Summer of 2000 VI

It was getting near chow time, so I pedaled over to the nearby Raley’s Super Market, a local California chain. I immediately made my way to the deli to pick up a take-out order of pork chow mien that from my past experiences was simply scrumptuous (excuse me, but doesn’t that sound like how a gay might describe a meal?). I picked up a few more edibles like milk and bananas and made my way back to Ol’ Blue. After savoring some of the chow mien (with a fork, not chop sticks) out of the familiar fold-out-top paper box, I coasted down on the bike to the rear entrance, locked up the wheels, and strolled into “the pit” taking dead-aim at the dollar slots. I found myself pumping C-notes one after another into the voracious machines until I had a reversal of fortune, as the heavy metal slot silvers clattered into the coin tray with amazing regularity. Ahh, what a beautiful sound! I soon recouped my losses, and by evenings’ end, I walked out 800 dollars ahead.

As I biked back up to Ol’ Blue, I happened to notice that I was parked in a rather unique spot. Harrah’s was built as close to the state line as the law allowed (probably within inches), so as I visually lined up the casino’s south facade with where I was parked, the astonishing coincidence became apparent – the van was sitting squarely on the state line, honest to gosh! I reclined in the easy chair reminiscing over what an eventful day it had been and thinking how bipolar the atmosphere was at Lake Tahoe – nature’s beauty and serenity in contrast to the crass artificiality of the gaming houses. As I reposed between the sheets, I calculated to my best ability that I was about to fall asleep with my feet in California and my head in Nevada. Sleeping in two different states at the same time had to be a one in a million chance. As if to corroborate my hypothesis, I even had a dream in my “Nevada head” of a slot spin landing on three Lucky Sevens.

The weekend was spent in a very leisurely manner with a great deal of the time wrapped up in simply enjoying bike rides around the scenic surroundings. One afternoon I hiked all the way to South Lake Tahoe (about 4 miles) along U.S. 50 in a most convenient bike lane, panning all the commercial establishments that dotted the streetscape. On another occasion, I pedaled down to the lakeside beach to test the cool waters of Lake Tahoe. The view across the shimmering surface to the distant mountains with a smattering of sailboats punctuating the horizon was pure paradise. In between all the physical activity, I found time to relax on my adjacent lawn to peruse the Smithsonian publications that I had brought along for just such occasions. One of the highlights of my stay, besides winning an additional 1200 dollars, was relaxing on the patio/dining area in front of the Radisson Inn listening to music being played on a synthesized keyboard. The symphonious sounds reverberated off the surrounding buildings including the adjacent Harrah’s. I had never experienced such mesmerizing music in my life. Such was an unforgettable three days at Lake Tahoe.

Needless to say, I had spent three splendid nights sleeping in Ol’ Blue under ideal 50-degree conditions, tucked beneath the warm covers. Before leaving Monday morning, I stopped at the cashier’s window to pick up my complimentary buffet voucher and elevated myself to the penthouse dining area. Casino buffets seem to be renown for their excessiveness, tempting patrons to the brink of gluttony. I made sure to pace myself (I had oodles of time) so as not to satiate too quickly, and bringing along an issue of Smithsonian to read helped pass the time between chews. I located a table next to the floor-to-ceiling windows where I looked down sixteen floors, and to my amazement saw Ol’ Blue precisely lined up with Harrah’s’ south wall. That overhead view was all I needed to confirm that I was definitely parked straddling the state line. By the way, the panorama of Lake Tahoe and the Sierras was absolutely stunning.

For a change in scenery, I took the California route back, passing by Camp Richardson where Blaine and I had spent one enjoyable evening camping out years earlier. The highway took a precipitous route above and around Emerald Bay with a spectacular view of the protective cove hundreds of feet below. I eventually made it back to W. Tamarack where I was surprised to find Lynn at the house. She had decided to come up for a weekend retreat by herself. We were glad to have each other’s company as we talked while enjoying her home-cooked dinner of enchiladas. I showed her the prints of the snow shed and she exclaimed, “These are wonderful drawings. The design fits right in with the house. Bill will be so excited when he sees this. I want to thank you so much for all your work.” I replied, “Lynn, consider it a trade-off for letting me use your house as an office.” I retired to the van in the usual spot under the pines.

I awoke the next morning with the realization that I had just experienced eleven glorious days in one of the most beautiful parts of the country. I decided it was time to move on down the road. Over a breakfast of eggs and toast that Lynn was most kind to prepare, I happened to say, “You know, I spent every night in the van because it was so great sleeping in the “outdoors” rather than wasting all that beauty by staying indoors (in their downstairs guest bedroom). Besides, I figured I saved you some time and effort from having to laundry sheets and pillow cases.” She replied, “That was very thoughtful of you, but you know you are always welcome to stay in our home.” After exchanging a big hug, I departed with thoughts of being so thankful that Lynn had been there to share everything with me. It was the culmination of one great time.

I couldn’t help but feel a little ambivalent about leaving Donner Lake as I coasted down the pot-holed interstate – I-80 really took a beating with all the 18-wheelers pounding down the ice and snow on the roadway. There’s a saying throughout the northern tier of states: “We have two seasons up here – one is winter, the other is road repair.” Actually, I had noticed one crew resurfacing a short stretch of road on my way up, but the California Department of Highways definitely had their work cut out for them – it was a short time between August and December. I whizzed through Reno and out into the desolation of Nevada, skirting around the north-to-south mountain ranges that were so prevalent in the Silver State. I had to finally stop for gas (it seemed like weeks since I had last filled up) in Lovelock for a relatively reasonable $1.70 a gallon. When driving across Nevada, one had a chance to wonder what all the fuss was about concerning overcrowding and running out of space. The truth of the matter was that people were primarily magnetized to water, be it oceans, lakes, or rivers. Other than a few unattractive lakes, the state offered no other amenities with the exception of Las Vegas and Reno, which had an unlimited supply of jobs in construction and service-oriented employment. I let my mind wander into the next century as I envisioned sprawling metropolises dotting the former forbidding landscape, supplied with billions of gallons of fresh water pumped from desalinization plants on the Pacific coast. Hey, with all the technological advances in the last century, why should that sound so improbable in the next 100 years? Che sara, sara.