Travels in the American Southwest

The Preparation Days in Las Vegas

8/18 Monday

Left in the late afternoon. Pausing at security, I got a high-five "fist" twice from cool security guard. (I don't know what else to call it but the high-five fist. It's where you bang knuckles with someone without the intent to injure.) Anyway, I expected a total unpacking of my carry-ons due to all the electronics I was carrying but was waved through the checkpoint with no problems. Great scenery at 39,000 feet! Listened to cockpit/tower communications since the movie didn't hold my interest. Plane made a couple of corrections around "storms". Looking out the window, it didn't look like thunderstorm type clouds but hey, I wasn't flying the plane! I learned the next day that the storms were MAJOR dust storms over Arizona.

Made our connection in LA (yeah, we flew past Las Vegas). The United pilot from LAX to LAS was very personable. He roamed the cabin before take off chatting and joking with the passengers. "Thanks for flying with us. As we like to say here at United - We're United; The Friendliest Bankrupt Airline."

8/19 Tuesday

Arrived at midnight to GN. Got a room, 3rd floor far south tower. The walk sucked but the view was even worse. We gazed out on the top floor of valet parking. And those bright lights the illuminate the tower at night - Right outside our window! Even with the blackout curtains, it was plenty light in the room! Would have to get another room in the morning.

Dozed for a while, then with MSO still asleep, I snuck out to toss the dice at Binion's Horseshoe for a while. The craps tables must have been glad to see me as the fates allowed me to walk away a winner. Headed back to the room with coffee for MSO. She doesn't mind my little early AM forays as long as I return with coffee!

Once the sun rose, we went bicycle hunting. MSO and I would be spending 17 days out in the wild west camping, sightseeing and bike riding. We struck paydirt on the first try. A charity thrift store we'd patronized and donated items to in the past had a couple of bikes that were screaming our names. MSO latched on to a Schwinn with a thick, fleece padded seat. I grabbed a serviceable mountain bike. Some nut and bolt tightening along with liberal use of WD40 and we were in business. Stopped at SEI, Inc., suppliers of cast iron. Picked up a half dozen lengths of rebar which would be used during the outside Las Vegas portion of our trip.

Got back to the Nugget to find a message awaiting us. "Your new room on the 22nd floor is ready. You've expressed a preference for an upper floor in the past." The views from Frenchman Mountain in the north to Henderson in the south were a vast improvement over the valet parking lot. And the absence of megawattage light bulbs outside the window was a major plus! MSO was most thrilled with the change in accommodations, but eyed me suspiciously wondering, "Was there an extra cost for this?" I shook my head. "Nope, it's just typical Golden Nugget customer service."

Last year, MSO did little gaming. It just didn't interest her, but MSO loves VP now. We played at Claude's Bar in the Golden Nugget. Nothing like quaffing a couple of icy cold Heinekens out of the hot August sun. She left the bar a winner having hit a number of Full Houses and one 4 of a kind! I wasn't as lucky. And she was remarkably consistent during the entire trip!

Flipped on the TV in our new room and was stunned to hear of the 1999 type floods hitting Northwest Las Vegas. We were glued to the television watching the LV Fire Department perform swiftwater rescues. It's amazing watching pros at work. They make the task look so easy! Hats off to all of them.

Dinner was Main Street Station. Microbrews with a T-Bone for me and a Taco Salad for MSO. Great price and OUTSTANDING service. If you are hungry and downtown...

8/20 Wednesday

Up well before dawn and suffered a beating at Binion's craps tables. The "great to see ya - Welcome Back" attitude the tables showed me was gone. Headed up to the Las Vegas Club where the fates smiled once again.

Breakfast buffet at the Golden Nugget provides a good start to the day. We headed north on LVB, looking for wood for our 17 day RV odyssey. Sharp-eyed MSO spies a dumpster packed with shipping pallets. We stop at the office, got the ok and in short order had the minivan packed with fuel for our planned campfires. Hit the 99 cent store on Flamingo west of Maryland. Stocked up on items sure to make the outside Las Vegas portion of our trip more of a luxury affair than a pioneer trek.

I was surprised to see that MSO had developed an interest in crossword puzzles. Picked one up, finished it. Now I'm buying 2 Las Vegas papers a day for the crossword puzzles! She says, "I never do crossword puzzles." I chuckled, "What happens in Las Vegas stays in Las Vegas."

I took a break from losing at the craps tables and MSO put down the crossword puzzle and we did our pre-trip ritual. We trekked out to UPS on MLK Blvd to pick up my customary 250 lbs of camping and survival gear. There was momentary consternation when the clerk said, "Four packages." I said, "Five packages." Clerk repeats, "Four packages." Fortunately package number five was there, under my misspelled last name. Did some unpacking and major food shopping. The minivan was packed to the gills, the contents awaiting transfer into the rental RV on Friday. We knew that there'd be no time on Thursday. Tours of the Nevada Test Site are offered one day a month and as luck would have it, tomorrow was that day.

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