The Free Vacation

riverside pool
Night view of the new outdoor pool at my free vacation in Nevada.

The air and hotel package at Don’s place (actually, it’s really known as The Riverside) turned out to be so fabulous, I’ve done it again.  In Laughlin there are a row of seven or so casinos along a picturesque river.  There’s a lot here to do besides gamble: rent a scooter at the Colorado Belle by the hour and scoot between casinos, or, for $5.00 jump on a water taxi that runs up and down once an hour.  (More, activities, too, just read on)

Don Laughlin has been offering his marketing package of four nights and three days at his place in Laughlin, NV., in certain geographical areas for over 20 years.  I’ve met folks from the East coast, too, who are repeat customers here.  Main visitors, however, are  from the Midwest from states like Iowa, Wisconsin and Iowa.  Majority come from the Pacific Northwest, but,  apparently you can come on Don’s plan, too.

The full package of airlines, hotel room, ground transfer of people and luggage to his casino is free if a person has used his King of Club’s player’s card.  Without the card, the offer is still available for $309 to $369 per person.  Phone number to call one of his ten reservation ladies is: 866-202-2293.

Riverside rooms are ultra clean, spacious, with top-notch bedding and river views.  Buffets are open night and day.  At the Riverside Gourmet Room, located on the top floor, the setting for dining is spectacular.  The uniquely shaped room features huge windows overlooking the river.  Another dining offering is the Prime Rib Room.  Read on for info on food.  There’s often a piano player at the Gourmet Room, too.

Sky Airline is the charter jet.  The parent company is located in Medato Heights, MN. The airline is little known even to the staff members at Spokane, WA. airport.  Maybe because it only arrives and departs once a month.

If you want a true bargain, there is one at the Hickory Pit Restaurant on the lower floor of the Colorado Belle, two casinos down a picturesque sidewalk from Don’s.  Between 4 and 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday, an advertised special is Steak and Lobster for $22 if you have the Belle’s player card.

My main course was served in a cozy dining room.  My server prepared a specialty salad beside my linen-covered table in a little dining nook.  The lobster was small, but larger than the one at Don’s, the filet super tender and moist, at half the cost.

At Don’s,  you’ll also swim in a glamorous pool,  bowl, view a classic car museum, try bingo, see a current movie theater.  The down-home friendly dealers who live in the area love their jobs and seem to have as much fun as the people to whom they’re dealing.  When I was writing my first western novel, Rusty Springs,  I visited many casinos to watch the interaction between dealers and their customers to do the research needed for the main character, a blackjack dealer in Winnemucca, NV. so I have some insight on this topic.

Flights are on a charter jet, so folks heading to Don’s are super friendly and it’s easy to feel as if you are flying to a safe little town in good company.






Sad Time forMigrants in Greece


(Tags: Poor, poor Greece. Failed Economy Still Reeling from WWII occupation, Its Open Borders attract migrants  like Afghanistan and Africa crossing Greece to Get to Europe.  James Angelos reports include economic and other conditions . . . photo by PhotoPin.)

Many countries face immigration today.  How are they doing?

Not well in Greece, apparently.  James Angelos, an American citizen of Greek heritage, reports on the financial and immigrant conditions, among other things, in his recently published book, “The Full Catastrophe, Travels Among the New Greek Ruins.”

I’d been laughing out loud as the book takes off.  He details the deep corruption in Greece each one more blatant than the other as he explains how the financial state of the country came to be.  He goes into detail about the “red envelope” system, one that contains money to soften a request for a job, a payout, the faster implement of a service.

One such malfunction of the Greek government was shown by it s payouts to an inordinate number of blind people in a small rural area.  European creditors who lent money to Greek when the country went bankrupt and were trying to help the country get back to economic health did an investigation to find out how Greece spent the money they gave them.

The investigation of the blind proved most were not blind.  It revealed a chain of people had been paid with red envelopes so they could be considered blind and get a payment every month.

Explaining the way the economy works in Greece, in chapter six, James then shares his report of the dysfunctional Greek immigration system.  For example, one route for Somalis involved a flight from Africa to Syria and then a hazardous trek across Turkey to Greek’s open border on the north.  “My country is very dangerous,” said one Somali, especially for young people.  Greece has peace and stability.”

He reports what Greeks think: “They dirty up the country.”

“We’re afraid.  If you were an old man and saw 50 blacks walking through the street past your house — and I’m saying very black – wouldn’t you be afraid?”  he asks the author.

James says, “I have just met a group of Somalis and there was nothing scary about them.”  Then another man intervenes,  “But, he’s from America half filled with blacks and so he’s used to it.”

“Sure,” added another Greek man, “But America is very big.  Here we are just one handful.  They’re going to fill up the whole country.”

Yes, Greece is poor.  It has 23% unemployment.  Civil servants who are hired for life who don’t work or come in and can’t be fired without a tribunal.  Unions which often call strikes.  A country where its people are now saying, “We’re Europe’s basement where unwanted migrants like Afgans are kept.”

Unknown to me was the fact that during WWII under the German and Italian occupation, 300,000 Greek citizens died of starvation.  Historical treasures disappeared.  Jews were shipped to camps and many never came back.  The food they grew was shipped to Germany.

Greece thinks its recent loans should be considered war reparation and not be paid back.

Meanwhile, the fleeing migrants find shelter in parks or abandoned buildings and try to find food in dumpsters.  Despite the challenging conditions in Greece for some even a miserable existence is preferable to conditions back home.  Greece’s dysfunctional  system has disadvantages so most find they can legally stay if they want.

Said one migrant, “Look all over.  Greek people are empty (out of money).  I am a foreigner.  Illegal.  How do I find a job?”  (He started selling cigarettes on the black market.)

One practice of Athens police who apprehend migrants is to release them 25 miles out of town.  “This is to make their lives as difficult as you can so that they understand that the time has come to get on a plane and leave.”




Cowboys, Horses and Chicken Wings

Horses wait for their owners while they dance at Filley’s. Superstition Mountain is pictured in the background at Apache Junction AZ.

It’s a wonderful roadhouse.  Come on in and have fun at Filley’s.

One of a kind restaurant and bar here that features country western bands.

Real cowboys.  Horses tied up behind a huge patio out back.  It’s a place to go between October and April to enjoy their huge roasted chicken wings or barbecued ribs.

You’ll find real cowboys, cowboy hats, boots, jeans and women who let their hair hang down.  Even a few children sit among the laughing crowd.

hair at filleys
It’s been here since l968.  Before that this rustic one-story building was among other things a thrift shop.

So many people now are moving into this once remote desert area.  It is growing so fast east  of  Phoenix that  another new round-about near Filley’s is rumored to be in the plans.  But travelers return here also to tell tales about the crowds of people now living in Denver, Sacramento, even nearby Mesa, AZ., saying about them, “Getting too crowded, too big, too much traffic.”  Even the Dollar Tree here is so busy  some of the shelves are bare.

Within a few years there will be so many rules and regulations that there won’t be any more real cowboys, horses or country western roadhouses like Filley’s.

Enjoy it while we can!

folks at filleys
Band leader is hidden. But, she is waving “howdy” to you.

(Tags:  Horses.  Phoenix area roadhouse.  Filley’s.  Real cowboys.  Country Western Music.  Longevity is question.  End of an Era?)


A Snow Bird in the Sun

Snowbird in the South
Seeking the sun, a snowbird from the North of the U.S. flies into Arizona.

Thousands of these resort communities in states like Arizona, Florida and Texas attract winter visitors.  Huge Welcome Home banners greet them upon their arrival.

One little bird flew into one with l053 little houses behind its gates in Apache Junction, Az.  He saw the view from this beautiful desert spot to the huge Superstition Mountain in the distance and knew at once this was going to be a special place in a sunny climate away from the ice and snow blowing up north.

He found birds from states like Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, provinces of Canada, and states like Oregon and Washington swimming in the pools, many getting fit with water aerobics or working out with the machines at the fitness center.

There were so many dazzling planned activities.  Folks were playing cards of all sorts in groups or clubs like Cribbage, Bridge, Hand and Foot.  Or, they were polishing up or learning new skills at silver, art, stained glass or crafts shops.

They were dancing to the newest country music in the huge recreation center, or  heading to a local Roadhouse where locals hitched up their horses and talked to real cowboys kicking up their boots.

The little bird felt like he was in college again.  Everyone was so friendly, greeting all with a wave as they’d drive by in golf carts, on foot, or  bicycles of all sorts of styles.

Local produce came fresh from nearby fields.  He couldn’t recall such brilliant color on veggies, grapes or oranges since summertime back home.  Now that the holidays had come and gone, every park was filled to capacity.

The youngest birds played tennis and a few tennis-loving birds called themselves, “Survivors.”  Many played the newest wrinkle in sports — pickle ball and each community seemed to be planning more courts to keep up with the craze.

As he was a curious bird, he kept his ears open to hear what these folks visited about.  He heard a lot of discussions about medical appointments, operations coming up – a knee or shoulder that needed attention. a trip for dental work four hours away at Mexican dental clinics.

A few might cheep about being something on television, or a project in the computer lab, but he did hear two men battling over who had the worst politicians: U.S. or Canada.  Politics or religion were rarely mentioned, although he could tell these birds did monitor what was going on in the world, only it demanded just a bit  attention.

It was a place in the sun, a quiet place, no children’s voices, just a place of being in the present time, no past or future for their concern.

Birds became acquainted by asking: Where are you from?  How long you been coming here?  Then, it shifted to what they were doing.

Time does fly and soon the little bird, like all Snow Birds would be flying away when April or May came around.  He’d look back with fondness upon leaving these friendly, easy-going birds of a feather.Internio

A Snow Bird Prepares for a day in the Sun.






Desert Camping – No Charge

Quartzsite BLM LandLand of the sky.
Unbelievable clear air.

Open space.  Unique landscape.  This is Quartzsite, Arizona.  Not many miles south of Los Angeles and near The Salt and Sea and Slab City in California.

Bureau of Land Management land.  No charge to camp.

Need water or propane.  Pick up your phone and order a truck for delivery – that’s if you can direct them correctly as all desert land isn’t the same.


Desert Camp

Wood is on the ground, branches and limbs from downed mesquite trees.  Priceless camp sites are available as far as the eye can see or feet to find.

Just remember one thing: in the spring the scorpions and Havana wild pigs wake up and may visit.





Cheap Little Ocean Cruise

victory_cruise_Port Canvarel.jpg.jpg

The top Groupon coupon provider in Florida is the cruise ship Victory.  It leaves twice a day, seven days a week, weather permitting, and travels three miles out into the ocean from Port Canaveral.

There’s a lot to their inexpensive cruises.  The entertainment and buffet are worth the $25 fee.  With a coupon, it’s $23.  You also have three decks with slots, craps, other table games like 3-card poker, black-jack, etc., but there’s no one stopping you from just sitting outside on a deck enjoying the sun, the stars, or watching a rocket being shot off another ship at sea.

The folks hired to serve you either a waitress in the cafe, or a gal bringing drinks, dealers or men in security are super friendly.

The ship was returning to port when I joined my son and the crowd who were gathered on the top deck sitting in easy chairs listening to the entertainers.  Vic Picone, leader of the musical four male group called Elegants, took the stage and introduced their 1950-1980’s music by saying, “I see we all went to the school at the same time.”

He went on, “In l958 we had a song that sold over five million copies;” then the group same “Little Star” which ranked number 16 on the top tunes of the year.


Tony Bender enjoys a buffet of ribs, chicken, brisket, sides and desert.

Call Victory’s main office: 321-799-0021 and tell Shirley Buchanan you’d like her to mail you a coupon.


Penultimate Ice Cream


When it comes to ice cream, I can’t think of any place better than Larry’s.

It’s a cozy little shop in St. Petersburg, Fl.,  sitting back on the diagonal behind a large parking lot just steps away from sandy beaches in the Gulf of Mexico.

That store’s been scooping up ice cream over 38 years with every flavor you can imagine  — even Italian Gelato.

My favorite, Butter Pecan, has a long history.  At six years of age, it was chocolate.  That changed when Dad said, “You can have as many chocolate ice cream cones as you want, today.”  I ate enough that afternoon to last a life time and I’ve never asked for that flavor again.

It really has to be Butter Pecan.  I’ll know immediately if it’s not.  In Great Falls, MT., when I was working there for the American Red Cross, a date returned with a cone.  I asked him to take it back and get the right flavor.  I could see that it was hard for him to believe it made that much difference, but he went back with the cone and returned, humbled, saying, “They made a mistake.  You were right.  It was Butter Brickle.”

Howard Hughes, too, had a special flavor he wanted his staff to provide every night when he was in residence.  They kept this favorite flavor on hand in a huge freezer and noticed the supply was running run.  Frantic, they contacted the supplier who said they were no longer making it.  In their haste, they contracted with another firm who made special adaptations to do so at short notice.

After they’d gone to all this trouble, Hughes said, “I’m ready for something different tonight.”

So set your taste buds on store for any concoction you have at Larry’s.


Inside the one-story building behind a huge parking lot are small tables and chairs that cluster along the left side of  long counters filled with ice cream and Gelato choices.  Sundaes like Peanut Butter Parfait or Banana Splits go along with a large selection of hot dogs, too.

Kids of all ages love Larry’s.  In a perfect work, I’d like to live next door to them.  Maybe like Hughes, I might finally have my fill of Butter Pecan and want to choose something else.  I might even want it served in one of their dipped waffle cones made with chocolate.







re are sundaes, too, like Peanut Butter Parfait or Banana Splits.