Thursday, October 20, 2016

Lake Tahoe Trip Recap


If you are a regular reader, you know that after an epic weekend to a marathon destination, I like to write about my experiences: what I ate, what I did, etc.  This is mostly for my purposes -- as a personal journal that I have decided to make public.  Sometimes friends and family like to read it, or maybe you might find some interest in it.

Either way, I write this for strictly for me. So without further ado, here is my trip recap to Lake Tahoe.


I took half a day at work, which was much needed.  I haven't taken much time off this year (believe it or not) and I was in dire need of a break.  

The plan was to break up getting to Lake Tahoe over the course of 2 days.  I had snagged a free room at the Red Lion in Elko, NV and that is about 3.5 hours from our house.  On Saturday we would do the remainder of the 5 hour and change drive to Lake Tahoe.

I rented a Hyundai from the local Enterprise Rent-a-car place.  Unfortunately it didn't have cruise control (I was too cheap for the mid-size car) so I was constantly lead-footing it on the way out there.

The salt flats after some rain

The salt flats after some rain

Just shy of 3 PM we hit the road and made good progress to Elko.  We did stop at the Montego Bay Resort in Wendover.  They had a special where if you merely checked in you would earn a prize.  We weren't expecting much, but I won $15 in free play.  Shari won some tickets to a drawing you had to attend.  We gambled a bit since it was a nice comp multiplier but we had a long weekend to prepare for and we didn't want to blow our budget there.  As usual, when they have a comp multiplier the machines are super tight and I wound up pissing away about $40.

The rest of the drive to Elko was pretty uneventful.  I was pretty hungry so we opted to eat at the Red Lion Buffet.  I held my appetite in check as I know if I eat too much leading up to a marathon, I would wind up feeling bloated.  I still ate pretty well though and the cost was offset by our $6 coupons that Shari and I each were able to use.

We checked into our room and then hit the casino.  I was off to a good start managed to get a red envelope on my favorite slot machine (actually my favorite's new edition).  By the time I had gotten through my free play and a few bucks of my own, I had made up my losses from Wendover and was actually up some.

We then headed across town to the Gold Dust West.  Shari had some birthday free play to go through and I had a bi-weekly free play to use.  As usual, Gold Dust West took my money greedily.  I was up briefly but I was having zero luck there.  I like their casino, but I rarely ever win there.  And before I left I was back down to about even.

I actually wound up sleeping great, which is a surprise.  I had some anxiety about the race and I was kind of stressed with the day's events.


We woke up fairly early and hit the buffet.  It wound up being more economical and we didn't have to wait for service.  I kept the amount of food I ate down to a minimum. I know that sounds anti-buffet, but that's the way I was going to roll.  

We also had our free play recycle at the Red Lion, which Shari and I used.  We wound up winning a few bucks, but nothing too noteworthy.  I should just be 100% loyal to the Red Lion.  They treat me very well and I actually came out a head strictly gambling at their place.

We left just shy of noon and made our way westward.  It was actually a pretty easy drive and I enjoyed seeing the scenery again.  I drove along in silence and I often wondered why lay just beyond the free exits that I was passing by.  I also made mental notes of little villages and cities that I would like to one day explore.

Once we got on the outskirts of Reno, I decided to take a slightly different way into Tahoe.  Normally you take I-80 into Reno and then head south from there.  It is slightly longer distance-wise but faster in terms of speed limits.

Instead, I hooked my way south through Fernley and took the scenic, but shorter route there.  This was a pleasant diversion.  The speed limit was definitely slower, but it was good to see Silver Springs, Stagecoach, Dayton and the outskirts of Carson City.  There were a bunch of casinos that I would've loved to have checked out as well.  I really find a lot of peace in just seeing all the empty space.

We eventually rolled in Tahoe (after almost getting a flat tire in a construction zone).  We were staying at Harvey's Hotel and Casino and Tahoe is pretty easy to navigate.  So we parked, checked in and I headed on over to the marathon expo to pick up my gear.

I wound up gambling some more but really wasn't winning very much.  I figured Tahoe was going to be tight so I wasn't expecting much.  The casinos there all had our favorite games and we found no shortage of games to play.

The "strip" as it were wasn't bustling like Vegas.  It was certainly busy but as the night got cooler, less and less people were out and about.

Banner welcoming runners over the "strip"
We wound up eating at the Harrah's Cafe.  The food was all right and I had some vegetarian pasta thing.  It was just enough food to get me filled up without feeling bloated.

We wound up circling the casino for a bit.  The Harrah's Casino, which I have always had decent luck, had giant-sized Fu Dao Le machines.  I actually won on these things and quickly made up my losses that I had taken earlier in the afternoon.

Feeling lucky, I wound up also putting a small bet on the under on the Bears vs Colts game, which I lost.

I turned in just shy of 10 PM and set my alarm early for the marathon.


I slept like garbage the night before the marathon.  I mean one of the worst nights ever.  Between pre-race anxiety to the fact that there was some sort of damper or "something" was slamming with semi-regularity every few minutes.  I'd just about be back asleep before I'd hear a "slam".  It was too late and too much work to change rooms, but if I got more than 3 hours of solid sleep, I would be surprised.

I assembled my stuff and walked the 10 minutes to the bus pick-up and ran the Lake Tahoe Marathon, which you can read here.

After finishing, despite being exhausted, I was actually feeling pretty good.  The weather had been okay and I wasn't freezing.  I managed to limp back to the hotel (with Shari's help), showered, and we sorted out where we wanted to eat.  I didn't want a buffet and I wanted something quick.  

They had a Straw Hat pizzeria at the Harvey's Casino.  Straw Hat was a chain in southern California and it had been years since I had their delicious pizza.  So we decided to eat there.

It was "Raiders Nation" there and everyone was rooting for them.  I wasn't used to that.  But I remembered I was within close proximity of San Francisco.  The pizza was half way decent and they had unlimited, serve yourself drinks, which I greedily gulped down:

After eating, Shari and I wandered around the California side of Lake Tahoe taking in some of the trinket shops.  This is something she likes to do and since she had pretty much killed the morning off waiting for me, this was her time to try and enjoy the trip.

That was short lived and we wound up gambling a bit, neither winning nor losing much.  After a while we got tired of that and it was getting closer to dinner.  I wasn't terribly hungry yet -- that pizza sat in my gut like a bowling ball.

I wound up hitting the Harvey Pool.  It was pretty chilly for a run, but the sauna was an excellent decision.  It really helped and I certainly felt less sore as a result.

Afterwards we wandered around the town, taking in the nightlife -- or whatever was left of it for a Sunday night.  We had only checked out two of the 4 main casinos so we wandered to the Hard Rock Casino.  I attempted to play Fu Dao Le there and wasn't getting anything (their progressives were much better than Harrah's).

I was almost back to even or maybe down a few bucks at this point before walking over to the Montbleu.  This casino was the most spacious I had ever been in.  Tons of room between aisles of slot machines.  Feeling daring, I popped in a $100 into a slot and bet max with reckless abandon.  I wound up nailing a $140 bonus round, which helped me bring back my bottom line:

After a while, I realized I was starving.  As any runner knows, after running a marathon your appetite is pretty dulled until a few hours later when it roars with reckless abandon.  The buffet was closed (it was getting late) but we found the Hard Rock Restaurant (in Harveys, not Hard Rock Casino -- go figure) was open and eager to serve.  The food was good but pricey -- I had some vegetarian cauliflower veggie burger with fries.  Actually super good.

We pretty much gambled a bit more and we did okay (surprise surprise) before turning in.

Due to the noisy room we had on Saturday night, Harvey's had graciously moved us to the newer section of the hotel.  This room was far more spacious, modern and fresher.  What a difference!  If I was ever to stay there again, I'd pony up the extra bucks to stay on that side versus the older side.  Despite being near the elevator, I wound up sleeping perfectly.


We wound up waking up fairly late in the morning due to both of us being tired.  Shari had a wicked cold and I was just tired from running the marathon.

The first order of business was getting some more cough medicine and finding a place to eat.  I had spotted a line-up of people going into Heidi's Pancake House the day before on my run.  It looked like a quaint, homey, Swedish breakfast place.  Judging by the cars in the parking lot it appeared like they were doing a lot of business.

So we went there.  The service was quick, coffee piping hot and the food -- delicious.  I was definitely in California / Tahoe when the bill came -- $40 for breakfast.  Ouch.  But it was good and kept me filled for most of the day.  The inside was filled with Swedish decor and I wouldn't hesitate in going back.

Heidi's Pancake House

After eating, Shari and I visited Secret Beach and Spooner Lake.  

We had some visions of going into Reno and eating there for the evening.  However, we made it to Carson City and we gambled there for about an hour.  We both lost our shirts there.  I had hoped being at a smaller, independent casino might result in a "luckier" experience, but no dice.  I still like the Fandango Casino but it was a tough day.

I was tired of driving and it was approaching rush hour so we opted out of going into Reno.

I had some time to kill and I wasn't quite hungry for food, so of all things, I decided to go for a run.  I NEVER run the day after a marathon.  But being I was in Lake Tahoe and I had sort of missed the final 3 miles or so of the marathon due to deliriums (I am exaggerating) I decided to go for a run.  I wound up feeling pretty good and probably rocked out 5 miles.  I actually felt BETTER than when I had run the marathon.  Go figure.

We drove back to the hotel and I wound up hitting the Jacuzzi again.   What a nice reward after a tough day.

For dinner, we dined at the Harrah's buffet.  It had gotten mediocre reviews, but it was the only buffet open in town and it was a buffet -- and I had to try it.

I'll agree with the reviews to some extent.  The food was fresh and well prepared, but it wasn't the best buffet -- by any means -- that I've ever been to.  There was an ample selection but not a lot stood out as fantastic (maybe the pizza).  For the price, about $20 each, it wasn't a total ripoff but it won't make my top 10 casino buffet list.


We wound up getting up early -- virtually at the crack of dawn and left Tahoe.  We had toyed around with eating again at Heidi's but we decided to try the Fandango Casino's breakfast.  It was passable and less than $10 a person.  The place was empty -- including the casino -- so we had the place to ourselves.

I don't think we gambled at all and quickly got on the freeway towards Reno.  I was surprised to find rush hour traffic to be not that terrible (it was just shy of 9 AM) and we made excellent time.

We hit Elko about midafternoon.  We had some free play at the Red Lion ($12 each) so we decided it would be worth stopping in and trying our luck and using the rest room.  I wound up hitting another red envelope and cashed another $100.  Definitely worth the stop!

$130 win

I was getting hungry, but we had a 2-for-1 buffet in Wendover.  So we made the 100 minute drive from Elko to Wendover.  The buffet was a ghost town -- and in fact they were changing the carpeting on half the buffet, so it 50% of the seating area was closed.

After eating, we decided to kill some time there waiting for our food to digest.  I played various games and wasn't having much luck.  I did jump on a Wonder Woman game, which usually results in a lot of entertainment but very little in return on your investment -- money-wise.  But this time I hit a nice bonus round on a $1 bet and got the best screen you could possibly get:

$120 win
Shari wound up hitting a nice bonus round too and we definitely came out ahead in Wendover.

The rest of the trip home was pretty uneventful.  While I lost an hour coming from Pacific Time, I still was able to have a good portion of  the day left.  Also, the amount of cash I brought on the trip was roughly the amount I came home with (okay, maybe down a few twenties).  


What a trip.  I got to do so much off my bucket list.  I managed to take down California and experience running on the bike trail along the lake.  I also got to experience "The Strip" of Tahoe and see what it had to offer.

I'd definitely like to go back -- even rent a cottage for a few days and run freely without worrying about a race.  It is just a pretty area and there is a lot of hiking / outdoors things to do.  

No comments:

Post a Comment