Lake Tahoe is one of my new favorite places, and I didn’t even leave the south shore. It’s got the smell of the pines, the sounds of the beach and the amenities of a resort town. Throw in some beautiful sights, a few casinos and a Cali vibe, and you’ve got yourself a nice little vacation destination. An extra bonus to my trip was that Phish played two nights, and I had tickets.
Lake Tahoe is majestic. Pristine. Intoxicating. When I got my first glimpse of it out the bus window my heart skipped a beat. The lake, after all, is why I went on the trip, but Phish was the spark that ignited the travel flame.
I’d felt the need to visit Lake Tahoe since my first boyfriend in high school, Rob, drowned in it after skydiving on May 22, 2012. I figured I’d eventually make it there on a snowboard trip, but when Phish announced two nights at Harvey’s Outdoor Arena I decided to give ticket requests a whirl. Of course I scored two tickets in general sales (I have a Tahoe guardian angel), so I decided to make a trip to South Lake Tahoe my big summer vacation.
It was a good decision.
I flew from Denver to Reno and for the third time in my life the airline lost my luggage and had to deliver it to my hotel in the middle of the night. From the Reno airport I took the South Tahoe Express shuttle bus from Reno to South Lake Tahoe (SLT). I had three hours to kill in SLT before I could check into my hotel, so it actually kind of worked out that my luggage got lost and delivered because I didn’t have to lug it around town.
One of the first things I did when I got to Heavenly, the ski village in SLT, was ask how much it cost to ride the gondola to the top. I nearly choked when the ticket seller told me it was $38. Unfortunately I will have to save my view of Lake Tahoe from the top of the lift for when I go back on a snowboard trip.
I met up with some Denver Phish friends and we spent Monday afternoon at the beach and the evening near the casinos. I actually didn’t spend a single cent in the casinos the whole trip, and I learned after my first meal the avoid the casino buffets. (“It’s just that I’m used to Whole Foods’ buffets…”)
On Tuesday we had brunch in the ski village and then went back to the beach. I hung out in the lot pre-show and then went in the venue early so that I didn’t miss the supposed 6:30 PM start time. That first night was a really fun concert and I boogied down with CO kids. At set break I went to the bathroom, which was a mistake due to the massive crowd in the walkway to the porta-johns. I gave away all the stickers that I had printed for the events and I didn’t sell a single one.
After the show I hung in the casinos for a bit, though it really was not my scene, plus people could smoke cigarettes inside, so that was an issue for me. I danced in the middle of The Horizon casino to a local DJ who I could have sworn someone said was named DJ GroundScore, while Mike Gordon sat nearby sipping Bathtub Gin martinis with his wife. I skipped out when the music turned to dubstep and ended up calling it a night pretty early for a gambling town.
I woke up refreshed Wednesday and spent the afternoon at a pool party at The Horizon hotel. They have a big, beautiful outdoor pool, and they had a DJ and bar set up for the occasion.
Oddly enough I heard both DJ GroundScore and the pool party DJ play remixes of Eagles songs; “Dirty Laundry” and “Hotel California”, respectively. I caught an afternoon buzz at the festivities, swam, bought souvenirs and then headed in the Phish show for more party time.
On Wednesday night I raged first set with my old pal Adam, but strangers near us were talking a lot and it got under my skin. (“Didn’t these people travel here to see PHISH? Why are they talking!?”) I wanted to turn around a slap a bitch, but instead I left the chatterboxes in the dust at the start of set break and found myself a spot in front of the stage, where I spent the entire intermission, by myself, waiting for Phish to come back on.
At the start of second set I was in row five. I did not leave my spot the entire set, except to move into better spots as people filtered out. I think the text messages I sent during second set best summarize the experience I had:
8:58PM: Greetings from row 5!
9:05PM: (pix txt from row 5)
9:11PM: There’s someone shushing the crowd, someone with a pet Kimono Dragon and a man taking pictures with a flip phone.
-Sidenote- The man shushing the crowd happened during the now-infamous “Tweezer” jam. He was in the very front row, directly in front of Trey Anastasio, and he turned around with a look to kill, shushing the people behind him as loudly as he possibly could. After he was done shushing everyone he turned back to face the stage, cupped his ears with his hands in an effort to enhance sound and leaned in as close as he could toward Trey. Won’t you step into the freezer?
As the “Tweezer” jam raged on I became confused. “What is going on?” I wondered, as my body moved to the music. “Is this a new instrumental song?”
Suddenly the girl in front of me turned to her friend with a look of disbelief and quietly said, “This.is.STILL.Tweezer!”
While her comment registered in my brain the band broke back into a familiar melody, and my mind was ophishially blown. I am so lucky I was in the front for that musical experience, I don’t know where else I possibly could have been. The Tahoe stars were aligned.
9:56PM: I like this “Architect” song. It’s about God.
-yup, it’s true. I really dig that new song, especially after seeing it live and up-close. It’s (one of) the most spiritual songs they’ve ever created. It’s absolutely brilliant. Raise your glass to The Architect!
10:06PM: Antelope. 2nd row.
-yup, it’s true. People in the crowd kept leaving, and I found myself in row two by “Run Like an Antelope,” which was another incredible musical experience for me. I jumped up and down, danced so hard and felt so happy to be there. When Trey led the band to a freeze in the music while the crowd “woooo’d!” I was as sold as I’ve even been by Phish. They are freaking geniuses; melodic masters. May they rock another 30 years!
10:33PM: That was incredible. Lake Tahoe is the best.
-The town has a curfew and the shows ended both nights at 10:30 PM.
10:40PM (walking to lot): Now I saw someone with a pet turtle!
-I don’t know if it was the west coast vibe or if people always bring their pet reptiles to Phish shows, but I saw two in one night, which was a new experience for me.
10:50PM: $10 nitrous balloons on lot.
10:50PM: I didn’t do any!
-yup, it’s true. Balloons on lot were pricey. What else is new? I managed to steer clear from the mafia and instead spent $2 on one of the worst lot-grilled cheeses I’ve ever had, but I had to get something in my belly before I boarded the shuttle to the boat party…
11:15PM: Come se dice “boat”?
The boat party was quite memorable. Our ship, the MS Dixie II, set sail from Zephyr Cove at approximately 12:30 AM. A band, Magic Gravy, played instrumental jams below deck, and above deck the stars shined bright. We had an incredible view of the rising moon and we could actually see the Milky Way galaxy. There was a bar and a kitchen on the ship, as well as a plethora of security guards who made rounds making sure nobody threw anything into the lake or smoked any pot. A source close to me got busted twice with joints of Devil’s lettuce.
I woke up Thursday to a text from Kristin that said we need a “lot pet” to complete with the reptiles I saw. I immediately replied with, “pet antelope,” so now we’re hoping to have that secured by Phish Dick’s 2013.
Most people left Tahoe on Thursday to follow the band to San Fran, but I stayed behind and spent an extra day in South Lake Tahoe. Despite two Phish shows and one late night jam cruise, I rented a bicycle Thursday and rode it about 6 miles (each way) down a bike trail to Camp Richardson, a beach/recreation area that happens to be the beach close to where Rob died.
I loved my bike ride to Camp Richardson. I got to see more of the town and got a nice dose of nature. At the beach I forced myself to go in the lake even though I didn’t necessarily feel like swimming at that moment. I immersed myself twice in the water where my first love took his last breath, and I wrote his name in the sand and watched it wash away.
It gives me peace knowing that Rob’s spirit dwells over Lake Tahoe. Previously, if someone mentioned Lake Tahoe, I had one strong, dark thought come to my mind. But now I’ve been there, I’ve experienced a piece of what Rob experienced, I feel love for a place that he also loved. It is one of the most beautiful bodies of water I’ve ever seen; with its blue and green tie-dye complexion, it’s hard to believe it exists in the US. I love how Tahoe has a variety of things to offer – I got a beach taste with ski town familiarity, nice people, beautiful trees, giant pinecones, woods and nature.
I feel very blessed that I got to go on this trip because now I have fresh, awesome memories of an amazing place. I am glad that the next time someone casually mentions Lake Tahoe to me I can say, “Yeah, I’ve been to Tahoe! It’s superb, I can’t wait to go back. Oh, and that 36 min “Tahoeezer”? I was in row five.”