Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Returning to Vegas in Style

The Nightmare Before—And After—Christmas
Chapter 9

You can find the previous chapter here and remember you can find all stories in the series using the label, "Stranded in Vegas."

I woke up the next day to unfamiliar surroundings.  Damn, I was still in Buffalo Bill's.  It hadn't all been some horrible nightmare. 

But as soon as I got up, I discovered the one really good thing about Buffalo Bill's.  It was the shower, and more specifically, the water pressure.  It had been years and years since I'd felt such strong water pressure coming out of a shower.  Because of droughts in NV and CA, they have really turned down the water pressure.  I dunno how the word hasn't gotten to Primm, but man was it nice to take a shower with enough water pressure.  It was worth the entire ordeal just to experience it that one morning.

Well, not exactly.  Not even close.

But it was nice. 

I was anxious to get down to my car and check to see if there were any signs of leaks.  So I packed up my stuff and started loading up my car.  One way or the other, I had to get back to Vegas that day because that's where I had three nights booked at Gold Coast.

By the time I made my first run down to the car, it was late morning, and I couldn't believe the line at the registration desk.  I figured these were people checking out?  It was probably too early for arrivals. So I guess those people I was with the night before weren't planning to spend the NY's Eve in Primm? 

Fortunately I could do Express Check-out.  If I had waited in that line, I might still be there.  Of course, Express Check-out consisted of filling out a card and dropping it in a box.  No fancy electronics for Buffalo Bill's.

Well, I got to the car and could see the unmistakable sign of coolant under the car.  Damn it!  I moved the car (there were open spaces now) and confirmed it.  It didn't take long for me to see the green puddle under the car in its new space.  I was screwed.

I called Woody and told him the bad news.  He said there was no way I should try to drive it back to Vegas with the leak.  I agreed.  I suppose since I got to Primm the day before with a leak, I might have been able to make it back—but how many stops along the way?  It might have been better if there wasn't stop-n-go traffic.  But who wanted to experience the horrors that I went thru day before again?  Not me.

I tried calling TC, even though it was a Sunday morning.  I did have his cell phone number.  But after a bunch of rings, a recorded, female voice picked up.  "The voicemail box for the number you have called has not been set up." I was not surprised. I couldn't even leave a message.  I suppose I could have sent him a text, but I assumed that no matter what, there was no way I was hearing back from him until Monday.

Woody said I was obviously gonna have to bite the bullet and get the car towed into Vegas.  I knew I would have to pay a lot if I used AAA.  I'd had the car towed in late summer, and was told that there was a mileage charge above 7 miles.  The tow driver I had at the time purposely avoided the freeway to take me on a route to the shop that would be just under 7 miles so I wouldn't have to pay anything.  I couldn't recall how much the mileage charge quoted was, it was at least $5 a mile, maybe more.  That would make it close to $200. 

Woody and LM suggested I try to find a cheaper tow than AAA.  Call around, get quotes.  So much fun.

But before I started checking on towing costs, I had another very important mission to accomplish.  I had to buy underwear.

You see, when I had gotten dressed that morning, I had put on the last of my clean undershorts.  That was it, I was done.  As I mentioned in a previous post, I knew I would run out of clothes if I stayed more than a few days beyond what was originally scheduled.  So if I had been able to get to Vegas in my car, I would have hoped that I'd also have been able to stop by a Target or a Walmart and pick up some.

But now, I assumed I wouldn't be able to drive anywhere in Vegas when I got there.  I really didn't want to pay for a Lyft driver to take me to and from the nearest Target.  Ugh.  So then I had another thought.  I remembered that next to the Primm Valley Resort, there's a rather famous Outlet Mall. It was probably close enough to walk to, at least in the day when the sun was out.   Surely I could find some underwear there.  And since it was an outlet mall, it would be cheap, right?

So that seemed like it made sense.  I also knew they had a food court (I ate there once) and figured I could grab some lunch there (certainly better than the limited options at Buffalo Bill's).  So that was my next activity.  I actually used Google Maps to give me the walking route to the mall since I wasn't sure exactly where it was.

I was bundled up but even in the sun it was damn cold.  And it was a pretty good walk.  By the time I made it over there, my back and my feet were killing me.  And I was cold.  Of course once I got inside the mall, I was way too warm, what with my heavy coat and a sweater on.  I couldn't win.  One other note—and I had to look this up just now to confirm—the Outlet Mall is in NV, not CA.  I was wondering if I had actually walked back to CA!  Nope, it must be right on the border.

I didn't realize how big the mall was and I had a lot more walking to do once inside.  I saw all the stores (Gap, Old Navy, Calvin Klein, etc) and figured I could find some appropriate underwear.  But what I really needed was a Target or a Walmart outlet store.  When I did find a store that had Men's underwear, it was all designer stuff, aimed at well-heeled millennials and it was ridiculously expensive.  I couldn't believe the pricing, these were Outlet stores and supposed to be bargains!  All I wanted was some plain, nothing fancy, Haines or Fruit-of-the-Looms.  Yeesh.  Finally I found the Levi's store and they had the closest thing to what I wanted.  There was no price on it that I could see.  But there was a sign saying 50% off.  I believe the deal was, buy 1, get 50% off the second.

So I grabbed two packages of three pairs each which I certainly hoped and prayed would last until I finally made it home.  When I saw the girl ring it up I almost fainted.  Then she gave me the 50% discount on the second pack and it was a teeny, weeny bit better.  It's just too embarrassing to admit how much I paid for those undies, but let's just say, for what I paid for them, it should have been ladies underwear and it should have come complete with a Sports Illustrated super-model to wear them (and of course, take them off).

I found the food court.  That one time I ate there, quite a number of years ago, I recall eating at a Subway.  But there was no Subway there now (likely because of the Subway that was at the Truck Stop I'd been in the day before).  I settled for a pizza place and got the lunch special: one slice of pizza, a small salad, and a drink (no refill).  It was a bargain at half the price.

While eating, I used my cell phone to Google towing services, and found a few with decent reviews, one in particularly was getting raves.

So when I got back to the car, I called the one with the good reviews and first asked if they would even come all the way out to where I was and bring me back to Vegas today (of course the towing company was located in Vegas).  They said yes, so I asked for a quote.  "It'll be $200, flat fee." I thanked him for the quote.

But I had nothing to compare it to.  I knew I had to find out what it would cost me going through AAA.  So I called them.  It took awhile to get through all the automated voice prompts and give them my membership number and all that.  Anyway, the lady on the line said that after 7-miles, it would cost me but she couldn't say how much.  "It's the commercial rate. Whatever our contractor charges.  I've seen it as low as $5/mile, or as high as $12/mile."  Wow, that's a big difference.

She also mentioned that with an upgraded membership to the next level, I would be covered for 100 miles each tow.  But before I could sign up for that deal she added, "But there's a 48-hour waiting period before you are entitled to the 100-mile tow."  So in other words, if I wanted to wait around until Tuesday, aka New Years Day, I could pay for an upgraded membership and get towed for free.  I had no intention of hanging around Buffalo Bill's for another 48 hours.  I just couldn't survive that much fun. Just out of curiosity I asked how much to upgrade my membership, but she couldn't even tell me that, I'd have to speak to member services.

So I asked her how if I could find out how much the tow would actually cost. Although she couldn't give me a quote, she said she could try connecting me directly with the contractor they would send to get me, and they could give me a quote.  But she warned me that they might not be there today.  I asked, "Well, if they're not there, how are they gonna tow me?"  All I got in response to that was, "Oh, don't worry, we'll get to you."

I wasn't sure how that worked but she put me on hold and did indeed connect me with the towing company they were going to use.  And a very nice lady answered and I told her what I needed and she said the charge would be $10/mile.  Now the lady from AAA had already told me that based on the address I gave them for where I wanted the car dropped off, it was 45 miles.  Well the good thing about $10/mile is I could do the math in my head.  Let's see, 45 minus 7 is 38 miles, at $10/mile that's a mere $380.  Yikes.

I thanked the lady for her time.  Obviously the $200 rate was the way to go.  I called back that place and ordered a tow. And saved myself $180. They said it would be about 45-minutes.  So I settled into my car and waited.

While I was waiting, I noticed a text from, of all people, TC.  It said, "Your car is OK?"  I responded, "No. It's leaking like crazy. I'm gonna have it towed to your shop unless you have another idea."  I never heard anything further from him.

Well, after nearly an hour I got a call from the driver saying it would be another 15-minutes. But after almost another half-hour I called him asking where he was.  He said he was almost there but that there was just a lot of traffic.  "So many people leaving Vegas today."  Again?  I thought they all left yesterday?  Who would be in Vegas this close to NY's Eve and leave now?

Anyway, I finally got another call from him telling me he had been driving around the parking lot looking for me.  And he left the lot and drove on the street so maybe I could spot him.  That actually worked and I flagged him down.  He had this big ol' flat bed and he drove the Lexus on to it and we were on our way.

The tow truck was something to see—and hear.  It was old and rickety as hell.  It rattled something fierce.  The engine was noisy.  I mean if I had a car with an engine making noise like that , I'd take it straight in to be checked out.  And the ride was the exact opposite of smooth.  I was bumpy as hell. I tried texting LM & Woody about my progress but my fingers could never hit the letters, the road turbulence kept knocking my fingers away from the keyboard.  Later when I described this ride to them, they laughed.  "You've been spoiled by the smooth ride of the Lexus."  Well, I admit that the Lexus ride is great.  But honestly, this ride was so nasty I would have felt that way if my current car was a 1979 Yugo.

On the way, I could see what he was talking about with the traffic heading to CA.  It was basically a parking lot.  Yeesh.  Fortunately the way we were going it was fairly clear.  As we approached Vegas, I suddenly had a thought.  I've arrived in Vegas by car and by plane.  This was the first time I'd arrived by tow truck.

It was pretty late in the afternoon when we departed Primm, and by the time we reached TC's shop it was dusk. My plan was for him to leave the car in TC's parking area, then order a Lyft to take me to Gold Coast.  Of course I would have to be sure to request a vehicle that could handle all my luggage (like 6 bags of various sizes).  You can make a request like that, can't you?  I sure wouldn't want them to send me a Toyota C-HR, one of those miniature SUV's I road in last week, that would never work.

However, as we drove up to TC's place, I was stunned to see a couple of the service bays open and they were actually working on cars.  On a late Sunday afternoon.  I couldn't believe it.

I saw TC from the passenger side window of the truck.  I shouted to him, "Still leaking!"  He said, "Leaking?  Still?"  So after the driver offloaded my car and I settled up with him, handing over two crisp hundred bills (i.e, a buy-in at a Vegas 1/2 NL game), TC started looking at the car immediately.  I almost wished he wasn't there.  I was looking forward to getting checked into the Gold Coast and relaxing. I'd take a Lyft to some place on the Strip to play poker that night.  But now, well, I was stuck there while TC worked on the car.  It was something I was unfortunately getting used to.

Of course, I passed on some helpful hints to TC about the car from Woody.  Like I mentioned he should pressurize the cooling system.  But he just pretty much ignored me or said something like, "yeah, yeah."

That older lady that was always there was there again, and she kept letting me in and out of the office as I checked on TC's progress.  He never told me anything.  But I realized my phone was running out of juice.  I was able to pull a charger and a plug out of my car and found an outlet in the office to charge the phone.  Then, as it was past 5pm I guess, I was starting to get worried about my reservation. It was a busy holiday weekend, I surely didn’t want to lose that reservation.  I thought about calling Gold Coast but since I hadn't made the reservation directly with them I thought it might be better to go through Agoda, the booking site I had found (through Trivago) that I paid for the room.  It was difficult to find a number to call but I did and after being on hold for 10 minutes, I managed to speak to a human and told him that I had this room booked, I hadn't checked in, and I might be a couple more hours but I definitely was taking the room.  They put me on hold and presumably called the Gold Coast to let them know.  The guy came back on the line and said I had a couple of hours to check in.

Now all I had to worry about was if it was really going to be a couple of hours, and not more.  But really, TC wasn't going to spend the night working on my Lexus, was he?

Finally, I went out there to check it again and he said, "Almost ready."  He was replacing the bolt in the middle of the engine where he had added coolant.  I noticed the radiator cap was on, but I could tell it was loose.  And then he proudly told me he was finished and started to slam the hood.  I stopped him.  Not only could I tell that the radiator cap was not securely fastened, but I noticed he had one of his tools on the side of the engine.  If he had shut the hood just then, he would have smashed his tool—and possibly damaged the hood.  I pointed these things out to him and he took the tool away and tightened the radiator cap.  And he said I was good to go.  But seeing as how he almost shut the hood prematurely, I didn't have a lot of confidence I was really done with him.

I guess it was around 6 and I drove off and headed directly to Gold Coast, which wasn't too far away.  I knew that I needed to stress the car again in the morning.  I wasn't going to feel comfortable taking it out for the evening. I wanted to see that it hadn't leaked overnight before going anywhere further than the drive from TC's shop to Gold Coast.  I decided I would be taking Lyft to and from my poker destination for the evening.

I had another decision to make.  Ordinarily I prefer not to use valet parking.  But when I stay in a regular hotel and have two weeks' worth of stuff to take up to the room, I usually do valet park to check in and check out, so I can easily use a bellman to help me with my luggage.  But I didn't want to do that this time for a couple of reasons.  For one thing, I wanted the car to be out in the garage where I could check for leaks in the morning.  And I didn't feel like valet parking, and then going back down to the valet and getting the car and moving it to self-parking that night.

But even if I was willing to do that, there was another reason not to valet park.  The damn driver's side seat couldn't move, remember?  What if the valet was some tall guy (or at least, taller than me) and need to push the seat back to drive it?  I didn't want to take that chance. Fortunately, the tow truck driver, who had to drive the car on and off his flatbed, was shorter than me.  So I just self-parked and resigned myself to making several trips to get all the stuff I needed. I suppose I could have tried to repack when I was in my room at Buffalo Bill's so I needed to take less stuff up to the room, but I just didn't have the time.

And since this post has already gotten way too long, I'll leave it right there.  Next time I'll pick up with my evening festivities, a review of my room at Gold Coast, and get started on how I spent my New Year's Eve day.  And you can now find the next chapter right here.


  1. How many wheeled suitcases just under the average airline's oversized bag dimensions are we talking about??? 4, 5 or six of them? There would have to be a way to link them and pull them all at once like your own little luggage train???

    1. This is NOT a matched luggage set, just bags I've picked up here and there over the years. Since I haven't flown for years it's been good enough for me for now. Two regular size bags have wheels, another oversized duffle bag has wheels, two other small bags do not have wheels and then there's my laptop case.

      I'll plan better next time I know I'll be stranded in Vegas for a week.

    2. TBC might be able to share some recommendations on piecing together a luggable luggage suite of bargain bags????

    3. LOL...sad fact is my luggage is probably fairly comparable to Tony's.

    4. Do you travel with a pizza turner???

    5. Good to see that you differ from TBC in that you actually wear undies!

    6. @Lester: No pizza turner for me. But isn't it impressive that Tony makes home made pizza where ever he travels to? Can you just see him, in his room, rolling that dough and tossing it in the air and catching it? :)

      @Lightning: OMG....Tony goes commando? That's something I didn't need to know.

    7. LOL, persuadeo. Not sure what comment this is referring to....or if it is in response to the blog post.

  2. So much detail in only one day. I love it. But of course there is one significant question to ask: BOXER OR BRIEFS? We all know what Bill Clinton wears. Great comment on modes of transportation getting to Vegas...now you can add camel tow. And, did you think that your day could have actually been worse?! You could have been stuck in the SNOW trying to return to Vegas!!

    1. Boxers or briefs?


      Yeah, I suppose the weather could have been worse. Instead of just cold it could have been raining, or worse, snow.

  3. dont u think u couldve saved a ton of money by taking uber to your home in los angelos with all your luggage for under $300, no more car expenses, no more hotel costs and then worried about getting your cab out of primm some later date where u couldve brought a friend along or rented a car once u were back home?

    1. Well, I thought of a lot of different options but I never thought of taking an Uber to L.A. Never in a million years would that thought of crossed my mind. I did think of renting a car and driving it (and my stuff) home for a few days. That would have been cheaper I think than your suggestion.

      Honestly, I was thinking it would have been impossible to take an Uber to Vegas, let alone L.A.

      Where do you get that less than $300 figure for the Uber to LA from Primm? Wouldn't it have been more? After all, it was the middle of a holiday weekend.

  4. Just friendly fyi from someone who travels for work 100 plus nights a year, I have never checked out of a hotel room. Just leave and they will check you out when the maid or housekeeper supervisor comes by the room.

    1. Thanks for the tip, Anony. But as a business traveler, don't you need a receipt for the room? I always want a receipt. Fortunately I had one at Buffalo Bill's. But when I settled up at Gold Coast, I wouldn't have had a good receipt unless I actually checked out. Fortunately it was easy, no line.