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  • Robert John Andrews

Rambling Snapshots: Las Vegas



My Rand McNally afterwards

Next Month: Alabama Hills



Chapter Eighteen


Las Vegas, Nevada



We woke at the Callville Bay Campsite overlooking lapis lazuli Lake Mead, hundreds of moored boats in the marina, and an equal number of RV’s. We collapsed the tent, packed the car, and, improvising our itinerary as we went, decided we’d take a drive down the famous Las Vegas strip on our way west. Originally we weren’t going to bother, but, well, we had to go by Vegas anyway to get to Death Valley. Later, after our drive-by of Vegas, we drove past the Nellis Air Force Range and Nevada Test Site. Area 51 was somewhere mysteriously off to the east. At the gas station leading to the entrance to Death Valley you can both fill up your car and spend a half hour with an approved prostitute. How utterly sad. After driving past both places, I’m convinced which place is the deadlier.


With Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park we had seen what nature could create. The hoodoos, grottos, caprocks, stone and soil had been chiseled by wind, rain, and river into a cacophony of spectacular delight. Windows and arches carved in limestone. Pinnacles rise like organ pipes hundreds of feet high. Yellow petals bursting from flowering cacti. Tiny green-vested and white-banded birds perform gymnastics in the air with their triangle wings, chasing bugs above the cottonwoods growing from the silt of the Virgin River, before settling into their nests tucked up into the rooks of cliffs. Thin waterfalls cascade in tiers 2,000 feet, forming emerald pools. Water will flow where it will. O’ pioneers: when you thirst, look for cottonwoods.


Now we wanted to see Las Vegas and take in what man could make.


This trip is beginning to convince me that everybody trades on something. Every town trades on what it can.


Which was why I had to visit Roswell after we left Lubbock, Texas. Some dreams get a chance of being fulfilled. I’m ripe with dreams.


Now, let it be said there are lovely sections of Roswell that warrant a hello. The Public Library for instance. Large metal letters naming American authors run in a continuous band along the top edge of the building:


SEUSHEMINGWAYTWAIN…


It also deserves to be mentioned that Roswell is the (self-proclaimed) Dairy Capital of the World. But neither cows nor books were the reason I was there. I have dreamt of visiting Roswell for years because the UFO International Museum is there. For years I have dreamt of standing on the sidewalk wearing aluminum foil on my head. Which I did. Which you can do. No one cares. Frank took the photograph with me wearing my aluminum foil helmet. No one says anything because it’s a goofy town. It also is a tacky town. It reminds me of the Jersey shore. Main Street consists mostly of UFO gift shops, some with eerie music playing. They all sell the same junk: plastic inflatable green aliens, caps, mugs, key chains. Of course, the real crash site of the supposed aliens (most likely chimpanzees on a test ascent for NASA’s precursors) took place closer to Corona, New Mexico, 75 miles north.


Everybody trades on something. God bless us. I love it. God help us.


Take Winslow, Arizona, for instance. Construction crews made it impossible for us to drive through the key part of town -- the east bound lane of Route 66 -- because they were fixing the curbs and installing a large road sign in white and black bricks in the middle of the intersection. We parked a few blocks away. The bricks will resemble the classic Route 66 traffic sign. They were installing it at the intersection where stands the bronze statue of a fellow taking it easy at the corner in Winslow, Arizona. A mural of a girl in a flat bed Ford is painted on the wall behind it. Time for another snapshot, not me with the statue but in front of the mural. I’ll take the girl. This whole town is trading on one line in a song by the rock band, Eagles. Well, that is why we visited and ate eggs sunny-side up and bacon there.


Or take San Juan Capistrano, California, where the legend of Zorro was birthed and where on March 19th, the swallows annually return. Well, less than they use to. The whole region is building bigger buildings so there are more places now for the swallows to roost. But the Old Mission at San Juan still hosts a few.


Bardstown, Kentucky, is where you can visit ‘My Old Kentucky Home’ and learn about Stephen Foster or sleep overnight in the bed and breakfast which rents out the woman’s drunk tank.


Go to Shamrock, Texas, the home of Bill Mack the Satellite Cowboy.


Weatherford is the home of Astronaut Tom Stafford, plus the Heartland of America Heritage Museum and the Chisolm Trail.


Shawnee features sculptures of almost 2 dozen horses all around town. You can take the ‘Horse in the City Tour.’ I was there only a night so I only admired the horse out in front of Van’s Pig House where I ate BBQ.


Prague, Oklahoma, is the home of Jim Thorpe (not to be confused Jim Thorpe, the town near where I live that enthusiastically, ingeniously, parasitically, named itself after this Oklahoman).


At Texola you will find the Roger Miller Museum.


You like Rock and Roll? Then you can’t miss the Buddy Holly Center of Lubbock, Texas. It was closed by the time we checked into a motel we could afford and drove downtown to the nearby brew pub.


Drive through Santa Rosa’s quaint downtown. Turn left on Lake Drive. Go past pretty Park Lake. A little farther on and you’ll find the famous Blue Hole, a favorite of desert scuba divers. Over 80’ deep, this sink hole, which at the surface is the size of a tennis court, is fed by an underground water supply.


Henryetta, Oklahoma, boasts that you can come and see Troy Aikman’s home.


There’s the Alex Haley Museum of Henning, Tennessee.


Davy Crockett’s last home can be found in Rutherford, Tennessee. Well, it’s more of a model of the cabin where his mother lived. A few logs from his farm 4 ½ miles east of Rutherford were trucked over this way and used for this museum, which is located next to the school yard. Davy lost the congressional election and went to the Alamo. It was, I suppose, easier to fight Santa Ana than face disgruntled voters back home.


An enormous Confederate Battle Flag snaps and flaps above a windy hillock on the road to Rutherford erected by the Sons of Confederate Veterans. This Confederate Memorial Plaza of Parks Cemetery Ridge houses in a brick gazebo a sign-in guest book. I signed the book, of course, gleefully adding that I was the descendent of a soldier who served in the 154th New York. Great-grandpa Joseph’s Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) ceremonial sword hangs on the wall near my desk. Joseph makes me eligible to become a member of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War (SUVCW). I toyed with mentioning in the guest book that Joseph won, but that would rub salt in Confederate wounds. I really should be more careful. Ghosts of other ancestors might rise up from their graves to haunt me. Grandma’s mother, Permila Rush Dickson, grew up on a plantation outside Dickson, South Carolina, at least until Yankees burnt it to the ground. When forced by age and infirmity to move north and live with grandma in the heathen land above the Mason-Dixon line in Westfield, New Jersey, she hung proudly and prominently in her bedroom a portrait of Robert E. Lee. Permila’s brothers – all who served the Southern cause honorably – make me eligible to enroll as a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV). SUVCW. SCV. Given my direct thistle lineage from a Scot Highlander who switched sides so he could fight for the upstart Americans with other Scots against the damn English (who impressed him by bludgeon and poverty into the King’s infantry ranks in the first place), I could also join the Sons of the American Revolution. SUVCW. SCV. SAR. Let’s face it, most of us are mutts. I think I would rather become a member of the Sons of the Desert.


Lottie: Have you anything else to say? Oliver: Why no. That's all there is. There isn't anymore. Is there Stanley? Stan: No, that's our story and we're stuck with it. In it.


Everybody trades on something. Mostly it’s harmless. Except for maybe Las Vegas.


It was either ironic or prophetic (or both) that the moment I, with drowsy pupils and crusty eyelids, unzipped the flap to the tent back at our Callville Bay Campsite at Lake Mead and stepped outside I startled away a prowling coyote. The bevy of pigeons I had to forcibly shoo away.


Two cups of coffee and an hour later we drove down the famous strip: $70 1 Hour Massage, Pawn, Bail Bonds, Wee Kirk in the Heather Wedding Chapel, Cupid’s Wedding Chapel Themed Weddings – Themed Rooms, Little White Chapel, Strippers Nude Daily Nude Nude, March Madness Shoot to Score Free Admission, Bail Bonds, Pawn Shop, Super Bail, We Loan More, plus signs reminding parents not to leave their children in the car.


The Mirage Hotel and Casino is the most honest of the ornate places there. Las Vegas is all mirage. They call it craps for a reason


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