Sunday, July 11, 2010

To Reno and Back

This is the time of year when my sister Vicki flies down from Seattle to spend a couple of weeks in Southern California. She usually does “the rounds,” visiting family and friends, but spends most of her time with my parents, who live two hours away. Our lives have taken distinctly different paths—Vicki is now a grandma (yikes!). Still, we have much in common and always have lots to talk about. The older I get, the more I miss my sister and wish we lived a lot closer.

On her way home, Vicki often stops in Reno to see our uncle Louie, who will be 88 in September. I have flown to Reno with her in the past, only to fly home as she hops a plane to Seattle. But this time I decided we should drive so we could have some quality time together. In my youth, I loved to drive the I-395, on the eastern slope of the Sierras, and once drove all the way to Idaho by myself for a five-day whitewater-rafting excursion. It’s been a loooong time since I’ve done anything so adventurous, however!

We left Wednesday morning and headed north. What a relief to leave the traffic behind as we turned onto I-14 to the desert. I love living three miles from the ocean, but there is something so liberating about the desert—though I certainly wouldn’t want to live there, it is nonetheless very beautiful in a stark, ancient way. We marveled at the landscape as we connected with the I-395: prehistoric lava beds and red cinder cones. They reminded us of the geography field trip we each took in junior college almost 40 years ago.

After a couple of hours, we could see evidence of the southernmost tip of the Sierras on our left. Majestic granite peaks accompanied us the rest of the way. We wondered aloud how the pioneers could possibly have traveled over such rugged terrain. Hungry just thinking about it, we found a small park in Independence and ate the sandwiches we packed before leaving that morning. Hot and tired (it was well over 90 degrees—far hotter than either of us is now used to), we rolled into Reno around 6PM. After checking into our hotel, we went in search of dinner.

As I’ve reported many times before on this blog, Tim and I are big fans of Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives; so before Vicki and I even left L.A. I had Tim check Guy’s website for good eateries. With directions in hand, we made our way to the Gold ‘N Silver Inn, Reno’s oldest family-owned restaurant, just four miles from the hotel. We avoided the casino entrance and entered on the restaurant side.

Open 24/7 since 1956, the place looks the way I suspect it looked the day it opened 54 years ago. The menu was traditional “American,” but my eye was immediately caught by the picture of Guy Fieri recommending the lemonade pork chops. I couldn’t resist. They came slathered in a tomato-based sauce with a hint of lemon and were absolutely delicious. I know exactly where we’re eating the next time we're in Reno!

We spent Thursday morning with our uncle, who reminded me to lock my car doors and not pickup any hitchhikers (that’s why I love you, Unc!). I then took Vicki to the airport and bid her a teary-eyed adieu. We made tentative plans to do Disneyland together next summer.

Since I’d driven all the way up to the 39th latitude, I decided to go home via Sacramento, where I have a second office that I rarely use. I checked-in to let my coworkers know I’m still alive and made arrangements to have dinner and breakfast the following morning with separate colleagues. Remarkably, they both chose to meet at the Tower Cafe, an international restaurant that was once the site of the original Tower Records store. The breakfast menu was a tad limited, but dinner (lemongrass chicken on jasmine rice) was tasty.

By 10:30AM, Friday, I was on the road again, heading south. I cranked up the iPod, sang as loud as I wanted and was home in time for dinner. I did not pickup any hitchhikers along the way.

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