September 9 – 20, 2020
We landed in Henderson at Kim and Marty’s for three nights before we would return home for one day to take care of doctor’s appointments, then meet them at their condo in Solano Beach. Nothing earth shattering would occur while at either place and yet, we’d engage in enough safe events to merit a post.
Las Vegas was a place of myth during most of my youth, a stopping point on long distance trips with my parents and a luring mirage during early adult hood, when I discovered that I really didn’t have a taste for gambling. This all changed in 1984 when my aunt Shirley and Uncle Bob (my Dad’s middle sister) retired and moved there, purchasing a double wide mobile home in the Miracle Mile park on Boulder Highway, sitting next to the Four Mile Bar four miles from downtown as the name suggests.
That was the year my parents also retired and having bought a 32-foot fifth wheel trailer, set off on their lifelong dream to travel around the United States full time for five years. Soon after my Aunt Agnes and Uncle Dick (my Dad’s third of four siblings) would move to Vegas followed not long after by Aunt Ruth, Dad’s second oldest sibling. The town would now be ground zero for many family gatherings, and a way station for Joanna and me as we actively explored southwestern states during the next four decades.
So, our Las Vegas became not the town of glittering casinos, gambling, dubious shows, and endless buffet’s but instead a place holding some of our fondest memories of family and friends.
With the exception of Uncle Dick and Aunt Aggie, my parents and the aunts and uncles have since passed on but now a new cycle begins with Kris’ parents, Kim and Marty our new family with them, the promise of many more celebrations to come.
We set out the morning after our arrival for the Arts District, a mile or so south of downtown and an area gentrifying in a positive way, full of unique shops, restaurants, and drinking establishments. Our destination was Vesta Coffee Roasters, a block away from Casa Don Juan, a Mexican restaurant we’ve frequented many times when visiting.
Inside, Kim and Marty ordered a Pour Over, with Goose Bumps Blend, a cold brew, and a Sweet Dream Toast (Nutella, almonds, coconut and Maldon Salt) while Joanna and I split a Latte and warmed up All Things (everything seasoned croissant with house fromage blanc). We secured a table out on the wide sidewalk and waited for our orders, which came promptly and proceeded to demolish all that was in front of us.
Having fortified ourselves with a light repast and caffeine, it was now time to seek out the beverage of choice this group is known for, which took us not too far away to the Able Baker Brewing Company on South Main Street. This is my kind of brewery, with 33 taps featuring a wide variety of beers, from low to high gravity and multiple styles, from a Pilsner to a Brandywine.
I don’t recall now what I ordered, but it was either the “I’d Have a Beer” Lager or the “Barrels for Monique” Belgian Quad. Then again, knowing my penchant for consuming Belgians, I’m leaning to the latter. We could have spent quite a bit of time here but as it was early and we wanted to get in a tough ride the next day, we opted to forgo deleterious behavior in favor of making a responsible choice. Less fun but infinitely wiser.
Later that day the four of us headed south out of town towards Stateline, turning off at Jean onto Highway 161 towards Goodsprings to stop in at the Pioneer Saloon for dinner. Named for Joseph Good, whose cattle frequented a spring nestled in the southeastern foothills of the Spring Mountains, Goodsprings was once the heart of the most productive mining districts in Clark County. Most early buildings in the town were constructed during the boom spurred by the railroad in 1910–1911.
Now the home of the Pioneer Saloon, built in 1913 and considered to be one of the oldest saloons in Nevada, it houses a bullet hole in a wall in the bar and a coroner’s letter describing how it was created. It is also said by many to be haunted by the victim’s ghost.
In a dining room next to the bar is a memorial to both Clark Gable and Carole Lombard. While on a war bond tour in 1942, she was scheduled to travel from Indiana to her home in Los Angeles. Anxious to get back, she scheduled a flight at the last minute and after her plane refueled in Las Vegas, it crashed into Double Up Peak on Potosi Mountain, just outside of Goodsprings.
Lombard’s husband, Clark Gable, immediately flew to the Pioneer Saloon where the search party was headquartered, spending three days there waiting to learn if there were any survivors. Tragically, all 22 passengers aboard the flight perished, including Lombard’s mother.
We sat outside on the patio under a roof and ordered, a burger for Marty and BLT’s for the rest of us. Along with our beers it was what it was, a filling meal that will be remembered more for the people and place than for the food.
We left for home and drove back the way we came, stopping for what would be that closing moment of the day, a visit to Seven Magic Mountains. A major league home-run’sdistance from the freeway, how many times have we passed this site and remarked on it? So, it was nice to spend a few moments there. It is the work of Ugo Rondinone (born 1964). a New York-based, Swiss-born mixed-media artist noted for a range of contemporary paintings and sculptures.
Privately funded at a cost of approximately $3.5 million, the piece consists of 33 limestone boulders, each weighing 10 to 25 tons, arranged in seven towers 30 to 35 feet tall. They are secured by a solid backbone, with each stone painted a bright, fluorescent color. Approximately five years in the making, the sculpture was organized by the Nevada Museum of Art and opened on May 11, 2016. Originally scheduled to run for two years, it was extended for three more years.
A special law reduces the producers’ and the artist’s liability if a member of the viewing public “does something stupid” (e.g., climbing and falling). The law, Seven Magic Mountains, NRS 41.517, is the only public-art carve-out in the country. It is estimated that more than two million people have taken photographs at the sculpture for Instagram and it is one of the largest land-based art installations in the United States since the early 1990s.
We returned to the house for an early evening in anticipation of a bike ride on the infamous loop the next morning, a 34.4 bike path near Boulder City. It would lead to some unintended consequences, nothing tragic mind you, but certainly a day to remember. We’ll cover it in the next post.
Vesta Coffee Roasters: https://vestacoffee.com/
Able Baker Brewing: https://ablebakerbrewing.com/
Pioneer Saloon: http://www.pioneersaloon.info/
Seven Magic Mountains: http://sevenmagicmountains.com/