Sunday, February 26, 2012

Three cheers for the Orleans

We are at the Orleans Hotel & Casino
in Las Vegas, Nevada (map), just a block from B&B Coach Works. I had resisted coming here earlier in our Las Vegas visit because I had read on Casino Camper that they no longer permitted parking, but that turned out to just be an inexperienced user who apparently didn't understand the "wink, wink" practice of welcoming RV patrons while complying with city and county codes. Gary at B&B said he still saw rigs here daily, and we saw them ourselves on the way in to the shop.

Most of the clearly-marked oversize vehicle lot is angle-striped with 70' spaces for trucks, and has all the feel of a truck stop. Many rigs use the lot nightly, and I am guessing the hotel offers a CDL discount. The south portion of the oversize lot, however, has more conventionally striped (but faded) 40' spaces, not long enough for semis, and this is where most of the RVs park. It was pretty empty when we arrived Friday afternoon, and we selected a spot well away from the bustle of the hotel, but not right up against the street. There were no autos in this section of the lot.

Today, however, is a different story,
and we've gone from being in the RV ghetto to instead being in the dance mom ghetto. We are surrounded by cars, many sporting window-paint signs and slogans supporting the cheer or dance squad of the daughters within. There are several rigs here similarly decorated, including the classic Country Coach Concept across from us, and even one rig that's set up a table and chairs (thus breaking the aforementioned wink-wink contract) and which has had a passel of giggling cheerleaders milling around it since yesterday.

Our first indication that this was not going to be a normal casino stopover came Friday evening, when we went into the casino to eat at The Prime Rib Loft, a steakhouse just one notch down from the casino's high-end Canal Street restaurant. We had reservations and so had no trouble getting seated, but as soon as we walked on to the casino floor we were startled to see the whole place filled from one end to the other with preteen, tween, and teen girls, all wearing dance outfits that, frankly, would not have looked out of place in a production showroom on the strip, or possibly on the cocktail waitresses. While perhaps not entirely unbecoming on some of the older girls, it seemed strange in that only-in-Vegas sort of way to be seeing 10-year olds wandering a casino in skin-tight short-shorts, bare midriffs, and sequined halter tops with, umm, nothing to halt.

It was a good thing we had chosen the steak house and made reservations, because there were hundreds and hundreds of girls, along with parents, chaperones, coaches, judges, and an entire entourage. They filled every corner of the hotel, and long lines extended down the halls for all the more casual restaurants, including TGI Fridays, Fuddruckers, a Mexican place, the coffee shop, and the buffet. The Prime Rib Loft had a sign outside explaining they had added three low-priced ($10) entrees to the menu for the occasion.

That occasion would be, we later found out, the national finals for the dance and cheer organization Jamz, being held here in the arena attached to the hotel. The hotel is making a killing on this; in addition to whatever they are charging Jamz for the arena, they are selling rooms to the participants at $105 per night, and charging $30 a pop daily for anyone who wants to get in to the arena to watch, a sum which presumably only aunts, uncles, and close family friends might cough up. I fondly remember going to see my niece skate at events not unlike this one, and I suppose in hindsight I should be glad we didn't have to pay to get in to the skating rink.

Since we don't gamble or really take advantage of most casino amenities other than restaurants, it really did not bother us and we simply found the whole thing amusing (or maybe appalling, in the case of some of the outfits.) But this is a "locals" casino, and clearly some of the other patrons were annoyed. The poor security guards on the casino floor simply looked frazzled; we spoke to one, who allowed that he was glad he only had boys.

Seeing as we are staying in their parking lot for free, we again went back into the casino last night for dinner, this time selecting the Mexican restaurant, which does not take reservations. Mindful of Friday night's experience, we went at a time when we knew the lines would not be too long, and we only had maybe a ten minute wait to be seated. The food was actually quite good for an in-casino Mexican place. They seated a table of five women right next to us, whom I judged to be, well, judges. They ordered a lot of drinks -- I can only imagine what their day was like starting at oh-dark-early with a thousand screaming girls.

Friday was apparently the dance competition, and today is the last day of the cheerleading finals. I attempted to get a photo of what the hotel looks like with this sea of competitors, but it came out a bit blurry. I also snapped a shot of the practice area in a roped-off section of parking lot -- no way were we paying $30 apiece just to see what a live episode of Dance Moms looks like.

I am guessing it is much calmer here on "normal" days, but even with the cheerleading chaos, the parking lot has been comfortable and relatively quiet, and the casino has perhaps a dozen restaurants, including a moderate Asian place and a food court. There is also a cinema and a bowling alley, and, of course, gaming. It's a captive audience here -- there is nothing within walking distance unless you want to count the adult entertainment venue across the street, so they've tried to provide everything in-house. They do also run a shuttle to the strip and to the other Boyd Gaming properties in town.

We're not the only bus here today, as I spotted this nice older Prevost in the truck section of the lot, next to a pair of Jamz-related motorhomes. And there have been a couple of older rigs that have made multiple appearances, arriving nightly but spending the daytime elsewhere. It's been pleasant enough that we are adding it back to the list of potential overnight spots in Las Vegas proper, an ever-diminishing number. We've seen security several times but have not received one of their occasional "no camping" notes, but neither have we extended jacks or slideouts, telltale signs of "camping" that can get the hotel in trouble. Perhaps on some future visit we will try some of the other restaurants or even take in a film.

Tomorrow morning we will roll back over to B&B to see about having the water damage under the bathroom window repaired. I would figure that to take at least two days, so we'll be in this neighborhood a bit longer. We have some packages inbound to the post office and UPS customer center in town as well, as long as we're hanging around anyway.

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