This was another car trip from San Jose to Las Vegas. I've gotten to enjoy the time spent traveling this route, as opposed to getting to the airport early and waiting, then standing in line an hour before flight time, waiting another hour, then having to fight for a place in yet another line to get onto the plane, then having less than adequate room for my shoulders in a seat obviously built for a very slight person. But I digress.
Palace Station had invited me to their monthly slot tournament for out-of-towners who were having birthdays during the month. The rooms were "a rock bottom $27 a night," there was no entry fee for the tournament, top prize was $1,500, there was a 10% discount for all purchases at the hotel gift shop and restaurants and a few other perks. I thought it would be nice to take this time to visit my Uncle and Aunt as well as two ham friends who live in the Vegas valley.
I was awake early on Sunday, May 21 (my birthday), and left my driveway at 5:50 a.m. After stopping at the bank for cash and at the 7-11 for a newspaper, I headed south on Hy 85, south on Hy 101, east on Hy 152 and south on Interstate 5. By 7:32 a.m. I was refueling next to the Apricot Tree restaurant near Firebaugh.
I-5 is fairly straight and boring. I took the Hy 58 turnoff near Buttonwillow and stopped at McDonald's for some orange juice. Then it was through Bakersfield, continuing east on Hy 58.
I made the turn at Mojave at 10:40 a.m. and made the transition to northbound Interstate 15 at Barstow.
It was time for fuel in Baker, then a fresh strawberry shake at the Mad Greek Cafe (of course!) where it was 104 degrees.
I already have KWNR 95.5 FM stored in my car radio, so I was able to tune them in easily and enjoyed the music while I was in the Vegas valley.
I stopped at the Fashion Outlet in Primm NV at 1:25 p.m. I checked the Las Vegas Harley-Davidson outlet store but they didn't have a bargain table and I couldn't find anything that I could not live without.
I continued north on I-15 and arrived at Palace Station at 2:20 p.m., 8 1/2 hours and 533 miles from home. It was about 96 degrees outside.
There was a short line at the front desk but the hotel manager (!) was assisting with the process, so I was able to check in easily. They charged my card $88 for the three nights and I was assigned a non-smoking room with two queen beds and was able to take occupancy immediately, even though it wasn't yet 3 p.m.
Room 8032 had a good view to the south and west, looking over the top of the parking garage, plus my Sprint PCS wireless phone and Metrocall pager worked perfectly, making local calls from the hotel system (75 cents each) unnecessary.
I read over the Birthday Slot Tournament information sheet and saw that I was assigned to play at 11:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Monday, then again at 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday.
Everyone was also invited to one of the hotel's conference rooms at 7:00 p.m. that evening for birthday cake and champagne, so I put that on my schedule.
There was a sticker on the in-room safe indicating that there was a $1.50 per day charge to use it. Another sign of the impending collapse of society as we know it, I guess. I wonder how many people actually use the safe and how many have to call security to open it after they forget the combination they chose.
I called my Uncle and Aunt and arranged to meet them on Monday at 5 p.m. at the Pasta Palace right at the hotel. Although I've stayed there several times, I've never eaten at this restaurant, but my mother has and my Uncle and Aunt like to eat there from time to time.
I called my friend Neil and arranged to meet him and his friend at one of the Marie Callender restaurants in the area in about a half hour.
I unsuccessfully tried to reach my friends Dave and Judy by phone.
So it was back to the parking garage and into the car for the short drive to Flamingo and Decatur. I got there a few moments after 4 p.m.; Neil and Karen were waiting.
They enjoy the soup and salad bar so I followed their recommendation. I haven't eaten at Marie Callender's for a long time and really enjoyed it. We had a nice chat about the old days and the new days.
On the way back to Palace Station I stopped at Smith's grocery store for some orange juice, then continued north on Rancho Drive to verify that there was some construction going on at Texas Station, where I'd stayed in January. There was.
I got back to my room at 6:41 p.m. in time to get a page from Brian in Campbell, wishing me a happy birthday. So I paged him back with a "10-4." He knows that "thank you" is included.
Seven p.m. was fast approaching so I walked to the conference room for the birthday party. As I picked up a piece of cake and a glass of champagne and found a place to sit, a woman at the table said that if they call your number, you get to go to the front of the room and do something foolish. Suddenly I felt the need to be somewhere else, so I excused myself and gave them my ticket. I hope they won a prize with it.
On the way back to my room I had to walk through the casino, so I put some money into a quarter machine. On my very last quarter, I got a red seven, a red seven and a "triple cash," resulting in 300 coins, so I put away $75.
Feeling somewhat adventuresome, I stopped at the High Limit Slots to see what the $5 tokens looked like. I managed to put away $50.
I got a small cup of strawberry ice cream and a slice of cheese pizza to take back to the room, only to find a telephone message from Dave and Judy, asking if I wanted to go for dinner.
It appeared that this was going to be the only time I could spend any time with them, so I agreed to meet them down at valet parking in a few minutes. It was a toasty 97 degrees under the overhang at the valet parking entrance.
They were over in a few minutes and we went to the Fiesta Casino Hotel on North Rancho Drive. We found our way into Roxy's and enjoyed pizza and cold drinks along with live pipe organ music. It was great to catch up with all the things that had gone on since they'd left the San Jose area.
The restaurant closed at ten o'clock and while they didn't exactly kick us out, they put away the organ, turned on the lights and started cleaning around us, so we got the hint.
They brought me back to Palace Station and went on their way. I got back to the room to find a message from Neil but it was too late to call, so I resolved to call in the morning.
I was full (!) and sticky from the heat, so I took a shower and went to bed.
Monday, May 22. I was awake too early with cold feet (forget to ask for an extra blanket). I had a lovely breakfast of orange juice and last night's pizza.
Neil called at 7 a.m. to clarify something we had talked about the night before. He was on his way out to work in the hot sun, so I wished him a good day and told him that I'd talk to him again the next time I visited if I wasn't able to talk to him again this trip.
Shortly after 8:00 a.m. I got a page from Glenn in San Jose, wishing me a happy day-after birthday. I called him back and got caught up with the news.
I wandered downstairs to the casino around 8:30 a.m. Soon after, I got a page from Brian in Campbell. I returned the call and made a few notes.
I watched some of the 9:00 a.m. session of the birthday slot tournament. About 30 identical machines were roped off for the event. Coins were not needed and each machine was set for 20 minutes. Many more "wins" than normal were earned by the players.
I did a little non-tournament gambling and then returned at 11:00 a.m. to check in for the 11:30 session. I managed a score of 7094 points, about the same as many of the people around me.
It was time to get out and around, so I headed for the main store of Las Vegas Harley-Davidson on Eastern Avenue. It was very hot out and there are no trees in the parking lot but the air conditioning worked fine inside the store.
They had a States Blue Pearl 1997 FLHRI Road King (very similar to my 1996 RK) on the sales floor for $16,900 plus taxes and et ceteras (marked $18-something out the door). There were a few differences between this bike and mine, not the least of which was that it only had a few thousand miles on it and was a lot more expensive.
I chatted with the woman at the motorcycle rental counter and picked up some literature. At the Parts counter I found a photocopy of a magazine article about motorcycle parking at various of the hotel properties. The chart said that Palace Station employees would let you park in the valet parking area in exchange for a tip.
As I left the store, I noted a Sprint PCS van in the parking lot and a guy up on the roof working on some cellular antennas. It looked like a fairly recent installation that had not yet been "turned on." I did not have a "full-scale" signal on my Sprint PCS phone but I bet I will the next time!
It was still awfully hot so I drove back to the hotel and got back to the room about 1:30 p.m. A little CNN, a little map-reading and some rest.
I was back downstairs and checked in for the tournament at 3:30 p.m. The results of the first session were posted, and I was in 96th place. The 4:00 p.m. session actually started 5 minutes early but 20 minutes is 20 minutes. My score this time was 7676 and included a red-white-and-blue 7-7-7 which would have been quite valuable had it been played with real money.
I wandered the casino and checked out the Sports Book. Quite spacious. I loitered near the entrance of the Pasta Palace and my Uncle found me. We all had salad and various pasta specialties. I enjoyed my Sui Sui (baked rigatoni) very much, although there was too much to finish and I wished this hotel equipped its rooms with refrigerators so that I could take it with me.
While they gambled a little, I went up to the room to get my car keys and then followed them back to their apartment a short-distance away. When we arrived there, someone else's car was parked in their spot. (This is the second time this has happened while I have been with them.)
They gave me the grand tour of their really nice new apartment. We had some refreshments and caught each other up on family activities. I left there about 9:35 and got back to the hotel in time to take a shower and watch TV before going to bed.
Tuesday, May 23. I was awake at 6:something with chilly feet and up at 7:55 a.m., watched a little CNN, got more ice for my orange juice (did I mention I wished the hotel had refrigerators?) and told the maid I didn't need anything.
I was downstairs shortly after 9:00 a.m. and checked the standings. After the second round I had moved up to 73rd place!
I decided to walk across the street for some exercise and to Mc Donald's for some breakfast. It was very warm for this early in the morning.
Back in the casino, I was playing a quarter machine when I hit a "special" four of a kind ( 7 2 2 2 2 ) for 200 coins, then another four of a kind ( 7 7 7 7 9 ) for 125 coins, then a full house. I was able to put away $100, right after they filled the hopper.
I checked in at 11:00 a.m. for the next tournament session. My score at this session was a whopping 10686 points, including several 7-7-7s of various color combinations. The employee who documented the score had never seen a score this high. I calculated my final score to be 25,456 points. We were told to return at 1:00 p.m. for the results.
Nearby were roulette and craps tables, so I watched a little of each for a while. They both seem to move too fast for me, but it could be because I don't completely understand the rules of play. On another trip I'll have to attend their free gaming lessons and/or watch some lessons on the hotel television.
I returned to the tournament area and the results were posted shortly after 1:00 o'clock. I had won third prize and was awarded $300. That was nice.
I called my friend John G. in Saratoga to wish him a happy birthday and we marveled at the technology that allows such calls to go through so well for free ("included!").
I asked at the Bell Desk about motorcycle parking and was told that the valets might let you park nearby (in the sun!). Although it's doubtful I'll ever ride my bike to Las Vegas, it would be better to park in the garage, at least during the hottest part of the year.
I got back to the room at 2:00 p.m. and turned on CNN while resting. The maid wanted to give me more towels but I told her I was fine.
San Jose friends Bob and Linda were supposed to be arriving in town sometime this afternoon so I drove to the Stratosphere Tower Hotel & Casino and watched the activities in the "transportation center" for about an hour. Lots of activity: private cars, buses, shuttles and cabs, fairly well choreographed, everyone working together to get people into and out of the hotel. I later discovered that I'd missed Bob and Linda by less than an hour.
I drove down The Strip to Paris but decided not to go in, choosing instead to make a U-turn and go back to Treasure Island. I parked in the garage and walked (several miles, it seemed) through the casino, then found a good place to wait for the 5:30 p.m. pirate battle at Buccaneer Bay. It shouldn't be a surprise to anyone that the Americans won the battle and the British ship went down. The show doesn't last long but it's always exciting.
I returned to Palace Station and was back in my room at 6 p.m. to find a voice mail message from Neil, so I called him back and we talked about newsgroups and how he can access them. I could be of no help because I am not knowledgeable about his Internet Service Provider.
I was hungry so I went downstairs to The Broiler for a nice prime rib dinner. Service was a little slow but the 10% discount made up for that. I was back in the room a little before 8 p.m., took a shower and watched a little television.
Neil called again and said he'd made some progress with Usenet newsgroups and would continue to try. I watched some more television and then went to bed about 10 p.m.
Wednesday, May 24. I was awake at 5:15 a.m. and decided that I might as well get up and get going. I packed and was downstairs at 5:41 a.m. Checkout was painless and I was in the car and on the road at 5:49 a.m. It was 88 degrees in the car in the parking garage, 82 degrees when I got moving on the freeway. I stopped at the Jack-in-the-Box on Tropicana west of I-15 for a Number 15 with orange juice. (I don't want the potatoes but the "meal" price is cheaper, so I toss the hash browns.)
Next stop, 90 miles and 90 minutes later: the Mad Greek Cafe in Baker for a fresh strawberry shake at 7:20 a.m. Wow!
I found "Highway Country" on the radio at 101.5 FM.
Another 62 miles to Barstow and fuel at the Chevron Station (Hy 247 - Barstow Rd.). The car had been pinging so I gave it a tankful of Unleaded Plus, just this once.
A short distance west of Barstow I was aware of a sign for the community of Hinkley, made famous in the movie about the legal clerk, starring Julia Roberts.
"Highway Country" is actually three radio stations, and I had to change to 100.1 FM when the first one started fading.
There was quite a bit of road work going on along Hy 58 west of Barstow.
"Highway Country" 107.3 worked pretty well for quite a ways but I lost it west of Tehachapi.
I made the turn in Mojave at 9:25 a.m. and saw a sign that said "Interstate 5 - 82 miles." There was more road construction work in several places.
I arrived in Bakersfield about 10:20 a.m. and stopped at Thorp's Harley-Davidson on 18th Street. Since it was about the same time of day as my last car trip, the same clerk ("Shelley") was on duty. I purchased a small bar-and-shield pin and an oil filter wrench and continued on my way.
Every time I make this trip I wonder why Hy 58 zig-zags through Bakersfield and Rosedale - urban and rural - and there's no bypass, but I would imagine there's no money available to build any more highways.
I got onto northbound Interstate 5 at 11:30 a.m. As usual, the drive was uneventful, save for the sign an hour and a half later saying that there was an accident on Hy 152 in Santa Clara County.
I made the transition to westbound Hy 152 and stopped shortly thereafter at the San Luis Truckstop for fuel. It was 73 degrees and quite windy when I left at 1:30 p.m.
Sure enough, we were detoured to Hy 156 by Caltrans and CHP units at the Don Pacheco Y, but I didn't mind because I had intended to stop in Hollister anyway. There was a lot more traffic than there would have been, but I managed to get through it.
I found Hollister Harley-Davidson but they were not yet open. So I proceeded back up the main drag and stopped at Ranch Gas for a hot dog and a drink (99 cents). I was barely able to hear KCBS 740 AM report that the accident on Hy 152 was an overturned gasoline tanker that got mixed up with a truck hauling live chickens and the cleanup had been in progress for several hours.
Just south of Gilroy I took the "scenic route" down Old Bolsa Road and then got back on Hy 101 at the south end of town.
I'll skip the parts about the grass fire on Hy 101 near Bernal Rd., the ordeals at the pet store and at the car wash, the quick trip to the grocery store and the bank.
It was 76 degrees as pulled into my driveway at 4:43 p.m.; 561 miles and just under 11 hours for this portion of the trip; a total of 1143 miles on the odometer.
Another successful trip!