Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Driving in (without pictures)

Well, you can imagine pictures in your head.
At work I can take a few minutes now and then to write a little and post periodically. I want to get up more photos but somehow things get so busy at home I just haven’t been getting around to it. Next time, I promise.
But a while back somebody commented on my drive to work – so I thought I would describe that. I took photos but need to pull them together, so they will come soon. It is an interesting drive, not with country views, or ocean vistas like I had in San Diego, but past a lot of man made stuff.
My last job (nice to be able to say that about THAT place, LAST job) was almost due east of downtown. Most of the tourist part of Las Vegas is along a north-south line. Downtown is the older area, encompassing just a few blocks along Fremont Street. Go east from Fremont a few blocks and you come to Las Vegas Boulevard, which runs north/south. Turn right (south) and about two miles down, past old Mexican restaurants and a ton of wedding chapels, you come to the tall needle of the Stratosphere. Besides the 1000 ft tower there is also a large hotel and casino. This marks the north end of the ‘Strip’, as Las Vegas Boulevard is referred to. It’s at Sahara Avenue, and this also marks the end of the city limits. That’s right, all of the bigger strip casinos are not in the city of Las Vegas, but in Clark County, as is the airport.
For the next five miles or so driving south on the Strip you drive between all of the huge casinos and hotels, ending up at the airport on the south end.
I live on the west side of town, about even with the center of the Strip and five miles away. I can see the lights at night from my front yard, looking between the houses across the street. I used to drive east on Desert Inn, which is the only street that does not cross the Strip but goes underneath it. Passing the hugh new Wynn building to my right, shown in past postings, past the old Desert Inn golf course, under the convention center, to the next main cross street of Maryland Parkway. I would turn left, drive two miles to Sahara, turn left and one block later go down a side street into a parking garage. Usually took 20 minutes, depending on traffic lights.
Now I drive south on Torrey Pines a mile, and turn left onto Twain Avenue. Twain is four lanes, with a speed limit of 30. I get to stay in the right lane doing a little over the speed limit so people in a rush (the standard driver here) can zip around me and pass in the left lane. About two miles down Twain goes down a small rise, and I have a nice view eastward of the big hotels. They Wynn is almost straight ahead, a large slice with the rising sun off to the right. This area is mostly apartment buildings on both sides of the road. Apartments here are all just two stories, usually four or six units per building with lots of them grouped together in complexes with parking lots between.
Crossing Arville I pass a big topless club on the corner, and then go behind the Rio parking lot. Twain passes under the railroad tracks, then through a little tunnel beneath I-15 and it ends behind the Mirage and TI. I turn right onto Frank Sinatra Drive. This street just opened a few months ago, and is not used by very many drivers. In the morning I am almost the only one on the road, guess I miss the casino shift starts.
On my right is a row of oleander bushes along a chain link fence, then all the lanes of I-15. For the next five miles I continue on Sinatra, with I-15 on my right, I think 15 is nine or ten lanes wide here. The nearest street to my left is Las Vegas Boulevard about a half mile away, but between Sinatra and Vegas are the large casinos and hotels. This time of year the sun is up low, usually behind the buildings but sometimes I cross a strip of bright sunshine. I say bright, one reason we like Las Vegas is the bright sunshine, no clouds, low humidity. So picture it, bright blue sky, row of bushes to my right with lots of cars behind, and to my left all of these hugh structures. Every mile I pass underneath a cross street overpass.
Mostly what I pass close up are employee parking garages and loading docks. To my left at first is the employee parking garage for the Mirage. I can’t see the hotel because the three story parking garage is right up against the road. Then comes the employee garage for Caesar's Palace and construction for a new section of Caesar’s. Then is a large empty lot with the Bellagio past it, I can see the Eiffel Tower of Paris on the other side of the Strip. I drive underneath the two big Bellagio signs – big legs on either side of the four lane Frank Sinatra Drive, towering up about six stories high. The first one is one large poster advertising “O” the show, with a big golden “O” about 40 ft high against a blue water background. The next sign, the same size, has smaller advertisements for the other shows and restaurants at the Bellagio. The south side of this sign is a big TV screen, but the north side is just posters.
Then to the left is the the Monte Carlo – a big gold and white tower. Then comes the skyline of New York New York, with the Empire State Building the tallest, and a big hump of their roller coaster going up and down just before the buildings. Flat parking lot here between me and the skyline. Then comes the Excalibur, with it’s tall white walls and fairy tale castle towers inside. Then it’s the Egyptian pyramid of the Luxor , and the tall golden tower of Mandalay Bay. At this point the parking garage of the Luxor and Mandalay Bay are alongside Sinatra, as the strip comes closer to I-15 and the buildings are not as far away. I drive under the Mandalay Bay sign – same size as the Bellagio signs. This side advertises Mama Mia, the show. Then the big block of the Mandalay Convention Center – no windows, four stories high and about a half mile long. Loading docks behind with room for big trucks to unload stuff for the shows.
The road now goes under Russell Road, and makes a U-turn, going behind a big golf course which is behind a high earth berm topped with palm trees, ending up at a light at Russell. Facing the south side of the convention center, with the golden towers of the Mandalay behind. I turn right for a block and end up looking across at another little wedding chapel. I turn right and continue south on Las Vegas Boulevard. On my left is the end of the airport runways, paved just behind the chain link fence. To my right is the golf course, and then a big fire station and more golf course. On the left I pass the Executive Airline Terminal, with a row of expensive private jets. Then a helicopter operation, with six or eight helicopters parked. Sometimes there is a gas truck filling them up. They fly up to a small lot on the strip next to the Monte Carlo where tourists can get rides over the strip and down to the Grand Canyon. Past the back of the famous ‘Welcome to Las Vegas’ sign, then more runway concrete and across railroad tracks to the light at Sunset Drive. Usually it’s red, and I can see the large expanse of Fry’s Electronics down and to my right. Fry’s is famous in the West as the cheap computer and electronics warehouse. Think bigger than your largest Sears store, big warehouse like CostCo with only computers, TV and stereos and appliances.
I turn left onto Sunset, with the airport still on my left across the six lanes. To my right is first another golf course, then ‘the best’ batting cages and a go cart racing track. Then a few fancy glass fronted restaurants and the start of the Hughes Airport Center complex, lots of one story concrete office buildings and industrial park. Down a mile, looking east at the line of airplanes descending to land at the airport. I turn right, and a quick left and into my company parking lot.
Takes about twenty five minutes, depending on how many red lights I hit on Twain. Nice drive, low speed limits and not much traffic until I get to the strip. Traffic is much busier coming home, especially on Frank Sinatra Drive. I guess I hit the shift change for all the employees at the hotels and casinos, coming and going to the employee entrances along the road. Each of the places I drive past have several thousand hotel rooms, and hugh casinos and entertainment complexes. Caesar’s has a really big new shopping mall inside as well. Bellagio has seven top class restaurants, including Le Circe and Picasso which are AAA five diamond award winners (talk $$$$ here to eat – lucky if a party of two can get by for under $200 for dinner, without wine) in addition to several smaller places to eat and the standard gigantic Las Vegas buffet. I don’t know how many employees work at these places, but it’s got to be quite a few.
So that’s my morning commute. Listening to the radio and starting to daydream now that I have been on this circuit for two weeks. Not as exciting as the London Underground, not as peaceful as a drive through the trees, but if I take the time to look it really is an interesting view along the way.
OK – your turn – how about posting your drive to work on your blog, then come here and leave a comment with a pointer back. Pictures optional. Yes – I will take some and put them up here.
Boy, thought I'd get a small post up, but this really ran quite long.

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