Thursday, October 22, 2015

A Day Trip to Pala Casino

After finding an ad which offered a free shuttle bus ride to Pala Casino, a place I’ve never been to, I called the number Monday evening to ask if they had any more vacancies the next day and the operator said they did. He took my name and I said I’d be at their Cerritos pick up location at the scheduled time of 11:45 a.m. That was very convenient for me because I would be able to sleep in, wake up and workout, have lunch, without having to rush(or so I thought).

I left home for Heritage Park in Cerritos at 11:00 a.m. giving myself ample time to get there. It would normally only be a 25 minute drive. When I reached Lakewood Boulevard via Del Amo, there was road work being done in which traffic barely moved. I began to get anxious as the seconds ticked by and my time allowance was disappearing. I cut across the street and into the Lakewood Mall area to get to South Street and I must have hit every other red light on the way. I finally arrived at Heritage Park at 11:41 a.m. by my watch but didn’t see a shuttle bus waiting. Could their watch have been ahead of time and left me? Was I a victim of Murphy’s Law which states “everything that can go wrong will go wrong”? This didn’t alleviate my anxiety and minutes passed by without any sign of a shuttle bus. Oh well, it won’t be the end of the world if I don’t get to Pala Casino that day. Finally at 12 noon, a bus showed up and made the turn towards the park. Whew, I didn’t miss it after all!

When I got on the bus, the driver apologized for being late as he himself was caught in some traffic. He also added that this may be the last week that they would be doing pick ups at that location because the Parks and Recreation department had requested them to stop. Another lady who was assisting the driver asked to see my membership card which I didn’t have since I had never been to Pala Casino. She then checked my driver’s license, then we proceeded. We made one more stop at Fullerton before continuing our journey to our final destination. In the meantime an older Filipino lady named Lourdes asked me if it was my first time, then she gave me some information on what to expect, and also told me about other pick up locations. It turns out we only lived a few miles apart. When it was time for the driver’s assistant to collect some tips (a dollar from each rider), the Filipino lady lent me a dollar because the assistant couldn’t break my $20, which was the smallest denomination I had.

The bus ride was to have taken between 1.5 to 2 hours but we got there at 2 p.m. I noticed that we passed by Pechanga Casino on the way (I was there for the first and only time in January 2014 when my uncle and aunt took us there and I was still unemployed at the time). Pala Casino was another 15-20 minutes away and we had to descend a mountain along a narrow street with a lot of switchbacks. When we arrived, the driver reminded us that the bus number was 2222 and that boarding for the way back home would be at 6:45 p.m. and leaving at exactly 7:00 p.m. We were also told to show our membership cards to the employee waiting for us to get off the bus, and if we didn’t have one, that same employee would give us a new one. I was given a rudimentary bus I.D. to identify me as a customer of that bus company. I waited for Lourdes to get her phone number in case I didn’t see her again that day, so I could repay her the dollar I owed her. Then we separated ways.

Entering the casino, the first thing I looked for was the bathroom, and after using the facilities, I spied a sign on a wall saying “Free Drinks”. Free bus ride and now free drinks. I thought I died and gone to heaven! Well, the free drinks were just sodas but you wouldn’t get a complaint from me about that. I started from the front of the building and walked towards the end which happened to be where the no smoking slot machines were and the hotel. But first I had to stop to check if there was free wi-fi so I could geolocate and post it on Facebook, hahaha! Outside and across the lawn was the swimming pool and spa and beyond that was a walking trail which required a key to get into. I explored the perimeter of the casino and noticed that there were no sidewalks and other than the main street, all you could see were mountains. The casino appeared to be in the middle of nowhere. I guess the proprietors wanted to keep you inside the casino and spend your money there and not outside. I returned to the spa area and tried using the selfie stick I bought the day before. All I can say after a few shots is that I need more practice on using it, so the composition of the shot is better. I explored inside the building some more and looked at the restaurants and the prices. There was a wine bar, a noodle shop, sandwich shop, buffet, etc. I left the building and crossed the parking structure towards the mini mart I saw on our way in. Still no sidewalks and even the main road only had a bicycle lane. I went back to the casino and took more selfies. I seemed to be the only one doing it and no one seemed to notice as selfie sticks has become so common. 

In the meantime, I had availed of the free drinks a few times, but I was getting hungry. The prices of food in the restaurants were quite expensive so I thought I’d try my luck at the mini mart. I got a huge burrito and after eating that and still feeling hungry, I had a slice of pizza. That cost me less than $5.00. After that meal, I went back to the casino and imbibed more free soda. I must have walked around a lot in the first 3 hours and my legs were getting tired, so I took a break in the hotel lobby as far away as possible from the cigarette smoke. My eyes were burning, my nose was running slightly, and I started smelling like a chimney.

I had forgotten that the driver’s assistant told me earlier that I would be getting a $10 credit on my membership card so I used my own money instead to play a few rounds 25 cent poker on a machine. I never won a single round and the dollar was gone lickety split. To soothe my now lighter wallet I went to the entrances of the casino to read about the history of the Pala Indian tribe. Can you tell that I’m not really into gambling? I just took this trip to get out of the house and look around.

Pretty soon, it was time to board the bus and head back home. The drive took half an hour lesser, but the cigarette smoke lingered till the next day. I still need to check if my membership card does indeed have a $10 credit, and if it does, I may go back and enjoy the cigarette smoke another day. But first, I need to have my cilia recover.

p.s. I checked the casino’s website later and found out that the $10 credit expired after 5 hours if unused.


1 comment:

Marci Deegan said...

I have lived in San Diego for years and have yet to make it to the Pala Casino! It sounds really nice from the way you describe your stay however. I may have to take the trip out there to try my luck and get a few free sodas for myself!