Thirty-two years ago, Ryan Holt packed up his Ford Bronco, left Roy, Utah, and headed north to Alaska. To hear his parents talk he doesn’t visit the lower-48 states very much anymore, if ever. For the past twenty-eight years he’s lived in a one-room cabin (without indoor plumbing) off the grid outside of Moose Pass, a quiet burg on the road from Anchorage to Seward, nestled in a long mountain valley among towering pines and fields of fireweed. Although happy and content with his quiet lifestyle, like many people, Ryan was feeling the effects of inflation and the increased cost of living.
“There’s a lot of anxiety over money these days,” Ryan admitted. “I was really getting worried.”
Back in Utah, Lee “Santa” Holt, Ryan’s father, is retired military who travels with his wife once every five weeks to Malad, Idaho for the sole purpose of visiting the Chat ‘n Chew for lunch and to buy the family’s five weeks-worth of Lottery tickets. Everyone gets their ticket and “Santa” marks each one so he knows who they belong to. In mid-October, the couple were visiting the Chat ‘n Chew when he checked his Powerball tickets for the past few draws.
“The bartender told me I needed to take the ticket to Boise because it was too much for her to pay. I asked her if it was a joke,” he recalled on finding out how he won. “It was my son’s ticket and I wanted to know how much it was. They told me it was $50,000. I ran around the bar telling everyone my son had won $50,000! They didn’t want to tell me how much it really was because they were worried I’d have a stroke.”
“Santa’s” Powerball ticket had the PowerPlay. PowerPlay multiplies non-jackpot winning Powerball tickets based on the number selected for that draw. The number for that evening was 5, turning a $50,000 winner into a $250,000 prize.
“Then my buddy told me, Lee, it’s not $50,000. It’s a quarter of a million dollars,” Lee added. “I started running around the bar and celebrating, telling everyone my son had won $250,000! Then I called my son to tell him.”
“My dad called me and asked me if I was sitting down. I thought, oh God, who died?” Ryan said about finding out he had won. “Then I didn’t believe him.”
Ryan has 250,000 reasons to believe in “Santa” now. He made arrangements, got on a plane and flew to Boise where he met his parents and arrived at the Lottery Office to claim his winnings.
While Ryan’s cabin outside of Moose Pass does have electricity, it does not have indoor plumbing. He lives off the land, hunting and fishing, doing plumbing work in the area from time to time. He does not own a television and does not have WiFi. He does have a cell phone, but that’s the extent of his technology.
He said he promised a buddy of his that he’d finish the bathroom in the cabin before November. That was twenty years ago. “I said November, I just didn’t say what year,” he joked.
For his winnings, Ryan says it’s enough for him to live on for the next 17 years. Of course, he did say the area where he lives now has new condo developments, so he might need to move further into the bush and build a new cabin if it gets too crowded. And maybe even live far enough inland on a lake that he’ll need a floatplane to reach it.
Ryan Holt, Idaho Lottery Powerball winner who is living the Alaska dream.