One day while I am attending school at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, my friends and I decide that afternoon, literally on a whim, to drive up to Las Vegas for some gambling. On the way there, we pass by the awesome Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell behind it (see photo). The concrete dam was completed in 1963, is 710 feet tall and up to 350 feet thick. The dam contains eight generating units with a total capacity of 1,320 megawatts, or enough electricity for 638,000 homes (we joke as we pass by that the lion’s share of the electricity goes to Vegas—you can literally see the city lights from what seems like 100 miles away.) The cost of the dam was $515 million. Lake Powell is 27 million acre-feet impounded behind the dam, which is the second largest artificial lake in the U.S. after Lake Mead. The lake is named after Major John Wesley Powell, the first white man to explore the area in 1869. Lake Powell is 186 miles long and has 1,960 miles of shoreline. In 1995, 2.3 million people visited the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. More than 445,000 boats were on the lake that year.
Vegas is mind-boggling and mind-numbing. We play “Sin City” by AC/DC at full volume on the car stereo as we drive into the city at about 11 p.m. Of course, the lateness of the hour is of no consequence, since the city literally never sleeps. The casinos are astoundingly busy at 4 a.m. that night. The bombardment of lights is so excessive that it seems like daylight when we arrive. We visit each of the famous casinos to gamble, including The Sands. Mostly, we play blackjack. Each casino almost blinds you due to their glitter inside. The slot machines are everywhere, including, I’m told, inside the bathrooms. Each casino contains a dining area. We eat at the Sands, and are treated to a fabulous buffet that is priced very low (apparently, they expect you to blow all your money gambling). We also enjoy the fact that the drinks are on the house while you are gambling (apparently, drunk gamblers blow more money than sober gamblers).
Vegas is the largest city in the state. Ft. Baker was built here in 1867. Until 1905, when the railroad came, the area was operated as a ranch. After World War II, when the troops were stopping on their way to the West Coast, the city rose as a center for tourism and gambling. Most of the action occurs on “The Strip,” where the grand hotels, dazzling casinos, glamorous chorus lines, and top entertainers are found. Major casinos include Cesear’s Palace, Golden Nugget, Harrah’s, MGM Grand, Mirage, The Sands, and Sahara. The nickname of the city, of course, is “Sin City.”