In the morning I jumped in at the Excalibur buffet. I remember visiting this buffet WAY WAY back in the day (early 90's) when it was a long wait in line, get one plate of food and then sit down. You could elbow your way back in line but back then they were lined up out the door (and it was also a fraction of the now $15+ price).
Of late, I've never been particularly fond of the buffet, but when I need a quick meal and am staying at the Excalibur, I'll suck it up and stop in. My expectations were spot on and while the homemade omelette was good, the rest of the buffet was pretty much: blah... (except the fruit). I filled up there and headed back to the room, assembled my stuff and loaded up the car.
Travel for the first 20 miles or so was easy, but suddenly we came to a near stand-still and it took a good 20 - 30 minutes to go the last 3 miles to exit 75 for the Valley of Fire State Park. At one point, we got down to one lane due to construction. When we reached our exit we hoped (and prayed) that it was just the noon-time exodus of people leaving Vegas and hoped that it would improve by the time we were done at the state park.
I'll post in more detail about the state park, but suffice to say it was the best $10 I spent all weekend.
When we were done with the state park we headed back to the freeway we discovered that the traffic on the freeway appeared to be worse! Even scarier was the line-up of cars waiting to get into the only gas station for miles around. It just resembled something out of a Stephen King novel.
My car had plenty of gas and from what I remembered of the construction signs was that construction was going to happen for the next 26 miles and we had already gone through about 5 or 6 of it. I figured it was just another merge and we'd be on our way.
Sadly, I was wrong.
It took a good 20 - 30 minutes and we only got about 1 mile. There was no end in sight and we were waiting more than moving. We thought about just going back to Vegas (forfeiting our Mesquite reservation), finding a cheap room and leaving Monday morning bright and early. While we were stopped, I grabbed my phone and started to look for alternatives. There had been no internet at the park, but on the freeway I realized that if I went to BACK to the park, drove through the park and left via the east exit, I could drive about 20 miles north and I should come out ahead of the construction.
So I crossed the median (I saw a few others do this) and drove 14 miles on a service road back to park, got through the front gate and drove to the east side (narrowly missing a speeding ticket by the eager beaver rangers). I then drove 19 miles or so north via a dirt road through two towns (Overton and Logandale) to reach the interstate.
I told Shari I was going to cry if I had to sit in more traffic and luckily -- the interstate was nearly empty. It was smooth sailing the rest of the way.
I am told later that the reason for the delay were a combination of the following:
- A rancher / federal government squabble that involved cows wandering the freeway and armed militia showing up in protest
- A major rodeo in Logandale.
The Virgin River Casino was like a refuge camp. People who had started late and who had gotten hung up in the traffic from Vegas were coming into Mesquite and looking for a place to stay. Apparently the usually quiet on Sunday nights in Mesquite was a booming day. In fact, while waiting in line to check in, I was told that the hotel was sold out (luckily I had made reservations). We were told that some people were caught in "car-mageddon" for the better part of 3+ hours.
We ate at a very crowded buffet -- again this place is a bargain. For about $25 Shari and I got a pretty nice buffet, including made-to-order spaghetti.
After eating, we cleaned up, got into our room (which resembled a motel room, but for the price of $27 it wasn't bad at all). We watched a little tv and I destressed from the day's driving (believe me I was incredibly on edge).
We gambled a bit and for a change I could NOT lose. I played Leonidas and hit a very nice bonus round and made a profit. Shari coaxed me into throwing $5 into her Dragon's Law slot machine and on the first spin won $10 on an instant wild feature. A few spins later I nailed a near $50 bonus round. The only thing I couldn't win on was video poker, but I was like a walking winner for the better part of 90 minutes.
We crashed close to 11pm and slept pretty well. For a "cheap" room, we were comfortable and most of the folks staying there were on the older side, so there weren't many rowdies.... I'd definitely like to stay in Mesquite for another night or two to see the other casinos and see what the locals do for fun (it is actually a pretty nice neighborhood -- but more on that later).
Enjoy the photos:
|View of the Virgin River Hotel from our room
|Omelette from the Excalibur Buffet
|Plate #1 of made to order spaghetti
|Plate #1 of made to order spaghetti
|The Virgin River Casino in the distance from our hotel room