Considering a Change to the Plan

Thursday April 20th 2017

Today was a little warmer and a little breezier than yesterday, but overall a beautiful day in the mid 80s. After a couple of full tourist style days today was a much slower day. I’m sharing a few more pictures from yesterday’s trip to the Valley of Fire State Park in this blog entry.

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Rock formation at Valley of Fire State Park.

I spent the morning reviewing my plans for the next couple of weeks. The plan has been to leave Las Vegas on Monday. I introduced a wrinkle to that plan when I bought a ticket to a show for next Thursday my mistake. If I don’t want to throw away the ticket value I need to consider staying in town. Luckily I don’t have any commitments in the near future.

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White rock formation at Valley of Fire SP.

There are still plenty of things I’d like to do in this area. I haven’t been out to Lake Mead, Laughlin or Pahrump this trip and I have never been to the Mob Museum to name a few. I had given some thought to coming back in November or December, but I could easily use the time at the end of the year in new areas. Tomorrow I’ll check to see if I can extend here without moving. If I have to move I’ll probably leave on Monday. Otherwise, I’ll stay for another week.

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This afternoon I took a drive to check out my escape route from Las Vegas. I haven’t been on US95 northwest from the center of the city since the limited access highway replaced Rancho Drive as the path of the route. I wanted to see how much construction was underway and get a general feel for the road. It will be an easy exit from Las Vegas assuming I hit the traffic right. Now I just need to find a gas station with easy in and out access.

Valley of Fire State Park

Wednesday April 19th 2017

Today was a beautiful day. Yesterday’s wind was gone and the temperature peaked in the mid 80s with full sunshine. I took advantage of the good weather to tour the Valley of Fire State Park.

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The valley floor transitions quickly to rock.

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These rock structures are called beehives.

vvf03Valley of Fire State Park is Nevada’s first State Park. It was established in 1935 to protect the outstanding scenic, geological and archaeological attributes. The park is located about 40 miles north of Las Vegas. It can be accessed from I-15 or from the Lake Mead National Recreation area. I entered from I-15 on a very dramatic approach. The road crosses the desert climbing gradually then goes up onto the ridge around the valley area. The decent into the state park is steep and through a narrow canyon area. After the registration booth the valley area opens up again.

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Stairs up to some ancient petroglyphs. 

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Petroglyphs on the stone face.

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I’ve included many different pictures in this blog entry to attempt to show the diversity of the terrain. I drove deep into the park and walked a couple of trails. In the areas of red rock the trails are covered in red sand. In the areas of white rock the trails are covered in white sand. The sand makes walking in some areas very taxing. If there isn’t sand, you are scrambling over bedrock.

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Narrow steep winding park road. Meeting a rental RV was not fun.

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There were many visitors to the park today. Find a place to park in the parking areas took some patience. Many of the visitors were speaking non-native languages. Around here, I consider Spanish as well as English a native language. The other thing that stands out are all the rental motorhomes that are traveling the park roads. Experienced RVers would stay away. I didn’t see any privately owned motorhomes on the side roads. I suspect the rear overhang on some of the bigger RVs bottomed out going through some of the washes that turn the park roads into roller coaster paths.

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White sand on along the trail in the area of the white rocks.

 

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Steep decent into a bowl area that has been used for several movies. 

Overall I spent about 4 hours in the park. I got back to my RV home in time to rest before going to the Las Vegas strip for the evening. I had a ticket to Absinthe. It was similar to the first time I saw the show when it was new. I recall three of the acts. The tight rope walking final was probably exactly the same act. The jokes and by play with the audience were different but just as raunchy.

Downtown Las Vegas

Tuesday April 18th 2017

Today started windy and ended windy. In between it was windy. The sustained wind was in the 20mph range with gusts in the 40mph range. Other than the wind, it was warm in the 80s.

My day started out early. I was up earlier than normal in case “before noon” meant before breakfast. The phrase “before noon” was the schedule for the mobile lube guy. I had an appointment to get my RV home’s oil changed. He showed up around 11AM. I was his third appointment of the morning. My oil change was a quick job. He was done by 11:30.

While I was waiting for the mobile lube guy, I worked on booking tickets to a couple of more shows. The first thing I discovered was the ticket I booked for Cirque de Soleil Love for Thursday night was really for next week Thursday. The show is dark this week. It resumes shows next Thursday. A call to the box office confirmed I was out of luck. They were willing to change the show to another date, but not to refund my money. I have no idea when I’ll be back in the area. I’ll stop by the box office tomorrow on the off chance that an in person appeal will be more successful. I also booked at seat for Absinthe for tomorrow night.

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Wind blow Las Vegas RV Resort. My RV Home is tucked in beside the laundry building in the center of the picture. I get a little shelter from the wind.

Once the lube guy left I needed to figure out how I was going to spend the rest of the day. I had a quick lunch then drove over to Sam’s Town Casino. Sam’s has a shuttle to the casinos in downtown Las Vegas. I took the 12:45 shuttle downtown to avoid having to find a place to park downtown.

The Fremont Street area is home to all of the older casinos in Las Vegas. A two and a half block area of the street is covered by a canopy of LED lights. The shows presented on the canopy at night are very interesting. During the day, it provides some shade from the hot desert sun. The street is a pedestrian mall with every weird busker and cartoon character imaginable. In one area there was a blues singer. On the next block was a guy singing a ballad accompanied by a guitar. In between there were human statues, playboy bunnies, shirtless cowboys in chaps, a magician and several other stranger yet performances.

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Giant slot machine is the launch point for two sets of four zip lines. The shorter set of lines leaves from the coin tray area. The longer set of lines leave from the pay table above the  reels at the top.

I spent a few hours wandering through the casinos and checking out the strangeness on Fremont Street. The Vegas Club casino has closed since I was last in Las Vegas and the old railroad cars across the street have been removed. Those are the only significant changes I saw. The downtown area changes slower than the strip.

I was back at my RV home by five. It hadn’t blown away but mother nature was still trying. Some of the strongest winds of the day came just before dark. Tomorrow is forecast to be calmer.

Red Rock Canyon

Monday April 17th 2017

The weather today was Blah! The temperature was OK in the high 70s. The wind was strong, but not dangerous. The sky was cloud covered looking like it should rain. So it was Blah. Nothing is really wrong with the weather, but nothing is really right either.

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Panorama of Red Rock Canyon from the overlook.

Today I went to Red Rock Canyon. This area is a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) conservation area to the west of the Las Vegas Valley. The community of Summerlin has built up on the Valley side of the BLM land. The houses and shops now go right up to the start of the BLM land on Charleston Blvd. The first time I went to Red Rock Canyon there was a mile or two of open desert between civilization and the conservation area.

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Rock layers visible in the cliff across the desert behind the cactus.

Every time I have been to Red Rock I hope to see the wild Burros and Horses the road side signs warns visitors about. The signs say there is a five hundred dollar fine for feeding the wild animals. It must be working because I still have not seen any of them. My guess is they stay back near the mountains where there is more cover than out in the open near the road.

I didn’t take the thirteen mile loop drive this time. The Red Rock Canyon web site and signs on the access road warn that the loop drive is under construction. They are stripping the pavement and putting down a new surface coat. If the sun had been out creating better lighting for pictures, I might have put up with the aggravation of the construction. It was also too late in the day to do a lot of hiking. Instead I stopped at the overlook on the main road.

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Red Rock visible in the outcropping.

From the overlook all of the main canyon is visible across a large area of desert. The red rock layers are visible on an out cropping of ground on the north side of the canyon. The southern view is more vertical cliffs and rock structure similar to others in the Las Vegas area.

I returned to Las Vegas from the south on Blue Diamond road. This area has also been heavily built up since I first started visiting Las Vegas. The ten miles back to Interstate 15 used to be very sparsely populated. It is now housing developments and strip malls all the way. The amount of development in the Las Vegas valley over the last 20 years is amazing.

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Flower blossom outside the M casino.

Today’s other major accomplishment was replenishing my refrigerator and pantry. I was out of just about everything. It has been almost three weeks since I stocked up in Arizona and over a week since I have been in a grocery store. I’m attempting to change my habit of grocery shopping every few days.

Easter Dinner at a Casino Buffet

Sunday April 16th 2017

Happy Easter. It is getting hot in Las Vegas. The temperature topped out just below 90 degrees. That is about 10 degrees higher than the average temperature for the day. The high temperature was accompanied by bright sunshine and a light breeze most of the day. Overnight into tomorrow the wind is forecast to pick up in intensity.

I spent a lazy morning reading and watching television. All I had planned for the day was Easter dinner at one of the casino buffets. I had my choice of several. Each of the outlying casinos that focus on the local residents for most of their business had an Easter buffet special. About 2:30, I went to the nearby Sam’s Town Resort Casino for Easter dinner. I arrived before they changed the brunch menu to the dinner menu so I started with breakfast then moved on to prime rib for dinner. The bottom line is I ate too much.

After dinner I sat at a slot machine while my stomach complained and lost my daily allotment of gambling money. It wasn’t a total disaster, I had the twenty bucks up over forty before I gave it all back. Overall, I got about an hour and a half of fun out of the money and my stomach calmed down. I’m going to blame my stomach for not taking my winnings when I was ahead. I was back home by 5:30 for more reading and TV.

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Statue in the Miracle Mile Mall at Planet Hollywood Resort

The picture I’m including in tonight’s blog entry I took yesterday in the Miracle Mile mall at Planet Hollywood on the strip. It is an advertisement for dance lessons (guess what kind?). I think it is very symbolic of the whole Vegas scene. First of all it’s plastic like many of the temporary things in Vegas. Second it is huge. Everything is bigger in Las Vegas except the Eiffel Tower which is half scale. Third this town is for adults. Truthfully, I needed a picture for the blog and I like this one.

Saturday Afternoon on the Strip

Saturday April 15th 2017

This afternoon I headed up to the Las Vegas strip. My goal was to checkout a few more of the Resort Casinos and all of the weekend revelers. Apparently even Easter is treated as a holiday to get down and dirty in Sin City.

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Waterfall and Koi pond at Flamingo Las Vegas

Today I checked out the Flamingo, the Linq, Harrahs, the Venetian/Palazzo, and the Wynn/Encore resorts. These resorts are all in a row on the east side of the strip north of Flamingo Road. There are many subtle changes since my last visit. Mostly the changes were reconfigurations of the gaming floor or changes to restaurants.

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Garden area between Venetian and Palazzo Resorts.

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Closer view of the garden between Venetian and Palazzo.

It’s the people that are wandering the strip and casinos that are the real attraction. I saw around twelve wedding parties. The brides were in full wedding gown and the grooms were in tuxes. In some cases they were accompanied by other members of the wedding. A couple of the newlyweds were accompanied by photographers complete with tripods. Any way you see them, they attract a great deal of attention. Their weddings aren’t slipping under anyone’s radar.

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Flower covered carousel at the Wynn Las Vegas Resort.

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Flower covered balloon at the Wynn Las Vegas resort.

Another observation about the people on the strip is the total lack of situational awareness that some people demonstrate. In addition to the usual walking around gazing at the sights rather than where you going, there are also groups that seem to think they’re the only people in Las Vegas. It is fairly common to see groups of people stop dead in the middle of the sidewalk to decide where they are going next. Those around them have to dodge to avoid running into them. Today I saw two examples that took this behavior to the next level. One group stopped in the middle of the street so that the cars had to dodge them. Another group stopped in front of me just after they got off the moving walkway. I had no choice but to push them out of the way. I had people right behind me. It appeared very much like a pickpocket scheme, but it was just really oblivious people. Nobody was hurt, but I’m sure they thought I was rude dude. That concludes my soapbox speech.

I was on the strip for close to five hours. During that time the crowds changed from families and groups of twenty and thirty somethings usually in groups of 3 to 6 of the same gender to lots of couples. Sometime during the late afternoon people retreat to their hotel rooms and change into party clothes and pair up for the evening.

From where I parked at Planet Hollywood to the Wynn and back I probably walked more than three miles. I got some exercise along with enjoying the sights. I was back home by eight.

Hoover Dam

Friday April 14th 2017

Today I took a trip to the Hoover Dam and the surrounding area. This is the trip I’d planned to take yesterday, but the wind caused me to postpone the trip. The wind today was very light.

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Mike O’Callaghan – Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge from the Hoover Dam access road.

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Bridge Facts

Hoover Dam is about 25 miles southeast of Las Vegas. It blocks the Colorado River at Black Canyon to create Lake Mead. To reduce traffic at the dam and to address security concerns the Mike O’Callaghan – Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge across the canyon opened in 2010. The dam, the lake and the bridge are all impressive entities that draw lots of tourists out of Las Vegas every day.

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Path to the bridge from the parking lot. Ramp switchbacks and stairs are provided.

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Bridge sidewalk and support structure from the Nevada side of the bridge.

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US Highway 93 Northbound lane beside the bridge sidewalk.

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Hoover Dam from the center of the bridge above and south of the dam.

I took a tour of the dam on one of my first visits to Las Vegas. This was before the terror attacks of 9/11. I understand the tour is more restricted since then. My goal today wasn’t the workings of the dam, but to visit the overall area. It was a very busy day. Parking was difficult to find.

My first stop was at the bridge. The parking lot is located at the base of a butte that abuts the bridge. To get to the bridge you need to climb up to the roadway. There are steps and ramps to keep it handicap accessible. Once at the top, you can walk out on a walkway separated from the oncoming traffic by a cement barrier. The other side has an aluminum railing that keeps you from falling 880 feet into the river. I’ve been out on the bridge before and came back even thought I’m not one hundred percent comfortable. The views are worth it. You can see the dam, the river and powerhouses at the base and Lake Mead in behind the dam.

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Bridge across the Black Canyon as seen from the top of Hoover Dam. Picture taken out car window while paused for pedestrians.

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View from the top of the canyon on the Arizona side of the Colorado River.

After the viewing the dam from the bridge I continued down into the canyon and onto the dam. All of the paid parking locations near the dam were full. I continued across the dam and up the Arizona side. The first place I found to park was at the very top of the climb on the far side. It’s a good thing I took pictures of the bridge as I crossed the dam, because it couldn’t walk back to the dam from my parking location.

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Another view of the bridge from the top of Hoover Dam.

After the bridge and dam I stopped to view Lake Mead from the top of a rock hill. The white bands of discolored rock that used to be underwater continue to indicate low the water level. It’s not just a few feet but tens of feet. With all of the demands on the water from the Colorado, it is unlikely that the flow can be slowed enough to ever get the level back up. River is vital to power generation, drinking water and agriculture irrigation for large areas of Southern California, Arizona and Nevada.

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Panorama view of Lake Mead.

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View of Lake Mead from the visitors center.

At the Lake Mead National Recreation area visitors center the overview movie focuses on the recreational uses of Lake Mead. It only mentions the uses of the water in passing and the low water level is only discussed in one graphic with little narration. I continue to be impressed with the slant the National Park Service manages to apply to their overview movies. Sometimes it for political correctness and other times it to drive home a message. This one seems to be focused on putting a positive spin on everything. I guess it worked. I departed moderately informed and not upset about what I saw. I’ve been to other National Parks were the movie seemed to try and brainwash me with revisionist history so I’m always on guard.

Wind Causes a Change of Plans

Thursday April 13th 2017

It’s windy today. There are 30mph sustained winds in the area with gusts even higher. I’d thought about going out to the Hoover Dam overlook, but reconsidered because of the wind. I’m not real comfortable with heights without the added possibility of getting blow over the edge of the bridge. Instead I checked out the inside of a few casinos.

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Spring mountains to the west of the Las Vegas Valley

I started the day with breakfast from Dunkin Donuts at Sam’s Town Casino. A large coffee and a bagel brought back memories of weekend mornings in my New Hampshire home. The main difference is today I ate my bagel in front of a slot machine instead of in my car driving. After the bagel was consumed I moved on quickly. The trick of this mini casino crawl was not spending a lot on gambling.

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The center of the Las Vegas strip

So far I am keeping to my plan of spending less on gambling during the month I’ll be in Nevada than I used to spend on a 5 day trip to Las Vegas. I’ve kept my loses to around 20 dollars a day. Once it’s gone I stop feeding the machines for the day.

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The north Las Vegas strip

The second stop of the day was a non gambling stop at the Camping World in Henderson NV. I am still looking for a new tabletop gas grill. This Camping World had a good selection of bigger portable grills, but a very limited selection of tabletop models. I’m not prepared to dedicate more storage space to the grill. I don’t need a large cooking surface. It is only me I’m cooking for.

My third stop on my tour was the Green Valley Ranch Casino. I found nothing new or exciting at this stop. Luckily, I managed to leave with all of my gambling money in tact. The best part of this stop was the view from the top of the parking garage. Most of the valley is visible along with the Spring Mountains to the west. It looks like Mt Charleston still has snow at the top.

The last casino stop for the day was at the Orleans Casino. I’ve stayed at this off strip property many times in the past. Today the Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly convention or gathering was getting started. It included a classic car show in the arena parking lot and the half the casino patrons dressed up in forties and fifties era dress. The number of Lucile Ball wigs, Betty Boop outfits, and Rosie the Riveter hair kerchiefs was over the top. The convention part of the gathering was upstairs and the music part started tonight. None of these activities interested me, but the place was packed.

Back at the campsite I now have a neighbor. Up until today, the site next door was empty. These folks are from Canada as are many of the people in the campground. I hope they aren’t staying as long as I am. It would be nice to have the added space again. Tonight they have a visitor that seems to think it was OK to park his car in my site almost in my front door. He is obviously a non camper that thinks this is a parking lot. They had their visitor move before I blew a gasket.

Bellagio Conservatory

Wednesday April 12th 2017

It was a very warm day in Las Vegas. The temperature got into the 90s. Tomorrow we pay the price with a high wind warning. The high pressure system influencing today’s weather will be to the east and a low pressure system will be moving in from the west.

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Bellagio Conservatory Chinese New Year display with Spring updates.

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Butterfly sculpted with flowers.

The pictures in this blog entry are all of the Bellagio conservatory. They were taken over the last two days. Lately the Bellagio has been saving money by not doing as big a change with each seasonal update. This spring design is a reconfiguration of the Chinese New Year design. The main center piece and some of the other structures were not moved out. The flowers and sculptures were all changed around the big structures. The next update for summer will likely get a major overhaul. They usually do a patriotic theme for the Fourth of July. You can see a live picture of the conservatory on the Bellagio webcam.

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Snow goose ?

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Mister Tortoise

I spent the first half of the day on chores around the RV. The biggest one was catching up on the laundry. This RV park has a good laundry facility and it is cheap by comparison to some places I’ve been. A wash load is a dollar twenty five and a dryer cycle is only a dollar. It didn’t eat into my quarter supply to significantly.

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There are fish in the pond.

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Vibrant colored flowers.

After an early supper at home, I drove to the Las Vegas strip. I arrived around four for my 7PM show at the Bellagio. I used the extra time to checkup on the changes to the New York New York and the Monte Carlo Casinos since I was last in Las Vegas in the summer of 2015. This is the longest time between visits since I started coming to Las Vegas before the turn of the century. (It sounds longer if you say it that way. I think it was 1998.) I’ve been coming at least once a year since then.

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Flower encrusted bird.

A new arena has opened behind the New York New York and Monte Carlo Casinos. It called the T-Mobile Arena and will host the new Las Vegas NHL Hockey team. In the summer of 2015 it was under construction. To support the arena, both casinos had the area between them have been reconfigured. The Monte Carlo has had the most changes including an expansion of the theater into a venue for headliners. Other changes are ongoing at the Monte Carlo behind construction walls. When all the changes are finished the resort will be renamed and probably have a big price increase. Change is supposed to be good, but I’m not impressed yet.

I got back to the Bellagio in time for the 7PM Cirque de Soleil O show. I’ve seen most of the other Cirque shows on the strip and wanted to see this one. Some people say this is the biggest and best. I think that may be true from a pure acrobatics perspective, but I think I liked some of the others better. There is almost too much going on in O. I was often watching some of the side performers when the audience around me would react to something center stage that I hadn’t shifted my gaze to. The side performers are part of the staging to support transitions and provide safety spotters for the main acts. I guess if I’m enjoying the side acts the whole show must be pretty good.

Cactus Garden Visit

Tuesday April 11th 2017

The weather today was overcast and warm in the low eighties. My primary goal for the day was to find some of the coupon and advertisement magazines with show information. From past experience I’ve learned that the deals in this publications are the best for middle tier of shows. The same day half price ticket company has cheaper prices, but the you have no control over what seat you get. In my experience the seats are often inferior to tickets bought directly. I prefer to find a coupon that provides a discount at the box office. The exception is the shows that the majority of the seats are general admission. for those shows the half price ticket place is the best.

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Ethel M Chocolate Factory behind some cactus bushes.

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Yellow blossoms 

I tried to find the magazines at a couple of the outlying casinos with out much success. My search finally lead to the strip. On the way I stopped at the Ethel M Chocolate Factory and Cactus Garden. I always enjoy the cactus garden. This is the first time I’ve seen it in full spring bloom. Usually it is at Christmas time when the primary attraction is the lights they use to decorate the place.

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More yellow blossoms

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Orange color blossoms

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White flower on a yucca plant

Today instead of artificial color in the form of lights the greens and browns of the desert plants were brightened with yellows, reds, purple and orange blossoms. The insects, birds and lizards were busy working in the flowers as I took pictures of everything that wasn’t green. I also found myself counting the planes passing overhead on the landing approach to McCarran International Airport. They are low enough that conversation is interrupted as they pass overhead. I counted twelve. If they had 5 minutes of separation then I was at the Cactus garden for around an hour.

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More vivid orange color blossoms

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Humming Bird

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Humming bird working over her head.

After the Cactus Garden I braved the hordes and went to the strip in search of the coupon magazines. I parked at the Miracle Mile Mall and Planet Hollywood Casino. This is one of the only places you can still park without paying. I found one of the magazines in the mall, but continued my search for other versions. I walked through Planet Hollywood, Bellagio, Ballys and Paris Casinos in search of another Las Vegas Entertainment magazine. I saw lots of people but no magazines. The Bellagio Consortium was decorated for spring with some of the Chinese New Year leftover. I’ll share some pictures in tomorrows blog.

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Lizard checking out the cactus. There were many of these little creatures all over the garden.

With only limited success I returned to my RV home and got on the internet. I secured a ticket to Cirque de Soleil O for tomorrow night at full price. It is unlikely that the discount ticket outlets would have provided much of a discount on this high end show. I’ll continue my search for cheap tickets tomorrow. It’s become kind of a game.