Thursday, March 31, 2016

Fort McDowell Casino ~ Arizona!

     Fort McDowell Casino!
     Touring all of the scenic National Parks, monuments and historic old west sites in Arizona can take several months.  Arizona is a mighty big territory to cover.  Because I have been working in this state for a few months, there has been plenty of opportunities to hit the road to numerous destinations on days off.
     Gas prices have been low enough in recent months to make taking a day trip venture a fairly good entertainment bargain.  This evidently is so, because many National Parks in the Southwest are seeing endless lines of rental cars stacked up waiting to pay entrance fees.  The increased vehicular traffic at primary tourist destinations, like the Grand Canyon, can cause visitors to scratch their heads and wonder why they are stuck sitting in a Los Angeles style traffic jam for hours out in the middle of nowhere, instead of enjoying the great outdoors for a whole day like they intended to do.  Such is the nature of primary tourist destinations when gas prices are low.
     Some tourists exercise a bit of strategy when planning a trip in the Southwest when fuel prices are cheap.  National Parks are always in the limelight and they are most often featured on the cover of tourist brochures, so it is easy to imagine that maybe avoiding the National Park scene is a good option, especially if time is a limiting factor.
     Other than the Grand Canyon, are there any other worthwhile tourism options in Arizona?  Yes!  Arizona offers hundreds of secondary scenic destinations that are well worth visiting.  From one end of the state to the other, there are plenty of scenic sights to see that the big crowds tend to overlook.  
     Oddly enough, because less traffic will be found away from the primary tourist destinations, it is possible to visit several secondary destinations all in one day.  Since gas prices are low, doing the extra miles does not take a big bite out of the wallet and the open road scenery certainly is nice to take in.  All it takes is looking at a map and connecting a few dots, to come up with a travel strategy that allows visiting several worthwhile places while beating the crowds.  Sometimes an unexpected surprise pops up along the way.  Old saloons, traditional western style steakhouses and tribal casinos are perks of the open road that are usually worth checking out.
     On a day off a few months ago, I set a course for the Superstition Mountains just east of the Scottsdale and Phoenix metropolitan areas.  The Superstitions are a legendary place that is a source of volumes of old west lore.  Nestled near the scenic mountain range was the Superstition Mountain Museum, the remnants of the old Apacheland western movie set and Goldfield Ghost Town.  Needless to say, I spent the entire day checking these places out and as expected, there were no long waiting lines or traffic jams.
     Since the day trip strategy of soaking up as many secondary destinations as possible went well and there was no stress, I figured that one more stop on the way home was well within order.  After typing the word casino into the mapping device, a few options popped up on the screen.  The Fort McDowell Casino was along the planned route, so I gave this Yavapai Tribal casino a try.
     The first thing that folks tend to ask about tribal casinos kind of goes like, "I have never been to a Native American Casino.  Whats it like?  I mean, is it like Vegas?"  All I can say is that one simply must check these casinos out for themselves, in order to grasp what it is like.
    The Fort McDowell Casino is a nice place to experience some cultural exchange and there are historical exhibits on the grounds.  The casino offers live entertainment and special events.  There is a huge bingo hall and the slot play is upbeat.  Fort McDowell has a locals style casino atmosphere and good food specials too.  While fiddling around with a poker machine I actually won a little jackpot and celebrated by getting a Las Vegas Sushi Roll, before hitting the road home!  
     The Fort McDowell Casino is located at 10424 North Fort McDowell Rd in Fort McDowell, Arizona.  This location is east of Scottsdale and it is fairly close to Apache Junction.  The Wekopa Resort & Conference Center is a state of the art facility that is located adjacent to The Fort McDowell Casino.                  

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Death Valley National Park!

Created with flickr slideshow.

     Death Valley National Park!
     Early spring is just about the last chance to find comfortable temperatures in Death Valley.  In this desolate region of the Southwest, the thermometer moves well into the triple digit range long before summer.  By the time the first week of June rolls around, Death Valley is relegated to being hell on earth.  
     I can personally attest to how extreme the heat is, because I was contracted to work at a resort in Death Valley a few years ago from June through August.  The temperature in the shade usually ranged between 124ºF and 131ºF in June and early July.  The extremely hot air temperature actually is nothing, when compared to the ground temperature index.  The summer ground temperatures usually ranged from 165ºF to 185ºF.  This is hot enough to melt the rubber soles on a pair of sneakers!  
     This winter was a rough one out west and plenty of snow landed on the higher elevations.  Some of the low elevation areas got substantial amounts of rainfall and such was the case in Death Valley.  When it rains in the desert, the desert literally comes to life.  The winter of 2016 brought enough rain to Death Valley to cause one of the rarest wildflower blooms in history.  Many areas of Death Valley were blanketed with wildflowers as far as the eyes could see.  
     The tail end of the Death Valley wildflower event can still be experienced.  Death Valley is a very large National Park and there are many diverse microclimates where unexpected pockets of wildflower blooms can be found this time of year, before the heat of summer returns this area back into a state of desolate wasteland.
     The diversity of Death Valley is kind of the theme of the photo slideshow in today's article.  Some of the photos were taken during a visit during the winter season.  The weather was as arid as usual that winter, yet when looking closely, plenty of greenery can be seen in the Death Valley landscape.  A few odd photos from the summer that I worked in Death Valley are also in the slideshow.  That summer just happened to be one of the wettest in Death Valley history, so once again some green can be noticed in the desolate scenery.     
     The car travel season traditionally begins on Easter weekend.  As expected, many National Parks will be crowded beyond their maximum capacity.  The one good thing about Death Valley is that this National Park covers so much ground, that even on a busy day it never seems crowded.  When combined with fairly mild temperatures, this is all the reason in the world for taking a scenic drive through Death Valley this time of year! 

Thursday, March 17, 2016

New York-New York ~ Las Vegas!

     New York New York!
     When in Las Vegas, why not visit New York?  Yes, the Big Apple can be found in the heart of the Las Vegas Strip!  
     There is no mistaking the New York City skyline that can be seen at the corner of Tropicana and Las Vegas Boulevard.  The New York-New York Hotel & Casino has been a landmark since 1997 and it is one of the most popular MGM Resorts International properties.  The classic New York City theme building is still well renowned as an architectural masterpiece.  This resort has seen many subtle upgrades that have kept this destination up with the times.  Like all MGM properties, New York-New York has set new high standards for sustainable design and this property has won many green awards.       
     Walkway bridges, trams and taxi lanes from all directions lead to New York-New York.  During peak hours, the pedestrian traffic is as hectic as it is back east in New York City.  Why is this city within a city such a popular destination?  Nostalgia and familiarity have a lot to do with it.  Visitors from the Northeast find comfort in familiar surroundings and New York-New York caters to this clientele base.  The other factor that contributes to the popularity of this resort is many people that live out west have never been east of the Rockies.  Going to the New York-New York Hotel & Casino is as close as many will come to experiencing New York City.
     New York-New York definitely is the New York City experience in Las Vegas.  The outside of this casino is not the only familiar sight.  Every section inside this resort is named after neighborhoods and places in New York City.  One can wander through the shops in Greenwich Village, do some gambling in Central Park and go get some chowder down by the waterfront, all within the spacious casino floor plan.   
     Thrill seekers will be happy to know that a modern version of a Coney Island roller coaster wraps its way around the entire New York-New York property.  If you ever wanted to see New York City up close and personal while doing upside down loop de loops, then The Roller Coaster is the ticket to ride!  This casino has many great bars and night clubs, as well as some of the first party pits in Vegas.  New York-New York also adds credence to Las Vegas being the entertainment capitol of the world.  The long running Zumanity is a Cirque du Soleil show that simply is a must to see.  
     New York-New York offers all the eateries that one would expect to find in the Big Apple.  Classic Italian restaurants, Fulton's Fish Fry, a superb pizzeria and a great steakhouse are to name a few choices of New York City style dining venues.  Even Greenberg's Deli can be found in the brownstone shop section and this restaurant serves up some good old fashioned traditional Matzo Balls.  Those who party a little too hearty tonight when celebrating St Patty's Day, may be interested to know that Matzo Ball Soup will ease the effects of world class Vegas hangover!
     Something new that people might not know about that have not been to Vegas in a while, is the T-Mobile Arena.  This new MGM property arena is scheduled to open soon and many of the opening events have already been sold out.  The T-Mobile Arena is as modern as it gets and this arena features many creature comforts that one would expect to find only in Las Vegas. 
     All said, I have been in New York-New York hundreds of times while living in Las Vegas and I still visit this casino when I make it back to town while on out of state jobs.  All I can say is that there is never a dull moment in the city that never sleeps, especially since this city is located in Vegas!    

Friday, March 11, 2016


Created with flickr slideshow.

     Nothing, Arizona!
     "No plans … Nowhere to go … Nothing to do … Well, okay!  Lets just do Nothing!"  
     Nothing, Arizona, is a modern ghost town that is kind of way out in the middle of nowhere.  Nothing is located on U.S. Highway 93 in the northern end of the Sonoran Desert between Wickenburg and Kingman.  
     Those who do the drive from Phoenix to Las Vegas for business, probably have passed by Nothing over a hundred times without doing much more than noticing the sun faded sign.  Tourists that travel this long stretch of road usually pass by without even noticing that Nothing is there.  
     The truth is that Nothing is just a tiny blip on the map and there really is nothing much of anything to see or do in Nothing.  The only remnants leftover from the heyday of Nothing is just a couple of old signs, a radio tower, a vacant building and a pile of torn up concrete.  
     Nothing began as an eccentric community in the mid 1970's.  The beliefs, dreams and work ethics of the residents of the original town intentionally added up to nothing.  Nothing was the theme of Nothing.  Yes, this may seem weird and farfetched, but thats how many post 1960's little desert communities were back in those days.  People that wanted nothing to do with the big city rat race found the space in the vast desert to make their dreams turn into reality, even if the dream was Nothing.
     Nothing is now officially a ghost town.  An attempt was made to revive Nothing about a decade ago, but nothing ever panned out.  Now Nothing is just an interesting place to stretch the legs and take a few pictures.  Nothing is nothing more than a place to get some fresh air during the long drive in this vast Sonoran Desert expanse.  
     Those who know that Nothing is there, mentally integrate Nothing into their travel plans just to get an opportunity to masterfully exercise the numerous ways that the name of this ghost town can be used in a sentence to create underlying meaning.  It does not matter if a person is traveling alone or there is a family van full of kids.  When the big sign for Nothing is seen, people naturally start using the word Nothing to describe just about everything in sight.  What is there to see and do in Nothing?  Nothing!  That is of course, other than thinking of crafty ways to express something about Nothing!