Rule #1: Never, ever need gas in Baker. This picture was taken in a long-ago January when gas was $2 or less in Los Angeles.
Tod's tips for Las Vegas
Not that I know all that much, but I've managed to find these places, all of which I have checked out myself with one exception. Here goes:
If you're driving to Las Vegas, get in the groove with the Highway Stations, a collection of radio stations covering the Mojave between San Bernardino and the state line. The three formats are easy-listening, country and rock, and are loaded with ads for Las Vegas hotels and attractions, plus ads for places of interest along the road, mostly restaurants. The three stations are run by one overworked DJ who flits from station to station talking live between 10-minute music-and-ad blocks. The studio is in The Barstow Station, a two-story McDonald's by I-15, upstairs, by the bathrooms. The live traffic and weather is a service you can use... although alternate routes are few. Before you get inside the signal of the Highway Stations, be sure to listen to KOLA 99.9 in San Bernardino, an oldies station that has the best sound I ever heard. You'll think the bands are in the back seat with you.
To start your day in Las Vegas with a good breakfast, hie yourself out to Arizona Charlie's at 740 S. Decatur for the Sourdough Cafe's steak-and-eggs special for $4.49, 24 hours a day. You need a player's card, so go to the booth first. The place has a counter, so if you're flying solo, ignore the line and walk right in.
My most recent breakfast find is at the Sterling Spoon (formerly the Bougainvillea Cafe) at Silver Sevens (formerly Terrible's), at the corner of Paradise and Flamingo: The "Deuces Wild" breakfast (oddly enough, still called "Deuces Wild") is two eggs, two pancakes, and two sausages or pieces of bacon for $2.99. Available 24/7 and it was very handy for me when I was staying there.
Another good place for breakfast is the Omelet House, 2160 West Charleston Boulevardand two other locations. The waitresses remember when Frank Sinatra played the Sands, there used to be joke listings on the menu (one omelet offered black jelly beans and cost $75), and the homey atmosphere is a great way to start your day.
Fremont Street, early evening
Fremont Street, 4 am
Fremont Street, 4 am.
There is a steak special at Ellis Island (4178 Koval, at Flamingo, west of the Strip), a 10-ounce sirloin steak with soup or salad, vegetable, bread and potato for $7.99. It recently went up and they now require $5 of play to get the special. This steak special is not on the menu; ask for it. They also brew their own beer on the premises. 24/7.
The Hard Rock (4455 Paradise Road) used to have an excellent steak-and-shrimp deal at the Mr. Lucky's coffee shop. The steak was kinda thin and gristly last January and you get three shrimp (not four) with a cajun rub. It comes with mashed potatoes, but if you want a salad it's an extra-charge add-on. Last January the price was $7.77, but it may have gone up. It's not on the menu, so you have to ask for it, and you need a players club card but your server may not ask to see it. 24/7.
The Peppermill -- a small coffee shop on the Strip at 2985 Las Vegas Boulevard South, near the Riviera -- has big portions and friendly waitresses who, according to Penn Jillette, "all dress like divorcees." Very '70s, with neon all over the place. An adjacent cocktail lounge offers a full bar 24/7, and has a distinctive fireplace with the fire atop a swirling pool of water.
The recently-opened Bacchanal Buffet at Caesars is oh-my-Gawd incredible. Pricey (As you would expect from Caesars) with amazingly good food (As you would expect from Caesars.) The food is mostly presented on single-serving-sized plates and the selection changes, but the seafood bar looks like a constant (foot-long King Crab legs, anyone?) and the meat station was grilling bowling-pin sized rib steaks, had a chef carving pieces off what looked like the middle of a cow, and had little wagyu-beef sliders that defy drescription, because you can't say OHMYGAWDTHISISAMAZINGYOUMUSTHAVEONEOFTHESE with your mouth full. Dim sum. Mexican food. A dessert station with shot-glass sized tiramisus and parfaits, and a crepe station. Service is impeccable. I never had an empty glass and dirty plates disappeared as soon as the last morsel was eaten.
If you win big at the tables, this is the place to celebrate.
The Bellagio, the Mirage and Treasure Island all have excellent buffets. The Bellagio is a better deal at lunch than dinner, and there is a small bar where you can -- theoretically -- bypass the line and just sit down, order a drink, and start eating. Because it's a small bar, you can't count on this, but keep it in mind.
When you drive to the Bellagio, use this tip: Enter from the north side, off Flamingo Road. There is a small and attentive valet station and it is an excellent way to avoid all the activity at the main entrance. The side entrance is also right next to the Via Bellagio shopping/browsing area.
I've never stayed here but I've wanted to ever since I first saw that sign.
It's a hostel, now, offering budget rates on the northern end of the Strip between the Strip proper and Downtown.
The address is 1508 Las Vegas Boulevard South, and the website is here.
The Gambler's Book Shop, at 5473 S. Eastern, between Russell and Tropicana, has a book on every kind of gambling you can imagine. If you want to gamble, spend your first few dollars here and learn why putting all your money on 00 is a bad idea. They also have a website.
The Aria Resort & Casino has posted a guide to gaming that can be read and downloaded here.
My favorite Las Vegas Website is Scott Roeben's Vital Vegasblog. He ran a Las Vegas blog for Caesars and then moved out on his own. A little more straitlaced is Las Vegas Advisor, which I have been reading for years and was the original source for many of these suggestions: the ones on this page have all passed The Tod Test. The Las Vegas Advisor also offer a monthly magazine which has no ads and can pay for itself: With a $50 subscription you get a "Member Rewards Book" which has a $50 coupon good at the Palms. Plus a couple dozen other coupons for food discounts, match play, two-for-one show tickets and other offers.
And oh by the way -- in the pod mall across Harmon from the Hard Rock there's a place that will do your laundry and charges by the pound. The shirts come back on hangers, and the rest comes neatly folded in a paper-wrapped package. Saves you the trouble of schlepping dirty clothes home and doing laundry when you get back. I've been going there for years.