Reno – Memorial Day Weekend 2009

Son Brian is being reassigned by the USDA from the Montpellier, France Lab to their lab in Reno NV. Carol and I traveled to Reno as advance scouts, as it were.

Saturday, May 23
We were off at 9:30am and set the trip odometer to zero. We took 101 to 37 to I-80 to Reno.

The trip on California I-80 was one we had taken a few times – enroute to Lake Tahoe – including the stop for lunch at Ikeda in Auburn, the burger joint where everybody stops on their way to Tahoe.

I-80 California
I-80 California
I-80 Nevada
I-80 Nevada

Once we navigated Donner Pass and crossed into Nevada, we were on unfamiliar ground.

Biggest little City...
Biggest little City...

We arrived in Reno about 2:30 and got lost trying to find Peppermill, but broke off our search to show up at Brian’s approved broker, Coldwell Banker Select, about 3:15… a few minutes early.
That’s 5 hours to Reno and 45 minutes lost over 245 miles.

The return trip was an adventure of a different sort.

Return to San Francisco – Monday, May 25


As we left Reno, we passed under one of the more outrageous bridges I have encountered – a bridge connecting the Atlantis Casino with an immense surface parking lot.

Reno basin
Reno basin

We were off at 9am and traveled to Virginia City NV over route NV-341… that’s a twisty, turney route over the mountains, but the day was gorgeous.

Virginia City main (only) drag
Virginia City main (only) drag

Virginia City is a main drag about a mile long with olde timey wooden buildings lining the road. We coasted through at about 15 mph… there were no other cars on the road. We didn’t stop, it was still before 10am. Actually, VC would be a good place to go from Reno for lunch some day.
From Virginia City, we traveled on south to Carson City, again twisty turny, but not as… since we’re only descending. We stopped at Mom & Pop’s Diner in Carson City across from the State Capitol. Good food and friendly folks were the order of the morning.

"Never eat at a place called Mom's..."
"Never eat at a place called Mom's..."

Here’s my Breakfast Burrito served with Pop’s Potatoes… Yum. And I gotta show you their Men’s Room…

Breakfast Burrito with Pop's Potatoes
Breakfast Burrito with Pop's Potatoes


We hooked up to Rt. 50 down to Lake Tahoe and that was a pretty drive through the mountains on a wide road until we spied the lake with snow-capped mountains on the far shore… stunning.


It was a lovely drive on the east side of the lake until we got to State Line NV and then South Tahoe CA a little after 11am. Our lovely day turned into a hellhole of crawling traffic through despoiled countryside.

This went on in varying degrees of slowness until we got to Placerville in the Sierra foothills. From there, we would go through stretches of I-80 that were smooth sailing at the speed limit, and horrendous backups slowed or stopped completely. We escaped I-80 at Vallejo and CA 37 and US 101 were pretty clean the rest of the way home. We got home at 4:20 and the trip odometer said 511 and we were beat up.
That’s 7 hours 20 minutes and 266 miles.
Moral of the story – Route 50 Nevada is quite easy and beautiful… in California it sucks big time.

When we stepped into the Peppermill Resort and Casino, I hadn’t given gambling a thought until Carol said, “Just put a limit on your gambling.” I was there to look at houses on Brian’s behalf. The only reason we were at the Peppermill was that C had mentioned it, and it was the same price as the Holiday Inn Express. Where to stay? That was a no-brainer.

Our room was in the Montego Bay Wing, a squat three-story motel type building off in back of the two hotel towers. It had only 14 rooms per floor.


To get there, we walked a series of long, but not oppressive corridors, past the Spa, outdoors and across a small parking lot. I liked that. While the walk was pretty long, we didn’t have to pack into an elevator and our wing was very quiet. I only saw one or two other people there.

Our casino experiences occurred while going to and from dinner… one had to go through the casino to get anywhere. We would pass through rows and rows of slot machines – no one armed bandits here, these are operated by pressing a button – and there are every kind imaginable; 3 rows of spinning images, 5 rows, video poker, even video dice games.
I believe the last time I was in a casino was on Paradise Island in the Bahamas; that was circa 1980, for God’s sake. I did a thorough analysis of Craps at the time and determined that one could win if one consistently bet “Don’t Pass,” but if one consistently bet “Don’t Pass,” one became very unpopular at the table. I stuck to Blackjack, it’s easy and one can lose money slowly.

We sat at a bar for a drink to kill some time before dinner. Video poker machines were built into the bar. I would have played, but the machine had about 20 different games, all of which were mystifying to me. After that, we took our drinks at a table.

We had been told by Reno habitués that of the 11 restaurants Peppermill offers, the fish restaurant was a good choice, so we pulled out our trusty map of the hotel/casino and managed to find it. How could we miss it?… Remember the Big Bopper song, “house o’ blue lights.”


As we sat waiting for our food, I was in awe over how they could use so many blue and green lights and yet balance the ambient light so that skin tones looked good.

My Ahi Tartare Tower and Carol’s Shrimp Louie
My Ahi Tartare Tower and Carol’s Shrimp Louie
Tower deconstructed
Tower deconstructed

Although the food was excellent in its presentation and taste, the setting was pure theater. My Ahi Tartare Tower was an architectural presentation of tuna tartare with avocado and crispy won ton. Carol’s Shrimp Louie was traditional, but with three sizes of shrimp. All yummy. And I must mention a 9 or 10-ounce pour of crisp and properly chilled white wine… for $8.

After dinner, we meandered back through the table games part of the casino and settled into the bar at the Sports Book to catch the end of the Lakers, Nuggets NBA playoff game.

We took Sunday Breakfast at Biscotti’s Restaurant, overlooking the pool. The $13 Breakfast Pizza looked appealing, and I asked our server about the size, holding my hands in a “personal pizza” size circle. She assured us it was big enough for two.

May 09

Indeed, flat bread topped with fresh tomatoes, scrambled eggs, arugula and cheese was a great way to start the morning.

red-robin-beerDuring the day, we were taken on a thorough tour of Reno’s neighborhoods and real estate, breaking for lunch at Red Robin, a huge burger joint in a strip mall. Good burgers and French Dip were served up by a painfully friendly staff.

By the end of the day, we were exhausted, and took refuge in the Chi Asian Restaurant, a “fine dining” restaurant just off the casino floor. C had the lobster, prepared with ginger and Asian spices; I had beef chow fun, one of my favorites. The food was plentiful but unremarkable, the secluded setting welcome.

Chi Asian Restaurant
Chi Asian Restaurant

Walking out, I lingered by a Blackjack table, watching the progress of the games. In the mood, I told Carol I was going to sit for a while. She went off to bed as I sat at a table with one other player and forked over $60 for five-dollar chips. I had to be told to have only one hand on the table and how to indicate “hit” or “stand,” but I won my first hand… and the next, and the next. Feeling good, I increased my bets to two chips and continued to win – with an occasional loss – even doubling down on a pair of aces to catch faces for two blackjacks. When my luck seemed to turn, I cashed in my chips, winning $40 and never having touched my stake.

Peppermill Sports Book
Peppermill Sports Book

I went to the Sports Book for the end of the Cavs Magic game. The Magic were leading big time and bored, I began reading the big Futures Tote Board. Odds were posted for the US Open golf, NHL, Interleague Baseball, and Super Bowl winner, among others. I see the 49ers at 30-1 odds to win the Super Bowl, and I have $40 of “found money” burning a hole in my pocket. There was nothing to do but go to the counter and place my bet.

40 bucks on 49ers SB win
40 bucks on 49ers SB win

2 thoughts on “Reno – Memorial Day Weekend 2009

  1. 49ers were 30-1 to win the SB?!? There are 32 teams in the league! So this means that they’re getting action in Reno on odds that the 49ers have a better than random shot at the title with Shaun Who at QB? For a team that hasn’t had a .500 season since ’02? Don’t some wild-card teams get longer than 30-1 odds when the playoffs start? I’m thinkin’ SF’s proximity to Reno slanted the odds. Wonder what they are in Vegas or A.C.


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