Lake Tahoe

Its mile after mile of nothing but the lights of upcoming cars, the lights remind me that I am on a road deep in the heart of Nevada. I see the sun starting to try to poke up out of the sky as I pull over in the city of Jackpot, just over the Stateline after leaving Idaho early in the morning. The Great Basin Highway on which I have been riding is mostly empty but here at Barton’s Club 93, the cars are slowly starting to pull in one by one as I watch from my car. I am eating a sandwich that my mom made for me for the road, I eat it and drink some water, and back on the road, I go. It’s going to be a long day and the road is calling me back.

The sun finally breaks over the mountains as I join Interstate 80 in Wells Nevada. Pulling over at a Flying J Travel Center to get some gas the wind is blowing like a cat in heat. My day will end today just north of San Fransico but before I can get to the city by the bay, I have to make a stop in Lake Tahoe.

Ah, Lake Tahoe, a playground for those who are rich or at least own a car. It has been on my list of places to visit for a long time. I would close my eyes and I would see a giant lake with a shore that I could walk on and the sound of gentle waves just breaking at the shore. I start to head west towards the Golden State knowing that soon enough I’ll gaze upon the waters with my own eyes.

The trip will be mostly without anything worth writing about. I’ll stop a few times and the towns on the map will fly by. Towns with funny names like Winnemucca will come and go. I’ll climb up and down and around large mountains as the hours’ slip by. I listen to the road as I have no one to talk to on my solo trip, but soon I lose my focus and look at the endless road in front of me. I start to wonder what the large body of water will be like. Will it be so large that I can’t see to the other side or will it be so small that I’ll wonder what the big deal ever was? I stop in Valmy at a rest stop and try to gather my thoughts together. It’s cold outside but I sit in the heat of my car and I look at the nearby mountains and I wonder, people used to travel this land in covered wagons, wagons of death and disease. Ox instead of horsepower was the way to go. The California trail which started in Independence Missouri, was the original mother road, leading to a better life in which gold could be found in the streams and hills out west.

One more stop at the start of the Forty Mile Desert and my next stop will be some lunch and then Reno. What used to take 2-3 days to cover I cross in under an hour. Falling behind here and the Sierra-Nevada Mountains up head would be a dangerous place to be. The miles kept slowly going down as I started to see signs for Reno, the biggest little city in the world, wasn’t too far away. Soon enough I was in Fernley and crossed some mountains and took in the heights of the mountains. What it must have been like to see these peaks for the first time. Up and down the mountains I went and around every bend, the trucks got slower the higher we went and then finally we hit our peak.

It was smooth sailing down towards the city of Sparks. I picked up speed as I saw a sign for Downtown Reno and my only stop in the little big city, its world-famous sign. I got off the Dwight D. Eisenhower Highway and found the Reno Arch. Happy to take my picture, I promptly got lost before finding my way onto Interstate 580 and back on track towards Lake Tahoe.

Lake Tahoe is the second deepest lake in the United States and after the Five Great Lakes, the largest by volume also in the U.S. So we got big and deep, that’s pretty impressive. It is surrounded by mountains on all sides and is a major tourist area for its snow and ski sports. Two-thirds of the shoreline sits in California while Nevada can claim to have casinos on its side. The Washoe Native Americans were the original people of the area as part of the Washoe Indian territory. So it checks off all the normal boxes of great Native lands that were taken away from them, a story as old as time it seems.

As I got off the interstate I made my way towards the mountains, unable to see the lake. The lake was calling from over the ridge.

On February 14, 1844, Lt. John C. Fremont was the first white man to see the lake. It had different names at first, Lake Bonpland, Mountain Lake, Fremont’s Lake, and Lake Bigler. All awful names that never caught on. As I drove around Mt. Rose Highway none of this crossed my mind. I was too busy looking at all the trees, snow, and sharp turns of the road to give a damn what the area was once called.

And then I finally saw it.

My dreams could never have shown me such beauty as my eyes showed me. At every single stop, the blue of the lake just reached out to me and grabbed me b the shirt and just shook me. This was not heaven but I have no proof that it wasn’t. The wind that had followed me since I had left Idaho was still around like it had gone on a joyride with me. The minutes slipped away into hours and as I went around the lake, I knew that the setting sun was not far away and the Bay Area was starting to whisper my name.

In 1862 the name Lake Tahoe was finally picked for the body of water and really for the area. In 1960 the Winter Olympics were held nearby Squaw Valley. While the area was featured in The Godfather Part 2 as the home of the Corleones. And that is all I want to talk about nonlake talk.

I look at the pictures that I have here and I still remember how I felt as I drove around the lake and how the air blew across my face. There was joy when the snow fell on me and for a moment I was at peace. There was a quietness that you do not find in many places. Sure there was heavy traffic in some parts with its well-to-do and those who are better off in life. I stopped at an overlook near Emerald Bay and felt sadness that there will be many who will never get to feel that joy that I did on that afternoon. Many slave away in life only to see the lake as something found in pictures.

I drove up California Highway 89 going north and my time with the big lake was almost done. I made a quick stop in Tahoe City to buy a magnet and see the Lake Tahoe Dam but the stop was quick. Snow had started to fall as I drove towards Truckee and my next stop, Donner Pass.

I can not tell you how I felt as I drove away, just happy that I got to see the lake. I will go back someday and see it again. The mountains, the shoreline, the curves of the road, and the snow call me again.

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All Pictures by me. Taken in March of 2022.

I publish first-hand accounts of places I have been to and stories that strike a chord with me. Follow online to learn where I have been or am going next.

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