Saturday, July 28, 2007

Violent Femmes

Every week night in Las Vegas Spy on Vegas puts on a free open bar at a different location with a different featured drink. On Friday, it was at the Hard Rock pool featuring 10 Cane rum. But, the thing that made this event unique is that the Violent Femmes were playing. I was crazy about this group in high school and had seen them several times then, and I wasn't going to pass up an opportunity to see them for free. I emailed Leigh to see if she and Brian had any interest. They were in, and they had enough friends that wanted to join us that we got a cabana.

When I pulled up to the Hard Rock, I couldn't even pull into the parking lot because there were cars lined up to pull in. I had no idea there would be such a turn out. I made it inside to see an endless line. Fortunately, there was a special cabana line, and Brian came out to get me right in.

I've never gotten bottle service before, and, frankly, I thought it would be a waste of money. It turned out to be a fantastic idea. The cabana got us past the tons of people in line, and once inside, it kept us out of the crowd. It had a flat screen TV, a refrigerator, a safe, a phone, a waitress that came around regularly, and, yes, a cabana boy. Included in the price of the cabana was a bottle of vodka and cranberry juice and tonic water for mixing.

The concert was awesome. I bounced around and sang along with all of my favorite songs. I also met some of Leigh and Brian's friends - Don, Dan, Jen, and Steve. I have to give a shout out to their blogs: Leigh and Brian have their LBC Blog and Dan keeps up Pokerati.

Here's a poor picture of the stage with the pool in the foreground with the hotel in the background. I took this with my iPhone, but if I had know that the cabana had a safe, I would have bought my good camera.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Golf Scramble

My dad is a huge golfer. He became a teacher just so he could have his summer's off to golf. He brought me up trying to get me interested in golf, but I resisted. Golf was not cool, and neither was I when he sent me to golf camp one summer. I was even less cool when my ball ricocheted off a tree and broke a fellow campers finger. But fast forward a few years, and like all good kids, I eventually appreciated my dad's efforts and the pastime itself. In fact, golf came in handy during my dating years because I could hang out with the boys on the golf course.

I used to golf a lot, and I've been wanting to find some golfing buddies in Las Vegas. I was thrilled when I found a Las Vegas Scramble League had been started on Meetup. On Friday afternoon, we had our first scramble at Desert Willow golf course in Henderson. This course is fantastic - after 2pm, their greens fees are $20, and that includes a cart. It's a par 60 executive course, and very nicely maintained. Our tee time was at 4pm, and it was warm in the sun, but it cooled off quickly. It was quite windy, but the rain held off long enough for us to enjoy a relaxing day on the course. We played a scramble format, where we all hit from the best ball, so it was much more pleasant than having to chase balls across the course or wait on a slow person to hit from the opposite fairway.
I saw plenty of wildlife on the course, including birds, ducks, and rabbits. The groundskeeper told me there is also a resident bobcat, but I was happy that he did not come out to greet me.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Weather and Car Update

The weather has been awful here this week. Every day it has tried to storm, though only a few drops would come each time. But the problem is that the storms have brought humidity, something I thought I left for good on the East coast. Though the highs have been in the 90s and low 100s, the humidity has been around 40%. Usually, our humidity is, oh, 1%. I want my dry heat back!

The good news is that the blower motor for my car came in. I got the repair manual from the library, and it looked simple enough: (1) remove glove box, (2) take out 7 screws to remove glove box panel, (3) take out 3 screws to remove blower motor, and (4) work steps 1 through 3 in reverse with new blower motor. Well, they left some details out, so I had to improvise along the way. I must have taken out 20 screws and remove 2 extra panels just to get to the screws. When I got to the blower motor, I didn't have a wrench small enough for the screws. So I went to my neighbor, who fortunately had the perfect part. The most frustrating part is that there was a bundle of wires below the opening that made getting the new part back in really difficult. I must have tried it different ways for 30 minutes, all the while using language that I hope didn't carry down the street. I went inside to take a break, and it went in the first time the next time I tried it. After three and a half hours, I managed to find all of the screws their homes, and I got my A/C working. Oh, and most of the time was spent upside with my head under the dashboard!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Weather Report

The high temperatures have been around 105. I don't notice the heat because I am inside all day. It is very pleasant when I get up at 6am, and in the evenings it is tolerable because the sun isn't oppressive.

I can absolutely bear the heat out here, except for the fact that the air conditioner in my car has been broken. It had been putting out inconsistent cold air, so I took it in to have the freon recharged. It worked great that night, but the next morning the A/C was dead. I found that the fuse had blown, so I replaced it and it worked for another week before the fuse blew again. I took it back to the repair shop, and they told me the blower motor needed replacing. I decided to repair it myself and am waiting for the part to arrive. Until then, I have no A/C, not even a fan for circulation. At 40 MPH or less, driving with the windows down is sufficient. But any faster than that, and 100+ degree heat being blown in at that speed feels like sticking my head in front of the huge track driers they use in NASCAR. Until the part arrives, I will keep my driving to a minimum.

Today I noticed something odd outside - drops of rain. I don't remember the last time it rained here. I think it was in February. It really didn't rain today; there were just a few drops on the pavement. The good thing is that this is a "cold" front coming in, and the highs this week will be as low as 92. I'm going to pull my sweaters out.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Mummy's Toe

I didn't get to hike last weekend, and I'm out of town next weekend, so I wanted to get a good, challenging hike in this weekend. My friend Rick and I set off to hike Mummy's Toe, another body part of the Mummy Mountain that I hiked two weeks ago. That hike went up to Mummy's Tummy, the highest point on Mummy at 11,542 feet, and this hike went up 10,925 feet. I found the hike description in the book Hiking Southern Nevada by Branch Whitney, and I chose it because it used a trailhead that I haven't used yet, and because it seemed to have some fun scrambling towards the top. The book said that it was an 8 mile hike with 2,591 feet elevation gain that should take 5 to 6 hours.

We started on the North Loop trail at about 8:15. I love the atmosphere when starting a hike because it is cool and peaceful, though we did pass several people who were on their way back down the trail. Shortly after starting, we found a cool tree and took each other's pictures in it.After about 2 miles, we reached a high point where we had a nice view over Kyle Canyon and a clear view of our destination.About a half mile from there, we reached the Raintree. This is a Bristlecone Pine that is 3,000 years old.In about another half-mile, we reached Mummy Springs. We walked up to the springs to relax and have a snack. We came across two men with their dogs, and I overhead them speaking French to each other. They sounded French Canadian to me, but their accents were much clearer to understand than most French Canadians I've heard. I asked them, in French, if they were Canadian. They said they were from Montreal, and we spoke for a few minutes. I haven't had an opportunity to speak French for a while, and these guys made my day.From there, we started the one mile ascent to the summit. I kept pulling the Hiking in Southern Nevada book out to figure out the way. It said to hike up to three successive walls, following them to the right, until a dry wash. Then follow the wash up to another wall, follow it to the left, and hike up to the saddle. A last scramble would lead us to the peak. These directions were very difficult to follow - at one point, it said to hike up to a Bristlecone Pine, and there were literally thousands of those surrounding us. So we just kept going uphill. Much of the way were were on dirt, and it was difficult to get our footing. Other parts were on limestone, and those were much easier to climb.Finally, at about noon, we made it to the summit. We signed the register and figured we would be the only people at that peak today. It's neat knowing that this peak is less frequented than most in the area.The view from the peak was awesome. We could see all of the Vegas valley, Kyle Canyon, Lee Canyon, and the surrounding mountain ranges. We spent about an hour at the top eating, chatting, and taking in the views.
Click here for a panoramic view from the summit.The hike down was much easier than going up. During the steep parts on dirt, we just slid down rather than taking steps. I lost my balance several times, but it would have been much more frequent if I hadn't had my trekking poles.After we got below the first of the series of walls, we noticed a trail on the other side of the wash, through which we were to descend. I was not looking forward to retracing our path because it was difficult to find good places to step on the way up, and I though gravity would not be friendly on the way down. So I suggested we take the trail and see where it went. Fortunately, after a series of switchbacks, we found ourselves back at Mummy Springs. I noticed at Mummy Springs that the trail appeared to continue, though the book told us to go straight uphill at that point. If we had continued on the trail, we would have found this much easier route up to the last wall. I would recommend that hikers ignore the directions in the book and to continue on the trail past Mummy Springs until it ends. At that point, follow the last wall till it ends on the left, and go straight up from there.

We finally got back to the car at about 5:00. We were on the trail for 9 hours, considerably longer than expected, but we did a fair amount of stopping to rest, snack, and take pictures in trees and such. This was a great trail, and I would definitely do this hike again.

Here's a picture of downtown Las Vegas through the trees.Click here for more pictures from the hike

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Mummy Mountain

The Las Vegas Hiking Meetup group tackled Mummy Mountain, the 2nd highest mountain in southern Nevada at 11,542 feet above sea level. The path to the summit is 8.5 miles round trip with nearly 4000 feet elevation gain. I figured that if I could do Griffith Peak, which is longer and just slightly shorter, that I could do this peak as well. Here's a picture of our starting and ending points, taken from the top of Griffith Peak two weeks before.

Ten of us started at 8:50am. Immediately, I was exhausted. The others in the group were obviously experienced hikers because the steepness of the trail didn't phase them. When I begin a hike, I can tell if it's going to be a good day or a bad day. Today was going to be a bad day, but I was determined to be able to say that I conquered this mountain. So I trudged on. After about 2 miles, the Trail Canyon trail intersected with the North Loop trail. Here, everyone caught up and briefly rested.

After hiking the first two miles alone, I realized this was not going to be a social group hike. So I got out my iPhone and played some shows from the Living in Las Vegas Podcast. 1.25 miles after joining with the North Loop trail, we came to 500 foot steep scree route up an avalanche slope. It is really hard to describe in words what this slope was like, and the picture below definitely doesn't do it justice. Imagine climbing a black diamond ski slope covered in gravel. For every four steps I took, I would slide back three. It must have taken at least 30 minutes to get up this slope.
Here I am halfway up the slope. Don't let the smile fool you, I was not enjoying myself.
Once we got to the top of the slope, we trail was entirely on limestone. The hike was not very steep at this point, and the views were incredible, so this was my favorite part of the hike. In less than a mile, we came to a 200 foot class 2 chute that would bring us to the peak.
After three and a half hours of strenuous hiking, we made it to the top. I signed the register and was very honest: "Never again!"
Randon and Nicole had brought Toblerone on our Griffith Peak hike, and I thought that was the perfect way to celebrate a summit. So I froze two bars to share with our group.
This is the view of Griffith Peak from Mummy Mountain.
Here's our group at the summit.
Here I am at the summit with Mt. Charleston in the background. The summit was weird because, as you can see here, it was flat and sprawling. Notice that I am wearing a jacket. The temperatures in the valley were near 115, but it was probably 60 or 70 on the top of the mountain with cold winds.
After a good, long rest we started back down the mountain. Usually, I hate the part going down, but it was a nice change after the steep climb. The only bad part was the 500 foot scree slope. I would take one step and slide down five feet, with rocks above my boots. When I got to the bottom, I had to empty out the numerous rocks that had joined my feet in my boots. Even from there, we had a long way to go, as you can see by this picture.
We made it back to the cars by 3:30, for about six and a half hours of hiking. I am very proud to have made it to the top of this mountain, but I can say with confidence that this was my first and last hike to the summit of Mummy Mountain!

Click here for more pictures.

Friday, July 6, 2007

It's hot outside!

The first time I came to Las Vegas was at the end of June/beginning of July, and I moved here in August, so I've been here when it's hot. But the temperatures then were no where near where it is now. It's been 116 the last two days. In Florida and North Carolina, 96 would be sweltering, but here it's 20 degrees hotter than that! To be honest, it isn't as bad as it sounds. Granted, I am inside all day, but tonight I was outside at a friend's party, and the thermometer read 115, and it just didn't feel like 115. 100 yes, but not 115. I've been bracing myself for this heat, and if this is as bad as it gets, then there's nothing wrong with the weather in Las Vegas.

I was talking to a woman at a restaurant today about the potential for a group of us to eat outside on Sunday (under the misters). Only in Las Vegas would someone say what she said, "It's supposed to cool off this weekend. The high is only going to be 108." Yikes!

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Fourth of July

My college roommate, Jamie, and her boyfriend, Robby, came to town during the Fourth of July holiday. I met up with them on July 3rd for dinner at Margaritaville at the Flamingo. I love Jimmy Buffett, so this is one of my favorite places to eat in town. We had a great table overlooking the Strip, and I enjoyed two Ruby Red Ritas (margaritas with chambord) with my fish sandwich.

After dinner, we started wandering around the Strip. We stopped in at Bill's Gambling Hall and Saloon (formerly, Barbary Coast) for the advertised $1 margaritas. We then walked over to the Bellagio to watch the fountains.
After watching the fountains and walking around inside, we headed over to Planet Hollywood for a last drink. I stuck with tequila and ordered some awful combination of tequila and pineapple. PH is really hip now that it's been renovated, and I enjoy hanging out there.

On the 4th of July, we headed back to the Strip for a round of casino golf. I heard about this on the Living in Las Vegas Podcast, and I thought it would be a great tourist activity. Each casino is a hole, and you set aside a certain amount of money with which to gamble at each casino. At each casino, while you're gambling, you get a free drink. We started at New York New York, then went down to Mandalay Bay and came back through Luxor and Excalibur. After four holes, we called it a round (we were shooting for 9, but it was hot and we were tired) and headed home to grill out.

After dinner, we went outside to watch fireworks. My backyard overlooks the valley towards the southeast, so I figured we would have the perfect view of the downtown Henderson fireworks. We never actually saw that show, and I read online that it was pretty pathetic. However, we were able to see fireworks in every direction being set off at people's houses. From our front yard, we could see at least three sets being set off in our neighborhood. These fireworks were as big and colorful as those in the professional shows. Apparently, the fireworks laws in Nevada are much looser than they are back east.