Earlier this summer I flew in and out of Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport to attend the fishing industry tradeshow I was covering for Kayak Angler magazine. It was my fourth trip to Vegas. Four times in Vegas and never a penny played in a slot machine or a chip played on a table. When it comes to money, I guess I’m not much of a gambler.
The majority of people sitting beside me had flown here to gamble. These people spent their vacation days and holiday savings knowing full well the odds were stacked against them. At the end of the day (metaphorically speaking, because there never really is an end of the day in Vegas), the house always wins. I could see it in their sad faces at the departing gates of the terminal.
Just as addictive and as harmful as gambling is The Weather Channel. Most North American families check it—or something like it—every morning. The real damage comes when this habit changes their behavior, when they begin planning weekends based on those little cute, animated icons. Those innocent-looking icons are killing outdoor adventure tourism. They are killing your summer vacation. And you may not even know you have a problem.
The three-day forecast is like a metrological one-armed bandit. People sit at their screens all day refreshing their browsers and hoping for three smiling sunny faces for Friday, Saturday and Sunday. They wait for this jackpot, wasting their summers away, before committing to a weekend of camping, kayaking, hiking or whatever. The death of outdoor tourism sounds like this: “Daddy, can we go canoeing this weekend?” “Well Honey, Mommy doesn’t want to reserve the campsites until later in the week, until after we check the forecast.” Sound familiar?
Last week I spent four days camping with my daughter, Kate. According to The Weather Channel every day was to be sunny and hot but with a 60 percent chance of thundershowers in the afternoons. Picture a smiling sun half-covered by dark clouds throwing menacing lighting bolts from the sky.
A quick look at this glass-half-empty forecast on a Wednesday and thousands of people with reservations would certainly have canceled their weekend camping plans, and they do—if they’d made any yet at all. But not me. When it comes to time outdoors with my family, I guess you could say I’m a gambler. And I like my odds.
A 60 percent chance of rain means that any point in a selected region has a 60 percent chance of receiving at least 0.01 inches of rain at some time during daylight hours. There is also an almost as good chance that there will not be any rain at all, not even 0.01 of an inch. I don’t even know how little 0.01 of an inch is, but I bet it would feel good on an otherwise scorching hot summer day.
The first three days of our trip were nothing but sunshine. On the fourth day, it stormed. In fact, we learned later there were tornado warnings. We didn’t know this of course; we were too busy playing Uno and eating Kraft Dinner beneath our tarp. We made it an early night after a fun day surfing at the beach. We dosed off to the pitter-patter of raindrops on the tent, a magnificent light show and the rumble of thunder.
You might be thinking that I gambled on the weather and lost. But I didn’t lose; I got four vacation days with Kate, which to me is worth more than any winnings at a high stakes poker game in Vegas.