Thursday, November 19, 2015

Return To Pechanga

Gold Coast Tours shuttle bus
          Armed with my selfie stick I went for another casino adventure with a free bus ride to Pechanga, which was about 15 minutes closer than Pala, where I was a few weeks ago. The first and last time I was in Pechanga was almost 2 years ago when I was still unemployed and having so much free time, my relatives brought me there. It was also my first ever visit to a casino. A bit of sacrifice needed to be done this time, which was waking up at 4 a.m. so I could get my workout out of the way, take a shower and make it in time for the 7 a.m. pickup at Tambuli Market in Long Beach. I had scouted the location the day prior to check if there were any parking restrictions. The parking lot had a 2 hour limit which didn't help because it would be at least 8 hours before I would get back. There was no time limit for street parking. Just in case, I talked to the produce guy in the market to ask if I can park in the parking lot without getting towed away. He said it would be okay if I parked at farthest lane away from the market. As I typed this draft on my phone on the bus heading back from Pechanga in Friday afternoon rush hour traffic, I was praying that my car was still safe at Tambuli Market, because it's not exactly in a good neighborhood.
          I arrived at the bus pick up area about 20 minutes early and noticed two women waiting. I asked them if they were there for the casino bus and they said they were waiting for the one that went to San Manuel. Since they were first timers also, they couldn’t tell me if I was at the right location for the Pechanga bus. Shortly however, a huge bus which had Gold Coast Tours markings on it and a tiny sign saying Pechanga on the windshield drove by and parked on the street. I went towards it and asked the driver that it was my first time riding the bus and what he needed from me. He said he needed to see my Pechanga membership card. I didn’t have one yet having signed up online, but I showed him the membership number the website provided me. He let me on the bus as we waited for more customers.
          We were soon underway to another pick up location in the city of Carson but was actually at the Harbor Gateway Transit Center. We waited for more customers there until about 8:15 a.m. when the bus was almost full. Most of the customers were senior citizens in what I venture to guess were in their 80’s, some with canes and one with a walker. Folks, gambling has no upper age limit as long as you are over 21.
          That was the last pick up stop and we soon hit the freeway towards Temecula. I tried to take short naps and catch up with the news on my cellphone. Mostly I was vehicle watching where I noticed a lot of drivers still texting or social networking while driving. I observed this on the way to and from the casino.
          We arrived at Pechanga about an hour and a half after leaving Carson and as we got off the bus, a couple of hostesses met us at the steps to check our membership cards. Having none, I presented my ID and membership number which I got when I registered through their website, but the system didn’t recognize my number. The cute hostess provided me with a new one and sent me to the lobby to pick up my new card from the desk. The lady told me that since I came with the casino sponsored bus, I was going to be given a $10 free play credit and since I was a new member, a free spin on any of the slot machines for a chance to win an additional $5 to 1,000 prize. I also asked the lady what their wifi password for guests was. Having gotten that, what else would I do but post it on my Facebook status, then went to find a slot machine for my free spin.
The welcome committee.
          Oh well, the free spin only yielded $5 but that’s better than nothing. I roamed around for a bit and took a few selfies before sitting down at a slot machine in the non-smoking area. I inserted my new membership card and the machine asked me for my password, which I tried to punch in on the touch screen. Well, either my aim is poor or the touch screen is inaccurate because when I punch in a number, it jumps to another number. I tried another machine with the same results. I went from one machine to the next until I found one which took my password and I figured out the next thing I had to do was load the $5 and the $10 to my card so I would be able to use it to gamble. It took me awhile to figure that out. Can you tell by now that I’m really not a gambler even though I’ve been to two casinos in the past month? For some reason I also found out that the penny slots had a minimum 20 cents bet or maybe on just the machines that allowed me to log in. Who knows? Since I was given free money by the casino I played more boldly than when I was in Pala Casino a few week prior. After trying a few single bets, I put in maximum bets. Bada bing bada boom, in about 10 short minutes all the free money was gone!

          So it was time to roam around again and since I was getting hungry I checked out the restaurants in-house. The prices were still not within my comfort zone so I left the building to see if there were any fast food restaurants outside. Since Pechanga Casino was not as isolated as Pala, I thought I would find one within walking distance. I was mistaken because despite seeing many housing tracts around the area, there was no shopping center in sight. About a block away from the casino, I saw a mini mart similar to the one in Pala and bought a huge processed burrito with some soda and that filled me up. Wait, I just noticed that there was no free soda in Pechanga unlike Pala. Darn, I had to buy my own drink!
          After having lunch, I walked around the perimeter of the casino and saw the clubhouse where their golf course is. A couple of women and a man asked me if I knew where a particular restaurant was, and having seen a sign about that restaurant earlier, I pointed them to that direction. I apologized ahead of time if I sent them the wrong way. I kept on walking and reached the edge of the parking structure before turning right and back towards the casino. I kept walking until I found the front of the hotel and entered the casino from there. Thus, I was able to walk off some of the calories of the somewhat heavy lunch I had. I tried playing quarter (25 cent) slots with my own money and immediately lost a dollar in just 4 spins. I’m beginning to realize that I have no luck in gambling and more reason not to do it. I went up the second floor the first time I roamed around and went back up there again, I found a place to sit which overlooked the gaming floor. The second floor consisted of the bingo room and the high stakes poker room, where the high rollers go to lose their money and subsidize the casino. I didn’t even have enough cash in my wallet just for the buy in.
The Second Floor
          It was during this rest period that I found out about the goings on in Paris so I tried reading more about it. None of the TVs in the casino had the news on and the gamblers were blissfully unaware of what was happening.
          I walked around some more and at 1:45 p.m. I went back to the bus pick up area, but not before I cashed out the 15 cents credit left out of the $15 the casino gave me. The bus left for Long Beach at 3 p.m. and we hit Friday afternoon rush hour traffic on the way back. It lengthened our travel time by another half hour. It was dark when we arrived back at Tambuli Market. On our way to our cars, a lady whom I talked to earlier asked me if I could give her some money to buy pizza for her kids because she said she lost money at the casino trying to win back her initial losses. I apologized for being not able to subsidize her family’s dinner since I too lost money at the casino albeit not mine.
          It was a huge relief to see that my car was still in the parking lot. I did a walkaround to check if anything was missing (in case someone from a chop shop stopped by). The car appeared to be safe and intact and with that, I drove back home from another casino adventure. Next time, it might be San Manuel Casino where the bus pick up is at the same location.
The bus arrival and departure area.