Trip to West Virginia, including Harper’s Ferry, Charles Town, and a vineyard

Kerry and I took much advantage of the fact that our mutual buddy, Ed, loves to lead hikes. This particular event was a trip to Harper’s Ferry with a follow-up with Charles Town Race Track and a winery.

[Blog entry for 20 March 2005]

Lohoski led another hike today. We made an assault on Maryland Heights, the promontory overlooking Harper’s Ferry. The game plan was: scale the heights in the morning, have brunch at Charles Town Race Track and Gambling Facility, and then play the ponies. Kerry Webster and I wanted to go right for the ponies, but they didn’t start running until 1 pm, so we decided to kill the morning hiking.

That done, we then moved on to the race track. I was explaining the techniques of picking horses (which techniques have always been 100% consistent for me), when I realized that Kerry and I each were wearing a green top of some sort. “That’s it!” I exclaimed. “We’ll bet on any horse wearing green!” Kerry was all for this, especially when I assured him that we couldn’t lose.

I had had the very great fortune to have an older brother who was an enlisted career man in the Navy. This meant that he was an expert at all forms of gambling, and he ensured that my younger brother and I always had the best gambling “toys” kids (or anyone else) could have. You know, things like roulette wheels, crap tables, the works. And when we were old enough—I think we were 8 or 9, we went to the race track. We were handicapping races by the time we were 10. Like all people who frequent race tracks, we became fabulously wealthy or, rather, we would have if we’d just had the money to put on so-and-so in the 8th.

Now, Kerry and I didn’t reach this grand green plan until after the first race. As always happens when you begin to pay attention to the ponies, we won the first race. Sort of. What had happened was that two horses appealed to me in the first race. One had a female jockey (I can’t help it—I like girls) and a great name, and I can’t remember the reason for the other horse, but whatever the reason was, it had hit all three of us at the same time. So, I bet most of my money on the horse with the female jockey, and a side bet on the one we all liked, while the boys bet only on that one. It won big time, with odds something like 15 or 20 to 1. Being my side bet, I had picked it to place, and hadn’t put much on it. My female jockey and her horse finished last, as I recall, although the pair had been the favorite.

Poor Kerry hadn’t thought to look at his ticket, and when he went to claim his prize (it would have been more than $50), the cashier told him that instead of betting on #3 in the first race at Charles Town, he had bet on #3 in the second race in Philadelphia. No, it didn’t win there. Lohoski was the only big winner, but he’d only bet $2, so he didn’t exactly break the bank. Anyway, we were hooked.

We still hadn’t adopted our plan by the second race, when all our horses finished out of the running or died along the way, but what did happen was that the horse wearing green won big, really big. Something like 35 to 1 odds. That settled it—God was telling us that green was the key.

The closest we got to Great Wealth was when our #5 horse, starting the race with odds about 60 to 1, finished the race very, very strongly, and came in third. Might as well have been 100th, for all it helped our betting, but it proved the validity of our betting scheme. If we could just hold out long enough, we’d be millionaires.

We quit after five races. Sobered but not beaten. Broke but not deterred.

Lohoski suggested a little wine tasting on the way home, and it seemed a good way to end an exciting and very eventful day.