Monday, October 22, 2018

Reno/Tahoe Vacation Photo Dump

I just got back from a three-day turn-and-burn vacation in Reno, so this post will largely be pictures, not jokes.  Sorry, folks.

Why Reno, you ask?

Back in February, Andrew and I went to an annual convention in Las Vegas, where, every year, we have taught a class or two on roleplay.  Roleplay, character acting, and writing are things I am passionate about and would humbly argue that I excel at.  These classes have given me and Andrew an excuse to go to Vegas; we were depressed last year when the convention refused to comp us for our room, considering that we are long-standing contributors.  (We were also not asked back this year, which we were surprised by; we hope it's only because the convention wants some new blood.  Our classes have always been favorably reviewed.)

This year, we had someone attend a class and come to us afterwards to ask us to attend a similar convention in Reno and teach the class there.  I agreed because I've never been to Reno.  My only real knowledge of it is what I've gleaned from Reno 911 and from the terrible Reno ads on the radio here in Los Angeles.

Reno's economy seems largely driven by a tourist economy, which is weird because Reno is basically a tinier Vegas.  Trying to compete with Vegas (which is more or less equidistant from Los Angeles) is like Miracle Whip trying to compete with Hellman's mayo, and like Miracle Whip, Reno ads are desperately trying to appeal to millenials.  (Actual Reno ad quote: "This is not your basic vacation destination. Reno Tahoe is a collision of contrasts. This is where majestic mountains converge on high desert. Where wildlife meets urban grit. You can snowboard all day and crowd surf all night. Support a start-up and down a craft brew.  Sleep 'til dusk and hustle 'til dawn.  Reno: we're just as good as Vegas.")  (I made up the last sentence.)

Anywho, we went to Reno, mostly so I could get a photo op in front of the humorously named Dog Town memorial.

Reno earned its moniker "The Biggest Little City" because it really is a strangely small town but with all the staples of a much bigger one.  Like Vegas, there's a central strip, covered with casinos.  We stayed at Circus Circus, which was another reason I had agreed to go, because I love Circus Circus, which includes a fairway with carnival games and free circus acts in the middle of it.

I won a frog!

Because it was the end of October, everyone was in costume, which added to the surreal, timeless feel of being in a casino.  (This was also nice because I spent a large portion of the conference dressed as the Winter Soldier, and with Halloween festivities happening all around us, no one even blinked an eye.)  Zombies, superheroes, and the ubiquitous sexy black cat wandered around in drunken, smoky crowds while bells went off periodically, signalling that somewhere, someone was Winning Big, and hey, maybe you could be next!

We spent our off time in Reno wandering through the Silver Mine casino, trying out restaurants and bars, eyeing all the colors and lights, every element of the environment, which was designed to part tourists with their money.

The convention was a mild disappointment.  The keynote speaker was magnificent.  However, there were no printed programs and the app for scheduling was down.  Andrew and I were teaching classes scheduled for 9 am and let me tell you something about casinos on the weekend: no one there is awake at 9 am.  I stayed up late and woke up early, only to end up in a classroom with less than five people.

Most of our positive experiences occurred outside of the casino.  Andrew asked to choose an activity and chose the National Auto Museum, which I can honestly say was one of the best curated museums I've ever been to and served as a hell of a source of inspiration for some of my writing.

Appropriately, within walking distance was See See Motor Coffee Co., a small motorcycle-themed coffee shop.  Casino restaurants and coffee shops have notoriously bad service, because they are catering to a transient clientele.  People are only visiting and there's no expectations for "loyal" customers.  See See Motor Coffee was a real business that was actively trying to build up a customer base and therefore had outstanding food and service.

By the time the weekend was over, I was exhausted from the convention, disoriented and stressed; the casino environment had taken its toll, as had the inevitable drinking.

I felt a little sick but Andrew asked to go to see Lake Tahoe. 

I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.

Like the National Auto Museum, Andrew's suggestion to go to the lake turned out to be one of the best parts of the trip.  It was a breath of fresh air.

I left Reno with a mild sense of disappointment.  It had been more or less what I expected: a sadder version of Vegas.  Reno emphasized the casinos, a frantic get-up-and-go energy that left me wrung out and unsettled.  But what Reno should have emphasized was their lake, their museum, and their small businesses.  Reno has a lot to offer, but it's all off of the beaten path.  Ironically, the ads do emphasize this, but the city itself doesn't.  It's not Vegas, and it should stop trying to be.

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