The Summer of 1998 Part X

Our return trip was on the Nevada side, which offered more spectacular views of this pristine lake. Here’s an interesting fact: the deepest point of Lake Tahoe is below the elevation of Carson City, the nearby capital of Nevada. We plug in the tape Blaine edited for me, a collection of classics from the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s (my favorite – “Too Much Monkey Business”). Now, we were rollin’ in style. “Hey, Blaine, you interested in knowing how this lake was formed?” His reply: “Not really, but I have a feeling you’re going to tell me anyway.” In spite of his insouciance, I continued, ”

According to Precambrian studies, there was an enormous subterranean upheaval, resulting in a huge cleavage of the land mass. The lateral forces literally pushed the existing mountain ranges apart (specially the south rim), thereby creating this incredible void in the earth’s surface (a giant depression). The succeeding eras of glacier meltdowns more than adequately filled the huge void with nature’s freshest water. ‘And that was the way it was, the way it is, the way it shall be’ (with Walter Cronkite inflections).” “That’s pretty impressive. How’d you know all that?”, he asked. “I read it on one of those plaques of ‘Geological Interest”, I unashamedly replied.

No sooner than we had pulled into the drive at West Tamarack on Donner Lake, my partner-in-gambling threw his ditty-bag into the Riveria and took off back to South Lake Tahoe, but not before explaining, “I’ve got to go back. It’s Saturday night and I’ve got a gut feeling I’m going to win big. The house is all yours, don’t burn it down.” I was flabbergasted at first, but as he was pulling away, I recognized and accepted his gambling spontaneity. I would have been comfortable staying another day, had it not been for anticipating a phone call from an old highschool classmate who was in the area (to set up a rendezvous for Sunday). .I settled in and watched reruns of a Route 66 tape (Special Collector’s Series by Michael Wallis) that cousin John Farris had very appropriately sent me. I fell asleep that night, wishing Blaine all the luck.

The next morning, I was thoroughly enjoying having the kitchen all to myself. I scrambled up a breakfast of eggs, toast, and hash browns, and watched CBS Sunday Morning with Charles Osgood (the best hour and a half on TV). As a rule, I try to avoid world and national news when on vacation, as a sort of escapism from the “outside world” of tragedies and triteness. I do, however, like to keep the auto audio on AM when cruising through out-of-state, far-away towns, just to find out what’s happening locally. Some interesting tid-bits come across the air-waves now and then. For instance, KWOW in Montrose, Colorado, announced that, because of low-flying migratory birds over the area, the city council had passed a referendum banning any sky-scrapers over fifty-two stories to be built in the downtown district. Wow, that must have put a severe crimp in potential future development. And in Delta, Utah, KBEE informed its listeners that Proposition no. 257 had been approved by a narrow margin, thereby changing the parking around the city park from 45 degrees to parallel next to the curb. Now that was pertinent info for yours truly, since I spent about three hours there, running barefoot in the park. I made darn sure I was paralleled parked.

A little after the noon hour, Ol’ Pistol Pete Pillsbury and wife Cindy rolled up to West Tamarack, just as I had directed them on the phone a couple of hours earlier. We sat around the dining room table, catching up on each other’s news over the past two years (I had visited them two years ago at their domicile near Oregon House in California).

I kidded Pete about being the best sharp-shooter off the bench (of our basketball team, and that’s why we nicknamed him after Pistol Pete Marovich of LSU, the most prolific scorer in basketball history. He also looked like he hadn’t gained more than ten pounds since high school, which justified another appellation I personally had branded on him: “ol’ bandy legs”. From the waist down, he looked like two ropes with knots tied in them. He took my jesting with aplomb, but counteracted with, “You were always making sure your hair was combed just right so the girls in the stands would notice you.” I have to admit, he hit home on that one. After exchanging a few more memoirs, we finally parted company. It was one fine time…thanks.

By the time Blaine returned from his gambling escapades, I had about sated myself with biking around the lake and hanging out at the marina. It was hard to leave “paradise”, but it was time to hit the road. So, what’s the plan, Stan? We leave off the key, Pinky Lee. Leave the driving to us, Gus, and set ourselves free. And where do you think we were headed for our first stop? Just take a wild guess. You got it – South Lake Tahoe….back to Casino City. The plan was to meet at the palace of Ceasars where Blaine had entered us in a slot machine tournament. It almost defies description. Contestants were allowed five minutes to ring up as many “points” as they could by tapping the “pull slot” button as fast as they could. It was a rudimentary exercise in carpal endurance (one would actually switch hands, or in this case, wrists).

It was the height of absurdity, as far as I was concerned. But for Blaine and the others, it was a chance for prize money (neither of us won one iota). Well, to coin the gambler’s chestnut: “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.” I’ve tried. Having got that exercise in futility behind us, we hightailed it over to our eighteen-dollar-a-night motel to check in. It had one of those unique names, something like Fred and Tilly’s Inn on Jasmine Street. I then proceeded over to the parking lot behind Harrah’s to see if my favorite space was available. Sure enough, the old slot was unoccupied, as usual, just as if I put a “Reserved for Ol’ Baleau” sign there. That particular spot was so copacetic, like I was married to it, ever since I first discovered it on one of my western odysseys back in the early 1980’s. It was remote with towering pine trees and lush rye grass, and yet, conveniently sat within walking distance of Harrah’s.

I figuratively threw out the anchor, because I wasn’t about to cast about in Ol’ Baleau, especially since I had the old PUCH to get me around. Looking back, it was incredible that I spent six days there. I would never spend that much time in one locale just to gamble, especially by myself. But, because my companion-in-gambling was there, it made the casino vacation that more enjoyable. Oh, we did have a good time, side-by-side at the blackjack table, watching a stage production of “Grease”, and eating like kings at the buffet atop Harrah’s.

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