$300 Travel: Beer And Clothing Near Las Vegas

"There are two types of people in Primm; people with teeth and people without teeth. But it's mostly the latter," a man warns on the way to the Nevada border-town. Less than an hour from Las Vegas, it may not be as beautiful — but it's certainly cheaper and possibly more fun.

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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

And one more now on travel and money. Since early this month, the U.S. Treasury has been sending checks to Americans, it's part of the economic stimulus program that President Bush signed into law back in February.

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

More than 130 million households will receive some money, up to 600 dollars per tax payer.

CHADWICK: And the government hopes they'll quickly spend it to jumpstart the economy.

BRAND: And so we came up with a summer travel series.

CHADWICK: We're going to get onboard for the Bush Administration, and help the economy. Our program is called, 300 Government Bucks, short trips you can finance with some of that economic stimulus dough.

BRAND: And our first jaunt might not be what Congress had in mind when they passed the stimulus legislation. It's a gambling trip.

CHADWICK: More than that really. It's a visit to Primm, Nevada. Now, anyone who's ever driven to Las Vegas from Los Angeles knows about this place.

BRAND: It's a little casino community right at the California-Nevada border.

CHADWICK: So, with the first segment in our series, 300 Government Bucks, here's Day to Day producer, Shereen Meraji.

SHEREEN MERAJI: My stimulus check travel adventure began at a coffee shop in Los Angeles. Checking mike levels between sips of my four-dollar latte, I noticed two guys looking at me curiously. So, I said, I work for NPR, and I'm going to Primm to gamble. Have you been there? And one of them replied...

Mr. JEFF HOLIDAY (Gambler): Absolutely. Some people have teeth, and some people don't. We'll leave it at that.

MERAJI: That's Jeff Holiday (ph) but he likes to be called Holiday.

Mr. HOLIDAY: I'm a gambler from blood, you know what I mean, Doc Holliday, and all that.

MERAJI: Holiday shared his gambling tips. I gave him my card, and was off to pick up my friend, Heather Murphy. Heather works for NPR's online department.

(Soundbite of music)

MERAJI: This soundtrack for this road trip to the desert, yeeha! George Jones. Heather and I got two free tickets to his concert with our 60-dollar room at Whiskey Pete's Hotel and Casino. Two hundred and thirty miles of George Jones' greatest hits, with a stop for gas. Hi, can I get 40 dollars on 7 please?

Unidentified Man: Forty on seven?

MERAJJI: Yes. And one bathroom break in Barstow where we met Loretta Dyer(ph). She works at Welcome Center in the Outlet Mall.

Ms. LORETTA DYER: Seventy percent of the people that come into our mall are drive-bys. And they're either going from Vegas to L.A. because we're the center point.

MERAJI: So, you must meet some amazing people sitting in this chair.

Ms. DYER: Well, the ones that understand English.

(Soundbite of song "Why Baby Why")

Mr. GEORGE JONES (Singer): (Singing) Tell me why baby, why baby, why baby, why?

MERAJI: (Singing) Tell me why baby, why baby, why baby, why.

MERAJI: Two and a half hours later, we've arrived. Oh, yeah, George. Oh, my god. Here we are. Crossing the Nevada Stateline. How would I describe Primm? Well, it's like a 99-cent store version of Vegas for some people, and a rest stop on the way to Vegas for everyone else. Perfect if you have 300 bucks and a car, and the hotel room wasn't that bad.

MERAJI: I'm entering the Billionaire's Lounge with a fabulous view of a mound of dirt.

HEATHER MURPHY: With like a silo on top of it.

MERAJI: Yes, I think it might contain sewage water.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MURPHY: Maybe that's what that smell was.

MERAJI: OK. So, there was a really strong sewer smell on the first floor, but we didn't let that get us down. Off to see a country music legend.

Unidentified male: Would you all please welcome the legendary George Jones.

MERAJI: George had a sore throat but that didn't stop him from advertising Spring Water and George Jones' Country Sausage between songs.

(Soundbite of song "Why Baby Why"):

Mr. JONES: (Singing) Tell me why baby, why baby? Why did you lie and make me cry baby, cry baby, made me cry baby?

MERAJI: Needless to say, we snuck out early. And while we were playing five-dollar black jack, I heard a familiar voice.

Mr. HOLIDAY: Some people have teeth and some people don't.

MERAJI: Yes! Holiday and his friend from the coffee shop followed us to Primm. A little weird, I know, but this guy was serious about gambling. He smacked down an entire stimulus check on his first bet, 600 dollars. I felt like throwing up, and it wasn't from the nine-dollar buffet.

Mr. HOLIDAY: We won 1,200 dollars.

MERAJI: That was the highlight of his night.

Mr. HOLIDAY: Now, I'm down a thousand, and he's down a thousand. So, it's just the way stuff goes sometimes. You've got to roll with the punches.

MERAJI: Heather and I still had 200 dollars between us. So, we bought Holiday and his friend dinner, and decided to go outlet shopping before heading home. Primm, Nevada, stimulating. Shereen Miraji, NPR News.

(Soundbite of song "Why Baby Why"):

Mr. JONES: (Singing) Tell me why baby, why baby, my baby why you make me cry baby, cry baby, cry baby, cry? I can't help but love you 'til the day that I die. So, tell me why baby, why baby, why baby, why?

CHADWICK: Day to Day is a production of NPR News with contributions from slate.com. I'm Alex Chadwick.

BRAND: And I'm Madeleine Brand.

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