Tag Archives: downtown

Life is beautiful

Life is beautiful

travel, photography, downtown, Las Vegas, Nevada, Downtown Container Park, El Cortez, old Vegas, friends, murals, paint, paintings, public art, Fremont Street

A few years ago, Downtown Las Vegas was so rundown and scary that people wouldn’t touch it with a ten-foot pole, never mind wander around down there.  But with the Downtown Project and other revitalization efforts, the area has been transformed into a quirky, happening destination for couples, kids, art lovers, and hip bar hoppers.

travel, photography, downtown, Las Vegas, Nevada, Downtown Container Park, El Cortez, old Vegas, friends, murals, paint, paintings, public art, Fremont Street

Jenn and I doing our best cranky model impersonations under the “Life is Beautiful” mural on the wall of the El Cortez hotel

travel, photography, downtown, Las Vegas, Nevada, Downtown Container Park, El Cortez, old Vegas, friends, murals, paint, paintings, public art, Fremont Street

The inaugural two-day “Life is Beautiful” festival took place in late October, drawing celebrity chefs and popular bands, the likes of which you’d normally only find at the mega casino-resorts of the Strip.  The event brought 40,000 tourists and locals to experience the new “neighborhoody” feel of Downtown.  Designed to reflect the festival’s inspirational message, giant murals were painted on a dozen walls, mostly abandoned motels and hotels, the Container Park and a few businesses like the El Cortez.  These shots represent just a few of the fantastic several-story-high works of art.

travel, photography, downtown, Las Vegas, Nevada, Downtown Container Park, El Cortez, old Vegas, friends, murals, paint, paintings, public art, Fremont Street

Even though the festival is long over, most the murals remain, which was the hope of festival organizers.  Their goal was to foster pride in the community, beginning with what we see as we walk by.  Although Mike and I no longer live in Vegas, I was delighted to see these enhancements.  I’ve always had great affection for Downtown.  I worked in the area for a number of years.  I met Mike at a Downtown bar, and I lots of great meetings at restaurants and coffee shops there.  These gorgeous, colorful murals made me want to move back all the more.

travel, photography, downtown, Las Vegas, Nevada, Downtown Container Park, El Cortez, old Vegas, friends, murals, paint, paintings, public art, Fremont Street

Brunch at the diner

Brunch at the diner

Lemon Curd Pancakes

There’s something decidedly decadent about brunch.  The late hour, the combination of breakfast and lunch dishes, the leisurely pace.  If you count it as two meals in one, you can forgive yourself for eating too much, especially if you’ve gotten some exercise beforehand.  That’s why I was able to nosh without guilt when we brunched at Phillips Avenue Diner in Sioux Falls’ historic downtown after our chilly walk in Falls Park.


Of course, I helped things along by thoughtful ordering.  A spinach and tomato eggwhite omelet was accompanied by a side of fresh fruit in place of toast or potatoes.  I simply had to try the lemon curd pancakes, though.  Normally, they come in stacks of three, but that would’ve been over the top.  So, I asked if I could have just one, and our waitress happily obliged, charging me an extra buck for the privilege.  The pancake was infused with lemon essence.  Juice, I think, not extract.  Instead of syrup, it was crisscrossed with glaze, a dollop of lemon curd and some raspberries to add color and a flavorful contrast.  Nummy!  The omelet was good, too.


The neat thing about downtown Sioux Falls, besides its history, is the SculptureWalk.

SculptureWalk is an exciting exhibit of outdoor sculptures displayed year-round in downtown Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Artists place their sculptures in the program for one year, and all sculptures are aggressively promoted to the public for sale. Artists are eligible to win any one or more of the 14 awards in the Best of Show, People’s Choice voting and the random drawings. Awards total to $15,000.

Two impressive pieces are on the corner near the diner.  My favorite?  ‘Look and You Will Find It’ by artist Kate Christopher.  It’s so simple but so striking.  The group of standing men, all with heads downcast except one, has a compelling message: the path to discovery reveals itself when we lift our eyes.  I learn the truth of that every day on this amazing journey.


Look and You Will Find It


Butterfly by Jaque Frazee

A romantic dinner at Crawford’s

A romantic dinner at Crawford’s


Mike works hard.  He is sole proprietor of his own busy company.  He handles the mechanical stuff on the RV, and he does the bulk of the driving.  I’m just getting started with my freelance career, so it doesn’t pay a lot right now.  But, I make enough that I was able to take Mike out for a romantic dinner as a thank-you for all that he does for me and Charlie, Sadie and Meeko.


Crawford’s Bar & Grill is an upscale eatery in historic downtown Sioux Falls.  The decor is funky with lots of dark wood, century-old quartzite and brick walls, bejeweled wall paper, art deco lighting, and plush, intimate seating arrangements.


The restaurant has an interesting history.

Crawford’s is the location of one of the first butchers in Sioux Falls, Louis Bauch, Bauch’s Meats, 1896. If you look closely you will see the wood beams throughout the quartzite walls used as scaffolding when building the massive walls. Louis Bauch’s son and son-in-law’s names are signed and dated “May 1936″ on the back of the bar under the first shelf of wine glasses. Behind the second shelf of wine glasses there is an original piece of cork from the butcher’s cork lined cooler.


Black soot runs up the mens’ bathroom brick wall from where the meat was smoked, the blood trough still runs along the north cellar wall and a rusty old nail hangs in the quartzite wall under one of the large gilded mirrors. When restoring the building to its original beauty Louis Bauch’s meat cleaver was discovered, hidden neatly away for almost a century, it is displayed in a special spot in Crawford’s today.


After Bauch’s Meat Market closed in the late 1930s, the building housed clothing and shoe stores.  One included a namesake, Crawford’s Men’s Wear. Look down when you step over the threshold of the front entrance, you will notice the original 1963 Crawford’s Men’s Wear logo.


We started with Walleye Fingers.  We could have just had that and dessert and been plenty satisfied.  Portions at Crawford’s are generous.   But we like to experience it all, and traveling with our house on wheels means that we can easily keep any extras.


Walleye Fingers: panko-crusted and served with a lemon Dijon tartar sauce

After that, I had the Tomato Crab Bisque instead of a salad like Mike.  I was already starting to get full, so I ate only a spoonful.  I wasn’t sure what to do with my leftovers since we still had the rest of the meal ahead of us.  Our waitress neatly solved the problem by bringing me a fresh batch in a to-go bowl before we left.  Excellent service!


Tomato Crab Bisque

For his entree, Mike went with two filets each prepared in a different way.  He’s a simple fellow, so he liked the grilled, buttered version best.  He doesn’t like asparagus, so I brought that home with the remainder of my Pappardelle Chicken.


2 Filets 2 Ways: one crusted in peppercorn with a cognac demi glaze and the other grilled, topped with roasted shallot butter


Pappardelle Chicken

The s’mores were a delight and would have been perfect for sharing if Mike didn’t have his own chocolate cake.  I packed up the uneaten marshmallows and graham crackers, so we could snack on them later.  The entire experience was wonderful.  Very romantic and unhurried.  The food was superb, and the service was spot on.  Best of all, my man was happy.


Midnight Layer Cake




Henson Creek RV Park (Lake City, Colorado)

Henson Creek RV Park (Lake City, Colorado)


We were on our second day of attempting to repair the RV’s fan belt. We were about to head to Gunnison for parts when Mike’s former brother-in-law informed us that we could no longer boondock in his yard. Some sort of issue with the neighbors. We scrambled to find a place to go, a park that would let us check in in the morning.  (Normal check-in times are around noon.) We were in luck when Henson Creek RV Park told us they had room and we could come down right away.


We had driven by Henson Creek on our way to Woodlake, when we first arrived in Lake City, and frankly, we hadn’t been that impressed.  Although it was centrally located on the main drag, it looked cramped. But this time, we were grateful to have a place with full hook-ups where we could work on the RV.

When Mike checked us in, he was pleased to discover a small selection of RV supplies in the office. Friendly managers Joe & Judy Hoover guided him into our spot.

Later that afternoon, with the help of a new friend, Mike was able to get the fan belt on. The motorhome was fixed! (Well, except for the a/c compressor, which we will fix in the next couple of months.)


Henson Creek is small, designed more for the fifth wheels that line both sides of the park.  Motorhomes take up the few spots in the center. The park is right next to the actual Henson Creek.  We only stayed one night, but we really enjoyed walking Meeko and Sadie along the edge of the water.  I also enjoyed a run around the area the morning that we left.  For Sunday morning worship, there’s also a charming Catholic church, built in the 1800s, around the bend from the park.


Our initial impression of Henson Creek was right… and wrong.  The park is a bit cramped. But, the facilities are great.  There’s 30-amp electric, a laundry room, and showers if you need ’em.  The managers are nice and helpful, and the location is fantastic.  At Woodlake, we were too far out of town to do anything but drive.  When we come back to Lake City next year, we’re going to stay here so that we can walk or bike to all the fun stuff in town.