GAYS MILLS - My last scheduled stop on the western trip was Las Vegas (the meadows). Between Paso Robles and Las Vegas there are a lot of miles (400) of long distance scenery: deserts, mountains, and range land with not much in between.
I did pass a huge borax mining operation, which made me wonder how ‘they’ ever discovered such a rich source of the mineral.
I also saw a monumental solar installation as I neared Vegas. It was one of those mirrored ones (using concentrated thermal power rather than photovoltaic panels) where all the acres of mirrors are focused on a huge tower where the projected heat generates electric power.
I remember Las Vegas in the early 1950s, when our family drove through there on the way to Wisconsin. The population was about 35,000; you could see the small city off in the distance and drive through it in about five minutes. The population is now 2.7 million and it spreads out for miles in every direction.
My sister Martha and her husband Jim have lived in Las Vegas for 22 years. They have seen the city double in size in that time. Martha claims that the population grows by about 7,000 every month.
Jim, if you recall in a previous column, was going to give me an older model smart phone, which I had decided I needed. But, Jim (an educator and engineer by trade) wisely interviewed me first about what I wanted in a phone. Mostly my priority was the ability to make calls. Jim counseled me that “your flip phone is smarter than you think it is.” He pointed out that I could take pictures with it and make phone calls. I said I liked the navigation feature of smart phones and he set me up with an old GPS unit for the trip home. All smart phones and most newer cars now have GPS so a separate add-on unit is outdated. But the one Jim gave me worked great. So, I didn’t get a smart phone and am happy with the decision.
Martha and Jim took me to the Mob Museum. Yes, that mob. Las Vegas has a rich history with the mob and the museum visit was fascinating and educational. They took me to a great Mexican restaurant, Roberto’s, that I remembered from a previous visit. Still great.
I had no interest in going to the famous Strip or to any casinos. I did ask if there was a farm-type store in town and they took me to a place called C-A-L Ranch. C-A-L Ranch is similar to Farm and Fleet and Fleet Farm here.* It’s a farm and ranch supply store based in Idaho. Farm and Fleet is one of my favorite places to shop and I just wanted to browse the western version.
I got as far as the hat section and went no further. I’d been looking for a good cowboy hat with no luck. At C-A-L Ranch there were two long aisles of great looking straw and felt hats. So, I bought a felt hat at last.I left Las Vegas before the crack of dawn to head back home, 1674 miles away, according to my new/old GPS unit. Like all great trips, I was sorry to see this one end, but looked forward to being back in the Driftless.