Day 27 – Friday, July 26

This morning we left the cabin in the woods, a bit southwest of South Lake Tahoe, and began our drive to Yosemite, where we planned on meeting my brother Mike for a day or two of camping and hiking.

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Our cabin in the woods, courtesy of Pierre

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Mono Lake

We crossed the California state line back into Nevada on the way, and a bit later we stopped at a small casino at Lake Topaz on the border back into California for an all-you-can-eat spaghetti lunch ($3.99 per person!).  We also stopped briefly at Mono Lake for some spectacular views…and a bathroom break.  We couldn’t linger long, as our goal was to get to Yosemite as quickly as possible to find a campsite, which we knew would be extremely difficult on a Friday afternoon in the summer.  Mike would be looking for a site as he entered from the western side, and we would be looking for a site from the eastern side.  Unfortunately, all the campgrounds outside the eastern entrance of the park were full, so we headed into the park only to find out from the ranger at the entrance station that all campgrounds inside the park were completely full.  To make matters worse, we had no cell reception, so we couldn’t reach Mike to tell him the bad news.  Amazingly, after about 30 minutes of driving westward in the park I got a text from Mike, at a moment when we had a single bar of cell reception, saying that he secured the very last campsite available in the park, at Crane Flat on the western side, as someone had just cancelled a reservation.  We were elated!  The 40-mile drive to the campsite took us more than an hour, as we navigated the windy roads and also stopped for some photo ops.

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A view as we headed toward Yosemite

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Shortly after entering the park we saw some climbers scaling a rockface

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This is the rock the climbers were scaling

 

We made it to the campsite at around 6:30pm to find Mike sitting at the picnic table, his tent already assembled.  After several minutes of hugging, kissing (no tongue) and joyful crying, we took out our gear and set up our tent.  Mike and I headed off to the campground store for some firewood and beer, and we returned to the campsite to the aroma of Toby’s famous bean chili.  Dinner was followed by roasted marshmallows (a perfect golden brown, of course).  Yummy.  We then hit the sack, and since we opted not to put on the tent fly, we could see the stars directly above us.  It was pretty cool.

 

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Aytan and our tent: campsite 314 at Crane Flat campground

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Aytan with Uncle Mikey

 

Day 26 – Thursday, July 25

After getting up late and checking out of Circus Circus in Reno, we stopped at Jiffy Lube for an oil change, and they threw in a free tire rotation (possibly because I splurged for the synthetic oil). I noticed that they simply moved the front tires to the rear and the rear tires forward, without crossing any tires. When I pointed this out to the technician, he said that’s how they always do it. I told him that that was wrong, that the preferred method is to cross some of the tires to ensure even wear, so I whipped out my Verizon 4G LTE phone and pulled up a few sites on the Web to show him (there are several different ways, but it’s always preferable to either cross the front or rear tires). His manager apologized and had them rotate the tires properly, and I felt a huge accomplishment in having corrected a huge wrong and teaching this guy at Jiffy Lube — who should have known better — the proper way (or one of the proper ways) to rotate tires. Mission accomplished.

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Me with Mindy Waldman Wegener, who was pointing at her St. Bernard, which was entering the bowling alley (accompanied by Mindy’s husband) as this shot was taken

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Aytan devouring wild trout at lunch

Then it was on to Incline Village, Nevada, on the north end of Lake Tahoe, for a short visit with a high school friend, Mindy Waldman Wegener, who owns a bowling alley (Bowl Incline) and some other businesses in the Lake Tahoe area. Mindy still looks great more than 30 years after high school; I certainly felt like I was the only one of us who had aged (thank you, Ethelyn, for pointing out that my beard is now all white). Mindy has three kids: fraternal twin boys, Kevin and Mike, who will be heading off to their freshman year at college next month (Kevin to Syracuse, Mike to the U of A); and a daughter, who is not a twin, so I don’t remember her name (but I did remember that she will be a senior at Syracuse in the fall). Unfortunately, Mindy had to leave about 30 minutes after we arrived, so Toby, Aytan and I got some lunch in town, then we headed back to Bowl Incline, where Aytan and I bowled a game while Toby tried to sleep off his Reno hangover in the car.   After one of our worst games ever, we left Bowl Incline and drove around the west side of Lake Tahoe, passing some incredibly beautiful homes, as well as some tacky touristy towns, then picked up some more supplies for the night.
Our lodging would be a cabin in the woods about 15 miles southwest of South Lake Tahoe, owned by a friend of my twin brother named Pierre. I called Pierre and got directions to and information about the cabin (where the keys were, how to turn on the water, etc.), and we arrived an hour or so before sunset. Unfortunately, when I went to get the keys from behind the hiding place, they slipped down in a crack, unreachable, and I thought we were doomed. But Toby saved the day — he got his fishing rod out of the car and was able to fish the keys out from the tiny crack. So we unloaded our gear for the night and made ourselves at home in Pierre’s great little cabin, where I once again enjoyed Toby’s bean-and-cheese chili, while Aytan dined on some microwaveable mac and cheese. After dinner Toby hunkered down with his MacBook Air to do some work, and Aytan and I snuggled on the couch and watched “Lockout” (or was it “Lockdown”?) — a pretty lame sci-fi movie with Guy Pearce — on my Verizon 4G LTE phone thru my mobile Netflix app (I know we were supposed to be roughing it, but I would have been a shame to waste a good cell signal in the woods). Then it was off to bed (sleeping bags on the floor, actually) for a good night’s sleep.

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Geese flying over Lake Tahoe

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The view from above Lake Tahoe