Posted on December 6, 2015
Our last exciting chapter left us still in the depths of Death Valley National Park, known to many at ‘The Magical Place.’ Gary whipped up a great Walmart Special turkey breast in his convection microwave (it was remarkably good) and Dee Dee made smashed potatoes (originals from our garden), gravy, peas (also from our garden) and a salad. Wahoo. I brought the wine and the Bloody Mary’s and the screwdrivers and the string cheese. The weather cooperated and the afternoon was delightful; we ate outdoors on a picnic table, next to a roaring fire. Lots-o-fun.
We took a day trip up to Beatty, Nevada, where we (once again) raided the Beatty Nut and Candy Company, and then had a really fine lunch at the little diner where we had eaten several times before. I should qualify this by saying that at one time it WAS a really good Mexican restaurant, then changed hands and went all to hell, then, about 4 years ago, a new family took it over and it is now back to being beyond good – and they still serve good Mexican food. Remarkable. Great cook, great service. Highly recommend; it’s located at the ‘Y’ headed south on Highway 95, just on the edge of town (sorta across from the newer RV park.)
We also stopped at Rhyolyte, a defunct mining town that was home to over 8,000 people in the early part of the 20th century. It pretty much closed down after the 1908-1910 financial crash. It had several banks, a Union Hall, train station, churches, assy offices, many restaurants and the requisite number of bustling brothels. It’s also home to a very intact ‘bottle house’ that has been successfully restored after being ravaged by mindless vandals over the years. The first time I visited it (the bottle house) was in 1969, in the middle of winter, on a road trip with 2 hippie buddies (Jim Barnaby and Jim Warren) from Ellensburg, WA to Tempe, AZ, and back in my 1964-push-button-shifting-transmission-4-door Dodge – investigating ASU as a possible graduate school (ended up going there.) Anyhow, in 1969 one could walk right up to it and it was is fine condition; today, it’s surrounded by a very high fence.
Spent another day driving up to Ubehebe Crater, near the north end of Death Valley, not too far from Mesquite Springs Campground. There were an amazing number of people there – the parking lot on the west side was totally full of cars, surprising since it was the Sunday after Thanksgiving and most people had pretty much headed for home. One reason might be that Scotty’s Castle (which is just a few miles away) was completely closed due to the October floods, so perhaps people just diverted there.
On Monday, November 30, after spending two delightful weeks in Death Valley, we headed up the long grade through Furnace Creek Wash – Highway 190 – and made our way to Sam’s Town in Las Vegas, after making that usual obligatory stop at the Area 51 Alien Gas Station on Highway 95.
So, as I type this missive, we are just wrapping up a week’s stay here at Sam’s. We really like this place and have stayed here at least 5 times in the past (we have also stayed at Main Street Station, near Fremont Street and in North Las Vegas – both areas we now avoid like the plague. Dangerous, dirty, crime-ridden and to be avoided.)
Sam’s Town: it’s been fun – cheap drinks, a multiplex theatre complex, great buffet, many good restaurants and free shuttle to both The Strip and Fremont Street. We had one both disappointing and yet exceptional evening: We bought tickets months ago to a show called “Legends”, at the Flamingo Hotel on The Strip , an evening that features impersonators of performing ‘Legends.’ We had front row seats – pretty cool except the chairs were like the kind you would find at a crappy buffet restaurant. The performances were just OK, (Michael Jackson, Madona, Taylor Swift (gag) and Frank Sinatra (yea).) What was not cool was that they also advertised Elvis and Celine Dion – both no-shows. We also paid for a dinner as part of the ticket…but they neglected to tell us the restaurant was closed that day – even though we called to check a few days in advance and were told it was open. No refund was offered (we did not even bother asking we were so pissed-off.) So, the evening semi-sucked – we have actually been to a few free cabaret shows that have been better. Not a total loss, but a big disappointment. (I went online and gave them a scathing review…check it out at http://legendsinconcert.com – assuming they have the guts to post it.) One thing worth mentioning is that we have seen several other big-ticket shows over the years and have always been treated like royalty. No more Flamingo for us.
HOWEVER, after the disappointing show, that same evening we decided to go to our most favorite place in Las Vegas, Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville. WOW! DOUBLE WOW! It was the best time we have EVER had there – by far (and we must have been there at least 4-5 times previously.) We had the best table in the house – really – and were right in the middle of the evening show. AMAZING! The performers were friendly and spent time talking with us – especially Adrian, the beautiful lady who comes down the slide and drops into the giant blender (right next to our table). She was incredibly gracious and so humble; must have spent about 5 minutes chatting with us (as she toweled off.) The drinks were good and quite potent. Dinner was acceptable.
So, a crappy event was balanced with an amazing one. See, good things can happen to good people.
We did a few other things while in the Las Vegas area: drove down to Lake Mead to take Charlie swimming, had lunch in Boulder City at a place we have enjoyed several times previously, drove across Boulder Dam, met some interesting people, found a new and very cool RV park (amazing and right on the lake.)
We spent a fun evening at Fremont Street, a place we never tire of visiting. Stopped at the Whiskey Licker Bar – a favorite of ours – and got the usual super-cheep, super-strength drinks. We tried to get on the new ZIP line that runs the 6-block length of Fremont, but the wait was over 5 hours, so (regretfully) we had to pass. Next time we will either try to get our tickets on-line or buy them sooner. If you are interested, as of this date they are $40 for the 90 second – or so – ride, but worth it (at least in our opinion).
You will note that in this edition of the blog there are lots of pictures of interesting people we had the pleasure of meeting during this leg of the trip. All of the shots were done with my iPhone; all I did was say to them, “Can I take your picture?” I was never turned town. Some asked “Why me?” My explanation was always “Souvenir of our trip; I like your looks.” All were flattered and very gracious.
Anyhow, enough words for now. Gotta go as the 2-for-1 Happy Hour is starting at The Waterfall in Sam’s…can’t be late – it only lasts for 2 hours with no limit on drinks!
Category: 2015-2016 Travels, Photographic Adventures Tagged: Alien, Area 51, Beatty, Boulder Dam, Boulder Highway, Casino, Charlie, Death Valley, Dylan, Flamingo, Fremont Street, Furnace Creek, Gauvreau, golf, Highway 190, Hoover Dam, Jimmy Buffet, KOA, Landscape, Las Vegas, Legends, Margaritaville, Michael Jackson, Nevada, Photographs, Photography, Sam's Town, Sinatra, Stove Pipe Wells, Tillman Bridge, ZIP line
Posted on November 28, 2014
This chapter of our blog starts off with our heroes still in Modesto, living the good life, visiting with all our old friends. We had a great time during dinner at Verona’s Restaurant with our old buddies Jim and Linda Johnson, and Steve and Linda Collins. As usual, too much wine (thanks to Steve) and a high dinner bill, but what the hell, right?
Dee Dee spent more time walking old walking places (the ‘Giacomo’s Coffee Circuit’) with her buddy Dorlene. And Charlie-the-dog certainly enjoyed his time away from the RV…poor guy is used to free-roaming on our 7.5 acres at home…now he is confined a lot of the time to about 150 square feet. He is a really patient doggy. More golf with Steve and Big Al out Jack Tone Golf. Bob’s game still sucks, but it’s the camaraderie that’s important…plus winning about $12.
One of the greatest times we have had in a l-o-n-g time was a get-together with a bunch of old, (old) MJC friends on Sunday afternoon. Kim Gyuran and Anne Shanto organized and it was a hoot! It was wonderful to see Kim and Anne, as well as Jim and Linda Johnson, Todd Guy, Eileen Hibbard (Olhson), Wes and Barbie Page, Larry and Muggs Zable, John Chappell, Derek Waring, Steve and Linda Collins and Dorlene Salazar. I got so caught up in visiting with everyone that I neglected to take a single picture. Bad Bob!
We said our good-byes to our good friends Al and Linda Cover, who were gracious enough to allow to once again stay at what we fondly call ‘Big Al’s RV Park and Sheep Ranch.’ As an (important) aside, Al (whose demeanor exudes ‘calm’) has become a community activist in the fight with the (scoundrels) in City of Modesto Government, and the Chamber of Commerce, to annex an area known as Wood Colony. The proposal is to build business parks, a four-lane freeway overpass, etc. (Back in the early 1980’s, this same crap was going on under the guise of ‘re-development’, which destroyed part of the historical heart and soul of downtown Modesto. I was somewhat involved in the fight to stop this, but we lost.)
Wood Colony is a historical agricultural area that he and many other farmers have called ‘home’ for over 100 years. (Al’s family goes back 4 generations, and is not dissimilar to other families in the surrounding area.) And the proposed Wood Colony annexation has not escaped national attention. Al was interview by a New York Times reporter, and his picture was featured as part of the story. (For more on all of this, you can go to here to read the article and see Big Al’s picture.)
We had uneventful drive down the remainder of the Central Valley to Bakersfield, where we stayed at the Orange Grove RV Park. On Tuesday, we made the long drive over to Las Vegas. On the way there, we made our traditional stop at Peggy Sue’s Dinner, on Interstate 15 near Yermo, CA. Always a great time, lots of funky 1950’s stuff to see and great food. And this time, we met and talked to the REAL Peggy Sue! She is a delightful lady – so cordial and friendly. She spent 5 minutes with us and we felt very welcome. So cool!
After leaving Peggy Sue’s Diner, we made the l-o-o-o-n-g pull up The 15 to Las Vegas. At one point our fuel consumption indicator was registering under 5 MPG. By the time we rolled in, we are sucking fumes.
We had originally planned to stay at the Main Street Station RV Park, near Fremont Street, but at the last-minute changed our plans and headed for Sam’s Town, near Henderson. We figured we had seen Fremont Street enough, and the RV park is pretty tight, not to mention the 3 block walk to Fremont Street, which can be somewhat scary at night. And, a pretty crappy dog run as well. Charlie was not happy when we stayed there.
We have stayed at Sam’s Town at least 6 times in the past. The RV park is about ½ block from the casino, which is pretty nice, with lots to see and do (indoor waterfall, movie theatres, liberal slots and plenty of blackjack tables.) However, we discovered things had changed since our last visit. KOA had recently taken over management of both the transient (near the casino) and the long-term (not near the casino) parks. In the past, transient travelers (like us) could not stay in the long-term park. But, since KOA took over, they started putting transients in the long-term park…which is pretty much like a ghetto and a long walk, crossing a very busy 6-lane street (Flamingo) to get to the far side of the casino.
You guessed it…they stuck us in the ghetto. It was bad. After registering several (very vociferous) complaints with the office staff (all of whom were new and not at all well-trained), we finally got moved back into the park where we had always stayed in the past. But it took some doing, and only after we were pretty much forced to stay in the crappy park for one night. What did we learn? ASK where you are going to be when you make a reservation; NORTH = BAD, SOUTH = GOOD. On the good side, KOA has done a nice job in cleaning up the park, they are very friendly and they did not crank up the rates (yet.)
We got some good deals for breakfast and lunch in the excellent buffet, gambled (up at the slots, down at the tables, for break even.) We went to see ‘Gone Girl.’ Without giving away the ending, if you see it (which we recommend), get ready for twists and turns and a weird ending.
We headed down to Lake Mead one day to take Charlie swimming and wear him out. The poor guy has been very patient. Marshall Dylan enjoyed walk along the lake shore. As expected, the level of the lake is pretty low – further down than we have ever seen it in the years we have been going there.
Several months ago we got tickets to see ‘Rock of Ages,’ an 80’s-era musical playing at the Venetian. Thanksgiving night found us at the show. WOW! HOLY CRAP, BATMAN!! Our seats were not bad; (ahem…) 4th row center. You could almost touch the stage. And the music brought back memories (…at least what we can remember…) of the ‘80’s: Styx, Bon Jovi, Whitesnake, Journey, Pat Benetar, Twisted Sister, Steve Perry, Poison and Grace Slick (Jefferson Airplane/Starship.) High energy, incredible backup band (featuring some of the original members of Whitesnake). Great choreography. The last trip through Las Vegas we saw ‘Jersey Boys’ and were blown away. Well, ‘Rock of Ages’ topped that! This is a show that will get you totally jazzed – not to be missed if you get to Las Vegas.
Oh yeah. Almost forgot to mention our Thanksgiving dinner before the show at a restaurant called the ‘Public House,’ inside the Venetian. It was billed to feature a huge variety of beers. (The beer list was given to you on an iPad…pretty cool.) But, prices were $10-$15/glass; as a benchmark, they wanted $10 for a 12 oz. Heineken. We opted for the house wine with dinner…$54/bottle. The turkey dinners were actually pretty good, $28, and about the cheapest thing on the menu (except $20 for a hamburger.) Oh well, it’s only $$$ and you only live once, right?
We are in Las Vegas for a couple of more days (with maybe one day of golf), and then we head to one of our most favorite places, Death Valley, where we have been many, many times before. (We worked 3 months for the National Park Service as Campground Hosts, back in 2010.) There may be at least a week-long void in the blog, unless we can find Wi-Fi in Furnace Creek.
Stay tuned for the next exciting installment.
Category: Photographic Adventures, Travelling To Florida, Uncategorized Tagged: Al Cover, Beer, Buffet, Casino, City of Modesto, Dorlene, Dylan, Fremont Street, gambling, Gauvreau, golf, Jack Tone Golf, Lake Mead, Landscape, Las Vegas, Modesto, Modesto Junior College, Peggy Sue, Peggy Sue's Diner, Photographs, Photography, Rock of Ages, Sam's Town, sheep, slot machines, Whitesnake, Wood Colony
Posted on November 22, 2014
The beginning of installment #2 of documenting our travels to Florida (and back…) finds us in Florence, Oregon. After getting settled into our campground, about 7 miles north of town, we headed in to fuel our truck and us. First stop was Mo’s – a restaurant that sits right on the Siuslaw River and near the beginning of the expansive Oregon Dunes area. We had been here a couple of times before so pretty much knew what to expect. We did take a bit of a risk; the last time we ate here the food sucked (clam fritters that were more filler than clam.) But, this time dinner was actually pretty good. Seating is essentially a bunch of picnic tables and (hard) wooden benches. Dinner was pretty good – and the clam chowder was excellent. The fish tacos were pretty good, at least by Oregon/Mexican food standards. Not exactly like traditional fish tacos, but close enough.
Next, we headed off to the Safeway gas station to top off our tank and use our Rewards Points to get a 20-cent-per-gallon discount. As I was BS-ing with the gas-pumper-guy, he asked me if I REALLY wanted to use bio-diesel which, according to him, was regular diesel cut with 15% used restaurant cooking oil – the discards of the stuff used to make things like French fry’s. He said that they had received numerous customer complaints about loss of power, diminished mileage and clogged fuel filters (which in our truck cost about $100 to replace – parts and labor.) He actually suggested we go down the road to Fred Meyer and get some ‘real’ dieseI – for 2 cents less per gallon (before our discount.) But, we took a risk and had him top off the tank to the tune of adding only about 10 gallons.
Turns out his observations seemed to be correct. The next day as we headed back inland to Seven Feather, near Canyonville, I noticed a slight decrease in pulling power up hills, as well as about a 10-15% decrease in mileage. So, we learned something…no more bio-diesel for us. In the future, we will be careful to use only ULSD (ultra low sulfur diesel). As a footnote, after we filled up again at Seven Feathers, things seem to return to normal. Lesson learned.
We decided to have dinner at the Seven Feathers Casino (I made enough at the tables earlier to pay for it.) Everything seemed OK – until about 1 AM when I awoke from a very weird dream with severe stomach cramps. I spent most of the remainder of the night/early morning in the head. (Dee Dee was fine, probably because she had a different dinner than I did.)
Next stop was about 260 miles down The Five freeway to Corning, CA, to the Rolling Hills Casino. On the way there we crested the Siskiyou Summit and battled high cross-winds from Yreka to Weed. Made for some tense driving. Friends had told up about the campground there (at Rolling Hills) and said it was a pretty good deal. Turned out to be excellent advice. Friendly staff, inexpensive ($28) and well maintained. Only issue happened that evening – after dark – when I was out walking Charlie on the perimeter of the park, where there was a lot of open space. It was raining, and he was running off-leash. This woman who was walking down the road (let’s call her ‘The Dog Nazi’) started giving me a load of crap. “That dog is supposed to be on a leash!” I restrained myself and did not say everything I felt like saying, but still got my point across to her regarding what I felt about her remarks. She walked away mumbling. At first I thought she was a campground employee, but it turns out she was just a nosey, busy-body who was just staying the night.
We are now in Modesto, after surviving the ‘highway construction gauntlet’ between North Stockton and Modesto – what a mess, and fairly stressful when you are pulling a 5th-wheel, competing with big-ass semi-trucks for road space. We are lucky to have Al and Linda Cover as good friends; we are staying at their place in the country…we call it ‘Big Al’s Sheep Ranch and Campground.’
Having a great time visiting many old friends, playing golf and reminiscing about ‘the good old days.’ I really was disappointed not being able to see my really good buddy, Bill, who has been quite ill as of late.
It has been pretty much non-stop stuff-to-do since we got here, and a lot of fun. We really miss living in this great, friendly, community. It’s amazing how Modesto has grown – from under 55,000 when we moved here in 1974 to over 203,000 today. The sprawl is incredible. And the College (MJC) has also experienced explosive growth, with many new facilities since I left in 2002. The West Campus in particular has grown by leaps and bounds. Dee Dee has really enjoyed seeing the several folks she worked with at the Frito Lay plant, and hanging out with her buddy, Dorlene.
(There are a few more things to relate about Modesto, but I will include those in the next installment, as this one is starting to get pretty wordy.)
We are here for a couple of more days, then we will be heading off to Bakersfield, Dagget (where there is a free catch-and-release pond in the campground) and then Las Vegas, where we will be for 4 days, over Thanksgiving, staying near Fremont Street – our favorite Las Vegas place-to-be.
But that’s the next installment…
Posted on November 17, 2014
And Away We Go…
Finally. We are on the road to Florida, with many stops planned before we get there in February.
We got the house closed up (well, except for leaving Bert and Ernie, our loyal pit bulls, on the premises…) and departed Silver Lake at 9 AM in 27 degree F, clear and sunny weather. As usual, we hit the first major obstacle, getting out of our driveway, within the first 20 seconds of the trip. We made it up the first try, which sometimes does not happen. Dylan and Charlie were settled into the back seat and ready for their next big adventure. We just had to be careful not to say ‘beach’ or ‘ball’ in front of Charlie.
We took The 5 thru Portland and eventually connected with Highway 18, which we followed all the way into Lincoln City. As a side note, as we were cruising down 18 just SW of McMinnville, we were startled (I mean STARTLED!) to see a Boeing 747 parked in the middle of a plowed field. Closer inspection revealed it was ‘parked’ in front of the Evergreen Air Museum, a large and impressive place. If you are an aircraft aficionado, then this place would be like dying and going to heaven. IT’S HUGE. And believe me, that 747, along with another one sitting on the roof of one of several museum buildings, will definitely get your attention.
After a brief stop, we continued on to the Logan Road RV Park in Lincoln City. This place is affiliated with the Chinook Winds Casino, owned by the Confederate Tribes of Siletz Indians. The RV park advertises itself as being ‘adjacent’ to the Casino. (As Dee Dee says, ‘adjacent’ is the operative word.) As soon as we pulled into the place, I knew it was not going to be (anything) like we had envisioned. All concrete, narrow spaces. But, clean and a HUMONGO dog run that pleased Charlie to no ‘end.’ And, Norman, the campground host was one of the friendliest guys you would want to meet. The Wi-Fi in the parked was pretty much non-existent as the many long-term renters all seemed to be streaming movies from Netflix all at one time. We just gave up on it. They do have a free shuttle that will take you back and forth. We tried it once and it was actually pretty good. They will also take you out to the Tribe-operated golf course for free…but Bob skipped it…too COLD to play.
The Chinook Winds Casino is huge and not too bad. Very nice bar overlooking the ocean, with decent food. (If you want to sit near the windows, you have to order food with your drink. Even though there were 20+ window tables and only 2 were occupied. And, the drinks are watered…so if you want any kind a buzz, order a double. Our first waitress (we ate lunch there 2 times) was pretty snarky, but the 2nd time our new waitress was great. The Casino is 19 years old and beginning to show its age, but it’s still in pretty good shape. And, they do bring in some big name entertainment (Willie Nelson and Foreigner, for example) at very reasonable ticket prices. If you are into slots (we’re not), there are only about a billion machines there. As well as an ample supply of blackjack and crap tables. I had a blackjack dealer who was ranked as one of America’s Biggest Jerks – total butt-head. Even so, I walked away relatively unscathed after only about 45 minutes of play. Dee Dee’s favorite thing was the free Pepsi and chocolate cake.
Charlie ran his ass off on the beach…we took him down 3 times and at the end of each session his tongue was dragging on the ground. That dog will chase a tennis ball until he has a coronary.
We explored Lincoln City a bit; Dee Dee picked up an ‘authentic’ glass Japanese fishing ball. BTW, Lincoln City has a cool tourist thing going where they deposit – above the high-tide line – glass balls, and other artifacts, made by local artists. We did not see any. Sigh…
Lincoln City, along with most other towns on the northern Oregon Coast, is an incredible compression of humanity and traffic congestion. If you are looking for not-too-many-people-and-no-traffic, head further south, at least past Newport.
After 2 days, we continued south on Highway 101 to Florence, Oregon, a delightful down, far less-congested than Lincoln City (which we will skip – with no regret – the next trip.) There are many, many Oregon State Parks on the way to Florence from Lincoln City. Next time we will do more careful checking and try to stay at one, or more, of them.
So here we now sit, at the Hecata Beach RV Park, as I type. This is a wonderful place; friendly office staff, lots of trees, very quiet, and only about .2 of a mile from beach access – and it’s a very nice, very dog friendly, beach. Charlie met several new friends…or should I say they met him. He was pretty much fixated on his tennis ball.
I will mention again that the Wi-Fi at the Logan Road RV Park more than sucked. Not the case here in Florence. Good, strong signal. (Hence the 3-day delay in our first blog installment.)
Tomorrow we turn away from the Oregon Coast had head overland for The 5, and then south to Canyonville to the Seven Feathers RV Park, one of our favorite places. Nice casino, too. After that, off to someplace in Northern California, with maybe a brief stop in Ashland, Oregon, to see an old friend.
(As a side note: our posts to this Blog depend on our ability to connect to the Internet. Crappy WiFi = No Communication. So, we may go a few days between posts, either because there was not that much to report, or we could not get online to make a post. So, please be patient.)