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Another trip to Reno - RonO's Ramblings

Aug. 4th, 2013 10:23 pm Another trip to Reno

This weekend, Tara and I headed up to visit The Kid, who is still up in Reno – and may be for an indefinite time.  We spent a lot of time on the road for what amounted to a visit of less than an hour – but it was a pretty good visit.

Since we needed to visit during the day on Saturday, our plan was to drive as far as Bishop on Friday night.  Both Tara and I had to work full days, so we couldn’t get off too early.  However, I was able to sneak out of work about 3:00, and even with having to do all of my packing (and Tara doing all of her packing) we left the house about 4:00.  We made two quick stops to top off the gas in my car, and our cash supplies and headed out.

This was where things started going wrong.  Tara was driving, and I had the GPS giving us directions to the Sonic in Rancho Cucamonga just of the 15, including traffic warnings, and it was trying to send us not up the 15.  It turns out that there was an accident somewhere north of Escondido that was causing a bad backup, and it was trying to route us around this.  However, its alternate route – once north of Lake Hodges (I-15 has the only bridge in quite a ways, so we had to cross on I-15), it sent us off around to get onto Center City Parkway, which is old US-395 through Escondido.  However, there was significant traffic (including, I’m sure, a lot of people who got off of I-15 due to the traffic there), and the lights weren’t letting the full load of cars through most of the time.  So, we spent well over an hour working our way through Escondido.  Then, when we first had an option to get back onto I-15 ignoring the advice of the GPS, Tara didn’t end up taking it, resulting in another long traffic jam (probably 2 miles) due to a short-cycling light with no left-turn arrow.  At that point, we started ignoring the GPS.  It was about 7:00 when we reached the Sonic (about 3 hours to get what normally takes about 1:20).

After dinner, our traffic woes didn’t improve.  I-15 was slow and backed up from nearly where we got back on (1 exit north of the I-10 interchange) up to the junction with I-215, at which point it opened up a bit.  The GPS was again offering alternate routes (which may have been mostly cut overs to I-215 which appeared to be flowing smooth coming into the junction, but we chose to ignore it.  But traffic was again bad once we got onto US-395 as Hesperia.  Much of the first 25 miles is through suburban areas with frequent lights, disappearing and reappearing right lanes, and other things that cause slowness during moderate to heavy traffic.  Once again, the GPS tried to route us around, but I had no trust in where it was trying to send us.  By the time we reached Kramer Junction (where CA-58 from Barstow to Bakersfield crosses), I needed a potty break, but was also experiencing a fair amount of anxiety, something I’ve not had driving – except for briefly during my return from Reno a few weeks ago – in years.  So, I took (for the first time) one of the anti-anxiety pills I’ve had a prescription for for over a year and let Tara drive until she was too tired.

We arrived at our hotel in Bishop about midnight – meaning what should have been a 5 to 6-and-a-half hour drive with stops (5:10 without stops according to Google), took us about 8 hours.  Needless to say, Tara and I were tired by the time we got into our room and into bed.  Our plans to get an early start on Saturday (like 6:00) were now shot; and I didn’t even set an alarm until 6:00.

On Saturday, we got packed and out of the hotel around 8:00, and headed a few blocks (after a quick stop for gas at the Arco along the way) to Erick Schat’s Bakkerÿ, recommended to us by Tara’s boss – who is from Reno and travels up there with some regularity.  Even with the crowds at breakfast time, this was a stop well worth making.  We each had a breakfast sandwich and a treat, as well as a drink, then spent some time looking around the rest of the bakery before buying a loaf of their Honi Squaw bread in case we needed a snack on the road.  After that, we headed up to Reno, through some of most scenic roads I’ve driven (at least since 2008).  We got to Reno about noon or 12:30 and visited with The Kid until about 1:30.  After we left, we headed over to our hotel.

After the bad experience with The Baymont Inn (which was the top mid-priced non-casino hotel when I looked on Yelp before my last trip), we chose to give The Circus Circus a try.  When we got there to check in, the line for check in was long.  It probably took us half-an-hour to get to the front; at which point getting checked in was fairly easy.

I’d parked in the first parking garage I came across, which was attached to the main building with check in.  But our room was in the Sky Tower – so after unpacking the car and juggling all of our bags, we took the shuttle over to the other building and settled into our room.  I only have one complaint about our room – the usual complaint about not having an outlet convenient for plugging in my CPAP.  I finally found a power-strip not-quite under the bed that had the lamps plugged into it, but left a couple of outlets free for me to use.

After that, we headed over to Sparks to a Target to pick up a couple of things we needed (socks for The Kid, primarily) and then back to the hotel.  Having learned that the valet parking was free, I chose to be lazy and just valet park the car, which I think was warranted based on how full the garage was when we left.

After a while spent back in our room, we headed out for what served as our anniversary celebration (two days early).  We had a fairly nice dinner at the buffet at the Circus Circus; where we both ate too much food, mostly pretty good.  We then wandered around the crowded midway to discover that the next free show wouldn’t be for nearly an hour (or at least the next one we wanted to watch), so we headed down to play some of what I termed “the adult games.”

Over the next hour or less, Tara and I put a total of $5.00 into penny-slot machines ($3.00 for Tara, including the $1.00 she played while I was in the check-in line, and won back; the other $2.00 for me).  In the end, Tara ended up with $7.00, and I ended up with $0.61 (the last penny won because I wanted to play one machine with traditional reels – even though I know that they are just computer controlled as the others).  By this time, the smoke was getting to Tara badly and was starting to get to me.

This morning, we got up and got moving about 7:00 again.  We had the breakfast buffet in the hotel coffee shop, which was very good (really evil yummy cinnamon rolls that kept jumping onto my plate), had a bellman take our bags, and headed out.  Before leaving, I had Tara fill out a feedback form, where she honestly stated that we don’t plan to come back due to the permeation of the smoke into most of the common space.  (Our room was smoke-free, unlike our room at The Atlantis during Renovation two years ago – but even the 2nd floor lobby in the Sky Tower – which has no casino, no open bar or any other place that should allow smoking according to the hotel’s own signs – had more than its share of smoke).

We made pretty good time this morning, and reached Bishop and Schat’s about 1:00.  When we got there, it was crowded and we had to wait due to people who wouldn’t go around to the parking on the far side (which wasn’t full, but close).  We did have a bit of a wait to get our sandwiches – hot pastrami on rye for Tara, turkey club with avocado on sheepherder’s bread for me – but it was well worth the wait.  Afterwards, I got a couple of shopping bags out of the car (since we didn’t see the baskets until after I returned with them, and got a goodly amount of (mostly) baked treats – sheepherder’s bread, cinnamon raisin bread, pecan pull-apart, coffee cake, bread pudding, plus jars of Michigan tart cherry jam and Michigan black cherry jam which were half-off.

The afternoon drive wasn’t too bad, but it was long.  We hit that 25 mile stretch of suburban road at the end of US-395 about 3:30 or 4:00, and it was as bad as on Friday night.  Then, once we got onto I-15, it was slow and heavy clear up until the split with I-215.  I ended up pulling over at the same exit as the Sonic to stop at a gas station on the outskirts of the Ontario Mills mall for a pit stop, and to change drivers as I was again having bad anxiety symptoms.  Tara drove the rest of the way home in moderate to heavy traffic, getting home about 8:30.

We’ll probably want to head up to see The Kid again (possibly as early as over Labor Day weekend, depending on other commitments), and we now are 100% comfortable with where to stop for Friday dinner, and where to stay and eat in Bishop.  We’ll need to make another try to find a place to stay in Reno/Sparks that isn’t too expensive, but isn’t a dive, and hope that if it is a casino hotel that non-casino areas (or even some casino areas) are smoke free, or close enough that it doesn’t bother us.

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Date:August 5th, 2013 03:34 pm (UTC)
I've stayed at Circus Circus many times; the connected Silver Legacy costs a bit more but has better rooms. The challenge with the power outlets is ongoing except at newer hotels, I'm afraid.

The Flavors buffet at the Silver Legacy is much better than the Circus Circus buffet, and the Eldorado (the third of that set of three connected casinos) buffet is even better. Also, the Eldorado is the only one of the three hotels with a 24-hour restaurant.

If you like seafood, I'm fond of John's Oyster Bar at the Nugget in Sparks and their shrimp pan roast. Orozko's at the Nugget is a nice Basque-style restaurant, and their Steakhouse is good, too. (If you go there, ask for William the bread/water server and tell him I recommended him to you. You'll have to describe me and Lisa, but he always remembers us and he's a good guy working his way through college.)

The Atlantis and Peppermill buffets are IMO even better, but you'd have to drive down to the Convention Center area. There is a Vagabond Inn between the Atlantis and Peppermill, and that might be up your alley, as there is also one in Bishop, and they have a stay 9 nights and the 10th is free program. (OTOH, the plan doesn't apply to their cheapest internet special rates; you'd have to do the math to find out what's best for you.)

I lived in Bishop for two years (my first two years of high school, 1979-81) when my father was stationed there with the US Forest Service. Schat's Bakery is justly well known but almost always busy. It has been too long since I lived there, however, to give any other recommendations.