Sun Valley to Vegas

What a day of contrasts!

It was time to leave the beautiful Sun Valley and continue on our journey. The leaving part of travel is always bittersweet for me, because there’s so much of this world to explore that I rarely get a chance to do repeat visits. But Sun Valley, Idaho is a lovely place. I knew I’d miss it.

But we were on our way to Las Vegas, to stay at the Venetian! We figured, since our trip to Italy was cancelled in May, why not splurge on one night in virtual Venice on our way to our next stop? So off we went.

En route, we crossed the immense Snake River Canyon. If you’re at least my age, you may remember that Evel Knievel attempted to jump this canyon in a rocket in 1974. (You can check out the youtube video here.) The man was an expert at publicity, I’ll say that. But standing there and seeing how unbelievably wide this canyon is, I could have told him that of COURSE he wasn’t going to make it. I’d have said it was foolish to try. But I remember watching at the time with bated breath. What can I say? It was the 70’s. You had to be there.

The ramp is still there. We could see it in the distance. A monument to foolishness.

Onward. We went through Shoshone, Idaho, and passed a mountain of potatoes that must have been 20 feet high. I wish I had gotten a picture, but it kind of snuck up on me, and then I was too busy picking my jaw up off the ground to think of my camera. That’s a lot of French fries right there.

Our trip on this day was 580 miles, and much of that was farmland. We saw lots and lots and lots of corn fields. And it was a really windy day, so the corn was dancing, just for us.

We were driving the length of Eastern Nevada, and when we entered that state, we made a quick stop at Cactus Pete’s Casino in the town of Jackpot. Gambling really isn’t my bag, but it was my husband’s vacation, too. And seeing all the colorful flashing lights was kind of cool.

On the highway south of Jackpot, we saw a sign that said, “Report shooting from highway. Operation Game Thief.” Oh, joy.

And as we entered the great basin, a desert area that looks devoid of life, we saw a rusted old water tank in the middle of nowhere, and painted on the side of it were the words, “Everything has a price.” Again, I didn’t have time for a picture. But it made me think.

We also went through Rock Canyon, which was cool and unexpected. It’s amazing how many varieties of rock are out there. It’s astounding how quickly the terrain can change. Nature is fascinating.

The sun went down, and I was grateful, because it had been in my eyes for hours. And then suddenly, there it was. Las Vegas. The entire valley lit up like Christmas on steroids. It was beautiful and otherworldly.

I’ve always found it a bit ironic that Las Vegas has this particular name, because in Spanish, Vega means fertile lowlands. Vegas is far from fertile, in my opinion. It’s a dry, sun-blasted desert, and this city is completely dependent on water from elsewhere, for all its extravagant use thereof. It’s a city that thrives on being wasteful, and we were about to plunge into it headfirst.

We drove the strip. I hadn’t been there in at least 25 years, and it has quadrupled in size. It was a festival of lights, indeed. You can’t help but be impressed with how much man is capable of creating, if you can get past the fact that none of it is natural.

Can you tell that I have a love/hate relationship with this city? My late sister and my late mother haunt me here. They lived here when my sister was stationed at Nellis Air Force Base. I came to visit a few times, and it was here that I witnessed my mother begin her long, hard, brutal battle with cancer. The BRCA1 genetic anomaly is a rot in the heart of my family tree, and it took them both. Fortunately I do not have it.

It’s strange to think I’m the only one left of the three of us. Life is so precious and fleeting. But that’s not Vegas’ fault.

These are weird times in this weird city. It was less crowded than usual, and yet it was still very crowded by any other city’s standards. And a lot of the people on the street were not wearing face masks, except, oddly, for the people standing in a block-long line for food from a taco stand.

This was to be, by far, the most people I’ve been around since March, and it felt really strange. Vegas, a city that thrives on risk, was taking a lot of precautions. Every casino was doing temperature checks before you could enter. There was Purell everywhere. There was plexiglass between each seat at the tables. Every other slot machine was off, and every other chair was missing. The number of people allowed on elevators was limited. More people were mask compliant indoors than out on the street, but there were some diehard smokers and gamblers who didn’t care about themselves any more than they cared about anyone else. I washed my hands a lot. A whole lot.

We checked into the Venetian, and I have to say the suite was luxurious. I felt like a queen.

We then went out to explore. We decided to have dinner at Yardbird Southern Food, right on site, mainly because the Italian restaurant we had planned to eat at was closing, but it turned out to be a good choice, because we had Lobster Mac n’ Cheese, and it nearly made me swoon. They even knew how to cook collard greens properly, which is something I haven’t experienced since living in Florida. What a treat.

Then we window shopped, and watched people riding the gondolas. I’d rather wait for the real thing. I’m bound and determined that we’ll go to Venice one of these days.

It was hot. 90 degrees, after dark. I don’t miss that. It’s really hard to wear a mask when the heat is already making you feel like you’re suffocating. But we soldiered on.

Then we went back to the suite, because I had spotted my biggest weakness: A bathtub that I could actually lie flat in. So I had a nice long introverted soak, trying not to feel guilty about wasting water in the desert, while my extroverted husband got his Vegas on. Everybody happy, that’s the goal! We slept like royalty, looking forward to the following day.

Here are some of our pictures from this leg of the trip. Enjoy!

There are a lot more tales to tell about this trip, but I’ll try not to post them daily, so as not to put off those who aren’t interested in travel blogs. So brace yourself for a good month of every other day adventures! I’ll try to link them together, so that you can start at the beginning if you find yourself in the middle and want to read the whole saga. Here’s a link to the first post in the series. And here’s a link to the next day’s adventure!

Like this quirky little blog? Then you’ll love this book!


What Do You Do?

All of the above? Then I’m guessing you’re a woman.

My wonderfully woke husband recently posted this picture on his Facebook page, along with the explanation quoted below it.

Jackson Katz

Men ask why women are so pissed off, even guys with wives and daughters. Jackson Katz, a prominent social researcher, illustrates why. He’s done it with hundreds of audiences:

“I draw a line down the middle of a chalkboard, sketching a male symbol on one side and a female symbol on the other.

“Then I ask just the men: What steps do you guys take, on a daily basis, to prevent yourselves from being sexually assaulted? At first there is a kind of awkward silence as the men try to figure out if they’ve been asked a trick question. The silence gives way to a smattering of nervous laughter. Occasionally, a young a guy will raise his hand and say, ‘I stay out of prison.’ This is typically followed by another moment of laughter, before someone finally raises his hand and soberly states, ‘Nothing. I don’t think about it.’

“Then I ask the women the same question. What steps do you take on a daily basis to prevent yourselves from being sexually assaulted? Women throughout the audience immediately start raising their hands. As the men sit in stunned silence, the women recount safety precautions they take as part of their daily routine.”

Yup. I do the vast majority of these things. It’s second nature to me. I don’t even think about it. It’s what I have to do, as a woman, to walk safely through this world.

It never occurred to me that men don’t think about these things. It never really entered my mind how off balance this world is. It makes me kind of sick to my stomach in retrospect.

And then I remembered a couple of incidents that make a lot more sense to me now.

Once I was on a first date with a really nice guy and he was doing his best to impress me. We were having fun in downtown Jacksonville, and to get from one place to another, we decided to take a shortcut through an alley. (It was really more of a pedestrian walkway, paved with cobblestones and very well lit, but deserted.) I’d been through it a thousand times. But this time when we were halfway through, a scary guy entered from the other end. I stopped dead and started backing up. My date kept going and engaged the guy in conversation. He was begging for money. I think my date was trying to show me he was a compassionate person, and so he gave the guy some money, but by then I had backed out of the alley entirely. He came and apologized to me. He said he hadn’t even thought of the fact that the situation was unsafe, and he shouldn’t have put me in it. Yup. He never had to think of things like that when he was on his own.

Another time, I was riding bikes with my boyfriend through our small town, and we decided to go into the local convenience store, as we had many times before. But this time I could hear drunken shouting inside. Again, I stopped dead. I said, “Uh… not a good idea. Not safe.” But my boyfriend was thirsty, so he went anyway. I rode off and went home, where I have an arsenal of strategically placed innocent-looking items that I can use as weapons if need be. A much safer place to be than in the presence of an outraged drunken stranger. When my boyfriend got back he asked me why I had left without him. I said I wasn’t safe. He was truly baffled.

I would love to have the luxury of being baffled. Unfortunately, I’m too busy trying not to be in harm’s way. That’s the way it is. If more men saw that, it would make life easier for us women. I’m not expecting to be taken care of. In fact, I don’t want to be treated like a hothouse flower. But if I do ask you for help, or if I signal that you’re putting me in a situation, then please, take it seriously. That’s really the least you can do while I’m doing everything else on the list above, don’t you think?


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Let’s Talk About the Weather, Shall We?

I’m looking forward to a rare day of sunshine here in the Pacific Northwest, and the temperature is expected to rise to a delightful 65 degrees. Spring! Happy dance!

Meanwhile, a dear friend in Kansas had to hunker down the other day in anticipation of 2 to 4 inches of snow. In April. This is not normal. The world has gone mad.

It used to be that the weather was considered to be the safest of all possible topics. We are all told to avoid politics and religion over Thanksgiving dinner, but the weather… we could all agree on that, couldn’t we?

Not anymore. The weather has become political. At a time when California is burning to the ground, islands are sinking beneath the ocean waves, there is severe flooding, drought, dust storms engulfing entire cities, super storms of all kinds, and unprecedented ice cap melting, we are expected to avoid the meteorological elephant in the room. Even governmental websites are deleting any references to global climate change.

I never thought I’d see the day when liberals would be considered the most conservative people on earth, but we are the ones that are wanting to take precautions to safeguard the planet. Even if you don’t believe in the overwhelming science of climate change, even if you refuse to look at the evidence before your very eyes, how can you justify not wanting to take steps, just in case? If this really does turn out to be our last chance to save ourselves, don’t you want to be aboard that ark?

What is wrong with reducing our dependence on fossil fuels? Why not recycle? Would it kill you to plant a tree? Is it really so hard to be a little bit smarter about your water usage? Why is expecting our corporations not to pour their toxic waste into our rivers and streams so controversial?

Seriously. Explain it to me. Because I don’t get it.

Surely we can all agree that this isn’t the best idea we’ve ever had.

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I am NOT Made of Glass

I have a new coworker who annoys the crap out of me. Oh, he means well, and I’m sure in any other context I’d think he was just fine. But within five minutes of meeting me, he called me a girl.  Great. I’m 49 and have almost 13 more years of experience on this job than he does, and he is already not taking me seriously.

At the end of shift change as I’m walking off the bridge, he insists on standing outside on the sidewalk and watching me go all the way to my car to make sure I’m safe. That’s a nice gesture, very gallant, so it took me a while to figure out why it bugged me.

Don’t get me wrong. I like having doors opened for me. I like common courtesy, evidence of respect, signs that people think I’m special and deserve to be pampered. I’d be forever grateful if someone pushed me out of the way if there’s a safe falling out of a 25 story window. And if I do see one of our crazies on the bridge, I will ask my coworker to watch, and I’ll do the same for him or her.

What I resent is the implication that I’m somehow incapable of protecting myself even on the calmest of nights, the concept that I’m so flaky and incompetent that I am unable to take reasonable precautions for my own safety. I also take exception to the fact that I’ve been walking off this bridge for nearly 13 years, past all manner of drunks and oddballs, and have done so effectively and safely, and yet this guy comes along and thinks I need him to be my hero all of a sudden. (And frankly it gives me the creeps that he’s probably staring at my butt the entire time I’m walking away.) Even when I tell him it’s not necessary, he insists on doing it anyway, as if my poor judgment needs to be vetoed for my own security.

So here’s what I plan to do when I see him this week. First, I’m going to ask him if he watches the male bridgetenders walk to their cars as well. If he says yes, then I’ll say, “Fine. It’s really not necessary, and it actually makes me really uncomfortable, but do what feels right for you.” If he says no, though, I’m going to hand him a link to this blog entry.

If you are reading this, coworker in question, it offends me that you perceive me as weaker, less capable, and by implication somehow inferior to you. If you haven’t figured out yet that I’m no shrinking violet, you’re painfully out of touch with reality. This does not make you a hero in my eyes. It makes me view you as a deluded throwback to the 1950’s, and I kind of feel sorry for you.