Las Vegas, Nevada

Welcome to the ryaninamerica blog. The travel blog of an Australian in the United States. Please select a city from the list on the right hand side of this page, to view the travel blog post, photos and commentary from each city.

Since this travel blog was established, over 20,000 people have visited. Thank you for stopping by. The most popular posts are: Albuquerque, Memphis, Chicago, and New York and Washington, D.C.

On this blog you will find extensive photographs of some of America’s most interesting places, along with interesting commentary about American history and all aspect’s of my epic 27 state, 3 month long trip around the U.S.

Please select a city from the right hand side, or read on…

The final states visited map. I went to 27 states.

A Google Map of my entire trip. All in all around 10,500 miles by ground transport. I did not take a single domestic flight. All of the journey in the above map was taken by Amtrak, Greyhound or rental car. What you see on this blog are only selected cities from the trip. I visited dozens of cities, and only photographed extensively a few of them. Los Angeles was the city I arrived in and departed from. Las Vegas was the final city I spent a significant amount of time in, and some photos from there follow below.

Las Vegas and Hoover Dam

I went to see Penn and Teller at the Rio. It was excellent, these guys are total pros. In particular I would point to them playing Russian Roulette with a nail gun as an edge of the seat moment from the show. A youtube video of the Penn and Teller show…

The Pat Tillman bridge, which is new in the last couple of years, above the Hoover Dam.

The man in the sign sure does look suspicious.

These art deco looking statues greet visitors to the Hoover Dam.

The Hoover Dam is a popular honeymoon spot it seems.

Various Hoover Dam photos.

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Nogales, Arizona

Nogales, Arizona is a small town bordering Mexico, it is actually split down the middle by the border fence. Nogales, Mexico is the other half of the city. I drove down here to have lunch and check out the border. The homes with the bright colours are on the Mexico side.

United States – Mexico border fence, snaking over the hills of Nogales.

Photo taken straight up against the fence. The last few millimeters of the United States.

My hand through the border fence. My hand has been to Mexico.

I stuck the camera through the fence. This photo is actually a photo of a Mexico street.

A photo that I thought was an interesting juxtaposition. The prosperity of America, the Burger King sign, and then the border fence and Mexico on background.

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Grand Canyon, Arizona

I hired a car and mastered the art of driving on the right side of the road. Here is the Grand Canyon in the car mirror. Photos cannot capture the depth of this place, and the way it just seems to go on forever, the way the shadows and light bounce off it in real life, it is truly a huge and spectacular area to behold.

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Truth Or Consequences, New Mexico

Truth or Consequences, a great name for a town. The town was named after a popular 1950s radio quiz show.

New Mexico is the hub of commercial spaceflight activity, and it was an exciting time to visit here because the 2011-2013 period really marks the end of the NASA Space Shuttle era and the rise of the private sector spaceflight tourism industry. Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic and a number of other smaller commercial spaceflight startup companies will be operating out of this spaceport facility.

Spaceport America, where Virgin Galactic will start flying commercial suborbital spaceflights from late 2012/early 2013. All the investment has been in place for almost a decade, and test flights will wind up this year. This is really happening, and will be big news within about a year. Virgin’s SpaceShipTwo craft has six passenger seats, at $200,000 USD a seat. There will be several craft built in the SpaceShipTwo model class, the first will be called VSS Enterprise. The craft is connected to a carrier mothership aircraft to 60,000 feet, where it is released and then rocket engines carry it into space 110 km up (68 miles) for a few minutes of weightlessness. It then glides back to land at the spaceport.

The flights will be two hours end to end. There will be two crew and six passengers. One crew member will be the pilot, and the other to assist the six passengers while they are released from their seats and floating around the cabin weightless. There are future spaceports planned in places like Dubai, with the eventual result being rapid worldwide transit faster than the Concorde was, and almost as fast as an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile.

Richard Branson offered Star Trek star William Shatner a free seat on the maiden voyage, he turned it down and said he would wait and see if the first group of people came back alive. There is talk about musicians Beyonce and Jay Z shooting a music video on board a flight in 2013. Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton has booked all six seats for a flight and paid $1.2 million.

Spaceport America, world’s first purpose built commercial spaceport, dedication video October 2011. Richard Branson abseils down building with champagne.

Computer animated rendering of what the flights will be like. 6mins long skip ahead to various points in the video if that is too long for you.

Video from me, from the tour I took, this shows runway and hangar building.

A competition between architectural firms was held, and you can see that the hangar itself smoothly blends into the New Mexico desert landscape.

The top balcony area where the family members of the well to do ticket holders will watch their loved ones take off and land. The facility includes training areas and a departure lounge.

Laser cut concrete spaceport runway. Will never have tour buses on it as of the end of this year, to avoid debris that could cause accidents.

Even the hangar doors, display a sense of style you would only find in a Virgin facility. Imagine if NASA’s facilities were this stylish.

This is the mission control building.

Very Large Array Radio Telescope

Nearby in this space hub area of New Mexico, is the Very Large Array, a series of 27 radio telescope dishes where research into the secrets of deep space is done. This is where the 1997 Jodie Foster film ‘Contact’ was also filmed. It has also been featured in other films, and on music album covers, including albums by musical groups Bon Jovi, Dire Straights and At The Drive-In.

Neaby was the first nuclear weapon test, the ‘Trinity’ test at White Sands, and also many nazi era German rocket engineers were brought to New Mexico to work on the Manhattan Project. So all in all, you could say New Mexico has a very storied history with high technology endeavours.

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Albuquerque, New Mexico

Albuquerque, or ‘ABQ’ as the locals call it. Here I am with the night skyline in background.

The Sanida Peak Tramway is the longest tramway cable car span in the world. It goes up the Sandia Peak mountain in Albuquerque where people can ski or sightsee.

From wikipedia: ‘The tramway ascends the steep western side of the highest portion of the Sandia Mountains, passing close to dramatic cliffs and pinnacles, from a base elevation of 6,559 feet (1,999 m) to a top elevation of 10,378 feet (3,163 m). A trip up the mountain takes fifteen minutes to ascend 3,819 ft (1,164 m), and the normal operating speed of the tram is 12 miles per hour (19 km/h) . Approximately four “flights” leave every hour from the base and top departure stations. The view from the tram includes all of Albuquerque and roughly 11,000 square miles (28,000 square kilometers) of the New Mexico countryside.’

Panorama of the view from the top.

It was cold at the top. 16 degrees Fahrenheit. Minus 9 degrees Celsius.

Breaking Bad


3 time back to back Best Actor Emmy Award winner for this role, Bryan Cranston in Breaking Bad as High School chemistry teacher and meth drug lord Walter White / Heisenberg.

Breaking Bad, created by Vince Gilligan, is my favourite American drama series from the early 21st century boom in quality award winning American television dramas, and I would really say we are living through a golden age of television dramas, of cinematic scope, quality writing, acting and production values, the current era of expensive and outstanding cable tv dramas has without a doubt been one of the things I have enjoyed most about the last few years. It is filmed on location in Albuquerque. So I visited many of the locations from the show. The golden age of television drama began with The Sopranos, but Breaking Bad brings an artistry to the television medium that surpasses even The Sopranos.

Q Studios, where all interior shots for the series are produced. Season 5 starts production here in March 2012.

The White residence, where Walter and his family live. The pizza was thrown on the roof on the right. I could not help but think of the piles of cash hidden under the floorboards.

Jesse Pinkman’s house. This photo of mine was featured in Buzzfeed’s ’25 things you probably didn’t know about Breaking Bad’.

See the Buzzfeed article here…

 

The Car Wash from Breaking Bad.

Gus Fring’s Los Pollos Hermanos (The Chicken Brothers) Restaurant.

This is actually a working restaurant named Twisters in real life, and they leave the Breaking Bad signage on the wall in one corner. So awesome to sit at the booths where Walter White and Gus Fring faced off in the show.

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Tucson, Arizona

Titan Missile Museum

The Cold War has been an intense historical interest of mine. So I decided to pay a visit to what is probably the preeminent Cold War relic around, an entire intact Titan nuclear intercontinental ballistic missile silo, along with missile rendered inert in its missile bay. The most powerful ICBM ever operated by the United States, the Titan was deployed in three squadrons of 18 missiles each in the three states, with only one launch site preserved as a museum, the one near Tucson that I visited. This missile had a nine megaton yield and could take out an entire metropolitan area. The missile was programmed with three target options, various Russian cities.

This is a cutout diagram of the eight stories below ground silo, the lowest level is some 60 meters or 140 feet deep, with it reaching even further when concrete reinforcements are taken into account.

I took this photo of the missile, which of course now has a fake warhead on it. Truly a terrifying piece of machinery, that could kill millions, and be launched without any way to stop it once it was set in motion. Going up into space, and heading toward Russia, this very artifact could have easily been part of a potential World War 3. And the only reason Australia never developed its own nuclear weapons is because we always relied on the blanket of nuclear protection our alliance with the United States gave us.

A Titan missile launched from a silo.

One of things that is immediately noticeable down below is that everything is on springs. From the light fittings to the computers, it is all on springs. This was really what amounts to American nuclear missile silo engineering’s best guess as to how to protect the facility in the event the Soviets sent one of their missiles within half a mile. Our tour guide was a retired commanding officer of this facility. It was fascinating to ask this Missileer many questions, such as ‘what did they say when you met people at parties and you told them you were the commanding officer of a nuclear missile silo?’. He said it was a show stopper. This man was prepared to, if the President’s orders came down the line, to turn the key that would result in literally millions of deaths. I of course asked him what procedures where in place for rooting out Misileers with drug habits, or personal problems, I had already read extensively about this issue, but it was interesting to hear what the job was like from a person with first hand experience. No Missileer was or is to this day, allowed to be alone, there is always a two man crew, and the most important safeguard is that Misileers never know the launch codes, until they are given in the event of launch from up on high.

Launch sequence lights lit up. The most important safeguard in nuclear missiles is what is called the butterfly valve. A valve that allows or prevents fuel from entering the engines to launch. This valve is fitted with an advanced version of a lock, set to a code, and this code is changed regularly by persons other than the launch Missileers. The Missileers are never told the code until the event of a launch. The ‘Red Safe’ filing cabinet containes the sealed authenticators that have to match up with the authenticator codes issued from higher up. It gets very complicated, but there are a number of failsafe protocols in place. The two Misileers on duty in the silo must turn their keys in unison, and for demonstration purposes I volunteered to turn the key along with the former Missileer tour guide. It was a heady, thought provoking role play experience.

This is the Red Safe, the go-to safe when it hits the fan.

3 ton blast doors attempt to protect the Missileers in the event of a retaliatory strike against the Soviet Union after a Soviet first strike attack across the United States. Essentially, the components of these silos where the best guess for protection, they could only ever be tested in war. It was suspected that enough of the US silos would remain intact to decimate most of the cities in the Soviet Union in response to a first strike.

This was our tour guide. He worked for decades in these kinds of silos, working 24 hour shifts and then taking a break for a day or so. There were moments, like when Reagan was shot, where technically the Vice President was in charge of launching nuclear war. This was a workplace where even a man’s wife and kids would not be able to visit. I asked him if he would have time to call his family to tell them to get out of town of he found out the Soviets were trying to take out his silo, he told me ‘that was a good question’. A very intersting fact is that this missile had three target options, labelled 1, 2 and 3. He was not told which cities in Russia they were trained on, that info was kept to the top brass, for fear any Missileer could have family ties to a foreign city and lose their nerve at the last moment. So if ‘target 2’ was Moscow, or Vladivostok, he did not know, for it was his job to turn the key, regardless of where the destruction was to take place.

Video by me, brief look into the control room.

Missile as seen from perhaps the fifth floor down, I forget.

All in all some serious business. With tens of thousands of nuclear warheads deployed throughout the last couple of generations, it is truly, absolutely truly remarkable, that none have gone off in anger or accidentally since the strikes on Japan in 1945. And I speak not just to the United States’ seeming restraint, but to all the world’s nuclear armed governments. It seems all people recognise the awesome power and responsibility of this technology. The threat of nuclear strikes remains real though. I would not be surprised if one or two go off in my lifetime in middle east. There are several missing nuclear weapons in the world, lost in air crashes. One hydrogen bomb is submerged in an unknown location near the Georgia coast in the Atlantic, and one in buried somewhere in the ice in Greenland come to mind. It can only be assumed the Soviets lost some too. This is true, and chilling, and you can google it.

I think if I was going to see America, nuclear weapons are big part of America’s history. I have turned the key of nuclear missile silo control panel in Arizona, and stood feet away from the bomb hatch doors of the Enola Gay bomber aircraft that dropped the bomb on Japan as seen in the Washington D.C. section (click top right hand side). All in all, I think I had the American nuclear weapons tourism experience, and it is some heady, thought provoking stuff. Let’s hope none go off in our lifetimes.

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Austin, Texas

West Texas sky, taken by me. By far, the skies in the Southwest United States are very different to elsewhere. Sunsets are striking here. Striking to a degree I have never seen in Australia. I do not know why that is. I guess it is a different kind of desert landscape and a different part of the planet with light reflecting etc.

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Austin dusk skyline, photo sourced from internet.

It was fantastic to spend a couple of days with John Breeding and his family. John is a PhD psychologist whose brilliant critiques of psychiatry I have admired from afar for a couple of years now. He showed me around to a few restaurants, we enjoyed many hours of great conversation, and my short time in Austin was very enjoyable.

After leaving Syracuse, NY for Austin Texas I also got to see Dallas, Cincinnati, Louisville, and Nashville briefly at night. I took no photos. This is a reminder someone asked me to put here, that by no means does what you see on this blog encapsulate, nor could it, my entire journey. This is primarily a photo travel blog with a little commentary of selected cities along the way, and only when I remember to take photos.

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