Day 31: July 3: Glendale NV to Mesquite NV

Today's route was along Interstate 15, just the same as yesterday. I made sure that I had lots of water, as it didn't look as if water would be very easy to find along the way.

There was a 22 mile stretch of gently rolling desert before the exit to Riverside. Smooth shoulders and a tailwind made this a breeze, despite the 105 degree temperatures. At the Riverside exit, I decided to take Riverside drive, which parallels the interstate for about 12 miles, going down into the Virgin River gorge (which isn't too deep at this point). As soon as I got off the interstate, the whole experience changed. Instead of the noise of the cars and trucks blowing by, I heard only the sound of the wind. The valley has enough water that it's green, which is a pleasant change from the brown and gray-green hues of the surrounding desert. The water has gouged down through the soft rock, forming spectacular sculptures along the road. For some reason, the road changed to red along the way.

Riverside itself was not much; it was only a collection of beat-up trailers and a couple of shacks. This is the kind of area in which you don't see any sheet metal on the discarded washers and dryers, because people use the sheet metal to mend their roofs.

I passed through Bunkerville, which is a mostly residential community adjoining Mesquite. Modest houses, some with grass in front, were built densely enough to give the feeling of an actual community (as opposed to, say, Pahrump, which gives the feeling of houses having been dropped randomly on the desert).

Soon I was in Mesquite. Mesquite is dominated by the Interstate and its several large casinos. These casinos all have hotels and restaurants as well. I stopped in the Oasis, only to find that rooms were $69 for the holiday weekend. I then went to an independent motel, where the lady at the front desk suggested checking with the 3rd big casino (the one I hadn't checked yet).

At the Virgin River Casino, I was able to get a room for $35. This is a big property: perhaps 600 rooms, a casino, movie theater, bowling lanes, three swimming pools, bingo, several restaurants, etc. Of course, the hotel registration desk is in the casino itself. They are all laid out the same: to get to anything in the casino (including the hotel registration desk), you have to go through the casino. So every trip to the restaurant, front desk, or movie theater leaves you smelling of smoke.

The casino is mirrored on walls and ceiling. The combination of the mirrors and flashing lights on the slots and video poker machines make the experience of going through the casino a sensory overload. But I guess it appeals to the Utah trailer trash that gambles here. I got to see lots of obese gambling smoking drinkers feeding their money into the video poker and slot machines. Some people were playing several machines simultaneously (while smoking and drinking free alcohol, of course).

I hung out at the pool a while, and met Bryce and Tami, who were from Salt Lake City and were drinking beer and enjoying the sun. Bryce talked about how it was rough to be a Mormon in Salt Lake (as opposed to being a Mormon elsewhere). He said that temple politics made life difficult. He also told me about using the pool for exercising my leg muscles and strengthening my knees (he's a sports medicine major, and ex-jock who went through months of knee rehab when he was playing football in school)

I watched a movie (The General's Daughter, yet another film about a coverup of a crime in the military), and had dinner at the casino restaurant. Even in the restaurants, the casino encourages its patrons to gamble. There are Keno cards at each table, with markers, and the Keno Lady travels around the tables collecting cards and telling people that they lost (I didn't see anyone win, of course). I guess that's how they subsidize the low room rates and cheap meals.