Doing our best to see as much as we could while we were in San Francisco, we joined a friend who had recently moved to the area and drove to Lake Tahoe for a weekend away.
The drive out there was exactly the way I thought driving in North America was going to be, with flat, multi-lane, straight highways cutting through agricultural lands. We were a little surprised just how dry California was. We’d heard about the drought, but the roads were flanked by golden plains, and pocked by small settlements of cookie-cutter homes that seemed to have sprouted as if around an oasis.
It shouldn’t take long to drive between San Francisco and Lake Tahoe, however we stopped several times on the way, including an obligatory stop at In-N-Out Burger for an Animal Burger or two…
Eventually we left the wide lanes of the motorway. The landscape changed. The rolling hills got larger, there were rocks, shades of green, and large beautiful pine trees shrouding the road on both sides.
It took a while, but we eventually got our first glimpse of the lake, and it was glorious. Dark blue waters, vivid green trees, and clear blue skies – it doesn’t get any better than this.
We arrived a little later than we’d have liked, so there wasn’t much time to go hiking, so instead we just went to the shore to see the lake up close. I’m not sure if it was affected by the drought that is affecting California at the moment, but the lake shore seemed to stretch on for hundreds of meters, and even when the water began, it remained shallow for a long, long way. Or maybe it was just this particular beach.
Even though we’d been blessed with phenomenal weather so far in San Francisco, it was great to be out here with the sun on our skin, and sand between our toes. It’s funny how living in a metropolis like London takes away these small feelings and experiences.
The stranger side of Lake Tahoe starts when you cross the border from California to Nevada, which immediately starts with enormous neon casinos – especially on the southern shore where we spent the evening. We went to the border on the northern side of the lake the following day, and it was still there, though much smaller scale.
After checking in to our budget (though enormous) hotel, we went for a walk back down to the shore of the lake where we watched the sun set. This was after making the most of the happy hour at the hotel – some of us were happier than others.
The sun went down, the sky glowed a feint pink, and after a short period of enjoying this bliss, we did like the rest of the town – headed for the casino searching quick fortunes.
What we found was quite different. I’ve generally been quite lucky with slot machines, however I’m all too aware that there is no such thing as luck, and it certainly doesn’t influence the way these money sucking machines operate. We dropped about $5 into the machines, and several seconds later – it was gone. Well, not entirely, Risa ended up with a 21 cent payout – which she had to get cashed from a cashier, making it even funnier.
I don’t understand (nor wish to understand) any of the card games, so we walked past the crowded tables. I guess if gambling interests you, then you might love it here, but I’m a boring man, and it seems like a waste of money to me.
Sunday morning started with an enormous buffet in the hotel, and it was a bit of an eye-opener to see the other people also staying here. I’d already noticed that people in San Francisco are a fair amount larger than in London, but waistlines here have ballooned. After stuffing our faces with just as much food as them (and being thankful for our high metabolism), we set off for a quick hike in the woods.
It was only a short hike starting from the Bayview Campground towards Maggies Peaks. It wasn’t especially steep, but it was great to get blood pumping again in the wilderness again. It was the first time for me to hike in woods like this, and it felt great to be in the presence of these giant trees. The occasional views out towards Lake Tahoe were spectacular, and the weather was sunny again.
It was tempting to keep walking to the next crest to see what was there, however we still had to drive back to San Francisco, so we had to be mindful of not leaving too late. If I was there alone, I probably would have continued walking all the way to the peak.
We made a quick stop for a hike up Eagle Rock on the western shore, following the recommendations of a friend who’d spent some time in the area. It was a short walk to the top of a bare cliff with great views out over the lake. However, by the time we’d arrived, the weather was starting to cloud over, and it was less impressive than earlier.
The drive home took an eternity, not helped by us stopping so frequently, including another visit in to Nevada (much quieter than the southern shore, though still filled with Casinos), and an extended visit to Walmart to really feel like we’d visited U.S.A.