Thursday, June 21, 2007


Things that go Pahrump in the night - OR - Where has all the clamor gone?

What happened to Las Vegas? Since the mid-90s we’ve visited Las Vegas several times – a wedding, a reunion, even a business conference, and more recently several vacation stop-overs as we drove to Phoenix.

It used to be that when you walked onto the floor of any casino on “The Strip”, you were engulfed in the clanging chimes and the clamor of quarters falling into the payout trays on all the slot machines; there was a palpable sense that there was money to be won, along with the feeling of carrying your plastic cups filled with all your winnings. That was the sound of Las Vegas.

Now it’s all gone, the casinos are almost deathly quiet, now a sense of desolation. The coin deposits for the slots are all gone - sealed shut. Now, you can only feed these one-armed bandits with paper bills, preprinted “tickets”, or the casino credit cards. If you win and want to cash out, the machine prints out a paper ticket that you can cash out at one of the few “change machines” hidden somewhere on the floor, after waiting in long lines – or you can feed the ticket into any other machine. No more cups of quarters. Some of the machines have a fake “quarter payout sound” that would ding while it was printing the ticket, but come on, it wasn’t even close to the real thing. [We finally did find four slots in the back corner of one casino that still used actual quarters – but they were all in use with several people gathered around waiting their turn.]

Now I’m sure that the consultants have convinced the corporate megalopcracies that the quarters were too much a nuisance, that people would get used to the paper, and would soon forget the “old ways”. Besides, since you really weren’t as likely to cash out for a printed ticket for every small win, you would more likely play out all your winnings too. Sure, consultants are always right… As for us, we were pretty darned disappointed, so we ended up not losing near as much money as we had in past years. That “feeling” was gone.

It was 107 degrees yesterday! Fortunately, reasonably warm weather from Seattle to San Diego over the past three weeks allowed us to acclimate sufficiently that the heat wasn’t as oppressive as if we had just stepped off the airplane from Alaska. Still, who in their right mind would come here in the summer? Now, with the “new and improved” slot machines, we probably won’t be coming back anytime.

While almost all RVs are equipped with air conditioners, a careful reading of the manual shows that the design criteria is approximately 20 degrees of cooling over outside temperatures. So at 107 degrees outside, the a/c is only going to reduce interior temps to 87 degrees. Several years ago, when we first went to Phoenix we bought several rolls of foil-faced bubble wrap at Home Depot and cutout fitted inserts for all our windows. Surprisingly that gives us almost 5 degrees more cooling. So, now, as I write this, it is 105 outside and about 80 inside. Although we come from a much colder world, we are tolerating it reasonably well.

The RV park we’re staying at is located on a man-made lake surrounded by grass and trees – in the middle of the desert – a real oasis! The water evaporating from the lake quickly cools the hot dry breezes blowing in from the desert and we have found it quite comfortable to sit outside in the shade after 5 pm and enjoy the warm evenings.

We did enjoy an excellent buffet dinner at the Paris Hotel/Casino. Not the usual chow-line that slops as much hastily prepared food as possible to the customers, like we usually find at most buffets. The food here was unique, tasty, well-prepared and well-presented. The seafood selections (for this vegetarian-except-for-bacon) were most unusual. The desserts were interesting. If we were going to stay any longer, I’d consider going back for another round. For once, it was well-worth the money.

Tomorrow we head north – to Idaho and maybe eastern Washington. We’ll probably stop briefly somewhere in that area, and then start the long trek home.

Maybe you should try Altantic City? (Just joking.) I felt like a fish out of water the night we had dinner at one of the Casino's there.

BTW, I love your description of yourself as "vegetarian-except-for-bacon."
What no more quarters and silver dollars? That's an incredibly bad idea. Surely there will be a backlash against that.
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