We departed Las Vegas for Tahoe knowing our transmission could go kaput any time. Our route was US 95, the long desert highway. With my weary prone mind, I could see the headline. “Youngish couple goes missing in the desert along with their chubby dog and tiny trailer.”
Under the veil of my anxiety, the road and landscape were still alluring. The desert keeps many secrets and in its vastness answers are hard to come by. In between moments of quiet observation, I was entertained by the mysterious and odd landmarks which made for great googling (if you’re a passenger). Think Area 51 and the greater Nevada Test Site, the out of no-where brothels and the “closed” military town of Mercury, Nevada.
Our transmission chugged along but our gas tank, though operating normally, could not handle the 160-mile separation between gas stations. Fortunately, we carry an extra gallon which got us safely to the town of Tonopah, where we exhaled over a beer at Tonopah Brewing Co. They also have great BBQ and we liked it so much I published the link.
Miles are longer towing a trailer so we pit stopped near Mammoth Lakes for the night before making the final crawl to South Lake Tahoe.
Once we arrived and put our 4Runner into a shop, we settled into our flow at Fallen Leaf Campground. With the time needed to ship parts and put our car back together we would be in Tahoe for a solid week. Our longest stay yet.
It was a wonderful place to call home for the week and felt nearly like Colorado, our true home. We had the woods, the mountains and in addition to being within a short run to the namesake lake, we had our own lake, Fallen Leaf Lake, just steps from our door. Our neighborhood lake not only had pristine waters but included a handful of alpine style homes, completely sound of music-esque that had me texting home that we may not be returning.
It is not enough to simply say we loved South Lake Tahoe. I love hot dogs but I love a lot of other food items more. We are now several weeks removed and are still saying it was our favorite town. It felt small and we ran into the same people over several days, even making friends to watch a few football games with. It felt like a place we could live, despite only knowing what early fall feels like and not the hectic winter, congested and over taken by out of town skiers.
What did we love? The locals were warm and genuine, the kind of people that ask what you’re up to and pull up a chair to share in a conversation rather than just small talk. We noticed that most of the businesses were non-chain Tahoe grown. The coffee shops and restaurants we visited were wonderful and fresh to include a German restaurant I would take my parents to (my dad is 100 percent German and together they lived in Germany while in the army). The breweries stood out with expansive beer varietals and chill atmospheres. Also, they let us work for hours using their internet, tasting beers while giving us advice on where to go in Tahoe and the rest of California. We highly recommend Sidellis and Cold Water Brewery.
We loved the landscape. It may be narrow minded to always refer and compare places to what you call home but it was hard not to feel reminded of Colorado with all its pine trees and mountains climbing up over head. If it were in Colorado though I’m sure the small-town feel would fade quickly as people would flock to it immediately. We don’t have many hip and serviceable mountain towns left that haven’t been overrun with the super wealthy and their vacation homes, driving housing prices through the roof.
Then to leave the best for last Lake Tahoe is a marvel, a beauty, and the engine in many ways of what keeps the area running. The lake is blue if you didn’t know, pristine and clear. We kayaked to and around Emerald Bay from Camp Richardson and got to see up close the telltale clarity of the water. You have likely seen the Keep Tahoe Blue bumper stickers and this is the cause. The clarity of the water has been impacted by the growth of the town and by visitors like us. The stickers and signs to “Keep Tahoe Blue” are all over the city, making it clear the values of this community.
This got me thinking of my values in relation to the places I live and how much I internally care, without end, for the environment, my environment and my home. It is so outwardly expressed throughout the town of South Lake Tahoe, even in the conversations we had with the locals, that I felt convicted to do better when I get home, whenever that is and wherever as well. We put so much time and money into our “homes” but how far do we and should we extend those boundaries. As we (Matt and I) have been traveling now for 75 days I have started to say simply that my home is Colorado and not just the Baker Neighborhood, in Denver, Colorado. In what ways, have I invested in that home? How have I invested in keeping Colorado as beautiful and adventurous as what is stored safely in my memories. It’s places like South Lake Tahoe that makes me know that wherever I land, I need to do better to care for my home, otherwise it will change and I will be less true to what I claim to love. Care for what you love.
PS – the fall colors in Hope Valley just south of town may rival those of our home in “Colorful” Colorado.