My sister and her family came to visit from Colorado Springs for Thanksgiving. They arrived a week before the holiday. There were nine people in my little house, not to mention the dog and cat, with at least six more coming to Thanksgiving dinner. By day two, my sister and I were ready for a break and some sisterly bonding. About twice a year, when she comes to visit, we go to Lake Charles to play some slots ... very few actually. You see, we think the driving and talking is half the fun. Neither of us are willing to risk more money than we would spend on a nice dinner and a movie. So, off we went. The kids are all old enough to take care of themselves, with the exception of my baby nephew. My brother-in-law had baby and referee duty Friday night. My Cute Little German Mother was AWOL. His reprieve would come the next day and, as usual, last much longer than my sister’s. I had to work Friday and although we usually get a late start, we decided to try and head out before 7 o’clock that evening ... to save us from driving home at 3 a.m. with barely enough money left for a taco and a drink. You see, we take the gambling limit and our I.D.s, nothing more that could tempt us to go from our little wager to risking the light bill money. I was able to leave work a bit early and with some scurrying around like mad women, we made a hasty retreat by 4:45 p.m. We were still on I-10 near Garth Road at 5:45 p.m. Have you noticed that I-10 has been under construction out that way for more than two decades? We took it all in stride and had some fun conversation, listened to some ‘80s music and sang along to that and several other stations ... even the Spanish ones that we couldn’t understand. I know, but you should try it some time. Just past Mont Belvieu, some driver in a small sedan who appeared to be under the influence, started weaving around at about 75 mph in the fast lane. Just then, a police car entered the freeway. The guy was still crossing the line, then jerking the car back over. The officer passed us and looked our way. My sister pointed and gestured to the menacing motorist, but the officer seemed to be the only driver nearby who didn’t notice the wandering weaver. We were finally able to pass him safely and were off to smooth sailing as we left the traffic, and all worries about what was happening at home, behind. Somewhere past Beaumont, we entered what I refer to as “the gauntlet of death.” You know the place. The lighting is bad, the striping on the road is worse, and there are two narrow lanes, closely confined by two concrete barriers. If your car fails you here, you might as well just do like they taught us during the elementary school disaster drills ... tuck your head between your legs, etc. When you enter the gauntlet, you are almost inevitably next to an 18-wheeler hauling pipe. And we were. You can’t slow down because there’s another behind you. You can’t pass because there’s a pickup in front of you. So, you just navigate the gauntlet of death, so close to the big rig that you can see a disturbing wearing of the tread on more than a couple of his 18 tires. You just pray to God that they all remain intact at least long enough for you to get past. This always makes me wonder who decided that these barriers with the 4-inch shoulders make road construction safer. After exiting the death trap, we relaxed and resumed our singing, chatting and laughing for about another hour, and finally arrived at our destination. We strolled around the casino and selected a couple of machines that looked fun, fed in the first of our precious few $20s, and had a ball. After the first round, we had doubled our meager wagers and decided that since we never stopped for dinner, we would splurge on the all-you-can-eat buffet. And eat all we could, we did. I wanted to go back and play some more slots, but I had to convince my sister. In her mind, it’s like you have to get out in a hurry if you win any money at all. She thinks it’s like playing a fast one on the casino and if you don’t leave quickly after a win of any size, they’ll discover you and send a big, scary man to come take it back. I picked another machine that looked lucky to me, and she another right beside me. My money went in and was almost down to nothing. Then it happened. She won about $35 after depositing a mere $5 into her machine. She looked around and hastily hit her “cash out” button, and mine as well. We were done and she was not willing to risk one more minute ... the “man” could be coming any second to take her hard-earned winnings. So, we risked the gauntlet of death – and unknown disastrous consequences that might have occurred with five kids at home with my brother-in-law – for about an hour-and-a-half of gambling and feasting fun. My brother-in-law left early on Saturday for his male-bonding time. We didn’t see him again until Sunday night. Was it worth it? You bet.

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