It promised to be a perfect weekend getaway, the Emeryville Senior Center overnight trip to Clear Lake this past Saturday and Sunday. Having heard so much about Clear Lake, I happily signed up for the trip and was probably the first one to board the Center's mini van, "Go Van Go." However, looking over the itinerary prepared by our host/drivers, Joe and Joanne Melancon, I must confess my heart sank when I discovered that we would be stopping at four casinos! If I had only read the announcement of the trip more thoroughly, I might have surmised that this was a tour for gamblers. "Robinson's Rancheria Casino" was surely a tip-off; did I think this was an ice cream parlor?
Not to worry. Determined that this would be a pleasant weekend, despite the torrential rain that plagued us for the entire two days (not a light rain, nor drizzle, but a deluge of biblical proportions) we took off at 9 a.m. Saturday morning, arriving in Calistoga at 11:30, where we visited a Farmers Market, walking around in pounding rain through stalls of fruit, vegetables and pumpkins -- hundreds of pumpkins.
Getting back on the bus we headed north for Clear Lake. I was assured the Lake was out there, but the windows of our van were so steamed up I couldn't see a thing.
So much for Clear Lake. Thus began our tour of casinos, the first being Twin Pines, where we spent three hours. As someone who detests casinos with a passion, ranking them second only to a Snake Pit, I fell into a state of acute depression. Glancing around at the cavernous room, where grim-faced patrons sat glued to slot machines, I understood why I dislike casinos. There's obviously no joy there, just dozens and dozens of hapless people gambling away their social security checks, convinced they're going to hit a thousand dollar jack pot.
What a welcome relief it was to check into our comfortable Super 8 motel that evening, unpack and watch the news on a giant TV. Ah, but then at 6:30 we got back on the van,
heading for Robinson's Rancheria where we spent another three hours. Now I ask you, what does one do in a casino when they have no interest in playing the machines? They head for the Restaurant and indulge in a sinful buffet dinner, going back for seconds two or three times. With another hour hanging heavy on their hands, they go to the Bar and have a Starbuck's Blueberry Mocha, speculating on what delights await us the next morning.
Sunday morning, after a complimentary breakfast at the motel, we have an all too-brief tour of Konocki Indian Village. We then wind up, where else, at another casino, the Konocti Vista Casino, again for three miserable hours. Oh, but this time I used my head; settling into a comfortable booth in the Steak House Grill, over a stack of pan cakes I penned this fascinating account of my weekend ordeal.
To be perfectly honest, I must confess there were a few bright moments on the trip, such as the visit to Tulip Hill and the elegant Ceago Del Lago Winery, where we were treated with generous samples of wine and the opportunity to shop in their upscale gift shop and explore the beautiful Court Yard -- in pouring rain.
At 3 p.m., Sunday afternoon, to everyone's relief, we boarded the bus for the last time, heading back to the Center. We all agreed that despite the miserable weather and long, long hours in casinos, it had been a very pleasant trip, in good company -- thanks to the capable services of Joe and Joanne Melancon and their assistant driver, Cecilia Hudson.
Permit me to say, however, that I will never, ever go to another casino!