Hello Friends and Family,

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Las Vegas & Grand Canyon

We are back from our guided tour of Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon — the standard requirement whenever one living in Phoenix has out-of-town guests — in this case, out-of-country (specifically from Japan). Our guest is a friend of a friend of Mizuki’s who has endeared herself so rapidly that Mizuki and I both feel like she is Mizuki’s little sister.

It was interesting to drive this time since you can see things that are not visible from the air. The item that caught my eye was the Joshua Trees (and the Joshua Forest) along US 93. Perhaps I have not been paying attention but I don’t recall seeing these before — yet they are quite striking. I talked with a colorful local character where we stopped for lunch and he claimed that these trees were featured in an episode of the TV series Lost in Space. It seems that they needed something that looked exotic enough to be from another planet and the Joshua trees fit the requirement. Fact or local myth? Who knows?

Moving on, this was the first time I have been over the Hoover Dam since 9/11. Certain types of vehicles (like panel trucks) are no longer allowed to cross here and there are now security checks for all vehicles approaching the dam. We were waved right through but it did not matter much since the traffic at the dam was so bad. I confess, I did not take the photo at left (nor the Joshua Trees above — the photos below are mine) because I was driving. However, imagine multiplying the traffic pictured here a thousand fold, creeping (and just barely so) along bumper to bumper and you’ll have a better idea of what it was really like. It took us about 45 minutes to cross both going to Las Vegas and, a few days later returning to Arizona.

One thing of note was how low the water is in Lake Mead above the dam. As you may know, the Southwest has been experiencing a decade-long drought — and here it was quite evident. There is a large band of white rock showing below the high water mark and the current water level.

On to Las Vegas — where we stayed at the Luxor for the first time. For those of you who don’t know, the Luxor is one of the theme casino resorts — their theme obviously being Egypt. The hotel is a pyramid, some 30 stories and 350 feet high (compared to the Great Pyramid at Giza which is 482 feet tall). As you can tell from the photo of the interior (from the 18th floor where our room was located), each floor is offset toward the center from the floor below, following the contours of a pyramid. There is four-foot tall wall that protects you as you look over this huge enclosed space. If you look straight down, you cannot see the floor below which is certain to distress any acrophobic who stays here. However, you can see the buildings within a building that provide space, and thus revenue for MGM Mirage (who owns the Luxor).

One of the curiosities of this hotel are the “inclinators”. Because of the angle of the exterior walls, they could not use standard elevators. Thus Otis Elevator Company made a custom design (unique in all the world according to our bellman) that moves at the angle of the walls (39°). When you are inside the inclinator, it looks like a normal elevator but when it starts, it kind of pushes you to one side then to the other side when it stops. The ride is a bit rough, especially if you are the only one person in the inclinator. If you are claustrophobic, you might want to choose a different hotel.

Part of the decor includes statues and frescoes in the style of ancient Egypt, such as the one at the left. These are huge by contemporary architectural standards but dwarfed by some of the real items. For instance the statues of Ramesses II at Abu Simbel are some 67 feet tall. This decor provides a nice atmosphere to the resort — however, I wonder why they did not extend the theme to costumes/uniforms for at least some of the employees. And why don’t they have Pharaoh and his queen carried in a litter by strong men in period attire? It could be scheduled for a specific time so tourists could get their photographs — and afterward, perhaps shop or dine at the Luxor.

Oh, I am such a dummy — such things might take people away from the gaming (notice we don’t say “gambling” any more) tables. Since I am not a gambler, it just did not cross my mind. Sorry.

After a few days of Sin City, we moved on to the Grand Canyon. As they say a picture is worth a thousand words. Need I say more?

Our guest from Japan was awestruck, first by Vegas then by this erosion caused by the Colorado River.


Life is good.

B. David

P. S., All photos and text © B. David Cathell Photography, Inc. — www.bdavidcathell.com