Casino Royale

     I wanted to do something special for my wife’s birthday this year. I thought an overnight trip to a Connecticut casino would be a nice mid-week surprise (and I had a Groupon for a great rate on a hotel room).

     We packed a travel bag and began our journey to Foxwoods mid-morning on Wednesday. My wife prefers to drive, which is fine with me as I prefer to back-seat drive anyway. Spending over two hours in the confined space of an automobile brings people closer together (or drives them apart depending on the number of missed exits on the highway).

     The ride to the Connecticut border was smooth (did I mention my wife was driving?). Our dashboard conversations ran the gamut from family to friends. We reminisced about things our children did growing up. The exit numbers on Route 395 changed since the last time we traveled, but no worries – the Waze navigation app was guiding our way.

     I didn’t notice the GPS shut off at the rest area when we stopped for a break. When we resumed our ride, the phone app showed the highway as a purple line heading straight to New York. I scrolled ahead on the map screen and there were no exits indicated. We were getting close to our destination so I thought we could manage without any extra electronic help.

     “I think our exit is coming up,” I said.

     “What does the GPS say?” asked my wife.

     “It doesn’t say anything,” I said. “I think it reset itself back at the gas station.”

     “I’ll know the exit when I see it,” my wife said confidently.

     My wife zoomed past the exit and said, “That was our exit.”

     Somehow I was blamed for not reprogramming the GPS fast enough. Granted, my wife was busy driving, but I have trouble programming apps on a phone while I’m backseat driving.

     After a scenic re-routing, we made it to the casino in time for lunch. Our Groupon reservation enabled us to proceed to the VIP check-in. Our room on the 20th floor of the Fox Tower was nice, although it was a bit of a hike to the other casinos in the Foxwoods complex.

     It’s been years since we last ventured to the casinos. My gambling urge has been suppressed by a multitude of family and work events taking up all my free time. And these days, mindlessly stuffing twenty-dollar bills into a slot machine has lost its appeal. The flashing lights and ringing bells were a nice distraction for a few hours but the novelty quickly wore off. At the multi-screened Race Book area, my greyhound and thoroughbred betting skills produced zero wins as well. I had a few flashes of luck at the roulette table but only enough to walk away with little more than I started with.

     The highlight of our trip was Happy Hour drinks and appetizers at the David Burke Prime steakhouse. And I learned if you are hungry at night, even though room service sounds like a good idea, an order of quesadillas, onion rings and artichoke dip does not make the best midnight snack before going to sleep.

     The next morning, after an $18 bagel and fruit cup breakfast, we packed our bags to leave. We hit a minor snag retrieving our car because the parking valet didn’t give us a claim ticket when we arrived. Neither my wife nor I noticed until it was time to leave. After filling out the required forms and showing multiple IDs, our car was found and we were on the road home.

     No GPS was needed because it’s practically a straight line from Connecticut to Massachusetts (unless your wife is driving and she takes the Mass Pike West exit instead of East).

     As we sped toward the fork in the road, my wife asked, “Which way do we go?”

     “Straight, right?” I answered (in the form of a question) and for some unknown reason my wife suddenly chose this moment to start listening to me.

     Straight was wrong and we ended up on the Mass Pike heading west with no turn-around exit for many, many miles (or an eternity if you are trapped in a speeding car with an angry wife behind the wheel).

     “Why did I listen to you?” she said breaking the angry silence.

     “How is this my fault just for giving you the wrong directions?” I asked.

     Luckily we left Connecticut early so our lost highway time didn’t affect our plans. It’s an hour of my life I will never get back. In reality, we only lost 45 minutes because my wife’s jeep has no problem going 85 mph. I got a lot of use out of that small grip handle above the passenger side door as I hung on for dear life.

     Enough time has passed so we only have good memories of our birthday road trip. That evening, dinner with our son and his family more than made up for our rocky-road highway encounters. We may have lost money at the casino, but at the end of the day, hugs from our grandchildren made us winners in the game of life.

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