Las Vegas ’11 – Part 4

Our Vegas vacation leg of this trip brings us today to one of America’s latest and greatest engineering achievements, the very, very, VERY impressive, EPIC, brand spankin’ new Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge.

Brand new, as in it was relatively recently completed and opened for use on October 19, 2010. It’s so impressive, having you contemplate upon looking at it as it shadows over the already impressive Hoover Dam, that the engineers and construction workers looked at Hoover Dam and thought to themselves, “that’s cool, but right above it, we can build something even COOLER!” Hence we’re graced with the Hoover Dam Bypass Project.

Now with the convenience and speed of a straight-shot 4-lane 2-way highway bridge over the Colorado River along U.S. freeway route 93, regular commuters traveling between the state of Nevada and Arizona at this point, no longer need to deal with the traffic congestion caused by droves of tourists visiting Hoover Dam along its tight ‘n twisty, 2-lane 2-way road.

Now that this bridge is open, I really don’t see how the locals have done it for all these years without it. While no guarantee, the $250 million price tag (which accordingly made budget estimates) should turn out worth justifying the costly investment in the long run, especially for commercial traffic (namely truckers) who will benefit most from the savings in time and fuel costs. Not to mention the collateral benefits of increased tourism revenue generated by this AWESOME new attraction representing the state of Nevada and Arizona. At least, I hope so.

The bridge was named in honor of the late governor of Nevada, Mike O’Callaghan, who was severely injured in the Korean War in his earlier years, and Pat Tillman, a football player from Arizona State University and the Arizona Cardinals, who later was killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan. Hence, representing two highly revered persons from both states the bridge connects.

Before we continue with the bridge, being this is a food blog, we can’t loose focus. So let’s check out what’s on the menu at the Hoover Dam visitors snack shop, aptly named High Scaler Cafe…

Hmmm. Personally, I think they could have been more creative with the names of the menu items. The “Dam Burger” and “Dam Dog” is a good start. Perhaps for the super-sized combo’, call it the “Gosh Dam Burger Combo’. No? lol For the B.L.T., name it “The Nevada”. For the Grilled Swiss ‘n Rye, name it “The Colorado”. For the bowl of Buffalo Chili, name it “The Arizona Bowl”. For the Fish ‘n Chips, “Lake Mead”. Ya’ know? For drinks, there’s DEFINITELY gotta’ be a “Turquoise River” (the color of the water in the Colorado River”), as well as of course the classic “Green River”. Anyway, that’s the kinda’ stuff I think about for my day job.

Where were we now? Oh, the bridge above. The best part about it is, not only can you drive, but you can also WALK across it, along a scenic catwalk flanking the side that overlooks Hoover Dam and the adjoining Lake Mead. This provides an aerial view overlooking the dam, river and lake that can only be described as EPIC. Where, prior to having this easy and FREE access, would only be available to those on a helicopter tour.

The access path to the O’Callaghan – Tillman Bridge walkway is located along the same route you take to drive to the Hoover Dam visitors center, just before the bend. There’s an open parking lot with ample parking, leading to a gradually inclined uphill walking path (entirely wheelchair accessible) that takes you to the catwalk entrance on the Nevada side of the bridge.

Along the access path are panels that provide all the information and history about this bridge and Hoover Dam one needs to know. DO read it before walking across. In fact, in case you’re planning a visit here soon, I’ll save you some precious vacation time, and you can read all about it now!

Here we are now at the entrance to the bridge catwalk on the Nevada side, looking back towards Nevada (as you see by the road sign)…

At 1,900 feet across and 900 feet above the Colorado River, the walk we’re about to take across the side of this bridge certainly isn’t for the squeamish or those afraid of heights. These rules apply…

Ya’s all ready to walk with me across? Let’s do this!

These sequence of photos may seem repetitive, but it’s the only way I can share with you the grand view of this perch high above Hoover Dam from this bridge from every vantage point along the walkway span from one end to the other. Please bear with me.

We’re now reaching the apex (center point) of the bridge, and all I can say is the feeling of being here is absolutely STUNNING. BREATHTAKING. AMAZING.

Imagine what it felt like building this, let alone THAT (Hoover Dam).

I must say, my new Canon PowerShot S95 digital camera is taking some impressive photos! That larger CCD and fast lens captures so much more detail and light than my previous Sony CyberShot DSC-H5. Still learning the manual controls, so give me some time on that.

And here we are, as embedded on the walkway in a plaque, the APEX of the ARCH…

Add some Hawaiian flavor to that…

Oh, the weather in Nevada during this visit to the Colorado River area was around the mid to high 50’s, calm and sunny, so I didn’t need a jacket, just a long-sleeve shirt.

This is looking back towards Nevada from the apex point of the walkway…

U.S. Route 93 at the apex point of the bridge, looking towards Arizona….

Apex point, looking towards Nevada…

The apex, looking over towards the Arizona side of the ridge…

Now we’re on the Arizona half of the bridge…

Just as breathtaking as the man-made Hoover Dam is the deep turquoise color of mother nature’s Colorado River water, almost tempting you to bust out that bathing suit and jump right in!

This the Hoover Dam visitors center, which includes the High Side Cafe snack shop I showed you earlier, as well as a gift shop, and multi-tiered parking structure..

Tours INSIDE Hoover Dam are located down an escalator to the side of the visitors center, however, I didn’t check to see if they were currently being offered. On our last trip here, it was closed.Note, my camera’s optical zoom is only 3x, yet that awesome Canon lens and sensor allows me to crop in and still capture quite a bit of detail of distant subjects. Nice!

That appears to be parking for Hoover Dam employees, flanked on the Arizona side bank of the Colorado River. I didn’t think about it at the time, but I should have switched my camera to “Miniature” scene mode (tilt-shift) to make this view look like a scale model diorama of Hoover Dam. That’d be kinda’ neat!

Imagine, before this bridge was built, truckers had to share this twisting, winding 2-lane road with visitors and tourists just to get their job done. That must have SUCKED.

You can’t help but think of a scene straight out of a James Bond film when looking at what makes up this modern marvel of infrastructure.

That there is King Kong’s basketball backboard. They have yet to install the basketball hoop and net, with funding yet to be approved by the Hoover Dam Bypass Commission. The hopes by King Kong Basketball Hoops fans, is that the project can be completed within the allocated $10 million budget. LOL!

Arizona end of bridge walkway, looking towards Nevada side…

Looking back towards Nevada (the starting point), we’re now at the “end” of the catwalk on the Arizona side, which is blocked off…

Notice the contrails in the sky left behind by commercial jets (visible in many photos throughout this trip), something not visible in the skies above Oahu where temperatures aren’t cold enough.

Now that’s one BIG SHADOW cast from the bridge along the ridge!

I’m just gonna’ stay here “in Arizona” and absorb it all for this one brief and tender moment.

Say hello to Arizona, “The Grand Canyon State welcomes you”, courtesy of the new Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge…

Of course photos or video on a tv or computer would never do complete justice of places like this of such grand scale and magnitude. You just have to BE THERE and experience it for yourself. Like the various attractions on the strip and downtown, getting outside the city, the new Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge Hoover Dam Bypass walk is a stop you MUST HAVE and complete on your next Las Vegas, Nevada vacation checklist.

Man, was that awesome. I’m SO walking that again on my next Vegas trip!

Next up, on our way back to Las Vegas we stopped by Boulder City, a quaint, rather secluded little town along the way, where we had lunch at a place called Milo’s Inn & Bakery (a.k.a. Milo’s Cellar)…

Which of course we heard about after doing a handy-dandy last-minute search on the road from Yelp via our smartphones, where the reviews were overall favorable.

Today’s specials…

Milo’s has a small dining room inside, with what appears to be more popular seating outside in front under a covered area, which is where we sat.

Getting right to it, Diner Dad decided to try their Pot Roast from the daily special menu…

Diner Dad rated the Pot Roast 2 SPAM Musubi (good), citing it arrived somewhat warmish-cold, as if it had been sitting for a while while the rest of our table’s order was being prepared. He also said the beef was a little tough, but otherwise a pretty good dish with a tasty gravy and certainly satisfying enough where he polished the plate, so there you go.

Diner Mom went for the full 3-course meal, starting with their Corn Chowder soup of the day as an app’, along with a glass of the house Merlot…

That’s served with their house-made french bread, along with E.V.O.O. and balsamic vinegar. To that, she gave the house “chowdah”, dinner bread and Merlot 3 SPAM Musubi (very good).

While her main course was the Flat Bread Pizza ala Caprese…

The Flat Bread Pizza was given 4 SPAM Musubi (excellent).

My girlfriend decided to try their Focaccia Chicken Caesar Sandwich…

She gave that sandwich dish 4 SPAM Musubi, noting if the Focaccia bread had been a fresher state, it could have maxed the Musubi-o-meter.

Finally, yours truly went with their Athenian Sandwich…

The Athenian is made up of avocado, sprouts, roasted red peppers, tomatoes, garlic mayo, and melted brie, served on a croissant.

Needless to say, amongst the tasty-sounding medley of veggies, the melted brie is what sold me. I LOVE Brie. And this turned out being an excellent choice. This dish ROCKED!

The simple-yet-effective combination of fresh veggies, along with the decadent ‘n creamy ooey-gooey melted brie and supple, buttery croissant roll couldn’t have been a better match. I wouldn’t change a thing to this, it’s perfect. The side of root vegetable chips, dill pickle and sweet fresh grapes rounded out the flavors of the sandwich wonderfully as well, almost like having a glass of well-paired wine to compliment the earthy tone of the sandwich. 5 SPAM Musubi (superb), easy.

Of course, I must also take into account that 3,800 feet walk across that bridge I just did earlier that had something to do with my overwhelmingly satiated hunger.

Oh, for the dessert course, Diner Mom decided to try their house-made Glazed Cinnamon Roll from Milo’s sister Bakery shop next door…

To which both she and my girlfriend gave a big thumbs-up of approval. 4 SPAM Musubi for Milo’s Glazed Cinnamon Roll.

Milo’s is a hip yet cozy ‘n comfort-inspiring cafe that I’d certainly frequent if I lived in the area.

Rounding out part 4 of this travelogue series, we’re back at our hotel, the Excalibur on Las Vegas strip, for dinner at The Steakhouse at Camelot

The restaurant is located in one of the numerous corridors in Excalibur’s shopping mezzanine on, IIRC, the 3rd floor (or was it the 2nd?).

As you see on that menu cover sheet, they offer a prix fixe 4-course menu for 2 including a bottle of their house wine for $90, which is an excellent value compared to their regular menu, where like most steak houses, everything otherwise is ala carte.

First to arrive, the complimentary dinner bread…

Being that Diner Mom ‘n Dad ordered the Prix Fixe menu, they generously shared their bottle of house Merlot with us, making for an apt pairing with our steak-themed dinner. Cabernet Souvignon is usually my choice under most circumstances, but hey, beggars can’t be choosers! lol

For an appetizer, we shared the Fresh Artichoke Dip, served with Garlic & Herb Crostini (the latter not shown)…

For salad, my girlfriend ordered their Caesar (not done tableside, shucks)…

Diner Mom went with the Lobser Bisque house soup as part of the Prix Fixe menu…

Now let me stop right here and say, as Diner Mom exclaimed throughout that tender moment in time at the table enjoying this “wonder bowl of soup”, just how ONO dis’ buggah’ was! Broke da’ mout’ winnahz!

It was practically like sipping on liquid lobster tail, with a buttery, tomato-ee, herb-infused twist. Oh. Em. Gee. GOOD!  Seriously, Camelot’s Lobster Bisque gets an off-the-charts 7 SPAM Musubi, by far being one of the best things I tried this entire trip! And this was just finishing the rest of what Diner Mom didn’t want to, lest she not have room for the main course, which of course is STEAK!

One of the sides someone on our table ordered (sorry, I forget who) was the Bleu Cheese Potato Gratin…

Taste-wise, the Potato Gratin was forgettable. Next.

Finally, the piste de résistance of the evening, the STEAK…

Which of course everyone on our table ordered none other than STEAK in one form or another, cooked to various personal preferences of doneness.

This one’s done medium, leaning on well, which personally I think is a culinary crime! lol…

This here is Camelot’s Surf ‘n Turf…

For me, I chose the 20 oz. Ribeye ($38), which I prefer my steak cooked just beyond “still moo’ing” rare/medium-rare, leaning more on rare. This is done PERFECT to my specification…

That looks GREAT, however, upon my first bite, I was actually a little disappointed, finding this particular ribeye cut lacking that “killer steak” flavor, while also leaning on lean, without having enough marbelization throughout the fibers to give it that “killer steak” flavor from the capsules of fat. This also rendered it rather tough as far as ribeyes are concerned, which is usually what I consider the BEST, most flavorful cut.

Thankfully it was seasoned well with what tasted simply like kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper (just the way it should be) and a nicely charred crust goin’ on.

Speaking of seasoning, I’m a steak sauce kinda’ guy, and was delighted to find Camelot offers a choice of 4 house-made steak sauces to choose, including Béarnaise, Hollandaise, Peppercorn and Bordelaise. To which I immediately noted to our server that my favorite is none other than A-1, which for that he recommended I go with the Bordelaise.

How’s the Bordelaise Steak Sauce? Not bad, but it didn’t have as much “kick”, complexity or depth as I had hoped. Where I’d be just as happy swapping that out for a bottle of store-bought A-1. I mean it was good, but not like POW! Ya’ know?

Finally for dessert, the Strawberry Cheesecake…

and Chocolate Mousse Trio…

The verdict? Delicious! No, like the Kahlua gal says, it’s “delicioso”. Seriously. The texture of the cream cheese and mouse, along with the level of sweetness was right on point, while the strawberry sauce and chocolate element was the perfect nightcap on the palate to an overall excellent fine dinner.

My particular ribeye cut could have been better quality, especially for the price, and the kitchen was a little slow (probably short-handed, which we understand), but other than that, our experience at Camelot at the Excalibur was fantastic. The Lobster Bisque, OUTSTANDING!

In part 5 of this travelogue series, dinner buffet at the Luxor, and a walk through Jean Phillipe Patisserie in the AWESOME new Aria Resort & Casino.

 


Comments

Las Vegas ’11 – Part 4 — 5 Comments

  1. That bridge is awesome. Its amazing what workers can do. The Steakhouse was awesome too, got filled up with that great bread. People , when you go to Las Vegas you gotta go see the bridge and walk on to the other side. Reminder, Don’t LOOK down, lol.

  2. Great pics from the new bridge! More useless Vegas trivia: did you know that ony one city in Nevada prohibits gambling? Boulder City. (There are casinos that claim to be in Boulder City but are actually in unincorporated Clark County.)

  3. Hi Pomai,

    Great post – looks like you are back-in-form. Welcome back.

    Your comment about jumping into swim wear and jumping in the blue water was funny. Probably would have taken 2 weeks to reach the water, and hate to think how many pieces would be left of one.

    Really enjoyed your presentation of the picture-sequel of crossing that bridge – very well done. We’ll have to go see and experiece that bridge.

    Looking forward to SF portion of trip.

    take care,
    – – hilorain

  4. Hi Pomai,
    Always great posts, been reading for years…
    Hey, our company is actually using “King Kong’s basketball billboard” – it’s called a billboard reflector for a microwave link. Please contact me, would like permission to use the photo.
    thanks
    Rbt

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