Let’s See: Shall We Do Las Vegas for $700, or See Red Rock Canyon for $7…

The rocks of Red Rock Canyon, come in numerous forms and colors, including red…

Las Vegas can be fun. It’s a gaudy, flashy, weird place where millions, even billions, are spent on enticing you to leave behind large chunks of change. It’s easy to spend $30 to 50 for dinner, another $30 to $50 for breakfast and lunch, and $50 to $100 for a show. And that’s on the lower side of things. Then there are the ubiquitous gambling machines, modern descendants of one-armed bandits seductively designed to promise you a fortune while robbing you blind— if you hang out long enough, or think dollars are play money. Even so-called penny slots can gobble down 9 to 100 cents (or more) per play. And forget nickel video poker, at least on the Strip. Those were the old days when less greedy gangsters instead of modern capitalists ruled the roost. Today’s entrepreneurs even charge you for parking!

Of course there are less expensive things you can do in Las Vegas. I enjoy walking down the Strip, especially at night, and visiting the pleasure palaces along the way for a clever but fake touch of Paris, or Venice, or New York, or Egypt, or some other exotic locale. Even with ‘cheap on the mind,’ however, the temptations to spend are strong. Oodles of fine restaurants beckon, top shows promise and deliver excellent entertainment, and who can resist investing $20 on a possible fortune. Not me. (My friend Ken claims he is better off walking into a casino and throwing a few $20s on the floor, just to get it over with.)

At night, Las Vegas turns into a fantasy land.

The resort-casinos along the way have spent billions building fake worlds, such as this mini-Venice, designed to lure you off the streets.

The truth about Las Vegas is that it would have been incredibly easy for Ken, Leslie, Peggy and I to spend $700 a day between us on our visit last week, not counting lodging. We didn’t. The cost of one meal ‘out’ bought groceries that allowed us to eat two of our three daily meals ‘in’ for the six days. We avoided shows this time, and did most of our limited gambling off the Strip— almost breaking even. Woohoo! The really big savings, however, came from our getting out of Vegas for two days. The first trip, which I have already described, was to the Valley of Fire State Park some 50 miles east of town.

Our second trip was to the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, which sits on the western edge of Las Vegas and is operated by the Bureau of Land Management. You can get there in 30 minutes from the Strip. It took us 15 from where we were staying. BLM charges $7 per car to explore the beautiful park. An excellent Visitors’ Center provides an introduction. A thirteen mile road with several pull-offs and hiking trails winds through the area. The following photos provide an overview of some of the sites you can expect to see.

Be sure to stop off at the excellent visitor center for an introduction to the plants, animals, original inhabitants, and geology of the Red Rock Canyon.

Tortoise sculpture at Red Rock Canyon Visitor Center next to Las Vegas, Nevada.

In addition to this realistic sculpture of a tortoise, the center also has tortoise that live on the premises. They are also found roaming free in the park. Signs along the road warn you to watch out for them. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Road through Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area in southern Nevada.

A 13-mile road winds through the canyon providing numerous views and hiking opportunities.

Rock formation in Red Rock Canyon near Las Vegas.

This colorful rock formation is found at the beginning of the drive. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Red and white rock formation in Red Rock Canyon on the edge of Las Vegas.

I captured this close up.

Red Rock Canyon near Las Vegas.

And Peggy managed to find another face. Edvard Munch’s Silent Scream comes to mind.

Much of Red Rock Canyon provides more distant vistas. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Yucca and a mountain in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area.

Yucca plants offer a touch of green to the dry desert.

Ice Box Canyon in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area.

Ice Box Canyon provides one of many hiking trails.

Trail into Ice Box Canyon in Red Rock Canyon near Las Vegas.

The trail leading into the canyon. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

A close up along the trail taken by Peggy.

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area from Ice Box Canyon pull off.

This rocky draw was on the mountain forming the left side of Ice Box Canyon.

A view on our way out. The sun lights up a cholla cacti.

Just for fun and to conclude this post, I found a car with this license plate in the park. I think it is the most clever way I have ever seen for warning people that they are driving too close.

NEXT BLOGS: Back on schedule. I will wrap-up my Burning Man mutant vehicle photos, get poor Sully landed, and return to the Sierra Trek.