Since we have to cut through Nevada from California and then back again to retrieve our repaired vehicle from Tucson, AZ, we enter into Nevada several times through different borders. My favorite crossing is by way of the Hoover Dam. The dam has a 660-foot base, which is enough rock to build the entire Wall of China. This route takes us by Lake Mead, where we see a herd of longhorn sheep climbing down from the cliffs. We stear towards cheap food and neon entertainment by following signs to Vegas. Alfonso’s magic “googling” ability was able to score us a great deal on a room at the Luxor casino, so we look forward to checking into a grandiose pyramid instead of the usual roach motel.
We arrive to the great Las Vegas and a walk down the strip in Vegas during the day is a bit uninspiring, however we quickly learn that the mood inside any casino knows no daylight nor hour. Time comes and goes without a signal as each money vaccuum has a self-created ambience. The sun can rise and set without ever touching the ringing slot machines or busy tables. As for Alfonso and me, we have a nonexistent gambling budget, so we spend our night taking in the sights and looking for bargains and giveaways. Little did we realize where what was in store for us.
FEELING LUCKY: They say “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” but this is too good of a story not to tell. At the Tropicana, we take our turn at a free spin and are feeling lucky when Alfonso wins a free show ticket for Follies Bergere. The casino employee hands us each a raffle ticket and deck of free playing cards when we claim his prize. For dinner, we visit Ellis Island to order their “off the menu: five-dollar steak special” (another internet find). It is our first real three course meal that actually fits within our $10/day food budget! We are on fire.
FEELING LUCKIER: That night, we only play the slots at each of the casinos that give us free slot play for signing up for their players club. As we walk back to our hotel, the city is lit up like a Pink Floyd laser light show. We watch the fountains dance and people pour. Young men flick cards at us with nude women on them. Some try to slip them into our pockets and the streets are littered with them like a pornographic version of the New Years confetti at Times Square. Once returning to the Luxor, we decide to tap into our hotel budget to play no more than five dollars each on the cheapest slots. My machine is lit up with magical fairies, and Alfonso’s depicts cartoon cows. As my husband waits in line for coins at the cashier, an old man comes up beside me and puts ten dollars into my machine. By the time Alfonso returns, the man and I have turned the $10 into $35. He cashes out, and takes fifteen dollars back for himself. Yet before he walks away, he gives us his strategy. Implementing his advice, we cash out with $70 before going up to our room. It is already 4 a.m. but we are too excited to be tired.
FEELING THE LUCKIEST: The next afternoon, we try to win another show ticket at the Tropicana, but feel that our luck has run out. While waiting in line to turn in our raffle tickets we decide that we probably won’t purchase another ticket and just forfeit the one that we have until a lady near us offers up her Follies ticket because she is leaving that afternoon. We don’t even have time to get excited when Alfonso’s name is picked from the raffle. He is called to spin a large wheel in the middle of the casino, steps onto stage and wins a fifty-dollar gift certificate for their restaurant.
Since we are forced to use all fifty dollars at one time and the food is inexpensive, our lunch becomes a feast. We even order two extra dishes “to go” to save for dinner. We leave the restaurant to head off to our free show. Since Vegas has been so kind to us, we feel like it’s perfect time to leave in the morning as winners. Just as we are walking out of the casino, we look at the raffle board. My name had been drawn for the big wheel while we were at lunch. Since I wasn’t there to spin, the host spun for me and next to my name is written that I won $250 in cash. Just like that, the “Tropicana” gets casted as the star of my Nevada painting!
Throughout the rest of our Nevada week, we are still floating on cloud shadows as we travel down the Extraterrestrial Hwy in a search for Area 51. The California painting goes on display at Art Encounter, the largest gallery in Nevada, and we finally get our home back from the repair shop. As we drive back across the Nevada border, we raise a glass (of Tropicana). Cheers Nevada!