Monday, December 14, 2015


Note:  This entire trip will not load on your computer all at once.  When you finished skimming for sections of interest, click on "older posts" in the bottom right hand column and you will move along in the trip report.  The report actually moves fairly sequentially in time with posts posted backwards so they can be read in sequential time order.  However, most of the organization is done by topic so folks can skim through what is of not interest.

This was a losing trip, but still a frugal one.  Half way through I was about $1000 down and so I tightened up a bit and only gambled when I was seeding for the next year, or using up freeplay, or with friends.  That helped.  In the end I lost $909 at the gambling table, but overall I paid for it with cheap food, shows, rooms, trips. 

FOOD $207 or $9 a day





SO RUNNING $100 a day total

The airfare was cut because this was a trip tacked on to a family Thanksgiving gathering in Denver.  Only the Vegas to Denver leg added air expense, and most of my air was covered using the Southwest charge card and points.
In the end I played so little at the Four Queens that I probably won't get free offers for weekends again. I'm not even a little disturbed because I'm moving away from staying downtown.
I also think I'm  moving away from a gambling dominated trip.  I loved being out at Red Rock and I may do more of that and push less hard on the gambling.


I did play with my camera this trip, especially after my bankroll dwindled.  Walking from the Orleans to the Gold Coast, I saw more flowers in bloom than I had seen in the desert.




I liked this shot except I cut off the top of the tower.











I managed to get out of downtown and to the Red Rock canyon by noon. I had prepaid at Budget to rent the cheapest car out of the Golden Nugget. With the LDW it was $350 for the week. I tried to use the free upgrade coupon Elizabeth got by signing up for the fast track, but the clerk explained that prepaying means no negotiation on time or on size.

I had neglected to turn back my clock, so I arrived over an hour early, and I could not get a car early.

Again the clerk explained that prepaid folks were assigned a car at the booking time and mine had not even left to come down to the Nugget yet.

Perhaps part of the issue was that so many people were going to the races?? and renting cars to get there. It was crowded.

While I waited, I went for a free Sunday brunch at the Golden Nugget buffet using the poker comps. It was nice to be able to cover that $20 breakfast. The Sunday brunch price escalation of all the buffets in Vegas is a rip off, but this time it was perfect timing for convenience, and I liked finding the smoked salmon and making my favorite of salmon, capers, onions, tomato and creamy horseraddish sauce.

It was also good to get a nice carafe of coffee in me and enough food that I was fully prepared to take the Calico hike in Red Rock Canyon and actually held me satisfied all day, with just a couple bananas and some nuts around supper time.

I arrived back at the car desk at a quarter to nine, but I had a half hour wait in line.

The clerk was apologetic that I had been there early and then had to wait when I came back. Perhaps that is why she freely upgraded me to a Kia Soul?? in spite of what she had explained about prepaid cars.

This car was was $120 a day if booked last minute.

The value of good preplanning was clear in the car rental. I prepaid for a good rate.

For peace of mind I paid an extra $150?? for the week by getting the Loss Damage Waiver. For many this seems silly, but I caused a huge amount of damage recently just by driving my own van up on a curbing. My deductable was $500. Another claim this soon would certainly raise my insurance rates.

Also, I hate the scratch and damage game some of the rental places play where they find damage not caused by the renter, sometimes as much as a month later (after insurance claims are hard.)

Also, I am put off by the rare but possible Loss of Value charge and annoyed by the credit card insurers who demand an inventory of cars from the rental company before paying the daily charge on the car while it is being fixed, an inventory the rental company does not want to give.

For some, getting the better deal is just another bit of gambling. But I like the peace of mind in knowing at least the car I am renting won't generate any claims against me.

Even for a frugal guy like me, comfort is often well worth the price.

I like this Kia Soul. Plenty of easy room for my luggage and it feels comfortable on the road and safer than the smallest Kia would feel.

Entrance to the park was free with my DD214 to show proof of my military service. I asked if they had a Veteran's deal and he checked my form and gave me a receipt for a military vehicle. That saved me seven dollars.

The next day I presented the DD214 and the fellow said they did not have a deal for Veteran's. But he was a Veteran, and he let me in asking me to petition the BLM to have some Veteran's discount. I hear that there is going to be a card for Veterans. Good thing. This 35 year old document is pretty worn out.

My friend Chuck tells me to pay $10 at a National Park while I am in Florida and I can get a permanent park pass good forever. I just have to be over 65.


Red Rock includes 14 miles of driving in a circle through the canyon with many pulloffs and possible hikes.

The very first is Calico I. I think this first pull off at the beginning of the circle is the most amazing, and that hike between Calico I and Calico II really is in the center of what is the reddest red rocks.

It is very easy and short. This time I hiked it from Calico 1 to the last ascent near Calico 2. At the top of that very slight incline I could see the end of the trail, and I had seen all the rocks I'd see, even if I completed the hike, but by turning back I could avoid a rather steep descent and then an arduous ascent.

I then walked back to Calico 1 for my van on the trail rather than exiting and using the road. I saved a tough end climb. It was plenty. I was tired when I climbed the last bit up to Calico I.

I found that two bottles of water is plenty for this trip. I carried three and that was more than I would ever need. Perhaps in August I would need three.

The park itself on this first day was full of visitors. It was a Sunday and the parking pull offs were full with cars and the overflow stretched back along the sides of the road.

Still, once down the trail a bit, it was peaceful enough. There was some loud calls from up in the rocks, even one rock climber, but there were moments of that amazing quiet we seek in hiking.

I saw plenty of rabbits with their cute little white tails flickering and plenty of fast darting small lizards. The Florida lizards around us there are a good bit slower and they pause to enable us to get a good look. There dart across the trail so quickly they are hard to really see, and then they are hidden in green.

I brought along my flowering desert plant book, but there is nothing flowering here at Red Rock in November.

After the hike, I drove up to Willow Springs and walked out to see where the trail to Madre Springs?? was located. The good road ends and there is a rocky road that is not maintained. I went up just a bit of that to get a sense of it for another day.

I liked the area and decided to try that hike the next day. That was a good decision because there were no huge crowds on Monday and no offroad vehicles traveling up the hiking pathway.

I liked getting a good start on the hiking by going before I check in to the hotel, but another year I might just leave my bags with the bellman to get them out of the car. I don't suppose there is that much theft at Red Rock, but there are signs about security, and it would be easy to empty my car while I was on the trail and leave with everything.


I was up and rested and ready. This is rare for me these days. I had a fine $8 buffet breakfast at the buffet and went directly to the Willow Springs picnic area. The hike was supposed to be 1.5 miles one way, but actually it was closer to 2 miles because it took a while to hike to the trailhead from the Willow Springs area. The trail is an unmaintained roadway and I could have driven in farther, but it was pretty rough stone.

I was happy to have picked a quiet morning to hike up. There was some traffic on the roadway, but generally just a few other hikers.

One group was an annoying group of five young folks with radios blasting. Strange really. But they were lovers of noise as I found out when they left Willow Springs in loud muffled cars. The radios could only be heard, however, when they passed me on the trail. The noise did not echo throughout the canyon.

These folks perhaps were also the ones who left two empty water bottles along the trail. Very annoying. I carried that trash out.

The rest of the folks I passed or spoke too, maybe 8 total, were quietly walking dogs or hiking the trail.

No one was anywhere near my age. Most were college age. Some had backpacks and a few had good walking sticks. But this pathway easily accommodated me with just a few water bottles in my cargo pant pockets.

One was a very pretty, perky and healthy looking blond with a bright orange backpack. She walked with a determined step and I liked hearing her pass with a friendly comment on the fine weather and then watching her go off down the trail with her hair flapping behind her.

Meeting other hikers was a fine way to reassure myself that I was on the correct pathway and estimate the distance yet to travel. The first split sends another trail off to the left into a Wilderness area. It is marked with a sign. The second fork sends the Madre Springs folks off to the left and the White Rock folks to the right and that might circle back down to the car parking area, but it is much longer.

I did the Madre Springs and back the same route.

Most of the other hikers passed me going up and coming down. I took about twice as long as they did. The four mile hike took me a bit less than four hours.

I rested when I wanted. In one spot just about a third of the way was a fine large rock set just off the trail. A good place to sit with a fine view of the mountains.

The Springs themselves are tiny and no great site, but I was pleased to be there and know I'd made the walk, and I was happy to sit there for a long while, resting and watching the water. In one small pool were water spiders making interesting bubble looking shadows on the rocks. And I saw there one pollywog.

Just before I arrived at the springs, I was greeted by some interesting black birds, much like crows but unlike any crows we have at home. It was almost like they had come down the trail to greet me and show me the way to the water.

One did an unusual folding of wings and dropping sharply down while uttering a raucus cry.

There were other birds there too.

There was a great contrast between this and the Calico terrain. This was full of green trees and bushes, and grasses. Everywhere the paddle cactus flourished.

The rocky mountains held only small sections of the reddish chiule??. The rest were buff colored Aztec sandstone.

There was more wind here than in other places and that would make this a fine hike on a very hot day. The sound of the wind took over the sound of silence that I sometimes could experience on the other trail.

I saw just one flowering plant. I also saw a berried bush. And there was scat with the berries mixed in and undigested. Birds replant this way, carrying the seeds and making the fertilizer.

At the visitors center I was interested to read about Agave roasting pits that were used to cook food. The pits were about a yard deep and 5-10 feet across. Using limestone to hold the heat economized on wood for fuel. In the pit wet grass was placed and then the food to be cooked (perhaps hearts of agave) and then more wet grass, and finally a thick layer of dirt.

Because the limestone lost its value as a holder of heat after one fire, the rocks would be taken out and stacked in a circle around the pit. There is one site just a short distance up the Madre Springs trail.

I took quite a few photographs.


My last two trips to Vegas have included blisters. Last time I took what I thought was a great pair of New balance sneakers, but they had a worn section on the inner lining, and it wore a blister on the back of my foot.

Most of my other blisters form on my toes.

I carry some open toed shower shoes and walk in these in Vegas if the blisters have come, but this trip I spent some time working on keeping the blisters from forming.

First, instead of vaseline (which only lubricates but does not hydrate the skin,) I used Calendula Cream. It is made from marigolds. Aloe is also recommended, but this seemed to work very well for the entire trip.

I am very excited to have found it, because it changes my walking life.

I also went to a hiking store and bought $80 worth of socks, Some were Smartwool padded for hiking. Some were light white shells, used first on the foot to reduce friction.

?? These socks worked in Vegas and worked on the trail.

I rarely used my other cotton socks, even in just walking around Downtown.

After walking for weeks, my feet toughened a bit and I hiked since in Denver without the fancy socks or cream and no blisters.

However, I'd be safer to always use the expensive socks and the good hydrating cream.

These Smartwool socks take a bit of time to dry in Vegas after being washed out, not just one day as do the cotton. But I had four pair, two ankle length which worked well for my sneaker and two longer for the hiking boots.

I'll get more next trip as well. These were really wonderful and worth the expense. I expect I can find them more cheaply on line.

I love the hiking boots I've had a few years now. I don't hike as much as I once did, so they are still getting broken in. I took a good ankle twist on one rock along this trail and the boots supported my ankle so there was no pain or injury.

I also paid a good bit of money at my skin doctor's for some sunblock that is free of risky chemicals. I've been reading that some of the sunblocks may block skin cancer from the sun, but cause cancer with chemicals. This product is sold right in my skin doctor's office. It is called Elta with SPF and chemical free. It is mostly zinc oxide.

I took my little old camera on the hike with me and did not use my phone. I did not bring a car charger for my Galaxy 5 phone and wanted it to hold a charge to use as a GPS. That was a good thing because my old fashioned GPS could not find a satellite signal in Vegas whereas the phone gave me good directions with just an “okay Google” question.

I get lost easily, so I have to have good help.

I also hate driving the major super highways.

Coming out of downtown on a Sunday morning I thought would be light traffic. It was. But those expressways forming the spaghetti bowl always twist me up, and even with the GPS I got on the wrong highway because the voice direction was a bit too late for me to lane change.

I got off the superhighway and picked “no highways” option on the phone GPS. It added 15 minutes to my trip, but the driving was without any traffic and easy.

While staying at Red Rock Casino, I only needed to drive down the road to Red Rock Casino. That was easy. I even stopped at an Albertson and stocked up on water and food for the rest of the trip. Having the car I can easily get some of this to Laughlin and then to the Four Queens. I like having water, fruit, bananas, nuts and cheese in the room and often make a meal of that rather than buy another meal out.

I forgot to pack a cap this trip. On the way I saw a Goodwill and figured I could get one there. Well, in dollar stores at home I could have got one for a dollar, but here they were $2 and $3, which seems a bit strange in a thrift store where 50 cents might be more reasonable.

I'm spoiled by Florida thrift stores in winter.

Still, I found a like-new, wonderful cap for $3 that was well worth that price. It had a fine wolf face stictched in and a bill of faux suede with tiny wolf foot prints. It came from a Wolf Sanctuary.

On the second day I forgot to bring this fine cap and missed it too. It was not needed on the way up with the sun to my back, but on the way down the brim would have shielded a good bit of the glare. Instead I did what the ancients must have done and used my hand as a shield to better see the mountains.

I was happy I'd taken the time to pick one up as it helped with the sun when driving and hiking and in the afternoon pool swimming.

Somehow I also took a rather poor pair of sunglasses which are great for driving, but generally not as great for the colors of Red Rock.

My packing for this Vegas trip was well under par. Some of that was having to think through going from Vegas to Denver and then to Chicago, all destinations with very different kinds of weather.

Part of it is just all the sleep issues I've been having lately and my inability in general to think straight much of the time.

My water I bought at the Walgreen's in downtown and chilled in the refrigerator at the El Cortez tower room. I should have turned that refrigerator up to the coldest because I had water actually freeze a bit, and that would be great for the hike. But it was fine and even perhaps a bit chilled.

As I mentioned, I was a bit worried about theft at Red Rock Canyon because it seems as if things in the car are vulnerable there. Signs say to lock up and take keys. I carried my wallet with me, but I left my phone in the car glove compartment.

One of the young hikers on the second day had set his phone on top of his car before a three hour hike and forgotten it. It was there when he came back from the hike. He was amazed. Perhaps it is less a problem than I fear.

I was fascinated by the term “red rock marbles.”


I was back from hiking Red Rock Canyon and checked into Red Rock Casino a bit before 3. They set me up with a very nice room. Everything was free on the MyVegas promotion, including the Resort Fee and that allowed me free wifi, which I did not use, and free access to the spa.

This is a large casino and I get lost easily.

I asked a worker about parking, and she told me that all the levels were the same and I'd have to take two elevators, but that was not correct. I scoped out the best place to park and get to the room. I parked on level 3 in the East Garage. There were signs that this was Platinum parking, but actually Platinum is just a small section and the rest is general parking and it was easy enough to find a convenient spot.

From this level I could roll my bags right in with no parking garage elevator and easily find the hotel elevator. I parked there to prepare for check out as well.


There is a huge marble bathroom with a separated tub and a television over the tub. So one night I had a great soak and watched the news. They give a mineral bath additive along with the shampoo and it bubbled up just fine. The tub is very deep and comfortable. It fills very quickly.

The sink area was long and marble and doubled. Very nice. There is a phone next to the toilet.

The television that serves the room itself is a large screen with good reception and some fine choices of channels, although no Turner Classic Movies were included in the package, so commercials were mandatory.

The beds were comfortable, but the mattresses were not firm enough for my taste. Still, that was is a very minor criticism.

A floor to ceiling window offered a fine view. I took whatever view they had although the clerk asked me what I wanted. Mine faced the Vegas strip and the lighting at night was really delightful. All the casinos are tiny so the entire strip and downtown is there in miniature. It reinforces the distance and the sense of being away from all the noise and bustle.

Covering this window were two layers of curtains. One was translucent. The other really shut out the light.

Below the window was a long couch-like place to sit.

At the foot of each bed was a nice long padded table that was great for unpacking suitcases or sitting to work on putting on the the socks and the hiking boots.

The electric plugs were pretty good. Between the bed was a nice set of plugs set in easy reach above the table. There were two plugs near the spacious desk. Also there was a complicated phone with a screen that glowed too much for me. I tossed a handkerchief over it.

The closet had a light that turned on when the doors were open.

At first I did not find the Do Not Disturb option. It is not a card that might get lost or stolen. There is a small button inside that turns on a red “Do Not Disturb” sign. No one bothered me or the room.

The entrances to these rooms are all recessed, so traffic in the hallways is ten feet from the room entrance. This makes everything much more quiet. This is the quietest hotel I have ever slept in, anywhere.

Phone reception in the room seemed to falter at times, but it might have been my wife's phone at home. For some reason we lost reception, so I went downstairs for the next call and took it from the hotel lobby with no trouble and then outside.

I particularly love the lighting here.

At the door are two switches. One controls recessed lights above the beds and another recessed lights above the window. Both can be also be controlled by a switch above the bedside table.

At the desk is a switch that controls tube lights above the work area and there is a side light with its own switch. Next to each of the beds is a small goose neck light that would be great for reading in bed without bothering a sleeping partner in the other queen bed.

One bathroom switch controlled recessed lights in the shower, over the tub, and in the ceiling. A separate switch controlled lights on both sides of the long double sink. Another switch controlled one overhead light in the bathroom.

The bathroom door was a swinging door with a pane of translucent glass.

So, the bathroom could be set up to glow with a bit of light coming through the door, or the door to the toilet could be shut and just that light used in the nighttime.

I could not help comparing that to the El Cortez tower room I had just left where one of the switches at the door controlled the plugs for the bedside lamp, the clock, and my sleep apnea machine. I put a piece of electrical tape over it so that I did not have to keep resetting the clock.

For the most part the décor of the casino and the rooms is in modern abstract design. Above the beds here are matching colorful tile pieces. PHOTO

Above the desk however is a fine photo of Red Rock Canyon with snow. PHOTO.

Overall, this is the nicest room I had this trip and perhaps the nicest room I have ever had in Vegas. I am very much attracted to this casino, and certainly will go back.

At first I thought perhaps MyVegas had sent me to an upscale room, as they had at Mandalay Bay, but the clerk said most of the rooms at Red Rock were the same. She said that the prices range from $75 to $700, depending upon the day and what is going on. With the resort fee that would mean that some days might go as cheaply as $110 a night. I'm hoping next year to get time with my oldest boy Frank in Vegas. He loves Red Rock. That would make it a great destination.

Here is a good review of Calico Basin where I walked my third day.


I tried the pool at Red Rock in the afternoon and the jacuzzi. It was heated and warm water issued from the jets, but the heating was poor and the pool was pretty chilly. I don't mind, but others were challenged by it.

I was there until the pool closed and went out the wrong door. That door allowed no reentry, so I had to wander the casino a bit, dripping, to find my hotel room. Had I exited where I entered the elevators, would have been right there.

The second day I swam just before the 4 PM closing. This time I brought along another warm shirt and wrapped it around my towel in a small bundle that was not visible to the pool attendants. Otherwise that towel would also have been picked up as they prepared to close. I also took better note of where to exit.

There are bathrooms located near the exit to the hotels.

The second day was very windy. The water was colder, but I found once in I was used to it quickly. I wore a shirt and my Wolf cap. I think that keeps me warmer.

One morning I went to the spa which opens at 6AM. This is included in the resort fees that I did not have to pay. It was grand. The steam room was steamy. The dry rock room was dry. Two pools were there as well, large enough to almost swim when I was alone. One was hot and one cold.

Overall, I really liked the Red Rock hotel experience. I am sorry they only give one night at the MyVegas now. I might pay for another night next trip or combine it with a road trip as I did this time. It is more expensive than my usual, especially since I really need to rent a car to see the canyon.

However, the value might be worth the expense.


My Vegas inspired this road trip. I managed two free nights at Red Rock, so I needed to rent a car. The most value I could get was renting for a week, so I tossed in three cheap nights at Laughlin ($83) which would open up visits to Oatman and Hoover Dam.

Laughlin is old people. Well, I'm old.

It also can be folks who have chosen independence in their later years, chosen to live in small RV's for much of the winter in Laughlin and somewhere else in summer.

I now migrate, so talking about how we manage that is very interesting and useful and not at all like recounting the last 12 surgeries.

I like the driving here. Although I left from Red Rock and had a good bit of highway to travel, it was not confusing highway, and the last half of the trip was deserted of any traffic and just a long ride through flat dessert.

Parking was always near where I wanted to go, and it was outside where it is easy for me to remember where I parked.

I like it that I could play poker at Harrah's and have an easy and predictable drive at the last minute to Riverside for the Lettermen concert. It is so much different than having to get from one place on the strip to another.

I lived the Watchman store, but it is run now with different folks and watches are not all $20 and less. I bought a waterproof Swanson for $30. This is probably more than I might pay on line, but I wanted a watch I can go swimming with. Now I see this one is just water resistant, so perhaps I got taken. The clerk did not explain the difference.

Either way I like the watch and later when I swam with it at the Orleans, it held up fine. I breast stroke when I swim, so the watch would be continually underwater but never deep enough for pressure.

I decided to stay at Pioneer. Here is that review

I went to the movies (senior $7.50 and refillable popcorn $7.50) to see The Intern. I loved it.

I also saw the Lettermen ($30) and that was such a fine show. One original singer, Tony, was still singing. The others recreated the harmonic sounds and it all was really wonderful. Tony was very personable and engaging. He came down and shook hands. He offered to have photos taken on the stage with people as they sang. The other two did newer songs to promote their own albums. Those were fine, but did not excite me. In between songs were black and white clips from the old days. I especially liked that they had snipped together all the old clips of introductions and funny skit with Jack Benny.

An hour and a half with no breaks. Just perfect.


I waited 45 minutes one afternoon for a seat. Then I was put on a “must move” table. I liked that because I had watched the main game and was the first to move into it.

The game could raise to high stakes because it had a full kill. $12 is a lot for me to bet. That seems a bit silly because it is just an opening bet on any no limit table, however, it is huge on a limit game.

I don't really know why I got creamed each session. There were tight players and there were good players, but there were also the usual poor players. No maniacs. Rarely was there a preflop raise and rarer still a reraise.

I lost.

Still, for the most part I liked the game.

I flopped the wheel straight once in first position. I check raised, (pocket jacks bet to my left) and everyone stayed with me.

Too bad that round was not a kill game. My straight held up and I still had callers on the flop.

My worst hand was holding A-K when A-A-6 flopped and my final opponent held pocket sixes. He raised me on the turn, and the river did not help me with A-K or another pair.

The people were tourists, but in general not bad players. One fellow was pretty bad. He kept talking about his strategy and about playing on line. Once when I caught the Broadway nut straight in first position, I checked the river hoping to check raise.

No one bet.

Afterward that online poker playing fellow sort of lectured me that I should have bet because I might have gotten some callers. He asked me why I had not bet and I said, “Oh, I don't know,” and it never dawned on him that I was trying to trap.

My worst played hand was 10-4 of spades. I just felt like it. It flopped two pair and then a 4 on the river gave me a full house. I bet it all the way, but I did not get called on the river.

I tossed cards for most of the time, and only remember one hand that would have won, and that one was on the river which I would never have paid to see.

It is hard to have these bad card streaks. When I toss away hand after hand, and even the cards I toss would not have won, would not have made it past the river, then I know that luck is really against me.

This was that sort of trip.


All the reviews say this is the worst place in Laughlin, but I've always wanted to stay here. It is a strange desire since I don't want to pay for the premium riverview rooms, and I don't want to gamble or eat here.

It was the cheapest I could find for these three days in Laughlin, so I booked it for a total of $83.


I expected a bare bones room and that is what this is. However, it was not rundown or dirty. The beds were basic, but for some reason this is the best sleep I have gotten on the trip.

Perhaps all the Red Rock hiking set me up to sleep well. I have slept through the night each time at this hotel.

There was a very comfortable old country round table with old fashioned wooden, country decorated chairs. A hanging lamp looking like the old gas lamps hung from the ceiling. The dresser had a nice oak look and behind it were two round mirrors. The only “art” were two reproductions of Norman Rockwell and one was screwed in a tad crooked.

Two shampoos were included. I don't get room service for short stays, so this was nice. Soaps were goodsoaps, not those little bits of nothing that come in these sort of cheap motel rooms at home.

I really like having the car right in front of my room, so I don't have to be so super organized. I would not like it were I on a floor with stairs, but these ground floor places are just great. It really beats even the easy walk I had at Red Rock.

There was an unheated pool and it looked fine, but it was too cold for me to try it out.

It was pretty quiet at night and I heard very little of anything from other rooms.

Turner Classic Movies was included on the television, but the reception was terrible.

A shower tub made it easy to do my laundry.

When I had an issue, they were quick to respond.

While I did not have a river view, I could walk a few steps and through an ice machine area and sit in a fine old fashioned swing right on the river. The swing was build sturdy, comfortable, and decorated at each end with wagon wheels. I sat there so long the first night that Security called down and asked if I were okay.

A short walk to the Colorado Belle gave me an easy breakfast. It gets very bad reviews, but for what I eat, it was more than adequate. I had eggs over easy sprinkled with cheese, topped with a country fried chicken patty and some country gravy. I brought along on this trip my own hot sauce: Mexico Lindo Habanera sauce, and it is very good. This hot sauce is hotter than the Lousiana sauces like Frank's and has a very different flavor.

The coffee was not much.

The watermelon was very sweet. Canned pears and peaches are fine with me. And I had a nice taste of a bit of a dark sweet bread they make.


Something is up with their cable reception. They know it, but can't seem to get it fixed. The screen has a line moving from bottom to top and some distortion. It is not fun to watch. I love having TCM, but it was of no use here except when I was unpacking and organizing and could be entertained by just listening.

They played an old Dick Cavette interview with Robert Mitchem. Such wonderful interviewing went on in those days. The pace was relaxed and there was no shouting.

On the television there was also a Good Morning local station with an old guy who talked about the area a bit. This one too could just be listened to and enjoyed.

However, the poor TV reception might be a deal breaker for me on future trips.

The fellow who checked me in for three nights only validated my key for one night. That is so annoying.

At almost midnight when I got back from playing poker at Harrahs the battery died on the old fashioned smoke detector, so I had to call someone to change it and end that annoying pattern of beeps.

The AC heater was responsive but noisy. I had thought that might happen, but expected that the weather would make sleeping cool with no AC, and it did, except for one night. When I was away from the room, I'd run it on high, and then turn it off when I got in. That worked for November.

I love the river walk, and the Pioneer has one of the most interesting fronts on that walk with a long string of old fashioned park lamps. However, they are not maintained. Many bulbs were missing and nothing had been dusted in quite a while.

No buffet.

Only four hangers in the closet and they needed the attention of a pliers to tighten them up a bit, but they worked. The long bar in the closet was fine for drying my socks.

It does seem to me that I could pay for an upscale stay at Red Rock if I follow it with this downscale stay at Pioneer and have plenty of poker with good promotions while escaping downtown for an extended period of time.


Oatman was a disappointment. It has become quite shabby. The burros were there and beautiful, but the owners of the concessions were clearly annoyed with them, seeing them perhaps more as pests than as the reason anyone comes to the town at all.

They chased them from the fronts of the stores, put up signs not to feed them in certain areas, sprayed them from a water bottle to get them to move on, and treated them poorly in my opinion.

Some of the shop keepers were friendly and easy. Others seemed uptight, probably struggling with no customers.

I bought a nice agate left over from stone work that will be a good card protector. It was just a dollar. I also found a hat that said Oatman and route 66 in a bargain bin for $3. I'll send that one to my buddy Robin who loves that old route and once drove all of it.

All these tourists towns seem to do the same thing, they overprice their goods so they get few sales. In an age where I can have almost anything I want sent to my house by Amazon, I won't pay those prices. I'll do what I suppose others do, shop for ideas and then buy that product when I get home.

I guess I am not as astute a businessman, but I don't see why these towns don't price things in a reasonable way and make up the loss of profit in volume.

But then I am also a thrift store shopper, especially during our months in Florida where wonderful things come at rock bottom prices.

I did not remember the public bathroom that is just as you drive into town. I parked there and thought it a good idea. There is no water, just hand sanitizer but it was positioned well with a parking lot. However, the lot had not been maintained and was full of ruts and huge dips and just terrible.

The mountains along the way were very nice, but can't compare with Red Rock. On the way out, I set the phone GPS off highways and got a winding route that was interesting and avoided the stores on 95.

The desert is flat there and very deserted. I passed a “family shooting range” along the way set out in the middle of huge flat land. Some of the land was marked “open range” ??


I walked a bit off the road at one point and looked for cactus and any flowers I might find, using my book to identify names of plants. It was not of much use, since it organizes by color and nothing much is in bloom. There were these very, very tiny yellow flowers for PHOTO. And I think I found Paperflower which does bloom in the fall. I liked the pattern of rings on the branches of this plant. PHOTO

In between the noise of passing cars would come that great quiet of the dessert with no sounds at all. Just wonderful! I thought I should wait until after dark and come back out to see stars away from all lights, but I never did that.

On the way home, I stopped at Avi Casino and was very disappointed. It was very dull in architecture and décor. Even Turning Stone reflects more Native American culture than this place, and Mohegan Sun outdoes it in every way.

I thought I might play the poker there, but there was just one table and it was 2-6 spread and looked like a collection of local old men.

On the way back I had the sun behind me, and it was just at sunset, so the light highlighted the mountains ahead and slowly moved up until it no longer caught the color of the rocks. It was a grand view. Good timing.


I woke up early, but it sure took me a while to get packed and head out of Laughlin.

I wrote a bit. Then I went to breakfast for 27 cents at Colorado Belle, using up my poker comps. I had my current favorite: three over easy eggs with a sprinkle of cheese topped with a country fried chicken and some country gravy.

They had some fine mixed fruit.

And that made a good breakfast. 27 cents is what I used to pay for breakfast at Torrejon Air Base in Spain. I was paid separate rations then and saving to bring my wife over, so that was often my only meal of the day.

Driving to the Hoover Dam was easy. On the dam I paid $10 to park in the garage, and I walked the dam. Cars still can drive that way, but they don't all park up the whole place as they used to. I liked the parking garage.

The place was packed with people.

I guess it has been ten years or so since I've visited.

Everything was well maintained.

The museum at the Visiting Center was another $10 and the tour was $50. I took that years ago. I did not bother with either because I wanted to be outside, and I was not really in to absorbing long lists of facts. For the most part I wanted the experience of the dam itself.

It is alarming to see how far the water has sunk, very visible on the rock cliffs by the white showing where the water used to be. Sad.

Otherwise I enjoyed the views. I especially like the art deco look of the monument, the tall sweeping angel like figures. I could sit on a stone seat and take my time with them in spite of the crowds.

There is a taped narrative that gives quite a bit of information and it is easy to hear.

I liked the whole thing.

Up high is the new bridge that offers drivers a highway to bypass the bridge. The bridge crosses the state line.

 Parking is free there and it is really a treat to walk that bridge. I had my doubts when I was here last and it was just a proposal, but it is really fine to see the entire dam in perspective and walk along with that view in constant sight.

Getting up to the bridge means climbing quite a few steps or walking a long, winding pathway for those who don't do steps. The first half of the bridge was crowded, but then it thinned out. Most folks just go as far as halfway or less. I walked all the way across the back.

I suppose it will cost more to see this part when they build in some toilets and perhaps a restaurant.

I was happy to have gone first to the old dam area because that is the only place where there were toilets. The hard part about old age traveling is that toilets are often very much required. And I had stopped at a gas station on the road just before getting to the Dam, but I needed the restrooms again. I can slow that process down by not drinking fluids, but that is dangerous in dry Vegas.




I was happy not to have tried to do a longer ride and see the city of Choride. I was fairly tired and wanted to get to the Four Queens well before Friday night rush hour traffic. I stayed off the confusing express roads and took Boulder Highway, stopping again at a McDonald's for a bathroom break, and also visiting the Gambler's bookstore to bring home some cards and other bits for the poker guys.

They dropped the price on cards when I bought 20 decks to $1.25 and opened them so I could see that they were not black marked on the edges. That is the most common method of making certain those cards are not introduced into play, but it is almost never done without some of the black catching on the back of the cards and making them marked. No one in my group will play with them then.


The bulk of my gambling downtown would be playing live low limit 2-4 poker at the Golden Nugget when the tables contained some poor players and the progressive bonus hand payouts were doubled.

Downtown over Halloween I did that. However, I did play 10/7 DB at Main Street Station to use my 250 points gets a free buffet American Casino Guide coupon. It took forever, but I left with $120 profit to eat the buffet.

At Red Rock I was drawn to play just a little bit one night and then stayed longer because there was a drawing for those playing. Again 10/7 DB paid me as it did another night. Just for fun I played a single zero roulette machine another night using 50 cent bets and a progressive pattern. In all those cases I quit ahead, but my play was ot enough to seed for room offers.

In fact, I played the 100 per cent payback machines that paid very little in points ($12 for one point) so that when I used mine up at the buffet, I had just seven cents to spend. They took it, however. I laughed.

I had come to Red Rock having recklessly lost for the trip $4 and I left with a trip profit of $176. It was the beginning of my trip, and that was the highest positive gambling score I was to get.

I also left with intense experiences at Red Rock Canyon, fine winter swimming in the pool and jacuzzi, a wonderful early morning visit to the spa and some great cheap visits to the buffet. The food is really wonderful for the cheap prices there and I even cut the cost of the one supper buffet in half (less than $8) using my 35 year old worn and aged DD214 to show Veteran status for a Monday November promotion.

While downtown, Wild Bill and I did go out to Sam's Town for a day of poker tournaments and video poker.

This was a disaster.

Neither of us cashed in the tournaments and the Deuces (full pay dimes) were very, very bad to me.

However, this was a low roller day because the tournaments cost just $21 and $45 and provided some fine poker. The Deuces were in dimes (nickles with a maximum bet of 10).

So that day fit with my rollback and bankroll protection. The same losses in higher priced tournaments or quarter play would have cost me much more.

However, I won on a matchplay at Eastside Cannery ( from their Webpass program) and one at Longhorn and I used $5 freeplay at Eastside, so walking up to those places for a quick play on my way to stock up at Walmarts gained $31 on bets that were all hugely in my favor.

And I used my 250 point American Casino Guide Sam's Town coupon for a supper buffet and so ate that day for free.


Because I don't like playing against a high house advantage, I rarely play slots in Vegas. When I do, I play very small amounts for fun when I am early for a scheduled event. Sometimes I'll play to get a cheap drink or to keep playing after my bankroll has taken a hit.

And I like playing the Four Queens single zero nickle roulette because the house advantage is very small for such a low denomination slot machine. There I play with a nickle bet on black and a nickle bet on the last column (full of reds) and if the last column hits, I press that bet, so if a streak is in my favor, I can win quite a few nickles. I did that a couple times.

I also usually put $21 in a Megabucks for seven spins, figuring this is the money I don't then spend on lottery tickets at home, where the house advantage is 50%, much than the Megabucks which is less than 20%. However, my bankroll went so quickly this trip, I skipped that luxury.

In Laughlin while waiting for a poker seat, I played a game called Fisherman Bob and saw him catch quite a few pike and removed them from a net in the bonus round. I quit dead even after seeing the video.

Waiting to see Rich Little at the Tropicana, I played a few one penny games that were just terrible. A good penny game played for 1 to 5 lines for a penny a line should hit once in a while, if only delivering a penny or two, but I was through two dollars with no hits on one machine.

Finally, I moved up to a more sophisticated penny machine that required forty cents per spin. It was themed as a fireman machine and the graphics were in 3 D. Two firedogs moved and made noises after each spin. This machine seemed to hit almost every spin although often it was for less than the bet. I had lost about $5 before playing this machine, but when the bonus round came I just kept winning. When I cashed out for the show, I was $6 ahead and had experienced a really fun game.

I also won playing an Artic game at Eastside Cannery with $5 freeplay to play off before the Claudine Castro Latin show. I cashed out for $6 there too.

So this trip my slots show more profit than my player advantage games.


I did try the pickem poker at the Fremont for a while and enjoyed it. I also won a good bit in a short time.

However, I see that the Royal would generate paperwork. I try not to play games that might generate paperwork.

So it won't become my next “go to” game and Fremont won't become my next home casino.

Even comped I would not like the room they gave me at the Fremont. It was the tiniest little nothing of a room. Perhaps that was because I used the American Casino Guide coupon, but if so, they offer a promotion that works against attracting repeat business.

I could still hear the bands at night, and they did disturb me some. I never got a chance to ask for a quiet room away from bands because their computer was down and it was take what you get.

Generally, I am getting older and less tolerant of dischordant noise.

I won't book the Fremont again.

In fact, I won't look to downtown as my first choice of local again.

I'll be sorry to give up the Golden Nugget middle of the night poker, but I'm really looking for next trip to take another ride to Laughlin, and for a booking that puts me out Boulder Highway for a while.

Downtown has gotten too crowded and upscale and too unpredictable. As it moves ever more upscale, it is time for me to move downscale a peg.


I don't play much craps these days.

However, I offered to make a bet for a friend who is recovering from an operation and he gave me the number 8 when I offered to make a free bet for him.

I thought I'd shoot in the morning at the El Cortez when the pass line is just $3. When the point was 8, I'd put a small gift bet for him on free odds.

I could not seem to make a point and went through too many negative rolls to want to continue that pattern, so I just placed the 8. That was the only bet that I did win. It hit twice. So he will get a token profit.

While I was there I put $20 in the antique slot machines that actually work with pins and slots. I did not hit one win there.

Another time I had checked it and one buy was playing two machines. I had that happen at the nickle machines at the Orleans as well. I think it is rude, but in neither case did I push it with the management.


Bill and I ate at the Nugget for $17 from me.

I spent about $11 on snacks and water and a banana at Walgreen's

Spent $3 on food at Walmart's

Ate for free at Sam's town


No smoked salmon after breakfast

Good salads and deep fried cod

Sam's was free

fair crab legs dished out on a plate

Good meal.

Extra good sugar free walnut bite, cheesecake, pecan iced cream.

Paid $17 at Dupar's

Free on points at GN on way to Red Rock


Red Rock

$45 in snacks at Albertson's, water too.

$8 breakfast

$8 supper on Veteran's Monday deal.


popcorn $7.50

Belle buffet $8.27

Harrah's buffet coupon and poker points $1

Trail mix at Smith's $4

No expense until $10 at Sam's Town

subtotal is 140 for 11 days so averaging about 13 a day to eat.

Sunday November 8

Monday ate for free at GN

Monday night prime rib at Magnolia's $2

Partial payment at Golden Nugget $10

corn nuts at Walgreens 4$

Free breakfast on Thursday at the Golden Nugget

Subtotal is $156 for 15 days so average is $10.40 a day.

Free breakfast on Saturday going to gold coast from ex.

Walgreen's water and nuts $11.

Subtotal $166

Ate for free at Gold Coast buffet twice while in


Ate free at the Aria

Ate free at Mirage

Ate free four times at Orleans

Bought $1 water.


Bought pizza for $40


popcorn $8


Ate for $9 a night even counting the $40 for pizza for relatives at the reunion.