Getting Dirty in Las Vegas

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DT_Breathalyzer

Breathalyzer first, bulldozer second. (Photo by Tom Adkinson)

LAS VEGAS, Nevada – It was a good thing that I passed the Breathalyzer test because that meant I got to drive one of Ed Mumm’s bulldozers.

Mumm’s business may seem a bit over the edge – it’s called Dig This and is a place where people with absolutely no experience can play around on earthmoving equipment – but he’s not about to let a tipsy customer climb into the cab of a Caterpillar bulldozer or excavator.

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You control 10 tons of bulldozer, but your coach is nearby. (Photo by Tom Adkinson)

The location of Dig This is a surprise. It’s a five-acre patch of open land on South Rancho Drive with a clear view of the high-rise hotels and casinos just across the Las Vegas Freeway on the Las Vegas Strip. It’s a sandbox for adults, and the roaring diesel engines wait for the next group of people who want to play. The bulldozers and excavators are a far cry from what used to be here – miniature golf, bumper boats and go-karts.

The Dig This owner says women perform better than men. (Photo by Tom Adkinson)

The Dig This owner says women perform better than men. (Photo by Tom Adkinson)

Perhaps unexpectedly, Dig This is not just a men-will-be-boys place.

“Bachelorette parties love us, and truth be told, women often are better at the controls than men are,” Mumm said.

“That’s probably because women know how to follow instructions,” said one of my female companions for the day.

Regardless of gender, Mumm has had customers as young as 14 and as old as 86. All go through the same indoor training program and have the same guidance in the field.

In the classroom, instructor Junior Diaz explains the program as he maneuvers a toy bulldozer and a toy excavator around a tiny sandbox. The real pieces of equipment are no toys. The bulldozers waiting for you are D5G XL models weighing 19,862 pounds, and the excavators are 315CL models weighing 36,930 pounds.

Junior Diaz uses toys to explain how the real equipment works. (Photo by Tom Adkinson)

Junior Diaz uses toys to explain how the real equipment works. (Photo by Tom Adkinson)

“Don’t overthink this,” Diaz said, explaining that although you’ll be alone at the controls, you’ll be wearing a headset and in constant radio contact with a coach standing nearby. The coach, by the way, has a kill switch so he can shut down your machine if you try to make a run for the border.

The hotels and casinos of the Las Vegas Strip are just across the freeway from Dig This. (Photo by Tom Adkinson)

The hotels and casinos of the Las Vegas Strip are just across the freeway from Dig This. (Photo by Tom Adkinson)

Your time at the controls can be either on a bulldozer or an excavator or both. Dig trenches, build mounds, create a “bulldozer teeter-totter” or put 2,000-pound equipment tires in a stack. There’s even an excavator skill game called “excavator basketball” where you use the excavator’s bucket to lift a basketball off of a traffic cone and then drop it into the goal, one of those one-ton equipment tires.

Excavate and Exfoliate

Las Vegas often makes for some odd pairings, and Dig This and the Canyon Ranch SpaClub at the Venetian and the Palazzo have teamed up for one of the most unusual package plans you’ll ever find.

“Excavate and Exfoliate” combines the roaring excitement of operating heavy equipment at Dig This with the soothing relaxation of the Canyon Ranch Spa. Just imagine yourself a heavy equipment operator after a hard day on the job site. What could be better than some steam room time, a massage and the refreshment of some cucumber water?

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