This story produced in partnership with TravelNevada
Shortly before my son, Seth, turned 12, I told my wife I wanted to do something special, like a father-son trip to mark the occasion, but I was having trouble coming up with a destination.
“Well, think back to your family’s vacations when you were young. Any memories stand out?” she offered.
Instantly my mind centered on one of my favorite family vacations growing up—when we took a road trip out West. There was something about the grandeur of the wide-open desert, and the sense of being able to see for what seemed like forever, that stuck with me, even so many years later.
My fondest memory of that family vacation was our stop in Boulder City, Nevada. I remember loving every minute we spent outdoors. Seth shares my love for the outdoors, so I settled on Boulder City for his birthday celebration.
We arrived at the Boulder Dam Hotel with just enough light left in the day to appreciate the classic “small town” look of the surrounding shops and restaurants. Half hotel and half museum, walking into the wood-paneled lobby was like stepping into the history of the town. While I checked-in, Seth wandered around reading the exhibits about the construction and history of the Hoover Dam and Boulder City. He obviously found them interesting, because I was peppered with historical facts throughout dinner.
The next morning, we both enjoyed a “manly” breakfast that included hash browns, buttered toast, and an omelet overflowing with bacon. I could only imagine what my doctor would say about my choice of meal! But knowing I had at least 18 holes of golf ahead of me, I didn’t feel too guilty about it.
“I think I’m going to try out for the golf team in the fall,” Seth said as we headed to the course.
“Really?” I asked. I knew he had been spending more time at the range, but thanks to my hectic work schedule, it had been a while since we’d played a round together. “Well, let’s see if you’re good enough yet to beat your old man. I’ll give you a stroke per hole.”
“Nah, let’s play it straight up,” he said confidently.
Surrounded by mountain ranges, the Boulder City Golf Course is one of the most picturesque courses I had ever played, and the fairways and greens were as lush as the desert courses on the PGA schedule.
I teed off first and, even to my surprise, found the edge of the fairway with my drive. Seth took a few practice swings, and then launched a drive that soared toward the distant mountains, and flew past my ball with ease.
“Wow,” I said. “We need to play more often.”
Having the opportunity to play such a beautiful and unique course was certainly a highlight, but even greater was getting the chance to watch my son, who could barely balance the ball on the tee when he first started, play with such confidence and ease.
Following golf, we made the short trip out to Hoover Dam for the power plant tour, and to check out the views from the recently opened bridge. I’d visited the dam with my family when I was a little younger than Seth, and when we reached the bridge, I felt as awe-struck by the view as I had so many years ago. Only this time, I had the priceless opportunity to see the same expression on my son’s face as he gazed down into the mammoth canyon.
“So what did you think?” I asked on the way back to the hotel.
He paused for a minute and said, “I think maybe I’ll be an engineer, so I can build things like that.”
“I think that’s a great idea,” I said.
“I saw a brochure for this really cool looking zipline in the desert. Want to do it?” Seth asked the next morning over breakfast.
I could hardly believe my ears. It was only a year earlier that I had to practically bribe him to go zip lining with me in the mountains of North Carolina. I reminded him of this, and he just shrugged, “I guess I got over it.”
Our first zip lining trip could not have prepared us for the amazing experience of soaring over the Mojave Desert. The zip lines, which stretch more than a mile, provide unparalleled views of the impossibly expansive vista. About halfway down the line, I instinctively looked over to see if Seth was doing okay. But instead of seeing a timid little boy, I saw a young man with his head held high, taking in every bit of the experience.
In that instant, I could not have been more proud of my son. While I had planned to introduce Boulder City to him, he had actually showed me the ropes and he wasn’t done yet.
“Hey Dad, up for round two of golf?” Seth asked with a smirk.
“Absolutely,” I replied in challenge.
Without missing a beat he said, “Okay, I’ll give you a stroke per hole.”
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