The week between "Comdex" (the big trade show) and Thanksgiving has proven to be a good time for me to visit friends and see new things in Las Vegas. This year was no exception.
Sunday, November 19, 2000
I was up and around at 5:42 a.m. After having packed the night before, all I had to do was to put my stuff into the car while it was warming up. I also double-checked the tires after making an air pressure adjustment the day before.
I left my driveway at 6:30 a.m. The outside temperature was 33 degrees Farenheit. It was smooth sailing up Almaden Expressway, then southbound on CA 85, then southbound U.S. 101. A few other hardy souls were out on Sunday morning, but not many.
In the South County (Morgan Hill-San Martin-Gilroy) area, I enjoyed a beautiful pre-sunrise sky with several contrails from high-flying aircraft. This was complemented by the steam from a huge pile of compost on the east side of Hy 101 north of San Martin Avenue.
As I made the transition onto eastbound CA 152 in Gilroy, I was greeted with the sight of two Highway Patrol cars entering the highway from their office on Renz Lane; one turned west and the other proceeded east. It was many miles before I saw any more of them.
The light traffic condition continued into Pacheco Pass and by Casa de Fruta. Along about Bell Station it looked like a duffel bag or suitcase had exploded (or maybe jumped out someone's window), there were shirts and jeans in the traffic lanes. You never know what you might find on the highway in California.
By 7:44 a.m. I had made the 71 miles to Interstate 5. This trip I had chosen to continue eastbound on CA 152. There was a little stop-and-go through Los Banos, and I stopped at McDonald's for some juice and a breakfast bagel, then continued east.
Another half hour or so and CA 152 ended as it merged onto southbound CA 99. I had remembered Hy 99 as being kind of bumpy from all the truck traffic, and it was, but there were also some very smooth sections.
On the outskirts of Fresno I saw a Harley-Davidson sign saying to take the Shaw exit, so I did. Harley-Davidson of Fresno is just east of the freeway. Of course they were closed on Sunday, but I enjoyed the signs in the parking lot "please leave quietly." Back on CA 99, I spotted a sign "Bakersfield 106 miles."
Just before 9:30 a.m. I pulled up at Visalia Harley-Davidson, just off the freeway at Betty Drive. This is a large dealership, closed on Sunday, with a sturdy iron fence surrounding the property.
I pulled into a rest stop at 9:45 a.m. (203 miles) and took advantage of a trash can and the porcelain facilities. I noticed two recreational vehicles at a sanitary dump station on the way out, proud that my tax dollars are helping in some small way.
In Bakersfield I made the transition to easbound CA 58 and then pulled off the freeway for fuel a short while later at a Chevron Station at Weedpatch Highway (CA 184) and Brundage Lane, near the east end of Bakersfield.
As I reentered the freeway, I noted the outside temperature was 54 degrees F and a big sign said "Tehachapi 31, Mojave 53, Barstow 122."
On the outskirts of Tehachapi I was able to pick up 107.3 FM, Highway Country to keep me company along the way.
In keeping with my decision to try a different route this trip, I turned off Hy 58 west of Mojave and drove east toward California City. I stopped (330 miles) at a Rite Aid store on California City Boulevard and Hacienda Boulevard to get a birthday card for my sister. Just as I discovered that the California atlas was not in the car, my friend Glenn called on the cellular phone to see what my progress was. Since he was sitting at his computer, he was able to tell me that the post office was a block north of my present location. With a little bit of pointing and clicking, he was also able to direct me to continue east on California City Blvd so that I could rejoin CA 58 east of Mojave.
There is nothing wrong with driving through Mojave, but it is a slight bottle-neck, so this help was very much needed and appreciated!
I thanked Glenn and went into the Rite Aid. I found a birthday card and then realized that I'd be needing a stamp, so I asked the clerk where I could buy one. She was kind enough to give me one, which I very much appreciated.
Now I must point out that I try to plan ahead on these things. I usually keep an atlas in the trunk but I later found out I had accidentally put it in another vehicle. I keep extra stamps in each car but the ones I had were "H" stamps from a former price increase, and I didn't remember their value. If they were 32 cents, the post office would return the greeting card for additional postage and it wouldn't get there on time.
So I addressed the card, dropped it at the post office and continued eastbound on California City Blvd. several miles and then turned eastbound on CA 58 again, where I was greeted with a sign that said "Barstow 55 miles."
The highway has some four-lane sections and some two-lane sections. It's irritating enough when people insist on driving right at the speed limit in the fast lane of a four-lane road and it's even more irritating when you get behind a slow-poke or a big truck when there are only two lanes. I looked for a place to pull over and donate to the San Bernardino County Roads department, but there wasn't any.
I often stop for fuel in Barstow but didn't need any this time, so I stayed on the freeway and went around the city.
A while later it was time for (arguably) the highlight of the drive: a stop at the Mad Greek Cafe in Baker for a fresh strawberry shake. It was 1:52 p.m., 460 miles into the trip.
A little more than a half hour later I crossed into Nevada and parked at the Fashion Outlet in Primm (511 miles) where I visited my friends at the Harley-Davidson outlet and found both a tee-shirt and a denim shirt on sale.
I had already programmed the car radio for KWNR 95.5 FM, so I almost felt like I was at home.
It's another 45 miles into Las Vegas, where I took the Sahara Avenue offramp, unaware that Sahara Avenue had been closed for road work by the Nevada Department of Transportation, so I used my limited knowledge of the area to get around the closure and arrived at the parking garage at Palace Station a little after 3:30 p.m., 557 miles into the trip.
I checked in at the VIP lounge, where they asked if I wanted to order movies in the room (no) and if I wanted to put restaurant meals on my room tab (yes); each of these preferences was put into their computer and then they had me sign to acknowledge that phone calls are 75 cents. It's amusing to me what hotels have done to combat perceived abuses of their "hospitality."
I was issued plastic room "keys" and sent upstairs to room 8013. I've stayed on the eighth floor (completely "no smoking") before but haven't had a northern exposure before; they usually have me facing the parking garage. From the window I could clearly see the intersection of Sahara Avenue and Interstate 15 including the road closures and various pieces of construction equipment.
Upon checking into a hotel, I always check the television set (CNN is not where they say it is, but it's there), the bedside clock (wrong time-fixed) and the curtain (closes all the way-yippee!). I also found a door to the adjoining room (not needed) but interesting to know that they have some rooms that are so-equipped.
Voice mail is provided on your room telephone, so I programmed my mail box with pass code and incoming message, then called my friend Neil R. but was not able to reach him.
I bounded downstairs to the casino, slapped my Boarding Pass (players card) into a slot machine and saw that I had 8032 points. (I'm just glad they still remember me!) Then I went back to the parking garage and retrieved my ice chest and put it in the room.
I called Dave M. and found that he and the family were just cleaning the house. They'd be happy to have me come out, so he gave me directions to meet him at the (nearby) grocery store (just off the freeway and very easy to find).
They live quite a bit north of The Strip area but it didn't take me long to get there. I found Dave and Joel in line at the checkout of a huge Albertson's grocery store. The place was packed, which they tell me it often is, as there aren't very many grocery stores for the large number of new families in the area.
I followed him back to their big beautiful new home, with four-car garage and many excellent features. In keeping with the electronic age, the whole neighborhood is cable-ready, which includes Internet service. All four of them can be on-line at the same time, and the phone can still be used at the same time. I was very impressed, since I struggle with a single phone line for both voice and data (how very twentieth-century!).
They put on a wonderful steak and salad dinner with mashed potatoes, bread and vegetables as we caught up with the doings over the past several years.
I got a page while there (thank you Metrocall ) and checked voice mail (thank you Sprint PCS); it was a message from my other local friend.
As the evening drew to a close, I bid my farewells and headed back to my hotel, with a short stop at a nearby Chevron station and another short stop at Santa Fe Station, recently aquired by the Station Casinos people. I was back at my hotel about 10:30 p.m. and back in the room a little before 11:00 p.m.
I checked voice mail and Neil had left a message saying he was not feeling well but that Monday evening (the next day) would probably be good. I called and left a message on his voice mail, took a shower and went to bed.
Monday, November 20, 2000
I hadn't slept well; my feet were cold and I had a slight headache. I was up and moving, had some juice, turned on CNN, washed my face and combed my hair before I realized then when I had pushed the "sleep" button on the bedside clock the night before, I had also moved the time forward two hours and it was really only 5:10 a.m.
Oh, well, (that's what you say when you're in your advanced years,) that's the way it goes. I had already planned for this to be a "travel day," so I went over my maps and prepared for a jaunt north on Interstate 15 to Utah.
Before leaving the hotel, I stopped at the casino at 5:45 a.m. (hooray! not crowded) and found a 50 cent machine that I liked. I watched lots of work in progress; several employees were moving machines and tearing up carpeting for some unknown project. Others were emptying the plastic buckets under the slot machines into other containers. They had a golf-cart-like machine that pulled several carts full of plastic tubs filled with coins and escorted by several maintenance and security employees; now I know what a "money train" looks like.
My session ended with a big seven, another big seven and a Wild Cherry, followed by some clinking; I put away my winnings and was in the car at 6:30 a.m.
I spent a few minutes looking for the new location of Amateur Electronic Supply but couldn't find it. Every phone booth I could find had the phone book either vandalized or gone, so that didn't help.
Just for fun, I drove by the FBI office on East Charleston and was surprised to see the roof positively bristling with antennas. (I've been by the San Jose FBI office and they have only one visible antenna.) Since they were closed, and I'm pretty sure they don't give tours, I continued.
I got on northbound I-15 at 6:45 a.m. The AAA map says it's 122 miles from Las Vegas to St. George, Utah, and now I can verify that. After you leave the city, it's miles and miles of nothing but miles and miles of nothing. Wide open spaces with a 75 miles per hour speed limit, a few train movements and some sagebrush. I passed a Nevada Highway Patrol unit in a Camaro in the divider strip, but he didn't bother me because my cruise control was set at 75.
Approaching the Arizona state line I encountered the city of Mesquite, NV, right at the border. There are some casinos and other businesses near the freeway and the city spreads out a little from there.
"Welcome to Arizona" and "Entering Mountain Time Zone" signs are followed quickly by the Virgin River Gorge, complete with signs warning about gusty crosswinds. The sheer rock faces climb from nothing to huge and imposing, but between the wind and the road, I didn't have too much time to admire the beauty; it was more important to be a safe driver.
This 30-mile section of I-15 cuts across the northwest corner of Arizona and does not seem to be connected to any other highway, just small roads. As such, I don't know how the Arizona Highway Patrol covers it, but they do; I saw at least one AHP car during the trip. They must have resident officers working in that area.
Pretty soon I passed the Arizona-Utah port of entry (truck inspection facility) and at 8:27 a.m. (stomach time) I pulled in to the parking lot of JB's restaurant in St. George. I had been up for three hours and was hungry. Their "all you can eat breakfast" for $4.29 sounded pretty good.
The waitress was very friendly, as can be expected in small-town America, and she was kind enough to give me some local landmarks.
As I reflect on it, it was probably the French toast that did me in. It was 9:45 a.m. their time and the food had probably been sitting out for several hours. I didn't know it then, but I was having a bad day, gastrically speaking. More on this later.
I left the restaurant at 9:01 a.m. for a brief tour of downtown St. George. I quickly found a Rite Aid drug store and got another birthday card for my sister, then realized that I'd left her address back at the hotel. I called my mother on the cellular phone (thank you Verizon Wireless) (although I got billed $4.45 for a 5-minute call while "roaming") and got the address. I found the post office and, of course, there were numerous customers waiting for too-few clerks, but they were small-town friendly. It turns out that my "H" stamps are 33 cents, so I had wasted my time in line, but I was glad to know that the card would get to its destination without having to come back for more postage.
As I headed east on St. George Boulevard for Intertate 15, I observed two of St. George's finest on Harley-Davidson motorcycles, all bundled up in the 40-degree weather, enforcing traffic laws.
Shortly after entering the freeway I saw a sign "Las Vegas 113 miles."
About 45 minutes later, after driving back into and across that section of Arizona, I stopped in Mequite at the Virgin River Casino.
I had been seated for only a moment at a Wild Cherry slot machine, and as a matter of fact, had only pushed the "spin reels" button twice, when I was greeted with "Wild Cherry," "Wild Cherry," "Wild Cherry." There was no clanging of bells but there were some lights flashing, and a woman casino employee nearby used her radio to report that "we have a mumble at mumble-mumble." Soon another employee came over to verify that I really did have something although it took a moment to determine what. The third "Wild Cherry" was not lined up on the pay line, but I had still won 500 coins, so they said someone would be back in a minute with the money.
I guess the casino employees are kind of inured to this type of thing, but I'm not. Normally I don't like the kind of slot machines that make a lot of racket every time you spin the reels, but this one was a "winner" and there were still no bells ringing or coins dropping. And I couldn't get either of the casino employees to make sounds like bells ringing. Oh, well.
[Now I have to say that these trip reports are not primarily about gambling, but since I do touch on the subject, I feel compelled to explain my method of operation.]
[I work hard in my job and feel entitled to use my money for things that I enjoy. Before I leave on a trip I decide how much I'm going to take for gambling. I use that money sparingly and try a variety of bets on a variety of machines. When I "win," I put the winnings away, never to be touched again on that trip. This policy has served me well. I never go home "broke"; I seldom go home empty-handed and I have pocket money for other things.]
Shortly thereafter a little parade of employees came over and I was paid in folding money, which put a smile on my face, and they all faded back into the woodwork. As per my policy (above), I put the money away.
A few minutes later, on the same machine, with the same original investment, I got another, lesser win, and put away a few more dollars.
After a few more unproductive minutes at a few more machines, I was back in the car at 11:37 a.m., heading back to Las Vegas. Curiously, shortly after entering the freeway, my car's odometer turned over 77777.7 miles.
It took about an hour to get back into the greater Las Vegas area. I checked my friends' neighborhood during daylight and filled in a couple of streets that weren't on my map so that I could find them next time.
I continued back to the city and found myself pulling into the parking lot at Las Vegas Harley-Davidson on Eastern Avenue at 1:27 p.m. I noted lettering on the doors that I had not seen on several previous trips: "please no firearms." The clerk at the Harley-Davidson store at Fashion Outlets had given me a card to present at the dealership for a gift bag, so I stopped at the front counter and was given a plastic bag with a pen, an orange antenna ball, an "L.V. H-D" sticker and some literature cards. There were lots of people milling around lots of bikes on the sales floor, and I noted a small sign saying that there was a private party that evening, so I guess they were getting ready.
For those who haven't read my previous trip reports, they advertise this as the world's largest dealership, and it includes floor space for motorcycles, motorcycle parts, boots, a huge service department, a small diner and a significant representation of Buell motorcycles, but mostly for Motorclothes, official Harley-Davidson clothing for adults and children. They also sell H-D bar stools, H-D dog leashes and collars, and (new this season) H-D skateboards. Another counter is devoted to motorcycle rentals, so I picked up some literature on their current pricing.
As with many other dealers, there were a number of bikes for sale on consignment, including one that had a more-or-less permanently intalled beer cooler on a rack at the rear.
Speaking of motorcycle rentals, I went over to Eaglerider and found that they had moved to a larger shop a few doors down at 5182 South Arville. They now have 50 motorcycles for rent, along with some accessories for sale in the showroom, and the snake still sits in the terrarium, enjoying the afternoon sunshine.
As I continued on my tour of the area, I noted a Terrible Herbst Chevron Station with car wash at the corner of Arville and Flamingo and made note in case I wanted to stop there in the future.
I was back in the room at the Palace Station at 2:30 p.m. suffering a * little* gastric distress. Then a * lot * of gastric distress. I was really sick. It must have been something I'd eaten, possibly eaten too much of. There were several trips to the porcelain ... well, I'll spare the details, but I was really uncomfortable, to say the least.
I knew I wouldn't be able to go anywhere in this condition and that rest would be the best treatment, so I called Housekeeping for extra blankets to keep my feet warm and extra towels just in case. It didn't take long for them to arrive but I had to sign for them, the first time I've ever had a hotel ask me to sign for extra stuff.
A shower was in order, and then rest - warmth - rest, but I didn't sleep well. I woke dozens of times throughout the afternoon, evening and night, with little sleep but many trips to the bathroom.
Tuesday, November 21, 2000
I finally got up at little before 5 a.m. As I caught up with my notes, watched CNN and counted my cash, I felt much better but wondered what had made me so sick, and was thankful that it had been (relatively) short-lived.
Downstairs to the Palace Station casino at 6:15 a.m., I wasn't a big winner but hung in there at a bonus poker machine for over an hour. I did manage to put away a little cash, then went out in the car to the nearby Terrible Herbst for fuel. It was a little early and the car wash wasn't open.
I proceeded to The Strip, parked at Paris Las Vegas and wandered through their "shops" area to the casino. This was the first time I had visited the property since it had opened to the public. The walk through the winding, cobblestone-paved shops area really puts you in the mind of being in the real "Paree," with fancy stores selling French clothes, French bread, and all the rest.
I found a seat in the casino and while moderately successful, had to play the "empty hopper" game: after pushing the "call" button and waiting a long time, someone came to verify that the hopper was empty and called someone else. After another long wait, five people show up, all talking to each other, but none of them talked to me. One of them verified that the hopper was empty and called someone else. After another long wait, two more people came, refilled the hopper, and finally one of them spoke, "Good luck, sir." I put away my money and left.
I was in the car shortly after 9 a.m. and headed south on Interstate 15 a short distance to Blue Diamond Road and the Silverton Casino Hotel and R.V. Resort. I started by getting a players card, then found a machine I liked, hung in there for a long time but finally finished a "non-winner."
From there I proceeded to the MGM Grand, parked in the garage and hiked through the shops area, pausing briefly at the Las Vegas Harley-Davidson clothing store, just to say I'd been there, then continued through their cavernous lobby to the casino. I went out the front door and down the street to M&Ms World, when I realized I'd left my player card at Silverton. So I backtracked through the hotel, noticing that they had two separate areas for checking in and checking out of the hotel, pausing briefly at the lion habitat, and continuing to the garage.
I managed to make it back onto the freeway and back to the Silverton, where I found my card still in the machine and retrieved it.
Back on The Strip, I stopped at Mandalay Bay and headed to the Club Mandalay desk. I told the woman I thought I'd gotten a Club Mandalay card on my last trip, but couldn't find it. She quickly found me in their computer and promptly issued another card. I did the obligatory gambling thing, and hung in there a while but left a "non-winner." Correct that: when I started, the card had 40 points and when I left, the card had 65 points. This could mean I'll get some additional offers from Mandalay Bay and it could mean "bupkus!"
One of the big attractions at Mandalay Bay is Shark Reef. It's quite a walk through the casino and past the shops area, and it's $13.95 per adult, but it was an interesting place to visit. They issue a listening wand to each visitor; you push the proper button to hear a message for whatever you're looking at.
I learned from one exhibit that a group of jellyfish is called a "smack." Now there's something you can use in daily conversation!
Not far down The Strip is the Imperial Palace Hotel Casino, and while it took two trips by to get into their driveway, I found the parking garage, parked and took the elevator to the 5th floor and paid my $6.95 (per adult) to visit The Auto Collections. They had a number of cars that I remember (late 50s Chevrolets and Fords, 1966 VW camper and others), and some cars I didn't remember (Lincoln parade car used by Eisenhower and Nixon). Several of the cars in the collection are owned by Wayne Newton and all of the cars are for sale. Each is clearly marked with the asking price.
Traffic on The Strip is very heavy almost all the time, so it was a difficult task to get down to The Mirage and find a place to park and get over to Treasure Island. I barely made it to Buccaneer Bay in time for the 4:00 p.m. pirate battle. Due to good weather, it was very crowded. It stayed crowded when the show was over, mostly because people ignored the public address announcement suggesting they enter the casino. Many just stood around blocking others from leaving. Oh, well.
Instead of going for the car, I walked down The Strip to Bellagio, to see the water and light show (don't know what the proper name is). It's quite an effort to walk that distance, and it's complicated by the fact that they keep pedestrians out of some intersections by making you walk up and over, then you have to find your way back to street level. Of course, why have signs telling you where the street is when they can make you walk by shops selling all kinds of stuff?
Anyway, I telephoned my friend Neil to see if he was feeling better and he was not. We commiserated about our aches and pains for a while and I told him I'd contact him on my next visit.
The water and light show commenced shortly after 5 p.m. Jets shot water high into the air to a sound track from the late Frank Sinatra. It was a nice show but not too exciting. It might be nice to see what it looks like from the penthouse suite, but that will also have to wait for another visit.
I hurried back down The Strip to Buccanneer Bay and made it in time for the 5:30 p.m. pirate battle. (Incidentally, the British lost again.) I followed their advice and went into Treasure Island and right through to the tram, then to The Mirage to watch the volcano erupt at a few minutes before 6 p.m.
After that I went back to the parking garage and drove back to the Palace Station. I stopped at the Pizza Palace for a slice of pizza and had $2.67 charged to my room, then stopped at Baskin Robbins 31 Flavors inside the hotel for a small cup of ice cream and then went back to the room.
I turned on CNN and Larry King was still talking about the Florida election, so I counted my money and packed most of my stuff in preparation for departure in the morning.
Wednesday, November 22, 2000
I was awake a few times in the night, one of which was a junk page at 4:22 a.m. (gee, I wish Metrocall would fix this problem), then got up at 5:32 a.m. to finish packing. I called about the blankets and they sent someone up to get them.
I was down to the front desk to check out, where they had a slight delay in finding me (?), but I was in the car and on the road at 6:05 a.m. The car said it was 40 degrees F.
About 45 minutes later I stopped in Primm, NV at Whiskey Pete's at the state line. I was back on the road at 7 a.m. Then at 7:40 a.m. I pulled up to the Mad Greek Cafe in Baker, CA for a fresh strawberry shake, then back onto Interstate 15 to Barstow and then onto CA 58.
I took the same route on the return trip as I had on the way over, turning off Hy 58 to California City and then across Hy 14 to Rand's Cutoff and back to Hy 58, completely avoiding the community of Mojave. (There's nothing wrong with Mojave; I'm sure to go through there again.
At about 10:30 a.m. I pulled into the same Chevron Station in Bakersfield where I'd fueled on Sunday, then made a return visit to Thorp's Harley-Davidson, where I couldn't find anything I couldn't live without.
In Bakersfield I got onto CA 204 (Business 99) and then back onto CA 99 heading north. A sign said that Fresno was more than 100 miles away.
I looked forward to my visit to Visalia Harley-Davidson since they would be open on this return trip. Inside the wrought iron fence was the parking lot, striped with orange instead of white lines. [Harley-Davidson's colors are orange and black.] The sign on the door said "Children must be accompanied by an adult." Made me wonder if bikers have to be accompanied by ... wait ... never mind.
The store is huge, with a coin fountain in the middle of the floor, complete with Harley-Davidson logo. There is a snack bar and restrooms. I was pleased to see that they had a bargain table with something I was looking for, an air cleaner insert, on sale, so I bought it. As the young man handled my card transaction, I watched the model train circle the sales floor at ceiling level.
About 40 minutes later, I pulled off Hy 99 at Shaw Avenue and into the parking lot of Harley-Davidson of Fresno, one of two dealers in town. This one has two buildings with three entrance doors. One was service, one seemed to be parts and one seemed to be sales and some other parts, but I wasn't quite sure.
I picked through a bargain bin of chrome parts but could not find anything that I was sure would fit my Road King.
Then I got back on Hy 99 and except for a few fast-lane road-hogs, the trip proceeded at a pretty quick pace.
The transition from NB 99 to WB CA 152 was very smooth, and shortly afterward I saw a sign that said "Gilroy 84 miles." Traffic through Los Banos was pleasant enough, then I zoomed past Interstate 5, CA 33 and the San Luis Reservoir into the Pacheco Pass.
Just west of Casa de Fruta, as I approached the intersection of CA 152 and CA 156, traffic was a mess. This was a get-away day for the Thanksgiving weekend and there was a steady stream of cars heading EB on Hy 152, where they conflicted with lots of cars who wanted to turn south on Hy 156 toward Hollister. There is no signal at this intersection but the CHP had deployed a Traffic Officer to expedite things.
Traffic was backed up intermittently all the way to Hy 101 in Gilroy, and then Hy 101 was backed up several miles. I was surely glad that I was going the "other" direction. I cut off Hy 101 to Monterey Hy (CA 82) and noted there was a lot of traffic there as well.
After two quick stops at the bank and grocery store near my home, I pulled into the driveway at 4:12 pm., with 1477 miles on the trip odometer. Another trip was history.