HJ-ED-DHJHerald Journal Columns

July 23, 2007

Taking a gamble on Friday the 13th

By Jesse Menden

I am not a superstitious person, but I knew I was trying my luck.

In complete desperation to do something fun for the first time this summer, I decided to take a chance, a big chance.

On Friday the 13th, I attempted something that only a few sane people would. I was going to drive a car that showed 221,000 miles on the odometer to Chicago. To make things worse, the car didn’t have cruise control or air conditioning.

I knew heading into the trip that it was going to be a battle of endurance. Could I keep my foot on the gas peddle for eight hours, and could I remain one of the last people that has not received a speeding ticket in Wisconsin?

Those were things that I could control, but I had little control over whether the car would actually get me to the western suburbs of Chicago.

It would take a great amount of luck on the most unlucky of days.

As I passed car after car on Interstate 94 that was disabled on the side of the road, I could not help but think that I was next.

But that would only make sense. I was driving a car that is 16 years old, and was passing broken down vehicles that were a third of my car’s age.

Somehow, I rolled into Chicagoland just before midnight without a problem. I had just survived over 400 miles of straight driving.

I took a gamble and it paid off. So it didn’t bother me the next day when I lost every wager I made on the talented horses at the glitzy Arlington Park.

It was evident to me that I used all my luck getting to Illinois because over half of the horses I picked finished in last place.

The first day of my mini-vacation was worth the gamble of getting there, though. I got to see one of the premiere tracks in the nation, and I saw a horse that ran in the Kentucky Derby, Dominican.

My mini-vacation continued the next day with some more sports action.

This time it involved a trip to historic Wrigley Field for a game between the Cubs and Houston Astros.

I sat behind home plate, about 35 rows into the first level. It was a perfect day, and the only thing that would have made it better is a Lou Pinella melt-down. It almost happened, too, after the second base umpire seemingly blew two calls in the first two innings.

But that is what’s so nice about Wrigley. Nobody at the stadium could tell for sure if the calls were blown or not because there is no video screens, and thus, no replays.

It was just pure baseball, Italian sausage, and Chicago-style pizza.

The ride back to Minnesota the next day wasn’t nearly as nerve-racking as the drive to Chicago.

Needless to say, the trip was worth the gamble of driving to Chicago on Friday the 13th in a car that has no business still being on the road.

I am also well aware that I used up most of my luck for the rest of the year on that trip.

But even as a gambling man, I’m not sure I would take that chance again, even though it was worth it.