I demanded that we stop at the Hoover Dam on the way to Vegas, inspired mainly by a song on my iPod called, yes, Hoover Dam. We stepped out of the car into a vast natural hairdryer. I can’t even begin to guess what the temperature was – 40°C, maybe? It’s probably the hottest place I’ve ever been.

It was suitably impressive though. There isn’t intuitively a great deal of opportunity for architectural flourishes in building a dam, but some of the outbuildings and features of the dam itself were fantastically, iconically 1930s in style – very Chinatown or The Maltese Falcon.

We arrived in Vegas about 4 pm, wound the windows down and joined the slow crawl of traffic down the Strip. It was still blisteringly hot and the A/C was working overtime in cooling the entire atmosphere down for us. Environmentally irresponsible yes, but when you’ve driven 3000 miles already, two more with the A/C on full bore seemed like a drop in Vegas’ uber-consumer ocean.

We passed the famous sign on the way in and made our way past the Luxor, MGM Grand and the Bellagio, and then the older, relatively staid end of the strip. Turned out our hotel, the defiantly old-school (i.e. full of poor people doing their best to become poorer) Lady Luck, was in downtown Las Vegas, a couple of miles beyond the Strip, and a pale imitation of it devoted to the old and the wheelchair-bound.

[More on Vegas, and Santa Barbara, later.]