Trip to Vegas

August 6-12, 2009

Trip to Vegas

Bruce and Marc Beisler decided to take their daughters and nieces on a week-long adventure to the Grand Canyon. Bruce would drive a motor home (for the first time), so the seven of them could travel together. We were invited to hook up with them for the second week end of their trip, which would be in Las Vegas. My niece Lori also decided to come and bring her friend Greg Taylor.

Several days before we were to leave, it seemed odd not to be in a "snit," i.e. being sure airline tickets and hotel reservations were okay and laying out stuff to pack. We didn't have to do any of those things. Also, I would have normally cleaned out the refrigerator before leaving; this time I shopped to stock up.

We left on the Thursday the 6th of August, hoping for a smooth trip, taking our first real tow with our toad and its new brake system. But as it is sure to happen, we had a slight problem and spent an hour alternatly bobbing up and down the highway, and trying to figure out what it was. (Imagine a large motor home going over large traffic bumps). A phonecall to the people who installed our brake system set us on the right path, which was that one of the air bags in the suspension system was not fully expanded. Once that was remedied it was fine. However, we lost an hour and arrived later than we had wished, to the Last Vegas campground.

Part of the trip included some fairly steep grades (I was happy that Ken was driving). If you look at the leftmost picture at the horizon it looks as if the road goes straight up (it did seem like that). On the other side was a steep downgrade with a sign that says: "Runaway Truck Ramp." It's a very sandy, very long lane that ends in a big pile of sand, for trucks with failed brakes.

The stretch from Escondido to Victorville had no rest stops nor truck stops for us to change drivers. So Ken had more than two hours without a switch. The lines at the pump were long and it took us an hour to get back on the road.

We finally settled in about 6:30 p.m., just before Lori and friend Greg arrived, to stay in one of the little cabins on the grounds.

At 9 p.m. Bruce, Marc, and the five ladies arrived in the motor home that had been their hotel for the past week as they visited the Grand Canyon. They turned in their vehicle Friday morning and the fun began in Vegas.

Note: more on the house drama in the next chapter.


Bruce, Marc and ladies were staying at the MGM. There was a real, live lion display with a very brave fellow rubbing some lion tummies.

We crossed the street to New York New York so a few people could ride the roller coaster, while the rest of us played some games. Ashley won a cute tiger; Bruce looks on.

The Paris Arch:


During the many years we’ve been going to Vegas I’ve tried to get someone to go with me to Liberace’s museum, to no avail. He’s from Milwaukee, my home town, and I’ve always had a soft spot for him and his music. This trip, Lori (who is also from Milwaukee) wanted to go so my wishes were fulfilled. His museum is off the strip, with a building at each end and a large parking lot in the middle. We expected it to be lightly visited, but there was quite a nice tourist group. Greg, always the best sport, drove us and patiently wandered about.

Liberace was quite the collector of cars and pianos. The first building housed some of his always-sparkly cars and lots of photos and stories of his life. I had forgotten that he died prematurely at the age of 67 from an aids-related illness.

The building across the parking lot housed his costumes, some of his pianos, and his jewelry. There is also an operating restaurant in this building.

The pianos in this collection included his very long grand piano and lots of very intereting other instruments.

His costume collection was overwhelming; one weighed in at 200 pounds. Imagine carrying that on your shoulders on stage.

They set aside a cape and let people try it on. Here is Greg being a good sport. Of course Lori would do it.


Sometimes I shop in Vegas, but this store was a first. Lori, Greg, Ken and I stopped at the off-strip Goodwill store just for fun, and were surprised at the selection and the bargains. Lots of stuff was 50% off, so we figured even if we didn’t ever use it, it was a good deal. Lori found a darling black sparkly evening sweater and a warm shirt that she would take to Wisconsin for her second week of vacation. Ken found two shirts (you can see him holding them), and I bought 2 tee shirts. I think our grand total came to about $10.00.


Ken has mostly stopped gambling, but still puts in a twenty or two in the slots. We had breakfast at an off-strip casino next to the RV park. He put $20 into a $5 machine, saying he would quit when he got to $100 (winning, of course). Within 3 pulls he had three matching bars and walked away in 30 seconds with $340. Later in the day while the ladies shopped at the Venetian the guys spent time in the sports bar. He won another $50 on a long shot that was touted in the morning paper.

The Jersey Boys (Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons)

Lori and Greg bought four tickets for us to see the Jersey Boys at the Palazzo, the Venetian’s latest addition to their property, in their theater appropriate named “The Jersey Boys.” I didn’t know what to expect, even though I knew Frankie Valli’s music.

First of all, it was amazing that someone could duplicate his voice. Turns out there are two people who alternate shows (not hard to understand why someone would require a break). And there are many more versions of the show around the US with their own Frankie Valli imitators.

There were over 30 songs and the dialog was minimal but the story came through. It turns out that movie star Joe Peschi was one of his buddies as a young kid and throughout his life. Bob Gaudio wrote most of the music. I looked him up and Frankie is still alive at 75. If you want to hear what he sounded like in 2007, go to:

Afterwards we went to a small bar and listened to "dualing pianos." Lori says that's kind of a new thing (you probably already know that). The bar keeps at least four people on deck and they rotate every 10 minutes or so. Wonderful duets, great singing, and the audience participates in the singing as well.

Hoover Dam — named in 1947 for Herbert Hoover — was originally Boulder Dam for those of you old enough to remember

If you've been to the Hoover Dam feel free to skip this:

Greg drive Lori and me (Ken had seen it years before). We left early so that we didn’t end up in any traffic. The first thing to notice is the thousand-foot highway being built over the Black Canyon, which is about a quarter mile south of the dam and will connect the Arizona and Nevada approach highways, 900 feet above the river. The roads leading up to the Canyon are finished, but the structure for the bridge won't be complete until next year.

These are aerial pictures of the road before work started. The one on the right shows highway 93 with a hairpin turn as it nears the canyon, then goes across the top of the dam to the other side in Arizona. The one on the right shows a larger view of the same.

If you want to see a live photo and movies of the new road construction, go to

Tours were built into the system right from the beginning, so that citizens could see how they money was being spent. The money from the tours is used for the upkeep of the touring process, so it pays for itself as well. I’m sure that it’s a lot different from what it was like before 9-11. The picture on the right is one of the beautiful floors that are throughout the tour area, put there to enhance the tours. The three of us chose the long tour of both the dam and the power plant (turned out the plastic helmit were for show only).

This was one of the most interesting tours I’ve experienced. I’ve always known that the Colorado river served most of the Southwestern US, but didn’t realize that the dam was installed in the thirties as a way to keep the river from overflowing its banks from time to time, thus ruining crops and homes. It was designed as a water control system. I’d always seen it as a producer of electricity — which it is — but was not it’s original purpose. Electricity production came as an afterthought and as a result, the income from it totally covers the cost of running the dam. In fact, the income paid back the original $49-million loan totally in 50 years. How’s that for a government project that works!

We saw a ten-minute movie that showed some footage of the work being done by men who were happy to have a job during the depression. They worked in 3 shifts per day, every day, seven days a week. The work started in 1931 and completed in 1936, two years ahead of schedule.

Left: a long view of the 8 generators on the Nevada side (there are 7 similar ones on the Arizona side). There are water-driven turbines under the generators (not shown), which create the hydro-electric power. You can also see the long tunnels that are throughout the dam.

Left: the only crack in any of the tunnels (according to our guide). On the right a system for tracking any changes in the dam.

Our tour included going into one of the tunnels (3rd floor I think) that burrowed all the way from the Lake Mead side out through the front of the dam. We could look out and see the water. It was a bit overwhelming. This is a view from the end of the tunnel down onto the dam and waterway.

One tunnel had two escape staircases, one going down 300 steps (that’s thirty stories) and one going up 300 steps.

I was fascinated by the description of how it was made. First they had to build 56-foot diameter diversion tunnels that ran for 3 miles, to bypass the area for the dam, and cofferdams in order to cause the water to bypass the site. Only then could the concrete be poured.

That process itself was complex because the chemicals in that much concrete created heat. A system of pipes through which refrigerated water ran solved the heating problem. However the concrete is still curing today and will continue for years (it continues to gain strength). There was enough concrete poured to pave a two-lane highway from San Francisco to New York. It was poured in various depths, from 5 inches to 2 inches, in order to create the curve (see below).

Water flowing from Lake Mead drives the turbines that produce the power. There are two generators totally dedicated to supplying power just to the dam itself. The power from the 15 other generators is sold in Nevada (23%), Arizona (19%), Southern California (28%), and Los Angeles (15%); the rest goes to miscellaneous smaller communities mostly in southern California. (Interesting that Las Vegas, which is only 25 miles from the dam, does not buy power; it had no real government when the deals were being made, and got left out).

As we left the property the road passes Lake Mead, which is a special shade of milky blue that's caused by the calcium in the water.

Shopping and Hanging Out

The girls favorite thing was shopping. The first outing was at the Venetian. Here are the girls. Ashley (daughter of Bruce), Katherine (daughter of Marc), Kaitlyn and Erika (daughters of Kristen), and Amanda (daughter of Bruce). These were the five ladies that Marc and Bruce escorted throughout the Grand Canyon.

Posing with the Blue Man Group: After

After shopping we all met at the Grand Lux for dinner. Lori and Katherine share a bite.

Bruce and Ken look at the check for the 11 people at the table.

And so a lovely six-day trip ends. Planes left for Wisconsin (Lori), Miami (Greg), Orlando (Bruce, Ashley, Amanda), Chicago (Marc, Kaitlyn, Erika), and Maryland (Katherine). Ken and I hooked up the toad and headed back to Escondido, tired, but having had a great time with family.

Continue with Chapter 25.