Saturday, February 7, 2009

We have a winner...

We are at the Casino Del Sol on the Pascua Yaqui reservation in Tucson, Arizona (map).

It was only 3 o'clock or so by the time we hit Benson yesterday, and so we decided to come all the way to Tucson, making things a bit easier this morning, since we need to be just a few miles north of here at noon. Tucson is something of a winter RV destination, with giant RV resorts such as Beaudry (where we've stayed before) and Voyager, and so low-cost or free overnight boondocking options are very limited. Several Wal-Marts in town, for example, are posted No Overnight Parking.

Arizona is chock-full of native American casinos, and, when it became clear we'd be in Tucson, we looked in our printed guide, and Louise also called up the Casino Camper web site on the BlackBerry. We picked this one based on the reviews stating it was very RV-friendly and had several good restaurants within; we generally ignore the gaming reviews, since we don't gamble much.

Competition among Arizona casinos is fierce, and we've learned that, even though we don't do any gaming, it almost always pays to sign up for the frequent-player club card. In addition to possible discounts at the restaurants, first-time sign-ups often get cash or some amount of free play -- once, we got $15 in cash and a wrist-watch, and then only spent $13 at the two-for-one buffet. So our first stop was to the promotions desk to sign up for cards.

The cards gave us an immediate 5% discount at the restaurants. That's not a lot, especially since we ate in their most expensive restaurant, Italian-themed Bellisimo, where prices are inflated to convince the comp diners (possibly everyone but us) that they are somehow beating the house. The food was quite good, though, and they had an extensive wine list with some very reasonably-priced selections. Interestingly, they also had pizza on the menu (also available by the slice at an adjacent counter facing the gaming floor), which, at $10-$15 depending on toppings, is the bargain of the menu. The 12" pizzas will feed two.

The cards were also pre-loaded with $10 each in free slot play, which we opted to use after dinner -- in hindsight, poor planning, since we ended up carrying our leftovers around the casino. It turns out that you need to actually put some real cash into the machine in order to activate it, but we got away with putting in only $1 each. We sat down at a pair of video poker machines, which generally have the best pay-back, sometimes approaching 99%, intending to convert as much of the $10 funny-money into real cash as we could. I got my cash-out ticket for $10.25, and counted myself very lucky to walk out of the casino with $9.25 of other people's money

Then Louise came bubbling over to me with her cash-out ticket for $211.25. Gulp. Just by the luck of the draw, she hit four-of-a-kind, or something -- she only remembers hitting the cash-out button as fast as she could after the machine started dinging, and vaguely that she had a wild-card deuce at the time. So, to recap, we spent around $65 for dinner in the restaurant, put two $1 bills into machines, and walked away with $221.50, or a net of about $150 after allowing for the extra diesel we burned to drive here from the freeway.

Of course, you only get the sign-up promotion once -- the next time (if any) that we stay here, we'll have to content ourselves with the 5% discount at the restaurant. And we now have a stack of player-club cards at least an inch thick. But hey, you can't beat the parking deal -- there are perhaps a dozen or so rigs here, spread out in the parking lots for the amphitheater, an outdoor music venue which does book some big-name talent. I'm not sure what the parking policy is here when there is an event in the amphitheater.

Yesterday we had a very pleasant drive along NM-9, although we did have to pass several wide loads on the narrow road, one of which led to an exchange on the CB that I will relate in a separate post. And the stretch of I-10 between the state line and Tucson isn't all bad, either -- one of the most beautiful sections of the system, in our opinion.

After our scooter-viewing appointment today, we will continue north to the Flying-J at Eloy, where diesel is $2.059. We've come over 1,400 miles since we last fueled, in Jackson, MS, and the tank level is now low enough that neither the generator nor Webasto dip tubes reach the fuel -- good thing it's pretty warm here in Tucson. I'm pretty sure this is the farthest we've ever driven on a single tank, and our relaxed pace has gotten us some great mileage, close to 7mpg (our average is 6.3, so that's a 10% improvement).

Photo by DetroitDerek

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