The sculpture stands well off Las Vegas’ Strip, tucked away in a traffic configuration that makes it difficult to see the artwork from a car. You must park, get out and find the entrance to the Vdara Hotel in order to view artist Nancy Rubins’ “Big Edge.”
Rubins, I’m told, constructed this conglomeration of more than 200 rowboats, kayaks, sailboats and canoes with no specific plan, stringing it all together with piano wire. Each watercraft weighs between 60 pounds and 125 pounds, so it’s a mystery as to how the artist did it.
I promise; it’s one of the most unusual sculptures you’ll ever see and worth the stop.
“Big Edge” was one of those serendipitous finds that made me glad that my schedule on a recent trip to Las Vegas allowed for some free time. It also reminded me that planning every moment of a trip means that you probably will miss some great things.
Traveling with a moderately loose schedule and open mind — something I don’t get to do enough — reaps rewards you can’t predict. Experiencing the unexpected can make for the most memorable moments.
One gem we nearly missed while driving south on Highway 395 from Mammoth is the Museum of Western Film History in tiny Lone Pine (population 2,035). The museum commemorates and documents the more than 400 movies and 100 television episodes filmed in the area. When we spotted the marquis, we did a quick U-turn and stopped, which threw off our homeward-bound schedule a bit, but it was worth it. We got our fill of movieland artifacts, background stories and oddities like the Cadillac Eldorado tricked out with horns from a Texas steer and silver dollars.
A special, unexpected evening took shape about a year ago when my husband, another couple and I took a horse-drawn sleigh ride in the Colorado Rockies. The hot chocolate and spectacular mountain scenery was all we could ask for … and then it began snowing. Large, soft flakes drifted down silently, turning the landscape into a storybook winter wonderland. It can’t get better than this, we decided.
Another story about a serendipity also took place in Colorado, this time on a weeklong hiking trip in and around Telluride. My sister and I stopped in one of the town’s boutiques and asked a shop owner for a restaurant recommendation. I’ll skip the details, but the owner, also a former chef, ended up cooking paella that night for our group of eight women. Photos of the evening, which included ample wine, do exist, but maybe it’s just as well that they are lost in some drawer. Sometimes it’s less than six degrees of separation that connect us to others.
In 2014, we flew to Anchorage and were the guests of my cousin, Panu (her mother is a Native Alaskan) and her partner in their home. We visited the Alaska Native Heritage Center, about 10 miles from Anchorage, and while on a guided tour, came upon the magnificent, bleached, full skeleton of a gray whale, spread out on the grounds of the museum. We were impressed, but even more so when we learned that Panu had been part of the crew that ceremoniously buried the whale after it had washed ashore and died. It rested there for several years while microorganisms clean the bones naturally.
While we usually ignore those roadside signs that keep exhorting travelers to “Stop and See the World’s Biggest _____!!!!,” we gave in on a trip through southern Utah a few years ago.
The Moqui Cave, on highway 89, was worth the chance. We got a tour from the cave owner, the son of the Mormon man who bought the sandstone cave and converted it to a bar where Western film stars would spend their off hours and evenings. The handmade bar is still there, as well as 140 million-year-old dinosaur footprints, history of the Mormons in the area, artifacts from the Native Americans that once lived in the area, and of course, the souvenir shop.
E’Louise Ondash is a freelance writer living in North County. Tell her about your travels at firstname.lastname@example.org.