Paul and I made a deal on our first anniversary to go to someplace with sand, drink Faygo and eat tacos and to do this every year. For the anniversaries that followed, we cheated if only for convenience. We went to Palm Springs the first year but ate at Green Burrito. For the second year, we went to Las Vegas but ate at Del Taco. Last year was the worst mostly due to all the home renovations. We stayed in San Diego, got some lobster tacos at a some horrible, now-forgotten place and ate on the boardwalk in Pacific Beach. But this year with the copious amounts of free time I have, we decided to spend our anniversary at Lake Tahoe.
One of the things we talked about when we adopted our puppy was take him up to Lake Tahoe. The water is clear, cold and drinkable to a large extent. Additionally, no visit to Reno is complete with a trip to the lake which is 20 miles away.
The trip to Reno takes approximately 9 hours from San Diego and it’s not for the weak. But there are a variety of interesting sights along the way to keep any traveler interested, which Paul mapped out for the Union-Tribune back in 2005. Some of them include places where the movie “Tremors” was filmed, where to find the cheapest gas as well as creepy ghost towns like Red Mountain.
One of the first things we did upon arriving in Reno was grab an Awful Awful at the Little Nugget Diner downtown.
The Little Nugget Diner has been featured in the Travel Channel’s Food Wars. The downtown diner was pitted against John Ascuaga’s Nugget in Sparks (Reno’s neighbor to the east) which also has an Awful Awful burger. The Little Nugget Diner won and has been touting its burger superiority since the program aired. We’ve had burgers at both the places and feel like the right burger won.
In short, the Awful Awful earned that name because “it’s awful big and awful good.” I’ve seen the price jump from $4.50 back in 2005 to $7 on this visit. It’s still a good deal especially when you consider it comes with a pound of french fries. My only qualm was an additional $1 tacked on to take it to-go. It’s a lot of food for one person but there’s no denying the allure of a freshly cooked burger atop of a onion bun available 24 hours. (You can read my brief thoughts on the Awful Awful back in 2005 here.)
Another place to visit in Sparks is Scooper’s (there’s a newer drive-thru location in Reno). I hadn’t eaten at this place since 2006 but their Mighty Mike is still as good as I remembered. The bacon-wrapped, cheese-filled, 1/4 lb. hotdog is deep fried and served in a jiffy. But what Scooper’s is really known for are their milkshakes: fresh banana, birthday cake, boysenberry, apple pie… the list just goes on and on. Rumor has it that they were almost chosen to be featured in Diners Drive-ins and Dives but it fell through when it was discovered they didn’t make their own ice cream. (I first visited Scooper’s in 2006. Read about it here.)
Unfortunately, our anniversary tacos at Tacos Del Rey in NW Reno were not up to my standards, based on San Diego Mexican food. (The Thousand Island dressing in the fish taco sent Paul into a rage.) But Lake Tahoe, as well as a few bottles of Faygo, made up for taco disappointments.
The water was freezing but we managed to get Doctor into the lake several times, earning us a a few tan lines in the process. There are several beaches in Lake Tahoe but my favorite so far is Zephyr Cove which allows dogs along the north part of the beach. It also has a cool island of rocks we always like wade up to, but recently the water has receded leaving a sand path up to the rocks and trees.
As with most vacations, the worst part is the drive home. We were delayed almost 2 hours due to road construction. But the billboard near Inyokern advertising Pizza Nova, a mere 199.9 miles away, always entices a chuckle.