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