The Tahoe Edition - In Dramatic Still Images!

What a difference a few weeks make. Fall has arrived in SW Idaho, yet just three weeks ago the summer show, Forever Plaid, was still going strong in its run at the Idaho Shakespeare Festival. And what a blast it was. It’s hard to believe we started the journey with rehearsals in June, followed by shows at Lake Tahoe, and finally here in Boise performing six nights a week.

I bonded with the cast and crew; I’m missing it.

Luckily, I’m a bit of a shutterbug when touring and this experience was no exceptionI took nearly 700 photos. I’ve whittled them down to 450 stunning images I’ll later submit for 2016 Pulitzer Prize consideration, but today I want to share my 100 favorite TourAlongWithTodd—The Tahoe Edition photos with you!

I KNOW! You can’t WAIT!

So grab a hot, pumpkin-spiced beverage and scroll through the images by clicking HERE: Tahoe Top 100!

The images are chronological for the most part and I’ve added photo captions to give an idea of the who, what, where thing.

Thanks for touring along!

Until next time… Ciao!

A grainy (a.k.a. phone camera photo) shot of the core Forever
Plaid crew! Sarah, James, Peter, Moi, Mickey, Andrew, Mack, and Shayla. Thanks you guys!

A Lake Break from the Lake and Back to the Show!

Our final performance at the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival was a blast. Afterward there was much partying and rejoicing, yet there was no partying for the wicked. Rather, the road beckoned me for an early morning start of the return drive to Boise. Have I mentioned just how much I like driving in the hot stinking Nevada desert in August?

Desert dream condo along the road.

Back in Boise, I cut the lawn, washed the car (because that’s what you do if you care at all about your car), and began the mentally challenging process of unpacking while simultaneously repacking. Why would I do this? Because like any reasonable person after having spent six weeks at a lake, I needed a week at another lake to unwind, and Flathead Lake in NW Montana fit the bill. It helped that Aunt Mary and Uncle Frank offered their lakeside guest cabin to us.

Here’s an interesting note: Flathead Lake’s 197 square miles of surface area beats Lake Tahoe’s 191 square miles. However, Flathead’s 5 cubic miles of water is dwarfed by Tahoe’s 40 cubic miles. So remember, when the inevitable apocalyptic water shortages come, let’s drain Lake Tahoe, OK?

Thus Natalie, Lilly (the dog), and I traveled north to Moscow where we rendezvoused (that’s a funny word!) with Simon and continued northward, arriving at Flathead just in time to see a wildfire’s giant plume of smoke transform the sun into a deep red ball; an ominous start to my post-lake lake adventure.

By morning, the smoky forest haze was accompanied by a cold front’s high winds resulting in 4-foot high white-capped waves and their dramatic crashing on the seawall. Yep, we know how to time a summer trip!

Think there's a fire nearby? The bright dot is the
sun... you can stare at it forever!

What to do? Drive to town of course! And we did… north to Bigfork where it was even smokier and everything smelled like it was recently dragged through a campfire pit. We also traveled south to Polson where we shopped the junk stores and enjoyed a “Pirate” Belgian beer at The Cove Deli and Pizza. This eatery isn’t lakeside nor is there a cove nearby, but they have a pirate theme going on all the same! It must be HAAARRRRRD to make living in Polson!

A heart healthy lunch in Bigfork and OMG! Hot
chocolate with whipped cream, sprinkles,
and candy on the side!
Belgian Pirate beer and traditional pirate food.

Simon and I did manage to get some dockside swim- and sun-time in and, without doubt, the highlight of our trip was hiking to the 7,500 ft. summit of Mt. Aeneas in the Jewel Basin. Why this peak is named after the Greco-Roman hero I do not know. And, until I consulted Wikipedia just now, I didn’t know there was a Greco-Roman hero named Aeneas. In any case, we had lots of fun saying “Aeneas” (go ahead… say it aloud!).

The summit of Mt. Aeneas. The view north into
Glacier National Park reminded
me of the
Alps… only smaller and without glaciers.
Studly Do-Right pondering life and the meaning
of everything... Or just listening to music.

Like all trips, this one had to come to an end. But the show must go on! And it is! The cast and crew of Forever Plaid regrouped in Boise, rehearsed, and has launched a 21-performance run of the show. And, if the reactions of the initial audiences are any indication, we’re taking it all the way to Broadway baby!

I've been on stage with two rock bands featuring fog machine
show-closers, but never a musical... until now!
Check another one off the bucket list!

Thanks for coming along on the TourAlongWithTodd BLOGThe Tahoe Edition!

And who knows… I might just throw some random posts at you down the road.

Until next time… Ciao!

Studly Do-Right holding back a wall of
frightening ice with his MIND POWER!

Invaders from the North? Time to Pack My Bags!

Natalie and her aunt Mary arrived for their Tahoe visit, checking into the Americas Best Value Inn—Casino Center Lake Tahoe. If you listen closely, the Inn's rustic edifice groans, "Will someone please fix me up?" We agreed this property is a qualified candidate for Gordon Ramsey’s Hotel Hell reality TV series. Bloody hell! But hotel time was not what this visit was about!

Come on everybody! Let’s take a swim in Americas Best Value Inn’s pool!

We started the festivities by seeing The Comedy of Errors followed by my show, Forever Plaid, during which I got to swat a bee away from my face while playing. Bees are such fun to have as on stage companions; they’re so friendly and curious. The other performers and I wish someone would just let a big jarful of bees loose backstage before every performance.

Other tourist activities we participated in included the 68-mile drive around the lake, indoor AND outdoor dining, and shopping for socks at the sock store—Sock City. I did not know there’s a store devoted to socks! But there IS! It’s a sock super store stocking thousands of pairs of colorful socks!

There's a special bus for Tahoe tarts! Who knew?

We also made a trip to Squaw Valley to take in the alpine scenery at the resort’s High Camp via the aerial tram. During our loop hike, Natalie and I decided to go rogue and push on toward Emigrant Peak. One step led to the next and I’m pretty sure Natalie will be the only person to stand on Emigrant’s summit with a knitting bag and a Jackie-O red purse this year. Now that’s what I call alpine hiking in STYLE!

Natalie sporting style with her Gucci knitting bag and a Jackie-O purse!
Natalie summits Emigrant Peak!

With their brief visit over, and my Tahoe time quickly winding down, I got out my bucket list of Tahoe todos. First up? A return trip to Squaw’s Shirley Canyon Trail for a rapid ascent and the blues festival. Nice!

Next up? Emerald Bay. This crazy-busy area is characterized by scenic views, way too little parking (I parked along the road a mile from the bay's trailhead), a steep one-mile hike to the bay, and Vikingsholm—the truly amazing summer home of Lora Knight. Built in 1929, the home has been remarkably well kept and the guided tour was time well spent. From there, I was off to Lower Eagle Falls, then Upper Eagle Falls, and then (and unplanned) to Eagle Lake. The falls were so-so this time of year but the lake was a scenic surprise.

Vikingholm's quaint entrance.
Vikingholm's thatched roof or Donald Trump's hair? You decide.
Maggies Peak reflects from the far end of Eagle Lake. 

For my final Tahoe day hike, I chose the recommended Mount Tallac trail. The 10-mile roundtrip journey gains 3,500 ft. and is rated difficult. Difficult-schmifficult … whatever. It was clearly no match pour moi! The hike features miles of rocky trail, switchbacks through giant talus fields (talk about a place you don’t want to be when the BIG earthquake shakes things up), more rocky trail, and hundreds of bees at the summit (undoubtedly the same bees that are theatergoers at night). Well, back at my car 6.5 hours later, it was poor moi. Mt. Tallac had handed me a thorough shellacking. I must have been quite a sight walking into the 7-11 to buy the giant Pepsi I had been dreaming of during the last hour of the adventure. So it goes. Still, after a night’s sleep, I wasn’t sore… at least not at Mt. Tallac.

Pond reflection early along the Mt. Tallac shellacking.
South Lake Tahoe from the summit of Mt. Tallac. My Ewok condo village is at the top of the notch (center skyline). Heavenly Ski Resort is on the right skyline.

Tonight marks our last performance here at Tahoe and we’re having a blast, which is good because we’re packing our bags and moving the show north for a 21-performance run at the Idaho Shakespeare Festival; every night except Mondays from September 2 through 25.

Buy your tickets and mark your calendars! And if you forget, don’t worry, there’s going to be one more installment of the Tahoe Edition from TourAlongWithTodd.

Until then… Ciao!

Boats, Feet & Automobiles

Welcome to part three of the TourAlongWithTodd Blog's Tahoe Edition! 

This time I travel via three forms of locomotion.

Join me on the ride, won't you?...  

I DID make an encore hike of Squaw Valley's Shirley Canyon trail, but I altered my route and continued to the summit of Emigrant Peak (8,801 ft.) to enjoy the view and spend a few minutes sliding around in a large snow patch before descending to the resort's High Camp. The action at High Camp's swimming pool was disappointing. Being a week day, there was no DJ mixing motivational rave music for swimsuit-clad dancers. There was however cold beer, and yes, it was good.

Above Squaw's High Camp on the way to Emigrant Peak with Lake Tahoe in the background.

Devote readers may recall my intent to recite the story of Squaw's tragic 1978 tram accident on the ride down. Understanding the value of self preservation and wishing to avoid my face colliding with a fist, I did not tell the tale. Instead, I started jumping up and down and encouraged fellow passengers to do the same by shouting "Let's get this tram rockin' and see if the ground comes knockin'!"* Such fun!

Kid having fun at the main Squaw Valley Resort.

Mondays are "dark" in much of the theater world—meaning there are no performances; it's a day off. And on this Monday, a well-to-do patron of the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival invited the entire company to join him on a lake cruise. But it wasn't just any cruise. Nope. He rented Hyatt Tahoe's catamaran, the Sierra Cloud, for a three-hour cruise... a three-hour cruise... Gilligan! 

A successful catamaran cruise consists of three essential elements: A crew, adult beverages, and snacks. It didn't matter that our journey commenced at 9:30 a.m. The essential elements were in place and so were we. We piled on to the vessel and took advantage of the essential elements as we putted along on our motorized adventurethe catamaran's sail was hoisted solely to advertise the Hyatt brand. Fun was had by all. Post cruise, we split into groups to find lunch and the now much needed caffeinated beverages.

Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival cast and crew on the catamaran cruise.

Fast forward a few days and Peter van Reesema (assistant music director), Mack Shirilla (actor), and I drove to the Mt. Rose trailhead. The 10-mile hike starts at 8,900 ft. and winds through forest, past cascading waterfalls, skirting broad meadows, and then climbs quickly to the 10,776 ft. summit. I admit I was working it, but so were Peter and Mack. Yep, I kept pace with the kids. And speaking of kids, there were true youngsters on the trail showing us all up. Shouldn't they be playing computer games in a dark dank room somewhere? Most surprising of all were the thousands of Monarch butterflies flitting about in the cool summit breeze. The views from the area's second highest peak were spectacular. Our only summit disappointments were the lack of cold beer and swimsuit-clad poolside dancers.

Mack, Moi, and Peter atop Mt. Rose. I have a six-pack too, but left my t-shirt on because I didn't want to show Mack up. Note the Monarch Butterfly photobombing!

Fast forward a few more days and I was off to Boise beginning a five day break from performances. The purpose of the trip was to (a) celebrate Natalie's 39th birthday, (b) do a little gardening, (c) relax, and (d) play with Lilly, the dog.

Desert drives are best accomplished in springtime, when it's not so... desert-like. My drive went nicely enough, considering it took place in the stinking desert in summer, and I arrived in Boise on time and ready to get on with items (a) through (d). What I did NOT anticipate were items (e) my laptop's hard drive suffering a permanent failure and (f) a trip to the dentist/orthodontist.

It's amazing how computing devices have come to dominate our lives entirely, isn't it? A quick trip to Best Buy confirmed that, for just $800, I could replace my dead laptop with a fancy new laptop. I don't know about you, but I prefer fancy new over dead. The best news was that my Carbonite cloud backup subscription paid off and, after FOUR DAYS of downloading, I had my data back.

As for the trip to the dentist/orthodontist? A piece of dental cement holding a small titanium wire in place behind my front teeth fell out. New glue was applied.

Though laptop and dental woes had to be dealt with, the visit home was a nice break from the sheer drudgery of Lake Tahoe. And, I learned the secret to successful summer road trips across the desert... playing the right music. In my case, relief and inspiration came from two sonic treats: LED's This Side of Paradise and Thomas Paul's Singalongs.

So, what will it be? Boats, feet, or automobiles... After all, each can deliver a rewarding experience.

Yeah, it's boats.

What would be really cool would be a catamaran cruise with a crew, adult beverages, snacks, Natalie, Simon, good music, and Lilly, the dog. And no laptop.

Coming up next?


Ciao! ~ Todd

*I did not shout "Let's get this tram rockin' and see if the ground comes knockin'!" But it would have been fun.

Turf, rock and clouds on the way to Mt Rose.

The Show Opens and I Take a Hike

All settled in at the Ewok condo village, it’s time to get busy performing and hiking!

Our condo is located one mile from the northern edge of Heavenly Mountain Resort. Heavenly is a massive operation with 97 runs, 33 lifts, and nearly 4,000 feet of sweet vertical drop. But, as Wikipedia points out, pop singer-turned-Congressman Sony Bono had his own distinctly NOT Heavenly experience at the resort in 1998 when he collided with a tree while skiing at a high rate of speed. My rate of speed while hiking the first two days on the resort’s trails posed no equivalent danger. The only menace I encountered was four deer grazing on what must have been truly awesome shrubbery. They held their ground until I was less than 20 feet away. For a brief moment, the thought of a new reality TV show crossed my mind: When Deer Attack! There was no attack; there will be no show.

Deer and their shrubbery!
Now on to the raison d’ĂȘtre au Lac Tahoe! That’s French for “I’m supposed to be working!”

The show, Forever Plaid, is a jukebox musical telling the story of a singing quartet come back to life 52 years after being killed on their way to a debut performance in a collision with a bus full of parochial virgins on their way to see the Beatles in concert. (Wow! This blog is taking on a morbid theme. I must remember never to become a congressman or join a singing quartet.) Anyway, for one night, The Plaids resurrect their show, long ago rehearsed, and perform it in front of a live audience.

We had three tech rehearsals during which every body movement and stage position, every vocal note and inflection, and every prop placement was scrutinized and finalized. It’s an interesting process to watch and be a part of. The most fun was watching the actors jump in horror as June beetles, irretrievably confused by the bright lights, dive bombed the stage and suffered fatal consequences as a result of the collision. (I must remember to never become a large flying beetle or let bright lights confuse me!)

My view from the stage during tech rehearsal.
Shayla on upright bass, Peter on keyboards.

Working a fog machine glitch during tech rehearsal.

Friday night was the show’s preview night. In this case, preview night means there's a paying audience to take in the performance but the director and her team are in the theater taking notes to give to the actors after the show. Saturday night was the official opening night. The director and her team watched the show and flew home the following morning; the reins were handed to the stage manager for the run of the show.

The show’s a hit! We received standing ovations both nights and, while this is common audience behavior back in Boise, it is uncommon here, as in almost never.

Leaving the parking lot, the actors almost collide with a black bear.

Time for more hiking! This time at Squaw Valley Resort—home of the 1960 Winter Olympics—and Tahoe’s second largest ski area after Heavenly. Wikipedia points out that the 1960 games were the first to be televised. It further points out that, in 1978, the aerial tram came off one of its cables during a bad storm, dropped 75 feet to the ground, bounced back up and collided with another cable which sheared through the tram. Most, but not all, survived. (It’s good to keep the collision theme going, isn't it?)

Peter and I hiked the area’s Shirley Canyon Trail—3.5 miles and 2,000 feet elevation gain—and thoroughly enjoyed the increasingly alpine vistas. The trail ended at the resort’s High Camp where we encountered people sporting various amounts of swimwear and dancing poolside to a rave-like music mix. It seemed odd. What was not odd whatsoever was how good the $7 cold beer tasted after the hike. When we learned the tram ride down was free because we hiked up, we decided a second beer would be even better. And it WAS! There was nothing bad about the collision between my mouth and two cold beers.

Peter hiking the granite slabs on Shirley Canyon Trail.

Why yes! I'm standing in snow in July and I like it!

Pool party at 8,200 feet at Squaw's High Camp.
Yes, they are dancing, even in the pool.

Did I mention the Wanderlust Yoga Festival
taking place at Squaw Valley?

Spectacular view?
No thanks, I think I'll talk on my phone.

The view coming over the final hump.

The aerial tram's cables in sunlight.

Our tram ride down was super scenic and uneventful; it was not stormy; we did not bounce. I plan to make the hike again and, when I do, I’m going to tell the story about the 1978 accident to everyone on the tram as we begin the spectacularly acrophobic-inducing drop. We’ll see if my face collides with a fist.

Stay tuned!

Ciao! ~ Todd

Tally Ho! It’s Time to Tour Along with Todd to Tahoe!

The tour commenced Sunday, July 10, at 9:00 a.m. sharp with the sleepy thought of, “Wait a minute, I don’t have to drive to Lake Tahoe today. I don’t have to be there until Tuesday. I can drive tomorrow!"

And so the latest Tour Along With Todd adventure—a six-week summer residency tour with the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival—began by enjoying an extra, and unusually rainy, July day in Boise with Natalie and Lilly, the dog. We ate food, watched movies, and went on a bike ride between deluges.

Monday morning’s drive began on time—at 7:00 a.m. in the morning. YES, that’s 7:00 a.m. in the morning! I don’t do 7:00 a.m. in the morning. But I made the exception this one time in order to beat the inevitable desert heat. The vistas were beautiful. Expansive and shrouded in crystal blue sky. “This is awesome!” I thought. I thought too soon. It turns out Heaven and Hell’s boundary is located precisely at Winnemucca, NV. Hell lingers for 189.5 miles to the summit of the Mt. Rose Highway, whereupon Heaven resumes and continues into the Lake Tahoe basin.

Oregon’s still snow-capped Steens Mountains shrouded in clouds

Deep blue desert sky after the previous day's rains

Hey! Here are some interesting factoids for you! While there are extinct volcanoes in the Tahoe area (Mt. Rose being one), the lake is not a volcanic caldera. It was actually formed by mythical creatures (horsts and grabens) lifting up and pushing down giant blocks of the earth’s crust! A while later, lava from Mt. Pluto dammed the basin, resulting in the 10th deepest lake in the world! Go ahead, fact check me!

The Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival (LTSF) site is located at the ever popular Sand Harbor, a petite peninsula at the NE corner of the lake. My assigned condo is at Stateline, NV, at the SE corner of the lake. More precisely, the condo is situated at the 7,344 ft. summit of Daggett Pass, 22.6 long and congested miles from the theater. What’s more, the door of the condo is 162 steps (74 of which are steps up or down stairs) from the parking area along a labyrinth of walkways perched upon slender
stilts of wood. There’s little question that this baffling design was the inspiration for the unfortunate Ewok village first appearing in George Lucas’ 1983 Star Wars film Episode VI—Return of the Jedi. If this construction marvel is representative, I’m pretty sure building codes related to earthquakes are somewhat more laxed in Nevada than California, whose border is just two miles away.

Along the Ewok Condo Walkway

The condo itself is well appointed (the use of some imagination is required here) and fellow LTSF company members Peter and Josh have maintained an A+ rating from the National Roommate Association (NRA) by routinely being absent day and night.

And so this atypical tour begins!

Coming up next? The show opens and I take a hike!

Ciao ~ Todd