Friday, July 16, 2021

CLASSIC TRIP: On the way to Las Vegas - 2002

There's a curious migration that takes place on a weekly basis in Southern California. Every Friday afternoon, the eastbound San Bernardino and Pomona freeways get extra crowded. On Sunday afternoons, it reverses as the westbound directions resemble the worst rush hour has to offer.

What's happening is thousands of Southern Californians are heading out hoping to party, gamble, and other wise get lucky in that modern day Sodom...Las Vegas.

Normally, this would be about a four hour drive across vast, empty stretches of desert. Our schedule unfortunate matches this weekly marathon to get out of town. Being Good Friday, we have the extra fun of not only weekend Vegas traffic; not even holiday weekend Vegas traffic; it's the dreaded Holiday Weekend Spring Break Vegas Traffic!

Thankfully, my understanding boss let me out two hours early in a futile effort to beat the traffic. Unfortunately, the weekend getaway had already started with gusto. Basically, we were in jammed traffic the entire way except for a stretch out of Barstow to about twenty miles before the state line. Six and a half hours after starting, we arrived at Primm, which is what they call the smattering of buildings and casinos clustered at the border.

First of all, let me give you some full disclosure. I'm not a big Vegas fan. I don't have anything against gambling or Nevada. In fact, I love going to Laughlin, Reno, Carson City, and Lake Tahoe. It's just that Vegas has always seemed more than a bit sleazy to me and I've never gotten the allure.

As a result, I have avoided this city like the plague and haven't been here since before Luxor opened up (10 years or so?).

My son, on the other hand, has always wanted to go here. Of course, he's not old enough for the casinos yet but still would like to see this city of lights, shows, and action. Alright, we're going to Arizona anyway and this would give us a hopefully inexpensive stop over along the way.

Back to my Friday dilemma. I would really like to leave on Saturday...I'm in no hurry to get going because I have the whole week off to travel. Unfortunately, I cannot find any decent hotel in Las Vegas that will let me check in on Saturday.

So, we have a bit of a compromise here. Tonight we will drive as far as the border, spend a couple of nights there, and continue on to Vegas on Sunday after the LA weekenders have headed home.

After that long, weary drive across the desert, the Primadonna Resorts bloom from the sand like a neon-colored oasis. This will be home for the next two nights, specifically Buffalo Bill's Hotel & Casino.

After a fifteen minute wait to check in, we're given the key cards to our room on the 3rd floor. It's supposed to be handicapped envisioned by Torquemada.

There was no roll-in shower, only a bathtub with a few grab bars and a shower on a hose. The bars on the toilet were positioned in a way to block your access to the toilet paper. The door was a pocket door (those sliding doors that come out of the wall) that took a herculean effort to move.

With a lot of effort, we got Tim bathed and situated for the night. I can't help thinking (and later would confirm) that it would have been easier in a non-handicapped room.

In the morning, I awoke before anyone else and took my shower. I made a mistake in closing that pocket would no longer open up. As I stood there, phone...everyone else asleep, I pondered my options. Not wanting to wake anyone up, I struggled to get the door open. No dice. I found my wife's makeup mirror, and reflected some light into the wall notch for the door.

Finally, with one last huge push against the door, I popped it off of its rollers and it came off completely. Complaining to the management, after being trapped for over an hour in there, got us a new room but no other consideration. The new room was not a handicapped accessible one but confirmed my suspicions that it was easier to use than the so-called accessible room.

Other than the problems mentioned above, the room was clean, had two queen beds, cable TV, and a view of the roller coaster and pool. The staff was for the most part very friendly and helpful and the food at the Wagonmaster coffee shop was superb.

After breakfast on Saturday, a trip via monorail over to neighboring Primm Valley Resort is in order. After a LONG walk through the casino (we are to find out LONG walks through casinos will be a common occurrence), we come upon the Bonnie and Clyde Death Car...a bullet-riddled Ford sedan where the crime duo were sent to they're maker at the hands of Texas Rangers. Also on display is the shirt Clyde was wearing when he died.

Now, here is a gruesome and maybe morbid coincidence. As we sat watching a video on Bonnie and Clyde in the mini-museum of their death, I couldn't help notice a rather obese security guard wandering around the children's arcade just behind the display. To the right is a restroom where my wife disappeared for a few minutes. Yes, this is the restroom where little Sherice Iverson was murdered by Jeremy Strohmeyer while her father was off gambling in the casino. The Primm Valley Resort was called the Primadonna Resort at the time...the name being changed to disassociate itself from that horrible day. I find it a bit ironic that a display that memorializes a sensational death...complete with bullet holes and blood stains...sits directly in from of the site of one of the more gruesome murders in recent memory. And, yes, my wife said it was more than a little creepy being in that bathroom...

Just beyond that spot is a factory outlet mall where we spent the rest of the morning shopping. My wife, gotta love her, but whenever we go shopping, she takes hours and usually walks away empty handed. And, that is how it goes today although I end up with a new wallet and Tim picks up a pair of swim trunks (because we forgot to pack some for him). She does get an order of sushi to go so it's not a total loss for her.

Back over to Buffalo Bill's. Tim and I head over to Desparado, the big steel roller coaster that winds its way around the hotel. Of course, with our luck it is out of commission. The ticket seller has no ideal when it will reopen. There is also a log ride here, but the ticket seller doesn't want to sell us tickets right now because the line is over two hours long (kind of a silly reason but we don't want to wait two hours either).

We take a little nap in the room, have dinner at the Wagonmaster, and head up to Vegas...a half hour drive away.

Tonight, as a first little taste, we take in the Fremont Street Experience...a four-block long canopy of lights that displays shows over its entire length hourly. The show is quite spectacular, a lot of fun, and free. Unfortunately the "experience" includes the surrounding blocks that seem quite liberally populated by drug users, sellers, and street walkers. After the show, we headed back to the relatively quiet confines of Primm for one more night.

Arriving back at Buffalo Bill's, Tim and I head back over to the ride area and purchase some tickets for the log ride. They have a very nice area for handicapped loading here and the ride attendants even helped with the lifting to get Tim in (I don't know if they're supposed to do this or not...most amusement parks will not allow their employees to do this).

The ride is relatively tame for a log ride. Loading in the casino, the lift takes you outside around some faux desert rocks and over two small drops before winding back through a "canyon" built through the casino. The fun part is that they give you a laser gun and you shoot at targets along the way. Some targets shoot back if hit (with water guns).

Getting out at the end, I ask the attendant if he knew when Desparado would open up again. "About 2 to 4 weeks" was the reply. Oh well, save it for another trip.

Stay tuned for part 2 and our nighttime flight over the strip (with video!).

Copyright 2002 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

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