On December 30, 1999 -- I decided to come out of the desert to find a small, simple way to celebrate the end of the year, century, and millenium. I couldn't make it to Times Square, so ended up under the MGM Grand count-down clock with about 300,000 friends in the middle of Las Vegas Boulevard!
But that's the end of the story ... as told in Chapter 6, I spent Christmas week at Tamarisk LTVA. The last couple of days there, I wandered around and did a little sight-seeing. Drove down to Calexico, CA and walked over to Mexicali, Mexico. My impression was that Calexico looked more like Mexico, with blocks and blocks of little shops and markets. Mexicali seemed like a bunch of money exchange shops, dentists, and a couple of pharmacies. Turns out that's only the "tip of the iceberg" -- I walked about 4 blocks from the border, then decided to go back before I got lost (which I often do). Found out later that Mexicali is a city of over a million people and I really did only see the tip of the tip. Oh well, maybe next time. I did check on prescriptions while there and learned that they're almost as expensive as USA prices -- much higher than Algodones. If I had gone there first, I'd have written off the idea of buying pills in Mexico -- ain't life interesting?
Coming back from Mexicali, I stopped at the Hot Springs LTVA and jumped into the pool for awhile. Hot! Hot! Hot! I was able to walk into the shower until it got up to my knees -- then jumped out. They have a smaller pool (about 10' by 5' and 3' deep) that's not quite as hot, so I e-e-eased into it first -- it was hotter than any hot tub I ever saw! After sitting in it for about 10 minutes, I was able to get into the bigger pool (about 10' by 20' and 6' deep). Sat there about 15 minutes until I started to wrinkle -- btdt.
Talked to several people at the Hot Springs -- it's a great socializing tool. Seems like most everyone I've met there and at Tamarisk is either from Canada or California (and a few from Arizona). The Canadians are the snowbirds that come down to spend a warm (sort of) winter with friends, doing mostly just relaxing. The others appear to view this boondocking as their vacation -- I guess that's great if you just want to spend a quiet week or two doing almost nothing -- not my idea of a vacation, but that's what makes horse-racing popular. Different strokes, etc...
My last day at Tamarisk, I was sitting outside, reading a book and occasionally swatting away a honey-bee (they seem to like to hang around, but don't often sting anybody). All of a sudden, I realized a really large insect was buzzing at my ear! I swatted a couple of times, then jumped up -- turned around -- there hung a hummingbird, looking at me like I was it's mother or something. About 30 minutes later, heard the same hum -- looked up and a hummingbird (same one?) was hovering about 4 feet away, eyeing me. He had the prettiest rose-colored collar around his throat. Later, at the evening campfire, one of the guys said a hummingbird tried to land on his shoulder. Seems the dry weather has resulted in very few flowers and insects, and the little birds are really hungry. Wish I had a feeder with me -- someone said they had one and would be putting it up the next day.
On the 30th, I drove down to Algodones, got my solar panel attached to the RV roof, and picked up some more prescriptions. Have managed to get a year's supply of the 3 or so pills we take daily. Also learned that one can mail-order these -- I've included the business card for the Farmacia Algodones below if you're interested.
While waiting for the solar panel work, I surveyed the map to plan the trip to Quartzsite. Decided a side-trip to Las Vegas wouldn't be too much out of the way and seemed like a fantastic way to spend New Year's Eve. More on that below!
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7. A Small Y2K Party With A Few Friends
Las Vegas on New Year's Eve 1999 -- what an idea! Except, where do I stay? ... LOL
On the way up, listening to the radio, I was pleased to learn that Mandalay Bay still had rooms available -- at $268 a night ... hoho. Fat chance! I just drove on up and wandered into town, as I often do, looking here and there for possibilities. Stopped for gas in Henderson and asked a fellow pumper how to get to where I can enter Vegas from the South end of the Strip. As luck would have it, I was only a couple of blocks North of Sunset Road, the best way in! I drove across, came to Las Vegas Boulevard, and turned South. A mile of so down, there's a Pizza place, where I stopped for directions and information. Turns out, they've got a huge dirt lot in the back where 18-wheelers park all the time -- how about that luck! I had a beer, chatted with the young guy running the place, had a pizza and two more beers, drove to the lot out back, and spent the night of the 30th "boondocking" behind the pizza house .. hoho.
Morning of the 31st -- up and phoning the Destiny Las Vegas RV Park - a Passport America member. Was pleased to learn they would rent me a site for 3 nights for only $215 -- ONLY $215? ... That's enough to camp in the desert for two years! Well, my luck held once again. Got in my truck and wandered around awhile. Found a Walmart, but it was way off the Strip. Then I drove by Vacation Village Resort at the end of the Strip, about a mile South of Mandalay Bay. They have free RV parking in their lot for two nights -- this can be extended if you gamble in their casino. What luck! Went and got the RV, signed up with VV, dropped the RV in their lot, drove on down to the Mandalay Bay, "stored" my truck in their garage, and started the first of many hikes up and down the Strip.
2006 Update: Oops! No more Vacation Village. I just noticed the link above was dead, so checked it out. Seems that VV closed down in late 2004. No telling what's there now, but probably no place to park the RV there free anymore.
Highest building on the Strip is still the Stratosphere Tower -- I didn't walk that far, but you can see it a long way off. Most impressive new structure is the Venetian. Most impressive at night is the Eiffel Tower at the Paris -- All gold (colored) and well-lit. Most impressive sidewalk show for me (I'd already seen Mirage waterfall and Treasure Bay pirate show) was the lighted, musical fountains at the Bellagio -- WOW! Saw the show once in the afternoon and three times during the evening -- once was Singing in the Rain, once was a booming Beethoven piece, and once was another booming concert tune. All were very impressive! The fountains bounce and sway with the music, often shooting as high as the Bellagio itself (which is about 20 stories high). They look amazing in the daylight, but when the lights are on at night, they're totally awesome!
Did you know that they block off the entire Las Vegas Strip (about 4 miles long) about 9:00 PM New Year's Eve? I didn't. I started checking into the price of shows, trying to decide exactly how to spend the roll-over into 2000. There was Streisand ($2500), Bette Midler ($300-$500), Rod Stewart, Elton John, Tina Turner, Hall & Oates, Wayne Newton -- didn't check all their prices, but assume they're comparable to Bette. I decided to spend it at the party in the street.
By 8:30, I was really getting tired of walking. Had been back and forth from Mandalay Bay down to Barbary Coast (1.5 miles) about 5 times. Bought a $5 "I Survived Y2K in Las Vegas" T-shirt, had a $4 beer in front of the Harley-Davidson Cafe, played a little Pai Gow at Barbary Coast (lost $40), played Let-It-Ride at Holiday Inn (lost $30), ate Surf Buffet at Holiday Inn for $6.99 (surf is the decor, not the cuisine -- hardly worth the hour or so wait in line), and then decided that sitting down watching Bette bring in the New Year was probably better then standing in 35-degree weather in the street. Decided to work my way back to the Mandalay and see if I could con them out of a ticket for $200. Took almost an hour to make the mile or so back to Mandalay and the 9:00-to-Midnight show had already started. They still wouldn't discount the seats! ... hmmm
Sat down at a $25 minimum Pai Gow table at Mandalay. For those who don't frequent casinos, the minimums increase according to the demand. They generally have $5 tables, later it's $10, by 9:30 New Year's Eve, all I could find was $25 -- but I really wanted to sit and I had saved $200 by not going to see Bette. Hey-hey! Within an hour, I was $300 ahead!!! Had a couple of Gin-and-Tonics and was ready to take on the street again! Left with $200 winnings and an improved perspective.
Well, I had a ball! Ended up in the street in front of MGM Grand, where they had a huge count-down clock. They had cordoned off the center of the boulevard to keep people from destroying their plants in the median, but we had the entire rest of the Strip to play in. Saw the guy take a swim in the MGM pool, saw several guys climb light poles (not the one that got killed), saw 5 guys climbing the Eiffel Tower (a scheduled event with spotlights and all), saw a guy try to make a run for it across the median and get arrested, got my Gin-and-Tonic glass refilled a few times with beer from various revelers, saw several guys with "show your tits" signs (and saw several shown), got my glass refilled with Tequila (drank half and dumped the rest -- it was way too potent!), saw many strange outfits (my favorites were the "mad hatter" hats and the "2000" sunglasses, with the two center zeros being the eyes), started to really holler with the crowd at about 2 minutes on the clock. At 000 Days, 00 Hours, 00 Minutes, 00 Seconds, the roar was deafening! Most exciting New Year's Eve I've had in many years! -- (usually watch the ball drop on TV and hit the sack at 12:01). Made my way back to Mandalay and hit the bed in my RV sometime around 1 or 2 AM.
I didn't take any pictures on New Year's Eve, because I didn't want to carry any more than I had to up and down the street. Went out New Year's Day, found the Strip still grid-locked at noon, drove down to Circuit City and bought a $50 scanner, then came back and holed up in my RV all afternoon and evening updating this website and scanning pictures. Went out Sunday, January 2, 2000 (had to type the 2000 to try it out -- is that 1/2/00? ... LOL), and took some Strip pictures (below).
Hope all of you had a Happy Y2K! I sure did! Going to stay in Vegas a couple of more days to wash clothes and do other mundane things, then back on down to Quartzsite for the January events.
Oops! Almost forgot! You want to hear about GOOD LUCK? On New Year's Day, I arose to find my batteries down a little from using the heater all night. Decided to pull over to the far South side of the lot and put up my solar panels. As luck would have it, the most level spot was right next to a little wooden rack with about 10 electrical plugs on it. I pulled in, then went behind the RV to make sure the slide-out wouldn't hit the electrical rack. Upon closer inspection of the rack, I discovered it also had a 50-amp plug and it all appeared to be operational. As luck would have it, I had just purchased a 50-amp adapter in Huntsville in October to connect to the mobile home park I stayed at ... hmmm. I plugged in, flipped their breaker switch, and guess what? I've got an electrical hook-up and safe parking in a town where campsites are going for over $70 per night! Been watching TV, micro-waving, running heater, etc. all night ... hoho.
Venetian photos - Check website to possibly see views like these in clearer form. These first 5 shots were taken in the second floor Grand Canal mall. First mall-walk I've taken since starting this trip. Sky-painted ceiling made it seem just like outdoors.
Got to start numbering my excuses. This is Excuse #3 - too dark. I had the camera set darker to compensate for the extremely bright days in the desert.
Venetian Gondeliers (edited)
If it wasn't so dark, you'd see a group of smiling, waving gondeliers in the yellow square and a gondola in the green outline.
Excuse #4 - camera didn't work at first click. Tried again as I was moving camera down and this time it worked. Had set brightness up, but still need Excuse #3. Gondola is just left of the striped pole, as I recall.
Still #3 now #5 also - hand shakey. Strange, don't recall being cold or anything. If I'd had my glasses, I'd have noticed the blur. Oh well -- two gondolas are meeting right about center of the picture. Water, buildings, and sky are pretty anyway ... lol.
Excuses #3 and #5. Really some beautiful pictures on the walls and ceilings on the way in. Floor is very elaborately-decorated stone. Maybe website has these in better form. Was really fantastic -- too bad my abilities and camera are sub-standard.
Venetian Exterior View
The front entrance on Las Vegas Boulevard is really stunning -- includes tower on left, center steeple, and right side tower. Covers about a city block -- I think there were previously 2 or maybe 3 hotels here before they built the Venetian. Probably second only to Bellagio in elaborate exteriors (my opinion).
Bellagio Fountains at Night ... LOL
Excuse #6 -- too windy so they didn't have the fountain show on 1/2/00, the night I decided to go photograph it. You can probably see it better on their website anyway. Oops! Just checked. Their website is not finished yet.
11/08/01 Update: Well, they've finished their website and it's amazing! To the right is a view of the fountains -- nowhere nearly as impressive as they are in real life and at night! Click the fountains to check out the website.
Finally, a decent picture! ... LOL .. stole this off their website. This is what I was attempting to photograph all morning.
A few more notes and I'll wrap this up and go upload it.
More good luck! Went into Vacation Village last night to see if I could find a phone hookup -- couldn't. Happened to pass a $5 Pai-Gow table with only one player. Sat down to play a few minutes. Met a friendly dealer who explained to me why I'd like to be banker. Turns out house has 2 advantages in Pai-Gow -- #1 is they rake-off 5% commission on each player win, #2 is they win any tie hand. Well, you can't fight #1, but -- if you take the bank, then you get to win all tie hands! To make a long story short, it got down to just me and the dealer, so I started banking every other hand (house must bank at least every other hand). Within an hour or so, I was up $400!! Even got the pit boss' attention. He came by and asked my name, which I then saw him write down. He later gave me a free buffet pass. Later, I noticed as each new pit boss came on, the old one pointed me out -- don't know if he was saying "there's a winner over there, so keep an eye on him to make sure he's not cheating" or "there's a winner over there, so make sure we keep him happy and playing" or "that guy over there has had several beers and is getting very loud, so throw him out if necessary" .... hoho Had buffet, then kept playing for a couple of hours. Quit when I'd dropped some, but still left winning almost $300. Whoopee!
Add-on note: Turns out that when you're banker, you don't win ties against the house, just against other players. Against house, it's a push -- but at least the house doesn't take ties as when they are banker. Still an advantage, but not as large as first thought.
More good luck! Went to wash clothes this morning and won $10 playing quarter Blackjack machine at the laundromat.
More good luck! Discovered that Kinko's on 4th just North of Charleston Boulevard let's you "dock" to their phone line at no charge. Figure I'll stay on here until the throw me out. Got alot of downloading, email, etc. to do.
Hey! If you're following this travel log and I don't know you, how about introducing yourself in my guest book or sign up on my mailing list on page 1. That way, I'll email you every time I make an update here. Or, if you're too shy for that, email me at rjHoffman@Yahoo.com.