Heading to Vegas via “Area 51”

We got a late start (for us) heading out of Timothy lake around 9:52, because we were extra careful to double check everything before pulling away.  One thing we have noticed is the longer we stay in a place the more likely it is we will forget something when we leave, and we wanted to make extra sure that didn’t happen to us again.  Just a few days prior Lee had noticed that two of the nuts which secure the bolts which hold the hitch rails to the bed of our truck were missing.  That was a little scary, especially coupled with the fact that the other bolts were very loose, and really drove home the fact that we need to be checking these things.  Lee was able to pick up replacement nuts at the hardware store, and thankfully everything else looked good and we were on our way.

It was raining as we pulled out, and the trees were full of autumn colors, so it was a little surprising how quickly the landscape changed.  In what seemed like no time at all we were in the high desert, although we didn’t leave the rain behind.

 

I know I’ve mentioned this before, but when time allows we love to take a route we have never been on before.  In order to manage this I carry a Rand McNally Map  which I use to mark the routes we are taking.  I am in year 4 of doing this, and over the summer I actually bought a new one and took the time to refill in all of the colors over the last few years.  The exercise, which took a while, showed me two things.  We had been in a lot of places, but there was still so much more to see!  Because we had time, I decided to route us on a road less traveled and we took 95 down to Winnemucca and stayed at the New Frontier RV Park.  We have stayed at this RV park before when we were traveling through and it’s definitely one of my favorite Passport America parks.  $17 for up to two nights, neat as a pin, and the sites are long and level.  The only downside is to get the discount you have to take a back in site and because we didn’t like the first place we had stopped at it was dark when we got in.  We rarely pull into a place at night and if we do we usually get a pull through so don’t have to back in, but Lee was a trooper and did an outstanding job of getting us into the site.  I stood and held the flashlight as a point of reference for him, and with minimal effort he got us in.  Still amazed by it, because that is definitely not something he would have done even a couple of years ago.

Took a picture in the morning

So you could see how good a job he did! The sites are long but a little narrow.

Lee is also much more comfortable driving on secondary roads now (he was always super concerned in the past about getting fuel and other potential problems), so he was up for us taking a route that would land us on the extraterrestrial highway and into Area 51.   I like filling in my map…it makes me happy, but I will say some roads are less traveled for a reason.  Route 6 and Route 375 are both pretty boring and although we were able to find gas, there were VERY limited options on places to stay.  Well, let me rephrase that, there were tons of places we could have boondocked, but places with hookups were much harder to find.  Ultimately we ended up spending the night at Tonopah Station, which was a casino with some hookups.  Why did we spend $27 instead of boondocking for free? Well, finding a boondocking spot we feel comfortable staying in takes some effort and it’s never Lee’s first choice when we are traveling, and it’s an overnight spot.  Since he does most of the driving, I feel like it’s dealer’s choice, so I make use of Passport America to keep our costs down.  Unfortunately the one park in the area that was Passport America was super shady (that happens on occasion) and the casino was the best of several bad choices.

I have very mixed feelings about this location, because I thought the casino itself was kind of fun and the people were nice.  There was also a great local grocery store that was part of the casino complex and we had a nice breakfast at the restaurant.  The problem was the sites.  I can deal with being in a parking lot, but the sites were very unlevel.  One of the few benefits of the parking lot structure generally is flat sites, but these were uneven and too short.  That was a major flaw in my mind.

The hotel/casino had some cool antiques

 

Lee refused to pose under this bear!

 

I loved this giant Betty Boop statue

 

And this sign at the front desk made me smile

 

We had a nice (but pricey) breakfast here

 

A mound of country gravy smothered scrambled eggs, potatoes, diced country fried steak, and a biscuit. Lol..Lee really liked it!

 

The site though was just not good.  Significant down slope.

It was OK for one night and the next day we took our time leaving, because we had a pretty short drive to Vegas.  I was excited about the extraterrestrial road, but that turned out to be a total bust.  It was open range cattle country for one thing, and on occasion we had to slow down for the cows.  And we saw very little in the way of kitschy stuff, although we did see a few signs saying this was Area 51.  There was also a paved road with a sign stating Cedar Gate, which I later learned was an entrance to a military facility.  Still you really can’t see anything, although I guess these landscapes were used frequently in the show the X-Files.

Moo cows

 

The rocks got pretty towards the end.

 

No clue what this was about

 

But I did like this

We were both relieved when we got onto 93, although of course I took a turn driving right when we hit a 6 mile stretch of 35-mile an hour curves and 6% grade.  It was good practice for me and Lee talked me through it, but once he took over it was totally flat again…figures!  The one neat thing we saw was the Pharaganat National Wildlife Refuge.  It was a shock of green in the middle of the desert and we were excited to see that the Upper Pharaganat Lake had 15 first come first serve (and free) campsites along the lake.  These sites were holding big rigs and it looked lovely.  Definitely a place I would like to go back to and stay!

The picture doesn’t do justice to how green it was

Finally we arrived in Vegas around 3pm and made it with no major traffic issues to Circus Circus RV Park.  This is definitely NOT my favorite place to stay in Vegas, but Lee loves staying right on the strip, so here we are.  It is also a parking lot RV Park and a pricey one at that, but I will say they had done a better job of maintaining the grounds since the last time we were here, although I did find a pair of men’s underwear in the rocks next to our site.  I picked them up with a baggie and put them in the trash, and it was not an auspicious start to our time here.  Seriously, people.  We went inside and the tinkle of the slot machines caught my attention and we ate some McDonald’s for dinner (yes, there is one in Circus Circus) and caught the circus act which lasted all of 5 minutes.  Crazy right? Well, this is what Vegas looks like on a budget. Next up we will see my Mom and maybe do some fun things while we are here, but it is a balancing act for us (no pun intended) because this is our life, not a vacation. Well it’s sort of vacation because we aren’t working, but we need to watch what we spend…oh well, we will figure it out.

Our spot in the RV park.  The sites are long but narrow.

 

 


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We are not on Vacation

Full timers often talk about the fact that you absolutely have to treat this lifestyle as “regular life” and not “vacation”.  Even the most experienced of us struggle with that on occasion and when you hit a spot that you frequently vacationed in, even more so.  For us Las Vegas was our “go-to” vacation spot.  Lee came almost every year for the National Association of Broadcasters conference and saved up all year long to really enjoy himself.   He brought two of our daughters here when they turned 21, and he and I came on several other occasions.  So it’s not surprising that when we hit the town those old vacation feelings were stirred up.  But of course, it’s not vacation.  He’s here to work, and we are also here to see if we could spend winters here.  Still, we added a couple of days at the beginning of this work trip, and a day at the end, and the desire to “live it up” a little is strong.  Eat an expensive dinner, do some gambling, see a show, all the things that have been a regular part of our Vegas trips in the past.  Those things all cost serious money though.  The days of cheap buffets and show tickets are largely gone, and we could easily blow a month’s entertainment and dining-out budget in one day here. So what does that leave?  That’s a good question in a town that is one of the best in the world at “helping” you spend your money.

On Tuesday I dropped Lee off at the Mirage so he could work and I took the truck to get an oil change.  We pre-bought all oil changes and regular services with the truck so I can go to any Ford dealer for those maintenance visits. I picked Friendly Ford here in town and after some difficulty getting me into their system, they did a nice job.  While I was waiting, I had a nice long chat with my Mom (who also loves Vegas and has a timeshare here) and then decided to go to the Bellagio.  All of the casinos are celebrating the Chinese New Year this week and the solarium of the Bellagio was decorated to match.  Generally I am a big fan of the solarium, but this time it fell a little short, although I had a wonderful chat with the woman running the Chiluhy glass store.  Lee and I tried glass blowing a couple of years ago and the Chihuly folks are some of the best in the world.  The pieces for sale start at $5K, but as someone who has tried it, I now know the level of artisanship required to get those pieces.  To me it is art, and the woman was very nice even though it was obvious I didn’t have the kind of money it would take to buy one of those pieces.  So feeling a bit emboldened I decided to wander a bit and took $20 out of an ATM machine to play some slots.  So the ATM’s have a $5.95 fee AND you can take up to $3K out!!  The main screen starts at $100 and I had to go to a secondary screen to even get the $20 selection.  Sure! We’ll help you spend your money!  Since I was feeling a little ritzy I played a 25 cent machine (I always play pennies or nickels) and very quickly lost my $20 and felt very wasteful and a little bit guilty.  $20 can buy a lot in our new life.    I wandered outside to see if the fountain shows were playing, but they don’t start until 3pm on the week days so finally just went back to the truck and left.

View from the rooftop of the parking garage where I parked

View from the rooftop of the parking garage where I parked

The conservatory

The conservatory

The Chinese New Year is the Year of the Monkey so they were featured prominently

The Chinese New Year is the Year of the Monkey

The Chihuly store was the best part

The Chihuly store was the best part

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It’s hard to express how amazingly difficult this piece would be

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One of my favorites for the mere price of $5K

The lobby ceiling is full of Chihuly glass and absolutely amazing

The lobby ceiling is full of Chihuly glass and absolutely amazing

Loved this piece as well near a high rollers room

Loved this piece as well near a high rollers room

And of course a 200 year old bottle of Cognac

And of course a 200 year old bottle of Cognac, cause you know some people have stupid money to spend

Unfortunately the fountains only run after 3pm on weekdays

Unfortunately the fountains only run after 3pm on weekdays

OK, so the pretending to be rich feeling fell flat, let’s try something totally different.  I used to travel quite a bit for work and in the evenings often watched Pawn Stars.  It’s always on, for one thing, and you can really sort of half listen to it in the hotel room.  Plus, I like Rick and the history of the items.  I had read it was best to go early morning and mid-week, so off I went.  It was busy but not packed and it looks exactly like what you would see on TV.  None of the stars were there, but I had a great moment of luck when a salesperson pulled out a $100,000 2001 Patriots super bowl ring.  The sign on the ring says “No, you can’t touch it”, but he brought it out for a potential buyer.  Since I was standing there and basically drooling, I asked if I could see it.  He was a little gruff about it, but relented when I said I was a huge Pats fan and let me take a picture of it.  Then I asked to touch it and he let me, so yes, I have touched an actual Patriots Super Bowl ring.  It was really pretty!!  I liked the shop actually, they had some cool stuff, and I bought a $15 T-Shirt and was on my way.  Still the touristy things were not really doing it for me, and since I needed to stop spending money I went back to the rig and went on a domestic binge.  I cleaned everything in sight and even baked a carrot cake.  The I watched all the Bachelor’s I had been saving up and basically just chilled.  Not the most exciting of days but better than the alternative of wandering around and spending money.

It really looked quite a bit like what you see on TV

It really looked quite a bit like what you see on TV

A huge case full of sports memorabilia

A huge case full of sports memorabilia

And rock and roll memorabilia

And rock and roll memorabilia

Some cool art work as well

Some cool art work as well

Wednesday, Lee needed the truck for work so I spent some time blogging and then looked to see what kind of work was here for me in Vegas. I was pleased to see there was a lot of opportunity out there for someone with my skill set, although it is more difficult to find short-term positions in my field.  Lee has had some great conversations with some local folks here and it seems there is plenty of work for him as well, so it definitely seems like a good choice for us when we come back from Alaska in the fall. After I did all the cleaning and job searching though, I sort of ran out of things I needed to do.  Here I was in a city where I used to have so much fun, Lee was working really long hours and I felt …well bored.  I’m not saying I haven’t had the occasional moments of boredom over the last year, but they have truly been brief.   Between acclimating to the lifestyle, working my old job, dealing with the logistics of moves and new places, being with friends, and working through the emotions of the lifestyle, there hasn’t been much down time.  There hasn’t really been much down time in my life in general.  I was always a person who filled things up with kids, work, school, Lee…my days have always been overfilled.  So here I was with some precious time finally, and I had no idea how to fill it.  That’s not exactly true, I have a list of things I always said I would work on if I ever got the time.  Home projects, craft projects, reading more books, more time researching the lifestyle, starting to write a book of my own, are all things I would think of with longing and the idea if I only had the time I would do them.  I didn’t do any of those things.  I played computer games, watched some TV, and sort of wandered around aimlessly spending my energy on not walking over to the casino and spending money.  And I really felt like I was in a parking lot all day which was not so fun.

Thursday was a half day for him and he and his friend Brian, who he is working with, came back to the rig and we went to the buffet at Circus Circus for lunch.  I was thrilled to get out a bit, but terribly disappointed in the buffet.  $17.99 was waaaay overpriced and frankly I have had better buffets for way less money.  Still it was great getting to see Brian and we hung out until Brian had to go back to work.

Friday Lee was working noon – 10pm so I decided to ride with him and then walk back to the camper. The Mirage is one of my favorite casinos and Treasure Island and the Fashion Show mall are also on the way back.  I went through tons of Celestial face moisturizer in Quartzite and they have a Lush in the mall.

The lobby of the mirage

The lobby of the mirage

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The waterfall outside that turns into a lava volcano at night

The waterfall outside that turns into a lava volcano at night

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The Venetian

The Venetian

Outside gondola

Outside gondola

Gondala inside the shopping area

Gondala inside the shopping area

I love these living statues. This guyw as really really good

I love these living statues. This guy was really really good

Wandered through Treasure Island

Wandered through Treasure Island

The Wynn and Encore

The Wynn and Encore

The Fashion Mall

The Fashion Mall

The had a DJ playing at Nieman Marcus. First time I have ever seen that

The had a DJ playing at Nieman Marcus. First time I have ever seen that

 

Everything was great until I left the Fashion Mall.  The walk between the fashion mall and Circus Circus is on the sketchy side and I was definitely glad that I didn’t do it at night.  Still it was a nice way to spend a few hours and walking around and taking pictures doesn’t cost anything.   Saturday I finally worked on a project I have been putting off for some time.  My awning really needed cleaning and since I am in a parking lot and no one is next door to us I figured why not.  It was pretty hard to do since our awning doesn’t fold down and I had to use a ladder and it is no where near as clean as I wanted it to be, but it does look somewhat better than before.  Lee’s last work day is today from 4pm – 2am and then we have Sunday as a day off together.  Looking forward to it.

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First Time RVing in Vegas

Talk about a dichotomy.  To go from a deserted piece of BLM land to camping at Circus Circus right on the strip.  Well when the Perkins’ change it up, we really change it up. So what does a girl do when she has full hookups for the first time in over a month?  Well I would love to say that I continued on with my conservation ways, but that would be a total lie. What you do if you are me is wash dishes with a full sink of water, start the ice machine, log into the free WiFi, turn on the TV for no particular reason, pull out the electric heaters, and take long, hot showers.  Basically all the stuff you couldn’t reasonably do when boondocking.  You also start cleaning things, not only because there is dust everywhere, but because you have unlimited water to use while cleaning.  The shower needs a good scrubbing, the windows are a mess, and everything needs swept or dusted.  Don’t get me wrong, I am in no way a neat freak, but the combination of dusty conditions with limited cleaning resources even goes beyond my comfort level. What does Lee do on full hookups?  He fills and dumps the black tank…5 times! Lee’s method of keeping the black tank clean is to drive some with the tank somewhat full to loosen everything up and then dump it when we get to full hookups.  Then he uses the johnny chock in the toilet to hold the valve open and fill.  He has timed it and it takes a little more than 10 minutes to fill the black tank this way, so he sets the timers and then stops it when its full, dumps, and repeats until the water runs clear.  This may seems a little like overkill, but I never have to worry about the dreaded poop pyramid forming and we have very clean black tanks, as these things go.  Have you noticed how all of my blog posts keep coming back to poop lol.

Getting here by the way was pretty easy.  We drove 95 north through the Mojave Desert and came in on the east side of Vegas pretty near the strip.  We turned onto Circus Lane and then into the parking lot that is the RV park.  Yes it is a parking lot with some rock dividers between the sites, but my expectations were so low that really it’s not so bad.  Our little divider next to spot 42 even has a tree.  The only bummer is because we are a 40 foot fifth wheel the back-in sites with lower rates cannot be used.  So we had to pay for a pull through site which upped the ante for 9 days to $494.  YIKES!! That is the most we have spent anywhere (except for one night in a KOA in Napa for $56).   The only good news is it is tax deductible and because Lee is working right down the strip at the Mirage will be easy to get him back and forth to work.  Plus I am within walking distance from a few casinos and of course right next door to Circus Circus.  And the view isn’t bad.  I will say that they really need a security gate here though, because we get walk through traffic and I keep the doors locked during the day.  I don’t exactly feel unsafe, but it’s not a residential area by any means and the security guy in a golf cart that rarely patrols at night doesn’t exactly instill confidence.

Here's our spot

Here’s our spot

Most of the spots have little dividers between them

Most of the spots have little dividers between them

We even have a little tree

We even have a little tree

From our front door

From our front door

Lee and I have been to Vegas many times, but we have never lived here, so although this time we stayed on strip this time we both know if we came back we would be staying farther away. We believe this is a serious contender for our winters, because of the relatively warm weather and hopefully work for both of us, but before we can make that decisions we needed to check out some RV Parks in the area and see what the rest of the town was like. We started out by looking at the camp grounds here.  There are less than you would think (we visited 9) and only two of those would I consider for a long-term stay.  The ones associated with casinos are parking lots and pretty expensive, the inexpensive ones are combination trailer parks and most were on the scary side.  The two nicest were the Oasis (which is the most expensive and aside from the gorgeous pool area was not that great) and my favorite The Las Vegas RV Park.    Lack of security was an issue in almost every park, but not only were we stopped at the Las Vegas RV Park, but directed to the office to get a pass before we drove around an took a look.  The woman working at the office was extremely nice and we got a wonderful tour.  They have a work out facility (first time I’ve seen that in a park anywhere), two laundry rooms with clean and most importantly functional machines, a nice club house, decent pool area, and the deluxe spots have some landscaping in between them.  Don’t get me wrong it’s not a state park or anything, but I really liked the people at the front desk and really liked the vibe.  Plus the monthly winter price ($655 including tax) was reasonable for this area.  They also charge straight city rates on electric with not to exceed amounts of $100 in winter and $150 in summer which is great.  The electric costs can add up.  And although the Oasis was ok, I much preferred The Las Vegas RV Park because it is in a neighborhood of condos and apartments with a nice Wal-Mart right down the street.  If we are going to live in an area then I want it to be livable.  Anyways, it was a good exercise because we really got to see more of the city outside the strip and also saw the stark contrasts between parks.

After touring parts of the city we still weren’t feeling like the “new us” here until Lee decided we should go see the Valley of Fire.  Both Pam and Cori mentioned it to us as a day trip and Cori was married there, so we made the 1 hour drive north, paid our $10 per vehicle admission and wow.  This is definitely the type of place we like to be now and the day was not only beautiful, but it helped ground us in a way we really needed.  So here are the pictures. you can tell by the smiles on our faces what fun we were having.  We absolutely want to go back and stay at the campground we saw there.  Plus there are two hikes we weren’t really equipped to do, although we did take the petroglyph trail which was really amazing.

I've seen this picture so many times, glad we got to take ours

I’ve seen this picture so many times, glad we got to take ours

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The “beehives”

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Taking a queue from Debbie and taking pictures through things

Emulating Debbie and taking pictures through things

One of the things I really liked is you can climb on the rocks or walk out into the desert. Very cool

One of the things I really liked is you can climb on the rocks and just walk around.  Mostly no prescribed trails.

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You simply couldn't take a bad picture. My favorite kind of place

You simply couldn’t take a bad picture. My favorite kind of place

For the first time I saw pools of water in the desert

For the first time I saw pools of water in the desert

This piece of land was largely untouched because only the native americans knew where the water was

This piece of land was largely untouched because only the native americans knew where the water was

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I was fascinated by this rock in a dry gully and climbed down to sit on it

WE started down the petroglyph trail which is flat, mostly pink sand, and only .75 miles out and back

We started down the petroglyph trail which is flat, mostly pink sand, and only .75 miles out and back

The remaining petroglyphs were very cool and Lee was wonderful at spotting them

The remaining petroglyphs were very cool and Lee was wonderful at spotting them

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Even without the petroglyphs the rock walls were amazing

Even without the petroglyphs the rock walls were amazing

And there was a ton of greenery in the canyon

And there was a ton of greenery in the canyon

Amazing formations carved by wind and water

Amazing formations carved by wind and water

Even an arch. Go all the way to the end and then turn around and you will see it.

Even an arch. Go all the way to the end of the canyon and then turn around and you will see it. Look in the middle of the picture.

This area was where a bandit called mouse hung out

This area was where a bandit called mouse hung out

There were several water catches here

There were several water catches here

A huge rock with petorglyphs

A huge rock with petorglyphs

A cave above

A cave above

 

So so cool

My new favorite rock ….So so cool

Had to hug it

Had to hug it.  I know total nerd

 

Some other really neat ones in this area

Some other really neat ones in this area

Lee liked this one because it looked like a wave

Lee liked this one because it looked like a wave

And even got up to do a little surfing :)

And even got up to do a little surfing 🙂

What an amazingly cool place

What an amazing place

After the petroglyphs we drove down towards the campground and saw this amazing view

After the petroglyphs we drove down towards the campground and saw this amazing view

 

Seriously, put this place on your bucket list.  I had heard people talk about it, but never expected anything this great and we are definitely going back.  They also have an RV campground with big sites with electric/water (dump station on site) for $30 and a smaller campground with no services for $20 a night.    The campsites are right in the rocks and was pretty empty in February .  It was a wonderful day and I can’t believe that as many times as I have been to Vegas I never went here.  One of the many benefits of really staying in an area instead of just passing through.

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