scouting report

I bet the mailman thinks that I’m the biggest gambling junkie in Davis. Every month I get offers from a ton of casinos. I think I’m a member of every casino rewards club in like a 250 mile radius. I’ve never played at most of those casinos. Most of them I’ve signed up for just to get a discount at the buffet, which I’ve hit up on the way back from some remote camping or backpacking trip.

Lately because of the economy it seems the casinos have been sending out a lot more offers. Some of them are pretty enticing. Red Hawk offers $50 of free play twice a week. I think I went there once for the buffet. I remember I was not impressed, so I never went back. But $50 is tempting. On an even money bet it comes to a $25 expected value, minus the house edge which would bring the expected value to around $24. That would cover gas and buffet, which would basically make it a free meal… Tempting…

Grand Sierra in Reno has been offering free rooms for a long time, so whenever I need to get out of town and stay in a hotel, I go there. It seems that the free room offers nowadays are tied to how much you play, so when I go I try to grind out a couple of hours on an even money game like blackjack. This time I learned how to play craps from Gid. I can see why it’s such a popular game. Lots of action for those who want to gamble, but if you play right it has the lowest house edge, and your money can last a long time. It’s good for those cheapo people like me who more or less play just to get comps. I’m hoping I can keep the free rooms coming through ski season.

During the winter there’s always skiing to fill out the days, but during the summer there there never seemed to be a whole lot to do in Reno besides eat and gamble. Or so I thought. While Gid and Joe gambled in downtown I went for a walk around the riverfront area. I had went down on a blackjack table way too quickly for my tastes, plus I was really full from breakfast buffet. There were a few people fishing, one guy actually caught the limit of five trout using crawdads. I walked to the Aces ballpark, it seemed pretty nice, and with cheap tickets watching an Aces game seems like a decent way to spend a warm summer evening. On the other side of downtown there was a little man-made whitewater park. It seems like a good place to go and bring some inner tubes and float around. There’s a little artsy district with some nice restaurants around the park and a nice little road biking trail that follows the river. I’ve gone mountain biking in the foothills around Reno before– it’s kind of barren out there, but it’s still a decent ride. Plus I found out that the old Fitzgerald’s hotel is turning into some sort of adventure hotel, complete with a rock climbing wall. So apparently Reno’s not all that bad for the non gambler.

On our way back from Reno we met up with some of my old coworkers from CalPERS to go hiking at Loch Leven Lakes. The timing was perfect because I’d be able to scout it out for an upcoming backpacking trip there. Plus it was cool seeing some familiar faces from CalPERS and meeting some new people too.

My DSLR camera was at work, I forgot to charge my compact camera, and my cellphone was broken (I ordered a new one but it hadn’t arrived yet), so I ended up bringing my old film camera. I’m anxious to see how my pictures came out (this picture was from Kelsey’s camera). I had set up my film camera right next to her’s, and then set the lever for the self timer. The sound of the mechanical timer apparently made Mary’s dog Reese curious, so he wandered over to my camera just before it went off. So now I’m curious what the picture looks like.

In a little over a month I’m going to be hiking half dome. My permit’s for the middle of September. It’s a pretty long and strenuous hike, so I’ve been trying to get as much hiking in as possible. So the next day I went out to Mt Tamalpais with Sam, my usual hiking buddy. I’d always wanted to go out there, I heard there were a lot of places to bike out there. There were a lot of road bikers on highway 1 and a lot of mountain bikers on the fire roads in the Mt Tam area. The singletrack was all closed to mountain bikers though, so there wasn’t anything really windy and fun that would require a mountain bike. I’m thinking I can bring my cyclocross bike out there one day and do both road and mountain, switching out the tires in between. That would be a fun workout.

My new cellphone arrived while I was in Reno, so I was anxious to test it out. I finally have a decent camera on my cellphone, with a flash so I can finally take indoor pictures. So here is the first shot from my new phone. It was taken at what we thought was the mountain theater, until we went further down the trail and found out there was actually a mountain theater complete with a stage and amphitheater style seating built out of huge stone blocks.

After the hike we were pretty hungry so I looked for a place nearby. I found a little burger joint on yelp. When we got there we found that it apparently was featured on the Food Network’s “The Best Thing I Ever Ate,” and Bobby Flay had named it the best burger joint in the bay area.

I ordered a pearl burger, which was a cheeseburger with bacon, grilled onions and bleu cheese. The meat was pretty good, they cooked it to the perfect rare that I like, and they even had options to upgrade to local grass fed beef and even kobe beef. The bacon was good quality stuff, thickly sliced with a nice smoky flavor, which contrasted well with the sharpness of the bleu cheese. The onions were nicely caramelized and the buns, like all good buns, were nice and warm and soft and deliciously squeezable. All in all, it was a good burger. But probably not the best thing I ever ate.

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