A Calimesa roofer who won a $180 million Mega Millions jackpot said Wednesday he had "lucky" signs pointing him to purchase a lottery ticket -- and it paid off big time.
``I don't play unless I feel lucky, and the jackpot is high,'' said 53-year-old Rick Knudsen. ``I felt lucky then.''
Knudsen was the sole winner of the Aug. 22 Mega Millions draw, turning a $10 lottery ticket into a life-altering gold strike.
According to Knudsen, he felt willed to buy a ticket after a series of ``weird'' numeric coincidences that began with a trip to his local convenience store.
``I bought something and it was six dollars even -- no change,'' Knudsen said. ``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,'' he added. ``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 dollars.''
The day of the Mega drawing, the streak continued, with two more routine purchases resulting in even dollars -- no change. Knudsen said that in a 48-hour period, seven transactions concluded that way.
That night, the father of five visited Fantasy Springs Resort Casino in Indio with his wife.
``Everywhere I played, I won! I played on seven different machines and won on every single one of them. I said `I'm getting out of here!'''
The following morning, his sister called to ask whether he'd bought a lottery ticket after hearing announcements that the winning numbers matched a ticket purchased in Calimesa.
``When she said it was the Calimesa 7-Eleven, I looked up the numbers and said, `Oh, my God,''' Knudsen said. ``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!''
The winning numbers were 5-31-34-41-74, with Mega number 3.
``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,'' Knudsen said.
He opted for a cash option lump sum payout that nets him $107 million -- before taxes -- California Lottery officials said.
The 7-Eleven that sold the ticket, located at 301 County Line Road, will receive a $900,000 retailer bonus.
Knudsen said he will be hanging up his tool belt after 35 years with RWC Building Products.
``I'd been working there since I was 19,'' he said.
According to the longtime Riverside County resident, initial plans for his newfound wealth include investing in his church, including outfitting it with a new roof. Otherwise, he just wants to ``enjoy life'' and do what he can to make it easier for his children and three grandchildren.
Mega Millions is played in 44 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Drawings are Tuesdays and Fridays.