Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Reno, Take II

In Lone Pine after our JMT hike, we hung out at the bus stop, waiting for the bus to Bishop. It was Labor Day, so we wouldn’t be able to pick our car up until the next day, but we planned to camp in Bishop and go to the body shop first thing the next morning. When 5:00 pm passed and the scheduled bus hadn’t arrived, we realized something was wrong. Sure enough, when we looked at the bus schedule again, we noticed a hard-to-see paragraph saying that the bus system shut down on major holidays, including Labor Day.

Dejected, we set out to find a campground in Lone Pine, and as it turned out, Portagee Joe campground was less than a mile from town. So we hiked down there and set up camp for the night.

The next morning, the 6:30 bus showed up right on time, and we were on our way to Bishop. We were a bit nervous to pick up Caroline. First of all, we hoped that all of our possessions would still be in the back of Caroline – the vehicle hadn’t been at all secure with the door frame ripped open, and Caroline had changed hands from us to the tow company to the body shop. Second, we really had no idea whether the body shop did good work. And third, we wondered if a newly painted door would look out of place, given all the dings and scratches on the rest of Caroline.

As it turned out, we had nothing to fear. The Inyo-Mono Body Shop had taken good care of Caroline -- she had a brand-new-looking door with a perfect paint job! Everything was still in the car, and we gratefully changed out of our filthy hiking clothes into clean clothes. We paid our bill and headed across town to Schat’s Bakery, which other hikers had recommended to us. We got some jalapeno cheese bread and ate on their patio before beginning the long drive up to Reno.

In Reno, we checked back into the Sands hotel and casino for another three-night stay. The Sands isn’t a fancy hotel, but our room was spacious, with a nice sitting area, and had a bed and a hot shower – all of this seemed over-the-top luxurious after our 17 days on the trail. We enjoyed long showers, and Brian shaved his three-weeks-old beard.

Over the next few days, we didn’t really do a whole lot. We ate at Mel’s Diner on the first floor of the casino, and we went to the town of Sparks, right next to Reno, for Rail City Casino’s $5.55 dinner buffet, which was quite acceptable given the price. We headed to the second-run theater at the Grand Sierra Resort to watch Indiana Jones, and we vegged out in the Sands’ 16th-floor hot tub twice. We watched a lot of TV, too, with the Republican National Convention providing nightly entertainment. And we visited Starbucks several times to drink coffee and blog about our hike.

On Friday morning, we woke up around sunrise and headed to Rancho San Rafael Park to watch the opening of the Great Reno Balloon Race. We’d overslept our alarm and were afraid that we’d woken up too late, but the race got started late, too, so it turned out that we hadn’t missed anything.

We picked a spot on a hill overlooking the balloon staging area and enjoyed the early morning light.

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A bird was the first balloon to rise. There was initially some debate about whether it was a turkey or an eagle, but as the balloon inflated, it quickly became clear that it was an eagle.

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Soon there was a cornucopia of color as dozens of other balloons began inflating.

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A bee and the race logo balloon were the next off the ground.

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The little pond between us and the balloons made for some interesting reflections.

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Soon still more balloons were in the air.

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Smokey the Bear even made an appearance.

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He looked out over the forest, watching for fires.

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The hills west of Reno made for a pretty backdrop.

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Sands, our new favorite place to stay in Reno, even had a balloon.

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Then a pink balloon started inflating. It turned out to be the Energizer Hot-Air Hare!

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Eventually, all the balloons were inflated and in the air or taking off. We counted about 80 of them. It was amazing that they could all set up and lift off in such a small space!

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We walked down to the festival area, next to where the balloons had taken off, and wandered around the tents. We went to a radio station’s booth and spun their prize wheel. We’d never done this before because the lines are usually long, and people hardly ever seem to win. But this time, the line was short, and Brian actually won $10 in gift certificates to a local BBQ place. Score! We headed back to the casino, reluctantly checked out, and then drove to the BBQ place for lunch before heading out of town, on our way east toward Utah.


Rake said...

I thought I recognized the ballons in this post. I had read about the event first over at

seems like both saw some amazing things.


Aaron said...

More spectacular photos. Somehow, balloons always make for great photo-ops and the water just added an extra bonus.