Saturday, August 21, 2010

Adam comes for a visit

This week Adam, Justine, and Brody came down for a visit. We started out the day with Brody driving the lawn mower. He seemed to like it. He wasn't scared of the motor and he really was doing some of the steering. We enjoyed their visit very much and hope to see them again soon. We really have missed them and Brody is getting so grown up. He hasn't gotten much bigger. He still is very small for his age (just like his dad was). It was especially nice to see Brody and Brayden together. There isn't a lot of difference in the age and they are pretty much the same size. We had a terrific week.

Trip to Mid America Museum

Tuesday we all went out to eat and then to Mid America Museum. We really had a good time. It was nice and air conditioned. My kind of place :) The boys seemed to enjoy everything except the dinosaurs. They weren't too happy about the monsters in the dark.

We really enjoyed having everybody together and hope to get them together again soon.

Trip to the Zoo

We took the boys to the zoo on Thursday. They really seemed to have a good time even though it was REALLY hot!! Brody was very excited and jumped out of the wagon at every chance to see a new animal. Brayden took things a little more relaxed and sat back and enjoyed the ride and the sites.

Adam took the boys through the sprinkler to cool off just a little.

Friday, August 20, 2010


We had nice accommodations while exploring the desert sites. We stayed at the Venetian Hotel on the Vegas strip. A knock off of the city of Venice, it came complete with indoor and outdoor gondola rides along canals lined with shops. There had to be a lot of losers to pay for this place.

One morning Debbie and I got up at 5 a.m. and explored our hotel and even ventured outside to explore our temporary neighborhood (Treasure Island, Caesar's Palace, Flamigo, Luxor, Balagio, etc.). The fountain show was neat at the Balagio. We did see one show while we were here, The Blue Man group, which was great! We also got the chance to see the pawn shop from the TV show, "Pawn Stars" if you are into watching the History Channel you know what I am talking about.

However, by day three everything in Vegas started to look the same. Sensory overload was definitely stuck in overdrive. Every hotel looked like the one we just left. The strip became one long continuous stream of flickering lights with all the same sounds and smells. I was glad we didn't stay any longer than 3 days, which was enough time to see what we really came to see (the Grand Canyon and desert). Things had really changed since I was here 25 years ago. Even the locals I talked to agreed. Everything was so very expensive including the meals; it was like being stuck in an amusment park having to pay amusment park prices for everything you eat and drink. I know Vegas has tried to become more "family" friendly or more of a vacation destination for the whole family, but personally I don't get it. There are things even on the street I wouldn't want my teenager or adolescent to see or hear. And then there is the cost; I could easily see an ordinary meal running a family of four well over $150.

This was just half of our room on the 22nd floor. What is not shown in the picture is our king size bed and a bathroom with a glass, walk-in shower, huge tub, double sinks, and toilet in its own room with a telephone.

This was inside the hotel which has a ceiling painted like the evening sky. You really do feel like you are strolling the streets of Venice (I guess because I have never been to Venice).

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Desert Garden

Another highlight of our vacation was a visit to a cactus garden. It was here that I got the pics of the roadrunner (see Bismarck Birding blog). The sheer variety of desert plants was amazing. While the barrel cacti are still my personal favorites, there are many other succulents and woody plants that are adapted to the desert. And if climate change continues, who knows we might all need to start becoming proficient at growing desert plants in our gardens in Arkansas. I know these guys would be right at home in my backyard this week.

The old familiar "prickly pears." I can remember fighting these guys in the DeRoche church yard. A needle through the sneakers and into the foot was a constant reminder of their presences while I was mowing sections of the yard.

I didn't get the name of this species, but judging from the flower I would say it is a close relative of our Silk (a.k.a Mimosa) tree.

What crazy shapes these cacti take! They almost look like human sculptures.

The Mesquite trees were the largests plants in the garden. However, by comparison to our pines and oaks, these mesquites can look like bushes. The truly amazing thing about these trees is their ability to find water. Mequite trees can put down roots more than 100' deep in order to find water. No other plant comes close to that root depth.

This pot full of "mother-in-law's tongue" was actually on the street rather than in the garden. But just the huge size of the plant caught my eye (4' tall). If you ever saw or felt the serrated edge of its leaf and you are married, then you know how it got its name.

Here is an Ephedra plant. Extracts from this plant have been used and are still being used today for many different things. Ephedrine and psuedoephedrine are the active constituents of this plant.

Here is agave plant is also known as a century plant because it only blooms once in its lifetime, which was believed to be 100 years, but is actually about 25 years. So I guess it should be called a "quarter of a century" plant. When it does bloom the flower is full of very sweet nectar and companies are manufacturing a sugar substitute from the bloom and flesh of this plant.

Aloe is a genus that contains over 400 species. We are most familiar with the species Aloe vera. Here is a field full of what they call "medical" Aloe or Aloe vera.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Hoover or Boulder Dam?

As you can see, we did not spend all of our time in the air. One day we took a bus tour of the Hoover Dam (a.k.a. Boulder Dam) located in the black canyon of the Colorado River. But first, notice the new US93 bridge located 1,600' downstream of the Hoover Dam crossing the Colorado River from Nevada to Arizona. Once complete in November, there will be no more traffic across Hoover Dam. With security checkpoints, you should have seen the traffic backed up trying to cross the dam; luckily our bus got there early enough to avoid all the congestion. This bridge is suppose to end all this traffic problem. The name of the bridge is the O'Callaghan-Tillman Memorial Bridge. O'Callaghan, I don't know anything about, but Pat Tillman was the Arizona Cardinal NFL player who was killed in Afghanistan serving this country.

Due to my fear of heights, Debbie did all the picture taking from the edge looking down. I stayed well away from the rail. We did not go down into the dam due to both of our claustrophobic condition; to hear some tour guide tell me how much water was pressing against the dam while I was down in it would be too much for me.

According to the information signs, Hoover Dam was constructed with 6.6 million tons of cement, which is enough to pour a 3" thick, 4' wide side walk around the equator! The dam is 726' tall, which makes it taller than the Washington monument, Gateway Arch, and the Pyramids.

The white line above Lake Mead behind the dam and all around the lake is called the "bathtub ring" and shows how severely water levels have been dropping. Currently, the lake is at 39% of its capacity and levels have been dropping steadily since 2000 due to higher than average evaporation rates and less than average snowfall in the Rockies (the Colorado River owes most of its existence to spring snow melt). Entire, multi-million dollar marinas have had to relocate due to the dropping water levels. The latest estimates project that by 2017 the lake will fall below minimum power level elevations (1050') and the lake's live storage ability will vanish by 2021, if global climate change continues and strict water conservation laws are not passed. So if you are going to see this lake, you better not put a trip off for too long.

Monument to the men who risked their life to build this dam during the depression years.

Thank you Japanese tourists for taking our picture and not running off with our camera.

I am glad Debbie got this shot. It makes me nervous just looking at these pictures. Yikes!