Monday, August 17, 2015

Reno Trip Overview Part 1


I'll be honest, I write a lot of these trip recaps for myself. This blog is more or less a diary of things I do that are noteworthy.  I know in time, my memory will fade, and I'll forget all the little things and the reasons why I do certain things and this blog serves as a poignant reminder of what I've done, what I've accomplished and why.

This entry will cover the entire Reno trip in a bit more detail, so if you find it interesting, awesome. If not, you can skip it.  I just know that years from now I'll look at this entry and go "Yeah, I remember doing that"

This trip had me really excited.  As a fan of all things Nevada, the opportunity to drive along highway 80 and see the scenery, experience some of the tiny towns (in passing mostly) and getting a chance to look at western history was a dream come true.  At the beginning of the year I made it a goal of mine to explore some new territories in Nevada, so this was mission accomplished.

This trip was taken by my wife Shari and her 80-something mother.  This posed some interesting challenges and often times tested my patience.  I can certainly get around pretty quickly but an octogenarian?  Not so much.

Day 1

We took off to Nevada heading west on I-80 on Sunday August 9th.  We left around noon and our first stop was Elko, about a 3 and a half hour drive.  We had reservations at the Red Lion Elko.  The Red Lion continues to treat me VERY well.  I had been given a slew of coupons as well as free room so staying there proved to be a welcome respite.  It would also give my mother in law a chance to gamble and see something new.

I had rented a Toyota Camry because I didn't want to put miles on my car.  In total, I would drive about 1200 miles in a week.  I liked the Camry and it got fantastic gas mileage.  There was plenty of room in the car as well.

Our first stop was at the Salt Flats in Utah for a bathroom break.  Normally we are going to Wendover and since Wendover is only about 4 more miles from the rest stop, I've never stopped.  However, loading and unloading a senior citizen takes time -- lots of time (on average about 10 minutes) so stopping in Wendover simply to use the bathroom wasn't going to fly.  

The rest stop was populated with a ton of people who were enjoying the salt flats.  This is truly an amazing place:

After using the bathroom we were able to make it all the way to Elko.  I had full intentions of hiking in Lamoille, but I really didn't feel comfortable leaving Shari and her mom by themselves at the casino and I had to check in, lug all the luggage to the room, etc... I also had $25 in free play to use and I was sort of hungry as well.

I am normally somewhat suspicious of free play as I sometimes wonder if the machines know you are playing with free play and simply just gobble it up.  This was the complete opposite.  Anytime I played with free play, I won and I generally won pretty big.  If I used my cash, it was it flushed away in no time at all.

As usual, I played a lot of fu dao le and by close to dinner time I was up nearly a hundred bucks.  However, after eating, everyone's luck changed for the worse and by night's end I was about $60 in the hole.  Not a big deal, since the room was free.  I did win $25 on a baseball game, successfully picking Pirates over the Dodgers:

I did manage to read a bit by the Elko Red Lion pool.  They really need to install a hot tub out there.  

I had set a budget as I knew that I'd be gambling a lot this week so once I was about $60 in the hole, I decided to call it a night.

Day 2

I soon found out that traveling with my mother in law required a LOT of extra time.  Usually it took about 2 to 3 hours from the moment of waking until she was ready to travel.  That tested my patience a great deal as I tend to be a get up and go go go type of person.

I wound up eating a bit over at the Gold Country Inn's Jr's Restaurant.  They are pretty good and their service is lightning fast. I have yet to be disappointed there.

I gambled a bit as well, dropping another $20 or so.  I also got to use my free play (another $25) and managed to make up a bit for the previous night as a result.

Around 10 am or so we took off and headed towards Reno on I-80.  I hadn't been past the California Interpretive Trail Center (about 10 miles west of Elko) before so I was totally enthralled to see the passing scenery.

9 out of 10 people would likely find the trip incredibly boring.  It is just dry, desert landscape with mountains looming in the distance.  I loved it.  It really sparked my imagination and I couldn't keep my eyes off of it -- wondering what trails lay ahead and what it must've been like for pioneers back in the day.

I got to catch glimpses of Carlin, Battle Mountain, Golconda, Valmy, Beowawe and other map dots as the morning drew on.

We did stop at McDonalds in Winnemucca (about half way) for lunch.  I normally loathe McDonalds but we needed a bathroom break and it was quick.  I am happy to report, I survived and this was a "good" McDonalds -- at least as far as they go. 

Winnemucca Mountain

As the trip progressed I went through a ton of lonely counties: Churchill, Pershing and others.  More map dots came and went and got to see Lovelock, another mini salt flat, Fernley and other small clusters of civilization that didn't seem to bare any names.

Traffic got heavy just outside of Reno.  They were doing construction on the freeway north of our hotel and I almost got rear ended by someone with New York plates (figures).  There was some incredible scenery as well in the pass between Sparks and Reno.  

I didn't have any problems finding the hotel and Reno was basically pretty easy to figure out.  I did miss the numeric streets like we have in Utah, but overall throughout the entire trip I was never lost or scrambling for a map.

We stayed at the Peppermill Reno.  They own a lot of the properties we patronage in Wendover and they've treated us pretty good.  Also the hotel / resort got some great reviews.  It is off strip but easy to find and has plenty of amenities: a beautiful pool, a buffet (of course), a big casino, and tons of restaurants.

The hotel is in an Italian flavor -- much like Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas.  There are Italian statues and lots of marble.  Overall, the entire hotel was classy and elegant yet unpretentious. The architecture was similar to that of their Wendover properties and you could tell they used the same designs and material for their properties.

Must remember to hold the camera straight...

View from a hallway window

Night bar
The first room we got didn't meet Shari's approval.  I guess the beds were supposed to be "queens" but they were sized fulls at best.  Also the room was a bit tiny for us 3 so we wound up upgrading to the Tuscany Suites.  These rooms are luscious.  They did set me back an extra $35 a night, but the room was spacious and featured an awesome bathroom.  Also the beds were kings and the three of us were able to co-exist without stepping on each other.

What was cool was that the bathroom had its own TV and there was a two-headed shower (so much for water conservation).  The internet connection was also pretty good as well.

View from our Room
Walkway to the Tuscany Towers

After settling in we opted to hit the buffet.  I always compare any buffet experience with that of Wendover's Oceano, which is my favorite (for the price).  This buffet ranked up there, but for the price I'd rather be in Wendover.  In fact, I kept mumbling to myself, "I'd rather be in Wendover".  I did make do though and I certainly didn't leave hungry.

They didn't have a lot of premiums (like crab legs) but they had a huge selection.  The food was hit and miss.  Some of it was well cared for and good and others you could tell it had been sitting for a while.  The desserts in Wendover are of higher quality but the Peppermill had more selection.

They had an awesome selection of gelato and we all fell in love with the bubblegum flavor.  

The buffet's decor was that of a Rain Forest (ala the Rain Forest Cafe).  Every 15 minutes or so, there'd be mock thunder and lightning.  Kind of hokey but at the same time added a certain charm.

Bubblegum flavored Gelato -- yum!

Sampling of some of the desserts

After eating I did manage to check out the pool, which would be my morning hangout for the next week:

Of course we gambled a bit.  There was no shortage of slot machines in this mighty casino. However, I found all of them extremely tight.  I don't think I ever won much at this place.  And I knew it was going to be tight. 

For instance, on Fu Dao Le, you gamble, say a buck.  In Wendover, the jackpot goes up a few pennies as a result.  Here, you'd gamble $10 and it would go up a few pennies.  Consequently the jackpots were always near the minimums.  Also, I never had any luck whatsoever.  I think over the course of the week if I had taken my money and flushed it down the toilet, I would've gotten more satisfaction than what I got at the Peppermill.  Luckily I wised up and did my gambling elsewhere...

Stay tuned for the next installment....

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