Sixteen Hours in Tahoe

So we plan to leave work early on Friday, as a way of celebrating Lucie’s birthday. We’d talked about what we wanted to do and where we wanted to go, but hadn’t made any actual plans. On the way in to work, however, we hear Kevin Nealon’s commercial about Lake Tahoe’s recovery from the Angora Hills fire, and about how even though the fire devastated over 3,000 acres of land and over 200 homes, the tourism industry is still chugging along just fine.

From what I’ve read, tourism fell by about 30% as a result of the fire, which isn’t too terribly surprising, so the tourism board had long-time resident Kevin Nealon do his radio spot as a way of drumming up the visitors… and you know what? It worked on us, at least. We might be able to enjoy smaller crowds because of the drop in tourism, and we’d be able to support the community’s recovery by spending some money while we’re there. Win-win.

Of course, by “spending some money” I mean at the casinos, so technically to be supporting Tahoe we’d have to lose the money gambling, so it’d be win-lose-win, and if we did it in Vegas it could be win-lose-win-Wynn, and if Lou’s Donuts was still around and we brought some to Vegas and gambled… but I digress.

At any rate, we hear the commercial on the way in to work, and we decide that if it’s good enough for Kevin Nealon, the best out of the poor replacements for Dennis Miller, it’s good enough for us. Semi-spontaneous road trip, here we come!

We leave work around 12:30, get home around 1, get a little delayed while packing, and hit the road around 2:30 or so. A bit later than we wanted to leave – we end up running to heavy traffic leaving the Bay Area and heading inland – but we’ve got a comfy car, we’ve got iTunes playing… and we’ve got a bunch of Krispy Kreme donuts.

See, Krispy Kreme, as part of their company anniversary, is offering anybody with a July 13th birthday a free dozen donuts on that day. Lucie’s birthday just so happens to be on July 13th, and there’s a Krispy Kreme right off Hwy 680 along the way to Tahoe. So already, we figure we’re in the black.

We hit more traffic crossing the Benicia Bridge, and again in Fairfield (home of the Budweiser brewery as well as the Jelly Belly factory), and some more traffic in Sacramento… by my reckoning, we may be spending more time parked on the freeways than actually driving on them, but we finally make it to South Lake Tahoe around 9:00 or so.

We see what lodging is available, filter out what’s too crowded (sure doesn’t look like tourism is down, judging by the hordes of loud drunk folks at the casinos!) or too expensive (when the “vacancy” sign means that you do have one room available, but it’s a junior suite that’s more than twice the price of the other rooms, just turn the “vacancy” sign off, dude!) or too far away (the rates might be good, but I’m hearing the married siblings in the room next door playing “dueling banjos” so we’re leaving), and end up at a slightly run-down but affordable joint located about half a mile from Stateline. Sure the place might be lacking an A/C unit and actually still uses real door keys instead of magnetic strip cards, but it’s also a mere $80 for the night, and that leaves us more money for gamb—err, supporting Tahoe. And we’re okay with that; considering we’re splurging just on coming up here, no need to go wacky crazy with the spending on everything.

Speaking of non sequiturs, When the heck did Caesar’s Lake Tahoe turn into Montbleu?! Smokin’ Aces -- which was filmed there -- wasn’t that bad, was it? (Actually, we watched it recently – yeah, it was that bad. I’d have changed my name if I were associated with it. Ben Affleck may have been the bomb in Phantoms, but he bombed in this junker along with everyone else.)

Anyway, we drop off our luggage and the remaining Krispy Kremes in the hotel room and hit the casinos. We park Meg at the Montbleu and start there, then move on to Bill’s. Montbleu likes me a little more than it does Lucie, but Bill apparently misses both of us, and we do okay there. We don’t make a profit or anything, but at least our money lasts longer.

We hit the all-night restaurant at the Montbleu on the way out for a late-night meal (the coconut shrimp appetizers are yummy, and while my mushroom burger isn’t worth the price they’re charging [think “five dollar milkshake’] it is mighty tasty), and then we head back to the hotel for some sleep.

In the morning, we hit the casinos on the other side of the street (well, okay; just the Horizon, since neither of us are doing well enough to warrant continuing on to Harrah’s and Harvey’s), and have a late breakfast before leaving town around 1PM.

I always enjoy the drive back from South Lake Tahoe along Hwy 50 more than coming in. Maybe it’s the lack of urgency and desperation in the drivers around me, maybe it’s the fact that we’re on the mountain side of the road instead of the butt-puckering side right next to the edge of the cliff, maybe it’s because we usually end up arriving at night but leaving during the day… who can say? At any rate, we enjoy a nice leisurely drive from Tahoe to Placerville where we make our usual stop at Apple Hill’s Boa Vista orchards and stock up on fresh apple cider and other fruity products.

From there, we mosey through Sacramento before making another stop in Fairfield’s Jelly Belly factory, where we stock up on our friend the simple carbohydrate, in various flavors and forms. Jelly Belly’s “Belly Flops” candies may be freakish and sometimes a little ugly, but they’re just as tasty as their QC-accepted cousins and they’re a lot cheaper, and I’m not sure my coworkers even notice what they look like before they descend upon them like locusts with PhDs.

We end up back in San Jose around 7:30, with a lighter bank account but a heavier car, thanks to the goodies we bought; happy, sated, and proud that we were able to help assist with the recovery of one of the world’s most beautiful places… although in a rather self-serving way.

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1 comment:

mike said...

That's one of the things I miss the most about living here - Tahoe/Donner. I haven't been skiing or snowboarding in over 4 years. Don't get me wrong - Lake Allatoona is great but it's not the same.