Sunday, January 13, 2013

Trip to Lake Tahoe

It has become a tradition with us to take a short trip to Lake Tahoe every year right after New Years.  It gives us a chance to relax and get away after the hustle and bustle of all the holiday activities.  During our summer visits we enjoy hiking and exploring the back roads of the area, but in the winter we prefer viewing the lake and mountains from the warmth of our hotel room.  Lake Tahoe is about a seven or eight hour drive for us so on the way up we usually leave a day early and stay in the Sacramento area so it's only a short drive the day and allows us to arrive early in the day.

We left home mid-morning on Saturday and after a lunch stop at Harris Ranch on I-5, we were in our hotel room in El Dorado Hills (just east of Sacramento) by 4:00.  We slept in a bit on Sunday morning as the prediction was for snow on US-50 through the Sierras and we didn't want to drive on icy roads.  Last January there was almost no visible snow along the highway, but we could see this year would be different as we started to see snow at the lower elevations.

Snow along US-50.
As we got higher in the mountains the weather predictions proved to be accurate as it started to snow.  As we got to the higher elevations chains were required, but luckily we have 4-wheel drive so we didn't have to get out in the cold and wet to put on chains.

Driving conditions weren't too bad, but the going was slow so it took us longer than usual to get from Sacramento to Tahoe.  We always stay at Harrah's Hotel, which is just across the California state line in Nevada.

Arriving at Harrah's.  The hotel is just across the state line.
We arrived at Harrah's around lunchtime and to our happy surprise, our room was ready.  We unpacked, had lunch and then tried our luck in the casino.  After a while of not winning, but also not losing too much, we were back in our room and were treated to an amazing sunset as the storm started to break up.

Later we had dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe, did a little more gambling and then called it an early night.  

Monday, our first full day, we walked around a bit, gambled a bit and just relaxed.  Although not as spectacular, we had another beautiful sunset to end our day.

We woke-up Tuesday morning to beautiful blue skies and cold temperatures.  There is so much more snow this year than last. Last year there was virtually no snow, not even on the visible mountain slopes so the skiers were unhappy and the local businesses were unhappy.  This year it is very much the opposite as there is snow on the ground and on the slopes.

Today was our day to drive down into the Carson Valley and visit Reno, Nevada.  One of Val's favorite stores is Coldwater Creek and there is one in Reno.  She had gotten gift cards for Christmas so she wasn't going to pass up an opportunity to use them as there are no Coldwater Creek stores in our area.

Coming down into the Carson Valley
We made it to Coldwater Creek.
We were surprised by the amount of snow on the ground in the Carson Valley, it was the most we'd seen on our winter visits.  After Coldwater Creek we had a late lunch in Reno and then back to Tahoe.  After relaxing a bit, we had dinner at the hotel cafe and then finished the evening gambling a bit.

Wednesday we woke to very high winds as a cold front was moving in and more snow predicted by evening.  We spent the morning walking around some of the other hotels and after lunch we decided to walk over to Heavenly Village to check out the shops and have lunch.  Just across the state line in California there is a gondola in Heavenly Village which skiers use to get to one of the Heavenly ski areas.  You don't have to be a skier to ride the gondolas and Val and I have done it in both the summer and winter.  The views of the lake and surrounding area are spectacular from the top.

The gondola station.

The skating rink is pretty empty on a mid week afternoon.
After walking around and checking out the shops we had lunch at the Driftwood Cafe which is one of our favorites in the area, especially for breakfast.  If you are in the area, we highly recommend it for breakfast.  After lunch, it was time to get back to the hotel as the weather was starting to change and it looked like the snow was coming.

Harrah's Hotel, cross the street and you're in Nevada.
After napping and relaxing for a while we had a good Mexican dinner at the Cabo Wabo Cantina and then it was off to gamble.  It had started snowing in the afternoon and had gotten very cold.  We walked out of the casino to see how cold it was and for a Californian not used to cold weather, it seemed very cold!  I believe it got do to near zero F during the night.

The storm moves in.
Thursday was our last day and we spent most of it in the casino.  It was a very good day gambling, especially for Val. Not good enough to make up for our losses earlier in the week, but we did end up with most of our gambling budget intact, plus our room and all of our food was comped.  We called it a night early as we were leaving in the morning.

We woke up to a surprise Friday morning, there was no power in our room.  It turned out that much of the area on the Nevada side had lost power during the night.  There was plenty of light coming in the windows to see except in the bathroom, but we always carry headlamps with us when we travel so were able to get packed, cleaned up and ready to go without too much difficulty.  Much of the hotel was being powered by generator, but not our wing.  The storm had passed and we had blue skies and we prepared to leave.

The were no driving restrictions and very little traffic on US-50 as we headed for home so it was a pretty easy drive through the mountains. However, the back road we take to get to US-50, Pioneer Trail, was very icy and even driving slow there were a couple of times when you stepped on the brake and the car just kept going.  It didn't slide very far, but enough to make you feel a bit out of control.

Icy Pioneer Trail Road

The trip down I-5 seemed to go pretty quickly (maybe for me because Val did all the driving) and we were home by 5:00.

As I said earlier, Lake Tahoe is one of our favorite getaways.  We had a great time and the lake and mountains were beautiful with all the snow.  We came home with most of our gambling money still in our pockets so that part was successful (I consider anytime I don't lose all my money successful).  All in all, we had a great time on our first trip of 2013 and are looking forward to many more this year.

Our next trip will be to Las Vegas in February for my birthday, and from there we go to Death Valley to meet our friends Michael and Mikie for some warmer weather and backroad desert scenery.  After that is our big 30 day cruise to the South Pacific in April.