Archive. Debut Article. October 2008.
While Somebodyisfromhere.com was in college, he read and saw the movie based on Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. There were few actions in that story that a contributing member of society could mimic, but he always did want to go to Las Vegas and rent a red convertible.
A handful of years later, he found himself leaving the Advantage Rental Car in Reno, Nevada driving a Chrysler PT Cruiser. If not for his brother’s wedding in Tahoe in a few days, he might have felt gypped.
As you have no doubt heard Reno is “the biggest little city in the world” and they won’t let you forget it with two signs that hang over two parallel streets in the small downtown section. In fact, it’s almost as if the inhabitants of Reno came up with that catchy slogan and stopped trying.
It’s an ugly city, dry with too much glitz even by Atlantic City standards. Unlike Atlantic City, it looks like the placement of lights and signs aren’t situated in any kind of logical fashion. Then again, is there ever a logical place to hang an advertisement for a Michael McDonald show?
The thing that makes Reno worth a second glance is that it has potential. Reno, with fewer than 200,000 people, is remarkably easy to get around with nice suburbs and easy shopping. It’s the opposite of most destinations: You could live there, but you wouldn’t want to visit. For a poor looking downtown, it doesn’t feel unsafe due, in large part, to the fact that most people that walk around are gray haired or college students. Meanwhile, one could get a beer and a hot dog for $2.50 while waiting for this potential to be meant.
There is one casino, the Sienna, which is trying to help speed up the process. The Sienna is built on the Truckee River and from across the waters, on the right angle, it looks like it could be Europe. From this same position, if you were to turn completely around, you would see in a fenced-in area protecting only what appears to be weeds. This is the dichotomy of Reno.
Tahoe City, California is about a 45 minute drive from Reno on Route 89. On this road, at night, you can capture a good view of Reno in your rearview. The bright lights framed by the mountains are captivating. However, one should never trust a town whose best view come on the way out.
It’s off-season in Tahoe. All of the road construction will confirm that for visitors real quick. If that weren’t enough, try to find a bar after 9 o’clock or so.
My introduction to the immediate Tahoe area came to me in the form of Squaw Valley which hosted the Olympics in 1960. To enter the valley, there are torches on each side of the entrance commemorating those games. At night, to the unassuming, the torches could very well be the link to some pagan society; as that is unique in America, Somebodyisfromhere.com means that in the most complementary of ways.
Squaw Valley is not what we nowadays associate with Olympic Villages. It’s small and a modern skiing resort. There is a community with condos, hotels, ample shopping for skiers, and food. As it is the off-season between winter and summer, the vast parking lot is largely unused and the cable car has been shut down. The area seems to strive for an Austrian vibe and, gosh darn it, after a few half pints of Spaten beer for real cheap you start feeling convinced.
Down the road past Squaw Valley is Tahoe City, California. The main street in town has shops to one side and lake views to the other. There are many cute restaurants, some closed, that overlook the gigantic lake. There are also many shops in which yuppies like to spend their free time. A visitor would be hard pressed to find a chain store in the town aside from an Albertsons supermarket (where your Acme card is good). The word “quaint” was invented for towns like Tahoe City.
Tahoe is different things to different people. It’s a lake town, a ski resort, a relaxing lake community, a place to shop, or a golfer’s delight. And then there are the people that say, “Tahoe, can’t you gamble there?” These folks are thinking about South Tahoe in Nevada, an area so close to the less gambling happy California that one particular corner shares both a sign reading, “NEVADA
STATELINE” and the entrance to a Harrah’s (where your Harrah’s card isn’t as good as you’d think). In the interest of full disclosure, this corner also has signs reading “SPEED LIMIT 25” and “LAKE TAHOE: ELEV 6285.”
On the California side there is an area called Heavenly which would be considered pretentious had it not looked, well, you know. Here there are new shops for the young and old alike. Centered in the midst of these shops is a Gondola, which is more or less an ever moving cable car, that takes passengers roughly 2 ½ miles up the mountain where there is skiing and bars. From the top
of Heavenly, there is a view of the whole lake as well of the city and golf courses. If you forget where you park your car in the Tahoe area, this is where you go.
South Tahoe is an hour from Tahoe City although time has no relevance because the roads are both beautiful and at times terrifying. Emerald Bay is at one corner of the lake and offers a magnificent view and hiking trails. Route 89 at Emerald Bay meanwhile shares a distinction with a few other roads in California that include Route 1 on the Pacific Ocean and the mountainous roads up Yosemite. On these roads, there is often nothing protecting you on either side of the highway and on such a street Sombodyisfromhere.com’s mind simultaneously thinks Wow, this is truly scary and, should the worse happen, Y’know, there are worse ways to go.
As for the wedding that brought me to the area in the first place. The ceremony was held on the beach in front of Chamber’s Landing Restaurant. It involved the union of two people who were perfect for each other. It had weather that was so ideal that it could hardly be classified as weather at all. Chamber’s Landing meanwhile, boasts of the only building that serves alcohol over the water in Tahoe. Before dusk, the sky went pink. In other words, it was everything anybody could ever hope for.
Now all Somebodyisfromhere.com needs is a red convertible.