Once a year, we go to Santa Fe to visit Jess’s dad. Chuck is the cheapest person I’ve ever met. If there’s a deal to be found, he will find it. We usually stay with him in his apartment, but this time he got us a free 5 night stay at the Buffalo Thunder Resort and Casino just outside Santa Fe. We went to the Casino a few years ago, and took advantage of the free play money they give to first time visitors. I think I won $40 that year.
I stayed up until 4am finishing up some work. I’m still playing catch up after putting my business mostly in hold to co-lead the Ascend Project for six weeks. I got a three hour nap in, and then it was time to get up. My friend Lisa and her husband Wayne (one of two), showed up at 8:30 to take us to the airport. We chatted with them while also running around doing last minute things and in my case, shoving a hasty breakfast in. We rushed out the door and later at the airport remembered to check our packing list. Only a few things forgotten and we could buy them in Santa Fe. We were happy to be leaving Portland and the steady downpour of rain.
We saw a few kids and adults in costume at the airport, and some of the employees. At the gate across from ours, they were offering prizes of some kind to anyone who would get up and dance the Time Warp dance from Rocky Horror. A few people got up and did it, but it was pretty pathetic, as flash mobs go.
The flight was uneventful and Chuck pulled up right as we got to the curb. It was his fifth circuit around. Chuck doesn’t have a cell phone (see, cheap reference, above), so we couldn’t call to tell him we had arrived. But that will change this week. Chuck’s birthday is on Halloween and since we upgraded to iPhone 6’s recently and Jess is giving him her old phone as a present, and he’ll join our family plan (see cheap reference, above).
The car was a rental that Chuck (wait for it) got a deal on for the length of our stay. He has a car shaped object that runs when it’s of a mind, but one never knows when that might be, so until he replaces it, we decided to go with more reliable transportation.
On the hour drive from Albuquerque to Santa Fe we chatted and caught up. While telling a story about a near accident he had in his own car, Chuck demonstrated his point by suddenly swerving the car were in back and forth several times, causing a small panic. He did this twice. We were pretty relieved to arrive back at the rental car place where he had left his own car and Jess took over driving the rental.
I’m spared from any driving this weekend because it wasn’t worth the cost of putting a third driver on. We drove to the hotel and I hung out in the lobby while Chuck got us checked in under his name. I’m doing a lot of flying under the radar and going with the flow on this trip.
We got a room on the fifth floor with a balcony and a nice view of a grassy courtyard below. Once we got settled, we headed down to the buffet restaurant where Chuck had secured coupons for (you’ll never guess) three free meals.
The buffet was enormous. The specialty of the night was prime rib and seafood. I was in heaven, but Jess had a little bit of a challenge finding things to eat. She’s vegetarian and has recently stopped eating gluten and the hotel offerings include a lot of meat and wheat. Still, she managed and we had also stopped at Whole Foods and brought water and snacks to the hotel.
I proceeded to make at least six trips to various sections, skipping common items like pizza and spaghetti, for things I hardly ever (get to) eat like the beef and shrimp. There were popcorn shrimp and shrimp cocktails and I went all in on both. I only eat seafood 3-4 times year even though I love it. Jess is very sensitive to smells and when I eat seafood, she can tell for DAYS, and there’s not enough extra strength Listerine in the land to hide it. Which means I don’t get the smoochies. So I spend my seafood credits sparingly.
Chuck mentioned to our server that it was his birthday, so when he was ready, she brought him a special plate of chocolate cake and three of the employees sang a sweet but very off key rendition of happy birthday. Then we tried to get a nice photo of Chuck with his cake. This is harder to do than it sounds. I’ve never met anyone so unphotogenic. It’s like trying to get a picture of a toddler or a pet. He’s either looking the wrong way, not smiling, eyes closed… you get the idea. This was the best we could do under the circumstances.
After lingering so long that I went up and got another piece of cake I didn’t need, we made our way down to the Casino. Smoking is allowed in most of the casino except for a tiny non-smoking area that smells just slightly less disgusting than the rest of the place. We waded through the haze to the customer service desk to get our players cards and then retreated to non-smoking.
While Jess and Chuck were chatting, I started on a classic looking slot machine that still had an old fashioned handle. I put a dollar in and played 5 to 10 cent bets without much success. I really don’t see the appeal of gambling. In my 20’s, I had a girlfriend who bankrolled a trip to Vegas and gave us a $600 gambling budget for the trip. We lost it all, and all I could think was that you could buy a pretty decent bike for that money and enjoy it for years to come.
I switched over to a new machine that spun five rows and let you choose up to 30 different possible lines that would win if you matched. Chuck gave us advice about how to up our odds of a payout by keeping our bets smaller, which pays more often. I put in $6.00 and settled on 30 cent bets. Then it was just sitting there pushing the button. Jess and Chuck joined in on the machines next to mine.
After about 10 minutes, I won five free spins. I hit the button and the machine spun itself, one after the other. When you’re in free spin mode, any hits pay double. Suddenly everything lit up and the little counter started turning and turning and turning… and before I knew it, I had won over $75 dollars! During the first free spin, I won five more free spins. I sat there doing nothing and watching the pretty lights. When all was said and done, I was up $83.90.
I was starting to see the appeal of gambling.
Jess and Chuck had stopped their games to watch my good fortune. Jess was giving me the stink eye ‘cause her luck is generally terrible and mine is very good. She made me push the button on her a machine a few times, but apparently my luck was all used up for the night.
I played a little more, until I got down to $80.05 and then I quit while I was ahead and cashed out.
Chuck had a special invite to participate in the nightly drawings that start at $500 and go up every 30 or 60 minutes. He was planning to hang out until the last drawing at 12:30am, but we were tired so we said goodnight and headed up to our room for the night.
Considering how little sleep I had, I felt pretty decent throughout the day, but I was excited to hit the sheets. We had made some pretty awesome plans for the next day, and I wanted to be ready.