Friday, September 12, 2008

Left on the cutting room floor, part I

There were some stories from our trip that didn't make the book. Occasionally, I'll share them here. Like our trip to Vegas.

When Iggy and I were driving east from California, he insisted on making two stops: the Grand Canyon, and Las Vegas. The first one being the nation's great environmental wonder, and the second being a hard-core tree hugger’s version of hell (given how unsustainable a sprawling city built in the desert is). Of course, Iggy is far from a hard core tree hugger—and even talking about the prospect of watching the dancing waters of the Bellagio in person literally choked him up. For those of you who haven’t been to Vegas, the dancing waters are maybe the city’s most alluring spectacle. There’s an 8.5-acre cement-bottomed “lake” in front of the Bellagio, filled with 20 million gallons of water that has been sucked from the Colorado River. (I have no idea how much evaporates each day, but it's got to be a lot.) Every 15 minutes—starting at 3 p.m. and ending at midnight—a series of fountains in the middle shoot water 245 feet into the arid desert air, in rhythm with Italian music blaring through loudspeakers. Thousands of passersby will stand and watch at one time. When the sun goes down, the whole show is illuminated by 4,792 lights. To environmentalists, witnessing this spectacle is probably the same as watching a spotted owl get strangled. (I have to say, the whole thing makes me squirm.) But since Iggy wanted to go to Vegas, we were going to Vegas.
The problem was crossing the mountain-filled desert. We were encountering two problems with the Mercedes: it was nearly overheating on steep climbs, forcing us to turn on the heater inside the car, on occasion, to cool it off while we were driving; and the air conditioner had stopped working altogether. Oh, and the temperature on the desert floor was about 107 degrees on the day we were driving through it.
More to this story next week…