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Not Exactly Las Vegas

August 7, 2011

When I first started loosely planning this crazy trip, Nevada was a real challenge. We weren’t going to have time to go as far south as Las Vegas and, well, I don’t care how family-friendly they say it is, it’s not really the best place to be taking a 9-year-old anyway. Reno is much better situated but much worse in terms of wholesome activities–it doesn’t even pretend to be family friendly. But it seemed wrong (and incredibly boring) to pass through an entire state without stopping.

The solution was Lake Tahoe. My mother had been telling me for years how beautiful Lake Tahoe is, and it looked to be in a reasonable spot for us geographically. OK, so most of the good parts are in California. Still, half the lake is in Nevada, so it counts.

Our plans for Lake Tahoe kept getting screwed up. For starters, I was planning to spend the whole weekend there but even the really divy motels (see previous post regarding Motel 6) had ridiculously expensive weekend rates, so we changed the plan to spend Friday at the lake but sleep in nearby Carson City, NV Friday and Saturday nights, which saved us a lot of money and gave our trip a little more Nevada cred). I also had big plans for what we’d be doing at the lake but those got scuttled, too (more on that in tomorrow’s post).

So we arrived in Lake Tahoe Thursday evening with no idea what we’d be doing there. Basically, in the summer the choices are whatever water sports you can think of, and in the winter the choices are skiing. Sam suggested renting a pedal boat. Sounded good to me. We slept late Friday morning but about half an hour after we left the motel we were already on the water, pedaling away.

We had some great views from our “boat,” including the one pictured above, as well as a wedding on the beach not far from our launch point. Sam, who wore a bathing suit, toyed with the idea of jumping into the water but didn’t have the nerve. Instead, he insisted that we spend some time on the beach after we returned the boat.

Sam loves everything about the beach: the sand, the water, the waves, everything. When we’re at home it’s all he wants to do every weekend. On our way to Cooperstown on Day 1 he asked if we’d be going to any beaches on the trip. The weather was too cold on the Oregon Coast, but Lake Tahoe was much warmer and he wasn’t going to miss the opportunity like Sarah had. “It’s nice to be back on a beach,” he said as soon as we set foot on the sand. He played in the sand, he played in the water, and he even played with the geese that waddled by looking for snacks.

I had to pry him away. Unfortunately I hadn’t put sunscreen on either of us because I figured we would only be out for 40 minutes or so on the pedal boat. Sam got a little pink on his back, which is already gone, but my shoulders got burned pretty well.

I thought the lake was pretty, but not any prettier than any other lake surrounded by mountains, and we’ve seen a few of those on this trip so far. It was also extremely crowded, but I guess that’s kind of my own fault for going to a popular resort area on a summer weekend. but either way I was starting to wonder why my Mom was so in love with the place when Sam asked if we were going to see the part that’s in the picture she has hanging in her apartment. That part of the lake is called Emerald Bay and is supposedly one of the most photographed spots in the world. I wasn’t sure where it was but we had plenty of time to go exploring. About half an hour later we found it, and I suddenly understood why my mother had been so impressed.

The most interesting parts of the day were still to come. On our way out of town we were scanning for a souvenir shop and noticed a sign that said “Gifts.” We parked and went inside, only to discover that half the store was a skate shop and the other half had a curtain blocking the entrance and a little sign saying you had to be 18 to enter. Not exactly the kinds of “gifts” we were looking for.

Once we crossed into Nevada the scenery changed instantly to towering, blinking casinos. Sam insisted we were in Las Vegas. I was starting to think that Las Vegas would have been more family friendly.

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