This world. This place. This life.

Hazards, adventures and games of chance


After yesterday’s crash at the Reno Air Races, Reno was not a place where Liesl and I wanted to stay.  The races were cancelled, and aviation people walked the streets and casinos like zombies, their thoughts on what they’d seen.

We were staying at Circus Circus, which is just as gaudy and garish as it sounds.  We left Anchorage at 12:30 a.m. yesterday morning, got to Sacramento at about 8:30 a.m., and drove to Reno.  Before we found our hotel room (and its beds), we circled the block three times looking for the door to the lobby, checked in, found the parking garage, unloaded the car, took an elevator down two levels, took a shuttle train with a wedding party in full regalia, walked through the casino and back through the lobby, and took a different elevator to the 23rd floor.

All this after a red-eye.

We called Ward, Liesl’s boss, and Gretchen, Liesl’s sister to tell them we’d arrived. Then we collapsed.

We both heard the sirens about an hour later. I remember thinking something like, “Those sirens just won’t stop.” And Liesl says she thought, “There must be a bad car crash.”

What really woke both of us up was a phone call from Ward, who had been at the air races. The plane crashed right in front of him. Shrapnel flew past his head. He’s sure he saw spectators killed.

Ward left Reno for San Francisco, and we’re hoping to connect with him later this week–either in Clear Lake or Redding.

We checked out of Circus Circus at noon, had brunch at IHOP with two other aviation buddies from Anchorage, and left town. Liesl’s only thought was that she wanted to see Lake Tahoe. As we drove up into the mountains, and then around the beautiful lake, we started to feel a little more whole, a bit more grounded.  We stopped at a NFS lakefront picnic area, and walking around in the fresh air felt wonderful.

By mid-afternoon we started to think about lodging for the night.  Maybe in South Lake Tahoe, we thought, looking at the map.

The friendly clerk at the Holiday Inn Express in South Lake Tahoe was too courteous to laugh at me when I asked if there were any open rooms.  The Forest Service ranger was less polite when I asked about campsites.

Finally we found our way to Camp Richardson, and it is delightful.  We have an accessible room–with two full bathrooms.  There are really nice walking trails, and we had a great dinner at the on-site restaurant.  We’re staying for two nights, and will actually be saving money compared to our room rate in Reno.

Here in this place where gambling is such a big deal, I find myself thinking about chance and choice.

All those choices we made that kept us from being at the air races yesterday.  All the choices that others make that put them right there when the crash happened.  Choices for all of us made with no inkling of where they would lead.

When bad things happen, the world feels less-than-safe to me.  It makes me want to stay home, not venture out.

But here’s what I want to try to remember.  Sure, bad things can happen, but good things can, too.  Sometimes you witness a horrific tragedy, and sometimes you discover a wonderful place to watch the sunset.

Maybe the key is to keep on playing this game of chance called life, living each day with courage, watchful for danger, but even more vigilant for opportunities for joy.


2 thoughts on “Hazards, adventures and games of chance

  1. Well, it may or may not fit your state of mind (and I don’t know how accessible it is), but one of my favorite horrible events from history is the Donner Party, and there’s a state (or perhaps national) park/monument in the valley near there where they were trapped. (The Donner Party was part of, oh, 3rd grade? history in California. It was a group of people migrating to California who made some bad decisions and got trapped in the Sierras by the fall snows.)

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