Thursday, October 31, 2013

Twisted Farm Food

We haven’t written about a local food delicacy for awhile.  What would be the food delicacy of Las Vegas – the casino buffet?

We did find a meal that we need to reflect on.  At one end of Fremont Street is the Heart Attack Grill which we previously reported on.  At the other end in the Plaza Hotel is a restaurant called Hash House a Go Go.  Apparently this chain began in San Diego and there are about 4 of them in Las Vegas and they are in a few other cities as well.  The founder must have been a Hoosier as he bills his fare as “twisted farm food” and there is a dish with name Kokomo in it.  And they have a true Indiana delicacy on the menu, the deep-fried pork tenderloin sandwich.  We reported on this delicacy from a visit to Indiana in September last year.  You take a piece of pork tenderloin, pound it out thin, bread it, and deep fry it.  A proper Indiana tenderloin sandwich should have as much tenderloin sticking out side the bun as under it.

2013-10-26_19-25-09_557So here is a “twisted farm food” version of the pork tenderloin sandwich.  Thank God we only ordered one of these for the two of us.  And what is that dish setting next to the sandwich that looks like an order of hash?  That is a dish of horseradish mashed potatoes.

Twisted farm food seems an appropriated description.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A Lucky Day

Our friend Mark went to California for a week but stopped back in Vegas for a couple days before returning to Detroit.  We decided we would all “pull a Mark” again at the Bellagio buffet.  It was so good the first time that we had to have another go at it.  We were just a little slow getting out the door.  We arrived to meet Mark at the queue for the buffet at about 3:10.  The line looked a bit long to us, but Mark who is the expert after all at “pulling a Mark” said he thought we would just make it before the price would go up at 3:30.  But then several people started passing through the preferred lane who took priority over those of us in the “pulling-a-Mark” lane.  It went right down to the wire, we were at the final gate before the payment registers with 3 minutes to spare.  The registers cleared but the hostess wouldn’t open the gate for us to pay because there were too many people in the line of people waiting to be seated.  The clock strikes 3:29.  There is no forgiveness on the time.  You either pay before 3:30 or you are assessed the higher dinner price.  We are panicking at this point.  I am virtually jumping up and down and calling out to the hostess.  She unhooks the rope.  We race to one register; Mark races to the other.  Out come the credit cards.  Our voucher gets printed.  And the time on the vouchers is 3:29 – we pulled a Mark with only a few seconds to spare – a $33 save among the three of us.  And even though it isn’t the gourmet dinner with the caviar on a Monday, it was a fabulous meal just the same.

IMG-001I had the sniffles and was starting to feel like I was going a bit downhill, so we jumped a bus back to the downtown.  Our casino has been running a Monday Night Football promotion wherein they give out various items of swag and one grand prize each week.  It seems all the casinos run some kind of MNF promotion to try to get you into and to stay at their casino during the game.  It was halftime when we got back so we had missed all the first half drawings.  We went to the kiosk and printed out our vouchers.  We crunched them up and straightened them back out to increase our chances of being drawn.  We dropped them into the drum.   During the second half they gave away some t-shirts and a couple bottles of wine, but nothing for us.  The end of the game comes. (And it was an exciting game as the Rams had several chances to upset the Seahawks in the last seconds but fell short.)  They announce the grand prize drawing is about to commence.  Some casino bigwig comes in to spin the drum and draw the winning ticket.  He hands it to the announcer.  He reads the first name “Leeanne”.  I immediately think there isn’t another Leeanne in this crowd.  Sure enough, he calls the last name and it is me.  I won the grand prize – a 32” Flat Screen TV.

We already changed out the TVs in our motor home to flat screens.  We really have no use for this one, so up on to Craigslist it has gone.  Gary never wins a thing in drawings but I have to say I have pretty uncanny luck when it comes to these things.  But another raffle win was a real thrill!  We were big winners on the day and we didn’t gamble a nickel.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Down On The Strip

We have made a few trips down to The Strip from our location downtown.  There are a few things that are new there since the last time we were here together in 2009.  (Although somehow Gary was here briefly in 2010 driving our then new-to-us motor home back from San Francisco to Detroit.  I still can’t figure out how Las Vegas fit with that trip.)  Anyway, the whole City Center Complex and the Cosmopolitan are new to us.  The thing that really struck us in this area is the use of video monitors of the type employed in sports stadiums. 




This one is for the Aria hotel/casino at City Center.  This display is 10 to 15 stories high and is constantly changing scenes among ads and pictures like these.  The shopping at City Center is so exclusive that they even have a Harry Winston diamond store.





Across the street at Planet Hollywood, they have a whole string of huge video boards.  Their shopping arcade actually has some stores that we could feel comfortable browsing in.

LED’s haven’t replaced neon, but they are certainly putting a new twist on the glitz and glitter that is Las Vegas.

800px-The_Cosmopolitan_of_Las_VegasAnother new property on the strip is the Cosmopolitan.  They acquired their land purchasing the parking lot of a timeshare complex known as the Jockey Club.  In this commercial picture you can see how they built their two huge high-rise towers right around the two short towers of the Jockey Club (just to the right of the Bellagio sign).  The timeshares got guaranteed free parking in Cosmo’s garages and millions for their parking lot and loss of their views. 

As reported, we previously visited Caesar’s and Bellagio and also passed through Mirage, Harrah’s, Bally’s, Paris and Venetian/Palazzo on other forays from downtown.  We still marvel at how people can afford these places and their huge prices and incredibly high gambling minimums.  We’ll be just fine downtown in our $14 a night campground space staying in our own “luxury suite”, enjoying the $2 craft beers at the “Station”.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The New Hundred Dollar Bill

You probably have heard the news reports that the US Treasury is releasing a new hundred dollar bill with new security measures to make it yet more difficult to counterfeit.  So what better place is there for getting bills into circulation than Las Vegas?  It didn’t take long before we were issued one at the casino cage.  Fortunately we had some chips to cash in.  So, here it is in all it’s glory.


The blue stripe on the front is pretty cool.  It is woven into the paper and is not just printed.  It alternates in a moving pattern between liberty bells and 100s as you rotate it slightly.  Here is a link to an article in USA Today about other features of the new bill

Sure hope this post doesn’t get me in trouble.  But the IRS was probably listening to my phone calls and monitoring my emails already. 

I hope I win a whole bunch of these!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Pawn Stars

100_5802We are fans of the TV show Pawn Stars.  We have been watching it since it launched back in 2009.  It has become one of the highest rated reality TV shows.  And it has become quite the tourist attraction here in Las Vegas.  Anytime we have been close to the place there have been lines out of the sidewalk waiting to be allowed inside.  The day we went, there was a fairly short wait of 5 to 10 minutes. 

We had read more than a few reports about the place which said it was a rather small shop with not all the much merchandise for sale.  The reports were true.  There is a center aisle with some display cases on either side and a car and a couple motorcycles in the back in an expansion to the front room.  There is a small alcove off the entrance where there is a counter and a couple desks, but we were not convinced this is even the area where the desk shots are filmed for the series.  And of course there is a ton of t-shirts and other trinkets and trash for sale as well.  None of the stars of the show were there during our visit.  We figured it would actually be a major disruption to business if they were at the shop.  We are guess that they likely now only show up for tapings.  We did see the collection of Super Bowl rings.



As we reported way back in one of our first ever blogs not long before we actually hit the road as full timers, we visited the Detroit home of the Hardcore Pawn TV show.  How many can say that they have been to the sites of both Pawn Stars and Hardcore Pawn?  Perhaps a better question would be why would anyone want to visit both of these places?  But we have, so there you go.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Pulling A Mark With Mark

If you are a long-time follower of our blog, this title might sound a bit familiar to you.  Back in May of last year, we reported that we had "pulled a Mark” in the Mohegan Sun casino in Connecticut.  If you don’t want to go back and review the prior post, "pulling a Mark” is named after a friend of ours who is famous for going to the casino buffet at the end of the lunch period and staying for dinner.

100_5812So, while we are in is Vegas, who shows up here from Detroit?  Yep, sure enough it is Mark.  Of course, we have to “pull a Mark” with Mark.  We had “pulled a Mark” with Mark once before here in Vegas.  We returned to the scene of the crime – the buffet at Bellagio.  This buffet would be in the top 5 if not the very top pick of anyone’s Las Vegas buffet lists.  We went on Friday.  The lunch price is $21.99 each.  The Friday dinner buffet at Bellagio is a special “gourmet” buffet with a price of $38.99.  So we each saved $17 by “pulling a Mark”.

So what makes Friday’s buffet a special gourmet one other than it’s on the weekend when the price of everything goes up?  As best we can tell, it is the addition of caviar to buffet.  But they do all the serving of it of course.  It truly is a spectacular buffet, from the sushi to the all-things-salmon to the Kobe beef to the amazing desserts.


100_5806Now, at the other end of the spectrum, we also “pulled a Mark” with Mark in one of the true dives of Las Vegas – the Ellis Island Casino a block of the strip.  There for the low price of $8.99 each you get a rib eye steak, baked potato, vegetable, salad and a large beer brewed on site – probably the best steak deal in all of Vegas.

By the way, the secret of “pulling a Mark” seems to be spreading.  The lunch buffet line was empty a half hour before they went to dinner prices, but in that last half hour of lunch somehow the how place filled up.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Let It Ride

100_5808“Let it ride” is a phrase sometimes heard around the gambling tables here in Vegas – you win a bet and instead of taking your winnings, you “let it ride” or “press it up” as a double bet on the next hand.  “Let it ride” is also the name of a particular table game on the casino floor.  Unlike Blackjack and Craps which are games in the public domain, Let it Ride is a patented and trademarked game and the casinos have to compensate the owner of the game for its use on their floors.  It is fairly popular with players even though there is quite a house advantage.  But it is not real popular with the casinos because they have to hand over a good portion of that house advantage to the game owner.

The game is a fairly simple one.  You make three required bets plus an optional bonus bet and then are dealt the first three cards of what will become a five card poker hand.  If your three cards are weak, you can pull back one of your three bets.  If your hand is strong you can “let it ride”.  The dealer turns over a community card that becomes the fourth card for each player’s hand and again you can pull back or let ride another of your three required bets.  The dealer then turns over the second community card completing each player’s five-card hand.  Your poker hand is paid or not paid based on a predetermined pay scale noted on the table.  One nice thing about the game is that you have an option on two of the bets.  Let’s say you bet $16 – three $5 bets plus a $1 bonus.  If you have a big pair in your first three cards, you will be paid on each of those bets.  But if you have a weak hand than doesn’t improve you will have pulled back two bets and only have $6 in play at the showdown.

It is a game that can wipe you out of your stake pretty quickly if you don’t hit any cards.  But it is a game where relatively you can win a lot of money if you hit a really big hand and then get out.  You are hoping to catch some big pairs, two pairs, three of a kinds, straights and flushes to sustain your play all the while you are hoping for a big hand such as a full house, four of a kind, or straight flush.

So where is all of this going?  I really like to play this game, but I dutifully stayed away from it until I had some winnings I could “invest” in the game.  We had been here nearly three weeks until I had some good winnings from some machines and made my first foray to the Let it Ride table.  Gary watched standing behind me as I played.  I was doing pretty well with my sustaining wins.  I seemed to have luck hitting two pairs and was holding my own or better vis-a-vis my initial stake.  AND THEN IT CAME!  I look down into my three card hand and there are two queens.  There will be no pulling back bets this time.  I have a guaranteed winner so I am letting it ride on all the bets.  There are two other queens somewhere so there is a 4% chance that next community card will be a queen.  The dealer turns it over – a queen.  I now have three queens in my hand.  The excitement builds at this point.  Gary points in at the table and says to the dealer just one more of those!   At this point everyone pretty much knows I am drawing for four of a kind.  There is one queen left somewhere.  It could be in someone else’s three card hand.  It could be in the stack on cards not used in this round of place.  But, there is a 2% chance that last  community card is the final queen.  The dealer turns it over – ANOTHER QUEEN.  Shouts of joy and arm thrusts into the air erupt.  The table is quite happy too.  With two queens as community cards, everyone is a guaranteed winner.

So, what did the table pay?  Each of the three $5 mandatory bets paid $250.  The $1 bonus bet paid $100.  I play one more hand “to clear my winner”, tip the dealer with some of my earlier winnings and leave the table with my $850 win as well as my initial $100 stake.

The odds of hitting four of a kind in a 5-card poker hand – 4,164 to 1.  I guess you could say it was my lucky day.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Golden Nugget

2013-10-08_21-26-31_494What a great name for a casino – The Golden Nugget.  Also known as just “The Nugget” it is the most upscale of the downtown hotel/casinos none of which are nearly as fabulous as most of the properties on “The Strip”.  We are very happy being in the downtown and one of the main reasons is that it’s a lot cheaper here.  We were at Caesar’s Palace one evening and ordered a couple of beers at a bar – $17 for two beers.  At the brewpub in “our hotel” it is $4.50 full price for an on-site craft brewed beer and between happy hour and football game discounts, the price is generally $2 to $2.50 a pint.  But back to “The Nugget”; one of their attractions is their display of two of the world’s largest real raw golden nuggets.  One of the nuggets shown to the 2013-10-08_21-26-58_786upper right is Robin’s Nugget.  It weighs 189.7 Troy ounces or over 13 pounds.  The gold value is around $250,000 but of course it is worth much more because it is a rare large nugget.  The second nugget is the Hand of Faith Nugget.  It weighs 875 Troy ounces, or 61 pounds 11 ounces.  Its gold content is worth over a million dollars.  The nugget was found in Australia in 1980.  It was buried under less than a foot of ground and was discovered with a metal detector.  Can you imagine the thrill of that find?  We are in a region that has gold in the ground.  Gary, get out that metal detector!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

One Million Dollars

IMGDon’t we look happy standing in front of $1 million in $100 bills?  Did we hit it big in Vegas?  Did one of our lottery tickets finally come in?  Did we win the prize for being the one millionth customer?  Or, was it none of the above?  If you picked “none of the above”, you made the correct call.  At Binion’s, one of the downtown casinos, their main attraction to pull you in is this real display of one million dollars.  And they even take your picture for free standing behind it.  As it is all enclosed in plexiglass and there are always lots of people around, it might be difficult to make off with any of it.  And it would take quite a carrying case to boot.


It is hard to believe we have been here two weeks already.  Time flies when you are in Las Vegas, even for an extended stay.  So how is our self-proclaimed poker pro doing.  Well, he seems to tell a new tale of woe after he comes back from each tournament.  One day he had aces in the hole, saw another ace come on the flop and wound up chopping the pot as all five cards on the board were clubs.  He apparently has been outdrawn a number of times when he has had monster hands and was the overwhelming favorite.  But he did break through this week, cashing in fifth place in a 48-person tournament.  This was a “bounty tournament” where you earn $20 for each player you knock out.  He won $185 for fifth and $60 in bounties, but he is only about half way to even.  But with his card counting skills fully sharpened again, he has yet to have a losing session at blackjack.  I have been using the coupon book that we purchased and taking advantage of its free play and match play coupons.  That has helped to mitigate a bit my other losses in the machines.  In total, we really aren’t down very much for this being our sixteenth day here.

This is the casino guide/coupon book we purchased.  If you are in Vegas for just a long weekend, it may not help a lot, but for an extended stay, it has paid for itself a few times over:

We don’t spend all that much time gambling.  Our Detroit Tigers are keeping us busy watching their games and we enjoy having a brewery right here at the hotel where we are camped.  We have been out and about the city doing some needed shopping in stores, off Craigslist, and even some garage sales.  We’ll have to report more later on some of our great buys.

Monday, October 7, 2013

The Heart Attack Grill

2013-09-30_18-53-10_147Here is another “Roadside America” attraction in Downtown Las Vegas – The Heart Attack Grill.   First and foremost, we did not eat there.  We took the warning from the owner himself that their food would kill you.  But we did have a good chuckle as we peered inside and saw customers (patients) dressed in hospital gowns being served by waitresses (in nurse costumes).  In reading up on this place, we found that the quadruple bypass burger is close to 10,000 calories.  Their Flatliner Fries are deep fried in pure lard and are served unadulterated – not drained of the grease from frying.  The shakes are made from butter fat cream.  If you want to see more, just click on the following link of the owner’s interview on Bloomberg TV



Sunday, October 6, 2013

Mr Gorbachev, Tear Down This Wall….

……and put a chunk of it in a bathroom of the Main Street Station Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada so that men can pee on it.  The Berlin Wall is is one of many “Roadside America” attractions in Las Vegas.  But only the guys get to see this one.   The urinals are mounted to an actual section of the Berlin Wall, complete with the wall’s graffiti.  I am not sure the sign and pictures up top serve to improve aim.


Friday, October 4, 2013

People Watching on Fremont Street

100_9262Fremont Street is closed to vehicle traffic from Las Vegas Blvd (the Strip) west to Main Street.  Above that entire stretch is Viva Vision, a canopy of lights integrating video, animation, and music.  At night there are short shows at the top of every hour.  It brings a lot of people to the downtown.  At the right is a picture from the Bon Jovi “show”.  And where there are lots of people in the street, there will be lots of street people trying to make a buck.  They are standing about the area hoping that people will pay for having their picture taken with them.  Shown below are Spiderman and Cupid.  Doesn’t everyone want to have their picture taken with a balding cupid wearing heart-shaped pasties and a makeshift thong?


Or, you could have your picture taken with the devil – wearing pasties and a thong.


Singers are popular too,  KISS or Elvis anyone?


Movie characters are also there.


And to close out this post.  How about a guy who plays a guitar with his teeth and a fairy princess?  It’s all happening right here in Vegas on Fremont Street.  And we are only two blocks away.


Thursday, October 3, 2013

Urban Camping

We have visited a lot of cities in our travels.  Visiting a city poses the problem of just where to camp.  Generally we are out in the suburbs and are traveling to the city either via our car or by some form(s) of public transportation.  About the closest in campground we ever had for a city was in Denver where we stayed at very nice trailer park/rv park in the city of Englewood, about a mile or two from the Denver city limits.  We also were pretty close to downtown Little Rock as we were just across the river in North Little Rock and had a clear view of the city skyline, but we were camped along the Arkansas River and it didn’t seem like the city.  We also camped within Nashville, at the State Fairgrounds, but that was such a crappy place that that we left there after one night.

Well, Las Vegas is by far our most urban camping yet.  You can’t be anymore downtown than we are.  We are at the RV park of the Main Street Station Hotel and Casino, one of the downtown hotels.  The park is on the other side of the downtown freeway from the hotel, which creates a fair bit of traffic noise and the “park” is really just a paved parking lot.  Also, there is a fire station across the street from our site and we have a few sirens-blaring runs originate there every day and night.


But lest you think we don’t like it here and are about to move on – not a chance.  We are booked here for at least 30 days and we love it here.  Our site is at the end of a row so we have our own little desert landscape/patio area right out our front door.  And we also have a nice view of the only clump of trees in the park.  Just across that freeway and couple blocks walk is the famous Fremont Street, the original casino boom area of Las Vegas and now the home of The Fremont Street Experience with its light shows and entertainment nightly  And our camp site is only $16 a day.


There is a stop for the city bus system right outside the park and we purchased one-month passes.  The downtown bus center is only a couple stops away and we can get anywhere in the city very easily.

Las Vegas is one of the places we would actually consider for when we come off the road.  At least we might be able to get family to come visit us.  We will have a good look while we are here.