Sunday, November 21, 2010

Vegas on a Shoestring Budget

Bill finished his last two Sports Authority stores in Vegas on Sunday the 14th. We were still in limbo as to what job and where we were headed next. We decided not to take the Christmas tree lot position in the Santa Barbara area as we had gotten an email from the company saying our job position had changed and that we would be assistant and relief lot managers instead of lot managers.  The issue wasn't that we wouldn't be in charge, the issue was that we would have to travel to the other two lots one of which was 40 miles away. Seeing as the lots are open from 9am to 9pm we then would have to leave Dozey in the rig for the better part of 14 hours. One of the bonuses for us was the fact that we would be staying on site. So we decided to pass and see what else came up, spending a little time in Vegas although we don't have much spare cash right now.

I have been reading Jean Scott's Frugal Gambler books ever since leaving Wisconsin. One of the best things we had going was the extra money from visiting Mole Lake Casino a few times a week. We would go on the "special" days like Monday Zip Code Day, Tuesday Ladies Day, Wednesday 50+, Thursday Mens Day and then on the weekend we will fill up the vehicles and get $1 per gallon up to 50 gallons. We figure we walked away each week with at last $50 extra, normally more. Jean's books detail how to get comps, find and use coupons and get the most for your video poker playing.  Earlier in the year we had purchased the American Casino Guide which give information on casinos in the entire US and has a huge section in back with Buy 1 Get 1 coupons as well as match play and other coupons.

We arrived on Saturday and saw from Casino Camper that the Gold Coast Casino allowed overnight RV parking. It is on Flamingo Drive west of the strip so we would be centrally located.  We pulled in on Saturday and parked next to the 3 semis that were already there, a couple of them with their engines running. On Sunday morning a security guard comes over and asks what we are doing as there were a ton of people parking all around us. He said that we could stay there but asked that we move our rig to another spot in the lot as to keep some space open for the truckers. So we leave and do some shopping. We come back around 4pm and there is a note on the rig and a security guard stops immediately telling us that the police have been notified and the rig will be towed if we don't move it....HUH??? Just that morning we had been told it was ok and even TOLD were to park! I ask security why it was ok for the semis but not for RVers and he said all the truckers had rooms at the hotel.  Oh, so they have rooms at the hotel but leave their truck running all night? I don't think so! So we decided to leave to find a spot that wanted our money, however limited it was. We even had a problem with the players card representative as we had torn the match play coupon out of the American Casino Guide. She said we had to carry the entire book around with us although nowhere in the book nor on the coupon did it say that we had to leave it in for her to tear out.....this is one casino that we will NOT be visiting again ever.

We drove back east on Flamingo Drive as I had found that you could park behind Bally's and that it was a "don't ask don't tell" type of situation. We pulled in with a few other rigs and trucks and there we stayed until leaving town on Wednesday. During our entire 3 day visit we were not bothered nor approached by security so needless to say we will be spending money in the future at Bally's.

So on Monday we plotted out a route around some merchandising audits at CVS stores that I had picked up. We could not do mystery shopping as in the State of Nevada you have to be a licensed private investigator or work for a company that is licensed.  I did find a company that I can get hired on with but it does up to $125 for a I don't want to spend if we are not going back there for the winter.

Sunday night we used a 2 for 1 coupon on the buffet at the Rio. Good thing we did as the buffet was $25 a person! It did have some unique items like Cajun blackened catfish, sushi and my favorite coconut gelato. But I would not have been happy spending full price on it.

On Monday we first visited Terrible's Casino east of the strip as they have a daily free slot tournament and then headed to the Cannery on the north side of town for a 2 for 1 buffet. After finishing the merchandising we went to the Stratosphere and used the Buy 1 Get 1 coupon to go up to the tower. I guess it was worth the $15 for both of us to go up there just to say we did. Again $30 would have been way overpaying in my opinion. I really thought Bill would go on one of the 3 rides they have there , but he surprised me and didn't want to. I didn't think he would do the bungee jumping but I though for sure he would want to try the Insanity, the X Scream or the Big Shot. Now those would have been well worth the money!

On Tuesday night we walked over to the Bellagio to see the fountains at night as we had only seen them during the day on the last trip. Then we walked to Ellis Island which was visible from our home behind Bally's. They offer 6x points on their video poker machines on Tuesday as well as having a coupon in the casino guide for 4 free drinks at the bar and a 2 for 1 entree in their restaurant. Bill also got some freebies for being 50+ so all in all we had a nice night out, played some VP and spent a grand total of $11! Ellis is a smaller "locals" type of casino and they use their good food and promotions to draw people in.....more of a local bar rather than a club....more our type of place rather than the big casinos on the strip.

This video is just a small compilation of some of the sights of Vegas. The opening parts are shot from the top of the Stratosphere Tower and you can see a guy working on the bungee jumping apparatus. How much life insurance do you need for a job like that? You can also see a bit of the X Scream and Big Shot rides. All in all, we would like to return and possibly spend the winter if I can get hired by the private investigator company. We would like to see how frugal we can be by using all the comps, coupons and promotions possible! We are also checking into making Nevada our domicile as it has no state income tax either, just like Texas, South Dakota and Florida.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

San Diego

For once I was very happy that there was a mix up and delay in starting the Sports Authority jobs. The company who makes the fixtures shipped out the parts UPS ground from Rhode Island on Wednesday, October 27. Originally we had been told they would be at the UPS Distribution Center in Chula Vista on Saturday the 30th so we could start right away. Well, I guess they didn't tell them that there is no way a ground shipment will go across the entire country in two days. The delivery was not expected to arrive to Chula Vista until Tuesday, November 2 which then gave us two whole days to do some sightseeing.  We decided to move to a campground as it would have been a bit difficult to boondock at the same Walmart for 4 nights in a row. We debated going to Silver Strand State Beach on Coronado Island but after stopping there we found out it was $50 just to PARK overnight next to the beach with no hookups and $35 just to park in the middle of the lot. Plus dogs could not be on the beach at all. Granted it would have been great being on the Pacific like that but part of it is getting Dozey to run and exercise and go swimming.

So we went farther north to the Mission Bay RV Park which ended up being only about $35 per night with full hookups and Dozey was able to swim in the bay.

On Monday we decided to visit the San Diego Zoo which has been on my bucket list for many years now.  I was definitely not disappointed. The zoo is known as one of the top three zoos in the country as well as in the world. It participates in conservation efforts for many species including the giant panda.  Unfortunately, that was the one exhibit that we were very disappointed in as both pandas were sleeping in their tree during our visit! I did get to see some of my favorites though including the koala and the meerkats, as well as some species unknown before like the Secretary bird.

Here are a few clips of some of the more than 4,000 animals of 800 species at the zoo. Towards the end of the video when you see the male lion making a fuss and lunging at the fence, it is the real thing. He is the biggest cat at the zoo and sometimes he gets a bit crabby when his beef hearts are forthcoming!

All in all I personally am loving Southern California except for the traffic.....there must have been a reason that I never visited here before as I probably would have never come back to Wisconsin. Bill and I have said that we want water, mountains and warm weather. Well, the San Diego area has all that. The temperatures are pretty temperate too with average highs all year in the 60s and 70s and average lows in the 50s and 60s. If, as they say, snowbirds are chasing the elusive 70 degree mark then this here is it year around. I could see us spending winters here after we have checked out the rest of the country. To me it has a different feel than Phoenix, maybe because subconsciously I know water is nearby. Bill is not so convinced due to the traffic but once you don't have to work or you work at a campground, you don't have to deal with the traffic so much! We are debating returning to California after the two stores in Las Vegas are done and spend the time exploring until Bill starts work again. There are tons of my work in this area just like there was in Phoenix. I didn't think I would like this area as much as I do, which is both good and bad.