You’ve visited every casino, buffet, and car museum in Las Vegas. What else can you do for fun? Why not play with a real excavator or bulldozer?
Over Thanksgiving weekend, I visited the ‘rents, who retired and moved to Vegas. I asked our sagely triumvirate (Jeff, Kamil, and Tim) for suggestions on activities and Jeff suggested I “check out that place that lets you use heavy equipment”. Did he mean Dig This?
Yes, he did.
With the construction industry in Las Vegas completely obliterated, Dig This may have the only remaining heavy construction equipment in town. It has two Caterpillar D5G bulldozers and three 315C excavators on a large dirt lot off of I-15, across from the golden Trump hotel.
The experience starts with a safety briefing in a conference room, replete with videos, schematic drawings, and diecast toys in a sandbox. After grabbing a reflector vest, we went out to the machinery. Our instructor/coach, Shawn, stood between me in one bulldozer and a young lady in the other. We communicated with each other via headset. Shawn was a great teacher. He was very patient.
The first thing I noticed about the D5G I operated was that it had air conditioning. I was a bit overwhelmed by the number of controls I needed to use. To my left were the throttle lever, a parking brake switch, and a joystick that steered and acted as a transmission lever (reverse, neutral, forward 1-2-3). On the floor were the brake pedal to the left, which I was told to never use, and a smaller decelerator pedal to the right, which acted as the clutch. When I was in gear, I accelerated by easing off the decelerator pedal. It was a bit counterintuitive, as I kept mistaking it for the gas pedal. To my right, there was a lever to raise and lower the rear ripper and a joystick to operate the shovel. I did not realize that the shovel could be raised and lowered and rotated and tilted.
With practice, everything got easier. The hardest part about bulldozing is not being able to see the dirt you are pushing. During our hour-plus session in the cab, we went through a slalom course, slowly built a large mound using dirt we dug, and pushed two one-ton tires stacked on top of each other through the same slalom. I had a grin from ear-to-ear throughout the entire experience.
Surprisingly, the ride was relatively smooth. I’ve been in airport shuttle vans and tuk-tuks that rode much rougher.
Full disclosure: Dig This waived payment for my session.
Images source: Copyright 2012 Hooniverse/Jim Yu