Arlene and Dan Stobbe's Reno Train Adventure

June 2010

Harrah’s Hotel & Casino in Reno is Arlene’s favorite vacation spot. For over twenty years, Arlene has enjoyed traveling to Harrah’s with her late husband, Erwin, often visiting four to six times per year. Why so often? Arlene makes it clear it is not about the gambling, far from it actually. She reflects on Harrah’s as a place of sincere hospitality and a true "home-away-from-home" experience she still cherishes. Countless employees know her on a personal level and she enjoys catching up with everyone during her multiple visits per year.

Until January of 2008, Arlene had never visited Reno during the winter months. Preferring to drive to her destinations, Arlene had never wanted to risk getting stuck in Reno (or on the way there) because of the snow. She made an exception when her son, Dan, suggested celebrating her birthday in Harrah’s with family and friends following a scenic train ride from Sacramento to Reno through the snowy mountains.

The morning of the trip, the weather conditions were bleak. Becoming stuck on a train in the middle of nowhere was not the way Arlene wanted to spend her birthday. After asking the conductor if the train had ever been stuck before, Arlene’s fears eased when he assured her that the weather would not be a problem. The trip was going great. The views of the snowy mountains created Kodak picture moments all around them. However, when they reached the Blue Canyon area, the train slowed to a stop; heavy snowfall prevented the train from advancing! When the snow was finally cleared from the tracks, Arlene arrived over 6 hours late to Reno!

The train ride itself seemed to be enough of an adventure for the Stobbe family, but their troubles did not stop there that weekend. While on the train, Arlene began to experience pain in her side. Dan, as both a doctor and her son, shared that this is a rare occurrence, as Arlene has an abnormally high pain tolerance. Dan attempted to assess Arlene’s pain but was unable to pinpoint a definite source. Arlene opted out of the celebratory dinner planned for her that evening, hoping that rest would ease the pain. In the wee hours of the morning, Arlene’s pain did not subside. Dan was unable to perform a full medical analysis without his equipment, so Arlene was taken by ambulance to the nearby Renown Regional Medical Center.

Testing revealed that Arlene had a Spigelian hernia that had broken through the abdominal wall. Talk about a tough cookie! Arlene was hesitant to have an operation so far away from home and ultimately chose to fight through the pain until returning to Fresno. However, the next several hours Arlene spent at Harrah’s did not bring changes for the better. As the next morning rolled around, it became obvious to Dan that Arlene would need to return to the hospital and prep for surgery. As Arlene was wheeled on a gurney through Harrah’s, she waved to all who were present, knowing most of them by name, and tried to look her best. The Harrah’s staff was kind to her as she left and made sure to send her flowers during her stay in the hospital along with their well-wishes.

The surgery was performed with great success. All that was left was deciding the best way to return home for recovery. Many of Arlene’s family and friends had already returned home to resume work and there weren’t many viable options for her to return home with minimal pain. The weather was still quite snowy and even without delays, returning via train would take over six hours, with a three-hour car ride from Sacramento back to Fresno. With plane layover times, having Arlene fly back to Fresno was not much faster than the train. It was decided that the best way to get Arlene home quickly would be to charter a plane; however, with the spotty weather conditions, it was not possible to secure a chartered plane for the ride. Their last option, aside from an extended stay at Harrah’s, was to charter a jet. Arlene had great anxiety about the pending jet ride back to Fresno. Throughout her life, Arlene has only flown a limited number of times and does not enjoyed breaking out of her comfort zone while traveling. In order to avoid chartering an air ambulance for her return, Arlene did her best to look healthy and free of pain medication. The flight was a success and Arlene returned safely to her family and home in Fresno.

Arlene still loves traveling to Harrah’s and plans to return in the next couple of weeks, despite her interesting adventure. It was an experience she will never forget and also one that she feels she has learned from…never again does she plan to travel to Reno in the winter nor when weather challenges threaten.