Sunday, May 30, 2004

Desert gardens

After a little side tracking last time, let's get back to some tourist stuff in Las Vegas.
We went and walked around the desert demonstration gardens. It's built by the Las Vegas Valley Water District to demonstrate how nice low water gardens can be. They are in the process of building a new facility across the street from the present location, and will be calling it the Desert Springs Preserve. It's located where the original springs were back when LV was nothing but a water stop in the desert.
We are paterning our yard on some areas of the gardens. The section I like the best is the patio area right by the front gate.

These are the same trees that we planted, and in a few years hopefully our yard will be as nice.
We put in a big acacia, like this one, that blooms yellow in the spring.

Ours went in in November, but they bloomed somewhat already this year. After establishing themselves and getting a little bigger they should look nice next year.
We don't have any cactus going in, but my wife bought some more grasses and purple sage to scatter around.

This is the cactus section at the desert gardens.
We found this one on our way out to the Valley of Fire last month.

I put it up then, but thought it still looked nice.
Work on our yard is progressing. We put up another section today, and my son screwed down the roofing as it was getting dark. But here is what a steel yard looks like in operation.

Lots of work to do, but the shade will be nice.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Some thoughts on work and ‘phone people’

My new job – I’ve been there two weeks now – is a little different than ones I have had in the past. Let me start by saying that I’ve been viewing my class prejudices and am not sure if I should put them down, but I guess blogs are for saying things you might not say to people face to face.
At large companies I usually work with a team of programmers. Originally programmers were self taught, or learned on the job. The trend over the past many years has been towards programmers that have at least a BS in computer science, if not more. The team on this job is ten – but the newest guy quit yesterday so it’s now nine. We sat in our progress meeting on Monday and I looked around the room and all I saw was overweight middle class white guys. OK, maybe some were thin, but not many. At some jobs there were female programmers, but not many. I can remember only one minority programmer over the years. Most were just that, middle age overweight white guys. We do just sit around all day. My wife laughs at the programmer in the first Jurrasic Park, played by
Wayne Knight who also played Seinfeld's Newman. His computer area is surrounded by piles of junk, he survives on candy bars and coke, and works alone. Probably never had a girlfriend. Well, unfortunately, he probably is a typical programmer. Maybe a little louder than most, but I have worked with a few just like him.
The main product of the company I am working for now is a sales catalog, kind of like a small Sears book. Their main customers are people with poor credit. The sales pitch (which I haven’t heard yet) is that they get a credit card with a $8,500 limit, but it can only be used for stuff from the catalog. They have to pay $200 to become a buying ‘member’, and there is also $100 a year ‘dues’. Which means the company gets $300 right up front. (OK, so it’s only $199.99 and $99.99, what’s two cents?) Then when they buy anything they pay a 30% deposit plus shipping and handling. Now, I see the wholesale price of things, and that 30% pays the supplier up front. And the shipping is inflated, so there is some profit there. Anything collected after that is profit. I sat in on some orders, and out of four calls I heard three were surprised at the down payment angle, and either just hung up or became very obnoxious (girl says ‘let’s be pleasant to each other now’ for about five minutes of one sided conversation.) Only one ordered something. $600 in furniture, $200 in shipping, it was $400 down and $400 on the ‘credit card’, 4 to 6 week delivery. And all of the payments are sucked out of bank accounts through electronic transfer every night. If she just went to a cheap local furniture store she probably would have paid $350 and taken the stuff home clear.
The company has 500 people on phones, but I only counted 6 taking orders. The rest seem to be keeping people from canceling their membership, or talking nice to calm them down.
The main customers seem to be people who are either down on their luck, or never had any luck to begin with. Here in Vegas they probably work at the casinos cleaning up at night, or in the hotels making beds. (My prejudices coming through). Makes me sorry that it seems they are being taken. At least to me it looks like I work for a company that preys on the condition and lack of understanding of people that can’t afford it. Like those ‘money tree’ places that offer payday loans at outrageous interest rates.
Looking at the people on the phone, again minimum wage people that probably have a hard time getting a job. Most of them seem to be the type that might also be customers. (Yes, again). Turnover is high, with 25 to 30 new hires every day. That makes about 500 a month, and with 500 people on the phone it means the average employee only works a month (did I figure that out right?). The order taker I listened to has been there for three years, so she really throws off the curve, probably making the average stay at under two weeks. I know I wouldn’t last on those phones.
I asked about a web site to sell stuff, but was told that most of the customers are lucky to have phones and bank accounts, much less computers.
On to what I’ve been noticing at work. We are on the east side of town. Looking out the windows across Sahara most of the buildings have a lot of graffiti on them. A sign to me usually of economic level (yes, again). But usually minimum wage workers, at least those not working on summer break but those who have had that size job for a number of years, usually seem to communicate differently than the programmers I have worked with. Hard to explain, but do you understand?
Many of the phone workers have cell phones, and they usually walk outside to make calls. Most of the calls I overhear seem to deal with ‘I’ll have the check to you soon’ or ‘no, don’t turn it off, I’ll come by with a payment’ or ‘you can’t lock me out without notice’ or something similar.
There is a small parking garage behind the office – with spaces for maybe 50 cars. A few weeks ago they started requiring parking permits (those little white tags you hang from your rear view mirror) and only the office workers, not the phone crew, got them (yes, the programmers got them). In Las Vegas it’s a big perk to be able to park in the shade. There are large lots behind the building, and small lots belonging to the businesses to either side. When I started work I was given a map of where to park, and told to stay out of the side lots. Today an announcement came over the page about cars being towed next door, and there seemed to be a stampede of people to get out and save their cars. I looked out and saw one woman dive in her car as the tow driver was hooking it up, and everyone in the parking garage above cheered.
When I drive out in the evening it’s usually a challenge. The garage lets out on the small side street, only half a block from six lane East Sahara. Thursday it took me ten minutes to go that half block. People were double parked waiting for someone getting off, which totally blocked the narrow street. Others were trying to turn in, one woman in a big SUV talking on the phone was blocking two lanes on Sahara trying to turn from the middle lane into the side street (some intelligence there). Others just pulled over on Sahara blocking the side street instead of pulling ahead to a curb. And the music was loud, and the gestures were obvious. And the comments were also loud. On Friday a guy had his car pulled over off Sahara blocking the side street, laying a great kiss on his girlfriend. We were blowing horns, and he kept kissing, raising one hand (well, one finger) in salute to us as he kept the car there. He finished after five minutes, and they just pulled away finally freeing the rest of us.
These seem to be the same people that leave their shopping cart in the supermarket parked in the center of an aisle while they look at cans, blocking anyone else from walking by, then get mad if you push their cart aside. I’d call them Walmart shoppers, not Robbinson-May. Sorry if you shop at WalMart, we go once in a while too. (put other examples here, but maybe I have enough already)
It just seems that the ‘phone workers’ have an attitude where they care about themselves more than others. Or they don’t even think about others when they do things. You know, just throw that fast food bag out the car window, as long as it’s not in my car. I can park here, it’s near the door, so what if it’s blocking the side road, I’m not driving on that road right now. I’m in a hurry, just let me through to that register, I’m not waiting in line. That kind of attitude. Kind of like ‘let’s invade that country and save those people, who cares if they don’t want us to, it’s for their own good’ (and besides we need the oil and my old company could use the contracts).
I wonder if it’s due to upbringing or lack of opportunity or not having many goals (yes Ann, goals) or lack of ambition. It just seems to be reflected in the ‘me’ attitude as I call it.
Back to the topic, working around the ‘phone workers’ is a lot different than working around the computer people. We talk about taking classes on the new stuff, and what language to learn next, and what companies are hiring after this project is done. Again, attitude. Is it educational level, or your folks telling you that you could, or the examples of relatives?
I just see too many of the ‘phone people’ around every day. Those idiots who drive through red lights, and do 85 miles an hour down the side streets, and run over little kids in crosswalks and shoot other drivers that make gestures at them. But drivers are for another day’s topic. I run into them at the supermarket, blocking the aisles, taking a full cart into the 15 item express lane, cashing an out of state payroll check while the line behind them waits. Should I go on?
Well, lots of ranting and not much substance. I’ll probably read this tomorrow and wonder what I was talking about, and what was the point. Guess there isn’t one. But thanks for listening, no scenes of Las Vegas today, no pretty pictures.
But just for hanging on for so long,

Sunday, May 23, 2004

Jazz in the Park

After a week of solid work (my first sitting in an office in years) we relaxed some yesterday. Went to the evening's Jazz in the Park and enjoyed the beautiful weather and listened to some music.
The LV Parks & Recreation put on a series of free concerts in the Spring. We attended some last year and really enjoyed the events. They are held at the County Center, close to downtown. Starting at 8 and usually for two hours or so. Some pretty good presentations. Last night was a big band, that filled the area with music. I took some pictures when we arrived, but most of the music was after dark and we just listened.

You bring your own chair or blanket, and sit on the grass with your cooler of whatever and food. Most people did bring along refreshments of choice. As you can see, it's near the Stratosphere, that tall symbol that we can see from almost anywhere in the valley. The weather was great - it started out at 84F, with southwest winds gusting 15 to 25, and humidity of 20%. The woman in front of us started with a backless halter top, when the music started she put on her sweatshirt top, and by intermission she was wrapped in a blanket. You can see her shoulder at the very left in the above picture. It probably was down to 78F by then, and she was cold. Must have been a local that was ready for the warm summer weather.
The County center is an interesting building.

Made of brick and stone, it's rather positively a southwest image.
We had some friends visit a few weeks back, and took them to see Viva Las Vegas at the Stratosphere. It's an old style Vegas show, with a singer, magician, comedians and dancers. There were five dancers, and looked to be topless. I don't mean unclothed, I mean girls that get dancing jobs at shows like this one can't usually afford plastic surgeons to get the enhancement they need for big time topless evening shows. They were still attractive. It's nice to be in a town with enough shows that almost everyone can get a job, even without talent. The comedians were real old time - jokes right out of the 50's. This show has been playing for 12 years, probably with the same comedians and the same jokes. With a coupon you get a free drink - I did a coke, but for a few dollars more you get a fancy thing in a fancy glass.

Well, it's really a plastic cup about two feet tall that looks like the building. The straw even imitates the roller coaster on the top, and the red light bar too. I thought it pretty tacky - you can see everyone leaving, and walking down the strip holding these. Most of the large casinos have a 'signature' drink that they serve in a plastic cup that looks like their building or emblem. Paris has two - an Eiffel Tower and a Balloon. It's not legal to walk down the street and drink, like in Nawlins, but there aren't many cops on the strip, and they don't seem to care.
I said the weather has been great recently. The upcoming week looks to be fine - high in the upper 80's, low at night around 65. Winds - last night was really blowing - and some clouds. A nice May to lead us into the summer. Had a great sunset a few nights ago -

I really liked the cloud, shows winds out of the west. Taken from my back yard looking towards the back, which is west, yes.

Sunday, May 16, 2004

Backyard work

Looks like I will have a challenge in updating this during the week - fifty hours a day sitting at a computer doing someone else's work kind of leaves me coming home and not wanting to do mine. So, I'll overload on the weekends. Still have some customers to do stuff for then.
Showing my backyard in progress - here's a shot that I really liked:

All those butts in the air, and nairy a crack to be seen.
We have the steel up along the kitchen walkway. It looks pretty good. Should provide a lot of nice shady areas for sitting this summer. We were outside having breakfast, drinking coffee, and reading the paper this morning. It's really nice here in the morning - around 74F this morning, but already up to 90 now at noon. Give it another month and noon will bring 100. Today sitting in the shade of the house - the sun is still low enough that the house shades that area early enough. But the covering is needed during the day, and in the summer it'll be up early.
And current work:

Here's my son welding the bottom plate on to one of the verticals, with some other steel laying around. In the background is our raised bed veggie garden - the tomatoes are pretty high, and we've got a bunch of golf ball sized tomatoes. Time to fertilize. Makes it look like Vegas is green, with all of the trees in the distance. Most of the houses in our area were built in the late 70's, so there's almost thirty years of plant growth, when water was cheap and people tried to replicate wherever they came from. The neighbor behind us (behind that wall there) has lots of roses. They look great now, but are already showing signs of heat stress. The next bloom will probably be in November, after it cools off again. Our peaches are already getting large, I better pick off most of them so the remainder will get big. Left them all on last year, and none were larger than small apricots, and not very good.
And, back to work, I showed my office earlier, but here's a shot from my desk of my manager at his desk -

he gets two monitors - and my boss. I'm impressed with his speed and attitude - I've never sent in a resume, had an interview, and been on the payroll all within an hour. Looks like when something needs to be done he'll do it. I'll keep you posted on how this keeps up as time goes by.

Saturday, May 15, 2004

Shatner sings!

I got so carried away with the last post that I just had to find more...
Back in 1968 William Shatner (Captain Kirk to some of us) recorded the album 'The Transformed Man'. After visiting these sites I now have to get a copy. But Amazon lists four copies, from $79 to $499, and I'm too cheap. If anyone has one, please let me know!!!
For those of you with courage, start at Clive Banks site for Shatner sings!. If you go, some of the graphics are strange, to listen be sure to click on the small start arrow on the upper left side.
To just view some strange stuff there is the Church of Shatnerology!
Thanks to Google, here's a page with a few good sounds including two of Shatner's songs.
And finally there's A few bad sounds - with this background music I couldn't stay long enough to hear much.
And again, there 's Spock Sings! - I can't get enough of that video!!!

Favorite commercials, and other ramblings

Sitting here at the computer I was just thinking of a few commercials with old people in them.
The first is for and is playing now. William Shatner is currently the ‘voice of’. This commercial shows him being called into the office, and being told that they are going to have to let him go, because he is the voice of the ‘old’ Priceline and they have now revised it into the ‘new’ Priceline. He laughs and says that he is the voice of Priceline, who could they replace him with. Just then Leonard Nimoy pops his head in and says ‘hello Bill’ and closes the door. Shatner then turns and has this strange look on his face as he realizes he might be replaced by #2. (Couldn’t find a web site for Leonard, Bill has his own, but here’s one where Spock Sings!. Yes, with his ears!) Please go see this one - can you guess what year it was made in? And in response, we must also let you know that Shatner sings!, probably even better.
Leonard does have one for his hobby - Leonard Nimoy's Photography.
"You want to be buried or cremated?""Surprise me."
The trouble with life is, by the time you can read a girl like a book, your library card has expired. (M. Berle)
We've heard that a million monkeys at a million keyboards could produce the complete works of Shakespeare. Now, thanks to the Internet, we know that is not true. Robert Wilensky
People who just bought a computer will email you nifty things you saw 5 years ago. Pat E. Fogger
Bessie Braddock: "Mr. Churchill, you're drunk!"
Winston Churchill: "Yes, and you, Madam, are ugly. But tomorrow, I shall be sober."
Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana. Groucho Marx
Time's fun when you're having flies. Kermit the Frog
There are no rumors to that effect, but I'm trying to start one. The Hard Edge.
Home is where you can say anything you want, because nobody will listen to you anyway. (Anon). (So is a Blog. Joe)
I used to go in a $30,000 car and come home in a $80,000 bus. James Caan, on his early Las Vegas days.
The world is run by "C" students. Al McGuire (At least this country is)
I would not live forever, because we should not live forever, because if we were supposed to live forever, then we would live forever, but we cannot live forever, which is why I would not live forever. Miss Alabama in the 1994 Miss USA contest in answer to the question: If you could live forever, would you and why?
If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun. Katharine Hepburn
I've had a perfectly wonderful evening. But this wasn't it. Groucho Marx
I never forget a face, but in your case I'll be glad to make an exception. Groucho Marx
One of the symptoms of an approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one's work is terribly important. Bertrand Russell
The beatings will continue until morale improves. Management
I like work; it fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours. Jerome K. Jerome
Sorry about that, I entered Milton Berle BVD into Google, and just got carried away with all of the one liner web sites.
That Shatner commercial reminded me of one a few years ago. The company that sold BVD underwear ran a series of commercials with famous people showing you what they did in their BVD’s. One was with Milton Berle. He just looked at the camera, and said “At my age, I’ve done just about everything in my BVD’s”. Then he had the same kind of look that William Shatner had.
For those of you that are old enough to remember.
For those of you not, or are, let’s keep up my Las Vegas theme periodically with a local photo:

This is what the strip looks like from the southwest – driving along the 215 loop a few miles west of 15. Not as brilliant and bright as it looks when close up. And I caught a cloud in the sky.
Oh, this new Blogger editor is really nice.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

New Job

Well, I finally did it. We've been here for a year, and I've been working for old customers in SD. Most of those projects are finished, and I've been looking for new customers here in LV. Haven't figured out how to get them yet, most of my SD business was from referrals, so I am starting to join clubs here to get known. (I'm a computer consultant - write custom programs for small businesses).
In SD when jobs were thin I used to get full time jobs, or through a placement agency that used me as a consultant. Figured it was time to move to that mode here a while back, so I listed with a few places like Robert Half Consulting, and other temp agencies. Evidently not much FoxPro work in Vegas, most of the listings are for .net programmers. I took classes, but it's not on my resume.
So, I responded to some ads in Sunday's paper for help wanted. Emailed my resume to one, and got a phone call about two minutes later. I went in that afternoon (yesterday) at 3:30, and by 4 was on the payroll. I've never been pulled in so fast, this company had two Fox people leave and were desperate. They are converting from Fox applications to .net because it is so hard to find Fox programmers. (which comes first, the Fox applications or the Fox programmers?) But they will be training me in .net, so after this I should have no problem doing work for other companies around here. That's the direction Microsoft is pushing for, so I might as well learn it on someone else's dime. And it gets on my resume.
The pay is better than my last full time gig in SD, but after working at home for the past three years it's a shock to get up early and sit somewhere else all day.

That's my chair, not even a cubicle but at least a desk.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Late night winds

In the middle of NYPD tonight (almost said Hill Street Blues, but Spiowitz is still there). It's down to 78F, and I guess we are used to LV because that feels cold - pulling on the long sleeve shirts and blankets for the bed. The wind is really really blowing - the vents are rattling, blinds banging, and I guess we'll find all of the plastic furniture in the pool again, and our trash cans down the street. I still am not used to the frequent breezes here.
We've got some Solari bells hanging outside, and it's a good thing they are made of brass. I've had to replace some clappers that were torn off by the wind already. So we go to sleep listening to the bells, and the wind looking for gaps in our roof, and the rattle of the chairs as they go by.
Max, our vicious dog, is really going crazy tonight. He pretends to be the tough guy, barking at everything and chasing the birds around, but when there is something he doesn't understand he falls apart. Right now he's under my legs shivering like crazy. He's been following me around, scared of the wind and the noises. I spent the day fixing the swamp coolers for the new season - new pipes, fittings and pumps. I opened the vents (we've got two swamp coolers on the roof) and now the wind is just blowing down, making really neet noises. Rattling the metal sides of the coolers, and making it sound like one of those haunted houses on TV.
Short detour - new dress fashion in Japan. Looks interesting, like those T shirts a few years ago painted to look like you were wearing a bikini.

The couple

I realized that I forgot a photo of the bride - sorry

Her mother made the dress. She really looked good. They've been going together for six years or so, living together the past two.

Seems like they were ready.

Monday, May 10, 2004

The Wedding

Last weekend we drove to San Diego, to the wedding of the son of our neighbor down there. We lived in that house for seventeen years, and moved in when John was about six.
His parents are both lawyers, and hoped that he would follow in their profession. John felt differently, and is now a professional body piercer. He owns his own piercing and tattoo business in an area of San Diego called Ocean Beach. His store is Dr. Jefe's, but it looks like he doesn’t have a web site. For fun he puts big hooks in his back and hangs from the ceiling – not my style of fun, but somebody’s got to do it.
After driving down to SD we stayed at the Town and Country Resort. This is in Mission Valley, about the center of the area but a little way from downtown. This hotel is old, at least for most of San Diego. It has lots of two story buildings and the courtyards are filled with roses and other flowers, most of which were in bloom.

Right behind the hotel is the San Diego River. It’s not big, but it always has water in it.

Over a little bridge over the water is the trolley line and the Fashion Valley Mall. It’s one of the outdoor malls in SD – the weather is usually so nice there is no need for an indoor mall. San Diego has a bunch of shopping malls, Fashion Valley Mall and right up the river a mile is the Mission Valley Center.
Interstate 8 runs down the middle of Mission Valley, running from the east coast all the way to the Pacific. On the south side, across from the Town & Country towards the south are some nice homes, a couple of hospitals, and this hospice

I thought it looked nice through the palm trees.
The wedding was held in Balboa Park, under a big tree. Unusual for San Diego it was sunny and warm – the normal weather report is “night and morning low clouds, clearing towards afternoon, high in the upper 70’s”. A marine layer comes in from the ocean, blanketing the beaches and usually the park and downtown. This day was clear.

Here are the men from the wedding party. From the left; the minister, John the groom, the groom’s brother (only 18 but he looks sharp), the best man and the father of the groom. You can’t see it to well, but John has big stone ear plugs in his earlobes. They are about an inch and a half in diameter, and his ears look pretty strange when he takes them out. He’s been working up in size for a while, I don’t know how big he wants to go.
Here’s a close-up of the best man.

He works with John, and while John does the piercing he does the tattooing. As you can see, he’s pretty well into tattoos. His girlfriend has a beautiful work on her arm, in pastel colors. I could probably go for a nice one like hers.

Sunday, May 09, 2004


Sorry I haven’t been keeping up with things here – I haven’t turned on the computer in a while. Been delayed –
I talked about working on our back yard. Well, here’s what it looks like behind the house since the concrete has been poured:

That’s Buster just walking by – the guys seem to like the hard surface for walking. They liked the grass better, but not the dirt. We plan on a large covering for the patio area, Las Vegas is much nicer in the shade. It might be 115 in the shade, but in the sun it seems so much more.
Anyway, last week we finally got a delivery:

That’s the steel framing and covering for the patio area. The silver items are C purlins, for the horizontal framework that the cover is bolted to. The dark items to the left are 4x4 steel posts that are the verticals. The corrugated stuff in the center is for the roofing, it's tan on top (really Desert Beige) and white underneath.
We put in over 1200 square feet of concrete, and plan on covering it all. Along side the house is a five foot walkway, the cover will shade the kitchen and laundry room windows. There is a big area by the new breakfast room doors, and the large area across the back of the house (in the top picture it's 55 feet wide and 15 feet deep). I’ll post in work photos.
My oldest son is a union carpenter, just moved to Vegas and is staying with us for a while. He also has a welder, and is putting together the framework. We’ve been cutting and welding steel this week, and painting, and setting studs in the concrete to hold the verticals.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Spring's here?

I looked at the weather report in our local paper, and yesterday in Rochester, NY it was high of 49, low of 38. After living there for several years I always tend to compare things to Rochester – it’s a pretty city, but the weather is horrible. Being next to the lake, and so far north, the cloud cover comes in sometimes during late October and we didn’t see the sun until May. It almost always snows before Thanksgiving, and below zero was standard for several months. After college I got a job with Xerox, and they sent me on a contract to Phoenix. When that was over, just before Christmas, I went back to Rochester, from warm weather to an airport closed because of a snowstorm. I gave my boss two weeks, and was transferred to LA. Never looked back – well, I did look back but never desired to move back. Visited Rochester last year, first time in over twenty five years, and still had no desire to return.
LV was 99/67 yesterday – almost Rochester times two. It was supposed to hit 100 – which it did at our house. We are about three miles from the airport, which is the official measurement location. We usually vary from there by about three degrees. Today is scheduled for 98, and dropping down to a high of 84 by the weekend. Looks like spring is here. Summer is when it gets over 100 every day, which should happen by the end of May. LV gets over 100 days of over 100 degrees. At least it cools off at night, when it gets to 115 in the afternoon it usually drops to 85 at night. Yes, it sounds hot but at least it’s a 30 degree difference. When Rochester would hit 80 it would cool off at night down to 79. With the bugs and humidity it still seemed rather warm.
Nothing big here, I’m trying to take photos of the desert plants in bloom, but need to walk around the neighborhood to get some shots of ocotillos, which are nice orange right now. Here’s a shot of the local orchid trees, nice pink blooms, with the yellow bird of paradise in the foreground.

In colder springs the flowers come out before the green leaves, but this year it warmed up early and the trees turned green first.
Oh, here’s a link to one of my favorite movies – Monty Python’s Meaning of Life.
Please, just have one thin little mint.

Monday, May 03, 2004

Trip to San Diego

I wanted everyone to see the beautiful scenery between Las Vegas and the LA area. We used to drive from San Diego to Phoenix to visit relatives, and I thought the 100 mile stretch just east of Yuma was pretty barren and boring until we started regular runs from SD up to Vegas. Five or six hours of this beautiful shrub flatland. At least there are mountains in the distance and a town every hour or so.

On Friday morning we left LV for a road trip down to San Diego. A son of our old neighbor down there was getting married, and our son was scheduled to be the minister at his wedding.
Don’t get too excited about the ‘minister’ thing. From what I am told it entailed an internet site (Church of the Electronic Ministries or something), a $30 credit card charge, and the receipt of a piece of paper that makes it legal in California to officiate at weddings and stuff. I don’t know if it entitles him to tax deductible donations or anything, but he did get non-deductible donations periodically from his parents when called. Anyway, he was the only friend with a license that could stand up in front of the group and sign the papers.
We left Vegas in the morning, about 9:30. I tried to take pictures of the drive down, to show you all of the scenic highlights of the trip. Looking at it, probably one photo would be sufficient, but here are a half dozen or so to give you the feel of it.
This is the same trip that everyone takes in going to/from LA. Most visitors to Vegas come by driving from LA. Every weekend I-15 is packed, Friday coming north and Sunday going back south. Whenever we would drive here we would try to avoid those two days, or at least try to arrange our schedule so that we were going in the opposite direction to travel. I-15 is only two lanes in each direction for the 200 miles or so between Vegas and I-10, the main road west into LA. There is a lot of construction in order to increase this to three lanes each way, but the construction itself offers tremendous opportunity to slow traffic. If there is an accident, then usually the entire I-15 is closed in the direction of the accident, and as there are no parallel roads for much of the drive then traffic just sits for a few hours waiting for cleanup.

Here’s the first view, heading south from LV. We are about 35 miles from the California border, and there are now two ‘towns’ between LV and California. The first driving south is the town of Jean. The town is comprised of two big casinos, two gas stations, a Burger King and some trailers for employees. On the hill east of the freeway is the Correctional Facility, which is featured quite often in CSI whenever Grissom has to visit a prisoner. The casinos are owned by the same company, one on each side of the road.
The town on the border was called Stateline, but I think it’s called Primm now. It also is composed of two casinos, two gas stations, and a MacDonald’s. There is also a really big roller coaster, and one of those fashion outlet malls that’s so popular on the west coast. Sorry, but I had problems with my camera at Primm, but it looks a lot like Jean and you can use the web site for a virtual tour of it’s scenic beauty.
Driving further south – the road changes from three lanes each way in Nevada to two lanes in California –

This shot shows a downhill run to a construction area, where they have been working on two bridges over dry washes for about three years now. Construction is not quick in this area, either because it’s hard to build (doubt it), hard to get workers that will work there (probably) or people just work slow on this type of job (also probable). It’s twelve miles down the hill to the bridges at the bottom, and ten more up the hill in the distance. The road curves to the left, just to the right of the dry lakebed at the left side of the photo. Due to construction you can see that the speed limit is 55, which means that most people limit their speed to about 80. Going south we didn’t see any CHP (California Highway Patrol) units in either direction. They do use radar and spotter planes on this strip, so it is possible to get a hefty speeding ticket anywhere along this road.
An hour south of the border is the town of Baker. Baker is the home of the famous ‘Bun Boy’ restaurant, and the ‘world’s tallest thermometer’.

It was 76 when we drove by.
Further south there is more scenery:

And another hour south:

I thought these mountains looked interesting – it’s about ten miles down to the bottom of the hill, and ten more to the gap between the hills towards the middle of the photo.
You eventually get to the town of Barstow, which has a really big train yard, and not much else. Lots of fast food joints and gas stations.
I copied a map page from MSN maps to show you how busy the area is:

You eventually get to Victorville and Apple Valley. This is where the Roy Rogers Hall of Fame used to be located. You could see the big statue of Trigger from the freeway, but the parking lot was never really full. Last year Dale moved all of Roy’s stuff to some place near LA, and sold the museum. It’s now being plowed up to become more tract homes. Too bad for Roy Rogers and Dale Evans.
A little further south and you come to Cajon Pass. This area is about 4,600 foot altitude, and the road is sometimes closed due to snow in the winter. It’s a warm spring, and there is still snow on the mountains to the south.

After this there is a long hill down into San Bernadino, the road widens and traffic becomes pretty horrible. Sorry, no shots between here and San Diego.
Next episode – the wedding.