Las Vegas

Picture of bellagio We stayed at the Paris while in Las Vegas. This was the view out of our window across the strip to the Bellagio and a partial view of the fountain shows there. The music the fountains are choreographed to is lost in the traffic noises from this distance
Picture of caesers_palace The entrance to Caeser's Palace and the amazing color-changing Christmas tree.
Picture of luxor Here we are in front of the Sphinx at the Luxor hotel which is unsurprisingly Egyptian-themed. This is actually a stop on Las Vegas's new mass-transit system which at the time only had three stops on it.
Picture of mirage The Mirage features a volcano out front which 'erupts' every few minutes. For the record, actual volcano eruptions are much more impressive (see the Costa Rica pages from 2001).
Picture of mirage_water Flaming water near the volcano. This is actually sort of neat, and on cold nights like this one, it's a good thing to be standing near.
Picture of paris The mini-Eiffel Tower. How many mini-Eiffel Tower's are there in the US alone? We know of 4 (the others being Paramount theme parks) at least. Inside, the Paris hotel is French-themed in the same way French Toast is (i.e. nominally). We're trying not to be biased by the number of mistakes they made during our stay, it's a nice enough hotel but we probably won't be staying there again.
Picture of treasure_island Treasure Island is home to a very crowded and supposedly fantastic pirate/mermaid/ship-sinking extravaganza but it only happens three times a night and we kept missing it.
Picture of venetian The Venetian hotel which has a scale model version of every postcard view in Venice crammed into the courtyard in front of the hotel. Inside is quite spacious and features a gondola route with much much cleaner water than the original. In the casino they seem to use a carpet shampoo scented by Chanel guaranteed to give most people (4 out of 4 in our case) a headache within 3 minutes.
Picture of lake_mead Lake Mead, just a few miles south of Las Vegas was formed by the creation of Hoover Dam which backed up the Colorado River so much that it no longer reaches the Gulf of California during much of the year. This is view from Hoover Dam looking upstream towards Lake Mead. The massive drop in water level apparent here is partially seasonal and partially due to the Bellagio's fountain shows. Actually, it's a combination of the mega-casinos and the rapidly growing population of the city.
Picture of hoover_dam Here's your dam view. We couldn't fit it all into one picture. Just off the photo to the left is the amazing new parking facility (in 1989 we just parked on the shoulder of the road) which may be the world's most convoluted parking garage. At the visitor center they'll take your picture on a blue screen and super-impose it on the dam and sell it back to you for something like $20. This is without a doubt officially the tackiest thing we've ever seen from the National Park Service.
Picture of lisamike Lisa and Mike pose on the downstream side of the dam. The left side of the river is Arizona, and the right side is Nevada. The diagonal and horizontal power supports are at least as impressive as the dam itself.
Picture of panorama
Picture of us_redrock Red Rock Canyon is an area just north of the city of Las Vegas. Much of it is now a national preserve. You can probably figure out the creative naming from this picture or the panorama above. Along with Hoover Dam this is probably the most popular day trip from Las Vegas.
Picture of burro Wild burros are quite common in the red rock canyon area. In fact the visitor center was infested with them when we visited. This is Fred (according to a park ranger). We are told that he has a tendency to bite and kick when people don't feed him. Oddly enough, the signs all tell you not to feed Fred and his cohorts. Most people we saw stopped in their cars and fed them anyway, because the best way to get anyone to do anything at a National Park is to tell them not to.
Picture of levels Red Rock Canyon consists of a driving loop which is scenic at first and then pretty dull after the first mile or two. Hiking trails inside the driving loop appear to be equally dull. The hiking trails that went into the various side canyons were much more interesting. This is a section of low hills on the east side of the canyon that we spent a fair amount of time playing in. There are some trails here but you're welcome to orienteer wherever you like (according to the signs) as long you understand that falling off a cliff could be detrimental to your health.
Picture of scattered The rock formations here are rather fascinating and there a little crevices, retaining pools and mini-caves everywhere. Because of all the erosion marks in the rocks, climbing and bouldering here is fairly easy. There are more difficult cliffs in the area, most of which were occupied by one or more climbing teams (with ropes).
Picture of melanie_rock Melanie eschews ropes and despite our inappropriate dress for the occasion, she felt it necessary to climb up into this odd-shaped thing.

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