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

 

sign

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.

2fountainslake

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.

duck

 

 

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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!

campsite2

 

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.

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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.

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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).

Breathtaking…

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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

 

samples

 

 

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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RiverCat Journal : Deep-Cleaning

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Current Venue : Nicolaus, CA
Campground: Lake Minden Thousand Trails

 

Strangest trip ever. It started off disastrous, with multiple breakdowns and repairs. This made it difficult to focus on poker. I struggled, but ultimately qualified for the Main Event at the Ante Up World Championships. I figured after all my struggles, a big cash would be a perfect ending to a rotten story. I played lights out — only to get within 2 hours of making the money. Deflating. But hey, then I could relax for a week and do some sightseeing in the Sacramento area…

Now, with two days left of my two-week stay at Lake Minden, I’ve done absolutely no sightseeing or exploring. I can’t say I’ve been totally relaxed, either. More like — beat. In fact, I was feeling rather defeated in more way than one when, oddly enough, I decided to do some deep cleaning! It actually seemed like the only natural thing to do under the circumstances.

boats

I’ve been elbow deep in grime and dust for a couple days now, enjoying some books-on-cd. Have I wasted my time here? No. This will be a regular destination — as there are several major poker events here throughout the year. And now I know the lay-of-the-land here. I’ll be ready.

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I have one last repair — the black water tank. But I can’t get it to dry out completely! It seems the toilet valve has been slow-dripping into the tank for nearly 2 weeks. If I can’t repair it tomorrow, it’ll just have to drip on my journey back to Vegas. My next destination is Oakhurst Elks Club near Yosemite. They have no facilities. But it really is a slow drip, and it doesn’t sound as if I’ll have any neighbors. I doubt anyone would notice much when I make it back to Tehachapi, either. In fact, I may not worry about it at all until I get back to Vegas.

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It’s just starting to sink in that I’m free to travel full-time, again — at least 10 months out of the year. Of course, here I am, heading right back to Vegas for a 2-week stint. But now it’s just a pit stop! In the event my new business venture moves too slow this September, I’ll be right back up here for a tournament at Stones Casino in Citrus Heights, then to Reno for a week, then back here for another HPT event at Thunder Valley.

sunset

Options everywhere. Life is exciting…

 

 

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RiverCat Journal : Highlights and Silver Linings of the Nightmare RV Vacation

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Current Venue : Nicolaus, CA
Campground: Lake Minden Thousand Trails

 

This is the parallel story to my nightmare RV vacation. These are the highlights and insights of this unforgettable experience.

  1. A New Appreciation for Warranties. I like doing things “on the cheap”, using handymen quite often to get me fixed up. But I knew I couldn’t take any chances with the A/C. I forked out the extra cash to insure my investment, knowing it could be disastrous if something went wrong in these extreme temperatures while on the road. Three air compressors later, I’m relieved I never had to pay a dime for additional parts and labor.
  2. I’m Capable of Full-Time Travel Again. It’s been a long, tough road since my hospital stay in Phoenix a few years ago — but I’ve recovered enough financially that I feel comfortable handling tough situations on the road — and my new job situation is also going to allow this to happen. It’s a liberating feeling knowing I have the ability to pursue the lifestyle I love again!
  3. Rental Cars. It had been several years since I’d rented a car. Initially, I’d resented having to fork out the cash, but actually ended up embracing the whole thing as part of the vacation experience. It was particularly nice catching up with the modern age for a moment and enjoying a digital readout on the dashboard. I also learned that certain rental companies will actually pick you up!
  4. Getting Stranded in Tehachapi was Kinda’ Cool. Despite the logistical challenges, I was thankful I got stranded on top of a mountain. While every valley below was experiencing 105-plus temperatures, I was enjoying the low-90’s with a nice, constant breeze. Additionally, the wildlife was extraordinary. I fell in love with the area! Mountain Valley RV Park is definitely worth more than a one-night stay. I also discovered it was a great place for storage (they $1 per foot every month. 27 ft = $27).
  5. The Fearless Little White Poodle. I’d warned several one-nighters in Tehachapi to keep a close eye on their pets. I’d never seen so many coyotes — especially in broad daylight. One day I was having a conversation with a camper as we observed two coyotes not 20 yards away. One was quite large. All-of-a-sudden a little white poodle came out of nowhere and made a bee-line towards them! All we could do was scream for the owner as the white flash streaked into the meadow with no fear. Did the coyotes eat the little guy? No! They ran for the hills! The little pooch easily chased them a half-mile.

    Turtle Beach Fish Camp

  6. I May Always be Happy Traveling Alone. In Turtle Beach I experienced front end problems, a leaky holding tank, and a nearly-flat tire — all in a 24-hour period. But even still I was able to enjoy the uniqueness and beauty of the campground. This one features a river that wraps around the camp like a horseshoe. You might call it a “swimmin’ hole” — a very playful atmosphere for kids and adults alike. THIS is the memory I’ll have with me years later and, because it’s not a memory that I share with a girlfriend — it’s my own memory to keep forever.
  7. A New Traveling Poker Gameplan. My two-week stay in Nicolaus, California was specifically designed to spend the week trying to qualify for a $1600 buy-in Ante Up World Championship event. On my fifth and final attempt, I qualified! This, while keeping afloat with my cash game play and breaking even for the week. With a $125,000 first place up for grabs, I survived 15+ levels and came within a couple hours of making the money — around $3000 for the first payouts. I am very confident I can play these “Mid-Major” tournaments into some very serious cash. I also have the oportunity to deal some of these events when I have to. A circuit is developing…

 

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