Posted by fremont4ever
Dec 13, 2011

Bowl season 2011

Or, "The most wonderful weeks of the year".

Ah yes, it's bowl season - the time of suspensions, coaches hired & fired, matchups rarely seen, teams complaining about meager payouts, crowds both sparse and great, endless VPs promoting sponsors, ESPN dipping down to its 7th string... I enjoy it all. I usually find several games worth pretend betting on (real sports betting online is such a pain in the neck, and I'm not going to Nevada just for this), but I only found two this year:

Northwestern +10 over Texas A&M (Meineke Car Care Bowl, 12/31) - Northwestern is a mediocre team from the Big Ten. Texas A&M, despite all the preseason hype, turned out to be a mediocre team from the Big 12. With a new coach. That lost five of its last six games. NW should keep this one close and has a fair chance to win outright.

LSU -1 over Alabama (BCS championship, 1/9) - My analysis shows LSU as between a 3 and 6 point favorite on a neutral field. I'll go with it, though I'm not convinced that LSU has a great team (they do, however, have a great defense - as does Bama).


fremont4ever Jan 05, 2012

So... the MCCB didn't go as planned, as A&M won by 11. Grrrrr... anyway, the line on the championship game is now Bama -1. I've seen or heard nothing to change my opinion on this game, so the new line would be even better for me if I could bet it.

Posted by fremont4ever
Sep 02, 2011

Great Race road trip report, part 2 - Lake Tahoe & Reno


1:40 pm - There was quite the line at Hertz at Reno-Tahoe Airport, but eventually I got my car. A convertible this time. This was another huge but unneccessary upgrade. I didn't mind as much this time. The car was a Mitsubishi Spider.

2:30 pm - I snaked along 395 to Carson city. I wanted to stop at the Nevada State museum while I had a car and a chance. The museum itself was mildly interesting, but the primary draw for me was the coin show. I used to be a collector a very, very long time ago, but my coin show days ended at least 25 years ago. Since I didn't have a good idea of what I wanted, I didn't buy anything. Maybe some other time...

3:00 pm - Back on the road to Lake Tahoe via US-50. Oh my. The turns were almost constant and there were plenty of elevation changes up and down (mostly up). It was quite the white knuckle ride; it would be hard to imagine doing it during high winds or on slippery roads. As it was, the weather was great - perfect for putting the top down, had I been inclined to. Anyway, eventually I got to Stateline, where several casinos greeted me, but I had eyes only for Harrah's. I made my way into their surface lot.

3:30 pm - The entrance I chose was disappointingly shoddy, but the casino itself was fine. I found a 8/5 bonus machine for quarters and took my chances. I got a straight and that helped me to a $1.25 profit. Not life-changing, but better than losing.

3:40 pm - There was much to do in Reno and no reason to linger here, so I headed back. Going (generally) downhill on twisty roads is even less fun than going uphill - fortunately the brakes and steering were fine.

4:55 pm - I made it to Harrah's Reno and parked in their parking garage. I explored the West Tower area for the first time - more restaurants, more slots, nothing too special. I found another 8/5 bonus machine for dollars and fired away. This time I lost $5, but I was up about $15 for gambling on the Great Race overall. Thanks Gary.


Ayecarumba Sep 06, 2011

I enjoyed the State Museum several years ago. They have a walking tour through a mine shaft below the actual museum, some big ol' gold and silver nuggets, and a pretty sweet collection of old west long guns.

hook3670 Sep 08, 2011

We were in Tahoe for the first time this summer and I could not believe how beautiful it is. You are right that drive around the Lake can get a little hairy in some places.

Posted by fremont4ever
Aug 24, 2011

Great Race road trip report

It started with a dream.

I was arriving home. But the usual path to my house was pepered with red & yellow route markers. There was a red & yellow welcome mat instead of my usual welcome mat. And two strange, yet familiar, faces were waiting for me just behind the mat. Along the way people were cheering me on. I got into it; instead of my usual walk to the door, I cantered, then trotted, then sprinted for home. Had it only been a few hours since I left? As I looked at the crowd of onlookers, I saw some familiar faces. Are these the four people that read my trip reports? It looked - and sounded - like many more.

Soon enough, I got to the door and stepped on the mat in theatric fashion. The crowd really seemed to like that.

The skinnier guy's name was Phil. He hosted some reality show I forget the name of.

The other guy was named Gary. Apparently he's the head of an organization telling people not to gamble.

Phil started to speak in a familiar voice.

"35 hours, 5 states, 4 casinos, 1300 miles!" he intoned breathlessly. "Fremont4ever, you are this year's winner of the Great Race."

"Thanks Phil. Thanks Gary," I replied modestly.

Gary pulled out a big check from nowhere.

"As the winner of the Great Race, I'm proud to present you with this voucher for 60,000 Reward Credits, good for $600 in credit at any of our resorts across the U.S. and Canada," he mumbled.

I was less than impressed.

"$600? Is that it? Is that it?"

I woke up with the words "Is that it?" in my mouth. Was it all worth it? Maybe.


FRIDAY, 8/19

11:35 am, Mile 0 - My rental car is under me, and I'm already in trouble. Oh, work was fine (I had a short day) and the rental counter at Hertz treated me right. The trouble started when they said, "The only car we have available for you is this big honkin' Chevy Traverse". For those of you not familiar with Detroit machinery, the Chevy Traverse is a big, somewhat luxurious, sport utility vehicle that ordinarily would draw a premium price if you were to request it. If I were doing my usual coupon running, the extra dollar or two in fuel I would expect to pay over my requested compact wouldn't be a big deal. But since I was planning to travel so many miles, the cost of the extra fuel figured to be much more than the cost of the rental ($46). In fact, it was about double. But I'm getting ahead of myself... being treated well was a theme I would find throughout my trip.

Finally I shifted into gear and headed out of the lot. The first stop would be a familiar one - Harrah's Joliet.

2:25 pm (CDT), Mile 231 - I parked in the parking garage at Harrah's Joliet. The journey over was mostly eventless. The weather was clear until just outside Joliet, when we got a raindrop or two. The last time I was in Joliet, about 15 years ago, was to visit this very casino. Indeed, it was so long ago that the boat actually cruised the Des Plaines River. I can't remember if I paid a fee to enter - probably. That's all different now - none of the riverboats I planned to visit have cruised in a long time, and none of them charged me to enter. But there was security at every entrance; they just waved me through and said, "Have a nice day," or the local equivalent. I guess I must have looked suitably old and degenerate. BTW, I'm not used to this level of visible security; if there's a security guard near the entrance in Las Vegas, Reno, or the Eagle, they've either found something or they're shooting the bull with someone.

Anyway, I went into the casino and up to the Total Rewards desk. The lady told me they had discussed this Great Race promo in a meeting that day. She said as she swiped my card that I was entered and did not need to swipe my card anywhere again for this contest, just earn the points. She also noted that Joliet and Hammond shared the same region, as did all the casinos in Las Vegas.

Now it was time to look for a machine. My intention was to play for one - and only one - point at the best video poker I could find. This was not intended to be a gambling trip; this was a comps play. This is a Harrah's in Illinois, and that was not a good combination for good video poker. So the best I could find for dollars was 7/5 bonus. And that's what I played. The first hand was QQQxx - a most excellent start. The draw yielded two nines for a full house - yes! I wished it paid better than $35, but I was happy to take this.

The second hand was a whiff, so I left ahead $25.

With that accomplished, I took a look around. The casino was smaller than I'm used to. It's roughly the size of your typical downtown Las Vegas casino. More notably, it was dark and noisy. So much so that I was happy to get out.

Back in the SUV, I grabbed a snack from my stash and prepared to move out.

4:30 pm, Mile 325 - I took the first of my scheduled gas stops in Normal. My initial calculations were based on a compact with a small fuel tank. But it worked well with this sport ute because the tank was so much bigger. The first fill-up was 16.2 gallons and cost $58. It meant I was averaging about 20 MPG - groan, ugh.

I liked the scenery down this section of I-55. Lots of corn, grain silos, and such. Very pretty.

8:00 pm, Mile 531 - There was a little too much drama heading into St. Louis (actually Maryland Heights, but never mind). Most of the first 200 or so miles were fine - no rain, mostly sun, nice ride down 55 to 270. But I blew the turn to 70 (not paying enough attention to my directions) so I headed south on 270 a ways. I had to turn off, recheck my directions and turn around. Then I went up, down, and all around their parking garage - I couldn't find a space my Canyonero - er, Traverse - could fit into. So I tried to go into the lot - not much luck there, but I did find a space a long way out. So I parked in it.

The place was packed, really loud, and really dark. They had lots of STP machines, but they were all occupied, so I couldn't check the pay schedules. It's still Harrah's, so I wouldn't expect much. They did, however, have a few full-pay machines. They even had a nice topper explaining the percentage with perfect play. I'm always suspicious when casinos do that. I found a 8/5 bonus machine for dollars. Two hands, two whiffs. I couldn't find any place worth eating, so it was time to say goodbye.

I went back to the SUV to head to the hotel a few miles away.

8:50 pm - My chosen hotel was the Red Roof Inn on Lackland. Nearby was a Hooters (didn't enter, didn't even look around) and a convenience store/gas station. It was here that I found the lowest gas prices I encountered on the road - $3.23 a gallon for regular unleaded. Missouri's gas was very cheap, but I couldn't take advantage because my pit stops were carefully planned with fuel prices only being one consideration. I'll keep it in mind for future trips, though.

One thing I did do was buy a danish and frozen drink (please don't call it a Slurpee) and called it dinner. This cost about $3.

But first I checked in. The room seemed pretty standard for this class - fairly new furnishings, clean all around, not too noisy. I've had worse rooms in Las Vegas (Imperial Palace, I'm looking at you...). This set me back $47, but it was necessary, because at this point I needed the rest and I didn't want to attempt any night driving.

I watched preseason football and called it a night.


5:00 am - I surfed the Internet using my free wiFi and found a big, slow-moving blob of rain and storms taking dead aim at St. Louis. I figured it was at least 2 hours away, so if I left by 7 am, I would avoid getting touched by it. I only hoped it wouldn't catch up to me as I headed back north later that day.

6:20 am - It seems we had a little rain last night, but it was clear at that moment, so I checked out and headed out. The next stop was scheduled to be Metropolis.

6:50 am - St. Louis wasn't quite done with me yet. They closed off 64 east near downtown, and I was asked to take a detour. Eventually I ran out of detour signs - uh oh. So I found myself in downtown St. Louis with no idea whereintheworld I was. I thought of that scene in "National Lamppon's Vaction" when the Griswolds were lost in St. Louis (maybe East St. Louis, but never mind). For those of you without sharp memories, you can view it here.

(Note: The neighborhood I was in did not resemble this)

I calmed down and figured out that if I kept heading east, I would eventually find a freeway or something taking me out of town. And so I did. It turned out to be I-64, so no harm no foul.

9:20 am, Mile 726 - Not much traffic on 64, 57, or 24, so I had time to enjoy the scenery. Southern Illinois has more forests and hills than I expected. Getting to Metropolis was no trouble at all - take US-45 in about 4 miles, turn left on the other major street, and the casino is right out front. Very easy. Even easier was parking - I had no problem getting a spot right in front of the entrance. One gets the feeling the casino is a Very Big Deal in this town - even bigger than the guy in the cape, which they also made a big deal about. No personal sightings though; he must have been off fighting crime.

Anyway, the first order of business was the breakfast buffet. Decent food, though a limited selection. Fine with me, though. I spent about $11 here.

I then moseyed to the casino. In one of the hallways leading there was some ancient slot machines. Most were from the 1930s, though some were much older. I was most impressed by an ancient video poker game from 1900. Mr. Dancer would not approve, but I bet it took plenty of money in its time.

Wouldn't you know that that was the only video poker game I saw there? There were plenty of slots and a small table game pit, but I saw zero video poker games. Most unusual. So I picked a random pretty video slot. From that $5 I earned $2.35. There seemed to be nothing more to accomplish, so I left.

I should note that the folks in Metropolis were especially nice, even by Harrah's standards. It seemed to have a bit of a Southern feel to it, even though it's north of the Mason-Dixon line. I noticed there were more Tennessee cars in the lot than anything else - I didn't expect that. There were some from Kentucky, but only one Illinois. Also, the casino wasn't very busy (the time of day was a big factor, I imagine) and the crowd mostly aged. This casino was brighter and not as loud as the others I visited.

10:05 am - Three down, one to go. Time to skedaddle. Besides, my SUV's tank was running low.

10:30 am, Mile 737 - I stopped for gas in Paducah, where the gas prices were cheaper than Illinois (but not as cheap as Missouri). $61 bought me 18.2 gallons. And now it was off to Elizabeth.

2:15 pm, Mile 937 (EDT) - I was starting to lose concentration, so I pulled into an empty lot and recharged my batteries as best I could. At this point I was heading toward Lousville on 65 and figured I could use all the help I could get.

On the Western Kentucky Parkway, there were some falling rock zones with cliffs above the highway. I didn't expect that. Also, there was so little traffic that I occasionally had the highway to myself for at least a mile around.

2:55 pm, Mile 970 - The Horsehoe Southern Indiana wasn't too challenging to get to, though I wonder why the main throughfare to town was still just a single lane. I can imagine that getting very crowded at times.

No problem parking in the garage, though I parked a long way from the casino entrance. Eventually I got there and in. I swiped my card at a nearby kiosk then tried to find some video poker. I quickly found a 8/5 bonus dollar machine. The first hand was three 7s, which was nice. The second hand was four to an open-ended straight flush. Two cards would make me a very happy man...

Unfortunately, I didn't get either of them, so it just counts as another loser. The net was +5, which isn't half bad. So it turns out I won $17.35 on this non-gambling trip. I should do so well every time out. More important was the fact that I visited these four casinos, and you know what that means:

The casino seemed nice enough, but it sprawled over four levels, which was more than I cared to explore.

3:20 pm - Time to go. The skies had been clear and sunny most of the time and I hoped for more of the same on the longest leg of my journey - the one toward home.

5:15 pm, Mile 1076 - One last fuel stop in Whiteland, near Indianapolis. The fuel prices north of Indy were distinctly higher than those to the south. I filled up for $58 for 16 gallons. I also stopped at the nearby Arby's to put some fuel in my body. I wondered if I would get a case of the sleepies from my body concentrating on digesting dinner. That turned out to be not an issue. Six bucks for a combo meal.

We finally got the rain I had been expecting near Indianapolis. It turned out to be very little. By the time I moved 50 miles away from Indy, it was gone and the skies were sunny again. Though some of the roads were wet, indicating recent rain.

Also, there were a couple of incidents near Indy. Around mile 8 on I-69, there was a monster gum-up. It turned out that a stalled car was blocking the road and Indiana's finest were helping move it to the shoulder. And at exit 10, there seemed to be a billion people on both sides wanting to get off the freeway. Was U2 in town or something?

9:40 pm, Mile 1339 - Home again. I wasn't too tired, though that came a little later.

AFTERMATH - Between the fuel, the hotel, tolls, and food, I spent slightly over $300 to chase $600 in comps. Was it worth it? I suppose. This was a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. I'm probably never going to visit any of these casino again, but the comps figure to help in the places I do vist - Las Vegas and Reno.

You may have noticed that this only adds up to four. I'm heading to Reno soon and intend to pick up the casinos there and in Lake Tahoe. That will make six and max out this promotion.

Thank you for reading.


rdw4potus Aug 24, 2011

Looks like we were in Saint Louis and Metropolis on the same days, but at different times (I lagged you by about 6 hours.). When are you going to Reno? I'll be in Reno/Tahoe from 9/17-9/20.

fremont4ever Aug 24, 2011

Sorry I missed you. I'll be in Reno 8/27-30. I'll try not to break the bank for you. ;-)

DJTeddyBear Aug 25, 2011


I'll try not to break the bank for you. ;-)

What's with the defeatist atitude???

Go ahead and try! They'll just bring in another bank the next day...