Thursday, May 11, 2006

Lake Tahoe, Day 1, 11 May 2006

We went to Incline Village, Nevada for the college graduation of Jennifer's youngest bother, Jonas Saia. He's been a student at Sierra Nevada College for three years now. Our trip is 11-16 May.

We got up at 4:00 am, left the house by 4:30, and got to lot Purple 3 at RDU airport by 5:15. There were a surpirsing amount of people waiting for the bus at that time of the morning. By 5:30 we were in the terminal. I had to print my boarding passes as somehow the Continental website wouldn't let me print mine in advance.

As we passed through security a few minutes later, I found out why. I had been singled out for extra attention from the Thousands Standing Around (TSA). Now this makes sense, doesn't it? If you're searching for a terrorist, a good place to look would be a 30-something average looking white guy traveling with his wife and two small children. As anyone with a lick of common sense knows, terrorists always bring their kids.

That minor hassle aside, we were back on track. We were on the 6:30 flight to Houston, and when they boarded "anybody traveling with small children five or under," Zoe got to do a little acting. Five what? She's definitely under five. . . feet tall.

I just want to state now that Tristan (7) and Zoe (6) are very savvy travelers. After this trip, Tristan will have taken 18 flights in his life, and Zoe 16. Starting with our trip to Albuquerque three years ago, the kids have been required to carry their own luggage. And following a Traveling Roths' rule, we do not check baggage. So if you can't carry it, it isn't going.

We flew in a new-looking B737-700. It had winglets. The flight took about 2 hours 15 minutes, and set us back one hour, time-zone wise. We scored some free otherwise $5 headphones for each of us, and watched "movie" and had a rudimentary breakfast of a muffin. Upon landing, both kids added a new state to their lists; Texas.The airport was non-descript. We had about an hour to wait, so we refilled the water bottle, bought two soft pretzels, and a sandwich from Subpar to eat on the second flight. We boarded early again, and got settled in for the 3 hour 45 minute and two time zone flight to Sacramento. this time we watched "Nanny McPhee". That Continental route map is not technically accurate. We flew south of the Grand Canyon, and had a pretty good view of the south rim, and where we had vacationed in 2003. It looked remarkably like the Google Earth representation from that altitude.

Upon landing the kids added yet another state to their lists, California. I haven't been here in 26 years, but Jennifer was here two years ago. We took the shuttle to the rental car place, and collected our Chevy Trailblazer that we'd already bought through Priceline.

Why Sacramento? Well, usually Reno/Tahoe airport is cheaper because it's subsidized by the gambling industry, and it's closer to our destination, but on the dates we wanted, Sacramento was actually $40/ticket cheaper, plus according to Google Earth, the drive looked like it would be pretty cool, going from an elevation of a couple hundred feet to over 6000 feet in 123 miles.

Near the California/Nevada border, we took advantage of a scenic overlook that overlooked Donner Lake to get out and look around.

Some observations;
  • the pine cones are huge out here
  • they must get a lot of snow based on the amount of gravel/cinders on the shoulders
  • a tiny bit of exertion can make you feel like an asthmatic
Tristan and I went down the hill a couple hundred feet to get to some snow , and after walking back up, I felt like I needed a rescue inhaler. This would not be the first time I would experience this phenomenon on this trip.

Not a half-hour from there, we crossed the Nevada border and directly into the parking lot of our hotel, the Tahoe Biltmore.

This place was seriously old-school. It was built in the 1940's or 50's, and it's probably pretty much what you're picturing. We checked in with our $39/weeknight, $59/weekend night rate, and walked out the back door and up the hill to our cottage. Our room (242) is one of four in cottage E (lat:39D 13' 43.88" lon:-120D 00' 17.44'). It's pretty average, with two queen beds a bathroom and walk-in closet. There's no in-room or wireless Internet, and all the outlets are two-prong, so my laptop power cord won't fit without an adapter. Now I'm wondering if hauling my fairly heavy portable computer all this way was the right choice.

Also staying at this hotel are Jennifer's mom and her husband Graham, and Jennifer's brother Jared and his wife Julia. Jennif'er's dad Joe and his wife Pam, as well as Joe's mom Nonna (Elsie) are staying at the Hyatt where Jonas works in Incline Village.

We went down to the lobby and met everyone who was staying there. From there we went to Jonas' rental house in Incline. The houses in his neighborhood, although fairly average, sell in the $1,000,000 range, and are often uninhabited most of the year. Jonas shares his house with three or four other college students.

Most importantly to Tristan and Zoe, after seeing Jonas for the first time in probably two years or more, is that Jonas owns his own inflatable bounce house. This would be their primary preoccupation for the remainder of the trip.

To be continued. . . .

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