Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Getting Hosed in Primm

The Nightmare Before—And After—Christmas
Chapter 7

The previous chapter is here.  Remember, you can find all the chapters by using the label "Stranded in Vegas."

So I had just parked in the Whiskey Pete's parking lot, in picturesque Primm, NV, just before the damn needle on my car's temperature gauge hit the red. The first order of business was securing a room for the night.  Now as I was listening to my voice notes just now, I started to wonder why I hadn't booked a room while I was sitting there on the side of the I-15 just waiting for the engine to cool down enough for me to add more coolant.  And my notes gave me no clue as to my thought process.  And I don't really remember since it's been over a month since this took place and so much more craziness happened in the next few days.

I can only guess.  Perhaps it was because I couldn't be sure I was going to end up in Primm until I actually got to Primm.  And I knew that once I booked that late in the day, for sure I'd be on the hook for the entire night--$150—even if I didn't end up staying there.  That might have been it.  Or maybe I just didn't think of it?  I can't be sure.

Whatever, I entered Whiskey Pete's casino, and after using a real restroom, I went about getting a room.

Before going over to the front desk, I checked my phone to see if I could use Priceline or some such to get the room cheaper.  But everything I tried led me to the same conclusion—it was gonna cost me $150 for the night at Whiskey Pete's.  I looked up Buffalo Bill's (just across the I-15 from where I was) and saw that they had rooms for $140. But the $10 difference wasn't that big a deal to me.  So I figured I might as well just deal directly with the hotel. I waited in line at the front desk and asked for a room.  By the way, I assumed that a room at Primm Valley Resort, if available, would be more, since it was the nicest of the three properties.

He quoted me $150 (that included everything—room, tax and the wonderful "resort fee").  But he did warn me that the only rooms they had were left were smoking rooms. Ugh.  I got stuck in a smoking room a few years back and it was awful.  It just  reeked.  For some reason, I thought a smoking room at Whiskey Pete's would be especially pungent. 

I'm not sure how we got there but he did tell me that rooms across the street at Buffalo Bill's were $140.  They have the same ownership but although he could tell me that, he couldn't book the room for me, I'd have to go over there.  And he couldn't tell me if they had any non-smoking rooms available.

Well I thought the saving of 10 bucks combined with at least the possibility of a non-smoking room made it worth a little more investigation into Buffalo Bill's.  Plus, in my mind, since Whiskey Pete's was the oldest casino, I thought Buffalo Bill's might be slightly better hotel.  Note: I should have known just based on the price that wasn't so. So I thanked him, sat by a slot machine, got back on my phone and booked a room at Buffalo Bill's.  And it said that it was non-smoking, which was great.  I paid for it with a credit card through Hotels.com. At least I had a place to stay for the night while I hopefully solved my radiator problem.  Note:  Only after I returned home after this ordeal was over, and I was going over all of my receipts, did I noticed that the confirmation I got from Hotels.com said that "non-smoking" was only a request and they couldn't guarantee me a non-smoking room.

I wasn't about to take the very short drive over the freeway to Buffalo Bill's to check in until I added more coolant.  And I had to wait for the engine to cool down to do that.  But I had something to do in the meantime.

Now I had been adding coolant from a jug of it that I put in my trunk at the last minute when I packed in L.A. and headed to Vegas—pretty much an afterthought.  I had it from that time in the summer when I almost overheated, as I mentioned previously.  I guess it was about 3/4's full when I started but by now it was getting close to empty.  When I mentioned this to Woody while I was stuck on the freeway, he said that there was a gas station next to Whiskey Pete's and they would surely have coolant for sale.  As he put it, "They may bone you on the price, but at least you'll have it."

I saw the gas station.  It was on the other side of the parking lot from where I had parked so it was a nice walk.  And by nice I mean, well, in lovely weather it would be nice.  Did I mention that although it was a perfectly sunny day it was still cold as a titch's wit?

Well I made it over there and actually it was more than just a gas station, it was a truck stop.  Inside there was a Subway sandwich stop, I think places to shower, and a limited section of auto supplies.  But they did indeed have coolant.  It was a brand I'd never heard of ("Peak") instead of the Prestone I'd been using.  Just to be totally safe, I called Woody and asked if it would be ok.  He said it was fine.

The place was super busy so it took a lot of time to make the purchase.  Of course, the price was about double the price they sell it for at Walmart (where I usually buy it).  But to be fair, I'm pretty sure it was actually a buck less than I paid for it at AutoZone when I had to buy my first jug of it in my neighborhood.  Note: I had a brand new, unused jug of Prestone coolant sitting in my garage at home.  Lot of good it did me there.

I trekked back to my car with the Peak coolant.  I had parked so far away there weren't a lot of other cars around it.  So as I approached it, it was real easy to see what looked like a puddle visible under the car, near the front of the engine.

Oh shit.

I examined it when I got to the car and it sure looked fresh.  Damn it.  To be certain, I moved the car and parked it where there was for sure no existing stain.  I looked at the liquid where the car had previously been.  It was green.  In other words, the color of coolant.  It didn't take long for me to see another spot where the car now was. I don't recall if I actually saw it dripping from the car but it was absolutely clear that the car was leaking coolant.  Yikes.

I called Woody and told him of this latest development. "Obviously there's a leak somewhere.  You gotta get TC to fix it."

Well great.  TC was about 50 miles away.  And I had no way to get to his shop.  "Should I have it towed there?"  He said, well, maybe TC can tow it, or he might have a connection that can tow it cheap, perhaps even at his expense.

It was now getting close to 3pm (I had gotten on the 15 in Vegas before noon).  But I did recall seeing a sign saying that TC's shop was open on Saturdays, until 3pm.  And I did have his cel number, so maybe he'd answer even after hours.

Meanwhile, while I was talking to Woody this guy pulled up alongside my car in a van.  He started talking to me, commiserating with me over my obvious car troubles.  He started talking like he wanted to offer me some help, and I didn't know what his angle was.  Maybe he was just a Good Samaritan?  He was telling me all about older cars—he once had a 90's Lexus.  But then he just rode off, just as mysteriously as he had shown up.  He did wish me good luck.

Anyway, I called TC and he answered.  I wish I could accurately report on our conversation, but I really wasn't understanding much of what he was saying and I don't think he was understanding much of what I was saying.  At one point he put one of his workers on the phone to talk to me. It might have been his son.  But he didn't understand me (nor I, him) either.

Somehow I got the point across that the car was leaking radiator fluid and he said, "Well, bring it in, I'll take a look."  It took me awhile to get through to him that I wasn't in Vegas and that I was actually near the border. He didn't seem to know anything about Primm, or Whiskey Pete's.

When he realized I was like 50 miles awhile, I asked him if he could tow it back there, did he know someone who could tow the car?  I told him, "I could tow it, I could call the auto club, but it will cost me a fortune."  He never really answered me about the tow.

But after this line of inquiry went on for a few minutes, he finally said, "I'll come to you."  "You'll come to me?"  I didn't believe it.  "Yes, where are you again?"  I told him Whiskey Pete's.  He said, "Text me the address."  Wow, he really didn't know Whiskey Pete's.  I mean, you don't need the address.  Just search Whiskey Pete's on Google maps and it'll come right up.  But whatever, I texted him the address.  And then I waited.  And I wondered if he was actually going to show up.

It was now like 3:30.  I could tell traffic on the 15 was still bad, so I knew he would be awhile.  I sat in the car for a bit and then realized I could wait in the casino where it was warm.  I also changed my jacket so I would be warmer when outside.

I waited a long time and it got dark.  I decided to call him to check on his progress, not because he was really late but just to make sure he was coming.  He picked up and assured me he was on his way.

I went back outside to wait in the car.  And froze.  But suddenly, he called me.  He was there, driving around the lot trying to find me.  There were no row or aisle identifiers in the parking lot.  I tried to guide him and was having difficulty explaining where I was, but he finally found me.

He pulled up in a Toyota van, alone.  The van was full of tools. He opened the hood, jacked the car up, starting pulling the engine apart and even took off the plastic cover from underneath the engine.  And he was working in the dark, with just a flashlight (it was a really good flashlight).

I was standing outside in the freezing cold, watching.  Once or twice he had me hold the light. It was not a fun experience.

Finally he said, "Hose no good."  And he showed me a hose that had some cracks in it.  "Where can I get new hose?"  Damn.  I had no idea.  There wasn't an AutoZone around, I was sure of that,  I told him I didn't think there was any place around, but that maybe, just maybe, that truck stop where I'd bought the coolant would have one—or at least they would know if there was a place anywhere around that would sell them.

I pointed out the truck stop to him and he said, ok, we'd go over there. And then he handed me his keys and said, "You drive."

WTF?  That was weird.  Why did he want me to drive?  I didn't mind driving, it was so cold that the walk would be nasty.  But why should I drive?  The only reason I could think of was that he looked at the design of the parking lot between us and the truck stop, and also his experience driving around it earlier looking for me, and decided he just didn't want to deal with it.

So I got into his van and drove us over there.  To be honest, I've never driven this type of vehicle before and it was a bit different, sitting so high.  Also—and this is embarrassing—I was really too far from the pedals to comfortably reach them.  I had to sit forward in the seat, and not rest my back against the seat.  Fortunately, it was a short drive.

We looked over the auto section and didn't see any hoses.  I waited in line to ask the clerk.  No, they didn't sell hoses.  "Where is the nearest place that would sell them?"  "Well, if you're going to L.A., Baker."  (About an hour's drive from where we were).  I asked, what about on the way to Vegas?  "Then, Vegas."  Yeesh.  Slightly closer than Baker, but barely.  But it was what I expected.

I told this to TC and he said, ok, let's go back. 

We did and he took the hose and then started to try to repair it!  He put some sealant on it, then wrapped some duct tape around it.  And put some clips on it.  And put the hose back on the engine.  Near the front of it, on the opposite side of the radiator reservoir.

And of course he added more coolant.  Lots of coolant.  He used his own coolant, not mine.  In one of my many conversations with Woody this day, he had told me of a trick that TC could use to add coolant that would greatly reduce the number of times I might have to add it myself.  It has to do with removing a bolt near the front of the engine and putting the coolant in there.  So I suggested it to TC and he seemed familiar with that method, so he agreed to do it that way (as well as adding it to the reservoir). Both spots were full when he was done.

Was that gonna hold?  I really couldn't see myself driving back to L.A. with a cracked hose that had been "repaired."

But he said, "You drive back, I follow you."  Well that wasn't gonna work.  "I have no place to stay in Vegas, I'm staying here. But the car can drive like this?"  "Yes, should be ok. Not leaking now. I follow you."  But again I said I had no place to stay in Vegas.  And it was kind of late to book a room now.  On a holiday weekend.  And I had a room paid for where we were.

Finally he understood that I couldn't really go back to Vegas. He said, well then, bring the car in to his shop on Monday and he'll have a brand new hose and he'll finish the repair.  "I can drive it now and it will get me there?"  Again he said, "Should be ok. No leak."  I pointed out all the stuff that he had take off the engine and the plastic cover too.  "It's ok, I put it back."  So he took all the parts he'd taken off (which were in the back of his van) and reassembled the engine.

He took off and I had to drive across the freeway to Buffalo Bill's to get my room.  I guess this was now 6pm, if not later.  I was worried about my room still being available.  Nervous as hell, even for such a short trip, I started the car and drove over to Buffalo Bill's.  It was never clear to me if he wanted to follow me because the hose might not last the trip, or if he was gonna have me drive back there with all my engine parts still in the back of his van and that was his concern.  But I did manage to get into Buffalo Bill's parking lot.

But parking was an issue. Whereas Whiskey Pete's parking lot had lots of available spots, this parking lot was jammed.  I mean, it was like Costco's parking lot two days before Christmas. I drove up and down the aisles of Buffalo Bill's lot and couldn't find a spot.  Finally, on the last aisle, farthest from the entrance, I found the last spot in the damn parking lot.  Of course, it is entirely possible there were more spots in an area of the parking lot I didn't know about, I acknowledge that, but this was the first spot I saw and I grabbed it.

I was starving but of course I wanted to check in to my room before I did anything.  I grabbed my laptop and took the long walk to the casino. In the freezing cold.

Of course there was a huge line to check in. But eventually I made it to the front and secured my room. Now I had to bring in my stuff from the car.  The trouble was, when I packed all my stuff, and then when I loaded it into my car that morning, I had no idea I'd be staying somewhere for one night.  So I hadn't packed an overnight bag with just the stuff I'd need for a night.  And it was way too cold for me to spend a lot of time outside going through all my stuff to find just the items I'd need for that one night.  Bottom line:  With one or two exceptions, I ended up bringing in most of my stuff to my room.  I had to make like three trips to do it.  All for a (hopefully) one-night stay.  It was ridiculous.  And of course by the time I was done, my back was killing me.

And that's more than enough for this post.  Come back soon for a report on my night in Primm, NV, where the elite meet to celebrate the new year!  ....And you can now find the next chapter here.


  1. bottom line Rob, TC should have pressurized the cooling system before you left his ship. That cracked hose would have dripped in the shop!

    1. Well, Woody, then the question is....why the hell didn't he do that???

  2. Wow this TC guy sounds like an amazing person for going out of his way for you. Hope you had fun in Primm a diehard gamblers favorite stopping spot if you can't wait to get to Vegas before you start gambling.

    1. Well my evening in Primm will be covered in the next post. And yes, it was truly amazing that TC came all the way out there to help me. I was stunned, really.

  3. I'm not sure if you provided this level of detail before or if you have just referred to this car as your Lexus. But... is this the 98 or newer LS400 with air suspension and the Nav system with the whole wood and leather thing going on in the lux interior. Yesterday I saw a 99 LS400 on craigslist that had all maint up to date at the local Lexus dealership and it was a corporate executive car of some sort and it was fully optioned and I think the ad said at $5500 this won't last long. And... of course this morning it is gone. My daughter slid into the ditch and totalled her subaru. I was think that 99 LS400 would be a safer car. The ad said the car currently had a set of Blizzak winter tires installed. So it must have had two sets of rims. I didn't think the $5500 was outrageous and overnight of course somebody else bought it!

    1. Well, it's a 1995 Lexus LS400.....not sure about those other things you mentioned. Interesting about the car you missed out on, I'll ask Woody to take a lot at your comment.

      These cars are amazing cars, but of course shit still happens. You need to find The Wiz in your neighborhood.

  4. You should have bought this one https://carbuzz.com/news/the-million-mile-lexus-has-only-600-miles-to-go

    1. Wow. Someday that will be me. Thanks for the link.