RiverCat Journal : Las Vegas : 117 Degrees

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Where I’m At: Las Vegas, NV
Campground : Thousand Trails

 

Win One, Lose One

Yesterday Las Vegas tied an all-time high of 117 degrees. I’ve actually seen 120+ in the valley before but the official numbers are recorded at McCarran Airport, which is a slightly higher elevation (the entire city is on a slant from Red Rock Canyon to Lake Mead).

With my roof A/C having a history of tripping the circuit in 100+ temperatures, I installed a second window unit and plugged into the 20-amp outside yesterday. I came home to a wonderful freezing-cold RV — now, minus the potential fire hazard.

This was a pleasant end to a lousy day. Once again, my scooter had been broken into. This time, the battery was stolen. Las Vegas is a city of thieves and I accept that risk. What I don’t accept as a proud employee of the Venetian is the lack of security in the parking garages. While other casinos have security guards on bicycles patrolling their garages, ours is surprisingly lame. I’ll make at least a small effort to escalate the awareness of this situation. And I’ll replace the battery and try again.

 

Lifestyle Priorities

Lately I’ve been working on a list of lifestyle priorities. For instance, it’s important to be less exposed to crime and the angry/aggressive drivers in east Las Vegas (I stay in a respectable resort surrounded by less-desirable neighborhoods). It’s important I hang onto only a minimal amount of debt and earn a certain salary each month. It’s important that my new business ventures are fun and inspirational. It’s important that, within  3-4 years, that I have complete freedom to travel anywhere in the U.S. (including the eastern half) rather than having to come back to Vegas several times per year. The list is long…

Once I’m satisfied I’m going to reorder the list based on the importance of each item. I’m then going to cross-reference my lifestyle priorities with my list of business ideas and work opportunities. I’ll then determine how I’m going to proceed with my career to best suit my lifestyle. I’m certainly on the right track with my seasonal poker gigs and cheap lifestyle — I just think it can be even better!

 

 

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RiverCat Journal : Las Vegas, NV : So It Ain’t Pretty…

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Where I’m At: Las Vegas, NV
Campground : Thousand Trails

 

The Las Vegas Grind

I’m working 7 days a week now as all the major poker events in Las Vegas are in full swing. Despite all the excitement, my head hasn’t really been in it. While I’m pleased that I’ve managed as well as I have with my vision/vertigo/nausea/headache issues, it is quite distracting and I’m just plain exhausted by the time I make it through each day. My recent routine has been a crash-nap and television every night — but that will change so that I start going to bed early and getting up at 5 a.m. I’m doing this so I have time to exercise and to give my eyes a chance to progress through several different prescriptions before I’m off to work.

 

Preparing for Extreme Heat

I’m also preparing for our first major heat wave. The 115-plus temperatures are on the way. This year I carved out some insulation for the windows. I’m getting ready to do some alterations on my curtains so this will actually be my view for awhile. I suspect they will double as bulletin boards.

I’m thankful I no longer have to worry about Jeepers but, because I do have a history of circuits being tripped in extreme heat, I still have cause for concern. If I can get by with just two A/Cs  this year (one roof and one window-unit) I’ll be very pleased. If they don’t hold up, I’ll go ahead and plug a 3rd A/C into the 20-amp so my home is not a fire hazard. Next week will be the test.

 

Organizing

My primary focus outside of work has been organizing. I’m obsessed with it these days! My storage unit is now full. My van is cleared out. And now my living space is becoming so functional I barely know where anything is anymore! In fact, I’m actually having to train myself with sticky notes on all my cabinets and drawers.

This has been so much fun and relaxing I’ve already decided to designate every summer to this task. Every June and July in Vegas will now be devoted to work, fitness, and indoor home improvement.

I’m nearly to the point of actually organizing my many notes and thoughts. I have to decide which of my business ventures I’m going to put the most energy into this fall. While I can certainly travel plenty as a special events poker dealer, the set dates and destinations create logistical challenges and constraints on what I consider “total freedom.” Trust me, I consider myself very fortunate that I can do what I want half the year, but ultimately I intend to have complete freedom to roam the entire United States nine months out of the year (and only deal poker during the summer). I can only accomplish this if I’m a business-owner again.

 

Travel Plans

Everything’s on hold until July 6th. This is when I learn when I’ll see the next eye specialist! (Hopefully, I’ll have my surgery by the end of the year).

As of right now I’m feeling confident I’ll be selected to work a poker event in Northern Nevada the 2nd week of August. In which case I’ll probably shoot over to Reno afterwards to play in a special event there. I won’t even guess beyond that.

 

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RiverCat Journal : Las Vegas : Getting Busy!

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Where I’m At: Las Vegas, NV
Campground : Thousand Trails

 

My summer jobs are now kicking into full-swing as the World Series of Poker comes to town for the next two months. I’ll be splitting time at 4 different properties, each with their own major tournament series:

  1. Venetian: DeepStacks : This is my primary employer in Vegas. We’re guaranteeing $21 million in prize money this summer.
  2. Planet Hollywood : Goliath : I’ll work here on my days off and enjoy a more laid-back, nightclub atmosphere.
  3. Gold Nugget : Grand Series : This is the most mellow of my summer gigs and I hope to get by after some early shifts.
  4. Rio : World Series of Poker : I picked up my uniform last year and never made it over to the world championships. But now that I no longer have a pet, I intend to take on as much work as I can handle.

With my health issues still largely in the air, I suspect I’ll remain in Vegas for the majority of the fall. As I juggle these doctors appointments and looming surgery, I’ll probably work 2 more special events here in Vegas, and one out-of-town. I’ll squeeze in at least one shorter trip I’m sure — I’m thinking Southern Utah, Pahrump/Death Valley, or Grand Canyon/Cottonwood.

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Snapshots : Caliente, NV

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Where I’m At: Caliente, NV
Campground : Young’s RV Park

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Signposts : Ely, Nevada

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Where I’m At: Ely, NV
Campground : Prospector RV Park (Hotel/Casino)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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RiverCat Journal : Ely, NV : Prospector RV Park

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Where I’m At: Ely, NV
Campground : Prospector RV Park (Hotel/Casino)

 

When I left Jackpot it was snowing! While a rather easy trip, I did run into a good bit of snow and sleet. And when I arrived in Ely, it was cold and windy. It would snow on and off both days I stayed here.

 

When I spotted the RV park last-second and pulled in to check on the rates ($22), I found myself instantly drawn to the place. Free popcorn, super-friendly staff, and nice decor…

 

So, I stayed.

 

This is the first swimming pool I’ve ever seen that was decorated like a living room. The ever-changing mood lighting in the hot tub and easy-listening music made this perhaps one the most romantic indoor pools I’d ever experienced. I almost found myself wanting a lady to put my arm around — well, almost.

 

 

I especially liked the business center with the large screen computer. Or, “my den”, as I like to call it…

 

 

I spent quite a bit of time in my den, not having campsite internet at 3 straight destinations. Living on the road is about constant adaptation. And internet, for me, seems to be my most consistent challenge. For instance, in Jackpot I found I could get wi-fi only in the casino sportsbook or use a guest computer near the hotel lobby. Marsing was a bit tougher — I probably could have found a public computer at a library if I’d looked hard enough. I was hooked up in Pendleton but in Bend I needed to go to the campground lodge. Constant adaptation.

I think it’s kind of fun. I sometimes feel a sense of accomplishment when I figure out how to make the best of each individual situation. In fact, now that I don’t have a sedated cat to worry about, I’m even beginning to enjoy the challenges of driving, towing, and navigating tough hills! (I must be losing my mind).

 

 

 

 

 

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Signposts : Jackpot, Nevada

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Where I’m At: Jackpot, NV
Campground : Cactus Pete’s

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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RiverCat Journal : Marsing, ID : Idaho Wine Country

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Where I’m At: Marsing, ID
Campground : Riverhaven RV Park

 

Riverhaven RV Park : No Bicycles Allowed!

First, I want to begin by saying I enjoyed my time at Riverhaven and would absolutely return at the Passport America rate. Once again, I have fine luck with this discount club — this time scoring 3 nights at half-price in Idaho wine country! I don’t know if it’s “in-season”, but the weather was lovely and I had no trouble finding this campground in the directory.

The location is ideal for me as a possible stopover between Jackpot, Nevada and Pendleton, Oregon. However, I would definitely need to work out certain details if I were to stay here again. When I called in advance to reserve a space, I was told it wasn’t necessary to make reservations and that I could just pull in. I thought this to mean there was plenty of space…

However, when I pulled in, there was only one space available! (The park is largely residential with only a handful of overnight spaces). I may be a little backwards, but isn’t this the most crucial circumstance in which to make reservations? Odd. The park is quite a ways off I84 so I would dread the idea of just showing up to a full camp. No harm, no foul. I know this for future reference now. The manager is super-nice and I’m sure she will take my reservation next time around.

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The overnighters get a nice view of the Snake River. I was pretty impressed at how many fish I saw, large and small, doing belly flops here. I didn’t bring my fishing gear, however.

The river is the main attraction. There are no amenities outside the basics such as showers and laundry. Which brings me to Oddity #2 : The laundry is closed on Sundays.

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Sometimes location is everything. Little did I know before arriving that Marsing is right in the middle of Idaho wine country as well as several other attractions! (Although the town of Marsing itself is a bit of a yawn). I decided a bike ride on my little country road was in order but was quickly informed that riding bicycles was not allowed in the park! I had to inquire…

Because residents were getting drunk and crashing their bikes into RVs! Not only full-grown adults, but children, as well (I’m assuming the tikes were not intoxicated). This is about the strangest epidemic I’ve ever heard of. I had a good laugh over this as I walked my bike off the premises.

 

My Fun Excursions in the Marsing Area…

 

Marsing Island Park is a favorite for fisherman. Note the unusual black rock formation on top of the mountain…

 

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Givens Hot Springs is not only a popular tourist destination but also seems to be the municipal pool for many of the farming communities in the area. Not only can you swim in the spring-fed pool but you can also soak in the private baths for $10 per hour.

 

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The Cleo’s Ferry Nature Trail (Melba, Idaho) deserved a post all it’s own (see previous post) and I suggest if you’re anywhere in the Boise area, be sure to seek this one out!

 

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The Orchard House is a Cracker-Barrel style mom-and-pop restaurant that is simply outstanding! I began with a mushroom-brie soup and finished things off with a big ole’ sloppy Rueben and Idaho potato wedges with “fry sauce.” I finished every last bite and enjoyed every moment. The prices are very reasonable and the home-made desserts in the bakery were absolute works-of-art.

 

 

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I’d set out this day to do a few wine-tastings but only managed one before finding myself in Nampa, a fair-sized town with modern-day shopping! Incredibly, I’d then realized I hadn’t seen any big chain stores in several weeks and they were a very welcome sight. I really didn’t buy anything, but the familiarity of big-city shopping centers felt strangely fun after so long without.

 

GPS to the Rescue!

I had NO internet here. No Wi-Fi, no Sprint data, no hotspot signal. My new GPS came in quite handy in Idaho. Whenever I wanted to take a trip, I’d see what the Garmin had to offer under “attractions” or “restaurants.” It didn’t disappoint! In fact, it’s more fun sometimes to just “go” rather than get on TripAdvisor and read too much into the reviews.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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RiverCat Journal : Melba, ID : A Magical Stroll at Cleo’s Ferry Nature Trail

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Where I’m At: Marsing, ID
Campground : Riverhaven RV Park

 

I picked up a new Garmin GPS when I was in Chehalis, Washington a few weeks ago and just love it. It’s your typical modern-day device but I’d been living in the dark ages for awhile and am still soaking in the advances made in GPS technology — particularly the much-easier-to-use touchscreen.

There’s no internet access in Marsing, Idaho. Craving a little adventure, I hopped in the van to see what the Garmin had to offer under “attractions.” Cleo’s Ferry Museum immediately jumped out at me…

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It was closed. Well, sort of. The folks at the general store informed me that the museum was run by volunteers on weekends during the summer but that the very popular nature walk was open year-round. It operates on a donation basis.  We shall see…

I’d certainly give the trail a chance. Besides, despite my disappointment the museum wasn’t open, I’d already had a good  day sightseeing and was in a r good mood. And, if nothing else, I got to enjoy the amazing assortment of handcrafted birdhouses in the general store parking lot.

I headed down the hill to the visitor lot and gazed in wonder at the artistic arrangements of the toys of yesteryear — wagons, tricycles, tonka toys — each with it’s own section and each toy meticulously placed with care and thoughtfulness. I knew I was in a very neat place.

When I parked in the visitor lot, I knew I was in the right place when I spotted this birdhouse…

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I was impressed so many folks were arriving just to walk the mile-long trail. Even more incredible, they were lining up at the donation box before entering the park. It seems most of them were return visitors and were more than happy to pay the fee. I’d see how I liked the trail first…

The museum consists of a village with several rustic buildings along the Snake River  near the bridge that I’m assuming replaced what was originally know as “Walter’s Ferry” up until the early 1900’s.

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Peacocks are abundant throughout the museum village…

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Cleo Swayne was the wife of Dr. S.A. Swayne, a wealthy Quaker. She founded the museum and spent 30 years turning a nature trail into an absolute work of art. What catches your eye right away are the birdhouses. There are probably well over a thousand of these along the trail.

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Each one is handcrafted with great detail.

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Most have an uplifting message attached to them.

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It’s no wonder everyone on the hike appears to be in a fantastic mood! And, while there is clearly a religious undertone to these platitudes, there is no fire and brimstone or anything overbearing for us non-religious types — just inspirational messages and humor.

 

There are small temples for meditation and prayer.

 

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The fun seemingly never ends. After a jaunt through the “enchanted forest” to visit gnomes, trolls, and other mystical creatures, you find a field of bronze statues — again, each meticulously placed to create a magical theme. I took a “selfie” with a bronzed Mark Twain. As you can see, it’s not pictured. There’s a reason I don’t do selfies.

The Cleo’s Ferry Nature Trail is an absolute must-see. It’s one of those things hard to capture in words or pictures. You simply can’t see the devotion behind it until you visit it yourself. Every little detail is created with great care and love, and the intention is clear — to uplift and inspire.

I was very happy to make a donation.

 

 

 

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RiverCat Journal : Pendleton, Oregon : Pendleton Underground

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Where I’m At: Pendleton, OR
Campground : Wildhorse Resort

 

While I’m still not entirely sure why the Pendleton Underground ever came to be, it was made clear to me that it was not necessarily to keep the then-lower-class Chinese tucked away in the tunnels during the mining days — after all, they had an above-ground Chinatown just a couple blocks away (it’s just that they had a curfew at the risk of being shot). Some of the merchants were of Caucasian descent, like the owner of the gambling hall…

 

roulette

 

And the German butcher…

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But the Chinese made up the majority of the underground. They ran the laundry and bathhouse, for instance, where 4-5 full grown men might actually pay to bath together in one tub…

 

tub

 

It seemed quite odd how the passages alternated between business merchants and living quarters. The
Chinese managed to get quite a raw deal. Most made the journey overseas with the expectation they’d receive a nice payday and head back home after a year or so. Unfortunately, their contracts were seemingly written with a bit of deception that committed them to 30 years of paid slave labor instead.

 

living quarters

 

I was especially fascinated by the secret passageways  throughout the tunnels. Even with 32 bars and nearly 20 brothels in a town of only 5000 people, the underground community had to keep the illegal moonshine activity hush-hush. Thus they had a system where, if a potential raid was spotted above-ground, a rope was pulled to sound a bell — whereby the illegal substances were stowed away in secret cupboards and incriminating drunkards were whisked away into secret passages.

Similarly, when the brothels were deemed illegal, one certain madame incorporated a secret tunnel through one of the closets to keep her business thriving until 1967…

closet

 

What I also found interesting were the many windows in this basement…

window

 

Seemingly out of place, they were apparently very effective in moving light through the tunnels. The sunlight would filter through thick glass panes in the sidewalk and then reflect vertically into the next room.

 

But perhaps most unbelievable of all were these contraptions the Chinese labor considered “pillows”…

pillows

 

As if the wicker headrest weren’t bad enough, if you came from royalty you got to sleep on a porcelain pillow (as pictured in the glass casing)! No thanks — my $4 Walmart pillows will do me just fine.

The Pendleton Underground is a 90-minute tour well worth the 15 bucks.  Parking is easy but reservations are required. I’d recommend it to anyone!

 

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