OK... still catching up here. We're reaching back to February now, to catch everyone up on our short trip to Las Vegas. Justine travelled quite a lot last year, and had accumulated quite a few air miles and hotel miles. So we figured we'd try and book a trip somewhere warm for a long weekend. We originally wanted to go to Maui, but we didn't have quite enough points to make that work. Vegas is always a reliable fall back, and we discovered that the USA Rugby 7s tournament was being played in mid-February. It seemed like a good option. We ended up booking a Wednesday-Monday trip, which gave us quite a bit of time to do a number of different things.
Justine had been accumulating Starwoods points, so we booked into the Westin, and off-the-Strip hotel. It had been a while since I had been off the Strip, but it worked out OK. It was about a block off the Strip (which is still pretty far, but not that bad). The pool area was surprisingly good, we got free breakfast every morning, and the room was nice.
Our first day was pretty relaxed, and we just wandered, and didn't do too much. On Thursday, we rented a car for the day and headed out of the city to go check out the Hoover Dam. Strangely enough, neither Justine nor I had ever been there before. A bit of surprise given how many times I've been. Since we had a few days and the tournament didn't start until the Friday afternoon, it seemed like a good thing to do. The drive was pretty good - about an hour - and we were at the Dam site pretty early. It wasn't too busy yet, which was nice as the crowds can be huge (or so I've heard). We got to the site, parked, and wandered around for a bit, before going down to sign up for the full tour. As it turned out, we had to wait about 45 minutes for the next tour to start, which gave us some time to explore the exhibits, and wander about outside.
While I had some idea of the scale of the Dam, you really can't appreciate it until you see it in person. It really is amazing, and it's hard to believe they were able to build this back in the 30s. One of the really cool things about the Dam is some of the artwork that's all around. Being built in the 30s, America was at the height of the Art Deco movement (one of my favourites), and there are some great Art Deco touches all around the place.
After exploring outside for a while, we headed back in for the tour. The tour was fascinating; we'd highly recommend the full tour if you go. It takes you deep into the heart of the Dam, and you get to see the electrical generation area, as well as walk out to one of the air circulation vents about halfway down the face of the Dam. It provides you with a very cool view out from the face of the Dam, and gives you a real sense of scale.
We also got to have a look at the main emergency staircase that leads up and down (from where we were) and is crazy steep. You'd hate to have to try and get out that way!
The tour was about an hour long, and we got to see quite a lot of very cool stuff, and learned a lot about how the Dam was built. It's an amazing accomplishment. It's also a bit scary how historically-low the water levels are. This western drought is going to be a pretty major problem.
After doing the tour, we wandered around outside a bit more, checked out the gift shop and headed back on the road. We made a short stop at one of the overlooks, that lets you walk up on the pedestrian walkway on the new highway bridge that goes over the river, and looks down onto the Dam. It's a great view, and about half way across the bridge is the border between Nevada and Arizona. Kind of fun.
After walking on the bridge and taking some pictures, we headed into Boulder City (the town closest to the Dam) and had a late lunch. There was an interesting brew pub we noticed on our way through, and so we stopped for some lunch and a beer. The food and beer were quite good, and we enjoyed the sunshine and warm weather.
After lunch we headed back into Las Vegas, and stopped at the outlet mall to do some shopping. With the exchange rate being what it is, the deals were no where near as good, but we both bought a few things that we needed.
Thursday night we got dressed up and headed out for dinner at Tao, our favourite restaurant in Vegas. The food was excellent as always, and the atmosphere was great. After dinner we wandered the Strip, checked out a couple of other places, and had a few drinks before calling it a night. It was a great day.
Friday was the start of the tournament, and the reason we came to Vegas (well the main reason...). For those that are unfamiliar, Rugby 7s is a variant of rugby where they play on the same size field, but only have 7 players aside. As you can imagine, with that much field to cover the game is very fast, there's not a lot of defence, and the scores can get pretty crazy. The games are also only 14 minutes long - two 7-minutes halves.
I have never seen one of these types of rugby games before, but before the first game was over, we were both hooked. The pace of the game is fantastic, and the way the run the games, one after the other, is great. There's always action, and the scores were surprisingly high.
On Friday, Canada played two games - losing by a point to Kenya, then upsetting England. That was a great game. But you could see the difference between the big teams like Fiji, South Africa and New Zealand - they we killing other teams. The US team was very entertaining, and won all their games.
On Saturday, we beat Argentina, setting us up in the Cup Quarter Final against the US. It didn't go well, and we were knocked down into the Plate semi-final. The semi-finals and finals were played on Sunday, where we lost to Australia, ending our tournament. The finals were all very entertaining, with Fiji pulling out a big win over New Zealand for the championship. It was a lot of fun.
Vegas was, as always, amazing, and the Rugby 7s event was fantastic. We're definitely fans, and will have to come back to check that out again. We did learn a few days later that they decided to move some of the events for next year, and that Vancouver will be getting a stop, the weekend after Vegas, in 2016. We may have to go check out both...