Many people see the advertising for vacation trips to Las Vegas, Nevada or perhaps has even had the thrill of experiencing Vegas themselves. Before Las Vegas became a popular destination, people knew Nevada for the city of Reno, which offered casinos, night clubs, quick marriages and quick divorces as well as its variety of outdoor sports.
My cousin, who grew up in Eureka, CA recalls that his parents would send him to summer camps in Reno during his junior high school days. He said, “It wasn’t just for my benefit, as they would go and spend a week in Reno during those impressionable years. For them, it was the slot machines that called, because they weren’t legal in California!” With this in mind, I had been curious about this area ever since.
As empty nesters now, my wife and I decided to see more of the U.S.A., and Reno was high on our bucket list. It wasn’t until studying a map that I realized that the famous Lake Tahoe was just over 30 miles SW from Reno, accessible now via I-80. I also didn’t realize that the lake was half in Nevada and half in California. This trip was now a definite “go”, so I began to search for any military lodging that may be accommodating.
In Military Living’s® “Temporary Military Lodging Around the World™” there was a Coast Guard Recreation Facility, in Tahoe City, CA. The listing name is Lake Tahoe Coast Guard Recreational Facilities (CA24R4). It identified two A-Frame type buildings, each with two apartments. I knew that a large lead time would be key to confirming any reservation. So I immediately went online to view the available lodging and entered in our choices (www.uscglaketahoeaframes.com).
Sixty days ahead of time, my full payment was submitted (fee based on rank) directly to USCG Station, Tahoe City, CA with a self addressed, stamped return envelope. Confirmation was received in one weeks time. This would indeed be the final four fun days of our nine-day vacation!
We flew on a commercial (U.S. Airways) flight to Reno and took a shuttle downtown to The Silver Legacy Resort and Casino in the heart of the city where reservations were already made for five nights (as convention attendees). In addition to the night life and strolling around town, we did visit the National Automobile Museum which displays beautiful cars of the past.
Upon check-out from the hotel, we rented a car and headed SW on I-80 to the second destination of our trip: Lake Tahoe. Exiting onto State Highway 89 South took us right into Tahoe City. However, we did pass sites along the way deemed worthy of a return visit.
Tahoe City is a small, lakeside community consisting of stores, restaurants, vacation homes and rental properties. The small Coast Guard Station is located on about ten acres on the north end of town, with only a small sign identifying it. The Coastguardsmen stationed there were very approachable and friendly. It seems their rescue challenges are not only boats, but also accomplished swimmers who think they can swim from the middle of the lake to shore through these waters of melted snow. Sadly, every year several of these swimmers drown due to hypothermia.
Our spacious, single bedroom apartment on the 2nd floor of the A-frame structure (which can actually sleep 6) was our home base while visiting other sites around the lake. Meals from our kitchen were optional as we could elect to patronize local grocery stores and eateries in town. There is no Exchange or sources of food on the property.
On our second day we began a journey around the lake. We remembered on the way in passing by entrance roads to at least six ski areas. The one most notable being Squaw Valley, site of the Winter Olympic Games in 1960. We toured the village and stores that were open and decided on lunch at an Irish Pub that was open even during the off season. Although there are ski areas on the Nevada side of the lake, we stopped at one we liked the best. We then drove on around Lake Tahoe, which seemed more populated with more condos and picturesque properties. A regional airport is also located in this area.
On another day we spent time driving on the East side of the lake (Nevada side) and visited the capitol, Carson City, and toured the large train museum there. Then we drove on along the two- lane, winding road to Virginia City. This is the epitome of a legendary frontier town, which it actually was. The buildings were typical and streets were somewhat crowded as many tourists were fascinated and curious as well. The Red Dog Saloon was my favorite!
On another day we took a small sightseeing boat along the Western shoreline and noted the many
fashionable homes and villas. The captain was also the narrator, so he shared many of his personal experiences as well as area history.
On the final day in the area we spent time in Truckee, CA, which is a little town with old western charm that attracts many tourists and vacationers. One will find unique shops, luxurious hotels, ski chalets, and B&B Inns to accommodate year-round recreation nearby. We lunched at a local diner, “Jax at the Tracks”, which happens to be adjacent to the main line of the railroad. (Incidentally, an Amtrak train passed through while we enjoyed our sandwiches.) We later stopped by the restored depot down the street that also accommodates the local Visitor’s Center. Another eye catcher was the Flying-A gasoline filling station on Mail Street, but that was just a facade as it housed a high-end clothing store.
Another notable visit was to the nearby Donner State Memorial Park. It recalls the Donner Party Tragedy of 1846 when a wagon train of immigrants was traveling west along the Oregon Trail, but left it in favor of short cuts, resulting in being stranded in the wild during a freezing and treacherous winter! Sadly, many did not survive this mountainous journey.
At the end of our trip, we headed back to the Reno airport via I-80 and prepared for our return trip to Philadelphia. We felt pleased with this adventurous trip and what we had experienced!
James E. Dickinson, COL USA (Ret.)
Reprint from March–April 2016 • Volume 46, No. 2