Christmas Tour to Laughlin, Nevada


It was raining when we woke up at 5:30 on Christmas Eve morning. We were planning to walk the short distance to our pick-up spot for the Worldspan Christmas in Laughlin Tour. We thought it better to leave the car at home, rather than in an empty parking lot for three days, but we could think of no one who would be up that early and willing to give us a ride! Fortunately the rain had stopped by the time we were ready to leave a half hour later.

The bus trip was pretty much uneventful. The rain started again just as we were boarding, and stayed with us all the way. We made a short stop at a fast food restaurant in Wickenburg for breakfast. We wished it could have been at the Cowboy Restaurant we’d visited before, but it wasn’t open anyway. When we got back onto the bus, a movie was cued and ready for our enjoyment – The Christmas Gift. It helped to pass the time, until our next brief rest stop in Kingman. At 11:00 a.m. we arrived at our Hotel – The Edgewater.

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We wouldn’t be given our room keys until 3:00 pm, although our luggage would be taken to our room at some time before that. We were given our Casino playing cards though, but not our promised food vouchers. So what was there for us to do for four hours? Within an hour, Jim and I had lost the meagre allotment that we allowed ourselves ($15.00 between us) on the slot machines. We’d checked our carry-on baggage and coats at the Valet desk, but Jim thought we should go for a walk along the Board Walk that spanned the distance between the Edgewater Hotel and the Colorado Belle. The rain had nearly stopped, but a cold wind still blew. I wrapped my scarf around my arms and dashed out. It was worth it.

On our way back through our lobby we looked into one of the gift shops and ended up buying a new weekender bag to replace the patched one that I’d brought with me. By then the rain had stopped and we retrieved our coats to walk across the street to the Outlet Mall, where we managed to do window shopping without spending much. We were tempted by all the bargains.

Back at our hotel lobby we enjoyed the complimentary hot chocolate and Christmas cookies that were offered, and commiserated with fellow tour passengers about the long wait, and the fact that the Christmas Eve Buffet that we’d been promised had been cancelled. One woman, who was on her own, had been looking forward to it.

At 3:00 we were given our room keys. We picked up our other things from the Valet desk and made our way to the eleventh floor. The elevators smelled of stale smoke and the halls were very cold, but our room was large and comfortable. There was no mini-fridge for the bottles of juice and coffee that I’d taken with us. I was exhausted and laid down, hoping to have a nap, but it was of no use. We’d planned to meet our friends (who had gotten on a different tour and were at a different hotel) for dinner. We walked to the Riverside Hotel and got to compare it with the Edgewater. It was bigger and had more amenities, like a movie theatre, a bowling alley and a ballroom for evening dancing, but our friends weren’t very pleased with their room. Both hotels are some of the older ones on the strip.

On our walk back to our hotel, we toured through The Aquarius, where we saw the first sign of Christmas lights, and took some pictures of the other nearby hotels that were lit up.

We were in bed early, too tired to keep our eyes open any longer.

Christmas Day was the day we looked forward to. Jim was up early, ready to meet the fellow from Second to None 220 Tours, who would take him to pick up the Polaris Slingshot that he’d reserved. He was so excited that he forgot what day it was until I wished him a Merry Christmas upon his return!

The rain had returned during the night, so we got showered and dressed and found the Breakfast Buffet to fill our bellies, hoping that by the time we got back to our rooms the clouds would be lifted. They weren’t. At 10:30 the sun began to peek through the clouds so we bundled up because we knew it would be cold, and climbed into the Slingshot and headed across the bridge, back into Arizona, with big smiles on our faces.

The sun soon disappeared and rain splashed on our helmet visors. I made use of the cloths that had been left in the glove box just for such purposes. We also made use of the woven blankets that were tucked behind the seats, to help keep us warm.

We arrived in Kingman in time for lunch and warmth. When we left, the sun was shining again and accompanied us the rest of the way up the mountain on a narrow, winding section of Route 66.

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Had to get this shot in KIngman before we left

There were signs of recent flooding, parts of the shoulder crumbled, and at one spot we had to drive slowly through a small patch of running water that was flooding the road. Fortunately, it was only a few inches deep. We were on our way to Oatman, which turned out to be on the other side of the mountain. I was grateful that Jim is a careful, mature driver.

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About half way to Oatman we came across this little museum, and some beautiful vistas.

Soon we were descending into Oatman. I think the photos will tell the story.

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We were back at our hotel in time to chat with family on the phone, and enjoy the complimentary Christmas Day Buffet, before Jim took the Slingshot back to Second to None 220 Tours, where the owner met him and drove him back to the hotel. Needless to say, it was another early night.

Boxing Day was a lazy day. The rain was back. We got bagels and cream cheese and coffee from the lobby donut shop to eat in our room. There were no tables or comfortable chairs anywhere in the lobby. There was nothing else to do, it seemed, but gamble. We stayed in our room until we had to be out at 11:00 a.m., but we were told not to board the bus until 1:00. We claimed our complimentary pieces of pizza from one of the restaurants. Jim did things on his iPad. I’d run out of data on my phone, and my tablet was just about dead, so I put another five dollars into one of the slot machines and played for twenty minutes to pass the time. I left with $4.97.

Other than a different movie, the trip back to Mesa was just the opposite of the one to Laughlin, including the rain.

Would we do that trip again? Probably not. But the Slingshot ride to Oatman made it all worthwhile!

Hoover Dam, Treasure Island and Fremont Street


Hearing the news today, I’m thankful that we aren’t in Vegas this week. The “shootout” appears to have taken place in very close proximity to our hotel! Of course, it happened in the early hours of the morning, so we probably would have been safe.

On Saturday, we took a break from the lights and boarded a bus to Hoover Dam. We had a very congenial driver who filled us in on some the history of Las Vegas and things of interest along the way. It took us about an hour to get to the dam, where we were immediately taken on a video tour of the building of the dam, then down through the tunnels and into the Generator Room.

Hoover Dam Generators

Hoover Dam Generators

Back up to the top, we were left to explore the museum and gift shop (isn’t there always one of those?) before heading outdoors to take pictures from every angle.

Hoover Dam

Hoover Dam

Hoover Dam

Hoover Dam

Hoover Dam

Hoover Dam

What an impressive feat!

We arrived back on The Strip in time to meet up with the rest of the family at New York New York. They’d arrived while we were gone and were already enjoying the infamous yard high drinks that we’d seen everywhere. We didn’t need to wait for them to finish. Drinks of every sort can be carried along the streets from one establishment to another, the empty containers left anywhere along the way to be surreptitiously picked up by city cleanup staff and re-distributed among the hotel bars.

We watched the Pirate Show outside Treasure Island Hotel and grabbed dinner at Senor Frog, before catching cabs to take us downtown to Fremont Street.

Pirate Show

Pirate Show

Fremont Street is the older “strip” where the original hotels and casinos can be found. To compete with the flashing lights of the “new” strip, the many-blocks-long street has been closed to traffic and covered with a huge white canvas canopy. Every half hour the throngs of people partying beneath it are treated to a moving light show on the ceiling, each with its own musical theme, such as music by Queen or The Beatles, and you can’t help but laugh at some of the costumes and antics of revellers.

Fremont Street

Fremont Street

As much as we would have liked to stay to enjoy the show, we had to leave the “young ones” to it because we had reservations at 6:20 am for the Grand Canyon Tour of a lifetime.

Viva Las Vegas


Viva Las Vegas!

Although we aren’t big gamblers or drinkers, Las Vegas is one of those places that everyone needs to experience at least once, right? So after a couple of months of stress and sadness, we decided to join a few of my family members for a whimsical downtime, exploring the never-ending themes of Las Vegas. Of course, visits to the natural wonder of the Grand Canyon and to Hoover Dam had to be included in the itinerary as well!

For us, leaving from Toronto and choosing a cheap flight meant a ten-hour trip, unlike the short jaunt for the rest of our party flying from British Columbia, but we arrived a couple of days ahead of them.

Before I share with you all of the fun we had, I’m going to get a few warnings out of the way. We soon discovered that you can lose money very quickly without even entering a casino.

1.  If you take a taxi from the airport to your hotel, tell the driver that you want to go via city streets. It was after 10:00 pm our time when we climbed into our cab, headed for the Flamingo Hotel.  The  driver asked, “Do you want to take the highway or the city street?”  As newcomers we naturally thought the highway would be the quickest route. He saw us coming! What should have been a $15.00 drive cost us $30.00!  We also learned later that the extra $5.00 “airport fee” that he tacked on was already included in the rate.

2. When you find yourself hungry after you’ve checked into your hotel, don’t head to the nearest hotel eatery that you see. Two large salads and ice tea at Carlos & Charlie’s Bar and Grill in the hotel cost us $37.00. Two simple bacon and egg breakfasts with one orange juice and two coffees the next morning at the convenient  Tropical Breeze came to a grand total of $36.00. The orange juice alone was $5.00! The bacon made me thirsty so I picked up a bottle of water at one of the fast-food stands in the lobby.  I was prepared to pay $2.50 or $3.00, but it was $4.50 for half the size of bottle that I’d purchased at the airport for a dollar less.

3.  Everywhere you turn you will be bombarded by pushy people offering “free” breakfast and tickets to shows, just for agreeing to tour a time-share condominium by Wyndham, owners of 80% of the hotels and condos in Vegas. If you don’t mind spending the time, it’s worthwhile, but know that the two-hours they assure you it will take will extend into three or four hours if you don’t want to purchase a time-share. The sales people will try all sorts of tactics and discounts to get your signature on the bottom line.

4.  There is no free Wifi in the hotels, and it’s expensive to purchase. That’s why I was unable to post each day. Denny’s Restaurant and some of the shops in The Forum do have free access.

We did get a $5.00 gambling voucher and “free” tickets to see the shocking yet funny comedian, Vinnie Favorito, at Bugsys Cabaret when we registered for our Total Rewards Cards. Free is in quotes because there was a catch – we had to prepay for two alcoholic drinks, about $18.00 .

After our expensive late-night dinner, we’d revived enough to want to head out onto “The Strip”  and begin our adventure.

Night lights of Vegas

Night lights of Vegas

Caesar's Palace

Caesar’s Palace

Blue, sunny skies on the inside of Caesar's Palace

Blue, sunny skies on the inside of Caesar’s Palace

Inside Caesar's Palace

Inside Caesar’s Palace

The Flamingo Hotel is still undergoing renovations, and new construction is taking place in the lot next door. Our room was clean and very adequate for the amount of time that we spent in it, but we were awakened, sometimes as early at 4:00 a.m. (Las Vegas time) by the sound of jack hammers and vehicles backing up right outside our window. We were offered an upgrade when we checked in, but chose to save our money for more interesting things.

The back exit from the hotel led us through this lovely garden complete with live flamingos, swans, ducks and Koi fish enjoying the ponds.

Flamingo Hotel garden

Flamingo Hotel garden

Flamingo Hotel garden

Flamingo Hotel garden

Flamingos

Flamingos

Koi Fish in Flamingo Hotel garden

Koi Fish in Flamingo Hotel garden

Every hotel has a theme, and over the course of the next five days, we explored most of them at least once.We took a ride on a gondola through the streets of “Venice” at the Venetian Hotel.

Venetian Hotel

Venetian Hotel

Gondolas, Venetian Hotel

Gondolas, Venetian Hotel

And strolled through the streets of Paris.

Eiffel Tower, Paris Hote

Eiffel Tower, Paris Hotel

Streets of Paris

Streets of “Paris”

I’ll share more of this adventure next post.

Another Day in Reno


Friday Day 24

Our day started at 6 a.m. We took the motor home back to the service centre, pulling the bike behind it so we could go get some breakfast while the tank was being dropped and the situation analyzed. When we got back, they had the old pump out and we took it to the Ford parts department to see if we could a new one.  We could.  They’d have it in for us in an hour. We wandered around a local mall to fill in the time. I looked around the Burlington Coat Factory for a bit, but seeing Jim standing at the door looking impatient stifles my desire to shop rather quickly. Now a stop at another Harbor Freight store was a different story! Ha, ha.

When we picked up the new pump, the store manager took pity on us and gave us a cut rate. We dropped it off back at the GM Service Department and came back to the hotel to enjoy a swim and lunch by the pool.  The day had gotten hot again and the water was like that of a tepid bath, but still it was refreshing and it was the only chance we’ve had to make use of our passes.

Back to the service centre again. They were still working on it.  We spent another hour or so in the waiting room.  We began to feel like part of the family. At last it was done and we were pleasantly surprised to find that the labour charges weren’t as high as expected either. So the day ended not quite as badly as we’d thought. We’d saved about $300. Also, the first time that the engine had shuttered, a couple of weeks ago, we thought it was a transmission problem. That could have cost us a whole lot more.

And we’re grateful to Mike at the GM Service Centre and Mike at the Ford Parts department for their sympathy and generosity that got us back on the road as painlessly as possible.

Tomorrow we leave for Yosemite National Park in California.

The Bubble Sprung a Leak


Thurs. Day 23

Today was a day to take care of some domestics. While we waited at the Laundromat for the laundry to be done, Jim made some phone calls to see if we could get the motor home checked out before we were ready to leave Reno tomorrow. He contacted the service manager at the local GM dealership, one that specializes in big trucks. They were very busy, but when Jim explained our situation he agreed to look at it. We took it in right after lunch and spent the next two hours sitting in the waiting room for the diagnosis.  The news wasn’t good. We needed a new fuel pump. With installation it would cost about $1100. Our bubble had finally burst. The service manager did suggest that we might be able to find a better deal on the pump if we could pick it up ourselves. We brought the rv back to the park for the night and we’ll be up very early in the morning to take it back to the service centre. The gas tank will need to be dropped and the old pump removed in order to get a part number.  Then we can look for a replacement.

Rather than sit and fret about all of this, we hopped on the bike and went to the State Fair. Being “old” we got in for free! Bonus! We watched the Wild West Show and a couple of “gun fights” and strolled through the midway.  Again we were surprised by the poor attendance. Everyone blames it on the economy, yet if you take a look around this RV Park it’s plain to see that not everyone is suffering.