David and Melanie were on vacation in Las Vegas this week, exploring not just the sights but also making a long-life dream of David's come true. Read below for what it was. Plus David's experience as a train engineer at the Hoover Dam!

September 2, 2012: On our visit to see the new Hoover Dam Bridge, Melanie the eagle eye, noticed a sign for a historical train and train ride. After spending the morning crossing both the original bridge on top of Hoover Dam and the new arch bridge, we decided to check out the Train Museum and potential train ride. What a find by Melanie! You have three options on the train: 1 - ride in an old renovated passenger car, 2 - ride in the locomotive with the two engineers, or 3 - be the engineer under their supervision! We took option 1 for Melanie (only one guest in the locomotive allowed) and option 2 for me. Option 3 was a big increase in price and we weren't sure if it was really going to be worth the extra cost. To my surprise, the two engineers gave me option 3 for the price of option 2! What an experience.

  • Here are a few facts: The train tracks were commissioned for the construction of Hoover Dam (formerly called Boulder Dam). It hauled a majority of all supplies and workers into Boulder City and the construction site about 10 miles away from Boulder City. Many supplies came from the Los Angeles area and ports of California. What is more fascinating is the locomotive while not used during the 1931 to 1935 construction period, is the very first GE diesel locomotive produced. It was used as a demonstration engine at various train yards to demonstrate how much better the new electric diesel is compared to steam locomotives. Today it hauls museum visitors only two miles down and back on the track outside of Boulder City, formerly a 'company town'.

What an experience taking control of this historical but reconditioned 12 cylinder diesel electric locomotive. You certainly get a feeling of awesome size and power, but almost total lack of control. You can either go forwards or backwards, not meant for speed, and it certainly cannot stop very quickly. The loud horn and bell are your only defense at crossroads and pedestrian crossings. The two engineers spent the entire trip telling me the history of the train and how they personally rebuilt the motor of the train. On very limited funding, they truly bring the history to life! What a great experience!

David "conducting" the historical train.

One last treasure we found is the historic downtown of Boulder City. Certainly worth taking some time to explore the original historic hotel and walk the streets. In addition, excursions were taking place through a dirt trail road to a remote Lake Mead campground. Thank goodness we had a Jeep rental car. We plan to do this day trip again and enjoy some additional treasures outside of Vegas.

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On September 3, 2012 (Labor Day), Melanie gave me an early birthday present. For almost our entire time together, I have always made comments about wanting to ride in a real, full-sized bulldozer. Never did I think that would come to a reality. I did today! When in Vegas…

A few months back, she read an article in USA Today, about a company who was turning the recession into an opportunity. At the north end of the Strip, on the opposite side of Interstate 15, there is a company devoted to fulfilling the fantasies of anyone who ever wanted to do a dig. You have two choices, a Cat D-5 bulldozer or a full size Cat Excavator. An opportunity of a lifetime! I chose the Bull Dozer of course.

We started with a classroom instruction after having to take a "breathalyzer" test. I passed! Not surprising since I am once again trying to shed a few extra pounds that have crept on over the last five years. After the 15 minutes of instructions, we were off to our equipment. A hard hat, a head set and microphone to communicate with our instructor, and an air conditioned cab. Thank goodness as it was 102 degrees today. One more review of the controls (complicated but logical) and we were off digging our own 4 foot deep 'foundation' and creating a large mound of dirt. We then drove over this a few times frontwards and backwards as if to compact the soil. Amazing sensation going frontwards and backwards and almost standing the dozer on its front or back end! In addition we pushed two stacked tractor tires around 6 cones both directions to learn coordination of speed, dozer blade tilt and angles and steering between tight barriers. No penalties here for me! I must admit the climbing of the mound of soil both directions was somewhat unnerving.

At the end, the entire group survived and enjoyed. No accidents and thank goodness for 'dead man' controls. What a present! The next time I am on my lawn tractor with 18 hp and my snow blade is on, I will think about the Cat-5 and the awesome weight and power and capabilities. Anybody know of a spare Cat-9?

Melanie's perspective of David in the bulldozer