti-climactic," complained my husband and son. But when you compare the picture taken during Earth Hour to the one taken a few minutes after it ended (and notice the Flamingo isn't yet re-lit), you see a marked difference.

After I was done taking pictures, we left the roof of the Venetian's parking garage and wandered around the Grand Canal Shoppes. When my son paused in front of the gelato stand in St. Mark's square, we convinced him that a stop at the grocery store on the way home would net him more ice cream in the long run. We stopped in the Peter Lik gallery and marveled over the incredible photographs. As we wandered past the Grand Canal's expensive storefronts, my husband and I watched the drunks stagger by. (A word of advice: Pace yourselves, people--10:00 p.m. is far too early to be drunk in Las Vegas on a Saturday night.) The women out for the night were stuffed into dresses so short, tight, and tiny that they barely covered the essentials.

We decided to go across the street to watch the Mirage's volcano, but I hadn't considered the Spring Break crowd outside Tao. Throngs of people dressed to the nines were crowded from the bottom of the casino's escalator to the upstairs entryway outside Tao, then outside, where it looked like some kind of elaborate red-velevet-rope system was underway. We backtracked and found another way out to the Strip, but when we checked the time and realized it would be another half an hour before the volcano erupted, we decided to head for home (with an ice cream stop on the way) rather than hang around any longer.

As we were driving home, we got a good look at the fully lit Strip, all the hotels covered in lights. I thought the Strip looked fine without all her pizzazz, but Las Vegas minus her lights is like a showgirl without eyelashes and sequins.
My pictures of the Strip

Friday, March 26, 2010

Las Vegas Goes Dark For Earth Hour

Before Earth Hour, the only time I remember the Strip going dark was after one of its beloved entertainers passed away. I remember when Sammy Davis, Jr., died in 1990. My husband and I drove to a dirt lot west of the Strip and watched the lights go out in honor of the departed Rat Packer.

This Saturday, March 27, between 8:30 and 9:30, the Strip will go dark to make a statement about climate change. Downtown and neighborhood hotels are also dimming their lights. Las Vegas is a city known for its lavish, over-the-top light displays, and this hour without neon signifies that we are concerned about climate change. With all the talk about solar energy in Southern Nevada, who knows--maybe one day all our neon will be powered with renewable energy.

What are you doing this Saturday evening? How about turning off your lights for an hour? And if you get a chance, go see the Strip. Las Vegas doesn't let people see her with her lights off very often.
Photo courtesy of Sarah Nichols: / CC BY-SA 2.0

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Rats in Las Vegas

Many new things have arrived in my hometown over the years. Mosquitoes. Traffic jams. Urban sprawl. Most recently, roof rats.

I was surprised to learn that roof rats have been here since 1990. I remember reading about the rodents' arrival in Spanish Trail, but I can't say I've given the creatures much thought since then. From the information on the Southern Nevada Health District's website, I should have been thinking about rat prevention long ago. My older neighborhood has everything a rat could want: water, yummy food, and plenty of mature landscaping in which to hide.

After my brother-in-law found two rats in our barbeque, we've been on high alert. My dogs go into rat hunting mode as soon as they hit the backyard. My husband and son look for evidence of rats every day. Until a few nights ago, I was unconcerned. Well, I was unconcerned after I had my husband construct a rat barrier on our dryer vent. Rats in the backyard are one thing. Rats in my home are another.

We were outside a few evenings ago, sitting at our patio table, playing Monopoly, when our dogs started barking and attacking one of the shrubs. If you have dogs, you know there's a difference between the bark that says, "Look, there's a person walking by the yard" and the bark announcing, "Holy Chihuahua, there's a rat in this bush!" Mr. Rat knew the difference. He burst from the shrub. He quickly made it to the top of the fence and scurried away from the dogs. "It's a rat! It's a rat!" I yelled. Mr. Rat paused briefly behind another shrub, hopefully to make a note not to hang out in the yard with the vicious dogs and excited humans, then he ran into our neighbor's backyard, the rat's long, thin tail visible as he dropped into the safety of an empty yard.

"We have to get rat traps," my husband informed me.

"Can't we just catch them and keep them as pets? Can we do catch and release?" I asked. I once caught a mouse in my desk at City Hall and kept her for three years before she passed away. I really don't like killing things. Besides, since I have a child, won't I just be buying a rodent at PetSmart sometime soon? Why pay for one when I can just capture one for free? I mean, heck, look at the rat in this picture. He's adorable.

"No." My husband was firm. "They're not native. They carry disease. We need to get rat traps."

So far, we haven't picked up any traps. I'm relying on the Dog Patrol to scare away marauding rats. But I have a sinking feeling that I'll hear snapping traps sometime soon.
Picture courtesy of Jans Canon at flickr:

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Spring in Las Vegas

The plum tree is beginning to bloom, and I noticed the birds are back in a big way. Everything around here has the feel of spring to it. I finally got my hummingbird feeder back up, and I've had a few visitors.

A couple of weeks ago, we got surprise visitors. With the weather now warm enough to barbeque, my son and brother-in-law went outside one night to fire up the grill. They opened the lid and found two rats. (Cue the screaming and horror music.) I was glad they didn't have the gas turned on because they were ready to make flaming rats. Now we're keeping the grill cleaned up more diligently. Rats in Las Vegas! Who would have ever imagined.

But enough about that... I'd rather think about the beauty of a Las Vegas spring. It's so much nicer than flaming rodents.
My photo of my neighborhood.

Hoover Dam & A Las Vegas Childhood

"We could be standing on dead bodies" might not normally be a bit of conversation you remember from your childhood. But if you grew up in Las Vegas when I did, it was a staple line for field trips to Hoover Dam. Popular myth said that some dam workers were entombed in the cement of the immense structure, and it made a great story for elementary kids to tell each other. It's not true, by the way. Men did die while building Boulder Dam (it became Hoover later), but they didn't leave the bodies in the concrete.

I was writing about Hoover Dam recently for NileGuide, and I couldn't help but remember what the tours were like before the new visitor center and a post-9/11 world. No fancy escalator, parking garage or ticket counter--you parked on top of the spillways and got your tickets from the glass booth on top of the dam, the now-empty one that faces the road. You stood in a line that snaked back along the sidewalk, and while people waited they leaned over the side of the wall and looked down the dam's 726 foot face. Beyond that, the Colorado River gurgled into Black Canyon. Admittance was something like $5. You went into the structure from one of the elevators in the middle of the dam, the ones screaming Art Deco, and as you dropped down at some astronomical rate, the tour guide explained just how fast you were moving. Poof, you were at the bottom. We got to walk past the generators, outside onto the bottom of the dam to look up, and we were guided through rough-hewn caves weeping Colorado River water. On one trip, we went into a room where we could stand on top of platforms under which river water flowed through pipes, the force of it strong enough that you could feel it under your feet.

The tours aren't the only thing that has changed at Hoover Dam. I remember when Lake Mead overflowed into the spillways and created twin waterfalls on the intake side of the dam, one on the Nevada side, one one the Arizona side. The mist could be seen as you approached, and standing on the side of the spillway for long left you drenched. Now, rocky beach leads up to the spillways.

One thing that never changes is the majesty of Hoover Dam. It's an architectural marvel, a piece of living history, and surprisingly beautiful.
Picture courtesy of Richard Wasserman at

Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Old Las Vegas Convention Center

I've been going through a lot of Flickr pages recently, looking for pictures of Las Vegas. I came across a collection of old postcards by Nevada Tumbleweed, and this one really took me back. This is the Convention Center I grew up with, although with a few more buildings around it. As I understand it, yes, that is a horse racing track in back of it, where the Las Vegas Country Club now stands. I remember the International being built next to it, and eating dinner at the top of the Landmark when it still stood across the street. The steakhouse restaurant at the top of the Landmark rotated. I loved it. The Chateau Vegas, a red-velvet upholstered restaurant with a harpist, was on the south side of Desert Inn, long before it was all converted to an underpass next to the current Convention Center. The Alpine Village was across the street, although I never got a chance to eat there because my dad didn't like German food.

Some of my best memories are at the Helldorado rodeos at this space-ship-like Convention Center. My parents loved the rodeo, and we never missed a Helldorado. The place was always packed to the rooftops with rowdy fans, and we always sat close enough that when the broncos kicked up dirt, sometimes it landed on us.

But my favorite memory of the old Convention Center is watching the fireworks from the steps in front of a bar where my dad worked. It was a little place two floors up, on the other side of Paradise Road. The owner was an Irishman straight from the old country (I think his name was McGary), and I could come in the place as a long as I didn't sit at the bar or get too close to a slot machine. Whatever the occasion was that night, Mom and I went in late to visit Dad and watch the show. I remember the three of us sitting on the steps facing the Convention Center, watching the fireworks burst into colors over the top of the dome.
Photo courtesy of Mark Holloway at

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Red Rock Snow

Last week's wet weather brought a coating of snow to Red Rock Canyon. I didn't have time to drive through the loop, but I did drive up to the 13 Mile Campground, where I took these pictures. I told my son I thought it looked like God had sprinkled Red Rock with powdered sugar.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Driving In Las Vegas

I had a comment on my post about the rain from a future visitor who is worried about the wet conditions in Las Vegas. First of all, if you're planning a visit here, don't let the rain stop you. You'll still have a great time--heck, lots of visitors never even make it out of the casino to see what the weather is like. Our residents have problems with the wet roadways because we only get about four inches of rain a year. This much rainfall just doesn't happen that often. Most of the time, it's sunny and clear.

With that said, driving in Las Vegas does have its challenges, regardless of the weather. Here are a few suggestions for visitors who will be driving while in town:

First, minimize your time behind the wheel. It's too difficult to see the sights when you're navigating traffic, and we have a lot of sights to see. If you're staying on the Strip or Downtown, you can use the Monorail, bus service, or even take a taxi to get from place to place. When the weather is nice, which it usually is, I've always found it easier to walk down the Strip than to drive. I usually park the car at valet or in a parking garage, and then I'm free to roam inside and outside the casinos.

To see the sights away from the Strip, especially places outside of Las Vegas like Red Rock, Hoover Dam, or Lake Mead, you will need to drive unless you're signed up with a tour company. Get a good map and/or GPS. One of the most confusing things to most out-of-town drivers in Las Vegas is the baffling practice of giving one street several different names. Twain/Sands/Spring Mountain Road is a good example--three names, same street. That's where your map/GPS comes in handy. Just remember that the street name may change without you changing streets.

Second, practice defensive driving. Focus on your driving and stay alert for the actions of the other drivers. Las Vegas drivers tend to speed, tailgate, and run red lights. Don't try the "When in Rome, do as the Romans do" approach. Drive at the speed limit in the middle or right lane, let tailgaters pass you, and take a second look before continuing forward when you have a green light. If it's raining, use extra caution--ditto for rush hour. Practice common-sense, defensive driving, just as you would at home.

Third, watch out for road construction. Although the current economic slowdown has slowed road work, we still have plenty of torn-up streets. Pay attention to those big, flashing arrows warning you to move over a lane. If you wait until the last minute to change lanes, you may find yourself stuck there for a while. Many Las Vegas drivers will not let you over if you wait until the last minute to change lanes because they consider it to be the same thing as cutting places in line.

Most importantly, remember to enjoy your vacation. If driving in Las Vegas is too stressful for you, park the car and take another form of transportation. Remember, the goal of any vacation is to have a good time, not to have road rage.
Photo courtesy of Marcin Jochimczyk at

For more information about what to do while you're visiting Las Vegas, please visit my NileGuide Las Vegas page.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Cheyenne West Animal Hospital

For over 20 years, I had the same vet. I wish I knew a people doctor I trusted as much as I did my old vet. When he moved his office across town, I made the drive because I couldn't imagine taking my pets to anyone else. This year, he retired, lucky man. While I like the vet who took over his office, it just wasn't the same. When my cat developed a case of feline acne, I started looking for a new vet, one closer to my house. A good friend recommended Cheyenne West Animal Hospital, so today I braved the rain to take my unhappy cat to see Dr. Hewitt.

Seeing a new vet is almost as stressful as seeing a new people doctor. My cat must feel the same way since he had an accident in his crate on the way there. And let me say that I'm really glad people don't have to have their temperature taken the same way. But the staff at Cheyenne West Animal Hospital have a good antidote to new-doctor stress: they're friendly, caring, and professional. My friend's recommendation was certainly justified. They were even kind enough to clean up kitty's crate accident for me.

So if you're looking for a place to take your four-legged friends, let me pass along the recommendation. Cheyenne West Animal Hospital is at Buffalo and Gowan, they're open from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, and on Saturday 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. You can click on the link to get to their website, or call them at 702-395-1800.
My picture of today's patient, my cat Baby.

Las Vegas News This Week: Rain, Rain, Rain

Rain in the desert is a rarity. That's why it's the big news this week. If you're lucky enough to be at home, this week-long storm is probably a welcome break from the Las Vegas standards of sunny and clear. But if you have to drive anywhere, you might not appreciate the rain so much.

If you're from another part of the country, rain in Las Vegas probably looks pretty wimpy to you. That's why so many accidents happen during our infrequent rainfalls. Our rain is usually a steady, drizzly rain. For the most part, visibility remains pretty good. I've been in downpours in Texas and Wisconsin that made it impossible to see beyond the car's windshield. But that's where people get into trouble here--underestimating rain in the desert can get you into serious trouble. If you're headed out on the roadways while it's raining, be careful and remember:

1. Don't underestimate the driving hazards of Las Vegas rain. Yes, I know, you can see for blocks ahead. And yes, the water doesn't look that deep. Perhaps you're familiar with hydroplaning? You've seen those people in the big SUVs and pickups, speeding along like there's no rain. You can almost hear the scorn emanating from their vehicles: "Get out of my way, slow drivers! My gigantic vehicle with the big tires, four-wheel drive, and anti-lock brakes can drive through anything!" But it's not about what you can drive through. It's about stopping. This morning I saw a one-vehicle accident where an SUV had taken out a couple of utility boxes and landed on the sidewalk, in the rocks, facing the wrong way. Slow down, people.

2. Be a defensive driver. Even if you're driving safely, there's all those people who don't feel it's necessary to slow down. Put a little extra distance in between you and the person in front of you. You remember driver's ed, right? You did take driver's ed.... right?

3. The water doesn't have to be deep to be dangerous. Have you seen those billboards about the dangers of driving into flood waters? The reason we've got those billboards is because drivers consistently think they can make it through flooded roadways. Guess again. It's not the depth of the water, it's the speed at which it's moving. They don't call them "flash floods" for nothing. When in doubt, pick another route.

If you don't have to go out while it's raining, stay at home. It's much easier to enjoy the Las Vegas rain when you don't have to drive in it. Less than an hour ago, we had snow flurries at my house. And if you think Las Vegas drivers have issues with rain.... you can just imagine what they're like with snow!
My pictures of the Sahara/Ft. Apache area today at about 2:15 p.m. Unfortunately, due to technical issues between Blogger, my computer, and my photo editing software, the quality of these pictures is a bit low.
The Review-Journal posted a great slide show of the rain and snow.

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Beauty of Red Rock

When the weather is beautiful, like it was for most of today, all I want to do is jump in the car and drive west on Charleston. But since I've been working too much lately to get out, I thought I'd post some pictures instead.
From top to bottom: Red Rock Overlook, Sandstone Quarry, and Calico Basin.

Las Vegas: A Tale of Two Cities

Las Vegas remains one of the world's top tourist destinations--and for good reasons. We've got plush hotels, critically acclaimed restaurants, miles of shopping malls, every kind of show imaginable, and hip nightclubs. You can see historically significant places, like Hoover Dam; ride roller coasters; or visit Vegas-only places like the Liberace Museum and the Atomic Testing Museum. For the visitor, Las Vegas holds an array of things to do and see that rivals any other city. I write about my hometown for NileGuide, and keeping up with all the things we have to see and do is enough to keep my at my computer late into the night.

Then there's the rest of the city, the Las Vegas beyond the Strip.

Like many well-known tourist cities, the Las Vegas that exists outside of the Strip has some serious challenges. You've probably heard about the crime in Atlantic City or the poverty-stricken favelas in Rio. If you've been following the news, you know that Las Vegas is one of the nation's leaders in foreclosures, that our bankruptcy rate is skyrocketing, and that unemployment remains high. Nevada has used only a third of much-needed federal highway stimulus funds (money that could put thousands of unemployed construction workers back to work), HUD has decided we don't deserve any additional aid for foreclosures (without offering much of a reason why), and Nevada's governor is thinking about opting out of Medicaid (when more people than ever need assistance). It's enough to make you nostalgic for the Mob.

While I was reading all those depressing articles this week, I remembered the mutterings of years past, when some Las Vegas residents wondered if Nevada would be better off being split into two states: North Nevada and South Nevada. While that's as unlikely today as when the idea was first mentioned, if Southern Nevada could have its own leaders in charge of things, perhaps we'd have a different set of circumstances. Highway construction funds, for example, might actually be put to use here instead of in Carson City. I realize that drawing a line across the middle of Nevada to make two states out of one is pretty radical, but right now we need some radical solutions.
Photo by Justin Per at

Friday, January 08, 2010

Las Vegas and the Holiday Season

Mercifully, the holidays are over. I’m sure that the Bellagio has all their decorations taken down and neatly stored away, giant nutcrackers and all, but at my house the tree is still up. It’s a reminder of just how hectic the holidays were.

Amidst the whirlwind of unexpectedly doubled hours at my part-time job, a trip to the ER with a family member, shopping, decorating, and coping with a terminally ill family pet, I also had some extra writing assignments. One of them was a request to submit a post to National Geographic Traveler’s blog, IntelligentTravel, which had posted a fill-in-the-blank questionnaire about all the holiday aspects of a city. Although I was disappointed that my post wasn’t featured, in hindsight I can certainly understand why. Several of the questions left me scratching my head for good answers. Las Vegas may have made the Travel Channel’s list of “The Most Christmasy Places in America,” but that didn’t make it any easier for me to fit my hometown into any kind of traditional Christmas setting.

The questions severely tested my creative abilities, so much so that I believe I overdid my answers, something like a bad liar who can’t shut up. I won’t torment you with the full versions of my responses, but here are a few of the questions that left me banging my head on my desk:

The best place to grab a cup of cocoa is ______.
I think I may have groaned when I first read that one. The only place I could think of was Starbucks, and I knew that was not the answer they were looking for. I’ve had some seriously alcohol-infused hot apple cider concoctions while out and about, but not any cocoa. The short version of my agonized-over answer: Mt. Charleston.

Strap on your skates at _____ and enjoy the view of _____.
What immediately came to mind was absolutely nothing. I heard Ferris Bueller’s name being called without any answer as I pondered this one. My answer: MonteLago Village.

No holiday meal in my city is complete without ______.
Again, the sounds of silence filled my brain. What on earth do Las Vegans enjoy as a staple after holiday meals? We don’t have any city-wide holiday meal traditions, at least none that I know about, and I was born and raised here. My answer: A stiff after-dinner drink.

Locals know to avoid the throngs _____ and find the real magic ______.
At this point, I was considering that stiff drink before dinner rather than after. We all avoid the throngs on the Strip, but to find real magic… does Lance Burton do a Christmas show? My answer involved avoiding the throngs at the malls, and on the Strip on New Year’s Eve, and finding the real magic at home with family and friends.

And that, I believe, is one of the things that stymied my responses. At my house, the holidays are about family. I’d say most of my friends who are also long-time residents celebrate the holidays in Las Vegas the same way: with family and friends, far from the Strip, with nary a thought about ice skating or places to stop for cocoa. Las Vegas may be one of the world’s most exciting cities, but for her residents, the holidays are pretty tame.
My picture of the Bellagio Conservatory