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On the advice of the poll results, I made the trip...

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Joined: 19 Dec 2005
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PostPosted: Dec Thu 31, 2009 10:14 am    Post subject: On the advice of the poll results, I made the trip... Reply with quote

...And here are the sordid details! This was Wednesday-Friday of the week before last; sorry to keep you waiting.

First of all, I've learned the hard way that Hertz's on-line reservation system can't be relied on. I used the system to request a four-wheel drive vehicle for the possibility of weather complications on I-80, and was told when I arrived that they just didn't have such a vehicle.
Is it naive to even expect such a system to produce the desired results? It's a valid question; hard-core travelers will certainly offer up numerous tales of far worse woe, and in fairness, I hadn't even put up a credit card number - all one has to do is go to their site, make the vehicle, location, and date selections - ostensibly, if the system has what you want, you get to the end, and receive a reservation number, which apparently, may not get you anything.
Additionally, I'm sure the site is full of disclaimers that say, "While every effort is undertaken by Hertz to fulfill reservation requests, the company cannot guarantee availability, in the same manner that life contains no guarantee of wealth or good looks. Travelers are advised to make alternate arrangements such as hitching rides, collecting cans for bus money, and other such strategies as contingencies in the event that Hertz is unable to provide your requested vehicle. If you don't like, it go acquire a car company, and provide your own fleet", or some such thing, but who can be bothered with that stuff when one is dreaming of arriving in Reno, bellying up to the bar, and starting a long chain of video poker events, or slots, or whatnot?

In any case, I was forced to abandon the rental vehicle effort, but was nonetheless undaunted from getting to Reno, so I hopped back in my own car - poor old Saturn, I punish it so! - and swung over to an oil changer place for a quick freshening-up - and then headed out.
There didn't seem to be any new threats of bad weather; the recent dumping of snow, whose effects John shared with us in those dramatic photos, was finished, and the resulting lull would be to my advantage. As I'd hoped - gambled on? - there was nothing more than gray skies on the approach over I-80.
And have I remarked recently on what an engineering marvel I-80 is? Well, it is. And the views it allows can be majestic - all that recent snow provided some postcard-quality backdrops for my drive. Up at the summit areas, where the skiing was in full force, some of the exit signs on the highway were covered in new snow, which is a fascinating sight, for some reason - a reminder of nature's ultimate authority over man even in the face of his incredible accomplishments, or some such thing.
So visually, it was quite stunning, and an agreeable way to pass the approach to our favorite city.

I made good time, and arrived at 3:30. Checked into the El Dorado, and got a room with a decent view of the downtown direction (not a lot of choice here; you're either facing East or West, and I knew from before that if you're facing West, you get the novelty value of the view of the King's Inn, but the entire sunset period of the day bores right in on your room like a laser beam, and isn't conducive to the delightful activity of having a drink while taking in the landscape.
Another noteworthy item: On check in, the El Dorado gave me a coupon book - remember those?? That was a nice throwback to a glorious former era. It even had a free drink coupon, which I wound up failing to even redeem - funny how one gets so distracted as to miss out on the basics!

I thought an early dinner might be a worthwhile strategy, and went down to the coffee-shop place in the Silver Legacy. This has generally been a reliable place to eat; service is *usually* pretty quick, and while it ain't the cheapest, this is where the "Business" part of the trip is welcome, since it's covered!
I came up with a brilliant plan, and followed through on it: I ordered a club sandwich, and had half of it, along with the fries. The rest I put back in the room, secure in the knowledge that I'd be able to make good use of it much later on. This works out, since I generally can't finish a gigantic dish, anyway.

So it was on to making the rounds. For mid-week prior to Christmas, the Eldo-Leg-Circus area seemed fairly hopping - not brimming with people, but far from dead, which I took as a good sign. (Now who's being naive?! Oh, wait, it's just me again.)

Virginia Street was .... well, Virginia Street. It sure ain't the same with a dead Fitzgerald's, especially now that it's one more parking garage building that's essentially abandoned.

As heartily as anyone else, I joined in the chorus of taunts against the Golden Phoenix back when it existed, but man, the downtown sure could use an effort like that these days. The little old Nugget, with its cartoon mascots proclaiming the availability of the Awful-Awful burger, flips and flops on Virgina Street like a fish whose water level has just receded past the mid-line. Such a noble effort, and so sadly rewarded. One of the traditional two convenience stores folded, so there's essentially only two open businesses on that portion of the block in the evening. Foot traffic is minimal, and though I didn't see many of the usual bums and no-accounts, I'm sure it was just luck that they weren't out in force at that moment. What there was instead was a self-appointed preacher, at the corner where the Fitz employee used to hand out promotional coupons - he seemed to be inveighing against phony churches, or corrupt preachers, or some such thing. His own credentials of authenticity were supposed to be merely assumed, I guess. One could argue that he was a step or two above a flat-out panhandler, but it really wasn't much of an improvement. I was reminded of that mission nearby that eventually closed its doors. Mission accomplished, or downtown Reno was simply beyond hope? Time to turn one's gaze back to the fun!

Thank goodness for the Cal-Neva, with its consistently available three-dollar blackjack. How long can they hang on? I really hope they can make it. I was reminded, for reasons you'll hear about later on, of the era in which the Cal-Neva had that extra casino adjoining it - was it more of the same establishment, or was that the "Virginian", which is now just a hotel, or a closed hotel? I can't even recall, but I do remember, like a childhood memory so vague that it's merely a memory of a memory, walking into that "Extra" casino, where there were additional blackjack tables - also with very competitive minimums and rules - as well as slot machines, where Mrs. Allen got her first taste of casino gambling, and, with the legendary luck of beginners, won over a hundred dollars within a few minutes of starting on a nickel machine, no less. Ah, the stuff of legends!

So while disaster may loom at any moment for the venerable Cal-Neva, I was immediately able to find an open table, and proceeded with my traditionally meager twenty-one dollar bankroll. As usual, this will satisfy almost no reader of this board who gambles with any significant amount of money, but I was pleased to find myself winning, and quit after a little while when I was a few hands ahead, for a total profit of twelve dollars, or some such chump change amount - but it was a win! And the splits and doubles, when they arrived, all worked. That's darn satisfying, let me tell you.

I dutifully lost some of that profit in machines later, but had a good time doing so. I was on a three-play draw poker game at one point, and found myself getting a four-of-a-kind, which allowed me to gain back some steam.

An amusing footnote to this story came in the form of a Cal-Neva employee of some type; while I was playing the above-mentioned poker game, he walked by, and as he did so, he said to me: "Sir, smile a little while you're playing; you'll win more!" Hey, he was right - this is supposed to be fun, remember? The amusement of hearing such an exhortation made it impossible not to smile more, and I actually did hit the four-of-a-kind within a few minutes. I'm a firm non-believe in karma when it comes to decks of cards (properly shuffled) and mechanical, even computerized, gaming contraptions - but it was hard not to see the fellow's point.

Having had my fill, I ventured back to the El Dorado, and as I'd predicted, the leftover sandwich came in handy later on.

The next day, I went over to get business out of the way. At lunch, a colleague and I went to a sports-bar type place on Robb drive called "Bully's", which seemed a worthwhile destination. I'm not a big sports fan or anything, but it was a nice facility, and it had a broad menu. I had a Philly cheesesteak, which was quite satisfying.

With work over, it was time to return to the scene. For the evening's dining, I repeated the club sandwich strategy, although the source was the El Dorado coffee shop, which has a darker 'vibe', essentially because of the lighting. But it's reasonably good food.

One more night, one more opportunity to see Reno up close and personal, and so out I went. Another quick round of blackjack at the venerable Cal-Neva's three-dollar tables, and a panicked quit after a mere three wins, so terrified was I of finishing my last trip of '09 in the red! On gambling, my dad has always said, "A small win is better than a loss" - advice which was just fine with me. It goes against the gambler's instincts, of course, and when you're winning, even by just a few hands, strategy practically screams that you should play aggressively when it's the house's money!

But the conservative mindset won out, and I so enjoy having those extra few bucks for some additional in-room refreshments, and such. And such was my action. I lost a dollar or two, as is my custom, in the "Lucky Larry" machine so I could hear that anthem of my youth, "Rock Lobster", but that was pretty much it.

My apologies to those who slogged through this report hoping to hear about some *real* action, but this is strictly low-roller territory. For example, I always make sure to play "Treasures of the El Dorado" at the El Dorado, because - you guessed it - it's free! I can't count the number of pens I've failed to go pick up at the promotions desk. Oh, well.

Conditions were smooth for the return the next morning, and the snow in the Sierras continued to provide picture-perfect imagery to enjoy.

One of these days, I'll do something different in Reno, but these days, I seem to be a creature of habit.

Merry Christmas, everyone! Remember, there's twelve days of it...
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Joined: 20 Dec 2005
Posts: 717

PostPosted: Dec Thu 31, 2009 11:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the enjoyable TR. Glad you finished up a winner. Don't forget to report those winnings on your income taxes <G>.

I agree that Bully's is a real good sports bar/restaurant. There are something like 13 of them around Reno and Carson City. Unfortunately, they recently filed for bankruptcy reorganization so their future is a bit uncertain. Even more unfortunately, the stress caught up with the owner and he died unexpectedly a couple weeks ago while only in his mid-40's. He had blamed the problems on the general downturn in the economy exacerbated by the ban on smoking in restaurants (which had a big effect on bartop video poker profits). I have no inside information but I think growing too fast also had something to do with it. They became a victim of their own success. I hope they can come out of it.

And on that cheerful note I'll wish everybody a Happy New Year!
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BC Dave

Joined: 18 Dec 2005
Posts: 1384

PostPosted: Dec Thu 31, 2009 11:49 am    Post subject: A classic report Stan! Reply with quote

I've walked out of the Cal Neva many times up a few bucks and feeling smug. Nothin wrong with that! Thanks for a classic "Stan" report to round out the year.
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PostPosted: Dec Thu 31, 2009 12:43 pm    Post subject: "Cal-Neva" will forever be "Cal-Always" Reply with quote

Thanks for the feedback! Remano, that's truly a tragic footnote to the Bully's brand - I felt as though I had just "Discovered" it! Keeling over in one's mid-40's while watching one's baby get slaughtered by market conditions is awful - and not in a cool, hamburger-name way. Wish I could give them more business; they seemed to have a very good selection of beer and food!

Dave, I forgot to thank you for that "Really, really late trip report", so consider this my gesture in that direction. Glad to see other Cal-Neva fans basking in the glow of our favorite shrine!

Anyone heading up there for new year's? I see I'm now on their e-mail list, and they have an odd picture of the place in their message....
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