When I awoke the next morning, I noticed on my inside/outside thermometer that the temperature (both in and out) was a comfortable 67 degrees. I motored a short distance into Susanville where the city limit sign posted boththe population (6250) and elevation (4200), a peculiarity found only in California. As I neared Reno, I picked up a local AM station with the appropriate call letters of KENO which happened to be forecasting a high temperature in the mid-90s. Suddenly, I recalled hearing a local station in Seattle reporting snow up in the Cascade passes, reminding me of how I had been blessed with so much cool weather in the Northwest. Actually, with the exception of Tulsa, I couldn’t complain one iota about how the weather had turned out, temperature-wise.
It was only an 80-mile trip into Reno where I checked in at the Sundance Motel where I had stayed on my maiden voyage in Ol’Blue back in the autumn of 1981. I immediately recognized the proprietors, Thelma and Lou, and asked them, “Do you remember me from five years ago when I stayed here?” Thelma answered, “Why sure, you’re that good-lookin’ guy in the blue Chevy van.” Her memory astonished me, but after all, it wasa mom and pop motel, not just a link in a huge corporate chain.
It was on Virginia Street, the main drag through downtown over which arched the famous sign flashing in neon reading: “The Biggest Little Town In America”. According to my up-to-date maintenance log, it was time to change spark plugs, so I checked Ol’ Blue into a nearby Chevron station for a tune-up. I pulled the Turin out, and pedaled around seeing the town, enjoying all the sights and sounds of Reno Casino. It was a perfect way to sightsee on my Patagonia, betwixt and between walking and driving.
I picked up a few comestibles at the downtown Mayfair Market, stashed them in the rear basket and biked over to pick up the van. It was a good feeling knowing there were new plugs in her. Back at the motel, I kicked back for a little R & R, watching an old B&W Humphrey Bogart movie. The room was commodious, yet Spartan with no frills, not even a phone! I couldn’t have cared less. The only Ma Bell connection was a telephone booth just outside the office. I noticed a young and attractive Hispanic lady using the phone. She walked back to the room next to me, and within minutes, a taxi pulled up and out stepped a stud muffin. I wondered, “Hmmm, could there be an “escort service” operating out of the next door room?” Hey, after all, it waswide-open Nevada.
After dark (I had never considered daylight hours to be conducive to gambling), I made my way over to the MGM Grand, a monumental hotel and casino edifice on the outskirts of town. The entrance canopy was a sight to behold, with tens of thousands of light bulbs illuminating the grand entry. Once inside, I felt like I was in the Temple of Avarice – multitudes hoping beyond hope to gain wealth with a spin of the wheel, a roll of the dice, or a pull of a slot. Well, I was in the middle of all the madness, playing blackjack and slot machines until I finally escaped with net winnings of $400.
As I strolled back to Ol’Blue, I noticed that the parking lot was saturated with RVs. It was a sign of the times – affluent America on luxurious wheels. When I finally got back to Sundance, I saw yet another taxi pull up next door. It was getting to be a round-robin affair. The outside light above her door should have been painted red. My better instincts told me that gal was definitely off limits. Fortunately, the shenanigans next door didn’t interfere with my sleep.
I said goodbye to Thelma and Lou, thanking them for a pleasant night’s stay, and then rolled my head back towards the “room next door” with a quizzical look on my face. Thelma instantly caught my drift, saying, “What she does in her room is her business. She’s never a problem. In fact, she’s our best guest, so we give her a reduced monthly rate.” I said, “Only in Nevada!” I filled up for just under a dollar a gallon, and continued south on U.S. 395 for about 35 miles to the Silver State’s capital, Carson City. Then it was west up a climbing and winding U.S. 50 to Lake Tahoe where I found an ideal parking spot behind Harrah’s Hotel and Casino amongst towering pine trees. I biked over to Raley’s, a local California grocery chain and picked up some delicious chicken chow mien take-out.
The sun was about to set, so I figured it was time to go gambling. Harrah’s was an anachronism of the old days when you could enter the casino directly off of Main Street, instead of having to negotiate spouting fountains, enormous pools, and glitzy porte cocheres. I played a little blackjack and pulled a few slots, then I biked down the street to try my luck at Caesar’s Palace, where I didn’t fare much better, breaking even for the night. Hey, it was fun, coming in with spendable money, and leaving not having lost the farm.
When I exited onto the casino’s front esplanade, I got one heckuva of a surprise. I had hitched the Turin to a metal fence, but a blatant thief had somehow ripped out the vertical fence member and absconded with lock, stock, and wheels. After the initial shock, I regained my composure and rationalized that the theft was maybe a blessing in disguise. It had become a tiresome chore of dragging the bike out and stashing it back inside, not to mention the cramped quarters when I got up in the morning. To tell the truth, I felt relieved. I walked back to Ol’Blue, and climbed in, thinking, “Ah, this is much better. After all, it was just a bicycle. I’ll get another one.”