Arlene Leib and Ronald Reigle were married in the basket of a hot air balloon on Nov. 11, 2011, 11/11/11, and later took a balloon flight to celebrate.
Arlene Leib and Ronald Reigle were married in the basket of a hot air balloon on Nov. 11, 2011, 11/11/11, and later took a balloon flight to celebrate. submitted photo

Out of all Arlene Leib's hobbies, she says one stands out above the rest: playing cards.

But the 81-year-old isn't talking about bridge or rummy.

She's played her favorite games — three-card poker, blackjack and Texas Hold 'Em — at hundreds of casinos across the country for the past 40 years.

She reaches for a 2012 American Casino Guide. A list of all the casinos in each state, it might as well be her own checklist.

"There's my Bible," she says, holding it out in front of her.

And the grandmother of six and great-grandmother of three doesn't limit her thrills to visiting far-flung casinos: She attends national bowling tournaments each year, runs her own business and did the Polar Bear Plunge for 10 years in a row before stopping two years ago.

Not one day passes that she feels 81.

"I'm still young," she says.

York roots: Leib was born in York and grew up on a farm in Manchester Township. She went to school at Foustown, attending until the eighth grade.

She married and had four children — who are now ages 50, 56, 58 and 60. After raising them and divorcing her husband, she decided she was going to take a trip by herself.

In her 40s, that journey sent her all the way to Orange County, Calif. She was on the road for six weeks, covering 10,000 miles and 25 different states.

She used posters and billboards to find entertainment, bouncing along from place to place and sleeping in her car most nights. With her clothes hanging on a line and a cooler full of water, Pepsi and M&Ms at hand, she said it was actually quite cozy.

"I stopped everywhere I wanted to stop," she said. "And I loved traveling by myself."

Leib said she particularly loved Arizona and North Dakota, but York is still her home.

"Because my family's all here. You've got a set place — you have a place where your roots are," she said.

Riding solo: After that initial trip, Leib didn't stop traveling.

For the past 27 years, she's gone to national bowling tournaments, which are held in different states each year. In her prime, she bowled a 160 average. Now she's at a 140 average and still competes each year.

"But I still bowl," she said. "I love it."

Those years of traveling have sent her to all the continental United States, almost all the national parks and more casinos than she can keep track of.

She even switched her license plate — it's now CASINO1 — so it would be easier to remember when checking into hotels.

Leib said it's surprising how many people come up to talk to her because of her signature plate.

"Especially motorcycle people," she said. "They were the nicest people."

When she comes back from trips, she washes her clothes, folds them and puts them right back in her suitcase.

Finding a partner: In between running her own business, Leib's Custom Draperies, for 48 years, she's also worked at several restaurants and shops.

While working as a short-order cook at PADE Auto Auction in 1998, she met Ron Reigle, a 6-foot-6 Marine Corps vet. But it wasn't until four years ago that the two got to really know each other. Leib had been alone for some 40 years; Reigle is a divorcee and widower himself.

"At 80, 79, it's hard to change when you lived alone all those years," she said.

But the two committed to each other, marrying on a cold Nov. 11, 2011, in a hot air balloon over Bird-in-Hand, Lancaster County.

And two years ago, the couple went on a six-week trip, covering 86 casinos.

"Any place that had a sign, we stopped at," said Reigle, 78.

The couple would ask for — and often receive — complimentary rooms, and Leib even had a stretch where she won thousands of dollars, he said.

"We just loved it," she said.

They're sensible with their money: not cheap, but frugal, Reigle said.

"We don't spend our grocery money in gambling," Leib said.

The couple plans to visit Hawaii in May and Key West, Fla., this summer. Reigle said he'd love to get up to New England and see the leaves change.

"My suitcase is packed," Leib said.

Eternal youth: Around this time of year, she still gets together with her children to enjoy whiskey and hog maw — pig stomach stuffed with potatoes and sausage, Pennsylvania Dutch-style.

"I guess I grew up with my kids," she said.

Although Leib and Reigle have their fun, hard work is what they say keeps them going.

"I have to be doing something," she said.

Leib taught herself to sew, and she said she hasn't stopped since she got out of seventh grade. Growing up, she sold Barbie doll clothes at Central Market, and she still creates draperies and clothes.

"I love to travel, but I can't be without working," she said.

Reigle says that's the secret to staying young: staying busy.

"If you sit around and do nothing, don't plan on being here long," he said.

"I did almost everything," Leib said, turning to her husband of two years.

"She didn't miss much," he replied.

"And we're not done yet, are we?"

"Heck, no."

– Reach Mollie Durkin at mdurkin@yorkdispatch.com.