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September 21, 2021

Funny Papers Again Column | Four States, Four Days: There and Back Again

Gambling casinos are sad places. That is the conclusion I have come to after walking through a couple of them yesterday. As I write this, I am in Room 1207 in the Virgin River Casino in Mesquite, Nev. Out my window to the east is the Virgin Mountain range, it is 7:15 in the morning and the temperature is at 86 degrees, which is actually cool compared to yesterday morning.

Nevada is a gaming state whose major attractions are its casinos, Las Vegas being the granddaddy of all betting towns, but there are casinos and gaming venues everywhere; small convenience stores have little rooms with three or four slot machines for people to put their money while buying Gatorade and chips. I watched a commercial last evening extolling the great times to be had right here in the casino in which I am staying; it was pure hype with little regard for reality.

The visuals show well-dressed people smiling and laughing as they play slots or take their chances at gaming tables: Texas Hold’em poker, Blackjack, Roulette and Craps. But what one sees when walking through these air-conditioned rooms filled with glittering lights and shiny machines with all kinds of bells and whistles are often solitary people, casually if not sloppily dressed sitting alone at slot machines feeding them money with expressionless faces. None are smiling, none are laughing.

But enough of gambling. I am on a stretch of asphalt I have never traveled before and that is always an eye-opening experience. I have never seen the Grand Canyon, but early today I drove through the Virgin River Canyon and I was spellbound by the stark beauty of the land. This Virgin River is a bad mamma jamma, it has been cutting a groove through the rock and soil for millions of years and has created a dramatic spectacle of twisting, turning landscape with strata of colored stone and soil, reds, browns, and the dull greens of sparse vegetation. The flow of reddish water at this time of year pales to the rushing torrent it becomes when melted snows fills its banks; but today what flow there is twists and turns through the narrow canyon below rocky walls looming hundreds of feet above on its continuous knifing into the mountain.

It is now 3:15 a.m. Monday and I have a noon deadline, so I am referring to my cell phone where I recorded notes of sights along the way; the way being an excursion from King City to Salem, Utah, and back over the past four days. East of Paso Robles near the intersection of Highways 41 and 46 (the James Dean Junction, the only section of highway in California named for a movie actor), I watched a shepherd with his two sheep dogs watching over a couple hundred sheep, impressive to watch those dogs control such a group. Outside of Cedar City, Utah, there was a tractor in a field with a hay baler attached, the farmer waved as I honked in passing; one of the largest American flags I’ve ever seen flying on a very long staff attached to the rear of the baler.

I crossed over a summit in Dog Valley, Utah, that was 6,180 feet above sea level, then a few miles down the road crossed a summit of 6,560; that is a thousand feet higher than Pimkolam, the highest peak in the Santa Lucia Ranges here in Monterey County (Pimkolam is the Salinan Indian name for Junipero Serra Peak, and in my opinion should be the official name).

At many onramps and offramps along Interstate 15 there are roundabouts, and they are easy to negotiate, which is encouraging for when the roundabout is installed here in town at Malfunction Junction. My only thought was that most roundabouts are much larger than what can be managed at the west end of Broadway, so the number of vehicles actually passing through will be limited, but still should make the flow through that section of asphalt much more amenable to drivers.  

Negotiating hot weather is another aspect of travel, it ranged anywhere from 98 to 108 degrees along the way but is not difficult with a proper mixture of air conditioning and natural air flow; I am one of those who react poorly to ACs, after a few minutes my head feels like a ball of cotton and I get the sniffles. The least attractive aspect of hot weather is restaurant eating, one has to wolf down one’s meal before cold, circulating air turns it into a frozen TV dinner. All in all it was an adventure that covered some 1,800 miles through four states, but as we all know, it’s good to be back among the familiar.

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Now, back to local stuff: I see where the Monterey County Dance Theatre is seeking a young man to fill the role of the Prince for its annual production of “The Nutcracker Ballet.” If you are the parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, sibling or friend of a young man between the ages of 12 and 20 years who is capable of lifting 70 pounds, then please encourage that young man to step up. Keep in mind he will be working with pros, Jan and her ladies of dance will talk, walk and finally dance him through it and he will be quite amazed at what he can do come production time. When noting that he must lift at least 70 pounds, that is not some dead weight lift, but a controlled dance movement. This year’s Clara, whom the Prince lifts, is played by Sara Nicole Godinez, and like all experienced dancers, she knows how to be lifted, to which I can testify makes all the difference in the world.

About the time some of you are reading this, I will be in Greenfield at the funeral of a longtime Greenfield friend; a tough little Swiss who held off cancer as long as he could. Rest in peace, Leo Guidotti, KCHS Class of 1973. Take care. Peace.

Steve Wilson
King City and Greenfield Columnist
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