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Traveling Around: A Long Ago Trip From Florida to the West (That Included Nevada and the Casinos)
The circumstances making the trip possible
I had read an article in the Ft. Lauderdale newspaper that described how the rental car industry was booming in south Florida. A big problem occurred however when the winter season ended and there was a multitude of empty cars just sitting around waiting to be rented.
To solve this problem the major rental agencies would provide a car in Ft. Lauderdale to be turned in to an agency in a northern location in a predetermined number of days. The rental agency would at the point provide two airplane tickets to the starting point.
I found that one of the available delivery destinations was Reno, NV, and that the agency gave you 10 days to get the car there. I phoned immediately and started the process.
The trip west
We picked up the rental car in Ft. Lauderdale on Saturday, June 22. It was early (about 8 AM) and we started off with a problem. In those days I didn't believe in credit cards and the agency got unhappy when I wanted to make the insurance deposit in cash. Finally got it straightened out and got on the road by about 10.
Our rental car was a 1985 Chevy Cavalier. It was comfortable enough. I probably would have gotten better mileage if I had been more conscientious about the speed but I wanted to get there.
It took us almost all day to get out of the state of Florida, driving through country that we'd already seen. Late in the afternoon, though, we began to angle up through Alabama and stopped at Dothan, AL, for the night.
Sunday took us through Montgomery and Birmingham and into Tupelo, MS. If we had been more experience at traveling, we probably would have stopped in both Tupelo and Memphis to see the Elvis memorabilia. Not knowing the layout of the towns and being inexperienced, we kept on going and spent the night outside Little Rock, AR.
On day 3 we got through Oklahoma and started seeing signs for the Big Texan Inn in Amarillo, Texas, and decided that was where we were going to spend the night. It was a restaurant/motel complex that sold a 72 ounce porterhouse steak for $29.00. They started you out with a shrimp cocktail and fed you a baked potato with your steak. If you ate the whole thing, they gave it to you for free. If you couldn't do it, it cost you the $29.00. We didn't even try. (I think since that time, they've changed it a little. Obviously the price has gone up. I think the size has come down to 64 ounce. And, they've put a time limit on the effort.)
On day 4 we got through New Mexico and started seeing mountains and desert. In spite of the scenery we were getting tired of driving and riding.We stopped our day a little early in Holbrook, AZ, and were happy to get off the road. We were really happy to see an end to the long driving days.
We spent day 5 going through the Petrified Forest. The National Monument starts south of the expressway and ends up north of it. As you drive you went through the Petrified Forest and into the Painted Desert. From there we went to the Grand Canyon. We made a detour through Sunset Crater National Monument and an area of Indian ghost towns. The ghost towns were at the Supatki National Monument. The tribe(s) were active in area about 600 A,D. through 1100 A.D. Their settlements contained not only living quarters but public buildings and some round amphitheater kinds of areas. By this time I'd begun to run out of steam and Sharon explored more and became more familiar than I did.
The Grand Canyon was beautiful and magnificent beyond description. If we were to return I think we'd stay at the Thunderbird Lodge inside the Park. We stayed at a Quality Inn outside the park and then realized that we could have stayed right on the rim of the canyon for about $20 more.
We stopped at a McDonald's for coffee and decided that it was the most expensive McDonald's in the world. Everything on the menu was at least 3 times what it cost in most other McDonald's and the employees told us it was because there was no water in the area. Everything had to be trucked in. It was "off the grid".
After getting checked into the motel, we went back to the park and rode a shuttle to the west from the pickup point winding up back at the hotel for supper. On Thursday we went back inside the park again and took the shuttle to the east before we got back on the road. The road to the east was closed to automobile traffic. The shuttle made stops for sightseeing and the circle took about 2 1/2 hours. We started out again on our travels and went to Kingman. The trip from the park is mostly downhill and while Kingman was still at about 3,000 feet the daytime temperature was hanging in there at over 100 when we got there.
On Friday (day 7) we went north to Lake Mead where we took a boat trip out onto the lake. In the area of the boat dock, there was multitudes of fish thrashing about trying to get to any crumb the tourists threw them. The boat tour lasted about two hours and we approached the dam from the lake side. It was lunchtime when we finished the lake tour and we stopped at the Railroad Pass Casino for lunch and to lose our first few dollars in Nevada playing Keno.
Las Vegas and the Tropicana
We got to Last Vegas about 2 - 3 and checked into the Tropicana. (In 1985 it was at the end of the strip. There was one more casino that was across the boulevard from the airport.) Our room was great. It opened onto the swimming pool although we didn't go swimming or do any sunbathing. It was a nice area. As part of our hotel package, we got tickets to the Follies Bergere. We went to that on Friday night.
The night time temperature in Las Vegas was about 90 and in the daytime on Friday, it was about 105. Saturday and Sunday it was about 110 and Monday it was supposed to be 115.
Saturday we were up and wandering about town Just generally loafing and glad to be off the road. Saturday night, we attended the impersonator show at the Imperial Palace. It was good and had been voted the best in Las Vegas the previous year.
Most of the time Saturday and Sunday we wandered up and down the Strip. We used coupons from the hotel and ones we'd picked up at a truck stop in Kingman to have lucky bucks and free nickels to play the machines. We played a little bit of all the different games we could find. You could have accidentally found us at a craps table or a blackjack table or trying to figure out and bet a baseball game. You can be sure that we always found the free drinks when we got thirsty.
Sunday night we went to see the Lido de Paris which was still at the Stardust. We'd seen it before and didn't seem to have quite the continuity that we'd seen on our one previous visit. However, I did win enough on a slot machine to buy our tickets so there is no complaint about the quality of the evening.
North from Las Vegas
On Monday morning, we were on the road and on our way to Reno. The car was due in Reno on Tuesday. As we left Las Vegas, it was well over 100 degrees and they knew it was going to get hotter. About 10 miles out of Las Vegas, we looked back and couldn't see the town through the smog. It was like a cloud had enveloped the town.
We stopped in Tonopah for lunch and decided that it had been a stagecoach stop in the olden days is because it was on top of a mountain. Found later that it had famous silver mines there.
Got to Reno and checked in Circus Circus. Dropped our bags and went direcly to the California state line to a place called Boomtown so that we could have a stuffed baked potato.
We had discovered them four years earlier on a trip and couldn't miss them now when we're right there. Temperatures in Reno were more moderate. They were about 80 when we got there and went down into the 40's the fiirst night. By Thursday, however, when we left it was back up over 100.
Tuesday morning we turned in the car and picked up our airplane tickets back to Florida. We also bought a coupon book at the Chamber of Commerce for $3 each. The results of having an out of state plane ticket and the coupon book we purchased are really to numerous to list everything but we wound up with more than $30 cash each plust lots of lucky bucks and nickels at casinos in the downtown area.
We did the same things in Reno that we'd done in Las Vegas - wandered around, used the coupons and drank the drinks, saw the free shows, and ate the free and 2/1 meals.
Our plane left at 1:30 on Thrusday. We counted up our gambling and coupon activity. We'd won $6 and were happy we hadn't lost $6.
We were on a big plane to Atlanta and then a smaller plane from Atlanta to Ft Lauderale. Because of time changes and delays, it was about 1 AM by the time we finished up in Florida.
We were tired of traveling and happy to be home but sort of planning our next trip.