This week I’ve traveled outside of Louisiana and Texas for the first time since late July, when I returned from Greece. I spent the week at The Ridge Tahoe in South Lake Tahoe at Stateline, Nevada, where I’ve got a timeshare. The resort is an 11-acre complex on a Sierra Nevada ridge, six miles above Lake Tahoe itself, and overlooking the Carson Valley on the other side.
That timeshare’s acquisition provides me with a rather amusing story. When anyone asks how I got it or makes some comment or face alluding to the cost, I simply say “I bought it on EBay for $1.25, plus transfer fees.” Absolutely true. Every time I’ve been, when I’m at the member’s conference (where a salesperson attempts to convince me I’d really be better off trading my deeded timeshare for a “much better deal” — points in the company’s new travel club, complete with at least $8000 in fees plus annual costs of $2200-2800) and tell them how I acquired it, I see this expression cross the face of said salesperson. Units like mine (a 2-bedroom unit that can be locked off) initially cost at least $20,000. They clearly hate such acquisitions. However, I am now an owner, with an initial financial output of under $400. My annual fee is just under $1000.
This was the third time I’ve been here. The first was over spring break in 2010, and Dad came with me. We rented a car at the Reno airport because I had to drive him to dialysis in Carson City during the visit. It wasn’t snowing at first, but on day three, the storm hit. We were in white-out conditions, and I couldn’t get him to Carson City for Tuesday’s dialysis. He enjoyed just watching the snow fall. The snowplows clearing the roads and parking lot fascinated him. The skiers coming off the ski lift also amused him. We spent a lot of time talking and reading. My cousin Charlie came over one day from near Sacramento, and Dad enjoyed that time with his nephew.
The second time I came was in September 2011, after I retired. It was beautiful and clear. With the rental car, one day I was free to drive around Lake Tahoe itself, which was well worth the day’s trip. Along the way, I stopped a lot for photographs. The Truckee River provided another point of interest — it runs through the area, clear and clean and sparkling.
On another day, I drove through Carson City (state capital) to Virginia City. There I saw the place where Samuel L. Clemens (aka Mark Twain) worked as a newsman. Indeed, when I’d visited here with Dad in 2010, I had a newly published book specifically about Mark Twain and this area. Since I taught Twain in several classes, both undergraduate and graduate, I have always been interested in his time here because it clearly looms large in his development as a writer.
In Carson City and Virginia City, visitors are easily connected to the area’s colorful history — as a mining area, and thus populated by mining towns. Virginia City is perhaps one of the best known of these mining towns, and today it’s a tourist destination that offers a pseudo-immersion into 19th century saloons and the like. When I was there, I found myself dizzy from the various levels of the town — its streets seem to terrace the mountain and well as cut straight down it. At times I felt as though I were going to fall straight down. One thing I still want to do: ride the railroad linking Carson City and Virginia City. I also want to go into some of the mining sites that are now open as safe exhibitions for tourists.
On the day before I left in September 2011, I took a sunset champagne cruise on a catamaran. It was quite nippy despite the time of year, but I loved the experience. The wind was invigorating, and the views of the lake itself as well as of the surrounding trees and houses and shore kept changing as the light itself changed as the day passed into evening.
This time, though, there was snow when I arrived. I didn’t rent a car. Instead, I took the South Tahoe Express to Stateline, Nevada, and then a taxi to the Ridge Resort. On Wednesday night a storm moved in and so on Thursday the snowfall went on for several hours. It was fine simply to stay in the room and visit with the friends who drove over on Tuesday from San Francisco and the Bay Area.
Before my friends arrived, I treated myself to spa time. I had a massage. I had my eyebrows waxed (one of those things I’d put off too long). I also had a facial. One a day for three days. that’s what my days revolved around — spa time. And reading and sleeping.
I also started writing again. That and the spa time seem tied to something I usually come here for — a kind of retreat. I can focus on some project. I can clear my head. Slow down.
Even if I just look out the windows, I’m immediately drawn to the scenery. My timeshare unit gives me views of trees and mountains, a ski lift, and houses, as well as one view toward the valley. Sunrises and sunsets always make me pause and enjoy the way light changes as the sun rises or sets, and during this visit, enjoy the way light plays on the snow itself, whether on the ground, or flocking the trees, or decorating cars.
The lake itself is on the border between California and Nevada. In the Sierra Nevada range, it’s an alpine lake, the largest in North America. It’s also the second deepest in the U.S. at 1645 feet; Oregon’s Crater Lake is the deepest. By volume, it’s the 27th largest in the world. Its elevation is 6225 ft. Though 63 tributaries feed it, the Truckee River is its only outlet.
Once pristine, with remarkable clarity, Lake Tahoe is, like many other bodies of water, in danger as pollution encroaches on its health. There is an on-going campaign to raise awareness to the situation.
People visit here year-round. The lake itself during late spring, summer, and into September, offers water sports. There are excursions on boats and catamarans available to the public, as well as other activities for water sports. Obviously, too, the area is known as a destination for skiers. One site lists something like 12 ski resorts, most along the northern shore (where Squaw Valley, the site of the 1960 Winter Olympics, is situated). Where I am, one of the closest ski destinations is Heavenly. Even thinking of that name just makes me smile.
I meant to ride the gondola up Heavenly this time, but just didn’t get around to it. Maybe next time. It’s always nice to have something new to look forward to!
As I sit here at the Reno airport, waiting to check in for my flight later today, I’m enjoying watching people come and go (I always find it fun to people-watch). This is a small airport, not huge and sprawling, and has a comfortable feel to it. People leaving, like me, sit around at various places, waiting and waiting. Others grab their luggage off carousels and head out the door. A group of veterans are here, standing around with American flags, and people are very respectful of them. Not sure what they’re doing, but it doesn’t really matter. We’re reminded of just what our military personnel do for us. Ah. . . NOW I see why they’re here — waiting to greet returning military personnel!
One very different experience here today — there are a group of volunteers with service dogs, acting as stress relievers for the passengers here in the airport. We’re encouraged to pet the dogs. I first saw the little pug, a 3-year-old, and petted him while his volunteer told me what was going on. Later I saw more, all of them grouped together, and took a photo. I got to pet a beautiful pointer (always, I must admit, one of my favorite breeds). There was also a very sleek, elegant Dalmation. Two standard poodles completed the pack. Quite a neat idea, and I enjoyed being able to pet those beautiful dogs and look into their eyes.
It’s not just that I’m missing my two Shih Tzus after a week away, though I will be glad to be reunited with them tomorrow. I”m just a sucker for dogs. Dogs have always been part of the Ware household, from Dad’s pointers to various other dogs over the years.
As I sit here with my peppermint mocha, I’m wondering where people are heading. Some, I know, are heading for the casinos here in Reno and elsewhere, gambling. Others are here for family time. Some are skiing. Since it’s almost Christmas, I also find myself wondering whether they’re having Christmas here at a resort. Some, though, like me, are heading out for the holidays.
By the time I get back to Lake Charles tomorrow afternoon sometime, I’ll have time to unpack, wash, and repack a small bag. I’ll need to get Christmas gifts wrapped. On Sunday I’ll pack the car, and with my niece and her boyfriend drive to our beach house near Galveston for our family Christmas. Our long-time friend Charles (really a family member by now) will join us. On Monday, I’ll need to grocery shop and begin the preparations not only for our Christmas dinner but for various munchies necessary to the holiday.
We’ll trim our tree and put up lights. I’ll probably make my two dogs, Zsa Zsa and Gypsy, wear costumes again for a little while.
We’ll sit on the deck, We’ll watch television. We’ll play Monopoly and maybe cards.
And we’ll be happy to be together.
All week I’ve been thinking of Bing Crosby and hearing his “White Christmas” in my head. I think it’s time to watch “Holiday Inn” again.
Though there’s snow here, I’m sure there won’t be back home, but that doesn’t matter. Not really. There will be family and friends, food and drink, laughter and conversation. And a Christmas tree with ornaments and some presents and a few stockings.
Merry Christmas, my friends. Happy Holidays. Kalo Kristouyenna.