Friday, January 6, 2012

Las Vegas road trip

Playing around with Google Maps the other day, I discovered this cool 3D feature that allows you to sit at your computer monitor and do a virtual flyover of any route of your choosing. This function is in beta testing stage as of this writing and kind of reminiscent of those early flight simulator games. Only this time you aren't bothered with controlling the damn plane!

Our first great granddaughter Maura J. is expected in Las Vegas about mid March, and I'm restoring an old rocking cradle for her down at the shop. What better excuse for an extended road trip than delivering Great Granny Annie and a cradle to Sin City, right? So I decided to road test Google Maps (GM) 3D while screwing up enough courage to buy a realistic-looking pellet pistol and knock over a bank for the real deal come March.

Right out of the driveway GM shows its old bug of being directionally challenged. Rather than directing me east on Speedway to Holliday to connect with the freeway, GM sends me west to Harrison--totally ignoring Brook--then to Kell, then east (crossing Brook!) to the freeway to take the long way 'round! Still, less than a minute after exiting our driveway, we are blissfully highballing west past Iowa Park and probably needing to pee already!

Photographic imagery for this project, in part, comes from the Texas Orthoimagery Program and Image USDA Farm Service Agency, at least for most areas within Texas. The view appears to be roughly from about 10,000 feet, but the drive can be paused at any point to sweep down for a closer view of particular points of interest. Iowa Park not being one, we proceed.

The effects of drought are clearly visible all across the landscape. Nearly everything below is brown to grayish brown with scarce patches of green showing near ponds, streams and irrigated patches. The bed of the Red River is a gashing scar of dirty white salts deposits.

Less than ten minutes in and we're crossing into New Mexico. The ground below begins to show the firsts signs of buckling and uplift. In truth what we're seeing here is the last vestigial remnants of the Rocky Mountains' tail bones, I suspect. We're soon flying past Albuquerque, and it's fairly easy to see how today's I-40 is following old trails and wagon roads through cuts and passes in the mountains.

Less than half an hour into the trip, and we're parked on a corner in Winslow, AZ. Must not be the right corner, though, as there is nary a flatbed Ford in sight.

The images are copyrighted by Google 2011, but there's no way of knowing precisely how old they are nor when they were taken. Wheeler Peak outside of Flagstaff, for example, bears no snow whatsoever. In fact, no snow shows until just east of Kingman, Az, on some unknown peak off to the south.

Inside an hour we're parked at S.Las Vegas Boulevard and E. Flamingo Road, staring at the biggest freakin' fountain we've ever seen before! I swear, the Rat Pack wouldn't know the place, and just where in this crazy town is my granddaughter, anyway?

Not nearly as satisfying as a for real road trip but an interesting diversion nonetheless. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go shopping for a gun.


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