Legend came to life on the Las Vegas Strip in June of 1990 with the grand opening of Excalibur, the world's largest resort/hotel. At a cost of $290 million, Excalibur is a one-stop entertainment emporium featuring four 28 story towers, seven restaurants, two dynamic motion simulator theaters, an arena dinner theater and more than 500,000 square feet of combined public space.
According to legend, Excalibur was a magical sword embedded in stone. During a period of unrest and disunity in post-Roman Britain, it was proclaimed that whoever could pull the sword from the stone would be crowned king of England. After knights of highest renown failed in their attempts to free the sword, Arthur, a mere squire, succeeded. King Arthur's reign gave birth to the tales of Camelot and the Knights of the Round Table, and the Arthurian legend forms the basis for much of the new resort's plush decor. A castle with turrets, battlements, a moat and drawbridge are the focal points of this 20th century colossus. Public space inside Excalibur consists of four levels. The Medieval Village with picturesque shops and seven themed restaurants is accentuated with strolling costumed entertainers, from Madrigal singers to jugglers and roving musicians, the entertainer's antics provide unusual color and an authentic festival ambience.
The white fairy castle like buildings with colorful turret tops can be seen from afar and beckon anyone with even the least amount of curiosity to enter. Ron & I who love the Renaissance festivals couldn't wait to enter the realm of kings and queens. We walked from our campground (The Hacienda) which was next door but if you have ever been to Vegas, next door is a good distance off. Entering Excalibur through the front entrance reminded me of Disneyland. A moving walkway 400 feet long carried us over the moat to the entrance. All the while we were welcomed by a deep, mellow masculine voice. Whenever he said "Welcome to Excalibur", I felt like we were truly someone important. Authentic suits of armor and 10-foot high heraldic banners of velvet, satin and gold announce the entrance to the casino with over 100 iron and gold chandeliers illuminating the vast interior. Oh it was magical.
The gaming area was immense and busy when we entered. All of the casino employees are colorfully dressed in court jester type outfits. The casino boasts a gaming area of over 100,000 square feet. There are over 3,000 slot machines in denominations from 5 cents to $25.00, 78 Blackjack Tables, 7 Craps Tables, 6 Roulette Tables, 18 Poker Tables, 168 seat Keno Lounge, and a 240 seat Race and Sports Book.
It was dinner time so we went right up the grand staircase flanked by rainbow banners and tapestries to the Medieval Village. This level has a town effect with streets and alleys sprinkled with a colorful collage of enchanting shops and restaurants.
A walk around Bishop's Gate Circle brings one to Lance-A-Lotta Pasta with an interior of whim-sical treasures from Venice to the Eternal City of Rome, complete with Corinthian columns, colorful canopies and Egyptian palms.
Next door is Oktoberfest, a German Hofbrau. A watch tower flanked by stone arches overgrown with wild berries creates the exciting ambiance which is enhanced by wood trestle tables where patrons enjoy the Bavarian entertainment.
Turning up Palace lane is the Round Table Buffet. This medieval fortress is defined by barrel vaults and flying buttresses. The dining hall portraits depict the lives of the great knights of the Arthurian period. Past the sentry of 10-foot dragons, who guard the castle gate is the Sherwood Forest Cafe framed by a pair of gargoyles. Prominently displayed are the King's cannons and armory, romantic depictions of chivalry and colorful baskets of garden delights to whet the appetite.
In the tudor-style foyer of Sir Galahad's, a prime rib room, is a hand-carved Gothic maitre d'stand, dressed by a large mirror where the ghost of Galahad has been known to appear.
The Camelot restaurant,directly across from the Canterbury Wedding Chapel on the Camelot level, offers a sublime dining experience. Through a series of stone arches guests emerge on a large terrace overlooking the mythical Camelot countryside. A small turret, complete with its own fireplace, is also available for more intimate dining.
The first night we ate at the Round Table. What a feast! And all for only $3.99 per person and that included drinks, desert - the works. We were amazed at the amount of food they served and how fast. It was truly remarkable. Another night we tried Sir Galahad and again were impressed at the scrumptious meal which was served elegantly. The menu there is simple. One has a choice of four or five sizes of prime rib. Once the meal is ordered, salad is served on chilled pewter plates and the meat carver comes to your table with his cart when it is time for your entre.
We thoroughly enjoyed our meal at Oktoberfest. We were entertained by a German band and the evening was even more fun because Esther and Jack were with us. Yes, we also ate at Lance-A-Lotta Pasta and again were very satisfied.
Every time, we were near the eating establishments there, we were in awe of the numbers of people being fed. I inquired as to some numbers. Excalibur serves 25,000 meals per day on the average. All restaurants combined will serve the most meals per day of any single-building commercial establishment on earth. Some monthly food usage figures: 390,000 pastries, 330,000 bread rolls, 50,400 heads of lettuce, 27,000 Lbs of bacon, 18,000 gallons of milk, 9,600 Lbs of ham, 4,200 Lbs prime rib, 2,500 bottles of bloody mary mix, and over 4,000 cases of beer and over 850 kegs of beer. All totaled there are 3,068 restaurant seats in the Excalibur. To that can be added the 925 seats in the dinner show arena and 400 seats in the banquet room. How would you like to buy the groceries here?
Excalibur is owned by Circus Circus who has a number of Casinos in Vegas, Laughlin and Reno. On the news while there, we heard that they are planning another "Theme Park" Casino which will be built next to Excalibur. It will be in the shape of a giant pyramid. Gambling must be a good business because Circus Circus said they would pay cash for this new casino. Two other big theme casinos are going to be opening up in the next year. The owners of Mirage will be building a casino that will be based on pirates and those type of adventures. The third to open soon is the all "new and magnificent" MGM.
The Theme Casinos are geared to family fun. If you have ever been to Vegas, you know about Circus Circus and the live circus acts and carnival type games up above the casino. On the Fantasy Faire level at Excalibur, craft booths, medieval games, gypsy carts and two 48 seat magic motion machines can be found as well as King Arthur's Arena where the spectacular, "King Arthur's Tournament" is presented at two (975 seat) dinner shows nightly.
Vegas is a wonderland and while there it is difficult to believe this country is in hard times. Perhaps more money is gambled in times like these. We walked into Caesar's Palace and watched people play black jack with black ($100) chips and on each bet they had five to ten chips - (gulp!!! - that's a grand on one hand of cards). Oh and they would double too (that means double their bet if the first two cards added up to ten or eleven. There was a black jack table where the minimum bet that could be made was $500.00 and we wanted to watch but a guard shooed us away. Lots of money flows in this town and it is fun to watch but not much fun to lose and we did (but just a little bit).
Editors note 1999: Things change fast in Vegas. Although we still like Excalibur it is small potatoes next to some of the newer casinos. And the Hacienda is no longer there. They implode old casinos like we throw away old shoes.
Ron and Barb had spent a week in Las Vegas and had fun doing all the things one does in that city. As they were leaving, Barb remarked that she had had enough gambling and staying out late. Ron agreed. They got all settled at the Coast to Coast campground in Needles, California, and although it advertised being close to Laughlin, Nevada, these two agreed that they weren't interested. They had been to Laughlin earlier in the year.
One of the places they wanted to visit was Oatman, Arizona, so Sunday after church they took off. They spent the afternoon enjoying this lively ghost town. They left for home and at the T intersection saw that they had a choice of going back to Needles or just a few miles to Laughlin. "Why not?," Ron said. "Lets go and have the $3.89 buffet at the casino," and off they went.
Along the way, billboards advertised, "Every Room only $19.00" (at the Edgewater --one of the Circus Circus casinos). "Why not?," Barb said, "It'll be kind of fun and we would gamble $19 away anyway."
So, full of anticipation and excitement at being so impulsive, they drove the short distance to this friendly casino town.
They joked when checking in without luggage, that they would have the bell captain get it later. Truth was they didn't even have a comb or tooth brush, let alone luggage. After getting settled (?) in the room, they went to dinner.
Now that they were going to be in the casino for the evening, they thought they would try their luck for awhile. Barb watched the roulette tables but didn't like the numbers coming up. Both tried a little black jack and weren't successful. "If I lose five hands in a row, I leave the table," Barb said.
So it was, that they sat side by side at the quarter poker machines. Shortly after they sat down to play, the bells and lights went off just behind them. A lady got a royal flush, which is the big payoff on the poker machines. Ron and Barb kept getting full houses and even four of a kind. When either got to draw to three high cards in the same suit, they told each other so they'd have help cheering for a royal flush. But the right cards never came up.
Ron put the last five quarters he was going to play, into the machine (they play five at a time) and got a king, queen, and jack of spades. He didn't bother telling Barb and drew two cards. Up came the ace and ten of spades.
Ron said, "I thought I had a flush, but the bells and lights told me it was a royal flush." Ron started hollering, "I hit it, I hit it, I did it, it's a royal flush."
It only took a few seconds for Ron to figure that 4,000 quarters equals $1,000. Soon the attendant came over and gave Ron 10 crisp new $100 bills. Later Ron said that he had considered the small losses as entertainment, so it was no big deal, but now this put him way ahead and that was a good feeling. "Getting lucky doesn't always happen to the other guy."
Ron's luck continued the next morning when the two played the poker machines again. He won an additional $50. All in all, it was an exciting evening.
Barb said, "Our life is exciting anyway, but this was really something special. To me, it was just fun to check into the motel without any luggage. I felt like a kid. Everyone needs to do something like this once in a while and the fact that we got rewarded for it, proves it was the right thing to do."
The Horseshoe players at Emerald Cove donít exert themselves. They have long metal rods with hooks on the end to pick up their horseshoes.
Speaking of Emerald Cove, itís fun to hear the big band music as you wander past the RVís during happy hour. These full-timers are enjoying life. After supper they move to the recreational hall to play poker or bingo.
Itís hard to believe that we will have spent over six months in California this year. Deserts, mountains, seashores, sun, snow, cultural differencesóthe only thing constant in California is the high cost of living.
The triple bottom tandem trucks that we saw on the Utah freeways, wouldnít get past the border in Michigan.
If Los Angeles keeps spreading into the desert, pretty soon there wonít be any desert. Where DO they get all the water?
A gambling tip: Some of the quarter poker machines pay off slightly in excess of $1,200 on a royal flush. After I hit on a $1,000 jackpot machine, I learned that the casino only has to report winnings to the IRS of $1,200 and above. Subconsciously, this old accountant even picked the right machine.
Book update for Nancy Joy and Judy Richards. We have sent some material to a publisher, but expect that we will be publishing ourselves this spring when we are at Johnson City. Barb and I have worked out a marketing plan using seminars and special promotions.
In 29 Palms, California
When we picked 29 Palms RV Resort to be our home for Thanksgiving, we had no idea that we would feel like we were with family. As soon as we arrived, the Sunday before Thanksgiving, Jack Ficara made us feel right at home and when his brother Paul came to work later, he made a special point to come over and welcome us. Both wives, Rosa and Pina did the same. This new campground next to a golf course is as nice as can be - right down to the pool, spa, tennis and so on. This whole feeling of warmth seems to rub off on everyone because before the first afternoon was over, several campers had come over and introduced themselves and made sure we knew about card night and the dinner on Thursday. I could write a book about the wonderful couples we met there but sadly have to limit my comments to a few in This 'n That.
The Ficara families (three brothers and mother) prepared five big turkeys and all the stuffing for the dinner and all the campers attending brought a dish to pass. It was truly a feast and all the traditional items were there - everything from cranberry sauce to the sweet potatoes and the pies.
We happened to sit with two couples we hadn't met before and by the time dinner was over, felt like old friends. The Rossi's and Faust's are fantastic people.
Even if it isn't a special occasion, if you are ever in or near 29 Palms,
make a special effort to spend a little time at this campground. Besides
being a really nice place, it is close to Joshua Tree National Monument
and if any of you full-timers are looking for a place to work in exchange
for a campsite, call Paul (1-800-874-4548). They're looking for help. Be
sure to tell them we sent you.
Coffee shop in Las Vegas
Jitters Gourmet Coffee
Pawn shop near Bullhead, Arizona
J's Happy Hocker
While camped in Vegas, I thought of all of you who think of us "camping." In Vegas especially, that is as far from the truth as you can get. Remember when camping meant being in the wilderness with only the stars to light the night? There we were within walking distance of all the excitement and the stars were real people and neon lights. Hotel rooms are cheap but we had a bigger bargain at one dollar per night. Tough life!!
The Silver City Casino in Vegas is completely smoke free. That was a real treat. It is owned by those Circus Circus folks. I like their style.
We didn't just play around in Vegas. A tour of the Hoover Dam and Ethel M candy factory were highlights. I found a great Toshiba Computer place and got a lot of help. Got the old computer cleaned and lots of good information. Gotta be near big cities once in a while to get these kinds of things done.
Felix and Eloise Rossi from Suisun, Ca (near San Francisco) ate Thanksgiving dinner with us and what a special couple they are. To look at them, you wouldn't believe that they were celebrating their 58th wedding anniversary. He is a semi retired doctor and they don't do a lot or RVing. Both are excellent golfers though and do it when ever they can. We really enjoyed their company.
Also at our table were Mary and Vern Faust from Oregon. These full-timers are cute. I got a kick out of the fact that Vern just got himself a Nintendo game and loves it and Mary just bought herself a computer. She is excited to be learning all sorts of things. I just thought it was cute that they were having so much fun with their new toys and at their age...
At cards night (29 Palms), after we played a dice game, I taught Heather, Shirley, Corny, Virginia and Phyllis my favorite game - 100. Those of you who know this game can picture the absolute hysteria. We were all hurting so bad (from laughing) that we couldn't move.
Ron and I feel lucky to be able to meet so many wonderful people. People who are alive and enjoying life to the fullest. It seems these retirees we meet are having the best time of their life.
We stopped in and visited our good friends from Yosemite (Jim & Barb Bohn) who are campground hosting at Joshua Tree's Black Rock Canyon Campground. They are having fun too but it is too cold up there for me. And oh how the wind does blow. It is a pretty place and we enjoyed our hiking, visiting and lots of fresh air.
Speaking of Yosemite, we heard recently that Paul Pfennenger had to have eye surgery shortly after we left the park. It was serious but he came out of it with flying colors and is doing great. They are awaiting the birth of their first child later this month and we are anxious to hear all about it.
I get a real kick out of Ron now that he was a big winner at poker. As we were going into a bingo game at a campground recently, he said "Do you suppose they will let me in now that I am a professional gambler?"
I almost forgot that we saw the London Bridge when we were in Lake Havasu, Arizona (on the California Border near Arizona). I think it looked out of place in the desert and loved the old pictures of it in it's old home in England better.
I think that the time has come for me to really diet. Now that we are back in California, the grocery prices are enough to make you hate to even think of eating. And there's no eating out either. $$$$$
Don't forget that this newsletter will be a little late next month too. Lets just say that from now on we will mail it on or about the 7th of each month.
Well, this brings to a close our second year of Movin'On. It wouldn't
be here if it wasn't for your great support and letters. We look forward
to many more issues. Thank You and have a Very Merry Christmas and Happy
1. Lake Mead National Recreation Area, which is located in both Arizona and Nevada, is formed by what famous dam backing up the Colorado River after its journey through the Grand Canyon?
2. The great American Bison, the largest land animal in North America, is found protected in what five national parks?
3. Which State has the most National Park Service sites?
4. Isabel Bassett, one of the first woman park rangers, was appointed in 1920 in what national park?
5. The lowest point in the United States is located in what well-known
1. Hoover Dam, Boulder City, Nevada.
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