Touristy Tuesday: Susanville, Reno, & Salt Lake City Edition

This week we started out in the booming metropolis of Susanville, California! We knew it was going to be a … unique … place when we easily booked a room at the Apple Inn, the number one hotel on Trip Advisor, for $45/night. After checking in we asked Jay, the innkeeper, what there was to do in town. His recommendation was to walk to one of the two bars, two movie houses, the bowling alley, or the casino. At only 2 miles long end-to-end, the benefit of being stuck in small-town America Susanville was that everything (which was not much) was in walking distance!

As we walked down Main Street Abe and I started to feel a little bummed out. We’ve spent the last two months traveling in some of the coolest cities in the Southwest – the deserted streets left us feeling like Susanville was going to end up being a bit of a buzz kill. Trying to remain optimistic though, we headed to the Pioneer Cafe – a surprising local micro-brewery.

At the Pioneer we discovered the second benefit of Susanville – cheap drinks! We tried nine different local brews for just $7.50! When I say we tried these beers, I mean that I ordered the sampler, took baby sips, and then made Abe finish them off for me. Haha! Where can I find the margarita sampler – that’s something I might actually be able to finish!

Right before last call (which was at, believe it or not, 9:30 p.m.) a guy walked in who was clearly not a native Susanvillian. (The wild hair was the giveaway!) Turns out he was a 22 year old college kid taking a break to hike from Mexico to Canada on the Pacific Coast Trail! Still Phil (his trail name) was about 100 days and 1,200 miles into his journey, having hiked an average of 30 miles each day.

It’s easy to feel adventurous doing all the traveling Abe and I do, but meeting someone like Phil is humbling. I mean, he lives out of a backpack and only carries enough food to make it to the next resupply point! By the end of our first round of drinks I think Abe was ready to ditch the Wienermobile and join him on the journey. I might have, but Still Phil lost me when he said that deodorant wasn’t worth the extra weight in his pack. I’ll stick to living in hotels. Talk about a cool kid though – he went to South Africa for the World Cup and went skydiving one day, followed by bungee jumping the next!

On our first day off in Susanville Abe and I headed up to Lake Almanor.

Talk about spectacular – Lake Almanor had stunning blue water, surrounded by a forest of green pines.There were wild fires close to the area though and so the lake was covered by a smoky haze, which made it that much more majestic!

After enjoying quality time soaking up some Vitamin D, we decided to take out a paddle boat. (One of these days we might eventually get a jet ski, but it wasn’t happening in Almanor!) We managed to make it a little further out on the lake than we did with the kayak in Lake Havasu, AZ! I realized while we were out on the water that at all the beaches, oceans, lakes, and rivers we’d been on during this trip, Abe and I had yet to actually get in open water. Dipped our feet perhaps, but we hadn’t actually gotten in. Once I realized that I promptly hopped off the boat and dove on in! Even though we had started to get the Lake Placid vibes, we both made it out fine!

Since we had already been to the best bar in Susanville, that night we decided to check out the Casino. The “casino” was two rooms with slot machines and two tables for blackjack. I had a $5 credit from the hotel and played $10 of my own.

Susanville surprised me again and I came out a winner – leaving with $23, happy to go home in the black! It even covered the margarita of the evening.

Our second day off was admittedly a bust. Abe had allergies and a series of other unfortunate events meant the trip to Lassen National Park was forgone. Although I missed my chance to get another stamp in the National Park Passport there was one exciting part of the day – when I looked out the Wienermobile windows to see two Lamborghinis blocking me in at the gas station.

I’ll admit it though – I wasn’t that impressed. The local high school girls were simply cooing over the owners, who were jerky middle-aged men from California, but the appeal was lost on me. Maybe because I also drive a car that gets honks, waves, whistles, and people stopping for pictures. It also has the Lambo-wienie doors, vanity plate, and is worth than most middle-class homes. And yeah, there might only be a handful of those 2012 Lamborghinis in the world, but there are even less Wienermobiles! Ok, that being said, I guess it was KIND OF cool. Haha!

Back in town I stopped in at the local bookstore – which was booming! I love to see local business thriving, and even more when it’s a book shop! David, the guy working, was absolutely awesome and had great recommendations for reads. Sorry Amazon, you just can’t compete with that!

Friday proved to be an adventure, but for a rather unconventional reason. I mentioned earlier that there was a wild fire near the lake, and Friday it took out the power supply for Susanville. Abe and I figured that if anywhere, the bars would be open and we could grab a drink and a bite to eat. Sure enough, the second bar in Susanville was open. Because it was cash-only, we had enough for one beer between the two of us. Probably for the best, because half a beer was about as long as I’d want to stay there. (Yikes!)

We heard that Safeway was open and with that decided to do a grocery store picnic back at the motel. Shopping was like being in the Twilight Zone. There was power, but it was very limited. A few lights were shining around the produce section, but if you had planned on doing any price comparisons, you better have a flashlight app on your cell phone! I know I can be over-the-top about finding experiences like that to be an absolute and total blast, but it was really really fun! The power-outage made the situation feel a bit like a natural disaster flick, and, true to the movies, it brought people together. While in line I met this guy named Danny who proved to be one of the nicest and most interesting people of Susanville! He was probably the only other person in the store who thought grocery shopping the dark was entertaining.

Abe and I went back and had a picnic on the gazebo at the hotel and read the books we picked up earlier in the week. It was a good opportunity to try an Oscar Mayer product that we probably should have awhile ago – Bologna! Danny, from Safeway, joined for a bit and we chatted running, the Paleo diet, and high school stories. For being a low-key night, it was a really good time!

That was enough of Susanville though and Saturday Abe and I floored it to Reno, Nevada – a new state for the Southwest team! They aren’t kidding when they say it’s a mini-Vegas. Although I had done my gambling for the week in Susanville, we still headed to the Eldorado Casino for their dueling piano bar! That was an absolute blast – it’s like the best karaoke songs and you don’t have to sing!

Although it wasn’t Vegas it still had some of the perks – including Kamikaze shots out of test tubes. Since I missed this experience in college I figured I better at least try it before I get too old that it’s awkward!

The night was complete with a stop by Z-Pie, a local non-profit pot pie place. Yeah, what?! Pot Pies?! Yes please! Talk about hitting the spot. Taco Bell has nothing on midnight homemade goodness.

We made the most of Reno with the one night in town we had and then were back on the road – Salt Lake City bound! We turned on Sue (the GPS) and plugged in our hotel. “Head East on I-80 for 515 miles.” Well, at least it would be pretty hard to get lost! Talk about a long drive!

Along the way we stopped for gas and when I came back to the company car Abe was chatting up a motorcyclist making plans for the evening in Salt Lake City. Looks like we were already making friends for the next city! Jesse, a coal miner from South Dakota, was riding his bike from Wyoming, through Glacier National Park, to the Redwoods, over to Lake Tahoe, and was on his way back home through Salt Lake. I couldn’t help but feel a stab of envy for all the National Park Passport stamps he could have been getting on his trip!

He obviously made better time than us, but eventually we all met up that evening for our first night out in Salt Lake City. We had a rough introduction to the town though and definitely didn’t experience any form of hospitality that evening. Looking back, perhaps Sunday night in Mormonville isn’t the best time to judge the Salt Lake nightlife scene. After being turned down at one bar, one Wendy’s, and three pizza places we finally found an open sports bar. Everything happens for a reason though, right? It was Karaoke Night and Abe and I had just the song – Sweet Caroline, which was the crowd (4 people) pleaser we had hoped it would be!

Maybe it was our excellent live singing skills or it could have been our extraordinary ability to find places that don’t want customers, but for some reason Jesse from South Dakota still wanted to hang out with us the next day. Although he had planned on hitting the road, he decided to stick around for a day of adventure.

So what do you do when you’re in Salt Lake City? (Clue: the answer is not go to bars.) Go to the Great Salt Lake! Or at least that’s what we thought. Once we showed up we realized there is not a whole heck of a lot going on at the lake. It just smells bad and is big. I couldn’t even get a stamp! (Yeah – get over it – I’m really into the stamp thing.)

While Abe and I only knew South Dakota for Mount Rushmore, it turns out it also is home to quite a few lakes and Jesse was a big water enthusiast. Since the Great Salt Lake was a bit of a bust, we decided to try a different route – river rafting!

That afternoon we took a two-hour guided rafting tour down the spectacular Provo River. Talk about relaxing! Not only was the afternoon fun, but we also met some pretty awesome people, including a couple that owns their own market research firm in Chicago. (I exchanged Wiener Whistles for their business cards! Nothing like networking on a river in a lifejacket!)

At the suggestion of our raft-mates, we traveled up the canyon to Sundance. Yes, as in the film festival! The Sundance Resort is where the festival used to be held before it became so massive. We had lunch at their cafe and walked around the grounds – which were unbelievable.

At one point we stumbled upon the property’s screening room. Of course I had to seize the opportunity to jump on the stage shared by famous directors, actors, and screenwriters over the years. (Sorry about the picture – I guess I didn’t spend enough time sunning at Lake Almanor earlier in the week! – haha!)

Early that evening we took the ski lift up the mountains, which was a really fun way to take in the views.

Abe made it, heights and all, but he wouldn’t let us shake the chair on the way up. When we got to the top we decided to climb up to the summit of the nearby hill.

Wearing strappy sandals and carrying a purse (no one told me we were going mountain climbing that day!) I eventually made it up behind the boys!

After riding around in the Wienermobile all day, Jesse was kind enough to repay the experience by taking me out for a spin on his motorcycle when we got back from the afternoon’s adventures.

That night we decided to go to downtown Salt Lake City. I looked up places on the app TVFoodMaps that I mentioned in my San Francisco blog post. We decided on the Red Iguana, which was also recommended to us by someone somewhere along the road.

It was featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. I’ll be honest – Jesse had great food and the sauce almost tasted pumpkiny, but Abe and I have had so much Mexican recently that we’re certified connoisseurs, and the Red Iguana just didn’t impress us as much as the hole-in-the-wall taquerias from the road.

The chef came out and introduced himself – he was from Sicily, which might explain our lack-luster feeling on the food. (I guess I like my Mexican restaurant chefs to be from Mexico, but that’s just me!)

We went to Gracie’s after that, which was probably one of the coolest bars from the road yet. Being Monday, there wasn’t much of a crowd, but you could tell this was the place to be on the weekends. Whether you wanted to be inside, outside, upstairs, or downstairs, play pool, bean bags, or shuffleboard, this bar seriously had something for everyone. I’d definitely like to go back on a more lively night – if they have those in Salt Lake!

After a few drinks there and a few rounds of Jesse dominating at every game in the house (how can he be so good at pool AND bean bags?!) we called it a night!

Talk about a unique week. From little old Susanville, to rowdy Reno, to a rather laid back Salt Lake City experience, we definitely saw and did a lot this last week.

Up next: a whole week left in Salt Lake City! We’re planning on seeing the Tabernacle Choir and the organs, going to Temple Square, and catching an Iron & Wine performance. Other than that – any suggestions on where to go, what to eat, and who to meet while in town?

(If you’re wondering why I didn’t even mention running in this post it’s because I kind of decided to take an entire week off training. Yeah, what? I just needed a mental and physical break for a bit. Back on it this week though!)


6 thoughts on “Touristy Tuesday: Susanville, Reno, & Salt Lake City Edition

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