Monday, February 11, 2008

In Las Vegas, Baby!

Last Wednesday dawned bright and clear, and there was no snow. I bid adieu to my sister's house in Santa Fe and headed for Denver.
I stopped for lunch in Las Vegas, New Mexico. You have to get off the Interstate to drive downtown now, but I had been there before, in 1972 when the major north/south 2-lane highway ran right through downtown Las Vegas.

Then I was in a station wagon full of of young men and women from CU-Boulder enroute to Nogales, AZ so we could cross the border and spend spring break in Matzalan, Mexico. We stopped to eat in Las Vegas, at a place on Main Street called Estella's. Back then the premises seemed menacing, full of hard, sun-burned rancher-type persons who certainly were different from the soft college boys and girls from New York and California that we were.

Now the downtown seems full of aged hippies. I got into a discussion with one store proprietor and found out that the 1969 movie Easy Rider had been partially filmed there, the scene where Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper got arrested and met Jack Nicholson in a jail cell.

Here's the old Las Vegas Police Department, now a western art gallery called Tito's. The storefront is in the movie as the place where the police took the two Easy Riders after they joined a town parade around the public square riding their Harleys. The parade route in the movie is right up the street on the historic Las Vegas Plaza, where the trees are in the picture.

Go into Tito's and ask about it. They're real friendly in there. They'll show you the old town jail cells, mere drunk tanks really. People in town who know the iconic movie express sorrow that Hollywood used spacious jail cells with bars for the scene, not the jail cells from the olden days that are still there.

Directly across the street is Estella's Cafe. A shot of it, when the two bikers are being released and Jack Nicholson joins them prior to their eventual roadway execution by "southerners," is in the movie.

I ate lunch there, 36 years later. It was Ash Wednesday. Who knew? I had the Lenten Special, a delicious meatless Mexican combination plate of dough and vegetable preparations built around a salmon patty. Estella died just a few years ago but her memory is honored in that town.

I thoroughly enjoyed my lunch. Can you imagine me standing there as a 19 year old, slightly intimidated, instead of a 55-y.o. completely relaxed? Those were the divisive Vietnam days, different times. (Or maybe not.)

Once I got done re-visiting the past in Las Vegas, I drove the rest of the way to Denver. There were no adverse snow conditions, finally.
I arrived that evening in Louisville, CO, where I lived all those years as a State Patrolman in Boulder County before I went to law school. It's an old coal mining town. Here's the statue outside town hall. The next morning, the last day of my trip out west, I was going to run six miles with an old friend I hadn't seen in 22 years, who had recently taken up running just as I had. I couldn't wait.


Susan said...

By all means, I am envious of your travels!

That restaurant is the kind of place that my boss loves to restore (he is Mr. Historic Preservation).

Great old storefronts in that town!

Danielle in Iowa said...

I totally didn't pay attention to which LV you were referring to and I spent half that post majorly confused :-)