Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Day One- Tuesday 15th April

Las Vegas lights, MGM Grand, New York New York.

Going through US immigration in Minneapolis was an interesting welcome to America. It seemed that the officials were completely thorough with their routine checks and examined all passengers as a threat. My first reaction at entering America was not entirely positive as I felt like they were questioning and watching every step that people took. Within the airport, it was clear that consumerism took place almost immediately. The majority of people at the airport had their tax free goods which sent a message about how people can’t pass up an offer.

When arriving in Las Vegas, it was clear that we were not in a typical airport; slot machines were placed directly in front of the gate. The city makes it difficult to stay away from gambling, it focuses its attention on thinking that people want to put their money into these machines everywhere. The lights of Las Vegas were inescapable; everywhere around you, there are neon lights trying to get people to go to a particular casino, or a particular club. Las Vegas is the city where all inhibitions are thrown away, where near naked women plastered everywhere. This city is ‘Sin City’.1
1 Adam Kealoha Causey, Is modern Las Vegas really ‘Sin City’?, Las Vegas Review- Journal,

Day Two- Wednesday 16th April

Children playing on slot machines at M&M World

The Strip, in all its 4.2 miles inhabits a select assortment of entertainment. Casinos, restaurants, clothing stores and gift shops are a repetitive commodity that seems to take up the entirety of Las Vegas Boulevard. Las Vegas truly relies on the gambling community, as four children were playing on an imitation slot machine in M&M world, it give the impression that the city teaches its youth that gambling is something to look forward to as an adult.2

Everything about this city promotes newness; these buildings are built with intentions of knocking it down. Many of the buildings’ walls were hollow, suggesting that they never intended to keep these buildings as they were built. The Venetian showed amazing structural designs, yet was plastered with billboards; reinforcing the idea that consumerism is what keeps this city alive. It is easy to compare the casinos on The Strip, the old from the new is noticeable and the interior speaks a lot about the intentions of the particular casino. The Bellagio had classical décor and emits a sense of richness, whereas Harrah’s presented a gaming floor with no particular attention to its appearance.

Every casino exhibited similar content within its doors; a gaming floor, stores, restaurants and bars. The gaming floors were surrounded by these different areas; suggesting that there is everything they could need thirty feet away from a slot machine or a poker table. Las Vegas does not only make its money from gambling, but also from these areas where gamblers go in order to not miss out on an opportunity to win the jackpot.

The Strip compared to the rest of the city is unbelievable, the rest of the city seemed empty compared to the compact street and seemed only to house suburban families. Driving to the outskirts of the city, it was clear to see that The Strip is not the only part of this city surrounded by mountains. This city grew from a small amount of water in the otherwise Mojave Desert and it thrived into a major city for entertainment.

2 Youth Prevention, Nevada Council on Problem Gambling,

Day Three- Thursday 17th April

European style park in Town Center
Outlet malls in America are a great example of American’s need to be able to shop conveniently. Americans are able to go to any store without leaving the building; food courts and a variety of stores are all close to each other, reinforcing the idea that everything they could want or need can all be found in one area. Town Center on the other hand mimicked European style when it comes to consumerism. The architecture within this area represented European countries, some were representative of Spanish villas and Italian bakeries, but it was still obvious that it was a version of a manufactured reality. Its intention of appearing to be a luxurious shopping area was easily diminished when seeing fake grass and hollow walls. These areas are “filled with as much culture and community as commerce… where customers could be seduced into leaving their problems at the door and focusing on shopping”.3

The differences in these suburban-like shopping areas to the casinos on The Strip are incredible. The Mandalay Bay resort for example is the opposite to the convenient malls as even the gaming floor is very spaced out and is not built for people to walk around in a short amount of time. Mandalay Bay held many luxurious amenities, including a man-made beach, as well as displaying luxurious style décor; however it continued to have hollow walls. The resorts’ clientele is very large, as it enables all tourists something to do; families are welcome and children are able to take part in the resorts amenities. The city uses different themes to interest people’s imaginations, “Las Vegas presents not a singular whole, but a fragmented one”.4 It is clear that all casinos; no matter the style or theme are all the same.
3 Jason Best, Reviews- One Nation Under Goods Malls and the Seductions of American Shopping, onearth,

4 A. Fuat Firat, The Meanings and Messages of Las Vegas: The Present of Our Future,

Day Four- Friday 18th April

Fremont Street, example of 'in your face' advertisng

America’s love of guns is an oddity to many English people. The right to bear arms is written in the Constitution and many Americans’ feel that the access to guns is a right that they many do not want to change. Within The Gun Store it was obvious that many people who go there bring their own guns and are there to practise shooting. I found it strange to think that this one place is full of weapons even though many other places we visited could have had the same amount of people with weapons on them, and it was not illegal or suspicious for people to have guns.

Red Rock Canyon provided interesting information about the BLM, the Bureau of Land Management, and how they use these natural resources. The BLM is responsible for enabling multiple uses out of public land, for visitors to enjoy it as well as the area be useful for grazing or energy resources. The BLM are responsible for Red Rock Canyon as they are to “protect and improve the area”.5 However it is unsurprising that they cannot manage these areas perfectly due to the amount of rangers; one ranger for every 300 million acres is not sufficient to keep these areas protected. These natural areas however are changing for visitor’s access; man made stairs are put in place in order to climb easier.

Fremont Street is a miniature version of the Las Vegas Strip. This localised area imitates The Strip and promotes all visitors to consume alcohol, gamble and go to strip clubs. Many people dressed up and exposed themselves in order for tips from people. It suggested that this place had a sleazy atmosphere; there was nothing for children or teenagers in this area as the majority of institutions were for people who were over the age limit.

5 U.S Department of the Interior, Welcome to Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, Bureau of Land Management,

Day Five- Saturday 19th April

The 'Bathtub ring' at Hoover Dam

This day was one of the most surreal days I experienced during this trip. Due to the variation of these small towns that we visited, the differences between them illuminated.

Boulder City is a quaint, serene town that many of its residents admire. It seemed to be a nice place to live, within the town there are a large amount of properties; starting from $125,000 up to $3 million for properties close to Lake Mead. Water in this area is an important commodity and people will pay a lot of money to be near it. Many of the residents spend their whole lives in Boulder City and are able to see the same people who they grew up with on a regular basis. I think I could live in this area due to the attractiveness of the town and the variation of stores and restaurants within the town allows you to have everything you need in close proximity.

The Hoover Dam was both amazing and terrifying at the same time. The ‘bathtub ring’ is difficult to comprehend how much water has been lost, and how much water has been used in such a short amount of time. The water supply for Las Vegas is not enough for the population of the city, the fact that there has been a drought recently and the water supply is not sufficient enough leads the city to think of other ideas to supply the city with enough water to last. In 2012 plans to pump water across the desert into the valley was approved leaving the city with a temporary solution to its needs. 6

Chloride prides itself on being a real ghost town, and it not only provides a miniature imitation ghost town but the town itself gives an eerie atmosphere. Meeting the people of the town enabled an insight into their daily lives and it was clear that they were not fond of tourists. A 17 year old who worked in a store did not appear to be a healthy teenager. He had aspirations to go to college after graduating from school online which seemed to be a distant dream rather than a reality when you consider college requirements of funding and grades. The town provided an unnerving feeling throughout and the reality of drug use was present with the residents. The town did not have access to hospitals, fire departments or schools which I feel would be really difficult to live without.

6 Suzanne Goldenberg, Las Vegas plans to pump water across 300 miles of desert approved, theguardian,

Day Six- Sunday 20th April

Bikers on Route 66

The road in America is a significant part of their history. We were able to experience a part of Route 66 which enabled us to see that it is more of a tourist road and many Americans don’t use this as there is a more convenient highway put in place. Route 66 is the epitome of travellers; it has been used for years by people migrating to the West in search of jobs and a better lifestyle. The road is a symbol for America and as Krim suggests “became embedded in the landscape… a historic memory that is worthy of national preservation”.7 However the road itself is not in the greatest condition, it should be preserved but it is not being looked after by the state. John Steinbeck contemplated this road as a symbol of America as it “is the mother road, the road of flight”.8 people who travelled this road were escaping the East in order to look for a new prosperous area to live.
7 Arthur Krim, Route 66: Auto River of the American West, Geographical Snapshots of North America (Donald G. Janelle, 1992) 32.

8 John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath, New York: Viking Press (1939) 126.

Day Seven- Monday 21st April

The Grand Canyon- View from the South Rim

The Grand Canyon is truly awesome. The fact that is 277 miles long and 18 miles wide is just a factor in this amazing natural beauty. The bottom of the canyon, at four billion years old, is unimaginable. With around five million visitors per year the Grand Canyon proves to be an important part of the history in America. Humans have been invading on this natural wonder for thousands of years and as the National Park Service website states, “human artefacts are nearly 12,000 years old”.9 it is clear that visitors can enjoy the Grand Canyon on a daily basis just by the view itself. However the intrusion of helicopter flights and man-made materials introduced on trails are somewhat a negative to the sustaining the beauty of this natural wonders of the world.

Many of the visitors we saw immediately took out their phones and cameras to take pictures, instead of witnessing it for themselves first. Many people were looking at their phones instead of taking in the view of the canyon which I found quite sad; many people spend their lives hoping to be able to see the Grand Canyon, but others take it for granted.

9 Grand Canyon National Park, History and Culture, National Park Service,

Day Eight- Tuesday 22nd April

Vase at Twin Arrows Casino- Traditional Navajo Artwork

America proves to contain masses of differing cultures and histories. From Keyhole Sink where ancient Cohonina petroglyphs are present on the lava covered limestone symbolising their lives in this canyon, to a modern Navajo casino, it is clear that Native Americans are an important part of the history of America. Keyhole Sink is ‘under attack’ from people using graffiti on the previously well preserved site, which people view as an attack on these defenseless areas.10

The Navajo Casino, Twin Arrows is a property owned by the Navajo people, in order to create revenue for their land. However it was clear that it does not do its job properly as there were mainly Navajo gamblers on the gaming floor. The Navajo casino is not generating enough profit from non-Navajo’s which influences the whole Navajo community. Williams uses Route 66 as its selling point, all gift shops sell are Route 66 memorabilia and it is mentioned in most of its’ storefronts. Williams is an interesting small town as there are a diverse range of people owning different styles of stores and restaurants. I feel that it would be a nice place to live however with the amount of tourists that come through and tourists being the main source of income for this town, many jobs would be hospitality or restaurant based.

10 Glen Creno, Arizona archaeology sites under attack by vandals, The Arizona Republic,

Day Nine- Wednesday 23rd April

Wupatki National Monument 

Throughout the Navajo owned land, commercialised places are present. Fast food restaurants seem to be everywhere and Tuba City advertised these areas more than any cultural areas for people passing through. However historical areas such as the Wupatki National Monument and Moenkopi Dinosaur Tracks are present and are unique experiences to see what the area was like before introducing new roads and buildings. However, the dinosaur tracks were discovered as the Highway was being built. This area is important for the Navajo community as it is a source of income, albeit not a substantial amount to live off.

The Hopi land is very interesting as the people live on Mesa’s, they are important to the Hopi as “they defined themselves by the land and sacred places, and recognized a unity in their physical and spiritual universe”.11 The importance of their land is indescribable to the Hopi people and it proves how much they love their home as they it has spiritual significance. Spending the whole day in both reservations gave a unique insight into the communities and the way they live. Dwellings were interesting as the both the Navajo and Hopi shared similar houses; mainly trailers with propane tanks, cars and junk on the property. It was obvious that they were able to move whenever they pleased and were more interested in good cars than good houses.

11 David R. Lewis, Native American Environmental Issues, Native America in the Twentieth Century: An Encyclopedia, (Mary B. Davis, New York: Garland Publishers, 1994)

Day Ten- Thursday 24th April

Canyon De Chelly view from the top

Canyon De Chelly housed many different people throughout time, starting in 2500-200 BCE with the Archaic people. This canyon provided a source of food and water which made it a bountiful place to live. Artefacts have been found at this site from many different time periods which proves that this site allows everything a good home should have, including shelter from strong weather. Both the Hopi and the Navajo people lived in this canyon; however both Hopi and Navajo had to leave due to conflict. Hopi left the canyon due to “drought, disease, conflict and possibly the allure of ideas from the south” ending their 300 year stay.12 whereas the Navajo were in conflict over land and animals with Spanish colonists and US military parties. The Navajo were murdered by these colonists over Canyon De Chelly, which have continued over time. Canyon De Chelly houses the Diné people without pressure from the U.S to leave, however as the canyon is a National Monument visitors arrive each day to walk down the canyon to get to the bottom where the Navajo live, which could feel quite intrusive. During the evening, the chance to see Monument Valley at sunset was an incredible experience. For a person who has never been to Arizona yet to recognise them is proving that popular culture provides an insight into America and all the special pieces that make America so unique.

12 U.S Department of the Interior, Canyon De Chelly National Monument, National Park Service

Day Eleven- Friday 25th April

The Navajo Code in Code Talkers Museum

The Navajo Museum and Code Talkers Museum proved insight into a private way of living. During this trip I found it difficult to comprehend why the Navajo would fight for so long about land however after understanding their spiritual relationship with their land and how they believe the Navajo are in the fourth world, where they have everything they could need. Hogan’s are important for the Navajo and it is present throughout many of the houses we saw during the trip. Hogan’s are used for ceremonies but the Navajo believe that they were “built at the place of emergence where planning was developed for the future”.13 The Navajo museum explores through different time periods and how the Navajo both lived and were captured by Americans. They have more freedom today than they have had for centuries, with rights to owning their own land and livestock, self-determination rights and having their own government. This is a significant step from the actions that Americans did in previous years. The Code Talkers Museum showcased a better history, as the Navajo joined the Marine Corps in order to win World War Two. The complex and beautiful language of the Navajo people were used in order to send secret messages to people without the Japanese military deciphering the code. The first twenty-nine code talkers started using this code in 1942, this is one of the most valuable tools the U.S had that the Navajo were responsible for and it is displayed throughout the museum to show their pride.
Staying the night in Marble Canyon Lodge was interesting as it is the most isolated place we had been throughout the trip. No streetlights made it harder to walk around the lodge and the appearance of bats proved that we were in a quiet and dark area.

13 Tour Guide, Explore Navajo: People of the Fourth World, Explore Navajo Interactive Museum 

Day Twelve- Saturday 26th April

Snow at Jacob Lake, Arizona

The Colorado River goes through seven states and to see it at the Hoover Dam providing water for millions of people, and seeing it up close where people go down it in boats as recreation is surreal. This river provides water for Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, California, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming, the main source of water from the snow peak mountains traveling south towards the desert. The Lost Ranch, Lonely Dell Ranch was in a way quite sad; the small cemetery used headstones which provided us with information about the way they lived and died. In some cases, small children or babies had passed and families had all died on the same day. This led us to think that they could have been murdered as a family.

Snow in Arizona was surprising to me, and only twenty minutes separated the desert and six inches of snow. It proved that weather here changes every hour. Jacob Lake gave us a unique chance to go into a log cabin where they had open fires and a relaxing atmosphere away from the cold. There we spoke to a couple of men who were hunting, one of which was able to kill a wild buffalo, as there aren’t that many left hunters are given a lottery in order to get a permit to kill them. Luckily this man won the lottery and shot a buffalo eight inches smaller than the world record. This was obviously an achievement for this man however it still made me wonder why a lottery should be done on a decreasing amount of wild buffalo. Leaving Arizona again going into Kanab, Utah gave us another insight into small town America. Kanab has been given the nickname of ‘Little Hollywood’ as it has been the place where many western Hollywood movies were filmed.14 Throughout the town, small plaques dedicate the actors and actresses that filmed in this area, including Ronald Reagan and Adrian Booth in the 1950s and 1960s. I could definitely live in this area, it was quaint and every person we spoke to were interesting people who loved this town.

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­14 Kanab City, About Kanab, Kanab Utah A Western Classic,

Day Thirteen- Sunday 27th April

The Las Vegas Sign

There is only around four hours separating Kanab and the bustling city of Las Vegas, and considering how large America is, four hours is nothing. Entering Vegas again I didn’t get the same feeling as when I first arrived, mainly because I had got used to small towns and isolated places and was quite sad to end up back in ‘Sin City’ and as soon as we pulled up, a couple about to get married reminded me about the craziness that is around. Finally being able to go see the Welcome to Las Vegas sign made it abundantly clear that if you’ve seen it once, you don’t have to see it again, popular culture makes it seem fun and exciting, when in reality you are waiting in a line to take a picture, getting back in your car and leaving.

In the evening, we walked The Strip for the final time and again saw many people gambling and drinking. However families were walking around and taking pictures with all the characters on the street, proving that all types of people are welcome in Las Vegas. We ended our night at the Bellagio again to see the fountains for the last time, which was emotional. Las Vegas allows us to see the sleazy, the luxury and the importance of entertainment which keeps this city alive and keeps tourists wanting to come here.