Posted on | March 27, 2010 | 19 Comments
LAS VEGAS — Just got back from Searchlight, where I reconnoitered the town and the rally site, about two miles north of Harry Reid’s hometown. A quick video report:
One reason I wanted to make the trip Friday was to scope out the route. When Ali arrives at 7 a.m. Saturday, we’ll have to drive like hell to get there before the road becomes completely jammed, so I needed to know where I’m going.
Driving down from Vegas late Friday afternoon, I missed the turn-off for U.S. 95 at Railroad Pass and ended up driving past Boulder City on U.S. 93 all the way to Hoover Dam before I realized I was on the wrong road. So it was already dark by the time I pulled into Searchlight and stopped in at the Nugget Casino and Restaurant, a local landmark.
It’s called a “casino,” but don’t get any illusions of glamour. It’s basically a bar and restaurant with a room full of slot machines on one side. There was a game of blackjack, but no roulette, craps, etc., and of course no big flashy showroom.
There was a guy in the Nugget working on a laptop and I figured he must be a reporter. Correct. He was a freelancer from San Diego on assignment for NBC News online. We talked a while, and I asked him where the rally was. He told me I’d driven past the site on my way into town, so I hopped back in the red Chevy and went north again until I finally found the place.
Friday, I’d talked by phone with Bob Engstrom, a pilot and freelance journalist who usually covers aviation issues for Human Events. He lives down the road in Arizona and got the assignment as their man on the scene for the big Tea Party rally.
Bob arrived at the rally site Thursday, camping out in the back of his truck, and he toured me around the place. His estimate was that 1,500 people were already on the site. Organizers expect about 6,000 by noon Saturday, although there are some who think as many as 10,000 may show up.
Although it was warm during the day, it got cold and windy when the sun went down. Several of the volunteers were gathered around a fire, talking and warming themselves.
One of the hundreds of RVs on the site, decorated with flags and signs.
Posing on the stage where Sarah Palin and others will speak Saturday. The site itself is extremely primitive — just a big dirt lot. Being from the East, where we have trees and grass and stuff, it’s weird to see the arid landscape of the West.
Another local landmark — Terrible’s Casino, slightly more upscale than the Nugget. Terrible’s actually has what you’d call decor, but other than that, it’s still just a slots parlor/bar and also a convenience store with a McDonald’s. I’m not sure, but this might be the only McDonald’s located at a casino. “Here, kids, have a Happy Meal, while Daddy feeds next month’s rent money into a slot machine.”