Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Scenes From Death Valley

Dante’s View is an overlook at 5,000 feet on a ridge top on one side of Death Valley with a view down to the valley and the salt flats with mountains on the other side that soar from the valley floor below sea level to as high as 11,000 feet.


20 Mule Team Trail is a drive through colorful vistas and “mud rocks”.


Zabriske Point is one of the badlands areas of the park.


Badwater Basin of the valley floor of Death Valley is the lowest elevation point in North America but has a spring that bubbles up from ancient waters and hard packed salt flat.


Artist’s Point has rocks that are colored by mineral deposits from the many volcanic eruptions in the area.


There are remnants of the borax mining days of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.  The wagons were pulled by a 20-mule team that took 30 days to make the round trip out of the valley to the railhead and back.


There are blowing sands that create dunes on the valley floor.


These 30-foot tall kilns were built in 1877 to make charcoal used in the mining industry of Death Valley.  And there are some treed areas in Death Valley.


And even in such a dry environment, there are Spring Wildflowers




Monday, April 28, 2014

“I Have To Go Back To Vegas…………….”

…….so said Gary this past Thursday evening.  So I am immediately thinking, “we just got here yesterday and you already have to get back to a poker table?  Was there some sort of poker extravaganza starting on Friday?  Are you bored with Death Valley?”

Well, it had nothing to do with the poker.  At one spot in Death Valley we has parked on some concrete.  When we pulled away, we noticed a bit of a fresh spot of some kind.  When we got back, Gary crawled under the car and could see a drip of fluid just about ready to drop off and off of the bottom of the transmission right where the repaired clutch bolted up.  Great, there was a leak from the repair we had done in Las Vegas.

Gary immediately sent off an email and a picture to the service advisor at the dealership in Las Vegas and followed up with a call the next morning.  We are leaking.  We are in Death Valley.  The nearest Ford dealer is back in Vegas 90 miles away and Gary has no choice but to drive it back to Vegas.  The dealership said they could look at it the same day if he could get it there before noon.   It hadn’t leaked much overnight – only a quarter teaspoon or so and they concluded it likely wouldn’t be a big risk to drive it the 90 miles.  So off Gary went in a windstorm.

They had the car repaired within about two hours of his arrival.  It actually was an axle seal that they had to replace which had nothing to do with the prior repair.  They were very nice and only charged him for the part and not the labor to install it.  The wind storm was even worse by this time but back he came.

Enough of these car issues already.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Death Valley

DSCN0895We made our first trip into Death Valley National Park.  We wanted to check out the Visitor’s Center and also determine if we could move our rig to the Furnace Creek Campround where the the Park Service has upgraded some of the sites to full service.  The booth at the Campground was not open.  There was a confusing board on the outside wall of the booth which certainly didn’t help much.  We asked about the campground at the Visitor’s Center.  It almost became more confusing.  You can reserve the full service sites but only 5 days or more out on the Government’s website.  If the site is available within that five-day window you may claim it on a first come first served basis but only for the five days as someone may suddenly reserve it five days out on the website and only if you are going to occupy the site that night.  So, even though they had a couple sites that were shown to be open the next day, the only way we could get those sites would be to drive in the next day when they might or might not still be available.  That’s our Federal Government at its finest and they lost the potential for our business at Death Valley.  We will just stay at our private campground outside the Park.

We were very surprised to learn that Death Valley National Park is the largest national park in the continental States.  We had always thought that distinction fell to Yellowstone, but Death Valley is the largest, which makes it a huge park.  This whole region including the Park has to be one of the most desolate places in the States (although the Big Bend area was mighty desolate as well).  But at the same time we were struck by its stark beauty with soaring mountains surrounding a valley that is below sea level.


We made a brief stop to see the golf course at Furnace Creek, which bills itself as the lowest (elevation) golf course in the world at 214 feet below sea level.  We wondered where the water comes from to keep the course green.


We have our park orientation now.  It will take a few trips to attack this place.

Friday, April 25, 2014

On From Las Vegas

We almost got out of Las Vegas without extending our stay.  The day we were to leave there were high wind warnings.  We had to wait for an extra day to leave and it was a good thing we did.  The winds were as high as advertised and it would have been dangerous to be on the road.

DSCN0888So, where are we off to?  We only moved about a hundred miles up the road to the Death Valley area.  We headed north on Highway 95 and found our campsite at the Longstreet Inn and Casino in Armargosa Valley, Nevada.  We rented a 50 amp full hook up site for less that $20 a night not that far from the entrance to Death Valley National Park.


The drive through Nevada north of Las Vegas is a rather desolate one.  We passed along the Nevada Test Site where over 1,000 nuclear bombs were detonated from the 1950s to the early 1990s.  The area also is the home of the infamous Area 51 where top secret aircraft have been tested.  We closed the loop so to speak on our alien trail.  It started back in Roswell, New Mexico where an alien space ship reportedly crashed in 1947.  Some observers to that event claim that the aliens were transported on an Air Force plane to Area 51.  Also there have been reports of flying saucers and aliens sightings in the locale of Area 51 too.  So, of course there are road side stores cashing in on the alien scene.  And they aren’t the only stores cashing in in Nevada.  The first County north of Las Vegas is one that allows legal prostitution under Nevada State Law.  It had been the only place in our travels where we ever have seen a billboard for a brothel.  We bought some gas for our car at the gas station in front of the brothel.  They seemed to be doing a brisk business.


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Some New Stuff In Vegas

There have been a couple of new things we experienced in Vegas.  The first was down in the area of the strip and is called The Linq.  It is an entertainment district anchored by the giant Ferris Wheel that was under construction when we where here last Fall – The High Roller – advertised as the tallest in the world.  We didn’t ride it as it is $25 to $35 for one 45-minute rotation of the wheel, but we are sure it will attract a lot of attention.  The rest of The Linq is an alley-way of stores and watering holes.  It was created by the destruction of the former O’Shea’s casino, which has been recreated as a gambling room off the Quad casino, formerly known as the Imperial Palace.  Whew, hope you are following all of that.  If you are ever looking for a website that keeps up will all new things Vegas, check out this one --


The other new thing we saw in Vegas was in the downtown area – Container Park.  It is a one city block shopping and entertainment district with all the buildings constructed from ocean-going shipping containers.  They have welded containers together two and three high and have opened windows and windows walls in them.  They have an entertainment stage at one end of the park   It is a very unique venue.


Monday, April 21, 2014

Happy Birthday To Me…………..

Yes, we are still in Las Vegas.  We haven’t posted much as there hasn’t been that much new to post.  The main reason we still are here is that I decided this is the place I would like to be for my birthday.  Gary probably would have had us out of here a couple weeks ago, but then he didn’t miss out of 10 days of Vegas on a trip back to Detroit.

20140416_150238So, what did we do for my birthday?  We headed off yet again to the buffet at Bellagio.  We made another stop at the conservatory and this time the tulips were in full bloom.

We also stopped by Elllis Island for a couple of craft brews and then headed to the Riviera where we had free tickets from our coupon book to a comedy club show.  The headliner was Gerry Bednob, who played one of the sales people in the electronics store in the movie, The 40 Year Old Virgin.  He proceeded to offend so many groups of people in his act that many in the audience up and walked out.


20140416_170851One thing that we hadn’t noticed before at the buffet was an admonishment on the receipt to limit the stay at the buffet to 2 hours.  That is actually a tough one to comply with as we generally take a break between each trip to the serving stations.  We didn’t go over by too much and really doubt they would enforce a time limit anyway.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Something New At The Old Ballpark

20140410_195154In a recent blogpost we related how we learned very expensively that you should not downshift a manual transmission.  Last night we went to see the Las Vegas 51’s play baseball and we learned something new very inexpensively.

We had a Ticketmaster gift card so the game cost us nothing out of pocket.  When we got there we found out that it was Budweiser $1 beer night.  We would rarely ever drink a Budweiser over a craft beer, but at $1 for a Bud versus $6.50 for a “craft beer” – Blue Moon, we easily decided on the Bud.  Besides, we needed a glass of water anyway.  And it was at the Budweiser serving line that we learned our something new – how they can “pour” a beer from the bottom of the cup.  Was it a tube off the tap to the bottom of the cup?  Nope.  They had these specially made cups as shown below.


The cup bottom has this thin metal ring in it and on top of the metal ring is a thin magnet.  They press the cup down on to special nozzle, the beer rapidly pushes up from the bottom with almost no foaming, and they have it preset to shutoff at the exact amount of the size of the cup.  And if you care to see a video of this amazing marvel of modern science, we found one on YouTube  

After a $2,600 lesson on clutches, our two beer pouring lesson at a free baseball game was a real bargain.

The baseball game itself was a good one.  The ballpark was a fairly easy walk from our campground on a very warm Spring night.  The temperature hit at least 90 in Las Vegas yesterday and is at record levels for this time of the year.  The Air Force barely admits the existence of the Area 51 Base, but yet the home team here is the 51’s.  They are the AAA affiliates of the New York Mets.  Most Triple A clubs are now located fairly close to the parent team.  We are not sure how these two got hooked up.

20140410_184846It is a nice park and as is popular with the ballparks in the west it has its view of the nearby mountains.  The biggest name on the 51’s is Bobby Abreu trying to earn a spot back on the big league roster at the age of 40.  The 51’s starting pitcher came out in the first inning throwing at up to 95 miles per hour.  But balls that are pitched fast can then get hammered back fast and the 51’s found themselves behind 5 to 1.  Fans were streaming out particularly after the seventh inning stretch, but in the bottom of the 8th, the 51’s scored 5 runs and held in the top of the ninth for 6 to 5 victory.  It was a cheap and fun night at the old ballpark with a technological display to boot.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Canadian Snowbird

Bird watching is not one of our hobbies, but when you are seeing them everywhere, you can’t help but look a bit.  It has become obvious to us that our RV Park here in Las Vegas is on the route of the Canadian Snowbirds’ northern migration.  The northern nesting ground for these birds is the entire country of Canada but most of them tend to roost within a hundred miles or so north of the US northern border.  They have their bird houses in Canada but come the Winter months they migrate in massive flocks to the very southern regions of the United States and sometimes into Mexico as well.  The United States restricts the stay of these birds to a six-month maximum, but they also have to get back to Canada to preserve their free Veterinary care.

It is amazing how many of these birds there are.   In their southern wintering nests, they make up as much as half of the Snowbird population.  They also have very defined due south/north migratory patterns. The Canadian Snowbirds from the Atlantic Provinces, Quebec, and Eastern Ontario all migrate to Florida.  The grain belt birds all migrate to Texas, and the birds of Alberta and BC all migrate to Arizona (the elite snowbirds of Vancouver may nest the winter in Southern California).  We have seen them in prodigious quantities in each of these three States over the past years.

Right now, they are flying north through the RV Park of the Main Street Station at a furious pace.  Some nest for one night, others for up to a week, but they are all on their mission to get back to their homeland roosts.  They typically fly in pairs and all have tags like the ones shown below.


DSCN0882Fortunately for us Americans, these birds have bird seed to spread around throughout their stay.  We especially appreciate that they help to build and maintain our casinos here in Las Vegas on their northern flight.  In the photo to the right are two pair of Canadian Snowbirds making final preparations for the flight on north from Las Vegas.

1014464_10152349093849310_530545992_nAt least these Canadian birds are not nearly as annoying as the Canadian Goose.  Most unfortunately, these birds never do return to their native lands.  They take up permanent residence wherever they are hatched and leave a life long trail of poop.  And they don’t contribute a dime to our casino industry.  Could you Canadian Snowbirds round up a few of these Canadian Geese while you are here and take them back with you?

Monday, April 7, 2014

You Learn Something New Every Day…..

2011-07-29_18-53-038… and some of those lessons can be very expensive.  Our “toad” is front wheel drive with a manual transmission.  That configuration has an advantage in that with the shifter in neutral, the transmission is disengaged from the front drive wheels and does not spin while being towed down the road.  The disadvantage is that you have to shift the gears using the clutch when driving the car.

Lately, the car has been having some shifting problems.  A couple of times it took a few minutes of trying before we could get it shifted into reverse.  For awhile we thought we were going to have to push it back to get it out of the space.  And then the shifting in the forward gears was very labored as well.  Gary took the car to the dealership to have it checked out.  Then the dreaded call came – the clutch was shot and would need to be rebuilt – a major repair.  Gary pursued with them why the clutch would have failed.  One, they said the car does have 80,000 miles on it, but then they asked, “do you downshift it through the gears?”   “Of course we downshift” was Gary’s reply.  The Service Advisor then explained that it is no longer recommend to use downshifting to slow a vehicle, that one should just shift to neutral and slow it solely through braking.

Gary did some research on the internet and also called up a service advisor he knows well and trusts in Detroit.  Sure enough, downshifting is not recommended – it is better (cheaper) to use up the brakes than the clutch.  So one does learn something new every day.  And the cost of this lesson – over $2,500.  So if you are one who still is downshifting……………..

Poker, Basketball and SPAM

So what have I been doing in Las Vegas while Leeanne is back visiting the family in Detroit – well, the title summarizes it well – poker, basketball and SPAM.

2014-04-003Leeanne wanted to fly back from a major airport to obtain a direct flight.  I was planning to go to until she told me that I was cheaper than a kennel for Alley cat.  Actually, I didn’t plan to return as we don’t like to leave the motor home unattended very often.  Further, I will be making a trip back to the Midwest this Summer (more on that to follow in a future blog post).  But I am bonding with Alley.  So I had my choice --  spend the time in Phoenix or in Las Vegas.  For me that was an easy decision.

I play small Texas Holdem tournaments of about 10 to 40 players.  I have played one, two or three a day in the last two week.  They cost from $12 to $33 each tournament. I have won two and cashed in another but that has not been enough to overcome my entry fees.  Improbable cards keep raining down for my opponents.  I am very pleased with my play as I am making hardly any mistakes but way too much bad luck has hit so far.  A couple good wins would put me right back ahead.

I have watched basketball, basketball and more basketball.  I don’t bet on sports but there sure are a lot of people who come to Vegas to bet on the games.  I don’t even understand half the bets these people are making, but there sure is a flurry of activity at the betting counter.  I didn’t win the billion dollar challenge, but I did pick two of the final four teams – Kentucky and Florida and I had Kentucky winning it all.  We shall see tomorrow night.  (Not that I am any fan of Kentucky basketball.)

Captain LawrenceAnd while Leeanne was gone, it was the perfect time to open up a can of SPAM.  I actually stretched one can out over three meals.  One dinner I had a large green salad with fried SPAM.  The next day I had a fried SPAM sandwich.  And the morning after that I had scrambled eggs with fried diced SPAM.  And of course I had to break out my SPAM t-shirt.




And speaking of shirts, I also broke out the party shirt I purchase the last time we were here.  The bartender at the 777 Brewpub and Main Street Station called me Lloyd Christmas.  I had not made that connection before, but it is kind of funny when you see how Jim Carrey was dressed in Dumb and Dumber.  Now all I need is the orange top hat.  But I am not sure it is a compliment now to be know here as Lloyd Christmas


Thursday, April 3, 2014

Another Happy Anniversary, Already?

If it seemed like we were moving north a bit fast and violating our guideline of spending at least a week in each place, well we were.  And there was a reason.  Back at Christmas time, my sisters and I tentatively planned a surprise celebrations of our parents’ Golden Wedding Anniversary – 50 years of marriage.  So we had to get to Las Vegas as that was where my flight was booked from.

20140331_090524This truly was a surprise for our parents.  They had no idea I was flying in and that they were hosting a reception in their home.  My two sisters invited them to go to Sunday dinner at a restaurant.  When they had left to head to the restaurant, we installed the banner on the fence at their house.  When I arrived at the restaurant I was able to slip up behind my mother and surprise her with my presence.  My Dad was already in the buffet area and I slipped up on him as well.

20140330_145313After lunch we said, “let’s all go back to your house and visit for awhile”.  When they returned home they saw the banner on the and it was only then that we told them they were hosting a reception in a couple hours.  My Mother then said, “but we don’t have a cake”.  “Yes Mom, we do have a cake”.  Smile

Virtually everyone we had invited was able to come.  It was a nice affair with lots of good conversation and memories of their 50 years of marriage.  Some people might not have been able to deal with this level of surprise, but we think they enjoyed and appreciated it very much.  Below are a couple of pictures of the family