Monthly Archives: December 2014

2014 Trip 7, Dec. 2, So. Cal and Thanksgiving in Flagstaff

Tuesday, December 2, Las Vegas NV

Well, this is likely to be the last post until February of 2015. We head for St. Paul tomorrow morning. For our last full day in Vegas, we visited the Springs Preserve in Las Vegas.

Desert vegetation growing around the pools and springs in the Springs Preserve

Desert vegetation growing around the pools and springs in the Springs Preserve Las Vegas

This is where Las Vegas began. Literally. “Las Vegas” in Spanish translates into “The Meadow”. This meadow area around the Springs Preserve was the home to several springs used by Native Americans and early settlers. Without the springs and the water they provide, Indians would not have gathered here. Without the water, the settlers would have kept going and not created a small village. Without the water, the early railroad, which ran on steam locomotives, would not have made Las Vegas a railroad yard for fifty years at this point halfway between Salt Lake City and Los Angeles. If there had not been a town in this area, the Hoover Dam water and power would have kept going to AZ and CA.

So the Springs Preserve is important. It encompasses the area where springs and pools existed. The actual springs no longer bubbled to the surface in the 1950s due to over pumping of the aquifer. Water wells for the Las Vegas area still exist in the preserve although Colorado River water provides the greater portion of the water for this metropolitan area of just under two million people.

the gardens area of the Springs Preserve in Las Vegas

the gardens area of the Springs Preserve in Las Vegas

The Preserve has many components. We spent four hours here enjoying buildings and grounds. History and geology of the area comprise a portion of the exhibits. Water conservation is another important focus. Landscape gardens that work in the desert area are showcased.

One view of the DesertSol winning house entry

One view of the DesertSol winning house entry

In 2013 the University of Nevada Las Vegas entered a student team in the Solar Decathlon competition sponsored by the U.S. Dept. of Energy. The Solar Decathlon challenges 20 college teams to design, build and operate solar powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient, and attractive. Their house took first prize and went on to take second place in the global competition. The house has been moved onto a portion of the Springs Preserve where it can be an inspiration for others.

The Botanical Gardens, while not as colorful as botanical gardens elsewhere, did have a surprising amount of color. The beauty of the landscape layout was impressive after putting aside my preconceptions of gardens from a more water oriented approach. Today had a bit of drizzle that put a fresh scent into the air that enhanced the experience. (Of course, the small amount of moisture combined with dirt and oil dripped onto local roads made for numerous traffic accidents in the city this afternoon.)

The original spring mound on the left  and a derrick used to drill the water wells on the right

The original spring mound on the left and a derrick used to drill the water wells on the right

View of the "Strip" from the original spring mound at the Springs Preserve

View of the “Strip” from the original spring mound at the Springs Preserve

The trails at the Preserve took us out into the grounds to the original spring mound and pools. The juxtaposition of the now unused spring and the tall, over-sized buildings of the Strip in the distance clearly demonstrated the changes 100 years makes.

A recreation of the 1905 auction of land that created the city of Las Vegas

A recreation of the 1905 auction of land that created the city of Las Vegas

We hope you have enjoyed our recounting of this trip. Happy Holidays!

Ed and Chris Las Vegas Tues. Dec. 2 6 pm

Categories: road trip, travel | Tags: , | 1 Comment

2014 Trip 7, Nov. 29-30, So. Cal and Thanksgiving in Flagstaff

Flagstaff,AZ Saturday Nov. 29 and Sunday Nov. 30

The more relaxed pace of the second half of this trip continues. On Saturday we said good-bye to Jude and Lacey who returned home to NM. The four of us went to the Riordan mansion in Flagstaff. This is a state historic site. Flagstaff, like many towns along the 35th parallel in Arizona, was founded on the railroad and lumbering. The 35th parallel was chosen for the westward trail for emigrants on the way to CA as it passed through the area in the late 1850s because it was relatively free of snow and farther north from the rebel sympathizers in southern Arizona. In the late 1880s, the railroad followed the same basic route. The largest stand of Ponderosa pine in the U.S. is in this area; the pine was an integral part of the railroad expansion, used for ties and fuel for steam engines. Much of the remaining Ponderosa pine is in the Coconino National Forest and creates great vacationing opportunities. The San Francisco peaks, one of which at 12,633 feet is the highest in AZ, offer skiing in winter.

The eldest Riordan brother came to Flagstaff to take a job at the Ayer Lumber Company. This was later retitled the Arizona Lumber and Timber company. He managed the company and then bought it. His two younger brothers came out to join him from Chicago and subsequently bought the company from the eldest brother.

The three Reardon brothers represent another rags to riches story in the United States. The lumber company had the contract to supply railroad ties for what became the Santa Fe railroad. They parlayed that contract into the largest lumber mill in Flagstaff, and it became the main economic source of jobs in Flagstaff for over 50 years. Similar to many economic entrepreneurs in new communities, they also undertook major efforts to support the community. This included establishing a reservoir to provide drinking water for the city, providing financial support for the first churches, and providing land for what has become Northern Arizona University.

Riordan Mansion; this view  of the back  shows  the design better.

Riordan Mansion; this view of the back shows the design better.

Close up of one end of the Riordan mansion

Close up of one end of the Riordan mansion

The two younger brothers ended up marrying two sisters. The families got along well. They decided, after living in smaller first homes, to build what became a twin home with similar living units on each end with a common family room in the middle. This 13,000 square-foot combined unit was built in the Arts and Crafts style, also called Craftsman, which was designed by the same architect, Charles Whittlesey, who designed El Tovar lodge at the Grand Canyon. The home contained modern devices like electricity and plumbing, as well as utilizing native materials and unique concepts that maximized air flow in those days without air conditioning. The property, actually each of the two homes, was donated to the state by the heirs of the Riordans in 1978 and 1986.

We decided to have dinner out that evening and ate at Brix in Flagstaff for an excellent meal. Afterwards we walked among the brightly lit Christmas trees at the Little America motel, host to the North Pole Experience, a unique Christmas experience for families.

The Route 66 museum in Kingman AZ

The Route 66 museum in Kingman AZ

Sunday was our day to drive to Las Vegas, for the last three nights of trips seven. This drive retraced our steps to Kingman Arizona so we did visit the small route 66 museum in Kingman. Route 66 has become something of an American icon. Route 66 was one of the very first US national highway following a trail from Chicago Illinois to Los Angeles, California. It also followed the 35th parallel as it went through New Mexico and Arizona and parts of California.

The road has become famous, partially due to the song “Get your kicks on Route 66” and the TV show “Route 66” in the 1960s. It was also immortalized in John Steinbeck’s novel “The Grapes of Wrath” about the dust bowl in the southern U.S. We did discover in the museum that less than 10% of the people who migrated from the dust bowl area of Kansas, Oklahoma,Texas, etc to CA stayed in CA; most returning home within a few years. There are books and mementos and tours of the area Route 66 covered, as well as postings where the “historic” Route 66 exists, since the highway was replaced by Interstate 40 in most of the southern portions of the route. Route 66 also represents to many people the “Good Old Days” of road side diners, friendlier people, the initial era of family travel, etc.

Driving to Vegas

Driving to Vegas

Leaving Kingman we drove through the desert again, watching the migration of cars from Las Vegas who were returning to the Phoenix area after the Thanksgiving weekend. Our journey took us through the Lake Mead National Recreation area, much larger than just Lake Mead-which was created by the Hoover Dam. In this area, they have created wildlife bridges similar to the ones we saw in Banff and Jasper National Parks in Canada. Here the primary wildlife being protected are the desert bighorn sheep.

View of Colorado RIver south of Hoover Dam

View of Colorado RIver south of Hoover Dam

The new bridge over the Colorado River,avoiding the drive over the dam itself.

The new bridge over the Colorado River,avoiding the drive over the dam itself.

Lake Mead at much lower  level, note salt level on island and how far marina has been moved from plains to the left

Lake Mead at much lower level, note salt level on island and how far marina has been moved from plains to the left

We have visited and toured Hoover dam several times. Times have changed, however. We were not planning on a tour, since we had done that before, but we did drive through the area. The new bridge over the Colorado River means that the road over the dam is just used for access and parking. A few years ago, we had taken the back exit on the Arizona side of the dam and explored the desert area. Nowadays it has been sealed off. The parking garage and closest parking lot to the dam each charge $10 per vehicle. We passed on that opportunity and instead visited the Lake Mead National Recreation Area visitor center. Is a very nice visitor center, with a good video of the recreation area and great views. We picked up a trail map of a potential hike, depending on our schedule. Of course, Chris obtained a stamp for her national parks passport.

We are staying at the Trump Towers. This has been taken over extensively by Hilton Grand Vacation Club. We have a fantastic rate, the “price” also, however, includes a two-hour timeshare spiel this afternoon. Our one-bedroom unit with kitchen, jacuzzi, etc is on the 33rd floor that has a great view ranging from the Wynn casino over to the western mountains. The three TVs include one embedded in the bathroom mirror. The two terry cloth robes they provide are very soft and comfortable.

Ed and Chris Monday December 1 8:45 AM

Categories: road trip, travel | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

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