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.