This was a trip by car from San Jose to Las Vegas for a complimentary three-night stay at Texas Station Gambling Hall & Hotel. I had several hours of audio cassette tapes of "Car Talk" left over from my last trip, so I laughed all the way. I had been coughing and hacking for over a week, so I also took along my cold medicines and made the best of a bad situation.
I left home at 6:30 a.m. on Tuesday, January 11th in fairly heavy overcast, fueled in Morgan Hill and was treated to sunshine on Hy 152 just south of San Luis Dam. I had just gotten onto Interstate 5 when I looked at the trip odometer and it showed 70 miles.
At 9:05 a.m. I stopped for orange juice at McDonald's at the Hy 198 interchange, just across I-5 from the Harris Ranch.
At 9:30 a.m. I received a GTE Wireless call while passing through the Coalinga area. I was pleased to know that GTE was able to locate me on their system. When the bill came, this was an "included" call, no long distance charge and no roaming charge. Thank you, GTE Wireless.
I took the Buttonwillow turnoff (Highway 58) and stopped to stretch my legs and get a lemonade at 10:10 a.m., then back on the road for the 22 mile drive into Bakersfield.
A couple hours later, after I'd passed through Mojave, I got a page (thank you, Metrocall) and returned the call on GTE Wireless (thank you, GTE). I was later pleased to find that this call was also "included".
I fueled at a Chevron station in Barstow at 12:42 p.m. The freeway pretty much skirts the city, but if you follow the signs to Highway 127 it's "easy off" and "easy back on" the freeway.
An hour later I stopped at the Mad Greek Cafe in Baker for a fresh strawberry shake.
At 2:35 p.m. I stopped at the Nevada Welcome Center in Jean to pick up a few maps and brochures, then next door to the Gold Strike Casino. I broke even.
It's another 30+ miles into Las Vegas, where I stopped at the AAA office for a set of current maps, then back north on Rancho Drive to Texas Station. I parked in the garage at 4:19 p.m. and walked across the driveway, through the casino, to the hotel front desk.
After a short wait they checked me in to Room 234. Although this was a "comped" trip, they insisted on imprinting my American Express card.
I was surprised to find ashtrays in the room since I had reserved a non-smoking room. Because I was sick and tired, I didn't bother to complain. I was so stuffed up I couldn't smell smoke anyway. I also noted that the room safe was locked and wishing to avoid any problems, I called security to come and unlock it.
Then I walked down to the casino and began looking for dinner. They have a food court that includes several "restaurants," including "Hot Dog On A Stick," where I ordered a hot dog in a bun. I also had a slice of pizza and a lemonade while watching a bunch of people compete for prizes in a special promotion.
After a little gambling (and putting away some money), I went out in the car to explore the area but was back to the hotel room in time for "NYPD Blue" at 10:00 p.m. and was in bed asleep shortly thereafter.
On Wednesday morning, January 12, I was up early and went down to breakfast at The Feast, their buffet restaurant. The choices were not fabulous but were varied. It wasn't crowded and I put the $5.35 on my room tab.
As I wandered by the Bingo Room shortly after 9:10 a.m., I was surprised to see how crowded the place was. Those Bingo players are serious!
I walked back to the room to assemble my maps and then went out exploring.
I started out westbound on Hy 95 and visited the planned community of Summerlin. I stopped at The Resort At Summerlin where I applied for a (slot player's) card and was given a "cool hat." The Resort is cleverly disguised as a nice-looking building; no gaudy neon on the outside like the casinos on The Strip. But everything inside is similar, including machines, tables and upscale shopping.
I wandered south on Interstate 15 and then through the tunnel under the airport runways and visited Rent-a-Vette on Swenson Street. I guess I didn't look rich enough because they were a too busy to talk to me.
I visited the sales office at Turnberry Place on Paradise Road across from the Las Vegas Hilton. Construction has begun on Tower One of this four-tower, thirty-eight story condominium project. Assistant Vice President Dan Riordan gave me a tour of the mockup of a three-bedroom unit, including a simulated view of the Vegas Valley from the 27th floor. There was a multimedia presentation in nearly every room. It was fantastic!
Las Vegas Harley-Davidson has several locations in the area, one of which is called the Henderson Harley-Davidson Shop at 1601 Sunset. It's a fairly small building but they have motorcycles for sale on consignment, Motorclothes, parts & accessories, and service.
I stopped at Sunset Station, one of the four Station Casinos. I'd visited all of the others but hadn't seen this one yet.
Not far away, just down Eastern Avenue, is the main Las Vegas Harley-Davidson store. For sale on the main sales floor was a 1999 Road King trike for $36,000 and a red 1947 Servi-Car for $11,000. Not being in need of either, I didn't bother to make any offers.
From there I headed downtown to Main Street Station Brewery Hotel Casino to check out the Garden Court Buffet. It was 2:45 p.m. and it was $6.99 for a very excellent lunch. On the way out, I stopped to apply for a player's club card. They issued me one, as well as a deck of playing cards.
After a quick trip to the bank, I wandered through the Union Plaza Hotel on the way to the Fremont Street Experience.
Back in the car and enroute up Rancho Drive to the Fiesta Casino Hotel, just north of Texas Station on Rancho Drive, to Roxy's restaurant for pizza and pipe organ music. I had a couple slices of "pie" and some lemonade while enjoying the music.
After dinner it was back to Texas Station and later back to the room to watch "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire" and eventually "The Late Show with David Letterman" with his guest Hillary Clinton, and then to sleep.
I was up at 8 a.m. on Thursday, January 13 and out in the car at 9:30 a.m. After breakfast with Ronald I stopped at the Easyriders Motorcycle Shop next to The Orleans Hotel Casino. (Note: some months later, the Easyriders store closed.)
In keeping with my exploring theme, I took U.S. 95 southeast toward Laughlin. At 11:38 a.m. I pulled into a Unocal in Searchlight with approximately 1/2 gallon to spare.
Notes for the future: Las Vegas to Searchlight, 55 miles. Gas prices: high; refuel before leaving the big city. Approaching Searchlight, the speed limit rapidly decreases in increments of ten: 55 - 45 - 35 and then 25 miles per hour with Nevada Highway Patrol watching closely.
After refueling, the journey continued for another 40 miles, down US 95 and then east on NV 163 to Laughlin. There are nearly a dozen hotel/casino properties in the Laughlin area but I did not take time to visit them all.
I chose to stop at The Colorado Belle Hotel & Casino. Though I was in a car for this trip, I noted motorcycle parking right up front near the entrance. I had a nice buffet lunch at the Mark Twain restaurant for $4.99 plus tax for a total of $5.35 in cash; they don't accept credit cards.
I applied for a Club Belle card and continued exploring. While still on the Belle I got a Sprint PCS wireless call from home; nice to know the nationwide network works as advertised.
Laughlin NV is right on the Colorado River from Bullhead City AZ; I drove across the bridge and turned around.
Another hour and 20 minutes and I was back in Henderson (southeast of Las Vegas) for something cold to drink at Wendy's (exit 61). Then I followed US 95 all the way through Las Vegas and then north on Rancho Drive, beyond Texas Station to North Las Vegas where I drove around the (small) city airport and then stopped at a Pep Boys auto parts store. I was looking for a "California Dash Duster" (as seen on TV!) for the motorcycle, and found one. I also found Deltran's Battery Tender Plus on sale.
I was back at Texas Station at 5 p.m. from my day of exploring. I spent some time in the casino, had a hot dog and lemonade dinner at the food court, then retired to my room to catch up with the news on CNN, took a shower, watched "Millionaire," and hit the pillow at 10 p.m.
On Friday, January 14, I awoke early, got up and packed my things. Checkout was quick and painless and they gifted me with a deck of cards. I was on the road at 7:03 a.m. After a brief stop at Palace Station, I was on the way home at 7:35 a.m.
At 9:00 a.m. I reached Baker and stopped at the Mad Greek Cafe for a fresh strawberry shake. Another hour to Barstow and fuel at the same Chevron station.
At noon I pulled into Thorp's Harley-Davidson in Bakersfield, where I got a couple items. They had a few motorcycles for sale and the requisite Motorclothes and collectibles. The clerk was kind enough to give me directions back to the freeway, which I had to disregard for fear of getting lost.
I found my way west on Hy 58 from Bakersfield and stopped briefly to add a quart of oil before continuing.
Another couple hours later I stopped just off Interstate 5 at Hy 198/Harris Ranch. I had intended to get a sandwich at the Windmill Market but they no longer make sandwiches; they have pre-packaged stuff only, so I got something at McDonald's.
I got back into the San Jose area another couple hours later, refilled the fuel tank, stopped at the bank and bought a newspaper before arriving home at 5:05 p.m. with 1416 miles on the trip odometer for this sojourn.
It was another fun - exciting - tiring - enjoyable trip to Las Vegas! I was still coughing and congested but as I said, I made the best of it.