Goodbye, Firelake Grand – Our “Home Sweet Casino”

Sat. june 25, 2011

 While guarding our old house in Meeker, we also managed to spend several months parked at a Casino nearby. It’s Firelake Grand, at the corner of I-40 and 102, east of Shawnee. We love this Casino.

 I daresay there’s not another casino anywhere in the country that will let you stay free, with free water AND free electric. And yet we were blessed to have such a place right next door to us, at a time when we were in a financial bind, because we also had to pay water, electric, insurance and taxes on an unsold  house we couldn’t live in.

This sign is so big, people complain it is a highway hazard. Of course we also pay our “dues” here at Firelake by eating and playing in the casino, and by bringing all our friends here. We like to say that a casino parking lot has been our home for the last two years, and it’s not as bad as it sounds. . . .

We had grass and a creek right out our window.

We had our own picnic table and barbecue grill.

There were 5-lb bass to catch in the creek, and beavers to supervise!!  We had Molly the Muskrat, and assorted frogs.

We had the best parking spot of all – Number “0” down at the end, so we didn’t have any neighbors on one side. We didn’t have to worry about anyone looking in our windows. On the open side we had parking right next to our bus, enough for our two cars, plus all our guests.

  And did I mention that electric, water and parking were free!!! Unbelievable.

 I also had a beautiful two-mile paved circular track around the perimeter to walk, jog and ride my bike. Usually while watching gorgeous sunsets.

There were ponds with pretty colored fountains in the middle.

This place was like a mini Las Vegas, with security cameras and employees everywhere – the safest place on earth to live.

We never saw a single hooker or scrap of litter in two years.

There was always some excitement going on if you needed it.

RV’s and 18 wheelers were coming and going. New people to visit with.

In a short time, we acquired a flock of interesting new friends that we will cherish for a lifetime.

We had a wide open view of the Oklahoma weather coming in from the southwest. In spring our little creek would turn into a raging river, boiling out of its banks and licking at the heels of our bus.

 

In May the tornadoes would blow through like clockwork. Only once were we truly scared – it was about 3 am and our bus was rocking in an 80 mph wind. We could feel our bus wheels lifting off the ground as we braced ourselves in the hallway with all four slides pulled in. “Steve!” I said, “We’re going over!” But somehow, we didn’t. Sometimes the casino would blow its sirens, and residents within a ten mile radius would come running. The stocky-built casino was the best tornado shelter in the county, and they generously shared it with the community.   

 There were cool bands on the weekends, car shows, and big name performers.

Not to mention black jack and slots whenever you needed a fix.

And three great restaurants within walking distance. But why walk?! A cute little shuttle came by every 30 minutes. Just step outside your bus and the driver will take you to the door. We felt like royalty.

 We humorously nicknamed ourselves the Social Directors of the Firelake Parking Lot. We made a point to become best buddies with shuttle bus drivers, and even invited our pal Les and his wife over for a barbecue dinner one night.

 When when we had to leave for 8 days for a flight to Alaska, we were able to ask our good buddy Les to look after our bus. He had to drive by every 30 minutes anyway. He guarded it like a bulldog the whole time we were gone.

 We also had our own gas station, regular and diesel, for ten cents less than competitors, and if you used your casino player card, you got an extra 3 cents off.

There was a handy US mailbox at the gas station and –OH! – the best coffee in the universe! Three flavors – none of them pansy coffee. They never let it get cold in the thermos, or cook down to a thick tar, like so many other convenience stores I have known. And only 75-cents for a giant 24-ounce refill. No tax! Keep it simple. Bring your own cup. Shawnda will greet you with a huge smile every time. They even have steamed milk for real lattes, not the hypersweet dispenser lattes.  No matter where I go in the USA, I haven’t had better coffee. Now when I have to pay $3.57 for a large (rediculously labeled “Venti,”) I grieve for my Firelake 24-oz for 75-cents. 

 In a hurry? There’s a grill here with a great menu open 24 hours a day – whatever you need. Breakfast sandwiches to go and a great Philly steak for lunch.

 It was just about paradise here at Firelake Grand.

Only one minor inconvenience here – we had no private sewer drain. But what do you expect for free? Other places charge $20 to $30 per night for this. Living off our storage tanks means we could not do much laundry aboard the bus.

Our casino did generously provide a shared drain, and it was only three car lengths away. We used to look longingly out at it from our bedroom window. Every seven days we had to pull in our slides and drive the bus 20 feet to empty our tanks. We usually took a few laps around the parking lot just to exercise the motor and give Carol some driving practice.  We could have put a folding chair in our special spot “0” to save it , but since the sewer was only twenty feet away, we could just saunter over there if we saw a new RV approaching.  If it weren’t for our weekly trip across the parking lot, we might have forgotten how to pack up and drive this bus. There’s a lot to it, but we had it down to rocket science – pull in four slides, stow breakable stuff, raise leveling jacks, stow Hughes internet satellite on roof, unhook electric and water, start your engines!

 Hanging out at the casino was definitely a lot more fun than being stranded in the back yard of our old house in Meeker. Also the casino was a lot closer to Shawnee for shopping and tennis.

 So, thanks for the good times, Firelake Grand. We’ll always consider you “Home Base!”