She’s not after a jackpot — just the fun

By Lisa Britton April 07, 2010 02:32 pm
Agnes Uttenreuther, 95, has organized trips to Nevada for 15 years

Agnes Uttenreuther, 95, keeps her notebook handy with the lists of everyone signed up for trips to Winnemucca. (Baker City Herald/S. John Collins)
Agnes Uttenreuther has a full-time job when she organizes the trips to Winnemucca, Nev., twice a year — taking reservations and cancellations, securing hotel rooms, advertising the trips.

“I enjoy doing it. I’ve always liked figures,” she says of her mathematical system.

And she’s beginning to wonder if five is her lucky number this year — she turned 95 in January, the March bus was her 75th, and this is her 15th year of organizing trips.

“I never realized it — maybe I better try everything with 5,” she says with a laugh.

Agnes was born Jan. 21, 1915, in Evanston, Ill. She and her husband, Willard, moved to Baker in 1971. Her daughter, Carol, had moved here after marrying Dave Curtis.

“We were only here 14 months when my husband died,” she says.

They were married 39 years. She never remarried.

“I couldn’t find another guy as good as the one I had,” she says.

So she got involved in the community and began organizing trips to Jackpot.

“We’d pick the bus up in Payette,” she says. “It cost $14.50 to go Saturday and come back Sunday.”

Then they switched to a pick up at Farewell Bend for $18.50, and later a $25 cost to catch the bus in Baker City at U.S. Bank.

“We could park our cars in the bank parking lot during the weekend,” she says.

Agnes moved to Florida in 1981 to be near her sisters, but she returned to Baker in 1987.

“I lost my two sisters, brother-in-law and two nephews in the six years, so I moved back,” she says.

Agnes began organizing trips again in 1995.

“At times I had two buses going. That’s how I got 75,” she says.

She’s never won big.

“Me? I haven’t. I’ve never, but I’m happy when my people are winning,” she says. “I love bingo — that’s my favorite. I play slots and the poker machines.”

But she can tell stories about jackpots won by people on her bus — especially her daughter, Carol.

“She doesn’t like to tell me when she wins, but I can see it on her face,” Agnes says.

She works with Winners Hotel and Casino in Winnemucca. The price these days is $75 per person for a double occupancy room. Included in that cost is transportation (with on-board refreshments, games and prizes), a hotel room, and coupons for games, drinks and dinner.

And you have to be an early bird, at least for one day.

The bus makes four stops to pick up passengers — La Grande at 4:45 a.m., North Powder at 5 a.m., Baker City at 5:30 a.m. and Ontario at 8 a.m.

“The minute they get on the bus they get coffee or orange juice — whatever wakes them up,” she says.

She and her son Tom pick up fresh coffee at the Truck Corral before the bus arrives.

The group — a maximum of 45 — eats breakfast in Ontario and then heads south to Jordan Valley, Orovada and then Winnemucca.

“On the bus we have orange juice, coffee, water. And after we leave Jordan Valley, we have muffins and pop,” Agnes said.

(The bus is equipped with toilets, too.)

They also play bingo, and make $1 bets on their exact arrival time in Winnemucca.

And the excitement isn’t always in the casinos.

“One of the times we had a pelican —” Tom begins.

“Duck, wasn’t it?” Agnes says.

“No, Canada goose — it hit the windshield and broke it,” Tom says.

When settled in the Nevada town, “you can do anything,” Agnes says. “Shopping, restaurants, other casinos.”

“I go for the fun — I play nickels. I’ve worked too hard in my life.”

The next bus to Winnemucca will roll out of Baker City in October.