Mt. Rainier and Lenticular Clouds - Dec. 2008 copyright: JMM

March 4, 2008

It was 20 years ago

I can't believe it, but in August it'll be 20 years since the 3-week odyssey/adventure trip to California on which my dad and I went. He was such a good sport, allowing me to drag him out of bed at the crack-o-dawn to maximize our sightseeing days and being totally flexible to my "OH! I know what we should do!" whims. Towards the end of the trip, I found a hilarious postcard that I had him send to my mom. It was a cartoon of a guy dressed in rags, barefoot, touseled hair, 5 o'clock shadow& eyes bugged out. He was holding a stick against his shoulder w/ a bundle on the end. The caption read, "I should be home soon".

I had ample time off from Channel 56 and I was making decent money. Unfortunately, none of my friends could afford to go away that long, and do everything I wanted to do and see on this trip. I was a bit skittish about going alone for the entire 3 weeks, but I needed to do more fact-finding and research for my move to San Francisco. I asked my mom if she'd mind if I asked my dad to go with me, because she won't fly and she can't handle the mountainous driving that would be part of this trip. She thought it was a great idea and dad readily went along. I made all the arrangements and I did all the driving once we got there.

The first few days we spent doing all the touristy shit at Fisherman's Wharf, so I won't bore you with pictures of Alcatraz, the bridges, Giants game, Coit Tower, and all the other places self-respecting San Franciscans avoid like the plague. It was my 3rd trip in a row to SF, and although I was excited to show these places to my dad, even I was bored by Pier 39. In fact, I was surprised that I had no pics of cable cars or "the crookedest street" from this trip. After we left SF, we spent a day visiting the wineries in Napa Valley.

Then we took off and headed east to Lake Tahoe. It's a bit of a grueling, uphill drive over the Sierra Nevada Mountains to get to Tahoe. When Brian and I went in 1990, we had to pull over and let the car cool down b/c of the strain on the engine.

Here are some pics of the Sierras, taken from the last vista point before you descend into the Tahoe basin.

It's hard to see, but Tahoe is in the far distance, below where the farthest mountains are.

Lake Tahoe is divided with most of the lake in California, and part of the lake in Nevada. South Lake Tahoe, CA, where we stayed, is a tourist trap of epic proportions and bumper-to-bumper traffic. It's crowded and icky and I'm surprised that they let it get so out of control. Stateline, NV has all the casinos, and they are literally built right on the state line. But because of the beautiful natural setting, they're not all glittery and lit up like Vegas or Reno.
The first thing we did after we checked into the hotel was drive up to Incline Village, Nevada, at the north part of the lake to visit The Ponderosa Ranch. I grew up watching "Bonanza" and Diane and I adored Michael Landon when we were little kids. Anyone who has ever watched the show and watched the map burn at the beginning, knows that the Ponderosa was on Lake Tahoe.

When the show first started in the early 60's, it was shot in Hollywood. In about 1967, they started coming up to Tahoe to do some filming too, although they still did a huge portion of the show on a soundstage.

This is the western village that was built for some of the scenes, and for a couple of Bonanza-themed movies in the 1980's.
And of course, the Cartwright house.
Those are really the costumes worn by Dan Blocker (Hoss - white hat & vest) and Michael Landon (Little Joe).
Here's the Cartwright's main room. They shot the interior home scenes at this house. It's pretty small inside, but the tour guide showed us the false walls & panels that could slide out in order to fit the cameras. There is nothing upstairs.

I call this the "stock footage shot" of North Lake Tahoe, b/c it always seemed as though they'd slip one in at some point during "Bonanza" episodes.

The western village was pretty cute. You can actually get married at the wedding chapel. In the saloon, you can order pop and it comes in a souvenir tin cup with the 4 actors on one side and the house on the other. And it being Nevada, there are slot machines too. Of course there is food...such as the Hoss Burgers seen below, and you can also get Chinese food at "Hop Sing's Kitchen". As it was a scorching hot day and I did not trust the meat, we did not dine here. I did score a replica map of the ranch at the gift shop, which still hangs in our den.

Sadly, the Ponderosa Ranch closed down a couple of years ago. Tourism had declined....I mean, how many children today have heard of Bonanza? And even if they have, they wouldn't be interested in visiting the ranch locale. Last thing I heard, a developer bought the property and was thinking about turning it into a commuter parking lot. How sad is that? I'm glad that I got to go, twice, in my lifetime.

Couldn't you just jump right in?
The water looks delicious and tropical doesn't it? Ha! THINK AGAIN! Tahoe is an alpine lake and sits at an elevation of 6,200 feet. Yeah, people swim at S. Lake and Stateline, but after you wade in above your knees, you'll find your legs & feet starting to freeze and turn blue. I don't mind cold water, having grown up on the freezing cold Bay side of Cape Cod, but this was even too much for me. When I went with Brian, it was still so hot, and I plunged into the lake, yelped from the shock, dunked and then ran out!! The blue parts of the water look like Aqua Velva Ice Blue aftershave.
A gorgeous sunset from Zephyr Cove, Nevada. They say there's a lake monster in Tahoe, and it's been named "Tahoe Tessie". When dad and I got to Zephyr Cove for the sunset, there was a person dressed like a lake monster walking around and teasing the tourists. He was cute.

Next day we got up bright and early and went for a drive on the California side of the lake. The highway rises higher and higher till you are above the lake.

Emerald Bay is so named because the water is incredibly green, although you can't tell from this angle.

When we got back from our drive, dad and I boarded the Tahoe Queen, a paddlewheel boat, for a lake tour. The bottom of the boat has glass panels. One of Tahoe's claims to fame is its incredibly clarity, so it was pretty neat to be able to look down thru the panels at the water and see so far down. Unfortunately, I couldn't get a picture of it that looked like anything. Sadly, in just a few years' time, the lake's clarity has become less deep thanks to pollution.

Emerald Bay.


  1. Wow, you've been to some great places. Best for me is the Ponderosa. I loved Bonanza and Little Joe. I'm sad it's gone.

  2. One of my friends hitch-hiked to Lake Tahoe to see Elvis Presley there in 1974. She did too ;0)

    I love it when you share your travels Jojo. Some places I've been to (San Fran), others I haven't, but I really should add 'em to the list of 'To Do's'

  3. gorgeous as always. that's so cool that you got to drag your dad around and you guys enjoyed each other:0)

    i'll admit to onlyhaving seen a few bonanza eps, and those recently since we for some reason now pick up a cable channel that shows alot of the oldies.

  4. My dad and I always got along really well. He was so easy going and was up for everything I threw at him on that trip. Like the night I screwed up and we went to Candlestick Park and found out our tix were for the next night. I didn't want to waste the evening, so I dragged my poor dad from South SF all the way over to Sausalito where everything had closed for the night...then back to SF, parked the car & we WALKED up and over the hills to Chinatown for dinner!! He made us take a cab back to the hotel. lol

  5. get this~! i once worked at the ponderosa ranch. not kidding. i lived at tahoe from 1974-1979, right after high of my tourist gigs up there was working in the gift/souvenir shop-the biggest one, right in the middle of the "ranch". i wore a checkered shirt and the goofiest looking white cowboy hat you can imagine! this was in 1976. the gift shop played non-stop burl ives western songs, all day-every day.

    great photo essay again, jojo. brings back some fine memories. glad you got to see the lake.

  6. Okay, that's it...I'm gonna be a stowaway very very soon, 'cause that's the only way I'll ever get out of this godforsaken shit hole :-(

  7. Lizzzard9:08 PM

    I had no idea about this trip with your dad. What a wonderful time it must have been!! Your dad was such a good sport!! I don't have any memories of him when he wasn't smiling-unless we were doing something wacky that confused him!And then he'd eventually smile- if only because we were soo goofy.
    What terrific memories to have now.
    I never knew Bonnaza was on Lake Tahoe- our fuzzy little black and white had a hard time getting reception down in the hollw.