RiverCat Journal : Las Vegas : Airstream Bowling

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Current Venue: Las Vegas, NV
Campground: Sam’s Town KOA


Over the years I’ve visited Silverton Casino probably a dozen times. I’ll save some of the fun for another post; but this resort features an aquarium with mermaids, a Bass Pro shop with a gorgeous waterfall display, and a lodge-style concert hall. But despite my many visits here, I’d never once noticed the full-blown travel trailer hiding in the corner!

Honestly, it’s difficult to notice. The shiny Airstream looks like an afterthought in a dimly-lit sports bar. And why is it there? Is it a storage room? A museum or tribute of some sort? Nope…

It’s a bowling alley! Awesome.

Okay, fast-forward. My friends Jim and Sandie Dixon were in town. And there was no way I could let them get away without sharing my new-found discovery! Here are some action shots of the Dixons bowling strikes (the images are somewhat blurry because these kids are too QUICK)!


As always, a fun time with the Dixons. We bowled and had two nice meals (yes, Hash-House-a-Go-Go), and I look forward to possibly seeing my friends again in Arizona during the holidays.

This week I’m hanging out at Sam’s Town KOA. Other than a meeting and some evening plans this Friday, I’ll mostly just unwind here at the resort as I prepare for a month’s worth of work starting next week. I’m really enjoying it so far.


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RiverCat Journal : Las Vegas : WTT Celebrity Tennis Tournament

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Current Venue: Las Vegas, NV
Campground: Thousand Trails


Every year Elton John and Billie Jean King face off in a team tennis tournament to raise money for the AIDS foundation. For the second year in a row, it took place at Caesar’s Palace. With absolutely perfect weather, it turned out to be an awesome setting.

After Elton John made a nice shot in the preliminary rounds, the pros took the court. The players included John McEnroe, Maria Sharapova, Mark Phillippoussis, Martina Navratalova, Liezel Huber, CoCo Vandeweghe, Andy Roddick, and Mardy Fish.

Here’s the great Navratalova streaking across court for a backhand winner…


Unfortunately, that was about my best shot of the night — I’m in a photographer’s slump. My video looked fantastic until someone inevitably walked in front of me on each take. So, you’ll just have to take my word for it…

McEnroe delighted the crowd with some old antics.
Phillippoussis and Roddick faced off in a singles match that featured some rocket serves.
Sharapova looked just fine — at least from where I was sitting.

Tennis is such a great spectator sport. I just love watching these athletes play singles because it requires so much mental, emotional, and physical toughness. I passed on an opportunity a few months ago in Palm Springs ($40 parking), but will add that one back to my bucket list along with the U.S. Open.

I just got word recently that I’ll be working from October 25th – November 25th. So, the new plan…

  • Stay in Vegas early December and attempt to qualify for the Bellagio World Poker Tour event.
  • Head towards the Sedona area mid-December.
  • Stay in Cottonwood, Arizona for the holidays.
  • Either work in Oklahoma or Vegas in early January.
  • Hopefully work in Atlantic City late January. If not, I might be playing/traveling in any number of places including Los Angeles, San Diego, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Arizona.
  • Back to Vegas in February.
  • Atlantic City in March or West Coast trip for the spring.
  • Summer grind in Vegas June and July.
  • Straight to cooler weather in the San Francisco area in August and play a HPT event in Sacramento. (My goal is to pay off my remaining debt at this time).


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RiverCat Journal : Idaho Vandals vs UNLV Rebels

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Current Venue: Las Vegas, NV
Campground: Thousand Trails

With so much talk about the Oakland Raiders coming to Las Vegas, it’s not unusual for a visitor to mention the inhospitable climate of the desert. What people don’t realize is, even 100 degrees in a place where there’s no humidity is quite tolerable. A night game in September when it’s only 78 degrees is practically surreal!

I’m  ashamed that it took me so long to get to a UNLV football game, especially being my campground is a couple miles away. But, I finally made it! Surprisingly, parking is free. And because my companion recently had foot surgery, we were able to upgrade to the nifty handicap section with plenty of space to spread out.

The Idaho Vandals came into the game 15-point underdogs. But UNLV gave up an early lead on turnovers, and would chase Idaho the remainder of the game. The Rebels found their rythm with a lot of fake handoffs — the quarterback Johnny Stanton rushing for 131 yards.

The Rebels managed to tie the game on a long run in the 4th quarter to take the game to overtime but, in the end, could not manage to keep Idaho out of the end zone. Callen Hightower caught the winning touchdown pass, and the Vandals pulled off the upset 33-30.

What a game!


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RiverCat Journal : $11

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Current Venue: Las Vegas, NV
Campground: Thousand Trails


I mentioned in a previous post how  my current job situation allows me a lot of freedom to travel full-time better than half the year. It’s not perfect, however.

I rely heavily on one particular casino dealing special poker events. “Tournament dealers” are required to work summers and then are put in a “lottery” every few weeks to determine who gets to deal the other events. (As a “non-local” now, I get to choose the lotteries I enter).

Last year, I won every single lottery. Since the summer, due to over-hiring, I’m on the verge of losing the first two lotteries! Actually, this one I am an alternate. That means I’m waiting a week to find out if I’m working the late-October through late-November event.

It got my wheels spinning, naturally. I hadn’t even considered having this little work. Now, if I don’t get in, can I justify hitting the road, again? I started crunching numbers…

As a Thousand Trails member I can stay up to 2 weeks “in the system” at one park for $3 per night. I then have to leave the system for one week. However, if I don’t exceed 4 nights at any one park, I can stay in the system indefinitely! In Las Vegas, there’s a special deal — I don’t have to leave the park on my “out week” if I pay $75. So, an average month here costs me about $140, or $5 per night.

So let’s say I leave Las Vegas after staying two weeks in the system. I head towards San Diego. Now I need to spend one week out of the system. I’d most likely break up my stays in a 2-3-2 format at Passport America parks for 50% off. Cost: $150 for the week.

Thousand Trails parks are typically in small clusters on the outskirts of large metro areas. For instance, in Southern California there’s one in Palm Springs, 4 parks near San Diego, and 2 north of L.A. The average distance between each park in Southern California is 2 hours, or not even $50 in gas. So, now I want to tour the parks. Between the 7 SoCal parks I’ll stay 4 nights each at 5 of them and 14 nights each at two. Here’s how the trip can break down:

First 7 nights out (3 camps):      $150 at PA parks
Two 4-night stays at TT:                 24 ($3 per night)
14-night stay at TT:                          42
Next 7 nights out ( 1 camp):         150
Three 4-night stays at TT:              36
14-night stay at TT:                          42

Here’s how that tallies up:

62 nights, 11 destinations
11 camps x $50 in fuel = $550
Camping fees = $450
Total travel/lodging costs =$1000
Average per night = $16 (including fuel)

This means my average additional costs traveling versus staying in Vegas is only $11 per night, or $330 per month. Right now, I can manage that.

Of course I’ll need work at some point. I believe this is going to be my motivation to seek out-of-town work more aggressively. I will need to fly occasionally, and have a Vegas sitter for Jeepers.

My vision seems to be stabilizing and my necessary repairs are almost caught up. However, Jeepers keeps going into remissions with his itching. I would keep this trip somewhat close to my vet in the event I really need to come back, although testing and patience and phone consultations is probably all we can really do for awhile.

For right now, I’m mentally “daring” my employer to keep me in town. If they don’t require my services, I’ll have two weeks to figure out what I’m doing…



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RiverCat Journal : Health Fixes

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Current Venue: Las Vegas, NV
Campground: Thousand Trails


Barring a major catastrophe, I can’t even imagine a more challenging 5-week trip. A couple things I didn’t even have time to mention in my previous posts amidst all the repairs —  our health problems.

I’ve been struggling with extreme fluctuating vision for nearly a year. This sometimes happens with RK-surgery recipients when they get past the age of 40. Most RK patients are also not eligible for laser surgery (although I am going to get a second opinion). I require multi-focals and, after several tries, haven’t come close to multi-focal contacts that are comfortable to wear — due to extreme dryness and periods of blurry vision. I had to wear my multi-focal glasses the entirety of the trip as we awaited my last-resort contacts to be shipped. The glasses present a whole different set of challenges, particularly when moving around or outdoors when it’s hot. It has been quite aggravating and it was clear I could not continue to wear them full-time.

I recently picked up my new contact lenses — the most comfortable yet. While I still have to pound the eye drops, the dryness has a less adverse affect than the previous pairs. Between the glasses and new contacts, I’m hopeful that I’m on the verge of a manageable way of dealing with this issue,

And then there’s this guy…


Jeepers’ problems began the first night of our California trip — constant aggressive licking. He would do this to the point of exhaustion, then go to sleep, then wake up suddenly and go at it again! Needless to say, this drove us both mad. Neither one of us got much sleep.

I bathed him regularly, changed out every household chemical and soap, and eventually took him to a vet in Marysville, California. The vet eliminated the possibility of parasites and pumped him full of fluids — also eliminating the dehydration theory.

Back in Vegas he’s finally starting to improve. I’ve narrowed it down to three things:

  1. Changing kitty litters. He’d been using Special Kitty for several years but it’s possible the quality of the product got worse and the dust is irritating his skin. This is consistent with the timing of him spilling his travel litter and laying in it the first day of the trip. Two days after changing it to Dr. Elsey’s brand here in Vegas, I’ve noticed an improvement. However, it could also be…
  2. Pain medication. My Las Vegas vet prescribed it recently but it did not have an immediate effect. It will run out pretty soon and that will give us a clue. If nothing changes, I will have to eliminate one other possibility…
  3. Acepromazine, his travel sedative. Selfishly, I really hope it’s not this. There aren’t many alternatives for a cat that gets extremely violent with motion sickness. This would postpone my next long trip indefinitely. I think it’s unlikely he’s developed a new allergy to this medication, but I can’t completely eliminate the idea just yet.



But I can adjust to being grounded for awhile. The great thing about Las Vegas is there are plenty of ways for me to make a living and have fun here. As far as dealing poker, I’m connected. Not only can I deal special events at various properties, I have the ability to pick up shifts at other properties between major tournaments.

Additionally, I play poker successfully to supplement my income. This is what I’ll be doing for the last two weeks of September and first week of October. Then it’s off to work at Red Rock for a couple weeks before possibly dealing an event at the Venetian for a month. If the Venetian doesn’t work, I’ll most likely be en route to California to play in a special event (if Jeepers permits it).

I love how certain things are shaping up. Lots of options. Lots of variety. A fantastic adventure.





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RiverCat Journal : Lakeside Casino and RV Park : Pahrump

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Current Venue : Pahrump, NV
Campground: Lakeside Casino and RV Park



Once again, I got off to a later start than I would have liked — 8:00 am. This, after discovering a couple of my “extra load” tires on the van were quite low (the max psi is 50 and it was down to 35 in one of the rear tires). I didn’t figure losing this hour would really be a big deal, though. But a few hours later I found myself scaling Ibex Pass on Highway 127 in 97 degree weather! Oops, I did it again. I stopped twice as I found myself nearly overheating. The second time, I grabbed a couple ice packs out of the freezer to keep Jeepers comfortable in his kennel. The 3 and a half hour drive somehow turned into a 5-hour marathon.


But we made it! And there will be much more on Lakeside Casino and RV Park at a later date. For now, I’ll just say it’s fabulous. Besides the fact that it’s beautiful, has a nice heated pool, an on-site casino, and a decent buffet — the wifi is outstanding! With one poker room in town and the strong wifi here, I can play poker here as much as I want without using the bandwidth on my hotspot. At a little over $400 per month, I anticipate a longer stay in the near future.




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RiverCat Journal : Tehachapi Windmill Farms

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Current Venue :  Tehachapi, CA
Campground: Mountain Valley RV Park


I decided on a different campsite reality this trip to Tehachapi. Instead of the back row near the meadow and abundance of wildlife, I opted for a little shade. It turned out to be a fantastic spot!



It’s a full moon. I scurried up the ridge to get some closeup shots of the Tehachapi Windmill Farm, the second largest in California. There are nearly 5,000 of these windmills in Tehachapi, it is enough to power 350,000 residents per year.

lone windmill


windmill sunset


windmill sunset2



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RiverCat Journal : Taegosah Mountain Spirit Center

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Current Venue :  Tehachapi, CA
Campground: Mountain Valley RV Park


Considering the fragile state of mind this harrowing trip has bestowed upon me, I thought perhaps I might find peace of mind at a nearby Buddhist retreat. You don’t necessarily need a 4-wheeler to reach Taegosah Mountain Spirit Center, but it certainly would make the trek up Juniper Way a little bit easier. It is not only an unimproved road with some nasty dips, but the soft sand is very hard to grip. At one juncture my slow-going gave a molting rattlesnake nearly two minutes to finally decide to wind his way off the path (this was about the time I jumped out of the van with my camera).

The first thing that catches your eye when you pull in is this stunning “peace bell.” Anyone is welcome to ring the bell by pulling back a huge log-size mallet strung to rope. It’s quite an extraordinary and calming sound, and you can’t help but meditate as it reverberates for several minutes.




Taegosah is devoted to the Korean Buddhist faith. I didn’t get the opportunity to tour the main facility as the doors were seemingly locked and, not certain if I’d arrived before official visitor hours, I elected not to disturb the individuals inside speaking in the Korean dialect.


No matter, the temple up the hill was calling my name, anyway…


I was immediately drawn to the fact that the front of the structure is lined with Venetian doors that open up the entire facade. I can just imagine an evening ceremony with these panels open — it would have to be an absolutely gorgeous sight!

This was definitely a time a tour guide would have come in handy. I was very curious about the works of art both inside and outside of the building. For instance, on the three adjoining outside walls is sort of a picto-story of young Buddha roping a vicious-looking black bull and transforming the creature into a mellow-looking white cow. I’d like to learn more about that.


Also, who are these creepy-looking guys seemingly everywhere in the images throughout the temple? Who do they represent? Are they celebrated creatures of the faith? Or are the paintings depicting that even demons would bow down to the great Buddha?

And what are these? (E-mail me at keyward9ATgmail.com if you know).




Next time I’m in Tehachapi, I want to learn more about the classes and special events offered at Taegosah Mountain Spirit Center — perhaps a yoga or a meditation class…




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Snapshots : Murray Family Farms : Cactus Honey and Frog Balls

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Current Venue :  Tehachapi, CA
Campground: Mountain Valley RV Park


NOTE : Murray Family Farms is just south of Bakersfield on Highway 58.


murray farms





green bean chips




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RiverCat Journal : Chowchilla, CA : Tucking Tail

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Current Venue : Chowchilla, CA 
Campground: Arena RV Park


Wait a minute. My destination was Oakhurst Elks Lodge near the entrance to Yosemite. Welcome to more misadventures of the Ramblin’ RiverCat! My alarm did not wake me this morning. I needed to get up early to beat the heat before climbing the hill. My late start had me attempting this mountain at 1 pm rather than the originally-planned late-morning climb.

Still, I tried. I’d guessed it to be in the 90’s when I started my ascent. More than halfway up I was baffled as to why my engine kept trying to overheat! I conceded a loss, tucked tail, and descended back into the valley. As it turns out, it was 105 degrees.

So that is how I ended up in Chowchilla, California. The name of the town evidently translates to “murderers” and is derived from the violent Chaushila tribe. It’s home to two prisons, as well. It’s also famous for a 1976 kidnapping in which 26 schoolkids and a driver were held hostage in an underground moving van at a rock quarry.

To me, it seems more like a peaceful farming community…

Chowchilla clearly caters to freeway traffic — with visible signage everywhere inviting RVers and truckers to stop in…

I still like highway campgrounds. I love sitting in my lawn chair and watching the headlights appear on the horizon, and then fading into distance. It’s as if the hustle-and-bustle and stress of everyday-normal life is an alternate universe that I’ve somehow transcended.

Arena RV Park is a no-frills campground. The one neat feature, however, is an immaculate outdoor kitchen…

This is what RV misadventures are all about. So I didn’t make it out of Vegas on Day One. So what — I got to enjoy some pool time at the upscale Oasis resort! So I got stranded in Tehachapi. Perfect — it gave 7 nights to fall in love with an absolutely fantastic area! And so what if I missed yet another destination — I got to relax and enjoy the simplicity of a little highway pit stop — which is what I probably needed.

Who knows? Maybe there will be another unexpected adventure on my way back to Tehachapi…

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