So last weekend was the first heat wave of the year, and I'm such a temperature wuss that the mere thought of a 95°F average weekend was enough to convince me to head for cooler locales. So while most of the Bay Area headed off toward Santa Cruz to enjoy beach weather, Lucie and I headed inland.
No, no -- I'm not really an idiot, honest; I do understand that if you head inland away from the ocean breeze it does get hotter... but if you head inland further still, you end up near Tahoe. And there ain't NOTHING as cool as Tahoe.
Except maybe hitting a casino, so we did that first. After work on Friday, Lucie and I headed up to Folsom where she'd found a really great price on a hotel room (which coincidentally happened to be literally right across the street from the outlet mall.) We check in, check out our hotel room, I crank up the AC, and we immediately head toward the new Red Hawk casino not half an hour away, where we figure we can find comfortable temperature-controlled (albeit smoke-filled) goodness.
We've been to a lot of Indian casinos (because we hate money and want to get rid of it as fast as possible), but I totally appreciate not only the insanely easy driving directions but also the valet parking they offer here. Most casinos, you have to drive miles and miles of curvy and poorly-maintained mountain roads just to get to a place where you have to park and walk uphill (no, NOT both ways) for another half mile just to enter the aging casino building. Not with Red Hawk... they're located right off the freeway, so literally less than a minute after leaving Highway 50 you pull up to a shaded entryway where they take your keys, give you a bar code ticket, and you can walk the 25 feet into the building. I swear, it's like they WANT you to go there or something. And they only opened like earlier this year, so the place still has that new casino smell (which of course still smells very much like cigarette smoke.)
Anyway, we lose a chunk of cash (take THAT, checking account!) and have a really tasty meal (seriously the tastiest chicken fried steak I've ever had -- a little overdone, but the breading and the gravy were top notch) before heading back to the Folsom hotel room we've turned into our evil lair for the night (actually, two nights -- we check and there's a cancellation, so we opt to keep our room another night, and they even let us keep the discounted online rate.)
The next morning, we decide to head on over to Tahoe for the day... from Folsom, it's only another couple of hours of driving, and my trusty iPhone says it's in the mid-70s there, so there ain't NOTHING that can stop us. We take a quaint little back road to a mile or so up the freeway to avoid a severe backup (some truck driver got tired so he decided to lay his truck full of pesticides down on its side to sleep, which caused a fire, damaged the roadway, and blocked all lanes of the freeway for about 10 hours), and find almost zero traffic all the way to South Shore. Not that I'd suggest this as a normal way of doing things, but if you can block all lanes of a freeway and then get around said blockage, traffic REALLY lightens up from then on. Just saying.
So, yeah. Tahoe.
There's still snow on the mountains -- heck, there's still snow alongside the road in some places -- and it's a nice cool 70 degrees when we arrive. We say hi and wave to the lake, and immediately get away from nature and into our comfort zone, the casino. We enjoy a good meal (it's no chicken fried steak, but the pastrami sandwich on a pretzel bun with sweet potato fries is still quite tasty), do our part to help the poor casino owners in this time of economic hardship, and start to head back to Folsom.
And then, it appears. A sweet, sweet respite from the health food loving, granola sucking, tree hugging ecological freak quickie wedding chapel snowboarding second home in the mountains sameness into which Tahoe is turning... The Energy Drink Outlet. My new caffeinated Mecca. My Stimulant Stop. My Jolt Joint. My Buzz Buddy. My Xanthine Alkaloidal Lair.
Our remaining money doesn't stand a chance. Ignoring the terrified screams from my kidneys, I pull over, run inside as giddy as the day I got my iPhone, most likely humiliate myself bouncing through the store ("got it, got it, had it but didn't like it, ooh! haven't had THAT yet, want it, got it but want another...") and walk away with a box full of C8H10N4O2 goodness. Incredibly sweet Bawls, with 50% extra caffeine added. Caffeinated Snickers bars. Three different kinds of non-carbonated caffeinated fruit juice blends so I can survive morning meetings at work. A couple of bad choices that I later find out taste like the crotch of a warthog (which happens; energy drinks are not normally known for their outstanding flavor.) A couple different flavors of my high school standby, Jolt Cola.
I grab a business card so I can visit the web site, I have Lucie take a picture for posterity (third attempt; the first couple of pictures I came out blurry for some reason), and we head back to Folsom for something or other. Apple Hill, Jelly Belly factory, Red Hawk again, blah blah made it home okay and all that, but come on...