Thursday, March 11, 2010

GET OUT – We don’t want your type here

That’s our big fear – someday we’ll walk into a casino, present our drivers licenses to the players’ club and the ladies will freak out on us.  Again tonight we have been the beneficiaries of casino hospitality.  But tonight it was to the tune of over $300.  They foolishly gave us a total of $500 in free play credits – 200 for Marilyn and 300 for me. We cautiously parlayed that into over $300 in real money and then quickly cashed in and left.  Which is unbelievably good fortune on one level and a scandal if you really think about it.

Suppose we had walked in off the street to Cher Ae Heights casino, which is where we are tonight.  Suppose we walked in, sat down at a slot machine and put $500 into it.  One turn later we would have walked out with slightly over $300.  That’s horrendous.  We were playing penny machines because that seemed to be all that would take our freebie cards.  At 40 lines per spin and 5x per line (because that was all they would let us bet) that $500 would translate into pushing the little button 250 times.  If you had the brains to stop after 250 pushes then the pushes would have cost you roughly 75 cents per push.  Don’t ever think that we let the machines go five cents into our real money – we cashed them out immediately when we could so our payout was the machine payout. 

Now you can argue that it isn’t a fair measure because maybe they would have paid better over time if we had played more but come on, $500 is a lot of change, especially at $2 per spin.  I forget my stats and Imre Henje stole my textbook so I can’t check the confidence levels but I think 250 spins is a pretty good measure.  Its no bloody wonder casinos are springing up like zits on a teenager’s face.  So at one level we feel pretty thankful to the casino for giving us a free place to park here and a significant chunk of cash just for showing up.  But at another level it shows me just what a vicious rip-off these places truly are. 

We left San Diego on Monday after I thought rush hour would be over.  We got to L.A. in the early afternoon and never really had to contend with any gridlock traffic.  There were times when I-5 slowed to maybe 25 MPH but most of the time it kept rolling along pretty good.  That got us up to Oxnard on the northwest corner of L.A. late in the afternoon and we parked on a WalMart lot that we had scoped out on the trip south.  I needed fuel by then so I hailed a parked trucker and asked where the nearest fuel pump was.  That was after I had walked around enough to determine that the three stations close by didn’t have diesel fuel.  I’m always amused by Americans who ask me “how hard is it to find fuel in Mexico?”  I’ve wasted more hours looking for diesel in the US than I have wasted seconds looking in Mexico.  Down there you can’t move without running into a Pemex and every last one of them has diesel – here they hide the bloody diesel fuel and it can be a genuine treasure hunt to find a pump and then damn near impossible to get to the pump when you do find it.

Tuesday morning we headed on up the road to Morgan Hill which is just south of San Jose.  We stayed in the Thousand Trails at Morgan Hill on our way down and were completely underwhelmed by it.  Thousand Trails parks in general have some issues with maintenance but the one at Morgan Hill stands out as a sloppy example of how a park should not be run.  Its also about 25 minutes away from Marilyn’s cousin’s house in San Jose so we went back there despite the sloppy maintenance.  We had a good visit with Fern and Larry, spent two nights at the campground and then today headed north again.

GoldenGatePanorama San Francisco traffic was actually worse than L.A.  I suppose it must have been a timing thing although I thought we were leaving late enough to miss rush hour but the south end of the bay around Palo Alto and San Mateo was a gong show.  We finally got through downtown in time for a late lunch at the rest area on the north end of the Golden Gate bridge.  We haven’t stopped there for years now.  I wasn’t sure that the bus would even fit but we took a chance and found a spot. 

Its a popular spot so we were lucky to find a place that we fit.  There was some bus and RV parking areas reserved further around the rest area but when I walked around to check on them there was a cop parked in the middle of one of them and some other government vehicle blocking the other area.  There seemed to be a pretty steady parade of cops through the area and none of them seemed to mind the way I was parked so I finally stopped worrying about it and just enjoyed my lunch. 

Coming north from San Francisco the signs kept warning us to expect bad weather so we did but it never appeared.  Several of the signs said to carry chains which we do but as I told Marilyn, while I am reasonably sure I could hang them if I had to I have absolutely no intention of ever proving that I can.  If we run into weather that requires chains then we are going to start the generator, turn on the electric blankets and crawl into bed for the duration of the storm.

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