There was some very “weird stuff going on” the day before and the day of the August 22 Mega Millions draw – and nobody is more superstitious than 53-year-old Rick Knudsen.
The now retired RWC Building Products Branch Manager from Calimesa said he knew then it was time to buy a ticket for the $180 million jackpot, even though he only plays the lottery maybe five times a year. “I don’t play unless I feel lucky, and the jackpot is high. I felt lucky,” Knudsen recalled. That might be an understatement.
This is a truly unbelievable story of some very strange coincidences related to purchases Knudsen made leading up to – and even after – his decision to buy five Mega Millions Quick Picks®. The premonition Knudsen had that he just might win a fortune began the day before the draw at a convenience store.
“I bought something and it was six dollars even. No change. And then later on that morning, I bought something somewhere else and it was nine dollars even. Five different places that day I didn’t pay any change. The totals were all even amounts,” Knudsen explained, still in disbelief. “I’m a numbers freak and that all means something in my head. So I said, ‘I gotta stop somewhere and buy a (lottery) ticket.’ So on my way home, I bought the Quick Picks for $10.”
Get this: Knudsen recalls the very next morning (the day of the draw), “I bought something else and it came out to even money again! It was kind of weird. But I’d already gotten my (Mega Millions) ticket, so I wasn’t really thinking about (the weird string of payment occurrences) anymore.”
That evening, he met his family at a time share in Indio. This is where things get a little spooky. And if you get chills, you won’t be alone. “I went with my wife down to the cantina to buy some things for the room.” You guessed it:
It was like $24 – EVEN!!” Knudsen recalled – his voice nearly shouting with excitement. Every single thing that Knudsen had purchased over a 48-hour period totaled even dollars – absolutely no change involved! “I was like man this is it. The seventh time that I bought something in two days in two different cities and counties! The clerk at the cantina said I should buy a lottery ticket and I said, “I already did!”
But the icing on the cake came late Friday evening (Aug 22). Knudsen, who had no idea his winning Mega Millions numbers had already been drawn, met his children at the Fantasy Springs Resort Casino. “Everywhere I played I won! I played on seven different machines (ironically lucky seven – the same number of even-money purchases he had made!) and I won on every single one of them. I said I’m getting out of here!”
The next morning Knudsen got a call from his sister informing him that someone from Calimesa had won the $180 million jackpot. “She said did you happen to buy one? I said, ‘I did!’ When she said it was the Calimesa 7-Eleven, I looked up the numbers and said, ‘Oh my God.’ I looked at the numbers three different times and I just about fainted! My family and I were yelling and hugging. We drove home. It took 45 minutes but it felt like an entire day – felt like we were driving in the river!”
The very first line of Knudsen’s five Quick Picks matched the winning numbers 5-31-34-41-74 and Mega Number 3. The 7-Eleven where he ended up buying his lucky ticket (301 County Line Road in Calimesa) is a winner too. The owners receive a $900,000 retailer bonus just for selling the ticket!
Not surprisingly, after 35 years in the roofing business, Knudsen is calling it quits. Before he claimed his winning ticket yesterday, Knudsen said he decided to go on a previously-planned Alaskan fishing trip adventure with some co-worker friends, including his boss. That’s when he broke the news. “It was bittersweet. When you like your job – I’d been working there since I was 19,” his voice trailing off.
Knudsen has decided to take the cash option lump sum amount of $107 million (even!) before federal taxes. The long time Riverside County resident says he will be helping his church with some things, including a new roof. “And then enjoy life – help my (five) kids and (three) grandkids.
“A friend of mine told me he heard the odds of winning (the Mega Millions jackpot) are the same as you being eaten by a shark and lightning hitting you at the same time – and probably some other things as well! I just had a feeling. I only play when I feel lucky. And I felt lucky.” Knudsen has enough money now to tell merchants, “Keep the change!” no matter how the total works out in the future.