"Freedom does not die from frontal attack. It dies because men in
power no longer believe in a system based upon liberty"
State 22: Nevada - December 5, 2017
Our day began with a long and lonely, but absolutely beautiful 301 mile drive Northeast straight across the Mojave Desert to the Cross Country Couple's “Can’t Miss Attraction” for Nevada; The Hoover Dam. The Hoover Dam is a gravity arch dam built across the Black Canyon bordering the states of Arizona and Nevada. The dam was built in the midst of the Great Depression by 21,000 workers, and tragically 96 of whom lost their lives. After 5 years of construction beneath the hot and harsh desert sun, the Hoover Dam was completed 2 years ahead of schedule, and was dedicated on September 30,1935 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The dam's completion created Lake Meade, which is the largest reservoir by volume in the US. Hailed by the American Society of Civil Engineers as one of America's Seven Modern Civil Engineering Wonders, The Hoover Dam was once the largest concrete structure built in the history of humanity, and even to this very day, it is the 2nd largest dam in the US!
Although the Hoover Dam is 1 hour away outside of Las Vegas, I have been unable to visit the dam due to time constraints during my 2 prior trips to the region. Today, I would make certain to visit the Hoover Dam, because it would be our very first stop in Southern Nevada.
After spending 6 months full time on the road, I have learned sometimes everything just goes wrong despite our best efforts, and you really have no other choice than to just roll with it! As usual, I first called the visitor center to inquire about closures or other important information, and the bad news started right out the gate. I was told the elevators were broken, and we would be unable to tour the hydroelectric portion of the dam. This was strike 1! At least we would be able to drive across the dam and would certainly capture a few amazing views! Off we went to the visitor center to learn more about the dam, but we were stopped by security on our approach. Apparently there is a $10.00 cost to park, and an additional $10.00 per person charge for admission into the visitor center? Seriously? I have gone to dozens of parks and monuments all across the US, and never have I been charged for visiting a visitor center! This was strike 2! We decided to pass on the visitor center, and after Nate turned Rosie around, we headed for the road leading over the Hoover Dam!
Here comes strike 3! Apparently, before crossing over the Hoover Dam you must pass through a security checkpoint, and as I pulled up an officer waved me over to a side lane. Another officer then approached my driver side window, told me to exit my van and open all the doors so he can search my vehicle!
It is easy to say “well this is life in a post 9/11 world”, but I don’t buy it. The World Trade Centers were hollow structures made of concrete and steel, and much more fragile than the Hoover dam. There have been countless terrorist threats against the World Trade Center for decades, and even 2 attempts aimed at its destruction! In 1993, the North Tower of the World Trade Center was truck bombed from beneath and still did not collapse. In 2001, the towers took 2 direct hits from two fully fueled airplanes going 580 mph. The south tower remained standing for 56 minutes, and the north tower remained standing for 102 minutes after impact.
Now let’s explore the Hoover Dam's susceptibility as a terrorist target according to the experts. The Hoover Dam is an essential component to the infrastructure of the West by providing ¾ of all water for crop irrigation, and it provides electricity for 1.3 million residents! Unlike the WTC, there had never been an attack or even a credible threat of an attack, on the Hoover Dam since it's construction in 1935! Why? The Hoover Dam is made of solid layers of concrete 726-feet tall, 45-feet wide across the top, 660-feet wide at the bottom, weighs 6.6 million tons, and contains 3.25 million cubic yards of concrete! The amount of concrete contained in the Hoover Dam could build a full sized 4 lane 3000 mile long highway straight across America from sea to shining sea! Unless a hostile foreign government launched a ICBM (Inter-continental ballistic missile) with the Hoover Dam in its cross hairs, there is no feasible way the dam could be destroyed! Even if Rosie was packed with TNT, it would barley scratch the Hoover Dam.
This is just another example of the constitutional rights of millions of law abiding citizens being trampled on due to fear and hysteria. My van is my home, and the Fourth Amendment protects me from unlawful search and seizure, except for probable cause or a search warrant. Driving a cargo van is not probable cause of illegal activity, and he certainly did not have a warrant to search my van and home. I have no criminal record, but he wouldn’t have even known since he never even asked for my ID! I was just profiled because I drive a van. How dare I be ordered out of my home and demanded to open my doors to be searched! I politely refused the search and turned Rosie around! Uncle Sam you can take your Hoover Dam and shove it!
After departing the security checkpoint at the Hoover Dam, we drove 34 miles Northwest to the Las Vegas Strip for the Cross Country Couple's "Famous Food" for Nevada; Buffet! I know! I know! A buffet is not an actual type food. However, the “all you can eat buffet” is so closely tied to the identity of Nevada it seemed like the best option! However, we didn’t just want to eat at any buffet. We wanted the best buffet Las Vegas had to offer, and hopefully they had vegetarian options as well! Not surprisingly, there are hundreds of buffets throughout Nevada, so how would we find the best one? We referred to Zagat; a company whom rates and reviews restaurants to find the best buffet on the strip. The winner was DRUM ROLL PLEASE…The Wynn Buffet!!! To make things even more exciting, the Wynn Buffet was also ranked the most vegan friendly buffet in Las Vegas! Billionaire Steve Wynn, the owner of the Wynn Resort and half of the other hotels on the strip, stunned the world in June 2010 when after watching the documentary "Eating", he went vegan cold turkey! Wynn recruited world renowned vegan chef; Tal Ronnen to create vegan menu options in all of his resorts, and even gave a vegan book and DVD to each of his 10,000 employees! This almost appeared too good to be true! Did we just actually find a vegan oasis among a carnivorous sandstorm, or was just a mirage?
With anxious anticipation and grumbling bellies, we set in a course for the buffet at Wynn Hotel, but first we had to find a parking spot for Rosie. While there are many benefits to having a high top van, one of biggest drawbacks is difficulty finding parking in populated areas. I have traveled through dozens of cities throughout the country, and shook my fist cursing at the endless parking garages with that yellow dangling bar with max height of 7 feet taunting me as it swayed in the breeze! Frequently when visiting cities, my only option is to pay upwards of $25.00 in an open lot because Rosie does not fit in a parking garage. Here I find myself on the Las Vegas Strip, and found a parking garage at the Circus Circus Casino with an 11-foot clearance and free parking! Rosie and I were overjoyed! It had been so long since I have been inside of a parking garage, and I felt a tad bit naughty. I guess you really can have whatever you want in Vegas! After parking Rosie, we had a 1.2 mile walk down Las Vegas Boulevard to get to the Wynn Hotel Casino.
The Wynn is a beautiful hotel! Although there was no roller coaster, no pyramids, no zip lines and no erupting volcano, the Wynn featured clean and classy decor with a touch of vintage Las Vegas. The entire first floor was decorated with lights in a manner which was festive but not overtly Christmasy. This is a tough task to accomplish, and it was extremely well executed! Please see the pictures below.
The location of the buffet was very poorly signed, and extremely difficult to find. We asked 4 employees to please direct us to the buffet, and each gave us different directions! After wandering around the casino aimlessly for 30 minutes and reeking of second hand smoke, we finally found the best buffet in Las Vegas!!! The ambiance was quite impressive as you can see from the pictures below!
We paid $46.99 per person for their dinner service, and asked the cashier how many of the buffet options are vegetarian. The cashier, then took a large ink stamp and stamped our receipt “ALLERGY” in big bold red ink! We were explicitly told not to go to the buffet until we first speak with a chef! Now, I admit I am not the best at keeping up to date on current events, but since when did being a vegetarian become a food allergy? If you are allergic to peanuts and eat them, you can die from anaphylaxis! However, being a vegetarian is a not a food allergy! Being a vegetarian is a lifestyle choice!
After waiting 30 minutes to be seated, we presented our improperly stamped receipt to our hostess who led us to our table. Along the way, she questioned us in great detail about our food allergy. We attempted to explain we are vegetarian, and do not have a food allergy! Our hostess then asked us what type of meat we are allergic to? This was getting very frustrating! After being seated, the hostess told us to wait until the chef came out to give us a tour of the buffet! The hostess then took two steps back from the table, clicked on her microphone, and very loudly and publicly announced, “I NEED A VEGETARIAN WALK ON TABLE 55”. When the hostess didn’t receive a reply from the chef, she repeated it again, “I NEED A VEGETARIAN WALK ON TABLE 55”. This went on and on for almost 10 minutes! People were starting to look at us, and Nate and I were mortified! I know at least one other couple was sharing in our embarrassment, because we also heard, “I NEED A LACTOSE INTOLERANT WALK ON TABLE 23”.
I have no idea why we needed a chef to give us a tour of the buffet! Usually most buffets have the sign beneath the description of food stating vegetarian or vegan! Whatever! Their house! Their rules! Our hostess asked us to follow her to the buffet where the chef was waiting. The tour of the buffet lasted 2 minutes, and the chef pointed out the obvious. Roasted vegetables are vegetarian, and the carving stations are not! Thank you Captain Obvious! Your insight was well worth the 10 minutes of embarrassment we just endured waiting for your revolutionary grand tour!!! He also told us the ceasar salad was vegetarian, which I know for a fact it is not! Ceasar dressing has anchovies, and anchovies are a fish!
To make a long story short, only 30% of the food options were vegetarian, and primarily consisted of pizza, mac and cheese, mashed potatoes and other miscellaneous finger foods. One of the most peculiar items was watermelon with feta cheese. Since were no other fresh cut fruit to be found, I decided it give it a shot against my better judgment. It was hands down the nastiest combination of flavors and textures I had tasted in my entire life! I must say their polenta and their quinoa salad was quite good. However, there was not one food item on that buffet revealing that anyone in the kitchen had a clue about vegetarian and vegan cuisine! There were 10 types of sushi available, and none of which were vegetarian. There were 3 soups, and none of which were vegetarian. There was mountains of crab legs, piles of shrimp, and 7 different carving stations with every meat you could imagine! Now, if they had a seitan roast I would have been extremely impressed! No such luck! As vegetarians, one of the reasons Nate and I don’t eat at a buffet is because the price figures in all of the meat and seafood we are not going to eat! At $94.00 for a buffet for two, we should not be eating food we could get from The Golden Corral. We felt ripped off!!!
On a more positive note, the Pastry Chef was an absolute genius! The desserts were incredible, and titillated our taste buds! Because of the limited buffet choices, the two of us were still hungry and decided to fill up on these fabulous desserts. Nate's favorite was a deconstructed key lime pie, and I loved the guava custard! The vegan chocolate chip cookies, and the carrot cake with candy topping were additional stars in the 40 dessert smorgasbord! The portions for each dessert were very small allowing you to sample a wide variety. The dessert was the best part of an overall awful experience, and most depressing, the Wynn was the best buffet Las Vegas had to offer!
After having an expensive and disappointing meal and eating far too many sweets, we hobbled a mile back to the Circus Circus parking garage where we collapsed and stealth parked for the night.