Sigma Derby: Old Fashioned Low Rolling at The D

Sigma Derby The D Vintage VegasNormally I tend to play casino games that offer the best possible odds, in hopes of stretching my gambling dollar and maybe earning a few comps. However, there is one casino game I like to play just for the fun of it – Sigma Derby. The very first casino game I ever played (yes, a very long time ago) was a Sigma Derby machine. I played about an hour on a roll of quarters and actually walked away a few dollars ahead. Beginner’s luck, but I was hooked. After that I looked for that machine in every casino I entered – but over the years they’ve become harder and harder to find.

For those that don’t already know, Sigma Derby is a large, multi-player, electromechanical horse racing game. There are very few of these machines left in the world, and only two that I know of at casinos in Las Vegas. One is on the Strip (in the MGM), and the other is the centerpiece of the new “Vintage Vegas” gaming area at The D. The first time I wandered up the outdoor escalator and into the second floor of The D, I saw their Sigma Derby machine in all it’s glory. On an otherwise quiet afternoon on Fremont Street, this particular machine was flooded with action. All (ten) seats were taken, and there were people behind some of the players cheering on the game and waiting for a seat. I didn’t feel like waiting, so I changed a ten for a roll of quarters and vowed to ride that escalator each time I got near it, until I found an open seat waiting for me. Later that night my persistence paid off.

Sigma Derby table at The DSigma combines the effortless play of a slot machine, the excitement of a horse race and the comradery of a table game. Each race, five plastic horses make their way around an oval track that’s set into the table glass. The machine makes galloping noises, and the plastic horses vary their pace throughout the race, just like real horses – often ending in a near photo finish. Bells go off, the winning numbers are displayed on an old, rudimentary red digital display, and the people around the table cheer and curse. Winnings (anywhere between 2 coins and 200 coins per coin bet) make a lovely old-fashioned clickety-clack as they drop into the coin hamper. (The machine at The D is set to hold your coins until you cash out, but a lot of people like to hit the button after each win to hear that classic coin-drop sound.) A few seconds later, the odds for the next race are posted and players get roughly sixty seconds to place their bets before it starts all over again.

Check out this video of the Sigma Derby game in action:

There are ten “quinella” (first and second horse, any order) bets available on each race, and the odds are shown for each quinella before the race starts. Each race offers different odds. Some races the best possible payout is thirty for one, some it’s two-hundred for one. Anywhere from one quarter to twenty can be played on each combination. With ten seats at the table and ten possible winning combinations, there’s a winner almost every race. With a max bet of twenty quarters ($5) and max odds of 200 for one, there’s no need to worry about W2Gs, the biggest jackpot possible is only a thousand bucks.

My biggest win of the hour!

My biggest win of the night!

The odds, by all estimations, are horrible. I was very lucky to walk away a winner the first time I played this game, oh so many years ago. But I still play it. It’s low limits, it’s vintage, and it’s a hoot. In the same way that black chips don’t seem quite the same as hundred dollar bills at the blackjack tables, twelve credit wins ($3) seem much more exciting than the dollar amount would warrant, when playing this unique machine. Especially if you and your table-mates have had a few drinks. And, drinks you can have!

The table service at the Sigma Derby machine in The D was as fast and friendly as any table I have played at in downtown Vegas. Even though I only played a quarter or two a race for quite a few races, the drinks kept coming as fast as I could drink them. I slowly lost my ten dollar stake, but that ten spot (plus a toke a drink for the cocktail waitress) bought me well over an hour of entertainment. At times the Sigma Derby table gets as rowdy as a craps table with a hot shooter, and I can only imagine how crazy it must get if that two-hundred for one hits… There’s rarely anyone at the table that doesn’t have at least a quarter on that combo when it’s available.

Save me a seat!

Save me a seat!

If you can be truly disciplined, and stick to one quarter a race, a roll of quarters would last an hour – even if you never won a race. It’s simple mathematics – there are forty quarters in a roll and forty races in an hour. Where else in Vegas can you play for an hour, get great cocktail service and only risk ten bucks in the process? Get up to the vintage gaming area on the second floor of The D and play the Sigma Derby machine while it lasts. It’s the other “most fun you can have for a quarter” in Vegas. Oh, and save me a seat!

The D Website: www.thed.com

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Red Rock Canyon Part 3: Hiking the Calico Tanks Trail

Red Rock Canyon Visitor CenterThe Calico Tanks Trail is a moderately strenuous two and a half mile (round trip) out and back hike through the valley and up the Calico Ridge. It took us about two and a half hours to complete the hike, including photo and rest stops. Your mileage may vary. I would recommend wearing hiking boots, though it is possible to traverse in sneakers. At minimum, you should bring plenty of water, a snack, a flashlight, a camera, and a hiking buddy. This time of year, early morning is probably the safest and most comfortable time to go – it can get very hot during the day and there is limited shade along this trail. You may just want to save this hike for when things cool off a bit.

Red Rock Canyon Calico TankWe did the hike one afternoon in early February. Weather-wise, Spring or Fall would be the best time for this hike. That gives you plenty of time to plan. Refer to the Red Rock Canyon Interpretive Association website for park hours and admission rates.

Upon arrival, it’s worth stopping at the visitor center before you start so you can use the facilities and get up to date information and advice from one of the friendly and informative guides. That’s how we found out about this fantastic hike in the first place. We asked for an easy to moderate hike that could be accomplished in 2-3 hours in sneakers. After getting an idea of our fitness and experience levels the guide told us about the Calico Tanks Trail. She said that visitors from outside of Las Vegas tend to enjoy the view at the end of this out and back hike. I think she may have downplayed it a bit.

Red Rock Canyon Calico Tanks TrailYou can access the Calico Tanks Trail from the Sandstone Quarry Trailhead. This is the third parking area past the visitor center, off of the scenic loop road. Like most hikes in Red Rock Canyon, Calico Tanks Trail provides interesting biology and geology with beautiful panoramic views along the way. The hike follows a sandstone path, then climbs towards the Calico Ridge over slick stone and boulders. There are a few mild ridges, and the trail requires some scrambling. There are stairs cut into the steeper sections.

The reason I recommend this particular hike is the payoff at the end. The Calico Tank is kind of neat. It’s large pool of collected water in the middle of the desert. Maybe you could get a cool photo with the mountains reflecting off the surface or something. You might see some small fish in the tank, or a larger desert animal stopping for a drink. But, this isn’t the real reason for hiking all the way out here. When you reach the tank, don’t turn back yet – the best is yet to come. Hike up around the saddle to the right and just beyond the tank…

The ultimate picnic spot!

The ultimate picnic spot!

For the most amazing panoramic view of Las Vegas! You can see the valley below, you can see the downtown Fremont Street casinos. You can see the strip from end to end. It’s breathtaking! There are a couple of well placed flat rocks that are perfect for a little picnic (don’t forget, leave no trace). It’s not the easiest or the shortest hike in Red Rock, nor is it the highest or most challenging. But as far as effort / reward ratio, this hike is a jackpot win! Plan some time to soak it all in, get some photos and relax a bit. Just remember to turn back before it gets too hot (especially in summer), or too near to closing time. I hope they will offer a guided night hike out here so I can take in the view at night!

Click to view the full-size panorama (8000 x 1166 pixels)!

Click to display full-screen and click again to view the full-size panorama (12883 x 1878 pixels)!

Tips:

  • Really, if you haven’t already done so, click the panoramic image above. If that doesn’t convince you to go on this hike, nothing will!
  • The Bird and Hike website offers a great detailed trail guide for this and many other Las Vegas area hikes. Print it out before you go.

Website: www.redrockcanyonlv.org

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Related:
Red Rock Canyon Part 1: Driving the Scenic Road
Red Rock Canyon Part 2: Guided Night Hikes

The Shelby Museum: A Free Tour No Motorhead Should Miss!

Shelby Museum 2005 CS6 PrototypeAmerican swagger… the kind of conviction that makes you think “You know what that blender needs? A 500 horsepower small-block V8!” Well, in the 1960’s a bold racing driver named Carroll Shelby looked at the nimble little sports cars of AC motors in Britain and had a similar thought. This eventually gave birth to the CSX2000 (Carroll Shelby eXperimental) and Shelby was kicking ass and taking names on racetracks all over the US. With Shelby’s help soon the USA (Ford) was beating the Europeans (Ferarri) at their own game: the 24 hours of LeMans!

Shelby American, at 6755 Speedway Boulevard, near Las Vegas Motor Speedway is both a factory and a museum. Arrive by 10:15 in the morning Monday through Saturday for their free guided tour and you’ll get to see some amazing metal, and learn a few things you might not have known about the man (Carroll Shelby) and his machines. This is where the current model Shelby machines are assembled, and you’ll get to see examples of each on the showroom floor, as well as the shop where they come to life.

The first Shelby Cobra

The first Shelby Cobra

The museum is home to the very first Cobra ever built, possibly the world’s most valuable sports car. This is the car that put Shelby on the map. It’s currently blue, but has countless coats of paint in a rainbow of colors. To find out the fascinating story behind why there are so many coats of paint on this car, you’ll have to take the guided tour.

But that’s not all. There’s Shelby cars from each of the last five decades. There’s a hand polished bare aluminum Cobra that shows every speck of dust and fingerprint. There’s an original 1966 model and a more recent 2007 model of the Shelby GT-H, a car that was built specifically as a rental car for the Hertz company. In the tour they reveal some of the lessons learned by Hertz and Shelby in this experiment renting 300+ horsepower Mustangs to the general public. As you might imagine, there were a few hiccups.

Shelby Series 1 (rare, 249 built)

Shelby Series 1 (rare, 249 built)

They have an example of the only car Shelby designed from the wheels up, the Shelby Series 1. They even have the red-headed stepchild of the Shelby empire – a Shelby Dodge Omni GLHS (yes, that’s the 80′s econobox, and the GLH stands for Goes Like Hell!). Many of the cars are pristine, roped off, museum beauties and the tour is both educational and entertaining.

Dodge Omni GLHS

Dodge Omni GLHS

For those that don’t make the tour, there are signs describing the cars on display, and there’s a timeline of Carroll Shelby history on the wall. It’s all very nicely laid out, and can be toured in about 20 minutes (the guided tour is about half an hour).

If you are even vaguely interested in cars, Carrol Shelby or American ingenuity in general then this tour is well worth the time, and the trip. Did I mention it’s free?

The Shelby GT-H was build exclusively as a rental car for Hertz.

The Shelby GT-H was build exclusively as a rental car for Hertz.

  • If you want to buy something with the Shelby name on it, this is the place. From $15 t-shirts to $100,000 supercars, they’ll be happy to sell you your own piece of automotive history.
  • Smile, you’re on webcam. There is a 24/7 webcam in the showroom. Your tour will pause to give the interwebs a wave. Better look your best!

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Red Rock Canyon Part 2: Guided Night Hikes

Red Rock Canyon Night HikeProbably the safest and most educational way to hike in Red Rock Canyon is to join one of their many guided hikes (free with paid admission to the park, $7 per car). These hikes are led by a qualified guide from the Red Rock Interpretive Association. They require advance reservations, a waiver of responsibility, and a commitment to stay together as a group. With these requirements satisfied, they offer many hiking experiences that would not be available to solo hikers. One such experience is to hike at night when the park is otherwise closed.

I discovered the Moenkopi Nocturnal Animals Night Hike led by Aaron Leifheit in the events section of the Red Rock Canyon Interpretive Association web page and called about two weeks in advance to book our hike. My reservation was confirmed and I was given a time and location to meet up with the hike. I was told to bring water, a snack and a flashlight. Although this wasn’t mentioned to me over the phone, having completed this hike I would also recommend wearing hiking boots. I was glad I did. The hike was mild enough that it could have been completed in sneakers, but the added traction and support of hiking boots made me feel safer and helped me enjoy the hike more.

We arrived about fifteen minutes ahead of the scheduled meeting time, which gave us enough time to use the facilities, pack the aforementioned water, snack and flashlights, plus a camera, sign the waiver and meet our guide. Aaron made sure everyone from the reservation list had arrived, that we all had everything we needed, and that we were all physically capable of completing the hike. He identified one regular hiker to use his radio to get assistance should something happen to him, and laid out the ground rules: Everyone stays together, stay on the trail, etc.

Red Rock Night Hike Yucca in BloomThen he reached into his bag of tricks and pulled out two “bat detectors”. These are small electronic devices that pick up the sounds that bats make and translate them into a lower frequency that humans can hear. He engaged the two children in our hiking group, lending them the detectors, showing them how to use them, and asking them to use them to help us “hear” any bats that we encountered on the hike. He also produced a special UV flashlight. This flashlight, he said, would cause scorpions to glow blue. He gave the children a stern safety talk about not shining the UV light at anyone, including each other, asked their dad to keep an eye on them to enforce this, and gave them the shared responsibility of finding scorpions. Both children were engaged and well behaved throughout the hike, and I’m sure that Aaron and his bag of tricks had a little something to do with that. Sadly, we never saw any scorpions.

Red Rock Night Hike Joshua Tree in BloomOur first stop on the hike was beside a yucca tree. Aaron again engaged the children, asking what the plant was. He explained that this was a rare opportunity, as the time and weather were just right for the yucca, and it was in bloom. It hadn’t bloomed in two years. He also pointed out a nearby joshua tree that also was blooming. Aaron glowed with enthusiasm, and it was contagious.

We continued on our hike, crossing the scenic road and dropping down into a valley where one of the more than forty (according to Aaron) natural water sources in the park lie. Just before we began our descent, Aaron gathered the group and brought out a plastic case containing tiny bat skull from his bag of tricks. He talked a bit about the bats, how they are the only mammals that fly, Red Rock Night Hike Water Sourceand gave a few other interesting facts while one of the children showed off the skull to each member of the group. Then we made our way to the water source. Here we encountered the bats. The kids aimed their detectors so we could hear them and I aimed my camera, trying to catch a picture of one. It’s not as easy as I thought, but I did get one picture that is clear enough to tell it’s a flying bat – barely.

Red Rock Night Hike - BatHiking back up out of the valley we caught some glimpses of the city lights off in the distance. It was completely dark now, the park was closed, and we were using our flashlights to see where we were going. We stopped to rest for a moment and Aaron brought out another skull from his pack – this time it was the skull of a horned owl. One of the kids showed it around while Aaron told us a bit about how an owl sees and hunts in the darkness.

We continued along the trail, down behind a ridge that shielded us from the city lights. Aaron stopped and asked us to turn off our flashlights – if we dared. In the darkness behind this ridge on this new moon night we were able to clearly see many constellations that could not be seen from the trail above, much less from the city below. We spent quite a few minutes there as Aaron pointed out a handful of constellations and told the stories behind them.

Red Rock Night Hike Wild BurrosWe continued on, heading back towards our original meeting point, and our cars. Along the way someone in the group saw a a movement in the distance. We stopped and shined our flashlights. Although Red Rock Canyon takes some measures to keep them out (because it can be a danger to both the wildlife and the people if people start feeding them) a family of wild burrows was wandering through the canyon, maybe fifty feet away. It was quite the sight.

Red Rock Night Hike Owl SkullThe entire hike took about two and a half hours over mostly easy trail. Our small group of a dozen or so hikers got a real treat – a chance to experience Red Rock Canyon in a very different way than most visitors. Aaron was a fantastic guide, keeping us all together and safe, teaching us about the canyon and why it’s so important to protect it, and most importantly, sharing his enthusiasm with us all.

Red Rock Canyon has numerous guided hikes throughout the year. Some are day hikes. Some, like the one I attended, are at night when the park is closed. Some are centered around cleaning up the grounds (a worthy cause!), some focus on the stars, some on geology, others on the wildlife that inhabits the canyon. Check their events page to see if one fits your schedule and give them a call for a reservation. It’s a great way to experience Red Rock Canyon!

Website: www.redrockcanyonlv.org

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Related:
Red Rock Canyon Part 1: Driving the Scenic Road
Red Rock Canyon Part 3: Hiking the Calico Tanks Trail

Red Rock Canyon Part 1: Driving the Scenic Road

Pontiac Solstice at Red Rock CanyonLess than half an hour from the mega-resorts that make up the Las Vegas Strip, Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is about as far from the strip as you are likely to get. Wildlife here comes in the form of lizards, burros and longhorn sheep. It’s quiet and peaceful here, and there is very little that is man-made. I have yet to spot a slot machine or a craps table here. So, if you’re looking for the perfect escape from the games, the resorts and the endless party that is the City of Lights – drive out here and you can get away from it all. It’s like a mini vacation. For the Vegas traveler, consider it a vacation from your vacation, so to speak.

The entrance to Red Rock Canyon is located just off Route 159 (West Charelston Blvd / Blue Diamond Rd) west of Summerlin. There is a small gate where you pay your entrance fee ($7 per car, $3 per motorcycle, cash only) and receive your park pass. Just past the gate to the left you will find a visitor center where you can pick up some souvenirs, learn a bit about the park and its wildlife, and get visitor information from one of their friendly, helpful guides. Restrooms and drinking fountains are available as well.

Red Rock Canyon Visitor Center

Visitor Center

The best way to experience the beauty and serenity of Red Rock Canyon is to get out of your car and go for a hike, and there are numerous trails of varying lengths and difficulties for you to explore – when you have the time to do so. I plan to share with you a couple of the trails I have enjoyed in upcoming posts. But, if you lack the time or the mobility to go hiking, there is still much that can be seen from the road.

Willow Springs picnic area, just a few hundred yards from the scenic loop road.

Willow Springs picnic area, just a few hundred yards from the scenic loop road.

The park loop road at Red Rock Canyon is one of the most beautiful drives I have ever been on. In fact, the photo I use for the Las Vegas Off Strip logo at the top of each page was taken while driving the park loop road (It’s okay, I was in the passenger seat at the time). The road is thirteen miles long, with lots of twists and turns and about a dozen scenic pullouts where you can stop, stretch, take pictures – even have a picnic. The speed limit ranges from 15-35 mph, and the road is one way, so plan at least forty minutes driving time – plus stops. I find that budgeting two to three hours gives me just enough time to stop and enjoy each of the scenic vistas along the way and get a few pictures.

Partial View From High Point Overlook

Partial View From High Point Overlook

If you only have time to stop at one turnoff, make it the “High Point Overlook.” It will be the fourth turnout after the visitor center. This is a large parking and picnic area at roughly the northern-most point of the loop. From here you get a stunning panoramic view of the mountains, and if the sky is clear (it almost always is) you might spot a couple of those mega-resorts in the valley below.

If you plan to picnic, the Willow Springs Picnic Area would be an excellent choice. There are a quite a few tables set up under a fantastic willow tree. There are also toilet facilities here. Wide pathways and gentle grade make this area (at least somewhat) wheelchair accessible. To reach it, take the second right after the High Point Overlook.

If you need a break from the loud, smokey, perfumed, artificial atmosphere of the casinos, take in some fresh air and beautiful mountain scenery in Red Rock Canyon. The short ride and small admission fee are well worth it. The road is well maintained and easy to follow, with plenty of places along the way to stop and enjoy the view. And unlike the rest of Sin City, the photos you take here will probably be safe to show to Mom.

Wild Burrows near the entrance to Red Rock Canyon

Wild Burrows near the entrance to Red Rock Canyon

  • While it may be tempting to pull off to the shoulder of the road, doing so is both dangerous and it’s against the rules. Use the designated pulloffs, there are plenty of them.
  • Do not feed the animals. Wildlife can become dependent on human feeding, and feeding them can also be dangerous. Admire the desert creatures from a safe distance, and keep your food for yourself.
  • If you are a fan of fast and exotic cars, keep your eyes and ears open. There is a sports car tour that comes through here regularly with Ferraris, Lamborghinis and other exotics. Go near sunset for your best chance to see them in action.
  • Sunset is the best time to see, and photograph Red Rock Canyon. As the sun gets low on the horizon it casts amazing shadows over the mountains and the desert.
  • Your admission is good for 24 hours, so if you miss something and want to go back you can simply re-enter the loop at the entrance gate.

Website: www.redrockcanyonlv.org

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Related:
Red Rock Canyon Part 2: Guided Night Hikes
Red Rock Canyon Part 3: Hiking the Calico Tanks Trail

Viva Las Vegas – Car Show

Viva_Las_Vegas_Car_Show-logo-carMany of my trips to Las Vegas have coincided with Viva Las Vegas. This hasn’t necessarily been intentional – Viva almost always happens the weekend of my birthday in early April. I can’t complain, though. In my experience the Viva attendees have been a lot of fun – both to hang with AND to look at!

Viva_Las_Vegas_Car_Show-Covered-Convertible-HotrodSince I usually have my own itinerary when I’m in Vegas in April, the only event I have attended (that is officially put on by Viva) is the car show. It is a four day event that takes place in the large rear parking lot of the Orleans hotel. It is a bit on the pricey side – last year’s tickets were $30/day in advance or $50 for the full 4 days. But, if you like cars, it is well worth it.

The cars are amazing! What makes this car show unique is that each car is a real work of
Viva_Las_Vegas_Car_Show-Truck-Harley art and a direct reflection of it’s owner’s tastes. No two cars are alike and, with over 700 registered cars, there was a lot to look at. I would suggest late in the day on Friday or Saturday as the best days to go. It seems like the majority of the cars arrive by Friday night and some people are starting to head out by Sunday morning.

Viva_Las_Vegas_Car_Show-Counts-Kustoms-BoothThere are also a lot of interesting vendors offering everything from clothing to art to burlesque items. There was even a tent set up for Counts Kustoms, a dealer of custom choppers and hot rods which has been featured on Pawn Stars and Counting Cars on the History channel. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to check out all of the vendors since a lot of them were located towards the back of the show. It took about a couple of hours to get through all the cars and, by the time I got to the rear of the show, it was closing time for the day.

I have so many pictures of this show that it is hard to pick and choose. I have attached quite a few images of what I felt were the more interesting cars. And, if you are ever in the area during the show, I suggest you check it out yourself.

Viva Las Vegas 2013 will be held on March 28-31 at the Orleans Casino. The car show is March 30th.

Viva_Las_Vegas_Car_Show-1949-Buick-SuperViva_Las_Vegas_Car_Show-1956-Ford-FairlaneViva_Las_Vegas_Car_Show-Lowrider-TruckViva_Las_Vegas_Car_Show-29-Dodge-Hotrod

www.vivalasvegas.net

Count’s Kustoms: The Reality TV Tour Continues…

Counts Kustoms EntranceIn a warehouse tucked in between I-15 and the Circus Circus lives one of Danny “Count” Koker’s many enterprises, Count’s Kustoms, yet another Las Vegas business to get the History Channel “Reality TV” treatment. It’s a bit harder to find than Gold and Silver Pawn, and not nearly as popular a fan destination – yet.

As I entered the parking lot at the site of “Counting Cars” at 2714 South Highland Drive I could already see Danny’s signature Gothic biker style dripping from the place. Blocking the entrance to one of the work areas was a custom half-height garage door made from welded rebar. There were antique cars in various stages of rust and restoration. The front door is tinted black with a three foot Count’s Kustoms logo. Just like Rick’s Restorations, there were (graciously) no lines outside the shop.

Counts Kustoms Garage DoorOnce inside, I found myself in a small dark room with a bank teller style window and a bright shiny computer in the corner. The gentleman behind the window informed me that I needed to sign in on the computer, then I could enter the shop through the door on the left. There would be no charge. The computer offered up a short, simple questionnaire – an attempt to collect some basic demographics on their visitors and an opportunity to join the “Count’s Friends” fan club. It only took a minute or so, and I did not find any of the questions terribly invasive.

Through the door was the main attraction – Danny’s collection of toys. There’s a pool table made out of a Ford Ranchero, a lineup of choppers and Danny’s collection of wild, rare and exotic cars. Counts Kustoms 1932 Hot Wheels Hotrod
There were a couple of cars from the show, and a lot from Danny’s personal collection. I spotted three Lamborghinis, two Corvettes, a 1932 Ford Roadster that was used as the model for one of Mattel’s Hot Wheels, a Shelby Cobra, a Shelby Mustang and even a Shelby Series 1. As expected, there are flames and skulls everywhere. Paint jobs are wild, with colors that wouldn’t look out of place on a Jolly Rancher candy. Over the center of the collection hangs a larger-than-life head-shot of the Count… perhaps a little ostentatious. Really, it’s all pretty over the top, but that’s what makes it so fun to see.

Counts Kustoms 1932 Ford Hot Wheels modelThe tour was completely self-guided, and photography was allowed. I could see into (but not walk into) a part of the garage where they were working on customer cars. It would be neat to see one of these featured on the show. Hidden tastefully behind Danny’s car collection is a small gift shop where they sell Count’s “7″ branded clothing and a few other nicknacks. Most of the shirts are $25-75. For a cheaper souvenir, you could pick up a skullcap (kerchief) for $10 or a sticker for $7.

On the way out I ran into Scott, the Project Coordinator. He was obviously very busy at the time, but managed a polite wave and a few words before returning to his business. Perhaps Danny was out chasing cars.

Tips:

Shelby Series 1

Shelby Series 1

  • If you want to see a Shelby Series 1, this is the place to go. Even the Shelby Museum did not have one on display the last time I visited.
  • This is a great hidden gem to take any motor-head (petrol-head, for my UK readers) to. There are roughly half a dozen choppers and fifty or sixty cars in and around the shop. The cars are rotated around a bit, so if you go more than once you’ll get a up close view of some different rides.
  • Plan about 15-30 minutes to tour the place and get some pictures. Unless they become overwhelmingly busy, this should be enough to get a good look at everything.

Counts Kustoms Forty-One

Counts Kustoms Caddy

Counts Kustoms Ranchero Pool Table

Counts_Kustoms-lamborghini

Website: http://www.countskustoms.com/
Related Articles:
Gold and Silver Pawn: Long Lines, Short Changed
Rick’s Restorations: Reality TV Take Two

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Pinball Hall of Fame: The Most Fun You Can Have for a Quarter

Pinball Hall of FameThe Pinball Hall of Fame is located in a large nondescript warehouse building at 1610 East Tropicana Avenue. There are easily a hundred pinball machines here, new and old, as well as a few vintage video arcade games. It’s like the pinball arcade you dreamed of when you were a kid. There is even a coin operated fortune teller and a “Peppy the Clown” musical puppeteer.

According to their website, this interactive museum is completely non-profit. They spend no money on advertising, heck they didn’t even spend money erecting a sign out front! Any profits above and beyond basic maintenance and operating costs are donated to the Salvation Army. This is clearly a labor of love.

Popcorn Machine at Pinball Hall of Fame 25 centsThe space is pretty basic. It’s a warehouse. Floors are cement, a plain drop ceiling hides wires, girders and pipes. Food and drink are available in the form of cold soda, candy and hot popcorn – which are sold from old fashioned vending machines for just a quarter or two.  Much like the nearby casinos, the only flashing lights and ringing bells come from the machines themselves.

Yes! You read me right, the machines are working. All of them. You can change your bills in for quarters and play any one you like. They work like they did when they were new – every light, every sound effect. “Hey Chucky, quit playing with the clock!” begged the clown in my “Funhouse” machine, plastic eyes darting around trying to follow the ball. Twenty years melted away while I played.

Dr Who Pinball Machine Information CardIt’s like an electromechanical museum, where they actually let you touch and play with stuff. Many of the machines have handwritten cards attached offering the history of the machine, numbers produced, etc. There are rare machines like the Gottlieb “Canada Dry” machine, released in 1976 as a promotional item, and available only in Europe. There are antique machines like Bally’s 1947 pitch and bat game “Heavy Hitter”. There are not only traditional pinball and pitch and bat machines spanning generations, there are also viewing galleries, shooting galleries and other historic electromechanical machines as well.

Target Roll Electromechanical Craps MachineIf you are a fan of the game of craps you definitely need to check out the Bally “Target Roll” machine. This machine was released in 1959 after it became illegal to sell gambling machines in all but a couple of US states. Cleverly disguised as a harmless pinball game, this machine is actually an electromechanical crap table! Roll a 7 or 11 on your come-out roll and the machine knocks loudly to signal that you should be paid. Roll 2, 3 or 12? Game over. Roll any other number and you have to match it. If you match, it knocks again and you start over, if you 7 out it’s game over. The “score” is random, simply there to fool the authorities. It’s brilliant!

There is also an area to the far left of the building where machines are repaired and restored. Peek here for a preview of what new games might be available soon. Last time I was in they were working on some interesting looking machines like “Safe Cracker” and “Alien Dunk.” I can’t wait to try them out.

Pinball Machines at the Pinball Hall of Fame Las VegasIf you’re old enough to remember pumping quarters into a favorite machine, they probably have it here. Drop a quarter in your favorite game – it’ll likely last longer and bring more smiles here than at any of the casinos down the street. It’s cheap, it’s nonprofit and it’s a chance to relive your childhood. It’s the most fun you can have in Vegas for a quarter, short of winning a jackpot.

Peppy The Clown Coin-Op MarionetteTips:

  • Check out their website (below) for a full list of games.
  • Quarters are available from a change machine inside, no need to bring your laundry money.
  • Unlike many places in Vegas that are open 24/7 (love that!) the Pinball Hall of Fame is only open 11am-11pm, midnight on Friday and Saturday.
  • If you can’t make it to the Pinball Hall of Fame, you can still play some of their machines. A few of their machines are on loan to the Riviera Casino, where they can be played 24/7.
  • You can bring the kids here, but you can’t just drop them off. Kids under 18 must be accompanied by an adult.

Website: www.pinballmuseum.org
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Rick’s Restorations: Reality TV, Take Two?

Rick Dale's Truck parked outside Rick's RestorationsNot long after Rick’s Restorations got their very own television show (American Restoration) they packed up their shop and moved closer to downtown Las Vegas – into a new, larger shop at 1112 South Commerce Street, a somewhat industrial area a short drive from the Fremont Street Experience. The new space has a decent sized lot out front for visitors to park, a room for each of the steps of restoration, a big yard for storing big stuff, and yes, a gift shop. Like Gold and Silver Pawn, they also have some History Channel merchandise for sale, but it’s not quite as plentiful or as in-your-face.

Brettly's Truck parked outside Rick's RestorationsRicks_Restorations-yardWhen I arrived there were no lines out front. There were half a dozen cool restored and rodded out cars in the lot, including Brettly’s truck, which looks even better in person than on television. Inside there weren’t a lot of people around. After a few minutes of browsing the shop, checking out some vintage coin-op machines and slot machines that were restored for the show, I was approached by a staff member who offered a tour.

The tour took about 15 minutes. The guide was personable and funny. He showed us the workshops and some more items from the show, adding in some details about the show and how it is presented that you wouldn’t learn without taking the tour. We also got to see a couple items that were featured in episodes that hadn’t yet aired. Overall, not a bad take… especially for the low low price of free.

Rick Dale posing with meAfter the tour I was browsing in the gift shop when my girlfriend spotted Rick Dale (owner and star of the show) on his way into the shop from outside. He was chatting with a lone fan. We went outside to join them.

In person, Rick is exactly as he is portrayed on television. He seems an honest, hard working guy that still hasn’t quite figured out why a bunch of strangers want to shake his hand. He was very gracious, shook my hand, made some small talk about the shop and let me get a picture with him. I hope the “fame” doesn’t ruin him or his shop.

Ricks_Restorations-vending-machinesGet there before the word gets out. It’s definitely worth the trip for any fan of the show, of antiques or of classic automobiles.

  • Rick’s Restorations holds a car show in their lot on the first Friday of each month from 5-8pm. Tours are available and you just might meet someone from the cast while you’re there.
  • There are some restored items available for sale in the shop. Many were featured on the show. Prices are in line with the quotes you see on TV.

Website: www.ricksrestorations.com
Related Articles:
Gold and Silver Pawn: Long Lines, Short Changed
Count’s Kustoms: The Reality TV Tour Continues

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Gold and Silver Pawn: Long Lines, Short Changed

Gold and Silver Pawn Las VegasFor those that don’t know, Gold and Silver Pawn is the pawn shop that the hit reality television show “Pawn Stars” is based upon. The shop is located between the strip and downtown at 713 South Las Vegas Blvd. Due to the popularity of the show, there are often long lines of people baking in the sun waiting to get inside. When they are filming you will wait even longer… No-one is allowed in or out during most of the filming.

Once inside it’s one huge line of people snaking around the small (smaller than it looks on tv) shop. It’s pretty much single file, moving slowly around the shop in as orderly a fashion as possible. There’s enough pressure from the crowd behind you to keep you from lingering too long to fancy any one thing. You get to see most of what the shop has to offer, rather sequentially. Eventually the line weaves past the registers and out of the store, your passage out allowing one more person in.

Picadilly Circus Roulette Machine at Gold and Silver PawnI’ve joined the lines outside Gold and Silver a couple of times now. Once with my girlfriend, and once with my dad. Each time I’ve waited no less than 45 minutes in the hot Las Vegas sun to get in. In both instances, the only person I recognized from the show was Antoine the bouncer, who was manning the door. Inside I did see a number of items from the show: superbowl rings, the Jimi Hendrix artwork, presidential signatures, the Piccadilly Circus electronic roulette slot machine, and merchandise… lots of merchandise… t-shirts, coffee cups, those silver coins with the Old Man’s mug on them… you name it.

Gold and Silver pawn is no longer a pawn shop, and the stars of the show no longer “work” there. I’m pretty sure a couple of them never did. It’s a set for a tv show, and it’s a tourist trap. If you treat it as a busy museum, it’s kind of cool. You can see some neat, rare and valuable items – some of the same items that are featured on tv. If you just hit a colossal jackpot you might even be able to take one home. Otherwise, it’s “free” entertainment.. the only cost is your time and your discomfort, waiting to get in.

Superbowl Rings at Gold and Silver Pawn Las VegasTips:

  • If you go, don’t expect to meet the Old Man, Rick, Cory or Chum.
  • Don’t expect to be on television unless you have an appointment.
  • And don’t expect to pick up a cheap souvenir, unless you want to buy the same trinkets they’re hawking on the History Channel website.
  • Do bring a big jug of water, a fold up chair, and some sunscreen. The throngs waiting outside with you will think you’re a genius, and you’ll enjoy the rest of your day a whole lot more.

Website: www.gspawn.com
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