171. Having One Hell of a Big Day

Having One Hell of a Big Day: Contrary to the nice n’ easy philosophy that’s governed most of our cross country schedule, sometimes we like to treat ourselves to the “holy crap” high earned by hustling some extra sights. So on the day we left the Grand Canyon, we also browsed along the longest remaining stretch of Historic Route 66, nodded politely throughout the Hoover Dam tour and then stayed up all night in Vegas, managing to lose only one dollar. Holy craps.

The living ghost town of Seligman, Arizona marks the start of a very satisfying length of Route 66, the American highway hogging a disproportionate share of the asphalt nostalgia market. Correct me if I’m wrong, but no one’s selling snow globes to commemorate a safe ride on the Northeast Extension of the Pennsylvania Turnpike. But then, Jack Kerouac never wrote a book about hitchin’ and screwin’ his way along that highway. And there’s no song about it either, get your kicks and so on. I’ve always been curious about the obsession with Route 66, because I myself feel drawn to it without really knowing why. After driving the near 200 miles of this neglected Arizona asphalt, rough and stubbly like an unshaven grandpa, miles that roll and wind through the tumbleweed plains and red rock canyons between Seligman and Oatman, I get it. Route 66 is about what road trips used to mean to Americans. Slow driving, occasionally making good time, but making more time to stop at every roadside wonder and car hop diner with a respectable neon sign. This is exactly the kind of road trip we like to take in 2008, so the relics on Route 66 were a gold mine.

And then on to the Hoover Dam – engineering marvel, vertigo-inducing views, unlikely monument to Art Deco style and creepy, overpriced propaganda machine on the value of dams as saviors of humankind. The old Colorado River, pre-dam, is repeatedly referred to as untamed, dangerous and “good for nothing.” The new dammed Colorado, however, is celebrated as being useful, a friend of man, now that it has been harnessed for electricity, irrigation water and “great jet skiing on Lake Mead.” Despite the pinko willies we got from all that nonsense, the underground power plant tour was pretty neat. And not just because I got to see Amy in action, latching as she does to tour guides and beating them down with the provocative questions.

Amy: How many people died making this thing?
Guide: Well there’s an official count and an unofficial count.
Amy: Mmm hmm. Have there been any earthquakes here?
Guide: Two.
Amy: Any damage?
Guide: None.
Amy: How long have you worked here?

He answered these questions but refused a few others, citing “post 9-11 safety concerns.” We moved on.

Back up the hill and then down again into the hazy valley of Las Vegas. Beautiful at sunset, this city will rob you blind after dark and give you tremendous regret when you see it again in the light of day. We were lucky enough to find a parking spot at the only RV park on the strip, a little slab of concrete jackpot wedged between the back of the Circus Circus casino and I-15 Northbound. We put it in park, showered for the first time in two days, devoured a couple of PB & J sandwiches and then caught the double decker public party bus that shuttles numb gamblers and lookey-lous up and down the strip. Something magically disastrous happens to time and discretion when you’re wandering around this place; even though you’ve only been out for an hour, it’s somehow three in the morning, there are four empty one-shot liquor bottles in your purse and someone is following you three blocks while soliciting you in Spanish to hire a prostitute. It was all worth it, except for the next morning’s fallout that meant a lot of unhelpful lolling around, a late checkout and great confusion about where to spend the next night. Welcome To Fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada.

Photos: Seligman, Arizona diner; Drought-time water levels on the Lake Mead side of the Hoover Dam and; “Camping” in Vegas.


  1. The Chez says:

    What about a Stuckey’s Pecan Log Roll? I hear they’re world famous. There’s no mention of a Stuckey’s…

  2. servo3000 says:

    I had a most unfortunate bus tour of the Hoover Dam region, given by a driver who referred to himself in the third person as “Mojave Steve”. The less said about it, the better.

  3. ronnie says:

    i stayed at circus circus, once.

    “cops” from las vegas was on tv while i was there. they had found a body behind the casino.

    keep moving…