Tuesday, December 19, 2017

#VegasHalloween (day 5): Seeing it for myself

It was back to making eggs in our Tahiti Village unit on Thursday morning, and then it was off to see a rather unusual sight.

I didn't plan it this way, but my Thursday included checking out two things that I learned about from reading the Vital Vegas blog. The first of those was our first destination of the day, the Wheel of Misfortune.

I had never heard of this odd curiosity until I read about it via Vital Vegas shortly after I completed my Halloween trip in 2016. As somebody who has an unhealthy affection for TV game shows, I had to see this odd, unauthorized art installation on the outskirts of the Vegas area, near an area known as Lake Las Vegas. It took about 25 minutes to reach it from the Tahiti Village.

I knew from doing my homework that there was convenient, nearby parking in the area, and that you could park at a bicycle rental and/or boat storage business that offered the parking spaces. It appears that some, if not most, of the people who pay $5 to park there do so in order to access bike trails in the general vicinity. I may have a reason to return to the Lake Las Vegas area in the years to come.

I went inside the store to pay my $5 parking fee. I told the guy working that I was there to see the wheel. He replied by saying "sure." I thought that was odd. I tried to confirm which way I wanted to go in order to access the wheel, and he affirmed my understanding of the directions by saying "sure."

OK, accessing the wheel means trespassing on private property that may have been sitting idle since 1961. (Vital Vegas has a little site history included in the blog entry, as well as better photos/video than I'll provide below.) But I sensed the guy was trying to avoid making any acknowledgment of the wheel, as if he feared he was being set up for some sort of law enforcement sting. That or he was just super weird.

My girlfriend and I made the short trek to the site of the wheel. There are several large, round cement areas grouped together. They all have walls about five-feet high surrounding them. Some of them have a portion of the wall missing, making for easy access inside the "thickener" pits of the manganese mining operation that once took place there. (Again, info gleaned from Vital Vegas.)

There was no opening into the wheel, however, but there was a nice mound of dirt built up outside the wall in one area, making it easy to step onto the top of the wall. I was ready to jump in, much to my girlfriend's surprise, when she asked how I planned to get out. That was a great question.

I realized there was no easy way out of the wheel, but I did see an empty five-gallon bucket inside the wheel. I figured I could use it as a step to help climb out of the wheel when I was done taking photos and videos. It turned out the bucket was cracked, and it wouldn't support my weight when I tried to step on it. So I had to use a metal rod sticking out of the wall, about six inches above the pit's surface, as my step, and grab another metal rod sticking out of the top of the wall to pull myself out of the pit.

The Vital Vegas story notes that the wheel's creation was a multi-day project of a graffiti artist or artists in 2012. If you Google photos of it, you'll see the colors were much brighter in 2012 than they are today. And plenty of visitors have added their own graffiti to the wheel in the years since it was created. As you'll see below, the wheel was carefully created (over a span of a few days) to replicate the big wheel from TV's "Wheel of Fortune." It is obvious a lot of planning and effort went into its creation.

Besides the numerous pits in the area, there's a small structure that appeared to serve as some sort of catch basin for the contents of the other pits. It looked like it was about 30 feet deep, and there was an opening that allowed access into it. Unfortunately there was no way to get down into it, or back out. There was a ladder or two inside that graffiti artists had used to access the interior, and you could see graffiti in the tunnels that led into this peculiar building. (Think of it as a large silo that extends beneath the ground.) You would obviously need more ladders or other equipment to get out of this structure if you somehow managed to lower yourself into it. And graffiti artists clearly found the interior of this structure to be too inviting to ignore. I captured images of it during a Facebook live video I streamed that morning, but I didn't take any specific pictures of the structure or its deep interior. You can see a photograph of it, however, thanks to Google.

The Wheel of Misfortune is far from a must-visit site in Vegas, but for me, I had to see it for myself.

Mother Nature, and other graffiti artists, have not been kind to the Wheel of Misfortune since its creation in 2012.

The artist or artists responsible use(s) the moniker "Aware," evidently.
After visiting the Wheel of Misfortune, it was time to head to another art installation, this one a sanctioned display.

For the second consecutive November I made an appearance at Seven Magic Mountains. South of Vegas, a few miles south of the M resort, these colorful stacked rocks are easily accessible. I wrote about them extensively last year, so I won't say a lot about them this time around. My girlfriend wasn't with me during my 2016 visit, and she was interested in seeing them for herself, so we made the trip.

I'm not sure why I realized it, but at some point I noted that my visit was exactly one year after my previous visit with friends for Halloween. So I had to send them a picture to remind them of our time, and that I missed them.

I won't post many pics of the mountains, there are millions online, and mine aren't anything special.
Photos like this make for great cell phone wallpaper. 

After the colorful rocks it was time for lunch. Normally my girlfriend and I have lunch at In-N-Out Burger prior to our Vegas departure. But I had spotted a restaurant near Silverton Casino two days earlier when I made my Target run. We decided that we'd have our traditional In-N-Out meal early this year.

I like their burgers, but I don't love their fries, even if they're cut fresh. I like thicker cut fries. I had read a recommendation suggesting to order them extra crispy. I did that, and it didn't make them worse.

We ran over to Silverton after lunch because my buddy Joe wanted to place one last bet for the week, assuming he lost. I had to loan him the $50 for his final bet. There was a Thursday night NFL game, and he picked the visiting Buffalo Bills, who were playing the New York Jets. The Bills were favored, and they lost. Joe didn't have a good week.

We spent a little time at the pool late in the afternoon, but with the sun going down, the temperature dipping a few degrees and the wind picking up a bit, the pool wasn't quite as pleasurable as it had been days previous. But it was still better than being in Minnesota, where it was 40 degrees, or more, colder.

Our Thursday evening included tickets to see Xavier Mortimer's Magical Dream, a show recommended by Vital Vegas. (It's one guy.)

I received VIP tickets as a birthday gift, so we headed to Planet Hollywood early and had a light dinner in the mall. We had the most unspectacular meal of our week, a shared plate from Chipotle in the adjoining Miracle Mile Shops. We didn't want a lot to eat, and we didn't need anything spectacular, so we settled for a known commodity.

The show started at 7 p.m. in a small Planet Hollywood theater. The show lasts about one hour, and it's pretty good. It's not spectacular, but it's pretty good. It features variations of your standard magic, includes an assistant, tells a story and uses a lot of choreography special effects. Xavier does a good job, although my girlfriend said that she noticed where/how he was pulling cell phones out of thin air. I didn't notice, but I wouldn't have cared if I had. Overall, his magic was quite smooth.

It also included audience participation, and I was chosen to participate in one of the tricks. I did nothing more than answer a couple of questions that were integrated into the trick, but it was fun nonetheless.

You can take pictures during the show, so long as you're not using the flash. In this trick Xavier communicates without talking. Hilarity ensued.  
The image is a bit dark, but here's Xavier floating in the air, and jumping rope. 

The show had a couple of incredible tricks. At least my untrained eye thought so. The guy doesn't truly float in the air, of course, yet the way he did, seemingly without the use of any sort of wires, was impressive.

But the show lacked a big, spectacular, mind-blowing finale. That was disappointing.

I liked it, and if you gave me free tickets I'd go see it again, but I wouldn't recommend it for magic fix while in Vegas. Back in November the show was performed once per evening, at 7 p.m. most nights of the week. I assume his schedule has not changed in the two months since I attended.

After the show we drove over to Ellis Island for cheap pizza, cocktails and gambling. I wasted time playing on the cheap at the bar and lost $20. I eventually sat down at a blackjack table and lost $30. I wasn't a profitable night, which is rare for me at Ellis Island.

We were on our way back to Tahiti Village by midnight.

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