Amazing things visitors to Las Vegas never see!

Zillions of tourists come here every year – but they spend their time on The Strip and they never see some of the wonders that Las Vegas has to offer.

More or less in the center of this sprawling city is a small public park called The Springs Preserve with various hiking trails, and the park tries to re-create the native Las Vegas desert landscape that was here before humans settled the area – or better put, as humans first started to settle this area.

One of the amazing things you’ll see are a few ancient water pumps like this one shown here. This is not a reproduction!  In fact, these pumps are over 100 years old, and WATER was the original reason that Las Vegas got its start.

Fort Knox

Fort Knox is a real Army base in the city of the same name, in the state of Kentucky. I am not sure what it’s like today, but “back in the day” – as this snap shows – you weren’t allowed into the main building that stores the gold, but at least you could get pretty close and take some pictures.


Some of my photos are quite boring to Europeans, because they show very common European scenes – but having never seen them, Americans are fascinated.

In this case, the situation is reversed.  No American would hardly raise an eyebrow at this:

It’s a bank!  Although cash machines and cash cards have been around in America for a long time, many Americans still write checks by hand, and pick up money from a so-called “bank teller” – a real person who works at a bank!  The money and checks are transferred back and forth to the cars via pneumatic tubes.

Imminent Danger

OK, not right at this very moment when I took the snap.

But there could be, and that is precisely why this tiny neighborhood nestled deep within a cornfield of Central Illinois is equipped with a powerful siren:

I remember many, many times laying in bed at night, window open, and hearing the screaming sirens in villages far away, as incoming tornadoes attacked the towns. In one case, in 1996, 39 tornadoes struck within hours, there was huge loss of life, and an entire village was completely flattened.

The amazing parking lot geese of Chicago Heights

Europeans often don’t believe me when I tell them about the American phenomena known as parking lot geese, so I was pleased and privileged to be able to make this snap on a recent visit to Chicago:

Although these are wild birds, they have absolutely no fear of humans.  In fact, while visiting Champaign, Illinois on the same trip, I came across another parking lot gaggle, and I was surprised to see one of the geese wearing a tag:

In fact, here you can read about an interesting encounter I had with parking lot geese many years ago.

The amazing Italian beef sandwiches of Chicago Heights

This looks like my Italian Beef sandwich, but it was not my Italian Beef sandwich:

On a recent trip to Chicago, I was pleased and privileged to order an Italian Beef sandwich at my favorite restaurant for this specialty, the Perros Brothers in Chicago Heights. I haven’t been here in nearly 20 years, and I was pleased it was still standing:

I always thought this was a great place for Italian Beef sandwiches, but by surfing to their website I only just now learned they are a top rated diner in Chicago!

Sadly, not a lot of people know about Italian Beef sandwiches, even people who travel to Chicago. It’s a sandwich of extremely thin slices of beef that are cooked in a spicy broth. Generally, it helps to eat it with a fork: usually either the broth is poured over the sandwich, or else (and this seems to be the most common approach, to order “an Italian beef sandwich with a dip“) the entire sandwich is dipped into the broth, totally soaking the bread.

The amazing crawling crawfish of Chicago Heights

On a recent trip to Chicago, while cruising down a side street parallel to the world-famous Cicero boulevard in Chicago Heights, I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw a giant crawfish walking down the street:

On both sides of the street there were nothing but cornfields, but the previous night there was a torrential thunderstorm. I can only assume that the rain washed this big fellow out of whatever pond he was living in.

Dangerous cajuns in the Atchafalaya

One of my passions are the swamps of the southern United States.  Here’s a nice shot of some mangrove trees taken from my canoe in the Atchafalaya swamp in Louisiana:

Interesting story: a good friend of mine, Seargent Major Bill Thrasher of the United States Marine Corps was quite concerned I was planning to vacation in this area.  This was the early 1990’s, and he told me he would go on training missions deep in the these swamps. “Ken,” he said, “there’s some awful people living back there. You’re likely to just disappear. Whole families live deep in the swamps and most of their kids don’t even have names.

Well, I didn’t disappear – but I did see quite a few wooden shacks where people were living, as well as a few people on boats with guns and fishing poles. They didn’t seem too inclined to stop and talk with me.

Where I was shot

Yes, I had the honor or privilege of having someone try to shoot me with a gun.

On one of these occasions, I was driving around the back woods region of Kentucky, when my path was blocked by a couple of stray cows, so I spent the time to take their picture:

I heard someone with a gun firing, one shot, then another.  I assumed someone just hunting birds or squirrels. Then,  just as I started to drive off, WHAM – a gun shot and a loud noise from the side of my pickup truck!

At that point, I drove away VERY fast.  After around 1-2 miles I stopped to look for a bullet hole – but didn’t find anything.  However, next time I stopped for gas I spotted it: a nice round bullet hole, probably made by a 22-caliber, about 1 inch from my gas tank cover.

Moral of the story: there are still many places in rural, backwoods America where the folks don’t take too kindly to strangers.

When the wind blows

I didn’t see any rocking cradles, but anyway I took this snap just a few meters from a spot called Bodega Head, on a cliff high above the Pacific Ocean, near Bodega Bay, California:

What you can’t see here, but what I find amazing, is that this tree is leaning almost 90 degrees to shoreline.  If I simply turn around, this is what it looks like behind my back:

So even though you’d expect the wind would travel perpendicularly to the shoreline, in fact the local geography and hills somehow influence the wind to run south, parallel to the coast.

(By the way, I am no expert on trees, but I suspect this is a Cypress tree.  Cypress trees are amazing – and I hope to write a number of photo blogs (PHOGS) about them soon!)

Because it is so amazing, here is a close-up of the tree:

Unbelievable hole in the ground – what were they thinking?!

A lone black crow sits on a sign and contemplates an interesting landmark at Bodega Bay, California, which is nothing more than a hole in the ground:

But unbelievably, this water filled hole – or more precisely formulated, this water filled hole sitting directly on the San Andreas Fault – was originally planned to be the location of the largest nuclear power plant in the United States.  Until, of course, sanity triumphed over business interests in the end.

You can read more about this hole on the sign:

Where the “exotic niche” is mainstream

On a recent trip to the San Francisco Bay Area, I was shocked / surprised / stunned to see this advertisement on a public transportation bus:

Here’s a close-up of the advertisement:

Even within the IT community, there is probably only a small fraction of people who will understand this advertisement. And a tinier fraction than that who would be motivated to go find out more about this company.

So it is SHOCKING to see that a company expects enough value in paying for an advertisement like this. I don’t know the demographics of San Francisco, but it now must be one high tech city!