Saturday, October 30, 2010

Dinner out - Steaks

We were in the mood for a good meal tonight and I thought I’d try a place that we’ve been driving past for quite a while.

Down on Sahara just a half block west of the Strip is the Golden Steer. It’s been in the same place since 1958, so it might be the oldest restaurant in Vegas still serving. It doesn’t look like the place has changed in the last fifty years. It feels like an old restaurant inside, with red leather booths and waiters in tuxedoes. There is still a piano player at the baby grand in the bar area, and several of the staff have been there over thirty years. Steak is what they are known for, but they also have fresh lobster and seafood along with other items. The wine list includes some pretty good liquids, and a full bar can create almost anything, including some old style martinis.

Bobbie and I both had the filet, and it was marvelous. We’ve been looking for another great steak place, and this one served up some pretty good meat.

They are also one of the few restaurants in town that have a license to burn; desserts in the dining room that is. They create Cherries Jubilee or Bananas Foster at tableside, and in the semi dark room it makes for a spectacular show.

We had the cherries. It was a great dessert after a fine meal.

According to the maƮtre de this place has always been a dining spot for the famous in town. Our mayor Oscar Goodman comes regularly, the table in the corner is where Elvis used to sit at, the Rat Pack liked the corner near the door, and OJ had his last meal here before his current incarceration.

We’ll go back, but how often depends on consistency. The total for two of us, with salad, wine, steaks, sides and desserts was right at $150.

Thursday, October 28, 2010


We had some unusual weather last week – it rained for several days. The rain isn’t the unusual part, well, perhaps it is as this was the first significant rain in over 150 days. It’s the several days’ part. Our rain usually comes from thunderstorms, which tend to blow into the area accompanied by high winds, drop an inch or so of water (2cm+) and then blow away leaving blue skies and sunshine. Those thunderstorms pictured in the last post just blew in and out as usual, but we did end up with three days of all clouds. The end result was a total of about 2cm of water overall (about ¾ inch), not much in the rest of the world but it met our October quota.
This is what it looked like out in Henderson

The clouds do provide for some nice sunsets.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Thunderstorms and traffic

Last weekend I drove down to the big city of Barstow, California to attend an annual event with some friends. Barstow is southwest of Vegas on the road to Los Angeles, and is about a three hour drive at 260km (150 miles) or so. It’s a three hour drive for me because I am pulling a small trailer with my car, and the speed limit in California for cars pulling trailers is 55mph, while the general speed limit is 70mph. For some reason I usually observe the speed limit, while most cars on this route do not. This results in the drive taking three hours while the other guys usually take less than two hours to get there.

It’s a reasonably pleasant drive there, as we are driving in the opposite direction of most of the weekend traffic. Los Angeles is a four or five hour drive from Las Vegas, depending on where in the city you are coming from. On most weekends the estimate is that 30,000 to 50,000 cars drive from LA to Vegas, driving here on Friday afternoon and back on Sunday afternoon. The only road between these cities is I-15, which is mostly two lanes in each direction. The Friday drive starts for most people when they get off of work, unless they take an early afternoon. The Sunday drive starts at hotel checkout time, usually noon, with lots of people hanging around after checkout to play games and watch the football games in sportsbooks. The large number of cars hitting the road at the same time can cause some slowdowns, especially if there are accidents to look at or bad weather.

Las Vegas is about 2,400 feet above sea level, with LA down at the water. There are two high passes through the mountains on the drive, Cajon Pass at around 3,500 feet and Summit Pass north of Baker at 4,500 feet. Both of these locations can get very heavy snow in the wintertime, causing the road to be closed due to high winds and low visibility. The Baker Grade heading north is also brutal in the summer, rising over 1,000 meters (3,000 ft) in ten miles. With temperatures that can reach 50c (120+f) and people wanting to use the air conditioners in their cars you can usually find quite a few vehicles stuck alongside the road on that grade with hoods up and engines overheating and boiling over.

I wasn’t able to take any photos on my drive south on Friday, as the sun was in front of me, but on my return Sunday the sun was setting behind. The road curves between hills, running southwest from Vegas, so there are straight runs heading due south or west, causing the sun to shine straight in your eyes or be right off the side of your car. It’s mostly flat open desert, with long views to the mountains. Baker is one of the few towns along the road, the only one between Barstow and Vegas. It is the entrance to the Mojave Desert National Preserve, and can get quite hot. But this weekend was a little different out here in the desert; we have been having a few wet days. There were some severe thunderstorms on the drive back, I tried taking photos but the camera kept focusing on the raindrops on my windshield (sorry, too wet to roll down the window).

Here is my first shot driving north, looking at the clouds ahead.

The road in my direction has fairly light traffic, over on the other side is a reasonable amount of vehicles. As you can see, it’s rather flat right here, with not much around. There are no trees out here, just low scrub, sage and creosote bushes. After driving through some really wet windy storms I was at Baker , with the big town just to my left. The population of Baker is around 300, with most people working at the gas stations and fast food places, and some others working at the Mojave National Park. The Baker Grade is right over that truck ahead of me, the road curves a little to get around this big city, with continuous traffic on the other side and headlights approaching. The hills ahead are about 30km (20 miles) away.

After driving over the grade and dropping down into a valley on the other side I passed through some more heavy thunderstorms. There was one big arching rainbow directly over the road, touching down both to the left and right. Straight ahead is the Summit Grade, with a line of car headlights looking like a continuation of the center line. The top of the hill ahead is about 1,000 meters higher than where I am, and is about 30km (20 miles) or so away. The taller peak ahead beyond the grade is around 60km (40 miles) off.

It was interesting driving through the rain. As you can see from the photos, there is not much detail to look at during this drive, but there are nice views of the distant mountains, with some mountains to the west visible about 80km (50 miles) off. It would have been a lot nicer if the wind didn’t keep trying to blow me off the road.

Driving home yesterday here in Vegas the radio stations were interrupted by severe storm warnings. The national weather service has automated voices that cut in on radio and TV broadcasts when something bad is happening. Out here it’s usually ‘severe thunderstorm alert’ several times a year. Yesterday the warnings were for lots of water, flooding in low lying areas, hail the size of quarters (about 3cm in diameter) and winds around 100km/hr (65 mph) for parts of eastern Clark County and parts of northern Arizona. Las Vegas is in central Clark County, but this storm was a little to the north of us. Those announcements are very annoying, accompanied by very loud buzzing sounds to get your attention. We did get a lot of water on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, with 30% chance of thunderstorms again today. Even with all of the warnings people still drive through flooded areas.

Found some videos on YouTube showing weather around here. First one is a thunderstorm with hail

Out in the desert it could be raining miles away while you are in sunshine, but the water still goes downhill. Billboards all over tell you not to drive through low spots, it looks like this

At times we just see the lightning

Here in Vegas we can make anything into entertainment. The shopping center behind Planet Hollywood has one area where it rains every hour (inside)

So, besides gambling, come to Vegas for the weather!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Clowns and heights

I am continually impressed with all of the things posted on YouTube. There is all of the ‘standard’ music that I look for, along with movie clips and even educational stuff. People post clips of themselves doing all kinds of things, amusing and serious. One woman that I recently ran across posts frequently, this one probably of interest to Dana, as it is the first of her ‘Clown Tunes’ series:

This one is a little more serious, recently posted by Kevin, it shows what it is like to climb a tall radio tower (almost as frightening as Clown Tunes). (oh no – no longer available! – well, here is something similar, since I’m in the mood for heights)

Here in Las Vegas you can now jump off of the top of the Stratosphere. Sober.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

City center

A few weeks ago we went down to the Strip and visited the new City Center complex. This is the latest project on the Strip to open, a $6,000,000,000+ project by MGM, with additional financing by Dubai (big controversy there). It was advertised as the largest private construction project in the world, and opened just before last Christmas. There are seven large hotels in addition to a big shopping center and casino. There are seven parking garages, but unfortunately only one is self parking with the others valet only. Might be nice for out of town hotel guests, but locals that go down there usually don’t want to pay a valet (cheap suckers we are), but perhaps that is what management has in mind, paying guests only.

The City Center complex is different than most of the Strip hotels in that it is modern – all glass and chrome and tile rather than carpets and comfort. When we went down we parked over behind the Excalibur and walked through that, New York New York (so nice they named it twice) and Monte Carlo, so it was a very big change between the older themed places and all of that shine.
Here is what the main entrance looks like

That’s the Vidara in the background. If you’ve read about the ‘death ray’, that is the curved surface facing east that reflects a strong beam down into the pool area.

Friday, October 08, 2010

E Friday

In following the tradition of Clare we return again to E Friday, where I post photos of my darling granddaughter E, because VG really likes to look at these pics.

Wandering around one of the hotel pools (no, that’s not ours). Don’t know where she got that pretty necklace.

Sometime she is serious (well, not smiling). This is in her Grammie redone bedroom.

I think she likes the room, almost as much as the big fuzzy bear. (Why, yes, she likes pink.)

Thursday, October 07, 2010

The Palms

We live about 6km west of Las Vegas Boulevard commonly called the ‘Strip’, where most of the big casinos are located. We can’t see the tall buildings because of the houses across the street, but between the buildings and down the side road we can see the glimmer of neon, and at night all of the lights down there keep things bright. Even though we can see adult Disneyland down there doesn’t mean we go there often. Once in a while we feel like a special meal, or just to take some time walking and there is no better place for us than down with the crowds. We can go in the other direction to Red Rock Canyon for alone walks in the hills for a different perspective.

When we feel like a nice breakfast we love the Bouchon at the Venetian, but it is rather fancy and expensive and a long casino walk to get to. For quicker we usually hit the coffee shop at the Palms. The Palms is also west of the Strip, a bit away from most of the tourists, it is a little too far to walk over to from the main action, and so attracts a bit different crowd. The Palms is home to the only Playboy club left, a lot of actors and sports stars and music people like to go there. They have a very good recording studio, used by a lot of artists, in addition to the Pearl hall, great for mid size presentations. It’s also very easy for us to get to on the back roads.

We tried the buffet once, it’s OK, but not as large or as good as some of the others. The Rio’s buffet is still our favorite, but we hear the one at Paris is the best on the Strip.

They do have a fair assortment, and it was pretty good, a recommendation if you are staying at the Palms but not a dining destination from the Strip. The Palms 9 Steakhouse is great though, if you are feeling rich and want to mingle with the famous.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Tony Curtis

Yes, should say goodbye to Tony Curtis. He’s been living in Vegas for the past ten years, and appears in our newspaper columns quite often. He is seen in a lot of the clubs and restaurants, and shows off his paintings often. He’s friendly with everyone, and still liked to play tricks on people. Yesterday’s paper discussed one time he went to a restaurant with a group and Milton Berle was already there with some friends. Tony stopped by to say hi and Uncle Miltie (a little fuzzy from age) loudly proclaimed ‘who the fuck was that guy?’. Tony went back to the kitchen, put on a full chef’s outfit, came out and sat with Milton and started discussing the food. Milton still didn’t know who he was and yelled to throw the bum out.

Some favorite movies, Rob particularly liked the pie throwing in The Great Race, yes a great scene:

I liked Some Like It Hot

Tony was particularly fond of the 1978 TV show Vega$, where he played casino owner Roth (sorry, couldn't find a clip with Tony in it)

A little different now, most of the neon is gone, replaced with LEDs and giant TV screens.
Bye Tony