Monday, February 27, 2012

Route 66 Expedition to Oatman, Arizona

Oatman is a former mining town in the Black Mountains of Mohave County, Arizona, resting at an elevation of 2,710 feet. What began as a tent camp after two prospectors struck a ten million dollar gold mine in 1915, within a year grew to a population of 3,500 people. However, in just 9 years after that, the town's main employer, United Eastern Mines, shut down operations. The mining industry trickled along until 1941, when all of the area gold mining operations were ordered closed by the U.S. government, because war efforts required mining resources be turned away from gold, and towards the mining of other metals needed for the war effort.

Fortunately for Oatman, it was located on the U.S. Route 66 and was able to cater to travelers driving between Kingman and Needles, California. For this reason, their little town survived a while longer. Oatman is very proud of its Route 66 heritage, and replicas of the Route 66 black on white highway shield signs are posted all over the town. Likewise, Route 66 souvenirs are available for purchase in just about every store along the little main street.

But Oatman is famous for something beyond its Route 66 heritage! It seems that the prospectors left more than abandoned mines when they exited. The prospectors left their donkeys (also called burros in Spanish), and these donkeys now roam free through the streets and nearby areas of Oatman. This collage shows some of the tourists feeding the donkeys. Though they are normally gentle, the donkeys are in fact wild, and signs posted throughout the town warn tourists to exercise caution. The cautionary note extends to more than just petting or feeding the wild creatures. You also have to be very careful where you step, as illustrated by one of the photos in the collage!

As our bus inched its way down Oatman's main street, (the famous "mother-road" Route 66), the driver not only had to dodge donkeys, but there was also an "Oatman Outlaw" smack dab in the middle of the road, saying with his body language that the driver was to proceed no further! The passenger on our bus who was a journalist from Hong Kong, was astonished by this scene, and ran to the front of the bus to capture it on film! (photo on left shows his profile)

It seems that our vehicle had just driven into Oatman's weekend "street theater", and as soon as the passengers could get out of our bus, we joined the fun of watching characters in period costumes, recreate a scene from the wild west----complete with the sound of bullets (blanks, of course!) and the sight of smoking guns!

These characters get to put on this show on weekends, and appeared to be really enjoying entertaining the crowd that gathered to watch their antics.

There were "Oatman Outlaw" souvenirs to purchase, after their performance, with the money going to a good cause.

This photograph shows the Oatman Hotel, which is the oldest two-story adobe structure in Mojave County, and is listed as a Mojave County historical landmark. Its main claim to fame is that it is the place where a famous Hollywood couple (Clark Gable and Carol Lombard) honeymooned on March 18, 1939, after they eloped and were married in Kingman, Arizona.

Today, the hotel is famous for another reason---its restaurant. That is because tourists have pasted, or taped, or hung, or stapled, one dollar bills on the walls, floor, and ceiling of this ancient structure! Some restaurants may pay a lot of money FOR its interior decoration, but the Oatman Hotel restaurant uses a lot of money AS its interior decoration! Some estimates say there are 40,000-60,000 one dollar bills covering every square inch of surface available!

Due to recent world-wide interest in Route 66, many European and Asian tourists go on tours that are designed to visit Route 66 sites exclusively. The aforementioned journalist from Hong Kong, was interested in getting a photo of these leather-clad motorcyclists for his publication, to show his readers an example of what they might expect to find during their tour of Route 66.

Another reason Oatman is popular with foreign tourists is because the surrounding landscape shows images of the town that are more in keeping with the movies about the wild West that are so popular overseas.

My family took Route 66 from Arkansas to California back in the late fifties. It was before our family car had airconditioning, so we were advised to cross the dessert at night, to avoid the blistering hot sun of mid-July, in the Mojave Desert. Maybe that is why I do not have any memory of going through Oatman on that trip. Or maybe, it is because we had driven through Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and most of Arizona by then, and it had all become a blur to me! But it was a memorable trip, and I cherish the memories of a family roadtrip vacation along the original "Mainstreet of America" to go out to see my California cousins!

Seeing a donkey going down the middle of a road reminded me of the story of Jesus riding a donkey into Jerusalem. Matthew 21:5 says "See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey." In Eastern traditions, a donkey is a symbol of peace, versus the horse which is an animal of war. Thus, Jesus' entry into Jerusalem was as Prince of Peace, not as a war-waging king. During his entry, the people laid down palm fronds in front of Jesus, as a way to show honor. This is the basis for our modern day Palm Sunday celebration, which is always the Sunday before Easter. This year, Easter is on April 8, and Palm Sunday is on April 1. It would be a great time to gather with other Christians to worship God. Some of my most memorable Easter season worship services are from times when I was outside the walls of my home church: I remember climbing to the rocky summit of "Pilot's Knob Mountain" near Harrison, Arkansas, for an Easter sunrise service when I was in high school. I remember spending one Easter Sunday at a hospital in Sherman, Texas, for the birth of a grandson. I remember being in St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City on Palm Sunday back in the 1980's, and being given a palm frond, in recognition of the palm fronds spread before Jesus as he entered Jerusalem. More recently, I remember worshipping with a friend at an Easter service in Mt. Shasta, California. And just last year, I had the opportunity to worship with one of my cousins of the Catholic faith, at his home church in Sacramento, California. Regardless of where you find yourself this Easter season, seek out a way to worship with other Christ-followers. You can find out more by visiting about the church where I worship, in the Baxter County area. If you are in the Oatman area (or anywhere else for that matter!), log onto for church contact information. A great place for overnight lodging in the Oatman area, is nearby Laughlin, Nevada. Complete visitor information for that city is available at Regardless of where you find yourself during the Easter season, I hope you will rejoice in the good news that HE IS RISEN! Miles of smiles! Tricia

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Monday, February 20, 2012

Hoover Dam Expedition

Although I have flown over Hoover Dam countless times when I was jetting back and forth on commercial flights going out west, and despite the fact that it is only 30 miles from Las Vegas, my visit to Hoover Dam earlier this month was the first time I had ever had the opportunity to go tour the location.

I have toured dams in the Ozarks before, where a tour for a visitor seems to be an "afterthought", so I was a little surprised about just how big of a visitor attraction the Hoover Dam was! The broad promenade down to the Visitor's Center was lined with lovely palm trees, sculptures, and scenic overlooks.

On the entry promenade, one will first notice these sculptures, that go by the name "Winged Figures of the Republic", and are the work of sculptor Oskar J.W. Hansen. He said these 30 feet tall statues were designed to represent "the eternal vigilance which is the price of liberty." There is also sculpture embedded in the floor beneath the statues, which represent the alignment of the planets on the day that President Herbert Hoover dedicated the dam in 1935.

As you can see from the shiny appearance of the toes of this winged figure, there have been thousands of visitors who have given them a swipe of the hand!

The dam is described as having an art deco and modernism flare about it, which would be in keeping with its being built during the Great Depression. These four intake towers---two on the Nevada side and two on the Arizona size, are both functional and pleasing to the eye.

One of the towers of the dam lists the time of day in Nevada.

Just a few feet away, the clock on the tower on the Arizona side, shows a time that is an hour earlier. This photo is also a reminder to mention that if you find yourself in Las Vegas without a car, yet you want to tour attractions outside Las Vegas, you can use Pink Jeep Tours ( ). One of the Pink Jeep Tour vehicles is pictured crossing the dam in this photograph. That is the vehicle our group used when driving around the dam and Boulder City, and I found it to be extremely comfortable. It has an excellent sound system, so it is very easy to understand your tour guide, who is driving the vehicle; plus, the windows were large and clean! Another reason you might need Pink Jeep Tours is that there are numerous restrictions to what type of vehicles are allowed to drive across Hoover Dam. So I would recommend a visit to the dam's website to read about the restrictions, BEFORE you go!

These girls are posing for a photo in front of the plaque on top of the dam, that serves as the "imaginary line" between Nevada and Arizona.

The reddish color of the visitor facilities blends nicely with the natural stone colors of the canyon walls that surround it.

One reason this canyon was chosen for the site of the dam was because of the steepness of the canyon walls. This photo of one of the escalators leading down to the Visitor's Center gives you an idea of just how very steep they are!

These steps leading from the parking garage will get you about a third of the way down to where you get to the escalators in the previous photos. Are you getting the picture that it is a LONG WAY from the top to the bottom???

Once you are inside the dam with your tour group, the guide has a microphone, and adequate visual aids to give you an overview of what you are about to see, plus give anyone who has a problem with claustrophobia to exit the tour!

When you get to the area where the turbines are that actually work to produce the hydroelectric power, you are a little overwhelmed by just how gigantic they are. Note the truck in the foreground of the photo for size relativity.

This gallery "cat walk" above the transformers was equipped with speakers (shown as the boxes suspended in front of the visitors), which made it easy to hear what our tour guide was saying, even though we were very spread out.

Photography was allowed in this area, which surprised me a bit, since the dam tours I took in the Ozarks did not allow cameras inside the dam.

There is an observation deck connected with the Visitor Center, and there was a steady stream of people wanting to have their photo taken on top of the dam, and in front of the bypass bridge. Our group persuaded some stranger to snap this photo of us.

Part of the area that receives visitors has been refurbished within the last few years, but the art deco design has been maintained in the remodeling work.

This photo shows the outdoor area of the food concession at the dam, and has a great view of Lake Mead, Hoover Dam, the new bypass bridge, the Colorado River, and the Arizona shoreline.

This sculpture, called "The Highscaler" is named after a category of workers who built the dam. It is placed beside the cafe, of the same name.

When I was touring Hoover Dam, the guide seemed to include the word "power" in every other sentence----so much so, that I started humming in my mind a hymn I had learned in childhood called "Power in the blood". When I got home, I looked up the word power in my Bible concordance, and found that Exodus 9:16 says "But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my POWER and, that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth." In a similar way, a very dedicated group of workers raised up a dam, created to supply power to an arid land, and ----thanks to the tours at Hoover Dam---people from all over the earth are able to visit it, and learn how it works! However, even if you cannot visit in person, there is a website you can go to that will give you more details and facts about this engineering marvel, than you could digest in a lifetime. Check it out at . You can also learn about other remarkable places to visit in this area by clicking on So get out there, and have yourself a good dam visit! Miles of smiles! Tricia

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Saturday, February 18, 2012

Valley of Fire Expedition

Valley of Fire ( ) is Nevada's largest and oldest state park, having been dedicated for that purpose since 1935. It gets it name from the fact that when the desert sun is reflecting on the colored bluffs, they often appear to be on fire.

It is known for its striking red sandstone formations, against the stark beauty of the Mojave Desert.

The great thing about this park is that it is open every day (except December 25), all year round! Even though outdoor activities in the park are most enjoyable during the cooler months of the year, driving through the beauty of its majestic landscape can be enjoyed comfortably even on the hottest days of summer (provided your vehicle has air conditioning!)

The park has a beautifully designed visitor's center that blends in harmoniously with the tall red sandstone cliff behind it. At the visitor's center, you will find extensive informational displays, videos, restrooms, and a well-stocked gift shop.

Not surprisingly, photography is a very popular activity in the park. Often, a tourist will find man made "props" at a tourist destination, that they can put their head through for a photograph. However, this red sandstone photo "prop" has been made naturally by erosion of the soft rock, and can be found adjacent to the parking lot of the visitor center.

There are some well-marked nature trails adjacent to the visitor center, and help explain the fact that Valley of Fire State Park was voted as the "Best Park/Nature Area" in southern Nevada, by Nevada Magazine.

Sandstone is the official "State Rock" of Nevada, and its prevalence and beauty make it easy to understand why.

The erosion of the sandstone, which occurs at a faster rate than many other types of rock in the landscape, can make for some very interesting configurations, that even Fred Flintstone would find fascinating!

In well traveled areas, such as this dry creek bed that has been turned into a hiking trail, the erosion and constant foot traffic has ground the sandstone down into a fine reddish, pink powdery sand.

The trail I am on in this photograph is called "The Mouse's Tank", and has a colorful history going back over a century.

Before I visited Valley of Fire, my mind would conjure up images of Utah's Arches National Park, whenever I heard the phrase "rock arch". However, Valley of Fire has them as well, so now I can add their images to my memory bank!

Valley of Fire State Park also has numerous petroglyphs spread across many of its bluff faces. These were done by ancient humans thousands of years ago. A petroglyph is created by removing part of a rock surface by carving it away. Then additional carving is done to represent a message that the carver wanted to convey. These petroglyphs were easily visible from the Mouse's Tank hiking trail, and reminded me of how little children hold hands in a line to play "Red Rover"!

Because of its soft, crumbly composition, sandstone is not generally a good place to do technical rock climbing. However, the many cracks, holes, and inclines make "bouldering" a fun activity for anyone who wants to explore the terrain on their hands and knees (which is exactly what these folks are doing!). Serious technical climbers can inquire at the visitor center to find out areas in the park that would be more suitable for their sport.

Our group shouted out for this climber to give us the "Victory Salute" from her perch high above us.

Later, that same climber was seen shouting out the "Victory Salute" instructions to her friend who had climbed to the very summit of the rock formation. She is shown in this picture, taking his photo on top of the mountain. Our group was fortunate to get to visit on a day where there was not a cloud anywhere, and the white appearance of the full moon was all that one could see in the sky above us.

As our group was driving through the park, we spotted a big horn sheep grazing beside the highway. The desert big horn sheep is the official "State Animal" of Nevada.

I was beginning to think that this was a specimen of the state animal that had been placed along the highway by a taxidermist, because of the way it did not run away when our vehicle stopped so that we could all get a photograph! However, I finally saw a muscle twitch, so I decided it really was alive; perhaps the animal is desensitized to the steady stream of vehicles beside its grazing ground!

This lovely vehicle from Lewis Stages ( ) was the mode of transportation I used for the four days of traveling I did in Southern Nevada. Its large, clean windows made taking the scenic drive through Valley of Fire extremely comfortable and enjoyable. Our driver, named Oscar, saw to it that our viewing areas were spotless, which is what you want, when you are doing a "Windshield Tour" on what was voted "best scenic drive" in southern Nevada by readers of Nevada Magazine!

Nevada holds the title of "Most Mountainous State" in the 48 contiguous states of the USA. When I found that out, I realized that even though my boots are worn and dusty, Scripture promises that "How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news..." ( Isaiah 52:7 ) So put on YOUR hiking boots, and explore all that there is to see in the great outdoors, all within an hour of the famous Las Vegas, Nevada! To learn more, log on to . Miles of smiles! Tricia

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