I spent part of the day packing a few clothing and personal care items into my bag, getting some shirts ready and putting my small plastic cooler into the car. I spent most of the rest of the day coughing, sneezing, blowing my nose and taking daytime colds medication.
Sunday, November 18
Though I did not set the alarm, I awoke to the sound of the heater coming on at 5:44 a.m. I got up and dressed and put my bag and clothes into the car and hit the road at 6:15 a.m.
After quick stops at the bank and then at the grocery store (for colds medications), I started southbound on CA 85 to chilly temperatures and overcast skies. While on Hy 85, the car computer told me it was 43 degrees Farenheit outside.
After turning south on U.S. 101, I was surprised to see men and trucks working in the divider strip on a Sunday morning, but I know that Hy 101 is being widened, and I'm glad to see it being done.
By the time I got to Gilroy and turned east on CA 152, there was quite a bit of fog, and it was heavy at times. Then, after passing the Don Pacheco Y (CA 156) and getting into the four-lane section, I came across some pokey drivers not familiar with the rule "Keep Right Except to Pass."
About the time I reached San Luis Reservoir, it was quite bright although the Sun was not visible for the clouds. I lost Young Country KYCY-FM 93.3 in San Francisco and put the radio on scan. It came up with Kiss Country 93.7 in Fresno.
Keeping a moderate pace in the right lane, I passed CA 33 and was in turn passed by a CHP slick-top patrol car. It was 56 degrees outside. I few minutes later I passed under Interstate 5 but continued east on CA 152. There was still a high overcast.
Shortly before 8 a.m. I stopped in Los Banos for fuel ($1.43 per gallon) and then continued east across the middle of California. About 40 minutes later, I merged onto southbound CA 99.
I passed Fresno about 9 o'clock, Kingsburg about 9:25, Visalia about 9:36 with decreasing visibility due to fog, and pulled into a rest area just north of Tipton shortly before 10 o'clock.
As I got back on SB CA 99, I started losing the Fresno radio station and put it on "seek." It found KCWR-FM 107.1 Real Country in Bakersfield.
Shortly after turning east on CA 58 at 10:46 a.m., I was greeted with so much bright sunshine and warmth that I pulled over at an offramp and took off my jacket.
About 45 minutes later I passed the Tehachapi Loop, then shortly afterwards got into the city of Mojave.
Somewhere along here I lost the Bakersfield radio station so I fired up the CD player and got along just fine.
I decided there was time for a little exploration, so I turned north onto CA 14 for a short way but determined that I could not get to the Mojave Airport from there. If I'd continued, I would have been in Bishop in 180 miles and then in Reno after a few more miles, but that wasn't in the cards, so I returned to CA 58 for a few more blocks, then turned north on Belshaw where the sign said "airport." (Landmarks: Shell Station and Burger King.)
The Mojave post office is a couple blocks down (good photo opportunity), then the airport is a few more blocks. One of the buildings houses the Mojave office of Hall Ambulance (headquarters in Bakersfield). I couldn't find how to get out to where the old airliners are stored, so I returned to Hy 58. I passed a Chevron Station where unleaded regular was selling for $1.35 a gallon and then continued through Mojave and made the big left turn at the traffic signal.
A few blocks from the intersection I spotted another entrance to the airport, just short of the Mojave CHP office, and made a mental note to check it out on the way back.
Highway 58 continues for a long time, and just about the time the four-lane turns into a two-lane, you enter San Bernardino County. Shortly afterwards is Kerman Junction (U.S. 395) where Bishop is still 180 miles north.
There was more 4-lane and more 2-lane, then the sign for Hinkley (one mile), made famous in the movie Erin Brockovich. Another long stretch of 2-lane and then the Lenwood Road traffic signal. Gas stations, gift shops and lots of cars.
There's another 4-lane section, then the road crosses the Mojave River and I merged onto northbound Interstate 15.
Just a couple miles later, just before 1:00 p.m., I pulled off I-15 at CA 247 and onto Barstow Rd. to a Chevron Station for fuel ($1.49 per gallon), a little Mountain Dew and some colds medicine.
As I pulled back onto the freeway and chose I-15 instead of I-40 toward Arizona, I would see a sign showing it was another 50 miles to Baker.
A little while later I passed the Agricultural Inspection station on the southbound side, then came up behind a slowpoke in the fast lane. Although cars were passing her on the right, she didn't think she needed to speed up or pull over. I sat behind her for a while with my left turn signal on, and she finally came to her senses and moved to the right. (Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.)
There were some other pokey drivers that just insisted upon hogging the fast lane. Many of them got passed on the right, by me and many other drivers.
The famous Zzyzx Road offramp is still there. I looked at the sign and compared it with a recent photograph printed in the AAA magazine, but it did not look like the picture was taken in the northbound direction.
The green van ahead of me came upon another idiot (in a white Mercedes) who would not move to the right, no matter what. The green van passed him, then I passed him, and he still sat in the fast lane. I didn't think about it until after I'd passed him, but I should have written down his license number and asked the Highway Patrol to sent him a letter, reminding him about the provisions of Vehicle Code section 21654 (a).
Just before 2 o'clock I took CA 127 off the freeway and stopped at the Mad Greek Cafe in Baker. The car said it was 76 degrees. There was a long line of people waiting in line for lunch seating, so I decided not to wait but to come by again on the way back.
At 2:40 p.m. I passed the California/Nevada border at Primm, NV, home of Whiskey Pete's, Buffalo Bill's, the Primm Valley Resort and the Fashion Outlet.
A few miles later I saw some hang-gliders and then some sail-planes landing just east of the freeway.
Jean, NV, home of the Gold Strike and Nevada Landing hotel casinos and the Nevada Welcome Center, is about 12 miles down the highway.
I punched up KWNR 95.5 on the radio and enjoyed the same high-quality country radio that I've come to expect each time I visit Las Vegas.
I took the Sahara Avenue offramp from I-15 at 3:12 pm. and pulled into the parking lot at Palace Station at 3:15 p.m., 555 miles from home in just under 9 hours.
It's a short walk to the hotel registration desk, where I showed them my "invitation" and found that my reservation was in order. I was assigned non-smoking Room 2061 in the Courtyard. They informed me of the $3 per day energy surcharge and the $1 per day telephone surcharge. The latter entitled me to unlimited local calls and free access to toll-free numbers, a pleasant change from the standard 75 cents for local calls and toll-free access.
I went up to the room and things looked fine. Two queen-size beds, the television worked fine, although some of the channels were mislabeled, the toilet didn't "run," the lights worked. I went down to the car and brought up my bag and hung up the shirts, then set up the voice mail and set the clock on the nightstand to the proper time.
I found a maid and asked about an extra blanket. She told me to call extention 2525, which I did, and they said they'd send one up and I didn't have to be there.
I went down to the Promotion Center in the casino and showed them my "invitation," and they gave me a new "Gold Xtra" card and two free tickets to Laugh Trax, their comedy club, for the 7:30 p.m. show on Tuesday.
Having never been to Laugh Trax before, I followed the signs to see where it was, on the north side of the building, near the Sahara Avenue entrance. I stepped outside to call my aunt and uncle on the phone, but didn't reach them.
As many times as I've been to Las Vegas, I had not yet visited the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino, so I drove over there and parked in their Carnival Parking Garage. I made a couple of phone calls from the top floor of the garage, then entered the casino, located the "Total Rewards" desk and signed up for a player's card. (They found my 1977 Harrah's check-cashing card in their computer.) With the card, I was able to use a special entrance to the Carnival Buffet (fourteen food stations) where I had a nice supper for a little too much money ($17.15). [They also have a Seafood Buffet, which I'll have to try another time.]
After dinner I decided to take the Rio up on their kind offer to "play $100 on us." I played for at least 30 minutes (verified by the woman at the desk as 43 minutes) and they will cover my slot losses. With any luck, I'll receive a voucher in the mail good on my next visit. We'll see.
I made a couple phone calls from the top of the garage, including one to my aunt to confirm that I would see them the next day for dinner.
Upon returning to my room at the Palace Station, I noticed that the extra blanket had been delivered, so I knew I'd be warm that night. Since I had some time, I went down to the front desk to ask about suites available at the hotel, for possible future family travel. The clerk was kind enough to give me [plastic] keys for three different suites, so that I could go up and take a look.
To them a "suite" means a bigger and fancier room with one double bed (could be a Queen, could be a King). In one case, there was a big-screen TV and a wet bar. To me a suite means more than one bedroom and more than one bathroom.
So I returned the keys, thanked the man and went back to the room for a little rest. Later I was back down to the casino, where I experienced the newest innovation, a bar-code printer/reader in some of the slot machines that can accept a "ticket in" for credit and gives you a "ticket out" when you cash out. Presumably this is so that you don't have to actually handle all those pesky coins.
I used a "house phone" from the casino floor to call my room and check out their voice mail system. It's not possible to dial direct, you must give the operator the room number and person's name before they will put the call through. I guess this is for my own protection.
After a little more gambling I was back in my room a little after 9 p.m. where I watched a PBS special on Air Force One, then took a shower and went to bed.
Monday, November 19
I got up just before 7 a.m. and turned on CNN, made a few notes, did some coughing and hacking, reviewed my maps and swapped towels with the maid in the hallway.
While checking the phone book for a local electronic store's address, I discovered that non-emergency 311 is available in Las Vegas, Henderson and Boulder City.
I was down to the car and going at 9:00 a.m., stopped at the AAA office on Charleston Avenue. Parked outside the building was a very nice Harley-Davidson Road King that clearly belonged to an employee from the place it was parked. I admired it and noted a couple things that I might be able to do to my Road King to improve the look. The front desk clerk was kind enough to update my maps and tour book with current copies.
I drove north on Rancho Drive to check on the Santa Fé Station which had signs celebrating its one year anniversary but they were still doing a lot of exterior finish work. I did not win big, so I continued.
We'll be having a family dinner in early January at an Olive Garden on Decatur, so I went by there to make sure I knew exactly where it is located. Then I continued south and wound my way into Amateur Electronic Supply on S. Polaris Avenue. Many streets don't go through because of the railroad tracks, so it's a little hard to find. Best accessed from Tropicana just west of I-15.
AES is mostly a big warehouse and shipping center but they do have a small showroom. I picked up a little literature on current products and listened to Chuck and Art talking to other customers on the phone. I did not find anything that I couldn't live without.
I took Tropicana Avenue across The Strip (Las Vegas Blvd.), went down a ways and turned north on Eastern Avenue, almost to Sahara for my mandatory pilgrimmage to Las Vegas Harley-Davidson. There were many bikes on the floor for sale (and some for rent) and many sale items. Again, nothing that I could not live without.
I stopped at Madison Towers (on Karen near Paradise) to see the floorplans for their new twin-tower residential project and then continued west on Sahara to The Strip and stopped at the World's Largest Gift Shop. Unbelievably enough, the World's Largest Gift Shop did not have "the perfect gift" for anybody on my list.
I stopped briefly at the Stratosphere but discovered that I didn't have my card, so I didn't get any closer than the parking garage.
I returned to my room at the Palace Station about 3 p.m. Since I had noticed that I had not received any pages in the past day and a half, I tested my pager by calling my 800 number. Then I checked for messages. I had received a couple of legitimate messages, some junk pages and the call I had just made. But the pager did not beep.
I called my friend Neil R. and invited him to Laugh Trax on Tuesday evening. He said he'd be glad to go.
Still no page. It became clear that the paging company is charging me for coverage in Las Vegas but not providing service there. At least I can call periodically and see what pages I should have received.
I went downstairs to the casino and found a nice 50 cent machine. My aunt found me and soon my uncle joined us. We were right on time (5:00 p.m.) when Pasta Palace opened its doors for dinner.
When my uncle suggested "Dutch treat," I countered that I had a special coupon that would cover dinner, but he ended up contributing well over two-thirds of the bill. Whatever makes him happy!
We had a nice catch-up visit and a very good dinner. Then we found a couple of their favorite nickel machines and had some fun. I walked them out to the parking garage about 7:30 p.m. and my aunt gave me some of her excellent cookies for my trip home.
After a little more slot play, I went back to my room for a shower, checked voice mail, watched a little television and went to bed.
Tuesday, November 20
I was awake early, still coughing, and got up at 7:39 a.m. I washed and combed while watching/listening to CNN, checked the tour book and dressed and was down to the car a little after 8 o'clock. This was the day I had chosen to visit Hoover Dam.
If you're following on the map, my route was SB Rancho, WB Sirius, SB Decatur, EB Beltway (becomes I-215), SB 515, EB 93. The dam is a few miles east of Boulder City.
There was extra security near the dam, including a roadblock staffed by what looked like a combination of local and State officers. I crossed the dam and stopped at a couple of the parking lots on the Arizona side, then returned to Nevada and parked in the three-level parking garage ($5). I noted that a few motorcycles were parked near the toll-both, so I went over and asked the fee-collector. She said that motorcycles must pay the same fee as cars; but since the bikes are in full view of the toll-both at all times, I would say that's pretty solid security for your five dollars.
The floor of the parking garage is very smooth, so even when walking, the squeak of my tennis shoes sounded like I was walking 35 miles per hour! Because of security concerns, the tour is different from what they've had before. The Discovery Tour is self-guided. If you're lucky, you get to see a Park Docent giving talks at various times, but there don't appear to be any more guided tours.
I did stop at the Hoover Dam Store (gift shop) but declined to pay the $10 for the Visitor Center Tour. I may do that another time
I did my own little walking tour, seeing what I could see, before departing and returning to Boulder City on U.S. 93. I turned onto Nevada Way and drove through downtown Boulder City, then back to Hy 93 and I-515, then took the Boulder Highway offramp and stopped in Henderson for another visit to the Clark County Heritage Museum, paid the $1.50 fee (what a bargain!) and wandered through a little piece of the desert.
I tested my pager again from the pay phone, but still no beep.
The buildings from the middle 1800s are still falling apart, but the buildings dating back to 1910 have been maintained well and have signs to read and buttons to push to hear interpretive remarks. Some of them have motion sensors that tell you everything you ever wanted to know just as soon as you open the door.
On the way back I stopped at a Chevron Station for gas ($1.21) and at the Henderson Harley-Davidson Shop, where nobody spoke a word to me.
I stopped at the Silverton Hotel & Casino on Blue Diamond Road just off I-15. Did not win big.
I returned by way of Desert Inn and Rancho (goes through now) and then back up to the Palace Station on Teddy (road realignments all over the place).
I put stuff away in my room, then went down to the Promotions Center for some explanations about my new Gold Xtra card. They gave me a "P.I.N." for my card and told me a little about redeeming points. I got something to eat at Burger King in the hotel, then went up to my room.
My friend Neil called to say that he would see me about 7 p.m. outside the north entrance and was looking forward to the comedy club visit. So I watched a little CNN, took a short nap, and was down to the casino floor about 6:45 p.m. Neil found me right on schedule as I was watching the valets park the rich peoples' cars. He said that his son had spent some time working as a valet and discovered that a big smile and a good attitude can yield good tips. Hmmmm, maybe something I could do in my old age.
We went into Laugh Traxx and got seated just far enough back so as not to be picked on by the comedians but with a great view of the stage. Besides our free tickets, there was only a one-drink minimum, although pineapple juice and orange juice are both $3.00 (ouch!). Neil and I caught each other up on what was going on in our lives. When the show started, three comedians were featured and I think we got full value for our tickets!
After the show, Neil went home and I went back to my room, watched a little television while packing, took a shower and went to bed.
Wednesday, November 21
I didn't sleep too well, awoke at 3:33 a.m. Went back to sleep. Awoke again at exactly the time my alarm would have gone off at home (!), so I got up, dressed and combed, checked my bill through the television set and checked voice mail. Still no beeps but there were voice mail messages.
I put my stuff into the car, then checked out of the hotel (quick and easy) and was on the road at 6:30 a.m.
It's about a half hour and 42 miles to the California/Nevada border. KWNR was reporting an accident on I-15 in California but when I passed it, they had the details all wrong. I called on my Sprint PCS phone and gave them the correct information but they never updated. No surprise.
I lost KWNR about Halloran Springs overcrossing and switched to Highway Country.
At 7:40 a.m. I pulled into the Mad Greek Cafe and got a couple of XXL tee-shirts for just under $20. They serve a nice breakfast but I like to keep moving, so I got something nearby that I could take with me.
A few miles beyond Baker is Zzyzx Rd., and I checked the picture from the AAA's VIA magazine. Sure enough, the picture was taken from the southbound direction. I could see the same bramble bush in front of the sign at the off-ramp!
I made good progress, passing the agricultural inspection station near Yermo, then through Barstow and back on WB Hy 58. Trucks, trucks, trucks in the two-lane section. Grrrr! I got a junk page near Hinkley, passed the traffic signal at Lenwood Road, the signal at U.S. 395 and got into Mojave about 10:00 a.m.
I turned off Hy 58 onto Airport Road, then onto Sabovich, explored a little, found the former Santa Fé caboose 999003 on display, then back out Belshaw to Hy 58 again, effectively bypassing the traffic signal in downtown Mojave. I still couldn't figure out how to get to where they park the retired airliners; I'll have to work on that.
I passed the scales, then over the Tehachapi Mountains and into Bakersfield. I turned north on CA 204 (Union Avenue) to 18th Street to Thorp's Harley-Davidson, then WB on 18th, NB on Chester, NB 204 and north on CA 99.
I short while later I needed gas, so I pulled off at a Chevron Station in Famoso, but gas was $1.59 per gallon and I knew I could do better. So I stopped in McFarland a little before noon and got gas for $1.29 per gallon. I'm used to seeing different prices at different stations, but a 30 cent difference in the space of a few off-ramps sounds suspiciously like highway robbery!
I continued north on Hy 99 with overcast, grey skies. I stopped at Wendy's in Delano at noon and continued north to Betty Drive in Visalia, then doubled back to Visalia Harley-Davidson, where I found a pair of red and black saddlebags on the bargain table for $250. This is an excellent price, but I needed States Blue Pearl, so I left these for another rider to buy.
I continued north on CA 99 to Fresno, took the Shaw Avenue off-ramp, and got stuck in the worst traffic of the entire trip. I must have sat at the STOP sign for 12 minutes, waiting for the Timid Timmies (I'm sorry, I meant "safe and cautious drivers") to get enough courage to turn left.
Someone from Caltrans and the City of Fresno ought to be forced to sit at this STOP sign, waiting for traffic to clear and recommend a traffic signal or some better way to get through
Once past that debacle, I drove a few blocks to Harley-Davidson of Fresno to find signs on the door that they had moved about a half mile east to 4345 W. Shaw Avenue. It's a big bright new store with a big service department, customer restrooms and no bargain table.
As I got back on the road and headed to NB 99 I was greeted with rain.
About 2:30 p.m. I turned west on Hy 152, where the sign said 35 miles to Los Banos and 84 miles to Gilroy.
In Los Banos it was no longer raining but there was a heavy mist. There was lots of eastbound traffic, since it was the day before Thanksgiving and many people were heading out of town.
I passed under Interstate 5 shortly after 3 p.m. and continued past the San Luis Dam, over the Pacheco Pass and past Casa De Fruta. At the Don Pacheco Y (CA 152 @ CA 156) the eastbound traffic was very heavy.
At this point traffic on EB 152 has the right-of-way and people waiting to turn left onto SB 156 have to wait. There was a big back-up of left turners but an even bigger back up of get-away-Wednesday cars and trucks coming from Gilroy.
They were backed up past the uphill section, past Soap Lake, past Gilroy Foods and onto Highway 101. I took some back roads to avoid the freeway for a ways, but by the time I got back onto NB 101 in Morgan Hill, all three lanes were still backed up. I was glad I wasn't going their direction!
I took the back way into Almaden (Bailey-McKean-Harry Rd.-Almaden Expressway) and got home at 4:32 p.m. This (return) portion of the trip was 553 miles in ten hours.
The entire trip was 1250 miles. Another enjoyable trip, except for the coughing and hacking. And the STOP sign in Fresno.