Reno-Truckee 2019

No, this is not a quirky evaluation of the life of Washoe’s finest, though I’m sure that’s probably more entertaining.

Life in San Diego continues to be the fun rollercoaster it’s been, and while standing in a clear crossroads with regards to the future, I figured a break was in order.

Wednesday the 16th had been a complete shit show, I remember. After an unsuccessful attempt to de-stress during Aerial Silks, I laid down in my hammock for savasana, channeled the Elizabeth Gilbert in me and made the snap decision to go home and check my flight miles and scope out AirBnB.

One hour later, I was heading to my friend’s place to grab an entire wardrobe of snow gear – more than I thought I ever needed. And then six hours after that, I was boarding a plane to Reno, watching the clouds and internally screaming at myself for brashly acting on impulse to execute a shitshow of a weekend.

I’m so glad I did.

Right before graduate school, I started a fictional story during my gap year – the majority of it written during a MASSIVE writing spurt in April 2012 (~130 pages). It needed the right setting, and I poured into relevant geographic locations in which Jane, Michael, Charlotte, Lena, Paul, and Rory would all meet, and resulting dramatic chaos could ensue.

The biggest little city in the world – Reno, NV – became that place.

I wanted the Sierra Nevada Mountains to be as irreplaceable as the characters that occupied it, researching its history from the 40’s til present day heavily, and describing it as much as I could using images and Google Maps. Before I had the chance to visit, graduate school started and… well, that became life for five years. And Reno stayed this abstract destination book-research getaway whenever I could.


Reno is right in between a dying industrial town trying to revive itself with a reinvigorated, contemporary spirit (i.e., what it was when I researched and with a few breaths of life). Casinos and old businesses sit cozy next to newer coffeeshops, pizza places, Patagonia outlets, and art pieces constructed here and returned from Burning Man to settle (Reno is where most artwork for Burning Man is made). And in the middle, the Truckee River flowed vigorously from the snow earlier in the week.

The next morning I walked along the Riverwalk over to Hub’s Coffee Roasters to sit and do what I’d wanted for seven years now: reflect and just write, for however long I wanted.

It felt amazing not only to write for six hours (the first three without WiFi), but to also feel like I was living out a bucket-list dream of mine. There I sat in Timberland hiking boots, wool socks and a beanie (both of which were afterthoughts from Jaime that became surviving staples of my trip), and a red long-sleeved shirt I pulled from my Mom’s closet on the off-chance that it fit; I felt leagues away from the paradise of San Diego or the flat country of Texas, and I’d never felt more comfortable in my life.

I was having a first-world moment, for sure. Which of course necessitated putting together a playlist by this point. This song especially hit a chord:

(More about music later, but check out my Moods page for my entire Reno-Truckee playlist if you care)

Hippie shot.

I spent the remainder of the day walking around the Midtown District, checking out the coffeeshops and developing arts and hipster scenes of which I’ve grown accustomed in San Diego.

I also visited the very first Sundance Bookstore, in a very cute plantation-style home with stairs and floorboards that creaked as you walked by. Added a ton to my reading list…

That night I decided to go out on another impulsive limb toward 1up Nightclub to see Sikdope play – another test of my ability to do things on my own. Once I’d gotten over the awkwardness of being alone… I went up to the front of the dance floor and just danced. Not 10 minutes later… I made some new friends 🙂 Funny how that works out.

truckee, ca

The next morning I woke up hella early and by the grace of my earlier Lyft driver, met up with someone with a 4×4 to take me 40 minutes up the mountain to Truckee, CA for a snowshow hike. Because the mountains were a crucial part of what I wanted to see while here, I was so goddamn excited.

My day in Truckee was the highlight of the trip. With an hour to kill in the morning, I walked through the main lane of downtown, taking pictures of the gorgeous sunset in my first time up in the mountains, and the first time I’d seen snow stuck to the ground.

winter wonderland hike

I caught a ride from my guides up toward Glacier Way Trailhead to hike up Donner Ridge. Not only were Chad and Nikki from Venturing Out the nicest couple, they also had the MOST ADORABLE Shiba Inu called Henry that accompanied every single hike. You go snow dog!!

We were joined by a military couple from Ventura getting in one last winter trip before their move to Guam, and then we were off up the mountain to the top.

Though the weather had graciously given a TON of fresh snow, it also meant the dense fog prevented any visibility, making the gorgeous views for us nonexistent by the time we reached the summit of Donner Ridge :(. It was okay though. Words can’t really describe how amazing it felt, really being trapped in a Winter Wonderland above the world. Though they kept apologizing for the lack of views, the whole thing was spectacular for a first timer. Though, a rookie mistake was not bringing water (woops).

Another test was eating the very, very spicy enchilada soup that Nikki made for us (I powered through), followed by the hike back down. When they dropped me off back in downtown Truckee, the lane was alive and busy with visitors and avid skiers enjoying the ambiance of the shops and coffee.

truckee love

california zephyr train ride tru-rno

The next best part of my trip – and arguably the best visually – was the train ride from Truckee back down to Reno on the California Zephyr route, which Amtrak boasts as the best scenic train ride in America. I believe it.

If I had to choose my favorite way to travel, it would be by train. The Zephyr dips and turns around the mountainous terrain, following the Truckee river back toward the heart of Reno. Traveling during the sunset brought an extra allure to my farewell to the Sierra Nevada Mountains:

While on the train, I’d jumpstarted my newest poetry notebook and also solidified my Reno music playlist, which I played on repeat the whole ride down while watching this beautiful scene play out in front of my eyes:

Getting off the train back to Reno was a weird experience, knowing I would say goodbye soon. I walked around one more time and then visited the Fleischmann Planetarium to watch a light/music show of Pink Floyd’s entire The Wall album. If you’ve never seen a light show in a planetarium, it’s… uh, fucking trippy. Probably not the best thing to do while completely sober and tired from a long day either. I definitely fell asleep for a good portion of it. If you care to see what it looks like:

I’d learned a lot about myself on this impulsive trip:

1. The mountains were calling, and I went. And I fell in love

2. I still don’t like the cold. But being prepared for it makes cold places fucking magical.

3. Magical places can help jumpstart change, but the real magic comes from keeping that magic in your life on your own.

4. Sometimes, one just needs to be away from everything they’ve ever known and relied on to see what’s still automatic under all the obligations and routine.

5. Despite all that’s happened in the past eight years, there is still a core, resilient spirit in me that refuses to die, and it’s about time to start listening to it.

Back to life 🙂 ❤

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