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.  Stay tuned.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Back to Blackjack--But Did I Martingale?

The Nightmare Before—And After—Christmas
Chapter 8

And we pick up the saga right after I've checked into my room at Buffalo Bill's, right on the state line between NV and CA.  The previous chapter is here, and remember you can find all the posts in this series by using the label, "Stranded in Vegas," even though at this point in my story I'm actually stranded in Primm.

With all the stuff I thought I needed in my room, I was totally exhausted, both physically and mentally.  I was also starving.  I also had an aching back.  I was so tired I looked longingly at that bed and wanted to just collapse on it.  I might have actually done that but my hunger won out, especially because I knew I had to eat very soon so I could take my meds.

The room, by the way, was fairly nice.  It was surprisingly big, and it had a work desk and a chair to use with it.  And yes, it was, thankfully, non-smoking.  Much later I found out that the worse thing about the room was the choice of stations on the TV.  There were some oddball channels I wouldn't have expected (like National Geographic and the History channel—at least I think) but not a single cable news channel.  Weird that they didn't have CNN, Fox News or MSNBC. I guess they figure if you are there you want to be kept away from the real world.

I limped down to the casino to find some food.  When I checked in, the clerk gave me a map of the property and mentioned some of the food options.  He also mentioned some of the food options at Whiskey Pete's & Primm Valley Resort, all of which sounded a lot better that what I had available to me at Buffalo Bill's.  I can't remember them, but there were real places to eat at those other two hotels.  What did he mention for Buffalo Bill's?  Well, he said there was a 24-hour Denny's.  And a Panda Express in the food court which was also 24-hours (or maybe he just said they were open late, not sure).  And he said something about a McDonald's.

Surely there must be other options, right?  This is a hotel/casino, after all.  I dismissed the idea of checking out the better sounding food options at the other two hotels.  There was no way I was going to drive anywhere that night.  And not just because my car was not trustworthy.  Recall that I had gotten what seemed like the last parking spot at my current location.  No way would I risk giving up that spot and having to return to find nowhere to park.

There's a monorail that connects the properties.  When I asked about it, I was told it was closed that night (not sure if it was closed for more than just that night, I didn't care).  They did have a shuttle. I never asked about the location or the hours, I figured I was enjoying being inside, out of the cold, too much to try and take a damn shuttle. I would just make do with a meal at Buffalo Bill's.

I looked around the place.  There was a food court, but the only place there aside from the McDonald's and the Panda Express was a pizza place.  Well that would do…..except it was closed!  WTF?  Why would a pizza place in a casino be closed on Saturday night (before 7pm) on a big holiday weekend?  Desperate, I checked out the Denny's.  Hadn't eaten at a Denny's in a long, long time.  Well, since it was the only actual sit-down restaurant in the joint, it was crowded as hell. There was a big crowd of people who had already given their names waiting to be called.  I thought about at least asking how long the wait would be, but after 10 minutes of waiting for someone to come to the front, I just gave up.

I guess I had noticed that the McDonald's was not too crowded, surprisingly, so that was it. Why not Panda Express?  As any of you who have ever tried to eat with me in Vegas surely knows, I don't like Chinese food. And there were no other food options at all.  It had been ages since I'd eaten at a Mickey D's, although not as long as it'd been since I'd partaken in a Denny's.  But last I heard, McDonald's had salads, right?  Recall that I had been cheated out of a salad for lunch because the place I went to was out of green stuff. 

However, when I looked at the menu, I didn't see any salads on it.  Ugh.  No healthy food for me this day. So just a burger then.  But you know, after the day I'd had, I decided to treat myself to something I rarely have these days—some fries. I felt I was entitled.  However, I did resist the temptation to get a shake and just had a diet Coke.

I was impressed they got my special order right, and the burger was—adequate.  It was ok I guess, but when your fast food burger of choice is In-N-Out Burger it was a significant step down in quality.  But it was sustenance and it didn't make me sick, so there's that.  The fries, I must admit, were quite good.

While I was eating, I tried to figure out what I was going to do.  I had no place to stay beyond that night.  In theory, I had to be in Vegas Monday morning to get my car fixed (again).  There was certainly no reason to stay another night in Primm if I could help it.  And I figured by now I was stuck in NV through New Years.  It was going to be incredibly pricey, but I had to try to find a place in Vegas to stay for the next few days, through the 1st, at the very least.

So I headed back to my room and booted up the laptop.  I started searching for hotel rooms.  I remembered those Trivago commercials and used them since it would theoretically show me deals from all the other travel sites. 

Of course everything was expensive.  Last minute and the holiday weekend.  It was just nasty.  I almost booked a room at Sam's Town but then saw a deal at Gold Coast for a few bucks more.  The convenience and proximity to the Strip—and to TC's shop—made it worth the few extra bucks.  So, through some travel site that Trivago sent me to that I had never heard of—Agoda—I booked three nights at Gold Coast starting Sunday.  For those three nights, I paid $470.72, upfront.  That included taxes but it did not include the resort fee, which I'd owe directly to the Gold Coast.  I think the resort fee was like $20-$22 a night.  So yeah, I was getting hosed again.

Gold Coast is a hotel/casino located right across the street from the Rio.  I was very familiar with it.  Back in my pre-poker days it was one of my favorite places to play because they had low limits on their table games.  In fact, before I started staying where I stay now, it was also my go-to place to stay while in Vegas. 

That done, I could relax a bit.  Nothing more I could do about my accommodations or my car on this night.  I was ready for an exciting night of casino action at Buffalo Bill's!

As I returned to the casino, it suddenly dawned on me.  The absolute worst part of this entire episode was this realization:  I was spending the Saturday night before NY's Eve surrounded by a bunch of people who thought it was a good idea to spend the Saturday night before NY's Eve at Buffalo Bill's.

Of course, there is no poker room in Buffalo Bill's or anywhere in Primm.  There used to be.  I recall setting it up on PokerAtlas not long after I started.  Then they moved it to Whiskey Pete's and closed it down.  Then they reopened it at Buffalo Bill's on weekends only.  But in late 2013, they closed it down for good.

Much earlier in the day, when I thought I was likely going to be staying there one night and then could head home, I was thinking that I could play online at WSOP.com that night.  But by this time that idea had deserted me. I figured if I was gonna be stuck for a night, paying $140 for the room, I needed to have a casino experience.

By now I had realized that Buffalo Bill's was actually a lower quality casino than Whiskey Pete's.  And checking out the game action was further proof.  I looked for some Pai Gow.  That was the game I'd played the most the last few years before I starting playing real poker.  Guess what?  Not a Pai Gow table to be found.  I was shocked.  I assumed they have it at the other two casinos but I wasn't about to check them out.  In fact, they only had three varieties of table games available at all.  Blackjack, Craps and Roulette.  When I first started hitting Vegas I played a lot of Craps & BJ but never acquired a taste for Roulette (the odds were too bad).

I checked out the Craps tables.  There were two of them, but one was like 3/4's size. And it was empty.  The other was less than half full, not exactly appealing.  Unlike almost all of the tables I see in Vegas, it was only a $5 minimum bet. But the way I want to play Craps (keep betting the pass line, the come and always take max odds), I could go through a buy-in ridiculously fast at $5 minimum.  That's why I pretty much stopped playing the game in Vegas when the $2 minimum bet disappeared.  But you know, I was probably too tired and my back was bothering me too much for me to stand at a craps table for very long anyway. 

I figured I might play a little $5 BJ but before I did, I noticed one of those "bubble" Craps machines.  You know, it's circular, can sit about 6-8 players and in the middle are these two huge dice.  The floor under the dice starts to bounce and then the designated shooter pushes a button and the dice pop up and that's your roll.  I've seen them in Vegas all the time, and have always been intrigued by them, never tried it.  I just figured you were much less likely to get a shooter with a hot roll on a machine than in a live game.

But desperate times call for desperate measures.  I figured what the hell, I'd throw a $20 into the craps machine just to see what it was like.  Actually, it wasn't that bad. It took me a while to figure out how to take odds on come bets.  But I got it eventually.  And they even let you take odds that you'd never be allowed to take at a real table because they pay down to the penny.  Like you could take $2 odds behind a $1 pass line or come bet on a 6 or 8 and they would pay you $2.40 if you hit it.

The drawback was it was easy to touch the wrong spot and make a bet you didn't intend.  I did that multiple times.  Of course there's a way to take back the bet if you act fast enough, but you don't really have enough time and then, if you do take back the bet, you'd almost never have enough time to make the bet you actually intended to make. I missed a lot of odds bets that way.

Of course, even though there were often players at the other spots, it certainly lacked the excitement of a live craps game.  I was down below $10 and then I personally had a really nice roll.  When I finally had enough, I cashed out a ticket that was worth over $25.  A nice five-buck profit!

I was tired and was headed back to the room but I passed a BJ table with a couple of open spots.  It was $5 minimum and I figured I really needed to play a little live action to complete the experience.  So I bought in for $50.  It was the first time I'd played blackjack in years. 

Aside:  I just realized that in telling this story over the many chapters, I've mentioned the need to do laundry, problems with Uber/Lyft/Rideshare, and now I'm playing Blackjack.  I fear my blog is turning into a poor man's version of Tony's.

Almost immediately after I sat down, a waitress came around. If ever I needed  a drink, this was the time.  I ordered a Corona.  Truth be told, a fifth of Jack Daniels was what was really called for after the day I had.  But the Corona would do.  Then I noticed she had a tray full of Coronas and just gave me one, even though I hadn't previously ordered it.  I guess maybe she just walks around with a tray full of them?  Perhaps Corona is the drink of choice at Buffalo Bill's.  Maybe it's the only beer they have?

I wasn't playing for very long when I started to wonder if this was a 3-2 BJ table or a 6-5 table. I hadn't even thought about it before sitting down. Was I stupid enough to have sat down at a table that only paid 6-5 on blackjack?  I looked at the felt and it didn't say "Blackjack pays 3-2" like they always used to.  Of course, it didn't say "Blackjack pays 6-5" either.  But then I figured they likely wouldn't put that on the felt.

I assumed I'd find out eventually.  Sure enough, I saw someone get a BJ and they were paid 6-5.  Yeesh.  Even out here, 40 miles from Vegas, the evil corporations have ruined the great game of blackjack.  I didn't bother to check, I just assumed that all the tables—or certainly all the $5 tables—were 6-5.  In the end, it didn't make a difference for me, as I never got a blackjack.

Oh and by the way, I should have realized it was a 6-5 table before that because I saw no 50¢ pieces in the dealer's rack.  You would need those if they were paying 3-2 to pay off a $5 bet that hit a blackjack.

But one of the first hands I was dealt I did get two Aces.  It was weird seeing them, too.  As a poker player, my first reaction was "alright, Aces!" But then I realized that it wasn't the best hand in this game.  Of course I split them and immediately got another Ace. I asked and was allowed to split again. I don't remember the full results but I won two out of the three hands.

I wanted to text Woody & LM that I was playing BJ and having a beer.  They certainly deserved to know this vital information.  As I took my phone out, I suddenly remembered that the last time I played BJ, you weren't allowed to use your cell phone at the table (that used to be the rule when I started playing poker too, but that rule has gone the way of 3-2 blackjack).  Before my phone reached the table I asked the dealer about it.  "Am I allowed to use my cell phone?"  She shook her head no.  OK, no biggie.

But when she shuffled the 8 or 10 deck shoe, I stepped away to text my pals.  And when I came back, I innocently put my phone down on the rail instead of in my holster.  It wasn't there for more than a minute when a floorman came by and said, "No cell phones at the table, boss."  Hey, if I was his boss, I'd make the rules and allow them.  I didn't argue that the cell phone technically wasn't on the table, it was on the rail.  I just put the damn phone away.

I played less than half an hour and actually had a decent little run.  I ended up winning $30, which was nice.  I wasn't even really trying that hard, and I think I remembered the basic BJ strategy.  And no, I didn't Martingale. 

I headed back up to the room and called it a night, hoping the worst was over but not sure what to expect the next day.  And we'll pick up that next day next time. Stay tuned. Or you can just go straight to the next chapter which you can find here.

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.