Sunday, April 8, 2018


In January, I dipped my toe into the activities that our local widows and widowers group offers.  One of the members is a travel agent, and she arranged a tour for the Balloon Festival in Lake Havasu, Arizona.  As long as I didn't have to get on a hot air balloon, I thought it would be interesting to see them going up in a big group.

I arranged with my daughter Mary to take me to the drop off point; she had her two youngest, including the baby, with her, and as we were waiting for the bus to arrive, we were both surprised at people asking if baby Bernadette was going to gamble.  We couldn't figure out what balloon ascensions had to do with gambling.  Would people take bets on which balloon would be launched first, which would go highest, where they would land?

I got on the bus when it arrived, and found a space, though it took some maneuvering to get my French horn partly under my seat, since it didn't fit in the overhead rack.  That was when I understood why, when I was working as a travel wholesaler, our company always emphasized that we used "deluxe motor coaches."  There was nothing deluxe about this bus.  Before we left, my daughter came on the bus and asked if I had my allergy medicine, and I assured here that it was packed in my suitcase, as it always is. I thought it was sweet of her to check, but when we stopped for lunch in El Centro, I discovered it was because one of the women had brought her dog--and I am allergic to dogs and cats of every variety.  Fortunately, she sat up in the front, and I was near the back.

By lunch time, I was ready to get off the bus and stretch my legs, which had been cramped up above my French horn case.  My legs are long, and it took a while to get them back to normal.  Then back onto the bus for another couple of hours of sitting in one spot without moving, as if I were an astronaut confined to a very small space capsule.  

When we arrived at our destination, Laughlin, Nevada, I understood immediately why we had had questions about the baby gambling.  Laughlin is just a smaller version of Las Vegas: the town in one casino after another, filled with bright lights and noise. We had to go through the casino in the resort where we were staying to get to our rooms or the restaurants.  I never knew there were so many different kinds of gambling. When we drove through Las Vegas on a trip to Minnesota for a World Wide Marriage Encounter Weekend, I went into one of the casinos, put 20 cents in one of the machines, lost it all, and was convinced of the evils of gambling.  I never really looked at the casinos at all after that.  

As in Las Vegas, very few people looked happy; occasionally I would see a couple who looked as if they were enjoying gambling together--or maybe they were temporarily winning.  The noise was deafening, and except in one small no-smoking area, cigarette smoke was everywhere--and I'm allergic to that, too.  The first night I was there I had agreed to meet one of the widows whom I had known years ago, when our husbands were alive and we were all involved in Marriage Encounter, in the non-smoking bar for a drink.  When the bartender asked me what I wanted, I remembered that since I left the East Coast, I had never been able to get a Sloe Gin Fizz, so I asked him if he could make one.  He assured me that he could, and although he put it in the wrong kind of glass, it was indeed a Sloe Gin Fizz, and I was so delighted to have one after forty years, that I had a second. I had dinner with my friend, and despite the casino chaos, it was a lovely evening.  

My room was comfortable, I had a view of the Colorado River, and I was looking forward to the Balloon Festival the next day, which also turned out to be very different from what I expected, but that will be the subject of the next blog post.