Las Vegas November 2002 Trip

by Dave Schultheis

This was another of my periodic car trips to Las Vegas to get away from it all. One of the hotel casinos had invited me to come and stay for free, so I agreed to take them up on their kind offer.

Saturday, November 23, 2002

I had set the alarm so that I could get on the road early, but I woke even earlier, got up and dressed, did some household things, loaded the car and got on the road at 5:30 a.m.

My neighbor Debra had baked brownies (just the way I like them!) and left them in the car for me to find. What an excellent way to start a trip!

There was very little traffic as I drove to the post office to mail some bills, then hopped on the freeway for the trip to southern Nevada. You can skip the next few paragraphs if you're not interested in the route.

One of the reasons for the early start was that I would be going a little out of the way to get a few photos of California highway signs along the way, and I still wanted to get to Las Vegas in reasonable time. I started southbound on CA Highway 85, then southbound on U.S. Highway 101, passed through Gilroy about 6:30 a.m., turned eastbound on CA Highway 152 and northbound on CA Highway 33 into and through Santa Nella.

Unfortunately, it was early morning in California's great central valley in November, and this meant fog. It wasn't too bad in most places, but got worse in others, so I kept a reasonable speed for conditions, always prepared to take evasive action if needed.

I turned eastbound on CA Highway 140 through Gustine, took a photo opportunity, then turned southbound on CA Highway 165 through some particularly dense areas, took a photo opportunity where it was safe to do so, and then another for a better picture, then got back onto eastbound Hy 152 in Los Banos.

The fog had thinned considerably as I reached CA Highway 233, pulled over for a phone call and a photo opportunity, then drove a few more miles and merged onto southbound CA Highway 99 near Chowchilla.

In Madera, a short distance down Hy 99, I called Al in Fresno to let him know I was coming, and then pulled off the highway at Olive Avenue, drove a short block west, and met Al and his friend Mike (and their bikes) at Al's Cafe (no relation) for an excellent breakfast.

When we finished, Mike had someplace to go, so I followed Al southbound on Hy 99 and eastbound CA Highway 180 to Mathews Harley-Davidson, in downtown Fresno. They have a nice small store with plenty of parking, old bikes on display in the loft (with more in the basement). I didn't find anything that I couldn't live without.

I walked across the street to take a CA Highway 41 sign photo, and snapped a shot of Al leaving on his 2001 FXST, then hopped back on the road again at 9:45 a.m., took a Hy 180 photo, then got a better Hy 41 sign, and continued southbound on Hy 99.

About an hour later I stopped in Goshen at one of my favorite dealerships, Visalia Harley-Davidson, but alas, they didn't have anything special on the bargain table.

Back on the road again, I stopped for fuel and highway sign photos in Tulare, then continued south on Hy 99, skirted part of Bakersfield on CA Highway 204, turned east on CA Highway 58, took a photo at CA Highway 184 ("Weedpatch Highway"), and later CA Highway 223 (near Caliente), CA Highway 202 (near Tehachapi), and CA Highway 14 in Mojave.

It is still necessary to drive through "downtown" Mojave in order to continue east on Hy 58, but traffic wasn't too bad at the time of the morning I was there. Just after "the big left turn," I noticed that the sign on the airplane at Mojave Airport now includes their web site address.

However, Hy 58 was full of horrible slow drivers in the fast lane. I kept reminding myself that no matter how bad it was, it was still better than standing in line at the airport metal detectors.

Through the two-lane sections in San Bernardino County (near Kramer Junction and then from east of Hinkley into Barstow) (grrrr!) and northbound on Interstate 15, where there were even more horrible slow drivers in the fast lane. Oh, well, it's better than getting "wanded" and "shoe inspection" at the airport.

As I entered Nevada, I stopped at the "Las Vegas Fashion Outlet" (which is over 30 miles south of the city), to get something for a friend at work, but when I called her on the phone for the particulars, she wasn't home, so that part was a bust.

Back on I-15, I took Exit 33 at NV Highway 160 ("Blue Diamond Highway"), drove over the freeway and parked at the Silverton Hotel & Casino at 4:20 p.m. I carried my bag through the casino to the hotel front desk and registered; they gave me ("card-") keys to Room 4082, one of those that had recently been refurbished.

This was to be a free night, so I knew I would enjoy it, but I was happy to find a clean room with two Queen beds, a nice easterly view of the pool out the window, a big picture of a bear on the wall (?), and something I haven't seen before, a shower curtain rod that was bowed out to allow for more room. Those of us with broad shoulders appreciate the consideration.

After stowing my overnight gear, I went back to the car, compared fuel prices at two Chevron Stations about 1/2 mile apart, and bought gas at $1.39 instead of $1.43 per gallon.

I drove to the Gold Coast Hotel and Casino on Flamingo Road, signed up for a players card, got my a free gift ("silver" frame) and tried to get tickets to the "Honky Tonk Angels" show later in the evening, but was thwarted at every step. The bottom line is that they made it much more difficult than necessary, telling me that they didn't want my business. If I tell the whole story, I'll just get angry again, so I'm going to "let it go."

But I got my revenge. I put "some money" into a quarter machine and lost it, but then I put "some more money" into a dollar machine and on my first push (I don't "pull," I "push" to avoid "tennis elbow"), the response was "7," "7," and "double," and paid $160. A few moments later I got "double," "bar," and "bar," which paid $20, so moments later I cashed out and put $200 away, never to be touched again on this trip. Thanks, folks!

Just east on Flamingo Road is the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino, part of the Harrah's family, and parked in the Masquerade Garage (east side of the property). For an easy walk across the pedestrian bridge to the Masquerade Village, park on the 4th floor of the garage.

I browsed the Las Vegas Harley-Davidson clothing store, but preferred the tee-shirt shop where a sign indicated "two shirts for ten dollars." The only clerk in the store was enjoying a personal phone call. I chose a nice "Las Vegas" shirt for my neighbor and one for myself, and took them to the clerk, still involved in the phone call. I had to interrupt her to point out the "two for $10" sign, since she rang them up at full price. Such is the state of retail help in (certain parts of) America in the 21st century.

The Rio casino has not always been lucky for me, and I lost a few dollars, but I found a dollar machine that gave me a white seven, a red seven and another a white seven. Too bad it wasn't "red, white and blue," for it would have been a bigger payout, but I was happy with the $50 I was given. Again, I put away a bunch o' dollars, never to be touched again this trip.

I drove back (by way of Wendy's) to the Silverton, where I had some dinner and enjoyed Debra's excellent brownies while watching "Golden Eye." During a commercial break I called my sister in the Phoenix area, wished her Happy Birthday and caught up with how they're doing.

After the movie I went down to the casino for about an hour, changed my financial position slightly, then returned to the room, took a shower and went to bed around 11:30 p.m., while listening to "New Country,"KWNR 95.5 FM.

Sunday, November 24, 2002 - Clark County, Nevada

I slept well, was awake around 6:30 a.m., got up about 9:00 o'clock, dressed and packed, and checked out of the Silverton about 10:10 a.m. This was the fastest and easiest checkout I have ever experienced. Ever! And it was free! What a deal.

People laugh when I tell them I signed up for a players card. I don't laugh when the result of that signup is free stuff!

Every time to visit Las Vegas, I try to learn something and find places I haven't visited previously. In this case, I drove eastbound on Blue Diamond and then north on Las Vegas Boulevard ("The Strip").

Lordy, lordy, I found a brand new Fry's Electronics store about to open at the northwest corner of Las Vegas Boulevard and Interstate 215, next to Vacation Village (closed). I drove into the parking lot and saw a sign truck near a soon-to-be erected Fry's sign facing Interstate 15. I hope the residents of Clark County shop wisely.

Just down the Boulevard, near the Metropolitan Police Southern Command building at Russell Road, I found the Glass Pool Inn, which had been featured in an article that I'd read somewhere. This was quite a fancy place in its day, but had gone to seed in recent years. It was mostly single-story with a few second floor rooms, all looking quite raggedy.

(The link above will take you on a Google search for Glass Pool Inn, where you should find several interesting articles about the facility.) The prominent feature of the place, which is across from and south of the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino, is the above-ground cement-and-plaster pool with large portholes facing the parking lot. To their credit, the water appeared clean and beautiful blue.

Since I was so close, I pulled into the parking garage at Mandalay Bay, then wandered about looking for the players club, which they've combined with other properties and renamed Club One. In this case, there was not a lack of signage but incorrect signage, pointing the wrong direction. I found some Casino Hosts and asked them to point out the problem to management.

After getting my old card exchanged for a new one, I sat down at a dollar machine and, after a few pushes, fourpled my money with a blue seven, another blue seven and a white seven.

Then, not unlike what people do at the scene of a train wreck, I stood looking at a quarter slot machine called "Chainsaws and Toasters." No, I cannot explain "why," but learned that chainsaws were "5 times pay" and toasters were wild. I didn't do quite as well at this machine and quit before I lost all my money.

Back out to the street, I happened across an Las Vegas Metropolitan Police car with their web site address.

Las Vegas Harley-Davidson was having a tent sale, but since I didn't have a trailer hitch, I decided not to spend too much time looking at overpriced chrome-festooned barges ( TL Mitchell). Although I'm sure they were all very nice.

I've been to Las Vegas H-D many times and it's always a treat. (The fact that they have a Wendy's right next door doesn't hurt!) It's such a huge place with a huge parking lot and huge stock of merchandise. And sometimes I even spend money there!

They had numerous motorcycles for sale under the tents in the parking lot and many more inside. I did not count them, but would guess at somewhere near one hundred.

To the rear of the store, near the Parts Department, the Harley Owners Group bulletin board and the restrooms, I found several bargain tables, filled with what appeared to have been discontinued merchandise and parts that had been ordered but never picked up.

This is the type of thing where "you gotta be there and you gotta know what you're lookin' at." There may have been many more items that would have fit my Road King, but I was very happy with the ones that I found; front and rear turn-signal visors with the Fat Boy logo for about half price.

Back over to the west side, I stopped at Wolf Camera on Decatur at Sahara and dropped off a little plastic camera for processing. Then I found a combination Tower Records and Good Guys store (on Sahara?) but they did not have the TV Guide television theme song CD that I was trying to find.

I then stopped at Palace Station Hotel & Casino, one of my favorites, checked my Boarding Pass points balance, and gambled for a while. I changed my financial position a little, but had a good time doing it.

A little after 3 p.m. I parked on the third level of the west parking garage at Treasure Island Hotel and Casino, walked across the pedestrian bridge, down the escalator and through the casino to the hotel front desk.

They had mailed me a flyer offering an "Amazing Rate" of $39 a night, and I had reserved a room for three nights. I would not stay at this hotel at their normal rate, not because it's not worth it, but because I'm "thrifty."

After a short wait at the "invited guests" window, my old "Treasure Island" card was replaced with a new "MGM-Mirage" card, good at several different properties.

To ensure that I would be able to see the periodic evening performances of the "pirate battle" at "Buccaneer Bay" in front of the hotel, I asked for a "battle view" room and was assigned Room 27054. I was told that the room wasn't clean yet but that they should be done soon and I should proceed upstairs.

There were two elevator lobbies, each serving a different set of floors, so I found the proper lobby with an elevator that would take me to the 27th floor. I later discovered that these elevators served six non-smoking floors.

I stowed my stuff and asked the housekeeping person if I could have an extra blanket. As is often the case, I was told in Spanglish that I should "call Housekeeping" on the telephone, which I did later.

Down to the casino floor, I checked at the players club, and after confusing me with someone else, the clerk found my account and told me I had seventy points. I don't know what that means but it sounded fine to me.

I discovered that there was no 4 p.m. pirate battle and that the first one would be at 5:30 p.m. I could have sworn that they started at 4 p.m.

I found a friendly quarter machine nearby and after a short time got a red seven, another red seven and another red seven, for a gain of 120 coins. Later I got a double bar, double bar, double bar (20 coins), then a red seven, blue seven, red seven (40 coins), triple bar, triple bar, triple bar (30 coins), a Quicksilver, blue seven and red seven (80 coins), and then a white seven, blue seven and white seven (40 coins). I decided to quit at 300 coins, nearly doubling my initial "deposit." It was fun and I put the money away.

I went back up the room a little before 5 p.m. to sit and relax and to survey the room a little more closely. It contained an iron and ironing board, an in-room safe, a big color television set in a big wooden armoire and a nice large bathroom . The closet had lights automatically activated by four small spring switches. I guess it's these little touches that make the rooms so expensive, not that this was my concern at the rate I was paying.

[A sign in the closet said that this room rented for as much at $999 per night.]

I've watched the pirate battle from ground level many times but never from up high, so looking down from the 27th floor was a new experience. They purposely don't let you open the hotel windows very much, so it was hard to hear the dialog, but I know the script fairly well by now. Of course the explosions (oops, you did know there were explosions, didn't you?) were exciting, but it's not possible to see very much from way up high.

I hung around in the room, catching up with my notes and CNN for about an hour, then went downstairs to find a place to stand for the 7 p.m. pirate battle. I got another perspective on the battle by standing in a different place than I've stood before. As usual, it was a good show, though brief (it's about 10 minutes). I stayed outside and watched people for a while, then went into the casino and found a half-dollar machine. I was not very lucky.

About 8 o'clock I went outside to find a place to watch the 8:30 p.m. show. I got a page from my brother and returned the call but the line was busy several times. Show over, I walked down the sidewalk to The Mirage Hotel & Casino and watched the volcano eruption (oops! you did know that there was a volcano eruption every 15 minutes, didn't you?).

My brother's line was still busy as I walked back to Buccaneer Bay for the 10 o'clock show. I found another good place to stand and watch, and talked with a couple from Wisconsin before the show began.

After the show, I got back to my room at 10:20 p.m., got some ice, turned on CNN, took a shower and went to bed about 11:00 o'clock. Being the daring type, I left the curtains open but closed the sheers.

I noticed four or five small cigarette burns in the carpeting between the window and the armoire. It was disappointing that the hotel staff had neither seen nor repaired them.

Continued in Part Two

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Created on April 10, 2003. Last updated on April 15, 2003.
David W. Schultheis, San José, Silicon Valley, Santa Clara County, California, USA