2 Day Lake Tahoe Spur of the Moment Trip Report & Stories

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You may or may not know, but my full-time job is touring around the world in a Christian Metalcore band called For Today. We’ve been headlining in North America for the last 3 weeks, and it’s been going incredibly well. We have a few days off scheduled into the tour to rest from time to time, and for some reason I just didn’t plan my off days very well this tour!

How This Even Happened…

2 Nights ago, on the 25th, we played a show in Sacramento, CA and then we were scheduled to have 2 days off. The next show, however, is in Iowa City, IA tomorrow the 28th which is a 28 hour drive from Sacramento. One of our drivers, and fellow adventurer like me, Cody, aka “Righteous Cody”, asked me 2 nights ago, right before we started the 28 hour drive, “David, so we got these 2 off days in Northern California… I mean are you planning to go wild, like whitewater rafting or something, what’s up?!”.  That really got me thinking. I DIDN’T HAVE AN ANSWER!!! I just figured I would go to Iowa City, rest in the hotel, eat Chipotle, repeat. That’s not an adventure though…

I looked at the Google Maps directions and it had us passing through Reno, NV, which I know is a short distance (50 miles) north from Lake Tahoe! I’ve been wanting to spend more time in Lake Tahoe since we played there 3 years ago and only got to spend about 2 hours on the beach. So I pull out my iPad and my Laptop and the gears start grinding. I knew that I usually can get comped (aka – free) 2-4 nights at the Harvey’s/Harrah’s in Tahoe, but I just needed to see if I could still get the free rooms last-minute. I looked, and sure enough – the online schedule for Total Rewards shows I could stay the next 2 nights totally free. SCORE! Then I look for award flights from Reno, NV to Cedar Rapids, IA (30 minutes from our next show). American Airlines didn’t have any options that got me there early enough, Delta wanted way too many miles (of course), but United had a perfect red-eye 6am from Reno that arrived in Cedar Rapids at 1:30pm day of show. Perfect timing for sound check! Next up – shuttle, or a rental car. I ended up Pricelining a rental car and saving $50 compared to the other sites. Since I’m under 25, I still get slammed with underage fees. Brutal.

My Trip – As Last Minute As Possible…

I booked my flight, rooms, & rental car WHILE WE WERE DRIVING to Iowa at 2:30am, and the GPS said we would arrive at the Reno airport to pickup my rental car in just TWO HOURS!!! I took a very very brief nap, and it was really hard to sleep b/c I was so excited to spend 2 days in Lake Tahoe! We ended up hitting bad weather coming over the mountain passes, so the 2 hours actually took 3. Cody woke me up, and I threw my stuff together in a backpack, half asleep, and crawled walked into the Reno airport to pickup my car.

Last Minute Expenses Breakdown…

  • Flight – 12,500 United miles and $80 ($5 taxes, $75 under 21 days notice booking fee)
  • Rental Car – $122 after underage fees, taxes, etc. through Priceline. Everyone else wanted at least $170, ouch!
  • Hotel 2 nights – FREE

 

Day 1:

I stopped to get some food, so that I could make the scenic drive with the sunrise and be able to see the lake and mountains. It was about 6am when I hit the road, with just an hour or so of sleep in me. The adrenaline was pumping though! I opted to take the more scenic route to stay on the lake as much as possible. As soon as I started heading up the mountains I saw a sign that said “11 miles ahead, chains/snow tires required”… UH OH! I rented the cheapest most tiny car possible, obviously, so I got a little nervous knowing what was ahead. I’m from Iowa, so I know how to drive in snow, but I wasn’t too excited to drive over a 9,000 ft mtn pass in a snowstorm! The weather got pretty shot, pretty quick. Check it:

pretty sketch...

I obviously drove the rest of the 1hr, 20 mn drive pretty slow. It was a little slick, but I was only going 20-40mph, so I was fine. When I first caught a glimpse of the lake from up above I literally gasped out loud “WOAHHHHH!”…. It was hard to remember I had to drive, haha. Compared to when the views cleared up the next day, it wasn’t even that amazing, but I was still very happy :) !  Some of the views around the lake on the drive were really pretty, even with the low visibility and snow.

Made it to Harvey’s by 7:30am or so and they had free valet parking (minus the tips, obviously). I booked a King Bed luxury room, non-smoking for the 2 nights, and it was ready for me, but she said it didn’t have any lake views. I opted to wait for a 10th or 12th floor lake view room that “wasn’t remodeled”. I walked around and noticed the Starbucks, got good advice from the concierge, and had some out of the ordinary extremely good luck at a blackjack table. Needless to say, it paid for the entire trip! After that, my room was ready with mountain & lake views on the 10th floor. OK!

The room was really nice, and very wide open. Corner room, so the windows were on 2 walls with great views of the lake, mountains, & pool. The bathroom had an entry wash room, a separate room for the toilet, and a separate room with another sink, separate tub, and separate shower. Very spaciuos! Perfect for 2 days off from the tour to just relax. Here’s a couple of pictures of my room and the view from it on Day 2 (today) when it cleared up:

 

 

After I got settled into my room, I played a morning turbo poker tournament. Ended up getting 3rd place and making money on that too. Pretty solid morning financially, and Apple stock was surging higher, so needless to say I was feeling pretty good about the money spent on this last-minute trip! I headed back to the room to make plans & take a much-needed 2 hour power nap! Had dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe. Amazing as always. I just ate there for the first time 2 months ago, and have been back twice now. Can we talk about the twisted mac & cheese? Yum!

“Illusion Fusion” Magic Show starring Alex Ramon:

After dinner I went to see the magic show “Illusion Fusion” across the street at the Horizons hotel. The concierge at Harvey’s said it was good, and it wasn’t playing the next night, so I figured why not?! Tickets were $24.95, but I had a $3 off coupon, woot! It was in a very intimate theater where you’re seated at a table so you can order drinks. I’d say there was about 40-50 people there, which in that theater was pretty full. I will admit that after reading the name “Illusion Fusion”, I definitely laughed and thought it could be really cheesy! I ordered a coke with limes, and let the night begin!
Alex Ramon is the magician, and was extremely well choreographed and he had a Broadway vibe to him – very lively, big smiles, and attentive to detail. Solid mix of popular music synced to his tricks, good dialog, a beautiful model named Megan, and the show went off without a hitch! There were a few times where I was like “AHHH!, “WHAT?!?!”, “DANG!!”. Haha. I love going to magic shows and having my mind hurt, wondering what in the world just happened! There was one trick where he put the model in a box, put swords through her, but THEN cut out the box and you could see through her stomach. Obviously an illusion, but I was stumped. Later, the model was basically floating while leaning on one pole. What? Maybe the wildest one to me was when he took 3 random ladies wedding rings from the audience, put them in a glass right in front of us, and pulled them out 10 seconds later and all 3 were linked. It was a small theater, so he walked out and showed all of us and verified they were the same rings. Put them back in the glass, and they were all separated again. Very entertaining, very confusing, very magical, and very well done. I’d recommend this show if you’re going to be in Tahoe this year. http://alexramonmagic.com/show/

bad photo quality, but still crazy!

Day 2:

Up early to get a Starbucks Frappucino before the day began. Always a good start!

Blue Wave Lunch Boat Cruise:
I booked a lunch dinner cruise on the lake with Bleu Wave dinner cruises. It was a little pricey at $50, but given the cold weather, and all the hiking trails being covered in snow, I figured this was my best option for outdoor adventure for the short time I had. Plus, I love water! The $50 included round trip transportation, the cruise, the “deli lunch”, 2 drink tickets, and the boat trip. All of the crew was really nice, and really informative regarding information on the lake and how ridiculously huge and deep it is! Over 1,400 or 1,600 feet deep at it’s deepest (can’t remember exactly!! Trillions of gallons of water.

It was cold out, but we got blessed with really clear skies so you could see all of the mountains and their peaks surrounding the lake. Really beautiful! The “deli lunch” was very light. Basically just a deli tray of meats & cheese, chips & salsa, and a veggie tray. The boat had an outdoor standing area, indoor lounge, 2 lower deck lounges, and an upper deck lounge. Probably about 30 of us on the boat, and we were all comfortable. I sat next to a neat married couple from Alabama. We had a good time chatting about the Lord & the Christian music industry, since they both work in it as well. We even knew a few of the same people. Small world!

Beautiful and stunning afternoon on the water. You can click the pictures below to view them full size.

Lake Tahoe beach

 

lunch spread

ze boat

I had a good day!

 

After returning back to the hotel, I booked a massage and dinner. For the massage I was up in the air between the spa next door at Harrah’s, or the massage therapy business in town. The Harrah’s Spa was right across the street and included access to the steam room, sauna, & whirlpool, but was drastically more expensive. I ended up driving the 5 miles to “A Body ReNEW Massage Spa” to save money. Ultimately, I didn’t have time to use the whirlpool at Harrah’s anyway if I wanted to make my dinner reservations on time. I had a 90 minute deep-tissue massage and it was great!! I love getting massages while on vacation, or really just, whenever I can!! I’m always on the lookout for Groupon spa deals, or else enjoying the very cheap massages in most of Latin America and other 3rd world countries. If you’re in Tahoe in the future, and don’t want to pay the ridiculous massage prices at your resorts spa, you can go here: www.southlaketahoemassage.com

I booked dinner reservations at the Chart House – a nice sit down restaurant up on the mountain with great lake views. The shuttle driver from the boat cruise was handing out free appetizer or dessert coupons. It had good reviews, and the prices were in line with the other lake view restaurants I was looking at, so how could I pass up a free $12 dessert?!
I got a window table, but a snow storm was starting to blow in over the lake, so I could only see the water for the first 20 minutes of my dinner, but it was pretty none-the-less. I ordered the Filet Medallions with a petite Lobster Tail stuffed with Blue Crab Meat, served with Crab Mashed Potatoes, and had their signature Chocolate Lava Cake for dessert. Very rich, very tasty, very filling!

Dinner with a view!

Filet Medallions & Lobster Tail!

Chocolate Lava Cake.... oh boy

 

Now it’s 2am, and I’ll be checking out of the hotel in 30 minutes to drive the rental car back to Reno, and board the red-eye flight to Iowa! It’s been snowing lightly all evening, so I’m planning to avoid the scenic route and drive very slowly to Reno. Awesome last-minute trip. Glad I did it. BACK TO WORK!

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