Technical Difficulties from on Top of the Mountain
2004-03-22
  A road trip to vegas
So last week there were a number of different things (each of little consequence), that conspired together to build critical mass for a road trip to Vegas. The idea was to head out Friday morning, but then on Wednesday, I got a call to come to the bay area for a meeting the following day. Looking at the schedules, I realized that there was just enough time to catch a flight out of Vegas to the Bay Area that evening, but it was going to be close.

First I had to get my car out of the shop. The alternator belt was still squealing, but I didn't have time to go back and ask them to tighten it some more. Then I had to stop by the autoparts store and get a headlight, as the drivers' side light was out, and I had told the mechanics I would do that myself (it takes five minutes--ok ten minutes to change and I'd rather not pay someone else $40 to do it). Then home to get ready and show Max how to change the headlight on a car (ok, it takes fifteen minutes when your four year old is helping you). Finally, throw some clothes into a bag, grab the laptop, shut down the other computers, say bye to the family, and hit the road.

Driving to vegas is pretty easy. I40 from Flagstaff to Kingman is pretty straight, and either flat or downhill. The cops hang out in the strip between Ashfork and Seligman, but they follow a pretty simple set of rules:

under 75What are you, a space alien?
75-84Yawn
85-90Pull over, give you a warning.
above 90Ticket

So I got to Kingman, stopped for a burger, and then headed up to Vegas. There are two routes from Kingman to vegas. The first heads north to Hoover Dam, then over to Vegas. The second crosses the colorado at Laughlin, then heads north in Nevada, connecting to the same freeway just west of Bullhead city.

Back in 1999, you had to consider your options based on the time of day, and what you knew about traffic patters, to figure out which way would be better. The route up to Hoover dam is marginally shorter, but traffic at the Dam could be a mess. See, there is no bridge at Hoover dam, you drive right across the top of the dam. And between the trucks and RVs carefully navigating the switchbacks leading down the mountain on either side, and all the dam tourist, it could take 30-45 minutes just to cross a three mile stretch.

That all changed with 9/11 though. Now the route is closed to big rigs, busses, RVs, trailers, etc; and its pretty quick getting across there, with only a slight slowdown in the middle of the day for the dam tourists.

So I zipped right the highway, on approach to the dam, and hit construction for a new dam bypass they are creating. Turns out the people in laughlin don't really appreciate all the extra traffic, and since the phoenix-las vegas route is a pretty heavy shipping route, the budget was finally approved to build a real four lane bridge over the canyon. That's going to be some bridge when they finish with it.

,

At nine at night, the arizona approach was already impressive. Large cement pillars extending more than a 100 feet in the air. When lit with those outdoor construction lights from the ground, it looked very alien. Like someone was digging in the rock, and found the relics of an ancient advanced civilization. Its going to be pretty cool when its done. I'm glad there aren't any earthquakes in this area though.

Made it into Las Vegas, and made my flight despite further construction troubles on the 215, and having to figure out the difference between short term and long term parking at the airport. In Phoenix, short term parking means "within walking distance of the terminal". Long term parking is where you ride a bus to catch you plane. In Vegas, short term parking is where you feed some coins into a parking meter and have just enough time to go wait for someone else arriving at the airport. Oh well, it only took a couple of trips around the airport to find a parking spot.

[links]
The Boulder Canyon Project, an extensive history of area, but without one dam picture.

 
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