A couple months ago, I took my fiancée on a little spring break trip. I had been planning it for a while and done all I could to make it a peaceful yet amazing time. We would drive to one of my top ten places on earth— Crater Lake— then spend a couple more days hiking around the Redwoods of Northern California. A nice lodge was reserved and maps with side trips were printed before we noticed the weather would be less than ideal.
There was a major green cloud over the entire area we were heading to on the radar. We are from Portland and like rain, generally, so we went forward. Before leaving town, I picked up some snow chains in case we hit any rough patches, like the ones we hit on the detours on the way trying to get into Crater Lake. Apparently while driving that green cloud had turned purple and pink on the radar and very white on the ground. Although handling well, the beautiful Hannah’s crossover car wasn’t quite prepared for all of that.
In the midst of the drive into Crater Lake we didn’t notice the gas gauge dropping until we were too far into the snow for the gaslight to come on… which it did…before we made it to the Rim Road of Crater Lake. So we turned around and took off the chains as we went down the road praying fervently that we would make the right decisions to not have to tow the car too far when…if…it ran out of gas. We found a little town and a little gas station. One that may or may not accept credit cards which made the beautiful Hannah search the car for lost change and empty her wallet of its cash while I asked the attendant if plastic was accepted…only to be informed THEY ran out of gas. A gas station was OUT of gas. Trying not to let my stress show, I calmly asked exactly how far the next station was, while looking for a gas can and wondering if I should buy it here or at the next station. Do I want to carry it one way or both? The beautiful Hannah was smiling and laughing through this. I was apparently getting snippy but trying to force a laugh or two out to join her.
We went up the road and made the lefts as instructed, then hit a couple more T’s in the road not described by small town gas guy. The wonderful Hannah was praying more as we passed a corporate trucking station and made another turn where we finally saw a sign for a travel center and casino.
We made it. I breathed out and pulled into the station where we filled the 12 gallon tank with 11.92 gallons! I was stressed, glad we made it, but stressed. My knuckles were white from sliding through the snow and ice and barely making it to a gas station. The beautiful Hannah realized I was done and came up with a great idea. We should go blow her $6 found while searching the car for gas cash at the casino next door. This would make up for missing Crater Lake right?
A side note here. Neither one of us had made casinos a vacation destination before. We had no idea what to do or how it all worked but it would be better than being in the car that we were stuck in for 4 hours already.
When we got inside we signed up for the player’s club and were given $5 free on each card. While signing up my phone buzzed with a message but I was too busy planning to have fun to notice. We took our $5 cards and sat down at the penny slots where I blew my first dollar in about 2 minutes trying to figure out the system. One button I pushed when I reloaded with my second dollar was “Cash Out” and received a slip for…$0.02! That’s right, I had 2 cents more than I did when I walked in. We started cashing out after one or two wins and collecting our slips. Luckily we didn’t have to turn these into a person, but instead a machine that totaled all of the slips to $6.14! We just made more than planned…granted we spent $10 to get $6 but still.
As we exited, I checked my phone all excited from our winning streak. I noticed we wasted nearly 2 hours and were going to be late for dinner and started listening to the message. It was our lodge in the Redwoods letting us know they were taking on water, or at least planning to soon. The road getting there would be severely flooded or washed out shortly, so even if we did make it the next morning, we would probably be stuck for up to a week. I called them and asked options—come and get stuck or come another time with greater chance of not getting stuck for a week.
We decided to go later and realized we now had 3 days of no plans, and about 2 hours of road to cover before dinner which was supposed to start in 10 minutes at a friend’s parent’s house. On the drive we discussed options and how to get to dinner and the free beds. After a mediocre dinner in Klamath Falls (far away from where we should have been) we stopped into a local library where I had to help the aging librarian Google (verb.) our route. It was quite the critique on the ways of today’s world and didn’t actually help us get to the much need destination for the night.
The next morning we awoke and looked at the weather maps. They were even greener than before we left, as the entire state of Oregon and beyond was being pummeled by rain. So we could either head to San Francisco or Seattle, but both paths would be bad and have the potential of snow in the passes.
The simpler and possibly better route would take us back through Portland where we had just come from the morning before and north of the storm where the weather was pleasant. It would make the drive home on Sunday easier and less gasoline intensive since we would avoid California’s prices! But there wouldn’t be the hiking desired, because of rain, so why not more casinos?
After picking up a cinnamon roll the size of my head, we stopped to make another $6 or more dollars. After the first casino we thought all of the casinos would give us free money, however this one required you to put your own money in to start using their funds. So we slipped some of the previous day’s winnings in for luck and went ahead losing their money. This time we waited until a quarter or so to print the ticket. We only made about $4 from this unlucky casino in less time and spent $10 of their promo dollars again!
We stopped at 5 more casinos in the coming days each worse on giving us free things than the previous. One only gave you money on your second visit and another only a discount food voucher after two hours of gambling. Come on! It was as if they didn’t want us to get out of there without spending a dime. Since we hadn’t really made much money on the later casinos we decided to take what we had and risk it on some of the $640 million we kept seeing advertised and heard about on the random radio stations as we passed through towns. We used some of our own numbers, and some quikpiks…for luck.
When we stopped at the Holiday Inn Express for the night we checked for the numbers, and the wonderful Hannah was disappointed that they were just announced during the news. That there wasn’t a live drawing like when I was a child, with vacuum powered ball blowing machines and a slightly too old— or young— model pointing. I was disappointed we didn’t get more than one number total. And then thought about all my conspiracy theories about the lottery being used as a poor tax and how the numbers aren’t actually picked as much as “randomly” assigned. Then I got over myself and moved on to finding us a nice place to stay. And more importantly finding the beautiful Hannah a replacement claw foot tub. We found one even better at the Reflections Bed and Breakfast which has a soaking tub that overlooked the Port Orchard Bay.
When I called the B&B, I asked if they had rooms available. “We probably could. What are you looking for and when will you all get here?” was the reply. When we arrived later that afternoon, we realized that the retired grandma who ran the place hadn’t had guests in a couple weeks. What she meant by we could have a room was “if you give me some time to tidy up, yes”. She was very friendly and provided us with some tea and wine while we chatted about life and her time running an elegant home on the Bay. She made amazing food for us and gave us a key to come back late if we desired. It was nice, definitely better than the corporate place we stayed at the night before. And her food was better than the “fancy” steakhouse we went for dinner that night.
Sunday allowed a slow drive farther north, another casino adventure, a couple more choices of where to go and a ferry ride back towards home. A ferry ride that was required if we didn’t want to have to drive around the entire bay and back through Seattle traffic, an adventure not desired.
We were able to make a lot more fun than planned by choosing what was in front of us. And also able to bond at a deeper, more heart level when things weren’t perfect.