Posted by: glenswatman | November 5, 2007

200710 – 2 – USA California Arizona

TUESDAY 16 OCTOBER – The majority of people
staying here are full timers who come for months at a time.  There is a clubhouse with social rooms and
an activity programme.  Head off for the
9am computer talk followed by the problem solving as I have one or two things
going wrong with mine.  Steve tries the
brake seminar but leaves when he realises it is a disguise for the sale of a
$600 product.  Fred, the computer man,
needs to read up on my problems and calls round to our van after lunch.  Unfortunately he tries to do much of the
fixing by the book and we get in a bit of a mess and end up worse than
before.  Meanwhile Steve heads off for
the free tasting at the winery followed by sunbathing by the pool.  I fit in a late swim and hot tub session
after giving up on the computer.  In the
evening Steve enters the “Texas Hold Em” poker tournament, $5.25 (£2.60) and
does very well and wins on his table and almost doubles his money.  Hope this doesn’t encourage him to try it in
Vegas where the same game commands around $100 entry fee. 



WEDNESDAY 17 OCTOBER – We are both up early,
last night I managed to find sport on Radio 5 live so Steve is ready for
listening to the England v Russia game. 
Alas it is one they are unable to broadcast so he has to settle for a
teleprompter style update and worse still England losing.  Late morning we drive to town and get a
fantastic lunch deal at Terribles Casino. 
With our 2 for 1 coupon the total bill for the all you can eat buffet,
unlimited soft and hot drinks is $5.35 (£2.60), unbelievable.  At the clubhouse they are playing card bingo
in the evening.  Everyone has to take 3
x 5c, 3 x 10c, 3 x 25c and $1.  Each
group of 4 deals a 52-card pack between themselves and you then lay the cards
down face up in front of you in suits. 
The caller shuffles another deck then proceeds to call the cards as she
turns them over.  When one of your cards
is called you throw it into the middle of the table and the winner is the first
to get rid of all their cards.  For the
first 3 rounds you all put 5c into the pot then the stakes increase until the
last game is for the dollars.  I win
twice on the 10c rounds, once jointly. 
Quite a fun evening and a chance to get to know a few more people.



THURSDAY 18 OCTOBER – At 9am we have to go
through our presentation and Helene seems very pleasant.  We know immediately that it is not for us at
this time in our life but are eager to know more as it may suit us later.  Basically you pay a one off fee of $14000
plus administration then for $395 year you can use Western Horizon Resorts for
a nominal nightly charge and other affiliated resorts for free.  Nearing the end of our talk the boss Craig
comes over as he can see Helene is not closing on us.  He is extremely obnoxious from the first instant, asks us
questions about why we won’t sign up but doesn’t even begin to listen to our
response.  Steve is so miffed that he
says something that causes Craig to say he will leave us with Helene.  But Steve is already so cross that he walks
out.  Someone did warn us about Craig
but even so we are amazed by his attitude. 
Maybe he figures we weren’t buying anyway so what had he got to lose but
I can tell you that given the number of people we talk to it could be quite a
lot of business.  Helene gives Steve a
few minutes the talks him back in to hear the rest of the presentation which
brings in the interesting facts that you get a cabin free for 1 week plus 3
weeks timeshare accommodation every year. 
Receive our 2 free bottles of wine and return home chewing over the
concept but also composing a letter about Craig to their head office. Steve
enters an afternoon pool tournament but is soon knocked out by one of the two
chaps who play here every day. 
Meanwhile I look on E-Bay and find that you can buy a similar campground
package to Western Horizon for $1999 second hand so maybe Craig has to come in
strong not because the product isn’t that good but because you can get the same
thing much cheaper elsewhere.  I go down
to watch Steve in the evening poker tournament where again he comes out ahead
of the game but fortunately not sufficiently so to make him think he can hit
the tables at Vegas!



FRIDAY 19 OCTOBER – In spite of our initial
dismay in arriving at a “car park” out time has gone quickly and not been too
bad at all although it is something we would never have done if we had been
paying for it.  Between Pahrump and Las Vegas
are the amazing rock formations at Red Rock Canyon, $5 (inc in pass).  There’s an excellent visitor centre and
outside it a path of remembrance including a memorial stone that says, “Larry
Bray born 6-26-40 died 5-30-05 Betty Bray born 6-02-39 died ……”, think she was
buying a 2 for the price of 1! One of the larger memorial sections is a
dedication to 911.  The main rock
formation changes from white to pink then pink and white rippled rather like
the soft serve ice cream machines.  We
park at the picnic area to hike but find the petroglyphs poor and the hike into
a gorge doesn’t get us far in before reaching a dead end.  After lunch I go off to check out the other
petroglyphs and they are also uninspiring but en route I get talking to
Stephanie and Richard who have just arrived here from England to stay for 3
years at the RAF base.  I take them back
to meet Steve and they stay chatting over a drink.  As soon as they leave we head to Las Vegas and can’t believe how
close to the park it is.  When we visited
in 1994 it was the fastest growing city in USA and we can now see the results
but still find it staggering.  Manage to
arrive at our destination in East Las Vegas, by Sunrise Mountain, in spite of
making a couple of wrong turns.  Our
host Melodi’s home has 2 excellent flat driveways and we are soon parked up as
instructed.  A car soon arrives, her
daughter Cara dropping youngest daughter Summer off.  We introduce ourselves and explain that we are going to have an
hours snooze.  When we wake up Melodi is
home from work and we sit out in her front garden, shaded by the house, with a
fine view of the rock mountain.  Her
friend Robin, with her miniature poodle Ruby, comes round to meet us and we
stay out watching the sunset changing the colours on the rock of Sunrise
Mountain.  Melodi’s home is impressively
decorated with an African wildlife theme and from her back garden you get
glimpses over the vast spread of Las Vegas City.  We want to go downtown and Robin offers to drop us off on her way
home and Melodi will pick us up after her massage.  Ruby is strapped into her special dog safety seat in the front
and we sit in the back.  Before taking
us into the city Robin gives us a nice tour around the area, past a huge
floodlit Mormon tabernacle and to a spot with a most fantastic panoramic
view.  No pictures could impress on us
the sheer spectacle and amount of lights throughout.  Dropped at Fremont Street area we immediately catch the 8pm
“celestial vault” light show.  A huge
canopy over the pedestrianised street turns into an enormous big screen TV with
pictures accompanied by music. We wander in and out of the many casinos picking
up lots of snack food and drinks at 99c (50p) a time.  The 9pm and 10pm Celestial Vault shows are both different and we
also see many street performers.  Riding
back Melodi tells us more about the area and suggests other things we can



SATURDAY 20 OCTOBER – When we asked about a
place to park we also mentioned we needed public transport and although you there
is a bus stop about 1 mile from here it would take 3 buses and almost 1 hour to
get to “The Strip” and leaving at 9pm we would not get back until 2.30am.  Another alternative is to take the motorhome
down but Melodi says she is happy to drop us on the Strip and either come down
and join us or pick us up later.   Begin
at Tropicana where we are amazed at the changes since our last visit, as New
York New York now looms opposite.  To
begin with we plan to see the casinos that weren’t here before plus the ones
with free attractions.  In MGM we sign
up for the 10.30am CBS Television City Research centre show.  We are taken into a room and sat behind a
computer.  During the showing of a TV
programme you have a hand held device and must turn the dial between 0 (would
normally turn this programme off) and 100 (this is fantastic) whilst watching
to indicate your level of interest. 
It’s Criminal Minds, which we have seen before and enjoyed.  At the end of the screening we have to
complete a questionnaire and then get an envelope of half price coupons.  The Lion Habitat within MGM has 3 cubs in a
large glass area along with a couple of trainers, one of whom is sat down using
his mobile phone.  The cubs are fun to
watch but it seems totally out of place and wrong for the animals.  Steve wants to watch England playing South
Africa in the rugby final and hears that Caesars are televising it.  The strip is an optical illusion and appears
to be only a couple of miles long but is actually nearer 6.  However we know it’s still a relatively
short walk to Caesars so hot foot it in that direction pausing to take in the
magnificent musical water fountains at Bellagio on the way past.  Having checked a number of sport bars on
route Steve is disappointed to find the last shot at Caesars fails.  We are now near to “The Venetian” complete
with St Marks Square façade and mini canal at the front.  Inside on the 2nd floor is mini
St Mark’s square with a 1 mile long “Grand Canal” complete with gondolas on the
crystal clear chlorinated bright blue water. 
Can just hear the Americans saying “Gee honey I guess we’ve no need to
go to Venice now!”  Nipping in and out
of the lesser known casino’s we end up with a liquid lunch using vouchers to
get the 99c margaritas and bottles of beer on 2 for 1, in other words 50c  (25p) a drink.  No wonder the street is heaving with people staggering along in
party mode with drinks in hand.  The
Flamingo Wildlife Habitat is busy as there are 17 weddings taking place today;
we see 3 in the space of about 10 minutes. 
Back at The Bellagio we admire the amazing Dale Chihuly glass sculptures
around the building, flower arrangements, huge leaves and a complete floral
ceiling in the lobby.  Even this is
surpassed by the splendid Conservatory and Botanical Gardens with seasonal
vegetation and flower displays.  At
Planet Hollywood we traipse through the Miracle Mile shopping area, complete
with fake cloudy sky ceiling, but the Rainforest show is not working.  At least we get to see samples of the
theatre acts on the food court stage. 
M&M have a factory shop complete with a wall covered in tubes of
different coloured ones.  The top floor
has a kind of museum explaining the production process leading to a 3D theatre
show about an M that goes missing; we sit there wondering what on earth we are
doing.  Melodi picks us up by Tropicana
at 5pm and we head straight out to Bangkok Orchid where we meet Robin and
another friend Pam for a meal.  The food
is excellent and we get to try a few new things including a delicious Strawberry
Chicken. Next we all head out to Las Vegas Lake.  Melodi drives a convertible sports car and with Steve sat in the
back we feel like Thelma and Louise racing out into the desert.  The man made lake is home to many famous
people including Celine Dion.  There’s a
Casino, mock Italian village and boats that do tours on the lake but
unfortunately tonight it is all unusually quiet.  Robin suggests going back to her place for coffee and
dessert.  She surprises us by standing
in the kitchen reciting loads of tempting dessert choices including key lime
pie and strawberry cheesecake.  Once we
have made our selection she brings in a small box and opens it up to reveal
coloured tablets.  “Sinfully Delicious”
are zero fat no guilt dessert bites that you pop in your mouth and suck.  If you close your eyes you are supposed to
be able to imagine all the flavours of your chosen dessert!  Doesn’t quite work as well as described but
it is certainly a novelty. Robin sings with a “Sweet Adeline International”
group, a form of ladies barbers shop quartet style harmony.  She plays DVD footage of some of the songs
and it’s really different and nice to hear. 
Driving back to Melodi’s the wind has got really strong and we can see a
dust storm beginning to come in. 



SUNDAY 21 OCTOBER – It’s Melodi’s daughter
Nikki’s birthday today and we are invited to join the family party complete
with her parents and siblings.  We have
a great time getting to know everyone and end up being invited to spend the evening
at her brother in law Rich’s who lives next door with his wife Staci (Melodi’s
sister) and family.  Join all the family
for the evening church service with many differences to an English one.  The hymns are more modern and sung without
accompaniment and the main sermon is given in the latter half of the service by
a preacher in one long stretch.  Our
return with Richard includes at detour to where Arnold Schwartzneger used to
live.  At Richard and Staci’s we meet up
with his daughters Brandi, Shari and Elisa, Melodi & Summer and the
preacher Chris with his family.  After
an enjoyable meal together we chat until late. 



MONDAY 22 OCTOBER – Due to public transport
difficulties we decide to move down onto the strip to park behind the Tropicana
Hotel.  By waiting until the rush hour
is over we manage the journey easily. 
It’s just after 10am when we begin by walking north.  We saunter along then realise that we really
need a more structured plan as everything is so spread out.  Catch a bus to downtown and have a snack
lunch including the famous 99c (50p) shrimp cocktails.  Everything looks so different in the
daylight, most things seems more impressive at night.  One of the new club member benefits are free tickets for the 2pm
showing of “Viva Las Vegas” in The Plaza. 
It’s an excellent variety show with dancers, a magician and a very funny
comedian.  Hop on bus back to Sahara at
the top of the strip and find a long line to join their club.  Not surprising as membership gives you the
evening buffet for $6.99 (£3.50) instead of $12.99.  Needing to work off our food we set out to walk amongst the neon
lights.  It’s rather like Blackpool
Illuminations as each casino tries to outdo its neighbour.  Wynn is quite a new and luxurious casino with
impressive décor and horticulture. The Lake of Dreams is within a restaurant
and accessed by an escalator that curves round on both sides rather like the
staircase in a posh mansion.  From the
balcony upstairs you can look through the 2-storey plate glass window to watch
the show on the lake.  Music and images
combine to create a show with characters seeming to appear out of the
water.  The 10pm Treasure Island show is
now “Sirens of TI” with lots of emphasis on skimpily clad dancing girls.  Wind up at the 11pm volcano display outside
“Mirage” but find it briefer and somewhat less impressive than we
remember.  The buses are running very
frequently and within minutes we are enjoying the spectacle of the strip from
the top deck front seats of “The Deuce”. 
It’s just about midnight when we arrive home after our mammoth 14-hour
day out, can’t work out how far we have walked but my feet are giving me a



TUESDAY 23 OCTOBER – Luckily we were both
tired enough to sleep through all the noise. 
We are only 1 block away from the airport but the early morning
helicopters setting out for the Grand Canyon scenic flights do get the better
of me.  Set out around 9am and find New
York New York rather disappointing as the famous Central Square is just a few
fake trees amongst the slot machines. 
Take the bus to Circus Circus where giving our E-mail address gets us $5
(£2.50) each in slot play.  Steve does
really well and turns his into almost $30 (£15) and between us we walk away $40
(£20) up on the deal.  At the Sahara our
membership give us a daily go on a special slot machine and Steve wins
25/25.  That’s $25 on his card that must
be put through the slots plus $25 to spend in the gift shop.  Well the slots convert it to just over $20
in cash so we are having a really good day. 
Bus it down to Terribles and get a 2 for 1 buffet lunch leaving just
enough time on our 24-hour bus pass to get to Rio.  Their “Masquerade in the Sky” show is unusual.  A 2-tier stage comes up from the floor with
singers and dancers.  Next 4 illuminated
floats come around on tracks in the ceiling. Once this is over we take the free
shuttle bus to Bally’s.  Check out the
new Paris Hotel complete with Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triumph.  In the shopping area is a glass cabinet
containing a million dollars and it doesn’t look much at all.  Each hotel seems to have false facades on
all the shops to make them look like ones in the appropriate country but to us
just ends up looking like Disney World.  
Wander back home for a rest before the lights come on for our evening
exploration.  Hooters is just behind the
car park and our membership gives us some freebies including tickets for a show
tomorrow night.  There’s a free monorail
from Excalibur to the new Mandaley Bay but little of interest within.  Luxor has changed a lot since we visited in
1994 and seems less impressive without the internal river and boats.  Likewise Excalibur and we can only conclude
that the new look within the casinos is minimalist to create larger floor areas
with more slots and tables.  Vacation
Club touts are everywhere but we aren’t interested after being tipped off that
they take 4-hours on the promotion with hard sell.  Their opening gambit is to ask where you live so this time we
answer England whereas if we wanted the deal we would have said USA.  Once they know you are foreign and not
potential customers they say “Welcome to Las Vegas” leaving all the foreigners
going away thinking what a friendly place it is. 



WEDNESDAY 24 OCTOBER – Hooters casino
membership gave us tickets to cash in for tonight’s show by Bobby Slayton.  Steve pops in and picks up the tickets and
finds that there is a nice swimming pool area we can use.  Spend the day by the pool with Steve popping
out to the Rose & Crown to watch the Liverpool match but walking out part
way through when asked to pay $10 (£5) cover charge in addition to his
drinks.  The evening show is a
combination of a film with other artists making jokes about Bobby Slayton, a
comedian who sings funny songs accompanied by his guitar and then the main
act.  Based on comments about women of a
certain age and taking digs at the audience it’s very funny but we do find his
rapid delivery hard to follow.  



THURSDAY 25 OCTOBER – We leave early and drive
right up “The Strip” in the motorhome. 
It seems that early morning is only time of day when traffic is
light.  We’ve been having a bit of
squeaking in the brakes and don’t know if it is dust or the pads wearing down
after all our mountaineering.  Call in
to Just Brakes to have them checked and learn that they are good for another
10,000 miles.  Return to Melodi’s and in
the evening we cook a BBQ.  Summer &
Robin also join us and it’s a beautiful evening with a full moon so we sit out
until late.



FRIDAY 26 OCTOBER – It’s Nevada day and a
public holiday for many but Melodi has to put in a few hours early
morning.  Once she arrives home we head
off out on a trip.  End up going through
the attractive Boulder City and out to the majestic Hoover Dam.  It’s incredibly busy but once parked up we
can wander past the huge tube like spillway across the dam wall itself to get
fine view in both directions.  The dam
wall marks the border between Nevada and Arizona and for part of the year they
are on different times so one tower has a Nevada clock and the other has one
for Arizona.  The main highway from Las
Vegas into Arizona runs over the bridge and this causes a lot of congestion but
we can see a new bridge in the process of being built high above the
gorge.  Return via the shore of Lake
Mead with a stop at the marina to hand feed the huge carp with popcorn.  Their open mouths are enormous and they seem
like vacuum cleaners.  I definitely
won’t be swimming in the lake at any stage! 
Cutting back through the mountains we end up above Las Vegas and can see
the smoke from the California fires hanging over the city.  Arrive back in time for Summer to go out to
the “fright dome” with her friends. 
Melodi joins us at Harry’s restaurant then we go into the house to watch
some DVD’s.



SATURDAY 27 OCTOBER – Set out towards Lake
Mead but at cruising speed on the open road Steve notices a bad wheel
wobble.  We’ve not had it before so
suspect it relates back to when they took both wheels off to check the
brakes.  Turn back to Just Brakes but
the boss says that they don’t do wheel balancing and we must go elsewhere.  At “Big O Tires” they remove the first front
wheel and their balancing machine finds a problem. There is a warp in the
centre of the rim and although it can’t be proved it seems likely that the
young lad at “Just Brakes” caused it when putting the wheel back on.  It cannot be knocked out so we settle for
using the spare rim and swapping tires.   
The garage are convince this has solved the problem so don’t bother to
check the other tyre.  Seems our free
brake check has cost us $25.50 (£12.50) for a balance and left us with a dodgy
spare rim!  Back out on the road to Lake
Mead we still have a wobble but were not sufficiently impressed with the guys
at “Big O Tires” so will press on and seek help further down the line.  Enter Lake Mead Recreation Area $5 (£2.50),
inc in pass.  The Northshore Drive is
excellent and takes us through undulating desert with a wide variety of multi
coloured and textured rock formations. 
Hike up to Northshore Summit Overlook for a view into Bowl of Fire with
the flaming red rocks.  Next stop is
“Redstone” where a few large red rocks have emerged from the earth and
weathered away to reveal lots of holes and mini caves.  Stewarts Point is our final stop of the day,
a hue stretch of land along the edge of Lake Mead with free camping for up to
15 days.  It’s not all that popular and
by driving west we find a spot with just one other van and a stunning view over
the lake, the desert and the mountains behind. 
After a late lunch Steve goes out to walk further and says he has found
an even better spot for tomorrow.  The
sky is overcast with a combination of low cloud and smoke from the California
fires so it appears to get dark quite early. After a few day visitors leave we
find it extremely quiet.



SUNDAY 28 OCTOBER – Awake to the sun making
the van crack and creak.  The clouds are
gone but the remaining smoke haze tempers the blue sky.  Can only imagine what it must be like near
San Diego.  Relocate to sector 108b
where we get another superb view but more privacy, as we are not by a boat
ramp.  The clouds soon clear and things
hot up sufficiently for us to take many cooling dips in the clear waters of
Lake Mead.  We have set up camp with our
plastic carpet covering the dusty sandstone and the awning giving us
shade.  We cannot help but keep passing
comment on what a beautiful spot this is and how perfect for us.  The sunset around 5pm is spectacular with
clouds picking up the pink and red colours. 
Finally move in once it gets dark but it’s still pleasantly warm.



MONDAY 29 OCTOBER – The weather forecast got
it wrong and the predicted hot sunny day is replaced by a cooler cloudy one
“forcing” us back to bed after breakfast to read.  Mid afternoon it brightens up enough for us to sit out and also
have a dip in the water.



TUESDAY 30 OCTOBER – The skies are clear when
we wake up and we spend the day outside and take lots of dips in the water.



WEDNESDAY 31 OCTOBER – It’s quite breezy in
the morning so we both head off on an exploratory walk.  The shoreline is peppered with gullies of
varying depths and some with water. 
Even walking a long way back from the water we find shells in the earth
verifying just how high the water used to be. 
Since the year 2000 it has dropped 110 feet and is expected to keep
doing so for the next 2-years when the drought is expected to break.  Last weekend on the far shore we saw new tar
roads had been put in below the original water level to lead to the marinas so
it looks unlikely that the level will ever increase as much as before.  It gets harder to cross the gullies as many
now have dense bushes growing along their old water line.  We follow one inland and reach an impressive
canyon with sculptured sandstone walls. 
This is an incredible area and we are surprised how few people stay
here.  Back at home we enjoy the rest of
the day in the sun.  As it get darks
around 6pm Steve lights a small fire but we stay out even after it has burnt
out, as the stars are amazing.  At any
one time there are always the lights of at least 3 aircraft to be seen and
often they run into double figures. 
Shooting stars abound and it really is spectacular with the glow of Las
Vegas still visible 50 miles away.



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