Circumnavigating Tahoe

by Bob Sparrow

Emerald Bay

Lake Tahoe. Just the name brings so many great memories rushing back to me. As those who read here know, we have a long history wth ‘The Lake’ and usually try to get up there in October, when most of the tourists have gone home, to visit our parent’s final resting place. Brother Jack & Sharon and their families went up in July, but we were in Europe at the time so we figured we’d make it up next year, until Jack & JJ Budd, long-time travel companions, had a timeshare week they had to ‘use or lose’ at the Marriott Timber Lodge at the base of Heavenly Valley in South Lake Tahoe, and invited us to join them.  We happily accepted.

Sunnyside deck on a summer’s night

The weather was crystal clear; in fact we never saw a single cloud the entire time we were there. The air however was very crisp during the day and more than crisp at night as temperatures dipped into the 20s and high teens. We decided to take a drive around ‘The Lake’, starting the drive up the west shore. The first thing I noticed was the lake level; years of draught had lowered the lake so much that no water was going over the spillway that creates the Truckee River. Now, due to record snowfall in the Sierras last winter, the lake was as high as I’d ever seen it. As we drove past Emerald Bay I recalled the hikes we did from there up to Eagle Lake and the great views it provides. We weaved our way past Meeks Bay, where I could still smell the Coppertone sun lotion our mom use to put on us – in fact I can’t smell Coppertone today without mentally going to that great sandy beach at Meeks Bay. Just prior to getting into Tahoe City at the north end of the lake, we took a quick detour up Chinquapin Lane and drove by the cabin that Uncle Dick bought in 1951 (Suzanne, sorry to report that the picture of our ‘Aunt Marilyn’ is no longer on the cabin wall). As we drove by, so many memories were rushing through my mind. How lucky we were to have such a ‘Summer Place’ in which to play while we were growing up.

Lakeside lunch at Garwoods

We continued up the road less than a mile before we came upon Sunnyside Lodge – now a very haute destination, but back in the 50s it was a rustic lodge/bar with seven rooms and only two bathrooms, one at each end of the hall, a combination liquor store/bait shop and a small marina where Jack and I would fish using drop lines from the pier (and never caught anything!). Today, Sunnyside sports the largest deck on the lake and is the spot to be on a beautiful summer’s day or evening. Continuing our journey, we drove through Tahoe City, where Jack owned The Off Shore Bar & Grill right on the lake, and continued up to Rocky Ridge, which offers the most spectacular view of Lake Tahoe I’ve ever seen and is the final resting place for mom and dad. We checked in with them, soaked up the amazing views and continued on our way. We stopped for lunch at Garwoods, which is one of the only places at the north end of the lake that offers lakeside lunch dining during this ‘shoulder season’. We sat outside on the deck in amazing weather and had the best fish & chips on the lake, or anywhere except Scotland as far as I was concerned.

Visiting Mom & Dad at Rocky Ridge

As we continue our trip, we leave California and enter Nevada and stop by CalNeva, a once very popular hotel and casino on the lake where Frank Sinatra was once one of the owners and the ‘Rat Pack’ made regular appearances. Mom, Dad and Uncle Dick would dress to the nines on a Saturday night and go ‘over the line’ (the California-Nevada border) for an evening of dining, dancing and gambling at CalNeva and come home way after we kids were fast asleep. Today there is a fence around CalNeva as it is in rehab, or rather reconstruction. I’m hoping it will, in time, return to its glory days.

We continued down the east shore, which is mostly Nevada State Park with very few signs of civilization, although it has several spectacular beaches. Between Zephyr Cove and Glenbrook is the Cave Rock Tunnel, created in 1931 and the only tunnel on the trip around the lake.

We pulled into Stateline, south shore Lake Tahoe completing our trip that covered not only the 72 miles around the lake, but the 65-some odd years of wonderful memories.  It was a good day!

A Tahoe Tribute to Mom

by Bob Sparrow

two glasses

Cheers to Mom & Dad in their final resting place

     This past week was an occasion for another family gathering; our ‘mostly annual’ trip to Lake Tahoe in October. We go in October to miss the tourists, even though we are technically tourists, we really don’t think of ourselves as such, since we’ve been going up to ‘The Lake’ since 1951. That was the year that dear friend of the family and lifelong bachelor, Dick Schieck, or ‘Uncle Dick’ as he was known around our house, bought a cabin about two blocks from the lake in Pineland, 4 miles south of Tahoe City. In those days it was a pretty sleepy resort area, the Winter Olympics had not yet come to Squaw Valley and the Silicon Valley dot com-ers had not yet arrived in droves to drive up prices.

     From 1951 on, every summer vacation and nearly every long weekend was spent at Tahoe, except maybe a few in the winter when Donner Pass, then a two-lane road, was closed due to snow. A few years after I graduated from college, my college roommate and I bought the cabin right next to Uncle Dick’s and in 1979, brother Jack bought a restaurant in Tahoe City and lived there for the next 15 years. Needless to say, ‘The Lake’ holds a very special place in our family history, which is why our parent’s wishes were to have their ashes spread there when they passed.

Tahoe Tavern

Tahoe Tavern – built in 1901

      Our dad passed away 13 years ago and Jack found the perfect spot for his ashes, in the rocks in front of a place we rent, high on a ridge overlooking the entire lake – it’s the most spectacular view of the lake I’ve seen. Our mom passed away last year, but because of various travel conflicts, we did not get to Tahoe last October, so we took her ashes up with us this year and placed them with our dad’s. Dad would have turned 100 this year, so he is celebrating his centennial by being joined once again by his wife of what would have been 77 years.

Mom 1939

Mom’s high school graduation picture

      As you may have picked up from our blogs over the years, our father was one terrific human being, kind and gentle as could be, always having something good to say about everyone and possessing a great sense of humor. He could make people laugh in virtually any situation. He also knew his way around a good martini. Mom was always the ‘straight man’, more serious, lots of attention to detail, a great businesswoman and the disciplinarian in the family. So of course her personality paled compared to Dad’s – everyone’s did. Her role was always having to be the ‘bad cop’, who could never threaten us with, ‘Wait ‘til your father gets home!” We knew he wouldn’t harm a fly. But she knew how to have a good time as well – she loved music, gin rickeys, and could party and dance with the best of them, and our dad adored her. They had such great times at ‘The Lake’, hitting old haunts like the classic Tahoe Tavern, sitting on the deck at Sunnyside Resort, before it was chic, and going over to ‘The Line’ (California-Nevada border) to dine and gamble at CalNeva, in its heyday, when Frank Sinatra was an owner and the ‘Rat Pack’ made guest appearances. Mom always dressed to the nines on those occasions, especially if they were dining at the very-posh-at-the-time, North Shore Club. But most of the time was spent just sitting on the deck at Dick’s cabin with the BBQ going and a gin and grapefruit juice in hand, enjoying the tranquility of this extraordinary place.

M&D

Together forever

     I always felt that I got my dad’s sense of humor (thank God!), but my fondness for music, writing and the arts came from mom. They made a great team and they made three pretty good kids – if I do say so myself! The three of us can look back and be thankful that we grew up in a wonderful time and place and in a wonderful home, thanks to both Mom and Dad.

It took too long, but their ashes are finally together in a place with an incredible view of one of the most beautiful lakes in the world and a place filled with great family memories. They indeed are now resting in peace together.